In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Former Guj CM accuses Modi of complicity in communal riots
- Hazare now sees ‘ghotala’ in Gandhi’s Gujarat
- Shah told me not to reveal truth, Bhatt tells panel
- For ‘communal harmony’, NAC proposes authorities at Centre, state
- Gujarat cops come looking for Ishrat’s friend in Mumbra
- India is facing a dangerous situation: Binayak Sen
- Men in Khakhi get the boot for being on the wrong side of law – again and again!
- 2G: bail pleas of 5 top executives dismissed
- Up to 12 mln girls aborted in India over last 30 years: study
- Priest, son held for beating Dalit boy
Opinions & Editorials
- ‘A Clear Reflection Of The BJP’s Deep And Pervasive Fear And Guilt Complex’ – By Abhishek Manu Singhvi
- Terrorism debate: Raising legitimate questions is not anti-national – By Ram Puniyani
- On the return of caste in the Census – Editorial
- A case for autonomy – By R.K. Raghavan
- Missing daughters – Editorial
- Denying their due – By Jayati Ghosh
Former Gujarat Chief Minister Suresh Mehta today alleged that after the Godhra train burning incident in 2002, Narendra Modi had instructed the state police not to interfere in the activities of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP.
“After the incident, Modi instructed the Gujarat police not to interfere in the activities of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP,” the ex-BJP leader alleged while addressing a joint press conference organised by the “Committee for the Defence of Teesta Setalvad and Justice in Gujarat”.
Justice (retd) P B Sawant alleged that what is happening in Gujarat is far worse than “subversiveness” of the legal system. Mehta, who was the chief minister during October 21, 1995 and September 19, 1996, further alleged that in order to save the incumbent government and Modi, efforts are being made to intimidate human rights activists and survivors of the communal riots.
- In Modi’s Gujarat, Muslims assume Hindu names (May 25, 2011, Milli Gazette)
- Post-Godhra riot: Judge quits citing personal reasons (May 30, 2011, Indian Express)
- Committee for defense of Justice in Gujarat formed (May 24, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- High Court cancels summons against Teesta (May 28, 2011, Indian Express)
Anna Hazare, who had praised chief minister Narendra Modi for development in Gujarat over a month ago, targeted him for corruption during his two-day visit to the city. Hazare urged Modi to appoint a Lok Ayukta which has been missing for more than a decade and said, “I am surprised at the real picture of Gujarat after coming here. In Gandhi’s land, people are talking of rampant corruption and favouritism. One lady told me about deaths due to hooch”.
The anti-graft crusader added how liquor flows more freely than milk in Gandhi’s Gujarat where a prohibition law is in force. After hearing representations from civil society, he remarked, “yahan pe to ghotala hi ghotala hai (here everything smacks of corruption). Hazare, a member of the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafting team, said Gujarat should empower gram sabhas to clear land acquisition, as was the case in Maharashtra. Taking credit for the ministers and politicians sent packing after corruption charges in 2G and other scams, Hazare said, “I have taken six wickets and there are many more to go”.
“Everybody says Anna tum aage chalo hum tumhare saath hai. When I look back, I find no one. The fight against corruption is not one man’s fight and people will have to be ready to sacrifice everything for the cause,” he said, urging the youth to flood state jails by participating in the movement.
He said people have to participate in the decision-making process as voter is raja and more powerful than the state machinery. Hazare’s praise for Modi last month had fuelled a controversy and was also criticised by his own followers. Hazare later clarified that he was opposed to communalism. Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal, other members of the Jan Lok Pal bill drafting panel, were with Hazare on his Gujarat visit.
- Anna Hazare turns against Modi: So many scams in Mahatma’s land (May 26, 2011, DNA India)
- After praise, Hazare targets Modi for corruption in Gujarat (May 26, 2011, Economic Times)
- Lokpal Bill can curb 65% of corruption: Anna Hazare (May 26, 2011, DNA India)
- Jan Lokpal Bill will have tooth to send corrupt to jail: Anna Hazare (May 26, 2011, Times of India)
The former Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, had asked the senior IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, “not to reveal the truth” before the Supreme Court – appointed Special Investigating Team probing into some of the massacres during the 2002 communal riots in the State. Mr. Bhatt, who created a flutter by submitting an affidavit before the Supreme Court attributing some anti-minority statements to the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, told the G. T. Nanavati – Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission here on Monday that on being summoned by the SIT in November, 2009, for questioning, he was “approached” by Mr. Shah who tried to influence him not to tell the truth to the investigating agency. Mr. Bhatt refused to disclose the details of his deposition before the SIT stating that it was for the commission to secure the copies of his deposition from the SIT’s records, but said Mr. Shah did try to influence him to hide the true facts from the agency. His apparent reference was to the details about what transpired at the meeting convened by Mr. Modi on the night of February 27, 2002, in which the Chief Minister had reportedly “directed” the top police officers to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and said that the Muslims “required to be taught a lesson” in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage the same day.
The State government apparently was worried that the truth about the alleged official complicity in the riots would come out if he revealed the truth before the SIT. Mr. Bhatt, however, denied that Mr. Shah had in any way issued “threats” against revealing the “truth” before the SIT. Mr. Shah has since been arrested by the police in connection with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and was currently on conditional bail but, under orders of the Supreme Court, was required to stay out of Gujarat till his bail application was finally disposed of. The cross-examination of Mr. Bhatt was resumed by the commission which remained incomplete last week for want of some evidence. On Monday, Mr. Bhatt was cross-examined by B. M. Mangokia, the advocate for the Islamic Relief committee, which was also a party to the commission’s proceedings, and the State government pleader. S. B. Vakil.
Asked who he held responsible for the alleged “police inaction” during the riots as mentioned in his affidavit before the apex court, Mr. Bhatt said his reference to the “high ranking State functionaries” in the affidavit included both the officers of the State government and the elected representatives of the people who also included the Chief Minister. Replying to another question, Mr. Bhatt said Mr. Modi himself tried to “undermine” the riot-related affidavit filed before the Supreme Court by the Ahmedabad-based noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, known to be a strong critic of Mr. Modi. In a bid to coerce her into withdrawing the affidavit, the Chief Minister through a small time local dancer had filed a police complaint of “human trafficking” against Ms. Sarabhai, a case which was later found to be baseless and closed by the police after investigation, Mr. Bhatt claimed.
Mr. Bhatt who during the earlier cross-examination had claimed that Mr. Modi did not issue any specific instructions to quell the riots even after he was passed on the detailed intelligence information on the evening of February 28, 2002, about the mob violence in Gulberg Society, in which the former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people massacred, said Mr. Modi had convened about 10 meetings between February 27 and March 3, 2002, and he himself was present at most of the meetings. He said the then Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadafia, attended only “a few” of these meetings but “certainly was not present” in the first three crucial meetings held on February 27 and 28. But, he said, he was not aware if Mr. Jhadafia had “complained” to the Chief Minister that the police was “not listening” to him though he was holding the Home portfolio. Mr. Bhatt said he was aware that the former Congress Chief Ministers, Amarsinh Chaudhary and Shankarsinh Waghela, had threatened to launch an indefinite fast from March 1, 2002, in front of the Chief Minister’s residence in protest against the alleged police inaction to protect the minorities. He said he was present at the Chief Minister’s residence when the two Congress leaders had arrived there and had passed on the information to Mr. Modi. According to him, Mr. Modi personally walked down to the front gate and took Mr. Chaudhary aside and advised him against launching any fast considering the “charged atmosphere.”
He said since he was also responsible for the Chief Minister’s security, he was alongside him when he spoke to Mr. Chaudhary. He claimed that Mr. Modi told the former Chief Minister that “what is happening to the Muslims now, can happen to you and me also,” hinting that the Hindus were too charged up to tolerate any pro-minority sympathetic protest. He also told Mr. Chaudhary that the government was taking “necessary steps” to quell the riots and advised the Congress leaders to desist from indefinite fast. Mr. Vakil during his cross-examinations questioned Mr. Bhatt on a memorandum issued by the Home department in 1990 on his handling a riotous mob in Jam-Jodhpur when he was the assistant superintendent of police of Jamnagar district. Asked by the commission chairman, Justice Nanavati the relevance of the 1990 memo, Mr. Vakil said he wanted to “demolish Mr. Bhatt as a credible witness” and that the IPS officer could go to “any extent for his personal benefits” which drove him to file the affidavit against Mr. Modi.
- ‘Amit Shah rang up to tutor me for SIT session’ (May 24, 2011, Express India)
- ‘Sanjiv Bhatt’s testimony may be used against Amit Shah’ (May 25, 2011, DNA India)
- Sanjiv Bhatt wants action against lawyer seeking to file plaint (May 24, 2011, Times of India)
- Only probe panel can quiz Sanjiv Bhatt: Jamiat (May 26, 2011, DNA India)
A seven-member National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation and similar authorities at the state-level with sweeping powers have been proposed by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) today in its revised communal violence Bill. The full NAC will discuss the Bill in its next meeting and pass it on to the Home and Law Ministries for the Centre to take a final view. As per the 64-page draft, the Bill, now called Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, shall not just cover victims of communal riots but of sectarian violence, too.
It proposes to cover both isolated incidents as well as mass crime against people based on religious, caste, linguistic, regional and other identities. Also, under its ambit are offences targeted against SC/ST communities. The Bill is in the public domain to allow public feedback by June 4, 2011. No political parties have been consulted so far. The proposed “National Authority”, which shall comprise of a chairperson, a vice chairperson and five other members, will have at least four women members and not more than two members will be retired public servants. Members for this Authority are to be selected by the PM, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Home Minister and a member each of all recognized national parties, “by a simple majority”.
In order to insulate members from politics, the draft says they should not be members of any political party for a year before their appointment and they can’t contest elections for two years after they finish their term in the authority. According to the draft, this authority shall be assigned to prevent and control “any act or acts of communal and targeted violence including its build-up, incitement or outbreak thereof.” It shall also “monitor due investigation, prosecution and trial of offences under this Act in a fair and impartial manner,” besides ensuring relief, reparation and restitution in accordance with provisions of this Act in a fair and impartial manner. It will be authorised to inquire or investigate, suo motu or upon any information or otherwise, received in relation to the occurrence or likely occurrence of any communal or targeted violence.
As per the draft Act, it makes it obligatory on Central and State government besides public servants “to respond to advisories or recommendations of the National Authority and submit an Action Taken Report within 30 days.” It has also provided that if there’s any “disagreement” with the advisories or the recommendations, the Government has to give reasons in writing within seven days of receiving such recommendation. The draft has empowered the victims by including provisions like copy of information, even accepting it through mail or fax, to be given to the informant or victim within seven days. The national and state-level authorities will also be required to protect the identity of the victim/informant. The draft law has suggested compensation amounts: Rs 15 lakh in case of death during riots or violence and Rs 5 lakh for permanent disablement and rape.
- Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill (May 24, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Congress dismisses BJP charges on communal violence bill (May 28, 2011, Times of India)
- ‘Communal’ net widens – Peace bill draft mentions violence against migrants (May 25, 2011, The Telegraph)
- ‘BJP communalising mercy petition issue’ (May 28, 2011, The Hindu)
Six years after the encounter involving Mumbra girl Ishrat Jahan in Gujarat, a police team from Gujarat’s Daman, visited Mumbra last night and interrogated a woman named Shahin Khan in connection with the case. The Gujarat police suspects Shahin had played an important role in sending Ishrat with the team that was allegedly on a mission to kill Narendra Modi in the year 2004. The incident has upset the local police, who have criticised the Gujarat police for not involving them in the investigation and threatening peace in Ishrat’s neighbourhood.
In June 2004, four young people, Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were gunned down by Gujarat Crime Branch on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Till date, the Gujarat police continue to claim that they were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and were on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Investigations into the encounter case stunned the Mumbra police and the deceased’s family when the Gujarat police came looking for a local woman named Shahin. Soon after they left for Daman, residents of the area informed Mumbra cops about the visit.
“A special team from Gujarat-Daman police had come to Mumbra to carry out searches at various places. Though they had official orders from the state police, we were not kept in the loop. It was only after the team left the city that we came to know about it,” said senior police inspector Baburao Ghoje of Mumbra Police Station. Mumbra police, in whose jurisdiction searches were carried out, fear that the presence of the Gujarat police team was a bad idea as ever since Ishrat was killed in the encounter, anti-Gujarat sentiments have been high.
However, their bigger grouse is how the team from Gujarat did not intimate them about the visit or ask for their officers to be part of the search. According to Mumbra police, this is not the first time they have been treated so shoddily. Sources say every time the police from Gujarat lands in Mumbra for investigations, they ignore their colleagues at the Mumbra Police Station.
Meanwhile, Ishrat’s family suspect foul play in the way Shaheen Khan’s name has propped up in the investigations. Munna Sahil, one of Ishrat’s relatives said, “Shaheen was no way related to Ishrat and this so-called link is a complete fabrication of the Gujarat police. We are happy that this case is now being handled by a Mumbai officer and hopefully he will do the job well.”
- Prajapati: CBI may question Ahmedabad district collector (May 30, 2011, Indian Express)
- CBI team visits scene of encounter with Azad (May 25, 2011, The Hindu)
- NIA team pays visit to Malegaon (May 24, 2011, Times of India)
- Hindutva outfit attempts to scuttle scheme for poor girls (May 29, 2011, The Hindu)
Dr Binayak Sen has given a double blow to the state administration of Chattisgarh. First, the Supreme Court rejected the sedition charges levelled against him for which the state courts found him guilty. And then he was appointed to the 40-member steering committee on health in the planning commission.
The Chattisgarh government has been vocally protesting against Sen’s appointment, saying that he still remains a convict out on bail and should not be a member of any national-level forum.
In this interview with rediff.com’s Sahim Salim, Sen, who has just returned from South Korea where he was awarded the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, says that the sedition laws, for which he was charged and found guilty by the state, in this country need to be repealed as they “impede the progress of democracy in this country.”
Talking about the malnutrition, Sen says, “We are living in a situation, where we are practically walking through time with famine on our side.”
- Cambridge experts study Binayak Sen arrest (May 25, 2011, IBN)
- Binayak Sen’s contribution significant in Chhattisgarh’s ‘mitanin’ programme (May 20, 2011, The Hindu)
- Binayak Sen given Gwangju human rights award (May 22, 2011, IBN)
- Hardcore Maoist couple surrender (May 30, 2011, The Hindu)
Men in Khakhi get the boot for being on the wrong side of law – again and again! (May 30, 2011, DNA India)
The July 2009 hooch tragedy in city had claimed more than 150 lives and exposed the brazen nexus between bootleggers and cops. To save their face, city police had suspended four police inspectors, two ACPs and slapped transfer punishment on40 other personnel. However, this exemplary punishment seems to have had little effect on erring cops as is evidenced by uninterrupted series of suspensions of senior cops in city. The suspension of Bapunagar police inspector (PI) RD Lashkari on Saturday for negligence in duty is the latest episode in this saga.
In the short span of last eight month, almost equal number of PIs has been suspended for dereliction of duty or for their alleged involvement in criminal activities. Just like Lashkari, Shaherkotda PI MB Nagori was suspended late last month. Sector-I JCP (joint commissioner of police) raided a bootlegger’s house in Shaherkotda on April 25 and seized 467 crates of IMFL and 140 crates of beer and Nagori faced the axe. Liquor-racket had also proved undoing of the now suspended PI of Dariapur, VM Jani in February. Junagadh-based bootlegger Nagdan Gadhavi had alleged that Jani had accepted Rs20 lakh bribe to release him after he was arrested in connection with a case. A case was registered against Jani at his own police station and he was suspended and arrested subsequently.
Another senior cop HM Kundalia, PI of Sola, too was suspended early this year after notorious betting king Dinesh Kalgi’s den in a farm house on SG Highway was busted. The same PI was suspended earlier also for the same kind of reason. Before eight month, Amraiwadi PI DB Raulji had also faced suspension after DCP Sachin Badshah raided notorious gambler Raghu Sawa’s den in that area. While these senior cops invited trouble by allegedly turning blind eye to illegal liquor selling or other criminal activities going on in their area, a few have shown weakness for bribe. Sarkhej PI MM Zala was suspended and later arrested in March this year for allegedly demanding Rs5 lakh bribe from an accused in a land fraud case.
The accused had alleged that the PI had demanded the bribe for not to subject him to physical torture when he was under detention. Similarly, AJ Solanki, PI of Vatva, was also suspended earlier this year after he was caught red handed-accepting Rs75,000 bribe. Moreover BL Chaudhary, another PI of the same police station, was also accused of of demanding Rs5 lakh cash and a flat to settle a land deal case. Last year, Sarkhej DySP RS Rana was suspended after he was caught accepting Rs4 lakh bribe in Fatehwadi area in Sarkhej.
- GRP duo pulled out for terror in khaki (May 28, 2011, Times of India)
- DCB arrests trainee PSI for using dummy candidate during selection test (May 23, 2011, DNA India)
- Harassed by police, girl commits suicide (May 30, 2011, IBN)
- NRI on hunger strike, says cops harassed kin (May 20, 2011, Central Chronicle)
The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the bail applications of five top executives of private companies in the 2G scam on the grounds of gravity of allegations against them. Noting that there was the possibility of their influencing witnesses in view of their clout, the court observed: “They are now aware of the identities of the witnesses as well as their incriminating statements given during the investigation.” Dismissing the bail applications of Unitech managing director Sanjay Chandra, DB Realty managing director Vinod Goenka, and Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Justice Bharihoke said it was due to their clout that the CBI did not arrest them during investigation.
“It is evident that despite having collected prima facie evidence of involvement of the petitioners in the deep-rooted conspiracy involving corrupt practices by the public servants to cause huge wrongful gains to the favoured companies of the petitioners running into thousands of crores of rupees, neither were the petitioners arrested by the CBI nor were they taken into custody and produced before the court along with the charge sheet as envisaged under Section 170 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This circumstance, in itself, gives an insight into the influence wielded by the petitioners,” Justice Bharihoke said.
“… taking into account the gravity of the accusations against the petitioners and a reasonable possibility of their interfering with the process of justice by tampering with the evidence, I do not deem it appropriate to release the petitioners on bail at this stage when further investigations are going on and the trial is yet to begin,” the judge said in his 34-page order. Justice Bharihoke said there was no guarantee that they would not influence the witnesses and tamper with evidence though there was no allegation against them of influencing witnesses and interfering with evidence during the probe.
“It cannot be ignored that during investigation the petitioners could not have known the identities of the witnesses. The situation has changed after the filing of charge sheet. The petitioners are now aware of the identities of the witnesses and incriminating statements made by them. Therefore, given the magnitude of the offence and the role played by the petitioners in the scam, there is a reasonable likelihood of the petitioners tampering with the witnesses, particularly when employed in the companies controlled by them,” Justice Bharihoke said. The petitioners had moved the High Court following rejection of their bail applications by the special court set up to try the 2G case.
- Make public information about Radia in 2G: CIC (May 24, 2011, Indian Express)
- Govt to quantify black money, exhaustive study underway (May 29, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- Kanimozhi should not expect leniency; law taking its course: Jaya (May 24, 2011, Rediff)
- Engineer swallows documents after being caught red-handed (May 27, 2011, Central Chronicle)
Up to 12 million girls were aborted over the last three decades in India by parents that tended to be richer and more educated, a large study in India found, and researchers warned that the figure could rise with falling fertility rates. The missing daughters occurred mostly in families which already had a first born daughter. Although the preference for boys runs across Indian society, the abortions were more likely to be carried out by educated parents who were aware of ultrasound technology and who could afford abortions. “The number of girls being aborted is increasing and may have reached 12 million with the lower estimate of 4 million over the last three decades,” said lead author Professor Prabhat Jha at the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, Canada.
“The logic is families are saying if Nature gives us a first boy, then we don’t do anything. But if Nature gives a first girl then perhaps we would consider ultrasound testing and selective abortion for the subsequent children,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday. Jha said the preference for boys in Indian society remains firmly in place and the reason why abortions of female fetuses were occurring more among richer and educated parents was because they could afford to do so. “The preference for boys doesn’t differ between rich and poor, it is similar. But the means to ensure a boy is greater among the educated and the rich,” Jha said.
Jha and his colleagues, who published their study in The Lancet, said abortion of girls in India was different from the situation in China, where a one-child policy results in even abortions of the first girl. “In India, we don’t see that yet and there is no required one-child policy. But the concern is that if urban women decide they only want one child, then this practice may spread from second or third child to the first, so this is a future risk that we have identified,” Jha said. Jha’s team analysed data from three national health surveys conducted over different time periods from 1992 to 2006, where over 300,000 mothers between the ages of 15 to 49 were interviewed for their birth history. The researchers also analysed data of three cohorts of children born from 1990 to 2005. They found the sex ratio for the second child in homes where the first born was a girl fell to 836 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2005, from 906 to every 1,000 boys in 1990.
“There were 4 million to 12 million selective abortions from 1980 to 2010 and just in the last decade, about 3 to 6 million, so the problem is increasing,” Jha said. India enacted a law in 1996 to prevent the use of scanning for prenatal sex determination and selective abortion of girls but Jha said it was very difficult to enforce because of a huge unregulated private medical practice. “Until the government brings health reforms in place and brings doctors into a publicly financed accountable system, it’s difficult to go that route,” he said.
- Gender gap in India getting worse (May 25, 2011, IBN)
- Silent observer to detect female foeticide (May 29, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- Harassed for dowry, pregnant woman kills self (May 23, 2011, Times of India)
- New scheme to provide assistance to rape victims (May 22, 2011, IBN)
A 17-year-old Dalit boy was allegedly slapped by a temple priest for touching the vibuthi (sacred ash) plate in the temple in Mettupalayam on Saturday.
The boy, a resident of Govindasamy Nagar, went to a Vinayagar Temple in Mettupalayam. After offering prayers, he took vibuthi from the plate kept near the deity and smeared it on his sister’s forehead. The priest, Jambunathan (49), and his son, Sugavanam, objected to it and allegedly slapped the boy.
Based on a complaint filed by the boy’s father, the Mettupalayam police have registered a case and arrested Jambunathan and Sugavanam. Both were remanded to custody. They have been booked under Sections 294 (B) (using filthy language) and 323 (assault).
- Priest held for minor’s rape (May 20, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- BSP MLA awarded life imprisonment in dalit girl murder case (May 17, 2011, Times of India)
- Dalit girl raped and murdered in Bihar (May 19, 2011, Indian Express)
- Dalit murdered, tension in city in Haryana (May 12, 2011, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
‘A Clear Reflection Of The BJP’s Deep And Pervasive Fear And Guilt Complex’ – By Abhishek Manu Singhvi (May 27, 2011, Outlook)
The proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 is a singularly beneficial piece of legislation which shows that the Congress-led UPA takes the pernicious evil of communal violence seriously. It is a part of the proclaimed agenda, manifesto of the Congress-led UPA, right from UPA-I. More than mere politics, it is part of our belief system, our conviction, our ideology because we believe that this is a highly necessary piece of social welfare legislation. We are, therefore, shocked at the BJP’s reaction. Firstly, the reaction is premature. Nothing has been finalized yet. We are receiving inputs and suggestions from diverse quarters and the NAC is certainly one set of significant inputs. But just see carefully, what is the BJP is trying to do? The BJP is trying to further its communal agenda-even to communalise the Communal Violence proposed draft bill. It is trying to do so by a pre-emptive strike. A pre-emptive strike by vituperatively criticizing and debunking a draft stage bill under discussion and nowhere finalization, and they are, therefore, speaking to debunk it and to abort it before its birth. Sadly, this is a clear reflection of the BJP’s deep and pervasive fear and guilt complex.
The BJP knows that the country knows which political party in this country has a communal agenda – a communal agenda from its conception, from its birth and from its evolution. Those who continue to be proudly bound by the umbilical chord of RSS, those who have divisive communal agendas, those who subscribe to the writings of Golwalkar, those who carry the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri episode likely and with ease and sometimes with pride. These people are naturally to be worried by a Communal Violence proposed draft bill. That is why a premature pre-emptive move. This proposed bill has roughly 60 clauses. First pernicious rumour mongering by the BJP – out of the 60 clauses, barring one clause, all clauses give power to the state government to notify to declare a disturbed area to take action, so it is purely a power given to the state government. One out of these 60 clauses, clause 55, gives power to the central government but hatched in by three cumulative conditions: First, the Central government will bring to the attention of the State government the communally sensitive situation prevailing in that state. Second, it will wait for the state government to act on that intimation information. Third, if despite persistent advisory, the state government fails to act, then the central government gets powers to act.
Now, naturally if the cumulative tests of a Bill are satisfied and a hypothetical state government resolutely refuses to act in the face of a deep divisive communal threat which can destroy the secular fabric of that entire area, then, I am asking what is wrong in the central government having a default power, a residuary power, and last resort power to act because secularism is a basic structured of the constitution of this country. It is part of the atma of this country. Therefore, it is a pernicious propaganda to suggest that this bill gives power to the central government. All the powers are actually to the state government – 55 sections say so. Second, if it is an encroachment on state’s powers, those who think so are free to challenge it after the Act is passed. We stand by its validity; let it be tested in court. That can hardly be a reason for debunking it at this stage on petty frivolous grounds. If they were serious about it, the BJP should have offered that list II of the Seventh Schedule will be amended to give concurrent power in communally sensitive cases to both central and state government. First, they do not offer that. Second, they oppose a draft bill and third, they add insult to the injury by giving advance ruling and judgment that it is an unconstitutional or invalid initiative. Third point is very important.
A pernicious propaganda is also being carried out that it gives a subjective weight test of secular fabric which anybody can distort. That is not so at all. Please read clause 3 – in fact clause 3 gives three triple cumulative tests making it very difficult to declare a communally sensitive or communally disturbed area. First, there should a declaration of violence, and then there has to be a further declaration and cumulatively in addition a third declaration of secular fabric being in danger. Our friends in BJP yesterday and day before have misled the nation by saying that there is a test of threat to secular fabric and that is a subjective test. That is not the test at all. Last, but not the least, the pernicious propaganda that this is only slanted by permitting action only against the majority community. Those who are saying this have not understood the very intent of the bill. This is a bill to combat communal violence. It is a special enactment for a special situation. Please remember two or three basic points. Firstly, communal violence scourge which involves collectivities is to protect the minorities. Secondly, minorities in this country can be defined only as linguistic or religious minorities. There is no third kind of minority which we are having in this country. Thirdly, this applies to all minorities in each state. Fourthly, the most important, if the minority community does violence against anybody individually person or group, the IPC applies very strongly. There is no question of exempting them from violence or punishment for violence.
This is a focused enactment for a totally different purpose. It is to inspire confidence amongst those who have already been historically the victims of communal violence. Therefore, this is at the threshold stage a pernicious propaganda to try to kill an initiative. This shows the true intent of a communal party like the BJP. Further, in the event of a dispute between the central and the state government with regard as far as its implementation part is concerned, Clause 55 deals with such type of disputes. Any central government which takes the risk of irresponsible behaviour is liable to judicial correction. It is a suggestion, a draft for discussion by the NAC. It is true that the earlier draft and this draft have several differences. I am repeating that those differences are not fundamental. There is no fundamental difference in the concept. The concept is the same. The BJP’s reaction is as if this has become an Act of parliament. In this new draft proposed bill, there are special police stations, there are special courts and there are special public prosecutors.
- Pre-emptive Sangh offensive on the Bill to prevent communal violence – By John Dayal (May 29, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Caught in the quicksand – Editorial (May 29, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Remembering Hashimpura Massacre: A black chapter for UP Police – By Vibhuti Narain Rai (May 23, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Terrorism debate: Raising legitimate questions is not anti-national – By Ram Puniyani (May 25, 2011, Milli Gazette)
The tragedy of Mumbai 26/11 was one of the worst terror attacks in recent history in more ways than one. Apart from many other aspects of the tragedy one accompanying fact was the death of Hemant Karkare who was investigating into Malegaon bomb blast. His death was preceded by many a threats to his life from various quarters, Maharashtra Government had the reports about these threats. Since then the death of this upright police officer has become a contentious issue. Anybody raising questions about it is outright dubbed anti Hindu, anti-national, pro-Pakistan, a convenient decoy for those trying to hide the mountain of truth behind this tragedy. That’s precisely what happened when Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh stated that Karkare was under tremendous pressure from Hindu right wing groups and that Singh had a talk with Karkare on the evening prior to Karkare’s death (December 2010). With this statement a hell broke loose and section of media tried to project as if Digvijay Singh’s statement is not true as Karkare was busy in such and such meetings. Now that does not cut much ice in today’s times when people are eared to the mobiles, and few minutes of conversation between meetings or during meetings is not a big matter.
Mr Singh also gave the Bhopal BSNL the number from which he had talked to Karkare but since the conversation had taken place two years ago, the record could not be traced as BSNL does not keep records beyond one year. Mr. Singh also showed the cuttings of papers which had carried this news some time ago. But is it for the first time that we are coming to know that Karkare was under immense pressure from the people who were being investigated? Apart from Mr. Singh’s statement there had been media reports about leaders of Shiv Sena and BJP raising doubts about his integrity. The Shiv Sena’s Saamana had launched a sort of character assassination of this officer, it went to the extent of saying that they spit on Karkar’s face. Narendra Modi called him deshdrohi. The hypocrisy of both streams became clear after the murder of Karkare. Karkare was called a martyr by these very communal parties and Narendra Modi even offered Rs 1 crore to the widow of the slain Karkare, which she refused to accept. None other than Lal Krishna Advani went to the Prime Minister to complain about the torture of Pragya Singh Thakur and demanded investigation into Thakur’s torture. This was a direct insinuation into the work of Karkare, who was so intimidated by this gang that he sought solace and advice from the senior police officer of the stature and integrity of Julio Reibeiro. Reibiero in his obituary (Times of India, 28 Nov., 2010) confirmed that Karkare was being harassed and intimidated by the associates of Advani-Modi. Reibeiro advised the junior colleague to carry on with his work irrespective of the pressures.
“He came to me because he was looking for someone to hold his hand,” Ribeiro told IANS on phone from Mumbai while stressing that Karkare was not a man to be politically influenced. “He… was more bothered about the BJP, which had well-oiled propaganda machinery and was running a concerted campaign against him that he had filed false cases against Pragnya Thakur and others” said Reibeiro. By now many a skeletons have tumbled out of the secrecy of Sangh Parivar. starting from Pragya Singh Thakur to the top leaders Indresh Kumar and Swami Assemanand’s role in Ajmer, Mecca Masjid blast and many other blasts are being investigated. One recalls that the large section of media has been quiet on this issue and starting from Nanded April 2006 blast in the house of a RSS worker Rajkondawar, these news items were either ignored or underplayed. We have seen banner headlines after some blasts proclaiming so called Jehadi groups to be behind the blasts. As the matters turn other way barring the 26/11 case where Pakistan based Al Qaeda offshoot was involved, most of these cases which took place were the handiwork of the likes of Thakur, Indresh Kumar and Swami Assemanand, which had roped in a section of military officers like Lt. Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit. Those activists who had been trying to raise these uncomfortable questions were bypassed, ignored or the convenient label of being pro-Pakistan was put on them.
Even the Indian National Congress as a whole does not seem to be ready to stand up to the truth and has distanced itself from the statements of Mr. Singh now and earlier with Mr. Antulay in the aftermath of 26/11. Antulay had also pointed out that there may be a terrorism plus something else due to which Karkare got killed. It seems the common perceptions in society have been so cultivated that to dub a SIMI or some Al Qaeda outfit finds easy acceptance and some scapegoats have been created, around which the social perceptions and police attitude and political opinions are based. There are infinite examples globally and locally where the manufactured perceptions dominate and rule the attitude of the state authorities. The case of Kennedy murder, now the 9/11 2001 and in our case the blasts like Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer and even Samjhauta express are there for us to introspect. What is needed is a forthright investigation and punishing the guilty irrespective of their religion. Dubbing those raising the questions as pro-Pakistan, defy all the logic. True there are terror groups based on the soil of Pakistan, terror groups which were the product of US policy of fighting Russian army through the indoctrinated Muslim youth under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, himself a product of US policies. But that does not absolve the likes of Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Aseemanand and company of their black deeds.
The other major propaganda has been that if you criticize these Hindutva terrorists, you are against Hindus and Hinduism. This is a deliberate projection to create a wall of confusion to hide the real culprits. While criticizing these terrorists nobody is criticizing Hindus or Hinduism. Such formulations have been manufactured to protect the guilty and those creating these formulations need to introspect rather than beating their breasts to hide the truth. Mr Digvijay Singh is right when he says, “If I point out that Karkare was under threat from Hindu fundamentalist organizations, I am accused of being anti-national and pro-Pakistan. However, if a former union home minister and the shadow prime minister doubts the integrity of a police officer like Karkare, and demands a judicial probe into the ATS action against Pragya Thakur, he is a nationalist!”
- ‘Creation of conditions where survival becomes difficult also amounts to genocide’ – Binayak Sen with G Vishnu (May 9, 2011, Tehelka)
In a country living with the reality of caste and striving constantly to offset disadvantages created on the basis of social hierarchy, the central government’s decision to hold a caste census does have wide appeal. The enumeration of castes is to be undertaken along with a ‘Below Poverty Line’ census in such a way that there is a simultaneous mapping of the economic, caste, and religious backgrounds of the entire population. A mere caste census may have meant just a headcount of diverse communities, but with the plan to integrate socio-economic data with the caste count, there is hope that the country might at last have a set of quantifiable data that would justify key administrative measures predicated on caste identity. Over the years, the debate over the use of caste as the basis for ensuring social justice in education and public employment has been resolved in favour of caste-based reservation for ‘socially and educationally backward classes.’
Once caste was accepted as the main parameter on which social justice would be measured, it was only a matter of time before the country came round to the view that a restoration of the pre-Independence system of including caste in the decennial Census was necessary. The continuance of existing levels of caste-based reservation also hinges on collection of caste-wise data. For the judicially imposed limit of 50 per cent on the quantum of reservation – flowing from a constitutional scheme that says the extent of reservation, being the exception, cannot exceed equal treatment, the norm – can be overcome only by providing hard data to the court.
However, a caste census will be much more challenging than a lay view suggests. For one thing, a precise headcount of a particular caste may ultimately prove elusive, given the number of sub-castes and sects that the Indian caste system has spawned, and the inevitable scope for confusion over the inclusion or exclusion of a sect from a larger caste umbrella. The nomenclature used by a caste group to refer to itself may vary from region to region, while there could be confounding similarities in name between different sects.
And even more scientifically challenging would be the exercise of integrating the headcount of a caste with the socio-economic profile of the population falling under it and coming to a reasonable conclusion about its precise state of backwardness. There are other questions, too, such as whether the final caste-wise breakdown of the population would be used to parcel out all opportunities under the state solely in proportion to the strength of the communities or whether there would be some exiguous space for open competition so that the longer-term goal of a caste-free society is not lost sight of.
- Caste census will benefit the deprived – By Surinder S Jodhka (Jun 4, 2011, Tehelka)
Events of the past few days should warm the hearts of those who have been clamouring for drastic action against dishonesty in high places. The arrest of a ruling party personality and the charge-sheeting of one high profile influential individual from the ranks of an alliance partner, in two separate cases, is proof enough that, given functional independence and overseen only by the Supreme Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can produce impressive results. The whole nation seems gratified by this fearless move by the CBI, and this has greatly enhanced the much maligned organisation’s credibility. By all accounts, investigation in these two cases was methodical, painstaking and strictly lawful. The Supreme Court also seems satisfied with the quality of work. Is there not a case for strengthening the principal investigating agency’s autonomy? No one disputes that such autonomy should be without diluting the CBI’s accountability to the law. It is not the case of anybody pitching for the CBI that it should be totally free from any audit of its performance or conduct. What is being advocated by those who believe in non-partisan investigation, especially when an alleged crime involves looking into the role of politically influential individuals, is that the CBI should be allowed to proceed against culpable accused on the basis of facts culled out during its investigation and as per law.
This has possibly not been happening all these years because the ruling party or coalition enjoys arm-twisting authority over the CBI to deflect sensitive investigations just to save the former from embarrassment. Vested interests – similar to those who have been unabashedly scuttling the Anna Hazare movement recently – have indulged in deliberate distortions on the subject by circulating misinformation that once the CBI is given total freedom it will be out of control and devoid of accountability. Nothing can be further from truth. Many politicians are not impressed with the proposal by some that the Supreme Court should monitor all CBI investigations, important or not. Such an arrangement is perceived as being not in tune with democracy. This is again similar to the attacks on Anna Hazare. He is assailed as anti-democratic all because he wants a decisive role for civil society in drafting the Lokpal Bill. The suggestion that prominence for civil society is contra to democracy is ridiculous to say the least. It is in this context that the proposed Lokpal Bill will have to be viewed.
What kind of relationship will the Lokpal forge with the CBI? One suggestion is that the Lokpal should have its own investigating apparatus. It is relevant that at least in one State, namely, Karnataka, the Lokayukta, the State equivalent of the Lokpal, has its own investigating team. The experience there has been reasonably satisfactory whenever it had a proactive chief such as Justice H. Santosh Hegde. This is the rationale behind the move that seeks a Lokpal, which would have an internal investigation body. The point is building such a team takes enormous time and energy. There is no doubt that talent available in the country is enormous. But the Lokpal staff will have to be chosen with great care, keeping in mind the need for utmost honesty on their part. Traditions will necessarily be built over time. Possibly, a few CBI officers of proven ability and integrity could form the core of the Lokpal’s structure initially. It must, however, be remembered that the CBI itself suffers from a staff crunch and it may be extremely reluctant to part with any of its trusted officers. Retired CBI personnel could help, but such numbers will be too small for induction into the Lokpal.
What will be the CBI’s role in a situation where the Lokpal has its own investigating body? This will depend on what shape the Lokpal ultimately takes. It is possible that the Bill provides for the Lokpal drawing on CBI resources and skill whenever a particular case demands it. Such a provision will greatly enlarge the Lokpal’s capacity to act fast in some important cases. There is the analogy here of some special investigation teams (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court or the High Courts indenting for officers serving in some States. The lending rules are flexible enough, and the Union Home Ministry has always shown itself willing to help. Next comes the question of who all will come under the Lokpal’s purview. This is a ticklish and contentious subject where unanimity is hardly likely to emerge. Two functionaries are particularly discussed here. These are the Prime Minister and members of the judiciary. While I can understand the justification for leaving out the latter, considering the need for conserving judicial independence, I do not, in the case of the Prime Minister. He is at best the primus inter pares in the Union Council of Ministers. He is a live political animal and takes or fails to take many crucial decisions that have financial implications. A Manmohan Singh comes only once in a while. The fact that he maintains a nearly 100 per cent honesty is no guarantee that his successors would emulate him. If the Lokpal has to initiate strong action against a Prime Minister, there are always others who can step in to fill the breach. There will be no constitutional crisis in an eventuality where a Prime Minister has to step down following a Lokpal investigation. A Lokpal Bill without jurisdiction over the Prime Minister is like a Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. I do not, therefore, comprehend the unwillingness of some in authority now to include the Prime Minister among those who could be investigated by the Lokpal, particularly when the law of the land does not make a distinction between him and the others in the Executive.
The argument is, therefore, grounded on political expediency, which ignores the need for deterring top functionaries from lapsing into dishonesty. The 2G spectrum allocation case alone would indicate how the Prime Minister’s authority was flouted by a dishonest Minister, and corruption in high places is an accepted reality. The slightest suggestion that the Lokpal is for handling lesser mortals alone would give the impression that we are intent on making a mockery of the whole battle against corruption. There is one more area that has to be debated while examining the structure of the Lokpal. How will the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) fit into the scheme of things if and when the Lokpal becomes a reality? I am all for the CVC being subsumed by the Lokpal. I see no practical difficulty in the merger. Retaining the CVC is superfluous and could create confusion in the minds of those who want to lodge a complaint against a public servant. More than anything else, the CVC’ performance until now has been nominal. This is not because its members lacked ideas or zeal. The set-up lacked the clout, which alone could make a difference while fighting sinister forces indulging in corruption or supporting it. The analogy of the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong is not wholly inappropriate here. To shoot it down as impractical because Hong Kong is a small island is being mulish and shows reluctance to try out bold experiments in a difficult situation. Finally, many of us are appalled at the sinister attempt to discredit the Anna Hazard movement. Spin doctors based in the national capital have been hyperactive throwing confusion over vital issues surrounding the Lokpal. This is reprehensible, and those involved in this insidious game are doing the greatest disservice to posterity. Influential members of the civil society should join together to appeal to these elements to dissociate themselves.
- The Prime Minister and the CBI – By R.K. Raghavan (May 10, 2011, The Hindu)
- Hello? Who will bell this cat – By Ashish Khetan and Raman Kirpal (Jun 4, 2011, Tehelka)
The Census of 2011 revealed that the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group is worse now than in any decade since Independence. It is indisputable that this distressing trend is the result of more people having easier access to medical technologies that reveal the sex of the foetus, and opting for sex-selective abortions. New research published by The Lancet provides further insights into the phenomenon of ‘missing women’: as family size in India declines over time, there is a bias against having a second female child when the first is a girl. Based on data drawn from the National Family Health Survey between 1990 and 2005 and the Census of 1991, 2001, and 2011, the paper estimates that for second-order births where the first is a female, the conditional sex ratio fell to an abysmal 836 girls per 1,000 boys in 2005.
It is equally a matter of concern that most of India’s population now lives in States where selective abortion of girls is common. What stands out in the findings is the positive correlation that education and affluence seem to have with a decline in the sex ratio; the decline was higher in the case of women with ten years or more of education than for mothers with no education. Such a trend calls for closer study of the factors that reinforce the son preference, especially in States and districts with a worsening ratio.
What is fundamentally underscored by the research is the failure of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act even in its amended form, and the need for a multi-pronged strategy to remove the prejudice against the girl child. Any serious review of the law in the States with the worst child sex ratios should begin with the quarterly reports they are required to file on diagnostic centres, laboratories, and clinics, the action taken against unregistered bodies, search and seizure, and the outcomes of awareness campaigns. Not all States have been filing such reports regularly.
The level of involvement of laggard States in implementing the PNDT Act can be gauged from the fact that in Haryana, a crucial notification on setting up Appropriate Authorities was not published in the gazette for 12 years from 1997, and it had to be reissued as an ordinance with retrospective effect. But then, while enforcement measures may have a salutary effect, the more challenging task is to make India a less male-dominated society. The place to start for that mission would be Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies. Political parties must lead by enabling 33 per cent representation for women in legislatures and raise their visibility. Liberal scholarships for all levels of study and improved economic security may tilt the balance for the less affluent sections.
- A Long Battle for the Girl Child – By Vibhuti Patel (May 21, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Gallows for ‘honour’ killers – Editorial (May 12, 2011, The Tribune)
The arrest of Suresh Kalmadi on April 25 marked yet another scene in the prolonged drama surrounding the Commonwealth Games (CWG) held in Delhi in October 2010. Yet the general media focus on Kalmadi may have served to distract attention from the many other acts of omission and commission that mark the sordid history of that extravagantly planned and deeply flawed public show. There are stories of funds diversion that have a bearing on issues that go beyond probity and corruption, however important those are. They also have direct and indirect effects on the conditions of existence of some of the most deprived and needy segments of the population. One particular story is that of the government of Delhi diverting as much as Rs.744 crore over three years to the CWG from funds that were especially earmarked for the Special Component Plans (SCPs) for the Scheduled Castes in Delhi. In fact, this matter was raised in Parliament in August last year. At the time the Minister directly in charge of the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, P. Chidambaram (the same one who has recently been busy commenting on the quality of administration in different State governments), was called to book on this account. He accepted that this was wrong and went on to promise that the entire amount would be returned in the Budget for the following year. However, the Delhi government’s Budget for 2011-12 shows no such increase – in fact the amount allocated has increased by only around Rs.134 crore to a paltry total of Rs.355 crore.
The idea of SCPs for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes was mooted by the Planning Commission in recognition of the fact that standard expenditure practices have not ensured benefits to specially marginalised communities and localities. The amount to be allocated under the SCP for S.Cs in Delhi is 16.93 per cent of the total Plan expenditure (based on the share of S.C. population according to the 2001 Census). The SCP guidelines indicate that only those schemes that ensure direct benefits to individual families, groups and hamlets of S.C. people should be included under the SCP and that priority should be given to providing basic essential services such as primary education, health, safe drinking water, nutrition, housing, electrification, sanitation, drainage, and prevention of submergence of buildings. Expenditure on livelihood promotion schemes and education is also encouraged. As it happens, the Delhi government has already been systematically underspending on this crucial category. Instead of the required 16.93 per cent, it has spent on average less than 1.6 per cent in the period 2008-09 to 2010-11 – or around one-tenth of the required spending. This amounts to a cumulative denial of nearly Rs.5,000 crore in these three years. The current year is no better: not only is there no indication of any effort to put back the amount it had siphoned off earlier, as promised last year, but the allocation is still less than 3 per cent of the Plan spending, with a shortfall of nearly Rs.2,000 crore. Why does all this matter? It matters because this is not just a story about state priorities and expenditure allocations. It amounts to the regular and continuing denial of the basic rights of many citizens who also happen to be Dalit residents of Delhi. Many official and unofficial surveys have found that the bulk of the S.C. population in Delhi is living in extremely precarious, unhealthy and poor conditions that are much worse than those of the general population. There is also evidence of significant discrimination against them in terms of access to infrastructure and basic services.
Delhi is regularly presented by national policymakers as the example of a shining and newly prosperous India. Indeed, in the now-common distinction between “the two Indias” – one rich and emerging if not already emerged, the other still poor and backward – Delhi is typically seen as the archetype of the former. And if one goes by the many newly built flyovers and shiny malls filled with happy consumers, it is easy to be impressed in this way. But Delhi encapsulates India. It probably contains as much disparity as the country as a whole, with extreme poverty and destitution coexisting with the most extreme expressions of affluence. In the narrow bylanes of resettlement colonies or the chaotic congestion of jhuggi encroachments, very different income and consumption standards prevail. It is not just income but even access to the most essential goods and services that is lacking among such populations. Because several of these are treated as “unauthorised” colonies, quite often human security is also under threat, not just because of petty criminals and gangs but because of the periodic enforcement drives of the state. A sudden and unannounced demolition drive in late March this year that dispossessed more than 800 families living in jhuggis in Gayatri Colony near Patel Nagar exemplifies this tendency. Even when the heavy hand of the state does not actually destroy the homes and livelihood of such people, the need to placate and bribe agents of the state at various levels creates huge insecurity. For those familiar with the intertwining of social and economic discrimination in India, it should come as no surprise to learn that Dalits are predominant among such poor people. For example, the Mission Convergence Survey of the government of Delhi found that more than 90 per cent of S.Cs in Delhi were living in jhuggi clusters, resettlement colonies, unauthorised localities and construction sites – not exactly what could be called ideal housing. There were also a significant number of homeless Dalits living next to garbage-dumping sites.
A recent survey of conditions of S.C. families in Delhi conducted by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights finds even more appalling conditions in a wide range of areas, and poor access to basic needs. The poor condition of infrastructure and civic amenities endured by most of the sample of 2,400 families is particularly noteworthy. All the S.C. settlements were found to have narrow and dingy streets, poor drainage with overflowing sewage and associated stench and swampy conditions, creating many health hazards. Garbage heaps abounded with little or no public collection facilities. Sanitary conditions are especially dreadful. Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents used open toilets, but it should be noted that this may be healthier for them than using public toilets (19 per cent), which were inevitably found to be stinking and without adequate water and flushing facilities. The issue of minimally adequate sanitation also has a major gender dimension: women and girls face great reproductive health risks as well as threats to their physical security, especially when they are forced to go long distances in search for privacy for such needs. Many more examples and statistics relating to the appalling conditions of the majority of Dalit families in Delhi could be mentioned: forced to access only very poorly funded and often discriminatory public education and health care services, insecure livelihood and limited employment opportunities, and so on. But that is really not necessary because the main point is that a lot needs to be done and that there are many ways in which public money could usefully be spent to improve their conditions. So the denial of public resources that are mandated under the SCP for S.Cs amounts to a huge assault on their basic socio-economic rights, as it forces them to continue to live in squalor and degradation. This major crime of omission has to be rectified immediately, but this will only happen if the government actually finds itself to be accountable in this matter. And for that, many more public voices need to be raised.
- Recognising tribal rights – Editorial (May 21, 2011, The Hindu)
- Identity & Politics – By K.N. Panikkar (May 7, 2011, Frontline)
- The false Dalit of capital – By Anand Teltumbde (May 24, 2011, Tehelka)
Author: Shabnam Hashmi, Ed.
Reviewed by: Shaikh Mujibur Rehman
Available at: Act Now For Harmony and Democracy, 23, Canning Lane, New Delhi-110001, Rs. 200. http://www.anhadin.net/
Testimonies of victims of violence (May 17, 2011, The Hindu)
There are perhaps as many stories hidden in their lives as there are Muslims in India – some 160 million. But the meaning of being a Muslim could also vary dramatically, depending on the political situation and the types of myths and stereotypes that are manufactured and spread in an attempt to project the community as the “other”. In this era of ‘war on terror’, Muslims both nationally and globally are perceived to be the not-so-normal people, who are out of step with modern civilisation. The book sheds some light on a similar perception within the community and the danger it poses for inter-community relations.
The publication is an outcome of two events that ‘Act Now for Harmony and Democracy’ (ANHAD), a prominent civil society organisation fighting Hindu fundamentalist elements, held in the recent past – in Hyderabad (2008) and New Delhi (2009). It presents the testimonies of several victims of communal violence and state oppression as also commentaries by many well-known scholars and activists, who served as juries in these tribunals. They include: K.G. Kannabiran, Rama Malkote, Justice Sardar Ali Khan, Justice S.N. Bhargava and Asghar Ali Engineer (Hyderabad); Zoya Hasan, Tarun Tejpal, Hanif Lakdawala, Prashant Bhusan, Zahid Ali Khan, and Admiral Ramdas (New Delhi).
In an insightful foreword, the noted scholar and activist, Ram Puniyani, records that the testimonies of victims “moistened the eyes of many jury members.” He says what is sickening is not just the communal attacks but also the reckless and indiscriminate manner in which the security forces went about arresting Muslim youths in the aftermath of terror strikes, as evidenced in the case of the Samjhota Express, Ajmer, and Mecca Masjid bomb blasts. Among the testimonies of the victims of violence and their relatives, the one by Mussarat Jahan is heart-rending. She gives a graphic account of the circumstances under which her sister, Ishrat Jahan, was killed. Her narrative of Ishrat’s life brings out her (Ishrat’s) innocence. Some of the victims’ accounts are pretty long.
Discussing the issues in a larger perspective, Rajiv Yadav analyses the working of electoral politics and the “politics of terrorism” and shows how Azamgarh is now projected as a “new Pakistan” in India. As for the cases presented by activists in the field, Nihal Ahmed Ansari narrates the story of Noorul Hooda, a powerloom worker who was arrested as a suspect in Malegaon case. Another interesting account has come from Nisaben, whose son-in-law Mohammed Zahid has been accused in the Malegaon blast case. Then there is the case of Shah Alam of Ahmedabad, worker in a junk shop, being picked by the Anti-Terror Squad and accused of having planned to blow up a temple. How, in the absence of Shah Alam, his family suffered for want of money to educate his three children is told poignantly by his sister, Seema.
Without doubt, the attempt to weave together real life stories about the hardship, agony, and misery the families of the victims of communal violence have suffered is commendable. First and foremost, it helps the people at large understand what such violence and the official agencies’ knee-jerk, and often partisan, response has meant to members of the minority community. For the victims themselves, it provides an opportunity to share their experiences and offer their viewpoints. Above all, it serves as a morale booster and infuses in them a sense of confidence that there are indeed people who really care for them. This in itself is very uplifting, given that people’s general attitude is marked dominantly by apathy and indifference. Moreover, the value of a compilation of this kind is enormous for any researcher on ethnic violence.