IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 6th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Manmohan says Modi as PM will be disaster, blames him for presiding over riots (Jan 3, 2014, Indian Express)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that he will not seek a third term as PM if the UPA returns to power and threw his weight behind Rahul Gandhi, virtually setting the stage for the declaration of the Congress vice president as the party’s PM nominee for the General Elections.

Addressing a rare press conference – the third in his ten-year term – Singh said he will hand over the baton to a new PM after 2014 and hoped it will be a UPA chosen Prime Minister. Singh said Gandhi has outstanding credentials when asked about his projection as the PM nominee. Singh, however, did not specify when his party would announce its PM pick, saying the Congress would decide at the appropriate term.

“I have full confidence that the next PM will be from the UPA coalition,” Singh said. His comments, significant as they are, comes days ahead of the AICC session and amid a clamour in the party to announce Gandhi as the Congress’ PM candidate. “I am not going to be a candidate for PMship if the UPA were to come back to power,” he said.

Singh said the party has never asked him to resign neither has he ever thought of stepping down during the last ten years. The prime minister also rejected the charge that the myriad corruption scandals have tarred his image as he asserted that he will come out unscathed when the history is written about his government.

Showing rare belligerence, Singh also launched one of the strongest attacks on Narendra Modi saying the Gujarat Chief Minister as PM will have disastrous consequences for the country and argued presiding over mass murder of innocents is not a sign of strength.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1214983/

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Snoopgate: Suspended IAS officer files complaint against Modi, Shah (Jan 6, 2014, IBN)

More trouble is in store for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his associate Amit Shah as suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma has filed a complaint against the two in snooping controversy. Sharma claimed that the alleged snooping on a woman violated the law and that an FIR must be registered in the case right away. However, police have refused to file an FIR and warded off Sharma saying that a preliminary investigation would be conducted first.

“I have mentioned Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, then Intelligence chief (VK Sharma) and 2-3 junior officers in my complaint,” said Sharma. “These people were responsible for illegal snooping. Unfortunately the station in-charge refused to file the FIR. As per a Supreme Court ruling, the police have to file an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. He initially refused to register my complaint or take my application. Now he has taken my application and told me he will check and examine what can be done,” added Sharma.

According to Sharma, the above named had violated IPC sections 120(B), 166, 167, 188, 409 and 165. In the snooping scandal, the Union Cabinet had in December 2013 approved the setting up of an enquiry commission.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/snoopgate-suspended-ias-officer-files-complaint-against-modi-shah/443708-37-64.html

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New judge to try blast, riot cases (Jan 2, 2014, Times of India)

After principal sessions judge, Jyotsna Yagnik retired, the Gujarat high court on Wednesday designated new principal judge K K Bhatt to preside over some of the sensitive cases. He will now conduct trials in the 2008 serial blasts case and two post-Godhra riots cases of Gulbarg Society massacre and Naroda Gam killings.

The state of recording of evidence is over in both post-Godhra riots cases. Even final hearing has taken place twice in the Gulbarg case, but since the Supreme Court has stayed the court from delivering final verdict, there is a possibility that final hearing takes place again.

Bhatt was earlier designated to look after the Akshardham temple terrorist attack case, but he recused himself from this proceeding reportedly on the ground that he belongs to the same sect. With his relinquishing the charge of this Pota court, additional principal sessions judge Geeta Gopi will preside over the prosecution of two accused persons – Hafizkauri alias Shaukatullah Ghori and Mahmad Umarji alias Abdulmajid alias Majid Ibrahim Boda, who were arrested after a Pota court convicted six others in this case.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/28250585.cms

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IAMC writes open letter to UP CM on Muzaffarnagar riots (Jan 1, 2014, Twocircles.net)

President of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) has written an open letter to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on the ‘handling of sectarian violence and humanitarian crisis in Muzaffarnagar.’ Calling the riots of Muzaffarnagar and surrounding districts “planned,” IAMC noted that an entire community in Western UP has been traumatized, through killings, sexual violence and intimidation, while most perpetrators still roam free.

Criticising the Akhilesh led Samjwadi party Government, IAMC President writes, “Unfortunately, it also reflects on your administration’s lack of commitment to upholding the rule of law and to safeguarding the life and property of every citizen.” The letter also comes heavily on the SP Supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav for his statement on the riot victims, and termed it as “reflective of the moral bankruptcy” of the party.

“Mulayam Singh Yadav’s statement that the inhabitants of refugee camps are agents of the BJP and Congress is reflective of the moral bankruptcy that has taken hold of the Samajwadi Party,” IAMC President noted. It further noted, “Your administration’s acts of omission and commission have exacerbated the suffering of the victims. In dealing with the violence and in the rehabilitation of victims, your administration has shown a level of insensitivity that is shockingly close to that of the perpetrators of the violence.”

Not sparing the Muslim leadership of the state, IAMC wrote to the UP CM, “Rest assured that we are questioning the Muslim functionaries in UP whose silence in the community’s hour of need has not gone unnoticed.”

http://twocircles.net/2014jan01/iamc_writes_open_letter_cm_muzaffarnagar_riots.html

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UP Police stops relief material from reaching relief camps in Muzaffarnagar (Dec 31, 2013, Times of India)

Activist Shehzad Poonawalla, who is running the Blanket of Hope initiative for the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots, was illegally stopped by the police while he was taking relief material to the Loi camp in Muzaffarnagar district. The incident took place on the Shamli-Meerut road where two separate teams of UP Police stopped the activist and his truck of relief material containing blankets, fruits, rations, warm clothes and essential items, without any cause, justification or order. The police also misled the activist that the Loi camp has been wound up, even though it continued to house over 100 families. It must be noted that the Loi camp recently witnessed the demolition of tenements of the riot victims.

Shehzad, who has been active in over 12 camps including Malakpur, Barnawi, Suneti and Khurgan with relief efforts, was on his way to the Loi camp after distributing relief material to the Mansoora camp. When he asked police officer in charge of the team to show identification badge and written order prohibiting relief material, the policeman shouted at the activist and his team that he did not owe any explanation to anyone.

However, police team relented, when Shehzad and his team members lodged protest and dared police to arrest him. Local crowd also gathered in support of Shehzad. “It seems like the UP government wants to ensure that the relief camps are shut at the earliest as part of a cover up exercise. Having done nothing for the victims, the entire UP administration is now on a mission to deny the existence of the double victimization of the people of Muzaffarnagar,” Shehzad told TOI. He called up senior officers and demanded action against the police officer. Recently, Shehzad in his petition to the National Commission for Minorities had exposed the false statistics provided by the UP govt on cold related deaths and total persons living in the camps.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/28191689.cms

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Bhopal gas victims allege scam of Rs 25 crore in rehabilitation fund (Jan 6, 2014, Twocircles.net)

At a press conference today, five organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal presented details of corruption of over 20 Crores by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh in providing economic rehabilitation to the survivors. These details were exposed through documents made available under the RTI Act.

According to the complaint filed with the Joint Director Anti-Corruption, Central Bureau of Investigation, by the survivors’ organizations, more than 94 % of the payments made by Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh to the training agencies were fraudulent payments. These payments were made for trainees who did not complete their training or were not placed in any job by the training agencies.

The allegations against the department were based on information gathered from 380 persons claimed to have been trained under the economic rehabilitation scheme. The organizations have also complained to the CBI that close to a fourth of the names of the beneficiaries of the economic rehabilitation scheme are false, more than half of the letters offering jobs to the trainees were forged and only 6 % of the trainees received the stipend due to them.

The organizations said that as per the decision of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal in June, 2010, an amount of Rs. 104 Crores was transferred to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation Department by the central government for economic rehabilitation of the survivors. Out of this amount, between June 2011 and October 2013, Rs. 26 Crores have been paid to 22 training agencies by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation Department for providing training through 133 vocational courses to survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal and their families.

The organizations including Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Children Against Dow / Carbide and Bhopal Group for Information & Action condemned the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation Department for its failure in providing economic rehabilitation and misappropriation of funds meant for the survivors of the Bhopal disaster.

http://twocircles.net/2014jan06/bhopal_gas_victims_allege_scam_rs_25_crore_rehabilitation_fund.html

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Plea against Telangana pre-mature: SC (Jan 6, 2014, Deccan Herald)

The Supreme Court today again rejected a plea opposing the proposed creation of the new state of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, terming it “premature”. “It is still premature. We cannot go into it till Andhra Pradesh assembly takes a decision,” a bench comprising justices H L Dattu and S A Bobde said, nearly four months after the apex court dismissed another plea against Telangana creation on similar grounds.

The bench declined the plea of advocate P V Krishnaiah that the apex court should consider his petition as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has dismissed the issue raised by him on merits. The apex court said he was at liberty to withdraw the petition and could approach the appropriate forum after the state assembly and the Centre take a decision on bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh for creation of Telangana.

The apex court had on August 26, 2013 also termed as “premature” the petition filed by the lawyer against the proposed creation of the new state of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, which is yet to get Parliament’s nod. The Union cabinet on December 5, 2013 gave the go ahead for the creation of 10-district Telangana as the country’s 29th state.

The PIL had said the proposal for the creation of Telangana was political as in the past the demand for it has been rejected twice. Further, the advocate said the decision has also resulted in a hostile environment in the state. The petitioner said there has been a demand for bifurcating other states but the Centre has not accepted it because of political considerations.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/378878/plea-against-telangana-pre-mature.html

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‘SP leaders shielding gang-rape accused’ (Jan 4, 2014, Times of India)

Vote politics seems to have touched a new low in Uttar Pradesh. A 22-year-old gang-rape survivor has accused the Firozabad police of not arresting the four accused because one of them holds sway in the district and can fetch votes for the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The survivor is pregnant and her family is demanding police get a DNA profiling of the foetus done to identify the culprit(s), but to no avail. Her family met the state police chief on Friday with their demands.

The SP has given a ticket to its key strategist Ramgopal Yadav’s son Akshay Yadav from Firozabad for the 2014 general elections. The seat is currently represented by actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar of the Congress.The prime accused in the gang-rape case is Dalbir Singh. His wife is a pradhan and has a strong influence across 18 villages in Firozabad. The couple are said to have secured over 30,000 votes for SP MLA Ramveer Singh Yadav, leading to his win in the 2012 UP assembly elections.

The woman was allegedly kidnapped from Jeda village of Firozabad and gang-raped by Dalbir and his three cohorts – all residents of her village – on November 5. Police lodged the FIR only on November 19 after directions from the Firozabad SP. “Still, no action was initiated against the accused,” said Girish Tewari, a social worker from Lucknow who has come to the survivor’s aid.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/28361743.cms

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Tantrik baba arrested for repeatedly raping minor (Jan 4, 2014, Mid Day)

A tantrik was arrested on Thursday for repeatedly raping a 14-year-old girl from Bihar. Cops said that the victim, who is originally from Bihar, had been brought to the city one-and-a-half months ago by one of her relatives to work as a maid. According to Mahim police officials, the accused, Mohmmad Siddiqui (40), was a frequent visitor at the survivor’s aunt Hasina’s house, where the girl was staying. On Monday, he forced himself on the girl when there was no one in the house.

The teen told her aunt Hasina about what had happened, but she did nothing. For the next three days, Siddiqui brutalised her when she was alone at home. “The girl’s relative has been supporting the accused; after the teenager narrated her ordeal to Hasina, she tried to cover up the matter. The girl was almost quarantined in the house, because of which she could not say anything to anybody else for a few days.

The secrecy lasted for three consecutive days until, finally, on Thursday, she got a chance to get out of the house. That is when she contacted one of their neighbours and told him about the incident,” said an officer from Mahim police station. Following the teenager’s disclosure, the neighbours traced Siddiqui’s residence in Kurla and lured him to come to Mahim to attend to one of his clients. When the accused went to Mahim, the neighbours confronted him and forcibly took him to Mahim police station, where an FIR was registered in the matter.

A resident of the area, Sarfaraaz Ansari, said, “We called the accused from his residence in Kurla and then took him to the police station.” Siddiqui and Hasina have been booked under sections 376 (rape) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. They were arrested immediately after the case was registered at the police station. While the survivor was asked to undergo medical tests, Siddiqui was produced in the Bandra metropolitan magistrate’s court and was remanded in police custody.

http://www.mid-day.com/news/2014/jan/040114-tantrik-baba-arrested-for-repeatedly-raping-minor.htm

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Retired Delhi DSP’s son held for helping Narayan Sai (Dec 27, 2013, Indian Express)

Surat police have arrested the 18-year-old son of a retired DSP of Delhi in the Narayan Sai case. The teenager was produced before a local court Thursday and sent to four-day judicial custody. Police said the teenager, a Class 12 Delhi student, was summoned by the police. He had come to Surat with his father to record his statements Wednesday.

Surat police found that the teenager and his family were staunch followers of Asaram and he allegedly helped Sai and others evade arrest in the sexual assault case. After his arrest Wednesday, the police produced the teenager before Additional Senior Civil Judge A S Gadhvi Thursday and sought a four-day remand period. Surat police told the court he with Sai and his aides when they were absconding.

He had also met Sai at a house in Ambala and provided him with a car that he had got from Dharmesh Parihar, the caretaker of Delhi ashram. Dharmesh is presently out on bail. The teenager is also suspected to have provided SIM cards and mobile phones to Sai when he was on the run.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1212221/

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Opinions and Editorials

Will Kejriwal wreck Modi’s dream? – By Praful Bidwai (Jan 6, 2014, Rediff)

The Bharatiya Janata Party has reason to be greatly pleased with the results of the recent assembly election in four northern and central states. It swept 163 of Rajasthan’s 200 seats, taking an unprecedented 12-plus percentage-point lead over the Congress. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won a convincing two-thirds majority. In Chhattisgarh, where it was expected to lose, it won albeit by a whisker. And in Delhi, it kept the Congress out of power. Its seat tally in the four states has risen from 50 percent to 69 percent of the total. This could translate into 50 of these states’s 72 Lok Sabha seats for the BJP, up from 30.

Yet, the impact of the BJP’s success has been blunted to some extent by the Aam Aadmi Party’s spectacular performance in Delhi. Strange as it seems, AAP Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, not the BJP’s Narendra Modi, is leading the battle for the national popular imagination. Kejriwal’s ‘new politics’ has inspired large numbers of people. Has Kejriwal eclipsed Modi? Has Modi, with his aggressive high-profile campaign, peaked too soon? Has his macho style put off potential supporters? Has his belated, strained expression of ‘misery, pain, anguish, agony’ at the 2002 violence won him Muslim sympathy? It is difficult to give a definite answer to all these questions just yet. But two things are clear. Modi’s feigned ‘hurt’ at the anti-Muslim pogrom convinces nobody.

Second, the AAP’s entry has introduced a new variable and enlarged the shadow of uncertainty over the BJP’s ‘target’ of reaching the 272-seat halfway-mark on its own by fielding Modi. Modi or no Modi, the BJP lacks the support-base to reach this. But can the National Democratic Alliance do so? The NDA has shrunk from 23 parties to just three: The BJP (116 Lok Sabha seats), the Shiv Sena (11) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (4). It must more than double its present seat-tally to reach the half-way mark. This means raising its percentage-share of the national vote from 21.2 to over 30.

This is a far bigger task than the highest jump in seats and votes ever achieved by the BJP, when it rose from 161 seats and 20.3 percent (1996) to 182 seats and 25.6 percent (1998) and collected enough allies to form an opportunist coalition, which expediently put all trademark Hindutva issues in abeyance. The NDA has lost – probably irrevocably – major allies like the Janata Dal-United, the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal, besides ethnic-Tamil parties and Telugu Desam, Party which quit earlier. For the NDA to come to power in 2014, the BJP must win about 200 (if not 210 to 220) Lok Sabha seats to create a nucleus around which smaller parties can coalesce and form a winning alliance.…

In an optimistic scenario, the BJP’s three-state gamble may pay off. More realistically, it may not. The BJP has the advantage of having emerged as an urban winner in a few states. For instance, in Gujarat, it bagged 58 percent of city votes, to the Congress’s 28 percent. But Gujarat is 40-percent urbanised. The BJP can’t replicate its performance in Bihar and UP, with their 11 and 22 percent urbanisation rates. Besides, a new, quintessentially urban, challenge has arisen – in the shape of the AAP. Despite its flawed start and many problems including near-silence on communalism, the AAP could eat into the BJP’s votes in many cities, wrecking Modi’s dream.

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/column-praful-bidwai-will-kejriwal-wreck-modis-dream/20140106.htm

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Muslims, Modi and brutal rapes of Muzzaffarnagar – By Lakshmi Chaudhry (Dec 23, 2013, First Post)

“If there are Congress leaders who are visiting the riot affected areas I will welcome any suggestions from them on resolving the situation there. You will see that Samajwadi Party is willing to take constructive suggestions from all quarters and work towards implementing them,” declared Akhilesh Yadav, doing his best not to sound defensive in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s unexpected visit to the post-riot relief camps in Uttar Pradesh. While media pundits are entranced by the “politics” of this scion v scion spat, no one seems to have noted the grim absurdity of a Chief Minister soliciting “suggestions” to address an ongoing human tragedy in his state. Well, one small step in the right direction would be to stop lying. As India Today notes, “SP government… has repeatedly made claims of adequate help to the riot victims. To the extent that even after a snub from Supreme Court on relief work, the government has insisted that it has provided suitable relief, compensation and rehabilitation to all the riot victims.” It’s not clear how the Yadav government defines “suitable” relief but it apparently does not include the blankets and clothes required to prevent babies from freezing to death.

Our politicians like to pretend basic governance is rocket science. After 60-odd years of independence, leaders don’t know how to impose law and order, limit casualties, or even arrange immediate relief and rehabilitation – except when it suits them. Hey, we can rescue tourists from the upper reaches of the Himalayas, evacuate lakhs and lakhs of people before a cyclone, but god forbid, the police reaches in time to rescue citizens being raped and butchered at the local pradhan’s mansion. This is exactly what happened in Lakh Bawdi where 80 people were lured to the residence of the local headman who promised to keep them safe. They were greeted instead by a mob who proceeded to butcher and rape the hapless men, women and children. Calls to the local police on their mobiles proved futile.

As Abid tells Outlook, “They arrived, but only at 12.30 pm, four hours after everything was over. Around 80 people from my village had been killed by then.” One of the other survivors offers this brief glimpse of what ensued during those four hours [The must read account is available here]: “Within half an hour, a group of men from the village entered the compound and attacked us. They hacked my husband right before me.” Was she attacked? Shabana is quiet. I try again. This time, her voice a whisper, she says, “They stripped several of us. Took our honour.” They first beat them with batons, then stripped them and brutally sodomised them. The men were stripped and simply chopped into pieces. Shabana and several others were thrown out, naked, an hour later. The women were repeatedly penetrated with batons, their breasts assaulted with sharp trowels, and faces mutilated by vicious bites. The stories are no less gruesome than the December 16 Delhi gang rape, but there is no similar outrage or demands for justice. The religious affiliation of the victims – in this case, Muslim – makes this a “communal” issue.

A word that overshadows their identities as citizens and human beings. No one talks about a failure of governance, but instead the discussion focuses entirely on base politics. While Congress spars with SP, and Rahul tries to show up Akhilesh, the BJP and Narendra Modi maintain a studied silence. This could be a tremendous opportunity for Modi to tout the virtues of good governance, of a state that protects and rehabilitates its citizens, delivers justice irrespective caste or creed. If Modi wants to put Godhra behind him, and articulate a new secularism that moves away from vote bank politics, this is his chance. Why not take as active an interest in relief operations in Muzaffarnagar as he did in Uttarakhand – all are citizens of the Indian state, and equally deserving of his attention, after all. What we get instead is Modi wooing all the usual Muslim interest groups: madrassas, clerics, and wakf boards. It’s just more identity politics of the Congress kind. And this is perhaps India’s greatest failure of a democracy. For all the talk about Indian vs Western secularism, we have been unable to formulate any version of secularism that incorporates genuine citizenship and its attendant rights. What we get instead is either a pandering of “communal harmony” that endorses a Shah Bano-type of travesty – i.e. relegating Muslim women to second-class citizens – or the RSS kind which touts a Hindu rashtra where some citizens are more equal than others, and therefore more deserving of the state’s attention, resources and protection.

“Voting is only one part of the modern idea of citizenship. Citizenship also means that individuals have a bundle of rights , especially with respect to health, education and public order. Such rights are entitlements, not an expression of government kindness. Regardless of class, ethnicity or religion, a democratic polity must deliver these services,” writes Ashutosh Varshney in the Indian Express. One of these services must necessarily be law and order. The social contract – which is the basis of modern democratic nations – requires citizens surrender their freedoms in exchange for the protection of a neutral and impartial state. What happened in Billu Pradhan’s mansion in Lakh Bawdi was a complete breakdown of that contract – and therefore represents a total failure of Indian democracy. That we are too busy with partisan and communal name-calling to notice represents our failure as citizens.

http://www.firstpost.com/politics/citizens-first-muslims-modi-and-brutal-rapes-of-muzzaffarnagar-1302191.html

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The Hindutva heartland – By Sudha Pai (Jan 7, 2014, Indian Express)

Much has been written on the communal riots in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district — the violence against the minority community, the rapes, how the riots spread to rural areas and now, the poor conditions in government relief camps. But two issues require urgent attention. Why are those living in the harrowing relief camps not willing to go back to their homes? And why has the UP government decided, despite the cold wave sweeping across north India, to dismantle the camps and, in some cases, forcibly evict those living there? These questions are significant because, after the collapse of the Congress in the state, the ruling Samajwadi Party has been trusted and supported by the minority community.

UP has had a history of communal riots, starting after Independence and continuing into recent decades: Aligarh in 1978 and 2006, Moradabad in 1980, Meerut in 1987, Agra in 1990, among others. However, the communal violence over the Babri Masjid dispute and the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar have distinctive features. They stem from religious mobilisation by political parties, most notably the BJP. Parties have played two kinds of roles in relation to religious and caste identities. Immediately after Independence, they reflected the existing social diversities without disturbing social harmony. But since the late 1980s, party mobilisations have run along social cleavages, deepening the existing divides, causing distrust, conflict and violence.

The earlier pattern of moderate, centrist politics and democratic, secular modes of mobilisation was replaced by the exploitation of religious identity. However, after the destruction of Babri Masjid, the dispute lost political importance, leading to the organisational and electoral decline of the BJP by the late 1990s. By the early 2000s, scholars pointed to the emergence of a post-Babri, “autonomous” Muslim politics in UP. With the weakening of identity politics, the community was no longer afraid of the BJP and under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the party was moving towards an agenda of development and reform. Two small political parties, the Peace Party and the Rashtriya Ulema Council, emerged as Muslims felt they should form their own parties and not remain vote-banks for others. With the erosion of the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, electoral politics in the UP of the 2000s became a bipolar contest between the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

With the approach of the 2014 national elections, UP is set to become a communal battleground once again. Recent developments point to attempts by parties to revive the politics of polarisation for electoral gains. From 2012, when the SP assumed power, low-intensity communal polarisation became visible. In the first 10 months of its rule, there were 104 communal incidents, even though the Hindutva campaign of the early 1990s was missing. The BJP appointed Amit Shah as in-charge of the UP campaign and attempts to revive the Hindutva agenda began. This was followed in August 2013 by the stage-managed confrontation between the BJP and the SP over the Chaurasi Kosi Yatra, organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which was to pass through 600 villages across six districts, all with a sizeable Muslim population. The SP did not allow it to be held and arrested many activists. The BJP hoped to win Hindu votes in 2014 by reviving its religious mobilisation while the SP felt banning the yatra would enhance its image and earn it the support of the minority community. …

the answers to the questions raised lie in the heightened contestation among parties over Muslim votes in UP on the eve of the 2014 elections. It explains the deep communal chasm deliberately created between Hindus (particularly Jats) and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar. It also explains the partisan manner in which state leaders have handled the riots. The gainer from this polarisation will be the BJP, as it consolidates Jat votes in western UP. The SP will lose the most since its game plan of bringing Muslims into its protective fold has not worked. Instead, Muslims will move away and seek alternative parties. Some Muslim groups maintain that the SP is working with the BJP for electoral gains. With the Congress viewed as weak, the BSP, which has decided to give a large number of tickets to Muslim candidates, stands to benefit most from this. The 2014 election campaign is witnessing demands for clean politics and greater accountability. Unfortunately, UP, “the heartland”, still represents an unchanging India, where an older pattern of communal politics is rearing its head again.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1216209/

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Modi vs Rahul in 2014, but Kejriwal a rising star – By Prashant Sood (Jan 5, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement that he will not seek a third term could effectively result in a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi contest in this year’s Lok Sabha elections, analysts said and noted that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would also make its presence felt in the polls through its rising star, Arvind Kejriwal. The prime minister’s remarks at his press conference Friday that he will give “the baton” to a new PM after 2014 elections has set the stage for Congress leaders expressing their desire to see the party vice president Rahul Gandhi in the chair after Manmohan Singh. The prime minister had also stated that Gandhi had “outstanding credentials” to be the prime ministerial candidate.

Though suggestions have been made in the past by Congress members about projecting Gandhi, 43, as the prime ministerial candidate, the party has not taken a firm decision on the issue. All that it has stated is that the prime ministerial candidate will be declared at an “opportune time”. Party sources said that those pushing for declaration of a prime ministerial candidate feel it will present voters with a clear choice. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has officially declared Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and suggestions have started coming from within the AAP for projecting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as the prime ministerial candidate, though Kejriwal has declared he is not going to contest the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress had projected Manmohan Singh as prime ministerial candidate in 2009 and the decision is reckoned as a factor that contributed to party’s improved performance over its tally in 2004 Lok elections.

Congress sources said that those pressing for declaring Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate feel that the step will galvanise the party workers and inject momentum in the party’s poll campaign. There is also a feeling that projection of Gandhi, who publicly slammed a proposed ordinance on convicted lawmakers, will help the party distance itself from perceived failures of Manmohan Singh government on issues of price rise and corruption. A session of the All India Congress Committee is being held here Jan 17 and there is growing speculation that Gandhi could be declared prime ministerial candidate at the meet. On his part, Rahul Gandhi has been taking a more active stance on issues after the party’s drubbing in the assembly polls last month. He sought to take political credit for government’s push for the passage of Lokpal bill and clearly articulated his economic vision at an event organised by a business chamber. He also held a meeting of party chief ministers to deliberate on the issue of price rise.

Party sources said there was also a view in the party that projecting Gandhi as PM candidate at this stage may not be the best strategy due to the nature of challenge before the Congress. This section feels that Congress prospect do not appear to be very bright and a sharp downslide in performance could affect Gandhi’s long-term political prospects. B.R.P. Bhaskar, Thiruvananthapuram-based political commentator and media veteran, said that prime minister’s announcement had set the stage for transition at leadership level in the Congress. “As a party Congress is held together only with dynasty at top. Whether they make a formal announcement (about Gandhi’s candidature) or not, there is no question that PM comes from the ‘family’ unless the member voluntarily steps down,” Bhaskar told IANS.

He added that the Congress did not have a tradition of announcing a candidate. “If a situation emerges where Congress is in a position to form government, Rahul Gandhi will certainly be the prime minister.” Bhaskar said the elections would not see a presidential election-like contest between Gandhi and Modi because India was a parliamentary democracy. He said there were many political parties in fray and with Aam Aadmi Party’s emergence “situation has changed”. Bhaskar said AAP will have an impact, particularly in urban areas. “The urban population has grown to considerable size and (AAP) can make a difference… There was a study which said that there were 160 constituencies where internet can play a significant role,” Bhaskar said. He said if AAP wins around 30 seats in Lok Sabha polls, “it will be a force that can’t be ignored”. …

http://twocircles.net/2014jan05/modi_vs_rahul_2014_kejriwal_rising_star.html

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Big Brother is watching you – By Chinmayi Arun (Jan 3, 2014, The Hindu)

The Gujarat telephone tapping controversy is just one of many kinds of abuse that surveillance systems enable. If a relatively primitive surveillance system can be misused so flagrantly despite safeguards that the government claims are adequate, imagine what is to come with the Central Monitoring System (CMS) and Netra in place.

News reports indicate Netra – a “NEtwork TRaffic Analysis system” – will intercept and examine communication over the Internet for keywords like “attack,” “bomb,” “blast” or “kill.” While phone tapping and the CMS monitor specific targets, Netra is vast and indiscriminate. It appears to be the Indian government’s first attempt at mass surveillance rather than surveillance of predetermined targets. It will scan tweets, status updates, emails, chat transcripts and even voice traffic over the Internet (including from platforms like Skype and Google Talk) in addition to scanning blogs and more public parts of the Internet. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden said of mass-surveillance dragnets that “they were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

So far, our jurisprudence has dealt with only targeted surveillance; and even that in a woefully inadequate manner. This article discusses the slow evolution of the right to privacy in India, highlighting the context and manner in which it is protected. It then discusses international jurisprudence to demonstrate how the right to privacy might be protected more effectively. A proposal to include the right to privacy in the Constitution was rejected by the Constituent Assembly with very little debate. Separately, a proposal to give citizens an explicit fundamental right against unreasonable governmental search and seizure was also put before the Constituent Assembly. This proposal was supported by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. If accepted, it would have included within our Constitution the principles from which the United States derives its protection against state surveillance. However, the proposed amendment was rejected by the Constituent Assembly.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has gradually been reading the right to privacy into the fundamental rights explicitly listed in the Constitution. After its initial reluctance to affirm the right to privacy in the 1954 case of M.P. Sharma vs. Satish Chandra, the court came around to the view that other rights and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution would be seriously affected if the right to privacy was not protected. In Kharak Singh vs. The State of U.P., the court recognised “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” and declared that their right against unreasonable searches and seizures was not to be violated. The right to privacy here was conceived around the home, and unauthorised intrusions into homes were seen as interference with the right to personal liberty.

If the Kharak Singh judgment was progressive in its recognition of the right to privacy, it was conservative about the circumstances in which the right applies. The majority of judges held that shadowing a person could not be seen to interfere with that person’s liberty. Dissenting with the majority, Justice Subba Rao maintained that broad surveillance powers put innocent citizens at risk, and that the right to privacy is an integral part of personal liberty. He recognised that when a person is shadowed, her movements will be constricted, and will certainly not be free movements. His dissenting judgment showed remarkable foresight and his reasoning is consistent with what is now a universally acknowledged principle that there is a “chilling effect” on expression and action when people think that they are being watched. …

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/big-brother-is-watching-you/article5530857.ece

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Above the law? – By Sagnik Dutta (Dec 27, 2013, Frontline)

MORE than a decade after the historic Vishaka judgment laid down a framework for addressing sexual harassment at the workplace, the Supreme Court of India on November 26 finally constituted a panel to look at the issues of harassment in its own precincts. The recent allegation of sexual harassment against a former Supreme Court judge by a law intern has stirred up a hornet’s nest. The case has thrown the spotlight on the hierarchical, and often exploitative, relationship between judges, senior advocates and young women lawyers, which leads to harassment of women both within and outside the precincts of the Supreme Court. On November 29, the Supreme Court-appointed panel that was probing the alleged sexual harassment of a law intern by a retired judge submitted its report to the Chief Justice of India. The report has named former Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly as the accused in the case.

The formation of the panel is only a small step to create a gender-sensitive environment for women lawyers, interns and clerks who are often forced to acquiesce to daily harassment in a world of male domination. Women lawyers practising in the Supreme Court sense a deep-seated culture of sexism that manifests itself in the everyday conduct of judges, fellow lawyers and senior advocates. The present regulations governing sexual harassment at the Supreme Court, notified in September 2013, remain grossly inadequate.

The public outcry over the recent sexual harassment allegations seems to be the immediate cause for the formation of the panel. Earlier, in December 2012, the Supreme Court in Medha Kotwal Lele and Ors vs Union of India had expressed its anguish over the non-implementation of the guidelines laid down in the Vishaka judgment. The court noted: “There is still no proper mechanism in place to address the complaints of sexual harassment of the women lawyers in Bar Associations.” Further, in Binu Tamta and Anr vs High Court of Delhi, the Supreme Court observed that women attending courts as administrative staff, lawyers, and clients or in any other capacity must be protected from sexual harassment. It was only in September 2013 that the Supreme Court finally notified The Gender Sensitisation and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Regulations, 2013. However, these regulations fall far short of the norms defining sexual harassment set by the Vishaka judgment.

Speaking to Frontline, senior advocate and director of the Lawyers’ Collective, Anand Grover, explained: “Sexual harassment by judges of superior courts is not covered under the present rules notified by the Supreme Court. Also, the definition of precincts of the Supreme Court in the rules notified by the Supreme Court needs to be expanded so as to cover places outside the court premises where interns might have to visit for work. These rules do not come under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013, being passed by Parliament. There are also problems with the Act so far as its application to judges is concerned. Section 13 of the Act provides for punishment for sexual harassment as misconduct in accordance with the service rules applicable to the respondent. These are not applicable to judges. Also, judges are not subject to the discipline of the Chief Justice of India. The only law that is applicable generally is the Vishaka judgment. Therefore, the Act and/or the regulations need to be amended to cover the judges of superior courts.”…

The present case of the law intern has brought to the fore the larger problem of gender insensitivity and the lack of regulations to punish the guilty in the highest quarters of the judiciary. The formation of the committee, though a step in the right direction, is only a small one to prevent exploitation by people in positions of power. However, there have to be concrete measures to promote a just, gender-sensitive working environment for women lawyers, interns and law clerks and prevent obstacles to women entering the legal fraternity.

http://www.frontline.in/social-issues/above-the-law/article5443811.ece

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