IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 31st, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Modi, Media And Terror Threats (Mar 24, 2014, Countercurrents)

The reporting in the media following the arrest of four youths in Rajasthan, alleged to be Indian Mujahideen operatives, by the Delhi Police Special Cell fell even below the low standards the media has set for itself on terror reporting. Forget about the use of the mandatory ‘alleged’ before calling those arrested as terrorists – one would think it is no longer even on the curricula of media ethics. A large section of the media seemed convinced that it was Modi who was the target of these alleged terrorists. Indeed, there seemed to be an almost pathological desire to link these arrests to Modi. It is another matter that these claims were based on nothing. …

Yesterday’s reporting was thus more pernicious and dangerous than what reporting on terror cases is usually – a deliberate attempt at polarizing along communal lines. The Special Cell must also answer why it felt the need to hold this press conference in the middle of election season. And why it didn’t deem necessary to hold a similar press conference or even issue a press release when it released three people it had detained in the same case.

The last time Modi was said to be under direct threat from terrorists was between 2002 and 2007, when his super cop D.G. Vanzara eliminated a series of ‘terrorists’ on mission to Gujarat to assassinate Modi. Sadiq Jamal (2003), Ishrat Jahan (2004), Sohrabuddin Shaikh (2005), Tulsiram Prajapati (2006). Years later it has emerged that these were cold-blooded executions following illegal detention and possibly torture in private farmhouses. Vanzara and his gang of men are since then in jail (and Gujarat didn’t see any more attempts on the life of its Chief Minister). These fake encounters however helped Modi build his image as the Hindu Hriday samrat – forever in the firing line of ‘Islamic terrorists’. Who can forget his chilling call to an exultant crowd: “what should have been done to Sohrabuddin?” with the crowd screaming back: He should have been killed.”

It’s hardly a surprise that the BJP is keen to make terror threat to Modi a poll issue. Just last week, on 20 th March, the BJP citing media reports of IB alerts regarding the threat to senior leaders (a euphemism for Modi now) held a press conference. Its spokesperson, Ms. Niramala Sitharaman asked if “the Home Ministry has taken cognizance of these reports and if they are taking any measures to ensure safety of our leaders.” … The following day, a delegation of BJP leaders met with the Home Minister to submit a memorandum, which read: “It has come to our notice that several sections of the media have reported, based on IB sources, that there is a threat to our leaders and this threat could even lead to kidnapping. It was suggested in these media reports that the motive behind such a heinous act could be to obtain the release of the terrorist Yasin Bhatkal.” …

The constant appearance of ‘IB alerts’ in the media thus serves as excellent device to pump the image of the man who simply can’t wait to be PM. So here it is again, the project of crafting the tough, muscular, macho Hindutva icon who will reign in ‘Islamic terrorism’. Every potential and foiled attack burnishes his image. Very useful in election season. And very reminiscent of the encounter years of Gujarat . Let us be vigilant against this propaganda to stoke communal tensions in the name of terrorism and national security.

http://www.countercurrents.org/jtsa240314.htm

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Notice to V.K. Malhotra over Batla House remarks (Mar 31, 2014, The Hindu)

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra has been served a legal notice by the Batla House Youth’s Residence Forum for his recent remarks where he called Jamia Nagar and Batla House areas as “the hub of terrorists”.

According to advocate Sitab Ali Chaudhary, who has sent the notice on behalf of the Forum, it is up to Mr. Malhotra to reply to the notice or not. Mr. Chaudhary, however, added that if Mr. Malhotra failed to reply to it or tender a public apology, the Forum would seek a court intervention.

In the notice it has been alleged that Mr. Malhotra’s statement was aimed at creating tension, hatred and communal disharmony in the country just to get the vote of the majority community in the forthcoming general election.

“Further, it is shocking, surprising and pathetic that such an insensitive, offensive and highly objectionable statement/remark was made by none other than such a veteran leader and the chairman of the Delhi BJP’s Campaign Committee… the said statement/remark has not been condemned by the BJP despite registering ‘opposition and protest’ by the residents of the Batla House and Jamia Nagar, Delhi, as well as by the secular Indian citizen especially Muslim community,” the notice reads.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/notice-to-vk-malhotra-over-batla-house-remarks/article5853029.ece

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Narendra Modi must answer why my brother arrested just before elections: Mufti Abdul Mughni (Mar 25, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Mufti Abdul Mughni Mazahiri city president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is in deep shock, his younger brother and renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Mohammed Abdul Qavi has been arrested on Sunday night by a joint operation of Gujarat ATS and Delhi police special cell in a decade old case of conspiracy to assassinate Narendra Modi and other Sangh leaders. Sprawling complex of Madrasa Asharful Uloom located at Saidabad wears a guarded look, with students looking wary of any outsider and teachers with clear anxiety over their face herding children back to classes immediately after Zohar prayer.

53 year old Maulana Abdul Qavi is the founder and rector of Madrasa Ashraful Uloom who have a big name in the religious circles of Hyderabad. As a renowned theologian he wrote many books on Islamic fiqh. Apart from Jamail Ulema he is also considered close to many bigwigs of Tabligee Jamat. His arrest by Gujarat ATS has shocked everyone who knew him even distantly; his elder brother is shaken by the events to say the least. Mufti Abdul Mughni sitting at his cabin with crossed legs on a sofa had a hard time dealing with flew of journalists. Sunday he was in Vijaywada attending a conference and has to rush back to Hyderabad after getting the news of his brother’s arrest.

Sitting by him press secretary of JUH Ahmed Saber gives the detail of events unfolded on Sunday evening. “Maulana was going to Deoband to attend a seminaries meeting, he boarded flight from Hyderabad to Delhi at 7:30 p.m. he reached Delhi at 9:40 p.m. at the airport plain clothes police officers arrested Maulana and confiscated all of his belongings. Two JUH members who came to receive Maulana at airport was also detained but soon released after getting their address proof.” He said from then on they have no official information about where about of Maulana, “But we believe he is been taken to Gujarat,” Mr. Saber affirms. Mufti Abdul Mughni said 20 hours has been passed but till now no security agency has informed us officially. ‘Is this the way law treat a scholar in a civil society?’ he questions.

Later in the night Maulana Qavi was presented before a POTA court where judge remanded him in 14 days police custody. Maulana Abdul Qavi since long has been in the radar of Gujarat police. He was charge sheeted in DCB I-CR No. 6 of 2003 popularly known as ‘ISI greater conspiracy case’ in which dozens of Muslim youth were arrested under POTA from Hyderabad by Gujarat police on the allegation of conspiring to assassinate Chief Minister now BJP P.M. candidate Narendra Modi, than Home Minister L.K. Advani and VHP leader Praveen Togadia. The case was basically a proxy of Gujarat police to run their own parallel investigation in Haren Pandya murder case which CBI was handling. Almost everyone who was accused and arrested in this case including radical cleric Maulana Naseeruddin has been acquitted by the court.

Maulana Qavi till now was untouched by security agencies in this case, however his nephew Mufti Asharf Ali rector of Madrasa Sabeebul Falah was arrested by Gujarat police in 2007 but he too was soon acquitted in the conspiracy case by the session court. Ahmedabad Crime Branch while presenting Maulana Qavi in POTA court alleged that he was served notices multiple times and a warrant was issued for his arrest long time back. Till now Maulana Qavi never ever received any official information regarding this particular case, claims his elder brother. “Maulana Qavi use to travel extensively across India delivering speeches and attending conferences.” And the most interesting part he discloses, “Even last year he went to Gujarat to attend a conference in Surat. They didn’t touch him then, so question is why now?” Mufti Abdul Mughni wonders. …

http://twocircles.net/2014mar25/narendra_modi_must_answer_why_my_brother_arrested_just_elections_mufti_abdul_mughni.html

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SC holds Akhilesh govt guilty of negligence, orders arrest of all Muzaffarnagar accused (Mar 26, 2014, Indian Express)

Strongly indicting the Akhilesh Yadav government of Uttar Pradesh over the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar last year, the Supreme Court Wednesday held it prima facie guilty of negligence in preventing the violence and ordered it to immediately arrest all those accused irrespective of their political affiliation. “We prima facie hold the state government responsible for being negligent at the initial stage in not anticipating the communal violence and for taking necessary steps for its prevention,” said a bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.

It also blamed the Central government for its failure to provide intelligence inputs to the Samajwadi Party-ruled state government in time to help sound alerts. The bench, comprising Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, was of the view that if Central and State intelligence agencies smelt these problems and alerted the district administration, the killing of 59 people could have been prevented. The court underlined that neither the Centre nor the state government chose to tell the court in clear terms whether the district administration was sent an alert “about the proposed action between the two communities”.

Disposing of a bunch of petitions by the victims and residents of Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts, the court, however, turned down a plea for ordering a CBI probe into the riots “at this juncture”. But it held that “more effective and stringent measures are to be taken by the state administration” and hence issued several directions pertaining to compensation to victims and their rehabilitation and free and fair investigation. Reminding the state government of its responsibility “to prevent such recurrence of communal violence in any part of the state,” the bench said “sincere efforts shall be made to apprehend all the accused irrespective of political affiliation and produce them before the appropriate court”.

It ordered the state government to inform relevant courts about the criminal action taken against political persons and maintained that “the investigating authorities should eschew communal bias and proceed against all the offenders irrespective of their caste, community and religion.” The court warned police officers and government officials of action if they were found to be biased or erring. In the six rape cases reported from relief camps, the court said the state government’s special investigation cell shall arrest the accused in a time-bound manner. It ordered an additional compensation of Rs 5 lakh to all rape victims, besides other rehabilitative assistance.

To the relatives of those dead in the violence, the court asked the UP government to pay Rs 15 lakh each as compensation, besides adequate compensation to farmers who lost their source of livelihood such as tractors, cattle and sugarcane crops. It also restrained the state government from recovering the amount given to people for settling in other places if they want to come back to where they lived before the riots.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/sc-holds-akhilesh-govt-guilty-of-negligence-orders-arrest-of-all-muzaffarnagar-accused/

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Modi’s remark on 2002 Gujarat riots in biography by British author draws ire (Mar 26, 2014, News Track India)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi drew ire after he was quoted as saying that he was sad but had no regrets over 2002 Gujarat riots in his political biography by a British author. Reportedly, British author Andy Marino in Modi’s biography, titled ‘Narendra Modi: A political biography’, quoted Modi who said no court had come close to establishing the riots.

Reacting to his statements in the biography, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Muslim cleric, Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, said that Modi’s apathy towards the Muslim community was quite evident. “His remarks show his mentality regarding the 2002 riots in Gujarat where thousands of innocent Muslims were killed and he does not even take responsibility for such a grave incident, which exposed how incompetent he was in controlling the incident,” he said.

Meanwhile, former leader of regional Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Shivanand Tiwari, also criticised Modi’s incompetence to control the widespread unrest. “How did he remain a mute spectator during such an incident? Modi’s victory in elections after 2002 riots was criticised by many saying he won on the grounds of communal polarization. Nitish Kumar defended Modi saying that the mass cannot be communally polarised,” said Tiwari.

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2014/03/26/393-Modi-s-remark-on-2002-Gujarat-riots-in-biography-by-British-author-draws-ire.html

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Ishrat Case: Court Grants Time to CBI on Plea to Make Shah Accused (Mar 26, 2014, New Indian Express)

A local court here granted 25 days time to the CBI to reply on a plea seeking to make former Gujarat minister Amit Shah and ex-DGP K R Kaushik accused in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. The plea was moved by Gopinath Pillai, father of one of the deceased of the encountered Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh before special CBI Judge Geeta Gopi. Today, appearing before the court, the CBI advocate sought 30 days time to consider the plea.

Opposing this, victim’s advocate Shamshad Pathan told the court, “When CBI has all the evidence against those accused persons, why the probe agency needs time.” “This is a crucial time when the elections are being conducted and their (Shah and Kaushik) free movements can cause harm,” advocate Pathan said further. Reacting, CBI court told the victim’s lawyer to refrain himself from addressing those persons as accused when prosecution has not yet decided on the plea.

Special CBI judge Geeta Gopi also said law and order problem can prevail if hearing on this issue is conducted in this crucial time. Senior Advocate S V Raju has appeared for Amit shah, while advocate J R Dave appeared for cop K R Kaushik. After hearing the prosecution and the applicant, the CBI court granted time till April 21. Earlier on March 14, the court issued the notice to Shah, Kaushik and the probe agency CBI in connection with the case. The application filed under section 319 and 193 of CRPC demanded to arraign K R Kaushik and Amit Shah as accused and hold a trial against them for the criminal conspiracy, illegal confinement and murder of the deceased.

CRPC sections 319 and 193 stand for the legal provision to make accused if in the course of court trial substantial evidences appeared against them. The CBI, in its two charge sheets ,filed in the case has not made prominent Narendra Modi aide Shah and Kaushik, who was then commissioner of police of Ahmedabad as accused in the case. Ishrat was murdered along with her friend Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, in Gujarat and two others, believed to be Pakistani nationals on June 15, 2004 by state police officers. The applicant while putting forth the grounds to make the two accused in the case, said, “IPS office Girish Singhal, and other police officers Bharat Patel and D H Goswami in their statements have alleged the role of Amit Shah in the encounter case.”

On February 5 this year, ten years after the encounter, CBI had filed the supplementary charge sheet and named former IB director Rajinder Kumar as the main conspirator in the case. While other IB officers Tushar Mittal, M K Sinha and Rajiv Vankhede has also been named as accused with charges of criminal conspiracy and illegal confinement of victims. In its first charge sheet filed in the case on July 3 last year, CBI had named the four IB officers but not identified them as suspects, while terming the encounter as fake and a joint operation by IB and Gujarat Police. In the first charge sheet, the CBI had named IPS officers D G Vanzara, P P Pandey, Girish Singhal, besides Tarun Barot, N K Amin, J G Parmar and Anju Chaudhary, as accused.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/Ishrat-Case-Court-Grants-Time-to-CBI-on-Plea-to-Make-Shah-Accused/2014/03/26/article2131916.ece

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Dal Khalsa petitions UN for justice to sikhs (Mar 26, 2014, The Hindu)

Encouraged by the US-sponsored UN resolution calling for a credible independent investigation into war crimes committed in Sri Lanka, Punjab-based Sikh rights group Dal Khalsa has urged the United Nations to intervene and ensure justice is also delivered to victims of extra judicial killings of innocent Sikhs on the streets of Delhi in November 1984.

In a statement issued here, party secretary for political affairs, Kanwar Pal, said that the killing of Sikhs in 1984 also demands the attention of the international community. He said that the party has sent a letter addressed to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay urging the UN to intervene in India for protection of rights of Sikhs and Kashmiris.

Dal Khalsa’s secretary for human rights Prithpal Singh today met Ms. Sabina Lauber, a Human Rights Officer in charge of Asia Pacific Section in Geneva and handed over the letter to him. Mr. Prithpal Singh also participated in a sit-in organised by European Tamils outside UN headquarters to express solidarity with them.

The Dal Khalsa letter states that Sikhs and Kashmiris have been saying for decades that India has committed gross violation of human rights, adding that like Sri Lanka, India too has continuously flouted UN resolutions, UN treaties and conventions, but to no avail.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/dal-khalsa-petitions-un-for-justice-to-sikhs/article5835908.ece

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Court awards a plot near Humayun’s Tomb to bus company, ASI shrugs it off (Mar 26, 2014, Indian Express)

A long-drawn dispute over the ownership of a plot – considered a buffer for the World Heritage monument Humayun’s Tomb complex – between the Land & Development Office (L&DO) and a private bus company has resulted in a local court handing possession rights to the bus company. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for the Humayun’s Tomb complex, however distanced itself from the dispute saying it had not have any ownership rights on the plot.

Located on Mathura Road – metres away from the 16th century monument Arab ki Sarai in the Humayun’s Tomb complex – the plot of land, according to conservation architects, acts as a buffer for the protected monument. The recent development, they said, comes as a major blow to conservation efforts in the area. “The Arab ki Sarai is an integral part of the world heritage site and the land acts as a buffer Humayun’s Tomb complex from the busy Mathura Road. It is critical that every effort be made to ensure this land remains in the ownership of the ASI,” conservation architect Ratish Nanda of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture said.

ASI officials, on the other hand, said the land was never owned by the ASI. They said it was handed over to them for maintenance and care in April last year. “The ASI was given the land only last year for maintenance. Following this, we spent nearly Rs 9 lakh to build a wall around the property to save it from encroachment. We had started landscaping work in the area. However, owing to the court order, the land has now been given to the bus company. We demolished the wall last week,” Vasant Kumar Swarankar, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI (Delhi Circle), said.

In 2008, bus company owner I S Goel had filed a civil suit claiming that the plot was owned by his company. According to ASI sources, the L&DO department failed to substantiate its ownership with documentary proof and so the case was decided in favour of the bus company. Following this, an execution application was filed in the Tis Hazari court by the bus company to restore possession of the disputed property to it.

The order issued by Civil Judge of West Delhi Sushant Changotra on January 31 said the Judgement Debtor No. 2 (JD No. 2) “is willing to offer the ownership of the wall to the Decree Holder” (I.S. Goel bus company) “and if the said proposal is not acceptable then the JD no. 2 is also willing to demolish the wall.” The ASI officials said they would not be appealing the order in a higher court. Swarankar said, “We do not have ownership on the plot. On what basis do we take up the issue to a higher court?”

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/court-awards-a-plot-near-humayuns-tomb-to-bus-company-asi-shrugs-it-off/

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Police officer beaten up by locals for adultery (Mar 28, 2014, IBN)

A police officer was beaten up by locals in Jhansi district after he was allegedly found involved in adultery.

The incident took place at Marin Dhamele Chowk locality on March 26 when the officer was caught by locals at the house of a woman, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Amrendra Sengar told reporters in Lucknow on Friday.

Taking note of the incident, an inquiry has been ordered, Sengar added.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/police-officer-beaten-up-by-locals-for-adultery/460965-3-242.html

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Railway Cop ‘Kidnaps’ Dalit Youth (Mar 28, 2014, New Indian Express)

In a curious case of police stepping into the shoes of criminals, a Dalit youth was allegedly abducted by Special Sub-Inspector, who demanded a ransom of 300 sovereigns gold. According to a Habeas Corpus Petition filed by 51-year-old Ramalakshmi on March 13, her son Vijayan, an unemployed graduate, was picked up by SSI R Subramanian, Special Team, Railways, Tiruchy on the pretext of an enquiry while he was travelling to Chennai by train. According to the petition, Vijayan was forcibly made to get down from Podhigai Express at Tiruchy on March 9 and was kept in illegal detention at Railway Police Station.

On March 14, a day after the HCP was filed, Vijayan’s arrest was recorded, he was remanded in judicial custody and subsequently lodged in Palayamkottai Central prison. Her son was beaten up and tied to the furniture and was not provided proper food, Ramalakshmi contended. A day before the youth was taken into illegal custody, Subramanian and another policeman had visited Vijayan and his father Palanisamy, a retired BSNL employee, at their house in Sivakasi, initially introducing themselves as marriage brokers. In the course of the conversation, Subramanian revealed that he was a policeman and suspected the youth’s involvement in a laptop theft case. He also allegedly abused the father and son in the name of caste and searched the house, the petition said.

The policemen even forced the duo to drop them at nearest railway station and rode pillion on their two-wheelers before collecting 200 as “transport charges”, the complaint said. After detaining Vijayan the next day, Subramanian contacted family members and told them that the youth was involved in a series thefts of laptops and jewelry weighing around 300 sovereigns. The SSI demanded the family cough up 300 sovereigns of gold so that the issue could be “settled” without a case being registered. In course of the negotiations, the SSI allowed a family member to speak to Vijayan. Four conversations with the SSI had been secretly recorded by the relative and was submitted before the High Court to substantiate that the youth was kidnapped for ransom.

The youth told his mother Ramalakshmi when she met him at the central prison that Subramanian was the only officer who handled his case. “The cop forced me to give a written confession statement after thrashing me since the family was not relenting to his demands… I was abused by my caste name. My legs were tied during the nights,” Vijayan was quoted as saying in the petition. Vijayan was produced before the Bench comprising of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice G Chockalingam in connection with the HCP on March 21, when he categorically told the court that he was kept in unlawful custody since March 9.

After hearing the case, the court issued a notice to the policeman and asked to file a counter. In reply to the notice, the SSI admitted of having arrested Vijayan but denied keeping him in illegal custody. He claimed that the youth was summoned everyday for interrogation in the said period of illegal detention and he had voluntarily confessed to various crimes that fell in various jurisdiction of the Railway Police. Express has a copy of the voice recordings submitted in the court, which proves the SSI indeed had Vijayan in his custody and bargained for ransom.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Railway-Cop-Kidnaps-Dalit-Youth/2014/03/28/article2135108.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

Modi as India’s PM is a cause for worry for environmentalists – By Ashish Kothari (Mar 30, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister will be a development disaster. In Gujarat, his tenure as chief minister has seen worsening or stagnation of the health and livelihood prospects of the poor, and widespread ecological damage. In a recent campaign speech in Goa, he declared that as prime minister, he will re-open mining (never mind that it is stayed by the Supreme Court due to its severe impact on water, environment and livelihoods). And his aggressive pushing of a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, at a staggering cost of Rs. 500 crore, is a scary indication of a megalomania with grave national implications.

The UPA’s record on environmental and livelihood concerns has been poor, with 250,000 hectares forest land sacrificed for mining, industrial and infrastructural projects, and with stagnation in employment generation. But even this could be overshadowed if Modinomics is given free rein. That development cannot be successful at the cost of the natural environment is evident from the widespread social impacts of ecological destruction. Even the World Bank, a promoter of such unsustainable development, recently admitted that environmental damage like air pollution knocks 5.7% points off India’s economic growth.

Effectively, if other damage is added, there is zero or negative economic growth. Not to mention the incalculable socio-cultural impact of displacement, dispossession, disease, premature death, malnutrition, and loss of employment. The UPA’s economic policies ignored all this, and so will Modinomics. In a recent report, labour and environmental activists Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah laid bare the Modi government’s record in Gujarat: Inflated figures of employment created chronic underpayment, deliberate dispossession of farmers to create cheap labour for industries, and the dubious distinction of having 30% of India’s ‘major accident hazard’ industries as also its most ‘critical polluted areas’. Other analysts have brought out the abysmal state of health and education, especially among the state’s adivasis and Dalits.

Modi’s ‘developmentalism’ includes sidestepping all norms to make land and water available to corporate houses. It means taking over the land and water of 70 villages to promote the Patel statue as a tourism zone. It involves Project Kalpasar, a 30-km dam across the Gulf of Khambhat, ignoring potentially colossal social and ecological costs, ignoring also the much cheaper, more sustainable, and more democratic alternatives to water security such as those demonstrated by civil society groups in Kachchh and Saurashtra. Given all this, it will not be a surprise if, as PM, he instructs the Union ministry of environment and forests to dilute or sidestep environmental laws to enable corporate take-overs.

The UPA at least brought in some progressive legislation and schemes, under the influence of civil society. Will Modi be open to such influence? Activists in Gujarat report an atmosphere of intolerance and authoritarianism that discourages dissent. Activists peacefully protesting against the Patel statue, or a proposed nuclear power station in Bhavnagar district, or industrial expansion into ecosystems that fisherfolk, farmers, adivasis are dependent on, have been dealt with by heavy police bandobast and repression. The largest number of RTI activists killed or injured in India belong to Gujarat. …

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1202341.aspx

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Journey towards soft fascism – By Kanti Bajpai (Mar 29, 2014, Times of India)

The general elections are barely a week away and voters must consider how they will vote and with what consequences. The frontrunner in the campaign is BJP, led by Narendra Modi. With its allies, the party may well have enough support for a majority government. What does the rise of Modi represent, and if he becomes prime minister what kind of India will we get?

There is every danger that a Modi-led India will be an India marked by soft fascism. At its core, fascism stands for state authoritarianism, intimidation by conservative-minded extra-legal groups, national chauvinism, submission of individuals and groups to a larger-than-life leader, and a Darwinian view of social life (the strong must prevail). A society living under soft fascism is simply a society marked by less extreme levels of authoritarianism, intimidation, chauvinism, submission and social Darwinism.

India, at least in the first instance, will feature soft rather than hard fascism because it is big, diverse, and argumentative, and the administrative arm of the government remains weak. Those who want a harder fascism will not be able to exert their will immediately over the length and breadth of the country. But to the extent that the various state governments feature soft fascism as well (many do) and to the extent that the Modi-led elements of BJP prevail in the states, a harder fascism may not be far away. What accounts for the rise of soft fascism? The short answer is: Modi-ology, the preferences of the market (big and small business), middle class disaffection and media.

Modi-ology is the view that only Modi can “save” India, that Modi is the only decisive, effective, clean, visionary and astute leader in the country, and that he has a record in Gujarat which “proves” he can “deliver”. In Modi-ology, Modi has delivered human development, economic growth, social stability and good governance, unmatched anywhere else in the land. Many Indians who do not particularly like Modi, BJP or soft fascism increasingly think that Modi is the saviour. It is another thing that virtually every claim of Modi-ology is open to argument and rebuttal.

The second force in the rise of soft fascism is the market – big and small business, especially corporate India. Fascism everywhere depends on the coffers and cooperation of big business. It is no different in India. The uncritical cheerleading of Modi by big business is tactical and rather shameful but is an existential reality. Small businesses are pro-BJP anyway, so it is no surprise that they are backing him. Big and small business are fed up with costly social programmes, ramshackle infrastructure, suffocating regulatory structures (including environmental ones) and interminable procedures; and they think Modi is the medicine for all these ills. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/32863642.cms

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Infighting in BJP – Editorial (Mar 19, 2014, The Tribune)

PRE-POLL ticket distribution triggering protests and desertions is common across political parties. In the BJP, which released a list of its candidates on Saturday, not just those denied the ticket but also senior leaders displaced from their safe seats have voiced their dissatisfaction in public. Rift in the party deepened when Murli Manohar Joshi was asked to vacate Varanasi for Narendra Modi and Lalji Tandon Lucknow for Rajnath Singh. Haryana BJP workers ransacked the party office in Rohtak. Pradeep Sangwan quit as the secretary of the party unit in Haryana over the denial of the ticket for Sonepat. The usually voluble Navjot Sidhu quietly and gracefully accepted Arun Jaitley for Amritsar, though he refused to contest from any other costituency. BJP-Akali politicking has cost him politically. In Chandigarh BJP workers burnt the effigy of Kirron Kher, who is seen as an “outsider”.

By choosing Varanasi, Modi has lifted the party cadre’s morale in UP, which elects 80 MPs. However, the BJP’s leaning over the MNS can hit the party prospects in UP and Bihar, given Raj Thackeray’s occasional fulminations against north-Indians. Varanasi is a BJP stronghold, though Joshi won in 2009 only by 17,000 votes. AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal has tentatively decided to take on Modi, but put off a formal announcement to March 23. The contest may take a new turn if opposition parties decide to put up a united fight to defeat Modi. If Modi chooses another constituency in Gujarat, as reports suggest, this may be held against him during campaigning. He may have to explain which seat he would keep, post results. If there is a Modi wave, as BJP leaders claim, then why contest two seats?

Reasons for discontent are varied. Sushma Swaraj’s objection over the party admitting B. Sriramulu, a tainted Karnataka leader, has been ignored. Joshi first heard about his displacement from Varanasi from the media. Patriarch L.K. Advani is sulking. The party leadership needs to take its grumbling senior leaders along. To counter discontent and infighting, decisions should be taken democratically instead of being imposed from above.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140319/edit.htm#1

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Shadows of an encounter – By Kashif-ul-Huda (Mar 31, 2014, TwoCircles.net)

On Sunday March 23rd, residents of Okhla woke up to the news of disappearance of four Muslim youths in Jaipur and two in Delhi. These students were picked up by a group of people not wearing any uniform or carrying any warrants for arrest. Soon it came to be known that people who kidnapped these students were members of Delhi Police Special Cell.

The news evoked the memory of Batla House encounter of 2008 in which two Muslim youths and a police inspector was killed which many people of the area and all fact-finding reports have labeled as “fake” or staged. Within hours of the news that students have gone missing, a crowd led by Amanutulah Khan of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) assembled at Shaheen Bagh in Okhla blocking the road and demanding immediate release of those arrested. Later that night, the two who were picked up from Delhi were released.

The arrest and finally the release of the two have confirmed to the Muslims that they are right in their thinking that their youths are being harassed in the name of terrorism. “If they were really terrorists or had any link to terrorism then why were they released,” asks Neyaz Farooquee who is writing a book on Batla House Encounter. “Show us the evidence of terrorism, if not to us then at least in the court,” said Farooquee pointing to the acquittals of Muslims years later, he added, “redressal mechanism is not working and therefore the frustration of Muslims has begin to spill over to the streets.”

Batla House Encounter had a political impact as well. Emergence of Rashtriya Ulama Council, a political party led by Muslim Ulema was in direct response to targeting of Azamagarh by media and police after the Batla House incident. Anger against Congress (ruling party in both Delhi and Centre at the time of the encounter) was prominent among Muslims of this constituency. Parvez Hashmi was barely able to win this seat in Delhi Assembly election. Asif Mohammad Khan won the next election on RJD ticket but then switched over to Congress and still managed to win Okhla assembly seat in spite of an AAP wave in Delhi.

Illegal detention and then false accusation of terrorism on Muslim youth is a real issue among Muslims. This encounter will be in the mind of the Muslims of not only this constituency but Muslims in states as far away as Bihar and Maharashtra. But their options unfortunately are limited. Their votes directly or indirectly end up supporting the party that they blame for putting them under this condition. But if the latest Shaheen Bagh episode is any indication, the fight against Muslim witch-hunting is going to be a political one.

http://twocircles.net/2014mar31/shadows_encounter.html

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The idea of justice – Editorial (Mar 27, 2014, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court’s scathing remarks on the failure of the Uttar Pradesh government to prevent the Muzaffarnagar riots sits in puzzling contrast with its refusal to appoint an SIT or CBI probe on the communal violence. If the Akhilesh Yadav government was indeed “negligent”, does the SC really expect it to prosecute government functionaries and political leaders responsible not only for dereliction of duty but also incitement to violence? The UP government has consistently maintained before the SC that it has been taking all necessary steps to restore communal harmony. Meanwhile, hundreds of those accused of the riots have gone missing or received bail.

Political parties have brazenly offered Lok Sabha tickets to those who purportedly delivered inflammatory speeches during the riots. Earlier this year, the state government sought to withdraw cases filed against some of the accused. The one-man inquiry commission set up in the aftermath of the riots is yet to submit its report to the government. Victims in refugee camps still live in deplorable conditions and in fear. Beyond filing FIRs, the police has done little to investigate complaints. For its part, the Union home ministry has refused to make public the UP governor’s report on the issue.

If all these instances smack of the failure of the government machinery to bring perpetrators to justice, it begs the question why the SC has chosen to rely on the government’s promises. Admittedly, there is a case against transferring every high-profile case to the CBI or an SIT, since it defeats the very purpose of having state agencies to investigate the breakdown of law and order. But communal violence has been a recurrent feature thanks to the state’s complicity or negligence in preventing riots. Whether and how insulated the state police is from its political leadership, therefore, assumes great significance in each context.

Few institutions have been more sensitive to this concern than the SC: the retrials, transfers and fresh investigation of the 2002 riots it ordered in place of the shoddy judicial process in Gujarat stand testimony to this fact. In the present case, however, the SC has sent confusing signals by castigating the UP government, but refusing at the same time to acknowledge that riots investigation will be subject to political pressures – all the more so in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/the-idea-of-justice/

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Why We are Facing Violence and Rape in West Bengal? – Ishita Mukherjee (Mar 9, 2014, Peoples Democracy)

West Bengal now stands out among the states in terms of atrocities against women. National Commission for Women had to intervene more than once and was forced to visit the state. There is a strong association between increased violence against women in the state and the rule of Trinamul Congress after 2011. Immediately after the party came to power in May 2011, atrocities against women began to rise. This association cannot be seen as accidental, there is a politics behind this association. … There is no single state in the country now where the culprits are moving around and the victims are under threats. Even if cases of violence are taking place in the country as a whole, what is happening in West Bengal currently is unheard of anywhere.

In Madhyamgram, a young girl of a migrant family from Bihar was raped and when she was coming home after lodging complaint with the police, she was raped for the second time. The culprits were arrested but the victim’s family was attacked by Trinamul Congress goons and the victim’s family fled to a different place, fearing further attacks. But in a shocking manner the girl was torched to death before the identification of perpetrators process began. The police tried to hush up the case by taking away the dead body while the girl’s parents were surrounded by Trinamul Congress antisocials. Brutality to this extent is still unheard in any part of India.

In Labhpur, a tribal girl was gang raped on the verdict of a kangaroo court in a village. The kangaroo court was allegedly attended by Trinamul Congress representatives. In Amta, Trinamul Congress goons attacked a village and the CPI(M) activists and supporters were evicted out of the village. Only women were left behind. Later they disconnected power supply and in a most gruesome incident ever heard, they raped two of a family in the dark and ransacked the house. Such incidents are occurring each and every day across the state.

The question arises why are such incidents of violence against women taking place in West Bengal? It is now clear to all that Trinamul Congress has directly given shelter to the criminals and has won the polls with their help. They are running the state government also with their help. So the criminals will have to be given freedom in the state. They are also to be used for keeping the people obedient under the control of the party. The party without any political ideology, without any vision to work towards the welfare of the people is only trying to silence people’s voices. For this they need the help of the criminals and lumpens in the state. The alliance between Trinamul Congress and lumpens is for mutual benefit. TMC needs criminals to frighten and silence people’s voices and criminals need them for shelter. However, the process is not easy in a state like West Bengal, which has been under Left Front regime for more than three decades. …

However, this is not being tolerated any more in the state. Women, men of the affected families, people of all sections, students, youth, and employees are all getting organised. Mammoth protest rallies are being held regularly in the state against such assaults and violence, rape against women. Trinamul Congress also is watching this but is failing to estimate the repercussions of all such anger, grief and protest of the people.

http://pd.cpim.org/2014/0309_pd/03092014_bengal.html

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