IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 4th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Post Godhra Violence: Man gets two-year jail term for torching house during 2002 riots (May 29, 2012, Times of India)

A decade after the incident, a local court on Monday convicted a person and sentenced him to two-year jail term for torching a house in Madhavpura area during the 2002 riots. Additional sessions judge B J Dhandha awarded imprisonment to one Kunjan alias Kalio Patel, who was tried in connection with a complaint filed by Shamshuddin Shaikh (78), whose house was burnt on March 21, 2002.

He had accused eight persons for the mischief, and police chargesheeted them after investigation. The court has also slapped a fine of Rs 1,500 on Patel. The trial came to be initiated against five of them last year only, but Shaikh could identify only Patel during the proceeding. He did not remember most of the things due to old age. He used to supply decoration material on rent and along with his house, his business establishment also caught fire. Shaikh was the only eyewitness to the incident, as the other locals had fled the site when they sensed mob coming towards the chawl.

The court separated trial against three others because they were not regular in attending proceedings and went ahead with the case against the five. After the trial, the court found Patel guilty under section 435 of IPC for committing mischief by fire or any explosive substance with intention to cause damage to somebody’s property. After the incident, Shaikh had no means of livelihood and was supported by a civil rights organization in his legal battle, said his counsel Yasin Mansuri.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIA/2012/05/29&PageLabel=3&EntityId=Ar00303&ViewMode=HTML

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Shabnam Hashmi gets threats, abusive comments for speaking against Modi (May 28, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Eminent civil rights activist and managing trustee of ANHAD, Shabnam Hashmi has received threats and filthy comments on facebook for speaking strongly against Narendra Modi regime on NDTV Prime Time program on 24th May. Hashmi on Monday approached police seeking action against the miscreants and blocking of their facebook accounts. With a complaint against highly abusive and filthy attack in cyber space, she approached the cyber crime cell of Delhi Police but they asked her to give the complaint to the local police station. She has filed a formal complaint with the Tilak Marg Police Station. If no action is taken by the police she will move the court, she said.

“On May 24, 2012 NDTV India has invited me as a panelist on a debate at Prime Time at 9pm. The debate can be seen at :http://khabar.ndtv.com/video/show/prime-time/233537. On May 26 a few of my friends from Gujarat pointed out to me that there was a campaign against me on Face Book. When I accessed the net I was shocked to see the filthy and sexist language that was used,” she said in the complaint.

“The virulent attack amounts to criminal intimidation, threat to my life, humiliation as a person and more so as a woman, threat to my freedom of speech and thought and my right to liberty. The filthy and vulgar language used against me as a woman amounts to my public insult and humiliation and outraging the modesty of a woman. Since I work across India and Gujarat is my geographical area of work the attack is highly intimidating as all the people attacking me are staunch supporters of Modi as is evident from their posts on the facebook. Many of the posts are highly communal and many others directly giving a call to kill me,” Hashmi complained. The post was started by Brijesh Patel (9825216616 Mobile, https://www.facebook.com/brijesh1974).

“I request you to kindly file an FIR immediately under the cyber crimes, take cognizance of the crime, register cases against them and take action against the accused persons. On the basis of the posts on facebooks the facebook should be directed to close down the accounts of these abusers and block their access completely,” she demanded. Hashmi has been working as a social activist for over 30 years and is on several committees (member, Central Advisory Board of Education, MHRD, member, Assessment and Monitoring Authority, Planning Commission of India, member, Maulana Azad Foundation, Ministry of Minority Affairs).

http://twocircles.net/2012may28/shabnam_hashmi_gets_threats_abusive_comments_speaking_against_modi.html

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Two dead in communal clash near Mathura (Jun 2, 2012, Rediff)

Two persons died and several were injured in Friday’s communal clash in Kosi-Kalan town in Mathura district, close to Agra, the city of Taj Mahal. According to delayed reports reaching the state headquarters in Lucknow, violence broke out over drawing of water from a common source by members of two rival communities. Meanwhile, a curfew has been clamped all over the small town, where a large contingent of the armed police was deployed to prevent any recurrence of violence.

According to the police, “Trouble was sparked off when a young Muslim boy accidentally put his hand in a drum of water put up by a Hindu to quench the thirst of devotees visiting a nearby temple. An old man running the drinking water kiosk slapped the young boy, who went up his friends loitering around in the neighbourhood.”

The Muslim youth retaliated by mustering up a larger crowd and resorting to violence and arson on the streets. Dozens of vehicles, shops and other public as well as private property was set ablaze.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/two-dead-in-communal-clash-near-mathura/20120601.htm

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Service Tax department slaps notice on Ramdev’s Trust (Jun 4, 2012, Deccan Herald)

After Income Tax, it’s now the turn of the Service Tax department to issue a notice of Rs 4.94 crore dues to Yoga guru Ramdev’s trust for alleged duty evasion on its income raised through country-wide ‘yog shivirs’ (camps). The department’s snoop and investigation wing, Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), has also launched a scrutiny of accounts of various activities conducted by the trusts run by Ramdev across the country post-2006. The latest tax notice, after the Income Tax department had slapped a notice of Rs 58 crore against Ramdev’s trusts, has been issued against the Haridwar-based Patanjali Yog Peeth for “sale of coupons” of different denominations for organising ‘yog shivirs’, both residential and non-residential.

Thousands of people have participated in these camps conducted across the country in the last five years. In his reaction, Ramdev’s spokesperson S K Tijarawala said they will counter the Service Tax department’s action. “We are replying to the notice. Yog shivirs are classified under the category of providing medical relief which cannot be termed as earning commercial profit,” he said. Sources said income generated from Ramdev’s yoga camps, in which people participate after buying coupons, is liable to be brought under the service tax domain. Under service tax provisions, Yoga is in the taxable list of health and fitness services.

Sources said agency sleuths, during the investigation, recorded country-wide price tags of coupons which were sold in an increasing value order from the back row to the front during these ‘yog shivirs’. The DGCEI has also recorded that while the coupons for non-residential Yoga camps ranged from Rs 51-Rs 7,000, the rates at residential camps for facilities like air-conditioned tents would cost between Rs 8,000-Rs 12,000. The agency has now launched a scrutiny of the balance sheets and ledgers of all the ‘shivirs’ conducted by Ramdev’s trusts in the last five years, following which, sources said, the I-T department will also be informed about the income from these avenues which could have escaped the Income Tax net.

Recently an I-T notice, for the assessment year 2009-10, on Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust, Divya Yoga Mandir Trust and Bharat Swabhiman Trust have been slapped on the income of Rs 120 crore which the I-T department has held as “commercial activities”. Ramdev’s trusts have challenged this I-T order saying they have nothing to hide. Ramdev, who is leading a campaign against black money in the country, heads an organisation that runs the trusts which manages the manufacture and sale of ayurvedic medicines in India and abroad. His trusts have been enjoying tax exemption under the provisions relating to charitable organisations for the last few years.

Ramdev’s trusts are also under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged contravention of foreign exchange rules. Ramdev had last year declared his business empire to be worth more than Rs 1,100 crore. The capital involving the four trusts run by him totalled Rs 426.19 crore while the expenditure incurred on them amounted to Rs 751.02 crore. While the Divya Yoga Mandir trust has a capital of Rs 249.63 crore, Patanjali Yoga Peeth trust has Rs 164.80 crore, Bharat Swabhiman trust Rs 9.97 crore and Acharyakul Shiksha Sansthan Rs 1.79 crore – all totalling Rs 426.19 crore.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/254414/service-tax-department-slaps-notice.html

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Bihar rocked by violence after Ranvir Sena chief’s murder (Jun 3, 2012, Rediff)

Bihar Governor Devanand Konwar on Sunday sought a report from the state government led by Nitish Kumar on the killing of Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh ‘Mukhiya’. The death of the Ranvir Sena chief was followed by violence and arson in Ara, Patna and other places by Sena’s supporters, officials said. “After his return from New Delhi on Sunday afternoon, the governor sought a report from the state government on the situation,” said an official in Raj Bhavan. Hundreds of Singh’s supporters indulged in violence and arson in Patna during the funeral procession. They set afire a police outpost, torched nearly two dozen vehicles, attacked police personnel and media personnel.

Ironically, except for the Left Front, neither the ruling alliance of Janata Dal – United and the Bharatiya Janata Party nor the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janshakti Party or the Congress have condemned the unprecedented violence and arson in Patna by Singh’s supporters. Brahmeshwar Singh was killed by unidentified gunmen on Friday morning in Ara town in Bhojpur district, triggering violence by supporters of the Ranvir Sena, an outlawed upper caste private militia. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession that started in Ara. Once the procession entered Patna, they indulged in violence and arson. They pelted stones at vehicles of top police officials and also damaged vehicles of media personnel, said the officials.

“All the main roads in Patna were in control of Singh’s supporters, who were plying on hundreds of motorcycles and carrying bamboo sticks and iron rods. They targeted people’s vehicles, the police and public properties,” a district official said. A police official, on the condition of anonymity, said that the state machinery surrendered before Singh’s supporters as the police didn’t even try to control the violence and arson. “They attacked police officials, damaged public property, torched vehicles but the police took no action. It appears that the state government had decided to remain a mute spectator to the violence,” said a police official.

The unprecedented violence also exposed loopholes in Nitish Kumar’s much publicised claims of good governance and establishment of rule of law in Bihar, said the official. “The administrative machinery was not visible on Saturday. Supporters of the slain Ranvir Sena chief took over Patna for hours,” said Satyendra Yadav, a Left Front leader. Singh’s supporters also attacked police vehicles and government offices in Ara. The circuit house in the town was set on fire and nearly a dozen other vehicles, including a bus, were torched. Most political parties including the BJP and opposition RJD, LJP and Congress have demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the killing of Ranvir Sena chief. The state government is yet to take a final decision on a CBI probe.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/bihar-rocked-by-violence-after-ranvir-sena-chiefs-murder/20120603.htm

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Indian Muslim leaders will approach International human rights bodies (May 30, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Shocked with the nonstop arrest of Muslim young boys from here and there apparently in connection with terror cases and disappointed by the cold attitude of central and state governments towards the grievances of the victim families and the community, Indian Muslim leaders are now planning to approach international human rights bodies as they say all these detentions/arrests are illegal and brazenly violate human rights enshrined in Indian laws and constitution. Leaders of Muslim organizations under the banner of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat sat Tuesday evening here in the backdrop of detention of Bihar engineer Fasih Mahmood and two Kashmiri students of Jamiatul Falah. Both incidents have happened in last 15 days.

Mahmood was picked and reportedly deported on 13th May on the request of Indian authorities from Saudi Arabia where he worked as an engineer at company. Even after 17 days, Mahmood’s whereabouts is still unknown, he has not been produced in court, his family has not been informed. Two Kashmiri students of Jamiatual Falah were picked from Kaifiyat Express at Aligarh station on 24th May reportedly by UP ATS. Even after 6 days their whereabouts is also not known, neither family, nor their madrasa have been informed about the detention, they haven’t been produced in court either.

The community leaders elaborately discussed such incidents happened in last 10 years. An unknown figure of youths was picked, detained, hundreds prosecuted, and dozens have got acquitted in terror cases. According to Dr Tasleem Rahmani, president, Muslim Political Council of India, who also attended the meeting, it was decided to prepare a comprehensive document comprising details of all disappearances, detentions, arrests, and acquittals and then approach international human rights bodies. The meeting also decided to set up a legal cell at national and state level to take up such incidents.

Two days back (28th May 2012) the Muslim leaders had sent a memorandum to P Chidambaram, Union Home Minister and Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities telling them that the Muslim community is alarmed at “the resumed serial, at random and unending saga of arrests of Muslim youth from various parts of the country on apparently no tangible charges, two more such recent incidents are agitating the community.” The memorandum gave details about the latest two incidents – of Fasih Mahmood, and two Kashmiri students of Jamiatul Falah.

“The Muslim community is pained to see this continuing saga which has earlier seen Journalist Kazmi’s arrest while seemingly there is no evidence against him. We request you to kindly look into the above two matters on an urgent basis in order to offer some solace to the families of these victims who have fell foul of the security agencies’ultra vigilance where victims are picked up on mere suspicion without any real, hard and tangible proof and thereafter they are kept under illegal detention while the agencies try to somehow obtain some incriminating “evidence” or secure their forced confession via torture which is illegal and against India’s international obligations,” the memorandum reads. The leaders said that these incidents “are seriously eroding the Muslim community’s goodwill towards UPA.”

http://twocircles.net/2012may30/indian_muslim_leaders_will_approach_international_human_rights_bodies.html

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Protest against “denial of justice” to Forbesganj victims (Jun 3, 2012, The Hindu)

A civil society protest was organised here on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the police firing at Forbesganj in Bihar’s Araria district in which four Muslims, including one pregnant woman and an infant, were killed. The police had opened fire on an unarmed crowd which was protesting against the blockage of their linking road on June 3, 2011.

Shouting slogans against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his government, the protesters demanded justice for the victims. They also submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Bihar through the Resident Commissioner in Delhi.

Civil rights activist Mahtab Alam said: “The fact that one year has passed and the victims are still waiting for justice shows the real ‘sushashan’ of the Nitish Kumar-government. The probe commission which was constituted to investigate the matter is yet to submit its report. No compensation has been granted to the victims yet saying the matter is under investigation”.

Human Rights Law Network founder Colin Gonsalves said: “The matter was very simple. Unarmed villagers were fired upon by the police. But criminal prosecution against the policemen responsible has not even started. Not even an FIR was registered against the guilty policemen. The families of victims had filed complaint against the policemen, but the local police station did not file any FIR. In fact, an FIR was registered against unnamed villagers.”

Mr. Gonsalves, who is counsel for a petition pending before the Supreme Court asking for a CBI probe into the incident, wondered if criminal prosecution can be substituted by a “completely useless” commission of enquiry. In an affidavit filed before the Apex Court, the Bihar Government termed the killings a “minor incident”.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article3485464.ece

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Andhra Pradesh High Court rejects Centre’s 4.5% minority sub-quota (May 29, 2012, Economic Times)

The Andhra Pradesh high court has struck down the 4.5 per cent central sub-quota for minorities within the OBC quota, holding that reservations can’t be based purely on religious grounds. The sub-quota was notified on the eve of the UP assembly polls and was seen as an electoral lollipop to woo the significant Muslim population in the state. Severely indicting the Centre for handling the issue in a casual manner, a division bench of the AP high court, comprising chief justice Madan B Lokur and justice Sanjay Kumar, said the sub-quota was on religious lines and not based on any other intelligible consideration. “There was no rationale or empirical data to justify such an action,” the bench said.

Stating that no evidence was presented before the bench to “justify the classification of these minorities as a homogenous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment”, the court held that “Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) do not form a homogeneous group but a heterogeneous group.” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the party would react only after it had “perused, read and appreciated” the court order. BJP welcomed the court order, but SP called it a setback, saying Congress’ decision to implement the quota was “a good move at the wrong time”.

This is the fourth time that the Andhra HC has struck down minority sub-quota, which the AP government has been pushing at the state level since 2004. The first order offering Muslims 5 per cent quota in public employment and educational institutions was issued by the state government on July 7, 2004. This was challenged in the high court, which in September 2004 struck it down for being “wholly unconstitutional.” The YSR government ordered the AP Backward Classes Commission to conduct a fresh enquiry on the status of Muslims and, upon presentation of its report, issued an ordinance on June 2005 giving 5 per cent quota for Muslims in educational institutions and state government jobs. Later, when the assembly passed a bill to replace the ordinance, it was challenged in the AP high court. In November 2005, the Act was struck as unconstitutional for being religion-specific.

The YSR government made a third attempt at bringing back the Muslim sub-quota. The exercise ended with another ordinance decreeing 5% quota for socially and educationally backward Muslims, which in August 2007 became an Act. The Act was challenged, and a seven-judge bench issued a majority verdict striking it down as “unsustainable.” The AP government appealed to the Supreme Court against the high court order. A bench headed by ex-CJI KG Balakrishnan allowed the appeal while staying the judgement of the high court, allowing 4 per cent reservations for Muslims listed in Schedule of the Act to continue. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-05-29/news/31888176_1_muslims-in-educational-institutions-obc-quota-andhra-hc

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No mention of Urdu, 3 other languages in Guj application form (Jun 4, 2012, Indian Express)

In a surprise move, the state government has left out the column for Sindhi, Urdu, Tamil and Marathi medium graduates in the online application form for Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) for the upper primary teacher posts. While application form downloads are available on the Online Job Application System (OJAS) for Gujarati, Hindi and English medium, the other languages have been given a go by, which means the job will not be available to the candidates wanting to teach in these languages, said a school principal helping candidates for these languages.

As per the advertisement (SEB201213/31), the last date for submitting application is June 8. While State Examination Board secretary B K Trivedi could not be contacted, other officials concerned said that little could be done at this juncture as there was no provision for the aspirants of these languages in the examination format.

Scores of aspirants and their parents are now a worried lot. According to them, if they submit the application form online in its present form, they would not be come eligible to apply for Urdu medium teaching jobs later on as they would not have passed the eligibility test for that.

“If the anomaly is not removed urgently, this would cause loss of opportunity to hundreds of aspirants to compete for a job in upper primary Urdu schools in municipal schools,” said father of an affected candidate.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/957596/

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NCERT book blanks out Ambedkar’s role as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (Jun 4, 2012, Economic Times)

Are Dalits turning intolerant? Are they emotional and scornful to reason? These are some of the questions the mainstream media asked, following the controversy over publication of an Ambedkar cartoon in an NCERT book. In the process, a new stereotype on Dalits may have been created. The authors of the NCERT book, ‘Indian Constitution at Work,’ are amazed at the response of ’emotional-devotional’ Dalits. “They have not read the book,” and “they have not understood the context of the cartoon,” were refrains of the authors. In other words, Dalits are not applying their minds. “Dalit intellectuals have stopped being argumentative. After all, it is for the first time that Dr Ambedkar is being introduced to India’s young minds,” they said. Let me give the reasons why Dalits are upset. Let’s begin with the cartoon. Legendary cartoonist Shankar published the cartoon in 1949, in his Shankar’s Weekly, which was meant for a discerning audience; the weekly did not have a mass circulation.

Shankar’s readers lived in the times of Dr Ambedkar and Pt Nehru, and knew them well. However, the same cartoon is now presented before Class XI students in an entirely new context. Why do the authors try to show the ‘snail pace’ taken to draft the Indian Constitution to young minds? Is it to promote Ambedkar or is to paint him as a lazy professional? Secondly, Shankar drew the cartoon without comment. However, authors of the NCERT book added a caption: “Cartoonist’s impression of the snail’s pace with which the Constitution was made. Making of the Constitution took almost three years. Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact? Why do you think, did the Constituent Assembly take so long to make the Constitution?” Are not “…took almost three years”, “…cartoonist commenting on this fact” and “why do you think…” meant to unduly influence impressionable minds?

Contemporary India associates Dr Ambedkar with the making of the Constitution. The Union government inserts full-page advertisements in newspapers, nation-wide, on every April 14 and December 6 – the birth and death anniversary, respectively, of Dr Ambedkar – acknowledging him as the architect of the Indian Constitution. In addition, Dalits organise rallies and seminars all over India on these days to highlight Dr Ambedkar’s contribution to the nation. Seeking self-esteem, Dalits highlight the fact Dr Ambedkar is the father of India’s Constitution. This has seen contemporary India grudgingly acknowledging him as the creator of the Indian Constitution. Now, let’s look into the book: The chapter, ‘How the Indian Constitution was made,’ says: “Formally, the Constitution was made by the Constituent Assembly” [Page 14] Further more, “…the Constituent Assembly that Drafted the Constitution…” [Page 16]. Was the Constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly? If the Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution, what did the Drafting Committee do?

Well, in the NCERT book, the Drafting Committee doesn’t even exist! Since the authors didn’t know that there indeed existed a Drafting Committee to produce a Draft Constitution, the question of introducing Ambedkar as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee didn’t arise. If one visits the Constituent Assembly debates – parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/debates.htm – one can find how member after member referred to the Dr BR Ambedkar, so often and so eloquently. The NCERT book blanks out the Drafting Committee and Dr Ambedkar as its chairman completely. Why? And how does the book introduce Ambedkar to young minds? “The Constituent Assembly had eight major Committees on different subjects. Usually, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad or Ambedkar chaired these Committees.” That’s all the book has to say about Ambedkar. The story-telling on how the Indian Constitution was made ends here.

Now, if the Constituent Assembly didn’t draft the Constitution, who produced the Draft Constitution? TT Krishnamachari, known as TTK, has the answer. On November 5, 1948, TTK told the Constituent Assembly: “Mr. President, Sir… The House is perhaps aware that of the seven members nominated by you, one had resigned from the House and was replaced. One died and was not replaced. One was away in America, and his place was not filled up, and another person was engaged in State affairs… One or two people were far away from Delhi and perhaps reasons of health did not permit them to attend. Ultimately, that the burden of drafting this Constitution fell on Dr Ambedkar and I have no doubt that we are grateful to him for having achieved this task in a manner which is undoubtedly commendable.”

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/13790955.cms

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Opinions and Editorials

Burden of evidence – By V. Venkatesan (Jun 2, 2012, Frontline)

It will take time and considerable legal acumen to unravel the truth about the post-Godhra pogrom in Gujarat in February 2002. The main allegation that Chief Minister Narendra Modi, at an official meeting held at his residence in Gandhinagar on the night of February 27, 2002, issued illegal instructions to the State’s senior police officers and bureaucrats “not to deal with the Hindu rioting mobs” remains to be proved conclusively. The Metropolitan Magistrate, Ahmedabad, M.S. Bhatt, who is examining the complaint of Zakia Ahsan Jafri against Modi and 62 others, has now to deal with two divergent conclusions reached by two Supreme Court-appointed authorities – the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran – about the role of the accused and the need for further investigations. The amicus curiae (friend of the court), in his report, has found that offences, at this prima facie stage, can be made against Modi under Sections 153A(1)(a) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and (b), 153B(1)(c) (imputations, assertions, prejudicial to national integration), 166 (public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred and ill will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code. All these offences, if proved, can result in the sentencing of the convict up to three years’ imprisonment with fine. The SIT, in its closure report, however, has concluded that these offences are not made out against Modi as his statements and actions during the carnage do not satisfy the ingredients of these provisions.

The Metropolitan Magistrate made both the reports available to Zakia Jafri on April 7. Zakia Jafri and the Citizens for Justice and Peace, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) offering legal help to the victims of the carnage, have brought these crucial documents to the public domain. The SIT and the amicus curiae differ on the value of the evidence tendered by Sanjiv Bhatt, a serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. Bhatt had stated to the SIT that he was present at the meeting held at the Chief Minister’s residence on the night of February 27, 2002, and heard Modi telling the officers that Hindus should be permitted to vent their anger. Bhatt was then the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Intelligence). The SIT has concluded that Bhatt’s version is not reliable because (a) the other senior officers present in the meeting did not support his version; (b) Bhatt’s silence for more than nine years appeared to be suspicious; and (c) a number of departmental and criminal proceedings have been instituted by the government against him and hence Bhatt has an axe to grind with the State government. The SIT has also discredited Bhatt by pointing out that his version about a subsequent meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence on February 28, 2002, at about 10:30 a.m. cannot be believed because his mobile phone records showed that he was in Ahmedabad at 10:57 a.m. The SIT has also claimed that Bhatt tried to tutor the witnesses Tarachand Yadav and K.D. Panth to support his version. Ramachandran agrees with the SIT that Bhatt is actively “strategising” and is in touch with those who would benefit or gain mileage from his testimony. But these factors, in his view, cannot be grounds for ignoring his statement at this stage. According to Ramachandran, it does not appear very likely that a serving police officer would make, without some basis, such a serious allegation against the Chief Minister. There is no documentary material of any nature whatsoever to establish that Bhatt was not present in the meeting on February 27, 2002, he points out. In the absence of the minutes of the meeting, there is again no documentary material available on who participated in the meeting and what transpired there. Therefore, it is the word of Bhatt against that of the other officers who are senior to him. The SIT has chosen to believe the word of the senior officers, Ramachandran says.

He points out serious inconsistencies in the SIT’s conclusion by recalling what it said in its preliminary report, submitted on May 12, 2010. In it, A.K. Malhotra, former Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and a member of the SIT, had cast aspersions on the senior officers present at the Chief Minister’s meeting on February 27, 2002. According to this report, some of these officers, who subsequently retired, claimed loss of memory as they did not want to get involved in any controversy; a few others who recently retired with good post-retirement assignments apparently felt obliged to the State government and Modi, and therefore, their testimony lacked credibility; and the public servants still in service, who had been empanelled for higher posts, did not want to come into conflict with politicians in power and incur their wrath. Ramachandran finds it difficult to accept the SIT’s conclusion that Bhatt’s statement was motivated because he had an axe to grind with the State government over issues concerning his career. He says it may not be proper to disbelieve Bhatt at this stage only because the other officers, purportedly present at the meeting, did not support his statement. Ramachandran has added that the inordinate delay in Bhatt’s revelation about the meeting cannot be the grounds for disbelieving him. He agrees with Bhatt that as an intelligence officer who was privy to a lot of sensitive information, he would make a statement only when he was under a legal obligation to do so. Ramachandran relies on the circumstantial evidence, which strengthens Bhatt’s claim regarding the Chief Minister’s meeting. In the aftermath of the Godhra carnage, a law and order meeting was called by the Chief Minister at 11 p.m. It seems quite natural for an intelligence officer to be called. The Chief Minister would, after all, have to be made aware of the intelligence gathered by the police until then. G.C. Raiger, the then Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence), was on leave that day. The DGP, K. Chakravarthi, did not say that he had gathered intelligence from the office of Raiger. P.C. Upadhyay, the Deputy Commissioner (Political and Communal), was also on leave on February 27, 2002, and Bhatt was looking after the work of the DC. Besides, Raiger had stated to the SIT that Bhatt had accompanied him in the past to meetings called by the Chief Minister, though he said Bhatt used to wait outside with files or information.

“Thus, it is quite possible that Bhatt was directed to attend the meeting on 27.02.2002 at the residence of the Chief Minister. The phone call records do not contradict the statement given by Bhatt to the SIT. Considering the important and emergent nature of the meeting, the relative ‘juniority’ of Bhatt need not have come in the way of his attending the meeting, especially since the ADGP (Intelligence), Shri Raiger, was not available,” Ramachandran writes in his report. Considering the lapse of time, Ramachandran reasons that the discrepancies cited by the SIT on the exact language used or the time at which the meeting took place at the Chief Minister’s residence in Gandhinagar on February 28, 2002 (because Bhatt was in Ahmedabad at 10:57 a.m.) are inevitable. Also significant to Ramachandran is the absence of any material to suggest that Bhatt was either in Ahmedabad or in some place other than Gandhinagar at any time after 10:57 a.m. on February 28. Therefore, he feels that Bhatt needs to be put through the test of cross-examination, as do the others who deny his presence. He clearly disagrees with the SIT’s conclusion that Bhatt should be disbelieved at this stage itself. According to Ramachandran, if Bhatt stands the test of cross-examination, a court of law may, regardless of the fact that other witnesses have not supported his statement, return a finding that Bhatt was indeed present at the meeting on February 27, 2002, and that Modi did make a statement as alleged by Bhatt. More importantly, by citing legal precedents, Ramachandran explains in his report that the stage for believing or disbelieving a witness arises after trial, that is, once the entire evidence is placed before the court for its consideration. It would not be correct to conclude, at this stage, that Bhatt should be completely disbelieved unless there is clinching material available to the contrary; for example, if there is indisputable material that proves that he was not present at the meeting but was somewhere else. No such material has been found. The SIT’s closure report, however, describes Ramachandran’s observation on Bhatt as “absurd” and as based on “conjectures and surmises” (page 519). On page 242, the report says that “even if such allegations [about Modi’s instruction to officers to let Hindus to give vent to their anger] are believed for the sake of argument, mere statement of alleged words within the four walls of a room does not constitute any offence.” This has astounded observers familiar with law of evidence as there is no legal basis for such a claim. Ramachandran has expressed his disagreement with the SIT with regard to the role of M.K. Tandon, the then Joint Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, and P.B. Gondia, the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad. According to Ramachandran, there was no reason for Tandon to have left the Gulberg/Naroda Patiya area (the scene of the worst carnage) in the absence of a much greater problem elsewhere in his jurisdiction at the relevant time, that is, around 12:40 p.m. Similarly, there was no reason for Tandon not to have rushed back to Gulberg Society after 2 p.m. when he knew that the situation was getting out of control and that the situation in the area where he was situated was not that grave. There was complete absence of any supervision by him, which prima facie shows negligence, Ramachandran has found. There was no reason for Gondia, in the absence of a more critical situation somewhere else, to have left Naroda Patiya at 2:20 p.m. when the situation was explosive and police firing had been resorted to, Ramachandran recorded in his report.

Ramachandran has cited the inconsistency in the SIT’s further investigation report, wherein it concluded that both these officers were negligent in their duties, but refrained from invoking Section 304A of the IPC (causing death by negligence, which, if found guilty, would result in imprisonment up to two years). Ramachandran, therefore, has sought a direction to the trial court to consider whether an offence under Section 304A is made out against these officers. The SIT’s closure report, however, pleads that no additional evidence that could help in fixing criminal liability of these two officers, under Section 304A of the IPC, could be brought on record during further investigation. Ramachandran has also disagreed with the SIT with regard to the role of two Cabinet colleagues of Modi – I.K. Jadeja, the then Urban Development Minister, and Ashok Bhatt (who has since passed away), the then Health Minister – who had positioned themselves at the State Police Control Room and the Ahmedabad City Police Control Room respectively on February 28, 2002. The SIT first concluded in its preliminary report that no evidence was available to suggest that they had ever interfered with the police operations to bring the situation under control or that they had conspired in the perpetration of the riots. In its further investigation report, however, the SIT has expressed doubt whether Ashok Bhatt was present in the control room. Ramachandran concludes that the preliminary report, citing Ashok Bhatt himself, is more reliable than the further investigation report. The closure report agrees that these Ministers were present at the control rooms but adds that it cannot be said at this stage that they conspired in the perpetration of riots or did not take any action to control the riots as there is no documentary or oral evidence of any directions given by them to the police officers. Ramachandran concludes that the very presence of political personalities unconnected with the Home portfolio at the police control rooms is circumstantial evidence of the Chief Minister directing, requesting, or allowing them to be present. Ramachandran also refers to SIT Chairman R.K. Raghavan’s earlier finding that their positioning in the police control rooms had, at least, the Chief Minister’s “tacit approval”. Ramachandran has opined that the SIT’s closure report is not binding on the magistrate, who can either take cognisance of the offence and issue process or direct further investigation by the police, after hearing the complainant, Zakia Jafri. The SIT’s closure report is weak in legal reasoning; its earnestness in rebutting each and every allegation made by Zakia Jafri against the Modi government and also the conclusions of Ramachandran’s report make one wonder whether the Supreme Court erred in entrusting this body with a responsibility that it could not effectively and justly exercise.

http://flonnet.com/fl2911/stories/20120615291103300.htm

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Why BJP opts for its communal icon – By CP Bhambhri (Jun 9, 2012, Tehelka)

The national Executive meeting of the BJP held in Mumbai on 24-25 May brought into open the factionalism within the party. It deserves to be clearly stated that factional fights within the BJP have nothing to do with any ideological differences between factions or among the leaders: The battle for supremacy is purely confined to personal issues. The Sanjay Joshi vs Narendra Modi battle is not at all ideological issues as they were comrades-in-arms as pracharaks of the RSS. Modi felt highly offended when his enemy number one was given a special task by the BJP chief Nitin Gadkari during the UP election. At Mumbai, Modi was unambiguously projected as the National Leader of the party not only for the assembly election of Gujarat in 2012-13 but also for the crucial Lok Sabha election of 2014. The cat was out of the bag when former disgraced Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa observed that ‘Narendra Modi should be projected as Prime Minister-in-making.’ He has also been calling the central leadership indecisive and weak. Keshubhai Patel, a former chief minister of Gujarat, said that Modi has successfully ‘terrorised’ the entire BJP high command.

A wizard is not required to explain a simple fact of Indian politics: Authority of the central leadership to discipline state leaders depends on control over the purse. If the present central leadership of LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitely, Yashwant Sinha, and Murli Manohar Joshi, including party President Nitin Gadkari depends on fund raisers like Modi, he becomes the real centre of power. The BJP is out of power in New Delhi and has to depend on its chief ministers, especially of rich Gujarat state, for funding party activities, ‘including expenses incurred by the central leadership.’ Modi has not only displaced the central leadership from its position of authority, he has also overshadowed all other BJP chief ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa etc., because he proved his credentials as a practitioner of anti-minority ideology of the Sangh Parivar when more than about 2,000 innocent Muslims became victims of post-Godhra riots in 2002 and Modi’s government, including civil bureaucracy and men in khaki uniform, behaved as passive spectators of the ongoing genocide in that state. Advani vetoed Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s idea of replacing Narender Modi after the riots, of which clear evidence has been provided by Jaswant Singh, who was asked by Vajpayee to seek Advani’s opinion on dismissal of Modi after the riots. Jaswant Singh conveyed to Vajpayee that Advani was dead set against such an idea or action against Modi.

The Muslim minority in Gujarat after the riots of 2002 has been compelled to accept their status as ‘second-class citizen’ under Hindu Raj. Modi is the only Chief Minister who cannot visit the United States or UK because the governments of these two countries are not giving a visa to a violator of human rights. Such a leader is darling of the Sangh Parivar. Modi has tried to shift public discourse away from his crimes of 2002 by projecting himself as the messiah of Gujarat development. But the state was on the developmental road even before Modi became CM. It is well known that Gujarati entrepreneurs like Dhirubhai Ambani relentlessly worked for the state’s development, and the rate fo growth in terms of GDP of Gujarat even prior to Modi was always high, like other developed regions like Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu. Was Gujarat before Modi in the backward category of states like Bihar or Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh? Further, Modi is practising a ‘socially exclusivist’ model of development, where minorities who suffered during the riots have still not been paid compensation for the losses suffered by them. Is this development?

Advani had attained great eminence in the Sangh Parivar when he led a movement for the demolition of Babri Mosque at Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 by describing it as a ‘monument of Muslim invasion’. Advani remained an unquestioned leader of the BJP from 1992 to 2008 because of his concrete achievement for the RSS goal of ‘teaching a lesson to Muslims’. Advani has faded and Modi has replaced him because post-2002 riots, he has proved his credentials as a committed practitioner of RSS ideology of Hindu majority rule over minorities in India. Modi has been crowned by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar because he contributes the lion’s share of funds to the party and the RSS because he has proved his credentials as a good Swayamsevak. Will the country accept such a communal fascist as a leader?

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Fw010612Why.asp

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On the back foot – By Ravi Sharma (Jun 2, 2012, Frontline)

Former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was until a year ago the poster boy for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been pushed into a tight corner yet again. On May 15, following an order of the Supreme Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a first information report (FIR) against him, his two sons and a son-in-law, a businessman and a mining company, in a Special Court in Bangalore. Despite some posturing in recent weeks – to get himself reinstated after the Karnataka High Court quashed a portion of the Lokayukta report indicting him in a mining scam for which he had to demit office in July last – Yeddyurappa is fully aware that the support he has among the politically, socially and economically dominant Lingayat community to which he belongs and the voters will go up in smoke if he precipitates a crisis and leaves the party now. There is also no clear indication even to him whether a large section of the BJP legislators will desert the party and join him should he choose to do so. Hardly a quarter of the 70-odd legislators whose support he has been claiming turned up on May 18 when he opened his “public contact office” in Bangalore.

In recent weeks, lambasting his party’s central leadership for not supporting him as he waded from one crisis to another, Yeddyurappa threatened to leave the party along with his supporters. He repeatedly accused senior BJP leaders from Karnataka of trying to destroy him politically and even did the unthinkable by praising Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress, which is his party’s biggest adversary. In a bid to put pressure on the BJP leadership to come to his aid, he got nine Ministers in his successor D.V. Sadananda Gowda’s Cabinet to submit their resignations to him and threatened the survival of the BJP dispensation in Karnataka, made overtures to the Congress and even accused Sadananda Gowda of hobnobbing with the BJP’s political rivals, most notably with Janata Dal (Secular) president H.D. Deve Gowda. But all his antics seem to have been to no avail. Neither the party nor the religious pontiffs of the Lingayat sect, who still see him as the community’s tallest political leader, stuck their necks out to espouse his cause. Polite noises were indeed made about the need to respect a senior leader, but nothing close to Yeddyurappa’s demand that he be reinstated as Chief Minister. On May 20, former BJP president Rajnath Singh reflected the party leadership’s thinking on Yeddyurappa’s reinstatement when he said, “Where is the vacancy? D.V. Sadananda Gowda is our Chief Minister in Karnataka.” Reacting angrily to Rajnath Singh’s statement, Yeddyurappa, who in the past year had been mouthing belligerent threats at one instance and his avowals of loyalty to the party the next, said that he had never clamoured for any party position or the Chief Minister’s post.

Yeddyurappa spent the better part of his three years as Chief Minister fighting dissidence, primarily from disgruntled legislators wanting ministerial berths, the mining barons of Bellary who aspired for more autonomy and higher offices, and a section of the party which owes its allegiance to H.N. Ananth Kumar, the BJP’s national general secretary and Yeddyurappa’s bete noire. Yeddyurappa was removed from the Chief Minister’s post last July after the Karnataka Lokayukta (ombudsman), in its report on the multi-crore illegal iron-ore mining scam, recommended criminal proceedings against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He got a reprieve on March 7 when a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court rejected a portion of the Lokayukta report on illegal mining that accused Yeddyurappa of corruption in granting mining leases to two companies and invalidated the sanction given (in January 2011) by Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to prosecute him on the basis of the report. It also quashed the FIR registered against him by the investigation wing of the Lokayukta police. Buoyed by the court’s verdict, Yeddyurappa, who claimed that BJP president Nitin Gadkari had promised to reinstate him if his name “was cleared”, has been demanding the same. Then came the CBI’s latest FIR on May 15. Yeddyurappa has also been saying that it was he who installed Sadananda Gowda as Chief Minister and that the latter had promised to step down once his name was cleared. He is piqued that this has not happened.

Said a senior Minister: “There was a gentlemen’s agreement between the two, but Sadananda Gowda has now chosen to say that it is up to the central leadership [of the BJP] to take a call. For the central leadership, trying as it is to embarrass the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government on various corruption charges, a charge of corruption levelled against one of its own Chief Ministers is untenable. That is why Yeddyurappa was removed in the first place. He can’t be reinstated until he comes out clean.” Minister for Agriculture Umesh V. Katti, who was among those who submitted their resignations to Yeddyurappa, said that it was for the BJP’s central leadership to decide what to do. Katti and other Ministers loyal to Yeddyurappa are angry with Sadananda Gowda and BJP State party president K.S. Eshwarappa for writing letters to the central leadership accusing them of getting involved in anti-party activities. They wanted Sadananda Gowda to convene a meeting of the BJP legislature party to discuss the issue. But the Chief Minister has steadfastly refused to do so. “When the Chief Minister writes that he has no faith in us, why should we continue?” asked Katti. He said they had submitted their resignations to Yeddyurappa and not the Chief Minister since the former was their leader. Katti said that both the party’s central leadership and the Chief Minister had asked them not to press for their resignations. He added that BJP national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, who recently visited Bangalore and elicited the views of the rival camps, had said that some decisions would be taken to resolve the crisis.

Yeddyurappa has accused Ananth Kumar of hatching conspiracies and creating confusion in the State unit of the party, of desperately wanting to become the Chief Minister himself, and of “poisoning the ears of national leaders like L.K. Advani” against him. He also accused Eshwarappa of “vendetta politics”. When this correspondent spoke to Eshwarappa, all that he was prepared to say was: “Let the central leadership take any decision on Yeddyurappa.” The party has to take a call if it wants to hold on to the Lingayat vote, which has been its mainstay and catapulted it to power in the State in May 2008. But will it? Past record shows that the euphoria of attaining power for the first time in a southern State had hampered the BJP from taking tough decisions against Yeddyurappa and disciplining the mining barons of Bellary. If that record is anything to go by, nothing much can be expected from the leadership. For now, the party, which calls itself “the party with a difference”, will limp along and continue to suffer irreparable damage until the elections, which are hardly 12 months away.

http://flonnet.com/fl2911/stories/20120615291102600.htm

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The Many Equations of Jagan’s Arrest – By TS Sudhir (Jun 9, 2012, Tehelka)

It was almost sunset on Monday when YS Jaganmohan Reddy reached Chanchalguda Central Jail in Hyderabad. As he got out of the car, escorted by cops in mufti, two of them tried to hold his arms. Immediately, Jagan bristled with anger. He gestured his hand to each of them to indicate ‘touch me not’. And then in a flash, he adopted his familiar politician posture, greeting onlookers with folded hands and a wry smile. As he entered the prison through the small gate, the Member of Parliament from Kadapa was now transformed to Undertrial No. 6093. The man who dreamt of succeeding his father as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, now reduced to a special status prisoner. There was a transformation outside as well. Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu found the spring in his steps. His body language exuded optimism and his tongue the bite, which he delivered to television crews, comparing Jagan with forest brigand Veerappan. “Veerappan was also popular. He would have even won a Parliament seat in his area, had he contested. Does that make him right?” asks Naidu, pointing to the choice of Jagan’s candidates in the Assembly byelections. “Balineni Srinivas Reddy is a land grabber. The Tirupati candidate sold Lord Venkateswara’s tickets. In Macherla, Ramakrishna Reddy is a known dacoit, in Udayagiri, Chandrasekhar Reddy has been attacking people.” Ready with a log of Jagan’s alleged misdeeds, Naidu knows this is the moment to seize.

“Jagan’s scam is bigger than 2G or CWG or Adarsh. For the past eight years in Andhra Pradesh, they have looted public property. Jalayagnam (irrigation projects scheme) became dhanayagnam. They spent Rs 72,000 crore and not even one acre has come under irrigation,” says Naidu. The byelections on 12 June to Nellore Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly constituencies will be the first test for Naidu. With even a tight contest in most constituencies, he will draw hope for 2014, when Assembly poll in Andhra Pradesh are due. All these seats were won by the Congress in 2009. So technically, Naidu has everything to gain and nothing to lose. The Congress has been on the back foot ever since YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s chopper crashed in the Nallamalla forest. Left with no credible and strong leadership, it has neither handled the Telangana nor the Jagan issue with the tact they deserved. No surprise then that electorally, Andhra Pradesh now threatens to be an Andhera Pradesh for the Congress. That’s something the party can ill-afford. YSR delivered 29 seats to the Congress kitty in the Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and upped it with another four in 2009. Now, things look bleak.

Add to that the Supreme Court notices to six ministers (in YSR Cabinet, who now continue in Kiran Kumar Reddy’s ministry too), asking them to explain how 26 controversial government orders favouring certain companies were issued by them. One of the ministers, Mopidevi Venkataramana, who handled the infrastructure portfolio under YSR, is already behind bars. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, however, says Mopidevi’s arrest is evidence that the Congress is not remote-controlling the CBI investigation. “His arrest is a setback to the party but we hope he will come out clean. It is for Jagan to explain the financial irregularities that have been pointed out in his companies. He knows his stock among the people is going down. He is getting desperate,” says Reddy. The Congress is also on another tightrope walk. It is finding it difficult to condemn its most celebrated chief minister as a corrupt man colluding with his son to loot the state. Doing so would be an admission of his misgovernance from 2004 onwards and would mean giving away the state on a platter to the Opposition. For Jagan though, a good show in the bypoll could be read as a proof of his exoneration by the people. His mother Vijayalakshmi has replaced him on the campaign trail, hoping to create a sympathy wave. “Jagan is being targeted by the Congress because they are irked at his popularity,” says Vijayalakshmi, in an obvious jibe at Congress President Sonia Gandhi. “YSR brought them to power twice in Delhi. He publicly declared that he will make Rahul Gandhi the PM in 2014. How is it fair that your son should become PM while my son should go to jail?” The gameplan is clear. Fight Jagan’s legal battle politically.

Political analyst K Nageshwar feels it will be difficult for the Congress to take on its late leader’s widow during the campaign. “Her emotional chord with the voters is bound to have an impact. In the short-term, in the upcoming elections, even with Jagan inside jail, Vijayamma’s campaign should help YSR Congress candidates,” he says. The worry however is that if Jagan’s stay inside prison is longer, it can give his political rivals enough opportunity to harm him politically. The one-day bandh called by his party after his arrest had little impact in the state, except in his home district of Kadapa – a pointer to the lack of organisational strength and cadre. And there is no dearth of ammunition against Jagan either. Prima facie, the phenomenal growth in his assets – his declared property in 2004 was Rs 1.74 crore, which rose to Rs 77 crore in 2009 and 365 crore in 2011 – gives enough room for suspicion. Then there is the allegation that all those who invested in his media empire were allotted huge tracts of land at throwaway prices in Special Economic Zones by the YSR government. Finally, a slew of briefcase companies that, according to the CBI, were floated to plough in black money into Jagan’s companies. There are also investments by companies registered in tax havens abroad whose identity has not been established and the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (which too wants to interrogate Jagan) allege a case of money laundering.

Complicating matters further, the TDP is demanding that the case of the murder of its MLA, Paritala Ravi, in January 2005 be reopened. Jagan, named as one of the suspects, was given a clean chit by the CBI. What could change the dynamics are a couple of factors. Before his arrest, 15 June – the day of the bypoll results – was spoken of as the D-day on the assumption that Jagan would sweep the polls. A shift in loyalties of about 30 MLAs would have brought down the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, forcing mid-term polls in the state. But with Jagan in custody now, many of those MLAs may choose to sit on the fence, unsure if their political future will be more rosy in Jagan’s outfit. Secondly, the politically and financially powerful Reddy community is annoyed that one of their ilk is being hauled over the coals. The Reddys, who have been the backbone of the Congress, will play a significant role in how the Congress and the YSR Congress fare at the hustings in 2014. There is also the fear that neutralising Jagan from the political scene will only help Naidu log into power once again. Severe anti-incumbency, infighting and mishandling of critical issues have rendered the Congress regime a lame duck government. And Naidu, CEO of Andhra Pradesh Inc., is telling people he wants his job back, now that the pretender to the throne is out.

http://tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ne090612Many.asp

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Enlisting Muslim OBCs in various states a must – By Dr Arshad Alam (Jun 2, 2012, Deccan Herald)

A debate is needed on whether the ‘minority quota’ will deliver its promise of uplifting its intended target. One of the grounds on which the Andhra Pradesh High Court struck down the 4.5 per cent minority quota was that it was based on religion. It is true that religion is one of the markers that define minorities in India. However, in this case, it was the minorities within the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) as defined by the Mandal Commission who were the target of affirmative action. Religion, therefore, is not just a conceptual category but also an empirical category which is enmeshed with other categories such as caste and class.

In treating religion only as a conceptual category, the High Court has not taken into consideration the contextual specificity in which religion exists in India. The 1950 Presidential Order debars Muslims and Christian dalits from being categorised as Scheduled Castes expressly on the grounds of religion. If we compare this presidential order with the recent high court judgment, then it becomes disturbingly clear that religion can be invoked to exclude marginal sections from the ambit of reservation but it cannot, in the wisdom of the judiciary, become the basis of inclusion. This is baffling to say the least. The judgment will most probably be challenged. But beyond the legal arguments, there is a need to debate whether the ‘minority quota’ will deliver its promise of uplifting its intended target. To put the minority quota issue into context, it must be mentioned that none of the minority OBC groups ever articulated the demand for a separate quota.

The minority sub-quota was, therefore, an agenda of the Congress party on the eve of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with an eye on the Muslim vote. While the sub-quota was for minorities, the Congress paraded it as Muslim sub-quota. That its electoral strategy fell apart is another story, but the image of the sub-quota as specifically benefiting Muslims somehow stuck. At the outset it should be clear that it is not a quota specific to Muslims. There are OBC groups within Sikhs and Christians having much better socio-educational indices as compared to Muslim OBCs. How much this sub-quota would have benefited the Muslims is anybody’s guess. The carving out of the 4.5 per cent sub-quota was also a sinister move on the part of the Congress to polarize the OBC votes along communal lines. It needs to be stressed here that the lower castes in India, through years of struggle have today come to a situation where their representation has started becoming visible.

Over the last decade or so, there has been political articulation of Muslims along caste lines. This articulation has sought to build bridges with like minded struggles within other communities with slogans like Dalit Pichda Ek Samaan, Hindu Ho Ya Musalman. This is a new Muslim politics, presaged on the negation of the older style of Muslim politics which always harped on religious identity. The new low caste Muslim politics challenges the secular-communal divide by building solidarities of caste oppression across communities. This politics is dangerous for many in the Congress and the BJP who have made their political fortunes precisely by playing the secular-communal card. It is unfortunate but true that even the dominant OBC parties such as the SP in Uttar Pradesh have also been playing the same politics by demanding reservation for all Muslims. The introduction of the 4.5 per cent sub-quota was, thus, not so much about uplifting the Muslims, but to break the solidarity between the Muslim and Hindu OBCs.

There is a compelling case to address the problem of gross under-representation faced by Muslim OBC groups. The Sachar Committee report has described that the situation of Muslim OBCs is in many ways comparable to dalits. Within the ambit of 27 per cent reservation, it is only a few dominant castes that corner the major share of the pie. However, creating a sub-quota will not be in the best interest of the deprived OBC Muslims, rather politically it will be harmful for them in the long run. If politicians like Salman Khurshid really feel for the plight of these Muslims, let them first start a movement of enlisting Muslim OBCs in various states. Does he know that there are a number of Muslim low caste groups in UP who have been left out of the purview of affirmative action simply because they do not figure on the OBC list? The second measure that he might think of is of bifurcating the Central OBC list into OBC and Most Backward Class (MBC) as suggested by Justice Sachar. Given their pitiable condition, the Muslim OBCs will definitely find their names on the MBC list and will have a more level playing field. This might be a task which no political party will be willing to take as it will upset their pet electoral strategy of playing the secular-communal card.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/254070/enlisting-muslim-obcs-various-states.html

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The NCERT Texts and Cartoons – By Valerian Rodrigues (Jun 2, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Political Science textbook cartoon controversy has acquired a life of its own. What started with charges of insulting Babasaheb Ambedkar snowballed into complaints of insulting national heroes, and in its latest version, as demeaning the political class of the country as a whole. This shift of the alleged target does not seem to be innocent, even as, a lot of muck is thrown at two of the country’s finest political scientists and lower rung officials of the NCERT. These two scholars Suhas Palshikar and Yogendra Yadav, happen to be among the few in the discipline, who have a feel for the nuances and subtleties of the working of Indian democracy, and have generally expressed much appreciation for the political class as a whole. Scholarship and pedagogy are closely related. If politicians think that they know what is to be included in and excluded from textbooks, it is incidental that this round it happens to be books of a specific discipline that are under attack. They probably arrogate to themselves a power, whose full extent one shudders to think of. What is worse, hardly anyone from the political class has uttered a word of caution. But we all know that it is showmanship against the weak; a few academics do not really matter, because they cannot count their battalions. When the industry and the market have not shifted even an inch in their position, with regard to inclusive policies, for which Babasaheb Ambedkar fought throughout his life, a cartoon whose true import is highlighting constitutional morality is able to evoke massive commotion on the floor of both the houses of Parliament cutting across party lines. This is not just sad; it is shameful.

I had read the standard XI textbook in which Shankar Pillai’s cartoon on the Constitution is reproduced in the first lesson after a year or so of its publication in 2006 and admired the way the complexity and diversity of India’s politics was imaginatively woven and presented to young minds in terms of a set of nodular concepts. In the earlier texts of the NCERT, or for that matter in other texts for the age-group brought out by other agencies, significant figures who shaped India’s national life and democracy, such as Ambedkar, were either glossed over or pushed into a corner of their own, as dalits generally are in India’s yet to be redeemed countryside. In this text you see many of these hitherto ignored figures in conversation with one another. Along with agreements, disagreements and contentions too are brought to the fore making politics to look not as a placid natural object but with critical reason. In fact in the first lesson itself, Ambedkar, or a look-alike, appears in three representations, including in the controversial cartoon. The lesson itself is a statement without explicitly stating so on the sagacity with which Ambedkar piloted the Constitutional Bill through the Constituent Assembly. There are few parallels in textbooks, where Ambedkar makes a central interlocutory presence as in this text. In most other texts he is a “Dalit Messiah”, as our leading newspapers are fond of calling him, or a stand-alone case dispensed as an exemplar. Do we then take the commotion on the floor of Parliament to reflect a pronounced new shade of thinking, and even prejudice, whose interest, for one reason or another, lies in keeping

The cartoon, which initially precipitated the furore was sketched by Shankar in 1949.1 It was an important year in India’s national life when the long-drawn freedom struggle, the aspirations of its myriad diversities and its manifold oppressions eventually found a code to collectively and proactively engage within the Indian Constitution. India’s constitutional text was approved by the assembly on 30 November 1949 after nearly three years of debate and deliberation, in many ways as intense as the national movement itself. There was nothing even remotely close to this exercise in its breadth and scope, anywhere in the world. The constitutional text invariably happened to be long and Ambedkar defended it, including some of its other complex and often controversial provisions, with adroitness and sophistication, and the XIV books of the Constituent Assembly Debates bear witness to it. The role that Ambedkar played in this exercise was to elicit fulsome praise from across the learned, but not less haughty, benches of the House. He was a strong believer in constitutional morality and the rule of law, and disdainful of charisma riding roughshod over the heads of people as he highlighted in a powerful address delivered at the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Poona, in 1942 entitled “Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah”. Being a democrat he was also disdainful of messiahs who thought that they knew what was good for people, binding the hands of future generations. At the same time Ambedkar believed in resolute mass action. He thought political democracy had little chance of survival in the long run unless it flowered into social and economic democracy.

Nehru, as is well-known was the architect of India’s complex public institutions.2 At the same time he knew what the large masses of the country were demanding, acutely aware that sooner or later their patience would run out. It was important that the country move fast. At the same time Nehru understood that this process could be only through appropriate checks and balances. His comment that without them he could be a dictator remained his considered judgment in this regard.3 While there were many differences between Ambedkar and Nehru on several issues, they were basically agreed that India’s future can be ensured only through a constitutional and parliamentary democracy. Cartoons are supple and are available for multiple readings, much more than a text. They also satirise and offer a perspective on an issue in a capsule which at the same time is meant to tickle us, bringing the high and mighty to our level in the process. In the cartoon under question, as reproduced in the text,4 we can see Ambedkar sitting on a large spiral mound with the words “constitution” inscribed on it which in turn rests on a snail. Ambedkar holds up a whip, urging the snail to move fast. An athletic looking Jawaharlal Nehru is standing behind holding a whip in a charging posture aimed at the Constitution as well as the snail. The witness to this performance, and the address of the charge of the dramatis personae is a massive gathering of people who have diverse emotions written on their faces from amusement to surprise. This gathering is made of a vast diversity of people as manifest in their demeanour and wear. While other readings of this cartoon are possible, such options are highly constrained: There is a paragraph that just precedes the cartoon that proposes the concept of public reason,5 as an outcome of the deliberations and contestations that arise from umpteen possible positions in society. The reader is initially led to understand that India confronted myriad diversities and inequalities, and the basic law of the land had to provide ground rules as well as norms on the basis of which all this complexity could live together over time as a political community.

The cartoon is acknowledged as having been published in Shankar’s Weekly in 1949. Besides, a Standard XI student in India, roughly at the age of 17 years, carries some ideas and impressions of Nehru and Ambedkar, as a legacy of his/ her earlier learning and from the marketplace. These qualifying conditions may shift the interpretation of this cartoon a little here and a little there, but an informed audience would have a fairly clear view of what the cartoon is meant to convey: the challenge of governing a complex and open polity on the basis of rule of law while being committed to bringing about a radical transformation as fast as possible. While Shankar highlighted this paradox in 1949, in many ways this is the challenge that confronts the Indian polity even today. While Ambedkar and Nehru might have disagreed on certain details with regard to the appropriate strategies of handling these twofold challenges, there is no doubt that they were in agreement on the need to pursue both of them together. In fact, the lesson in question and the text as a whole draw our attention to this shared concern continuously. Were those who raised the furore on the floor of Parliament and later outside trying to drive a wedge between Ambedkar and Nehru, widening the cleavage between them? Whether they were or not, this was the consequence of the extent the cartoon and the accompanying text were broken down into its elements and discrete fragments of them were held aloft as unacceptable. Why attack this cartoon, and not others such as those poking fun at Hindu chauvinists or the authoritarianism of the Emergency interlude found in the texts of Class IX-XI? There is a major vacuum today in what can be called as the dalit public sphere, and it has many reasons. Dalits today are an all-India, large and politically vibrant constituency with most of them at the very margins of economic survival. For a few years this constituency had a pole of reference in the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government in Uttar Pradesh, even though many dalits across the country may not have agreed with its political agenda. The defeat of the BSP in Uttar Pradesh has had its bearing on this sphere. There are no alternatives around: The Parliamentary Left which mobilised sections of dalits on economic demands is today in a limbo. Unlike the adivasis in central east India, by and large dalits have not been attracted to the Maoists. …

http://www.epw.in/special-themes/politics-and-pedagogy.html

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