IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 24th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Communal Harmony

“Ayodhya means a land where there will never be a war” (Oct 18, 2011, The Hindu)

Yugal Kishor Shastri has been walking 490 kilometres from the holy city of Ayodhya to the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi for the past three years to promote communal harmony, chagrined at the recent happenings in Ayodhya and convinced that the country belongs to every Indian. “It is not the land of bloodshed but the land of peace and brotherhood. It is very wrong to say Ayodhya belongs to only Hindus. It is the land for every religion, a land for every Indian. That is why I decided to walk every year from Ayodhya to Delhi to show the people what a Hindu from Ayodhya thinks,” he said at the end of his latest yatra here on Monday.

The fourth “Communal Harmony Yatra” in which Shastri was accompanied by 20 other individuals from all over the country along with around nine organisations concluded with a conference on communal harmony in which the ideals of brotherhood, peace and loving one’s neighbours were discussed in detail with speakers from different faiths. “The name Ayodhya, the idea of Ayodhya meant Ayudh or the land where there will never be a war…it was like this in the ancient city…it is only now that everything has changed,” said Mohammad Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami, a Muslim organisation which was part of the yatra.

“There have been many attempts to break this land, this land of many faiths and diverse cultures and only those who work toward peace and without any hopes of personal gain will be able to save this land,” he said, adding that there was cause to be worried with the sort of extremism that was being encouraged in the country by politicians. His thoughts were echoed by fellow yatri Asghar Ali Engineer from the Centre for Study and Secularism who said: “The truth is always victimised chasing votes; politicians will take advantage of our ignorance to spread hatred in the name of religion. No religion prescribes hatred for one’s neighbours. The goal behind this yatra is to visit every village, hold talks and seminars and appeal to people to not believe every bad thing that is said about a different religion.”

He said people from different faiths had been living under the same sky and drinking the same water for centuries and this unique diversity in our country had to be preserved and so yatras like this had become even more important of late. The yatra started from Ayodhya on October 11 and passed through Faizabad, Lucknow, Sitapur, Shahjahanpur and Moradabad where the message of communal harmony was spread through seminars and talks, before reaching the Capital on Sunday.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article2548207.ece

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Amicus report lays the ground for chargesheeting Narendra Modi (Oct 23, 2011, The Hindu)

The report of Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case, has laid the ground for Narendra Modi to be charge-sheeted for his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom. The report is still confidential, though it has now been shared with the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court to investigate and prosecute cases stemming from the 2002 violence in which more than 1200 persons were killed.

According to informed sources in Ahmedabad, who briefed The Hindu on the report’s contents, the report strongly disagrees with the SIT’s view that no case against the Gujarat Chief Minister was made out. It says that only the cross-examination of senior Gujarat police officers, including Sanjiv Bhatt – who stated that he was present when Mr. Modi instructed police officials to allow Hindus to vent their anger – could establish whether the Chief Minister was innocent or guilty. Significantly, the report also says that Mr. Bhatt’s statement was made probable by the presence of two Ministers in the Ahmedabad Police Control Room (PCR) at the time Muslims were being attacked.

If the trial court accepts Mr. Ramachandran’s view, the sources said, the stage will have been set for the prosecution of the Chief Minister under various sections of the IPC, among them, 153 A (statements promoting enmity between communities), 153 B (imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration) 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 166 (public servant disobeying a direction of the law with the intent to cause injury). Under Section 166, any public servant who disobeys a direction of the law as to how he should conduct himself as a public servant and knowing the act will cause injury is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to one year. As the chief executive in control of the administration, Mr. Modi was especially under obligation to quell the riots, the sources said.

The SIT was tasked by the Supreme Court to investigate Ms. Jafri’s complaint against Mr. Modi and 61 others. The Court subsequently asked Mr. Ramachandran independently to evaluate the reports filed by the SIT by interacting with witnesses. The sources said the SIT recommended closing the case against Mr. Modi on the grounds that police officer Bhatt, who was vital to fixing blame on the Chief Minister, was a controversial and unreliable witness. The SIT also concluded that there was no material on record to show interference by the two Ministers who were present in the PCR when Muslims were being attacked across Ahmedabad. In his testimony to the SIT, Mr. Bhatt had said he was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting where Mr. Modi instructed top police officials to allow Hindus to “vent their anger” against Muslims. The meeting was held late in the evening at the Chief Minister’s Gandhinagar residence. The SIT said none of the other officers present at the meeting had corroborated Mr. Bhatt’s presence.

The sources said the amicus disagreed with the SIT’s conclusions, arguing that evidence has to be weighed and not counted, and this can happen only when Mr. Bhatt and others present at the meeting are cross-examined in the trial court. The amicus’ view was that it would be premature and presumptuous to close the case against Mr. Modi without an adversarial party putting the other officers to rigorous questioning: Mr. Bhatt could turn out to have lied. Equally, other officers present could turn out to have lied. The amicus was in fact credited with the view that the presence in the police control room of two Ministers unconnected to the Home portfolio probablised Mr. Bhatt’s statement. More so because the SIT had itself suggested that the Ministers had the Chief Minister’s blessings (Tehelka magazine which scooped the SIT report quoted Mr. Raghavan as saying that the presence of the two Ministers fuelled speculation that they were there with Mr. Modi’s blessings.) If the view of the amicus is rejected by the SIT, Ms. Jafri and her co-complainant Teesta Setalvad will have the option to contest it in the trial court. The court can also form its own, independent opinion on the views of the amicus.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2563188.ece

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Gulbarg case: Why is SIT taking so long to submit final report? (Oct 24, 2011, Times of India)

More than a month after the Supreme Court directed the special investigation team (SIT) to submit its final report on Zakia Jafri’s complaint before a lower court, the SIT has still not done so. Sources revealed that SIT does not believe amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s opinion that Modi should be charge-sheeted for provocative speeches, which is leading to the delay.

Sources said SIT’s case is that it has not received any complaint in this regard, hence there was no question of invoking section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the chief minister. Section 153A deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

In September, the Supreme Court had refrained from passing any order on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri seeking Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s prosecution for the 2002 riots and asked the trial court to decide on the case on the basis of the report by SIT. SIT was told to submit its report after taking into account the amicus curiae’s report which differed with the SIT.

Sources said Ramachandran has suggested in his report that a detailed analysis of IPS officer Rahul Sharma’s CD containing call details could prove that police and politicians acted in collusion with the rioters in the 2002 post0Godhra violence. SIT stopped probing the case further on the basis of call detail records (CDR) analysis after former minister Maya Kodnani’s anticipatory bail was canceled by Gujarat high court in 2009. Similarly, the SIT is at loggerheads with Ramachandran on the testimony of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who has alleged Modi’s direct complicity in the 2002 riots. While SIT has found Bhatt’s statement untrue, the amicus curiae has said his statement could not be ignored.

Ramachandran’s implication of then deputy commissioner of police P B Gondia , who was in charge of Meghaninagar area where Gulbarg Society is situated does not go well with SIT theory. Sources said that SIT has build a case that Gondia had already delegated work to subordinate officers. He cannot be held liable for what happened in Naroda and Gulbarg Society, two of the worst massacres in the post-Godhra riots, because he was just a supervisory authority. Sources added SIT’s report may be placed only after it deals with all conclusions arrived at by the amicus curiae.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/10467930.cms

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As a police officer I see Narendra Modi as a criminal: Sanjiv Bhatt (Oct 17, 2011, Times of India)

In a setback for the Gujarat government, a special court granted bail to suspended police officer Sanjiv Bhatt who has accused Chief Minister Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 communal riots. Coming out of jail, the officer said rule of law has prevailed. Bhatt termed Modi a “criminal” and who can get him killed. “For me, Modi is a common criminal and who happens to be the chief minister and that doesn’t make any difference. As a police officer I see him as a criminal,” he told news channel Times Now.

“This government can try to eliminate me as they have done to (former minister) Haren Pandya. They can resort to anything and I am prepared for anything. “I am a threat to Narendra Modi, his stooges and and his cohorts and they will try to neutralise the threat. If they have to eliminate me, they won’t mind doing that,” he said. Earlier, Bhatt walked out of the Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad amid showering of rose petals and cheering of supporters. He hugged his wife Shweta Bhatt, who was waiting for him outside.

“I am happy that the rule of law has prevailed and this would be a victory for hope,” a composed Bhatt told reporters outside the jail. Sessions Judge VK Vyas granted him bail on the condition that Bhatt would cooperate with the investigation and would be present whenever called. The Indian Police Service (IPS) officer was arrested Sep 30 for allegedly forcing a police constable, KD Panth, to sign a false affidavit about his attending a meeting called by Modi soon after the Godhra train burning that sparked the riots.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in April, Bhatt alleged that after the Godhra train carnage, Modi had asked the police at a meeting to allow the majority community to vent their anger against Muslims. Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the court order showed the independence of the legal system. “No matter how much people speculate and put question marks, ultimately… we have shown our system is independent and it does not get swayed either by public opinion or by any kind of pressure,” Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-10-17/india/30289256_1_sanjiv-bhatt-narendra-modi-godhra-train

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CM office avoiding RTI query on Sadbhavna fast: Activists (Oct 24, 2011, Indian Express)

Vadodara-based activists Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, who had sought details of expenditure incurred on Narendra Modi’s Sadbhavna fast from September 17-19, have alleged that the Chief Minister Office is avoiding a clear reply for fear of being exposed before the people. The CMO diverted the RTI queries to the state Home Department, they said. The two activists said the Home Department told them that the event was a government function involving the participation of more than one departments and, therefore, it was not for the (home) department to compile and furnish the required information from all departments.

In the October 17 reply, the Deputy Secretary (law and order) in the Home Department, D R Patel, asked them to seek information from each department concerned separately if they were so keen to get details, they said. In reply, Prajapati and Shah urged the Home Department “with folded hands” to furnish names and addresses of the departments in institutions in question. “We believe it is very clear that the CMO wants to somehow avoid furnishing information because it is afraid of disclosing such information and, if disclosed, it will have to offer so many explanations and answers to questions from six crore people. Therefore, they are avoiding a reply,” they said.

The RTI application was made on September 17, the day the fast began. In reply, the CMO diverted the application to the Home Department, Prajapati and Shah said. On October 22, they asked the CMO and Home Department to divert the query to all departments and institutions concerned so that replies could be obtained without approaching them separately.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/864689/

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Hindutva terror: Justice still eludes riot victims (Oct 18, 2011, Rediff)

In the third and final part of the interview with rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, Subhash Gatade, author of Godse’s Children – Hindutva Terror In India, says that we should be wary of the majoritarian mindset which dominates what is known as civil society of our country. If you have noticed all these incidents, the first information that always trickles in blames either the Students Islamic Movement of India or the Indian Mujahideen. Only a few years later does the other angle to it come out. Why do you think this is the case?

I have discussed many related aspects to your present query in your question ‘Why has it taken so long for the police to crack down on this phenomenon called Hindu terror?’ and also regarding ‘role of security agencies as well’. I would like to add only two points. It is high time that one seriously looks into the composition of security and investigating agencies, and ensure that it is made more diverse, more representative of our multi-religious, multiethnic, multilingual country, to avoid any unnecessary spins to investigations.

We should also be wary of the majoritarian mindset which dominates what is known as civil society of our country. Can we imagine any country in the world which calls itself the biggest democracy and where genocides/carnages are easily forgotten and the chattering classes are ready to turn a new leaf? Look at Nellie massacre (Assam, 1983), Anti-Sikh riots (Delhi, 1984), Hashimpura (Merrut, UP, 1986) or killings of innocents in the aftermath of Babri Mosque demolition (1992-93) or the Gujarat carnage (2002). You will find to your dismay that ‘peace’ has been definitely restored but justice still eludes the victims.

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-hindutva-terror-justice-still-eludes-riots-victims/20111018.htm

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Ode riots: Court to visit spot on Nov 12 (Oct 22, 2011, Indian Express)

The Special Trial Court, for one of the two 2002 riots cases reported from Ode village in Anand district, will visit the scene of offence at Malav Bhagol locality of the village on November 12. Recently, the court passed an order to this effect. All the 41 people are undergoing trial in the case in the specially appointed court presided over by Sessions Judge R M Sareen.

Advocate Irshad Mansuri, who is representing the victims and witnesses in the case, said, “The court has passed an order on October 19 declaring that it would visit the Malav Bhagol locality where the massacre occurred. The witnesses and advocates concerned have been asked to remain present during the visit.” Before this, three special trial courts for the 2002 Godhra Train Carnage and subsequent communal riots cases have visited the scene of crime.

Three persons of a family were burnt to death by a mob near Malav Bhagol area of Ode village on March 1, 2002, two days after the Sabarmati Express was attacked near Godhra Railway Station. Fifty-nine people were killed in the attack, which trigerred unprecedented communal riots across the state. The three victim had been identified as Kadar Vohra, Ayesha Vohra and Noori Vohra.

While Ayesha and Noori were killed inside their house, Kadar was allegedly dragged from a hideout nearby by some persons of the mob and was burnt alive. The case is one of the most heinous post-Godhra riots massacres which have been further investigated by the Supreme Court (SC) appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Two massacres were reported from Ode village, one each from Malav Bhagol locality and Pirawali Bhagol locality during 2002 post-Godhra riots. In the massacre reported from Pirawali Bhagol locality, on March 1, 2002, 23 Muslims were killed after a Hindu mob had attacked the two two-floor buildings in which around 30-32 Muslims had taken shelter. Both the cases were handed over to SIT by the SC for further investigation and now trials in the two cases are on in two different special courts at Anand.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/863982/

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Gujarat among worst in fighting malnutrition (Oct 21, 2011, IBN)

The Human Development Report has said that high economic growth is no guarantee in reducing malnutrition. According to the report, Gujarat is the worst among the high per-capita states in the country in fighting malnutrition.

Gujarat has been placed 13th among the major states in hunger index, even below Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. The report further says that Punjab and Kerala fare the best in the hunger index while Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh are the worst.

According to the report, India is the worst performer of low birth rate, underweight and wasting children among the BRIC and the SAARC countries. The report says that child malnutrition in rural areas is higher than in urban areas, adding that Aneamia among children has increased with rising rural-urban disparity.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/gujarat-among-worst-in-fighting-malnutrition/195196-3.html

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Attacks on Team Anna aimed at diverting attention: Kejriwal (Oct 19, 2011, Rediff)

Social activist and member of Team Anna, Arvind Kejriwal, on Wednesday said that the attacks on Gandhian Anna and members of his team were aimed at diverting their attention from the core issue of Jan Lokpal Bill. Kejriwal was not merely referring to the flinging of a ‘chappal’ at him by a Congress party worker in Lucknow on Tuesday, but also to the sustained tirade by certain political leaders, particularly Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh.

Addressing a press conference at Gorakhpur, Kejriwal said, “The game of these politicians is to divert our attention from the real issue of Jan Lokpal Bill and we are not going to allow that. We are only focused in ensuring that the Jan Lokpal Bill is introduced and passed in the coming winter session of Parliament.” Kejriwal said that Anna Hazare had been repeatedly advising people not to get provoked by any act of their antagonists, who basically do not want the Jan Lokpal Bill to come into effect. “The Anna movement was bound to be attacked from all sides because the corrupt establishment is scared of the movement,” Kejriwal said.

On the oft repeated charge that Team Anna was turning political, Kejriwal shot back saying, “Well, there is no denying that we are talking in political terms because our mission is to introduce reforms in the governance. That does not mean that we turning into politicians.” Kejriwal made it loud and clear that none of the Team Anna members had any political ambitions. “Our goal is to see that the Jan Lokpal Bill becomes a reality during the coming winter session of Parliament,” he said. Earlier, during the day, Team Anna visited Faizabad, where they addressed a meeting. Similar meetings were held in Mau and Ghazipur before Kejriwal and others depart for Delhi later in the night. Kejriwal will return to Uttar Pradesh on October 21 when he will address a rally in Agra followed by another one in Meerut on October 23.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/attacks-on-team-anna-aimed-at-diverting-attention-kejriwal/20111019.htm

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Names of encroachers of wakf properties to be made public (Oct 18, 2011, The Hindu)

The Karnataka State Board of Wakfs chairman, R. Abdul Riyaz, said that within a month he would make public the names of all those individuals and institutions or organisations who have encroached upon the wakf board’s proterties. He told presspersons here on Monday that a large number of properties of the nearly 33,000 properties across the State had been encroached upon by private individuals and institutions/organiations, including State and Central government departments. The wakfs properties include mosques, dargahs, idgahs, khabrastans (burial grounds), ashoorkhanas, and orphanages.

He said it was difficult to set a deadline to clear encroachments and unauthorised constructions on wakf properties considering practical issues. Therefore, a viable solution was being found out to fix rentals of all such unauthorised construction/occupation at par with or marginally less than the prevailing market rates. He said that illegal construction on wakf property would not be regularised because they will remain the property of the wakf board forever as per the Supreme Court order.

Also, notices are being issued to defaulting tenants who have occupied wakf properties for long but paying very meagre rentals. At present, only 7 per cent of the net income earned by various wakf institutions was being paid to the board. Mr. Riyaz said a vast area of the nearly 13 acres of land belonging to the KSBWs in cantonment area in Belgaum where Hatti Asad Khan dargah is situated, had been encroached upon by the Defence Department for more than a decade now. The issue would be taken up at appropriate level to restore the land to the board.

He said all the wakf institutions have been asked to contribute at least 30 per cent of their net income to support education, from primary to higher education of the Muslim children from poor families. Circular to that effect has been issued already, he added.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/article2547429.ece

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FIR lodged against 16 policemen in Bhatta Parsaul rape case (Oct 24, 2011, Times of India)

A case was lodged with the Dankaur police station in Greater Noida late on Monday evening in connection with the alleged gangrape of a resident of the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul. Sixten persons – all PAC jawans – have been identified as accused in the case. The FIR comes a day after PL Punia, the chairman of the National Commission for Schedule Castes and Tribes, had threatened the UP government, saying that he would approach the higher court if the police failed to register the case soon.

On May 6, 2011, two policemen were killed and the then district magistrate of Gautum Budh Nagar suffered a gunshot wound on his leg during clashes between the farmers and police. The farmers were protesting against the acquisition of farming land by the government and had allegedly held hostage some government officers who had gone there to mark the plot of land where a bus station was slated to come up. When the police went to rescue the hostages, a clash ensued between the two sides in which two policemen were killed. The police action that followed allegedly saw a platoon commander of 46 battalion PAC and 15 jawans rape a woman in the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul.

The rape case had come to light after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited the two villages on May 11, 2011. The UP government had, however, denied that any such incident had taken place. The rape issue hit the headlines for the second time when quite a few organizations, including National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Women (NCW) , visited the twin villages only to support the claims of the state government that no incident of rape had come to light. However, later the National Commission for Schedule Castes and Tribes (NCSCST) and NCW went on to claim that rape case has come to light. In the meantime, the victim approached a local court which directed the police to register and probe her complaint.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/10478844.cms

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Opinions and Editorials

Wily IPS officer Bhatt is a threat to Narendra Modi – By Swati Bhan (Oct 23, 2011, Deccan Herald)

Call him what you may, depending on which side you are on, but 1988 batch IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has thrust himself on the centre stage for taking on one of the most controversial and powerful politicians. An IIT alumni and amongst the few Gujarati direct recruits in the civil services, Bhatt has accused Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi of having issued illegal orders to go slow on rioters. Modi hit back recently after the officer was arrested for allegedly coercing a junior colleague to file an affidavit supporting his claims against the chief minister. And after spending 17 days at Sabarmati central jail, Bhatt walked out free on bail recently, determined and resolute that he will not give up. Bhatt began grabbing the headlines from 2009 onward when he first decided to file the explosive affidavit in the apex court. Many of his contemporaries at that time questioned the timing and reason of filing his affidavit. From 2002 to 2009 Bhatt remained on peripheral postings like the Principal of SRP Training School, an assignment he never took up. His last active posting was in 2002 in the intelligence department, which gave him the opportunity to be privy to information about the 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra riots.

When many of his critics questioned him why he decided to break his silence after seven long years of the infamous Gujarat riots, Bhat’s answer would be that he was not offered a platform. “I was never summoned by any commission, nor agency where I could spill out the truth and share the information that I had available with me, so the best way was to approach the apex court,” Bhatt said. He said he had started sending out feelers since 2004 that he wanted to be cross-examined by the commission, but never filed an affidavit. When the Nanavati Commission finally called Bhatt earlier this year, it set a loaded cannon loose. He spoke about Modi’s meeting, about how Amit Shah tried to tutor him before he gave a statement to the SIT probing the post-Godhra riots and how Modi had misused the secret service fund of the intelligence branch to undermine dancer Mallika Sarabhai’s riot petition in the Supreme Court in 2002.

Many of Bhat’s colleagues, former and present, hold him to be on the wrong side of the law. His supporters call him a whitleblower, but on his part, Bhat says that hs has just been performing his duties as any serving officer would. “Well, I just call myself a serving officer one who believes in being by the truth and wanting to perform the duties assigned to him. Even if that means taken head on with those who are in power and authority. My detractors are free to call me whatever they want to,” he Bhatt. Some of his colleagues don’t trust him. “He is highly intelligent, confident and knowledgeable, but very misdirected,” said a senior police officer. Many admir him for being a fitness freak who runs 15 kms everyday. Going to the extent of saying that he was ashamed of being called an officer of the Gujarat cadre, Bhatt said: “This feeling came after the 2002 Gujarat riots episode and under the present regime,” said Bhatt. He alleged that there were also attempts to subvert justice and that is what any serving IPS officer should be ashamed of. Once known to be a close associate of former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, Bhatt has not only managed to shed that image but is now being seen by many as someone who is being propped by the opposition Congress.

Bhatt clearly is a picture in contrast. In 2003 when he was posted as head of the Sabarmati jail he introduced landmark reforms for the prison inmates. A near-riot broke out in the jail where prisoners refused their morning tea and snacks and later, six convicts slashed their wrists demanding that Bhat be brought back. Contrast this with the allegations against him of being named in custodial death and fake narcotic cases. The Facebook account of the flamboyant Deputy Inspector General of Police introduces him as “IGP at the Indian Police Service” – a promotion that has been long overdue and may not come easily. It is not that he has rubbed just the Modi government the wrong way. He stayed superintendent of police without a promotion for over a decade till 2007.

“The number of criminal cases and departmental inquiries he has faced through various political regimes made him ineligible for timely promotions,” said a former IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre. This at a time when all his batchmates are already IGPs. Bhatt was then the longest serving intelligence officer in the branch handling internal security of the state, the international border, vital installations, and VVIP security, including that of the chief minister. Bhatt’s former boss R B Sreekumar calls him “very efficient and intelligent”. “He told me he had good access to the chief minister and Amit Shah and that the latter was among his sources of information on the BJP,” says Sreekumar. Perhaps that’s what makes him privy to the inner dealings within the Modi government and perhaps that is what makes him a potent threat to Narendra Modi.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/200061/wily-ips-officer-bhatt-threat.html

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Power and pelf – By Ravi Sharma (Oct 22, 2011, Frontline)

In power for over 40 months and surviving more on a wing and a prayer, rather than because of political astuteness, good governance or administrative acumen. This could very well sum up the status of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka. The factor that helped the party hold on to its only government in the south is its victory in all but one of the byelections to the State Assembly held over the past three years, aided by the non-functional, disjointed and sterile performance of the opposition parties. A senior Minister said: “Lady Luck has certainly smiled on us every time we came up against a problem and it looked like we might be losing our government.” Political victory in the south had always been an avowed goal of the BJP ever since it was carved out of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. That wish came true in May 2008 when the Karnataka electorate catapulted the saffron party to power, relegating both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) to the status of minor players. But victory at the hustings and the rise to power brought with it a fair share of troubles for the BJP.

Its administration has been lacklustre and its handling of key issues such as the power crisis and development of infrastructure poor. Faction fights, jockeying for political positions and, worse, the ignominy of being forced to jettison its Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in July after he was indicted by the Karnataka Lokayukta in the illegal mining scam, have upset the “party with a difference”. The Lokayukta, N. Santhosh Hegde, indicted several seasoned and influential BJP politicians on charges ranging from corruption, nepotism and misuse of office for personal gain to criminal trespass and misconduct causing loss to the exchequer, forgery and stashing away of black money in tax havens abroad. In August, a Bangalore city court issued summons to Yeddyurappa in connection with 16 cases of corruption. His two sons, one of whom is a BJP Member of Parliament, have been asked to appear before the court in connection with illegal land deals. The same court sent former Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu to judicial custody on charges of irregularities in the payment of compensation for land acquired by the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board. His son, Katta Jagadish, a Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike councillor, was also sent to judicial custody after his bail plea was rejected. Jagadish had been arrested in October last year for allegedly bribing a witness in the case, but was later bailed out.

Another BJP Minister, C.P. Yogeshwar, is in trouble with the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SIFO) of the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs, which has accused him of corporate fraud, criminal conspiracy, forgery and cheating. It has recommended criminal prosecution. The SIFO had been investigating complaints against Megacity (Bangalore) Developers and Builders Limited, of which Yogeshwar is the managing director. Calls for his resignation are getting louder. The first week of September saw the party’s already badly dented image take another beating, with the arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of former Tourism Minister Gali Janardhana Reddy, one of the three influential Reddy brothers of Bellary. The mining businesses of the brothers – Janardhana Reddy, G. Karunakara Reddy and G. Somashekhara Reddy – and their confidant, B. Sriramulu, who have wielded considerable influence in the State party ever since they became part of BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s campaign team when she contested the Lok Sabha byelection from Bellary against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 1999, are all under scrutiny by the CBI. Recent investigations have revealed that a number of politicians (including some senior BJP leaders) in cahoots with private builders and housing societies flouted rules, acquired prime land including agricultural land, and defrauded genuine members of residential sites, all for personal considerations. The housing sites imbroglio has already taken its toll, with the BJP government’s nominee for the post of Lokayukta, Justice Shivraj Patil (who faced allegations that he and his wife owned three sites in Bangalore in violation of rules), stepping down from his post hardly a month after assuming charge.

The BJP’s woes can be traced to the May 2008 Assembly elections when it fell tantalisingly short of a simple majority and had to lure legislators from the opposition to rustle up a working majority. Through “Operation Lotus”, the BJP was able to woo members of other parties and boost its strength in the Assembly, but it found itself saddled with legislators not in tune with its ideology or hierarchy and seeking ministerial positions. Much to the irritation of party loyalists, these new entrants were obliged. This disconnect, according to many party men, resulted in unease at the grass roots. The party’s tenure in power has also been marked by internal clashes. Initially it was the Bellary mining barons who, having bankrolled the election expenses of a number of legislators, wanted to rule the roost. Yeddyurappa just about rode that storm out. But at every step of the way he had to contend with his bete noire, BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar, who, as party insiders aver, would love to lead the party. The political tug-of-war between the two was all too evident during the acrimonious run-up to the secret ballot that decided who would succeed Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister. While the Yeddyurappa camp put up D.V. Sadananda Gowda (who was elected later), the Ananth Kumar faction’s nominee was the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Jagadish Shettar. Insiders said that although the proxy skirmishes between these two leaders for control of the party were still on, “reality would make them see reason and call a truce”.

Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, whose style of functioning, utterances, body language and response to review meetings have been remarkably refreshing compared with that of his predecessor, is walking a tightrope between Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar. He has been frequently meeting Ananth Kumar in a bid to smoothen ties. Yeddyurappa, who is facing a number of court cases, is today surrounded more by legal experts than by party leaders. Said a senior Minister: “The central leadership looked the other way when Yeddyurappa was the Chief Minister and took no action despite a number of complaints against his style of functioning. Now it has become more proactive.” According to K.S. Eshwarappa, president of the BJP State unit, the high command has discussed and resolved issues between the various leaders and made it clear that “there is no question of any single leader, rather all leaders are equal”. Senior Ministers told Frontline that Cabinet meetings, which were hitherto “ritualistic or cursory, are now more involved, lively and detailed in nature”, and that the feeling among legislators was that the “Chief Minister is applying his mind and taking sincere steps at restoring the image of the party in Karnataka”. Leaders in private confessed that Yeddyurappa’s legal predicament and the Bellary mining barons’ tribulations were in many ways “a blessing in disguise for the party”. With both these groups preoccupied with these, Sadananda Gowda is allowed to chart his own course and “hopefully clean up the image of the party”.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2822/stories/20111104282202800.htm

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Khaki and saffron – By Purnima S. Tripathi (Oct 22, 2011, Frontline)

The Garhwal and Kumaon regions, which constitute the tiny hill State of Uttarakhand, were totally free of communal disturbances even when the entire country was in the grip of tension following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 and the Mumbai blasts in 1993. These regions had always maintained communal peace. But on October 2, the bustling industrial town of Rudrapur, located in the foothills of the Kumaon hills in Udham Singh Nagar district, became the venue of the first communal riots in the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been taking great pains to explain that the 2002 Gujarat violence was an exception, something that could not be avoided. What happened in Uttarakhand for three days from October 2 proves yet again that with the BJP at the helm of affairs, the administrative machinery does look the other way when members of the Muslim community are targeted by the majority community. Rioting went on for three days, and shops and houses of Muslims were looted and set on fire. The town was brought under indefinite curfew following widespread clashes between Hindus and Muslims in which three persons were killed and some 100 injured, some of them grievously. Several people are reported missing. Being an industrial hub, Rudrapur has a large population of migrant labourers; these people are now fleeing the town. At the time of writing this report (October 9), night curfew was continuing and reports of sporadic incidents of violence were coming in.

The mayhem could have been avoided had the administration been more vigilant. The first provocation came on September 29 when miscreants allegedly packed beef and pages torn from the Quran in a bloodstained cloth and placed it outside a Shani temple in Bhadaipura mohalla. Members of the Muslim community, agitated over the desecration of the Quran, demanded action against the culprits, but the administration did not act. The alleged act of sacrilege was repeated in the same mohalla on the night of October 1. This time, pages from the religious book were wrapped in a sheet of paper along with pork and thrown outside the house of one Mustaq Ahmad. The following morning, over 100 Muslims gathered at the town kotwali (police station) to demand action and resorted to stone throwing, in which some policemen and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Vir Singh Budhiyal, sustained injuries. The police chased the crowd away by resorting to a lathicharge. However, the Muslims regrouped, and this time a thousand people gathered outside the police station at Indira Chowk, stoned the police, damaged and burnt vehicles that were parked there and threatened to set the station on fire. At this stage, the police reportedly sought the help of the Hindu residents of the nearby Rampura mohalla and, thereafter, the two communities started clashing with each other. Soon the clashes spread to the entire city. Justifying the police action of calling the Hindu residents to control the Muslim crowd, the new Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Abhinav Kumar, said that it had been done to save the police station from being burnt down as the number of police personnel available was not sufficient to protect it. But why was the police force not strengthened when signs of trouble were evident on September 29 itself? Besides, two battalion headquarters of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) are located within three kilometres of the trouble spot. Why were local residents enlisted to join the police action instead of calling for reinforcements from the PAC?

Facing criticism for mishandling the situation, the B.C. Khanduri government removed DIG Amit Sinha and District Magistrate B.V.R. Purshottam. Nobody has answers to questions about the clashes. Abhinav Kumar, who took charge on October 4 after Amit Sinha was removed for perceived lack of efficiency, only offers conjectures. The new District Magistrate, B.S. Jangpangi, only says there was some inefficiency in handling the situation initially. The initial administrative apathy, however, took a toll on the town. Scores of houses and shops belonging to Muslims were burnt and looted, leaving the community with a deep sense of fear and injustice. The two communities had coexisted without any trouble, but now there is a divide and a sense of mistrust. What has compounded the feeling of insecurity among the Muslims is the fact that not a single leader from the ruling BJP or the government offered their sympathies even six days after the incident. The Chief Minister visited the town on October 3, but he neither met the victims nor visited the affected areas. This correspondent saw rows of burnt shops in Bhadaipura, Kicchha Road, Transit Camp, the main Durgadevi Road market and Gandhi Colony. In the Durgadevi Road market where shops owned by Hindus and Muslims stood side by side, miscreants had selectively targeted those belonging to Muslims, thrown the goods on the road and set them on fire. In areas where there were rows of shops owned by Muslims, as in Bhadaipura, they were all burnt down. Asif Ali, an elderly person who had been running an electrical goods shop in Gandhi Colony since 1976, is inconsolable. He told this correspondent that he kept calling up the police helpline when the miscreants were looting and burning his shop, but he heard only laughter on the other side. No police came to help him. He has incurred a loss of roughly Rs.15 lakh. Similarly, Rais Ahmad, who washes and irons clothes in the same area, had his house looted and all his belongings burnt. “We ran away to save our lives, nobody came to protect us,” says Ahmad’s wife. Now they do not know where to go, for Ahmad was born here and grew up thinking this was his home. Suddenly he is feeling insecure and vulnerable.

There are others with similar harrowing experiences. Qauser Ali’s ironworks shop in the Transit Camp area, Mohammad Omar’s cycle shop, and Mohammad Sultan’s tailoring shop in the Durgadevi Road market area were all targeted. Sultan, who employed 15 people, has suffered a loss of Rs.15 lakh. “With the administration turning a blind eye to those who burnt and looted our shops, where do we go now for help?” he asks. “If the administration had taken action against those who were responsible for the desecration of the Quran, this trouble would not have happened in the first place. Our grievance went unheeded, naturally there was anger among the people and they gathered at the police station to protest. But why is the government not paying attention to our grievances?” a member of the Muslim community asked this correspondent. This sense of denial of justice is deepening by the day because the real culprits, who have been named by eyewitnesses, have not been questioned by the police, whereas several Muslims have been rounded up. Many of the alleged attackers are said to be close to BJP and Congress leaders. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen Hindus with Congress and BJP affiliations leading the mobs that set shops on fire. The district administration too agrees that “the role of political parties cannot be denied in this” but has stopped short of taking any effective action. According to political observers, the Assembly elections scheduled for early next year is making the two political parties nervous and hence the attempt at communal polarisation. “Both the BJP and the Congress are trying to fish in troubled waters,” says Tejinder Singh Virk, a member of the local traders’ association and State secretary of the Samajwadi Party.

What is shocking is that the members of the Hindu community see nothing wrong in the police seeking their help to quell the agitating Muslims. Mohit Chauhan, an educated youth working in a leading hotel in the town, said, “After all, the Muslims were the ones who started it all. Why did they throw stones at the police station? If they thought there would be no retaliation for their actions, then they have surely learnt a lesson now.” A Hindu shopkeeper in Gandhi Colony is also of the view that the police were right in seeking the help of the residents of the Hindu-dominated area to control the Muslims as the police station did not have sufficient personnel. “The police, all young men without training in handling such a situation, were not even equipped with weapons. The trained policemen of the former Uttar Pradesh Police went back to the parent cadre when the State was bifurcated. The concept of mitra police [people-friendly] has done much harm to the morale of the forces. Had the Hindus not assisted them, the police would have been lynched by the mob,” he said. But why harm innocent Muslims instead of those who started the violence? “This happens in any such situation, nobody can help it,” shrugs a shopkeeper at the Durgadevi Road market.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2822/stories/20111104282204100.htm

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When Public Servants Came Calling at Vachati – V Krishna Ananth (Oct 15, 2011, Economic & Political Weekl)

On 29 September the sessions judge at Dharmapuri convicted as many as 215 public servants for a set of crimes that included rape. Among those convicted were high-ranking police and forest officers and also members of the revenue administration. The judgment, coming as it did at the end of a legal process that began in 1995, is indeed historic. It is one of those rare instances where all those accused of participating in a brutal attack have been found guilty. Of the 269 personnel accused in the case, 54 had died and thus escaped punishment. In other words, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which had probed the atrocities committed through the night on 20 June 1992 did its job to establish the charges. Sessions judge S Kumaraguru could not have glossed over the material evidence. Seventeen public servants (including five forest officers, two police inspectors, six sub-inspectors and two tehsildars) were found guilty of rape among other acts of illegal violence against the hap-less Malayali adivasis (who are not a Malayalam-speaking community) in Vachati. In the scheme of things, as ordained in the Indian Penal Code (ipc) and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the sessions judge could have inflicted a more severe punishment than the 10 years of rigorous imprisonment that have been handed to 17 of the accused. Some of them are policemen whose duty it is to investigate such crimes and ensure that the guilty are punished. It is hence possible and even desirable that the higher judiciary, to which the convicts are most likely to appeal, enhances the punishment. Section 376(2) of the ipc specifically deals with rape by a police officer and provides for imprisonment for not less than 10 years and for life as maximum punishment.

A brief recall of the sequence of events on 20 June 1992 will be in order to see the judgment in perspective. It all began with a routine “raid” by 45 forest department officials in Vachati, a village with only 160 families in the foothills of the Sitheri range located in Tamil Nadu, not too far from the border with Karnataka. The raid was routine because Vachati, like many such villages, happened to be a place where sandalwood smuggled out of the forests was stacked temporarily. The fact was that the adivasis of Vachati too were engaged by big-time operators in the sandalwood trade and apart from being made to cut the wood and carry the logs from the forest, they were also engaged in stacking it on their lands before it transported to the towns. Like in all those instances of a tribal-smuggler nexus the Malayali tribes in Vachati earned only a pittance for their labour. All the 160 families in Vachati depended on the public distribution system for their food and lived in small tenements. None of them had the money to send their children to the private residential schools like some of the others engaged in the illegal business of sandalwood. In other words, they were also forced into the illegal trade but denied of the wealth that is generated in such trade. The adivasis are not known for trading in sandalwood; if that were so, the forests in the region would not have had so many sandalwood trees even in 1992. The raiding party, according to reports, had found 55 tonnes of sandalwood buried in Vachati on 20 June. This was in addition to larger stocks being seized by the officers when they were being smuggled out in the months prior to the raid in Vachati. The plain and simple fact is that the kingpins in the sandalwood smuggling business in this region involved forces in the political domain who were neither poor nor from the adivasi community. K A Sengottian, the then Tamil Nadu minister for forests, should have been in the know of things. He was at the time the AIADMK’s strongman in Salem district. Incidentally, Sengottian remains the party’s strongman in the region even today and is currently minister for agriculture. On that terrible day in 1992 the raiding party met with resistance from the village and one of them suffered head injuries and was hospitalised. A large posse of police, senior forest officials and officers from the revenue department soon reached Vachati. The sun had set by then and there were as many as 80 women constables in the posse that went to Vachati. The lawlessness began then and as many as 15 girls bore the brunt of the violence. The women constables seemed to have been taken along to the village only to show the world that the authorities followed the laid down law. The girls and many others (300 in all according to police records) were arrested during the night and lodged in the Salem Central Jail. The tenements were ransacked, and the wells contaminated with diesel oil and carcasses of the livestock. The men in uniform had done such things elsewhere and across the country both before and after Vachati. Sengottian went on record to defend the police action and described reports of the atrocities as baseless. It may be noted that the first ever news report on the events appeared as late as in August 1992 though Vachati was no remote corner, just 70 kilometres from Salem town and connected by motorable roads. But as is the case with adivasis in many other parts, the Malayali tribals of Vachati too were outside the “main-stream”. The story came out only after the CPI(M) leaders in the state took it up. The first report, written by a student activist, on Vachati appeared in Frontline magazine (15-18 August 1992, Volume 9, Number 17). The state government did not care to investigate and nothing happened until the Madras High Court ordered the CBI to probe the case. That was as late as 1995. Other Atrocities It may be added here that by then the sandalwood trail had taken another dimension. The state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had set up a Joint Special Task Force (JSTF) to nab one man called Veerappan. And since April 1993, when the JSTF was born, inhabitants in the villages across the forests in Dharmapuri, Sathyamangalam and M M Hills experienced all that the Malayalis of Vachati did. As many as 121 persons from the villages all over the region were detained under TADA for more than seven years, until the Supreme Court found all but four of the 121 not guilty of the charges. They all languished in the Mysore central jail after having suffered torture at the hands of the JSTF personnel for days on end. An enquiry by the justice Sadashiva panel in 2002, set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), concluded that the police personnel were guilty and that a number of the villagers had been killed in fake encounters.

The Sadashiva panel had submitted its report to the NHRC on 3 December 2003, after holding 10 sittings in the course of which it recorded evidence from 192 victims and 28 officers of the JSTF. Officers of the rank of inspector general of police from both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were present throughout the sittings of the panel and cross-examined all victims who deposed before the panel. Despite this, all that has happened in the name of justice is that some of the victims have been paid compensation. The police officers in the JSTF were rewarded with out-of-turn promotions and housing plots in Chennai city by the Tamil Nadu government. That was after Veerappan was killed on 18 October 2004. A number of them had been indicted by the Sadashiva panel for crimes similar to those in the Vachati case. The Vachati outrage too would have gone unheard but for the Madras High Court ordering that the investigation be done by the CBI, three years after the incident. Until that time, the police had not only shielded the guilty in this case but had also made trumped-up charges against the victims. The 15 girls who were subjected to rape by the police and forest officers were, in fact, held in Salem jail for several days. The CBI charge sheet was filed around the same time when there was a change of government in Tamil Nadu, in May 1996. And the verdict on 29 September, holding all the 269 officers guilty of a number of crimes and convicting the 215 who are alive was based on the case made out by the CBI.

http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/16655.pdf

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Team Annarchy – By Saba Naqvi (Oct 31, 2011, Outlook)

On 29 September the sessions judge at Dharmapuri convicted as many as 215 public servants for a set of crimes that included rape. Among those convicted were high-ranking police and forest officers and also members of the revenue administration. The judgment, coming as it did at the end of a legal process that began in 1995, is indeed historic. It is one of those rare instances where all those accused of participating in a brutal attack have been found guilty. Of the 269 personnel accused in the case, 54 had died and thus escaped punishment. In other words, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which had probed the atrocities committed through the night on 20 June 1992 did its job to establish the charges. Sessions judge S Kumaraguru could not have glossed over the material evidence. Seventeen public servants (including five forest officers, two police inspectors, six sub-inspectors and two tehsildars) were found guilty of rape among other acts of illegal violence against the hap-less Malayali adivasis (who are not a Malayalam-speaking community) in Vachati. In the scheme of things, as ordained in the Indian Penal Code (ipc) and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the sessions judge could have inflicted a more severe punishment than the 10 years of rigorous imprisonment that have been handed to 17 of the accused. Some of them are policemen whose duty it is to investigate such crimes and ensure that the guilty are punished. It is hence possible and even desirable that the higher judiciary, to which the convicts are most likely to appeal, enhances the punishment. Section 376(2) of the ipc specifically deals with rape by a police officer and provides for imprisonment for not less than 10 years and for life as maximum punishment. A brief recall of the sequence of events on 20 June 1992 will be in order to see the judgment in perspective. It all began with a routine “raid” by 45 forest department officials in Vachati, a village with only 160 families in the foothills of the Sitheri range located in Tamil Nadu, not too far from the border with Karnataka. The raid was routine because Vachati, like many such villages, happened to be a place where sandalwood smuggled out of the forests was stacked temporarily. The fact was that the adivasis of Vachati too were engaged by big-time operators in the sandalwood trade and apart from being made to cut the wood and carry the logs from the forest, they were also engaged in stacking it on their lands before it transported to the towns. Like in all those instances of a tribal-smuggler nexus the Malayali tribes in Vachati earned only a pittance for their labour. All the 160 families in Vachati depended on the public distribution system for their food and lived in small tenements. None of them had the money to send their children to the private residential schools like some of the others engaged in the illegal business of sandalwood. In other words, they were also forced into the illegal trade but denied of the wealth that is generated in such trade. The adivasis are not known for trading in sandalwood; if that were so, the forests in the region would not have had so many sandalwood trees even in 1992. The raiding party, according to reports, had found 55 tonnes of sandalwood buried in Vachati on 20 June. This was in addition to larger stocks being seized by the officers when they were being smuggled out in the months prior to the raid in Vachati. The plain and simple fact is that the kingpins in the sandalwood smuggling business in this region involved forces in the political domain who were neither poor nor from the adivasi community. K A Sengottian, the then Tamil Nadu minister for forests, should have been in the know of things. He was at the time the AIADMK’s strongman in Salem district. Incidentally, Sengottian remains the party’s strongman in the region even today and is currently minister for agriculture. On that terrible day in 1992 the raiding party met with resistance from the village and one of them suffered head injuries and was hospitalised. A large posse of police, senior forest officials and officers from the revenue department soon reached Vachati. The sun had set by then and there were as many as 80 women constables in the posse that went to Vachati. The lawlessness began then and as many as 15 girls bore the brunt of the violence. The women constables seemed to have been taken along to the village only to show the world that the authorities followed the laid down law. The girls and many others (300 in all according to police records) were arrested during the night and lodged in the Salem Central Jail. The tenements were ransacked, and the wells contaminated with diesel oil and carcasses of the livestock. The men in uniform had done such things elsewhere and across the country both before and after Vachati. Sengottian went on record to defend the police action and described reports of the atrocities as baseless. It may be noted that the first ever news report on the events appeared as late as in August 1992 though Vachati was no remote corner, just 70 kilometres from Salem town and connected by motorable roads. But as is the case with adivasis in many other parts, the Malayali tribals of Vachati too were outside the “main-stream”. The story came out only after the CPI(M) leaders in the state took it up. The first report, written by a student activist, on Vachati appeared in Frontline magazine (15-18 August 1992, Volume 9, Number 17). The state government did not care to investigate and nothing happened until the Madras High Court ordered the CBI to probe the case. That was as late as 1995. Other Atrocities It may be added here that by then the sandalwood trail had taken another dimension. The state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had set up a Joint Special Task Force (JSTF) to nab one man called Veerappan. And since April 1993, when the JSTF was born, inhabitants in the villages across the forests in Dharmapuri, Sathyamangalam and M M Hills experienced all that the Malayalis of Vachati did. As many as 121 persons from the villages all over the region were detained under TADA for more than seven years, until the Supreme Court found all but four of the 121 not guilty of the charges. They all languished in the Mysore central jail after having suffered torture at the hands of the JSTF personnel for days on end. An enquiry by the justice Sadashiva panel in 2002, set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), concluded that the police personnel were guilty and that a number of the villagers had been killed in fake encounters.

The Sadashiva panel had submitted its report to the NHRC on 3 December 2003, after holding 10 sittings in the course of which it recorded evidence from 192 victims and 28 officers of the JSTF. Officers of the rank of inspector general of police from both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were present throughout the sittings of the panel and cross-examined all victims who deposed before the panel. Despite this, all that has happened in the name of justice is that some of the victims have been paid compensation. The police officers in the JSTF were rewarded with out-of-turn promotions and housing plots in Chennai city by the Tamil Nadu government. That was after Veerappan was killed on 18 October 2004. A number of them had been indicted by the Sadashiva panel for crimes similar to those in the Vachati case. The Vachati outrage too would have gone unheard but for the Madras High Court ordering that the investigation be done by the CBI, three years after the incident. Until that time, the police had not only shielded the guilty in this case but had also made trumped-up charges against the victims. The 15 girls who were subjected to rape by the police and forest officers were, in fact, held in Salem jail for several days. The CBI charge sheet was filed around the same time when there was a change of government in Tamil Nadu, in May 1996. And the verdict on 29 September, holding all the 269 officers guilty of a number of crimes and convicting the 215 who are alive was based on the case made out byPeople who throw stones at others are discovering they have been living in glasshouses. There has lately been a kaleidoscope of ‘feelbad’ stories around Team Anna. The RSS connection is now old hat, Kiran Bedi faces corruption allegations of her own, two members of the core group have quit, key figure Arvind Kejriwal had a shoe thrown at him in Lucknow and while Prashant Bhushan gathered sympathy for goons bashing him up in his office, there is no sympathy for his views on Kashmir among his teammates. Not just this, the nation seems quite confused over whether Anna and friends are a moral force above politics or just the newest thing in politics. Are they the BJP’s B-team, or an RSS wing with some misguided and burnt-out Leftists still hanging in the ranks, or a genuine mass movement carrying all shades of public opinion just trying to find its space? With autumn over and the winter cracks showing, the media narrative about Anna Hazare is slowly changing. The movement had a dream run through the spring and summer. Team Anna was the darling of TV newschannels and given non-stop coverage. The honeymoon phase over, the same media is now asking a few hard questions. As a Congress leader quipped, “If you live by the media, then you also have to be prepared for a relentless scrutiny.” In fact, the question now being asked is: has the Congress begun a concerted offensive against Team Anna? Is the ruling party orchestrating all the problems currently plaguing the movement? Congress leaders laugh and say that if they were that efficient, they would have set their own house in order! And as Salman Khurshid said last week, “We are not part of the movement. It is the RSS which says it is supporting them. Ask them, although the RSS is perhaps being a little unfair with them.” Sarcasm apart, government sources say that the Anna movement has enough contradictions within and they do not need to give the meltdown a helping hand. The only thing the government is claiming to be doing is preparing a strong Lokpal bill for the winter session of Parliament.

What is certainly damaging for the movement are the stories that are beginning to appear. Most damning was the report by a leading national daily on how Team Anna member Kiran Bedi was routinely inflating travel bills and seeking compensation. In her defence, Bedi said she was charging more and actually downgrading in order to save money for her NGO. But few were willing to believe her. Swami Agnivesh, who was earlier unceremoniously ousted from the movement on charges of being a government mole (with Bedi leading the charge), has now asked her to submit her NGO’s expenses to an independent probe. The buzz in Delhi is that there are more such stories about Bedi in circulation. Earlier in the fortnight, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was thrashed in his own office by bigots for suggesting a plebiscite in Kashmir. The attack itself was widely condemned, but so were Bhushan’s views, with other members of the team distancing themselves from his stance (Anna most testily), putting the lawyer in an awkward position. It now remains to be seen whether Bhushan will stay on and modify his views or opt out. In fact, the question now being asked is: has the Congress begun a concerted offensive against Team Anna? Is the ruling party orchestrating all the problems currently plaguing the movement? Congress leaders laugh and say that if they were that efficient, they would have set their own house in order! And as Salman Khurshid said last week, “We are not part of the movement. It is the RSS which says it is supporting them. Ask them, although the RSS is perhaps being a little unfair with them.” Sarcasm apart, government sources say that the Anna movement has enough contradictions within and they do not need to give the meltdown a helping hand. The only thing the government is claiming to be doing is preparing a strong Lokpal bill for the winter session of Parliament. What is certainly damaging for the movement are the stories that are beginning to appear. Most damning was the report by a leading national daily on how Team Anna member Kiran Bedi was routinely inflating travel bills and seeking compensation. In her defence, Bedi said she was charging more and actually downgrading in order to save money for her NGO. But few were willing to believe her. Swami Agnivesh, who was earlier unceremoniously ousted from the movement on charges of being a government mole (with Bedi leading the charge), has now asked her to submit her NGO’s expenses to an independent probe. The buzz in Delhi is that there are more such stories about Bedi in circulation. Earlier in the fortnight, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was thrashed in his own office by bigots for suggesting a plebiscite in Kashmir. The attack itself was widely condemned, but so were Bhushan’s views, with other members of the team distancing themselves from his stance (Anna most testily), putting the lawyer in an awkward position. It now remains to be seen whether Bhushan will stay on and modify his views or opt out. Team Anna’s thrashing continued when a few days later someone threw a shoe at Arvind Kejriwal in Lucknow while he was on a campaign against the Congress. Accusations of the politicisation of the movement had begun with Kejriwal’s efforts in the Hisar bypoll. The Congress lost its deposit due to local factors but the Team Anna’s campaigning, it is being said, increased the margin of defeat. So, Kejriwal’s exertions in UP will be closely monitored, as will any attack against him. There are media reports of volunteers surrounding Kejriwal thrashing those who publicly try to take him on. The movement’s overt political moves also had an embarrassing fallout in two of its prominent activists quitting the core committee last week. Magsaysay Award winner Rajinder Singh and P.V. Rajagopal were said to be upset with the attack on the Congress, specially when the BJP and its allies are the natural beneficiaries. “I dissociate with the team,” said Rajinder Singh. “The team is turning political. There were statements and actions that indicate that.”

With Team Anna being attacked systematically on all fronts, many are but naturally wondering if it is the government which is behind all the dissension and problems within Team Anna? Is it actively trying to foment trouble in the ranks, launching a smear campaign and then standing by and watching as its members are being attacked? It is also being implied that Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh in particular has been working on the activists to quit and has publicly made it his business to attack and create as much trouble as he can for Anna and friends. Digvijay Singh laughs off the accusation, though. “You forget that I was known as the jholawallah CM of Madhya Pradesh!” he says. “I have an old association with half the activists in the core group of Team Anna. Yes, I have known Rajagopal and supported his work and movement for a long time. I know Rajinder Singh too. But that does not mean that I discuss the movement with them or can make them join or quit it. I remain in touch with all of them but do not talk about Anna or his efforts.” It is also not as though things are going well for the Congress. The bypoll results in Haryana, Maharashtra, Telangana and Bihar (the Congress and allies lost all four) have only added to the perception that the party is now a losing proposition. And the reports from the ground in UP do not augur well for the party. Rahul Gandhi’s avoidable faux pas of not meeting a team from Anna’s village Ralegan Siddhi only worsened things. The Anna supporters had landed in Delhi claiming they had an appointment with Rahul, but Congress sources say the initiative was of party MP, P.T. Thomas, and Rahul’s office hadn’t given the appointment. The whole controversy thus arose out of a miscommunication. Others say since it was not an official entourage sent by Anna, it would have been inappropriate for Rahul to meet them. Either way, it was a missed opportunity for the Congress political leadership to open up a channel of communication with Anna’s supporters. Sources in the Congress say that the possibility of Rahul making a surprise visit to Anna’s village cannot be ruled out; the Congress scion is, after all, known for making these sudden appearances. The Anna movement is certainly beset by problems and contradictions. But it is still the unknown element in our politics. Whatever its potency, it is the Congress that will be suffering the damage directly. After all, it is the ruling party which has the most at stake. Anna and gang are still testing all sorts of waters. the CBI.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278729

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Injury, Chains Imperil Sori’s Life – By Tusha Mittal (Oct 22, 2011, Tehelka)

Two days of intense interrogation, head and back injuries in custody, feet chained to a hospital bed and now a hunger strike – these are the latest flashpoints in the life of Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher from Jabeli, Chhattisgarh. The 35-year-old is accused of attacking a Congress leader, bombing a tehsil office and being a Naxal associate. Sori has denied all the charges. Last month, after being fired upon by the police, Sori fled her home. On 7 October, she was arrested in Delhi. Last week, TEHELKA’S cover story detailed the case against Sori and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi, showing how both innocents are caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the State (The Inconvenient Truth of Soni Sori, by Shoma Chaudhury). Sori’s lawyer KK Dubey has confirmed that she has decided to go on a hunger strike. “I heard her telling the media at Jagdalpur hospital that she hasn’t eaten anything and refuses to eat,” he said.

“Both her feet were shackled to the hospital bed,” added junior lawyer Xitiz Dubey. “One of the reasons for her hunger strike is to protest being chained. How can she be chained to a bed without a court order? When mediapersons reached the hospital, the police unchained her before letting them in. But Sori did not break her fast fearing the police will chain her again.” Social activist Himanshu Kumar, who has been helping Sori’s fight, is planning to fast as well. “I will begin an indefinite fast against the false implication of Soni and Linga. I appeal to all those who support the tribal cause to join in the fast,” he told TEHELKA. This is how the story unfolded last week: After her arrest, Sori’s lawyers appealed in a Delhi sessions court against her transfer to Chhattisgarh, fearing her safety. Detailing her own fear, Sori wrote a letter to the judge. “Judge Sahib, I had come to Delhi with a purpose,” she wrote. “Had I committed any crime, I would have never come here. Because truth was with me, I wanted to present the truth before the Supreme Court. I request you to not send me back to Chhattisgarh. The state police will cook up some case against me and kill me. My case should be heard in the apex court.”

On 7 October, the court rejected the appeal and allowed the Chhattisgarh Police two days to question her. Back in Chhattisgarh, she was taken into custody. On 10 October, after 48 hours of interrogation, Sori was scheduled to appear before a magistrate. That same morning, she was admitted to a hospital in Dantewada with injuries. The police claim that she slipped in the bathroom at the police station. “There were contusions on the right side of her head. It seemed to be inflicted by some hard object. She also experienced severe back pain,” said Dr RN Gangesh, senior medical officer at Dantewada hospital. “She told me she was mentally tortured from interrogation and collapsed on her own,” says Dubey. Since most of Sori’s statements have been made in police presence, it remains unclear whether she was physically tortured. Later on 10 October, Sori was taken from the hospital to the court premises. But in a violation of court procedure, the magistrate did not verify her condition personally. In fact, lawyers have confirmed that Sori’s statement was recorded from the police jeep by a court clerk. After her court visit, the magistrate transferred Sori to judicial custody until 17 October. At the time of going to press, Sori had been shifted from Jagdalpur to Ambedkar Hospital in Raipur to undergo a CT scan. Once discharged, she will be sent to Jagdalpur jail. It remains unclear whether she will continue her fast from jail. Meanwhile, Sori’s lawyers in Delhi have filed two petitions in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court demanding all her cases be transferred out of Chhattisgarh and handed to an independent SIT. The Delhi High Court has asked the Chhattisgarh government for an assurance on Sori’s safety. It has until 14 October to respond.

http://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne22101Injury.asp

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Book Review

Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India

Author: Subhash Gatade
Reviewed by: A.G. Noorani
Available at: Pharos Media & Publishing Pvt Ltd, D-84 Abul Fazl Enclave – I, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110 025, India. www.pharosmedia.com
Review:

Sangh Parivar’s bluff (Oct 22, 2011, Frontline)

Terror was never absent from the Sangh Parivar’s techniques. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has been repeatedly censured by commissions of inquiry for its complicity in communal riots. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s defence of recent outrages of saffron terror exposes it completely. Subhash Gatade, an engineer by training and a freelance journalist and translator as well, has written extensively on issues of communalism and Dalit emancipation. He has rendered a service by bringing within the covers of one book ably documented evidence of the saffron terror. On January 10, RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat claimed, revealingly, that “of the majority of the people whom the government has accused [in various blast cases] a few had left voluntarily and a few were told by the Sangh that this extremism [ sic] will not work here, so you go away”. He owes a clear duty in law to name them, the ones who left as well as the ones asked to “go away”. We can then identify in which of the cases launched by the police these “former” RSS men figured.

The author describes the focus of his book. “A significant part of the book discusses terror acts perpetrated in different parts of the country by Hindutva formations. It gives an idea about the expanse of the majoritarian terror modules which can strike at will at any place and also makes it evident that it is no more a regional phenomenon. Secondly, it also brings forth the commonality of tactics used by these terror modules. Thirdly, it underlines the Himalayan task which awaits the investigating agencies as they have hitherto limited themselves to apprehending the planters of the bombs or local people who provided shelter or arranged logistical or financial support, but are yet to nab any of the masterminds, planners, financiers or ideologues of this terror project. “Barring two chapters, which discuss the global dimensions of Hindutva terror and the ‘Mossad’ phenomenon, the focus of the book remains largely confined to India.

Looking at the fact that different Hindutva formations have established international networks/linkages, which have facilitated their work in many ways, this aspect of the phenomenon needs greater attention. One also needs to understand that apart from the overtly political and cultural groups, the plethora of ‘spiritual gurus’ have also established an international network and it is an open secret that such groups share close relations with many militant Hindutva groups.” The book records the facts of the Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Samjhauta Express terrorist outrages and identifies the culprits as well as the roles they played. “The credit for inviting people’s attention to the terror turn in Hindutva politics and highlighting the danger it posed to society goes to writers, journalists, civil society organisations and marginal secular and leftist groups and individuals. They persisted despite limited human as well as material resources in hand and in spite of a general resistance in society to broach a topic which could put the ‘tolerant’ majority community on the defensive. These efforts did not have much impact but helped keep the issue of Hindutva terror alive.

“It was only when the Malegaon 2008 bomb blast took place and the ruling dispensation led by the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra asked the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the State to investigate it that the situation took a dramatic turn. ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who had been successful a few months back to nab terrorists belonging to Sanatan Sanstha for bomb blasts in Thane and Panvel (April 2008), took up the case with the same vigour. After a painstaking investigation, he brought forth the startling fact [that] members of the RSS and allied Hindutva organisations had been engaged in creating terror modules at different places in the country and had been successful in even penetrating the military.”

The BJP and the RSS cried “witch-hunt”. The book exposes that falsehood and very many more. In doing so, the author makes some important points. “One could say that the approach of secularists is ‘state centric’; it not only emphasises the role of the state in combating communalism but makes demands on the state, it asks the state to ban communal outfits or take strict action against the violation of constitutional rights or popularise scientific temper, etc. This approach does not address the question of secularisation of polity. It is left unsaid but effectively the societal vacuum is left open to religious and communal organisations or NGOs or other status quoist formations. Clearly, the approach does not even envisage the possibility of the state being in the hands of communal forces (that would then have a free run, enacting laws, carving out statues to present Hindutva itself as another name for democracy).”

http://flonnet.com/fl2822/stories/20111104282207800.htm

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