IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – February 23rd, 2009

IN THIS ISSUE

COMMUNAL HARMONY

PRAYER FOR COMMUNAL HARMONY (FEB 18, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)

An inspiring example in communal harmony has been set by small-time Hindu and Muslim vendors of Union Territory of Diu who have joined hands to organize Satyanarayan Katha and Islamic Majalis on Thursday at the same venue to pray for peace, prosperity and harmony in the country. The event will commence with Satyanarayan Katha around 4 pm near Bander Chowk area of the island town for which sheera prasad’ will be prepared by Muslim cooks. "Katha will end with aarati at 8 pm in which Muslims will also join. Peace and brotherhood among the members of the two communities is the need of the hour," said Ibrahim Mohammad alias Dadabhai, one of the organisers.

Thereafter, Majalis will begin in which takarir, a kind of Islamic religious speech, would be given by Maulana Saiyad Nawaz Kadari of Diu Jumma Masjid, which will be attended by both the Hindus and Muslims. He will also recite Kasida, said Shakil Kashmani, another key figure behind the programme.

"At the end of Majalis, members of both the communities will do bandagi (prayer) to ask the Almighty to keep the nation free from calamities and problems. Generally, a dinner after Majalis is non-vegetarian affair. However, looking to Hindu sentiments, the menu is vegetarian," says Vrajlal Parshotam, also a prominent organizer. Organizers have also invited Ketan Patel, president of Diu-Daman district panchayat and senior officials of Diu administration to the unique event.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4151335.cms

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NEWS HEADLINES

UN RINGS GODHRA ALARM (FEB 18, 2008, THE TELEGRAPH)

The United Nations has warned of a "very real risk" of a repeat of the 2002 Gujarat riots in the country unless politicians stop exploiting communal distinctions, in a report that presents a dim picture of religious intolerance in India. The world body’s latest report on religious freedom paints India as a country suffering from communal divisions and mob-inspired persecution, and dwells at length on incidents like the recent violence against Christians in Orissa and the 2002 riots. Scheduled to be discussed by the UN Human Rights Council on March 10, the report was prepared by special rapporteur on religion Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani human rights activist. The UN prepares reports on various countries once in every decade. The last one on India was in 1996.

The report says the law enforcement machinery in India was "often reluctant" to take action against individuals or groups that "perpetrate violence" in the name of religion or belief. "This institutionalised impunity for those who exploit religion and impose their religious intolerance on others has made peaceful citizens, particularly the minorities, vulnerable and fearful." After detailing the incidents of violence, it says "organised groups claiming roots in religious ideologies" had unleashed an "all-pervasive fear of mob violence in many parts of the country".

On Gujarat, the report says the state government had done little to help victims who live in perpetual fear and insecurity and pointed to the "increasing ghettoisation and isolation of Muslims in certain areas". However, it has some good words, too, for India, citing the "positive impact of secularism as embodied in the Constitution" and the "high degree of human rights activism in the country".

The report also praises several initiatives of the Congress-led government at the Centre, such as the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities. It also mentions reports that various committees – like the one headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar – had come out with, suggesting ways to improve the lot of minorities. "Such committees mandated by the government are good examples of mechanisms put in place to analyse the situation and put forward recommendations for government action," the UN report says.

The world body makes a series of recommendations to both the Centre and state governments. It says Dalit Christians and Muslims should also be given benefits of affirmative actions like reservation. The report asks the government to act against "mob violence". It encourages specific legislation to prevent communal attacks but cautions that the laws should take into account concerns of religious minorities so as not to reinforce the "impunity of communalised police forces at the state level".

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090218/jsp/nation/story_10553049.jsp

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MODI GOVT SAYS MINISTER LED MOB THAT KILLED 95 (FEB 21, 2008, HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani led a mob that killed at least 95 Muslims in Ahmedabad during the riots of 2002, said an affidavit given by the state’s government to the high court on Thursday. "She was a leader of the mob and at the relevant point of time she was an MLA who instigated the mob to commit the crime and therefore was in the main role," said the affidavit. When contacted for comments, Kodnani’s lawyer, Mitesh Ameen, said: "There is no substance in these allegations and we will reveal our strategy only in court." The affidavit is based on findings of the special investigation team constituted on instructions of the Supreme Court. And a copy of the affidavit is in possession of the Hindustan Times.

The state government has charged Kodnani with leading a mob of 15,000 to 17,000 rioters in the Muslim-dominated Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam areas of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. The Modi government had till now claimed the riots followed the burning of Sabarmati Express at Godhra in which 59 Hindus were killed, and that the state had no role in it.… Kodnani continues to attend to her official duties and was in assembly on Thursday. Here’s what the affidavit said about her role in the riots: "During the investigation of the offence, it has been revealed that she had fired from her pistol and it has been further revealed that she came in her car and had distributed swords to the mob."

Dilavar Saiyad, a resident of Naroda Patiya, told the SIT about rioting on February 28, 2002. "I saw Maya Kodnani, MLA from Naroda constituency parking her Maruti car. I saw Maya Kodnani opening the door of the car and taking out hockey sticks and other weapons and handing over the same to three persons. I saw Bipin Panchal (one of the arrested accused in the case) carrying a sword given to him by Maya Kodnani. Immediately thereafter a huge mob of more than a thousand persons came near her car and Maya Kodnani took leadership of the mob."

Saiyad and two others – Nanumiyan Malek and Imtiaz Qureshi – have told the high court (HT has copies of their applications) that they are witnesses in the two cases, in which both the leaders (Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel) are facing arrest, and that the SIT has recorded their statements. And therefore they "would like to make detailed submissions opposing the release" of the accused leaders on bail. The affidavit is also pitching for the cancellation of anticipatory bail given to Kodnani. "The sessions judge ought to have considered the fact that the accused is at present a minister of state and there is ample chance of tampering of witnesses and the evidence by her." The reference here is to an Ahmedabad sessions court granting Kondani anticipatory bail on February 5. The same special investigation team had then said in court she was not needed for investigation.

Making a case now for cancelling her anticipatory bail, the government has submitted: "… Witnesses have disclosed the name of the accused (Kodnani) and apprehending arrest she wants anticipatory bail, which cannot be granted in such a serious case." "The learned (sessions) judge ought to have considered the fact that 95 people, including males, females and children lost their lives, 38 were injured and three are still missing. A prime facie case is made out against her and anticipatory bail cannot be granted in a serious offence of mass murders," the government has said. This affidavit would have come up in Gujarat High Court on Thursday, but Justice AS Dave refused to hear the matter. A different judge will hear the case now.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=81863a15-6f1e-462d-85a7-4decf674597a

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ANOTHER COP ARRESTED IN RIOT CASE (FEB 17, 2008, HINDUSTAN TIMES)

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Supreme court to reinvestigate 10 of the worst 2002 communal riots cases, on Monday arrested a suspended police inspector for destruction of evidence in connection with the killing of 14 Muslims in the north Gujarat town of Visnagar. The accused has been identified as NK Patel. Patel was in-charge of the town police station when on February 28, 2002, 14 persons traveling in a van were attacked by rioters and burnt alive.

During investigations by the SIT, it was found that Patel, with the intention of helping the 79 accused subsequently arrested for the killings, did not conduct proper investigations or collect required evidence. "We found that this was done so that the accused could secure bail easily," said an SIT official. Patel has been in jail for the last two years for allegedly arresting the wrong accused in a murder case. He was arrested two years back by the state Crime Investigation Department for shielding the men who killed one Gaurang Modi over rivalry in Unjha town of Mehsana district.

On Monday, Patel was arrested in the riot case when he was brought to court during hearing of the case. Patel is the second police officer to be arrested by the SIT. It had earlier arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police KG Erda, who was PI of Gulbarg Society where 38 people, including former MP Eshan Jafri, were allegedly killed in a communal riot. Meanwhile, the official toll for the Gujarat riots will now be fixed at 1,180 with the state government set to declare 228 "missing" people as dead. As per law, any person who is missing for seven years is declared dead after the stipulated period is over.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=b71be224-4cc5-4e03-8980-1f835320cd9a

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MODI ANTI-MUSLIM, SAY COPS WHO WORKED FOR HIM (FEB 16, 2008, HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Two senior police officers posted in Gujarat during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots have submitted to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) the details of strong "anti-Muslim bias" in the state government. In their affidavits, R.B. Sreekumar, a former additional director general of police (ADGP) who was in-charge of the state Intelligence Bureau during the riots, and Rahul Sharma, the then Bhavnagar Superintendent of Police, questioned the impartiality of the administration.

The SIT on Thursday submitted to the SC its report on the status of probe in the 10 major riots cases it is re-investigating. "The Chief Minister summoned me to his chamber on May 7, 2002, and instructed me not to concentrate on Sangh Parivar, as its members were not doing anything illegal. He asked me to concentrate on Muslim militants, and get data on Amanpath, suspected to be a Muslim group," Sreekumar said in his affidavit. Narendra Modi was the CM then.

The government refused to respond to Sreekumar’s allegation. "Such absurd statements do not merit a response. He is anyway a biased officer who joined Teesta Setalwad’s organisation after retirement," said a senior official, who didn’t wish to be identified. "K.P.S. Gill, the adviser to the Chief Minister, had told state police chief K. Chakravarthy not to reform the politicians – meaning thereby, not to take any action against the VHP and Bajrang Dal. The adviser also wanted the police to vacate the riot victims living in the relief camps, exhibiting a clear anti-Muslim bias," Sreekumar said in his affidavit.

Sreekumar told HT he was willing to be cross-examined. "Why are they not cross-examining me on