IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 27th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Amnesty condemns media for neglecting Forbesganj issue (Jun 24, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Prominent Human Rights organization Amnesty International expressed its concern over the hypocrisy of Indian media in highlighting and sensationalizing Baba Ramdev incident while avoiding reporting on Forbesganj police firing that killed four including an infant and a pregnant woman.

Govind Acharya, a prominent member of Amnesty International USA writing on his blog on Amnesty website wrote, “In the Delhi police brutality case, in which luckily no one was killed but several people were seriously injured, India’s boisterous media was all over the story, condemning the government and the police for what they did. There was blanket coverage. The central government was put on the defensive and questions yet again arose as to whether the coalition will last the full term before new elections. Unlike this what happened in Forbesganj was reported very little while the incident took four lives including a pregnant woman and a 7 month child. In fact, it was only after the release of a video posted by the online magazine TwoCircles.net that we see a glimpse of the full extent of the tragedy.”

Commenting on judicial inquiry into the incident, he said: “Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar has ordered a “judicial probe” but it remains to be seen if such a probe will lead to indictments of police involved in the shootings.” He termed both the incidents as a result of lack of training to the police about their responsibility. “These incidents both highlight a troubling problem in India (and South Asia writ large) – police that are politicized or poorly trained to do what they are supposed to do – protect citizens and to facilitate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights. There’s a story there for the media of India if they would only make the effort” he said.

Govind Acharya is a member of the South Asia Co-Group for Amnesty International USA . He is a former staffer at the International Secretariat. He was also on the Amnesty USA Board of Directors from 2004 – 2007.



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Gujarat riot victims may file plea to make cop a witness (Jun 21, 2011, New Kerala)

A Gujarat court Tuesday allowed victims of the 2002 communal riots to file a plea for calling as witness Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt who blamed Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the carnage. Judge B.J. Dhandha told the lawyer of the victims of a massacre at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad that they may file a plea anytime during the final hearing. Victims’ lawyer S.M. Vora earlier sought adjournment of the final hearing to file the plea.

Prosecution lawyer R.C. Kodekar started the final argument in the case to establish role of the various accused in the massacre that claimed lives of over 80 people in Gulberg Society Feb 28, 2002 during the statewide communal riots that followed the Godhra train burning that left 59 Kar Sevaks dead.

Vora said: “We demanded adjournment of the final hearing as we wanted to make Bhatt as a witness. This is because he has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court mentioning acts of Modi and has made allegations against him.” “However, the judge said, the process will be continued and we can file the plea on next hearing,” he said.

Bhatt, who was part of the state intelligence set up in 2002, blamed Modi for the communal carnage, saying the chief minister wanted Muslims to be taught “a lesson” for the Feb 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage and that Hindus should “be allowed to vent their anger”.

“I have deposed before the Special Investigation Team (SIT), the Nanavaty-Mehta judicial enquiry commission probing the 2002 communal riots and the process I have gone through has made me go for the affidavit before the Supreme Court. Rest, I leave it to the apex court. If I am called, I will depose before it,” he said.



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On Hindu extremists’ target: Godhra judge, AMU chief guest (Jun 23, 2011, Indian Express)

Hindu extremists named by National Investigation Agency in the Samjhauta Express blast case also had plans to kill the chief guest of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 2006 after the university changed its decision to invite BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi with that of a Muslim guest. In a statement given to the probe agency, one of the accused and a close associate of Sunil Joshi (dead) Shivam Dhakad is said to have given details on the plan to target AMU and other locations.

Dhakad, a resident of Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, is in Dewas prison after being arrested by Ujjain police on charges of murder. In judicial custody, he recently gave a statement to NIA, now part of the Samjhauta Express case. In his statement, Dhakad revealed that he travelled to Kolkata for surveying house of Justice UC Banerjee in 2005 who was heading a commission on the Godhra riots and had plans to kill him. The statement, accessed by The Indian Express, reveals that Dhakad and 12 others got arms and explosive training in 2006 in a forest near the Bagli-Dewas border. “Ramji (Kalsangra) had given us training of bomb-making and he had also given a demonstration to blast a bomb on a nearby hill. All of them practised pistol firing with air pistol and .32 bore pistol. Devender Upadhayay of village Bagli arranged for food for all,” reads the statement.

Describing his visit to AMU in 2006, Dhakad reported that in January 2006, Joshi gave him Rs 5,000 and directed him to AMU along with Kamal where the annual convocation was being organized. He claimed Joshi told him to look for opportunity to establish a branch of his organization at AMU among Hindu students and staff members of the university. “Later, I came to know that the actual purpose of our visit was to conduct a recce of AMU because late Sunil Joshi had a plan to kill the Muslim chief guest of the convocation to be held at AMU because AMU administration has changed the earlier decision to invite Muri Manohar Joshi, a senior BJP leader as chief guest,” Dhakad said in his statement.

Dhakad’s father has been associated with the RSS for long time and he claims that due to this association, he came in contact with Joshi. He met Joshi for the first time in 2005 and then traveled to Kolkata with him “On October 15, 2005, I was taken to Kolkata by Sunil Joshi during which we also visited Jamtara, Mihijam and Chittaranjan and met Devender Gupta… After our return from Kolkata, I came to know from Joshi that the purpose of the visit was to kill Justice U C Banerjee who was heading Godhra commission and we had gone to conduct recce for the same,” reads his statement.



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BJP politicians behind Sadiq’s killing, alleges brother Shabbir (Jun 20, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Shabbir Jamal Mehta has alleged that his brother Sadiq Jamal Mehtar was killed in a ‘fake encounter’ here in January 2003 at the behest of the then ruling party politicians in Gujarat and at the centre. These allegations have been made in a complaint filed by Shabbir with the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) on Saturday for the registration of a fresh FIR on the Gujarat High Court orders. The high court, a week ago, transferred the probe into the alleged encounter to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

After submitting the complaint, which was accepted by DCB, Shabbir alleged that the “cold-blooded murder” of his brother was a “political decision” and hence, it was necessary to find out if there was a political hand in the alleged encounter and who was the politician at whose behest his brother was shot dead. Interestingly however, the complaint did not mention the name of any politician. Shabbir in his complaint pointed out that the alleged encounter was part of a larger conspiracy to bring a bad name to the Muslims with a view creating hatred against them among the Hindus by a politician who tried to project himself as champion of the Hindus for sheer political gains.

“Since the police, in all encounter cases involving Muslims, made a sweeping statement saying the alleged accused persons were on a mission to kill Chief Minister and prominent leaders of VHP and BJP, it is amply clear that my brother was killed on the directions of some very senior political leaders,” Shabbir said in the complaint. Shabbir has also accused the then intelligence bureau official Rajinder Kumar, now posted as joint director of IB at the centre, of giving fake intelligence inputs in the case to prove the theory of the Gujarat police that Muslim terrorists were targeting Modi to avenge the killings of Muslims in 2002. The role of Kumar had also come under suspicion in Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

The complaint has also named the then director general of Gujarat police K Chakravarty and the then Ahmedabad police commission K R Kaushik, besides Mumbai encounter specialist Daya Nayak. Others who have been accused in the case are the then intelligence chief of Gujarat J. Mahapatra, the then joint commissioner(Ahmedabad DCB) PP Pandey, the then deputy commissioner of police(Ahmedabad DCB) D G Vanzara, the then assistant commissioner of police (Ahmedabad DCB) G L Singhal, the then assistant commissioner of police (Ahmedabad DCB) H P Agrawat, the then police inspector (Ahmedabad DCB) Jaysinh Gulabsinh Parmar,, the then police inspector(Ahmedabad DCB) I A Saiyed, the then PSI (Ahmedabad DCB) K M Vaghela, the then PSI(Ahmedabad DCB) G M Gohil, the then PSI(Ahmedabad DCB) R L Mavani, the then PSI (Ahmedabad DCB) Tarun Barot, the then PSI(Ahmedabad DCB) Chahtrasinh, the then constable (Ahmedabad DCB) Ajaypal Yadav and an unnamed BJP politicians in Gujarat and at the Centre.



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Ishrat killing: SIT quizzes top cops (Jun 23, 2011, Indian Express)

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case on Wednesday questioned IPS officer GL Singhal and DySP Tarun Barot at its office in Ahmedabad. This was for the third time that Singhal and Barot – who was reportedly the first to pull the trigger – were questioned in the case. They were issued summons by the SIT last week. A senior SIT officer said, “Barot and Singhal are the main cops under the scanner besides N K Amin, who were at the Indira Bridge for the encounter. The SIT chairman (Satyapal Singh) questioned them in detail today. This was the first important questioning of the police officers after Singh’s arrival.”

He added, “Their statements are going to reflect in the progress report that would be submitted in the Gujarat High Court tomorrow (Thursday).” Sources said that Barot and Singhal were asked to explain the entire incident in detail, right from the IB report that had reportedly said that Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives were entering the state. They added that Barot’s disclosure during his first questioning in April had indicated that Amin had taken the charge of the encounter after it was planned. The SIT is now likely to question Amin, who is currently lodged in the Sabarmati Central Jail.

On 26 April, Singhal and 13 other policemen had filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court seeking a CBI probe into the case. He had opposed to a HC order of April 21 wherein the investigation was handed over to SIT member Satish Varma. The Crime Branch headed by P P Pandey and D G Vanzara had killed Ishrat and others on June 15, 2004 near Indira Bridge. The police had claimed that the four were LeT operatives and on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.



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Panel to make 49 changes in communal violence Bill (Jun 23, 2011, Indian Express)

Having attracted criticism over some clauses of its draft of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) on Wednesday decided to effect a number of amendments – 49 in total – to the earlier draft. Among the controversial provisions that the NAC will delete from its draft is the one that gives power to the Centre to take steps to check communal violence anywhere in the country.

The opposition BJP had questioned the proposal to allow the Centre to unilaterally intervene in situations in states, saying that it would “intrude into the domain of the state” and damage the federal polity since law and order is a state subject in the Constitution. At the meeting, it was also decided that the provision defining communal and targeted violence will be re-worked. Clauses dealing with power and functions of the National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation will also go.

There was, however, no decision to accept the main objection raised by the BJP, which related to definition of “group”, which refers to the persons that the draft Bill proposes to cover. While the NAC draft defines the group as a “religious or linguistic minority” in a state, essentially saying that a member of a majority community in a state wouldn’t fall within the purview of the “group”, the BJP had said this would result in the assumption that communal trouble is fomented only by the majority and never by the minority community.



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“Communal forces behind Hazare, Ramdev agitation” (Jun 20, 2011, The Hindu)

Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran said on Sunday “communal and reactionary forces like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are behind the agitation by civil society leaders Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, in the name of fighting corruption.”

Talking to journalists here, he said: “These leaders are trying to create a pre-emergency situation, as in the early 1970s, by threatening a mass agitation that resulted in the proclamation of the Emergency in 1975.” The Minister said the leaders were challenging the Constitution and the law of the land. “They want to sabotage the Constitution and parliamentary democracy in a bid to destabilise the country.”

They are dictating terms to the government and want to bypass Parliament for bringing the Lokpal Bill, which the government is determined to present in the next session of Parliament, he said. He said the Congress had taken strong steps against corruption, whether it was the 2G spectrum scam, the Adarsh scandal or the Commonwealth Games. The party never hesitated to take action against its own leaders like Suresh Kalmadi. In the Adarsh scam, the party’s Maharashtra Chief Minister was removed and a decision was taken to probe the case.



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Corruption sole factor arresting progress of society: Guj HC (Jun 24, 2011, Times of India)

Corruption was undeniably the sole factor that has effectively arrested the progress of our society, Gujarat High Court observed while rejecting bail plea of IAS officer Pradeep Sharma, arrested in connection with irregularities in land allotment for 2001 earthquake affected persons in Kutch. “It is the rampant corruption indulged in with impunity by highly placed persons that has led to economic unrest in this country,” Justice J B Pardiwala observed while rejecting Sharma’s bail plea on Thursday.

“If one is asked to name one sole factor that effectively arrested the progress of our society to prosperity, undeniably it is corruption,” he said. “If the society in a developing country faces a menace greater than even the one from the hired assassins to its law and order, then that is from the corrupt elements at higher echelons of the Government and of the political parties,” Justice Pardiwala observed in his order.

“Corruption has, in it, very dangerous potentialities. Corruption, a word of wide connotation has, in respect of almost all the spheres of our day to day life, all the world over, the limited meaning of allowing decisions and actions to be influenced not by the rights or wrongs of a case but by the prospects of monetary gains or other selfish considerations,” he said.



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Sachan cremated amid high drama, family insists on CBI probe (Jun 24, 2011, IBN)

The post mortem report revealed that there were injury nine injury marks on the body, including neck, elbows, thigh and wrist. While the government termed it as a prima facie case of suicide, the family members and opposition parties cried foul, terming it as a murder and demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident.”There is no need for the CBI probe. This has been informed to you (media) yesterday also by the Cabinet Secretary,” Principal Secretary Home Kunwar Fateh Bahadur told reporters here.

Earlier in the day, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court directed the state government to provide the autopsy report to the family of Sachan after an application was moved seeking a second post mortem by an independent panel of doctors like from AIIMS. Taking suo motu cognisance of the case, State Human Rights Commission also issued notices to five senior officials of the government.”The notice was issued by a member Justice Vishnu Sahai seeking a reply by July 12,” commission sources said.

Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh had said yesterday that the death of the deputy CMO was caused by “excessive bleeding” and that prima facie it was a case of suicide.”Prima facie it’s a case of suicide, but as judicial inquiry is being conducted into the incident, the facts will come out soon,” he had said, rejecting the demand for a CBI probe.”

An application by doctor Sachan’s wife Malti has been sent late last night to top officials including Principal Secretary (Home) and DIG Lucknow that an FIR be lodged and the case should be investigated thoroughly,” the Deputy CMO’s brother said earlier in the day.He said those behind the “murder” should be identified and punished.



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Cops rape woman in UP town; 12 rapes in 72 hours (Jun 23, 2011, Rediff)

From refusing to register rape cases, cops in Uttar Pradesh have got into the heinous act themselves. Two policemen were allegedly involved in the rape of a middle-aged married woman in Ghosi town of Mau district, about 400 km from Lucknow, taking Wednesday’s reported rape cases in Uttar Pradesh to three. According to the First Information Report lodged with the Mau police on Wednesday, 38-year old Manisha was having dinner with two relatives at some Maurya hotel in Ghosi town on the night of June 20, when they had some altercation with the hotel owner, who instantly called the police.

Together with two cops, the hotel owner beat up Manisha’s relatives and threw them out of the hotel while they dragged her into a hotel room where she was gang-raped by both of them, the report alleged. In the middle of the night, the two cops took the woman to the house of a friend bus conductor near the local roadways bus station, where the conductor also joined them to rape the woman again. It was on the night of June 21 that she was abandoned on the roadside in Kopaganj town about 8 km from Mau.

Initially, the cops refused to register her case and dismissed the woman as one of “loose character.” It was only after the woman’s tale of woe was highlighted in the local media that the district police chief intervened in the matter and got the FIR lodged. Confirming the report, Mau superintendent of police Onkar Singh told this scribe over telephone, “We have registered a case of rape against the cops as well as the hotel owner and the bus conductor.” He identified the bus conductor as Shiv Kumar but refused to disclose the name of the hotel owner or the constables.



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Opinions and Editorials

A bill to settle a terrible debt – By Siddharth Varadarajan (Jun 21, 2011, The Hindu)

In a vibrant and mature democracy, there would be no need to have special laws to prosecute the powerful or protect the weak. If a crime takes place, the law would simply take its course. In a country like ours, however, life is not so simple. Terrible crimes can be committed involving the murder of hundreds and even thousands of people, or the loot of billions of rupees. But the law in India does not take its course. More often than not, it stands still. If the Lokpal bill represents an effort to get the law to change its course on the crime of corruption, the new draft bill on the prevention of communal and targeted violence is a modest contribution towards ensuring that India’s citizens enjoy the protection of the state regardless of their religion, language or caste. The draft law framed by the National Advisory Council and released earlier this month for comment and feedback is a huge improvement over the bill originally drawn up by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2005. The earlier version paid lip service to the need for a law to tackle communal violence but made matters worse by giving the authorities greater coercive powers instead of finding ways to eliminate the institutional bias against the minorities, Dalits and adivasis, which lies at the heart of all targeted violence in India. The November 1984 massacre of Sikhs provides a good illustration of how the institutionalised “riot system” works. Let us start with the victim. She is unable to get the local police to protect the lives of her family members or property. She is unable to file a proper complaint in a police station. Senior police officers, bureaucrats and Ministers, who by now are getting reports from all across the city, State and country, do not act immediately to ensure the targeted minorities are protected.

Incendiary language against the victims is freely used. Women who are raped or sexually assaulted get no sympathy or assistance. When the riot victims form makeshift relief camps, the authorities harass them and try to make them leave. The victims have to struggle for years before the authorities finally provide some compensation for the death, injury and destruction they have suffered. As for the perpetrators of the violence, they get away since the police and the government do not gather evidence, conduct no investigation and appoint biased prosecutors, thereby sabotaging the chances of conviction and punishment. With some modifications here and there, this is the same sickening script which played out in Gujarat in 2002, when Muslims were the targeted group. On a smaller scale, all victims of organised, targeted violence – be they Tamils in Karnataka or Hindi speakers in Maharashtra or Dalits in Haryana and other parts of the country – know from experience and instinct that they cannot automatically count on the local police coming to their help should they be attacked. If one were to abstract the single most important stylised fact from the Indian “riot system”, it is this: violence occurs and is not immediately controlled because policemen and local administrators refuse to do their duty. It is also evident that they do so because the victims belong to a minority group, precisely the kind of situation the Constituent Assembly had in mind when it wrote Article 15(1) of the Constitution: “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. How are policemen and officials able to get away with violating the Constitution in this manner? Because they know that neither the law nor their superiors will act against them.

What we need, thus, is not so much a new law defining new crimes (although that would be useful too) but a law to ensure that the police and bureaucrats and their political masters follow the existing law of the land. In other words, we need a law that punishes them for discriminating against citizens who happen to be minorities. This is what the draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 does. The CTV bill sets out to protect religious and linguistic minorities in any State in India, as well as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, from targeted violence, including organised violence. Apart from including the usual Indian Penal Code offences, the NAC draft modernises the definition of sexual assault to cover crimes other than rape and elaborates on the crime of hate propaganda already covered by Section 153A of the IPC. Most importantly, it broadens the definition of dereliction of duty – which is already a crime – and, for the first time in India, adds offences by public servants or other superiors for breach of command responsibility. “Where it is shown that continuous widespread or systematic unlawful activity has occurred,” the draft says, “it can be reasonably presumed that the superior in command of the public servant whose duty it was to prevent the commission of communal and targeted violence, failed to exercise supervision … and shall be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.” With 10 years imprisonment prescribed for this offence, superiors will hopefully be deterred from allowing a Delhi 1984 or Gujarat 2002 to happen on their watch.

Another important feature is the dilution of the standard requirement that officials can only be prosecuted with the prior sanction of the government. The CTV bill says no sanction will be required to prosecute officials charged with offences which broadly fall under the category of dereliction of duty. For other offences, sanction to prosecute must be given or denied within 30 days, failing which it is deemed to have been given. Although the bill says the reasons for denial of sanction must be recorded in writing, it should also explicitly say that this denial is open to judicial review. Another lacuna the bill fills is on compensation for those affected by communal and targeted violence. Today, the relief that victims get is decided by the government on an ad hoc and sometimes discriminatory basis. Section 90 and 102 of the CTV bill rectify this by prescribing an equal entitlement to relief, reparation, restitution and compensation for all persons who suffer physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm as a result of the violence, regardless of whether they belong to a minority group or not. While a review of existing state practice suggests victims who belong to a religious or linguistic ‘majority’ group in a given state do not require special legal crutches to get the police or administration to register and act on their complaints, the CTV bill correctly recognises that they are entitled to the same enhanced and prompt relief as minority victims. The language of these Sections could, however, be strengthened to bring this aspect out more strongly. The CTV bill also envisages the creation of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation.

The authority’s role will be to serve as a catalyst for implementation of the new law. Its functions will include receiving and investigating complaints of violence and dereliction of duty, and monitoring the build up of an atmosphere likely to lead to violence. It cannot compel a State government to take action – in deference to the federal nature of law enforcement – but can approach the courts for directions to be given. There will also be State-level authorities, staffed, like the National Authority, by a process the ruling party cannot rig. The monitoring of relief and rehabilitation of victims will be a major part of their responsibilities. On the negative side of the ledger, the NAC draft makes an unnecessary reference to the power of the Centre and to Article 355 of the Constitution. The aim, presumably, is to remind the Centre of its duties in the event of a State government failing to act against incidents of organised communal or targeted violence. But the Centre already has the statutory right to intervene in such situations; if it doesn’t, the reasons are political rather than legal. The draft also unnecessarily complicates the definition of communal and targeted violence by saying the acts concerned must not only be targeted against a person by virtue of his or her membership of any group but must also “destroy the secular fabric of the nation.” Like the reference to Art. 355, this additional requirement can safely be deleted without diluting what is otherwise a sound law. The BJP and others who have attacked the bill by raising the bogey of “minority appeasement” have got it completely wrong again. This is a law which does away with the appeasement of corrupt, dishonest and rotten policemen and which ends the discrimination to which India’s religious and linguistic minorities are routinely subjected during incidents of targeted violence. The BJP never tires of talking about what happened to the Sikhs in 1984 when the Congress was in power. Now that a law has finally been framed to make that kind of mass violence more difficult, it must not muddy the water by asking why it covers “only” the minorities. In any case, the Bill’s definition covers Hindus as Hindus in States where they are in a minority (such as Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Nagaland), as linguistic minorities in virtually every State, and as SCs and STs. More importantly, persons from majority communities who suffer in the course of communal and targeted incidents will be entitled to the same relief as minority victims. If someone feels there is any ambiguity about this, the bill’s language can easily be strengthened to clarify this. At the end of the day, however, we need to be clear about one thing: India needs a law to protect its most vulnerable citizens from mass violence, its minorities. This is a duty no civilised society can wash its hands of.



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Politics of arrogance – By Kuldip Nayar (Jun 23, 2011, Deccan Herald)

The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket. This was proved again in Delhi this week when a religious leader, Baba Ramdev, was fasting before thousands of his followers. Policemen of different organisations belonging to the Centre and the states came like tonnes of bricks on the sleeping crowd and dispersed them, using even tear gas. Ramdev was physically removed, leaving many injured, some seriously. All this happened at midnight on the lines the British would do. The demand was that the government should promulgate an ordinance to declare the black money stacked by Indians abroad as national asset and bring it back. The rough estimate of the black money is more than Rs 280 lakh crore. Getting back the money may be somewhat difficult because foreign banks and their governments have to be involved. President Barrack Obama, however, made it easy by freezing in the US the assets of Switzerland, a haven for unaccounted money. He got the list of American nationals having money deposits in Swiss banks within 48 hours.

It is obvious that the ruling Congress would not go to that extent because some of its own stalwarts in the party and the government are reportedly involved. But if the party has nothing to hide or fear, it can declare the money stashed abroad as national asset. The country has the experience of how kickbacks from the Bofors gun deal were never brought back. So much so that even the go-between Italian businessman, Ottavio Quattrocchi, was allowed to go out of India when numerous charges were pending against him. Obviously, he had the protection of the Congress. When the matter of corruption has come to the fore again, the government is found evading the issue. It feels as if political rhetoric or brutal force would suppress the demand. And the worse it has done is to swing public opinion in favour of Ramdev. His credentials were being doubted and he looked like wearing communalism on his sleeves. When the BJP and its mentor, RSS, threw their weight behind him, people began to distance themselves from Ramdev. When the police action followed, doubts about him receded into the background and the police methods became the topic of debate. The dutiful prime minister again comes to the rescue of the police by saying that the action was “unfortunate but inevitable.” Since when has lathi-charging peaceful demonstration become ‘inevitable?’

One, a peaceful demonstration is guaranteed under the constitution. We won independence through satyagraha and such other non-violent methods. Two, must police action be conducted furtively at the middle of the night? And should teas gas be used on women and children sleeping at the pandal? Manmohan Singh and Kapil Sibal are nice people. But why do they change when they come to occupy chair in the government? Another thing which the police action has done is to bring the agitation of Ramdev and Anna Hazare on the same page. The latter had to defer talks with the government on the establishment of Lokpal to supervise the machinery to eliminate corruption in high places. Again, Sibal was indiscreet in his remark that the government would go ahead with the drafting of the Lokpal bill even if the Anna Hazare team, representing civil society activists, does not participate. They have never talked about the boycott. Why does the government behave in a manner that reflects arrogance? They are people’s servants, not the masters. The question before the nation is one of corruption, neither Anna Hazare nor Baba Ramdev. They have only articulated the debate. The government looks like clouding the real issue by resorting to diversionary tactics. There may be some more scams which it is trying to hide. It is difficult to say with certainty who among the ministers or the Congress leaders have not stashed away their ‘commissions’ abroad. Belatedly, the prime minister has asked his ministerial colleagues to declare their assets and business connections, along with statements by their spouses and near relations.

The anger against the government for not taking up charges of corruption and black money earnestly is so high that you could taste it. The Congress would lose heavily if elections were to be held in the next few months. Since there does not seem to be an acceptable proposal emerging on fighting corruption, the country is relentlessly pushed towards fresh elections. Probably, there is no way out. The movement against corruption may take such a dimension where the government may find it difficult to cope with. I believe the prime minister is fed up and says that “he had enough of it.” By threatening to resign, he may be able to jolt the party from its slumber. But the manner in which the Congress distances itself from the government makes me suspect something ominous. Manmohan Singh was not invited to a recent meeting of top Congress leaders and ministers to discuss the fallout of both fasts. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who presided over the meeting, is mum. She has to take a stand. The loss is that of her party.



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In Forbes’ India, Forbesganj remains an anomaly – By Nadim Asrar (Jun 26, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Bihar, in a new, resurgent India, is often presented as a case study of what a positive politics of development and inclusive growth can yield. While there are no actual figures to indicate the great turnaround that the state is credited with, the mere fact that a man can register one of the most charismatic election victories in recent times by merely building roads says a lot about Bihar’s condition today.In fact, the aura around Nitish and his brand of ‘no-nonsense’ politics was so alluring that even the Gandhian crusader Anna Hazare succumbed to it when he said that Bihar and Gujarat are the two models that the UPA government at the centre should follow. Although Anna later retracted the statement after his ‘civil society’ friends objected to him endorsing the man in Gujarat who once presided over the killing of more than 2000 Muslims, in hindsight it appears that it was a revealing statement. Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, might have felt offended at being bracketed with the Hindutva icon in Anna’s hurried eulogy, especially after he did not allow Modi to enter Bihar during the campaigning. In his firm refusal to not to be seen with the Hindutva icon in the state lied Nitish’s desire to offset the dangers of his party, the JD(U), allying with the right-wing BJP.

The Muslims also responded in an unprecedented manner. Tired of the vote-bank politics played by the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan, unsure of a more centrist Congress making any headway in Bihar, and perhaps having fallen for the idea of a New India, the 17 percent Muslim electorate in the state bought the Nitish brand of politics and rallied behind him. Sadly enough, it didn’t take long for the illusion to present itself in a violent manner. After what happened on June 3 in Forbesganj, it seems that Anna Hazare was able to see what even the best political observers of the country were not able to: that there does exist a tragic similarity between Bihar and Gujarat. If Nitish didn’t allow Narendra Modi to enter Bihar, he knew he had another Modi in his camp (and the Cabinet) to bank upon. Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, though less flamboyant than his party colleague in Gujarat, nevertheless belongs to the same stripes. Reports indicate that the man whose factory created the problems in the area is a close associate of Modi.

It is also understood that the Bihar police carried out the killings and violence under direct orders from the Deputy CM’s office. I know it’s a stretch to make sweeping comparisons between Gujarat and Bihar, especially after the fact that the pogrom of 2002 still prevents Narendra Modi from seeking a larger role in the national political mainstream. The blot of Gujarat continues to haunt the BJP and even scare its allies, who, despite continuing with the right-wing party, openly slam Gujarat 2002. Yet, in essence, the June 3 incident, in which five unarmed villagers were killed by the Bihar police, is comparable. Here again the state machinery was involved in the killing, and, by a coincidence obviously not unknown to the perpetrators of violence in Forbesganj, all the Forbesganj victims happen to be Muslims. Reports say that the BJP leader, who owned the factory against which the protest was organized, too joined the police in firing at the villagers.

Among the dead are a pregnant woman and a five-month-old infant. Police and post-mortem reports show that the firing was done with an intention to kill. Wounds on the dead and the injured are mostly on the neck, chest and the upper torso. Those who survived to tell the story add that the cops chased the unarmed villagers to their huts and that most of the firing was from point-blank range. A grainy video shot by a local reporter shows a policeman jumping over the dead and injured bodies while his colleagues watch. The stomping of the dead by police is a revealing metaphor for the contemporary times. We have seen that in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Orissa. In a country violently obsessed with touching the double-digit growth figures, any opposition to what the state defines as ‘development’ and ‘public interest’ deserves nothing less than guns.

What is worse is that the guns that safeguard state/corporate interests also enjoy impunity from media and the courts – institutions considered as guardians of the constitution. That explains why so much of attention and media space can be given to an anti-corruption campaign, but not to an open and non-violent debate over the competing visions of development and statehood. That explains why while ‘middle-class’ killings like Aarushi’s or Jessica Lall’s succeed in getting the mainstream media’s attention and not the ones in the remote areas of the nation. The killers of Aarushi or Jessica Lall violate the social contract while incidents like Forbesganj only reinforce it. In a country dying for a place in the many Forbes’ lists, Forbesganj tragically remains an insignificant aberration.



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Impunity in disposing off rape case of a Muslim girl – By Mustafa Khan (Jun 23, 2011, Milli Gazette)

The rape and murder of Rukhsana of Partur Hathdi, Jalna district, is dreadfully gruesome. She was pregnant and was raped by some unidentified Hindus. From the gory details of the circumstances it is clear who had raped her. The police Patel of the village Sadashiv Jurekar and the sarpanch (village head) Ramesh Shyam got the death of Rukshana registered as suicide and then burnt her dead body in the Muslim graveyard of the village. What can be inferred without any doubt is that both administrative officials of the village tried to cover up the matter. They could not be so naïve as to believe that Muslims burn their dead in their cemetery! The rural Muslims are the most penurious of our population. Their being indigent helps them survive at the sufferance of the Hindus. Crimes committed against them have little chance of seeing the light of day let alone registration in any administrative office of the state.

The way her body was disposed off shows that the rapists and killers were not from the Muslim community. The deafening silence of their identity is eloquently telling the story of that identity. The hand to mouth existence of the rural Muslim makes it unthinkable that they would ever have enough to grease the palms of the officials. However, some Muslim leaders came to know the murky circumstances. One of them was Abu Azmi who condemned the event and spoke about the plight of the rural Muslims. But on Saturday April 9, 2011the Maharashtra Assembly legislative council member Hussein Dalwai entered the hall with an earthen pot containing the ashes and bones of Rukhsana. He along with other leaders like Manikrao Thakere protested. That forced Home Minister RR Patil to pacify them that an inquiry by the crime investigation department would be conducted and the guilty would be brought to book.

This case of rape and murder of a Muslim girl could not have drawn even this much attention in the legislative council but for the sudden change in the time schedule. Two important matters were on the agenda but the concerned members and ministers were absent when the assembly session began. The third item was the case of Rukhsana. The Home Minister casually assured that an inquiry would be conducted. The matter was hushed up. But Dalwai came to know of it in a hospital of Mumbai. He rushed to the assembly hall and along with the congress party president Manikrao Thakere forced the speaker to restart the debate on the issue. Hence, the dramatic entry of Dalwi!

Sachar commission says Muslims constitute majority in the prison population of India. However, some crimes like rape have become so expensive that they are beyond the reach of some. In the absence of a healthy civil society and strict adherence to the rule of law the women and the minorities suffer alike. But for women from the minority it is virtual hell. Even the dead body gets no peace (courtesy Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God). The mainstream papers have no space for the Rukhsanas as they are preoccupied with the weighty matters of corruption.



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Standing up to the state – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jun 4, 2011, Frontline)

It is a tough journey along the potholed road to Dankaur in western Uttar Pradesh. The road that leads to some of the biggest agricultural villages in the State is in dire need of attention, but it is the proposed eight-lane expressway nearby, which aims to reduce the travel time from the national capital of New Delhi to the historical town of Agra, that gets it. They stand to lose their cultivable land for this road. The Yamuna Expressway, as it is called, has been caught in controversies ever since it was planned in 2007. Several opposition parties had raised doubts about the number of villages it would displace. But the actual figures emerged only after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government used its emergency powers to acquire land from Greater Noida to Agra. To some people, this betrayed an unseemly hurry by the State government to act on behalf of a private company, JP Infratech Ltd, which has landed the contract for the construction of the expressway and the right to collect toll on it for 36 years. Evidently, the initial uproar in political circles translated into large-scale agitation among farmers who were to lose most of the cultivable land to the ambitious project. Adding fuel to the fire, the State government went ahead with another series of land acquisition for a hi-tech city comprising industrial parks, residential colonies, shopping malls, schools and hospitals to be built around the expressway. The farmers’ movement against the project in this 165-kilometre stretch gathered steam, and in a few places turned violent, following the announcement of the hi-tech city. While mostly small farmers lost their land in the expressway project, it was big farmers who were affected by the hi-tech city. As a result, the Jats and Thakurs, big farmers of the area, took the mantle of leadership against the project. The Jatavs and Dalits, who worked as agricultural labourers in these fields, gave them their full support.

The Rs.9,500-crore expressway project will need 43,000 hectares of land. As many as 1,191 villages have been notified for the project. The hi-tech city is expected to affect nearly seven lakh people and 334 villages in six districts – Noida, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura, Agra and Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras). The average land holding in this area is two to four hectares. Mahendra Singh, a Jat farmer in Motena village of Greater Noida, brings out the irony well: “The government is building all this in the name of infrastructure development. The village roads have not been repaired for the past five years. To sell our crops or to do any kind of business we have to spend a whole day to commute just 20 kilometres. The expressway is for the people of the city who already have a highway to Agra. And here we are about to lose all our lands. These were double-crop lands and among the largest producers of wheat and paddy in the State. The government is offering us a measly sum. But we do not want compensation. We were self-sufficient and we want the government to ensure us a proper livelihood.” The government has no comprehensive policy of compensation and randomly decides the land prices. Until 2008, the farmers got anything between Rs.250 and Rs.400 a square metre. In 2008, Ghori Bachera, a Rajput-dominated village in Greater Noida, stood up in protest, and following this the government doubled the price. Farmers in Mathura and Agra followed suit and got themselves a better deal. But it was a violent protest in Tappal village in Aligarh district in 2010 that catapulted the farmers’ struggle in Uttar Pradesh into a political issue. Following this, the State government was compelled to frame a profit-sharing model with the farmers, but the policy is yet to see the light of day. Thereafter, Bhatta and Parsaul villages in Greater Noida saw another violent protest, which became a huge political issue (“Fight for land”, Frontline, June 3, 2011).

Similar is the case of the Ganga Expressway, a public-private partnership project with JP Infratech. This highway seeks to link Greater Noida in western Uttar Pradesh and Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a stretch of 1,047 km. To be built at an estimated cost of Rs.40,000 crore, it requires more than 10,000 ha and will displace more than 5,000 villages. But the project is on hold as it has not got environment clearance because of opposition from environment groups and farmers across the State. Just as the Yamuna Expressway, this project too is expected to have a hi-tech city. The government’s economic logic of expressway-driven projects is primarily infrastructure development, an area in which Uttar Pradesh has been lagging behind many other northern States despite it being the largest in terms of area. However, there is no comprehensive plan of rehabilitation and resettlement in the State. “Because there is no comprehensive plan and because farmers of each area are getting different treatment in terms of prices, they are encouraged to feel that only if they protest, non-violently or violently, will the government give them a better package,” says Sudhir Panwar of the Kisan Jagriti Manch. Howsoever better it may sound, this is much less than the market prices. The State government has used the controversial “public interest” clause in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for acquiring land. But “public interest” in Uttar Pradesh seems in no way close to people’s interests. For example, the government offered Rs.880 a square metre following the protest in Tappal, which is close to Delhi and Noida, where the market rate was over Rs.25,000 a square metre.

Similar land struggles are on in Mirzapur, where the JP group has planned a cement factory. Anger is also rising in Sonabhadra district, where a power plant is coming up, and in Kushinagar, where Chief Minister Mayawati has plans to make a Buddha Circuit airport. The previous Samajwadi Party government had also met with resistance when it acquired land to build four prisons, in Shahjahanpur, Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Moradabad. In such a context, the courts have come to the rescue of the farmers. In a major embarrassment to the Mayawati government, the Allahabad High Court struck down in May notifications issued for the acquisition of more than 100 ha of land in Gautam Buddha Nagar district for “planned industrial development” in Greater Noida. While allowing a bunch of writ petitions filed by the residents of Shahberi village in the district, the court remarked that “the entire action of acquiring the land was a colourable exercise of powers”. “The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority [GNIDA] was fully aware and was planning to use the land in village Shahberi and neighbouring villages for multi-storey housing complexes to be developed by builders on relaxed conditions… on the one hand, a request was made for acquiring the land for public purpose for planned industrial development and on the other hand, a few days before the proposals were put up before the State government for issuing notification (dated 9.11.2009)… the GNIDA, without informing the State government, held the Board’s meeting for converting the land use for residential purposes to lease off the land to builders for housing complexes for earning profits,” the court noted.

It further said: “The land is proposed to be acquired at the rate of about Rs.850 per square metre and to be given, within a month, to the builders at Rs.10,000 per square metre and that too on payment of 5 per cent of the price, on allotment.” The court asked the GNIDA to hand the acquired land back to the farmers and allowed the oustees to file cases against the Authority. In another judgment in January, the Supreme Court quashed the land acquisition made by the previous Samajwadi Party government to construct prisons and asked the present government to return the land to the original owners. The widespread farmers’ agitation has forced the Uttar Pradesh government to disallow further use of emergency powers in land acquisition for these projects. However, as the movement is spreading to different parts of the State, it remains to be seen how the government will solve the conflict between the State’s infrastructure development plans and the aspirations of the farming community, which has got the full support of Dalits, who form Mayawati’s core support base.



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Agrarian distress – By Utsa Patnaik (Jun 4, 2011, Frontline)

The recent agitation by farmers in Uttar Pradesh against cropland acquisition for non-agricultural purposes is only the latest in a long series of protests by farmers and rural communities, which started a decade ago in different parts of the country and which gathered momentum over the past five years and coalesced in some areas into larger movements. The issues involved are many-dimensional and complex, raising questions that require all-round analysis to arrive at answers. Why are there such bitter protests against cropland acquisition now, whereas in the early decades after Independence such acquisition for development projects faced little opposition? Is the protest related to the nature of the use to which acquired land is being put? What is the impact on agricultural production? How do displaced farmers and labourers fare once they lose their land? Is displacement to be regarded as a necessary cost of development as many argue, citing the historical experience of today’s advanced countries, which saw massive eviction of peasants preceding their industrialisation? Or, is the situation in India too different to warrant such superficial analogies? Let us begin with the bigger question, the particular view which says that historically capitalist industrialisation has meant reduction in the proportion of peasants and rural workers in the population and that this process always involved forcible evictions, a process of ‘primitive accumulation’, apart from displacement through market processes. Though such evictions and displacement caused immediate distress, eventually the landless labour force so created was absorbed into productive employment, mainly in the growing manufacturing and services sectors, or so the argument goes. So there is nothing very surprising about ‘primitive accumulation’ taking place under capitalism and it is all to the future good. The official view today is that it is just as well if people move out of low-productivity rural occupations into other better paying jobs.

The view sketched above, which conflates the history of capitalism with present events, is deeply flawed for two reasons. First, historically, in the core capitalist countries many millions more were displaced than were ever absorbed in non-agricultural activities within the boundaries of these countries. Only large-scale out-migration prevented revolutionary political turmoil. But those being displaced today in this country owing to land acquisition find that they have nowhere to go, unlike the historically displaced who had emigrated in vast numbers to lands they had seized from indigenous peoples in the Americas, South Africa and Australia. Second, the core capitalist countries saw manufacturing employment growing at double the rate permitted by the growth of their domestic markets because they could dump their products on captive colonial markets, which were kept completely open while the core markets were protected heavily. But our displaced peasants find that ‘other jobs’ are hardly growing, particularly in this era of neoliberal cutbacks in public spending actuated by the hegemonic rise of the long-discredited theories of finance capital, which advocate balanced budgets no matter how high involuntary unemployment might be. As regards the first point, permanent outmigration as a solution to labour displacement from agriculture, consider Britain, the first industrial nation. Small farmers evicted in the course of enclosures and artisans thrown out of jobs as machinery was first introduced became vagrants of whom only a fraction found employment in the growing factory sector. Even though the machines two centuries ago were very simple, they displaced labour on a massive scale – a single spinning ‘jenny’ could have 80 spindles, needed only one worker to operate and threw 79 traditional spinners in Europe out of work. The effects of a much higher level of technology and of automation today in this country is to produce jobless growth, indeed many sectors see job-loss growth.

In Britain the unemployed and the poorly paid employed workers alike rose in insurrection against the state in the 1840s – only the safety valve of emigration prevented a revolution. Britain’s population was small, only 12 million in 1821, but 16 million Britons emigrated between 1821 and 1915, making up for nearly two-fifths of all Europeans who emigrated to lands they had seized from indigenous peoples, mainly in the Americas. On average, half of the entire annual increment to its population left Britain every year for a century. For India to be able to export its displaced peasants and unemployed on a similar scale, 10 million unskilled persons will have to emigrate permanently each year. Needless to say, even one-tenth of this is an impossibility. Unlike the populations of European colonising countries, which grabbed global land resources on an unprecedented scale, displaced peasants and workers in developing countries today have nowhere to go. Further, to think complacently that displaced peasants will automatically find livelihoods elsewhere within the economy is a chimera. As the rich grow richer in India, we find that commercial and residential construction and tourism are the only labour-absorbing activities that are booming and that elsewhere the employment scenario is dismal. This dismal situation is the result of a combination of expenditure-contracting fiscal policies in the neoliberal era and technological change.

In the first four decades after Independence, however, growth was spurred by large-scale public spending under the Plans and was much more socially broad based. The state followed expansionary fiscal policies, spending a great deal on rural development projects and on building up a manufacturing base in the public sector. The data from the National Sample Survey show that employment was growing much faster than the population participating in work. Even in manufacturing, a 10 per cent rise in output produced a 3 per cent rise in numbers employed at that time, whereas the latter figure is near-zero now. This is the main reason – the availability of alternative employment – which explains, in my view, why land acquisition for development did not face the bitter resistance it does today. This is not to say that there were no problems – there was distress, in particular where the displaced were tribal persons and rehabilitation was not worked out. But those whose land was acquired could, on the whole, be absorbed into other jobs, mainly as wage-paid labour. Work in the organised sector and the public sector was much prized – doctoral research this author supervised in the 1980s (carried out by Professor B.R. Shyamala Devi, now at Kakatiya University) showed that members of the Lambada tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh actually sold land to raise money to bribe middlemen to get gangmen’s jobs in the Railways because, according to them, they ensured living quarters, health facilities and education for their children and were preferred to an uncertain agricultural livelihood. Since the start of economic reforms two decades ago the general job situation has become much worse. Retrenchment of employees in the public utilities, computerisation and privatisation all contributed to job loss. The Indian state cut back sharply on development spending, especially in rural areas, and the results are there to see from successive National Sample Survey studies – a sharp rise in daily and weekly status unemployment for male and female workers, both rural and urban, and a rise in the numbers of the usual status openly unemployed. The net change in employment between 1993 and 2005 has been adverse.

In such a situation of disappearing job alternatives, the rural producer with a bit of land will naturally cling to it and resist any attempt at dispossession. That bit of land is security against unemployment and destitution. No matter if the neoliberal attack on agriculture, combined with exposure to global price volatility, has caused acute agrarian distress and made farming so unviable, especially in the case of many export crops, that lakhs of farmers have been driven to suicide owing to indebtedness. Suicide is a passive form of protest. But the farmers’ lack of viability was not because they did not work hard or because their land suddenly became less fertile; it was the result of totally misguided neoliberal policies, which reduced public investment drastically, withdrew extension services, made credit expensive or not available at all, and exposed small producers to the violent ups and downs of global prices by doing away with protection while dismantling at the same time price-stabilisation systems (purchase at support prices by the commodity boards was abolished). One wishes that the policymakers, who have been attacking farmer and worker livelihoods, could themselves face 80 per cent salary cuts to get a small taste of what they have inflicted. It is highly significant that farmers and rural communities are struggling against land acquisition because it means that from passive forms of protest – suicide – they have turned at last to active forms of resistance. A decade ago, this author, when drawing attention to the agrarian crisis long brewing in the countryside, was told that if things were actually that bad then peasants themselves would be protesting, which they were not. No one can put forward such an argument for ignoring agrarian distress now. Peasants are slow to move, but when they do start moving no force can hold them back. …



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