IAMC Weekly Roundup – April 25th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Digest

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Narendra Modi ‘allowed’ Gujarat 2002 anti-Muslim riots (Apr 22, 2011, BBC)

A senior police officer’s sworn statement to India’s Supreme Court alleges that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi deliberately allowed anti-Muslim riots in the state. More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence in 2002. Sanjiv Bhatt says he attended a meeting at which Mr Modi is alleged to have said that the Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger. Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing. The riots began after 60 Hindu pilgrims died when a train carrying them was set on fire.

Sanjiv Bhatt was a senior police officer in the Gujarat intelligence bureau during the 2002 riots. In a sworn statement to the Supreme Court, he said that his position allowed him to come across large amounts of information and intelligence both before and during the violence, including the actions of senior administrative officials.

He also alleges that, in a meeting in the night before the riots, Mr Modi told officials that the Muslim community needed to be taught a lesson following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The Gujarat government has responded to the allegations by saying they have already testified before a special panel investigating the riots and will wait for the court’s verdict.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13170914

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SIT threatened witnesses, ignored evidence: Bhatt (Apr 23, 2011, Times of India)

The affidavit filed by Sanjiv Bhatt exposes how the supreme court appointed special investigation team was not only leaking information to the government but was also intimidating witnesses. He says that after he gave preliminary evidence to the SIT in November 2009, a top Gujarat government official had tried to brief him before he was record his formal testimony, in March this year. Bhatt gave original floppy discs containing cell phone records of Godhra town for February 26 and 27, 2002, as well as the original print-outs of call records of certain high-ranking functionaries of the state for February 27-28.

Bhatt who was privy to many goings-on that year as intelligence officer, has said in his affidavit to the SC that the SIT appointed to probe the larger conspiracy in the Gujarat riots, was not doing a fair job. He says that the SIT contacted him first in November 2009 asking him to meet its DIG AK Malhotra on a particular date. “In the meantime, despite my having maintained complete confidentiality regarding the telephonic summons received from SIT, I was approached by a very high level functionary in the government of Gujarat and was sought to be appropriately briefed prior to my scheduled interaction with SIT”, says Bhatt’s affidavit, a copy of which is with TOI.

When Bhatt gave names of witnesses who could substantiate the fact that he attended the February 27 meeting, the SIT chose to intimidate certain witnesses and coerce them from revealing facts. “My apprehensions were substantiated when one of the witnesses I had named, Shri K.D. Panth, (Assistant Intelligence Officer with the State Intelligence Bureau in 2002) informed me that he had been called before the SIT 5.4.2011 and was virtually treated like an accused and was threatened with arrest and other dire consequences”, says Bhatt.

On March 18, he wrote to chairman RK Raghavan to dissociate all employees of Gujarat government in the SIT, from the job of handling his evidence. He also said that he was ready to record his statement under section 164 of CrPC. Bhatt says that his fears were confirmed when the contents of his signed deposition and the details of his interaction with Malhotra and Paramveer Singh, who later quit the SIT, were available to the highest echelons of the government of Gujarat. “As a result and consequence of the said breach of confidentiality, I was visited and continue to be visited with unpleasant consequences”.

Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has written in his affidavit that in view of his fears, he wanted protection for his family and himself. “I requested the government of Gujarat to provide me and my family members with adequate and fool-proof security cover. Unfortunately, the government of Gujarat has chosen not only to disregard my repeated requests, but has time and again, sought to jeopardize my security by withdrawing even the existing make-shift and minimal security arrangement, worked out from within the meagre resources at my disposal”, he says in the affidavit before SC.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/8061935.cms

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Sanjiv Bhatt’s requests for security unheard (Apr 23, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Gujarat has ignored a recommendation from its own police force and three increasingly urgent appeals over the last three months from Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt to provide him and his family with security. These appeals were made in letters to Balwant Singh, Gujarat’s additional chief secretary (home), on February 14, March 5 and April 13. The letters went unanswered, and attempts were made to withdraw Bhatt’s official car. “He (Bhatt) now lives in fear and prays nothing happens to his wife and son,” a source close to the officer told Hindustan Times.

The state intelligence bureau (SIB) and the Ahmedabad city police too recommended that Bhatt be provided Y-category security – that implies 11 guards – given the perceived threat to his life from right-wing fanatics after he implicated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots. Instead, the little security that Bhat, principal of the state reserve police training college, had provided himself and his family was withdrawn. “I have no security for myself and my family,” Bhatt, an engineer from IIT Bombay, told HT.

“I am deeply contrained to state that despite the earnest and urgent requests made to you vide my letters…no steps have been taken for providing me and my family with foolproof security,” Bhatt wrote in the latest letter to Singh on April 13. “It may be noted that instead of enchancing the existing security to the level recommended by the SIB as well as the Ahmedabad City Police; the ADGP (additional director general of police) Training has repeatedly sought to withdraw my official vehicle as well as the 5 armed constables from SRPTC (state reserve police training college) staff being deployed by me as part of the makeshift, though grossly inadequate, security cover for me and my family at Ahmedabad.”

Additional home secretary Singh denied any request from Bhatt. “I have not received any letter seeking security for himself (Bhatt) and his family,” said Singh. In his letter, Bhat said the security of his family was in “irreparable jeopardy” at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing the special leave petition filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of former Member of Parliament Ahsan Jafri who alongwith 68 others was burnt to death in his Ahmedabad home on February 28, 2002, by a mob of Hindu zealots.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/688643.aspx

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Godhra case: Gujarat HC reserves order on summoning Modi (Apr 22, 2011, Economic Times)

The Gujarat High Court today reserved its order on whether Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be summoned or not by a panel probing the 2002 post-Godhra riots. A Division Bench of Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi reserved the ruling after the state Government completed its argument where it questioned the locus standi of Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), the NGO which had sought questioning of Modi, in the matter. JSM had approached the High Court last year seeking quashing of the Nanavati Commission’s order of not summoning Modi, and issuing summons to the BJP leader and three others for cross-examination with regard to the communal riots. Today, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi argued that JSM, which represents some of the riot victims, had no locus standi to seek summoning of Modi. He demanded that the NGO’s plea be rejected by the court.

JSM counsel Mukul Sinha submitted that the State had no right to oppose his plea as it was the Government which amended the terms of reference of the Commission in June 2002 for inquiring into the role and conduct of the Chief Minister and other Ministers with regard to the riots. Therefore, Sinha, submitted, it was absolutely necessary to summon the Chief Minister and others.

During an earlier hearing, Sinha had maintained that by not summoning the CM and other Ministers, the entire amended terms of reference would be nullified. He had argued that summoning of Modi and others was required for collecting evidence with regard to the Godhra train burning incident and subsequent riots.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/8060675.cms

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Despite Narendra Modi, Congress wins Gandhinagar civic polls (Apr 22, 2011, Indian Express)

The Congress on Thursday won the maiden polls to the Gandhinagar municipality, despite Chief Minister Narendra Modi sparing no effort to woo voters. The BJP could get only 15 seats in the municipal corporation compared to the Congress’s 18. It’s an embarrassment for the ruling party as Gandhinagar has been technically the seat of its senior leader L K Advani for the past 18 years and the municipal limits are populated largely by government employees.

The BJP had deployed every state leader of consequence to campaign for the 33 seats in 11 wards, including Modi and his entire Cabinet. Advani and Modi had also jointly addressed a huge workers’ meeting in Gandhinagar Town Hall on April 13. Though the BJP was fairly ahead in the first two rounds of counting, the results finally went the Congress’s way.

Political observers point out that despite Modi’s so-called magic, even Advani’s victory margins had depended in recent times more on segments from Ahmedabad city rather than core Gandhinagar, where BJP has been waning over the years. With this win, the Congress now holds sway in two of the total eight municipal corporations in the state – the other being Junagadh. Incidentally, the Gandhingar district panchayat also remains one of the only two that the Congress could retain in the recent polls.

The Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation (GMC) was formed after a citizen’s collective comprising retired government employees filed a PIL in the Gujarat High Court seeking formation of a civic body for proper amenities. While the court directed formation of a GMC in September 2009, it only attained the status in March 2010. As the BJP was introspecting why Modi’s meticulous planning went wrong, the man who was instrumental in getting Gandhinagar a municipality – former IAS officer Premshankar Bhatt of the Gandhinagar Shaher Jagrut Nagrik Parishad, a citizens’ body – believes it was no surprise.

“The voters perhaps saw through the hype, because the government employee knows what is propaganda, and what is welfare, since they themselves implement it,” Bhatt said. Gandhinagar district has been traditionally a Congress bastion. The Congress has been in power in the Gandhinagar district panchyat since almost two decades. Last year, the panchyat was the only district body the Congress won against the Modi wave.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/779548/

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Ishrat case: Gujarat HC issues contempt notice to top Home Dept official (Apr 21, 2011, Indian Express)

The Gujarat High Court today issued a contempt notice to Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Balwant Singh for non-compliance of its order on the transfer of three senior police officials involved in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. A Division Bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari asked the state government why officers were not transferred on time despite directions from the court during the previous two hearings.

The High Court issued a notice saying, “Why contempt of court proceedings against ACS Balwant Singh, who is heading Home Department, should not be initiated?” The court asked the top officer to file a reply by May 11. The court had twice told the government to transfer IPS officers P P Pandey, G L Singhal and Tarun Barot, who were involved in the encounter of Mumbai girl Ishrat and three others in 2004. They were finally transferred yesterday just a day before the court hearing in the case.

The court also allowed IPS officer Karnail Singh, who is heading the SIT in the Ishrat case, to relinquish his responsibilities as the chief of the High Court-appointed agency. Singh had expressed his desire to step down as SIT chief as he has been posted to Mizoram. The court also observed that there is material on record which shows that there has been interference in the probe and witnesses have been manipulated. The three senior police officials are connected with the shootout of Ishrat and three other – Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/779376/

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2006 Malegaon blast accused on hunger strike, demanding fast-track trial (Apr 23, 2011, The Hindu)

Farooq Iqbal Maqdumi, a Unani doctor who is an accused in the 2006 Malegaon blast case, has gone on hunger strike since April 1, demanding decision on his discharge application and fast-track trial of the case, his lawyer Jaleel Ahmed told on Friday.

Jail authorities confirmed that Mr. Maqdumi has been on hunger strike. “He has been on hunger strike since the past few days. He is on saline. We have informed the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) court. He wants to be discharged from the case,” Surendra Kumar, Inspector-General, Prisons, told The Hindu.

Mr. Ahmed said that Mr. Maqdumi’s condition had become frail. “His father had gone to meet him at the Arthur road jail. But the jail authorities did not allow him saying that Farooq had breached the jail rule and thus no one can be allowed to meet him,” he said.

His father tried to convince him that he should allow the law to take its own course and should give up the hunger strike. But Farooq was adamant,” “His grievance is that the special MCOCA court has not yet passed any order on his discharge application. He argued for himself in the matter. His arguments concluded. But in January, bail applications were moved. The court deferred the decision on discharge application till the decision of bail application,” he said.

The court declined to grant bail to the accused on March 15. “After the decision on bail application, he requested the court to pass an order on the discharge application. In case the court does not give decision on his discharge application, he wants the hearing of the 2006 Malegaon blast case to be fast-tracked,” Mr. Ahmed said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article1718918.ece

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Police continue Christian profiling in MP (Apr 21, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Police are still carrying out the directives contained in the controversial circular seeking details on the Christians in Madhya Pradesh even a week after its revocation. On Wednesday morning, two policemen reached a social service centre run by the Christian community in Raisen district, 40 km from Bhopal, seeking information based on the circular. The policemen, including the person in charge of the Jaithari outpost, SN Kaurav, also visited a school and a hospital run by the community in the district.

Father Thomas of Pradeep Bhavan, from where the centre operates, said, “Our representatives requested the policemen to collect the requisite information from the main centre.” Raisen police superintendent IP Kulshreshth told HT, “Following DGP SK Rout’s directive on withdrawing the circular, I had communicated the same to all the police stations under my charge. I had told them not to gather information about the Christian community. If any police officer still sought information from Christians, I will look into the matter.”

However, when contacted, Kaurav said he visited the centre as directed by the superintendent of police, Raisen. “We expect to get the requisite details within a couple of days,” he said. The state police headquarters had issued a circular on March 23 to all police stations seeking detailed profiles of the Christians and the churches in the state. The circular had triggered alarm and anger in the community, which viewed the order as a prelude to unleashing organised violence on the community.

Bhopal’s Archbishop Leo Cornelio, who heads the Catholic Church in the state, said: “It is a conspiracy against Christians in Madhya Pradesh.” He said a similar profiling had been done in Gujarat, where Christians were targeted in religious violence in some districts in 1999-2000. Following the controversy, Rout had said the order had been rescinded. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had also asked for a report on the circular fiasco.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/687734.aspx

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Thousands of Muslims rendered homeless in Ranchi (Apr 20, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Thousands of poor slum-dwellers have been rendered homeless in Ranchi after the BJP-led Jharkhand government partially and selectively acted on the state High Court order to remove illegal constructions. The Jharkhand High Court had issued order to remove all illegal constructions but the state government applied it only on slums where the poor live while leaving untouched the rich and affluent who are occupying illegal lands. Most importantly, the court had instructed the government to make sure proper rehabilitation/resettlement of the affected people prior to removing the encroachments but the administration completely ignored this part of the order and made thousands of people homeless. The Muslim-dominated Islam Nagar slum colony of the state capital was worst affected among the areas that came under the anti-encroachment drive. On April 5 when the residents of Islam Nagar saw bulldozers razing their houses to dust, they protested against it only inviting the wrath of the police that promptly opened fire killing two of the protestors.

The matter has put the state on boil as several organizations have joined hands and floated an umbrella outfit, Jharkhand Bachao Nagarik Abhiyan to stand up against the inhuman act of the government. Several politicians including BJP Ranchi MLA and Assembly Speaker CP Singh, former BJP MLA from Jamshedpur Sarju Rai, former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi and a number of Congress leaders including Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay staged sit-in in the capital demanding suspension of the drive and rehabilitation of the affected people first. “The 90% population of Islam Nagar were Muslims and 10% are adivasis. The anti-encroachment drive has affected 25 thousand people of the colony while almost 1800 houses were razed so far. The way the government opted was totally inhuman” said Mohd Rizwan of United Milli Forum while talking to TCN from Ranchi. “Though the land of Islam Nagar colony belongs to Polytechnic Engineering College, in 1966 after a riot erupted in Ranchi the government rehabilitated the affected people here. Since then they had been living there with all the legal facilities such as electricity, water and ration and they were also using their rights to vote in all elections. But today the government has forced them to live under the open sky without any alternative” he added.

Mr. Tanweer of Sangam Urdu daily who was present when anti-encroachment drive was going on in Islam Nagar said: “The police did not care of sentiment of those who were losing their houses and things they owned after hard works. The Police opened fire at these poor in which two lost lives while at least 10 got injured who are still in hospital. But shamelessly the state government did not do anything for the victims.” “There are hundreds of acres land in the state that are illegally occupied, but the government applied the order only for those who are mostly daily wagers that too without rehabilitation” Tanweer added. He said that displaced people are in sorry condition. “They lost everything. They do not have anything to eat. The Muslim organizations such as Imarat Shariah and Jamaat-e-Islami are providing relief packages to victims and several individuals also came out to help them but no relief was given by government” he told.

It should be mentioned here that two days back a delegation comprising representatives of different organizations led by Maulana Anisur Rahman Qasmi, General Secretary of Imarat Shariah, submitted a memorandum to Jharkhand governor with several demands. “We demanded that the residents of Islam Nagar should be rehabilitated at the same site where they had been living for more than 40 years. We also demanded Rs.10 lakh as compensation for the families of two persons each who died in police firing on April 5” said Dr. Hassan Raza, state President of Jamaat-e-Islami, who was part of the delegation. Meanwhile, the Jharkhand High Court on 19th April has ordered Jharkhand government to allot land at concessional rates to the residents of Islam Nagar.

The division bench of Chief Justice Bhagawati Prasad and Justice P C Tatia directed the government that those affected people who were living on encroached land for over 20 years should be allotted a piece of land at concessional rate and they will pay for it in instalments. But they have to submit valid proof such as voter identity card or ration card to claim the land. It will be interesting to see if the government rehabilitates the victims following the court order or will remain inactive in this regard as earlier.

http://twocircles.net/2011apr20/thousands_muslims_rendered_homeless_ranchi.html

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Opinions and Editorials

Rural Modiland is no model, Anna – By Anumeha Yadav (Apr 30, 2011, Tehelka)

As village pramukh Madhuben Shiayal finished addressing the meeting, a dozen koli men and a handful of women who had taken off time from weeding the bajri fields got up to go. The hot April sun blazed over Khared, a village in Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar district of southern Gujarat. Unlike others, Natha Shiayal, an elder with a quiet demeanour, walked barefoot. Shiayal is one of the five farmers who have gone barefoot the past two years to protest against the permit given to Nirma to build a cement plant in the catchment area of their village reservoirs. His village Khared is one of nine where the government handed over 4,415 hectares, including irrigable farmland, pastures and wetland, against the will of Gram Sabhas. Mahuva has since become the strongest voice of dissent in Gujarat, a state that otherwise claims a deep consensus over development and land use. Over 12,000 farmers from Mahuva walked 350 km to Gandhinagar when the Assembly was in session last month. These protests are key to understanding the sparring that erupted when Anna Hazare endorsed Narendra Modi’s model of rural development. “We will go again and again if they don’t listen,” says Dhakuben Bariya. Surrounded by her grandchildren in her hut in Gujarda village, she narrates her padyatra to Gandhinagar, walking over 10 hours a day for 14 days. She describes being detained by the police at Sarkhez police station on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, while protesting in February 2010.

And before that, at Sola police station in 2009. Learning not to be intimidated by police batons is not the only thing 60-yearold Dhakuben has inculcated in two years of fighting for her 5-bigha plot. Hers was one of the 3,000 families that laboured three months to dig a km-long channel between Malan and Samadhaliya last June when the state government refused to do so to coerce Mahuva’s farmers to give up their demands. “They stopped work on the spread channel connecting the two reservoirs saying it was not a priority. When I went to Gandhinagar to meet Irrigation Minister Nitin Patel in April, he tried to barter with me saying if we did not take our PIL to the Supreme Court, he would allow the work on the canal to go on,” said Kanubhai Kalsaria, a three-time BJP MLA from Mahuva. Kalsaria led Mahuva farmers to pool in their resources and build a waterway. When TEHELKA contacted Patel, he denied Kalsaria’s allegation of arm-twisting farmers but declined to reveal why the irrigation department abandoned work on this Rs 3.74 crore, 5 km-long channel meant to bring water to five villages. Ironically, farmers in Mahuva are struggling to retain the benefits that accrued to them from state interventions. There are 543 villages on the limestone-rich Saurashtra coast that struggle for drinking and irrigation water because of a problem of rising salinity in the soil. It is here that the Gujarat High Court intervened last year after RTI activist Amit Jethwa was shot dead outside the court in July, three weeks after he filed a PIL accusing BJP MP Dinu Solanki of operating illegal limestone mines.

Following recommendations of two state committees in 1976 and ’78, the Irrigation Department’s Salinity Ingress Prevention Cell (SIPC) built three check dams in Mahuva between 1998 and 2002. This helped replenish groundwater in 30 villages. Much to the farmers’ disappointment, the government handed over land containing the catchment area of these reservoirs in the land allotted to Nirma in 2003 to build a cement plant. “Earlier we could grow only one kharif crop, and my sons had to go to Dholka to look for work. After the check dams were built, we were able to grow cotton, groundnut, bajri, wheat and maize all in one year. Our income has doubled,” says Shiayal. “How can the government allow a cement plant on the same check dams?” Long-drawn court battles have made the churning in Gujarat more visible even to an otherwise insulated middle class. “Stop selling Gujarat!” said Chief Justice SK Mukopadhyaya rebuking the government while presiding over the Mahuva case in 2010. This February, the high court issued a notice to the Adani Group’s SEZ off the Kutch coast when farmers from Mundra filed a petition that their pastureland had been usurped, violating Gram Sabha resolutions. It is tenuous struggles such as these that the civil society and Gandhians jumped to defend following Hazare’s endorsement of Modi’s Gujarat. “This government is an expert in melas and rallies and trumpeting its own name. Outsiders hear only the trumpets starting, they do not listen to what happens when the music dies down,” lamented Chunnilal Vaidya, a 93-year-old Gandhian based in Ahmedabad.

Gujarat has been one of the five top per capita income states in India since independence. In this industry-driven revenuerich state, villages have also prospered because of a robust rural cooperative movement and strong farmers’ lobby in the ’60s. But the current government’s stance of suppressing any dissent and feeding off superficial endorsements like Hazare’s has civil society activists worried. “Hitler’s machinery is like child’s play compared to Modi’s PR work; they send out thousands of SMSes and mails the second anything breaks out. I have great respect for Hazare’s work but the ground reality in Gujarat is different from what Modi portrays,” says Ahmedabad-based classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai who has declared that she will distance herself from the Lokpal movement unless Hazare retracts his statement. Beyond the stance taken by activists, what is happening in Gujarat reflects in the numbers. According to the study ‘India State Hunger Index’ by The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a US-based research organisation, Gujarat with its 9 percent growth rate does worse than states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam in feeding its poor. On average, a person living in Gujarat gets 1,632 kcals per day (The calorie norm Planning Commission uses is 2,400 in rural areas and 2,100 in urban). By the government’s own admission, one out of two children in Gujarat is underweight; 80 percent adoloscent girls have anaemia. Academics say this paradox of hunger amid riches is not explained by the farmers’ shift to cash crops or a shift from agriculture to industry. But it reveals how Gujarat’s rural poor slip through the cracks. …

In April 2010, the Modi government was found diverting MGNREGA funds to other departments. Union Rural Development Minister CP Joshi then set up a probe in July to inquire into this. “They see MGNREGA as a source of Central funds and undermine the scheme. Tribals in Narmada, Dahod, Panchmahal are forced to migrate and work at less than minimum wage,” says Paulomee Mistry of the 15,000- strong Gujarat MGNREGA workers’ union, which first reported that a circular diverting MGNREGA funds was doing the rounds after a meeting chaired by the CM. It is a similar attitude with other pro-poor legislations. Five months ago, the Saxena Committee on Forests Rights Act found the state has one of the highest rates of rejection of individual forest rights claims. Of 1,82,568 claims, the government had arbitrarily rejected over 75 percent. “They say they are relying on satellite imagery, but this is poorly designed. They have done even less work on acknowledging community forests rights that would enable Adivasis to support themselves on minor produce like bamboo,” says Ashish Kothari, a member of the committee. One of this government’s flagship propoor interventions has been to bring Narmada waters to Gujarat farmers. But here too, it has failed to build 75 percent of the canals and distributaries without which the water does not reach small farms. Farmers are in a bind as they watch Narmada waters flow by but when they try tap it, they are treated like thieves. “Officials seized the pump and fined me Rs 10,000, saying it is illegal to draw this water,” laments Bhechra Bharwad in Ganeshpur village in Surendranagar district. Not too different from the kind of mirage that this government has lured others into.

http://tehelka.com/story_main49.asp?filename=Ne3000411Rural.asp

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A lesson in justice for Chhattisgarh – Editorial (Apr 18, 2011, The Hindu)

In granting bail to Binayak Sen, the doctor who was convicted earlier this year by a trial court in Chhattisgarh, the Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the lower judiciary and law enforcement agencies throughout the country: the charge of sedition should not be bandied about lightly. Although the court passed only a one-line order, the observations made by Justices H.S. Bedi and C.K. Prasad during oral arguments on Friday add up to a scathing indictment of the weak case the Chhattisgarh government put up against the paediatrician and human rights activist. Their remarks also suggest the trial court did not apply its mind to the case.

Justices Bedi and Prasad demolished two key parts of the prosecution’s case during the bail hearing. First, they said the mere possession of Maoist literature did not make a person a Maoist. Secondly, and more crucially, they noted that since jailors supervised every meeting Dr. Sen had with Narayan Sanyal – the jailed Maoist leader whose messages he allegedly helped smuggle out – “the question of passing letters or documents does not arise.” If Chhattisgarh had a professional police force and well-functioning judiciary, these glaring weaknesses in the case against Dr. Sen would have been spotted at the very beginning of the legal process and the charges thrown out. Sadly, it has required the highest court in the country to lay this bare before the world.

In legal terms, Dr. Sen’s appeal against his conviction will now continue at the Bilaspur High Court but the endgame, should that forum uphold the charge of sedition, is clear: going by its own observations, the Supreme Court is likely to acquit him eventually. Unfortunately, the Binayak Sen case is not the only Chhattisgarh-related matter involving blatant injustice to come to New Delhi. For the past two years, the Supreme Court has been considering a public interest litigation petition on the role of officially sponsored anti-Maoist vigilantes who have been responsible for the death and displacement of adivasis on a large scale.

Though the Chhattisgarh government has repeatedly assured the court that the vigilante squads have been disbanded, it has dragged its feet on the registration of criminal cases and the provision of compensation for the victims of violence. Moreover, as the well-documented attack on innocent tribals in Tarmetla and other villages by the security forces last month demonstrates, vigilantism continues to exact a terrible human toll in the State. With the Raman Singh government refusing to accept responsibility for the appalling state of affairs in Dantewada, the one hope the adivasis of the region have for justice is with the Supreme Court.

http://www.hindu.com/2011/04/18/stories/2011041851811000.htm

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Deadline over drama – Editorial (Apr 20, 2011, Times of India)

As the sound bytes grow more biting and accusations become murkier, it’s hard to remember the first meeting of the joint committee drafting the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, held on April 16, was in fact cordial and positive. It’s unfortunate that such acrimony should follow the beginnings of what could well make history.

It’s also ironic that instead of hearing more about the meeting itself, the public is inundated with details and denials around a CD purportedly involving committee members Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, allegedly conversing with politician Mulayam Singh about ‘managing’ a judge. Alongside this, Congress and NCP legislators are asking the Maharashtra government to act against Anna Hazare on the basis of earlier corruption investigations against his trusts. The timing of such allegations is indeed doubtful and lends credence to conspiracy theories of the powers-that-be attempting to malign those they share this unique forum with.

In this atmosphere, home minister P Chidambaram promising a thorough investigation of the CD controversy is a welcome move. The activists must also realise they are in the realm of high politics which frequently involves low charges. Instead of bristling at each barb, it’s desirable they demonstrate the same transparent standards expected of politicians. In India’s oft-raucous democracy, political opponents routinely shoot insinuations about. Working with politicians involves taking this in one’s stride. It is inadvisable to write outraged letters of protest demanding gags on party members each time a displeasing statement is made. It is instead wiser for the activists to stay calm, let the law take its course or allow the public to form its own judgment.

This is indeed an extraordinary moment when a law to fight corruption can be created using both political wisdom and social need. Neither tricks nor rhetoric should be allowed to obscure the importance of this. Civil society backed Anna Hazare’s group strongly. The latter must not fritter away its energies now making needlessly antagonistic statements about taking to the streets or bringing the government down. Hazare previously marked Parliament’s supremacy regarding the Lokpal Bill. It’s important he maintains this flexibility while all participants show mature restraint. These are early days. Substantive differences are bound to emerge as the Bill is actually created. With an August 15 deadline, this is a good time for all involved to get down to work and help make history, not throw muck around or tear each other to shreds.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/8027760.cms

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Chasing a mirage – By Yogesh Pratap Singh (Apr 30, 2011, Tehelka)

Mumbai, 2003. Starting 9 August – August Kranti Day – Anna Hazare was to go on a fast demanding anticorruption measures. At that time, I was a serving officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) posted in Mumbai. I checked the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, and could find nothing prohibiting collaboration with anti-corruption activists. I decided to join Anna in his fast. It was a modest scene then. The press was active but there was no hype. Unknown people, mostly from rural backgrounds, comprised the bulk of Anna’s supporters. Very few intellectuals were to be seen. For a couple of days, I sat on the stage next to Anna. After eight days of fasting, the then rather unknown Right to Information Ordinance specific to Maharashtra state, which had lapsed earlier, got resurrected in the form of an Act. Some decisions were also taken to decentralise powers of gram panchayats.

I had to face the music within a fortnight. The Maharashtra government shunted me to Nagpur and subsequent events resulted in my leaving the IPS two years on. But I wasn’t unhappy. As a matter of fact, I was reasonably optimistic, though some of Anna’s close associates were not exactly inspiring confidence. Besides, his inability to grasp the complex dynamics of modern times was a limitation. I soon realised that my perception of Anna was a mirage. As reality descended, I felt disillusioned. That was why I decided not to join the crusade at Jantar Mantar. Many reasons, one after the other, kept me away. My first shock came when I saw a person fighting against the government so enamoured by authority. If a senior politician or minister called up Anna, he would feel gratified. Soon thereafter, he started moving in government vehicles with red beacon lights. I rode with him once. After I got off at Dadar, Anna drove to the plush High Mount Government Guest House at Malabar Hill, meant for high-level dignitaries.

Scheming people in the Maharashtra government resolutely wooed Anna. Exploiting his quest for eminence, the government would organise meetings of IAS officers to be chaired by him in the sixth-floor conference hall of CM Vilasrao Deshmukh. A special room was given at Mantralaya for Anna’s people, who started using it as their office. In sum, Anna became an extra-constitutional authority within the Maharashtra government. Obviously, notwithstanding the rampant corruption in the state, he was no longer a threat to anyone associated with the government. However, I still thought those were minor issues. The point of no return was reached when Anna took information from me with respect to two cases. First was the Adarsh Society case, where the involvement of two Central ministers, namely Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, had become apparent in falsifying file notings. The other was the Lavasa case, where the most startling revelation was that Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and her husband held a 21 percent share, and that these shares were allotted to them at highly undervalued rates.

Anna spoke on the issue cosmetically, backtracking soon after. He decided not to speak against the Central ministers from Maharashtra, whose involvement in corruption had become a matter of record. In his agitation at Jantar Mantar, where the world was watching him, Anna never spoke about Pawar and his specific role in the Lavasa scam. He also never spoke against Deshmukh and Shinde, which should have been done first, before the demand for the Jan Lokpal Bill was taken up. Finally, think about this: How could activists who would need to do a critical appraisal of the final outcome themselves become part of the Lokpal Bill drafting exercise? Why was there not a single woman in his 10-member committee? Also, where are Anna’s old associates? The coterie around him ensured these questions weren’t asked.

http://tehelka.com/story_main49.asp?filename=Op300411CHASING.asp

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Out of coverage area – By Raman Kirpal (Apr 30, 2011, Tehelka)

If Swan Telecom Director Shahid Balwa is in prison for his role in the 2G spectrum scam, can other corporate honchos involved be far behind? A Delhi court fixed that anomaly on 20 April by rejecting the bail applications of five telecom bigwigs, including Reliance officials. Sending them to judicial custody, the judge said that they should be treated with parity in the case. The CBI had named nine persons in its first chargesheet – former telecom minister A Raja, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Raja’s private secretary RK Chandolia, Swan Telecom Director Balwa, another Swan Telecom Director and now Director Etisalat-DB Telecom Vinod Goenka, Unitech Managing Director Sanjay Chandra, Reliance ADAG Managing Director Gautam Doshi and Senior Vice-Presidents Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

The chargesheet establishes that each one of them played a role in the 2G conspiracy. Four accused – Raja, Behura, Chandolia and Balwa – were arrested during interrogation and are now in judicial custody. Sensing they may also be arrested, the other five accused approached the court for bail. However, the court, taking cognisance of the nature of their offence, rejected their application and sent them to jail. All the nine accused are charged under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property). Being public servants, the roles of Raja, Behura and Chandolia became critical and they were accused of additional crimes under anti-corruption laws. A scenario was brewing where the four arrested accused – including Raja and Balwa – had a good chance of getting bail on the ground that the other five charged under the same section are roaming free. The local court pre-empted this move and put these five too in jail. They are likely to cool their heels there until the designated CBI court puts the case on trial by mid-May.

The story in brief is that Raja gave away 2G spectrum at throwaway prices to two companies – Swan and Unitech. During investigation, the CBI discovered that Swan is a ‘dummy’ company of Reliance ADAG. Reliance Telecom pumped money into Swan, and Balwa and Goenka were its ‘front men’. Under the telecom rules, no company can have more than 10 percent shares in another telecom firm. That’s why Reliance created a new firm and kept the duo as the ‘dummy’ owners, the chargesheet says. Reliance Telecom is the flagship company of Anil Ambani’s empire. The CBI had questioned him and he apparently told them that Doshi and other officials take the decisions and he has no role to play in the day-to-day affairs. The CBI let off Ambani and held that cross-holdings between Swan and Reliance through bogus companies and money transactions have the signatures of Doshi, Nair and Pipara. Unitech’s story is no different. Chandra created eight shell companies in a bid to get telecom licence and spectrum. Once these companies got them, they were renamed and merged into Unitech Wireless (TN) Pvt Ltd.

And Raja, the CBI chargesheet says, knew both Balwa and Chandra since his days as Union environment minister. “Raja was familiar with Balwa, Goenka and Chandra in context of clearances to their real estate projects,” it reads. The CBI is set to file the second chargesheet by 25 April. And it is set to chargesheet DMK’s Kanimozhi and her stepmother Dayalu Ammal. The charge is that Balwa paid Rs 200 crore out of the 2G scam money to Kalaignar TV, where Kanimozhi and Dayalu Ammal owned shares. They will be chargesheeted under the same sections. Kanimozhi and Dayalu Ammal are likely to approach the court for anticipatory bail. But they may end up facing the same fate as the honchos.

http://tehelka.com/story_main49.asp?filename=Ne3000411OUTOF.asp

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Justice Denied For The Dalit Girl Thrown Into Fire By Upper Caste Men – By Madhu Chandra (Apr 12, 2011, Countercurrents)

World woke up to the gruesome and spine-chilling story of Kamlesh, a six year old little girl from dalit community in UP, who was tossed into the burning fire by the members from upper caste community in her village three years ago. Her crime: she walked by the house of an upper caste family early in the morning, to go to the open field, the only space the dalit community has to heed the nature’s call. Justice denied, accused acquainted, critically wounded, skins cracking and right elbow crippled. Her fully pregnant mother Manju tried to snatch her from the roaring flames but was stopped by the culprits who stood there to prevent any rescue attempt. They thrashed and beaten her severely. She collapsed to the ground watching flames licking her daughter to death before falling unconscious. She regained consciousness few minutes later and managed to pull her daughter out of the fire. But by then she suffered more than 80% burns and was at the brink of death.

While little Kamlesh battled for her life, five critical hours have been wasted at a government hospital. And after 36 hours she was moved to a bigger hospital before she was finally moved to the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi. Lack of proper treatment at critical hours meant she wouldn’t make normal recovery. Three years later, her right hand is a piece of dead rubber having lost mobility and function. Her left hand and right leg burnt severely and she suffer from searing pain. The scars inside her are as fearsome and permanent. A tender, innocent life has been violated and nipped in the bud. The incident so traumatized her mother, Manju, that she suffered a mental break down and would not recover to testify in the court against the culprits later. None of the neighbors who witnessed the brutal act would come forward to testify against the culprits with muscle power, influence and connections in high places. Many were forced to compromise and others were intimated into silence. Kamlesh’s father Saudan says, “Names of four culprits were registered with police. But names of three were removed and only one was arrested. We were forced to withdraw the complaint.”

Justice was not only delayed but denied and subverted. It was made to serve the perpetrators! No fair investigation and no protection for the witnesses meant case would fall apart and justice would not be served. A fact finding team led by Dr. John Dayal – member of National Integration Council, Madhu Chandra – Regional Secretary of All India Christian Council, Vidhya Bhushan Rawat – Social Activist and Anil Chamadia – Seniour Jounalist and Dalit Activist visited the village two months ago was shocked to learn that court had closed the case as there were no witnesses to testify against the culprits. Kamlesh’s mother Manju was mentally unstable to appear and testify and all the accused walked out free. It was like rubbing salt into the wound for Kamlesh’s family. No justice, no medical assistance, no future. Help from the state government was more a token gesture than real. The incident further deepened their bleak financial condition. They borrowed money from friends and money lenders to treat their daughter which further plunged them into crisis. Victim is further victimized.

This is just an example of the discrimination and oppression millions of dalits suffer daily in India. They suffer in silence and submission. Any form of challenging the system will be fatal and dangerous. Caste lines are not be crossed or violated. A local Dalit activist and leader of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organistations told the fact finding team, “For years, Dalit community in the village has been on the receiving end of caste discrimination and neglect. This is the first instance where police have at least arrested the culprits.” Kamlesh is now nine years old and future doesn’t hold much hope for her unless we step in and help. She needs proper medical treatment to regain the use of her hands and extensive plastic surgery to mend her scars before she can face the world.

A civil society delegation met National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairman Dr. P. L. Punia on April 11, 2011 and submitted a memorandum, seeking justice for young Kamlesh. Commission took serious note on lapses committed by law enforcing agencies of the district and ordered Uttra Pradesh government to appeal the case in high court against the session court judgment acquainting the culprit without fair trial. Commission also ordered government to provide medial care and police security to young Kamlesh and family as they could be attacked for appealing at higher authorities.

http://countercurrents.org/chandra120411.htm

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