IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 5th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

32 killed in 36 hours by Bodo militants in Assam, curfew imposed (May 3, 2014, Indian Express)

There seems to be no end to the bloodbath in Assam as seven more bodies have been found in Baksa district, taking the total death toll to 32 in the last 36 hours. This comes after suspected Bodoland militants killed at least 23 people in a span of 24 hours in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of lower Assam.

Curfew has been clamped in all of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang, three of the four districts of the Bodoland area, and on contiguous areas in neighbouring districts. The Army has carried out flag marches, and shoot-on-sight orders have been issued in Kokrajhar and Baksa. The state government has accused the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of carrying out the killings. All the victims are migrant Muslims.

The government has denied any connection between the attacks and the Lok Sabha elections. However, one of the three massacres has taken place in a village that saw violence and the killing of a police constable as Kokrajhar went to polls on April 24. Around 7.30 pm on Thursday, militants shot dead two women and a man of a family in Narsingpara village in the Anandabazar police station area of Baksa district. The victims were identified as Shampa Bewa (55), Sona Miya (35) and Ramisa Khatun (32).

Some five hours later, between 12.30 am and 1 am on Friday, four militants armed with at least two AK series rifles opened indiscriminate fire in Balapara village in the Tulsibeel outpost area of Gossaigaon police station in Kokrajhar district. Four women, a man and three children belonging to two Muslim families were killed.

Late on Friday evening, 12 bodies were recovered in the villages of Narayanguri and Khagrabari adjoining each other on the fringes of Manas National Park in Baksa district, Assam home secretary G D Tripathi said. At least 10 people were injured, and several homes were reported to be on fire, he said.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/30-killed-in-36-hours-by-bodo-militants-in-assam-curfew-imposed/99/

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No ‘clean chit’ yet (May 5, 2014, The Hindu)

As Ahmedabad’s Metropolitan Magistrate accepted the closure report submitted by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in the Gulberg Society massacre case in Gujarat, it is being widely claimed that the Supreme Court has given Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a ‘clean chit’ (a term with no legal meaning) in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Rajnath Singh has made the same claim in his interview. (“We will instil confidence in minorities,” May 4). This is very misleading.

The Supreme Court did not express any opinion on the SIT report, but merely forwarded it to the trial court for further action. Besides, being sceptical about the conclusions arrived at by the SIT chief, R.K. Raghavan, that there is no ‘prosecutable evidence’ against Mr. Modi, the Supreme Court asked the amicus curiae to prepare an independent report, and his conclusions are reported to be opposed to those of Mr. Raghavan. Mere acceptance by the trial court of the closure report does not mean exoneration or proof of innocence of the accused persons who have not been charge-sheeted or tried in a court, and the whole matter is now before the Gujarat High Court on appeal.

Besides, the SIT is yet to submit its report on other cases such as the Naroda Patiya massacre in which complaints have been lodged against Mr. Modi and others. In view of these facts, the BJP and a section of the media giving wide publicity to the claim that Mr. Modi was given a ‘clean chit’ by the Supreme Court, is misleading.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/no-clean-chit-yet/article5976267.ece

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CBI fails to move SC against bail of 3 cops accused in Sohrab case (May 6, 2014, Indian Express)

The CBI on Monday failed to move Supreme Court (SC) against the bail order of three suspended policemen, including two IPS officers, accused in the 2002 alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauserbi. On April 29, the Bombay High Court, while granting bail to the three police officers, had also put a stay on the operation of its order for seven days, following CBI’s request to approach SC in a week’s time against the order.

The policemen include IPS officers Abhay Chudasama and Dinesh M N (Rajasthan cadre), and Deputy Superintendent of police M L Parmar. Dinesh and Parmar were behind the bars since 2007 after their arrest by state CID (Crime) while Chudasma was arrested in 2010 by CBI. Chudasma has been chargesheeted by CBI as a “main conspirator” behind murdering Sohrabuddin and his wife, while Dinesh M N and Parmar had taken part in the alleged fake encounter, along with accused officials of Anti-Terror Squad of Gujarat.

Last month, two other accused policemen, suspended IPS Rajkumar Pandian and police inspector Balkrishna Chaubey – had been released on bail by the Supreme Court. Both of them were granted bail on the condition that they remain in Mumbai. The duo is likely to move the apex court to modify their bail on parity of the bail granted to Chudasma and two others. There are 23 accused in this case. Out of them, 17 have been released on bail so far. Two of the accused – Himanshu Singh and Shyam Singh of Rajasthan police – have also moved bail application. Interestingly, Pandian and Chaubey are the only accused policemen who have been confined to Mumbai as a condition put by the Supreme Court.

Bombay High Court as well as Supreme Court, while granting the bail to these accused, have observed that the trial of the case doesn’t seem to be concluding in near future. They observed, “The volume of documents required to be proved and the number of witnesses to be examined, the bail application is required to be viewed in that perspective.”

The Bombay high court has observed that “it will take even a year or so for getting all the investigation papers translated from Gujarati language to Marathi/English when the special case is required to be tried in Mumbai.” Justice A R Joshi, while granting bail, also mentioned in his order, “It is further brought to our notice that admittedly there are more than 600 witnesses to be examined.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/cbi-fails-to-move-sc-against-bail-of-3-cops-accused-in-sohrab-case/

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RSS following in the footsteps of Hitler: VS (May 4, 2014, The Hindu)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists in Kerala are following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler to kill activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the Students Federation of India, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan has said.

“The murderous face of the RSS was seen by the country during the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid,” he said while inaugurating a dharna organised by the DYFI at the Press Club Maidan here on Saturday to protest against the murder of DYFI leader Sreeraj, allegedly by RSS activists, at Nedumankavu last month.

Mr. Achuthanandan said that neither the Congress not the United Democratic Front government was doing anything to counter the “reign of terror being unleashed by the RSS.” The government seemed to be promoting such activities, he said. Hence the police were lax in properly investigating murder cases in which RSS activists were involved.

He said that the RSS had murdered hundreds of CPI(M) and other Left activists in the State since the 1970s. He called upon people to come forward and jointly oppose the RSS.

Addressing mediapersons at the Press Club, DYFI State president T.V. Rajesh and secretary M. Swaraj alleged that the Union Minister of State for Labour, Kodikunnil Suresh, was protecting the RSS activists involved in the murder of Sreeraj. Those arrested by the police in connection with the murder were not the real culprits, they said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/rss-following-in-the-footsteps-of-hitler-vs/article5975390.ece

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Bail plea of three persons accused of murder in Muzaffarnagar riots related case, rejected (Apr 30, 2014, IBN)

A local court has rejected bail plea of three persons accused of murder in a Muzaffarnagar riots related case. Additional district sessions judge Jitender Kumar on Tuesday rejected bail plea of Karan Singh Bhogra, Niraj and Ashok accused in a murder case in Kharad village of the district.

According to prosecution, the accused allegedly killed a villager Sagir Ahmad and torched several homes and vehicles in Kharad village under Phugana police station during last year’s communal violence on September 8. Ahmad’s son Meherban had lodged an FIR against several people in this connection and six persons were arrested, said prosecution sources.

Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing into the riots, had filed chargesheet against the accused in the case. Court will frame charges against the trio on May 20. Around 60 people died and thousands were displaced from their homes in last year’s communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring villages of Western Uttar Pradesh.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/bail-plea-of-three-persons-accused-of-murder-in-muzaffarnagar-riots-related-case-rejected/468617-3-242.html

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RTI activist who took on Noida land mafia dies (May 3, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Mystery shrouds the death of Right to Information activist Chandra Mohan Sharma (38), who was allegedly charred inside his car Friday night. On the complaint of a family member, a case of murder has been lodged against five people at Kasna police station. However, no arrests have been made so far.

If foul play is unearthed, this would be the third episode of an RTI activist being targeted in Greater Noida within the last six months. In December 2013, activist Anoop Singh was abducted from Dankaur town, burnt with cigarettes on his private parts, and beaten with iron rods, before being dumped near a petrol pump in a neighbouring district four days later. In February this year, another activist, Salimuddin Solanki, had alleged that he was receiving threatening calls from a contractor while seeking information about developmental works in the area.

Around midnight, Sharma, an employee of Honda Siel Cars India Ltd in Greater Noida, was driving a Chevrolet Aveo from office to his home in Alpha-2. According to the police, as he reached near Sector Pi, his car caught fire. He couldn’t open the door of the vehicle, as the central locking had failed due to a short circuit. Fire tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the flames, but Sharma could not be saved.

The victim’s relatives claim he left office at 11.10pm, and also spoke to his children over the phone at 10.30 pm. Close to midnight, the police control room received a call that a car had gone up in flames. Meanwhile, his family was trying to reach him, but his mobile phone was switched off. It was only in the morning that police could identify the body through the registration number of the vehicle.

“He was fighting against encroachers in the area and was warned of dire consequences several times. On April 28, while he was returning home, his car was overtaken and stopped by goons who threatened to kill him. We had asked the police to give him protection, and take action against suspects. But nothing was done. Now they are trying to turn a case of murder into a mishap,” said Savita Sharma, the deceased’s wife and a member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). She also claimed that the circumstances of her husband’s death indicate he had been murdered. …

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1215024.aspx

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Minority federation meets ATS to seek serious probe of bomb making factory in Kolhapur (May 3, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Members of Federation of Minority, an NGO met Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Himanshu Roy in his Byculla office and expressed their dissatisfaction with the drooping investigation carried out by the local police in a serious case of discovery of bomb making factory in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra last month and appealed for stern probe of the case by ATS.

Dr. Azeemuddin expressed his discontent and said that discovery of Bomb making factory and recovery of explosive materials from arrested four youths was a matter of great concern and that the case should have been thoroughly investigated by state ATS to find out all those involved in the conspiracy but till date the investigation was stuck with the local police. He also said that instead of transferring the probe to state ATS local SP Manoj Kumar Sharma lowered down the severity of case by immediately declaring that no radical organization was behind the recovery and therefore no new arrest were done by the local police.

Mr. Saleem Alware conveyed his displeasure to the ATS chief and said that whenever explosive recovery is made by police or when bomb blast happens then the electronic media instantly starts to blame Muslims or banned Muslim organizations and that because of this Muslim community gets victimized and hatred spreads amongst other community against Muslims. M A Khalid suggested to hold a meeting between ATS officials and Muslim leaders so as to listen each others’ concern and to strengthen mutual confidence. ATS Chief Himanshu Roy listened to the NGO and said that he shall send his officials to Kolhapur to gather information of investigation carried out by the local police and assured of thorough and unbiased investigation.

In the beginning of April, Kolhapur police in Maharashtra had discovered a bomb making factory in the Lakshmi Hill near the MIDC area of the Kagal town and had also confiscated material including gelatin sticks, remotely handled switches, remote control devices, five screw drivers, steel clips, wire-cutters, hacksaws, scissors, hammers, buzzers, door bells, six battery cells, power control equipment, energy circuit wiring, switch cord and paper pieces with diagram notes, among others.

Kolhapur police had also arrested four youth who were in their 20s identified as Ajinkya Manohar Bhopade(22) and Aniket Bhivaji Mali(22) from Chokak village in Hatkananagale, Nilesh Babanrao Patil (20) from Male Mudshingi, in Hatkanangale and Anil Popat Kharase (26) from Kabnur-Ichalkaranji in Hatkanangale. During the meeting Burhanuddin Qasmi, Aslam Gazi, Syed Sohail and others belonging to the said NGO also expressed their apprehension towards growing communal and fascist activities in the country and requested ATS Chief to unearth all those anti-social elements involved in the alleged recovery of Bomb Making factory.

http://twocircles.net/2014may03/minority_federation_meets_ats_seek_serious_probe_bomb_making_factory_kolhapur.html

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Ramdev booked across India for ‘insulting’ Dalit community with ‘honeymoon’ remark (Apr 29, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Yoga guru Ramdev has been booked across the country for “insulting” the Dalit community through his controversial “honeymoon” remark against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Ramdev, a supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, made the remark in Lucknow on April 25 and has drawn flak from all quarters since then.

“Had he (Rahul) married a Dalit girl, who knows, he might have become the PM. Sonia says first become the PM and then bring a foreigner as bride. He goes to Dalit houses to have picnics and honeymoon,” he had said. The city Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president, Ajay Patil, lodged a complaint at the Sadar police station in Nagpur on Sunday and submitted a video recording to substantiate the evidences that hurt the sentiments of Dalits in the country.

“We have requested the police station-in-charge to lodge an FIR on the basis of the VCD against the yoga guru immediately. If the police fail to take an appropriate action against Baba Ramdev, the NCP would launch an agitation in the city soon,” said Patil. Akhil Bharatiya Dhamma Sena, an organisation of neo-Buddhists, burnt an effigy of Ramdev on Sunday evening at the busy Variety Square in protest against his remarks on Dalits.

Bhim Sena, a Dalit organisation, too lodged a police complaint against Ramdev at Panchpaoli police station, a pre-dominantly Dalit area in north Nagpur. “We have booked an FIR against Baba Ramdev. Now, we are investigating the matter and would refer it to Lucknow for necessary action as it’s comes under the jurisdiction Lucknow Police,” said Dilip Khobragade, the police station in-charge of Panchpaoli.

“If the police fail to take an action against Baba Ramdev within a week, the Dalit organisations in Nagpur would ensure the closure of all medical stores which sell the medicines of Baba Ramdev,” warned Sanghapal Meshram, a senior Dalit leader. Nagpur has a seizable Dalit population and Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, along with half a million of his followers on October 14, 1956. An NGO in Ahmedabad also lodged an FIR against the yoga guru for “insulting” the Dalit community and demanded action against him. …

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1213393.aspx

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Two brave girls to expose a dubious Godman in Halla Bol (May 2, 2014, Times of India)

This week on Halla Bol, will bring to light the truth behind a fake Godman. Often people in our society have blind faith in religious guru’s and yogis. Without even thinking twice, well educated people fall into the vicious trap of these Godmen who mould religious teachings as per their convenience and entice people to follow them blindly. This week’s episode narrates a story of a young girl, Meghna whose parents force her to stay in an aashram under a babaji’s guidance.

Meghna, a young, aspiring photographer is forced to go to an aashram to stay since her way of life and the ideologies of her parents did not match which oftenlead to fights. Having dealt with such difficult times with their daughter, on the advice of their babaji, Meghna was unwillingly shifted to the aashram. On reaching, Meghna did not comply with the ideologies and teachings of the babaji. Things get further stirred up when on one occasion she vociferously dismisses a ritual in a room full of people. Babaji let it slide at the moment maintaining his composed demeanour only to avenge the insult later that night. He not only rapes her repeatedly, but also deprives her of food and water for days, breaking her completely.

Meghna was so helpless by the circumstances that she could not go back to her parents; her only respite in the Ashram was her friend Deepti who had also undergone a similar torture. One day the two decided to escape but then they come back to expose the fake babaji in front of everybody. What did they do? Were the young girls successful in exposing the baba’s truths?

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/34532304.cms

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Rights activists blame police inaction in firing on Dalits case (Apr 29, 2014, Indian Express)

Close to two years after killings of three Dalit youths in police firing in Thangadh town of Surendranagar district in September 2012, Gujarat CID (Crime) is yet to ascertain if the firing was done as per the prescribed procedure or not. This and many other such examples of police laxity in the investigation of the matter were highlighted by a city-based Dalits’ rights organisation – Navsarjan Trust – while releasing a probe report sent by CID (Crime) authorities to the Gujarat State Human Rights Commission (GSHRC), on Monday.

The report, dated February 14, 2014, was sent by Inspector General of Police, Gujarat CID (Crime) Anil Pratham to the GSHRC after the trust’s programme director Kirit Rathod complained before the commission about the police inaction in the case. The report was provided to Rathod by the commission.

Releasing the report, Navsarjan Trust’s Manjula Pradeep pointed out a number of controversial issues that have come on record during police probe in the matter. These included that the police was yet not sure if from which weapon the youths died and an opinion of FSL in the matter is still pending. Also, one of the accused policemen in the case, B C Solanki, is still on the run and police have not been able to arrest him.

Police had fired from different weapons including AK 47 assault rifle on the Dalits. However, the report says that “prima facie” it appears that 11 rounds were fired in the air from the AK 47 assault rifle. But it is difficult to find out as to who got injured from which weapon and so investigating team is planning to take guidance from the higher-ups.

The probe report also says that on the day of incident, police had brought a private cameraman to videograph the development. However, it adds, the handicap videographer had got scared and run away from the spot after stone pelting. Also, CID is yet to get a report from the inquiry panel appointed by the government in its investigation.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/rights-activists-blame-police-inaction-in-firing-on-dalits-case/

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Opinions and Editorials

Many Reminded of Horrors of 2002 Gujarat Riots – By Mansi Choksi (Apr 30, 2014, New York Times)

Gulbarg Society, a complex of 18 bungalows and two apartment blocks once occupied by upper-middle-class Muslims in the largely Hindu neighborhood of Chamanpura, is now a cluster of doorless burned shells. Inside the complex, Qasim Allah Noor Mansour, 70, sat on a patio, catching his breath after chasing away a homeless boy who had sneaked in to smoke. Mr. Mansour is the only person living in the complex since it was abandoned in February 2002, when at least 35 Muslims were hacked and burned to death, including the Indian National Congress parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri. Thirty-one other Muslims went missing, according to a lawyer representing the eyewitnesses of the attack in court.

The attack on the families living in the Gulbarg complex was just one event in the three-day Gujarat riots, which left more than 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. The violence began a day earlier, when a Muslim mob attacked a train full of Hindu pilgrims in the town of Godhra and a fire broke out, killing 59 Hindus.

As Ahmedabad votes on Wednesday, the survivors of those riots are nervous about the possibility of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party becoming the next prime minister. Mr. Modi, the current chief minister of Gujarat, had been in office for just under five months when the riots broke out, and he has been accused of not acting quickly enough to stop the violence.

In 2010, a special investigating team appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the violence exonerated Mr. Modi of allowing riots. Since then, Mr. Modi has been cleared three times by Supreme Court-supervised panels, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. But suspicions about Mr. Modi remain among Ahmedabad’s Muslims.

“They say Modi will rule India,” said Mr. Mansour, a retired employee of a private transport company, who lost 19 members of his family in 2002. “In that case, imagine all of India like this Gulbarg Society,” he said. “How will a man who can’t take care of one society take care of the country?” …

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/with-election-many-reminded-of-horrors-of-2002-gujarat-riots/

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‘There Is No Room For Debate In Gujarat’ – Ganesh N. Devy with Mari Marcel Thekaekara (May 1, 2014, Outlook)

Padma Shri Ganesh N. Devy, formerly professor of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, a renowned literary critic and activist is founder and director of the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, Gujarat. He is a soft spoken, erudite figure. Not a vestige of the shrill, rabid pseudo-secularist about this Baroda scholar. But being a dissenter in Gujarat 2014 implies a fearless, freedom fighter. He gave a concise, analytical outline of his opposition to the ghettoisation of Gujarati society after 2002. ‘It’s my duty to fight for Gujarat. If Modi wins, he will ruin India as he has ruined Gujarat.

‘In Gujarat, the Hindu-Muslim divide is no longer a debate, nor an ideology. It is a law. In 2002, the Gujarat Assembly got in an Act by which they could declare any area a ‘Disturbed area’. The authority to declare an area ‘disturbed’ is given to city councils. It can be done administratively, not legislatively. So, the corporation or municipality can make a resolution prohibiting Hindus from selling land to Muslims and vice-versa. …

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?290580

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Production Without Consumption: Gujarat Model Of Development – By Sanjeev Kumar (May 1, 2014, Countercurrents)

Though there are other states in India where average production is better than Gujarat, but even if we decide to believe that in terms of total production, and income Gujarat is one among the best performing state in India, Gujarat performance in terms of average consumption level is worst in relation to its production level. And thus in this ways Gujarat here is far away from normalcy of the theory given by advocates of capital intensive system of production. In terms of per capita consumption expenditure, Gujarat’s performance in the decade 1993 to 2004-05 compared better than the last five years.

NSSO report states that the urban MPCE was 49 per cent higher in towns and cities than in villages in 1993-94. Fourteen years later, the urban MPCE was 68 per cent higher than rural areas. This means, rural-urban disparity in terms of living standard of the people of Gujarat has been increasing consistently. At the same time this disparity has been reducing in states like Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra etc. Increasing inequality in income distribution is considered as the prime reason for the intensifying disparity of consumption level.

The condition of Gujarat in terms of distribution of income is even worst. In 2004-05 there were 21.65% landless people coming from lowest consumption group in Gujarat which increased to 40.90% in 2009-10. While the landlessness among two highest consumption group decreased by around 14%. If we look at the distribution of income, level of inequality in Gujarat is 33% while national average is 36%. This difference between Gujarat and India was wider in 1990s and thus Gujarat was better placed.

Gujarat proudly claims that she is one of the largest producers of milk in India but when it comes to consumption of milk, the story is different. The total production of milk in Gujarat during last decade doubled but per capita consumption of milk (liter) is 6.178 and 6.750 in rural and Urban Gujarat. In comparison to this people of Delhi, Harayana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Chandigarh is consuming more than any Gujarati.

The growth in consumption of electricity in Gujarat was 143.97% during 1990s while during the one decade rule of Modi the growth was only 59.97%. Gujarat is claiming that they are giving 24 hour electricity to villagers but if we take per capita expenditure on electricity in Gujarat its 15.547 Kwh per month. Per capita consumption of electricity by People from almost nine states or union territories is much ahead than Gujarat while five states are marginally behind of Gujarat. But how we can expect people of a state like Gujarat to consume enough amount of electricity where electricity duty is in India. The tariff rate on electricity is 20% on rural areas if the consumption is less than 40 unit per month and if the consumption is more, tariff will be 25% to 30%.…

http://www.countercurrents.org/skumar010514.htm

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Sins in the name of secularism – By Hasan Suroor (Apr 30, 2014, The Hindu)

On the eve of the 2004 general election, held against the backdrop of the Gujarat riots, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies widely predicted to win, a group of leading South Asian scholars discussed the alarming resurgence of the Hindu Right and its implications in a book somewhat rhetorically titled Will Secular India Survive?

The authors made it clear that they did not presume to be the “arbiters of India’s secular destiny” which historian Mushirul Hasan noted would “ultimately be settled in the rural hinterland and dusty towns and not on the campuses of Delhi or at the India International Centre.” But they had an upbeat message. They believed that “India’s millions” were too deeply wedded to the idea of “pluralist co-existence” to allow any attempt to subvert it. The country’s complex cultural diversity and its long tradition of people of different faiths living together despite periods of often violent dissonance were the biggest safeguard against it becoming a “Hindu India.”

Prof. Hasan, who edited the volume, summed up their underlying message with a quote from Andre Beteille, the distinguished sociologist: “The social and political turmoil in the country does not make the case for secularism weaker, it makes it stronger. Indian intellectuals will do little good to themselves or their country if they espouse secularism in fair weather and disown it in foul weather.”

It was not exactly a fashionable view to take at a time when the supposedly better informed psephologists and media pundits were declaring game over for secular politics. In the event, though, the “ivory tower” academics proved closer to the mark as the BJP lost not only the 2004 election but also went on to lose the next one, in 2009, and its Hindutva agenda hasn’t quite recovered since.

Ten years on, an intense debate on the future of secularism is raging again in the face of an increasingly toxic election campaign in which moderate voices are struggling to be heard. One doesn’t know how those scholars would respond if they were to be asked the same question today, and most likely, secular India will survive “Modiwad” to live another day. But there is a new disturbing trend: the public discourse on secularism has hardened and become coarser (on social media sites, secularists are routinely mocked as “Sickular” and “sickularists”). More and more people across all communities see it as a failed idea and blame it for encouraging competitive sectarianism. Rather than promoting harmony and coexistence as it was intended to, Congress-style secularism is seen to have ended up as a divisive force instead.…

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/sins-in-the-name-of-secularism/article5960269.ece

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Who is to be blamed for the Assam violence? – By Prasanta Mazumdar (May 4, 2014, DNA India)

It is allegedly the Bodos’ fear of losing political clout that led to the latest wave of attacks in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts in Assam. Eight more bodies were recovered on Saturday in Baksa district even as the ruling Congress government in the state decided to probe the incidents by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The death toll in the mayhem, which began on Thursday midnight, has gone up to 30. But official sources said only 28 bodies had been retrieved so far. The victims were all Bengali-speaking Muslims. …

There was no fresh attack on Saturday but an angry mob of an affected village burnt two forest camps in Baksa district. The BTAD, comprising four districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, has the lone Parliamentary seat of Kokrajhar. It has 14,92,404 voters but non-Bodos make up 70% of them. In fact, the Bodos constitute only 30% of the 31,00,000 people inhabiting in BTAD. The conflict between Bodos and non-Bodos first came to the fore ahead of the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in 2003. It got intensified after around 600 villages with alleged zero percent Bodo population were included in the BTC.

Non-Bodos allege that they have often been subjected to assaults, intimidations, killings, abductions and extortions by the Bodo militants and elements. So this election, a conglomerate of 22 influential non-Bodo organisations had backed a former Ulfa leader Heera Sarania, who contested as an independent from Kokrajhar. Bengali-speaking Muslims, who have a sizeable population in BTAD, alleged that they became the ‘soft targets’ of the Bodos for backing Sarania. The latest attacks bring back memories of the 2012 ethnic riots in which over 100 people, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims, were killed in BTAD. Several thousand of them, displaced by the riots, are still lodged in relief camps.

Bodo extremist groups – some have laid down arms and are in ceasefire with the government – have no disagreement on the demand of “Bodoland state”. In fact, even the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which rules the BTC and is led by former BLT leaders, raised the demand for a separate homeland both within and outside the Parliament from time to time. The Bodoland statehood movement has its genesis in the 1967 demand by Bodos – largest plains tribal group in the Northeast – for carving a Union Territory named Udayachal out of Assam. The demand was raised by the Plains Tribal Council of Assam following the realisation that tribal blocks and belts notified by the British were being acquired by rich immigrant landlords.…

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-who-is-to-be-blamed-for-the-assam-violence-1984844

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‘Was in hell for three months, threatened with electric chair’ – By Muzamil Jaleel (May 5, 2014, Indian Express)

After detaining him for two days, the NIA on Sunday released Fahath Ahmad Azmi, who, along with his father, Faizan Ahmad Azmi, was brought to Delhi from UAE on May 2 for allegedly providing logistics support to the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Speaking to The Indian Express after his release, Fahath alleged that he was made to sign an undertaking saying that he had gone to the NIA on his own and had no complaints against the officials.

“If they (NIA) knew there is nothing against me, why did they ruin my life? Why did I spend three months in a jail cell in Abu Dhabi before these two days of questioning here? I have been freed but they (NIA) have already taken my life away from me. The future of my entire family is uncertain now. There is nothing to look forward to,” he said.

While Fahath and his father were sent to India, their family – Fahath’s wife, two minor children and mother – has been told that their visas have been cancelled and they have a month to return to India. His family lives in Namiya district of Ajman, where they have “two restaurants, four embroidery shops and two laundry places”.

Fahath said their ordeal began on February 5, with a phone call from the CID at Ajman in UAE. “I had left home for Sharjah when my father called me and asked me to rush back. He told me there was a call from the CID in Ajman. They (CID) told my father that they wanted to talk to me regarding some business related issue and asked him to bring me to their office. We went and they (CID) immediately separated us. They took my two phones, keys and wallet. I had no idea what was the matter. In the last 13 years, I had one small incident with the police. It was a tiff with a policeman who withdrew his charges against me after I apologised. I was trying to recall who could go to the police against me,” said Fahath.

“They later blindfolded me and put me in a police car. I could hear my father coughing. We were taken to our home where they searched my car and our flat. They took the laptops, flash drives and scanned through our belongings. My mother, wife and children were there crying. The police didn’t tell them the reason for our arrest… But they let my father eat his dinner and take his medicines. He has serious diabetes, cardiac problems and high blood pressue. I thought we would be fine. I never imagined we would be in such a serious problem,” he said. Fahath said they were then taken to their office and other businesses where the Ajman CID men searched through everything. “By 4 am, we were taken to Abu Dhabi where we were kept in separate cells. My blindfold was taken off and I had no idea where my father was. It was a small room without a window. There was a CCTV camera, an exhaust and an AC. When the AC went off, it was impossible to breathe,” he said.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/was-in-hell-for-three-months-threatened-with-electric-chair/99/

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Book Review

The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi & Godhra

Author: Manoj Mitta
Reviewed by: KS Subramanian
Available at: Harper Collins Publishers, 2014, pp.259, Price Rs. 599 . http://www.amazon.in/
Review:
The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi & Godhra (May 3, 2014, Countercurrents)

In this remarkable and courageous book, Manoj Mitta (senior editor with the Times of India who writes on legal, human rights and public policy issues) mounts a devastating critique of the final report of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by RK Raghavan, the reports of the amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran, the Chief Minister and aspiring prime minister Narendra Modi, the Gujarat judiciary and by implication the state and central governments too for failing to deliver justice to the over 2000 victims of organised violence in the Gujarat pogrom, 2002, which caused extensive destruction of property as well.

The author goes into the voluminous new material produced by the SIT on the violence based on the complaint by Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, who alleged, among other things, that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 top police and administrative officials of the state were behind the conspiracy to commit massive collective violence against Muslims in the Gulberg Society area of Ahmedabad, resulting in the massacre of 69 persons including her husband. Mitta also evaluates the reports of the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran. The work is a masterpiece of investigative journalism, which should lead to further legal and judicial effort to get at the truth and deliver justice to the victims.

The author identifies the violations of law perpetrated by the SIT in the name of investigating the crimes which took place in Gujarat, 2002; evaluates the reports of the amicus curiae; and notices the failings of the Supreme Court of India in discharging its basic Constitutional responsibilities to the people. The SIT’s final report to the trial court in February 2012 missed critical pieces of evidence, which slipped through the cracks in the investigation; failed to connect the dots, viewed issues in isolation and downplayed their significance; freed the main accused Narendra Modi and his associates from criminal culpability; failed to meaningfully address the suggestions put forward by the amicus curiae; and neglected other verifiable, irrefutable evidence. The author concludes that there was sufficient evidence in the material to file a charge sheet. Instead the SIT submitted a not-guilty closure report.

The Supreme Court had forwarded Zakia Jafri’s complaint to the SIT on April 27 2009. Though section 154 of the CrPC provides scope for the registration of First Information Report (FIR) on discovery of a ‘cognisable offence’ , the SIT failed to register a case but embarked on an elaborate and deceptive ‘preliminary enquiry’ lasting 12 months and recorded 163 statements of witnesses. Inexplicably, even after a prolonged preliminary enquiry, the SIT obtained permission of the Supreme Court to conduct ‘further investigation’. After a further long drawn out period of enquiry, including an earlier farcical ‘interrogation’ of the prime accused in the Jafri-related complaint, the SIT filed an absurd closure report on February 8 2012 exonerating everyone involved in the case for want of ‘prosecutable evidence’.

In what follows, we examine briefly the author’s analysis of the infructuous and apparently politically motivated investigation of the case by the SIT; his take on the observations and suggestions of the amicus curiae; and his argument that the Supreme Court itself was partly to blame for the impunity made possible by the SIT’s unsatisfactory interrogation of Narendra Modi and the selection of an unsuitable candidate for the position of SIT chief (chapters 5 and 7). The gripping chapter 3 on ‘Gujarat model of justice’ explains that the partisan role of the Gujarat police in the Best Bakery and the Bilkis Bano cases impelled setting up of the SIT by the Supreme Court to look into and take appropriate legal action on the allegations in Zakia Jafri’s complaint on state complicity in communal violence across 14 of the 25 districts in the state. The complaint was an acid test to the SIT’s independence and integrity. The SIT was provided a mix of three serving police officers from Gujarat and two retired ones from outside the state, which included the Chairman. …

http://www.countercurrents.org/subramanian030514.htm

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