IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 14th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Coalition Against Genocide condemns SIT’s shoddy report on Gujarat violence

May 11, 2012

Coalition Against Genocide (CAG – http://coalitionagainstgenocide.org/), a broad coalition of over 40 organizations dedicated to the cause of justice and accountability, condemns the report filed by the Special Investigations Team (SIT) as shoddy investigation and a deliberate distortion of evidence.

The Supreme Court appointed SIT’s closure report, on the complaint brought forth by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, is replete with inconsistencies, contradicting inferences and devoid of any substantial effort to examine all the records that can throw light on the alleged crimes. “The line of investigation seems focused on finding excuses to discard the available evidence by casting doubt on the credibility of the victims and those that have come forward with evidence.”, said Biju Mathew, one of the founding members of the coalition. On the other hand, a report by Mr. Raju Ramachandran, who was appointed by the Court as amicus curiae, has declared that there was sufficient evidence to charge and prosecute Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

CAG expresses its dismay that the SIT has summarily dismissed the testimonies of two senior police officials that had made specific allegations against the Gujarat state government and Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Whistle-blower cop Sanjiv Bhatt had alleged that he was present at a meeting held at the Chief Minister’s residence in which Mr. Narendra Modi instructed senior state and police officials to “allow Hindus to vent their anger.” The same allegation has been corroborated by another high ranking police official R. B. Sreekumar in a separate affidavit. In that affidavit he has alleged that the then Director General of Police K. Chakravarty conveyed that similar instructions were given in that meeting by Chief Minister Modi.

It should be noted that the destruction of the minutes and other official records by the Modi administration that would have conclusively clarified Sanjiv Bhatt’s presence in the said meeting, was ignored by the SIT.

Instead of probing these allegations with the seriousness they deserve, the SIT made the following outrageous claim in its report:

“The interpretation made on alleged illegal instructions given by the Chief Minister by [former DGP R. B.] Sreekumar and [suspended police officer] Sanjiv Bhatt appear to be without basis. Further, even if such allegations are believed for the sake of argument, mere statement of alleged words in the four walls of a room does not constitute an offense.”

In other words, the SIT does not hold it an offense for a sitting Chief Minister to give overt approval for sectarian violence by instructing police officials to look the other way. It is a sad day for Indian democracy when a body appointed by the court to unearth the truth, itself conducts its proceedings in a manner that reflects clear bias and prejudice.

CAG believes that SIT’s twisted interpretation of the law has monumentally disastrous implications for the foundational principles of the Constitution including the guarantees to the right to life for every citizen. CAG further believes that the SIT has lost all legal, ethical and moral standing to continue the investigation in a free and fair manner.

The Coalition appeals to the Supreme Court to intervene to:

  • Reject the SIT report and its line of investigation, especially in light of amicus curiae’s diametrically opposite conclusion based on the same evidence.
  • Appoint a separate investigative body, with an explicit mandate to probe the role of the state administration, law enforcement personnel, politicians and other accused in the perpetration of violence and subsequent subversion of justice to the victims.
  • Order the new investigative body to probe allegations brought against the SIT, since its officers are themselves accused in some instances.

Coalition Against Genocide affirms its solidarity with the survivors of the pogroms and the civil society groups in their continued struggle for justice and reparation.

RELATED LINKS:
Narendra Modi found partisan in 2010,cleared in 2012
Indian Express, May 10, 2012
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/narendra-modi-found-partisan-in-2010-cleared-in-2012/947344/

SIT says illegal instruction given in private is not an offence
The Hindu, May 11, 2012
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3405602.ece

Did Narendra Modi govt pay for SIT chief Raghavan’s foreign trips?
Times of India, May 10, 2012
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-10/ahmedabad/31654977_1_amicus-r-k-raghavan-gujarat-chief-minister

SIT says Ehsan Jafri ‘provoked’ murderous mob
The Hindu, May 11, 2012
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3405416.ece

Modi’s SITcom
Times of India, May 9, 2012
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-09/ahmedabad/31641245_1_riot-victims-zakia-jafri-relief-camps

 

CONTACT:

Biju Mathew
Tel: (917) 232-8437
Email: biju2u@gmail.com
(East Coast, USA)

Dr. Hyder Khan
Tel: (612) 889-7334
Email: hydermkhan@yahoo.com
(Mid West, USA)

Girish Agrawal
Tel: (408) 398-4885
Email: lawgir@gmail.com
(West Coast, USA)

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Gujarat riots: Amicus curiae says Modi can be prosecuted (May 7, 2012, Indian Express)

In a jolt to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae has held he can be prosecuted under various sections of the IPC for “promoting enmity among different groups” during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The report by Raju Ramchandran on the complaint of Zakia Jafri is in sharp contrast to the report of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) which had earlier given a clean chit to Modi and others. “In my opinion, the offences which can be made out against Shri Modi, at this prima facie stage, are offences inter alia under Sections 153 A (1) (a) & (b) of IPC which means promoting enmity among different groups on grounds of religion and 153 B (1) which says assertions prejudicial to national integration,” Ramchandran said in his report.

“He (Modi) should also be prosecuted under IPC 166 which says public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person and 505 (2) meaning statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will,” the amicus curiae said in the report. The SIT in its report had rejected suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s allegations that Modi had given instructions in a meeting held on February 27, 2002 to “allow Hindus to vent their ire and teach Muslims a lesson” in the wake of the Godhra train burning incident. Bhatt had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in this regard. Regarding Bhatt, the amicus curiae (adviser to court) said that “in my opinion, despite the aforesaid background (SIT rejecting Bhatt’s claims), it does not appear very likely that a serving police officer would make such a serious allegation against Shri Modi, the Chief Minister of the State, without some basis”.

“There is no documentary material of any nature whatsoever which can establish that Shri Bhatt was not present at the meeting on 27.02.2002. In the absence of the minutes of the meeting, there is again no documentary material available as to the participants in the meeting and what transpired at the said meeting. “Therefore, it is the word of Shri Bhatt against the word of other officers, senior to him. The SIT has chosen to believe the word of the senior officers,” Ramchandran said in his report. As a result, he said it was difficult to accept the conclusion of the SIT that Bhatt’s statement is motivated, because he has an axe to grind with the State on the issues of his career. “Though the SIT, as the investigating agency, has taken a view, the question whether Shri Bhatt was present at the meeting on 27.02.2002 and whether Shri Modi had indeed made such a statement (as spoken to by Shri Bhatt) can only be decided by a court of law. It would not be correct to disbelieve the version of Shri Bhatt, at this prima facie stage,” Ramchandran further said.

“Hence, the question to be examined is whether the making of the statement by the Chief Minister in the meeting on 27.02.2002, by itself, is an offence under law,” the amicus curiae said in his report which was submitted to the Supreme Court on July 25, 2011. The complainant Jafri was today handed over the SIT report, along the with report of the amicus curiae, by the SIT in the court of the metropolitan magistrate. Jafri’s husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people killed at the Gulberg Society during 2002 post-Godhra riots. Zakia had accused Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 57 others of alleged criminal conspiracy in the 2002 riots.

The SIT report was handed over to Zakia in the court of metropolitan magistrate M S Bhatt here. The report has 68 volumes, 2,200 annexures, 25 CDs and 89-page index and runs into 541 pages. The document also included the independent report filed by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran in this case. The metropolitan court has now posted the matter for hearing on May 10. During the last hearing, which was held on April 10, the court had directed the SIT to give its report, with all the related documents to Zakia before May 10. The court had also said that in the report, the SIT had given a clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 58 others. Zakia can now file a protest petition against the closure report given by the SIT.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/946400/

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A long legal battle ahead (May 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Relief for Narendra Modi at being exonerated by the special investigation team (SIT) may be short-lived because the report on the Gujarat chief minister given by the amicus curiae (friend of the court), Raju Ramchandran, recommends his prosecution. “These two reports have only compounded the matter because both have given reasons for their stated conclusions. It’s a legal battle that will go on for years now,” a senior lawyer who is involved in the case said.

“This is for the first time that a lawyer appointed by the Supreme Court has recommended the prosecution of Modi. So far, we had activists, victims and the media baying for his blood. Now, the amicus curiae in his official capacity has provided grounds for prosecution,” he added. Seeking Modi’s prosecution, Ramchandran has held that the “stage for believing or disbelieving a witness arises only after the trial, once the entire evidence is placed before the court for its consideration”.

On the other hand, the SIT, seeking closure of the case, said the allegations made by the complainant (Zakia Jafri, wife of slain Congressman Ehsan Jafri) did not stand scrutiny because there was no “prosecutable evidence” and the investigation it carried out had “revealed that most of the allegations are not established or proved to be correct”.

The SIT had relied on oral statements of the Gujarat government officials, retired and serving, and other documents such as demi-official letters and fax messages. “Even if the magisterial court decides to close the case, the Supreme Court has given the complainant the first right to be heard, which means a protest petition. Subsequently, it will go to the high court and the Supreme Court, so a lengthy legal battle will continue,” the lawyer added.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/852836.aspx

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Former Guj DGP’s SIT statement belies his amnesia claim (May 10, 2012, DNA India)

Former director general of police (DGP), Gujarat, PC Pande’s memory has been playing tricks on him. He is unable to recall details of an incident two years after the event but can recollect minutiae of the same event after eight years. Pande was made chairman of the Gujarat Police Housing Board after he retired as state DGP. He was the Ahmedabad police commissioner during the horrific communal riots of 2002. In his statement before the SIT on March 24, 2010, he was able to answer some important questions about the Godhra train fire of February 27, 2002 and the two gruesome massacres that had taken place in Ahmedabad the following day. However, he was unable to recall details about the same events during his cross-examination on August 18, 2004 before the Nanavati commission of enquiry. Incidentally, in its final report, the SIT has exonerated Pande of all charges levelled against him in Zakia Jafri’s complaint.

Pande had filed a detailed affidavit before the commission in July 2002 and, in 2004, he was cross-examined before the probe panel by lawyers representing victims of the 2002 riots. According the lawyers who had cross-examined him, Pande had then claimed amnesia and declined to give clear answers to some vital questions. The SIT had taken Pande’s statement on March 24, 2010 in connection with Zakia Jafri’s complaint that it was investigating. In her petition filed before the Supreme Court, Zakia had accused chief minister Narendra Modi, state BJP leaders (including ministers) and top IAS and IPS officials of complicity in the riots. In his statement before the SIT (a copy of which is with DNA) Pande had denied Zakia’s allegation that many phone calls were made to him when the Gulbarg society was surrounded by rioters. Zakia’s husband, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people killed by rioters at Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad.

“Late Ahesan Jafri, ex-MP, did not contact me either on my landline phone or mobile phone on 28-2-2002, seeking help. No one from Gulbarg society contacted me either on my landline or my mobile phone seeking help,” Pande had said in his statement to the SIT. However, during his cross examination before the Nanavati commission in August 2004, he had said: “At present, I cannot say whether I received direct distress calls from Gulbarg society at 12:25 to 12:55 noon that day because there is no noting of it and I do not remember anything about that.” He had claimed that he could not recall receiving any calls from anybody during the massacre that was taking place at a site close to his office in Shahibaug. Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice Peace, the NGO which has supported Zakia in her fight for justice, has alleged that Pande had feigned amnesia during his cross-examination in 2004. However, 6 years after the cross-examination, he was able to recall all details before the SIT, Setalvad told DNA.

“How can a senior police officer do this? Why did he refuse to answers many questions before the commission by saying ‘I do not remember’ or ‘I cannot say’? Strangely, six years after the cross-examination, he was able to the answer the SIT’s questions regarding the massacres,” said Setalvad while talking to DNA. Setalvad further said that Pande had not submitted the records of the Ahmedabad city police control room before the Nanavati commission but he gave them to the SIT in 2011. “He had feigned amnesia before the Nanavati commission but was able to recall all details about the riots before the SIT. He should be prosecuted for perjury and hiding government records,” Setalvad said.The former Ahmedabadpolice commissioner had told the commission that at the meeting on February 27, 2002 at the chief minister’s official residence, Modi had no discussion either with him or the then DGP about a large-scale reaction by Hindus to the Godhra train carnage. “It was not discussed in that meeting as to what would be the fallout of the incident at Godhra and what would be the effect of the bandh that had been declared,” Pande had stated before the riots probe panel However, he demonstrated total recall before the SIT on the same issue.

“The chief minister was of the view that there could be repercussions to the Godhra incident and, as such, sufficient police bandobast should be made and all other necessary steps to maintain peace be taken,” Pande stated before the SIT. He also rejected IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s allegation that Modi had instructed the police to allow Hindus to vent their anger against Muslims. Pande said Bhatt was not present at the meeting. “As regards the Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya incidents, the police dealt with the crowds outside but, unfortunately, could not know about the killings that had taken place inside as they were not visible to the police outside.” When DNA contacted him for his comments on his statements, he said: “I don’t want to speak anything about that (his statement before the SIT). Please do not waste my time.”

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1686933

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Modi throws ‘sadbhavana’ in dustbin, moves SC against HC order (May 12, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Is Chief Minister Narendra Modi really sincere about ‘sadbhavna'(amity)? In September-October 2011, he held a daylong fast at all the district headquarters as also some of the taluka places with a view to strengthen harmony among communities. He also ensured that all his ‘sadbhavna’ programmes were attended by ‘topi’-clad Muslim men and burqa-covered Muslim women. In Ahmedabad from where he commenced his yatra, a controversy arose after he declined to wear a skull-cap offered by a cleric though he had put on the turban offered by other religious groups. But nobody took that incident seriously as it was dubbed as a political gimmick of Modi to show to the world that Gujarati Muslims were not against him and he had their support.

But he got a chance to prove his seriousness about ‘sadbhavna’ when the Gujarat High Court in February 2012 directed for restoration/repair of religious properties damaged or destroyed in 2002 riots. Modi is largely held responsible for the anti-Muslim pogrom that took the lives of about 1186 persons, mostly Muslims, besides destruction of properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees and displacement of about half a million of population. The order was given despite the Modi government opposing the petition filed by the Ahmedabad-based Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG). It had argued that as it was the responsibility of the state government to protect the life and property of its citizens, it was also the responsibility of the government to repair and restore the damaged/destroyed religious properties or pay the compensation on the pattern of the compensation paid in case of residential and commercial properties damaged or destroyed during riots.

Despite the fact that the state government had strongly opposed the IRCG plea, a two judge bench headed by Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya had ordered the state government for repair and compensation of religious places. The court had also observed that “inadequacy, inaction and negligence on the part of the state government to prevent the riots resulted in large scale destruction of religious structures across the state”. IRCG had submitted a list of over 294 such properties. Instead of implementing the order, Modi government moved the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat high court order. Modi government’s action is in sharp contrast to the message he apparently wanted to send to the people all across the nation through his ‘sadbhavna’ fast.

Commenting on the state government moving the apex court, IRCG representative, Dr. Shakeel Ahmed said that the destruction of religious properties of Muslims during the riots had also harmed the amity and the high court order was an occasion for Modi to show that he really cared for amity by taking concrete measures to implement the order. But by challenging the order in the apex court, Dr. Ahmed said that he had made it clear that he was not sincere about ‘sadbhavna’ and his ‘sadbhavna’ programmes held in 2011 were just a political gimmick. PUCL(Gujarat chapter) president Prof. J S Bandukwala commented: “Challenging the high court verdict shows inherent bias of the Modi government against the Muslims. It is in line with his (Modi) government’s approach not to implement central sponsored pre-matric scholarship for Muslim students in Gujarat”.

http://twocircles.net/2012may12/modi_throws_%E2%80%98sadbhavana%E2%80%99_dustbin_moves_sc_against_hc_order.html

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Mecca Masjid blast accused in Nepal? (May 12, 2012, Times of India)

Two key conspirators of the Mecca Masjid bomb blast of 2007 who have remained untraced so far have reportedly fled the country and gone underground in Nepal. Efforts by sleuths of the National Investigation Agency to nab the two – Sandeep Dange alias Paramnand and Ramchandra Kalsangra alias Ramji – have met with failure. “One of the NIA teams that went to Nepal came back empty handed.

But the agency has not given up hope and is pursuing all leads in the neighbouring country,” police sources said. The NIA had issued look-out notices for the two and announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh on each. Dange and Kalsangra were RSS pracharaks hailing from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. They are alleged to have been involved in planting a bomb in Mecca Masjid that exploded on May 18, 2007, killing nine persons and injuring several others.

The two are also wanted in bomb blasts that took place on Samjhauta Express and at Ajmer dargah, Malegaon and Modasa. Earlier the CBI that was investigating the case before it was transferred to the NIA had arrested three accused – Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/13104089.cms

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Two accused persons of Madannapet riots surrender (May 10, 2012, Siasat)

Two persons allegedly involved in Madannapet communal riots, namely Srinivas alieas Salman Srinivas and his companion Mr. Niranjan Yadav surrendered themselves in Nampally criminal court yesterday. Special Investigation Teams of city police had declared them absconding. The other four persons namely N. Nagaraj, K. Kiran Kumar, N. Ramesh alieas Chinna and K. Sri Yadav were arrested earlier. These arrested persons, in their confession statement had admitted their guilt and had told the police that they had kept the legs of the cow in the Hanuman Temple of Madannapet and sprinkled green colour on its walls.

They further told that they had done this heinous act at the instance of SIT told that the inspecting agency will file a petition in the court to take these miscreants into its custody for further investigations. It may be noted that after keeping the legs in the Hanuman Temple, communal riots had spread in the area and the police officials were forced to clamp curfew for a week.

http://www.siasat.com/english/news/two-accused-persons-madannapet-riots-surrender

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Court orders registration of case against Nirmal Baba (May 9, 2012, Indian Express)

A local court today directed police to register a case against godman Nirmaljet Singh Nirula alias Nirmal Baba for allegedly cheating people. Chief Judicial Magistrate Rajesh Upadhyaya while accepting an application moved by two children– Tanya Thakur and Aditya Thakur — directed Gomti Nagar police to lodge a case against Nirmal Baba.

The CJM directed the police to submit investigation report before the court as per the law. The applicants alleged that Baba was fooling lakhs of people by creating fear of religion and his acts were promoting superstition. The court in its order said that submission made by the applicants regarding Baba was surely against the scientific and logical thinking of humans and falls in the category of misleading the society, superstition and cheating.

The complainants had alleged that ‘darbars’ or ‘samagams’ (meetings) of Nirmal Baba were being held in different cities, including Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, and these were being aired through various channels across the country. They alleged that people come with their problems in these meeting and accused Nirmala Baba of cheating the poor and illiterate people of the country.

The petitioners alleged that a fee of Rs 2,000 was being charged from every person attending the darbar. They said that they gave an application at Gomti Nagar police on April 10, but it was not received. The application was received next day, but no FIR was lodged. The applicants prayed that an FIR should be lodged and the matter be investigated. The court said that allowing entry into ‘samagams’ by depositing money directly into account and giving baseless and superstitions solutions amounts is not only cheating individual but the entire society and this act should be probed.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/947332/

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Supreme Court imposes interim ban on sale of Wakf properties (May 12, 2012, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Friday imposed an interim ban on any transaction related to Wakf properties in Maharashtra and directed all parties to maintain status quo. “We direct that in relation to Wakf properties, as distinct from trusts created by Muslims, all concerned, including the charity commissioner, Mumbai, shall not permit any of the persons in management of such Wakf properties to encumber or alienate any of the properties under their management till a decision is rendered in the pending special leave petitions,” said a bench of Justices Altamas Kabir, J Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi. The special leave petitions had challenged the Bombay high court’s decision to vest powers of management and supervision of Muslim Wakf estates in Maharashtra in the charity commissioner. The HC had noted that the state Wakf board had not been properly constituted and that there could not be a vacuum in administering Wakf and the properties vested in them. The three-judge bench said the question before it was whether the HC had the jurisdiction to make such orders in the writ jurisdiction and vest the management of all Wakf properties in the charity commissioner.

It said there was a vast difference between Muslim Wakfs and trusts created by Muslims. While Wakf properties are dedicated to “God” and the dedicator does not retain any title over it, in the trusts, the property is not dedicated to “God” and the owning trust retains title over its property. The bench said: “In the present case, the difference between trusts and Wakfs appears to have been overlooked and the high court has passed orders without taking into consideration the fact that the charity commissioner would not ordinarily have any jurisdiction to manage Wakf properties.” “In our view, it would be in the interest of all concerned to maintain the status quo and to restrain all those in management of the Wakf properties from alienating and/or encumbering the Wakf properties during the pendency of proceedings before this court,” it added.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/13103283.cms

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Senior Indian policeman in honour killing row (May 9, 2012, BBC)

The authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh state have ordered an inquiry into reports that a top police officer supported honour killings. Satish Kumar Mathur was caught on camera advising a father to kill his daughter if reports that she had eloped were confirmed. “If she was my sister, I would have either killed her or shot myself,” he is overheard as saying. Mr Mathur is the most senior police officer in the Saharanpur region.

“I have ordered a fact-finding inquiry into the comments,” the state’s Additional Director General of Police for Law, Order and Crime Jagmohan Yadav told the BBC. He said he would speak to Mr Mathur to find out in what context he made the comments. The police officer’s comments, shown on news television channels, have caused outrage across India with the National Commission for Women calling for his suspension.

“This is a matter of great shame,” Mr Mathur told a man who had come to him to report his 14-year-old daughter as missing. Mr Mathur’s comments suggested that he believed that the girl had eloped, but the girl’s father has insisted that she was kidnapped by two men. Hundreds of people are killed each year in India by their families or relatives for falling in love or marrying against their families’ wishes. Last year, the Supreme Court advocated death penalty for those convicted in honour killing cases.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-18005916

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Abducted Odisha police officer shot dead by Naxals (May 8, 2012, IBN)

Abducted police officer Krupa Ram Majhi has been shot dead by suspected Naxals in Nuapada in Odisha. The police recovered Majhi’s body from Nuapada. A team of 10 Maoists had abducted the ASI and had let off the constable accompanying him on Tuesday. ASI Krupa Ram Majhi of the Dharambandha Police Station was abducted by suspected Naxals in Nuapada on Tuesday in retaliation to a combing operation that was being carried out by the police in the Nuapada forests.

Krupa Majhi was escorting a water tanker to a CRPF camp at Goudha when he was taken away by armed men. This comes days after two hostage crisis in Odisha in a month. SP Nuapada Uma Shankar said, “The Killed ASI was not abducted. Naxals wanted to stop supply chain and after realising support of ASI to vendor, they killed him. Body has been recovered and sent for post-mortem.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a report from the Odisha government on the alleged abduction and killing of the police officer. This is the third hostage crisis in Odisha in the past two months. Earlier BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka was released on April 26 after being in the Naxals’ custody for over a month. Days before that, abducted Italian Paolo Bosusco was released by the Naxals in Odisha on April 11, after being in captivity for 29 days.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/abducted-odisha-police-officer-shot-dead-by-naxals/255974-3.html

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Opinions and Editorials

No closure – Editorial (May 11, 2012, Indian Express)

Ten years after the riots in Gujarat, many answers are still to be wrenched out of the system. However, the judiciary has shown its determination to ensure a thorough accounting – last month, a judgment on the Ode killings convicted 23 people. The Supreme Court, in particular, has taken extraordinary measures to make sure that the legal process remains untouched by powerful interests.

In 2008, responding to the petition of Zakia Jafri and the NHRC, it went out of its way to set up a special investigation team to examine nine of the most critical cases in the 2002 violence. This SIT, headed by a former CBI director, conducted exhaustive investigations, and submitted its report to the SC. However, the court, not fully satisfied, asked amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to conduct his own investigations, and fill in some of the gaps in the report.

Now, the situation remains fraught as ever. The SIT’s findings, which exonerate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of any complicity in the riots, clash with the amicus curiae’s report, which says he could be prosecuted under 153A, for promoting enmity between different religious groups and 153B, for making assertions against the national interest. According to the SIT, even if Modi did say, “within the four walls of a room”, that Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger, it does not constitute an offence. This startling conclusion defies logic – how can a statement allegedly made by a chief minister to his top brass in a tense situation be brushed aside with such ease?

This when the SIT’s final report contradicts its own preliminary findings – based on DIG A.K. Malhotra’s report – about Modi’s attitude after the riots. These are not minor differences. The entire edifice of justice for 2002 hinges on these interpretations. The SIT was set up by the Supreme Court to find answers, insulated from all pressures and fears. The SIT’s glaring contradictions and lazy logic do little justice to the spirit in which it was set up making closure seem farther away than ever.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/947857/

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No cakewalk for Narendra Modi – By Achyut Yagnik (May 9, 2012, The Hindu)

The political elite of Gujarat have already set the wheels in motion for the State Assembly elections scheduled in December 2012. Both the national parties, the ruling BJP and the Congress, have started grassroots mobilisation, and their leaders have intensified verbal duels at various levels. Both have completed the first round of constituency-wise reorientation after the new delimitation of seats. Out of a total of 182 constituencies, at least 60 constituencies have either been redrawn or turned into reserved or de-reserved categories as a result of the delimitation. Such alterations in nearly one-third of constituencies have posed new challenges for both parties. Significantly, some senior Ministers holding important portfolios like Finance, Revenue and Urban Development in the State government, as well as the BJP State president, have been affected by the new delimitation of constituencies. All of them have had to relocate themselves and come to terms with new demographic equations. In the light of this, Chief Minister Narendra Modi undertook and recently completed a constituency-wise assessment to analyse the caste-class composition of voters. This is an indication that he intends to micro-manage the party’s planning for the third Assembly election under his leadership. He has already declared his intention to win 151 of the 182 seats and create a milestone in Gujarat’s political history.

However, current predictions are that it would be a tall order for him and the BJP to surpass their own earlier record of winning 127 seats in 2002, and 117 seats in the 2007 Assembly elections, even in the likelihood of his winning a third term. While the delimitation is one challenge, three other factors can frustrate Mr. Modi’s plans of achieving the record numbers he is dreaming about. The first is the rejuvenation of the Congress party in Gujarat. In the last one year, the Congress has become proactive in the State and through various ‘yatras’ and campaigns it has established new links with the people. The party’s new aggressiveness is visible at many levels – in the Assembly; in university campuses; in the local media. No doubt it is still far from putting in the shade Mr. Modi’s manoeuvrings and theatricals but the present leadership has been certainly trying to join battle with the Chief Minister on every count. Just a few weeks ago, the Congress won the by-election in Mansa, a constituency contiguous with the capital Gandhinagar, by more than 8,000 votes. As Mansa was earlier represented by a senior BJP leader and the Speaker of the Gujarat Assembly, it was a rude shock for the ruling party.

The Congress leadership has also joined hands, though on a limited scale, with grassroots struggles carried out by farmers and tribals to protect their rights over local natural resources. At another level, recently, it represented the case of cotton farmers of Saurashtra and mainland Gujarat to the Central Government and succeeded in getting the ban on cotton export lifted. Although the Congress leadership hardly takes up issues related to landless labour or marginal farmers, its support base among big and middle farmers has become stronger in recent times. Realising the growing discontent among the upper sections of farmers, the State BJP president undertook a “Kisan Yatra” but was unable to get a positive response even in his own area in Saurashtra or from his own community of Patidars, the dominant caste in Gujarat society. The second factor is widespread disaffection among poor rural communities such as pastoralists, fishworkers and labourers who depend heavily on common property resources. In the name of “development” and to project himself as “Vikas Purush,” Chief Minister Modi has handed vast tracts of coastal land and pasture land to big industrial houses. Similarly, water bodies in a number of districts in Saurashtra and Kutch, including the creeks that punctuate the coast, have been taken over by big industries, either legally or surreptitiously. It is common knowledge that pastoralists and fisherfolk have enjoyed traditional rights over such natural resources for their livelihood. They now feel deprived and distressed. Though no organised struggle has taken root, except the farmers’ struggle against the Nirma cement plant in coastal Saurashtra, many villages of Kutch and Saurashtra have knocked the doors of the Gujarat High Court for justice. Their cases are pending before the court. Perceiving the growing resentment among pastoralists, the Modi government recently announced a plan to develop pasture lands in the first phase of the coming monsoon. But leaders of the Rabaris and Bharwards – cowherds and shepherds – have called it a purely cosmetic plan. Even the Gujarati media have termed it a gimmick by the Modi government.

Mr. Modi’s personality, specifically the authoritarian and autocratic streak in him, is the third factor that can foil not only his plan to capture 151 seats in the 2012 election but may even reduce the BJP’s strength in the Gujarat Assembly. His style has seen some sangh parivar outfits, mainly the VHP and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, distancing themselves from the present leadership. Two former BJP Chief Ministers, Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta, have expressed their displeasure and disagreement with him on public platforms, either openly or metaphorically. Local BJP leaders such as Kanubhai Kalsaria have raised the banner of revolt against Mr. Modi’s development agenda in the last two years, and led the successful farmers’ movement against the Nirma cement plant. In spite of his open revolt, the BJP leadership has not been able to expel him from the party or initiate disciplinary action against him. Even as the RSS headquarters supports Mr. Modi and may project him for national leadership, local RSS leaders and workers have been resentful and may not throw themselves into Mr. Modi’s re-election campaign. While all the three factors could play a negative role in the coming elections, Mr. Modi’s development agenda makes him a hero in the eyes of the powerful and ever-expanding middle class of Gujarat, which is also magnetically attracted to his style that puts off others including his own partymen. Earlier, the middle class was made up of the upper and middle castes but with rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, the ever-growing middle class means a combination of the upper, middle, OBC and Dalit communities in Gujarat.

To make his appeal more attractive to this broadening middle class, Mr. Modi who started with the Hindutva plank added ‘Golden Gujarat’ aimed at pandering to Gujarati parochialism, and market-oriented “development” to his plans and propaganda. Such a mix of three messages has granted him phenomenal popularity among the middle class in the State; with its unconditional support, he equates himself with Gujarat and any criticism against his actions is perceived as criticism of Gujarat and Gujaratis. It is noteworthy that while the Hindu middle class does not constitute the majority of Gujarat’s population, its social composition coupled with the State’s human geography give its members a decisive say in the urban and rural areas of Gujarat. There is no one in the Congress leadership who holds comparable attraction for the middle class, or enjoys its confidence in the same way. Also, compared to the BJP’s deep penetration in local power structures – the panchayats, city municipal corporations, the extensive cooperative networks or educational institutions – the Congress has limited influence. Neither is the Congress articulate enough to change the terms of the debate set by Mr. Modi. The party has not been able to question the development model or propose alternatives or bring up issues of justice for the victims of the 2002 carnage. Nor does it have influence with the Gujarati diaspora which is campaigning relentlessly but unsuccessfully to get Mr. Modi a U.S. visa and validating his non-inclusive development model in the western world. Yet, with its recent burst of energy in the State, the Congress may improve its performance in the next Assembly elections. Still it does seem unlikely that it will be able to dislodge the BJP from power. It is certain that after the 2012 Assembly elections, Mr. Modi will start focussing on his next challenge, the 2014 national elections. Whether the national middle class would extend wholehearted support to him and establish him as a national leader is an open question.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article3398216.ece

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Marching to different tunes – Editorial (May 7, 2012, Hindustan Times)

At the end of each tunnel, rather than there being light, there seems to another tunnel for the BJP. In recent times, it has had its hands full with the Karnataka crisis, now it has the Rajasthan mess to contend with. Rajasthan BJP leader Vasundhara Raje has threatened to quit primary membership of the party and 60 of the BJP’s MLAs in the assembly have offered to quit in support of her. The bone of contention was a proposed yatra by senior leader Gulabchand Kataria ostensibly to highlight the failures of the Congress both at the Centre and the state though many feel that the actual intent was to project himself as the future chief minister. The yatra has now been called off.

For BJP president Nitin Gadkari who is seeking a second term at the end of this year, the political stars have been out of alignment for a while now. The Central Bureau of Investigation has insisted that former president and future prime ministerial hopeful LK Advani must face conspiracy charges in the Babri Masjid case. Another former president Bangaru Laxman is in the clink on corruption charges. All these are political upheavals Mr Gadkari could have done without. But the fundamental contradiction that he needs to resolve to get the party back on track is that between the vision of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. It is no secret that Mr Kataria is being backed by the Sangh.

It is also clear now that the BJP will, under pressure from the RSS, amend its constitution in or after its national executive later this month to pave the way for a second term for Mr Gadkari. So, it is clear that Mr Gadkari cannot really strike out on his own and take the party in a direction which contradicts the RSS’s gameplan. The RSS is clear that it wants the BJP to stick to its core competence, that of Hindutva. But seeing that it is fetching diminishing electoral returns, many in the party’s leadership want to project the BJP as an inclusive and modern alternative to the Congress. The UPA government is severely hobbled on many counts. Yet, apart from reacting to developments, the BJP has not been able to either come up with a vote-catching issue or fashion itself as an attractive option.

There are undercurrents of tension within its top leadership and despite the fact that many do not favour another term for Mr Gadkari, they will have to go along with the RSS diktat. A supposedly apolitical formation dictating terms to a political party cannot work at the best of times. The result of the RSS’s backseat driving has been to prevent the BJP from evolving its own unique brand. There is no doubt that Mr Gadkari wants to shake up the party and make it fighting fit by the time the general elections take place in 2014. But with the RSS cramping his style, his efforts amount to running a one-legged race. It would seem that he will have to go through several tunnels, if he is re-elected, before he glimpses the light.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/852251.aspx

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Last shot at justice – Editorial (May 2, 2012, The Hindu)

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the requirement of previous sanction to prosecute soldiers accused of committing crimes may have clarified matters as far as the legal provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act are concerned but for the families of the five innocent men who were killed in a fake encounter at Pathribal, Jammu and Kashmir, in March 2000, it is still not clear whether or not they will receive justice. According to the chargesheet filed in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2006, the five Kashmiris were picked up at random by the security forces from in and around Anantnag and taken to a desolate place where they were killed in cold blood.

An FIR was filed by a detachment of Army men from the 7 Rashtriya Rifles in which the claim was made that the five slain individuals were the terrorists who were responsible for the massacre of Sikh villagers in Chittisinghpora a few days before the ‘encounter’. The bodies of the five were exhumed and claimed as their own by villagers who had complained about their family members going missing just before the ‘encounter’. DNA testing was done to establish their identity in two stages. In the first stage, the samples were deliberately switched to thwart the investigation. When this was exposed, a second test was done which conclusively fixed the identity of the five. This was in 2003. A case of murder was then registered and the matter entrusted to the CBI.

The CBI quickly established the sordid facts and filed a chargesheet in a Srinagar court in 2006. Six years had already elapsed. That court offered the Army the chance of trying its men before a court martial but the offer was not accepted. It has taken another six years for the legal battles which ensued to finally be resolved, with the Supreme Court upholding the claim of the accused soldiers that Central government sanction was needed to prosecute them. By asking the Army to take a decision on whether it intends to court martial the accused, the Supreme Court has cut through the careful posturing of the Ministry of Defence on the matter. It bears noting that at no stage did the Ministry seek to discharge its own obligation to ensure justice under the Army Act in the face of the cold-blooded killing of five innocent civilians by senior officers. That obligation can no longer be shrugged aside.

The CBI has been directed to seek sanction to prosecute from the government if the court martial option is not exercised within eight weeks, and a decision on that request has to be taken within three months. For the families of the victims, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. For their sake, and the sake of Indian democracy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must do the right thing and ensure that the prosecution gets to have its day in court.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3374520.ece

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The comic republic – Editorial (May 14, 2012, The Hindu)

“Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul”, B.R. Ambedkar said in a famous speech to the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, just before putting the Constitution of India to vote. “But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship”. If only the parliamentarians who vented their anger against a 1949 cartoon last week had bothered to read and understand the hero in whose unnecessary defence they sprang up, Indian democracy would have been spared the degrading spectacle of the government banishing a sixty-year-old sketch from the classroom.

The sight of our parliamentarians cutting across the political spectrum foaming at the mouth in simulated rage, vying to outdo each other in their pious indignation, and sporting their ‘hurt’ sentiments like badges of honour was like watching a bad soap opera gone worse. That they could have spent the day grandstanding over a totally inoffensive cartoon is not merely deplorable. It is also downright dangerous, if we pause to consider that these are the men and women we elect to safeguard our constitutional democracy, of which the freedom of expression is a fundamental and inviolable part. Disrupting Parliament would have been unjustifiable even if the cartoon were repugnant. But to create a controversy over a comment on the slow speed with which the Constitution was being drafted, on the absurd ground that the cartoon “insulted” Ambedkar, was downright ridiculous.

The demand that criminal action be taken against those who permitted the cartoon’s publication is reflective of a larger malaise among many of India’s politicians. Apparently, they think there is more political mileage in creating controversies over irrelevancies than addressing genuine issues facing Dalits such as backwardness and discrimination. Predictably, the Centre’s response was one of total capitulation, reflected in HRD Minister Kapil Sibal’s craven apology, his agreement that the cartoon was “shameful,” and his promise of even criminal action in the matter. That there is a slippery slope between hostile speech and violent behaviour was manifest when the office of one of the scholars involved in the production of the textbook was ransacked by vandals.

The argument that the cartoon could be misconstrued by the 11th standard schoolchildren who read the textbook is bogus and an insult to their intelligence. It is our MPs who showed a total lack of acumen and wisdom by wasting the nation’s time on a complete non-issue. Worse, they have ensured that public life in India, already awash with hurt sentiments of one kind or another, will now be inundated by a torrent of demands to ban more and more expressions of culture, art and knowledge.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3415779.ece

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Politics Through Food Habits – By Ram Puniyani (May 12, 2012, Countercurrents)

In the middle of April 2012 Osmania University (OU) witnessed an unusual violence on the issue of eating beef. A section of dalit students’ were demanding that University Hostels should have beef on the menu. They also organized a beef festival in which a large number of students ate beef biryani. The festivity was not to last long as the ABVP, the student wing of RSS, created rampage, a student was knifed, a bus was torched and ruckus was created in the university. The Vice Chancellor of OU knelt to the aggressive cow protectors and said that beef will not be introduced in the menu. Just a month ago the in the Kurmaguda area of Hyderabad a group of youth associated with Hindu communal group were arrested for throwing beef inside a Hanuman temple, who later spread the word that Muslims have defiled our temple and turned their guns against the hapless minority, torched few buses. A little while ago the ruling BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had introduced a bill prohibiting the consumption of beef in the state. Other BJP ruled states in one form or the other are introducing legislations, which prohibit the slaughter of cow. The place where Muslims were butchered mercilessly under the Chief mastership of Modi the ‘care of cow’ has gone one step up and state has opened centers for cataract and dental surgery of the Mother Cow. The goal of the Hindu state of Gujarat under Modi is to open more such centers so that Mother cow does not have to travel more than three kilometers for accessing these services, this while innumerable victims of Gujarat carnage, are yet to recover from the trauma of the carnage, aided by the apathy of state.

So far most of these legislations and the accompanying propaganda have been directed primarily against Muslim minority, which is demonized as the butchers and eaters of ‘our holy cow’. The OU episode shows the other side of the agenda of cow politics. While there had been cases of murders of dalits on the pretext of skinning a dead cow (Jhajjar, Haryana) and VHP defending the act saying that cow is too holy to spare the dalits. Still primarily it is the Muslim community which has been the target of propaganda emanating from RSS- Combine stable. With dalits, the other target of RSS combine, the issue is not just of identity. It is related to the livelihood and food habits of dalits-Adivasis. The cow as a symbol of RSS combine has been in the fore since the rise of communal politics during the British rule. As such the cow has been in the forefront of communal battles of upper castes in India earlier also. The Brahmanical reaction to rise of Buddhism was countered by putting forward the symbol of cow. Some Dalit scholars hold that cow was cleverly chosen and one of the reasons cow stole a march over the equally useful buffalo was its color. It is not a coincidence that the dark skinned people have faced the wrath of the elite in one form or the other.

The scholars of Vedic India Prof D.N.Jha, Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane and champion of social justice Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, all have pointed out that cow was verily eaten during Vedic period. With the rise of agricultural society, and need for preserving cattle wealth; the religions-ideologies promoting non-violence in the form of Jainism and Buddhism came up and campaigned against senseless sacrifice of cow in Vedic yagnas (sacrificial ritual). The current communal politics has twin agenda. At surface it wants to subjugate the minorities and is using the emotive issues to create a mass hysteria against minorities. Lord Ram and Cow are the major tools of communal political mobilization. While the supporters of RSS combine generously donate for the welfare of cow, it is the dalits who practically take care of the grazing and other needs of Holy mother. Last some time a pressure is being built up culturally and politically that beef eating communities give up this integral part of their habit. The food patterns are changing under intense propaganda still as of now the consumption of beef in India is higher than that of mutton and chicken put together. Its export is also a major business. The RSS combine on one side aims to subjugate the Minorities and on the other wants to maintain the status quo of social relationship of caste and gender. These are subtle and overt maneuvers implemented through political and cultural conduits. Attitude of communal politics to dalits has been a complex one.

The anti dalit violence of 1980 against reservation, the anti OBC violence of 1986 against promotion of OBCs in jobs, and its strengthening of Kamandal politics (Rath Yatra and the Babri demolition) in response to Mandal were a part of this. At another level the strategy is to co-opt dalits into Hindutva fold. From middle of decades of 1980s RSS has activated Samajik Samrasta Manch (Social Harmony Forum) which has been mobilizing dalits around that. The Gurus like Sri Sri Ravishanker have been saying that there should be harmony between upper and lower caste, while he keeps quiet about the prevalent social injustice in various forms. The aim of the communal politics is to maintain the status quo of caste and gender. Through Samajik Samrasta Manch the message of undermining caste atrocities and social injustice is actively propagated. Supplementing this is the cultural assertion and imposition of elite norms on the whole society. Food habits are a part of culture and for large sections of dalits and Adiviasis beef had been an integral part of their food. Incidentally there is a vigorous campaign to promote vegetarianism and denigrate non vegetarian food practices.

While the large section of dalits is struggling for social and economic justice, a section of dalits is undergoing the process of sanskritization as well. It is in this light that the symbols of dalit assertion in the matters of food habits and cultural expressions are being attacked openly. The compromised state apparatus is not able to stand up to this onslaught of communal politics to preserve the social and democratic rights of dalits and other marginalized sections of society, be it the matters of their physical security, questions of equity and food habits. It is a blatant attempt to manipulate culture, to impose elite norms, through influencing the food habits, which are so much cultural in their nature. It seems Mother Cow may be the major emotive weapon to be used for the politics deriving its legitimacy from Hindu religions’ identity. Interestingly it reveals the twin goals of this politics. At surface it is to reduce the minorities to a status of second class citizen and at deeper level to subjugate dalits at social, political and cultural level.

http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani120512.htm

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