IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 23rd, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

‘Told Modi Gulberg attack was coming, he kept mum’ (May 17, 2011, Indian Express)

In his deposition before the G T Nanavati-Akshay Mehta Commission probing the 2002 Gujarat riots, IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt on Monday said the state Intelligence Bureau was passing on real-time inputs about the imminent threat to residents of Gulberg Society at Meghaninagar in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002 to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, adding he had personally apprised the CM about the need to take immediate measures. Bhatt was a DCP with the IB at the time of riots in 2002. The officer, now a DIG, said Modi did not give any instructions to protect Gulberg Society and its residents. The attack on Gulberg Society had left 69 dead, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. During his deposition, Bhatt, who was denied access to records he had sought by the Gujarat Police as well as the SC-appointed SIT, also moved an application seeking the Commission to direct the DGP and the SIT to provide those documents. The Commission has kept his application pending, saying it would decide on it when the need arises. Bhatt was summoned by the Commission as a witness after he filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that Modi had called a meeting on the night of February 27 at his official residence and instructed top officials to let “Hindus vent their anger against Muslims”.

Bhatt told the Commission on Monday that Modi had also convened two more meetings on February 28, 2002 – one in the forenoon and the other around 2 pm – in which he was present. He said he had personally informed Modi about the imminent threats faced by residents of Gulberg Society and the overall inaction of the police against the rioting mobs. He also said he had requested Modi to take appropriate measures. To a query by advocate Mukul Sinha if late Chief Minister Amarsinh Chaudhary was present at the meeting, Bhatt said he wasn’t. But, when he (Bhatt) came out, he found Chaudhary standing outside. Chaudhary, Bhatt said, asked him to do something to protect the Gulberg Society. Chaudhary had filed an affidavit at the Commission stating he along with one other person had gone to meet Modi to urge him to do something to protect Gulberg Society.

Bhatt also told the Commission that in the February 27, 2002 meeting, the then DGP A K Chakravarthy and then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P C Pande were against bringing in the bodies of victims of Godhra train burning incident to Ahmedabad and had tried to impress upon Modi that such a decision would create a serious law and order situation in Ahmedabad. Bhatt said Pande had even termed bringing the bodies to Ahmedabad as a “tinderbox” idea. Bhatt also said that the duo tried to impress upon Modi against supporting VHP’s bandh call on February 28, arguing that there was a difference between the BJP as a party supporting a bandh call and the BJP that ran the government. Being a DCP (intelligence), Bhatt stated, he had also told Modi in the February 27 meeting about largescale mobilisation of Sangh Parivar cadres across the state. Bhatt added that the meeting was also attended by the then in-charge chief secretary Suvarnakanta Verma, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ashok Narayan, Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P C Pande, Home Secretary K Nityanand, Secretary to the CM Anil Mukim and Principal Secretary to the CM P K Mishra.

Initially, Bhatt was examined by Justice (retired) G T Nanavati who asked him why he did not come before the Commission till date in spite of a public notification asking people to assist the inquiry. Bhatt replied that he was an intelligence officer and was constrained under the oath of secrecy not to reveal anything unless he had a legal obligation to do so. In his affidavit before the SC, Bhatt has stated that he has given original floppy discs containing the entire cell phone/cell site records of Godhra town for February 26 & 27, 2002 and original print-outs of important call records of certain high-ranking functionaries of the state government for February 27 & 28, 2002 to the SIT. The Commission asked Bhatt about its details, but he chose not to reveal anything, instead requesting the Commission to direct the SIT to provide those documents to it. Referring to those documents, Bhatt said, “Go through these documents and truth will reveal itself.” Counsel for the state government, S B Vakil, has started Bhatt’s cross-examination, which will continue next week on May 23.



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Godhra convicts challenge court order (May 22, 2011, Times of India)

The 31 convicts in the Godhra carnage case have approached the Gujarat high court (HC) challenging the special court’s order. The trial court awarded death sentence to 11 persons and punished 20 others with life imprisonment for setting S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express on fire, in which 59 passengers including karsevaks returning from Ayodhya were killed on February 27, 2002. The incident sparked off chain of rioting and violence across Gujarat that lasted for next three months resulting in more than 1,100 deaths.

After pronouncing death for 11 persons including Abdul Razak Kurkur and Haji Bilal, who were held as key conspirators, special judge P R Patel had sent his request to the high court for confirmation of conviction, which is mandatory as per Section 28(2) of the CrPC in cases of death penalty. After getting the copy of judgment, a convict has 60-day time to challenge the order of conviction. The lower court pronounced quantum of punishment to these persons on March 1. The court has also acquitted 63 persons out of 94, who were tried in this case.

The prosecuting agency – the Supreme Court-mandated special investigation team (SIT) – however, has not moved any appeal against the order of acquittal till date. However, the prosecution normally has three months’ time to challenge an order of acquittal. Special public prosecutor J M Panchal said that in this case it is the SIT that has to take a call on the aspect of challenging the acquittals in this case.



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‘Need to reinvent secularism in view of Hindutva terror’ (May 23, 2011, The Hindu)

While secular forces in the country have periodically opposed communal agendas, they have not been able to arrest the advance of communalism. In view of the “phenomenon” of Hindutva terror, there was a need to “reinvent” secularism to offer resistance to fundamentalist forces, renowned historian K.N. Panikkar, said here over the weekend. He was speaking at a day-long National Convention on Tracing Sangh Terror Trail, called by the organisation Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD). “Hindu or majoritarian terrorism is a stage of communalism. It is an advance along the ways in which communalism has functioned in our country. The experience of secular forces has been that [while] they have stood against communal forces, they have not been able to do enough to stop the advance of terrorism. Intervention by the State has not been strong in favour of secularism. Secularism has to be reinvented in society to resist these aberrations,” Mr. Panikkar said.

He differentiated between two types of terrorism. The one in middle-eastern countries was a fallout of intrusions and therefore defensive in nature; whereas, the one perpetuated by a society on another community was aggressive terrorism. This form of communalism or majoritarian terrorism caused severe mental torture for the minorities, involving the anticipation of discrimination and denial of rights. “Majoritarian terrorism is used as an instrument to vilify minorities, and not to find solutions to [the concerns of] the Hindu community. It is not an instrument which is asking for justice,” Mr. Panikkar said. India, today, faced a situation of “Hindu terror”, directed at the Muslims and Christians, Mr. Panikkar said. A result of “the aggression that organised Hindu groups had undertaken over the past 50 years”. “[Swami] Aseemanand, sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and [Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant] Purohit are examples of a wide network of organisations which are aggressive in nature. When we talk of hostility by Hindu organisations like the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad], we have to think of it in a wider character. This terror is not only by the use of arms, force or violence, but there is a whole process by which others are targeted,” he said.

Harsh Mander, National Advisory Council (NAC) member, pointed to a duality in the approaches of the investigative machinery. After a terror strike, Muslim youths are rounded up and masterminds are declared with great alacrity. But the same readiness is absent when it came to declaring the role of Hindu outfits or persons. “You don’t need any evidence to declare a Muslim youth a terrorist. But if you have to declare a Hindu a terrorist, you do it after gathering much evidence and when there is no doubt left. This difference is seen clearly. It is our responsibility to see that everyone gets equal right to justice,” he said. Columnist-activist Subhash Gatade said the RSS was facing a crisis after the Hindutva terror network was exposed, following arrests in the Malegaon 2008 case. However, secularists failed to build pressure on the government to investigate the links. “We left it on the government,” he said. Deepak Bhatt from Madhya Pradesh spoke of a whole raft of measures in the State that pointed to the working of a political “agenda of Hindu Rashtra”. “Ours will probably be the only State where government officials are allowed to become members of the RSS,” he said.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad had created “an atmosphere of terror” by leading attacks on professors, said Mr. Bhatt, adding that two professors had paid with their lives, Mr. Bhatt said. The targeting of Muslims youths, lawyers refusing cases of Muslims involved in terror attacks, a renaming drive for places with Muslim names, seeking a ban on cow slaughter and the gradual appropriation of adivasis into the Hindu fold were all part of this larger agenda. A similar process was underway in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district bordering Nepal, said Shahnawaz Alam, of The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Uttar Pradesh. He pointed to an agenda to make “the Gangetic belt the centre of armed Hindu revolt”, which was, he said, reflected in the activities of the Hindu Yuva Vahini. ” U.P. ab Gujarat banega; Gorakhpur shuruvat karega [UP will become Gujarat; Gorakhpur will lead the way],” is just one of the refrains one comes across in the propaganda material of the group, he said.



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Ex-IG held in fake encounter case (May 16, 2011, Times of India)

The CBI on Sunday arrested the then Inspector General of Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan Police for the alleged fake encounter of Dara Singh in October 2006. In March this year, CBI had arrested four police officers for shooting Dara Singh, a criminal of Churu district, on the outskirts of Jaipur. CBI sources said they were also investigating the role of former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje in this case. Recently, one of the police officers arrested by CBI had alleged that he was being tortured by CBI to confess that the encounter was done at the behest of Raje and former PWD minister Rajendra Rathore and two senior IPS officers – A K Jain and A Poonachawmy.

Agency officials said they had arrested Poonachawmy, a 1991 batch IPS officer, for being part of the conspiracy of the encounter while being posted in SOG. Sources said more officials would be arrested soon. Press Information Officer of CBI R K Gaur confirmed the arrest. In mid-March, the agency had arrested four police officers of Rajasthan including inspector Nisar Khan and Naresh Sharma and sub-inspector Satyanarayan Godara and ASI Surendra Singh. IPS officer A K Jain was the additional DG with the SOG while Ponnuchawmy was IG, SOG when Dara Singh was killed on October, 23, 2006 in the alleged police encounter by a team of 11 officers.

SOG then claimed that Singh was killed in the exchange of fire and his accomplice escaped in the darkness. CBI was handed over investigation of the case by Supreme Court in April last year after the family of Dara Singh alleged that the state police was not taking action. Rajasthan government had claimed that Dara Singh was a notorious offender and carried a cash reward of Rs 25,000 as he was involved in a series of criminal activities.



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CBI to probe cash flow during Babri demolition (May 23, 2011, Times of India)

The CBI will probe the ‘cash flow’ that went into the conspiracy to demolish Babri masjid in December 1992 and also look into roles of at least 10 more people in the planning and execution, even as the agency has in-principle decided not to file any fresh case on the basis of the Liberhan Commission’s findings. The decision was taken during a meeting between officials of the CBI and home ministry last week when the agency expressed its inability to file any fresh case in absence of ‘evidence’. It, however, agreed to look into details of some incidents as pointed out by the commission, admitting that the effort may lead it to those who had financed the conspiracy. “We will have to examine what action can be taken against people who collected money or transferred money and whether the money was accounted for or not,” said a CBI official.

Though the agency had earlier asked the Income Tax department to provide details of the cash flow, the trail went cold when the department expressed its inability to dig out old records. “The I-T department has said they will check the records all over again and this has raised hopes of some leads,” the CBI official said. The home ministry, which handed over the commission’s report to the CBI in November 2009, is also learnt to have agreed on the agency’s point that there was a need to investigate the money trail used for demolition of the disputed structure and who was given what responsibility during the demolition.

The agency has indicated that it has some details of the roles of at least 10 persons for their involvement at one stage or the other. These 10 will be in addition to those who had already been chargesheeted by CBI like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambhara, Ashok Singhal and Giriraj Kishore. The commission, which submitted its report after nearly 17 years of its constitution, indicted 68 people including senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani for demolition of the disputed structure. It had also recommended fresh investigations into their roles. The report, besides terming Vajpayee as a pseudo-secularist, had found all of them culpable for communal discord. The CBI analysed the Liberhan report for almost one-and-a-half years and told the ministry that it has not found any fresh evidence on role of persons named by the panel but agreed to further probe the ‘cash trail’.



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Chidambaram blames IB for terror list blunder (May 18, 2011, IBN)

Home Minister P Chidambaram has blamed the Intelligence Bureau for the blunder which resulted in the inclusion of Wazhul Kamar Khan’s name on the Most Wanted List given to Pakistan. A day after the Government admitted that it was a mistake to include Khan’s name Chidambaram called the gaffe “a normal human error”. “We take responsibility for the mistake. There was a lapse on the part of the IB in not reflecting the information received. It was a normal human error in compilation but should not have occurred,” said Chidambaram while addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday on Khan, who has been living in Thane in Maharashtra.

The Home Ministry also issued a statement in which it claimed that it had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to issue a Red Corner Notice on January 2, 2004 against Khan, an accused in the 2003 Mulund train blast, the 2003 Vile-Parle and Ghatkopar blasts besides the 2002 Mumbai Central blasts. The notice was issued on March 16, 2004 and the CBI communicated about the notice to Mumbai Police on March 18. Even though Khan was arrested on May 21, 2010 by the Mumbai Police, but the information was not sent by the Mumbai Police to the CBI and so Khan’s name was included on the list of 50 most wanted terrorists that India claims have taken shelter in Pakistan. Chidambaram also added that Pakistan would be informed that Khan is no longer required.

The Home Ministry also asked all security and intelligence agencies to update the Red Corner Notice and Look Out Circular lists every three months. He also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for criticising him and his ministry for the blunder. “Opposition gets moments like this to attack the Government. I can recall that during the NDA regime three terrorists were taken out of Indian jail to Kandahar. If this is the maximum level of incompetence, what was that? BJP leaders should answer,” he commented. Meanwhile, the CBI on Wednesday updated its website and removed Khan’s name from its list of Red Corner Notice fugitives.



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‘Muslims voting along community lines worrying’ (May 18, 2011, Times of India)

With Muslims polarizing in favour of religious outfits in Assam and Kerala elections, a key author of Sachar report has sounded the alarm that mainstream parties have to step in to check the “unfortunate” trend. The community’s gravitation towards Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in Assam and Muslim League in Kerala was so complete that the parties notched up their highest tallies, emerging key players in state assemblies. All India United Democratic Front is even eyeing the lead opposition’s slot. Abusaleh Shariff, who was part of the Sachar panel which ranked Muslims at par with dalits in backwardness, called the electoral development “unfortunate”. He said the community veered towards religious parties owing to lack of representation in mainstream platforms. “This makes them vulnerable to religious rhetoric,” he said.

The Muslims-for-Muslim-parties trend raised eyebrows because it happened in states where demographics make religious politics a sustainable enterprise. Assam has 30% of the community while Kerala has around 25%. That they are concentrated in select districts makes them crucial to winnability and appealing to leaders who want to launch religious platforms. Shariff said, “We want Muslims to go to normal schools and not madrassas, but now the same is happening in politics. They have to be part of mainstream parties and the latter too have to be more inclusive – give them tickets and pay attention to their welfare agenda to check the unfortunate drift.” He said there could not be room for religion in public place. While the secular credentials of Congress and Left traditionally polled a chunk of community votes, the 2011 results surprised observers to ask if it was a trend.

West Bengal, however, bucked the wave with Trinamool Congress raking in the community’s backing. The West Bengal result is seen as welcome relief. The political class, however, feels that too much focus on Kerala and Assam could be misleading because the potential is higher among mainstream parties to have broad-based support. Bihar, too, has high Muslim population but Nitish Kumar’s success last year in singlehandedly weaning them away from Lalu Prasad is seen as evidence of this belief. “Mamata Banerjee follows the same strategy. It is healthy,” a leader said. The community’s gravitation towards Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF in Assam and Muslim League in Kerala was so complete that the parties notched up their highest tallies, emerging key players in state assemblies.



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Cabinet nod to census on caste, religion and poverty (May 19, 2011, Times of India)

The government on Thursday approved a proposal to conduct a survey based on caste, religion and economic conditions that will help in identifying people living below and above the poverty line and their social backgrounds. The proposed census was approved at the union cabinet meeting here chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The survey is expected to begin soon. Information of caste and religion will help in evaluating the widely held belief that social and religious backgrounds had limited economic opportunities for most Indians, official sources said. Census enumerators will distribute questionnaires regarding caste and religion asking just two questions to respondents: What is your caste and what is your religion.

But the enumeration of people on poverty lines is a technical process and would involve many questions like the number of family members, daily income and expenses, sources said. The poverty census was earlier carried out in in 2002 but it would be the first time that this information would be clubbed with data about caste and religion.



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CWG scam: Kalmadi named ‘main accused’ in first CBI charge sheet (May 21, 2011, The Hindu)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed its first charge sheet in a Delhi court against sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, alleging that he was the “main accused” in a corruption case pertaining to irregularities in awarding a games-related contract to a Swiss firm. The CBI has charged Mr. Kalmadi as being the key person who had all the powers to take decisions regarding award of contracts. “Kalmadi is the main accused as he was the person with all supreme powers. He had the supreme over-riding powers in the Organising Committee of the CWG, 2010,” the charge sheet said. Special CBI Judge Talwant Singh took the charge sheet into record and fixed May 23 for taking cognisance.

Besides Mr. Kalmadi, the CBI has named two companies and eight persons including OC former Secretary General Lalit Bhanot and former Director General V.K. Verma as accused and sought their prosecution under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (Sections 120 B read with Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of IPC) dealing with criminal conspiracy, forging documents and using fake documents as genuine. The charge sheet also slapped Section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against the accused persons. According to the charge sheet, the accused allegedly awarded the lucrative contract to the Swiss firm to install a Timing-Scoring-Result (TSR) system for the Commonwealth Games at an exorbitant cost, causing a loss of over Rs. 90 crore to the exchequer.

The charge sheet has named two partners of Faridabad-based private firm, CMD of Hyderabad-based private construction company and Switzerland-based private company, CBI spokesperson Dharrini Mishra said here on Friday. The CBI had registered a case on November 29 last year on the allegations that officials of the Organising Committee of CWG and private persons had entered into a conspiracy, in pursuance of which the public servants had abused their official positions in order to manipulate the award of tender for Timing, Scoring and Result System for the Commonwealth Games to Switzerland-based company at an exorbitant cost, in order to cause undue pecuniary advantage to the company and its representatives and wrongful loss to the Government.

During the investigation, it was revealed that the then officials of the OC had conspired with private persons and indulged in a series of forgeries, manipulations and machinations with an objective to award the TSR contract to Switzerland-based company at an exorbitant net cost of approximately Rs. 157.62 crore (inclusive of taxes) as compared to a net bid of Spain-based company for approx Rs. 62.01 crore (inclusive of taxes and sponsorships). Thus a wrongful loss of about Rs. 95.60 crore was caused to the OC and a corresponding gain to Swiss-based company and its representatives by wilfully eliminating all competitors of Swiss-based company. Investigation has further revealed that the representatives of the Swiss company and the two partners of the Faridabad-based firm actively conspired with the accused officials for getting the contract awarded to the Swiss company and received a payment of about Rs. 23.21 crores from the Swiss firm for certain perfunctory services.



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Bhatta-Parsaul farmers demand judicial probe in police action (May 22, 2011, Indian Express)

Residents of Bhatta and Parsaul villages have demanded a judicial probe into the alleged atrocities by police, claiming that they were victims of Mayawati government’s policy on land acquisition. The probe should be conducted by a sitting judge of either the Supreme Court or High Court as the police, instead of protecting the people, had committed atrocities on the farmers at the “behest” of the Uttar Pradesh government, alleged Montu, son of Rajpal who was killed in police firing in Greater Noida on May 7. “My father was shot dead by police. The police did not give us the body for cremation despite our pleas. They cremated him like an unclaimed body,” he told reporters.

Kuldeep Sharma, who received a bullet injury during the police firing, alleged that police came down heavily on the villagers after two policemen were killed in the violence. He claimed his house was burnt by policemen along with his tractor and a Maruti car. “The police set my house on fire, burnt my car and tractor. I have lost five cattle. I was shot and could have died,” he said. Neha, 18, the daughter of Shiv Kumar Sharma, who also received a bullet injury, claimed that she was “severely beaten up and insulted” by policemen who entered their house late at night following the violence and ransacked it. She said her hand was fractured in the incident.

Narendra Singh, another farmer who received a bullet injury, claimed that police personnel entered his house and took away money he had withdrawn from the bank. “My wife was insulted in our house and my savings looted by police. They beat up and insulted women in the village. They did not even spare older women,” he alleged. Uttar Pradesh government has dismissed as baseless allegations about burning of people and rape of women in Bhatta-Parsaul, rocked by farmers’ agitation on land acquisition issue, and said preliminary forensic reports of ashes collected from the area have ruled out presence of any human remains.



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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s Revenge on Good Cops – By Sadiq Naqvi (May 16, 2011, Hardnews Media)

Narendra Modi, it seems, has a penchant for punishing anyone who opposes or disagrees with his totalitarian ways. This is organised witch-hunt against his own top-ranking officers, violating every ethical norm of good governance or professional conduct. Besides Sanjiv Bhatt, as many as eight top police officers have faced vicious victimisation for following the rule of law and not toeing the Modi line. RB Sreekumar, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP-Intelligence), during the Gujarat carnage, 2002, who recently commended Bhatt for filing an affidavit indicting Modi, was the first IPS officer to raise serious questions on Modi’s role in the pogrom against Muslims. Later, a brave Sreekumar alleged that he was openly victimised by the Modi regime; his promotion was blocked and he was isolated. It was only after he fought his case in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) that he was promoted to the rank of DGP – but only after he had already retired. His stand was finally vindicated. Sreekumar has also questioned the credibility of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). He said the SIT is behaving like the ‘B Team’ of the Gujarat police after it refused to take into account his meticulous documentation of the carnage. Sreekumar has also detailed how the ‘bad cops’ were rewarded with plum postings for aligning with the state government.

In July 2002, when he was the ADGP (Intelligence), he is said to have received information that the weapons allegedly hauled up from Daryapur locality in Ahmedabad by DIG (Crime Branch) DG Vanzara (a Modi favourite, later jailed for the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi), actually came from a VHP factory in Sabarkantha. Another top cop, Rahul Sharma, who was instrumental in getting Gujarat minister Mayaben Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel booked for their direct complicity in the 2002 killings, also had to face the wrath of the chief minister. He was ‘gifted’ with a punishment posting as Deputy Inspector General (DIG-Arms Unit) at Rajkot. It was Sharma who painstakingly collected the call details of conversations between top bureaucrats, the chief minister’s office and other important officers during the carnage, between February 27 and March 3, 2002, and burned them into a CD while he was serving as DCP (Control) in Ahmedabad. Ironically, he was transferred after he saved about 200 children and others in a madarsa in Bhavnagar which was about to be torched by a bloodthirsty mob; as a last resort, he had ordered the police to open fire to stop them. Five rioters were killed. Sources report that Modi and his ministers did not like his guts, nor his steadfast sense of high ethics, unprejudiced law enforcement and professional conduct.

The call details provided to the Nanavati Commission and SIT by Sharma – much to the anger of the Modi regime – are one of the most important pieces of evidence which show how the BJP-led administrative apparatus was hand-in-glove with the organised gangs of VHP-Bajrang Dal, during the 2002 mayhem. Indeed, instead of rewarding him for saving the lives of innocents, a vindictive Modi government is reportedly keen on booking him for the “criminal” act of handing over the mobile records. Superintendent of Police (SP) in Kutch in 2002, Vivek Shrivastava, too was transferred to an unimportant designation with the state home guards after he arrested a local home guards commandant, also an alleged active member of the VHP, for rioting. He also did not allow riots in Kutch, which remained largely peaceful. This too went against the wishes of the state government. Shrivastava, luckily, managed to get out of Gujarat and is now posted as Deputy Director, Intelligence Bureau, in Delhi. However, Himanshu Bhatt, the then SP of Banaskantha, was not so lucky. He was transferred to the intelligence branch, considered a punishment posting for young officers, after he reportedly suspended a local sub-inspector caught brandishing a sword with the rioters. Bhatt took a break and went to Harvard for an academic course. On his return, he was not given any posting. Hence, he apparently decided to move out of the country. Predictably, later the sub-inspector was reinstated in the same police station.

Rajnish Rai, following the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, was instrumental in arresting the ‘Modi loyalist coterie’ of high-profile cops (also, alleged extortionists/murderers) – DG Vanzara, Dinesh MN and Rajkumar Pandian. They were reportedly working at the behest of former home minister and close Modi associate Amit Shah. Rai had to face frequent transfers to insignificant posts in Gujarat. Uncannily, in a bizarre case of political vengeance, he was implicated for ‘copying’ in LLB exams. Later, he got a clean chit from the Gujarat High Court in the ‘cheating case’. On a study leave, he is now pursuing a course at IIM, Ahmedabad. Satish Chandra Verma, now a member of the SIT probing the (fake?) Ishrat Jahan encounter, was transferred as principal of the Junagadh Police Training Institute after he arrested BJP MLA Shankar Chaudhary for rioting and allegedly killing two Muslims. He never got an executive or field posting after that. Considered an honest cop, Verma recently filed an affidavit stating that two other senior members of the SIT are trying to hush up the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. The four murdered youngsters were accused by Gujarat police of plotting to assassinate Modi. Verma has now clearly implied that it was a ‘fake encounter’. The then Bharuch SP, MD Antani, who refused to carry out official orders and instead stopped rioters, was shifted out to Narmada district. He is now serving as a passport officer in Ahmedabad. Interestingly, the then DGP, Gujarat, K Chakravarthi, had written to the additional chief secretary in charge of the home department a good four weeks after the riots started, saying that transfers of outstanding police officers who had done a commendable job in restraining rioters would demoralise the police force. Nothing happened. Chakravarthi, according to sources, did not have the courage to take on Modi, stop the killings, restore the rule of law, or tell the truth during and after the carnage. So much so, he is now claiming that Sanjiv Bhatt did not attend the meeting, while others are even pretending compulsive amnesia (Modi’s Bloody Ghosts).

Kuldeep Sharma, another senior IPS officer, who was slated to be the top cop in Gujarat, was instead shown the door and transferred to the innocuous Sheep and Wool Department after he tried to arrest a minister for his involvement in a criminal conspiracy. On August 1, 2005, Sharma, then Additional DGP, CID (Crime and Railways), had written to the then chief secretary of Gujarat, Sudhir Mankad, of Amit Shah’s involvement in bailing out scamster Ketan Parekh. He had asked Mankad to duly inform Modi, the chief minister. Sharma unearthed phone records of Shah, Girish Dani, a broker, and Parekh, and established that Shah took a bribe of Rs 2.5 crore from Parekh in the Rs 1,000 crore plus scam. Shah, who was then chairman of Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank, had taken the bribe to bail out the main accused, Parekh. Since then, despite Sharma’s honest track record, his promotions were blocked, and he was hounded by Shah and Modi. Recently, he was finally deputed to a position in Delhi, despite the Gujarat government’s stiff opposition. Recently, his brother, Pradeep Sharma, an IAS officer, who too has been allegedly victimised, wrote a letter to the SIT saying that he received a call from Modi during the riots directing him to ask Kuldeep not to take any action against the rioters. Pradeep Sharma is languishing in jail, apparently on cooked-up charges of involvement in a land scam.



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Trust in law – Editorial (May 18, 2011, Indian Express)

Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court to overrule the Karnataka high court and reinstate 16 members of the Karnataka legislative assembly was a spark for the current, many-sided confrontation between the BJP, the Congress, the JD (S) and the state governor, H.R. Bhardwaj. The implications of the judgment for the anti-defection law, however, also need close examination and discussion. Ever since the anti-defection law was first passed in 1985 and subsequently strengthened, many of its provisions have been open to multiple readings – and many speakers have interpreted them to suit their parties’ purpose. Now the court has brought clarity to many points.

In this case there were several questions at stake. When, in a highly controversial decision in October 2010, the speaker of the Karnataka assembly disqualified 11 BJP MLAs and five independent MLAs – enabling the Yeddyurappa government to survive a trust vote – was there a proper process that he needed to follow? Does writing to the governor and asking for a change of CM constitute abandoning your party? Does an independent MLA who takes a ministerial berth give up his “independent” status and become part of the party he is supporting and has received his cabinet post from? The high court had gone with the speaker’s view on most of these issues; the Supreme Court has answered those questions differently. The Karnataka speaker, in particular, came in for some pointed criticism from the judges: relying on news reports is not enough, they said, the MLAs should have been permitted to speak for themselves.

This judgment is useful in that it further clarifies some crucial red lines. Independent MLAs stay independent even if they are supporting a government. But, most crucially, the bench’s ruling appears to substantiate the point that you cannot be considered to have defected unless you have demonstrated that defection by voting against the government. The application of the anti-defection law has many grey areas, and clarity on some of them is useful. The court’s ruling is a reminder that strengthening our legislatures involves re-examining, from time to time, the rules and procedures under which they operate. And the controversies sparked over the past few days should also be a caution against the easy suggestion that often floats around about giving the governor/president the eventual power to decide on the disqualification of legislators under the anti-defection law.



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Welcome stay – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (May 21, 2011, Frontline)

Right from the day it was delivered on September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court judgment recommending trifurcation of the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya evoked widespread criticism over its violations and limitations in terms of established judicial practices. The Supreme Court in its order of May 9, 2011, which stayed the High Court verdict, upheld, in a sense, the spirit of this criticism. The apex court observed that the three-way division in the High Court judgment was “strange” and “surprising”. The two-member Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha stated thus: “A new dimension was given by the High Court as the decree of partition was not sought by the parties. It was not prayed by anyone. It has to be stayed. It’s a strange order. How can a decree of partition be passed when none of the parties had prayed for it? Court has done something on its own. It’s strange. Such kind of decrees cannot be allowed to be in operation.”

In the wake of the High Court judgment, it was pointed out in both judicial and political forums that the tools of jurisprudence employed by the three judges in formulating the verdict marked a significant departure from usual judicial practice. Central to this criticism was the judges’ use of faith and belief as key components in the arguments they advanced. Several legal experts pointed out that issues relating to faith and belief were brought in in such a large measure by Justices Dharam Veer Sharma, Sudhir Agarwal and Sibghat Ullah Khan in their individual judgments that they almost seemed to overlook the fundamental fact that the case under jurisdiction related to a title suit in a property dispute. The Supreme Court stay order has not gone into an analysis of this perceived transgression of normal judicial practice, but several parties to the dispute and close observers of the Ayodhya case say this will happen anyway in the course of the hearing on the appeals that have come up before the apex court.

Talking to Frontline, Anupam Gupta, former counsel of the Justice Liberhan Commission, which was set up to bring out the truth behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, said the Supreme Court stay order would enable a re-examination of all the premises and postulates of the Allahabad High Court order when the case progressed to the final hearing stage. He said: “The use of the words ‘strange’ and ‘surprising’ is significant. The Supreme Court could have just stated that all parties involved in the dispute – the Sunni Central Waqf Board, which claimed to have had possession of the disputed structure and the land around it since the 16th century, the Nirmohi Akhara, which has staked its claim to the property since 1885 and ran a place of worship on the premises, and Lord Ram Lalla (infant Ram), represented by his Sakha (close friend) Triloki Nath Pandey – are against trifurcation and hence the verdict is stayed. But the Bench chose to observe that the Allahabad High Court verdict was strange and surprising. Undoubtedly, this observation has significance beyond its immediate context and should serve as a reminder to civil society in general and in particular to those sections that had persuaded it to believe that trifurcation was the best possible pragmatic solution to the Ayodhya dispute. These sections had argued that the long-standing problem had caused social and political fatigue in the population and that one should look for easy and practical justice. The Supreme Court stay underscores one important aspect that these sections of civil society chose to overlook: that no solution that does not stand up to proper judicial principles and scrutiny can be acceptable to a nation and its people.”

While Gupta did not name the sections of civil society, it is widely known that the two big mainstream political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had welcomed the trifurcation recommendation as a possible basis for a negotiated settlement of the Ayodhya dispute. The Supreme Court order has virtually quashed this expectation. Interestingly, the BJP welcomed the Supreme Court stay too. The Congress maintained that the party, as a matter of principle, did not comment on judicial issues that were under process. Other secular political forces, including the Left parties, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Samajwadi Party (S.P.), have welcomed the Supreme Court order as a step in the right direction. In Ayodhya itself, the parties to the dispute welcomed the apex court order. Mohammed Hashim Ansari, the main plaintiff in the case on behalf of the Sunni Central Waqf Board, told Frontline that none of the parties involved in the dispute wanted a division of the property. “The apex court order should serve as a lesson for all those involved in cheap politics over the issue,” Ansari said. Mahant Bhaskar Das of the Nirmohi Akhara echoed Ansari’s view. He said his organisation was against the division of the disputed land and added that the Supreme Court had justified the akhara’s stand.

The third party, Triloki Nath Pandey, representing Ram Lalla, also welcomed the decision because he and all the devotees of Ram believe that all of Ayodhya is the property of the deity and it cannot be apportioned to other organisations or faiths. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the sword arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-led Sangh Parivar and the strongest political associate of the third party, also welcomed the stay and advanced arguments similar to those of Pandey. Talking to Frontline from Lucknow, Zafaryab Jilani, main lawyer of the Sunni Central Wakf Board and a leader of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC), said the Supreme Court stay did indicate that the earlier sanctioned decree of the Allahabad High Court was not sound in law. “The order has once again opened up the Ayodhya case for all possibilities and, of course, a long judicial process,” he said. Jilani and other legal experts associated with the three parties to the dispute were of the view that legal procedures in the Supreme Court would at least take another two years. However, representatives of all the parties told Frontline that they were open to negotiations under a competent political authority, which could lead to an amicable settlement. In fact, Mohammed Hashim Ansari had joined hands with Mahant Gyan Das of the Hanuman Garhi temple in Ayodhya to initiate steps in this direction. But so far the move has failed to gather momentum. Given the chequered history of the dispute and the efforts for a negotiated settlement, no political organisation has the credibility to take the lead in such an exercise.



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The Bhopal buck stops here – Editorial (May 13, 2011, The Hindu)

The Supreme Court’s decision to reject as “wrong and fallacious” the curative plea filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Bhopal case has led to a lot of unnecessary hand-wringing by NGOs and activists. The government sought to enhance the culpability of those responsible for the December 1984 gas disaster from mere “criminal negligence” – for which they were convicted last year – to “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.” In dismissing the government’s petition, the Supreme Court concluded that its 1996 verdict, which threw out the culpable homicide accusation, was the product of evidence presented at the time charges were framed.

But it also told the CBI that if there were additional facts to conclude that a more serious offence had been committed, nothing would stand in the way of the sessions court framing graver charges. Should the sessions judge have reservations, especially given the passage of time, the Supreme Court has indicated that its 1996 verdict would not be a “fetter” against delivering justice to the victims of the calamitous gas leak. If the Chief Judicial Magistrate misread its earlier judgment as constraining, the revisional court “can certainly correct” that error, the highest court in the land has noted.

The CBI’s inability to credibly explain why it moved the Supreme Court so many years after 1996 – or after 2002, when the instrumentality of curative petitions was created – hides an open secret that continues to shock all partisans of justice round the world. The truth is that successive administrations at the Centre, whether headed by the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party or the United Front, have not been interested in the guilty being punished. Equally damningly, they have cared little about justice being done to the victims. Once again, the ball is back in the government’s hands. It is too early to say whether the beginning of the end to a long wait for justice has been set in motion for the victims of the Bhopal tragedy through the Supreme Court’s verdict.

All eyes will now be on the CBI: will it push for enhanced charges at the sessions court now that the legal picture has become clearer? It is up to the Madhya Pradesh and central governments to ensure that this matter is argued expeditiously and that any appeals which follow are fast-tracked. Later this summer, the petition seeking enhancement of compensation for the victims will be heard. Although the Supreme Court cannot easily conjure up a remedy for the manifest failure of the executive to protect the rights of the gas victims, it needs to remain engaged with the case until justice is finally delivered.



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Terror and error – Editorial (May 19, 2011, The Hindu)

Were it not for our security establishment’s love of schadenfreude, the public embarrassment of including in a list of 50 ‘most wanted’ terrorists supposedly hiding in Pakistan the name of a man who is very much in India could have been avoided. Despite living in Thane and making regular court appearances, Wazhul Kamar Khan, an accused in the 2003 Mulund train blast, figured as Number 41 in the fugitives list India handed over to Pakistani Interior Ministry officials in March. The Pakistanis took away the list and there the matter might well have ended.

But it was the desire to add to Islamabad’s discomfiture in the days after U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan that led Indian officials to rake up the list and plant a story about it in the media. Their aim, presumably, was to remind the world that Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists of all sorts, a completely unnecessary move given the prevailing international perceptions post-Abbottabad. If anything, the leaking of the list was a petty ‘bilateral’ gambit that detracted from the ‘global’ dimension of the Pakistani military’s dalliance with terrorism. That it also contained a serious error which Pakistan is likely to use to question India’s facts is unforgivable.

Truth to tell, the goof-up over Mr. Khan’s whereabouts is part of a wider pathology afflicting the Indian system: the lack of professionalism in the conduct of security and foreign policy. When it comes to India’s relations with Pakistan, or any country for that matter, the sole window for public pronouncements and even unofficial briefings ought to be the Ministry of External Affairs or the Prime Minister’s Office. What we have instead is a free-for-all in which top generals, bureaucrats, and even defence scientists feel free to make statements – or plant stories – that have a crucial bearing on foreign policy. Army chief V.K. Singh and DRDO head V.K. Saraswat have both publicly boasted about India’s ability to mount an Abbottabad-type operation.

The Pakistani military, under fire at home for the OBL fiasco, latched on to General Singh’s statement and used it to stoke nationalist fears about the threat posed by India. Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wisely noted he could not be expected to discuss military matters in front of the media. But it is not clear the message has gone down. As far as the ’50 most wanted’ list is concerned, the error should also serve as a reminder to our intelligence agencies and internal security bureaucracy that their time is best spent getting their house in order rather than hamming it on a diplomatic stage for which they have neither talent nor aptitude.



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Hunger for more or more of hunger? – By Devinder Sharma (May 21, 2011, Tehelka)

Rural India is on the boil. What we have seen in Greater Noida, Aligarh, Agra, Allahabad and Mathura in UP or Mansa in Punjab or Jaitapur in Maharashtra or Mangalore in Karnataka are mere representations of what’s happening far away from the glare of the national media. Pitched battles are being fought across the country by the poor who fear further marginalisation when their land is grabbed by the government on behalf of the industry. Even a state like Madhya Pradesh, which otherwise seems relatively calm and untouched by the turmoil, has seen violent protests against forcible takeover of land. In five years, the clashes have multiplied from 67 in 2005 to 252 in 2009. The builder-industrialist-politician nexus, often held responsible for landrelated agitations, finds a new player now. Ever since economists began telling us that land is an economic asset, which unfortunately, is in the hands of the inefficient, there has been a scramble by industry, driven by real estate, to procure as much as possible. Surprisingly, it is the World Bank that is backing this strategy. The World Development Report 2008 calls for land rentals and setting up training centres to train displaced farmers in industrial work.

State governments are facilitating the process of takeover. Whether it is for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) or IT parks or nuclear reactors or airports or even for bio-fuel plantations, the battle for land has become fierce. So powerful are these economic interests that many chief ministers have also been found suspect. Thanks to economists, the argument that industry is important for economic growth is coming in handy to usurp land, water and other natural resources. Over the years, agriculture has been deliberately turned into a losing proposition. As a result, farmers in most places are keen to move out, provided they get a better price for their land. This is a global phenomenon. It is primarily for this reason that even in a highly subsidised Europe, where farmers receive direct income support, one farmer every minute is forced to quit farming. Agriculture is increasingly coming under big agribusinesses. The same trend is being adopted in India, which alone has one-fourth of the world’s farmers.

While good productive farmland is being diverted for non-agricultural purposes, there is no mention of the resulting disaster awaiting the nation as far as food security is concerned. As per rough estimates, 6.6 million hectares would be taken out of farming in UP, which would mean a production loss of 14 million tonnes of foodgrains. In other words, UP will be faced with a terrible food crisis in the years to come, the seeds for which are being sown now. The question no one is asking is who will feed UP? What is not being realised is that crisis in that state alone will make all estimates of the proposed National Food Security Act go topsy-turvy. An economic superpower cannot be built on hungry stomachs. The need, therefore, is to immediately ban the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. This has to be followed with a comprehensive development planning Act that is people-friendly and replaces the draconian Land Acquisition Act, 1894.



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