IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 30th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Sectarian violence in Uttar Pradesh and Assam should be dealt with through stern action says Indian American Muslim Council

Thursday July 26, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today strongly condemned the violence in Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh) and areas of Assam, and appealed to members of each community to respect life and the rule of law.

The violence in Assam has claimed over 44 lives and displaced over 200,000 people from 400 villages. The conflagration has led to the largest exodus of people in the state’s recent history.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly city, curfew remains in force in the wake of fresh incidents of violence. The police’s indecisive and weak response to the unrest contributed to the spread of violence to different parts of the city. Imran, a local zari worker died of his gunshot wounds on Monday, which was also the first day of Ramadan.

IAMC has called upon the state administrations of Uttar Pradesh and Assam to take all necessary measures to restore peace in the affected areas and to provide adequate relief to the multitudes that have been displaced or rendered homeless.

“The scale of violence and destruction and the magnitude of the human tragedy that is currently unfolding require swift and decisive action from the government to enforce law and order”, noted Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. Eye witness accounts report that police are having trouble enforcing curfew in affected areas, with rioters continuing sporadic attacks and burning houses and properties. “The government should also ensure that relief camps are equipped with adequate food, water, medicines and sanitary facilities for the displaced people”, added Mr. Khateeb.

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

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

RELATED LINKS:

UP clashes: 75 arrested, curfew continues in Bareilly, Aonla
http://post.jagran.com/UP-clashes-75-arrested-curfew-continues-in-Bareilly-Aonla-1343121542

Violence continues unabated in Bareilly
http://twocircles.net/2012jul23/violence_continues_bareilly_muslim_sp_leaders_clueless.html

PFI demands Centre’s intervention to control Assam violence
http://twocircles.net/2012jul26/pfi_demands_centre%E2%80%99s_intervention_control_assam_violence.html

Assam violence continues for fifth day, toll now 44
http://www.firstpost.com/india/assam-violence-continues-for-fifth-day-toll-now-44-393004.html

Contact:
Zafar Haq
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email: info@iamc.com

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email: info@iamc.com

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Communal Harmony

Humanity overrides differences as Bodos, Muslims help each other (Jul 26, 2012, Times of India)

At a time when miscreants of the Bodo tribal community and Muslims are engaged in an ethnic clash, a Muslim went out of his way to save the life of a Bodo tribal, Jageswar Basumatary. Unaware of the riots gripping the region, Basumatary, an employee of UCO Bank at Nayahaat in Dhubri district, was discharging his duties as a cashier. He had no idea that he was holed up in a Muslim-dominated area. However, when he was about to return to his rented house at Fakiragram after work, a Muslim persuaded him not to, informing him about the Bodo-Muslim clash.

The Muslim offered him shelter at his home as there was no way for him to get to a safer place. He thought of his wife and five children back home at Katligaon in Baksa district, but he could not reach there without getting killed as the violence had already claimed many lives. His Muslim host was determined to save Basumatary as he considered it his holy duty to send him home safely. However, trouble started when miscreants, who had heard of a Bodo tribal hiding in a Muslim’s house, came asking for the man. They searched all the rooms and all possible hideouts, but could not find him. The host even declared they could take his life, but he would never tell them about the Bodo tribal’s whereabouts. He said he had a dream the previous night where “Allah told him to save a man in trouble”. The miscreants damaged his house and broke the window panes, but the host was stubborn.

Later that night, the Muslim helped him reach a place near Barsidiabari, a deserted Bodo village in Bilasipara. Basumatary then joined some Bodo men in the village and boarded a bus, which was shifting Bodo villagers to a safer place. Basumatary on Wednesday said, “My host would have given up his life to save me. I owe everything to him now. He is my ‘Bhagawan’ and ‘Allah’.” A Bodo family in Kokrajhar too offered shelter to five Muslims in their house when the communal frenzy claimed many lives. The Bodo family, which does not wish to disclose their identity in public, kept the five Muslims in their house for a night and sent them to a safe place with the help of security forces on Monday.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/15162417.cms

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‘Planned ethnic cleansing of Muslims’ going on in Assam: Mumbai Muslim leaders (Jul 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Muslim leaders in Mumbai have termed the ongoing killings of minority community in Assam as ‘planned ethnic cleansing of Muslims.’ They demanded intervention of the central government as they said the state government of Tarun Gogoi has ‘virtually failed to protect its innocent citizens.’ The Muslim leaders also condemned branding Bengali speaking Indian citizens as ‘illegal immigrants or Bangladeshi settlers’.

A group of NGOs met in Mumbai on July 26 to assess and discuss the recent communal violence in Assam and Uttar Pradesh. The social and educational NGO leaders strongly condemned the Assam violence in which Muslims have been subject to a planned ethnic cleansing. They urged the central government to immediately take strong and decisive action to control the burning of Muslim villages and killing of members of the community as the Gogoi-led state government has virtually failed to protect its innocent citizens. The community leaders have termed ‘tagging Indian citizens who have been living in Assam for centuries as “illegal immigrants or Bangladeshi settlers” most unfortunate’.

Maulana Mahmood Ahmad Khan Daryabadi, general secretary All India Ulama Council, Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre, Mr. Farid Shaikh, president Mumbai Aman Committee, Dr Azimuddin, president Movement for Human Welfare, Mr. Haroon Muzawala, Trustee Khair-e Ummat Trust and Maulana Ejaz Khashmiri have also said that the growing incidents of violence against Muslims in Bareilly, UP, Rajasthan and in other parts of the country are a cause of great concern for the minority community. They along with all present NGOs members unanimously expressed their deep sense of distress at the growing incidents of communal violence against Muslims and urged the government to take urgent steps to prevent such cases and book the culprits under the law.

The NGO heads have also decried the unbalanced reporting by some media houses in the Kokrajhar – Dhubri violence which are deliberately trying to show the Muslim victim as “illegal settlers”. They said some media reporting are far from the truth and biased. When Muslims were attacked, killed and driven away from their homes by the same Bodo tribal in 1993-94 Kokrajhar riots, they got to settle in other places with government permission – by the time they have built their villages. But later following the declaration of Bodo Territorial (Autonomous) Council (BTC) an outcry is raised that these Muslims are newcomers on the land and thus afresh ethnic cleansing is launched to avail maximum area for BTC.

The speakers pointed out that these riots are a recurrence of those that happened in 1982-83 at Nelli and 1993-94 in Kokrajhar. They urged the central and the state governments to take urgent steps to halt such communal flare ups which cause untold suffering to the local Assamese Muslims. Muslim NGOs have strongly demanded that the riot victims who have been ousted from their villages be rehabilitated in their original villages. It is time to find out a permanent amicable solution to the Assam’s citizenship problem sooner than later, argued the Muslim leader in their press statement.

http://twocircles.net/2012jul27/planned_ethnic_cleansing_muslims%E2%80%99_going_assam_mumbai_muslim_leaders.html

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Road becomes a border between Bodos and Muslims (Jul 28, 2012, The Hindu)

There are no checkpoints on the Bilasipara-Karegaon Road that leads from Kokrajhar town to Badgaon, and further into Dhubri district. But the road, popularly known as BK Road, is serving these days as an unannounced border between Bodos and Muslims, who are too scared to return to the township despite the presence in large numbers of security personnel and the visit of a steady stream of VIPs ever since violence broke out about 10 days ago. It was here on this road that in retaliation for the firing on two student leaders – Mohibul Islam of the All-Bodoland Minority Student’s Union (ABMSU) and Abdul Siddique Sheikh of the All-Assam Minority Students’ Union – four former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) workers were killed a day later, on July 20. These killings triggered a spate of attacks and counter-attacks across Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baksa districts in the Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD), as also Dhubri district, which is outside the cluster.

The spot where motorcycles of the former BLT workers were burnt remains a stark reminder of an incident that could well have been prevented. “The police personnel to whom the youth ‘surrendered’ after they were surrounded by the locals refused to take them out safely, and indeed handed them back to the public for delivering justice,” said social worker Abdul Ali Mondal. Mr. Mondal, whose family owns several pieces of property in the area, said that after the incident, Bodos launched attacks, the likes of which had not been seen for the past 20 years. “The result has been the exodus of nearly 1.20 lakh people from the area to Dhubri district, outside the Bodo-administered area.” However, sporadic violence and firing have always been commonplace in the area.

Founder president and senior adviser of the ABMSU Moinul Haq said that soon after the attack on his brother Mohibul, he too survived an attempt on life when he was stopped while returning from hospital by some Bodos, including some in police uniform. “It was my good fortune that I managed to call a senior police officer who, on seeing the missed call [on his cellphone], immediately called back and directed some police personnel, who were part of the elimination squad, to let me go.” Sitting in his office at Bodgaon, barely a couple of km from where the former BLT workers were attacked, Mr. Haq said: “The situation in the area is very bad.” But “this is not new; it has been like this since 1987 when the Bodos started demanding a separate Bodoland and began attacking non-Bodos. The fact is that the area even now has 25 per cent Bodo population and 75 per cent non-Bodos, including about 25 per cent Muslims.” “This is the fifth attack on Muslims … The Bodo movement is primarily aimed at driving away Muslims and other non-Bodos. The worst part is that when Muslims resist, the police also come to the aid of Bodos and attack and shoot them after branding them armed rioters and Bangladeshis. However, this is completely a local issue and has got nothing to do with Bangladesh,” he insisted.

Mr. Haq noted that Muslims suffered a trust deficit when it came to the security forces, as some surrendered BLT workers were now part of the Black Panther commando force that was formed in 2003 or were posted as personal security officers of various Bodo leaders. “Many of them act like ‘ghatak’ (killers), performing as soldiers by day and militia at night.” Claiming that Muslims had so far been non-violent, Mr. Haq cautioned that if the government did not act soon to disarm all the militia, a situation could arise in which the minority community might resort to use of firearms. “It is better to do something in the forests than to become a nomad,” he quipped, referring to the use of guerrilla warfare techniques.

The State government, he said, had also failed the community. “They have not done anything for us. Their Ministers visited us, but no aid has been forthcoming. We have been demanding that a security camp be set up around the Bodo-dominated stretch of the BK Road to allow safe passage to Muslims to Kokrajhar town, but nothing has been done yet.” Demanding that President’s Rule be imposed on the State for restoration of law and order and peace, Mr. Haq said a Muslim delegation met Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday and urged him to put in place a mechanism for exchange of land between Muslims and Bodos. “We want both communities rehabilitated. But it can now be done in a way so that there is a minimum confrontation between them.” The ABMSU will raise the same demand before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visits the strife-torn areas on Saturday.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article3694817.ece

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2002 Gujarat riots: 21 convicted in Dipda Darwaza riots case, 61 acquitted (Jul 30, 2012, Times of India)

A special court on Monday held 21 guilty of rioting and attempt to murder in the Dipda Darwaza case in which 11 Muslims were killed during the post-Godhra riots in 2002. No murder and criminal conspiracy charges were proved in the case. All the accused were absolved of destruction of evidence charges. Designated judge SC Srivastava acquitted 61 persons of all the charges. Of these, 51 were given benefit of doubt. Two politicians – the then BJP MLA Prahlad Gosa and Visnagar municipality president Dahyabhai Patel were also acquitted by the court after giving them benefit of doubt.

The police inspector and first investigator, M K Patel has been convicted for dereliction of duty. He is the first police officer to be convicted in the 2002 riot cases. All the convicts except one – Ashok Parmar belong to the Patel community of Gujarat. This is the fifth such case, out of total nine cases, wherein further probe has been conducted by the SIT. The convictions were recorded in four cases earlier. Eighty five persons were charged for the February 28, 2002 killings in Chudiwas of Dipda Darwaza area of Visnagar town in north Gujarat. Those who were killed included four children, one as young as one year old Abid- and five women. All those killed belonged to one family. Their remains were found near a pond a kilometer away from Chudiwas a week after the incident, when the forensic experts visited the spot for the first time.

Seven accused were arrested from the spot on the day of the massacre, which began at 4.30 in the afternoon and lasted till 9.00pm. The local cops arrested 79 people. While one Vishnu Patel was found to be juvenile, and another Dahyalal Patel died during pendency of trial, 83 persons were tried for the alleged offence. When the probe was transferred to the SIT in 2008, four more arrests took place, including the first investigator and police inspector, M K Patel. He was charged with dereliction of duty, shielding accused and destruction of evidence. He made the kin of the accused persons witnesses so as to weaken the case.

On the basis of witnesses’ testimony and upon their request, the court arraigned the then BJP MLA Prahlad Gosa and president of Visnagar municipality Dahyabhai Patel as accused on February 10, 2010. The duo was never arraigned by the SIT despite repeated representations made by the witnesses. They were accused of conspiracy and inciting the mob to target Muslims.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/15273161.cms

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Narendra Modi refuses to apologise for 2002 post-Godhra riots (Jul 26, 2012, Economic Times)

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who had steadfastly declined to answer questions on his alleged role in the post-Godhra violence, has refused to apologise for the riots and instead would prefer to be hanged if found guilty. “Whatever I had said at that time you can check that. In 2004, I had given an interview in which I had said why should I apologise. If my government had done this, I should be hanged in public in such a way that it remains a less the next 100 years so that nobody dares to do it (such a crime),” he has said in an interview published in Urdu weekly Nai Duniya.

Though much of what Modi has said had been said on earlier occasions, it is significant that he had given an interview to a Urdu weekly, edited by Shahid Siddiqui, a former MP who is now with Samajwadi Party. He was asked a question whether he was prepared to apologise for the post-Godhra riots in which more than 1,000 people, majority of them Muslims, were killed like Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh apologised for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Siddiqui said today that it was free-wheeling chat by him with Modi. He said he told the Chief Minister’s office before the interview that he should be allowed to put all questions related to the 2002 violence and he should not quit in the middle.

He said the thought of interviewing Modi came to him when Salim Saab (Salman Khan’s father) suggested to him that there should always be a dialogue. Siddiqui said that for him politics and his profession of journalism are separate and this interview has nothing to do with his party. Modi said in the interview that those who were talking about his apology were fanning trouble. “If Modi had committed the crime then hang him. But if I am being accused because of political compulsion, then I have no answer.”

Asked if he felt sad about what had happened and whether he felt like regretting or apologising, the Chief Minister said “what is the meaning of apology now. I took responsibility then, regretted what had happened and I apologised. You can see what I had said in 2002.” He accused the media of having done injustice to him for last 10 years and they should apologise to him. Modi has been attempting an image make over and had conducted a Sadbhavana fast last year in Ahmedabad and replicated it in some other cities in Gujarat.

The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team has given a clean chit to Modi regarding his role in riots. However, petitioner Zakia Zafri, wife of ex-Congress MP Eshan Zafri killed in Gulburg society case has decided to file a protest petition against the clean chit given to Modi by the SIT.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/15164354.cms

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Sohrab encounter case accused IPS drags Vanzara to court (Jul 27, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Special CBI court here has summoned the Sabarmati Central Jail authorities following a complaint against Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case accused and former Gujarat DIG D G Vanzara of bashing up his co-accused Rajkumar Pandian inside the jail. Suspended IPS officer Rajkumar Pandian, who has been lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail since his arrest along with D G Vanzara in 2007, has filed a complaint before the special CBI court that on July 22 he was beaten up by Vanzara.

On July 26, when Pandian was produced before the court with other accused in the case, he orally complained to CBI Judge H S Khutwad about how despite repeatedly being beaten up by Vanzara, jail authorities neglected his complaints. The judge asked him to file a written application about it and issued a notice to the jail superintendent. The judge kept further hearing of the case on August 9, 2012.

In his complaint Pandian has also alleged that Vanzara has been given special treatment in the jail and hence no complaints against him was entertained by authorities. He has also urged the court to register an FIR against Vanzara for beating him up on July 22. In the past, Abdul Rehman Shaikh, who is also accused in Sohrabuddin encounter case, also complained about verbal abuse by Vanzara before jail authorities, following which authorities had changed his barrack.

Vanzara, Pandian, Dinesh M N and Abhay Chudasama are four IPS officers among the 17 accused behind bars in the encounter case. Former minister of state of home Amit Shah, who was also arrested in the case has been granted bail.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/267463/sohrab-encounter-case-accused-ips.html

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ATS told Malegaon ‘suspect’ to take names, offered property (Jul 24, 2012, Indian Express)

The NIA, which is re-investigating the 2006 Malegaon blasts, has found that one of the initial “suspects”, Abrar Ahmed, was “lured” by the Maharashtra ATS with the offer of “immovable property in his name anywhere in India other than Jammu & Kashmir” to take names in the case. The Anti-Terrorism Squad had chargesheeted nine Muslims for the blasts at two mosques that left 31 dead and more than 100 injured. Disclosures by Swami Aseemanand later revealed the attack to be the handiwork of right-wing Hindu groups. Ahmed, who was made approver by the ATS but retracted his statement later, has told the NIA that he was “detained by the police for three days and pressured to identify photographs of a few persons shown to him”.

Another “suspect” named by the ATS in the case, Mohammad Ali, was found to have been present at the ATS office in Kurla in Mumbai on the day of the Malegaon blasts. Ali had been under probe by the ATS in connection with the July 2006 Mumbai train serial blasts. The NIA has conveyed to the union home ministry that the alleged call intercepted between Ahmed and “suspect” Zahid Abdul Majid, also arrested by the ATS, was also made at the behest of the police. Majid had been described by the ATS as one of those who planted the bombs at the mosques. In the call, ‘Majid’ is heard using “abusive language”. “The evidence against Majid is ‘inconclusive’… It has also been learnt that Majid was organising a cultural programme at a madrasa in Yevatmal on the day of the incident,” an official in the ministry revealed.

The case had been transferred to the CBI in 2011 and later to the NIA, which started re-investigation based on Aseemanand’s testimony. Following this, seven of the nine accused were granted bail last year. Sources in the Home Ministry said a “key witness” cited by the ATS, Atif, is yet to be traced. An employee of Shabbir Batterywala (another “accused” named by the ATS), Atif was made a witness and his statement recorded before a magistrate. He has been untraceable since January 2007. A team of police officials that visited his native place in Allahabad drew a blank.

The NIA investigation has reportedly established that Batterywala was also made an accused by the ATS on “flimsy” grounds after the discovery of a fake bomb on September 13, 2006, five days after the blasts. The ATS had then claimed that the ‘soil sample’ of the fake bomb matched the soil samples collected from Batterywala’s godown. The witnesses cited by the ATS during the seizure of the soil sample denied they had ever been examined by the police.

Investigators believe Lt Col Prasad Purohit, now under arrest for the Malegaon 2008 blast, had also tried to mislead investigating agencies. As military intelligence officer in October 2006, Purohit, then posted at Nashik, had filed a report saying SIMI activist Noorulhuda Doha was involved in the 2006 mosque blasts. Doha was arrested by the ATS in 2006 and was among those released on bail last year. “From the examination of the commanding officer of Purohit at Southern Command, it was found that Purohit tried to mislead the investigating agencies,” said the ministry official.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/978530/

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Muslim prisoners subjected to communal abuse in Lucknow Jail (Jul 25, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Muslim youths languishing in Lucknow jail in terror cases have been subjected to communal abuses in the name of search operation allegedly by the jail officials. Their bags were ripped open, belongings thrown around and the officials used filthy language and communal slurs. Hakeem Tarique Qasmi, one of the victims, told his lawyer and relatives about the incident on 24th July in Barabanki where he was brought for a scheduled hearing in the court. The incident took place in Lucknow Central Jail around 10 days ago. Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, counsel for Hakeem Tarique Qasmi, told TCN a short while ago: In the name of searching, the officials ripped apart the bag of Hakeem Tarique Qasmi in the Lucknow jail around 10 days back. Tarique told us about the incident on 24th July when he had come to Barabanki for the hearing of his case in the local court. Tarique said the officials ripped open the strip inside the bag suspecting he might have hid something there. They threw around his belongings, and used filthy language. The search was conducted by the jailer and his deputy.

Adv. Shoaib said such incident happens at regular interval at the high security barrack of the jail where around 32 Muslims are kept as terror suspects. Not only this, they are served very poor quality food items to eat and dirty water to drink. “They are served very poor quality meal and the plate is pushed inside the cell as if they are beasts inside cage. During Ramazan they are not given meal in the day. In its place they are given Iftar in the evening. The Iftar consists of just 2 pieces of banana, 2 pieces of date and 2 pieces of Parle-G biscuit. They are forced to drink dirty water,” said Adv. Shoaib. However, he informed that this Ramazan the jail officials have allowed the prisoners to offer Taravih (long night) prayers.

Hakeem Tarique Qasmi was arrested on 12th December 2007 from Azamgarh. His uncle Khalid Mujahid was picked from near his village at Madiyahu bazaar in Jaunpur on 16th December. But both were presented before the media on 23rd December in Barabanki by UP ATS saying they were arrested with arms from Barabanki station on that day. Both were picked in connection with the serial blasts at courts premises in several districts in UP that year. There were several protests in Azamgarh and Jaunpur against the false arrest of the youths and the then Mayawati government had set up RD Nimesh Commission to look into the facts about their arrest. The commission is yet to submit its report. Adv. Shoaib told TCN that he himself had conducted signature campaigns, sat on dharna and organized conferences. During the assembly election campaign earlier this year, the Samajwadi Party promised to release innocents from jail if they came to power. About four months after they came to power, the Akhilesh Yadav government has not taken any step towards their release.

Reacting to the recent incident of communal abuse and atrocities on the Muslim youths inside the Lucknow Jail, Rajiv Yadav, Uttar Pradesh Secretary of PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) demanded security to the terror prisoners apprehending they could be eliminated to hide lies as it has happened with Qateel Siddiqui in Pune jail. “On one side, the state government is making announcement to release innocent Muslim youths falsely implicated in terror cases, on the other, they are being oppressed inside the jail. There are 32 such terror suspects in lucknow jail. In the name of security, they were kept 23 hours of a day in the cell even during entire hot summer. Behind the campaign of searches and oppression, there is communal mindset,” said Yadv.

He further said that the Lucknow jailer’s action is an indication of the danger. “After the murder of Qateel Sidddiqui in Yerwada jail of Pune by probe agencies, the action of lucknow jailer is signal of threat. When these youths are likely to be released, the government should ensure their safety, because probe agencies can kill them to hide their lies and to save their face,” Yadav demanded.

http://twocircles.net/2012jul25/muslim_prisoners_subjected_communal_abuse_lucknow_jail.html

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Assam Muslim laborers segregated at Anna’s Anshan site (Jul 26, 2012, Twocircles.net)

That Anna Hazare team has little regard for problems – said to be the result of another kind of systemic corruption – confronting India’s largest minority, was once again evident on Wednesday here when a group of Muslims protesting against violence in Assam was not allowed to mingle with Anna supporters sitting on fast at Jantar Mantar.

According to the eyewitnesses, when the group of Muslims reached Jantar Mantar to join team Anna protest, they were not allowed to mix up in the anshan. The Muslims were actually raising slogan in support of Anna and wanted their voice to be heard. But the volunteers managing the anshan made a human chain and did not allow them to mix up with the Anna anshan. They were made to sit separately as seen in the pictures in this story. What was more surprising is that no Anna Team leaders came up to allow Muslim protestors to sit along others.

Sadiq who had participated in the Ramlila anshan last year said that today he was feeling like a stranger here. Most of the protesters were labourers from Assam working in Delhi. They were holding placards and banners calling government to stop violence and killing of minority in Assam.

Those who have regularly followed Anna’s fasts said that previously several other groups with their own cause joined Anna protest and they were allowed to mix up and strengthen the Anna protest. But poor Muslims may not be up to the mark of Anna’s middle class agenda, so they were segregated from others.

http://twocircles.net/2012jul26/assam_muslim_laborers_segregated_anna%E2%80%99s_anshan_site.html

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Moral police bust party, assault girls in Mangalore (Jul 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)

It was January 2009 once again. About 50 activists of a pro-Hindu organisation barged into a house in Mangalore on Saturday and in the name of moral policing assaulted the inmates – six girls and seven boys – who were partying. The activists of Hindu Jagran Vedike dragged the girls by their hair, tried to molest them and beat them up. In 2009, Sri Rama Sene activists had attacked girls in a pub in Mangalore, claiming they were violating traditional values.

Police said the students were from prestigious colleges in and around Mangalore. All 13 of them have been detained by police for questioning. Local TV channels aired visuals of Saturday’s incident that took place at 7.30pm in Padeel, 3 km from Mangalore city. One of the boys was seen trying to convince the attackers that they were celebrating a birthday and pleading with them to let go of the girls, but in vain.

The house, where it all happened, belongs to a lady who rents it out as a homestay. Homestay is a form of tourism that allows the visitor to rent a room from a local family to learn the local lifestyle. Mangalore police commissioner Seemanth Kumar Singh and other officials rushed to the spot and took five activists including a BJP corporator Mohan Padeel into custody.

Hindu Jagran Vedike state president Jagadish Karanth told media, “There are some people who are running prostitution rackets in the name of love and tarnishing the culture of our nation. There is an administrative failure in Mangalore and police commissioner did not act upon many complaints regarding such illegal activities,” he said.

Even Jagadish Shenava, Mangalore area president of Hindu Jagran Vedike supported the incident. Both the Congress and the CPM workers are holding protests outside the Mangalore rural police station, demanding stringent action against the Hindu Jagran Vedike activists.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/903498.aspx

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Haryana village raises wall to shut out Dalits, they get ‘gaps’ to pass (Jul 27, 2012, Indian Express)

A wall runs through the middle of Bhagana, put up by its Jat-dominated panchayat in this Haryana village. Two months after it came up, all that the Dalits who have been protesting against the wall in Hisar and Delhi’s Jantar Mantar have managed are “gaps” to pass through and advice from the government to “go back and live in harmony”. The wall separates the Dalits from the chowk (square) that they have been using for more than 30 years. In May this year, after Dalits formed a Dr Ambedkar Welfare Committee and claimed possession of the chowk, the panchayat declared it village land and said it could not be given to them. On Tuesday, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed the Haryana government to ensure the safety of the Dalit families. “It has been decided that all families belonging to the Dalit community shall return to their homes in the village,” the commission said. “Till the situation gets normal, the Haryana government shall ensure proper arrangements of security in the village; a separate police station shall be set up. A magistrate shall also camp in the village and ensure that the affected families are not barred from taking water and using transport facilities.”

While the order vindicates their stand, the Dalits are not yet ready to call off their protest. Hisar Deputy Commissioner Amit Kumar Agarwal, who is trying to broker peace, admitted he had been unsuccessful so far. “We can’t force the panchayat to demolish the wall. At the same time, the protesters will not return until that happens,” he said. Following the raising of the wall, the Ambedkar Welfare Committee filed a suit in a local court but lost. Immediately after that, the panchayat built a wall around the square claiming encroachment by neighbouring Dalit houses. In the process, entry to many Dalit houses got blocked. “They broke our latrine connection. We had spent Rs 5,000 to build it. They have dumped bricks at our door,” said Himmat Singh (58). Following intervention from district officials, the panchayat cleared an 8-foot wide path next to the wall to allow the families entry to their homes. Gaps were also created to allow “free entry” to the square. The Dalits approached a revenue court which ordered a status quo. “Our community has always lived around the chowk and conducted marriages and celebrated festivals here. We have a moral right to the land,” said Virender Singh Bagoriya, head of the Haryana Kumahar Mahasabha, who is leading the protesting families.

Two months ago, 50 Dalit families from Bhagana began a protest at the Hisar mini-Secretariat. The situation got further complicated when Raj Kumar (45), a Dalit, died under mysterious circumstances on June 17. Towards the end of last month, the Dalit families finally moved out of the village after the Jats reportedly called for a “social boycott”. Bagoriya and over two dozen supporters, who organised protests and sit-ins outside the district administration headquarters and elsewhere in Hisar, were booked by police for obstructing government officials performing their duties. Bagoriya said the community was being targeted for daring to speak out. Both sides admit they have stopped talking to each other. With no resolution in sight, some hundred men marched towards New Delhi on June 27 and began a dharna at Jantar Mantar on July 1. Sarv Samaj Sangharsh Samiti’s Vedpal Tanwar said they met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. “He said he would call us again soon.” When The Indian Express visited Hisar last week, on the 60th day of their dharna there, the Dalits of Bhagana said the protest was beginning to take a toll. However, they added, it was risky to return to Bhagana, 16 km away. “When we go to fetch grain and fresh clothes, the Jats threaten and abuse us,” said Naresh Kumar (23) who used to work as a plumber before joining the protest.

At the same time, there is a group of Dalits who stayed behind in Bhagana. They maintain there is no tension or strife. “We are living in peace with the Jats,” said Santro (60), wife of former sarpanch Kitab singh, a Dalit. Villagers accuse Bagoriya of provoking the protests for personal gins. “His motto is to spread discord between communities,” said Karanbir Singh (52), a Jat farmer. Bagoriya, however, countered that the Dalit families who have remained behind are being “suppressed” by the Jats. “They want to join us but there is no one to lead them. They are weak-willed and owe money to the Jats,” he said. Tejvir Malik, a Jat leader from a neighbouring village, has his own take on the row. “Age-old customs and practices in the village prohibit Dalits from certain areas. The Dalits never protested earlier but now their leaders are telling them not to keep quiet,” he said. Independent inquiries conducted by Deputy Commissioner Agarwal and City Magistrate Reagan Kumar called it more of a land dispute than a caste row.

In a note on his findings submitted to the NHRC, Kumar said: “In my opinion, it is definitely not a case of ostracisation or atrocity against SC families, rather it is a case of dispute between two heterogeneous groups. Had it been a case of mass ostracisation or atrocities against SC families, 250-odd SC families still residing in village Bhagana would have protested.” In its order, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes also urged the state government to provide the affected Dalit families employment under MNREGA, without the 100-day time limit. “Nobody shall be allowed to raise any construction or encroachment on the village’s common land (Shamlat) and there shall be no restriction on the movement of affected families in the common area of the village. Suicide victim Rajkumar’s family members shall be provided employment and his children shall be given monetary support for pursuing their education,” the commission said. Jagdish Kajla (28) disputes this. The Dalits are cornered, he says. “The Jats say the khap is ours, the government is ours, what will you do?”

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/980063/

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Opinions and Editorials

Assam’s sorrow – Editorial (Jul 26, 2012, The Hindu)

Often enough in much of Assam, all that it takes to set alight the sub-surface nodes of volatility is a mere spark. Now, an ethnic-communal spectre looms over the western parts of the State once again. Confronting each other are violent elements among the Bodos and Muslims. Gang violence that started in Kokrajhar spread to more districts including Chirang, Dhubri and Bongaigaon, claiming some 40 lives. The rioting and torching has triggered an exodus. Over 1,70,000 people belonging to both the affected communities, as well as others, in the four districts have taken shelter in relief camps.

The trigger was the firing on two student leaders of the All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union and the All Assam Minority Students’ Union in Kokrajhar. Thereupon, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers cadres were killed; that led to further attacks and counter-attacks. With the Bodos’ nationalistic assertion forming the historical backdrop to the tensions, aggressive elements from the two communities have clashed sporadically. The confrontation has been labelled ‘ethnic,’ but economic and even educational anxieties are as much at work as the desire to preserve socio-cultural and ethnic identities. Insecurities relating to land, forest rights and a shrinking job market have created a combustible mix.

The immediate task is to contain the violence and tackle the serious humanitarian crisis. Those who have had to abandon home and hearth should be enabled to return. Transport links with the rest of the country need to be restored; thousands of passengers remain stranded in railway and bus stations. Talks between the adversary organisations should be quickly facilitated. The administration failed to react quickly after the first signs of trouble on July 19. Considering that there was a build-up of tensions over the past few months, vulnerable areas ought to have been identified and adequate forces deployed. It has been pointed out that in many of the places overrun by violence, the security forces were not visible at all. The deployment of the Army seems to have come too late in the day.

The mapping of stress-spots on the basis of adequate intelligence inputs should be a priority at least from now. The long-term goal, obviously, is to re-envision Assam as a place where ascriptive identities do not disrupt civic relationships. The state needs to keep working on achieving the right balance of development activity. The key to this will be restoration of mutual trust. This should be based primarily on systematic measures to address fears over loss of ownership and right to land, and concerns over denial of access to resources, development, and means of livelihood.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3683327.ece

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Power and pain – By Ravi Sharma (Jul 28, 2012, Frontline)

It took the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) well over a quarter of a century of political sweat and tears, not to mention machinations, to come to power in a southern State. But when it was finally elected to power in Karnataka in May 2008, it took the party’s central and State leaderships only a fraction of that time to realise that staying in power and holding on to it by keeping the myriad groups together is much more difficult. The BJP government has survived for four years, but only just, limping from one crisis to another. As outgoing Chief Minister, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, said, “The BJP must thank its political opponents, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), for its survival.” The two major opposition parties are in deeper disarray and are unable to take advantage of the dissidence in the BJP. Sadananda Gowda, who was B.S. Yeddyurappa’s choice for the post of Chief Minister when he stepped down in August 2011, was removed from office in July following dissidence and, ironically, at Yeddyurappa’s instance. Karnataka got its third BJP Chief Minister in little more than four years when Yeddyurappa loyalist Jagadish Shivappa Shettar, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister in the previous Cabinet, was appointed to the post on July 12 amid protests and political pantomime. But the crisis was not over. Party MLAs soon started to wrangle for plum posts. Two Deputy Chief Ministers were foisted on Shettar: K.S. Eshwarappa, who was the State party president, and R. Ashoka. This is a first for Karnataka and a surprise considering that it is a single-party government. In a 34-member Ministry, the BJP central leadership, it appears, wanted to placate Sadananda Gowda and also give representation to all caste groups.

For a start, Shettar’s ascent to the top of the political heap in Karnataka has not been convincing with the BJP explaining that “political expediency” and “an eye on the next elections” had forced it to remove Sadananda Gowda. This has hardly cut any ice with party supporters. Sadananda Gowda is seen as an honest politician who, in the words of Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, was trying to “slowly and steadily” clean up the administration “in right earnest”. Shettar will have to be content with the fact that he has just 10 months in office, provided the Assembly completes its full term in May 2013, and crucially, dissidence does not once again cause a leadership change. After prevaricating for long, the BJP central leadership succumbed to threats from a group of dissidents, including 10 Ministers, of whom seven belong to the politically powerful Lingayat community and owe allegiance to Yeddyurappa. On June 29, in a clear indication of a vertical split in the Sadananda Gowda Cabinet, nine Ministers submitted their resignation to the Chief Minister, sending the BJP into a tizzy. The dissidents, who had been unsuccessfully demanding a meeting of the BJP Legislature Party, wanted Sadananda Gowda to be replaced by Shettar, their leader. The belligerent Ministers claimed that they had the support of 51 of the party’s 115 MLAs in the 224-member State Assembly.

Yeddyurappa’s choice of Shettar was ironical as much as it smacked of opportunism. Both of them are Lingayats and have been at daggers drawn for most, if not all, of their political lives. Yeddyurappa wanted to be the undisputed leader of the Lingayat community and did not want the rise of a rival power centre. When he formed his Cabinet in May 2008, he ensured that Shettar was denied a ministership. (However, Yeddyurappa pacified Shettar by making him the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.) Yeddyurappa opposed Shettar’s candidature for the Chief Minister’s post in 2011, preferring Sadananda Gowda, a Vokkaliga, instead, as he hoped to return to power after he was cleared of the corruption charges made by the Lokayukta (ombudsman). Since his moves in March to stage a comeback were resisted by Sadananda Gowda, Yeddyurappa did a volte-face and pitched for Shettar as Chief Minister, in another attempt to grab power. A hurt Sadananda Gowda confided that leaders who wanted him out had resorted to blackmailing the leadership. He said: “When I resigned I had 61 of the BJP’s 115 MLAs supporting me. Yeddyurappa is one of the tallest leaders in Karnataka, but his desire to control the party alone is hurting it.” Not surprisingly, Shettar’s rule also began with a dissenting note. Around 20 legislators from the coastal districts of Udipi and Dakshina Kannada, which have traditionally been BJP strongholds, raised the banner of revolt, unhappy over the denial of ministerial berths. Halady Srinivasa Shetty, who represents Kundapur, resigned his Assembly seat in protest. Shettar, who rebelled against Sadananda Gowda, got a taste of dissidence when on his first visit to Hubli, his home town, after assuming power, he faced a boycott by some key party legislators. They had been denied Cabinet berths and so decided to stay away from the reception accorded to him. Shettar will need to douse the fire of rebellion fast if he has to count on the support of all the legislators for the passage of the Finance Bill on July 30.

Trouble came from other quarters, too. Justice Vikramjit Sen, the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, chastised the government for the “inordinate delay” in meeting the constitutional requirement of appointing a Lokayukta, a post that fell vacant in September last year. Justice Sen even cautioned the government that he may be forced to write to the Governor citing “a constitutional crisis in the State” if the government did not act fast. Governor Bhardwaj is unhappy with Shettar for not heeding his advice to keep out of the Cabinet legislators against whom cases had been filed either in the High Court or with the Lokayukta. The “tainted” legislators, Murugesh R. Nirani, V. Somanna, C.P. Yogeshwar, M.P. Renukacharya (who were Ministers in the Sadananda Gowda government as well) and C.T. Ravi, have been given key portfolios. As the cauldron of caste politics boiled over, there was little that an indecisive BJP leadership could do to avoid appointing two Deputy Chief Ministers. While Eshwarappa, the State BJP president, hails from the Kuruba community, Ashoka is a Vokkaliga. Both appointments were made to balance the caste equations and keep the BJP’s vote banks and brood, and the two senior leaders themselves, happy. The Yeddyurappa group, much to the exasperation of Sadananda Gowda loyalists, has cornered key portfolios such as Finance, Home, Public Works, Water Resources and Industries. Lingayats constitute around 18 per cent of the State’s population. Lingayats and Vokkaligas are the two most economically, politically and numerically dominant communities. Eight of the State’s last 11 Chief Ministers have been from these two communities. Lingayats have got 11 of 34 ministerial berths, Vokkaligas six, Other Backward Classes six, Dalits seven, Brahmins three, and Kodavas one. Central and northern Karnataka, which have been traditionally supporting the BJP, have been rewarded with 20 ministerial posts. For the first time in Karnataka, there is no Muslim representative in the Cabinet. It is also for the first time since the formation of the BJP government that all the 34 ministerial berths have been filled up.

Over the years, the BJP has drawn strong support from Lingayats and the community is undoubtedly the party’s largest support base. But in recent years, the desire to overplay the Lingayat card has justifiably given rise to criticism that the BJP has overly favoured the Lingayat community, both in the Cabinet and in the administration, at the expense of other communities. Many senior partymen, including Sadananda Gowda, have pointed out that while this may be good politics it is bad for the party’s image. The BJP began facing troubles right from the time it formed the government in 2008, primarily because it was marginally short of a majority in the Assembly and hence had to lure non-BJP legislators to stay in power. Leading the way in wooing opposition legislators were the then all powerful Reddy brothers of Bellary. The three brothers, Gali Janardhana Reddy, G. Karunakara Reddy and G. Somashekara Reddy, had earlier bankrolled the election campaigns of quite a few legislators. This was the start of the BJP’s troubles. The Reddy brothers, mining barons of Bellary, aspired for more autonomy and higher offices in return for their services. The new entrants, too, demanded positions of power to keep the government afloat. Yeddyurappa spent the better part of his three years as Chief Minister fighting dissidence, primarily from disgruntled legislators wanting ministerial berths, the Bellary brothers, and a section of the party owing allegiance to his bete noire H.N. Ananth Kumar, the BJP’s national general secretary. Sulking ever since he was removed from office in July 2011 and piqued that the party did not support him although he is credited with leading the party to power in 2008, Yeddyurappa sought to destabilise the Sadananda Gowda government, handing out one threat after another. It was evident though, that he did not have the political gumption to walk out of the party. Paradoxically, it was Yeddyurappa who pitch-forked Sadananda Gowda, a nondescript, non-controversial, dyed-in-the-wool Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh worker and party loyalist, into the Chief Minister’s saddle in August 2011, of course after extracting the promise that he would step down when Yeddyurappa wanted the post back. Sadananda Gowda’s reluctance to make way for Yeddyurappa’s return or to help him come out of the myriad legal tangles was the main reason for the latter’s ire and the ensuing dissidence. … Many BJP leaders had serious reservations about the central leadership’s reading of the political situation in Karnataka. They averred that while Yeddyurappa’s appeal as a mass leader of the Lingayat sect could not be overlooked, it was also a fact that by unduly kow-towing to the Lingayat lobby the party was in danger of alienating itself from other sections of the electorate. The removal of Sadananda Gowda has triggered discontent in the party. Although the outgoing Chief Minister has no discernible base or substantial following, his ouster is seen as a snub to the equally powerful Vokkaliga community. For the BJP, which claims to be “a party with a difference”, the past four years in Karnataka have been anything but that. Its own Ministers acknowledge that it is now “a party with only differences”. …

http://flonnet.com/fl2915/stories/20120810291503000.htm

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The Witness Has Vanished – By Toral Varia Deshpande (Aug 6, 2012, Outlook)

He is a key prosecution witness in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. He has been missing for nearly four years now. And the CBI, after investigating his disappearance, is set to chargesheet officers of the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS), the very agency that considered him its key witness. The case of Dilip Devisingh Patidar is a window to the scary, shadowy world of terror investigations, where the usual dubious practices of police-such as coercion, pitting suspects against one another, forced confessions, and especially illegal detention-are used with impunity. Such methods come under blazing light only when things go wrong, as they seem to have in Patidar’s case. But there is more than just an individual’s rights-which are certainly important-involved in this case. While the focus had always been on Islamist terror, the two Malegaon blasts (the earlier one was in 2006) are perhaps the first instance in which Hindutva groups are believed to have been involved. Among those held in the 2008 blasts case is Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, who worked for Military Intelligence. Another prominent suspect is Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. Already, the information blitz from various investigating agencies has fogged these labyrinthine cases at the cost of credibility. It’s in this context that the disappearance of a key witness raises alarm, for it could put paid to the investigation of the “Hindutva terror” angle.

The Malegaon 2008 blasts took place on September 29, leaving six people dead and 101 injured. The Maharashtra ATS homed in on some Hindutva groups, and on November 1 that year came to search the house of Shivnarayan Kalsangra, a suspect now under arrest, in Indore. (His brother Ramnarayan, one of the main accused, is still absconding.) This was when the ATS first came in touch with Patidar, the Kalsangras’ neighbour. Obtaining the house keys from Patidar, the ATS conducted the search in his presence. Then, on the night of November 10, the ATS is said to have picked up Patidar, then 26 years old, from Indore after allegedly uncovering his cellphone links with Kalsangra and other suspects. From November 11 to 18, the ATS is said to have questioned him at its Mumbai offices. But inexplicably, he was said to have been allowed to go to Indore on November 18 to collect his ID proof to enable him to record a statement before a magistrate. The last Patidar’s family heard from him was on November 20, when he called Alkesh Solia, a cousin. After vain attempts to file missing complaints with the Khajrana police station in Indore, Patidar’s family members filed a habeas corpus petition with the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. It was admitted on November 24, and the court asked a joint team of the ATS and Indore police to locate Patidar. Filing a report on behalf of the joint team on February 24, 2010, the Indore police told the court Patidar was not in the custody of any investigating agency-he was in hiding.

When Patidar could not be located for nearly eight months, the court ordered the CBI to take up investigations on October 1, 2010. Over the last 21 months, the CBI has filed seven status reports with the court. For now, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has closed the case, in the expectation that the CBI will soon obtain clearance to prosecute the ATS officers its status reports have damned. Here are some of the CBI’s findings from its status reports, which Outlook has access to. These findings, based on the scrutiny of ATS and Madhya Pradesh police documents and examination of some 60 witnesses, question the methods adopted by the ATS’s officers: Detention illegal: The CBI’s status report of July 11, 2011, says, “…Patidar was taken by the ATS Mumbai team on the intervening night of 10-11 November 2008 from his residence and they detained him in illegal custody even till 20 November 2008…their procedure of taking him away was not as per the legal provisions. No notice or summons was issued. Neither any written willingness of Patidar obtained by the ATS. Patidar was kept in wrongful confinement till 20 November 2008, when the last phone call was received by his cousin.”

Patidar was scared: His cousin Solia told the CBI that Patidar sounded “unnatural”, “frightened” and “under pressure” in his November 20 call. He said “he was in the custody of the ATS and would be released in a day or two”. Unusual release: The CBI says it’s difficult to believe two claims of the ATS: a) that Patidar, when he was being questioned in Mumbai, was allowed to visit his friend’s house and hence wasn’t illegally detained; b) that Patidar was allowed to go and collect his ID proof from Indore. There’s no address or contact number of the so-called friend. And a man “lifted from his residence” is unlikely to be allowed to leave on his own. Discrepancies in movement reports: Patidar apparently “attended” the ATS’s unit in Vikhroli, Mumbai, on a couple of days, but there’s no reflection of these movements in the diary notings of the ATS’s Kalachowky unit, where he was originally kept. His movements on some other days, however, are noted. As police officers will admit off the record, not making proper diary entries, or faking them, is not unusual in the interrogation of suspects detained illegally.

One call a day: The ATS claimed Patidar was in constant touch with his friends and relatives, and therefore, was not in illegal detention. The CBI doubts this, saying, “There’s one peculiarity…he has made only one call on some days while in ATS custody. No other phone calls were made or received during this period of custody (November 11-20, 2008).” Clearly, the ATS was allowing him to make one call per day to family members, a common tactic to keep them from getting worried and seeking legal aid. Local cops inactive: The CBI found that Patidar’s family members made missing person complaints with the Khajrana police station in Indore on November 14, 20 and 22, but the SHO did not make official entries. Usually, special investigating agencies such as the ATS are able to exert pressure on local stations to stall missing-person complaints about suspects they have picked up. The CBI has concluded that “there is nothing to show that Patidar came back to Indore from Mumbai”. So where is he? The cash reward for any information on him has gone up from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. But there is no answer. And while investigators may not admit it openly, privately many believe Patidar’s disappearance will seriously affect the 2008 Malegaon blasts trials, confounding the investigation of “saffron terror”.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?281771

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Fighting Maoists – By Praful Bidwai (Jul 28, 2012, Frontline)

Why does the Indian government always get it so totally wrong when responding to excesses committed by its paramilitary forces in their internal security operations? Why does it invest more energy in strenuously defending and covering up for them and inventing all manner of excuses for their conduct than in honestly investigating what appears to be an unambiguous case of extrajudicial killing and a terrible offence against its own citizens? The simple answer is that our internal security apparatus, from the Home Ministry downwards, has cultivated a deplorable laager mentality which compulsively forms a protective ring around the self-imposed paramilitary encampment, much like apartheid-era South African Whites did. This mindset says “our boys” must be defended and protected against a hostile public and the jholawala human rights activist out to malign us. If the “boys” committed excesses, that must be unintentional. Keeping their morale up amidst adverse publicity is what “team spirit” and “loyalty” to the force is all about. “Honour” and dedication to service lies in that. Take the June 29 killing of 20 civilian men, women and children in a combined operation by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Chhattisgarh police at Sarkeguda in Bijapur district, which will go down as a black mark in the history of counter-insurgency in India. Evidently, the CRPF personnel committed a grave blunder by assuming that the late-night village meeting they encountered at Sarkeguda must be a naxalite gathering and indiscriminately opening fire on it. According to many accounts, it was a meeting to plan an Adivasi seed festival.

At any rate, among the victims were at least 10 teenagers, including girls, and a professional drum player – hardly the sort to be confused for armed naxalites. The police rationalised the butchery of civilians by first claiming that they had been ambushed and had retaliated in self-defence, and then by saying that four of those killed had police records. These charges were not substantiated. The argument was then advanced that the CRPF had no “system of segregating” guerillas from civilians during a gunfight, so “collateral damage” with some civilian casualties was inevitable. Even more odiously, Chief Minister Raman Singh justified the killings by saying that Maoists use civilians as human shields, so they must be blamed for the deaths. Even assuming the police had fired in self-defence after they were ambushed, such firing cannot be indiscriminate. Nor can it be disproportionate to the original attack, in which only primitive muzzle-loaded country guns with pellets were used, causing injuries far less severe than automatic fire, and certainly no fatalities. Besides, there is evidence of sexual assault and mutilation of dead bodies. This suggests an operation to punish civilians – which is unacceptable regardless of the circumstances. Even going by the best conceivable scenario for the CRPF, its attacking party made no attempt to separate civilians from naxalite combatants, assuming any such were present. Rather, it followed the fire-first-and-ask-questions-later approach. The CRPF was wrong to open fire in the first place. The proper objective of a counter-insurgency operation is not to kill or cripple rebels, but to bring them to justice through due process of law after establishing their culpability for specific crimes and to isolate them politically from the larger population which supports them.

Politically, the incident is a huge triumph for the Maoist argument that the Indian state is structurally and irredeemably anti-people, anti-Adivasi and brutal. Democracy is a mere façade. The state must be overthrown through an armed revolution or people’s war – in keeping with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) agenda. Yet, Home Minister P. Chidambaram continued for days to assert that this was a genuine encounter. It was only later that he (and reluctantly thereafter, the CRPF) offered a graceless, half-apology “in case any excesses were committed”, by mistake, of course. The lesson was largely lost on the high functionaries of the state that targeting and killing non-combatant civilians was unacceptable even in war, and even if it happened during a genuine engagement. It is virtually certain that their response would have been radically different if the victims belonged to a privileged group – unlike the poor Adivasis of Chhattisgarh, who have been uprooted from their habitat, deprived of land and access to forests, and brutalised by predatory interests such as forest contractors and the timber mafia, and now the mining industry. These groups work in league with the administration, which sponsored the murderous Salwa Judum militia, which killed, raped and burned at will, sending tens of thousands into exile. Regrettably, the state continues to push destructive mining and industrial projects through, thus increasing the Adivasis’ alienation. It has not even invested a fraction of what it spends on the paramilitary forces to address Adivasi grievances or help its counter-insurgency troops understand the roots of tribal alienation, thanks to which the Maoists thrive.

The government has reluctantly, under the pressure of public opinion, agreed to institute a judicial inquiry into the Bijapur incident. Had it done so proactively and graciously, it might have come through as earnest about rectifying its errors. Some of the damage can be controlled if exemplary punishment is awarded to those responsible for the killing of civilians. No lame argument about the morale of the counter-insurgency forces should be allowed to impede a fair trial. However, more needs to be done. Following on the July 13 meeting of the security forces in the “Left-Wing-Extremism” – affected States – where a tentative decision was taken to abandon combat operations if militants use civilians as human shields, and to raise the reward for those who surrender their weapons – the Centre should formally revise the rules of engagement by making it clear that the topmost priority is to avert civilian casualties and harassment and that there will be no impunity for this. The use of force cannot be indiscriminate even in war. It must be carefully calibrated and tightly controlled in internal counter-insurgency operations, where civilians are directly endangered. There must be no resort to extrajudicial punishment, torture, or inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment – no matter what the provocation. The anti-Maoist campaign in nine Indian States, commonly termed Operation Green Hunt, has come in for scathing criticism not only from civil liberties defenders but also from an expert group of the Planning Commission on “Development Challenges in Extremist-Affected Areas”, which holds: “The methods chosen by the government to deal with the Maoist phenomenon [have] increased the people’s distrust of the police and consequent unrest. Protest against police harassment is itself a major instance of unrest.… The response of the Maoists has been to target the police, which in effect triggers a second round of the spiral.… One of the attractions of the naxalite movement is that it does provide protection to the weak against the powerful and takes the security of, and justice for, the weak and socially marginal seriously.” The government only pays lip service to the “two-pronged” approach of “development” and “law-and-order”, or simultaneously redressing popular grievances and forcing the Maoists into submission. In practice, it overwhelmingly relies on brute force.

The underlying official premise, that Maoism is India’s “greatest internal security threat”, is profoundly mistaken. The Maoists are not about to capture power, destroy India’s unity or undermine its security. They pose a civil law-and-order problem, which should be tackled by normal police methods – good intelligence-gathering, crime control, painstaking evidence collection, and prosecution of those instigating or practising violence. The Indian state must correct course at once and heed counter-insurgency experts, such as Robert Thompson, who says: “Hardly if ever has a counter-insurgency campaign been won strictly by waging war. Military action has an important role in overcoming guerillas, but the philosophy espoused by the guerillas must also be defeated and this requires a well-reasoned combination of political reform, civic action and education of the population.” E.N. Rammohan, a former Border Security Force chief with years of counter-insurgency experience, who was asked to inquire into the April 2010 killings of 76 CRPF troops in Chhattisgarh, puts his finger on the nub: “Give land to the tiller and forests back to the tribal people with the help of a strong-willed and honest administration. Plus, bring down the vast gap between the rich and the poor… and the Maoists would be on the wane.” Such advice is not new. Soon after the outbreak of the 1967 Naxalbari uprising and large-scale agrarian unrest in many States, it was proffered by the Home Ministry’s Research and Planning division in The Causes and Nature of Current Agrarian Tensions (1969): “The basic cause of the unrest, namely the defective implementation of laws enacted to protect the interest of the tribals, remains: unless this is attended to, it would not be possible to win the confidence of the tribals whose leadership has been taken over by the extremists.” Further: “Although the peasant political organisations” in most parts of India are still relatively weak, “the tensions in the rural areas, resulting from the widening gap between the relatively few affluent farmers and the large body of small landholders, landless and agricultural workers, may increase in the coming months and years.…” The monograph emphasised land reforms and other corrective measures. The advice fell on deaf ears then. It is falling on even more cynical and equally deaf ears now.

http://flonnet.com/fl2915/stories/20120810291508900.htm

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The lesser half – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Jul 28, 2012, Frontline)

The shocking incident of the beating and molestation of a young woman by a mob in Guwahati in Assam on July 9 has exposed the ugly underbelly of modern, globalised India, where women face violence, covertly and overtly, at home and outside. The incident has also exposed the lackadaisical manner in which these crimes are treated by the authorities and the general public, and subjected to all kinds of interpretations, which eventually deflects attention from the real issues behind the violent manifestation of and escalation in such crimes. It was not long ago, in June, that Rumi Nath, a young woman legislator of the ruling Congress in Assam, was beaten up by a mob just because she had dared to marry for the second time. In another case, a woman Member of Parliament from Dahod in Gujarat was beaten up by the police. The Guwahati incident attracted significant public attention, widely telecast as it was on the days following it and later repeatedly shown on leading television channels and social networking sites as a subject matter of discussion. How much of this was voyeuristic is anybody’s guess. The focus shifted from the victim and the overall situation of rising crimes against women to the role of the media, the electronic media in particular, and the clumsy handling of the case by the National Commission for Women (NCW), a statutory body set up nearly two decades ago to strengthen the legal apparatus to protect women. The NCW, which has assumed the role of a proactive body over the last one decade in terms of conducting several fact-finding and inquiry committees into random incidents of violence against women, went into mission mode after the Guwahati incident. It constituted a fact-finding team comprising members of the Commission, including a former Youth Congress leader, Alka Lamba, who had little experience of dealing with such incidents. What followed was outrageous. The victim’s identity was given out during a press conference.

Meanwhile, even as several of the accused continued to remain at large, the television channel that had aired the pictures of the molesters and captured the acts of molestation live was at the receiving end, accused of having orchestrated the entire episode and even instigated the mob to molest the young woman. The focus continued to shift, and views on the ethics of media coverage were as diverse as they could get. However, there was no denying that had the faces of the molesters not been captured on camera, the State police would not have been able to apprehend 12 of them in a short time. The continuous and repeated telecasting of the molestation by leading channels was of no concern to anyone. Following the faux pas by the inquiry panel member and the outrage over it, the NCW distanced itself from the statement and the person. But the organisation ran into more controversy when the Chairperson was criticised for suggesting that women should dress carefully. She, however, denied making that statement. Some commentators even went to the extent of suggesting that the NCW should be disbanded. The views of women’s organisations that had fought hard to get the NCW constituted and put many women-specific laws in place and had lobbied hard for strengthening the existing laws just did not matter. Interestingly, after the previous Chairperson demitted office, the NCW had been headless for nearly five months. And the acting Chairperson, after taking over charge, issued a statement that baffled all: “I would like to educate the women to adopt the collective approach in the right direction and awareness to join the current stream of the nation.” The incumbent Chairperson, Mamta Sharma, a former legislator from Rajasthan, who will complete one year in office in August, if she did indeed make moralising statements, has not been alone in making such remarks. The Commission, while probing the murder of Sister Valsa John in November last year in Pakkur district, Jharkhand, allegedly by the mining mafia, encountered a senior police officer who said, in connection with the rape of a tribal woman who was an associate of the nun and perhaps a witness to the murder, that police frequently did not register first information reports (FIRs) in such cases. Worse, he said that rape was common among tribal people. The Commission took an adverse view of the officer’s comments and recommended that its observation be entered in his confidential service reports.

Examples of leading political representatives defending the undemocratic diktats of khaps and caste panchayats on the grounds of respecting popular sentiment and tradition are not uncommon. Recently, a highly educated Member of Parliament, Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), justified the decision of khap panchayats. Following reports of a caste panchayat in Asra village in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh restricting the movement of young girls within the village and their use of mobile phones, the young MP told mediapersons that every family had a right to manage its own affairs and that there was nothing wrong in the decision of the panchayat. Baghpat happens to be the constituency of RLD chief and Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who took a stern view of the diktat, was criticised by the All India Jat Arakshan Samiti, which has been actively demanding reservation for Jats in the backward classes category. A senior Minister in the State even commented that the decision of the panchayat did not warrant action as it did not clash with the laws of the land. In another case, in 2010, in the context of a demand to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to ban sah-gotra (same gotra) marriages, a young Congress MP from Haryana lauded the service rendered by khap panchayats. Although not documented in crime records as such, honour-related crimes have been on the rise in the past one and a half decades in the country. A draft of The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2010, has been pending with the NCW for two years. It was prepared by senior advocate and former Law Commission member Kirti Singh and adopted by the NCW. The Union government has been dragging its feet on several Bills, including a comprehensive draft Bill to prevent sexual assault. This was also prepared by Kirti Singh on behalf of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). The Bill proposed several amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in order to widen the ambit and definition of rape. In May this year, Parliament passed the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, raising the age of consent from 16 to 18, but many Bills, including the Women’s Reservation Bill, are in cold storage. A major problem is that even those Bills pertaining to women and children that are passed by Parliament do not somehow comprehensively address all the issues raised by women’s organisations.

The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, is awaiting parliamentary passage even though the Supreme Court had issued guidelines on stopping sexual harassment at the workplace 15 years ago. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and has remained there since. It had excluded domestic workers from its ambit and was referred to the Union Cabinet for amendments. Interestingly, a Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended the inclusion of male workers in the Bill, something which was not acceptable either to the Women and Child Ministry or to women’s groups. Such attempts to constantly trivialise legislation meant to protect women have only worsened the situation. The latest figures of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), released in June, show that crimes against women have been rising steadily. The NCRB has since 1953 been keeping a record of all crimes committed in India, including those against women and children. The data reveal an increase in crimes filed under the IPC (rape, molestation, kidnapping and abduction, homicide for dowry or dowry deaths, mental and physical torture, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, importation of girls) and those filed under Special and Local Laws (those specific to women, such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, and the Sati Prevention Act, 1987). Crimes against women in India, filed under both the IPC and the SLL, went up by 7.1 per cent over 2010 and 23.4 per cent over 2007. Significantly, States with a high per capita income, and high education and literacy levels, reported high rates of crimes against women. According to NCRB data, there was a continuous increase in crimes against women between 2007 and 2011; the sharpest increase was between 2010 and 2011. West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh reported the highest rates of crimes committed against women as a percentage of the total crimes.

Not only the reported number of crimes but the incidence of crime against women also went up in 2011, with Tripura topping the list. The IPC component of crimes accounted for 95.8 per cent of the total crimes against women and the SLL component 4.2 per cent. There has been a steady increase in the rate of IPC crimes since 2007. Rape, one of the most grievous crimes against women, increased by 3.5 per cent between 2007 and 2008, and after a decline in 2008 increased by 3.6 per cent in 2010 over 2009. The increase was monumental in 2011 over 2010: 9.2 per cent. Madhya Pradesh, among the States, reported the highest number of rape cases, accounting for 14.1 per cent of the total number of cases. The crime rate was the highest in Mizoram, much higher than the national average. The NCRB categorised rape cases as incest rape and other rape cases; marital rape remains an unrecognised category by lawmakers. Girls under 14 constituted 10.6 per cent of the victims, and 19 per cent were teenaged girls between 14 and 18 years. The bulk of the victims, 54.7 per cent, were women in the age group of 18-30 years. As many as 141 victims of rape were over 50 years of age. The offenders were known to the victims in 94 per cent of the cases. Kidnapping and abduction cases went up by 19.4 per cent, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for a large number of them. Dowry deaths, too, went up in 2011, and a good number of them were reported from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar. Torture cases, that is, cruelty by husband and his relatives, registered under Section 498A of the IPC, went up by 5 per cent; West Bengal reported the highest rate for such crimes. It is significant to note here that there has been an orchestrated campaign to make the section non-culpable and compoundable, on the pretext of its misuse. Women’s groups have been strongly opposed to any dilution of the section. …

http://flonnet.com/fl2915/stories/20120810291500400.htm

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Punishment For Leading Struggle Against Land Grab – By Aslam Khan (Jul 24, 2012, Countercurrents)

On July 15, Tika Ram was among the youths from Ramgarh village in Dadri who attended the Convention on Bathani Tola in Delhi, and spoke of their struggle against the grab of land allocated to dalits by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati. On July 20, Tika Ram was found on the railway tracks, his body mutilated and both legs severed. Doctors at the AIIMS Trauma Centre have had to further amputate his legs to save his life, which is still in danger. Meanwhile, four other youth leaders of the struggle against land grab have been jailed – on fabricated charges of shooting a girl.

The murderous assault on Tika Ram, and the arrest of his comrades, is the latest in a series of violent acts – all aimed at punishing those dalits who dared oppose the grab of land by the powerful gram pradhan who is of the dominant Gujjar community. Way back when Mayawati was still in power, Brahm Jatav and some other dalit youths raised their voice against the move by Kuldeep Bhati, gram pradhan, to grab 4.75 bighas of panchayat land allocated to dalits as homestead land. Bhati and his supporters encircled the dalits’ land and homes with a 7-foot-high wall. On March 14, to punish Brahm Jatav and others for daring to protest, Bhati and his thugs attacked the dalit hamlet, seriously injuring around 30 people, mostly women.

In spite of repeated protests since then, Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration has not lifted a finger to end the illegal encirclement of dalit land, and the perpetrators of the March 14 attack were not arrested. Bhati and his supporters repeatedly warned that they would ‘teach a lesson’ to the dalit youths and ensure that they never dared to raise their voice again. On the night of July 19, a dalit girl was injured by a bullet inside her own home. The same night, Tika Ram went missing from the front yard of his house, where he had been sleeping. In the early morning of July 20, police arrived and arrested Brahm Jatav, Veerpal, Roshan and Guddan from their homes, charging them with shooting the girl. They charged Tika Ram also with the shooting. It was then that Tika Ram’s family realized he was missing, and looked for him. They found him lying mutilated near the railway tracks. When Tika Ram regained consciousness, he told his family that four people – Nepal, Dayaram, Anil Bhati alias Kalu and Kuldeep Bhati, kidnapped him at gun-point from the front of his house.

Throughout the day of July 20, while Tika Ram battled for life, the police refused to arrest those whom he had named as his attackers. It was only after a gherao of the police station for several hours by dalit women and children, led by RYA leader Aslam Khan, that the police finally agreed to lodge an FIR in the night. Subsequently Dayaram and Kalu (Anil Bhati) have been arrested, but Nepal and Kuldeep Bhati continue to be at large. The main accused Kuldeep Bhati, in fact, is seen openly moving around the village with a police gunner – yet the police claim inability to arrest him. The dominant Gujjars have been audacious enough to protest against the arrest of Anil Bhati – and the Greater NOIDA police and administration are clearly under their thumb. They continue to terrorise the dalits daily, and there is every danger that more atrocities and acts of violence against dalits may occur at any time. The police has even withdrawn the security that it had initially provided for a short time.

Right from the beginning, a small section of dalits in the village have been acting as agents for Kuldeep Bhati and his supporters. With their help, Bhati has falsely implicated the main dalit youth leaders, in order to deflect from the land struggle. As a result, the land struggle has indeed been pushed back, with the main dalit leaders having to fight to prove their innocence against the cooked-up ‘attempt to murder’ charges. The sheer horror of Tika Ram’s mutilation too is aimed as a deterrent for the dalits to continue with their struggle to defend their land. The RYA and CPI(ML) are demanding that since the Greater NOIDA administration’s bias is apparent, an impartial judicial enquiry be ordered to establish who in fact shot at the dalit girl, and who are responsible for the murderous attack and mutilation of Tika Ram. The four innocent youths who have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting of the girl, that happened within the four walls of her own house, must be freed without delay, and the charges of attempted murder withdrawn. Round-the-clock police protection must be provided for all the dalit families in the village. The Greater NOIDA administration must answer as to why the illegal 7-foot wall erected around common panchayat land is yet to be demolished. The wall must be demolished and the land allocated amongst dalits, and the latter must be given possession of the land. The UP Government and Greater NOIDA administration must also answer why Kuldeep Bhati, who himself is guilty of grabbing panchayat land and unleashing a spate of violent atrocities on dalits, is yet to be removed from his position as gram pradhan.

http://www.countercurrents.org/akhan240712.htm

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