IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 26th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Announcements

All Indians need to be vigilant in safeguarding secularism say Indian Americans

Muslim community urged to work towards development and pursuit of justice

May 26, 2014

Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called on all Indians to be vigilant in safeguarding the secular institutions under the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) administration. It has also urged the Muslim community to utilize the democratic institutions to secure their constitutional rights and work towards strengthening the secular pillars of the nation.

BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the primary constituent of NDA, scored a simple majority in the recently concluded elections on the plank of development and good governance. Its vote share of 31% however, is a reflection of the electorate’s continued rejection of the Hindutva ideology, which BJP has espoused throughout its history.

On the occasion of the swearing-in of the new government, Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC remarked, “We should respect the decision of the voters, but work to counter the influence of Hindutva that seeks to relegate the minorities to second class citizens. Several factors including the alliance’s promise of economic growth and development contributed to their victory. However it does not mean that the masses have abandoned the pluralist ethos.”

“Ideological swings in elections is part and parcel of a democratic system, but the struggle for justice and for upholding constitutional guarantees goes beyond the results of any one election. While sincerity towards secular principles varies between the different political parties, the need for the populace to hold every elected leader accountable for upholding equality before the law of all citizens is always present,” Shaheen Khateeb, a former President of the organization commented.

IAMC urges the community and its leadership to move beyond the election results and focus on the upliftment of the community by getting more creative and resilient in the face of the odds. “The BJP can become an inclusive people’s party if it distances itself from the fountainhead of Hindutva, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). On the other hand, they will be successful in furthering the RSS agenda only if civil society does not challenge their actions. The Indian Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens and the democratic institutions of the country should be utilized to ensure it remains that way. Muslims, as the largest minority in the country, ought to be leading the way in defending human rights and religious freedom for all citizens,” Ahsan Khan exhorted.

Khalid Ansari, Vice-President of the organization said, “I have a simple message for Muslims: Stay optimistic and forward looking. The solutions to the challenges facing the community can and should be addressed by using available opportunities and creating new avenues. Be vigilant and positive to prevent the youth from getting radicalized. Demand your rights and fully participate in the development of the nation as equal citizens. Be relentless in the pursuit of justice for all the aggrieved and disadvantaged sections of society. IAMC will support all initiatives of the Muslim leadership in India to develop a comprehensive roadmap for the upliftment of the community.”

Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation. For more information, please visit http://www.iamc.com

CONTACT:

Ishaq Syed
phone: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com
address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053.

REFERENCES:

1. Will Modi be a prime minister for all Indians?
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/modi-615483-india-people.html
2. VHP’s wishlist for Modi ranges from Ram Mandir to law on cow slaughter
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/vhps-wishlist-to-modi-ranges-from-ram-mandir-to-law-on-cow-slaughter/474175-37-64.html
3. Preserve the Idea of India
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/preserve-the-idea-of-india/article6017266.ece

4. In ‘PM Modi’, Muslim clerics repose guarded faith, seek secular leader
http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/in-pm-modi-muslim-clerics-repose-guarded-faith-seek-secular-leader/99/

5. What Indians expect from PM Modi
http://twocircles.net/2014may21/what_indians_expect_pm_modi.html

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The SC release of Akshardham suspects raises questions about PM Modi (May 21, 2014, First Post)

On 16 May as election results poured in and it was evident that BJP under its PM candidate Narendra Modi would form the next government, it was also the day when the Supreme Court acquitted all six convicts, including three condemned prisoners in 2002 Akshardham temple attack case. India’s top court also pulled up the Gujarat Police for shoddy investigation in the case in which all the accused faced prosecution under the stringent anti-terror law POTA.

The court also came down sharply on the Home Minister of Gujarat – Narendra Modi himself – and blamed him for “clear non-application of mind…in granting sanction,” since it was based neither on an informed decision nor on an independent analysis of facts….”

Now the men who were accused and picked up by the Gujarat police have come out to speak against their persecution.…

http://www.firstpost.com/india/the-sc-release-of-akshardham-suspects-raises-questions-about-pm-modi-1535291.html

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‘They asked me to choose: Godhra, Pandya or Akshardham’ (May 21, 2014, Indian Express)

Gujarat Police gave him the “choice” of being implicated in the Godhra train burning, Haren Pandya murder and Akshardham terror, one of the men acquitted by the Supreme Court in the temple attack case alleged on Tuesday. Mohammed Saleem was eventually sentenced to life under POTA for involvement in the Akshardham case. On May 16, the day Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi won his historic mandate, the Supreme Court set Saleem and five others free, pulling up the Gujarat Police for framing innocent people, and blaming the then home minister – Modi – for “non-application of mind”. Four of the six men had already spent over 10 years in jail.

“I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years, when they picked me up alleging there was a problem with my passport. They beat me brutally – I still have scars on my back, and I suffered a fracture in my foot. They asked me which case I wanted to be charged under – Akshardham, Haren Pandya or Godhra. I did not know what to say,” Saleem told a press conference addressed by five of the six men in Delhi. Saleem’s daughter was born four months after his arrest. He picked her up in his arms for the first time only after his release – the child is 10 years old now.

The world of Abdul Qaiyum Muftisaab Mohammed Bhai alias Mufti Abdul Qaiyum has changed completely in the 11 years that he spent in jail. His father is dead, and his family no longer lives in their old home. His acquittal by the Supreme Court, Qaiyum said, was “mere release from prison; justice had been buried at every moment in these 11 years”.

Qaiyum said the main charge against him was that two letters recovered from the two fidayeen killed in the terror attack had been written by him. He was framed, Qaiyum alleged.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat/they-asked-me-to-choose-godhra-pandya-or-akshardham/99/

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Goa professional booked for anti-Modi post, people call it an attempt to muzzle free speech (May 25, 2014, IBN)

There have been protests outside the Goa Police headquarters after young shipping professional Devu Chodankar was booked for his Facebook post on Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi. Many even alleged that this was an attempt to muzzle free speech. A protestor said, “Prosecution has certainly not done right by curbing the expression of free speech by trying to arrest somebody.”

In a post on March 23, Chodankar had said if Modi comes to power, he would unleash a ‘holocaust’, a post that the police claimed was later deleted. He has been booked under the contentious section 66A of the IT Act along with sections of 153(A) and 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR was registered by former chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries Atul Pai Kane.

But Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar maintained that steps were taken in accordance with law. Parrikar said, “The case has been filed according to the direction of the Supreme Court. The police is bound to file a case when it is a cognizable offence. An inquiry is being conducted. I have told the police to take action as per law.”

Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat condemned the incident. He said, “We condemn this. This is Hitler model of government. We warn that the Congress party is not going to keep quite.” Fearing an arrest, Chodankar had approached a local court but his anticipatory bail was rejected. He is now likely to approach the High Court. Meanwhile, Goa Police maintained that the comments do qualify for cognizable offence. But many still questioning the need for custodial interrogation.…

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/goa-professional-booked-for-antimodi-post-people-call-it-an-attempt-to-muzzle-free-speech/474187-3-253.html

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Pravin Togadia’s hate speech: Despite FIR, no action (May 21, 2014, Times of India)

A month after a first information report (FIR) was registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia for an alleged hate speech, Bhavnagar police seem to be in no hurry to expedite legal proceedings in the matter.

Togadia was booked for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration and disobedience of an order duly promulgated by public servant following an order from Election Commission of India (ECI).

He had allegedly asked a group of residents to forcibly evict a Muslim individual, who had bought a house in a predominantly Hindu area of Bhavnagar. TOI was the first to report Togadia’s hate speech delivered in Bhavnagar. Sources said there has been no significant progress in the investigations in this case even after a month of the FIR being lodged.

The police are still in the process of taking statements of local residents who attended the function chaired by Togadia where he delivered his speech. When contacted deputy superintendent of police, Bhavnagar city, R I Patel said the investigation is on and the police have sent video footages of Togadia to Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) for verification.

On being asked whether the police have issued any summons to Togadia, Patel said, “The case requires ‘deep’ investigation and it will take time.” Meanwhile, VHP workers in Bhavnagar have carried out a series of protests outside the house in question purchased by the Muslim businessman. The police have enhanced security in the area to avoid any untoward incident.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35444277.cms

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Muzaffarnagar under tight security after Darul Uloom student dies of bullet injuries (May 26, 2014, Indian Express)

Security was beefed up in the communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar after a student of Darul Uloom Deoband, who was shot at by unidentified gunmen, succumbed to his injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, the police said.

Mohd Mubarik, one of the two students who were shot at by the motorbike-borne criminals near Barla village on May 23, succumbed to his injuries at Safdarjung hospital on Saturday night while another student Abu Azmi was undergoing treatment, SP crime Rakesh Kumar Jolly told reporters here.

Leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband condemned the incident and demanded immediate arrest of the accused. Meanwhile, security was tightened in the district in view of tension over the incident. Police also launched a hunt to nab the culprits.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/muzaffarnagar-under-tight-security-after-darul-uloom-student-dies-of-bullet-injuries/

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Malegaon blasts: Maharashtra govt denied permission to prosecute policemen, CBI tells Indore court (May 23, 2014, IBN)

The CBI, which probed the mysterious disappearance of Dilip Patidar, a witness in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, on Thursday filed a report before the court in Indore, recommending closure of the case as Maharashtra authorities did not give permission to prosecute two accused officers. The 17-page report, filed before the CBI Magistrate Raghvendra Singh Chouhan, stated that Maharashtra government did not give permission to prosecute inspector Rajendra Dhule and assistant sub-inspector Ramesh More of the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).

According to CBI, Dhule and More abducted Patidar and kept him in illegal custody so that they can force him to confess to few things related to the blast in Malegaon. They prepared fake documents to shield themselves, the report adds. For the want of sanction to prosecute them from the state government, CBI could not arrest the duo.

CBI had filed a case against Dhule and More under sections 120B (conspiracy), 348 (wrongful confinement to extort confession), 365 (kidnapping), 193 (false evidence), and 218 (preparing false record) of the IPC. According to the report, Mumbai ATS took Patidar from Indore on November 10-11, 2008 for questioning, and since then he is missing. He was kept in illegal custody, without producing him before the court, even when he was ready to record his statement before the court, CBI says.

Patidar was a tenant of Ramchandra Kalsangra, an accused in Samjhauta Express blast case and other terror-related cases. ATS was hoping that it might get some clues about Kalsangra through Patidar. Patidar’s brother Ramswaroop had moved the Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, demanding CBI probe. ATS had told the HC that Patidar went to Mumbai on his own to record his statement. He was asked to bring proof of his identification and he left the ATS office on November 18, 2008, never to return.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/malegaon-blasts-maharashta-govt-denied-permission-to-prosecute-policemen-cbi-tells-indore-court/473684-3-236.html

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Mumbai CBI court to hear fake encounter cases involving Amit Shah (May 21, 2014, Economic Times)

Amit Shah’s phenomenal success as the architect of BJP’s sweep in Uttar Pradesh and the cementing of his image as Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi’s righthand man has put the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a tricky situation as the lead probe agency has to convince a court to frame charges against him for his alleged involvement in three staged killings.

BJP has long maintained that these cases are politically motivated. Shah is supposed to appear before a Special CBI court in Mumbai on May 23 which will decide whether to frame charges against him for his involvement in the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. Shah, in March, had filed an application in court saying he should be discharged from the case as there is no substantive evidence against him.

A top CBI official told ET on Tuesday that CBI has recently filed a reply opposing Shah’s application, which reiterated that it has enough prosecutable evidence against Shah. “We have filed a reply saying Shah’s plea for discharge should be dismissed….we have to back our chargesheet against him. The court has to now decide on whether to discharge Shah or frame murder charges against him,” the CBI official said on the condition of anonymity.

CBI officials conceded that the matter was becoming “uncomfortable” for the agency given Shah’s crucial role in the new political dispensation “CBI is set to start oral arguments in court opposing Shah’s discharge application and stressing why he has a major role in all three killings. …

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35399028.cms

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ABVP members disrupt meet on DU prof arrest (May 25, 2014, Times of India)

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members on Saturday allegedly ransacked the venue of a seminar organized at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies to discuss the arrest of a Delhi University professor for his alleged links with Maoists.

The organizers, in a press note, said, “A group of ABVP activists shouting slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ forcibly entered the seminar room and damaged property of the institute.” The seminar was organized to discuss the arrest of G N Saibaba, a professor at Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi who was arrested on May 9 by the Maharashtra police.

Patna SSP Manu Maharaaj said a case was lodged in connection with the incident with the Gandhi Maidan police station. The police would take action against those involved in the vandalism.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35578318.cms

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Inside court room, lawyers attack friend of Northeast woman who alleged molestation (May 24, 2014, Financial Express)

A group of lawyers allegedly assaulted the friend of a woman, who had filed a molestation complaint against an advocate, at the Tis Hazari court on Friday. According to police, the 38-year-old woman, who hails from Nagaland, had lodged a police complaint claiming that a lawyer had molested and slapped her outside the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station in North Delhi on Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, when the accused lawyer, Inder Narayan, was produced before a magistrate at the Tis Hazari court, a group of lawyers allegedly assaulted the victim’s friend, who is also from the Northeast, inside the court room. Narayan has been given bail in the molestation case.

According to police, on Thursday night, the woman was returning home when Narayan allegedly passed lewd remarks. The victim told police that when she protested, Narayan slapped her. “First he passed some comments about me and when I objected, he came close and molested me. I raised the alarm. Passers-by near the Metro station station came to my help and nabbed him. He was later handed over to the local police,” the victim said.

On Friday afternoon, the woman came to the court accompanied by her lawyers and friends. One of her friends, J Mavio Woba, a student activist, was allegedly slapped by a lawyer inside the court room. Other lawyers also assaulted Mavio claiming that Narayan was being framed. The court staff immediately called the Inspector in-charge of the Tis Hazari police chowki. A police team came and led the woman and her friends out of the court. Her statement was recorded in the magistrate’s chamber.

Advocate Dmitry, counsel of the woman, said, “The lawyers were unruly and violent. They even tore the shirt of the investigating officer. Police advised us not to aggravate the situation by insisting on a complaint against them on the court premises. It was good advice as the lawyers were about 20-30 in number and were getting violent. They threw ink on the files of the investigating officer and tore his shirt. The IO was rescued by us and we left through the rear gate.” …

http://www.financialexpress.com/news/inside-court-room-lawyers-attack-friend-of-northeast-woman-who-alleged-molestation/1253817/0

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Cops face court’s ire for releasing dowry case accused (May 23, 2014, Hindustan Times)

The cops posted at Sarabha Nagar police station faced the ire of a local court on Friday for releasing a dowry harassment accused in a case lodged by Sonia Heera, daughter of senior Akali leader Malkit Singh Birmi. The court of chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Ranjeev Kumar on Friday recommended stringent action against the investigation officer sub-inspector Navdeep Singh. The court also issued non-bailable warrants against all accused named in the FIR. The court has also asked the police to depute an inspector-level officer to investigate the matter and report the developments to the court on weekly basis.

Sonia, through her counsel Harpreet Sandhu, had moved application against the police officials that set her husband Maninder Singh Heera free without producing him before a court. In the orders, the CJM said the court was not satisfied with the investigation into the case. An FIT in the said case was registered only after senior police officials had done a detailed probe and found Maninder Heera prima facie guilty. Maninder was arrested by Ludhiana police and set free without even producing him before a court.

Harpreet Sandu said that the orders also stated that the complainant was at liberty to approach to the commissioner of police, Ludhiana, for appropriate administrative action against the erring cops for not performing their duty in a satisfactory manner. The case has been adjourned to July 5.

It is pertinent to mention that in an application submitted in the court regarding non-production of the accused before the court, the complainant stated that on May 20, a police party from Sarabha Nagar police, headed by sub-inspector Navdeep Singh went to Amritsar and apprehended one of the dowry harassment accused, Maninder Singh Heera, from Heera farm house, Ajnala Road, Amritsar. The police also recovered a Chevrolet Cruze and certain dowry articles from the spot. But instead of producing the accused in the court, the investigating officer released him against any such provision under the law.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1222280.aspx

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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s Obligation to Justice – Editorial (May 20, 2014, New York Times)

With the strongest mandate of any incoming government in India in 30 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime minister-designate, Narendra Modi, has a historic opportunity to shape the country’s future. Many Indians, and many of India’s friends, are eager to move forward with Mr. Modi. It is time, they say, to forget his troubling past, when he was associated with deadly riots in his home state of Gujarat that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

Unfortunately, there are several factors that will keep that past alive and hinder the ability of the new government to deliver on its economic promises. One is Mr. Modi’s unapologetic allegiance to the Hindu political right. On the day after the election results were announced, Mr. Modi made a symbolically charged trip to Varanasi, the Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges. This pilgrimage – where Mr. Modi vowed to take on the “dirty work” he said was his God-given purpose in life – sent one signal to his supporters on the Hindu political right, and a very different message to Muslims.

Mr. Modi needs now to offer a powerful balancing message by acting promptly to end the neglect of nearly 4,000 Muslim families displaced by the 2002 riots and now living in 86 settlements in Gujarat. A U.S. State Department report states that 30 percent of these victims have yet to receive any aid at all. Though Mr. Modi boasts of infrastructure development in Gujarat, these camps lack drinking water, power and sanitation.

The new government should also demonstrate its commitment to a fair and effective judiciary. There are still cases related to the 2002 riots wending their way through courts. Mr. Modi must guard against even the appearance of meddling with the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Ensuring impartial, speedy and certain justice for all of India’s citizens would do much to inspire confidence across the board in his new government, and to strengthen the democratic foundation of the country’s future.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/21/opinion/modis-obligation-to-justice.html

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Will Modi be a prime minister for all Indians? – By Doug Bandow (May 23, 2014, OC Register)

For years, India has disappointed expectations. Tagged as the next great power preparing to challenge China and, eventually, America, India, instead, has lagged economically, stagnated politically, and battled religiously. Now, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has won a stunning political victory. India’s future depends on Modi’s ability to transcend his sectarian roots and govern on behalf of all Indians.

Throughout the Cold War, the Delhi government kept its people poor by mismanaging the economy. Politics was dominated by the dynastic India National Congress Party. Eventually the Congress Party began economic reforms, and the BJP broke the Congress political monopoly. Of particular concern is the government’s inability or unwillingness to combat religious violence and prosecute those responsible.

Explained the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: “India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice when crimes occur due to a lack of political will, political corruption, and religious bias by government officials.” Much violence occurs between the two largest groups, Hindus and Muslims, but other religious minorities also are targeted. In 2007-08, in the state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa), rioting Hindus murdered scores of Christians, forced thousands to flee, and destroyed many homes and churches.

Unfortunately, Modi was implicated in one of the country’s worst episodes of sectarian violence. In 2002, in the state of Gujarat, in which Modi served as chief minister, Hindu rioters killed more than 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, and forced 150,000 people from their homes. Critics charged Modi with both encouraging the violence and failing to stop it. Modi was absolved of responsibility, though prosecutors may not have looked very hard. He defends his conduct, saying he only wishes he had handled the media better.

However, Modi has ridden a sectarian tide to power. He graduated to the BJP from the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (“National Volunteer Society”), which he joined in his youth. He denounced Muslims early in his career and a number of his closest associates are pronounced Hindu nationalists. … Modi has a historic opportunity. His government will be the first in years to enjoy a solid majority in the Lok Sabha, or lower house. The people he will represent are both entrepreneurial and impatient, demanding the chance to better their lives. The Indian people need more opportunity, not more dependency. The choice soon will be up to Narendra Modi. Much around the globe depends on what he decides.

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/modi-615483-india-people.html

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Cosmetic Journalism – By Monobina Gupta (May 31, 2014, EPW)

It was the day Arvind Kejriwal staged his stunning roadshow in Goduliya Chowk, Varanasi’s swarming nerve centre where crowds jostled shoulder-to-shoulder every evening. Prior to that spectacular event, I had spent time with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activists campaigning in the maze of lanes and by-lanes of Onkaaleshwar. As we urged the residents to join the public rally, one of them walked up to me. “Can I ask you a question?” he asked. I smiled and nodded. “Media hamare programmes kuchch nahin dikha rahi hain. Aisa kyon hain?” (The media has not been covering all our programmes. Why is that so?) Just hours before, I had been chatting with AAP’s campaign team from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Bewildered and resentful, they too pitched the same question to me.

On the other side of the barricade, leaders of the Sangh Parivar could not compliment the media enough for its “stellar” role in the 2014 election campaign. At Ayodhya’s Karsevak Sangh, I met Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders who heaped lavish praise on the media for doing such an excellent job of projecting Modi in the high-voltage elections. Why was the media – particularly visual/electronic outlets (with print not far behind) – so one-sided in the 2014 elections? Why was the AAP campaign ignored even as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s every speech was reported ad nauseam, his visage dominating every camera frame? Full front-page advertisements heralding Modi’s imminent arrival at 7, Race Course Road ran for weeks in every important daily during the prolonged nine-phased elections.

Flush with money – sourced from industrialists and the stock market alike – parties like the BJP successfully bought up news time and space. For parties with thin pockets it was a hard political summer. Consider the visibility of regional parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United), each one a stalwart in its own right. Their campaigns received scant attention in the media. The Congress too was given short shrift from time to time. The treatment meted out in TV interviews to the two top contending faces of the elections – Rahul Gandhi and Modi – was discriminatory, if not outright biased.

The 2014 election campaign has raised disturbing questions about the direction the media is taking, about its complicity in making and unmaking leaders, and about the patterns of ownership of media organisations. Can journalists function autonomously in organisations whose major stakeholders are corporate giants or feudal families? If the primary objective of media houses is maximising profits or if the media is just one of several businesses run by industrialists who could well be simultaneously selling cement or tyres, how can journalism differentiate itself from the cosmetics or lingerie industry? Regional political parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) and Trinamool Congress own media houses too, which propagate their politics and leaders. In such a situation, the very idea of objectivity in the media seems to be a myth. Perhaps we should begin by acknowledging that truism.

Contemporary media in India is awash with a culture of consumerism. In their pursuit of consumers who will devour their print and visual products, media organisations are desperate to undercut each other. It’s the job of editors and reporters to simplify and homogenise the product, to even out rough edges (read: complexities), and to make information easily “consumable”. It is thus simpler to construct myths like the “unblemished Modi development model” rather than decode it historically, economically or socially. …

http://www.epw.in/postscript/cosmetic-journalism.html

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Searing indictment by Supreme Court – By ET Bureau (May 22, 2014, Economic Times)

On 16 May, the Supreme Court set aside a judgment of the Gujarat High Court and its preceding POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Special Court to acquit six people who, the Court found, had been framed by the Gujarat police’s Crime Branch for the 2002 attack on the Akshardham Temple.

It is sheer irony that it now falls to Narendra Modi, the then-Gujarat home minister who, according to the Court, sanctioned the prosecution without applying his mind, to ensure, in his capacity as the new prime minister of the land, that such miscarriage of justice is penalised and prevented. Facile prosecutions in terror cases wreck innocent lives and deracinate the constitutional promise of secularism and fairness. The judiciary and the executive must work in tandem to ensure that such miscarriage of justice never takes place again.

The Akshardham attack killed 33 people and grievously injured 86 others. While the terrorists who carried out the attack were killed by security forces, all those involved in the heinous crime needed to be brought to book. The Anti-Terrorism Squad failed to identify anyone for about 11 months, after which the case was transferred to the Crime Branch.

Instead of finding the guilty, the Crime Branch, within one day, arrested five Muslims, implicated one more and foisted cases on the six, fabricated evidence, tortured the accused and extracted confessions. The special court and the high court readily took the evidence presented before them at face value and convicted the accused, sentencing three of them to death, two to life imprisonment and one to 10 years.

Such show of investigative efficiency by the police is by no means the monopoly of Gujarat. Congress-ruled Maharashtra has several such excesses to its credit. The point is not to score political points but to put this barbaric, illegal practice of colonial vintage behind us, once and for all. If the new government at the Centre could take the lead in reforming the police and the lower judiciary, that would do more to advance the cause of secularism and justice than any amount of sloganeering.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35453875.cms

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Can NaMo Do A Harper ? Yesterday Mahel Arar, Today Akshardham Six! – By Subhash Gatade (May 27, 2014, Countercurrents)

How many people remember today Canadian-Syrian Mahel Arar, a software engineer, whose travails and tribulations at the hands of the US government’s extraordinary rendition programme had shaken many people then. Just to recapitulate he was seized by CIA operatives during a stopover at New York in 2002 and was secretly sent to Syria.Lodged in a grave like cell in Syria, Arar was repeatedly tortured to extract information which he did not know. Ultimately his tormentors released him within a span of year and half without ever being charged with a crime. As we can gather Mahel Arar became a victim of the Islamophobia manufactured by the likes of Bush-Blair in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

All those people who are familiar with the stigmatisation and terrorisation of a people and a community in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 attack can recount many such stories of miscarriage of justice, innocents being lodged in jail for years together and the tragedies which befell their families. The case of Mahel Arar was unique in many ways in the sense that because of the tremendous uproar in the Canadian society over this issue, Stephen Harper, then Prime Minister of Canada sought public apology for the ordeal which Maher went through and for the role played by Canadian officials in the whole affair. The Canadian government also gave him nine million dollars as compensation. Mr Harper said in full public view of the media, “On behalf of the government of Canada, I wish to apologize to you, Monia Mazigh (Arar’s wife) and your family for any role Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002 and 2003.”

Mahel’s forgotten saga recently came to my mind when one heard the ordeal through which the Akshardham Six went through for more than eleven years for no fault of theirs. Much has been written on these six innocents who were ultimately released by the intervention of the Supreme Court. All the six were arrested for their alleged support to the terrorists who died in the Akshardham terror attack. It was September 25, 2002 and the famous Akshardham temple in Ahmedabad came under attack. Two fidayeens sprayed bullets from their Ak-56 rifles and used hand grenades to kill 33 persons and injured another 86 at Akshardham Temple before being killed by NSG commandos.

A trial court had awarded death sentence to three of them, life imprisonment to two and 10-year imprisonment to remaining man. Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri, Abdul Qaiyum Muftisaab Mohmed Bhai and AChand Khan were sentenced to death in July 2006 by the special POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) court set up to try the terror case. While Mohammed Salim Shaikh was sentenced to life imprisonment (entire life), Abdulmiyan Qadri was given a 10-year term and Altaf Hussain was awarded five year imprisonment. The high court had later confirmed the sentence.

While acquitting the accused, the Apex Court pulled up the Gujarat Police for framing “innocent” people in the case and accused the then Gujarat Home Minister of “non-application of mind” in granting sanction to prosecute the six under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). As an aside it need be mentioned that Mr Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat, handled the home portfolio then. … And the whole case is just a tip of iceberg. There are thousands of cases of innocents languishing in jail for no fault of theirs, serving jail terms for crimes they never committed. A callous polity, a compromised executive and an apathetic civil society has led us to a situation where the real guilty are rarely caught. It is definitely time for a healing process to begin. It is definitely time to make amends for one’s bad judgements. It is time that PM Narendra Modi, decides to do a Harper.

http://www.countercurrents.org/gatade270514.htm

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Punishing Dalit Assertiveness – Editorial (May 31, 2014, EPW))

In the past couple of months, four dalits including a 17-year-old boy have been murdered in Maharashtra and a 50-year-old man set aflame because their actions displeased the dominant upper castes in their respective villages. Had these crimes not occurred either in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections or the forthcoming state assembly elections, they would have got even less attention. As for example, the social boycott that the dalits in Buldhana district’s Belad village had been facing since last year until a few weeks ago. The murder of teenager Nitin Aage on 28 April galvanised the dalit minister in the state cabinet, Nitin Raut, to tour all the “trouble spots” with the chairperson of the Maharashtra Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Commission.

The Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti has claimed that Ahmednagar district alone accounts for 102 atrocities against dalits in the last five years. The minister too presented a long list of crimes against them and asked for a special cabinet meeting that resulted in the usual declarations of monetary compensation and assurance of action. Despite all this, media coverage of even the brutal murders has been poor and sporadic, and the protests by dalit and human rights’ groups muted, to put it mildly. The misery suffered by the dalit villagers, especially children, due to the boycott has also got scant coverage in the media.

Aage’s murder in Khardaa village of Ahmednagar district has all the hallmarks of a “textbook” dalit atrocity. His parents are poor wage labourers; the accused, belonging to the dominant Maratha caste, are rich and politically very well connected; the police are less than enthusiastic about giving out information and Aage was punished for committing a cardinal sin: he dared to speak to a girl of a higher caste from an influential family despite being warned not to. On 25 April, a Matang youth, Umesh Aagle, was waylaid and murdered by men of the dominant caste in Deopur, Aurangabad district, on suspicion of having a relationship with a girl from their family. These deaths simply add to a growing trend wherein dalit youth, particularly those who are educated and ignore “their place” in the social hierarchy by attempting to interact with women from the so-called higher castes, are targeted with incredible cruelty.

On 3 April, Manoj Kasab, the dalit sarpanch of Nanegaon in Jalna district, was beaten up by upper-caste men, reportedly because of work-related rivalry, and died of the wounds almost a month later. On 1 May, 22-year-old Manik Udaage was stoned to death by upper-caste men allegedly unhappy at the fact that he had set up an organisation called Samvidhan Pratishthan and had celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti in Chikhali village in Pune district. More recently, 50-year-old Sanjay Khobragade was set aflame by five persons of the dominant caste in Kawalewada village in Gondia district and is battling 90% burns as we write these lines. His assailants and Khobragade had a dispute over land for a Buddha Vihar in the village. …

http://www.epw.in/editorials/punishing-dalit-assertiveness.html

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Book Review

The Destruction of Hyderabad

Author: A G Noorani
Reviewed by: Sunil Purushotham
Available at: Tulika Publications, 35, A/1, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi – 110049, 2013; pp 388, Rs 825. http://www.amazon.in/
Review:
Destroying Hyderabad and Making the Nation (May 31, 2014, EPW)

A G Noorani’s latest effort, The Destruction of Hyderabad, reminds us of an important yet oft-neglected episode in the making of the republic. Shortly after the 3 June 1947 announcement of Partition, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Muslim Nizam of Hyderabad, declared that he would not commit colonial India’s most populous and wealthiest princely state to either of the newly announced dominions of India or Pakistan. Almost all of the nearly 600 princely states acceded to either India or Pakistan by 15 August, but war soon broke out over Jammu and Kashmir, a legacy of the ambiguities of transforming the colonial order into a system of nation states that still plagues the subcontinent. Within the context of war and the upheavals of Partition, India and Hyderabad engaged in a series of tortuous negotiations until their ultimate collapse in June 1948.

The Nizam’s decision to appeal to the United Nations and reports of a deteriorating “law and order” crisis in Hyderabad caused by the Razakars – the paramilitary wing of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (MIM) – precipitated an invasion of the state by the Indian military in September 1948. The Government of India, keen to assert the domestic character of the conflict, euphemistically labelled this a “Police Action”. The Nizam surrendered after five days and offered Hyderabad’s unconditional accession to the Indian union. India’s unity may have been won through non-violent struggle, but it was forged through violence.

In the charged context of the Partition, the Nizam’s reliance on the MIM’s support for his claim to independence reinforced a “communal” interpretation of the conflict. Further, it has long been alleged that the police action was marked by widespread violence against Hyderabad’s Muslims, who constituted roughly 12% of the state’s population. Remarkably, Noorani is the first scholar to make this point the basis of his argument, and the police action functions as the tragic telos of his narrative. The vast majority of the book is devoted to chronicling in great detail questions of constitutional reform and Hyderabad’s uneasy relationship with the Indian national project in the decades leading up to 1948.

Noorani’s primary argument is that the police action was at once a product of this longer history and entirely avoidable. A peaceful transition, moreover, would have better preserved Hyderabad’s “composite culture”, an inheritance that could have enriched Indian secularism. The blame for the police action, and thus the “destruction of Hyderabad”, is placed squarely on the “Hindu nationalist” Vallabhbhai Patel, who, Noorani argues, harboured an enmity for Hyderabadi culture and sought to destroy it by force.

What is missed in Noorani’s attribution of Hyderabad’s destruction to Patel’s ideological affinities – and more generally in the current debate over the “founding fathers” – is that, in 1948 there was a broad consensus across the ideological spectrum regarding the sovereignty of the nation state, and importantly, for our purposes here, state violence. B R Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru were equally hostile to the Nizam’s bid for independence. While Nehru approached military intervention cautiously, he also saw in violence, and in the conflicts in Kashmir and Hyderabad in particular, the potential to unite Indians around a state that many perceived to be in an existential crisis. …

http://www.epw.in/book-reviews/destroying-hyderabad-and-making-nation.html

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