IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 5th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

School students take out national integration rally (Sep 3, 2011, The Hindu)

A rally was taken out by school students on Friday to promote communal harmony and foster national integration. The rally was organised by the Department of Tourism as part of National Integration and Communal Harmony Fortnight observed from August 20 to mark former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary. The celebrations conclude on Saturday.

According to the organisers, the rally began near the East Tower of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and concluded at the King Tirumalai Naick Palace. Around 500 students from 14 schools in the city took part in the rally.

The Heritage Walk route, used to promote tourism in the city, was adopted as the route for this rally also. It passed through historic sites such as Pudhu Mandapam, Vitttavasal, Nagara Mandapam, the two temple cars, the historic Vilakkuthoon police station, the Vilakkuthoon itself and finally concluded at the Mahal.

Collector U. Sagayam flagged off the rally. K. Sridevi, Chief Educational Officer, Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan; R. Swaminathan, District Educational Officer (DEO), Madurai educational district; K.Pasumpon, Assistant Director, Department of Tamil Development; and K. Dharmaraj, District Tourist Officer, among others took part in the rally.


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NIC meet to discuss communal harmony, terrorism (Aug 29, 2011, The Hindu)

Communal harmony, terrorism and possibly corruption would be discussed at the National Integration Council meeting to be presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 10. The 15th meeting is being held after a gap of two years and 10 months and the 147-members would be meeting for the first time after their reconstitution in April last year. Official sources said the meeting will deliberate on, among other things, steps taken by state governments on ensuring communal harmony.

Prevention of extremism, promotion of communal harmony and security among minorities and equitable development are some of the items expected to be on the agenda of the meeting, the sources said. This will be the first meeting of NIC after P. Chidambaram took over as Home Minister. The last meeting was held on October 13, 2008, when Shivraj Patil was the Home Minister.

Union government reconstituted the NIC, chaired by the Prime Minister, with 147 members, including Union Ministers, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and all Chief Ministers. The Council also includes leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of National Commissions, media persons, public figures, business leaders and representatives of women’s organisations.


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Modi involved in my brother’s killing, claims Haren’s sister (Sep 3, 2011, Times of India)

Chhaya Pandya, sister of former minister of state for home, Haren Pandya, said on Friday that her brother’s killing was a politically motivated murder. Chhaya said that she would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand for a re-investigation. ” Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is involved in Haren’s murder. My father, Vitthalbhai Pandya, kept voicing his suspicion on this matter till the day he died. He too felt that Modi has a role in the murder of Haren. We are taking it further because we too strongly believe in this,” Chhaya told mediapersons on Friday.

The Gujarat high court had recently acquitted all 12 accused in this case who had been convicted by the Pota court. A couple of days back, Pandya’s widow Jagruti Pandya had appealed to Modi for a re-investigation into the matter. On Friday, Chhaya along with her sister Bharati spoke to media in the presence of a lawyer, Magan Barot, who had been hired by Pandya’s father. They expressed unhappiness with the CBI probe and said that they would urge the PM to intervene in the matter.

Barot said: “Vitthalbhai had approached the lower court, high court and even the Supreme Court. He had always asserted that this is a politically motivated murder. The HC judgement now proves that his suspicions were right. That is why we have decided to take up the matter in Supreme Court.” Barot added that the CBI had not taken the testimony of Pandya’s family members while Vitthalbhai had demanded that Narendra Modi be questioned in this case.

Pandya, former minister of state for home, was shot dead on the morning of March 26, 2003. The CBI, which investigated the case, had arrested 15 people out of the 19 named as accused. A designated Pota court had convicted 12 people on June 25, 2007, with nine of them being given life term.



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Tulsiram killed Haren, not Asgar Ali: Sanjiv Bhatt (Aug 31, 2011, Times of India)

After Gujarat high court dropped murder charges against Asgar Ali and 11 others in the Haren Pandya murder case on Monday, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt came out with a statement that Tulsiram Prajapati may have killed Pandya. The CBI is now investigating the killing of Prajapati, a close associate of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, in a fake encounter.

This link between the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case and the Pandya murder case first surfaced when Sohrabuddin’s friend Azam Khan in his statement given to CBI last year hinted that the two were related. Bhatt told TOI, “When I was posted as superintendent of Sabarmati central jail in 2004, Asgar Ali and other accused in the Pandya case had told me that it was Tulsiram who had actually opened fire on the ex-minister.” Why it took the police officer so long to come out with this information, is a mystery.

Bhatt is daggers drawn with the state government after he filed an affidavit in the Supreme court on chief minister Narendra Modi’s role in the riots. He had said that he was in Modi’s meeting on February 27, 2002 where the CM said he wanted Hindus to vent their anger. After Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi’s murder, Tulsiram was also eliminated in a fake encounter the following year – on December 28, 2006. Tulsiram was killed near Rajasthan border a few days after the then investigating officer in Sohrabuddin fake encounter case sought permission to interrogate him in the Udaipur prison.

The revelation by Azam Khan caused so much of controversy last year, that he was allegedly abducted and forced to retract his statement. Later, he gave a statement under section 164 of CrPC saying that how the officials of crime branch were desperate to establish that the claims about Pandya murder case were false. With the HC concluding that it was not Asgar who shot Pandya, this question has been raised again. Controversy has again been raised on the role of Kalimuddin, the police informer who became the bait for the Gujarat police to abduct Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi.

One of the tasks before the CBI also is to establish whether the third person with the couple was Kalimuddin or Prajapati. Bhatt is saying that Asgar had told him that Sohrabuddin contacted him through Kalimuddin and he agreed to kill Pandya because he was made to believe that Pandya played a leading role in the 2002 riots. But later he got cold feet and Sohrabuddin got Pandya eliminated through Tulsiram.



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CBI questions Chudasama in Tulsiram encounter case (Aug 30, 2011, Times of India)

A team of CBI officials on Monday visited Nadiad jail to grill suspended IPS officer Abhay Chudasama in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case of 2006. Chudasama had been arrested in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

In the session that lasted for over 90 minutes Chudasama was questioned on various aspects of the case. The main focus areas of CBI’s questioning was to find out if when Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram, along with his wife Kauserbi, were illegally abducted in Hyderabad and were being brought to Ahmedabad, did Tulsiram get separated from the group in Valsad?

“He was taken to Rajasthan where he was arrested for the murder of a gangster, Hamid Lala. Chudasama was then the superintendent of police, Valsad,” said CBI officials. However, during the grilling Chudasama feigned ignorance about the case and said that he was not involved in any way in that case or in the Sohrabuddin encounter case.

Last week CBI officials had grilled four other IPS officers – additional DGP P P Pandey, retired additional DGP V V Rabari, Inspector general of police I M Desai and DIG B S Jebalia in the Tulsiram case. When the Tulsiram case was being probed by CID (Crime), these IPS officers had played the supervisory role at various stages of the probe.



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Why Narendra Modi is on the defensive (Sep 3, 2011, Rediff)

Two days back, L K Advani led the protest in the parliament complex against the appointment of former judge R A Mehta as the Gujarat lokayukta by Governor Kamla Beniwal. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has deployed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s top leadership in New Delhi to argue his case in the political arena but he is doing few things in Gandhinagar that exposes his vulnerability. He has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to recall the Governor. In a sensational act, Modi in his letter has made many serious charges against Judge Mehta. If any court approves Mehta’s appointment then Modi will have egg on his face.

The BJP’s contention is that for the first time, a Governor has acted arbitrarily while appointing the lokayukta without consulting the government. The BJP is calling it a murder of democracy. But now the Congress party is claiming that on August 18, Modi was all set to ‘murder’ democracy by bringing an ordinance that would have hurt the ethos behind the office of the lokayukta.

As per the Congress allegations, Modi wanted Governor Beniwal to sign the ordinance that would have changed the composition of the panel that appoints the lokyaukta in the state. According to Arjun Modhawadia, president of the state Congress, “Modi wanted to bring ‘sarkari panel’ to appoint the lokayukta. The double standard of the BJP is shocking.”



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2008 bomb attacks: 2 Sanatan Sanstha men held guilty (Aug 30, 2011, Indian Express)

A Sessions court on Monday convicted two men linked to a Hindu revivalist group for their role in low-intensity bomb attacks in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in 2008 but acquitted four who had also been charged in the case. The convictions are the first involving Hindu extremists in terror cases in recent years. The six men were accused under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), among others, for striking terror by exploding or placing crude bombs in two auditoria and a movie theatre in the Thane and Navi Mumbai areas. The bombs had targeted a Panvel theatre screening the film Jodhaa Akbar, the Vishnudas Bhave auditorium in Vashi and the Gadkari Rangayatan in Thane, both of which were showing a Marathi play titled Amhi Pachpute.

While seven people were injured in the Thane explosion, the Panvel blast did not hurt anyone and the Vashi bomb failed to explode. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had accused Ramesh Gadkari, Vikram Bhave, Santosh Angre, Hemant Chalke, Mangesh Nikam and Hari Bhau Divekar – all of them Sevaks of Sanatan Sanstha, a sister organisation of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti – of conspiracy and planting the bombs as part of a statewide campaign against the film and the play. But the court found only Gadkari and Bhave guilty under various sections of the Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act, the Destruction of Property Act and laws relating to conspiracy, among others. They were acquitted of charges of attempt to murder and under the UAPA. The four others were acquitted of all charges. The sentencing of Gadkari and Bhave is expected on Tuesday.

According to the prosecution, Gadkari, 50, an electrical engineer, gave up his profession to run a small shop in Panvel. He came in contact with some sevaks from Sanatan Sanstha and after being impressed by the group’s ashram, sold his shop and became a full-time member. He lived in the ashram and allegedly trained Nikam and Bhave to make bombs. Gadkari’s savings were allegedly used to fund the operations. Bhave, 26, handled his father’s business in Warsai village in Raigad. Explosives were seized from his residence and Bhave was arrested from Wadala. He is also accused in another case of assault inside the ashram.

Although the police had claimed to have found strong evidence against the accused such as two revolvers, a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate powder, 20 detonators, 19 gelatin sticks, timers, voltage meters, two radio circuits and remote controls, the court did not fully accept the prosecution’s arguments. The 1,020-page ATS chargesheet had claimed that all the explosives were of high intensity. “Fortunately, the bombs were not placed strategically, reducing their intensity. Only injuries were caused, and at one place the bomb did not explode,” said an officer involved in the investigations. “The case was primarily built on circumstantial evidence. Once let off on the UAPA charges, the court had to prove the accused guilty only on the basis of eyewitness accounts and other such circumstantial evidence,” said special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian.



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Shehla sought RTI on BJP MPs, RSS backed trust (Sep 3, 2011, IBN)

Murdered RTI activist Shehla Masood was seeking details about the business activities of BJP Rajya Sabha MP Anil Dave. CNN-IBN has accessed RTI copies filed by Shehla. She had asked for details about Narmada Samagraha, an NGO backed by the BJP Rajya Sabha MP.

Shehla had filed applications with the Rajya Sabha Secretariat asking for details about BJP MPs from Madhya Pradesh. Shehla herself was working for the RSS backed Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Trust, organising events for them from Srinagar to Kolkata to Delhi. She alleged misutilisation of funds in the trust.

Sources have said that a section of Sangh Parivaar and a senior IPS officer in Madhya Pradesh had dubbed her as an ISI agent.



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Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Kejriwal receive privilege notices (Sep 3, 2011, The Hindu)

Key members of Anna Hazare’s core team – Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi – have received breach of privilege notices from the Rajya Sabha for their alleged remarks against Parliamentarians during their anti-corruption campaign on the Ramlila grounds here last month. Mr. Kejriwal, an officer of the Indian Revenue Service, Mr. Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer, and Ms. Bedi, a former IPS officer, received the notices for “breach of privilege/contempt of the House.” They were accused of using derogatory words against MPs during the agitation. All have been asked to reply by September 14, after which Chairman Hamid Ansari will take a view on admitting or rejecting the notices.

Mr. Kejriwal received the notice on Saturday, while Mr. Bhushan and Ms. Bedi got it on Friday. The notice to Mr. Kejriwal comes on the heels of another notice to him from the I-T Department for payment of dues to the tune of Rs. 9.27 lakh for allegedly violating conditions in a bond for a study-leave and computer loan. The notice against Mr. Bhushan is on a complaint by Mohammed Adeeb, an Independent member, while in the case of Ms. Bedi, it is based on complaints submitted by Mr. Adeeb as well as Jesudasu Seelam, Congress member in the Rajya Sabha.

Charging the three campaigners with launching a tirade against MPs, Mr. Adeeb alleged that they went “to the extent of saying that members of Parliament take money for passing Bills in Parliament.” Terming the notice “totally misconceived,” Mr. Bhushan told The Hindu that he would respond to it. “If speaking truth in public interest amounts to breach of privilege, then time has come for the country to review the whole notion of Parliamentary privileges,” he said. “Received the breach of privilege notice. Shall respond appropriately recording the distrust ‘we the people’ were suffering,” Ms. Bedi tweeted after receiving the notice.

“Sorry, I will not be able to say sorry,” she had said at a press conference here on Friday. Referring to the shoe-hurling scenes in the Rajasthan Assembly last Monday, she said that if she had to appear before the privileges committee, she will “show a bigger mirror to our Parliamentarians.” On Friday, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare lashed out in Ralegaon Siddhi against the government for “targeting” members of the campaign. Mr. Hazare had undertaken a 12-day fast here last month to press for a strong and effective anti-corruption law.

Thousands of people participated in the movement that concluded with Parliament accepting ‘in principle’ the three key elements of the Jan Lokpal Bill. These were – inclusion of lower bureaucracy, adoption of citizens’s charter for time-bound delivery of services in government departments and formation of Lokayuktas in States. Team Anna will present its case to the Standing Committee at the end of this month. Meanwhile, the core members will meet under Mr. Hazare’s leadership at Ralegaon Siddhi on September 10 and 11 to chalk out future plans.



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1 killed in communal violence, curfew imposed in Ujjain (Sep 3, 2011, IBN)

One person was killed and at least seven injured in communal violence after which curfew was imposed in the city tonight.

The clashes broke out between members of two communities at Favarra Chowk and Daulatganj areas over a dispute about a religious function. One person was killed and six to seven were injured, said Collector M Geetha.

As tension escalated, the administration decided to impose curfew in the entire city, the Collector said, adding the situation was now under control.



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For Justice Sen, it all started in 1983 (Sep 3, 2011, The Hindu)

For the beleaguered Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court, trouble started in 1983, when the Steel Authority of India Ltd. filed a money suit in the court against the Shipping Corporation of India for sale of Periclase Spinal Bricks lying at the Bokaro Steel Plant. On April 30, 1984, the court appointed Justice Sen, who was a lawyer at that time, as a Receiver to make an inventory, sell these goods, and keep the proceeds until the case was decided. Between April 1, 1993 and June 1, 1995, he received the sale amount of Rs. 33.23 lakh. In 1996, though he was entitled to keep only five per cent, Rs 1.66 lakh, towards remuneration, he kept the entire money in a fixed deposit with ANZ Grindlays (which later merged into Standard Chartered) and later transferred it to Lynx India Ltd, a company authorised by the RBI.

On January 20, 1997, another High Court Bench directed Mr. Sen to be the Receiver in another case and to keep Rs. 70 lakh for distribution among workers of Calcutta Fans. But he deposited this amount also in Grindlays Bank. Between May 14, 1997 and August 6, 1997, he issued several cheques to the workers. On February 26, 1997, he deposited Rs. 25 lakh (from out of Rs. 70 lakh) with Lynx India, which sank. The shortfall was made up by taking Rs. 25 lakh from the SAIL money and depositing it in the Calcutta Fans account. On February 27, 2003, the SAIL filed an application in the High Court asking the Receiver to return the entire sales proceeds and render true and faithful accounts. He failed to do so until he was appointed judge on December 3, 2003.

On August 3, 2004, the High Court appointed a new Receiver, without asking Justice Sen to refund money lying with him till then. Subsequently on February 15, 2005 when the matter was posted before another judge, he issued notice to Justice Sen for return of the money. On June 30, 2005 after the High Court ordered an enquiry, it came to light that Justice Sen, as Receiver, never filed any accounts, though he was required to do so every six months. On November 1, 2005 he deposited Rs. 5 lakh. On April 10, 2006, the court directed him to repay Rs. 57.65 lakh, which included an interest of Rs. 26.26 lakh. Justice Sen went on leave and on his return, he was not allotted judicial work. Between June 27, 2006 and September 5, 2006, he repaid Rs. 40 lakh and on November 21, 2006, he repaid the balance amount.

On September 25, 2007, a Division Bench quashed single judge’s order and expunged remarks. The Bench held that there was no material to hold that Justice Sen had misappropriated any amount or made any personal gain. But on a report from the then Chief Justice of the High court, the then Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan formed a three-member committee to probe the charge. In February 2008, the in-house committee, found Justice Sen guilty of breach of trust and misappropriation. It said he did not have any honest intention since he mixed the money received as Receiver with his personal money. There was misappropriation, at least temporary, of the sales proceeds. Acting on the report, he was asked to resign or to seek voluntary retirement, but he declined.

In August 2008, the then CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan, asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to initiate removal proceedings against Justice Sen for his misconduct. On February 27, 2009, 58 MPs of the Rajya Sabha moved a motion seeking Justice Sen’s removal. On March 4, 2009, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha appointed a probe panel headed by the then Supreme Court judge, B. Sudershan Reddy. On September 10, 2010, the committee held him guilty on two counts – misappropriation of money and misrepresentation of facts to the High Court – and recommended his removal. On August 18, 2011 the Rajya Sabha voted the resolution to remove Justice Sen.



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In Perali village, Dalits can’t cycle in upper caste areas (Sep 3, 2011, The Hindu)

After several years of struggle and agitation, the Dalits of Perali village in Perambalur district say they continue to face discrimination at the hands of caste Hindus. They still cannot ride a bicycle on streets where upper caste members reside. Those who dare to violate the ‘ban’ face abuse and threats. In 2002, the All India Democratic Women’s Association organised an agitation in the village, forcing the district administration to intervene. A group of Dalit boys and girls cycled along the upper caste streets under the supervision of Revenue officials. The freedom was short-lived.

Dalits students of the Government Higher Secondary School in the village still cannot take the upper caste streets though it is a shorter, safe route. They have get down from the bicycle and push it or go via the busy Perambalur-Ariyalur High Road, says 49-year-old N. Ayyakannu, a real estate broker. Even the postmaster, a Dalit, cannot ride his bicycle on the upper caste streets. “After all the representations and agitations many of us are fed up and have come to the conclusion that things will not change,” he says. Dalits constitute a minority in the village.

Many among them have to work as agricultural labourers for the affluent and dominant caste Hindus and can hardly afford to go against the wishes of their employers. Dalits are not allowed to enter the temple on the upper caste street, says Mr. Ayyakannu. ‘The two-tumbler system’ is prevalent in some of the tea shops, says Arumugam, a 70-year-old agricultural labourer. “The system is followed except in two shops. We cannot even sit as equals with caste Hindus on the benches at the tea shops.” Though the village has a library, Dalit youth can only sit on the floor, says Suresh, a Dalit boy.

K. Padaikathu, president of the village panchayat, who belongs to the upper caste community, denied there was any ban on Dalits cycling through the upper caste streets. When probed further, he conceded that there could be a few minor issues, but maintained there were no major problems in the village. “Such problems were there some years back when I was young. But now, we co-exist peacefully.” Asked about Dalits being denied admission to the temple, Mr.Padaikathu said there were separate temples in upper caste and Dalit streets and there was agreement that the two communities would worship separately.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Politics Of The Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Movement – By Sanjay Kumar (Aug 31, 2011, Countercurrents)

Sonia Gandhi Hinsak Hai / Rahul Gandhi Napunsak Hai / (Sonia Gandhi is violent, Rahul Gandhi is impotent) (placard displayed by a young man on Barakhamba road crossing, during anti-corruption march on 21st August, Delhi). Rahul Bhaiyya! Why don’t you get married so that Bhabhi can take care of Sonia Aunty, and you do not have to spend so much (black) money to get her treated outside the country? / (placard carried by a three year old girl child). Manuvadi Krantikari Morcha supports Anna Hazare / (a banner heading for a group of 20-30 middle aged men). Bihari Nahin Ham Jaat hain / Ham Anna ke saath hain / (We are not Biharis we are Jaats, we are with Anna) / (shout of youth in open jeep in Darya Ganj, after the 21st Aug march). Gems like these in public space are not likely to be reported by the media. But they graced the rally, and its aftermath, on the 21st August in support of Anna Hazare fast, without anyone in the crowd showing visible displeasure against them. Signs and slogans of this ilk were in minority, and the claim here is certainly not that these represent the core of Anna movement. It was obvious during the rally that a virulent, sexist, castiest and openly patriarchal fringe was trying to make its presence felt in the Anna gathering, which undoubtedly attained a mass character. It is true that the movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare and associates has exploded much beyond expectations of its leadership. The Anna Team has been too preoccupied by its confrontation with the government to put its mind to the desirability of any limits to the permissibility for the open mass it has galvanized.

Movement’s spontaneity and open character is its strength. It is snow balling because many social groups are joining it without feeling inhibited by its agenda. Further, the leadership of the movement is on record, in numerous interviews after Sadhvi Rithambra had addressed the anti-black money protest of Baba Ramdev, that as long any one agrees with their anti-corruption stand they do not mind them in their movement. Is the presence of sexist, and casteist elements merely a reflection of the openness of the Anna movement? The question can as well be turned around. Why do such elements feel emboldened enough to come out openly in the Anna movement? Or, why there are no slogans or posters from trade unions and other oppositional progressive groups, and no picture of Ambedkar, which graces the public presence of almost all Dalit groups? Anna Hazare movement resonates deeply with the ‘soul’ of its core constituency of upper caste Hindu middle classes. That is the reason of its phenomenal success. It flows so smoothly into, and draws out these sections so wholesomely, that the deeply ingrained castiesm, communalism, and sexism of these classes is bound to manifest itself now and then, even though the espoused agenda of the movement has no connection with these.

The theme of Anna’s speech on 21st August is sacrifice. He asks his followers to be ready for sacrifice. With the self assurance of a well meaning patriarch he tells the crowd that having no immediate family he can sacrifice more, and will not hesitate to even sacrifice his life, but they too should sacrifice, a little bit, for reforming the country. The discourse is mildly (Hindu) religious, demonstrators at houses of MPs are asked to sing bhajans, the Janmashtami next day is also brought in to remind people of Krishna’s fight against evil. Anna sits in front of a giant image of Gandhi, alone on a snow white stage. Symbolism is perfect for a clean image. His tone is sufficiently aggressive, but not shrill, when it comes to warn the government with a deadline, which predictably elicits a thunderous applause. Anna calls his followers to be fighters to get the government to pass the Jan Lok Pal Bill. Messianism of the call is not in the person, but in the message. He has declared that the Jan Lok Pal bill will eradicate 60% to 65% of corruption. Why this figure, and no other? The hint perhaps is in the fact that in earlier times 60% marks in an examination stood for the much tried for first class. And, one can’t miss the demeanour of a school master of yore in Anna. Crowd’s sloganeering demanding Jan Lok Pal bill is hysterical. Magic wand is the image many commentators have used while questioning such calls. That appears far from the reality. Anna’s followers want JLPBill, but realistically only few of them are likely to share the optimism of a glowing corruption free India after its passage. It is a means to protest. It is a lathi to browbeat a government whose legitimacy has hit rock bottom after series of scams. Further, the entire discourse around and conception of the JLPBill accords with the crowd’s sense of right and wrong.

An old man wearing branded shorts and sneakers is picking up plastic and paper thrown around. His way of doing something meaningful for the gathering he is part of is dignified. There is a protocol of decency in the crowd. It is heartening that in a city like Delhi, where people generally behave as self-centered brutes with each other, there is a crowd in which everybody seems to be a well-wisher of others. It is not just the anger against corruption, but this feeling too that binds the crowd. However, there is something missing. One wonders how many in the crowd will not jump a traffic signal the next day. After all jumping a signal is also attacking some one else’s right, and actually is an example of ‘public’ corruption. It is unrealistic to expect a few hours of bonhomie to overcome the habit of law breaking for self gain that has become a part of every day life. The point however, is that while the discourse on corruption of the Anna Hazare movement identifies villains and is loud about their villainy, it is deafeningly silently about how its audience itself is complicit in creating a public atmosphere of corruption for personal gain. Religion in the current Indian public life is a surrogate for a near absent liberal and secular public morality. Anna’s folksy religious discourse reeks of morality, it presents a straight and easy choice in a good vs. evil contest. It is also apt for his politics of ‘nothing but the JLPBill’. The moral over dose compromises objectivity, and quite simply leads to hyperbole. Claims in the name of 125 crore Indians are rampant. ‘Doosri Azadi’ is another catchy phrase. Hindu public religion in the times of Baba Ramdevs, and after the success of cultural nationalist project of the RSS with Hindu upper and middle castes, has become virulent and hatred filled. Notice how many times Ramdev asks for phansi (hanging) for Afzal Guru in his sermons. Anna’s discourse and politics is different from Ramdev, which to an extent explains the difference between the fate of movements led by the two. However, school children protesting for JLPBill in Mumbai, still demand phansi for the corrupt. Absolutist morality of a religious kind with a violent and vindictive mindset is called Taliban in another context. Are Anna’s followers in the so called Indian civil society even aware of such dangers?

A sunshine argument doing the rounds is that Anna’s anti-corruption movement will prove to be healthy for Indian democracy since it has brought the youth and urban middle classes to the politics of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Youth in many parts of India, in Kashmir, North-East, Telangana, or in Maoist affected areas, are already in the thick of politics, a politics of the kind that has had, and will have, far deeper affects on their lives, than the politics of the JLKBill gathering at the Ramlila ground of Delhi. The youth of urban middle classes has given enough evidence of its politics by remaining indifferent to many protests in the capital against displacement, price-rise, loot of natural resources, state brutalities in Kashmir and North-East, to name just a few. This youth has agitated too. Just three years ago these youth were on streets against Central Govt. proposal to extend reservations to OBC students in institutions of higher learning. Brightest stars of this youth group, students of Delhi IIT had then come on road with brooms, to tell everybody their future under reservations. (That protest reconfirmed the common sense of oppressed castes in India that the so called upper castes just do not get what it means to be devalued in caste’s name.) Music bands and film stars had joined anti-reservation protests at Jantar Mantar. Media and internet everyday make a political public of urban middle classes. These are the classes which get to air their opinions on programmes like ‘We the People’. If participation in state politics is meant as access to, and influence over state policies, then the ‘upper’ caste, urban propertied sections are the most political of Indian population groups. With the open connivance of University administrations and judiciary, ‘upper’ caste students for the past three years have been garnering seats meant for OBC students. Hence, state money given in the name OBC students has actually facilitated access of ‘upper’ caste students to higher studies. Only last week did the Supreme Court disallow this flagrant violation of law. Access to all institutions of governance, the bureaucratic arm of the executive, the judiciary, the media, quasi-judicial regulatory bodies, etc., is mediated through money power and social capital, which obviously favours urban middle classes. Elected bodies are the only institutions in whose formation, at least formally, access follows the first democratic principle of equality. Here, urban middle classes have increasingly lost their status as leaders of the nation, the status they enjoyed during the freedom struggle and decades after that. Local processes and social churnings beyond these classes have taken over the electoral politics, failing ambitions of these classes to have ‘people like them’ elected. This failure partially explains the venal disregard of elected politicians by these classes. On the other hand, the rest of Indians keep on electing from the same bunch of corrupt netas¸ often rotating them, but finally from the same bunch, election after election in full gusto. Obviously, electoral politics has contradictory significance for different groups of Indians. For the majority of rural folk and urban poor, elections are mostly the only means to access state, unlike influential classes which use other institutions of governance and public opinion. ‘…



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Time to Rock the Vote – By Prem Shankar Jha (Sep 10, 2011, Tehelka)

The near-unanimous decision of Parliament on 27 August to accept Anna Hazare’s three key conditions for ending his fast has been hailed as a victory for Team Anna. It was, in fact, a victory for democracy. Anna, the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Andolan, and the millions who answered their call, were the essential catalysts. But such a profound and peaceful victory would not have been possible without the determination of the Congress to cooperate with Team Anna, the free rein Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave to the CBI to pursue its investigations into the 2G scam,and the relentless pressure mounted by the opposition BJP. As the debate in both houses on 27 August showed, in the end we saw parliamentary democracy at its best. This is not how the public views it. This is not the way even Team Anna views it. The rhetoric today is one of victory and defeat – of confrontation, not cooperation. How has so deep a chasm developed between the people and the State? Why are the more radical civil society activists convinced that the State is an enemy that needs to be subdued? The short answer is that despite 15 parliamentary and over 300 state elections, democracy has not empowered the people of India. Instead, it has created a predatory ruling class that has preyed upon them. The Anna movement draws its strength from a howl of protest: “We have had enough – we can bear no more.”

Dissatisfaction with democracy is not new. The Nehru years were undoubtedly years of empowerment: the government was honest; it drew up grand plans for ending poverty, and the people believed in them. But the euphoria did not last. Disillusionment first revealed itself in the so-called protest vote – a clear pattern seen in the 1967 General Elections and Congress defeats in state legislatures being associated with a sharp rise in the voter turnout. Dissatisfaction became endemic in the 1980s. Voters threw out incumbent governments so regularly that this came to be known as the ‘anti-incumbency factor’ – a classic case of calling a symptom a disease. But people soon realised that changing governments made no difference to their lives. No matter who came to power, the same, extortionate and oppressive Mai Baap sarkar continued to rule their lives. Gradually, concerned citizens realised that to change things they would have to exert pressure from outside Parliament. That was when the civil society movement, as it has now come to be called, was born. Anna has announced that his next goal will be electoral reform. By this he means giving voters the right to recall their elected representatives. But, like the demand to bring the judiciary under the Lokpal, this too could prove a stumbling block to the reforms by diverting the movement into a side alley. For just as even the strongest of Lokpals will not end corruption in the bureaucracy – just look at China – the right to recall will not end corruption, or the ubiquity of criminals, in the legislatures.

Corruption, extortion, criminalisation, the black trishool that has poisoned the heart of the Indian State, can only be eradicated if its roots are fully exposed. The origins of all three can be traced to two deep flaws in the Constitution India adopted in 1950. The first is the omission of a system for meeting the cost of running a democracy, i.e. the entire process of selecting and then electing the peoples’ representatives. The second is the failure to enact provisions that would convert a bureaucracy that had been schooled over a century into believing that its function was to rule the people into its servants. The first arose from an unthinking emulation of the British practice. What the members of the Constituent Assembly forgot was that whereas the average British constituency was 375 sq km in size, and today has an electorate of 60,000, the average parliamentary constituency in India is 6,000 sq km in size and has 1.2 million voters. In Britain, a candidate for Parliament can therefore get into his car every morning, visit two or three towns and villages, and return home every night. But in its Indian counterpart, the typical constituency has more than a thousand villages. To man its 1,000-1,200 polling booths, every serious candidate has to employ at least 8,000 persons on polling day. The cost is, quite simply, enormous. The failure of the Constituent Assembly to understand how this difference in size made it impossible to copy the British model in India was surprising, to say the least. The oversight could have been remedied with a constitutional amendment at a later date, but instead, in 1967, Indira Gandhi took the country in the opposite direction and choked off the only legitimate source of funds that had sprung up in the intervening years. This was the donations from corporations that all parties, except the Communists, had begun to depend upon.

Gandhi took this decision weeks after the Congress party came close to defeat in the General Election of 1967. Not only did its tally in the Lok Sabha fall from 353 to 282 – only 10 more than what it needed for a majority – but for the first time, it also lost the Assembly elections in six major states. It first repealed the tax concessions on donations to political parties and followed it up three years later with a complete ban on company donations to political parties. But while choking the political system’s main source of funds, she deliberately did not create an alternative. She did this because her purpose was not, as her party claimed, to reduce the influence of big business on policy-making. The second Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 had already done this. It was to cripple a rising threat from the right by depriving it of funds. In 1967, the pro-market Swatantra Party, formed by C Rajagopalachari in 1961, and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) had fought the elections jointly and become a serious threat to the Congress in three states. These were Madhya Pradesh, where the BJS won 78 out of the 296 seats, Gujarat, where the Swatantra Party won 66 out of 168 seats, and Rajasthan, where, by winning 72 seats, they succeeded in reducing the Congress to a minority. More than their share of the seats, the Congress feared their much larger share of the vote, for this threatened to turn them into a magnet for the then numerous smaller parties and independents. A two-party, or at least two-coalition, political system, therefore, seemed on the point of being born, but the threat that a second national party could pose to the Congress was too much for its leaders to stomach. It therefore, knowingly, passed a law designed to starve the Opposition of funds that only it, by virtue of being in power, could flout with impunity.

The ban on company donations closed the only honest, open and transparent avenue for raising funds to fight elections, which had come into being since Independence. Like Solomon Bandaranaike’s Sinhala-only language policy of 1956, it was entirely opportunistic. And as in Sri Lanka, the harm it has done is beyond measure. For it has deprived all political parties, including the Congress, of the option of remaining honest. It therefore, opened the gates for the entry of crime and black money into politics. Over almost half a century, we have become familiar with the corruption and extortion that this has bred. But few understand the deadly impact that it has had on Indian politics. Its immediate effect was to all but destroy the centrist Opposition in Indian politics, and strengthen its ideological extremes. The Swatantra, being the most dependent on funds from the corporate sector, simply threw in the towel: most of its members merged with the Jana Sangh. The two socialist parties, the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) and the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP), weakened rapidly, merged, then joined the Janata Party in 1977 and finally, disappeared altogether. Their place was taken by a host of caste and ethnicity-based political parties that we are familiar with today. Only the Jana Sangh and the two Communist parties survived relatively unscathed. By the late ’70s, therefore, the dream that India would one day develop a bipolar political system similar to that of Britain had vanished. ‘…



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BJP MP Tarun Vijay linked to Shehla Masood’s murder – By Iftikhar Gilani (Sep 1, 2011, Tehelka)

Bhartiya Janata Party MP and spokesman Tarun Vijay, a former editor of RSS Hindi mouthpiece Panchjanya, was on Thursday linked to the murder of Bhopal-based RTI (Right to Investigation) activist Shehla Masood in front of her house on August 16 within two hours of his call to her. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh was quick to give it a political colour, demanding a CBI probe while Tarun Vijay, MP from Uttarakhand, rebutted telling him not to play politics on the ghastly tragedy that befell her family. Asserting that he too was stunned and shocked, Tarun said: “We want justice for Shehla and we will pursue it vigorously.” He came on the Bhopal Police scanner from the mobile records of slain Shehla showing that he had two long phone conversations with the activist on 15 August night and again the next morning just before she was shot dead. A police team is coming here to quiz him as he may be able to provide some lead to solve the murder mystery. Shehla, a young anti-corruption crusader and RTI actvist, was shot in the neck outside her home in the Koh-e-Fiza area of Bhopal. She headed Madhya Pradesh chapter of the India Against Corruption group of Gandhian crusader Anna Hazare and she had joined his first fast in Delhi in April.

Just a day before her murder, she had announced to expose widespread corruption in the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh and that she had several vital documents to back her claims. Tarun rang her up that night, apparently concerned since any allegations made by her will reflect on his party’s government. Police will question now him from two angles: Any offer or threat made to the activist in the phone call on August 16 to desist from her threatened exposure of corruption and her gunning down on two hours later and she had shared any information with the BJP MP on threat to her life. Police became suspicious why Tarun kept quiet after her murder and did not come forward to volunteer information that can help in solving the case. Tarun Vijay admitted to the Media at the BJP headquarters here that he did have a telephonic conversation with her at 9.30 am on the day of the murder, “about Anna’s arrest, about the movement and about demonstrations, but refused to go into the details, saying he was “not taking questions because the investigations are on.”

He said he would cooperate in the investigations. “We will provide all the information to the investigating agencies. Whatever information we have will be shared with the agencies. We also want justice for Shehla,” he said, while describing her as “a very good friend” with whom he had worked on many projects in Srinagar, Kolkata and New Delhi and regularly exchanged notes with her. “We stand by the family going through very difficult time,” he added. Congress leader Digvijay Singh has demanded a CBI probe, saying the circumstances in which Shehla was murdered in the VIP area are suspicious and Tarun Vijay should himself demand such a probe to clear his name. “Now that Tarun Vijay’s name has come up in this case, I think Tarun Vijay and the chief minister both should hand over the case to CBI,” he Singh told reporters. “It is a brutal murder. And it is very surprising that this killing took place during the daytime in a locality where VIPs stay,” he said. Another Congress general secretary B K Hariprasad, incharge of Madhya Pradesh affairs in the AICC, also backed his demand for the CBI probe. “In BJP ruled states, RTI activists are being attacked. This is really sad. CBI should probe the case. Everything needs to be clarified,” he added.



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NIA Nails Kerala IGP’s Terror Links – By Jeemon Jacob (Sep 10, 2011, Tehelka)

The national Investigation Agency (NIA) has established that Kerala Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tomin J Thachankary hobnobbed with several persons linked to terror outfits during a visit to Doha in March 2010. The 1987 batch IPS officer has always been in the news. A report in TEHELKA (NIA probes point to Kerala as new hub of terror funds by Shahina KK, 17 July 2010) had shown the state to have a disproportionate share of six out of 14 cases being looked into by the apex agency, the most sensitive being that of ‘an IPS officer’. After a 14-month suspension for going abroad without permission, Thachankary was reinstated on 6 July by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but not assigned any duties. The CM had claimed that the controversial officer was being reinstated as per the direction of the Union home ministry. But Union Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran says: “He was not reinstated on our direction.” According to a senior police official, the CM was under pressure to re-instate the officer as he wanted to be back in service before the NIA report nailed him. Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, Ambassador to Qatar, had alerted the home ministry to Thachankary’s suspicious presence in Doha. A probe was ordered by then Home Secretary GK Pillai. During the investigation, the envoy got several threatening calls.

According to the report submitted to the home ministry, Thachankary reached Doha on 9 March 2010 and stayed at the Gulf Horizon Plaza in Souq Jabor. He shifted to suite No. 608 in Ramada Plaza the next day and made calls on phone No. 66496708 to persons with alleged links to terror outfits. He also met NRI businessmen to collect statements. The NIA team headed by Additional Inspector General Shahid Farid Shapu visited Doha for statements from the hotel’s managers, businessmen and embassy officials. The NIA states that Thachankary, then IGP, Northern Range, contacted Azar and Yusuf, accused in the 2006 Kozhikode bomb blast case. Both accused left India after the blast and are now known to be hiding in Doha. He also contacted Ayub and Shuhabib, who were under the scanner of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The report alleged that Ayub and Shuhabib are funding terror outfits in India. Ayub visited Pakistan several times and is allegedly an ISI contact. When contacted by TEHELKA, Thachankary denied any link with terror outfits: “If you can prove that I contacted persons with terror links during my Gulf visit, you can hang me. My only crime is that I went to a foreign country without permission from the government.” To the NIA, he has however admitted to contacting persons accused in terror-related cases. “My plan was to get them to surrender to the law,” he says.

But the NIA is sceptical. “We are not convinced about his motives’… he was not entrusted with the investigation of terror-related cases,” says an NIA official. Thachankary’s suspension on 23 June 2010 by the Kerala chief secretary was for making trips to foreign countries without prior permission from the government. When his Gulf visit hit headlines last year, he had rushed back to Kannur to rejoin duty on 11 April. When T Naseer was arrested from Bangladesh and handed over to Karnataka Police (in connection with the July 2008 Bengaluru blasts), Thachankary flew to Bengaluru to join the interrogation team. But they did not entertain him. Last year, the state vigilance department found that Thachankary had amassed Rs 79 lakh and recommended prosecution. No action was taken by the then Left Front government. Now, his luck seems to have run out.



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Telangana and the Muslim Question – By Uddalak Mukherjee (Aug 30, 2011, The Telegraph)

I attended a conference in Hyderabad’s Press Club recently, where advocates of a separate Telangana had gathered to demand the deletion of Clause 14 (F) pertaining to the 1975 presidential order that had turned the city into a free zone for employment. Leaders of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti spoke fervently in Telugu, and their supporters, mostly students, responded enthusiastically with cries of “Jai Telangana”. But it was Professor Kodandaram – the convener of the Telangana Joint Action Committee with whom I discussed several key aspects of the movement later – speaking in a low but determined voice, who drew the biggest applause. What struck me as significant, however, was the absence of a Muslim face – student or leader – in the agitation. In his report, Justice B.N. Srikrishna had concluded that Muslims in Hyderabad – constituting 41 per cent of the city’s population – unlike Muslims elsewhere in Telangana were against the formation of a new state. I had visited Hyderabad to ascertain the views of the sizeable Muslim community on Telangana and the reasons behind the duality of the Muslim response that the Srikrishna committee report alluded to. My decision to focus on Muslims had been influenced not only by their numerical strength but also because, in 1969, when the movement for Telangana was in its infancy, Muslims, who at that time comprised 39 per cent of Hyderabad’s population, had remained noncommittal, viewing the agitation as yet another expression of Hindu solidarity. The findings of the Srikrishna committee and the absence of Muslims in the press conference seemed to suggest that not much had changed since then. But in the course of my interactions with Muslim students, activists and political leaders over the next couple of days, many of which took place in parts of the ornate and timeless old city, the extent of the shift in Muslim attitudes towards Telangana started getting clearer. Analysing the premise of Muslim support for Telangana would, in my opinion, also illuminate other, broader aspects: the changing nature of movements for self-determination in India, the challenges such movements pose to the country’s federal structure; the cynical attempts on the part of the political class to appropriate, and then weaken, people’s movements, and so on.

Telangana’s underdevelopment, once blamed on the Nizam’s indifference to his subjects, in contrast to the prosperity of coastal Andhra Pradesh mirrors the discrimination and deprivation suffered by minorities in Andhra Pradesh. The conjunction would be better understood if one were to go through data pertaining to health, education and employment. There are 666 hospitals in coastal Andhra Pradesh and 270 in the 10 districts that make up Telangana. Telangana’s literacy rate is 30 per cent, as opposed to 42 per cent in Andhra; the latter has 26,800 schools while Telangana has 17,954. The Girglani commission report stated that two lakh government posts in Telangana are occupied by settlers from the coast. How do Muslims fare on these three indices? Only 15 per cent of Muslims in the state have access to private clinics, an overwhelming 80 per cent depend on the cheaper, but poorly-managed, government hospitals. The Ranganath Mishra commission also noted that Muslims had the worst nutrition levels out of all communities. Literacy rate among Muslims is 19 per cent in a state where 60 out of every 100 people know the alphabet. Less than 3 per cent of Muslims held government jobs in 2009. In 1948, the figure was 41 per cent. The controversial sale of an estimated 1,60,000 acres of Waqf property, the demonization of Muslims during communal disturbances and the lack of State patronage for Urdu – 950 Urdu medium educational institutions have been closed since 1948 in Hyderabad alone – have strengthened the belief among Muslims that a separate Telangana state, where the proportional representation of Muslims would be, according to some estimates, 35 per cent higher than that in united Andhra, would help secure their social and economic interests. To attribute the incorporation of Muslims in the Telangana movement to State apathy alone would be to obfuscate the remarkably inclusive nature of the movement itself. Activists and academics, who form the intellectual vanguard of the Telangana agitation, have played a key role in allaying Muslim insecurities about their future in a new state. Significantly, during their interaction with members of the Muslim community, leaders like Kodandaram seldom shied away from confronting the difficult questions that created ruptures in communal ties and contributed to Muslim aloofness. For instance, views were exchanged regarding the unfortunate silence that prevails over the atrocities perpetrated on Muslims during and after the “Police Action” in 1948 which forcibly united the Nizam’s dominions with independent India. The willingness to mend the faultlines of history through discussion and debate played a crucial role in winning Muslim support.

Unlike other movements for self-determination – the Gorkhaland agitation in West Bengal, for instance – that have, allegedly, remained indifferent to the aspirations of peripheral communities, the campaign for Telangana seems to have succeeded in forging a loose confederacy comprising marginalized communities – Muslims, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes and even needy students – and is striving to be truly representative, and hence democratic, by nature. This synthesis among the dispossessed, ironically, signals a kind of social realignment brought about by a despairing acknowledgment of collective deprivation. Kodandaram described the mobilization as a fledgling attempt to retrieve a political ethic that got lost with the corruption of the political class. Dismissed as yet another socialist pipe dream by some sections of the establishment, it yet has the potential to alter India’s political landscape. The Telangana movement serves as a model to review the linguistic underpinnings of India’s federal structure and also provides an opportunity to examine changes within identity politics. The states reorganization commission, set up under the stewardship of Justice Fazal Ali, had been driven by the contentious principle that cultural indices such as language propel unity among a people. But culture is also a complex, heterogeneous entity, and the fallacy of the principle of devising unity on the basis of a common language is aptly demonstrated by the peculiarities in Telangana’s ties with united Andhra Pradesh. Telugu is spoken in both regions, but people from the coast dismiss the Telugu spoken in Telangana as unrefined. The food eaten in Telangana is spicier, and local celebrations like Batukamma – the festival of flowers – have not found a place in the official calendar. Despite years of cohabitation, these cultural differences, augmented by the State’s preference of coastal cultural practices over those in Telangana, were amplified. But what explains the willingness of Muslims – who prefer Urdu over Telugu, dress and eat differently – to be integrated into a new state whose cultural identity and practices would remain different from theirs? Is identity politics then being increasingly driven by the demands of equitable development rather than by allegations of cultural prejudice? Is there then a case for altering India’s federal alignment by recognizing the legitimacy of the demand for smaller states which, though culturally diverse, would provide a better chance of a fairer distribution of critical resources?

The other question that Telangana forces us to consider is the distance that separates our political representatives from the people. The Srikrishna committee’s controversial claim that Muslims in Hyderabad are against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh may have been a result of its unwillingness to examine a cross-section of views because of political prerogatives. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, recognized as the political voice of Hyderabad’s Muslims, which allegedly derives much of its legitimacy from coercive tactics, had argued forcefully during its appearance before the Srikrishna committee that Muslims in the city are not in favour of a new state. This despite the fact that many Muslims – including an impressive number of women – had turned up on the occasion of ‘Telangana Garjana’. A number of Muslim welfare organizations, such as the Movement for Peace and Justice and the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, have also pledged their support to the cause. Most of the respondents confirmed the suspicion that the MIM’s view – which is diametrically opposed to those held by many ordinary Muslims – was an attempt to secure the lucrative business interests of the Owaisi clan which virtually owns the party. The difference between the responses of the party and those it claims to represent lays bare a frightening chasm that demolishes smug claims of India being an ideal democratic republic. A judicial committee, appointed by no less than the Central government to look into a complicated matter, but favouring the views of a dominant political party, only goes to show that many of the decisions and policies drafted in the name of the Indian people by the State are taken in accordance with the political prerogatives of the party in power. On my return to the hotel from the old city, I was amused to find the home minister pleading on television that the government respected the sanctity of independent bodies such as the Srikrishna committee.

This, however, is not to suggest that the Telangana movement is free of disturbing traits. There is a worrying absence of discussion and of structured roadmaps to fulfil many of its lofty promises – restoring the production of traditional goods such as textiles and grapes, plugging the gaps in the existing public distribution system, improvement of the educational status of minorities, and so on. The administration of an underdeveloped region as well as the protection of the interests of minority communities such as Muslims and tribal people pose significant challenges. At the moment, the emotive demand of statehood seems to have eclipsed the other challenges that lie ahead. What is equally troubling is the infiltration of parochial sentiments in the rank and file. On an earlier occasion, Telangana activists had dismantled 12 statues of Telugu icons owing lineage to Andhra, throwing 11 of them into the the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. The taxi driver at the airport, originally from coastal Andhra, was disgusted with the unceasing disturbances – the frequent bandhs that robbed him of a day’s work – and equally candid about his fear of future persecution. His feelings, shared by many other settlers in Hyderabad, undermine the representative character of the movement that has made it unique. What I remember most from my visit to Hyderabad are the lusty cheers that greeted, not the elected representatives from Telangana, but Professor Kodandaram. Many of the irate students that I spoke to recounted how some politicians in Telangana decided to throw their weight behind the movement only after they were humiliated or assaulted by ordinary people. The resorting to violence signifies an eagerness among citizens to shun enshrined democratic means – elections, for instance – to voice their demands. The violence may be construed as their disenchantment with the polity. But this dangerous disillusionment with a discredited political class also leaves the space open for yet another canny, avowedly apolitical, leadership – such as the one that called the shots from Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan recently – to take advantage of the vacuum and use people’s movements to secure narrow interests. The Muslim question in relation to Telangana is crucial on many such counts. But foremost among them is the fact that it is a litmus test of the movement’s claims to being uniquely inclusive. Failure in this respect would suggest the collapse of yet another democratic dream under the weight of inner contradictions.



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Passing judgment – Editorial (Sep 3, 2011, Indian Express)

Soumitra Sen, a judge on the Calcutta high court, has decided to quit rather than be fired. After Rajya Sabha voted overwhelmingly against him in the recent impeachment proceedings, Sen decided to resign before Lok Sabha begins its deliberations on the matter. Accused of keeping money received as an advocate-receiver in the Calcutta high court in the 1990s, Justice Sen had presented a spirited defence in Rajya Sabha. However, the subsequent debate took apart his arguments, and in the process addressed larger questions about the critical balance between legislature and judiciary. Sitaram Yechury, introducing the motion, stressed the fact that this was not a move to question the integrity of the judiciary, but to strengthen it, by not allowing the act of a single judge to besmirch the entire institution.

Arun Jaitley also took pains to clarify that Parliament now invoked this rare power to remove a man but save the dignity of the office. He demolished Sen’s defence point-by-point, saying that as a judge he should not cite technicalities to avoid the rigours of the law. The debate ranged further, on vital questions of the judiciary’s independence and credibility. The system of appointing judges is widely acknowledged as flawed, and rife with discretion. It’s also near-impossible to remove errant judges. The Rajya Saba debate discussed the need to introduce some accountability mechanisms that would still protect the independence of the judiciary.

The debate was deeply conscious of its own gravity, and made repeated reference to the separation of powers, of making sure that no branch of government, the legislature, executive or judiciary, encroached upon each other’s preserve. Jaitley, for instance, cited recent examples of judicial activism that trod on the executive’s turf, and spoke of the sanctity of the “lakshman rekha” dividing the three institutions. Regardless of what happens next in the Justice Sen saga, it’s important this debate carries on in the same spirit of responsible course-correction.



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