IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 16th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Tracing Sangh Terror Trail

National Convention

Tracing Sangh Terror Trail
May 21, 2011


Islam Gymkhana, Marine Lines, Mumbai, India


Harsh Mander, Javed Akhtar, Jitendra Ahwar, Justice Kolse Patil, Kedar Misra, Mahesh Bhatt, Manisha Sethi, Prof KN Panikkar, Prof Rooprekha Verma, Rajeev Yadav, Rauf Lala, Shabnam Hashmi, Shahnawaz, SM Mushrif, Subash Gatade, Suresh Khairnar, Vrinda Grover, Yogesh Diwan, Yusuf Abrahami:

Organised by ANHAD
In Collaboration with:

Aagaz, AIM Trust, Akshara, All India Quami Mahaz, Aman Samudaya, Association of Muslim Professionals, Awami Welfare Association Maharashtra, BMMA, Center for Development, Common Concern, Hill Park Youth Welfare Association, Himmat, Janvikas, Justice and Peace Commission, Learning Boat, Lok Kala Manch, Maharashtra Yuva Parishad, Modern Youth Association, Movement for Human Welfare, Mumbai Aman Committee, My Mumbra Foundation, NEEDS, Nirbhay Bano Andolan, Niswa, Parwaaj, People’s Research Society, Saajhi Duniya, Saher, Sahrwaru, Sahyog, Samarpan, Samerth, Sewa, Slum Development and Welfare Association, Urjaghar, Women’s Awareness for Advancement (WAFA)

Act Now for Harmony and Democracy
A-2, 1205 Hill Park Towers
Near Aggarwal Estate
Jogeshwari (W) Mumbai-400 102
Tel. : 022-26792833, Mobile : 7738801011
Email : anhad.mumbai@gmail.com

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Plea to arraign 4 police officers as accused in Gulberg case (May 14, 2011, The Hindu)

An application for arraigning four top police officers as accused in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case was filed by some victims on Friday before the special fast track court. The victims filed the plea before the special court judge, B. J. Dhandha, to arraign as accused the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, P. C. Pande, the then Ahmedabad Joint Commissioner of Police, M. K. Tandon, the then Deputy Commissioner, P. B. Gondia, and the then Assistant Commissioner, S. S. Chudasma. Following the plea, the court issued notice and posted the matter for hearing on May 26.

Counsel for the victims, S. M. Vora, said the plea was moved to make the top police officers as accused for their “negligence to control the massacre, destruction of evidences and failure to perform their duty.” He alleged that as the Police Commissioner Mr. Pande not only failed to control the riots but also “remained sitting in office when the Gulberg society was burning and large scale killing took place.” He said the compact disc prepared by a IPS officer, Rahul Sharma, containing list of mobile phone numbers and submitted before the court was a proof that Mr. Pande did not even bothered to visit the riot-hit areas.

He alleged that Mr. Chudasama ignored vital evidences while he was investigating the case the first time. According to the petition, Mr. Chudasma failed to collect the landline telephone call records of slain parliamentarian Ehsan Jaffri, who had made numerous requests to police officers, political leaders, Chief Minister’s office and his well wishers, when the society was under mob attack. Mr. Chudasma had not collected even the injury certificate of the riot victims. Similarly Mr.Tandon and Mr. Gondia also were not present at the Gulberg Society despite the mob build up and were found from the mobile call records to be moving in the incident-free areas in the city, he said.



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Modi-accuser cop says he’s being denied records (May 10, 2011, IBN)

Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s battle against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has taken a new turn. Bhatt complained to the state Director General of Police and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Tuesday, reiterating his request for access to information, records and documents of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), so that he can make a fruitful deposition before the Nanavati-Shah Commission on May 16. Bhatt has written a letter to the DGP and the Additional DGP (State Intelligence Bureau), seeking access to documents and records of the SIB between February 27, 2002 to 17 September 2002. Bhatt was posted as Superintendent of Police in the State Intelligence Bureau during the said period and has sought these records earlier too in a letter dated May 4.

He has sought access to incoming and outgoing message registers of the SIB, movement diaries of all IPS officers posted in the SIB, alert messages sent out by the SIB, pink evenvelope reports sent out the Chief Minister by SIB and an internal document of SIB, authored by Bhatt and titled – “Godhra Incident of 27/02/2002 – An Intelligence Analysis” among other documents. He has also written a letter to SIT chairman R K Raghavan, seeking certified copies of all his statements before SIT, and authenticated copies of all documents and records handed over to SIT by him. “I have written twice to the DGP and ADGP seeking access to documents and information, but I am yet to hear from them. These documents should be provided to me if I have to make a meaningful deposition before the Nanavati Commission,” Bhatt said.

The 1988 batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, who has accused Modi of categorically issuing instructions during a meeting with senior police officials on February 27, 2002 that Hindus should be allowed to express their anger and Muslims should be taught a befitting lesson so that incidents like the burning of Sabarmati Express never happen again in Gujarat, will depose before the Nanavati-Shah Commission on May 16, 2011. Bhatt has also written to Special Investigation Team (SIT) Chairman RK Raghavan for certified copies of all statements that he has made before the SIT. Bhatt has claimed that he was present at the meeting at the Chief Minister’s Bungalow on February 27, 2002 where Modi asked police officers to go slow against rioters. His claims have been denied by the Chief Minister and several senior police officers. However, a dismissed Gujarat constable, Naresh Brahmbhatt, has come out in support of Bhatt.

Brahmbhatt claims to have ‘proof’ that Bhatt was going to attend the controversial February 27, 2002 meeting. Brahmbhatt says he was posted as head constable at the Memnagar Police Chowky on February 27, 2002 when he received a phone call from the state police control room to check why Bhatt had still not reached the Director General of Police’s office as he was called there for a meeting. “When I went to Bhatt sir’s residence and enquired about him, I was told that he had already left,” said Brahmbhatt.

Brahmbhatt’s also claims to have noted down all that he did on February 27, 2002 from 9.30 AM to midnight in his station diary. He says the orders to go to Bhatt’s residence were oral orders and were not to be mentioned in the station diary. The S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set on fire on February 27, 2002, killing 59 kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The train burning incident sparked off the Gujarat riots in which over 1,000 people were killed. The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail began in June 2009.



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Cops convicted in fake encounter cases must get death penalty: SC (May 14, 2011, Times of India)

In a chilling message to cops specialising in fake encounters, the Supreme Court on Friday said they were cold blooded murderers who deserve one punishment – death penalty. “Cases where a fake encounter is proved against policemen in a trial, they must be given death sentence, treating it as the rarest of rare cases,” said a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra. The bench made this observation while rejecting bail to Mumbai policemen involved in the fake encounter at Nana-Nani Park at Versova, which involved “encounter specialist” police inspector Pradip Sharma and others.

Justice Katju, writing the judgment for the bench, said: “Encounter philosophy is a criminal philosophy, and all people must know this. Trigger happy policemen who think they can kill people in the name of encounter and get away with it should know that the gallows await them.” No policeman can take the plea of “being ordered by the superior officer” to hide behind the fake encounter crime, the bench said.

“In the Nuremburg trials, the Nazi war criminals took the plea that ‘orders are orders’, nevertheless they were hanged. If a policeman is given an illegal order by any superior to do a fake ‘encounter’, it is his duty to refuse to carry out such illegal order, otherwise he will be charged for murder, and if found guilty sentenced to death,” the court said. “Fake encounters are nothing but cold blooded, brutal murders by persons who are supposed to uphold the law. If the offence is committed by policemen, much harsher punishment should be given to them because they do an act totally contrary to their duties,” it said.



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State tried to stall Ishrat Jahan probe: Former SIT chief (May 13, 2011, DNA India)

The Gujarat government has again come under the scanner for its alleged attempt to hamper the investigation into the highly controversial Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Karnail Singh, former chairman of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe the Ishrat encounter case, has mentioned in his individual report that the case should be handed over to either the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) or NIA (National Investigation Agency) as the state government has made attempts to stall the probe.

The facts in the report was disclosed when a bench of the Gujarat high court consisting of justice Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari was hearing arguments from the state government in connection with the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Kamal Trivedi, the Advocate General (AG), had through an affidavit, stated that the probe should be handed over to the Special Task Force (STF) formed by the state government to monitor the encounter cases. Assigning reason for this, the AG said that in the recent past it can be seen that, the present SIT is not working effectively and there are serious differences among its members.

On that count, justice Jayant Patel come down heavily on the state and said, “We have read the report filed by Karnail Singh. He mentioned in the report that, attempts were made by the state government to stall investigation and it should be given to either the NIA or CBI.” Following this, the AG tried to calm down the court by repeatedly saying that it is just the government’s thoughts that the probe be given to STF and the court can reject the same. Singh had filed his individual report along with two other members Satish Verma and Mohan Jha regarding progress of probe in the Ishrat case.



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RSS engineered bomb blasts to defame Muslims: Digvijay (May 15, 2011, The Hindu)

Renewing his attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh on Saturday alleged the Sangh engineered bomb explosions in the country to defame Muslims. “To defame Muslims, RSS engineered bomb explosions and for that Muslim youths were arrested, but when the real culprits of Malegaon were arrested bomb explosions stopped,” Mr. Singh alleged while addressing a rally of Samajik Chetna Manch Ghosi Yadav Mahasabha in the stronghold of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav here.

Mr. Singh alleged that not a single statement came from Mr. Mulayam against the RSS because he keeps his options open so that support could be taken if required. He alleged Mulayam, Mayawati and the BJP divided people on the lines of caste and religion. Criticising Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress leader alleged corruption was at its peak in the State and farmers were being exploited. Fertilisers and urea are being sold in black, farmers are denied the basic irrigation needs and power is not available in villages and cities. Mr. Singh alleged that even Mr. Mulayam, who claims to be the son of soil, was silent on the miseries of the farmers who had been denied the basic requirements.

Alleging sugar factories were sold at throw away prices, he said if possible Ms. Mayawati would sell every brick and every inch of land in the State for her own benefit.He said the Congress-ruled Haryana was the first State in the country which acquired land at rates higher than the prevailing market rates. The Congress leader alleged that farmers in UP get lathi charged and face bullets when they demand proper price for their forcefully acquired lands. He appealed to the people to bring the Congress back after 20 years “vanvas” in the State otherwise the conditions would become worst in the times to come.

Alleging spurt in crime in the State, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that in Aligarh women were dragged and beaten when they came before Chief Minister Mayawati’s fleet to demand justice. In Auraiya, an engineer was killed before being subjected to electric shock by the BSP leaders and two CMOs were murdered in Lucknow, she alleged. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda alleged the Bharatiya Janata Party, which for the last 20 years had been claiming to construct Ram temple in Ayodhya, would not do so after coming to power.

He said he was also a Hindu and a staunch devotee of Lord Ram while the BJP was devotee of “kursi”. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit lambasted the BJP saying it has only divided people in the name of religion while Mr. Mulayam divided people in the name of caste. She alleged Maya was not running shashan (government) but in reality she was heading kushashan (misrule) which is unimaginable.



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SC stays Allahabad HC verdict on Babri masjid dispute (May 9, 2011, Yahoo)

The Supreme Court has just stayed the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on the Ayodhya title dispute. The high court had divided the title among three litigants, which the Supreme Court has found unwarranted. “This is very strange and surprising. Nobody has prayed for partition of the area. The Allahabad High Court has given a new relief which was not sought by anybody,” the Supreme Court said today. The high court verdict, delivered in September 2010, had been challenged by various groups.

The three-judge bench in Allahabad had ruled in a majority 2:1 judgment that the disputed land be given to the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the deity ‘Ram Lalla’. Each of these were to get a third of the land. The high court had also accepted the disputed area as the birth spot of the deity Ram.

The Supreme Court has now forbidden religious activity on the 67-acre area adjacent to the disputed site. A dispute has raged for about 60 years over whether the 2.7 acres on which the Babri Masjid stood belongs to the Hindus or to the Muslims. The masjid was demolished by Hindu groups on December 6, 1992, after the BJP had made it an election plank with support from the Sangh Parivar.



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Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj recommends for president’s rule (May 15, 2011, DNA India)

The BJP government in Karnataka today plunged into a crisis with governor HR Bhardwaj recommending dismissal of the Yeddyurappa ministry and imposition of president’s rule in the wake of Supreme Court quashing the disqualification of 11 party rebel MLAs. The party and chief minister BS Yeddyurappa hit back at the governor’s move saying it is a “conspiracy of the Raj Bhawan that is not acceptable”. A meeting of NDA leaders may take place tomorrow and a delegation could call on the president to oppose the governor’s recommendation. On a day of high drama, the governor, who has been having a troubled relationship with the government, has sent a “special” report to the Centre, the Raj Bhawan said. Sources said he has recommended a spell of president’s rule and for keeping the assembly in suspended animation.

The report from Bhardwaj, who returned here from Delhi this morning, comes in the wake of Supreme Court reversing the Karnataka high court decision of disqualifying 11 BJP rebel MLAs and five independents ahead of the October 10, 2010 floor test in the assembly. Yeddyurappa, whose party earlier in the day claimed that the crisis was over with the rebels extending support to his government, attacked the governor and urged the president not to give in to his recommendation. Addressing a late night press conference at his house, Yeddyurappa said the BJP had a majority in the House and the governor was playing a political game at the behest of Congress and the JD(S). The chief minister said he had written a letter to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking them not to accept the governor’s report. Party leader Arun Jaitley told reporters in Delhi that the BJP government enjoyed the majority in the Karnataka assembly and has the support of at least 121 MLAs in the 224-member House with the return of the 11 party rebels.

Attacking the governor, he said that the state government has asked for the convening of the assembly session tomorrow, “which he (Bhardwaj) is not allowing”. In the morning the governor had said in Delhi that the floor test was not a good idea and his recommendation in the evening is a “conspiracy of the Raj Bhawan which is not acceptable”, Jaitley said. His recommendation is “unconstitutional” and goes against the spirit of federalism. A brief communique issued by Raj Bhavan said “in the context of recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter of disqualification of MLAs on May 13, 2011 and its implications to the developments in the state, a special report has been sent to the Centre”. Yeddyurappa said he has convened the assembly tomorrow and he was ready to prove his majority on the floor of the House if the Governor so directed.

Jaitley said the governor has been speaking on the issue following the verdict of the Supreme Court which has taken a view different from the high court on the disqualification issue. “Judicial verdict cannot be a reason for imposition of Article 356,” he said adding the Supreme Court censures the government everyday on the issue of 2G or blackmoney. He hoped the Centre would reject the governor’s recommendation. This is the second time, Bhardwaj has recommended for president’s rule in the state. In October last year, the governor made such a recommendation after 16 MLAs – eleven from BJP and five indendents submitted him a letter withdrawing support to the Yeddyurappa government. However, the Centre then rejected the report and allowed the first ever BJP government’s continuance, which had won the floor test twice in a gap of two days under the direction of the governor.

The recommendation by the governor has stunned the BJP which was heaving a sigh of relief after roping in support of the 11 rebels who today pledged their “unconditional” support to government. Yeddyurappa asserted this morning that he commanded an absolute majority and there was no need for him to seek a fresh floor test to prove majority of his government. Ten of the 11 MLAs, besides faxing their letters of support to Raj Bhavan from Delhi, had also submitted it to the governor through a delegation of ministers after Bhardwaj declined to meet them. Asked whether he would ask the BJP government to go for a floor test, Bhardwaj yesterday said: “Floor tests have not helped Karnataka. It was destroyed by manipulation.” The letter extending support to Yeddyurappa was signed by Balachandra Jarkiholi, Sarvabhouma Bagali, Shivanagowda Naik, Anand Asnotikal, Y Sampangi, BA Kage, SK Bellubbi, B Gopalakrishna, Nanjundaswamy, MV Nagaraju and Shankaralingegowda.



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Bhopal: SC declines to stay its 1996 verdict (May 11, 2011, IBN)

The quest for justice for Bhopal gas tragedy victims has hit yet another dead end. Delivering a setback to the CBI and Madhya Pradesh government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the charges against seven people accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. The apex court has rejected the CBI’s curative petition seeking a stay on its 1996 judgment in the case and restoration of stringent charges against the accused. In its plea, CBI has sought restoration of stringent charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead of death caused due to negligence against the accused in the world’s worst industrial disaster that left over 15,000 people dead and thousands maimed. The Apex court said it was not satisfied with the CBI and Madhya Pradesh government’s reasons for filing the curative petition after a lapse of 14 years “No satisfactory explanation given by CBI and MP government on filing curative petition after lapse of 14 years,” observed the Supreme Court.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice SH Kapadia had reserved the order on April 27 on the petition seeking to recall the apex court’s 14-year-old judgement that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent. The bench also comprised justices Altamas Kabir, RV Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam. The five-judge constitutional bench however, left a window of opportunity open saying the pending proceedings before the Sessions court against the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s judgement awarding two years sentence to the accused, including Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra will not be influenced by any order passed by it. The apex court has heard the case on a day-to-day basis and it would now hear the plea for enhancement of compensation from Rs 750 crore to Rs 7,700 crore for the victims.

In this matter, Madhya Pradesh government has also moved the apex court seeking its permission to intervene in the petition filed by CBI to re-examine September 1996 judgement by which the accused persons were tried for the offence of criminal negligence which resulted in a lighter punishment of two years’ jail term of several accused, including former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra, on June 7, 2010. Keshub Mahindra has opposed CBI’s plea arguing that the case should be decided on the basis of law and not on the basis of facts. The apex court had on August 31, 2010, decided to re-examine its own judgement that led to lighter punishment of two years imprisonment for all the seven convicts. Besides Mahindra, Vijay Gokhale, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, then Vice President, JN Mukund, then Works Manager, SP Choudhary, then Production Manager, KV Shetty, then Plant Superintendent and SI Quereshi, then Production Assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7, 2010.

But Wednesday’s judgement left victims disappointed in the apex court. The verdict had sparked a nationwide outrage, leading to the government setting up a group of ministers and filing of a curative petition against the lighter punishment for those responsible for the gas tragedy. Appearing for CBI, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati had said the investigating agency’s decision to seek a review was taken on the facts “which shook our conscience”. However, all is not over for the victims. The Supreme Court has clarified that if the sessions court is convinced that stringent charges are made out against the accused, the court can proceed against them or the 1996 judgment will not stand in the way.



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Award death penalty for honour killings: SC (May 9, 2011, IBN)

Holding honour killings as a slur on the nation and a barbaric, feudal practice that ought to be stamped out, the Supreme Court on Monday directed courts to view such cases as “rarest of rare” category for awarding death penalty to the convicts. “In our opinion honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate ‘honour’ killings should know that the gallows await them,” the apex court said in a judgement. A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra passed the judgement while dismissing an appeal filed by Bhagawan Dass challenging the life imprisonment awarded to him by a Delhi Sessions Court for killing his daughter Seema as she was allegedly in an incestous relationship with her cousin, despite being married.

The apex court said “many people feel that they are dishonoured by the behaviour of the young man/woman, who is related to them or belonging to their caste because he/she is marrying against their wish or having an affair with someone, and hence they take the law into their own hands and kill or physically assault such person or commit some other atrocities on them. The judges said no one can take law into their own hands. “If someone is not happy with the behaviour of his daughter or other person, who is his relation or of his caste, the maximum he can do is to cut off social relations with her/him, but he cannot take the law into his own hands by committing violence or giving threats of violence,” the bench said. The prosecution had alleged that Dass was very annoyed with his daughter, who had left her husband Raju and was living in an incestuous relationship with her cousin, Sriniwas. Enraged, he strangulated her on May 16, 2006 with an electric wire and tried to cremate the body when police swooped on him.

Based on circumstantial evidence and the initial statement made by Dass’ mother that it was her son who killed the grandaughter, the sessions court awarded life imprisonment and the high court upheld it following which the convict appealed in the apex court. Upholding the punishment, the apex court said, “Before parting with this case we would like to state that ‘honour’ killings have become commonplace in many parts of the country, particularly in Haryana, western UP, and Rajasthan. “Often young couples who fall in love have to seek shelter in the police lines or protection homes, to avoid the wrath of kangaroo courts,” Justice Katju writing the judgement said. The apex court recalled its earlier decision in the Lata Singh’s case that there is nothing ‘honourable’ in ‘honour’ killings, and they are nothing but barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted persons with feudal mentality.

The apex court while stating that such honour killings in future should be dealt with death penalty asked the registry to forward the copy of its today’s judgements to all high courts, sessions courts, chief secretaries and DGPs of all States and Union Territories. During the arguments the apex court also rejected Dass’ plea that he cannot be convicted on mere circumstantial evidence. “This is a case of circumstantial evidence, but it is settled law that a person can be convicted on circumstantial evidence provided the links in the chain of circumstances connects the accused with the crime beyond reasonable doubt. “In this case, we are satisfied that the prosecution has been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt by establishing all the links in the chain of circumstances,” the bench said.



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Cop arrested for raping airline employee (May 10, 2011, IBN)

A sub-inspector, posted in naxal-affected Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, has been arrested for allegedly raping an airline employee, married to an Australian, here and later extorting money from her, police said on Tuesday. The accused Manoj Londe surrendered before police in Mumbai after he came to know about the FIR being registered against him by the 21-year-old woman, Additional Police Commissioner (Central Region) Vineet Agarwal said.

The sub-inspector was booked by Vinoba Bhave police in central Mumbai on the charges of rape and extortion, following a complaint filed by the victim on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. According to the FIR, Londe threatened the woman of posting some of her video clips taken in compromising positions on Internet, police said. “The accused was produced in a local court in Kurla which remanded him in police custody till May 14,” Agarwal said. According to sources, Londe’s mobile phone has been seized and police were questioning him as to where he had hidden the video clips of the victim.

Though the case was registered in Vinoba Bhave police station, the investigating officer in the case is Lata Donde, senior inspector at Shahu Nagar police station. Defending his decision to hand over the investigation to Donde, the ACP said “Donde is a woman inspector and I think she can do the investigation in this particular case very well.” Meanwhile, the sources said ACP has taken serious note of the incident and wanted no loophole in the investigation. “A lady officer can freely talk to the victim and also accordingly interrogate the accused. The victim would not have talked freely with a male officer,” sources said.

Police said the victim was an Indian national married to an Australian. She first met Londe, who is also married, about two-and-a-half years ago in Vinoba Bhave police station where he was posted then. The duo subsequently became friends and started having an affair that continued for over two years. The woman claimed Londe later started demanding money from her and also threatened of releasing the MMS clips on Internet if she did not shell out money as and when needed by him, said Agarwal. After the threats, the victim started avoiding him. Even after he was transferred to Gadchiroli district over a year ago, he continued to blackmail her and forced her to have physical relationship, police said. The victim claimed last week, Londe came to Mumbai and beat her up.



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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s Bloody Ghost – By Akash Bisht (May 3, 2011, Hardnews Media)

Everytime Narendra Modi flexes his muscle, an unknown missile from his sordid past hits him hard. Even as he was gloating over the praise by Anna Hazare while he fasted during Navaratas, the carnage of 2002 came back yet again to haunt him. In a major setback to the Gujarat chief minister, a senior IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, has filed an affidavit in the apex court against Modi for letting bloodthristy VHP-Bajrang Dal mobs massacre thousands of Muslims across the state during what is widely termed as the State-sponsored Gujarat genocide. This comes soon after Congress won the first ever municipal corporation elections in the state capital of Gandhinagar, also BJP leader LK Advani’s Lok Sabha constituency, pampered by Modi himself as a lollypop for his die-hard ‘mentor’ and admirer. The events that have unfolded in the last few days seem to have forced the self-styled ‘Hindutva Hriday Samrat’ on the back foot – something that has become a sort of ‘truth serum’ for the chest-thumping former RSS pracharak in his controversial stint at the helm in Gujarat. Bhatt in his affidavit has also implicated the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) for showing “strong reluctance…to record inconvenient details” about the genocide, which has been meticulously documented in 40-plus reports by independent fact-finding teams, media, a people’s tribunal with former judges, etc. His disclosures yet again bring forth the widespread allegation of a tacit alliance between the investigating agency and the state government, and how the latter is pressurising others to give in. It has cast a shadow on the SIT chief, and former CBI director RK Raghavan’s intentions and conduct. Ehsan Jafri’s wife and civil society activists too have hinted at their lack of faith in the SIT. Indeed, an earlier SIT report submitted to the apex court was recently leaked, in which it had absolved Modi, striking a jarring note with most other findings of the report.

Bhatt, a 1988 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, has also stated that he was present at the late night meeting held on February 27, 2002 – the same day that 59 kar sevaks were burnt to death in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on their return from Ayodhya. In his affidavit, he stated, “The Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the bandh call had already been given and the party has decided to support the same, as incidents like the burning of kar sevaks at Godhra could not be tolerated. He further impressed upon the gathering that for too long the Gujarat Police had been following the principle of balancing the actions against the Hindus and Muslims while dealing with the communal riots in Gujarat. This time the situation warranted that the Muslims be taught a lesson to ensure that such incidents do not recur ever again. The Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi expressed the view that the emotions were running very high amongst the Hindus and it was imperative that they be allowed to vent their anger.” Meanwhile, former DGP of Gujarat KC Chakravarthi, who was the boss during the carnage when the entire law and order machinery either collapsed or aligned with the murderous mobs, has said that Bhatt was not present in the meeting, while GC Raigar, the then chief of the State Intelligence Bureau during the 2002 riots stated that he was on leave and, therefore, unaware of whether Bhatt attended the meeting or not. According to media reports, Modi told SIT during his deposition that the meeting lasted 30 minutes and was attended by Swarna Kanta Verma, the then acting chief secretary; Ashok Narayan, the then Additional Chief Secretary (Home); Chakravarthi, the then DGP; PC Pande, the then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City; K Nityanandam, the then home secretary; Modi’s principal secretary, Dr PK Mishra, and his personal secretary, Anil Mukim. Modi had then said that Raigar was not present in the meeting and neither was Bhatt. Interestingly, Modi’s mention of Bhatt is enough to raise suspicion. Did the CM anticipate Bhatt’s intentions?

Earlier, top cops like retired DGP RB Shree Kumar, Rahul Sharma and others had clearly given evidence of how the government and its top police brass were involved in patronising the killings, including mobile records of Modi’s ministers. VHP leader Jaideep Patel and minister Mayaben Kodnani were arrested for their direct roles in the Naroda Patiya massacre, while VHP leader Babu Bajrangi (among others) actually confessed to blood-letting in the Tehelka tapes. Bhatt had earlier revealed to the media that he was aware that the then BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister, Haren Pandya, too, was present at the chief minister’s residence. However, Bhatt had said that Pandya was not a part of the meeting. Interestingly, a couple of months post-riots, on May 13, 2002, it was widely observed that Pandya had reportedly confessed to two retired judges, PB Sawant (of the Supreme Court) and Hosbert Suresh (of the Bombay High Court), in a people’s tribunal, about this meeting wherein Modi had directed the state police machinery to not come in the way of Hindu fanatics while they unleashed their bloodlust on innocents. (This was later justified by Modi as “action-reaction” based on Newton’s third law of motion.) Pandya was later shot dead by assailants and the case remains unsolved. His late father, till he was alive, openly accused Modi of masterminding the murder, but his claims remained unproven. “Everyone in Gujarat suspects that Pandya could be a victim of a larger conspiracy,” says a senior political analyst in Gujarat. Bhatt has also alleged that Modi is scripting the SIT probe. In his affidavit Bhatt has mentioned, “The SIT does not appear to be living up to the enormous trust reposed in it by the Supreme Court to conduct an impartial and thorough probe into the allegations of a larger conspiracy and administrative complicity behind the Gujarat riots of 2002.” An IIT graduate, 47-year-old-Bhatt is currently heading the State Reserve Police Training Centre at Junagadh in Gujarat. In 2002, he was posted as a deputy commissioner of intelligence with the State Intelligence Bureau, and it was in this capacity that he was invited to the meeting. Bhatt’s driver Tarachand Yadav has confirmed that he drove the officer to the meeting held at the CM’s residence.

Yadav revealed, “We went first to the police station, and after that sir went in the DG’s (Chakravarthi) car to the CM’s house. I followed behind with his car. KD Pant was with us, so he (Bhatt) went ahead with the file. I was waiting inside the car. We were at the CM’s house for about 25 minutes, and then we went back to the police station. We stayed there for quite a long time, and then came back home after midnight.” (Pant was assistant intelligence officer in 2002.) Bhatt alleges to have faced hostility from SIT members whenever he tried to expose the “larger conspiracy and official orchestration behind the Gujarat riots”. “I have stated before the SIT that many serious incidents of communal violence, including the carnage at the Gulberg Society, could have been easily prevented by firm and determined action on part of the police,” Bhatt stated. Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the SIT to revisit the investigation into the Gulberg Society massacre in which several people, including Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed by the mob, even while the police, including the Ahmedabad police chief, literally watched the massacre in complicity. Jafri’s fervent calls for help were not responded to. This was the macabre action-replay in most of the massacre sites in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and the rest of Gujarat (as documented by the National Human Rights Commission also), with organised and meticulously crafted killings and rapes, actively done at the behest of BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal leaders, with the entire state administration and police in tactical, overt and covert complicity. The Naroda Patiya, Best Bakery and Bilquis Bano killings have shown ample evidence of this proven thesis. The Supreme Court took the decision after Zakia, Jafri’s wife, named Modi and several others for direct complicity in the massacre. “We were aware of what happened at the meeting and what Modi said there, but now that Sanjiv Bhatt has openly talked about it, it gives me great courage and I appreciate the courage shown by him,” Zakia Jafri said. Bhatt has also alleged “real time leakage of information from within the SIT”. “…Despite my having maintained complete confidentiality regarding the telephonic summons received from SIT, I was approached by a very high level functionary in the Government of Gujarat and was sought to be appropriately briefed prior to my scheduled interaction with SIT,” he stated. The affidavit also mentions that details of the interaction with AK Malhotra and Paramveer Singh – members of SIT – were available to the Gujarat government. (How and why – violating the code of confidentiality?)

Bhatt, who became highly apprehensive about his security and safety, requested the Gujarat government to provide fool-proof security cover. His plea fell on deaf ears and even the existing minimal security was withdrawn. Now he has asked the apex court to provide him and his family ample security cover. Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, “It is an open fact that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 were not riots but State-sponsored massacre of minorities. It was slaughter of humanity. If IPS Bhatt has said so, then we expect the Supreme Court would look into it.” Calling it pointless to expect morality from BJP to ask for Modi’s resignation, Tiwari added that if the party wanted, it could have asked for his resignation in the Goa executive in 2002. Indeed, BJP has been steadfast in its shameless stance of defending Modi and the massacre. Said senior party leader Arun Jaitley, “Some people in the state are involved in the exercise of discovering falsehood. Let the judicial mechanism look into it.” However, Jaitley’s muted stand seemed in stark contrast to the earlier belligerence shown in the Hindutva party. Is it because ‘national leaders’ like Sushma Swaraj and Jaitley, with overt ambitions, want to stay away from the Modi stigma; is it because they are wary of an authoritarian and megalomaniac Modi’s unbridled ambitions; or is it because they want to subtly sideline him – and let him face the wolves? Besides, sources within the Gujarat government say that Modi’s political graph is actually going down, and sensing that, more and more officials and politicians, including within the BJP, now feel that they can come out in the open. They all agree, that come what may, the carnage will stalk Modi and his cronies all his life. Modi can pump himself into artificial glory, but the ghosts of 2002 will haunt him forever.



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Marketing a myth – By Lyla Bavadam (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

When Anna Hazare praised Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his achievements in rural development in Gujarat, it resulted in a slew of messages to the veteran Gandhian from outraged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists. Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, both social activists in Gujarat, said they had spent five days drafting their reply to Annaji but felt it was worth it because it had to be said. They said in their message to Hazare: “The statement of Annaji creates a wrong impression. It endorses Modi’s authoritarian, fascist government, which is anti-farmer, anti-women, anti-working class, anti-Dalit, anti-tribal, anti-minorities, anti-environment, and against all the marginalised groups.” A response also came from social activist and danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, who called Hazare’s endorsement “appalling” and threatened to distance herself from the Lokpal movement unless Hazare “irrevocably retracted” his statement. Quick to point out the irony of the situation was the social activist Teesta Setalvad, who said there had been no Lokayukta in Gujarat for almost seven years. Prajapati and Shah invited Hazare to Gujarat to see the so-called development work of a “Chief Minister who turned his back on scores of farmers who demand their right to farming as in the case of the Mahuva agitation; on tribal people who seek forest land”, and turned a “blind eye to pollution in towns and villages like Ankleshwar, Vapi, Nandesari, Vatva, Saurashtra and Kutch” and “fishing communities being deprived of their livelihood in Kutch”. Gujarat is a State divided. At one end there is progress: 90 per cent of the village roads are paved; 98 per cent of the villages are electrified, with 80 per cent of them having electrified homes and 18 hours of electricity every day; and 86 per cent have piped water supply and good phone connections, banks, post offices and bus services. But amid all this, there are falling human development and social indices and rising corruption, which is all the more unacceptable because of the clean and progressive image that is being projected of the State.

Three big scams in two years have done little to promote Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat. There was the Rs.1,700 crore Sujalam Sufalam scam in 2009: labourers who were to be given wheat in exchange for digging ponds in fields were given rice instead by local fair price traders although they had been paid wheat prices by the government. Many of the ponds were ‘dug’ only on paper and large stocks of the rice were sent to Maharashtra and sold there at a profit. Also in 2009 came the Rs.260 crore scam pertaining to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: non-existent traders sold boris (sacks) to set up sandbag check dams, non-existent labourers were registered, and NREGA funds were misappropriated. In 2010, it was found that the Fisheries Minister had been awarding contracts for fishing in 58 reservoirs across the State. Reservoir fishing is awarded on the basis of tenders. It was alleged that the irregularity cost the State exchequer Rs.600 crore. In 2003, Modi initiated the Vibrant Gujarat Summit to attract investors to the State. The first time he attracted proposals worth Rs.69 crore. In 2005, he got Rs.1 lakh crore. Then Rs.4 lakh crore in 2007, Rs.12 lakh crore in 2009 and almost Rs.21 lakh crore in 2011. So what is it that the investors get in return for this undoubted confidence they have placed in Modi? In a nutshell, they get easy access to land and water wherever they want it. They also get tax exemptions for five years in which they are also exempt from labour laws. In this easy scheme of things, agricultural land is easily turned into non-agricultural land and tribal land is handed over to industries. Companies that have been polluters and have been hauled up by courts and ordered to clean up their act respond by simply moving out to new areas. Vibrant Gujarat operates on a straightforward principle – roll out the red carpet for big money and ensure that everything is placed at its disposal. Social indices such as health, especially of women and children; education; the status of minorities; the economic health of the middle class and the poor; jobs, livelihoods and environmental concerns are all taking a back seat in what people are beginning to call the race to help the already rich.

The beneficiaries seem to be a small and exclusive club. Employment generation has not kept up with that in other States. Teesta Setalvad, in an article entitled “Vibrant Gujarat summit – 2011 – Ridiculous show-off of Power”, has compared the investment and employment opportunities of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. She concludes that from 2006 to 2010, Maharashtra had Rs.4,20,546 crore in investment and employment opportunities worth Rs.8,63,395; and Tamil Nadu had investments worth Rs.1,63,280 crore and employment opportunities worth Rs.13,09,613, whereas Gujarat had investments worth Rs.5,35,873 crore and employment opportunities worth Rs.6,47,631. Teesta Setalvad’s analysis says: “At the end of the year 2009-10 in Gujarat there were 8,32,000 educated unemployed people. Number of educated unemployed people was 9,64,000 in 2004, 9,00,000 in 2005, 8,30,000 in 2006, 7,78,000 in 2007, 8,25,000 in 2008 and in 2009 also it was 8,25,000. Now if in the year 2003, 2005, 2007 there has been capital investment as per [what the] Chief Minister says, then why there has not been any significant decrease in the number of these unemployed people?” Prajapati and Shah say that the “growth” in Gujarat is of a “job killing” kind: “The success story of the two-digit growth has masked the several-digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this process. The investment figure without the displacement and depletion of natural resources figure, and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense,” they said in their message to Hazare. Dr Abusaleh Shariff, Chief Economist, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and member-secretary of the Sachar Committee, said: “Gujarat fares better on direct income measures, but this apparent prosperity masks higher poverty levels and a much lower ranking in human development.” According to a study carried out by Shariff, Gujarat’s share is only 5 per cent in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, reflecting the State’s inadequate commitment to income generation for the poor. He also said levels of hunger in Gujarat were high and comparable to those in Orissa and Bihar. Only Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh had higher hunger levels, he said. The Reserve Bank of India’s 10-year report from January 2000 to March 2010 on foreign direct investment put paid to the notion that Gujarat attracted high FDI. Maharashtra attracted FDI worth Rs.17 lakh crore during this period; New Delhi Rs.10 lakh crore; Tamil Nadu Rs.2.4 lakh crore; Andhra Pradesh Rs.2 lakh crore; and Gujarat Rs.2.8 lakh crore. The easy availability of land and resources is perhaps the biggest challenge before new industry today, and this is what Modi offers.

The Mahuva and Orpat Limited cases highlight how people (especially farmers) are ridden roughshod over by the government in the rush to give land to industries. In the Mahuva case, the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator objected to a project that Modi had cleared. In 1999, the then Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel of the BJP, had ordered the building of four CDTRS (check dam cum tidal regulatory structure) at a cost of over Rs.60 crore. Located in a stretch of 40 km, these were supposed to turn thousands of hectares of land arable. Local farmers were delighted, but their joy was short-lived because the land was handed over to a washing soap company that was diversifying into cement. The land perfectly suited the company’s purpose because it had the limestone deposits essential for cement production. But the mining of limestone would spell doom for the natural barrier against salinisation of arable lands. Local resistance to the idea was quashed by goons. The 214-hectare plant coming up at a cost of Rs.1,400 crore will require a mining lease for over 3,200 hectares. This will displace about 5,000 families, that is, over 30,000 people. Agriculture has been the backbone of Mahuva, which is relatively prosperous and dependent on 20 cotton gins and 50 onion dehydration units. In February 2010, local MLA Dr Kanubhai Kalsariya organised a rally of the people of the dozen affected villages. Modi rejected the petition of the 5,000 Mahuva residents who walked to Gandhinagar to ask him to cancel the land lease for the plant. In Saurashtra, a similar land acquisition plan was unfolding. As part of the Vibrant Gujarat scheme, Orpat industries was granted 40 ha of land in Wankaner district to construct a tourist resort. Wankaner is in a drought-prone area. Two shocking concessions were made for Orpat. It was given land at Rs.40 per square metre and sole access to the Garida pond, the lone waterbody in the area that was used for drinking water and irrigation. It was walled off by Orpat. Angry farmers approached the High Court, which stayed all activity on the site and in March this year ordered that water be released into irrigation canals. Local residents have also challenged the all-too-speedy allotment of land and the price at which it was given. The High Court is expected to give its order on both soon. Fr Lancy Lobo of the Centre for Culture and Development in Vadodara has been studying development and displacement in Gujarat since Independence. His report entitled “Development-Induced Displacement in Gujarat 1947-2004”, co-authored with Shashikant Kumar, shows 4,00,000 households displaced in 57 years of Independence; this means that 5 per cent of the State’s population was affected by developmental projects. Lobo says that a study of 80,000 Gazette notifications of the Government of Gujarat and files from Land Acquisition Departments from 25 Collectorates shows that 33,00,000 hectares of land was acquired in this period.

The communal killings of 2002 still haunt Gujarat. Not only were the camps for the riot-affected closed down with unseemly haste but the ghettoisation of the minority community continues because of the general sense of insecurity. Though it is common to hear it being said that “Muslims have moved on”, the scars are still fresh for the community. If they have “moved on”, it is because they have had to, not because they were assisted or encouraged to. There are huge advertisements and posters of Modi’s meeting with Muslim leaders, but within the community this is seen for what it is – buying of peace. In a study titled “Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials”, Shariff says, “Empirical evidence suggests that relative to other States and relative to other communities, Muslims in Gujarat are facing high levels of discrimination and deprivation.” Indeed, the discrimination extends beyond Muslims to all those who opposed Modi at the time of the riots. Serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who has brought on record certain crucial aspects relating to cases from 2002, is Modi’s latest victim. The special police protection given to him has been withdrawn, presumably because he did not fall in line. Lobo says that despite all his bravado, 2002 “still haunts” Modi. He believes Modi “has passed from Hindutva to Gujarati asmita (self-respect) to development. He is trying to offset 2002. I’m not saying he has forgotten the past. It is just dormant for the time being because his focus is development, and development for him means industry right now. And so agriculture is suffering. Tribal people are suffering. Sixty per cent of the land that has been acquired for water resources is in tribal areas. Not only is water being taken away from the tribal people, but the places where it is being sent are already prosperous areas. After globalisation this is the dominant paradigm of development. He is laying the foundation for himself in Delhi in 2020.” Modi is able to steamroll his way in the State because the bureaucracy is scared and the opposition is ineffective. Lobo feels there is “a strange understanding” between Modi and the Congress, and this seems to be helping Modi consolidate his position further. However, in March, State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia released some telling statistics. Citing figures from the report of the Suresh P. Tendulkar Committee appointed by the Planning Commission, Modhwadia said 31.8 per cent of the State’s population lived below the poverty line. This meant that Gujarat had the highest percentage of poor people in the country. Claiming government statistics as his source, Modhwadia announced that 9,829 workers, 5,447 farmers and 919 farm labourers had committed suicide in the State during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister. … The realisation that Modi has set aside his Hindutva plan, albeit temporarily, and is now set on a course that discriminates on economic grounds is an idea that is yet to sink in among Luna’s farmers. Once it does, there is every possibility that the tables may be turned, and Modi may need to change his game plan.



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Madhya Pradesh: Another Hindutva laboratory in the making – By LS Herdenia (May 11, 2011, Sabrang)

The dividing line between the government and the saffron brotherhood in Madhya Pradesh has become so blurred that the two are now virtually indistinguishable. Thus the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, calls upon government employees to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and attend its shakhas, or cells, police officers perform shastra puja – arms worship – on Dussehra, government schemes are named after Hindu rituals and ceremonies and organisations associated with the sangh parivar are gifted prime pieces of government land. On a more sinister level, data is being collected about the Christians living in the state even as the government funds “religious functions” which are nothing other than platforms to spew venom against the minorities. The chief minister has made it clear in so many words that the government would in no case implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee (which examined the status of the Muslim community in India), as that would “divide society and pave the way for another division of the country”. A case of the pot calling the kettle black? When, sometime in the first week of April this year, a couple of uniformed policemen turned up at the office of a Christian priest in Bhopal and started asking him all sorts of questions about the Christian populace of the city, the latter became suspicious and demanded to know at whose behest the information was being sought. The policemen, apparently unaware that they were parting with an official secret, handed over to the priest a copy of the order – with the word “Secret” written in bold relief at the top – issued by Bhopal’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) to all police stations, asking them to collect information about Christians residing in the area under their jurisdiction. The information sought included details about the churches, schools and other institutions run by the community as well as their sources of finance. Policemen were also asked to collect information about the political patronage enjoyed by the community leaders, their criminal antecedents, if any, and the public functions that the Christians had organised. Names and other personal details about Catholic and Protestant priests were also sought.

When the Christian community protested, the state police headquarters initially denied the existence of any such order but subsequently declared that it had been withdrawn. How an order that was never issued can be withdrawn continues to be an unsolved mystery. What is interesting is that even after the order was “withdrawn”, the police continued to act on it; the chief minister told a delegation led by Rev Leo Cornelio, the archbishop of Bhopal, that this was due to a “communication gap”. What makes this exercise – aborted, at least for now – particularly scary is the fact that a similar exercise had preceded the Muslim genocide in Gujarat and, of course, much earlier, the Jewish Holocaust in Germany. In further emulation of Gujarat, a ‘Narmada Samajik Kumbh’ was organised on the banks of the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh in February this year, on exactly the same lines as the ‘Shabri Kumbh’ held in Gujarat in 2006. The objective: Hinduise the tribals, replacing their gods with Ram and Hanuman and their places of worship with Hindu temples. The government spent several crores of rupees on setting up the infrastructure necessary for the event. Lakhs of tribals from within the state as well as from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra were brought to the fair and treated to a stiff dose of the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures. On the sidelines of this event, a ‘Ghar Vapasi’ (homecoming) programme was organised – meant to reconvert tribal Christians to Hinduism. Those who sermonised the tribals included luminaries of the RSS. The Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP), a political outfit representing the tribal population, saw the Narmada Samajik Kumbh as an attack on tribal identity and launched a campaign in the tribal regions to make the tribals – who the sangh parivar prefers to call vanvasis, or forest-dwellers – aware of the real designs of the Kumbh’s organisers. “Tribals have never attended the Kumbhs held at Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nashik for hundreds of years. So where is the question of their attending this fake Kumbh?” asked a pamphlet issued by the GGP.

Attacks on Christians and their places of worship are on the rise in Madhya Pradesh. Since the BJP came to power seven years ago, at least 200 incidents of physical attacks on Christians have been reported from different parts of the state. The Bajrang Dal and company are invariably the culprits in these cases and the police invariably refuse to take any action against them. The Christians have taken to the streets in protest several times, all to no avail. And going by the names of various government schemes and programmes, one could legitimately suspect that Madhya Pradesh has already become a Hindu Rashtra. All of them, without exception, have names with Hindu connotations and many are named after Hindu religious ceremonies, sites, gods and goddesses. Thus the state’s water conservation scheme is called “Jal Abhishek” Abhiyan, a scheme for the welfare of the girl child is called “Ladli Laxmi” Yojana, a rural development scheme has been named “Gokul Gram” Yojana and another welfare scheme, meant to provide financial help to poor families in order to marry off their daughters, is called “Kanyadaan” Yojana. Farmers are called “Balram” (after Lord Krishna’s brother). In 2009 the government proclaimed that schoolteachers in state-run schools would be addressed as “Rashtra Rishis”, a decision that was withdrawn in the face of opposition from minority leaders. The state capital, Bhopal, is proposed to be renamed “Bhojpal”. And eight towns in the state have been notified as “holy cities” where the sale of liquor, eggs and meat have been prohibited. The official website of the state agriculture department has an entire section devoted to “Kheti-sambandhi shubh muhurat (Auspicious times for agricultural activities)”, which guides farmers on how to choose the proper “muhurat (time)” – according to Hindu tradition, of course – for sowing, harvesting and other key agricultural operations.

The government had, early in 2007, also made it mandatory for all students from Class V onwards in government-run schools to perform “surya namaskar (sun salutation)”. The order came after the so-called yoga guru Baba Ramdev introduced the chief minister to the “miraculous benefits” of yogic exercise. This move was bitterly opposed by Muslim organisations in the state, which pointed out that Islam did not allow its followers to bow before anyone but Allah and so they could not worship the sun – an integral part of the exercise. The decision was ostensibly withdrawn after the Madhya Pradesh high court ruled on January 24, 2007 that surya namaskar could not be made compulsory. (The government however showed no signs of relenting and, in direct violation of the high court order, district education officers in some districts directed schools to conduct surya namaskar. In August 2009, more than two years later, a fresh order was again issued by the high court disallowing such compulsion.) Seemingly undeterred, in August 2009 the government went on to declare that from September 5 that year, students would have to recite a Sanskrit hymn, the Bhojan Mantra, before partaking of their government-funded midday meals – a practice long adhered to in RSS-run schools, the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs. The list is unending. The latest is the chief minister’s announcement on April 21 that “Gita Saar (Essence of the Gita)” would be taught to all school students in the state from the session commencing in July 2011. Also, government teachers are proposed to be trained in the Hindu “solah sanskar (the sixteen rituals, aimed at improving the inner self and all-round development of the individual)” whereby they would gain “more respect” in the rural areas.

In keeping with the maxim ‘make hay while the sun shines’, member organisations of the extended sangh brotherhood are seeking – and receiving – prime government land at throwaway prices. At a conservative estimate, at least 300 land allotments have been made to saffron bodies, one of which was struck down by the Supreme Court recently. In 2004 the Kushabhau Thakre Trust, whose trustees include BJP heavyweights like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, was allotted 20 acres of land on the outskirts of Bhopal. The state government was in such a hurry to allot the land to the trust that it did not even wait for the trust to be formally constituted before distributing its largesse. However, this move was challenged in the courts by the Akhil Bhartiya Upbhokta Congress, a Bhopal-based consumer organisation, which approached the Supreme Court after the Madhya Pradesh high court had refused to quash the government’s decision. Ultimately, on April 6 this year the apex court ordered the government to take possession of the allotted land. But the judicial action in this case is an exception. As a rule hundreds of plots, ranging from 10,000 square feet to several acres in almost every town and city in the state, have been allotted – for peanuts – to Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and a host of other organisations owing allegiance to the sangh parivar, turning these institutions into millionaires and billionaires overnight. It was at the inauguration of the state headquarters of the ABVP, built on a piece of land gifted by the government, slap-bang in the centre of Bhopal, that the chief minister urged government employees to join the RSS, technically a non-political organisation but for all practical purposes a partisan outfit. At another public function he announced with obvious pride that the government had done away with the ban on government employees joining the RSS because the Sangh was the only organisation that genuinely believed in universal brotherhood and the welfare of all. Thunderous applause ensued. Without much sound and fury, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is busy converting the geographical heart of India into a saffron land. After Gujarat, it seems, another Hindu Rashtra is in the offing.



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Significant Stay – Editorial (May 11, 2011, Times of India)

Though it is just an interim order, the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Allahabad high court’s verdict on the Ayodhya title suits is profoundly significant. All the more so because of the apex court’s accompanying observation that the high court’s decision of September 30, 2010 – stipulating partition of the land where the Babri masjid stood between the two communities on the basis of the title dispute – was “strange and surprising”. These are strong words for the partition idea that had been erroneously hailed by a section of civil society as pragmatic or conciliatory. The Supreme Court intervention comes as a much-needed corrective to signal India’s commitment to secularism and the rule of law.

The partition scheme under which two parts of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid complex were given to Hindu parties and one part to a Muslim party had placed faith above law and, seemingly, expediency over legal principle. Though the title suits had originated from the surreptitious installation of idols in the medieval mosque in 1949, the high court glossed over the fact that nothing said about the history of the Hindu belief prior to that year would have detracted from this dubious cause of action. Instead, it ended up conferring legitimacy on the 1949 act by accepting the claim that Lord Ram was born exactly where the central dome of the Babri masjid once stood. While not condoning it in any way, the high court verdict – running into thousands of pages – seemed equally unmindful of the 1992 demolition, though the latter was a violent interference with the subject matter of the title suits.

It is just as well that this partition scheme did not satisfy even the Hindu parties to the title suits. The appeals filed by all the parties concerned has provided an opportunity to the Supreme Court to undo the error of the high court in not letting, among other things, the illegality of the 1949 and 1992 events have a bearing on the title suits. Having stayed the high court verdict, the Supreme Court should reconsider all its postulates and premises, whether they had been derived from religious scriptures or legal tomes.

The Ayodhya title suits, in any event, are but a part of the larger backlog of justice related to the chain of events triggered by the Babri masjid demolition. Criminal proceedings are still pending and the political leaders accused in the case have all been let off the conspiracy charge. There can be no closure to this long-vexed problem unless the Supreme Court verdict, besides being a robust affirmation of the rule of law, is forward-looking and sets a salutary precedent for resolving inter-community differences.



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Blood on the road to Agra – By Samarth Saran (May 21, 2011, Tehelka)

Bhatta Parsol in Gautam Budh Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, became the latest battlefield of land wars on 7 May when two villagers and two policemen were killed during clashes. The farmers were hopping mad because they felt shortchanged by the government, which acquired their land on the cheap for the Yamuna Expressway project. In 2007, the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEA) notified 256 villages for the development of the area along the Greater Noida-Agra expressway. The YEA offers Rs 850 per sq m to the farmers, and then sells it at Rs 5,500 per sq m to private builders. The builders plan to sell the land at a whopping Rs 18,000 per sq m. This is not the first time that Gautam Budh Nagar has witnessed land wars. Last January, the police clashed with farmers from Greater Noida who were protesting against the sale of fertile land. The villagers were irked that the authorities acquired their land for industrial purposes but sold it to private builders to develop townships.

In August 2009, the YEA had announced a lottery for 21,000 plots in Sectors 18 and 20 of Bhatta Parsol village. These plots were being sold by the authority for Rs 4,750 per sq m, which was later revised to Rs 5,500 per sq m. “Our problem is not with the sale. What is not acceptable are the exorbitant rates at which the private builders plan to sell our land,” says Rajiv Malik of Parsol village. The other bone of contention that has not been highlighted is the process of land acquisition. Villagers complain that all they receive from the authority is a notification saying that their land will be acquired for development purposes. “There hasn’t been a single panchayat meeting in the village regarding land acquisition. All we received was a postal order stating that our land will be acquired by the authorities,” claims Ajay Pal Sharma of Habibpur village. The villagers are basically sent three notifications under Sections 4, 6 and 9 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. These notifications are to inform the villagers that their land is required for a public purpose and the government intends to take its possession. “Even if we don’t intend to sell our land, there is no way we can protest. The land is forcibly taken by the authorities. This is nothing but goondagardi,” says Sharma.

However, senior YEA officials deny these allegations. They claim that they have held public meetings in the villages to discuss all the aspects of land acquisition. “It is us who have gone to the villages every time, the villagers have never bothered to come to our office to discuss the intricacies of the acquisition,” says a YEA official. Better compensation is not all that the farmers say they deserve. Their demands include jobs for their kin in government departments or the private companies that come up on their land, medical facilities at government hospitals, and speedy disbursal of compensation. The land to be given as part of the compensation is allotted only after project completion. Farmers are expected to stay landless till then. So they are demanding that the government let them negotiate with the companies directly instead of fixing rates for acquisition of the land. Another important aspect that has emerged during the land acquisition drama is how farmers have failed to prosper despite getting a good compensation package.

Harish Chandra, a resident of Chapargarh, was one of the hundreds of farmers who sold their lands. He sold his 7 bighas for the expressway project in 2009 for Rs 50 lakh. After selling his land to YEA, Chandra blow up the compensation money buying an Alto, two motorbikes, a 12-room mansion and married off his daughter. “I am totally broke now. There is not a single paisa left. I was greedy for money at that time,” laments Chandra. “We turned rich overnight. We didn’t know how to utilise the money properly. After having spent all the money, we have nothing left,” says Raghuveer Dayal of Tilapata village, who also ended up buying a car. He regrets not investing the compensation money in buying some land. “Our situation was better when we were farmers. Nowadays, all we think about is survival,” says Chandra.



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Trial by fire – By V. Venkatesan (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

As the leader of the five-member civil society group within the 10-member joint drafting committee to prepare the new Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare finds himself in an unenviable position. After his successful agitation for equal participation for civil society in the legislative exercise to create the first Lokpal at the Centre, people expect him to set high standards of probity for his team, even though it will have a short tenure (ending on June 30) and a limited agenda. Allegations casting aspersions on civil society members on the committee, even if they relate to the past, make them defensive and distract them from the committee’s task. Anna Hazare himself was prudent enough to ignore the allegation of financial impropriety against him. The Maharashtra government instituted a commission of inquiry under Justice P.B. Sawant in September 2003 to inquire into allegations of corruption and maladministration against a few State Ministers and Anna Hazare, who had led a campaign against them. The commission’s report, submitted on February 22, 2005, concluded: “The expenditure of Rs.2.20 lacs from the funds of the Hind Swaraj Trust [a trust which Hazare runs] for the birthday celebrations of Shri Hajare was clearly illegal and amounted to a corrupt practice” (page 365). Sections of the media highlighted this in the days after Hazare’s recent campaign. But his close confidant, Swami Agnivesh, described this in a television programme as a mistake rather than an instance of corrupt practice; some observers considered it too technical to cast aspersions on Hazare’s personal integrity. In 2005, Hazare had challenged the State government to take action on the report, but the government chose to ignore it. Hazare did not offer any fresh explanation on the subject after the recent campaign. The other civil society members on the drafting committee had a harder time. The presence of former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan, also an eminent public interest lawyer, on the committee invited sharp criticism. Many observers questioned whether the civil society component of the committee was inclusive at all and whether the inclusion of both the father and the son in the committee pointed to a dearth of legal talent in the country.

The civil society members of the committee have asked the government to include among its nominees a member from the opposition parties and someone representing Dalits to make it more inclusive. But they were unwilling to accept similar advice and let their own side reflect the diversity of views within civil society on an effective Lokpal Bill. At a press conference in New Delhi, film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, historian K.N. Panikkar and activist Shabnam Hashmi questioned the selection of non-government members on the committee, claiming it was not a true representation of civil society. They said the government had chosen the easy option by succumbing to Hazare’s demands. To this, Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of the Hazare team, claimed that both the Bhushans had played a key role in drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill and were tough negotiators. This was the reason, he added, the government tacitly opposed their inclusion in the committee and wanted the smear campaign against them to succeed. The campaign against the Bhushans has, by far, been the dirtiest. On April 13, some media organisations received from an anonymous source a CD containing a purported telephonic conversation between the erstwhile Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and S.P. chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, and between Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shanti Bhushan. The purport of the conversation was to suggest that Shanti Bhushan had told Mulayam Singh Yadav that Prashant Bhushan could “fix” a particular Supreme Court judge for Rs.4 crore. In his defence, Prashant Bhushan released the reports from two renowned forensic laboratories, the Hyderabad-based Truth Labs and the United States-based Sound Evidence headed by George Papcun. These reports found that most parts of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s speech on the CD were copied from a conversation that had taken place between Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2006. On the basis of spectrograms, the reports established that there were multiple signs of editing and gaps in Shanti Bhushan’s purported speech in the conversation. “Words/phrases have clearly been edited/lifted from many different conversations and stitched/spliced together,” the reports found, according to Prashant Bhushan.

Meanwhile, reports suggested that the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in New Delhi found the CD genuine and without breaks in recording. Prashant Bhushan questioned why the CFSL ignored the reports of Truth Labs and Sound Evidence showing the exact positions of editing signatures and some of the gaps in Shanti Bhushan’s speech. In any case, he said, both the CFSL report and a so-called report by a government laboratory describing the CD as genuine were not in the public domain and, therefore, beyond scrutiny. Shanti Bhushan did not deny that the CD carried his voice. But he added that forensic reports showed that bits and pieces from different conversations appeared to have been spliced together to create his speech. Shanti Bhushan also denied that he had met Amar Singh, as Amar Singh claimed on the CD. In a case before the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan is seeking the public disclosure of Amar Singh’s 2006 tapes. He has alleged that Amar Singh, by fabricating the CD involving the Bhushans, has aimed to make the Supreme Court judge concerned recuse himself from hearing the 2G scam case, and the Amar Singh tape case. To substantiate this allegation, Shanti Bhushan has filed a criminal contempt petition in the Supreme Court and sought an independent investigation into the conspiracy behind the fabrication of the CD. Sections of the media also sought to raise the issue of the allotment of farmland in Noida to Shanti Bhushan and his son, Jayant Bhushan, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court, by the Uttar Pradesh government. The Bhushans have claimed that the land was allotted under a regular scheme floated by Noida. It was for farmland plots of 10,000 sq. metres on which a farmhouse of up to 15,000 square feet was allowed to be constructed. It was not specified as to where in Noida the plots would be allotted. The Bhushans applied for the plots in March 2009. In May 2009, the authorities in Noida called them for an interview to verify the means of finance. In January 2010, the Bhushans received a letter from Noida saying a plot in Sector 165 had been reserved for them and that the allotment letter would be issued to them separately. In January this year, they received the allotment letters, giving the rate as Rs.3,500 per sq m.

Media reports on the transaction insinuated that the Bhushans received the allotment because Jayant Bhushan was arguing the Noida park case against the State government in the Supreme Court, and the allotment was aimed to silence him. On December 3, 2010, the Supreme Court held in this case that the Noida park project was not on a forest area but it imposed certain conditions because of its proximity to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. One of the conditions was that permanent construction in the park area should not exceed 25 per cent of the total land area. Jayant Bhushan had argued the case in favour of the petitioner, who had challenged the construction of the Rs.650-crore park, citing violation of environmental norms. The court had stayed the construction until the delivery of judgment. The Bhushans admitted that there were no criteria for the allotment of farmland that could be found either in the advertisement or in the subsequent brochure of the scheme. They said that if the allotments were found to be questionable, they would readily surrender their plots. The Bhushans argued that the Noida park case might be the reason for the delay and the poor location of allotment to them. Meanwhile, another allegation against the Bhushans pertained to evasion of stamp duty payable by them in the valuation of a property in Allahabad. In 1966, Shanti Bhushan entered into an agreement to purchase a house in Allahabad, where he had grown up, for a consideration of Rs.1 lakh. However, the sale deed could not be executed because the 99-year lease granted by the government in favour of the owner had expired and was pending renewal. When the lease deed was renewed and the property was converted into freehold, the Bhushans demanded execution of the sale deed, which was refused by the owner. Thereafter, a compromise was arrived at between the Bhushans and the owner: the owner agreed to sell a major portion of the property to the Bhushans for Rs.1 lakh, provided that the remaining portion of 4,317.78 square yards (one square yard is nine square feet) was left with the owner to sell independently to others. The sale deed was executed in 2010 on the basis of a mutual agreement between the parties.

On September 29, 2010, two months before the execution of the sale deed, the Bhushans filed a copy of the deed and asked the Allahabad Collector to determine what stamp duty would be payable at the time of execution of the sale deed. Since the Collector did not make any such determination, and the sale deed had to be executed by November 29, 2010, the Bhushans paid the higher of the two methods of duty calculation. Meanwhile, the Bhushans received a notice from the authorities fixing April 28 or May 5 for the finalisation of the stamp duty and mentioning Rs.1.33 crore as the approximate stamp duty payable. The Bhushans insist that it was not a notice for evasion of stamp duty, but an invitation by the Collector to help him to determine the appropriate stamp duty payable. The Bhushans have promised to pay the legally applicable stamp duty. The notice from the Collector to the Bhushans coincided with the expose of this transaction by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, who questioned their continuance in the drafting committee. The Bhushans’ rivals in the legal profession also sought their exit from the committee as, in their view, these allegations pointed to serious improprieties. However, the Bhushans’ friends in civil society vouched for their integrityand urged them to continue on the committee. The Karnataka Lokayukta and another civil society member of the drafting committee, Santosh Hegde, also came under attack. Digvijay Singh asked why the State Lokayukta had not been effective in curbing corruption at the highest level in Karnataka. Hegde took it as an accusation of defending the corrupt and contemplated quitting the drafting committee, blaming the political class as a whole for its reluctance to enact a strong Lokpal Bill. However, other civil society members on the committee prevailed on him not to quit. Digvijay Singh later denied that he had accused Hegde of defending the ruling party in Karnataka. …



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