IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 19th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Narendra Modi’s 2002 cannot be washed away so soon: Political analysts and critics (Sep 18, 2011, Economic Times)

He may have prime ministerial ambitions but Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s 2002 riots ghost will not leave him soon, say political analysts and critics. On Sunday, the second day of his three-day hunger strike aimed at cementing communal relations in the state, criticism of Modi’s past record continued, both in and outside the state. B.R.P. Bhaskar, a Kerala-based political analyst, thinks Modi’s fast has come too late and creates suspicion. “He will have to prove the genuineness of his new proclamations as he has already destroyed the social fabric of the state,” Bhaskar told IANS over telephone.

Modi, blamed for the biased handling of the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, launched his ‘sadbhavana’ (goodwill) fast from a university hall Saturday – as he turned 61. Mridula Mukherjee, a professor with Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, calls the fast a “farce”. “The exercise is manipulative and the prayer for togetherness mentioned in his ‘sadbhavana’ statement betrays his political ambitions.” Mukherjee said scenes of Muslims wearing skull caps and in burqa greeting Modi at the fast venue did not mean much. “Nothing has changed on the ground in Gujarat – be it the rightwing textbooks or the atmosphere of discrimination,” she added.

Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi spoke on similar lines. He said “a mere fast cannot wash away (Modi’s) tainted past, packed with serious commissions and omissions”. “It will carry no conviction with any secular person in the country,” Alvi told IANS. The BJP thinks differently. “The past week vindicated Modi and the BJP on many fronts,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told IANS, referring to the Supreme Court ordering a trial court to hear a case alleging the chief minister’s complicity in the Gulberg housing society killings in 2002 – a move that was interpreted in completely different ways by the party and its rivals.

But Sitharaman thinks “it’s premature” to discuss the prime ministerial candidature of Modi or to even link it with the fast. She quoted a US Congressional Research Service report as praising Modi’s governance and achievements. Bhaskar feels it is a hype that Modi will emerge at the national level one day. “Even the US report admits he is popular only in Gujarat.”



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Narendra Modi fast: Mallika Sarabhai, Mukul Sinha & 46 detained at Naroda Patiya (Sep 19, 2011, DNA India)

Noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai and Mukul Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Manch were among the 48 people detained by the police for an hour at Naroda Patiya on Sunday. They had gathered there to protest against the chief minister’s fast for ‘sadbhavna’. Naroda Patiya was among the worst-affected places during the riots in 2002. A large number of riot victims had gathered in Naroda Patiya to stage a protest against the chief minister’s fast but they were detained by the police almost soon after their arrival. Police said they had been detained for not having prior permission to gather in large numbers.

“The protestors had come to us for permission but they came on September 17. We had told them to wait for a couple of days as there was a general alert following terror threats,” said Ahmedabad police commissioner Sudhir Sinha. “Further, because of the chief minister’s programme, the police are busy with security measures. All the detained people were released within an hour,” Sinha said.

On the other hand, the protestors said that they had gathered just for a meeting. They said denial of permission by the police had exposed the real face of the Modi government. Human rights activist Fr Cedric Prakash condemned the detention of riot victims and of those supporting their cause. “We are living in a state where today discrimination, corruption and disharmony flourish,” he said.



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Gulbarg massacre: eyewitness recalls the horror (Sep 12, 2011, IBN)

For the victims of the Gulbarg Society massacre, it’s been a nine-year long wait for justice. Imitiyaz Pathan, who lost 8 members of his family is among the few who came forward to testify against the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Imtiyaz Pathan clearly remembers February 28, 2002, the day when rampaging mobs slaughtered eight members of his family, including his mother at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society. Imtiaz is among those few victims who have sworn in court that they saw and heard former MP Ehsaan Jaffri make frantic calls to Chief Minister Narendra Modi for help but help that never came.

“Jaffri sir said that he had called Narendra Modi to ask him for help. I asked Jaffri Sir what Modi had said, he told me that instead of helping, Modi abused him. He became disheartened and gave up the struggle. He spoke to the rioters outside and asked them to take him and spare the women and children. Four men came in and took him out on to the road where they killed him,” said Imtiyaz Pathan, Riot Victim. Jaffri and seventy others were killed at Gulbarg that day.

And now nine years down the line Imtiaz hopes all those responsible for the riots will face the due process of law. He is waiting for the Supreme court judgement on a petition filed by Ehsaan Jaffri’s widow Zakia, seeking criminal proceedings against Narendra Modi and 61 others, including cops, bureaucrats and Sangh Parivar members. “The names I have taken, I have taken in the hope that they will be brought to justice,” said Zakia Jaffri, Petitioner.

“I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will deliver justice to us, that Narendra Modi will be held responsible and punished,” said Imtiyaz Pathan. Imtiyaz is just one of those thousands of communal riots victims who are hopeful that the Supreme Court order will pave the way for initiating criminal proceedings against whom they believe are the real perpetrators of the 2002 communal riots.



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Gujarat top cop Sanjiv Bhatt to Narendra Modi: You have completely misconstrued SC verdict (Sep 14, 2011, Times of India)

Senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt says there is nothing in the Supreme Court order in the Gulbarg Society case that should give chief minister Narendra Modi reason to celebrate. Bhatt made this remark in an open letter to the chief minister on Wednesday; the open letter was in response to the open letter written by Modi on Tuesday to “six crore Gujaratis”.

Terming Modi’s plans for a three-day fast for peace, harmony and unity in Gujarat as “completely misleading”, the suspended police officer said: “It seems you (CM) have completely misconstrued the judgement and order passed by the honourable Supreme Court of India and it is very likely that your chosen advisors have once again misled you and have in turn, made you mislead the ‘six crore Gujaratis’ who look up to you as their elected leader.”

Bhatt had earlier accused Modi of wanting to teach Muslims a “lesson” after the Godhra train-burning incident in 2002. He had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing Modi and also casting doubts about the functioning of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the riots that followed the incident. He had said that after the Godhra incident he was summoned along with other senior officers and told to lie low as emotions were running high among Hindus. Bhatt was suspended by the Modi government in August this year for not reporting to work for nearly 10 months. …



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Narendra Modi used public funds to bribe lawyers: Mallika Sarabhai (Sep 19, 2011, Economic Times)

Social activist Mallika Sarabhai alleged on Sunday that chief minister Narendra Modi used public funds to “bribe her lawyers” in an attempt to derail the proceedings of her PILin the Supreme Court on the post-Godhra riots . Sarabhai’s PIL filed in April 2002 contended that the state administration and Modi were “complicit” in the riots.

“Chief minister Narendra Modi had called then state Intelligence Bureau chief R B Sreekumar and his deputy Sanjiv Bhatt, and asked them to give my lawyers Rs 10 lakh to derail the PIL proceedings,” alleged Sarabhai, claiming that the details of her allegations are present in affidavits filed by Sreekumar on Friday before the G T Nanavati and Akshay Mehta Commission probing the riots. She also said that Sanjiv Bhatt, in his statement to the commission in May , said he was given instructions by Modi to use secret service’s money to bribe her lawyers.

However, Sreekumar distancedhimself from the allegation saying, “The copy of the affidavit being circulated is not mine. Its content, as told by Mallika Sarabhai to the media, could be true to some extent. I have submitted documents to to the Nanavati commission.”

Asked if the copy circulated by Sarabhai was taken out of the Nanavati commission report, Sreekumar said, “The Gujarat CM had called a meeting and asked me to hand over Rs 10 lakh to Sanjiv Bhatt, so I handed over the money to him. The CM and Bhatt were in direct communication, so I am not aware of what happened.” Questioning Sarabhai’s detention, Sreekumar said, “Where was the need to quash a completely non-violent attempt?”



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Nine killed as communal clash erupts in Bharatpur (Sep 15, 2011, Times of India)

At least nine people were killed on Wednesday when a simmering dispute over land flared into a gunbattle between members of two communities in Bharatpur, the Rajasthan resort town about 180km southwest of Delhi. More than a dozen others, including some cops, received gunshot wounds. Local authorities called in police reinforcements from nearby towns and even Jaipur and imposed a night curfew in many areas around Gopalgarh village, the epicentre of the violence. Three of the wounded were critical.

The local Congress MLA from Kaman constituency, Zahida Khan, attributed most of the fatalities to police firing. Witnesses said at least eight shops were set on fire. Members of the Meo and Gujjar communities have been locked in a dispute on the ownership of a piece of land that contains a graveyard. The battle is also being fought in court. But for the past few days, tempers have run high over the dispute. Earlier on Wednesday, Khan and the BJP MLA from Nagar constituency, Anita Singh, held a meeting in Gopalgarh, near Nagar town close to the Rajasthan-Haryana border, to defuse tensions. However, they failed to pacify the mobs that had gathered.

Ten companies of Rajasthan police and senior officers have been rushed to Bharatpur. Additional director general of police (Law and Order), Navdeep Singh said the companies were rushed from Jaipur. IG ML Lathar, DIG Anand Srivastav and 7 additional SPs were also deployed to handle the volatile mobs. Congress MLA from Kaman Zahida Khan blamed the casualties on police firing. “We discussed and decided to let the administration decide the land ownership. While the meeting was on, we came to know that members of the two communities were firing at each other,” Khan told TOI over phone from Gopalgarh village. “I saw the police firing at the people. It was horrifying to see what was happening. I demand from the administration that the senior police officers in Bharatpur district be removed. There should be an inquiry by an independent agency into the incident.”

Meo community leaders claimed that a group of Gujjars had barged into a mosque and this triggered tension across several villages, including Nagar, Seekri, Gopalgarh and Pahari. “Considering the seriousness of the situation a heavy police force was rushed to the spot but when the situation went out of control, police opened fire,” Khan alleged. Bharatpur district collector Kunal Kishore put the death toll at eight. “The situation is tense and heavy police force has been deployed to maintain law and order. We are in touch with members of the confronting groups and are urging them to maintain peace,” he said.



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Cops reluctant to grant permission for protest on Batla anniversary (Sep 17, 2011, Times of India)

Members of a national minority organization have said they would stage a dharna in the capital on September 19, the third anniversary of Batla House encounter, to demand a judicial probe into the incident. But with Delhi on high alert on account of the Batla House encounter and the Jama Masjid attack anniversaries, police are reluctant to grant permission to any large congregation at Jantar Mantar. “We have received a letter from the senior representatives of the organization – National Ulema Council Maulana Tahir Madni – seeking permission for the rally. We are seriously considering their request and a decision will be taken soon,” said a senior officer at the police headquarters. He added that they will safeguard everybody’s right to protest. He however, refused to speculate on whether an alternative site will be provided keeping in the mind the recent experiences with Baba Ramdev’s protest and the hugely successful Anna Hazare fast.

Police said the number of people turning up at Jantar Mantar, especially those from coming from Azamgarh in eastern UP, will be one of the considerations. Several relatives of some of the deceased and arrested IM members are also expected to come to Delhi. The national general secretary of the organization, Madni, told reporters here that two innocent boys of Azamgarh were killed in the alleged ‘fake’ encounter on September 19, 2008 and the council had been demanding a judicial probe since then. “The organization has been demanding a judicial probe, so that the truth can emerge, but the Congress government has been resisting it,” Madni said.

Ironically, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, who claim to be well-wishers of Muslims, were also supporting the Congress government at the Centre. Madni added that had they really been concerned about the Muslims they would have withdrawn their support. He said Muslims from all over the country would assemble at Jantar Mantar to press for a probe. Meanwhile, sources in Delhi Police special branch and various intelligence agencies are expected to keep hawk-eyed vigil on the developments leading to the protest in view of the recent blast outside Delhi high court. “We are in constant touch with our counterparts in UP, including the UP ATS, to find out the people who are likely to come for the protest even as plans to depute more forces in Jantar Mantar are being actively considered,” added the officer.



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More recent overt sign of indigenous Hindu terrorism: CRS (Sep 14, 2011, IBN)

The recent developments have shown that militant Hindu nationalist groups are intent on launching domestic terrorist attacks, a US Congressional report has said. “Even more recent are overt signs that India is home to militant Hindu nationalist groups’ intent on launching domestic terrorist attacks. In September 2008, seven people were killed by two bomb blasts in Maharashtra’s Malegaon, a hotbed of Hindu-Muslim communal strife,” said Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its latest report on India.

The 94-page report was released by the CRS, independent and bipartisan wing of the US Congress prepares periodic reports on issues of interest to the US lawmakers, on September 1, a copy of which made public by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on Tuesday. By year’s end, police had arrested nine members of a ‘Hindu terrorist cell’ in connection with the bombing, including an active army lieutenant colonel and a Hindu nun with links to the main opposition BJP, the CRS said. “Thus did ‘Hindu terrorism’ became a new and highly controversial phrase in India’s national dialogue, the CRS report said, adding never before in the country’s history had the phrase been so widely used and the development had major and continuing effects on India’s national psyche.

“Many Indian observers warned of the danger of a ‘militant majoritarianism’ among Hindu nationalists that threatens to rend the secular fabric of the nation,” it said. “In late 2010, Hindutva extremist Swami Aseemanand confessed to involvement in a number of terrorist attacks previously blamed on Islamist militants, including the 2006 bombing of a Muslim cemetery in Malegaon that killed 37 people and the 2007 bombing of the trans-border Samjhauta Express, a train linking Delhi and Lahore, Pakistan, that killed 68 people, most of them Pakistani civilians,” CRS said.

Aseemanand had said these and other attacks were to avenge Islamist terrorist attacks on Hindu temples. “The confessions were an embarrassment for law enforcement agencies that had arrested Muslim suspects, and gave credibility to analysts who identify Hindu militancy as a threat to India’s security,” CRS said. Increasingly prevalent in India are “Naxalites”, Maoist insurgents ostensibly engaged in violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribals. These groups, most active in inland areas of east-central India, claim to be battling oppression and exploitation in order to create a classless society, it said.



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Perceived bias against minorities should be removed: Manmohan (Sep 16, 2011, The Hindu)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday asked security agencies to take urgent steps in removing a “perceived bias” sometimes against minorities as it would be otherwise inimical to effective policing. Dr. Singh asked the Police Chiefs to consider ways and means to deal with the causes of such perceptions wherever they may. Addressing a conference of DGPs and IGPs organised by the Intelligence Bureau. he said an issue which also figured at the recent meeting of the National Integration Council(NIC) was the “perceived bias” sometimes of the law enforcement and investigation agencies against the minorities.

Dr. Singh said the existence of “such a perception is inimical to effective policing, which must necessarily draw upon the confidence and cooperation of all sections of the population it serves”. The Prime Minister also said the government is trying to address shortage of manpower in state police forces on a war footing. “At the meeting of the National Integration Council last week, the need for a well-trained and equipped force to deal with riots was underscored. The Rapid Action Force has been discharging such a function with distinction,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he would like the Conference to consider ways of scaling up the availability of such trained personnel and formations in the state police forces. “Sometimes our security forces have to perforce serve in unfamiliar areas far away from their homes. They don’t have adequate understanding of local sensitivities and sometimes of the language as well,” he said. Dr. Singh said these can be “vital handicaps” in earning the trust and confidence of local communities. “I understand a number of steps have already been taken in this direction, but more needs to be done”, he said.



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7 die as Tamil Nadu cops fire on dalit mob (Sep 13, 2011, DNA India)

Tamil Nadu government ordered a judicial probe into Sunday’s police firing in Ramanathapuram district which claimed seven lives. “What happened at Paramakudi was unfortunate and we are forming an inquiry commission under a retired high court judge to probe the whole incident,” Jayalalithaa told the state assembly on Monday. Seven people were killed and more than fifty persons injured when police opened fire to quell a riot unleashed by a group of dalits at Paramakudy.

More than 15 policemen including a DIG were injured when the angry mob pelted stones and went on a rampage by setting vehicles ablaze. According to district collector Arun Roy, the police opened fire when the mob refused to disperse even after lathi charge and bursting of tear gas shells. Though the collector described the Sunday incident as a riot unleashed by violent mobsters, the truth is that it was the fall out of the prevailing tension between Thevars, the caste Hindus and dalits. The clashes owe its origins to Saturday’s murder of a dalit boy in Paramakudi, according to Thol Thirumavalavan, MP.

Sunday was also the death anniversary of Emmanuel Sekaran, a dalit activist who was murdered on September 11, 1957 in a caste conflict. Every year thousands of dalits congregate at Paramakudi to offer homage to their leader. Since the police felt that the murder of the dalit boy could result in the memorial day turning violent, they detained John Pandian, one of the dalit leaders who was on his way to Paramakudi.

“The detaining of Pandian was the cause for the riots and the police are responsible for the riots. Had they not taken Pandian into custody nothing would have happened,” said Thirumavalavan. The caste equations between dalits and caste Hindus have been a matter of concern in Tamil Nadu for quite some time.



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Opinions and Editorials

Rising Hindu nationalist seeks moderate image with fast – By Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj (Sep 17, 2011, Reuters)

A pro-business Hindu leader who some think could be India’s next prime minister began a “harmony” fast on Saturday to soften his image as a hardliner blamed for religious riots that claimed hundreds of mostly Muslim victims nine years ago. The fast is seen as a bid by Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat state, and his party, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to launch him as a national leader as the government loses popularity over inflation and corruption scams.

Seizing the moment after the Supreme Court referred to a lower court a case in which Modi was accused of complicity in the 2002 violence, he is using the fast to depict himself as a conciliator with a strong record on the economy. “In democracy, there is no place for any ill will or revenge,” Modi, wearing a white turban, said from an air-conditioned hall in Ahmedabad, capital of Gujarat, where he will conduct his fast. …

Hundreds of supporters, both Hindu and Muslim, sang religious slogans as he entered the hall, flanked by senior BJP members. “It is for peace and communal harmony. Through my fast, I want to reach out to more people,” said Modi in comments broadcast live on national television. Parties are gearing up for an election in the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh next year, a key barometer for general elections in 2014. In a rare sign of contrition, the notoriously self-assured Modi wrote an open letter on the eve of the fast opposing religious and caste divisions. “I am grateful to all those who pointed out my genuine mistakes during last 10 years,” he wrote.…

Modi cut bureaucracy to help turn Gujarat into a motor of India’s growth. But his reputation as a hardliner who let rioters rampage dogs him. “Why did Modi not, for example, reach out to the riot-affected families still awaiting justice,” said journalist Barkha Dutt, in a column in the Hindustan Times. Witnesses at the time said state police were absent during the worst of the violence, fuelling suspicion that Modi condoned the attacks on Muslims in retaliation for the deaths of a dozen Hindu pilgrims in a train fire. …

Modi is a major proponent of an ideology, shared by the BJP, that emphasises the traditional Hindu nature of India. The party governed India from 1998-2004 after rising to prominence on a wave of Hindu nationalism following the destruction of a mosque built on the site of a Hindu temple.



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BJP’s Modi dilemma – By Biswadeep Ghosh (Sep 13, 2011, Times of India)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling with an unsolvable riddle. Although the Supreme Court’s position on the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was followed by loud proclamations of triumphant joy, the BJP knows that if Modi does come ‘clean’ in the long run, his aspirations of being the Prime Ministerial candidate will hamper the party’s prospects in the next national elections. As the case against Modi proceeds towards the decisive verdict, the party knows that the controversial CM hasn’t received a clean chit from the Supreme Court. But the party is screaming from the rooftops, claiming that Modi haters and Modi baiters have been silenced at last.

Modi’s critics, on the other hand, are fully aware that the trial court will assess the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which will be submitted ‘only’ after the latter takes into consideration, the report filed by the amicus curiae. The trial court will give this SIT report its due before arriving at a conclusion. Hence, Modi isn’t a free man by any yardstick of judgment. Not yet, at least. The problem before the BJP is this. If the trial court believes that Modi must be prosecuted after it scrutinises the SIT report and also hears petitioner Zakia Jafri, the party will be guillotined for premature celebrations. The party’s overenthusiastic approach will be attacked by its political rivals. Criticisms will pour in from every quarter, and that can only weaken the BJP since a Modi minus a ‘clean chit’ will erode its vote bank.

Among those who might drop the BJP like a hot brick are the anti-Congress voters who continue to believe that the party is wrongly slammed for being pseudo-secularist. Should 2002 lead to a verdict that finds Modi guilty of wrongdoing, many such voters might rethink their ballot-box strategy. But, what if Modi walks free, as his supporters believe he might? Not known as someone with modest ambitions, he will definitely believe that he is in the race for being the candidate for Prime Ministership. The BJP cannot antagonise Modi, at least not officially, Gujarat being a major contributor to the party’s coffers. But the party has many members who don’t support the man, while all its allies will not be expected to express their unconditional fondness for him either.

Modi is perceived as a hardliner by his critics, both within and outside the party, and such people will find his leadership impossible to accept. Also, BJP considers itself to be a ‘democratic party,’ and it uses this phrase to demolish the Congress’s barely concealed reality of dynastic leadership. What democracy means, in this specific context, is that the party doesn’t have a pre-decided candidate for Prime Ministership. There are many, ‘equally qualified’ candidates in the fray, right from the veteran L K Advani to Sushma Swaraj. Whether or not the party accepts, Modi’s addition to the list will be viewed as unacceptable intrusion: by some, if not everybody.

Although the BJP insists that Modi has the ability to be the national leader, the Gujarat CM hasn’t shown many signs of being quite there yet. His political approach and contribution to Gujarat’s development – although his critics affirm that the progress has been community-specific in many cases – does have its loyal following in his state’s voting constituency. But the leader certainly doesn’t have the sort of mass base that is required to be the front-runner in the race for a candidature. If Modi suffers a legal setback, the BJP will have a serious face loss. If he emerges triumphant, the party won’t know how to deal with his newly acquired clean chit. For the BJP, it’s problem time. And, there is no solution in sight.



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Nothing to cheer – Editorial (Sep 14, 2011, Deccan Herald)

It is too early to consider the Supreme Court’s decision not to pass an order against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on the complaint against him that he abetted the killing of a Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri, during the post-Godhra communal riots, as a clean chit for him. The court has only returned to a trial court in Ahmedabad, the complaint, the evidence collected by a Special investigation Team (SIT) appointed by it and the views of an amicus curiae, again appointed by the court, on the SIT’s findings. That means Modi has not been absolved of the charges levelled against him. All the 62 accused in the case, including Modi, will have to face the trial court’s proceedings.

The mistaken notion that Modi has won a victory has arisen from the fact that the Supreme Court has refused to hear and decide on the case. But the trial in a case is to be conducted in a lower court and not in the Supreme Court. The apex court had ordered the special investigation and then an independent review by an amicus curiae. There were charges that the findings of the SIT did not match its conclusions. The amicus curiae is considered to have brought this to the notice of the court. Now the charges against Modi, the reports of the SIT and the amicus curiae and other testimonies about the alleged role of Modi in the riots will all be considered by the trial court. The apex court has also directed that the trial court should give a hearing to the petitioner before it decides on closure of the case.

This is the right legal procedure and the court has stuck to it. It has refrained from further monitoring of the investigation because it is no longer needed now. It has in the past stopped its monitoring of investigations in some cases after they were completed. The trial court can in any case order further investigation if it feels it is necessary. The law will now take its regular course and both sides will have equal rights in pursuing its course. It was when the request of Ehsan Jafri’s widow for filing an FIR against Modi in the case was rejected by the Gujarat police and the state high court that she approached the Supreme Court. When the request has been more than conceded, it can not be called Modi’s victory.



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Lack of Original Ideas – Editorial (Sep 13, 2011, Nav Hind Times)

The anti-corruption yatra announced by the veteran BJP leader, Mr L K Advani is an indication that the saffron party, which claims to be a party with a difference, is running out of original ideas. The 1990 version, when Mr Advani toured the country in the Ram rath, proved highly disastrous for the nation, but it catapulted the BJP on to the centrestage.

The BJP has been rather slow in exploiting the failures of the UPA government in tackling corruption and inflation. As a result, Mr Anna Hazare and his civil society group ran away with the opposition agenda. Nonetheless, corruption has turned out to be a very emotive issue and there is still some scope for political milking. But the question is that the tallest leader in the BJP, still angling for the top job, would catch the imagination of a new generation?

Internally, the BJP is a house divided with factions fighting each other. Its attempt to prop up Baba Ramdev to regain the lost ground came a cropper after he donned female’s clothes to escape the wrath of the police. In the absence of a leader with pan-Indian acceptance, the party is desperate for a unifying force. Sadly, Mr Nitin Gadkari is also at sea on the issue. What the party needs is fresh new approach to politics and governance. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are torch bearers of competence and good governance. Perhaps, the BJP should look to these states for inspiration instead of pulling out a 20-year-old symbol from the attic.



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Towards a riot-free India – By B S Arun and Gayathri Nivas (Sep 17, 2011, Deccan Herald)

The proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, marketed by UPA-2 as a deterrent against habitual perpetuators of communal violence, has been shot down by state governments owing allegiance to NDA and political parties outside UPA, in its present form. The bill, prepared by the National Advisory Council (NAC), is seen by critics as infringing on federal structure of governance and discriminatory in the sense that it views minorities as the perpetual victims and majority community as the habitual aggressor.

The draft bill revolves mainly around the word “group”, which implies a religious or linguistic minority, in any State, or Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes. “Victim” is any person belonging to a group who has suffered physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm or harm to his or her property. “Communal and targeted violence” is any act or series of acts, spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to a person and/or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation. “Hostile environment against a group”, according to the bill, means an intimidating or coercive environment that is created against a person belonging to any group. The bill shall operate in addition to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Brutal forms of sexual assault (beyond the limited IPC definition of rape) and torture have been included in the bill. Additionally, it defines hate propaganda. It provides for punishment of a public servant – in other words the police – who intentionally inflicts pain or suffering on a person belonging to a group. Public servants who act or omit to exercise authority vested in them under law and fail to protect or prevent offences or act with malafide and prejudice shall be guilty of dereliction of duty with penal consequences. Another controversial provision which has left the state governments crying hoarse is the power given to the Central Government in relation to ‘organised communal and targeted violence.’ The occurrence of such violence shall constitute “internal disturbance” within the meaning of Article 355 of the Constitution of India and it shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

The bill provides for setting up of a National authority for communal harmony, justice and reparation (NAJCHR) consisting of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and five other members. It is mandatory that at all times, not less than four members, including the chairperson and vice-chairperson, shall belong to a ‘group.’ Corresponding State authorities shall also operate. The authority has been given sweeping powers, including requisitioning information from the Central or any state government, non-state actors etc. It will be deemed to be a civil court, have powers of investigation and utilise the services of any agency or official from any state. Its objectives include preventing any act or acts of communal and targeted violence, including its build-up, incitement or outbreak, controlling the spread of organised communal and targeted violence, monitoring due investigation, prosecution and trial of offences, monitoring due relief, reparation and restitution.

One of the provisions include establishment of Communal and Targeted Violence Relief and Rehabilitation Fund and disbursement of compensation. In case of death, the compensation shall not be less than Rs 15 lakh and for rape not less than Rs 5 lakh. Upholding federal principle, advisories and recommendations of NAJCHR are not binding on state governments. All powers and duties of investigation, prosecution, and trial remain with the state governments. Communal flare-ups of the last decade “abundantly proves that communalism is a political and not a religious phenomenon and that communal graph goes up and down depending on political dynamics of a region. It gives us hope that bewildering diversity of Indian society cannot sustain communal violence on long term basis. If communal violence erupts it is more because of weakness of secular forces than the strength of communal forces”.



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Is There A Communal Angle To Anna Hazare Upsurge? – By Ram Puniyani (Sep 13, 2011, Countercurrents)

The nation heaved a sigh of relief when Anna Hazare broke his fast (August 2011). The breaking of the fast with coconut water offered by a dalit and a Muslim girl was an attempt to project as if Anna’s upsurge represents all the sections of society and is not just having a narrow social base of elite middle class. Now as the matters stand a large section of dalits and Muslims are standing up to raise their voices against the ‘Anna claim’ that it is an inclusive upsurge. Congress in its frustration said that Anna Hazare is an agent of RSS, how far is this true? A survey conducted by an agency, post Anna upsurge, showed that the episode of Anna fasting has changed the political equations quite a bit. One, the BJP support base has expanded and that of Congress has declined. Two, the popularity of Rahul Gandhi has taken a beating and that of Anna Hazare has zoomed up to the sky. Enthused by these developments, the professional Rath yatri, whose Rath yatras led to the process of demolition of Babri masjid, massive communal violence and polarization of Indians along religious lines, has jumped into the band wagon of anti corruption movement and has declared that he will take out an anti Corruption yatra. Life has strange paradoxes.

BJP, wherever in power has been as corrupt as possible and now with this rath yatra, on one hand Advani is throwing his hat into the race for being Prime-ministerial candidate for BJP in forthcoming Loksabha elections, and on the other hand BJP by supporting the permanent aspirant for prime-ministership, is also trying to show as if it is really above being the allurement of corruption. A case of nau so chuhe kha kar billi chali haj ko!(After eating 900 rats, cat is trying to strike a pious pose) Team Anna after feeling that they have gained legitimacy in popular psyche is now planning various train yatras in states facing elections. The Kejrivals and Kiran Bedis do know who will electorally benefit from their efforts. One is not sure if Anna has been a lathi wielding, Hindu Rashtra indoctrinated swayamsevak, or a member of any of RSS affiliates (BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc.) Still one knows that RSS top functionary H.V. Sheshadri has written a book lauding Anna’s work in Ralegaon Siddhi experiment; calling it as an ideal village, close to the vision of RSS’s ‘model’ village. In this village there are no elections for any bodies, the dictates of Anna run for most of the things.

In this village, drinking was eradicated, probably by tying one who drank to the pole, beating him with shoes and then forcing making him to ride on a donkey. This is a village where traditional caste system has been upheld in more ways than one. It was in March 2011 when RSS decided to launch anti corruption movement. It was the time when RSS’s political child BJP was on a free fall course, the Hindutva-saffron terror network was getting exposed by the day and the criminal cases against Narendra Modi were taking a concrete shape. RSS had struck an understanding with Baba Ramdev for such a movement, and in addition to Ramdev’s yoga following, RSS had committed the support of its vast visible and invisible network. At the same time Anna also began his own efforts for Jan Lokpal Bill. With Kudasan (Baba jumping amongst women to prevent being arrested by police) collapse of Baba; Anna became the sole vehicle for anti corruption strategies. Even in the April fast by Anna, RSS had mobilized its support base, the ‘shining India’ class, IT generation-MBA class, in large numbers. With joint team for drafting the bill being formed, the fast was suspended.

First time around (April) the hand of RSS in the fast was clear with Bharat Mata in the backdrop, and cry of Vande Matram and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ in the air. In the second round, 16th August onwards, Anna modified the strategy in the light of criticism of the first fast. The primary mobilization was done by various outfits of RSS, including Youth against Corruption, an ABVP outfit. ABVP is the student wing of RSS. Needless to say the mobilization was joined in by a huge diverse sections also, who are very dissatisfied with problems of daily life, burden of price rise, withdrawal of social welfare by state, petty corruption by officers and what have you. The mobilization in practice was equally contributed by the corporate controlled media. First time (April) the overt signature of RSS was obvious with Ram Madhav, Sadhvi Ritmabhara and the back room ideologues like Govindacharaya being on call for strategy making. This time (August) around the caution was exercised and the overt RSS faces were replaced by less visible ones’, still all levers of control were with RSS swayamsevaks. RSS chief openly supported the Anna upsurge and that was message enough. VHP supporters funded and manned food stalls for those coming to show solidarity with fasting Anna. Mauvadi organizations and Khaps were in toe. BJP, itself drenched in corruption of various types, was too clever and gave a public impression that it is fully with Anna.

One has noticed that RSS progeny BJP, though claims to be fully against corruption, is no different than any other party in matters of corruption, as the real cause of corruption is much deeper than being projected by this movement, which is talking merely of punishing just those who receive bribe and not those who give, neither of the system which creates this corruption. We know ‘Power Corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. How the strategy of those behind Anna worked? One outcome of this is visible at electoral level. As pointed out above as per the surveys after the Anna episode, the support base of Congress has declined and that of BJP gone up. BJP has always taken up the issues which are primarily based on identity like Ram Janmbhoomi or Ram Setu. With every emotive issue, with most episodes of communal violence, support base of BJP expands. After Babri demolition it jumped from two MP’s to a large number, after Gujarat violence again BJP base went up and now the survey reports show that BJP has benefitted a lot from Anna upsurge. RSS combine’s appeal is to the particular sections of society who are not very appreciative of affirmative action of state, reservations, social welfare schemes, Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA and the like. This class is becoming stronger in number during last few decades. With BJP support base going up due to Anna movement, it becomes clearer as to who has been working behind the scene to create the upsurge around Anna!



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