IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 29th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Bhatt moves HC to summon Narendra Modi before Nanavati panel (Oct 28, 2012, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and voluntary organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties jointly moved a petition before the Gujarat High Court on Thursday seeking directions to the Nanavati-Mehta Commission probing the riots cases to summon Chief Minister Narendra Modi before it. They have also sought a direction to the panel to submit its final report before the Governor and not the government.

According to the petitioners, the government has amended the Commission’s terms of reference while including to assess the role played by Modi and other ministers during the 2002 riots. However, so far, the Commission has not summoned Modi. The petitioners further say that the Commission submitted its first report before the government, and so far, no action has been taken on the same.

The petitioners have also sought a direction to the Commission to direct the government to provide the documents sought by Bhatt related to the riots. A division bench has kept the petition for hearing on October 5.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1009035/

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‘Modi gave Rs 5.27 cr to RSS NGO in Tamil Nadu from CM relief fund’ (Oct 24, 2012, Indian Express)

An RTI application filed by a Mumbai-based NGO has revealed that Chief Minister Narendra Modi gave away Rs 5.27 crore from CM Relief Fund to Seva Bharthi, a Tamil Nadu-based NGO run by RSS, for post-tsunami rehabilitation works. Kutch-based businessman Ramesh Joshi, who runs NGO Kutch Ladayak Manch in Mumbai, had sought the expenditure details of CM Relief Fund for the last 12 years. According to Joshi, Modi also gave Rs 10 lakh to Nagpur police commissioner from CM Relief Fund for foiling a terror attack at RSS headquarters in 2009.

The land line number posted on Seva Bharthi’s website was found to be belonging to RSS office. The organisation’s website claims, “Seva Bharthi is a socio-cultural organisation carrying out service activities based on the ideals propounded by great men like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr K B Hedgewar and Sri M S Golwalkar… Since its inception in 1989, it has progressively expanded its activities to cover all the 28 states and 7 union territories of India.”

The RTI replies also reveal that on December 26, 2004, Modi sent Rs 5 crore to Tamil Nadu, Rs 2 crore to Andaman Nicobar, Rs 1 crore to Andhra Pradesh and Rs 1 crore each to Orissa and Pondicherry governments after these states were hit by tsunami. However, the Orisaa government returned the money for the reasons unknown. “The saddest part of Mr Modi is the fact that on December 23, 2004, three days before he sent Rs 10 crore to five states, five poor families of Bharuch district had suffered a crisis due to a fire incident. One of the victims, Maniben Prabhubhai Machhi, received only Rs 2,000 from the CM’s fund which is supposed to give relief to people belonging to the state,” Joshi said in a press release.

State government’s spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas and Finance Minister Saurabh Patel, in a joint statement, said, “This is an attempt to defame the CM out of malice by the NGO Kutch Ladyak Manch. The assistance of Rs 5.27 crore was given for the rehabilitation of people affected in tsunami which was certified by the district revenue department officer, Nagapattinam.” “Gujarat had taken an initiative at that time for this relief work in the country… The Tamil Nadu government had recommended Seva Bharthi to help in this project. Everything related to the fund and related works has been documented and photographed,” they said.

Additional chief secretary Varun Maira, who is holding chief secretary’s charge at present, said he had no information in this regard. He, however, added: “It is not an arbitrary thing as there are set procedures to release money from CM Relief Fund and it goes through various checks.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1021388/

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Income Tax department begins probing Gadkari’s companies (Oct 25, 2012, Rediff)

After Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the Income Tax department too has launched a probe to trace the source of funding of various firms that invested in Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari’s company Purti Power and Sugar Limited. “We will trace the source the funds of the companies including the 18 companies that invested in Purti,” a top IT official told PTI on condition of anonymity.

He said prima facie ‘shell’ companies (inactive firms used as a vehicle for various financial manoeuvres or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity) had pumped money into PPSL.

Sources in the department said a report would be submitted to the Central Board of Direct Taxes shortly. “We have already started gathering documents relating to these companies,” they said, adding officials in the investigation wing of the department in Mumbai and Pune were involved in the probe.

Officials of the investing companies would be summoned in due course and, if needed, the BJP chief would also be asked to be present, the sources said. Gadkari is at the centre of a raging controversy over funding of PPSL with media reports claiming that major investments and large loans to Purti were made by Ideal Road Builders group, which had won contracts between 1995 and 1999, when the BJP chief was the public works department minister in Maharashtra.

Media reports also claimed that shell companies were floated for making investments and their fake addresses were submitted to the Registrar of Companies. On Tuesday, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily had said that Registrars of Companies would inquire into the allegations. On his part, Gadkari has denied the allegations and said he was prepared for a probe.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/income-tax-dept-begins-probing-gadkaris-companies/20121025.htm

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HC asks ex-BJP minister Rathore to surrender (Oct 27, 2012, Indian Express)

The Rajasthan High Court Friday asked former BJP minister and current party chief whip in the Assembly Rajendra Singh Rathore to surrender before a trial court or the CBI at the earliest. Rathore, main accused in the Dara Singh fake encounter case, was discharged on May 31 by the District and Sessions Judge in Jaipur as the trial court could not find material evidence to frame charges against him. Following revision petitions filed by the CBI and Dara Singh’s wife, Sushila Devi, the High Court set aside the lower court’s order and asked Rathore to surrender.

Dara Singh, a local liquor smuggler, was killed in an alleged fake encounter in Jaipur on October 23, 2006. The state Special Operations Group that was trying to arrest him claimed he fired at them and therefore had to be gunned down. The police chased him on foot and shot him near the Kamla Nagar flyover.

Justice Ajay Rastogi, who delivered the judgment on Friday, said the CBI was allowed to force Rathore to surrender if he did not willingly do so. According to the chargesheet filed by the CBI, Dara Singh was allegedly detained illegally by officials of the Special Operations Group, who took him to an isolated place near Amber and killed him.

Rathore, who was then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, was arrested on April 5 this year for his alleged involvement in the killing. Fourteen police officials including ADG A K Jain and IGP A Ponnuchami are in judicial custody.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1022610/

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4 killed, 5 hurt in Akot riots (Oct 26, 2012, Indian Express)

Alleged stone-pelting on a Durga procession sparked riots in the communally sensitive Akot town in Akola district on Tuesday and Wednesday, resulting in the death of four persons and widespread destruction of property. While three deaths occurred on Tuesday night, one took place on Wednesday. Five persons were injured. Over 17 houses, 16 shops and ten vehicles were burnt in the arson that reportedly spilled over to Wednesday despite curfew. Sub-Divisional Police Officer Narendra Tapre said, “The shops were gutted in a fire caused by an electrical malfunction on Wednesday.”

He said trouble began after stones were reportedly hurled at the procession around 7 pm on Tuesday. “The processionists started running as there was a rumour that a house in their part of the town had been burnt. The house had in fact caught fire due to an electrical malfunction. The two sides then started pelting stones at each other. We intervened and the procession continued till idol immersion was completed around midnight. The two sides, however, again came face to face on Wednesday morning and resumed stone-pelting. Curfew was imposed and the situation was brought under control.”

Collector Parimal Singh told The Indian Express, “The riots broke out on Tuesday night when three persons were killed. The fourth death happened on Wednesday. All injured are stable.” Collector Singh, Inspector General of Police (Amravati Range) Bipin Bihari, Akola Superintendent of Police Virendra Mishra and a posse of over 500 police personnel, two companies of State Reserve Police and 70 Home Guards drawn from different parts of the district have been maintaining vigil.

Akot and other towns and villages in Akola and adjoining Amravati district have a history of communal tension. Yogesh Mahadev Rekhate (25), Manohar Maroti Budhe (65), Mohd Yasin Mohd Idu and Abdul Jafar Abdul Karim (17) were killed in Tuesday-Wednesday’s violence.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1022222/

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Azad Maidan riot: 3 get bail, cops get court rap (Oct 24, 2012, Times of India)

The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted bail to three accused in the Azad Maidan violence case-the first to get bail on merits. In a major setback to the Mumbai police, the court also questioned charging the three alleged rioters for murder. “Though the case relates to riots and huge destruction of public property, prima facie the charge of murder and attempt to murder seems without basis,” said Justice Abhay Thipsay.

The judge ordered that the trio – Amin Chaudhari, Nazar Siddique and an SYJC student Omair Ansari – who who have spent over 70 days in prison be released on a bail of Rs 30,000 each. The court has also given them a month’s time to produce two sureties of Rs 15,000 each. Chaudhari, Nazar Siddique, who suffered a gunshot wound, and Ansari claimed that they were not part of the mob, but were passersby who were hauled up by the police.

Additional public prosecutor Usha Kejriwal opposed granting bail to the accused, saying the police was yet to carry a test identification parade of the accused. The court, however, said that the police had been given time to carry out the identification parade earlier, but they had failed to do so. The court has scheduled the bail application of another accused Akbar Khan for hearing on October 25.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-10-24/india/34707119_1_azad-maidan-riot-court-rap-identification-parade

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Protest effect: 25% jump in rioting cases over last year (Oct 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Delhi Police are now filing cases of riots almost every week in the wake of an increasing number of antigraft protests. Since a number of protests have turned violent, the number of riot cases registered this year has seen a jump of 25% over last year. Till October 24 this year, 59 cases of riots were registered in comparison to 46 last year in the same period.

Apart from anti-graft protests, the ‘AkbarabadiMosque’ protests and the clashes in Khoda village near Mayur Vihar Phase III too played their part. “This year has seen more violent protests in comparison to last year. We were forced to register cases of rioting as protesters vandalised public property,” said a senior police officer.

Police said the rise had begun in 2011 itself when the city saw two big protests – Anna Hazare’s anticorruption movement and Ramdev’s campaign against black money. However, this year, the story was different. Many police officers say the protest at the ‘Akbarabadi mosque’ site was the most sensitive of all and continues to keep them busy to date.

“Our forces are still deployed there. Arvind Kejriwal’s (activist-turned politician) protest was just for a day,” said the police officer. “After forming a political party, Kejriwal has been holding protests almost every week. Whenever his party members indulge in violence, we book them for riots.”

In 2011, the Capitalsaw a high jump (almost double) in the number of processions and demonstrations. In 2010, the Delhi Police had to make arrangements for 3,093 demonstrations, rallies or protests, which rose to 7,864 in 2011.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/951533.aspx

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We were kept in the dark, says Fasih family (Oct 23, 2012, Indian Express)

To the family of Fasih Mehmood, news about his deportation from Saudi Arabia and arrest in New Delhi came only from journalists or television channels. Information remained as vague as it had been in the last few months since the Saudi agencies reportedly picked him up. “We have got no official intimation on what is happening with Fasih – what is the basis for picking him up,” said his wife, Nikhat Parveen, on Monday. “We found out through TV reporters who called us,” she added. Nikhat, who is eight months pregnant, boarded a train for Delhi from Darbhanga today.

The only time the family got any information was in June, when the Karnataka government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in response to a habeas corpus petition by Nikhat. Fasih’s brother, Sabih, who has quit his job in the Middle East to be with his mother, heard about the deportation and arrest from television channels. Accompanied by Fasih’s advocate, he reached Tis Hazari court in the capital and waited in vain for his brother to be produced. Only in the evening did the family receive a call from the Delhi Police Special Cell, saying the advocate could meet Fasih in police custody on Tuesday morning.

Since Fasih’s last call from Saudi Arabia months ago, “we don’t know what has been happening”, Sabih said. In Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga, Fasih’s father is relieved that some news has finally come but questions why he was “kept in illegal detention” for over five months. “I have heard the news from TV. The investigating agency does not have the courtesy to inform us. Though I am happy to finally hear some news about my son, I am not sure of a fair investigation,” said Firoz Ahmed, a government doctor.

Fasih’s mother, Amra Jamal, is a schoolteacher; she is accompanying Nikhat on the train to Delhi. “Our family is educated and cosmopolitan. We are patriotic people. My brother could not have done what they say he has done,” said Sabih. Fasih has been named as an accused in the Special Cell’s chargesheet in the 2010 Jama Masjid firing and attempted blast. He is also suspected to have been one of the co-conspirators behind the Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts in Bangalore.

“There are no allegations against him except for the statement of one of the alleged Indian Mujahideen members arrested by the police, saying that Fasih had introduced Yasin Bhatkal to him back in 2003. Fasih was a student then and there is nothing to link him with terrorists,” said his advocate Syed Irfan Alam.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1020614/

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Starved, herded and assaulted at State-run ‘shelter’ (Oct 28, 2012, Times of India)

On Saturday, around 60 women housed in the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh in Mankhurd, a state-run shelter for women rescued under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, tried to escape after a fight with the caretakers. Of the 36 who scaled the compound wall, 13 were caught while 23 are still at large. One of them is a 24-year-old from Kolkata (who is not being named to protect her identity) who came to Mumbai four years ago to earn a living. She has a six-year old son who stays with her parents back home. She was working as a waitress at a city orchestra bar when the police nabbed her in a raid in May this year after which she was sent to the protective home. Mumbai Mirror traced her through a friend who gave her shelter immediately after her escape. In this meeting at a restaurant in a central suburb on Saturday, she spoke about the horrors she lived through at the home.

I used to work as a waitress in a bar. In May, the police raided the place and nabbed three of us. They took us to the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh from the police station. On the very first day we realised that the place was hell on earth. Living conditions were pathetic, food was never enough, and the place was overcrowded. But all that seemed trivial in front of what we witnessed next. Late one night, a group of six to seven drunken men armed with knives and choppers barged into the home. They randomly picked up a few girls who were sleeping and started kicking them. They then raped the girls. We were all too scared to intervene. When the girls who were raped told the caretakers the next day, they just shrugged it off like nothing had happened. In the past four months, I have personally witnessed at least half-a-dozen such incidents. Those who are picked have to suffer while the rest just huddle up in one corner and dare not create a fuss.

The boundary wall of the home is porous and men walk inside as they please. The woman constables and a lone male guard posted at the home sit near the main gate. Even if the girls who get picked up in the night cry for help nobody comes to their rescue. Most nights, we would stay awake through the night fearing that men would walk in and pick us. Not long ago one such group assaulted two girls. When the girls protested they were brutally beaten and then raped. One of the girls was so disturbed after the incident that she started wandering around the house naked. A couple of weeks later, the authorities called her parents and let her go as she had become a liability. There are over 350 girls in the home at any given time. Recently a large group of girls rescued from a brothel in Grant Road (Simplex) were brought there. The place was swarming with women. Of the two toilets in the home, only one is open. The other has been locked ever since a girl committed suicide in it a couple of months ago. Just one toilet for more than 350 women.

The food was equally pathetic. They gave us small portions of dried and stale vegetables for breakfast. Lunch was unheard of. For dinner we got watery dal and rice. If we asked for chapattis we were abused. The ‘kitchen mummy’ would often force us to work for hours without a break. Those who refused to work were beaten with pans. After a few weeks of torture I realised that there was no point complaining. I just continued to suffer. In the meanwhile, two of my friends who were rescued with me developed severe medical complications — one of them was bedridden and could barely swallow any food or water. Despite repeated pleas for medical help, the authorities never called a doctor or shifted my friends to a hospital. On Friday night, another group of men armed with knives barged in as usual. They picked up four women and raped them.

On Saturday morning, some of the girls decided enough was enough and demanded that the authorities increase security at the home. We told the chief caretaker about the incident. Instead of giving us a patient hearing she said there was little she could do. One thing led to another and in no time we started complaining about food and living conditions. After a while the argument got out of hand. Just then we realised that the women constables and the lone male guard had come over to the caretaker’s office to check on the commotion. We spotted an opening in the fencing above the compound wall and made a run for it. I just ran out on to the main road and got into an auto-rickshaw. Only when I was far away did I ask the auto driver for a phone to call a friend for help. I will never ever go back to that place. I would rather die than go back there.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=MIRRORNEW&BaseHref=MMIR/2012/10/29&PageLabel=1&EntityId=Ar00100&ViewMode=HTML

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Dalit leaders allege harassment by cops (Oct 29, 2012, Times of India)

Nearly 50 cases of atrocity against dalits registered under the SC/ST Atrocity (Prevention) Act in various police stations under the city police commissionerate’s limits were rejected in the past three years. Police disclosed the details of cases registered under the act and those which were rejected with B report at a SC/ST grievance redressal meeting held at the Police Commissioner’s office in the city on Sunday.

Dalit Sangharsha Samiti leader SP Anand told police commissioner Manish Kharbikar that there were many instances where complainants were harassed at the women’s police station. “They behave rudely with complainants and there are instances of torturing them too,” Anand alleged and demanded action against such officers. Responding to Anand’s complaint, the commissioner asked him to file a writing complaint detailing specific incidents. “We will surely take action, if any officials are found guilty,” Manish said.

Further, Anand demanded a detailed investigation into the case of death of construction worker Basavaraj, who died at a private hospital in the city. “Basavaraj was admitted to the hospital following complaints of fever. However, his workplace supervisor Vasanth has filed a case of unnatural death at Mangalore East police station. Vasanth also had complained that Basavaraj jumped from the fourth floor,” Anand said. The commissioner directed cops to seek expert doctor’s second opinion on the postmortem report of Shobha (23), a dalit girl who died while working as a housemaid in a house in the city about eight months ago.

Shobha, daughter of Sesa and Saroja from Shirlalu village in Belthangady taluk, was serving as maid at the house of Leonel Mascarenhas at Shivbagh in the city for one and half years. Shobha’s parents and dalit leaders had alleged foul play in her death. Meanwhile, the postmortem report also could not ascertain the actual cause of death. Hence, the commissioner took the decision of reviewing the postmortem report through an expert doctor at the meet.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/17000608.cms

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Opinions and Editorials

Embracing the darkness – By Jyoti Malhotra (Oct 23, 2012, The Hindu)

In the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, Judas Iscariot agreed he would hand over Jesus to the priests for 30 pieces of silver. Last week when the British government agreed to embrace Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it should have lent an ear to one of its own citizens, Yusuf Dawood of West Yorkshire, two of whose brothers were lynched by a rampaging mob in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Saeed Dawood, 42 at the time, and Sakil Dawood, 37 at the time, were travelling to Surat along with Mohammed Aswat and Imran Dawood on February 28, 2002, when their car was attacked by a mob about 70 km from Ahmedabad. All four were British citizens.

Aswat’s body was found alongside Imran Dawood in a field, but at least Imran was alive. He was flown back to the United Kingdom, while Aswat was buried in a village near Surat. The other two went missing, but a month later in March, DNA from bone fragments found in an abandoned factory supposedly near the site of the attack was matched to a sample from Saeed Dawood’s mother. The Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, in a report to the British High Commission on May 8, 2002, concluded that Saeed Dawood had been killed by a mob. The BBC reported last week that “an internal British report at the time (had) described the violence as pre-planned with the support of the state government.” Clearly, the David Cameron-led government has now decided that 10 years is long enough in the life of a nation to wipe the tears from the eyes of one of its own – and move on.

The British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire didn’t forget to pay lip service to Dawood and his friends killed in Gujarat 10 years ago, when he commanded the British High Commissioner to India to visit Gujarat and meet Modi. “This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation…The U.K. has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002…” Swire said. Perhaps, the fact of being condemned to lowly economic growth, between 1-1.5 per cent since the recession kicked in four years ago, is enough to alchemise your principles; and, all the big names, from Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani and even Amitabh Bachchan have been successfully wooed by Narendra Modi, so why should the British be left behind?

Modi has recently returned from Japan where he was treated like a prime minister-in-waiting. The Gujarat investment summit in 2013 lists the Australia India Business Council, the U.S. India Business Council and the Japan External Trade Organisation as partners. It’s clear the U.K. is just about broke – remember the furore some months ago when Britain lost the $11 billion contract to sell 126 fighter jets to India to the Europeans? – and seems ready to sacrifice human rights at the altar of common commerce. Maybe it will now stop meddling in Kashmir? More than likely, the British move on the eve of the Gujarat elections in December, is meant to anoint itself as one of Modi’s cheerleaders, since he is expected to win the vote hands down; all that remains to be seen is the margin of victory, and if this is respectably large, then not even the naysayers inside the Bharatiya Janata Party today can deny him his move to Delhi as prime ministerial candidate for 2014.

The British can then say to their friends and allies the Americans who continue to hold out, that we were there first. The irony is that London is reaching out to Modi within weeks of the jailing of one of his closest aides, Maya Kodnani, for 28 years for her role in the Naroda Patiya riots in which 97 people were killed. Suffice to say Britain’s got it all wrong. This is a common problem with former powers who somehow fail to read the present correctly. Even if Narendra Modi wins the elections in December, his fourth after the Gujarat pogrom, the fact is that India is changing. Yusuf Dawood may have been betrayed by his own government, but India will remember and one day, avenge the injustice.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/embracing-the-darkness/article4023194.ece

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Gadkari’s Bad Company – By Ashhar Khan (Nov 3, 2012, Tehelka)

BJP President Nitin Gadkari is facing what is perhaps the worst crisis of his political career. Though his party had agreed to appoint him for a second term at its national executive meeting at Surajkund last month, it already seems quite unlikely. Questions are being raised about the funding of Purti Power and Sugar Limited (PPSL), of which Gadkari was the chairman till last year. Ideal Road Builders (IRB), a Maharashtra-based construction firm, has made major investments and given loans to PPSL. IRB is alleged to have bagged several contracts for infrastructure projects in 1995-99 when Gadkari was Maharashtra’s PWD minister. As media reports have recently exposed, most of the companies that invested in PPSL had fictitious addresses and directors who were associates of Gadkari or his family. Gadkari was the RSS candidate for BJP president. When his name had come up, senior BJP leaders raised concerns about his business interests in Maharashtra, but Gadkari suited the RSS very well. A swayamsevak all his life, he had no qualms about openly accepting the RSS’ influence over the BJP.

Soon, however, things started going wrong. In 2010, when Gadkari called RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav a “dog”, it had the RSS squirming. Then, just before the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, despite opposition within the party, including from LK Advani, Gadkari allowed Babu Singh Kushwaha into the BJP, a former minister of the Mayawati government, who had been removed on corruption charges. This was later counted among the reasons for the BJP’s abysmal performance in the state. Again, during the Rajya Sabha election, though both Advani and Sushma Swaraj were keen on having SS Ahluwalia, the then BJP’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, to be re-elected from Jharkhand, Gadkari scuttled Ahluwalia’s chances by nominating his close acquaintance Anshuman Mishra, an NRI businessman little known in politics. Following protests within the party, the RSS intervened and Mishra was dropped like a hot potato.

Things got worse when Mishra started attacking senior leaders like Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitley. Jaitley even filed a defamation suit against him. Finally, Ahluwalia was made the candidate, but he lost the election. After that, Gadkari got his close associate Ajay Sancheti elected to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. This marked a new low in Gadkari’s relationship with his senior party colleagues. The RSS, too, was not pleased with these developments. Then came the allegations by Anjali Damania and Arvind Kejriwal. Surplus land acquired by the Maharashtra government to build dams had been given to Gadkari’s firms and not returned to the farmers. Gadkari was allegedly working in collusion with then irrigation minister of Maharashtra, NCP’s Ajit Pawar. In the current mess, the media has been agog with reports of Gadkari’s PPSL having dubious investing companies.

The shadow over Gadkari forced senior BJP leaders to meet the top brass of the RSS individually, asking them to intervene and stop him from assuming the office of party president for a second term. Murli Manohar Joshi even told Bhaiyyaji Joshi, the RSS second-in-command, that the BJP was getting a bad name with Gadkari as president. The RSS leaders are reportedly working out a strategy to deal with the Gadkari situation. After all, he was the organisation’s choice as BJP president. With allegations flying thick and fast, he has now become a soft target – someone who could embarrass the party as well as the Sangh Parivar.

On his part, Gadkari met RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat to put his point across. “As a swayamsevak, probity in public life is a must. An investigation may clear the air, but till that happens, any swayamsevak in an important post should quit,” says a senior RSS functionary on condition of anonymity. There are indications from the RSS that Gadkari ought to be given a face-saver. This could mean that he won’t go in for a second term till the time his name is not cleared. The final decision will not be taken till December when Gadkari’s term actually comes to an end. But it is clear that the BJP president’s image has taken a major hit.

http://tehelka.com/story_main54.asp?filename=Ne031112People.asp

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A Sting On Media – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Oct 28, 2012, Countercurrents)

The Jindal expose of the Zee TV has actually brought into limelight the delicate media industry relationship. It has also highlighted that how media has been selective and using the news to make and unmake people, tarnish reputation and develop perception without doing its home work. Sting operations are not acceptable legally but then media never cared for that and finally became its own victim. The Zee TV-Zindal episode has raised serious question about the working of the media and its ‘underworld’. For years, this factor is a known fact that ‘paid news’ became an accepted feature in major news organizations and one of the biggest newspaper chains in the country actually mentioned shamelessly that news is a product. The press council also worked on it but the major news organizations did not bother except for late Prabhas Joshi, the indefatigable founder editor of Jansatta, the Hindi daily who would always question it and strongly wrote against it.

There are grave realities are about media and it need to be understood in today’s world. That so called national media is not ‘mission’ as many of them used to do their journalism under a ‘mission’ whether they belong to any particular thoughts but there were nationalistic concern. Those serious people would not sit with the political leaders to seek favors or demonize them if the favor is not done. There was a quality in the class of their writings. But in the post 1990s, journalism has passed through serious changes and now after the advent of electronic media, it look seriousness is gone and media has assumed role of middle class upper caste protagonist. Media’s reach has grown and now there is a cut throat competition among them hence to strengthen their TRPs, they have to resort to all the nonsensical gimmicry using superstition, religion, films, cricket and crime stories. In fact, middle class crime stories are a huge hit if it has sex in it.

As happens, the Media particularly the electronic media and its programmers are suffering from a manglomanic disease about their ‘influence’. There is no doubt about their reach which has grown but today they are not just reporters and anchors but they consider us their Gods. Many of them speak intimidating language and ‘cross examine’ people in the ‘witness box’ crudely. Ofcourse, those who accept the invites also understand that they reach the large masses but the fact is people do not remember so many faces unless somebody informs them that they appeared on the media but them middle class hunger for appearance on visual medium is too high and is used. That media can make and unmake political leaders and set the agenda for the country is the new threat which has been unleashed by them. In their zeal they have continuously ignored the ethics and gone like a propagandists for a particular thought and persons. The campaign against corruption has a strange irony. It had support of media as well as ‘industries also. It is also a well-known fact that the campaign targeted the political class only and never bothered about the hugely corrupted and equally powerful other sectors such as business world, cinema, cricket etc. It was not for any reasons that many of those who claim to be part of the campaign may not be that clean in their public life.

The anti-corruption movement helped the media to strengthen its grip over the power structure. None can deny the fact that media is a business today and is used to blackmail, pressurize and safeguards the interest of the owners and their vast business empire. It is not for unknown reasons that many of the newspapers and news channels are surviving not because of their circulations and reach but because their owner want them to run to exert the political pressure on the powerful people. It is not for nothing that many powerful individuals leave the big media houses and join the nondescript ones just to work as PR for their companies and business interests on huge remunerations. The anti-corruption movement has not helped the people and it was never meant to help those who are victim of corruption but to help the middle classes who actually bribe the officials. The media has over rated their influence and hence it became a victim of its own practices. Long back, I had an opportunity to interact with a hugely reputed international channel to work with on a particular issue. The task was difficult and a good footage would only have been possible through hidden camera. They categorically rejected the idea and in fact asked us to ensure that each interviewees who is being interviewed or filmed would give in writing or those who were illiterate would speak on the camera about their voluntary interview and being informed fully about the issue. In India it has become a fashion to do a sting on your opponent and blackmail him. Sting is a disease and should be used in rarest of the rare cases. Media must stop using public forums to Kangaroo trials in their TV studios. They are not having any reasonable debate as the anchors want you to respond to them according to their perceptions. Many people after coming out from the studios inform how they were sidelined. It is clear, the media has already decided who they should give time and who they should not, who is an authority on certain issue and who is not. And they do not go beyond those few ‘experts’ who themselves are nothing more than mouthpieces and using media to build their own ‘brand values’. Sting operations are mostly done with an idea to create public perception as sting is not really acceptable in the court of law. It is a conversation between different people and not a legal signed deal between the two parties and you can call it is ‘off the record’ talk. But then media has always violated this principles and journalists used the ‘off the record’ information to blackmail the people resulting in untimely end of political career of many.

The Jindal group sting operation of Zee TV is a perfect example of media being trapped by the monster it had created. Definitely, Jindals are equally powerful and too can run a media house. The big companies do not require media but media require them more as the salaries, remunerations of the journalists rise too high and once they are part of market, how would they critique a structure which they are so closely associated and enjoyed every bit of it. Now, the Zee News is completely rejecting the sting operation and saying that Jindal tried to purchase them. Of course, when the news is a purchasable commodity then there must have been bargained and when they fail the operation is actually called sting. Now, the media particularly electronic media will have to think more on desisting targeting people without ample evidences and starting a public trials. There are due processes in India and if media has them, they can give those evidences to the lawyers. News cannot be edited according to the conveniences of the editors and owners. The image of a person cannot be tarnished and crucified of an event which you have recorded. That is building a perception for your political purposes. Now, how can the media reject the sting operation conducted by Zee News if they have used sting to crucify others. Media is the watch dog of democracy and its role has broadened now from just providing information to entertain and also build up perceptions but it is also being watched by the people. Now, it is possible that when media people go to meet a political person to seek a favor or anywhere, they may also face sting as the wall of trust is breached now. …

http://www.countercurrents.org/rawat281012.htm

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Protecting India’s Sunshine Law – By Shailesh Gandhi (Oct 25, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

India’s Right to Information (RTI) Act has been rated as the second best in the world by international agencies. However, the actual implementation of the law leaves a lot to be desired. RTI users across the country have been trying to ensure improvement in its functioning. Concerned citizens have adopted the Act as their own, and zealously warded off government’s attempts to weaken it with amendments so far. While institutions of the state are supposed to implement laws, in this case it is citizens who are enforcing the law. They badger public information officers (PIOs), the first appellate authorities and commissioners to ensure that the Act works properly. RTI exposures are responsible for unearthing many of the scams that have been making the headlines of late. However, two events in the recent past are very disturbing as far as the future of RTI is concerned.

The first was the Supreme Court’s (SC) judgment in the Namit Sharma vs Union of India in wp (C) 210 of 2012 on 13 September. It says Information Commissions (ICs) will have to hear all appeals and complaints in two-member benches, one of whose members has to be a retired high court judge. The RTI Act provides for a maximum of 11 commissioners (and thus 11 benches). The SC’s judgment reduces these to a maximum of five benches. The other alarming event was the prime minister’s (PM) speech at the Central Information Commission’s annual convention on 12 October. The PM voiced his concerns regarding frivolous and vexatious RTI applications, citizens asking for information to highlight mistakes committed, voluminous information being sought which, in turn, means taking up a lot of official time and intruding on the privacy of individuals. Besides this, the PM also expressed worry at citizens seeking information about public private partnerships (PPP) that might discourage private enterprise.

These two events are separate but coming within a month of each other, they should serve as a warning for concerned citizens. I decided to look at four judgments of the SC in the last one year, which appear to reveal its mind on the RTI Act. I am listing the main points in the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Namit Sharma case that may have a very damaging impact on the implementation of the RTI: (1) The judgment reduces the number of benches under which commissioners can hear cases to a maximum of five (11 earlier). There are serious practical problems in getting retired judges for this task, which the Court does not appear to have thought about. (2) The reduced number means that it is unlikely they will clear over 3,000 cases per bench, i e, 15,000 cases per commission annually. The Central Commission, the Maharashtra Commission and the Uttar Pradesh Commission get over 20,000 cases each year and the number is only growing. The aam admi, in whose name we profess to act, will no longer use RTI, just as he/she has moved away from consumer forums and the judiciary. In that event, the potential of the RTI Act to change the face of Indian democracy will be lost. It will also result in the pressure on public servants to respond to RTI queries being reduced considerably. …

http://www.epw.in/commentary/protecting-indias-sunshine-law.html

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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act : The Lawlessness Of A Law – By Anshul Kumar Pandey (Oct 26, 2012, Countercurrents)

Despite being a state in the throes of modernization, the Indian law and law enforcement agencies have had a soft corner for its colonial legacy. Many of these colonial era laws have made a splash on the national scene recently, the most famous of them being the Sedition act of 1870 which was used to put India against Corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi behind the bars. It was also slapped on Booker prize winner and respected writer Arundhati Roy for her remarks on Kashmir as well as on eminent pediatrician Dr. Binayak Sen for his alleged links with Maoists. There are many other colonial era laws that the Indian state uses with depressing frequency to muzzle dissent within its borders. However, the most draconian law that exists in the rulebook of the Indian state is a gem of its own creation. The Armed Forces Special Powers act was passed first through an ordinance in 1942, and was then polished and passed as an act in the parliament in 1958. Originally intended to apply only to the states of Assam and Manipur, the act was later extended in 1972 to cover all the seven states of the North East. In 1990, in the face of utter chaos, the act was also imposed on Jammu and Kashmir. Currently it is applicable in two districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir.

Contrary to what its name suggests, the act does not glorify the armed forces in the north east. Rather, it has over time reduced them and the law to an embodiment of much that is wrong with our internal security. Far from restoring order to the “disturbed” areas where it has been brought into effect, AFSPA has instead fuelled popular anger and discontent. The brutality of the law is manifest from the examples of inhumane ruthlessness that it has helped produce. The sweeping powers that the act gives to armed force personnel in a “disturbed” area has thrown up blood curdling instances of rape, torture, extrajudicial and summary killings etc. Consider these examples. On 2nd November 2000, as Sinam Chandramani and nine other civilians waited at a bus stop in Malom, the troops of 17 Assam Rifles, who had been attacked earlier in the day by “insurgents”, opened indiscriminate fire. The 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner was immediately killed along with all the other nine civilians. The reverberations of this gross atrocity were felt across the state and on 4th November, Irom Sharmila Chanu, a Grade IV Veterinary worker from the state started her indefinite fast to protest against the killings and to demand a repeal of AFSPA. Having spent more than 500 weeks on the fast, the Iron Lady of Manipur would complete 12 years of her protest this year, making it the longest hunger strike in the entire documented human history, with no signs of ending soon.

Later in July 2004, the body of a 32 year old woman named Thangjam Manorama was found riddled with bullets in Ngariyan Maring Village. She had been picked up by the personnel of 17 Assam Rifles (again) in the middle of the night for her alleged links with the People’s Liberation Army and had been brutally tortured and summarily executed. Bullets and wounds were found on her chest, on her buttocks and even in her vagina. Demanding a proper investigation into the circumstances leading to her death and punishment for her killers, Manorama’s family has refused to take her body and it lies, till date, in the morgue of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. Manorama’s brutal execution brought the simmering discontent against the armed forces in the state on the surface. Major women groups across the state announced a 48 hour shutdown and brought life in the state to a grinding halt. In what turned out to be the most powerful protest against the law, hundreds of women protested in front of the headquarters of Assam Rifles naked, holding placards that read “Indian Army, Rape Us!” The enormity of these crimes and the subsequent ignominy heaped upon the victim’s kith and kin can be gouged by the fact that the Home Ministry has consistently denied requests for sanction to prosecute army personnel believed to be involved in these crimes.

It is an irony that AFSPA is a legislative act for it violates both Indian as well as International Law. As pointed out by the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, AFSPA runs afoul of Article 21 (Right to Life), Article 22 (Protection against arrest and detention), The Criminal Procedure Code, The Army Act etc. under the Indian constitution and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Customary Law and International Humanitarian Law under the International Law. However, for the “mainland” politicians of this country, who are pressurized only by the popular two minute fasts like that of Anna Hazare and are connected to the land of Chinese and Bangladeshi looking people through the “chicken neck” coverage in the mainstream media, this hypocrisy and lawlessness has taken a backseat in the favor of more appealing jingoist nationalism. AFSPA is in the interest of “national security”, they say, and national security is a sensitive issue which acts as a vacuum pump for the voices of disagreement. Sucked in this vortex of national security against human rights, individual concerns do not find much air to hold on to.

For a country that takes immense pride in the procedure and justice meted out by its judiciary, these glaring legal anomalies only serve to rake up more dirt on a legislation that gives powers even to a non gazette officer to shoot any person on mere suspicion. It is no wonder then, that in the Wikileaks cables the then Governor S.S. Sidhu is caught describing these north eastern states to the then American Consul General in Kolkata Henry Gardiner, as “more of a colony and less as a part of the Indian state”. In March this year, Christopher Heyns, the UN Special Rapportuer on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions asked India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers act. For a country whose Prime Minister heeds foreign media and agencies than the domestic ones, this recommendation too has gone unheeded. In fact, the government has been sitting on the recommendations of a committee that it had itself appointed (Jeevan Reddy Commission) and which had also recommended a total repeal of the act. Despite having promised back in 2004, to replace the existing law with a more “humane” law, all that the people affected by AFSPA have got till now are empty words and death packed bullets. Max Weber said that State has a monopoly on violence. While this dictum may hold true in the contemporaneous sense, the protests and fasts of people like Irom Sharmila have added more color to it by conveying that the state may have a monopoly on violence but the monopoly of resistance still lies with its free thinking citizens.

http://www.countercurrents.org/pandey261012.htm

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Haryana’s Rapist Regime – By Anand Teltumbde (Oct 25, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

After the Manesar incident that exposed the unlawful labour practices of Maruti Suzuki and other leading capitalist enterprises in Haryana, backed by the state government, the province is once again the focus of attention, this time for its feudal traits. There have been 19 gang-rapes of dalit girls, one more gruesome than the other, in a single month. While the government’s response has been lethargic, the notorious khap panchyats of the dominant caste, the Jats, have, in a way, justified these rapes by advising that girls should be married off before they reached the age of puberty to avoid rapes. Important politicians unashamedly endorsed this shocking solution in public; some of them even dismissed the rapes as basically consensual acts turned sour. These are not one-off examples of reckless statements by some discredited individuals; the sexual assaults and the care-a-damn attitude of the state’s political establishment represent an abiding pattern that makes the state a veritable hell for dalits. …

Recall the 16 October 2002 lynching of five dalits by a large and violent mob on the main road outside the Dulina Police Post, near Jhajjar town in full view of the police and several senior district officials. The victims were accused of skinning a cow, the killers were glorified as heroes who had avenged the death of “our gau mata”. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Parmanand Giri had openly stated that those who had killed the “gau-hatyare” (killers of the holy cow) must be honoured. The VHP President Giriraj Kishore justified the killings, saying that “the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being”. Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Sarva Khap Panchayat openly lent support to the killers and opposed any action against them. Such is the terror of the Jats, who take pride in their valour (read criminality), that the then district commissioner of Jajjhar had expressed his helplessness to a visiting team of activists of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, saying that no administration could function in the area without pacifying the sentiments of organisations like the VHP, and negotiating with the khap panchayats.

On 27 August 2005, 55 to 60 dalit houses were burnt down by a violent mob of 1,500 to 2,000 Jats in Gohana with full support of local police. On 21 April 2010, two dalits were killed in Mirchpur and their houses set ablaze. Last year, 70 dalit families of Bhagana village in Hisar were ousted following their social boycott by the Jats. In all these cases, there was arrogant support for the perpetrators of crime. The khap panchayats’ honour killings, public justification of such killings by Jat spokespersons and politicians, their passing of a resolution against the struggling Maruti Suzuki workers’ union, and several such actions are nothing but a manifestation of the naked roguery of the rich Jats of Haryana.

Dalits live in perpetual fear of Jats in Haryana. On account of worsening of the female sex ratio (there are just 877 females per 1,000 males, far below the national average of 940 as per census 2011) the incidence of incest is high. But when the khap panchyats issued a fatwa against the within-clan marriages, dalit girls increasingly became the victims of sexual assault. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports show that the number of rape cases where dalit girls/women are the victims has consistently gone up from 21 in 2007 to 56 in 2011. While at the national level, the number of rape cases wherein dalit girl/woman are the victims went up by 15% over the period, the increase in Haryana was 167%. In September 2012 alone, there have been 19 cases of gang-rapes of dalit girls. Among these, there was the case of a 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped by a dozen upper caste men in Darba village of Hisar district on 9 September. The rapists had filmed the horrific act and circulated the video. Unable to cope with the situation, her father committed suicide. Another dalit girl of the same age, who was also gang-raped in Sachcha Kheda village in Jind district, burnt herself to death. A five-month pregnant dalit woman was abducted and raped by two youths in Kalyat. Practically, the gangs of bahubalis, with the patronage of politicians, can rape and kill dalit girls with impunity. Haryana has witnessed such rape cases in several districts, including Rohtak, Hisar, Jind, Bhiwani, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Sonipat, Ambala, Karnal, Faridabad and Kaithal in September this year.

Unlike the dominant Jats, the dalits are poor and without protection. They can be easily terrorised by the upper castes, which exert pressure on the family of a rape victim not to report the matter to the police. If the family still approach police, the latter dissuade the former and do not easily register the case. Only under public pressure do the police seem to register crimes against dalits and arrest the culprits. When the case is registered, most victim families are coerced by the Jats to go in for an out-of-court settlement, and accused of destroying the village’s inter-caste harmony if they refuse to succumb. While the victim’s family incurs the wrath of the powerful Jats of the village, the police do everything to weaken the case. Traditionally dalits have relied on the state as a neutral arbiter and hoped it would do them justice. The colonial state created this hope and the postcolonial state, pretending to conduct itself as per the Constitution, which dalits believed to be the code of Ambedkar, reinforced this reliance. Despite persistent disillusionment over the last six decades, this trait appears intact, perhaps for the lack of any better alternative. The state has not only been callous; it has also itself been a perpetrator of atrocities. In every atrocity that has come to light, the complicit or active perpetrator’s role of the state has been evident. Besides, the state has consistently acted against the poor of which the dalits have been a preponderant part. In recent years, the security syndrome has come handy for the state to label them as Naxalites and persecute them. The state is completely exposed in its anti-dalit role. The anti-people col¬lusion of the legislature and the executive apart, even the judiciary – that was held in high hope – with its biased judgments, has failed to create confidence in dalits. …

http://www.epw.in/margin-speak/haryanas-rapist-regime.html

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