IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 11th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Gujarat riots accused held for Ajmer blast (Mar 6, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Indicating another link between the accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Hindu terror plot, the NIA has arrested Bhavesh Patel, a native of Bharuch and an accused in the Dargah Ajmer Sharif blast of 2007. “Bhavesh was arrested in Delhi. He had tonsured his head and was staying in temples in various locations for the last two years to evade arrest. He had visited Allahabad to take a dip during the Kumbh. His movements were under surveillance for the last one month,” an investigator said.

Before Bhavesh, another 2002 Gujarat riots accused Harshad Solanki alias Raj was arrested in the Ajmer blast case in 2010. Solanki was accused of burning down the Best Bakery of Vadodara in which 14 people were killed. Besides Solanki, three other absconding accused in the case – Mehul, Jayanti and Mohan – are also wanted in the Ajmer Sharif blast.

The four accused were in hiding with Sunil Joshi, the leader of right-wing extremists alleged to be involved in a series of blasts in Malegaon, Samjhauta train, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif. Later, Joshi was murdered by his own men in December 2007.

“Bhavesh was accused of throwing pipe bombs on a mosque in Bharuch of Gujarat a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002. A trial court acquitted him in the case. “The NIA investigators are trying to gather more information about the status of the cases against him in Gujarat,” said a source.

Investigators said, Bhavesh was an active member of local Hindutva brigade in Bharuch and was considered very aggressive and ambitious. His questioning will help the NIA in unraveling involvement of other right-wing extremists from Gujarat in blast cases.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1021779.aspx

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Techie Vivek held for misleading police on terror attacks (Mar 9, 2013, New Indian Express)

A software professional was on Friday arrested for allegedly trying to mislead the police by claiming that information ‘accessed’ by him, using a specially developed software, indicated another terrorist attack in the city soon. Vivek Ponnulliyil alias Vicky, a native of Kerala, residing at Yapral in Secunderabad, was assisting a central police agency, reportedly the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Meghalaya police. It was reportedly on his ‘information’ that the Hyderabad police went on an overdrive, intensifying checking and frisking operations in the city.

Disclosing the details at a press conference on Friday, Hyderabad police commissioner Anurag Sharma said Vicky had approached the Task Force on March 2 stating that he had developed a programme which could track e-mail chats. ”Once this software is installed in the computer, any activity on the internet by terror suspects can be tracked,” Vicky is said to have claimed. According to police, Vicky claimed that he developed a software which can track e-mailchats through computer based bot-nets installed on remote computers. The programme can be checked everyday through bot-nets which does screen captures when the browser is opened.

The data is captured based on certain key combinations and aspects of the user behaviour and also gave a printed write-up about his programme, the commissioner said. When Vicky was asked to prove the efficiency and genuineness of the software developed by him, he left the place saying that he needs some more time. On March 5, he came back and showed e-mail IDs of seven sources and extracts of e-mails. He also produced some e-mail drafts, photographs and IP addresses. The communication he got hinted at another terrorist strike in Hyderabad.

Sources said after Vicky produced the gist of the mails, the entire city police machinery went into an overdrive and started frisking and checkings which are continuing till date. However, senior police officials doubted his version and a three-member expert team from Delhi was called to Hyderabad to verify this software. The information provided by Vicky proved to be concocted, and he apparently did so to promote his software. The accused had himself fabricated the documents to mislead the police. The Cyber Crime police registered a case against Vicky under IT Act and arrested him.

http://newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/article1494434.ece

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Arrest of Lokesh’s key aide likely soon (Mar 12, 2013, Times of India)

National Investigating Agency (NIA) appears to have made up its mind to arrest Jitendra Sharma, key aide of Lokesh Sharma, the main accused in the Sunil Joshi murder, Samjhauta blast, Mecca Masjid blast and many other acts of terror carried out across the nation. The NIA team had arrived at Mhow in connection with the murder case of slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi on January 30.

They interrogated Bharatiya Janata Party district vice-president for many hours in the PWD rest house and later went to the house of Gopi Chand Jagtap, a manager in SBI. There, they arrested Jagtap’s nephew Dilip, 32. National Investigating Agency sources told TOI that the team had also recovered a bag containing two pistols, live bullets, magazines, passbooks and cheque book of Jitendra from Dilip’s house.

On counterfoil of cheque book, several entries were found in the name of Sadhna, wife of Lokesh Sharma. The NIA team met officials of the SBI town hall branch to enquire about transactions made from this account, sources said. The source said the focus on recovery of passbooks, cheque books in the bag containing the pistol, with which Joshi was allegedly killed.

During the investigation and from statements of Lokesh, Dilip Jagtap and Dilip’s wife, it became clear that the bag was given by Jitendra to Dilip on January 28. Jitendra asked him to keep a bag of valuables in safe custody as he was going to Kumbh. Dilip kept the bag in a drum on the loft in Puja room and going by statements of Dilip and his wife, they were not aware of contents of the bag, say source.

Whether the NIA officials had gone on back foot in the wake of lawyers’ strike in Indore bench of high court for opposing Jitendra’s alleged detention, he said the agency is doing its work as per the law and there is no point in going on back foot due to any agitation. The law will take its own course.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18917945.cms

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‘Muslims being framed on false charges is terrorism’ (Mar 7, 2013, Deccan Chronicle)

“What is happening to this country? The way Muslim children are being framed in fake cases creating a web of lies, is nothing less than a terror activity, designed to alienate the Muslim population of the country,” Abdul Rauf Mirza, 57-year-old father of DRDO scientist Aijaz Mirza, lashed out on Wednesday.

At a press conference held following the release of Aijaz on Wednesday afternoon, Rauf Mirza spoke about the pain he went through after his son’s arrest. But he had hope that justice would be done. “With great pain and hardship I have given good education to my children. It was not to turn them into terrorists. All these days, the government has asked us questions, now they have to answer how my children were illegally arrested, framed and branded terrorists.”

Aijaz Ahmad Mirza, journalist Muthi-ur- Rehman and others were picked up by the city crime branch on August 29, 2012 on charges of an alleged terror plot. Narrating his story, Aijaz said, “It was early in the morning and I was still asleep when a few people in plainclothes walked into our house. Even as I was sleeping, they slapped and started hitting me. I was dragged out of the house with my hands tied behind my back. Four of us were taken first to the Palace Ground.”

When Aijaz and his friends demanded an answer, the captors started abusing them. “I asked them what had we done wrong and who they were. Later in the afternoon, they took us to Madiwala and in the night produced us before a magistrate. It was only then that I came to know that I was being charged in a terror case.” His job with the DRDO made investigators slap serious charges against him. “The police accused me of being trained in Pakistan, and joining the DRDO under the instructions of Pakistanis. I told them, ‘Please check my passport. Please check in the neighbourhood I grew up in. This is a lie.'”

A dejected Aijaz said, “I have worked hard to make a living, and not to become a terrorist.” The 25-year-old, who has specialised in electronics, is hurt that his “dream job” has been taken away. “Getting into DRDO was not easy. Once I am given a clean chit, I will again approach them,” he said. The NIA has given a clean chit to Muthi Ur Rehman and Yusuf Nalband, while requesting for more time to collect more evidence. Aijaz’s brother Shoaib Mirza is accused No. 1 in the case and is among the 12 against whom the NIA has filed the chargesheet.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130307/news-current-affairs/article/%E2%80%98muslims-being-framed-false-charges-terrorism%E2%80%99

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Stop targeting Muslims for blasts, Katju to media (Mar 7, 2013, The Hindu)

In the wake of the coverage of the Hyderabad blasts, Press Council Chairman (PCI) Markandey Katju has appealed to the media to “exercise restraint in reporting cases of bomb blasts and terrorist cases,” and avoid doing anything which may “fan or promote communal hatred and animosity.” Justice Katju was responding to a letter sent to him by National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Chairman Wajahat Habibullah. The letter said that “even before the completion of the investigation [in the Dilsukhnagar blasts of February 21] and on the basis of what appears as unfounded conjecture, the media appears to have targeted a particular community.”

Mr. Habibullah referred to an article by B. Raman, a former intelligence official and security analyst, who had written: “It seems to have become the trend that if it is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If it is Muslim, he has to be from the IM [Indian Mujahideen]. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].” The NCM Chairman highlighted the need to discourage such a trend.

Agreeing with the note, Justice Katju said in a statement: “Since an impression has been created in some quarters that most Muslims are terrorists, the police often arrest some Muslims on mere suspicion. Once such a Muslim is arrested, it is difficult for him to get bail…even if he is ultimately found innocent, nobody can restore so many years of his life spent in jail.” There were a large number of cases falsely implicating Muslims, he added.

The PCI chief said that within an hour or so of a blast, TV channels started showing messages or emails sent by an organisation with a Muslim-sounding name, claiming responsibility. This was “irresponsible” as any “mischievous person” could have sent the message. “By showing this on TV screens, a message is conveyed to the viewers, even if by insinuation, that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb-throwers.” The only way of keeping the country of such diversity united and taking it on the path of progress is “through secularism and giving equal respect to all communities and sections of society,” Justice Katju said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/stop-targeting-muslims-for-blasts-katju-tells-media/article4482591.ece

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Narendra Modi will trigger communal riots in the country if elected PM: Lalu Prasad (Mar 9, 2013, IBN)

Training guns at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, RJD President Lalu Prasad on Saturday said he seems to be prime ministerial candidate of foreigners due to which America, UK and other Western nations were softening their approach towards him in recent days. “Narendra Modi seems a PM candidate of foreigners due to which America, UK and other Western countries are softening their approach towards him in recent days,” Prasad said. “He will not be able to fulfill his dream (of being the PM) if he becomes PM he will trigger communal riots in the country,” Prasad said.

Prasad was talking to reporters after a RJD meeting of MLAs, MLCs and state office bearers in regard to a party rally at Patna in May. On Modi calling Congress as “termite” at the BJP’s national executive meeting at Delhi, Prasad said, “Modi himself is termite. The BJP and RSS are termites which are eating up secular tree of the country.” Prasad, who has served as Railway minister in the UPA I, claimed that secular parties would form government at the centre after 2014 Parliamentary elections.

On Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf paying a visit to Ajmer, he said that Ashraf was welcome to perform ziyarat but the country would continue to protest the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani army. On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praising Nitish Kumar’s rule for remarkable growth rate, the RJD chief said “this reflects his greatness and by doing so he has demonstrated his respect for federal structure of the country.” Referring to JD(U) sponsored rally at Delhi on March 17 in support of demand for special category state for Bihar, Prasad remarked, “Nitish Kumar is befooling people.”

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/narendra-modi-himself-a-termite-will-trigger-communal-riots-if-elected-pm-lalu-prasad/377709-37-64.html

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Sacked Raja Bhaiya gets saffron support (Mar 8, 2013, Deccan Herald)

The BJP on Friday came out in support of former Uttar Pradesh minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who was sacked following allegations of his involvement in the murder of DSP Zia-ul-Haq .

The move, sources said, is the BJP’s tactic to make a dent into the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) “thakur” vote bank by using the prevailing resentment in the community over the unceremonious removal of the controversial independent legislator.

Workers of saffron outfits like the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have reportedly held demonstrations in several parts of the state to protest against the “false implication” of Raja Bhaiya in the matter.

BJP Lok Sabha member from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath openly declared his support for the sacked minister. “The CBI probe is not expected to be impartial…we demand a judicial inquiry into the Pratapgarh violence,” Adityanath said on Friday.

He said he would register his protest if Raja Bhaiya was arrested by the CBI. During a discussion in the Assembly earlier, BJP leader Hukum Singh had also questioned the inclusion of Bhaiya’s name in the FIR lodged in connection with the murder of the DSP.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/317540/sacked-raja-bhaiya-gets-saffron.html

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Karnataka, dozens of Hindu fundamentalists attack a Christian community (Mar 9, 2013, Asia News)

Dozens of Hindu fundamentalists have violently attacked a Pentecostal community of Karnataka as they prepared for a night vigil of prayer. Eight people, including a pastor, were injured and hospitalized. Thanks to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the police arrived on the spot quickly and arrested 16 attackers. The incident occurred in the village of Moodubelle, near Udupi.

Thirty activists from the Hindu nationalist movement Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal raided the house of Rev. Robert Lobo, pastor of World of Victory Ministries, where the vigil was being held. The fundamentalists accused them of practicing of forced conversions and beat the faithful present. Another pastor, Fr. Ramesh Poojari, suffered serious head injuries and was taken to Manipal Hospital in Udupi. Another seven people, five men – Ramesh, Prem, Suraj, Shantharam and Janardhan – and two women – Sujatha and Shakisala – have been admitted to the Ajarakadu State hospital.

GCIC contacted the police in Shirva who have assured justice to the Christian community. “This – Sajan George, president of the GCIC tells AsiaNews – is the sixth anti-Christian attack in Karnataka since the beginning of 2013 and does not bode well for freedom of worship in India. Hostility and religious intolerance continue to grow and are a cause of serious concern for the vulnerable Christian minority. These believers had gathered for a night vigil, an absolutely legal act. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right, but these extremists have political protection in Karnataka’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, ultra-nationalist Hindu party) and are encouraged to persecute the Christian community, particularly the Pentecostals.”

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Karnataka,-dozens-of-Hindu-fundamentalists-attack-a-Christian-community-27346.html

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Police fail to fix responsibility of seniors despite evidence (Mar 7, 2013, Times of India)

Despite having clinching evidence against 10 policemen standing in action mode near damaged vehicles, Chandigarh police have suspended only three policemen and failed to fix responsibility on the senior officials responsible for controlling the ruckus.

Ironically, five policemen included sub-inspector Prem Nath, ASI Suresh Kumar, head constable Ramesh Kumar and two constables Dilbag and Kulwinder Singh, who were slapped censure notices for “gross negligence” in their duties, are still attached with the Indian Reserve of Battalion (IRB).

At the time when hundreds of police personnel went on rampage and started damaging the windowpanes of parked vehicles near the rally ground, SI Prem Nath and ASI Suresh Kumarwere appointed for controlling the personnel of IRB.

Sources told TOI, “SI Prem Nath and ASI Suresh Kumar are still attached with IRB and constable Kulwinder has been transferred to police lines in Sector 26.” Meanwhile, no senior official was available for comment. The guilty policemen, including constables Sukhbir Singh, Pawan Kumar and Swadesh, were also a part of IRB when they damaged over 80 vehicles during a rally in March 2011.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18842663.cms

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Police brutality: Shocked SC wants answers (Mar 7, 2013, Asian Age)

Expressing outrage at the recent incidents of policemen mercilessly beating up a woman in Punjab and protesting teachers in Bihar, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the incidents had “shocked the conscience” of the nation and demanded explanations from both state governments. Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports about the two incidents of police brutality, a bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and Ranjana Prakash Desai said the incidents violate the human and constitutional rights of those who were attacked and directed the Punjab and Bihar governments to file their replies by March 11.

Some police personnel were caught on camera beating protesting teachers in Patna on March 5 and a young woman in Tarn Taran in Punjab on March 4. “Unfortunately, the administrations of the governments of Punjab and Bihar have not taken adequate steps for protecting the people against the wholly unwarranted action taken by the police at Tarn Taran and Patna. These incidents raise important constitutional issues relating to Article 21 of the Constitution and dignity of the individual. We, therefore, feel that it is proper for this court to take cognisance of the gross violation of human rights as well as the constitutional rights of the people,” the bench said.

“The contents of the news items revealed that members of the Punjab police and Patna police have mercilessly beaten an unarmed woman and teachers. Both the incidents have shocked the conscience of the entire nation,” the bench said. The bench, which took on record media reports, asked Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati to assist the court and appointed senior advocates Harish Salve and U.U. Lalit to help out as amicus curiae in dealing with the issue. It posted the matter for further hearing on March 11.

http://www.asianage.com/india/police-brutality-shocked-sc-wants-answers-013

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Opinions and Editorials

The Tainted Lectern – By Suvir Kaul (Mar 18, 2013, Outlook)

First, the facts as we know them: on February 28, 2013, an e-mail circulated in the University of Pennsylvania announced the 17th Annual Wharton India Economic Forum for March 23. The student-organisers of the forum listed Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, as a keynote speaker. Several of us who read this announcement decided to write and circulate a letter objecting to the platform offered by this forum to Modi, for reasons that we detailed in our letter. In our concluding paragraph, we duly asked the organisers to revoke their invitation to Modi. We were hopeful the organisers would withdraw their invitation, but understood this was unlikely. Therefore, we also pledged “to protest his presence-virtual as it will be, given that he remains ineligible for a US visa-in a variety of ways, including at the meeting of the forum”.

Reminding the organisers of our pedagogic interest in this situation, we concluded by writing: “We will also do all that we can to continue to educate our community about the incalculable and continuing harm done by Modi’s brand of politics to the secular values enshrined in India’s Constitution.” As soon as we circulated our letter of protest in the university and on a social media site, signatures from students, faculty and members of the community poured in. By the next morning, Friday, February 29, when we e-mailed the letter to the organisers, with a copy to the dean of the Wharton School and to two members of the faculty at Wharton who run the Wharton Entrepreneurship Program (which was a sponsor of the forum), we had over 150 signatures (many more have come in since then).

Here is an important detail (which virtually no one in the media has examined, and most commentators have ignored): just as we were not privy to the decision that led to the issuing of the invitation, we were not told about the reasons for it being withdrawn. No one from the forum or from Wharton did us the courtesy of responding to our e-mail. The only statement issued from the forum organisers lists the dissent of “multiple stakeholders” within the university, including Wharton alumni. Yet we began to see an odd pattern emerging in the news coverage in India: one news portal leads with a story, and then that text is repeated, with only minor changes, in story after story on competing news portals. Most stories or anchors spoke only of the objections expressed by a handful of faculty; hardly any journalist seems to have bothered to ask the student-organisers of the conference if they decided to rescind their invitation to Modi because their own faculty-administrators overruled them (which would suggest an issue internal to Wharton), or whether they themselves changed their mind after reading about Modi’s abysmal record on human rights.

We could not have anticipated (I doubt the student-organisers could have either) just how much coverage the withdrawal of their invitation to Modi would receive. It was important to those of us who drafted and signed on to the letter of protest that Narendra Modi’s rise to national prominence in India not occur without hard questions being asked about his history as a Hindutvavadi politician and an administrator under whom minorities have been victimised and marginalised. Now that we have followed the news frenzy that began after Modi was disinvited (and the Adani Group’s withdrawal of its platinum sponsorship), we know that, in spite of every effort made to turn this into a debate about free speech, those questions about Modi’s role in the mass killings and displacement of Muslims in Gujarat in ’02 are being aired and debated once again.

This was never an issue of free speech: Modi exercises his unlimited access to the media at will (including now in a planned video address to supporters in New Jersey and Illinois). Instead, we sought to protest-and protest is the bedrock of institutional democracy-the forum’s offering him an unchallenged platform from which to further a political agenda which delinks economic development from basic human rights. This is, sadly, also an agenda subscribed to by many corporations and indeed B-schools. Further, we know that national debates like this one also invite us to think about the forms of human development in our future: should justice and equity not be central to our planning? These are in fact the concerns that animated our letter of protest. As faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, we often have students from the Wharton school in our classes, and there, as in our letter to the organisers of the forum, we serve our function as educators, whose job it is to identify difficult questions and enable students to learn to think broadly and humanely about their shared futures.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?284283

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Joining the dots – By Rahul Tripathi (Feb 3, 2013, Indian Express)

One cold December morning, Rambalak Dash left his ashram in Chitrakoot on the UP-MP border for a puja he had been called upon to do at a house in Nagada, 50 km from Ujjain. It was 4.30 am when Dash finally reached the house. Only, the puja was a trap laid out by a team of the Madhya Pradesh police and he had walked straight into it. It didn’t take long for the cover to be blown. ‘Rambalak Dash’ was no holy man. He was Rajender Chaudhary, who is allegedly involved in the Samjhauta train blast of 2007, the Mecca Masjid blast (also of 2007) and the Malegaon blast of 2006. During questioning, Chaudhary revealed the name of his associate Dhan Singh-allegedly involved in the Malegaon and Modasa bombings-who lived in another ashram in Chitrakoot under the assumed identity of ‘Laxman Das’. The following day, the police laid out a similar trap for Dhan Singh-the ‘holy man’ was called for a puja-and he too ended up being arrested. Their questioning led to the arrest of three others-Manohar Kumar Singh, Tej Ram and Sudeep Upadhyay – from different parts of Madhya Pradesh.

For the first time since April 2011, when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe into the terror cases involving Hindu extremists, investigators have something concrete to work on, something beyond Swami Aseemanand’s confession. After his arrest in November 2010, Aseemanand had, in a statement to the police, said that Hindu extremist groups and RSS leader Indresh Kumar were instrumental in planning and executing the attacks. He had also named Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange as “key planners”. But he retracted his statement in May 2011 and the investigators had to start all over again. The arrests have not only helped the agency unravel multiple plots involving Hindu extremists but also helped them join the dots between some seemingly disparate cases-the bomb attacks on mosques in J&K in 2004, the attack on Delhi University professor SAR Geelani in 2005, the killing of a Muslim youth in Madhya Pradesh in 2006 and the 2007 murder of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi.

A recent forensic report done by a Hyderabad laboratory established “similarities” between six blasts cases – Malegaon (2006, 2008), Ajmer Sharif (2007), Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (2007), Modasa in Gujarat (2008) and on board the Samjhauta Express (2006). Forensic experts found that the bomb container, electronic circuit, arming mechanism as well as trigger mechanism in all these blasts were similar. Suddenly, it was all beginning to fall in place for the investigators. It was in October 2008, a month after the second Malegaon blasts, that the Mumbai ATS first announced the role of Hindu extremist groups when they arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh and a serving colonel of the Indian Army, Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, for their role in the blasts. Pragya’s motorbike was allegedly used to plant the explosives at Malegaon. Within a month of the arrest, Hemant Karkare, the joint CP heading the probe, died during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, throwing investigations out of gear. Two years later, in 2010, the Rajasthan ATS, which was probing the 2007 Ajmer Dargah case, arrested Lokesh Sharma and Devendra Gupta, both associated with the RSS. The duo said that it was Aseemanand and former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi who had convinced them to carry out attacks in Ajmer and Mecca Masjid. This was the first hint that these attacks had a common thread running through them. On November 19, 2010, the CBI arrested Aseemanand from an ashram in Haridwar in Uttarakhand.

Sunil Joshi turned out to be the leader of the group and allegedly coordinated the attacks and managed finances. Further evidence of Indresh’s alleged links with Hindu extremists came up when the police, after Joshi’s murder in December 2007, recovered his telephone diary in which Indresh’s cellphone number was mentioned as “emergency”. Both the NIA and the CBI have not been able to gather clinching evidence against Indresh. The CBI summoned him in 2010, soon after Aseemanand’s arrest. However, the police did not record his statement. Aseemanand’s statement recorded before the magistrate could not nail Indresh either. In May 2011, Aseemanand retracted his statement. But his earlier confession helped nine innocent Muslim youth, who had been arrested for the 2006 Malegaon blasts, get bail. In June 2011, based on Aseemanand’s confession, NIA filed a chargesheet against Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra for their role in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts. On February 18, 2007, four suitcases with bombs were placed in unreserved compartments on the Samjhauta Express, of which two exploded while the train was near Panipat in Haryana. The third suitcase exploded while it was being defused and the fourth was recovered unexploded on the tracks near the 15th compartment of the train. …

Three years later, the Rajasthan ATS arrested Lokesh Sharma and Devender Gupta in the Ajmer blast case. But the picture became clear only after Rajender Chaudhary was arrested late last year. Chaudhary reportedly confessed that he had directions from Lokesh Sharma to fire at Joshi. Interrogations have revealed that Chaudhary fired the first shot, but the pistol got locked after which he fired four shots using a country-made weapon. The NIA has seized both the weapons.Though the NIA arrested two persons, Balveer Singh and Dileep Jagtap, last week in connection with the murder, the motive remains unclear. One of the theories is that Lokesh Sharma was angry with Joshi for having allegedly made indecent advances to Pragya Singh at a wedding. Lokesh, who treated Pragya as his ‘sister’, decided to take revenge. The MP police’s theory is that a dispute over a liquor shop led to the murder. Investigators are also not ruling out a “bigger conspiracy” in the murder as they suspect that he was killed in order to keep these high-profile cases under wraps.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1068448/

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Blaming the Muslim – Editorial (Mar 16, 2013, Economic & Political Weekl)

The police and the media’s deep prejudice against Muslims lives on. The bomb blasts in Hyderabad on 21 February were meant to cause maximum terror among the people of the city as they apparently had no target other than the ordinary citizens going about their daily lives. In their randomness these bomb blasts have successfully sowed insecurity and misgivings in the minds of the city’s residents. The bomb blasts and their aftermath have only helped deepen communal divides in a city which has seen aggressive communal mobilisations and conspiracies over the past few years. As this journal had noted in earlier editorials (“Witches’ Brew in Hyderabad”, EPW, 1 December 2012; “Fifteen Minutes of Infamy”, EPW, 19 January 2013), there has been a concerted effort to reignite communal violence in Hyderabad, which has largely been free from it since L K Advani’s infamous Rath Yatra of 1990. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been in the forefront of stoking communal fires. Hindutva forces have been caught throwing beef into temples, attacking Muslims before Eid-ul Azha and trying to expand the illegal temple at Charminar’s base. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which had kept a relatively low profile over the past decade and more, has also adopted a shrill communal tone, as the recent speech by its leader Akbaruddin Owaisi illustrates. All these attempts to create communal divisions and spark violence have taken place in anticipation of a separate Telangana state which has kept the city and its surrounding regions in the throes of political uncertainty.

In such a context, these bombs had the potential to reopen deep communal wounds on all sides. That this has been averted is largely the result of the good sense of the average citizen and not because of any sense of responsibility on the part of either the police or the media, particularly television news. Even a fortnight later, the union home ministry or the Andhra Pradesh government have refused to go on record on who could have committed this terrible act. However, the security agencies and the police – both in Hyderabad and elsewhere – as well as the media have shown no such restraint. Much can be said about the incompetence of the police and intelligence agencies which allow such incidents to take place. What is far worse is that most of the terror attacks remain unsolved and the perpetrators go unpunished. That, however, has never prevented our worthies in uniform from spinning a fancy yarn and lining up a veritable army of suspects and perpetrators, who invariably are Muslims. There have been reports that often the police force these “suspects” to wear the Keffiyeh or skullcap, so that their chums in the media can helpfully identify them as “Jihadi” to the country at large!

Even in this instance, within less than two hours of the blast, a “leak” from Delhi police claimed that the “Indian Mujahideen”, whose very existence is something of a mystery, has been behind these attacks with enviable details being regurgitated by breathless television anchors. Before the night was out, this “theory” – based entirely on anonymous police leaks – was now presented as “fact”, leading the president of the BJP to demand that the Indian government take punitive action against Pakistan! What was astounding was that not a single police source or, worse, a single journalist asked questions about the Mecca Masjid blasts of 2007 in this same city. In that instance, scores of Muslim men were picked up by the police who extracted detailed confessions from them and built up an elaborate story of how “modules” from Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Bihar had worked with their handlers in Bangladesh and Karachi to carry out this explosion. As we all know, this entire “story” was a fabrication, which these criminals in uniform had concocted. The Mecca Masjid blast was, as is now prima facie proved, carried out by Hindutva terrorists of Abhinav Bharat and Sanatan Sanstha with links to the RSS. Yet, not a single journalist or security agency thought it worthwhile to mention this basic fact. Not one media-person thought it necessary to mention that close to the site of the bomb blasts, Hindutva activists had been caught throwing beef into temples. Rather, within 30 minutes of the bomb blasts taking place, when even the top police officers had not reached the site, television media was already speaking of “old city” links and “communal” politics, which as any Indian knows, are code words for “Muslim”.

It just got worse in the days which followed. The police picked up for questioning, without any legal warrant, six of the men falsely accused for the Mecca Masjid blast and who have been acquitted of all charges. The courts have said that those arrested and tortured in that instance were entirely innocent, and the fabrications of the police have been exposed. Yet, the officers involved in foisting these fake cases faced no action, far less any prosecution; in fact, they were promoted in due course and some of them could even be involved in the “investigations” of the present case. It is the political shield for such criminal, incompetent conduct by the police provided by governments, both at the centre and in the states, which has allowed the communal targeting of Muslims by the police and the media to continue. Shedding crocodile tears, as the top Congress leadership is inclined to do, will not reduce the communal bias in the police and intelligence agencies, nor will it, perhaps more importantly, help make our cities safer. Unfortunately, the fourth estate, rather than being a check on the excesses of the powers, has become a partner in crime.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/blaming-muslim.html

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‘I was discriminated against because I am Muslim’ – Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui to Irena Akbar (Mar 10, 2013, Indian Express)

In 2008, a youth was arrested from my neighbourhood in Hubli for alleged links with the Student Islamic Movement of India. He was studying to be a doctor and had no history of indiscipline or run-ins with the law. His family was traumatised, and still is, for he continues to languish in jail. If that could happen to a young, educated Muslim like him, it could happen to me, too, I thought then. Five years later, that passing thought became an ugly reality. On August 29, 2012, a posse of armed policemen barged into the one-bedroom flat I shared with four other boys in Bangalore. They pretended to be looking for my roommate Shoaib Ahmed Mirza, whom they accused of plotting to assassinate some right-wing Kannada columnists. Ironically, they had picked him up from the locality just a while earlier. In our flat, they slapped his brother, Aijaz Ahmed, abused the other three and suddenly handcuffed me too. I pleaded with them to tell me why they were taking me away. I asked one of the policemen, whom I had spoken to earlier when I was a crime reporter with Deccan Herald, what was going on. All I got was a sarcastic look. The brazen manner in which we were picked up was more like a kidnapping than an arrest. With my pleas unanswered, my mind slid into numbness. I went blank. I could not think. The story of that youth kept replaying in my head.

My first night in the cell was the longest night of my life. We kept pleading with the cops, including the junior-most constables, to not destroy our lives. During our 30 days in police custody, the cops abused us in every way they could. One policeman asked me, “So, you work for a Pakistani newspaper?” I don’t even want to get into the nasty things they said about my faith. I was surprised that unlike the others, I was not physically abused. Outside the prison, though, I was planted as the “mastermind”. When we – the 15 of us arrested in the so-called assassination plot – were shifted to Bangalore Central Jail, for the first two months we were locked inside a separate barrack, which meant we were denied access to facilities available to other inmates, such as outstation phone calls, the gym and the library. Later, when we were shifted out from there, we could avail these amenities, but it exposed us to taunts from others. The prison authorities used to refer to us as the “bomb case people”, and other inmates seemed to believe them. They’d say in Kannada, “Enu ide iwaradu.” (They must have done something wrong.)

I did not mingle much with others. I spent time reading the Quran, that my sister and brother got for me during one of their visits, and taught English and Urdu to two of my co-accused. There were times when I ran out of hope, fearing that I may languish here forever. But then, my innocence reclaimed that hope, and I would feel confident that I would be out soon. Six months later, on February 25, 2013, I was released. But even before I could get over the police hostilities I had endured, I was told about the the media onslaught during my time in jail. I had been dubbed the “mastermind” of the plot. Some of my former colleagues told me that a senior police officer, who was not even investigating the case, misled journalists that I had joined Deccan Herald with the sole purpose of blowing up the Metro station opposite my office. The media blindly, mindlessly, reproduced his words. Similarly, going by the police’s words, the media said “radical literature” was seized from my office computer. That computer had an Urdu poem about Republic Day, written by Sahir Ludhianvi, a Leftist ideologue, who was part of the Progressive Writer’s Association.

Honestly, after our arrest, I was prepared for such reportage. That I was called a “mastermind”, for example, did not surprise me. But some stories were painfully insensitive. A news channel “broke” the story about my father in Pakistan who “guided” me from there. My father died of a heart attack in 2006. I even have his death certificate. Can you imagine how it feels to deal with such bulls**t? Another news channel said I had Rs 50 crore in my bank. If I had so much money, I would certainly have owned a newspaper. The way the police and the media reacted to my alleged involvement in the so-called plot has convinced me that there is an institutional bias against Muslims. When you put all the facts together – that I was picked up for simply sharing a room with a suspect, that an Urdu poem on my terminal was interpreted as a fanatical text, that so many other Muslim youths have languished in jails for terror-related cases only to be let off for want of evidence – how can you expect me to feel otherwise? This is not a new feeling. When I was studying journalism in 2009, I had suggested “media coverage of terror suspects” as the subject of my thesis, which my teacher rejected. At that time, Muhammad Hanif, a doctor from Bangalore, was arrested in Australia on terror charges, which were later proved to be false. There were similar arrests for the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts. The media reports sensationalised such arrests, and engaged in character assassination. It was as if they had taken it upon themselves to prove that the accused were guilty. When Hanif was exonerated, the Australian government issued a public apology to him – something the Indian government has not done for so many similar, wrongful arrests.

The media has reacted in the extreme to me – extremely cruel when I was arrested, and now, extraordinarily supportive after my release. I am inundated with phone calls from journalists, asking for my side of the story. Even though I am disillusioned by the media, I have not lost faith in it. That faith comes from some truly fair reporting, specially in the print media. I want to return to work as a journalist. My father, who used to run an Unani medical store, wanted me to become an Unani doctor, but I was good at languages and social science, and began working as a journalist in the Urdu newspaper Rashtriya Sahara in Dharwad in 2007, while doing a PG diploma in journalism. In 2009, I joined Deccan Herald, where I first covered crime, and then education. Journalism has always been close to my heart. But, I have become sceptical of reportage. I will always think twice before trusting a news story. I want to work on the desk and ensure the accuracy of a story. I do hope to live a normal life. I am overwhelmed with visitors who have been pouring into my home, welcoming me back, and putting an end to my fear of being stigmatised for life. My ex-colleagues are also in touch with me. Throughout my life, I have never been discriminated as a Muslim. I have always believed that Muslims must stop feeling as if they are victims of the system, and must strive towards educating and empowering themselves. But my six months in jail as an educated, empowered Muslim, paints a contrasting picture – that I was discriminated against because I was Muslim. These are two extremities. And though one positive extreme gives me hope, as does my faith in the judiciary and democracy, the other extreme puts me in despair. I am trying to find a middle ground to this dilemma. I have truly experienced the uncertainty of life. I have reflected a lot on my own life, and if something good has come out of this ordeal, it is that I have emerged a better person. Now, I look at the larger picture of life, and can empathise with others’ sufferings.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1085223/

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Uttar Pradesh: The Downward Spiral – By Brijesh Pandey (Mar 16, 2013, Tehelka)

On 16 March 2012, a day after she lost her job as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, a grim Mayawati walked in at her party office in Lucknow, the state capital, to speak with reporters. “In six months, the people of Uttar Pradesh will realise they have made a huge error by voting for the Samajwadi Party,” she said, her face deadpan as ever. “And how good law and order has been under my government.” Less than a year after that press conference, Mayawati’s chilling prophecy has come true – and how. On 2 March 2013, the government of Mayawati’s successor, Akhilesh Yadav, plunged into yet another crisis after a mob in a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh killed a police officer minutes after he had arrived to investigate the murders of a village chief and his brother who had been shot dead hours earlier. The reason the killings have snowballed into a crisis for Akhilesh’s government is that the man accused of orchestrating them is Raja Bhaiya, an alleged mafia don and a leading state politician, who has since been forced to resign from Akhilesh’s Cabinet as the minister for food and civil supplies.

The fact that the slain officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police Zia-ul-Haq, was a Muslim made it worse for Akhilesh’s father, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has long positioned himself as a champion of the Muslims. But even though Raja Bhaiya resigned from his job, the damage was done. The violence has revived memories of the crime, violence and gangsterism that marked the earlier rule of the Samajwadi Party in 2003-07 when Mulayam was chief minister. In hindsight, the Yadavs must be wondering if they could have averted the 2 March tragedy. Gram pradhan (village chief ) Nanhe Yadav, who was killed that day allegedly by political and business rivals linked to Raja Bhaiya, had earlier petitioned the police for protection citing threats to his life. But the police had turned down his request. That made it easy for six unidentified gunmen to accost him as he sat at a tea stall in Balipur village in Pratapgarh district and pump bullets into him. He died on his way to the hospital. Sources say Nanhe Yadav had a longstanding dispute with one of the alleged assailants, Guddu Singh, who is an aide of Raja Bhaiya.

As the news of his killing spread in the village, an angry mob attacked the houses of those they suspected to be behind the killing. A gun battle ensued, which is when DSP Haq rushed in with other policemen. By then, Suresh Yadav, Nanhe’s younger brother, too, had been shot dead. A mob attacked the policemen who quickly fled, abandoning Haq. His dead body was later found with multiple gun wounds. His service revolver is yet to be recovered. The role of the policemen with him is being probed. Three policemen – Inspector Sarvesh Mishra, Sub-inspector Vinay Singh and Haq’s gunner Imran – were suspended. Four FIRs were registered. On the basis of an FIR filed by Haq’s widow, Parveen Azad, Raja Bhaiya has been charged with murder. Police have also arrested two of his aides named in the FIR, Rohit Singh and Guddu Singh. Additional Director-General of Police Arun Kumar, who is in charge of law and order in the state, ruled out arresting Raja Bhaiya on the ground that the sequence of events leading to the killing was yet to be established. Kumar claimed a single bullet hit Haq. But that version changed on 6 March when Kumar’s subordinate, Inspector- General Rajkumar Vishwakarma, told a press conference that the autopsy had revealed two bullet wounds and 10 injury marks on Haq’s body. The injuries showed he was beaten before he was shot. Vishwakarma declined to speak further as the chief minister has announced a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). But Haq’s widow rejected the report saying Raja Bhaiya had influenced that autopsy. She said she saw three bullet wounds, one each in the shins and a third in the stomach, and demanded a second autopsy. Shockingly, the police have failed to recover the DSP’s mobile phone or the weapon and the bullets that caused his death.

Initially, Akhilesh was reluctant to order a CBI investigation. But once protests across the state ratcheted and newspapers and TV news channels went to town with their coverage of the killings, the chief minister sensed the volatile situation and announced a CBI probe. Anti-government slogans greeted him when he later visited Haq’s family. According to the police officer’s widow, her husband was under “pressure” with regard to his investigation of communal violence in a village named Asthan last June. Haq was reportedly close to filing his report in a case in which some 60 houses of Muslims in the village were allegedly set on fire. It was alleged that the arson was in retaliation for the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit girl. Haq’s final report would have indicated Raja Bhaiya’s involvement in that violence, sources told TEHELKA. Haq’s death has triggered a wave of anger in his village, Zaufar, in Deoria district. Villagers remember him as a bright boy who fought hardships to become the only Class I officer from among them. “Zia came from a very poor family,” says family friend Dawood Ansari. His father worked at a hotel in Mumbai. Later, Haq’s younger brother Sohrab, who, too, worked in Mumbai as a welder, paid for Haq’s graduation at Allahabad University. “Zia was a role model for the youth in our village,” says Ansari. In 2009, Haq passed the entrance exam for the state-run Provincial Police Service. Last year, he married Praveen, a medical student.

http://tehelka.com/uttar-pradesh-the-downward-spiral/

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Is Anurag Singh A Covert Operative Gone Rogue? – By G Vishnu (Mar 16, 2013, Tehelka)

The arrest last month of a self styled snoop on charges of illegally accessing mobile phone records of BJP leader Arun Jaitley is causing anxiety among New Delhi’s Who’s Who. The reason is that the alleged culprit, Anurag Singh, 37, has over the last decade pulled deals for prominent politicians and businessmen, and worked unofficially with police and intelligence officials in a bunch of cases. That Anurag might spill all the beans during the investigation is what is causing the anxiety. Jaitley was just one of the people whose call records Anurag tried to access; allegedly, there were around 60 others, including former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal, businessman turned cricket administrator Lalit Modi, and two businessmen from Delhi. This scandal, however, might just be the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and could expose many in Delhi’s political circles, the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), besides some prominent business tycoons, given the alleged deals made by Anurag over the past decade. For the BJP, the scandal threatens to reveal the differences within the party – with the police claiming that Mittal, known for his proximity to party president Rajnath Singh, could be one of the conspirators and will be questioned. Mittal has not denied his acquaintance with Anurag and admits having met him a few times over the past four years. “Anurag used to make courtesy calls to me. He came from a good background and I never imagined he could be involved in something like this and hatch a conspiracy against me,” Mittal said in a press conference after Anurag’s arrest. Anurag was arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell on 19 February after it came to light that one of his accomplices posed as a policeman to obtain Jaitley’s call records from telecom company Airtel. Three others were also arrested, including a Delhi Police constable and a private detective, Neeraj Nayar.

Anurag was allegedly trying to procure the call records of several politicians and businessmen on behalf of Neeraj, charging Rs 1,500 per CDR (call data records) and Rs 200 for the subscriber details. The operation went undetected until Airtel’s nodal officer asked the ACP (Operations), Delhi Police, to confirm a request made through e-mail for obtaining Jaitley’s call records. Apparently, most requests for obtaining cell phone records are made unofficially by various investigating agencies; Anurag and his associates took advantage of this lacuna until they were caught. So who is Anurag Singh? Anurag’s name came under the spotlight after he was first arrested in January 2006 for allegedly tapping Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh’s phone along with an aide, Dipender Singh. Anurag and Dipender were allegedly assisted by another person who is currently employed with an international corporate risk management company known for corporate espionage and has in its ranks several former FBI officials. Back then, it was startling to know how an MBBS dropout, coming from a well-off family (his father was a Customs officer and his mother still works in the same department), had the wherewithal, the technical know-how and, more importantly, the motive, to illegally tap a prominent politician’s phone. Soon ‘Dr’ Anurag Singh came to be seen as the well-mannered, technically suave face of illegal espionage. ‘V-Detect’, the agency that Anurag ran with an office in New Delhi’s Connaught Place, provided, among others, the following services (according to its website): Counter-Surveillance Equipment, Electromagnetic Interference and Radio Frequency Interference, Materials Handling Risk and Safety Analysis. The list suggests Anurag had access to high-end surveillance equipment – the kind used by intelligence agencies. Anurag seems to have had a penchant for tapping politicians’ phones, but there’s no clarity on his motives.

Responding to the uproar in the Rajya Sabha over the Jaitley case, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde spelt out the details of how the police cracked it. “During the course of the investigation, the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and logging details of the official e-mail ID of ACP (Operations) were obtained and it was found that it was accessed from an IP address belonging to one Constable Arvind Kumar Dabas (No. 892/ND), posted at Parliament Street Police Station.” The minister also clarified the difference between phone-tapping and obtaining call records. “Telephone tapping refers to looking at the content of the conversation whereas the CDRs pertain to the data regarding the numbers which were called or received.” But Anurag has a history of phone-tapping as well. Amar Singh has some bitter memories from 2006 when tapes of some of his telephonic conversations were leaked to sections of the media by unknown persons. Though Singh claims the tapes were doctored, it did create a buzz in political circles. For Singh, the Jaitley case is yet another instance of bad karma haunting his political opponents. “I’m not saying Jaitley was in the know when my phone was tapped. But when the doctored tapes were leaked, giving people the wrong idea that I was talking to, among others, movie actress Bipasha Basu, the transcripts were distributed at a dinner hosted by Jaitley. Today, Jaitley is the target. Anurag Singh was a mercenary who made deals with businessmen and politicians to bring others down,” Singh told TEHELKA.

Interestingly, a lot of information in the affidavit filed in 2011 by Singh regarding the phone-tapping case in the Supreme Court was sourced from Anurag Singh alias “Rahul”. Speculation in the power corridors suggests that a Delhi businessman – allegedly close to Anurag and his family as well as some very prominent politicians – facilitated Amar Singh in learning from Anurag that his phone was being tapped “at the behest of 32 political opponents”, including some of India’s most prominent businessmen. But why would Anurag share the information with Singh after targeting him? That is anybody’s guess. Delhi Police admits that Anurag had helped them carry out surveillance and obtain phone records. He had allegedly helped the Special Cell to crack the cricket match-fixing scandal that involved former South African skipper Hansie Cronje as well as the Parliament attack case of 2001. However, soon after his arrest in 2006 following the Amar Singh phone-tapping scandal, Delhi Police claimed that he was an asset who had gone rogue.

“He was a snoop, not an investigator. He had approached us in 2005 and indeed impressed us with his hacking skills. He had applied to become a member of the Association of Private Detectives and Investigators (APDI), but we never gave him membership. We only recognise ex- servicemen and former security professionals,” says APDI president Kunwar Vikram Singh. What remains unanswered is why did someone like Anurag, with his alleged links to senior officials in the IB and Delhi Police, go rogue? Some even say that the right question would be whether he went rogue at all. A former IB official believes that Anurag is a wasted national asset. “If someone was cracking cases for you using his skills, when your own intelligence set-up could not do it, you would have recognised him as a national asset. You must know how not to let your asset go rogue.” Despite TEHELKA’s efforts to get a response, Delhi Police remained tight-lipped on the case. Anurag’s brother, Arun Singh, a lawyer, too refused to comment.

http://tehelka.com/is-anurag-singh-a-covert-operative-gone-rogue/

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