IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 16th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Keshubhai Patel compares Narendra Modi to Adolf Hitler (Jul 16, 2012, IBN)

The war of words within the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Gujarat unit is escalating. Former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel has hit out at his successor Narendra Modi and compared him to Adolf Hitler.

Addressing farmers in Kutch, Patel said Modi ruled like a dictator and said Gujarat was in a state of mini-emergency.

Last month, Keshubhai Patel had threatened to quit the party, and proposed a Third Front for the upcoming Gujarat elections. He is upset with the party for sidelining him.

The former chief minister of Gujarat, who was replaced by Narendra Modi in 2001, has been targeting the BJP stalwart in the run-up to the state elections scheduled in December.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/keshubhai-compares-narendra-modi-to-adolf-hitler/271539-37-64.html

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Best Bakery case: Too little, too late (Jul 10, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Best Bakery case in Vadodara, in which 14 people were burnt alive, was one of the two cases related to the 2002 riots which were re-probed and the trial shifted outside Gujarat after the intervention of the Supreme Court. The other was the Bilkis Bano rape and murder case. Among the most gruesome massacres of the Gujarat riots, the Best Bakery case has often come to symbolise the brutality of the carnage during the post-Godhra riots, in which around 1,200 people were killed.

On Monday, the Mumbai HC verdict evoked a mixed response in Gujarat. While all that Gujarat government spokesperson and health minister Jaynarayan Vyas had to say was, “No comment”, activist Fr Cedric Prakash called it “partial justice”. “Now, if the Gujarat government believes in delivering justice to victims, it must challenge the acquittal of the five accused, in the Supreme Court,” said activist Shabnam Hashmi.

Of all the cases related to the 2002 riots, this one has taken the most exasperating twists. A day after the bakery was burnt down by a mob on March 1, 2002, the owner’s 18-year-old daughter Zaheera Sheikh lodged a police complaint against 21 accused. In June 2003, a fast track court acquitted all the accused, citing lack of evidence, as key witnesses, including Sheikh, turned hostile. The trial court blamed the police for delay in filing the FIR, and shoddy probe, which led to the acquittal.

After the Gujarat HC upheld the verdict in December, the SC termed the acquittal “miscarriage of justice”. It then ordered re-investigation and re-trial and moved the case to Maharashtra. After reinvestigation, the trial court in Mumbai sentenced nine of the 21 accused for life and acquitted eight while four are yet to be arrested.

In a rare instance, the SC had sentenced prime witness Sheikh to one year in prison for perjury. “It’s heartening to know that justice is slowly happening in cases related to the 2002 riots. The prosecution agency must challenge the acquittal in the Supreme Court,” said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Jayantilal Parmar.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/886051.aspx

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Communal riot cases can’t be quashed, rules Kerala HC (Jul 6, 2012, Times of India)

Criminal cases registered for disrupting communal harmony and for promoting enmity between different religious groups cannot be quashed even if the original complainant approaches court to withdraw the case, the Kerala high court has ruled. The judgment by Justice S S Satheesachandran was while considering a petition by T M Sameer of Ajanur village in Hosdurg, seeking to quash the criminal case against him under section 153A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Section 153A is invoked by police in cases related to communal riots and is for booking those promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. The section is also used for registering cases against those engaging in acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony in society. Sameer was charged under section 153A, after a riot that occurred within Hosdurg police station limits in February. Police registered the case under section 153A against Sameer and others following clashes between two religious groups near a mosque.

Along with an affidavit from the de facto complainant and some witnesses, Sameer had sought to quash the charges against him. According to section 320 of CrPC, certain offences can be withdrawn, which includes offence of uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of a person. Case for hurting religious sentiments can be withdrawn by an application by the person whose feelings were hurt.

Considering the petition filed through advocate C K Sreejith, the court clarified that offences registered under section 153A are not compoundable at the instance of the complainant or any other person. Investigation on the crime is in progress and, at this stage, on the plea by the accused that the complainant and some others who are stated to be witnesses in the case have no grievance, the FIR registered in the crime cannot be quashed, the court held.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-06/kochi/32564983_1_communal-harmony-communal-riot-cases-religious-groups

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Government harassing FSL officer: Satish Verma (Jul 14, 2012, DNA India)

IPS officer Satish Verma, on Friday, told the Gujarat high court that an official of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is being harassed by the government authorities as he is a material witness in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Verma told the court that, BK Mistry, assistant director of FSL, Ahmedabad, is being harassed by the state government and that this was a clear ‘obstruction’ in the CBI’s investigation of the Ishrat case.

However, a bench of justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed that Mistry should raise his grievances before the appropriate authorities. The matter came to light while the court was hearing Verma’s petition seeking protection against the inquiry initiated against him by the state government. Verma gave to the bench copies of the letters addressed to him by Mistry and submitted that Mistry is a material witness in the Ishrat encounter case and had submitted some reports.

The IPS officer further told the court that, according to a letter, he (Mistry) is not being given a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) by the government for renewal of his passport. His annual confidential report (ACR) had also been affected, Verma told the court. Verma further submitted that he (Mistry) had been summoned twice to Vadodara to record his statement and once to Surat in connection with an inquiry and was threatened by officers with dire consequences. Mistry, who has been transferred to Junagadh, is the officer who had lodged a complaint against Verma for “threatening and misbehaving with him” when the police officer had raided the FSL office.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1715021

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Purohit generated input on Pragya Singh 12 days after her name came up, say NIA sources (Jul 11, 2012, Times of India)

Lt Col Prasad Purohit may have tried to build a solid defence through his testimony in the Army Court of Inquiry (CoI), but the National Investigation Agency, which is probing his involvement in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, is not amused. The agency claims Purohit has tried to build alibis after realizing he was on the radar for the attacks that killed six and left over a hundred injured in the Muslim-dominated power-loom town. In his CoI testimony, Purohit has claimed that he had actually infiltrated Abhinav Bharat as a Military Intelligence officer and was gathering information on right-wing extremism.

Distancing himself from the conspiracy, he has said that he, in fact, generated an input about Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur being involved in the conspiracy three weeks before his arrest. NIA sources said that in all this, Purohit has conveniently omitted certain facts that will call his bluff. An official said, “What he is not telling anyone is that he generated the input 12 days after Pragya’s name had come up in the investigation. Two days later, she had been put on surveillance. Generating an input after that makes no sense unless you are trying to create an alibi having come to know that one of your associates has been identified and you could be the next.”

The blast took place on September 29, 2008. Purohit passed on his information through phone on October 14 that year to the intelligence officer at Jabalpur, Maj Bhagirath Dey, and the commanding officer of Southern Command liaison unit, Col Vinay Panchpore, besides the then intelligence officer at Deolali. This call was followed by a handwritten note of the same information. Sources said if Purohit used this as his defence during trial, it was unlikely to be appreciated by the court given the circumstances.

NIA has also picked holes in his claim of infiltrating Abhinav Bharat and generating the input through his informers. Sources said much before the blast and during the time period Purohit claims to have been engaging with his informers from Abhinav Bharat, he was not on MI duty. “He was sent to a training institute in Pachmarhi to learn Arabic in 2007. What was he doing collecting information on Abhinav Bharat or liaising with it. He was not an agent anymore,” said the official.

Sources further said it was an evidence of Purohit’s anxiety that he was unnecessarily delaying the trial and stalling investigations through court litigation. NIA is fighting a battle in Supreme Court to take Purohit’s custody. “If he is innocent, he should face trial and if the evidence is on his side, he will be exonerated. Had things gone on without various litigation, the trial would have been over by now.” NIA sources said they had collected some more evidence against Purohit beyond the charge sheet filed by Maharashtra ATS in the case. “We are just waiting to get his custody so that we can question him on these,” said the official.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/14814525.cms

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‘White paper on state of Indian Muslims needed’ (Jul 10, 2012, Times of India)

Former chief justice of the Delhi high court and civil rights activist Rajinder Sachar has said that the Union government needs to come out with a white paper on the prevailing social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in the country. Sachar, who headed a six-member committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005, to prepare a report on the latest social, economic and educational condition of the Muslim community in India, was speaking at the Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society’s (MCES) Azam campus here on Monday.

The committee proposed multiple suggestions in its report submitted in November 2006, to ensure equity and equality of opportunities to Indian Muslims in residential, work and educational sector. The report has since generated a widepsread debate among the political and social circles over the state of the Muslim community. “The committee has done its job by highlighting the prevailing condition of the Muslim community in the country,” said Sachar. It is now for the Union government to act on the report. A white paper on the issue will enable efforts at all levels to remove the backwardness of the community.

“The community need not harbour any sense of inferiority complex, negative approach and disappointment on the issue of their progress and being a part of the national mainstream,” he added. Sachar also called for the utilisation of the revenue generated from the vast tracts of land available with the Muslim waqf boards, for the purpose of the education of Muslim youth. “Efforts are also needed to promote education of Muslim women in a big way,” he said. “Nowhere does the holy Quran or Hadis state that women be denied education,” he pointed out.

Earlier, MCES chairman P A Inamdar felicitated Sachar and highlighted the former judge’s immense contribution towards the empowerment of the Muslim community. Vice-chairman of MCES Abeda Inamdar, secretary Latif Maqdoom, S M Khan, E M Khan, Wahid Biyabani, Subhash Ware and S A Inamdar were among the prominent members of the academic society who attended the interactive session with Sachar. The teaching and non-teaching staff of Azam campus institutions were also present.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-10/pune/32617633_1_muslim-community-rajinder-sachar-white-paper

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BJP using backdoors to suck the state dry: Bhuria (Jul 14, 2012, Central Chronicle)

Congress State Chief and former Central Minister Kantilal Bhuria has accused BJP for selling State land to those industrialists and businessmen who pay crores of rupees to the party in the name of donations. He further stated that the govt is using various organizations as a cover to hide the scams from common eyes.

State govt took a similar step in a Minister Council Meeting organized on July 10, in which it allotted Babai Agricultural Farm in Hoshangabad district to such people and organizations that offer personally benefits to BJP. He quoted the act as a conspiracy, as the 1678 acres of land possessing a golden value was declared as “wasteland” and was taken from Horticulture and Food Processing Department and the whole act was covered in the name of horticulture sponsorship.

Bhuria alleged that BJP govt has been giving precious lands of the state since 2003. In it’s first phase, organizations owned by any people sharing sides with the govt were given lakhs of acres of land on extremely low prices. Most have these lands have already been used as the base for gigantic bungalows.

After converting all the BJP based organizations into millionaires, beneficial businessmen and industrialists were included in the second phase, they were provided with lands of crores on minimal prices under the banner of industrialisation. This appears as BJP’s secret agenda to pay back the investors that loaded BJP with money bags through donations. Babai Farm is a similar example that continues the row started over a decade ago.

http://www.centralchronicle.com/bjp-using-backdoors-to-suck-the-state-dry-bhuria.html

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Guwahati molestation case: 5 accused still free, NCW flays police (Jul 16, 2012, IBN)

Almost one week has passed since a young girl was publicly molested and stripped by a mob of more than 30 people in Assam’s capital Guwahati but the police have not been able to arrest all those involved in the heinous incident. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has blamed the police for reacting late in trying to save the girl even as its report, which was to be submitted on Monday, has been delayed. The three-member NCW team that had visited Guwahati was to have submitted its report by 2 pm on Monday, but it is yet to be finalised. The NCW committee had met the victim on Saturday in Guwahati.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s deadline to the police to nab all the suspects has also ended and only seven of the 12 people identified in the video have been apprehended. The hunt for the accused has spread to Odisha after reports that the main suspect Amar Jyoti Kalita, the one in the red jersey in the video, was hiding in the state. “Tracking of his (Amar Jyoti Kalita) mobile phone has pointed to his presence in Bhubaneswar and efforts are on to catch him. Our police is in touch with Odisha Police and we hope to trace him soon,” Gogoi said outside Assam Assembly on Monday.

The police have announced Rs 1 lakh cash award for giving information on the whereabouts of the prime accused and search operations are on in Assam and neighbouring states to apprehend the accused who are absconding. According to the NCW report accessed by CNN-IBN, the panel says, “Police action was delayed. The police was negligent. The police came half an hour after the first call was made.” “There was lack of coordination between the state administration and the local police,” it adds. Sources say the report has also called for a probe into the role of the journalist who shot the incident, saying it seemed suspicious.

The report has also asked the state government to explain how such an incident could take place on a busy street in the capital city. The report has further slammed the state government for not making efforts to rehabilitate the girl a week after the incident. The role of the journalist, Gaurav Jyoti Neog, who captured the incident on camera, is also under scrutiny. RTI activist and Team Anna member Akhil Gogoi alleges that Neog instigated the mob and he has resigned pending a probe, saying the charges against him were ‘malicious and wild’. “There are allegations levelled against me that I orchestrated the molestation on the girl on GS Road on the night on July 9. I strongly deny and refute the allegations as malicious and wild,” he said in a signed statement in Guwahati.

Gogoi called Neog’s role as “unethical”. “This was a case of unethical journalism. It is all right to film the incident as a part of his professional duty but as a part of his social responsibility the journalist should have informed the police”, Gogoi said. The molestation issue was raised in Assam Assembly on Monday and led to uproarious scenes. Members of opposition AIUDF, AGP and BJP staged walkouts in the Assam Assembly after the Speaker disallowed an adjournment motion on the molestation issue.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/guwahati-case-5-accused-still-free-ncw-flays-police/271647-3-251.html

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Cop held for attempted rape inside police station (Jul 13, 2012, Times of India)

Even as the Mall police station sub-inspector accused of attempted rape was arrested on Thursday, top cops went into the damage control. Circle officer Malihabad Jitendra Srivastava was shifted and station officer R K Singh Maal suspended for laxity in the case. Director general of police AC Sharma said the charges levelled by the victim against sub-inspector Kamta Prasad Awasthi, posted at Mall police station, were prima-facie found true. Awasthi had allegedly tried to rape the victim inside Maal police station on Wednesday night.

The victim, Sunita (name changed) in her complaint lodged with Maal police stated that she had a dispute with her neighbour Vijaylaxmi. But they reached a compromise and a compensation of Rs 30,000 was given to Sunita by Vijaylaxmi, However, about a month back, the victim and Vijaylaxmi again entered into a dispute. Later, Vijaylaxmi lodged a complaint against Sunita and her husband Gaya Prasad. On Wednesday night, sub-inspector Kamta Prasad Awasthi, who was probing the case, called Sunita to the police station on the pretext of solving her case.

Acccording to Sunita, the S-I took her to a room in the police station and sought sexual favours. He even allegedly tried to outrage her modesty. Sunita, however, managed to escape from the police station. Sunita has also alleged that Awasthi had also made some obscene calls to her and claims having recorded them. Initially, the police had lodged a case of assault and intimidation, but it was later changed to attempted rape and assault. The accused sub-inspector has also been booked under section of prohibition of atrocities against members of the scheduled caste and schedule tribe.

DGP refuted the allegation that police had initially tried to save the sub-inspector by saying he appeared to be of unstable mind . “That statement in the inquiry reports is still there and he has been booked for attempted rape. This itself explains that the particular noting was not an attempt to help the SI in anyway,” Sharma said. “The officer who initially investigated the case found accused statements incoherent, suggesting a certain level of mental instability,” DGP explained.

Sharma said the victim’s statement would be recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). District police chief Ashutosh Pandey told reporters that the woman’s statement would be recorded on Friday. He added that the woman and the S-I have been sent for medical examination. Earlier, Pandey visited Maal police station and took stock of the situation. The incident will be probed by SP (protocol) GP Chaturvedi.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/14858194.cms

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Aamir Khan’s message falling on deaf ears? Gujarat’s dalit villages reveal the truth (Jul 9, 2012, DNA India)

As Aamir Khan highlighted the plight of the dalits in the country, those in Gujarat happen to be no exception. Gujarat is believed to be among the safest states in the country but apparently it is not so safe for dalits. There are 17 villages in the state where police teams had to be deployed to protect dalits who were being threatened by non-dalits living there. This shocking fact has been revealed by a reply to an RTI application. In almost all the villages concerned, police teams deputed for protection of members of Scheduled Castes are still there.

“Dalits have been killed, assaulted, threatened and socially boycotted for raising their voice against the forward castes. The persecuted dalits had to seek police protection just to be able live in own villages,” said Shankar Shenva, a dalit, who has been a victim of social boycott. The 17 villages where special police teams had to be deployed are located in Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Anand, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Junagadh and Bhavnagar. In fact, before December 2011, there were 20 such villages but in December 2011, police teams in two villages – on in Jamnagar and one in Sabarkantha – were withdrawn after the warring communities came to a settlement.

Talking to DNA, Kirit Rathod, programme director of Navsarjan Trust, an NGO that has been fighting for dalit rights, said they came to know about the special police bandobast in the villages when they received a reply to an RTI application. They had filed an RTI query to know the minutes of the state-level meeting of state secretarial committee.Rathod further said that police teams cannot be withdrawn from all the villages as members of the forward castes are not ready to accept the dalits as one of their own and let them live in their villages. He said that some dalit families had been provided police security since 1997 and it was still continuing. In most cases, security was provided when the dalits were repeatedly attacked by members of other communities.

“There are cases where a Dalit was killed by members of the forward castes. The family members of the deceased were later harassed by the accused,” Rathod said. Rathod gave the example of one Gagabhai Dalit of Kundaliya village in Banaskanta district, who was killed because he had filed a police complaint under the Prevention of Atrocities Act against influential people of the village. His son, Bhagwanbhai Dalit, had filed a complaint when he was harassed and threatened by the accused. The Banaskantha police had then deputed a police team in the village for the family’s protection. There are four villages in Ba-naskantha district where such police teams are deployed. Talking to DNA on phone, district superintendent of police, Banaskantha, Ashok Yadav, said that discrimination against dalits was still a major social problem.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1712619

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Opinions and Editorials

Aside effect of jihadi terror few noticed – By Aditya Menon (Jul 2, 2012, India Today)

It appears that when it comes to reporting or writing on jihadi terror, anything goes – bogus insights, half-truths or red herrings supplied by anonymous sources and, significantly, content that can only be called Islamo-babble.

Some of the reports that followed the arrest of Abu Jundal last week fell under one or all of these categories. Take for instance a masterpiece carried in a national daily which claimed to have decoded ‘the method behind the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s madness’. This terror code is – hold your breath – that a majority of LeT men took the pseudonym ‘Abu’: Abu Jundal, Abu Hamza, Abu Mujahid etc. Perhaps the author should have included the cute little monkey of the same name in Walt Disney’s Aladdin.

One can almost see the bulb flash above the writer when he stumbled upon this piece of information. If, for a moment, one were to imagine that the writer was batting for terrorists, he would have felt similar glee at discovering that every third constable in Delhi Police is a Satpal or Satbir. Another brilliant piece of writing was a report that exposed Jundal’s modus operandi to hire terrorists – dinner parties. Gasp! Kebabs of mass destruction, anyone?

This analysis of terrorism has its roots in the American efforts to understand it in the aftermath of 9/ 11. ‘Experts’ threw around words like Ummah and Kafir, as if men donning beards and skull caps have an urge to blow themselves up at their very mention. One only wishes that these experts had the wit and self-confidence shown by a Mumbai cop while interrogating Ajmal Qasab. Unruffled by Qasab’s assertion that he carried out the attack to earn sawaab (divine reward), the cop replied with quintessential Maharashtrian humour, “mil gaya shabab, mazaa aaya ?” (Got your pleasure, had fun?)

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/jihadi-terror-and-media-islamo-babble-abu-jundal-case/1/203371.html

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Housing apartheid flourishes in Delhi – Sowmiya Ashok, Mohammad Ali (Jul 8, 2012, The Hindu)

Finding a home to rent in India’s national capital is an arduous task for anyone – but, an investigation by The Hindu has found, almost impossible for citizens who happen to be Muslim. Homeowners and property dealers contacted by reporters often firmed up deals, only to be disqualified as soon as they revealed their religion. Housing apartheid was at its worst in New Delhi’s most affluent and educated neighbourhoods: New Friends Colony, Vasant Kunj, Jangpura and Rohini. By contrast, in areas such as Mukherjee Nagar, Karol Bagh, Janakpuri and Ashok Vihar the responses were mixed. In one case, a property agent representing a homeowner in New Friends Colony flatly told The Hindu’s reporters, “The landlords want only Indians, not Muslims.”

Told that the applicant was an Indian, the reporter was told not to push matters further. “Another Muslim,” said Radha of Gulshan properties in New Friends Colony, “wanted to take the flat on rent but he was also refused by the owners. Even though it suits your budget and needs, there is no point in showing you the flat. The flat has been vacant for a long time but they will not give it to a Muslim.” Deepak Sharma of Balaji Properties in Rohini Sector-8, contacted by The Hindu’s reporters, who posed as a young Muslim married couple, said that residents of mainly-Hindu Rohini “avoid renting their flats to Muslims here. I am sorry but you will not be able to get a house in this locality.” Ironically enough, Mr. Sharma’s office proudly displayed a photograph bearing icons of all religions, in perfect harmony.

For single women, things are even worse. When a reporter posed as a single mother looking for a house in West Delhi’s Janakpuri, an agent of Sharma properties was initially sympathetic. “You don’t have a husband?” said a property dealer, adding in a conciliatory tone “Ok, come tomorrow and I will find you a house.” This changed as soon as she revealed that she is a Muslim who eats non-vegetarian food. “It could get a little difficult then,” he said, “I will call you back after speaking to the owner.” By contrast, there were considerable options for a female student looking for accommodation in Delhi’s North Campus with brokers even looking out for the safety of their clients. “There is an option for a one-bedroom apartment but it won’t suit a girl since the entry is from the back of the house,” property dealer Varun Kumar said. Men looking for accommodation in the area say that single girls are preferred as tenants since they can be reined in with threats of complaints to their parents.

Property dealers seemed to operate an informal network of religious segregation, often pointing The Hindu’s reporters to supposedly Muslim-appropriate neighbourhoods. More often that not, they were told to look for houses in the fringes of posh colonies. Property dealers in Rohini suggested Rithala, one in Jangpura proposed Bhogal, famous for its Kashmiri population and Afghanistani refugees, a broker in New Friends Colony suggested Sukhdeo Vihar and Jasola both of which are close to another Muslim ‘ghetto’ Jamia Nagar, and one in Vasant Kunj suggested Munirka and Kishangadh. Neighbourhoods like these appear to be emerging as enclaves for the growing Muslim middle class in Delhi, which despite its education and economic achievements is denied access to neighbourhoods preferred by Hindus from similar backgrounds. On the travails of finding a house, Prof. Rizwan Qaisar, an academician at Jamia Millia Islamia, said while looking for a house in Saket and Munirka DDA Flats he came across instances where his name mattered a lot. “Every thing was fine till I revealed my name. After facing ‘no’ from several property dealers, I had to finally shift to Noor Nagar in Jamia Nagar.” “Several social groups face discrimination in housing but for Muslims the edge is sharper,” Mr. Qaisar said.

Senior lawyer Ashok Agarwal said a solution to the problem does not lie in the legal sphere. “First of all, practically it is very difficult to prove the existence of this malaise,” he said, adding, “the government cannot regulate private housing.” Elsewhere in the region, countries have taken concerted action to end similar housing apartheid. Singapore, for example, introduced a system of mandatory quotas in public housing to better integrate its once-polarised ethnic-Malay, Chinese and Indian communities. Interestingly, one property dealer said, Dalits sometimes faced similar problems — but managed to avoid them since their names often did not immediately disclose their caste. “Dalits face some problems when the owner is typically a practicing upper caste Hindu or Jain,” the dealer said. Not every neighbourhood is exclusionary — perhaps a sign of hope that change is possible in the city. There are those who are honest about not caring where in the world one comes from.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3613994.ece

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So Many Aftertales – By Madhavi Tata (Jul 23, 2012, Outlook)

One tremendously shameful event in recent national history is the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The man who was prime minister then, the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, was never able to unsling that albatross from around his neck. There’s of course no escaping that it happened on his watch. But eight years after his death in 2004, two books by persons who were in vantage positions during the 1990s have imputed to him far worse than that, making a Nero of him. The first, Between the Lines, is the autobiography of Kuldip Nayar, a veteran journalist. And the second, A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time, is the autobiography, recently released, of the late Arjun Singh, who was Rao’s HRD minister and for decades one of the most powerful Congressmen. Both books have set off a hubbub with their accounts of what happened in government in the days before the demolition, and especially of what Rao did-or did not do-on the day the mosque was demolished. Nayar says Rao was performing puja as the mosque came down; Arjun that he was unavailable to his own ministers.

Equally, there are those who dismiss those shocking accounts. They too had access to Rao in those days. “The late P.V. Narasimha Rao’s residence did not have a puja room, nor was he the sort to do special or even regular puja,” says P.V.R.K. Prasad, a retired IAS officer who was the late PM’s media advisor. “There was just one picture of Lord Venkateswara in his bedroom, and after his bath, PV would offer a namaskaram for about 10 seconds and his staff would light some incence sticks.” Prasad says that on December 6, 1992, the day the masjid was battered by rampaging crowds, he had reached the PM’s residence at 11 am, when kar sevaks had already started surrounding the mosque. The PM, he says, spent the whole day supervising the situation, consulting ministers and officials about imposing President’s rule on Uttar Pradesh. He calls Nayar’s version “one of the best cock and bull stories” he’s ever heard. “Besides me, there were many witnesses to PV’s activities that day,” he says. “It’s strange that a senior journalist like Nayar has chosen to cook up such a baseless story. Was PV Lord Krishna to be in two places-the cabinet room and in a puja-at the same time?” He equally objects to the “incorrect facts” presented in Arjun’s posthumous autobiography.

Of the PM’s unavailability on December 6, 1992, Arjun’s book begins by saying: “The secular mosaic of India had been seriously damaged. In such a frame of mind, from Muktsar, I rang up the PM’s residence early in the afternoon.” It goes on to say he was told the PM was “not available to talk to anyone”, and when he probed, he was told the PM had “locked himself in his room.” But P.C. Rao, who was law secretary when Narasimha Rao was PM and is now a judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, in Hamburg, dismisses Arjun’s unflattering portrayal and says Narasimha Rao did everything he could. The former law secretary also gives details of what happened on the preceding day, particularly an interaction between the former PM and Arjun. He says that during a meeting on December 5, 1992, at which then home minister S.B. Chavan was present, Arjun walked in and demanded the imposition of President’s rule on Uttar Pradesh. The PM asked him if he had any special information that the mosque was under threat, to which Arjun replied in the negative but said the BJP and other outfits associated with it-which were leading the agitation-could not be trusted.

“While PV did not get into an argument with Arjun, he did not concede to his demand as there was no conclusive information on a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in Uttar Pradesh,” says the former law secretary. “Even the IB chief and UP governor had advised the PM that moving central troops towards the mosque on December 5 would enrage the kar sevaks and encourage them to go for the structure.” He says repeated calls were made to then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh to get the forces moving. Of the 20,000 central troops stationed in Faizabad, 8 km from the mosque, those that had moved some 2 km ahead were sent back. Narasimha Rao’s law secretary and his media advisor both say he was a hands-on PM that day, summoning the home secretary (Madhav Godbole), enquiring about troop movements, keeping track of developments in Ayodhya. Godbole and Chavan were briefing the PM over phone from North Block every 20 minutes. According to the former law secretary, the Intelligence Bureau chief too had informed the PM that religious heads in Ayodhya had said in a meeting there was no plan to attack the mosque. “This was the information the PM, a stickler for rules and the Constitution, went by,” he says. “Besides, the Uttar Pradesh government had assured the SC the mosque would be protected at all costs. Officials and the PM went to bed that night with a sigh of relief, as we were assured all was quiet on the ground. When the horror unfolded on television screens the next day, the PM was as shocked as the rest of the nation.”

The PM held his first meeting of December 6, 1992, in the ante-room of the PMO, says the former law secretary, who attended it. Also present were Chavan, Godbole, A.N. Verma (the PM’s principal secretary) and Naresh Chandra (a special officer in the PMO, in charge of Ayodhya developments). “At no point,” says the former law secretary, “did Narasimha Rao lock himself up in a room.” He says Narasimha Rao and Arjun shared an uneasy relationship. “But PV did give Arjun due respect and always listened to him,” he says. “He never got into arguments with him.” Asked for comments on their father’s memoir, Arjun’s sons Ajay Singh, leader of the opposition in Madhya Pradesh, and Abhimanyu Singh, who holds the copyright, say they haven’t read the book but plan to do so soon. But Abhimanyu says he doesn’t think anything “has been omitted” in the book. Narasimha Rao quietly faded away from the political scene after his term ended in 1996, ignored by his own party. At least there are some who won’t see him painted a Nero.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?281633

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Not so Adarsh – Editorial (Jul 10, 2012, The Hindu)

Even if the Adarsh society case does not end in convictions, enough ignominy has been heaped on former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who was charge sheeted in the scam along with 12 others. Mr. Chavan has been accused of criminal conspiracy and abusing his official position when he was Revenue Minister over a decade ago to include civilians in the society and grant other favours. In turn, his mother-in law and other relatives got flats. There is a feeling in some sections that Mr. Chavan has been unfairly targeted and two other former Chief Ministers, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, were also responsible.

The CBI investigation is still open in the case of these two. While Mumbai is full of such frauds involving valuable land, what sets Adarsh apart is the nexus that was unravelled between politicians, bureaucrats and promoters – most of whom managed to cadge flats for their family members in a building which was blatantly illegal. The CBI is yet to officially reveal the details of the benami flats but there is evidence that this could involve more politicians or people close to them.

In comparison with Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, whose career graph shoots up every time the courts pass strictures against him, Mr. Chavan seems to lack a guardian angel. His cup of woes is full as he is also at the centre of a paid news controversy and his election has been contested on those grounds. If the CBI can prove the charges it has framed in the Adarsh case, it will definitely set a precedent. It is essential that the politicians and officers responsible for violating the laws of the land, abusing their office, and flouting the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification are given exemplary punishment. Real estate and housing equals power in Mumbai and few get caught for the numerous illegal transactions that take place.

There is no need to be dismissive about the relatively small size of the scam in rupee terms when compared to other, more massive frauds. What is untenable too is the constant carping that Mr. Chavan is less culpable than the others and that he only grabbed “a few flats.” Instead of blaming the media for targeting bureaucrats and politicians, the State government should launch a comprehensive investigation into fraudulent housing societies, not to speak of the sharp practices that go on throughout Mumbai in the name of slum redevelopment.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3621233.ece

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Firing in the dark – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jul 14, 2012, Frontline)

The killing of 20 people, including minors, in Sukma and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh by paramilitary forces in the early hours of June 29 has left the Congress party polarised. While 18 alleged Maoists were killed in Sarkeguda village of Bijapur district, two other suspected Maoists were killed in a separate incident on the same day in adjoining Sukma district. According to the Union Home Ministry, these suspected guerillas were killed in an encounter. However, the State unit of the Congress, which sent a 12-member probe team to Sarkeguda, has alleged that the victims were innocent villagers and the encounter was a fake one. While allegations of fake encounters in South Bastar have become commonplace, this is the first time that the State unit of the Congress has openly come out against the joint military operations in the Dandakaranya forests, known to be a Maoist stronghold. The paramilitary forces and the State police came out with continuously changing versions after the killings. Initially, the media were told that about 600 troopers from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) commando unit along with men from the State police had killed six “hardcore” Maoists in Sarkeguda in a counter-insurgency operation. The rest of those killed, they were told, were village militia members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). But the police records showed that only two of those killed were Maoists. Five days after the incident, amid conflicting reports, the State police said that the minors killed were being used as human shields by the rebels during the encounter and their deaths were collateral damage. In Delhi, the Home Minister defended the joint operation and said he was sorry if there were a few innocent victims.

The State Congress’ fact-finding team found that the victims included school-going minors and old people who were residents of Sarkeguda and adjoining villages and had no connection with Maoists. Kowasi Lakhma, the Congress legislator from Sukma who headed the team, told Frontline: “Innocent Adivasis were killed. They were peasants who had gathered to discuss their annual seed festival, and the forces opened fire on them. I personally know most of these villagers. They did not have any connection with the Maoists.” State Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel echoed Lakhma’s views. “The people who died had ration cards, the children who died went to schools. It was a fake encounter, undoubtedly, and the killings were cold-blooded murders. It is clear that the police system in Chhattisgarh and the State intelligence have collapsed,” he said. Democratic organisations, political parties such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, and social activists have demanded a judicial probe. A statement of the Revolutionary Democratic Front said: “The seed festival is an important event in the agrarian cycle of the Adivasi peasants of Bastar, observed during the onset of the monsoon. The rituals connected to this festival are believed to be necessary for enhancing the productivity of the seeds and for ensuring a good harvest of crops. This festival, apart from marking the commencement of the agricultural season, is also crucial for making collective decisions regarding the utilisation and distribution of agricultural land and means of production. Given the import of such meetings ahead of the seed festival, it is hardly surprising that several hundred villagers from the three villages were present in the meeting called for planning the upcoming festival. The meeting included the old and the young, men and women. Like many of the meetings, ceremonies and festivals of the Bastar Adivasis, the meeting at Sirkegudem village on June 28 too went on till the small hours of the night (when the forces opened fire). As per the testimonies of some eyewitnesses published in newspapers, the villagers shouted at the armed personnel to halt fire, but the firing was not stopped.”

The police version was that on June 28, on a tip-off from the State police, three teams of 200 troopers each set off from different camps around 9 p.m. towards a village called Silger, where a large Maoist contingent was supposedly holding a meeting with villagers. On the way the forces faced firing, around 1 a.m., from a crowd that had gathered in Sarkeguda village. The forces fired back, and six CRPF men were injured and 18 Maoist rebels were killed in the crossfire. Villagers told reporters, however, that none of the victims was a naxalite. They said that a nine-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy were among the dead, while three more children, between 12 and 15, had also been killed in the massacre. Twelve-year-old Kaka Saraswati was one of them. Vijju, 65, an Adivasi woman, lost two of her sons in the massacre. They also alleged that the troopers had molested young women and looted homes. As for the injuries suffered by the CRPF men, the villagers said that they had not fired at the forces and could not say how the injuries had been caused. Despite the claim that the forces recovered a large number of arms, the State police could show only one countrymade rifle to the press. In two separate statements, Vijay Madkam, secretary of the South Bastar committee of the CPI (Maoist), and Jagan, spokesperson of the North Telangana special zone committee, said on June 30 that all the people killed in the massacre were Adivasi villagers and that no leaders or cadre of the Maoist party had been killed. They also said that there was no firing by Maoists as they were not even present.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram claimed that three important Maoist leaders, Mahesh, Nagesh and Somulu, had been killed in the encounter. But regional newspapers reported that there was no Mahesh in the official list of those killed. There are two Nageshes. Kaka Nagesh was a 17-year-old student of Class 10 and Madkam Nagesh was a 32-year-old professional dholak player (drummer) who was called in to play during festivals. None of those killed in the encounter had any criminal record at the Barsaguda police station, in whose jurisdiction Sarkeguda falls, along with Kotteguda and Rajapetta villages. Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of Dandakaranya special zonal committee of the CPI (Maoist), in a telephonic interview to ABN-Andhra Jyothi, condemned the statement made by the Home Ministry that top Maoist leaders Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh were among the killed. He also clarified that Irpa Suresh, claimed by the government to be the commander of the guerilla forces in Bijapur and Dantewada, was not among the killed. The Irpa Suresh who was killed was in reality a tribal peasant visiting his relatives in the village. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo also challenged Chidambaram’s version. “I have been getting feedback not just from the Congress State unit but also from voluntary organisations that of the 20 persons gunned down, half were teenagers, and a child who sustained injuries was just four years old. If those killed were ‘extremists’, then why were most of them unarmed? No arms were recovered from them…. You cannot fire at random in the dark; it’s inexcusable,” he told The Hindu.

Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian activist from Chhattisgarh whose Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was destroyed by the State forces, said that mining interests led to such incidents. “The companies that were given mining leases in areas behind the Bailadila mines can transport their iron ore only through these three villages where the incident took place. These are the only three villages that fall on the route. It would not be surprising that the encounter against naxalites is a disguised attempt by the State government to clear these villages so that iron ore can be transported easily.” The rift in the Congress is indicative of a disconnect between the policies pursued by the Union government and the politics the party stands for in the tribal regions. In both Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which have large tribal populations, the State units have objected to the Union government’s policy of indiscriminate mining which leads to displacement of tribal people. In both these States, the Congress is in the opposition. The party’s State units have also objected to the military operations in the States, which have gone wrong many times, in the name of combating left-wing extremists. Kishore Chandra Deo told The Hindu: “The Forest Rights Act must be implemented fully before commencing mining. The FRA was the first step to recognise the rights of the tribal people over their land. If mining begins before you recognise the tribal people’s rights over their land, and you simply throw them out, they will be rendered homeless and stateless.”

http://flonnet.com/fl2914/stories/20120727291411900.htm

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Yet Another Massacre of Dalit People In Andhra Pradesh – By Revolutionary Democratic Front (Jun 23, 2012, Countercurrents)

Yet another massacre on dalit people in Andhra Pradesh shows that the landowning castes still turn violent when dalits assert themselves to take over land. Four dalit people were hacked to death, and about 30 dalit men and women were critically injured in a well-orchestrated attack by Turpu Kapu backward caste brahmanical forces in Lakshimpeta village of Vangara block in Srikakulam District on 12 June 2012. The brahmanical forces targeted 60 dalit families in the village with crude and brutal weapons like bombs, sickles, hatchets and axes supported and patronised by the ruling Congress Party leaders of the region. Burada Sundara Rao (45), Chitri Appadu (35), Nivarti Venkati (65) and Nivarti Sangameshu (40) died in the bloodbath. Bodduru Papaiah died in King George Hospital, Vishakhapatnam on 20 June while taking treatment. With his death, the number of people killed in the massacre increased to five. Land was acquired by government for Madduvalasa reservoir built on two tributaries of Nagavali river, Suvarnamukhi and Vegavathi which, while displacing thousands of people irrigated 15000 acres of land. In Lakshimpeta village, after the construction of the reservoir, 240 acres of land intermittently comes out of the submergence when water dries up. As the land turns fertile, rich crops were being raised on it with profitable cultivation in the past five years. The government paid a compensation of two lakh rupees per acre to Kapu land owners and settled 190 Kapu families and 60 dalit families about seven kilometres away from the reservoir. The dalit families were not paid any compensation or given employment though they were also displaced and resettled except for four families, who had assigned lands-only 40 thousand rupees per acre were paid to each of these four dalit families. Meanwhile one each from 40 families of the Kapu caste was provided with employment in the reservoir office departments in addition to compensation amount for land. All 250 families were settled in pacca houses built by the government. Having been deprived of land for centuries, the dalits of Lakshimpeta, as in most other cases, aspired to take over the unaffected land under the project and they have been asserting their rights over the land which now falls under the control of the government.

As the 240 acres of land-that once belonged to Kapu community became government land after compensation was being paid-came out of submergence every now and then, 180 acres of land has been cultivated by the Kapu families while only 60 acres by 60 dalit families in the last five years. Kapu community in the village claimed that the entire land belongs to them as it once belonged them. Dalits argued with the local revenue administration that they should be allowed to cultivate this land as it was now government land. The local administration maintained silence as the Kapu caste people were supported by powerful lobbies within the ruling party from the state to the bloc levels within the same caste. Both sides of the dispute approached the court for justice. The court as usual stayed the cultivation from both sides till its judgment. This triggered fury among the Kapu backward community and they blamed squarely the dalit community for the court order, though both communities had approached the court. The former local block president of Congress Party, Botsa Vasudevanaidu instigated the Kapus against the dalit people with the active encouragement from PCC chief, Botsa Satyanarayana. Congress leaders like Botsa Satyanarayana, Dharmana Prasada Rao (Minister for Roads and Buildings in Andhra Pradesh Government) from North Andhra Region have become the powerful agents of land grab in the region for thermal power plants, industrial corridor projects and mining. They are maintaining land mafia’s and have acquired thousands of acres of for their own families. They are responsible for the police firings and state-sponsored killings of the people, who are protesting against land grab in the region. They are the powerful political leaders of the region who are in real sense representatives of globalisation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

As the tension in the village grew, the government put up a police picket in the village, instead of solving the issue and the bloc has been placed under the atrocitiy-proned area. This shows such an attack as the one on dalits on 12 June has been expected to happen. In these circumstances, the government itself is directly responsible for the massacre of dalits. On June 12, majority of police personnel at the picket were sent away on by-election duty. The police forces returned to the village only after giving enough time to the caste chauvinists to carry out the massacre unhindered. History testifies to this set pattern of conduct of the state forces as every time they remained mute witnesses to the upper caste brahmanical fascist attacks on dalits. In fact the India state forces like police, paramilitary and army always either sided with upper caste big landing owning communities or stayed as onlookers over the atrocities as they represented the interests of the brahmanical upper caste Indian state. As the dalit people were not prepared to face the brutal attack from the brahmanical casteist forces, they either prayed their attackers to leave them or couldn’t move away to safety. The motivated and calculated nature of the attackers was evident from their preparedness to strike on the dalits fatally. All the victims targeted were the main bread-winners of their respective families. All of them were mainly landless peasants. The infuriated dalits of Lakshimpeta refused to bury the dead for the next three days as the government did not arrest the culprits and their abettors, the kingpins in the massacre and the ruling parties’ leaders. The dalit people protested the government’s inaction placing the dead bodies of their kith and kin in front of the village. The administration did not use SC and ST Atrocities Act against the culprits and their abettors till all dalit and democratic forces raised their voices in protest. A week after when the law was evoked, it was used against small insignificant elements among the culprits, leaving out safely the main abettors and political leaders like Botsa Vasudeva Naidu, Botsa Satyanarayana and others.

The political leaders of all ruling parties hovered over the surviving victims of dalit families pouring out their crocodile tears and false promises of jobs, lakhs of compensation and distribution of land. People have seen through the cunningness of these leaders as well as the empty rhetoric of their false promises. The upper caste brahmanical forces would never allow land to come into the hands of dalits as it is both symbolically and in real sense economic and political power. Further it will nullify all the coercive methods of surplus maximisation of the landed through the forced rendering of the dalits landless and hence dependent on the upper castes for their survival. The powers that be have only ensured through their police and paramilitary hand in glove with politician and the landowning classes to perpetuate this system by careful promotion of their interests. Dalit people of Lakshimpeta village have shown exemplary self-assertion to own the land despite continuous threats and atrocities from the powers that be. RDF appeals to all democratic, progressive and revolutionary individuals and organisations to rally around the dalits in their attempt to self-assertion for dignity and to acquire land as a source of livelihood. Traditionally land mainly remained in the hands of the upper caste brahmanical feudal landowners. It is important to understand that at present the biggest land grab by the upper caste feudal and comprador forces in the name of projects, companies, mining, etc, are further depriving the dalits and adivasis, while at the same time preaching them that agriculture is not a profitable profession to live on. But the dalit and adivasi people are increasingly asserting themselves for their rights over land and other natural resources as they provide livelihood to the largest number people in the subcontinent.

The movement for self-assertion and dignity is invariably linked to the land question for the vast majority of the oppressed people from oppressed castes and communities like Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and a vast majority of oppressed other weaker castes, though a section of the land owning among them turned brahmanical and caste oppressors. The Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim and other communities of oppressed people need to have self-defence mechanisms while asserting themselves in every aspect in life, otherwise they are being massacred or facing genocidal attacks. In this context it is important to remind ourselves of the call given during Dalit Panthers upraising for self-defence of dalits in 1970s. Most of the demands raised by all democratic organisations are for more compensation for the deceased and injured families of dalits. While compensation is required as an immediate relief and justice by punishing the culprits, what is important as the permanent solution is to build self-defence cover for dalits to protect themselves as well as a sound deterrent against the massacres from brahmanical upper caste fascist forces. Only through acts of retaliation can we stop and prevent atrocities on dalits.

http://www.countercurrents.org/rdf230612.htm

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