IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – March 2nd, 2009

IN THIS ISSUE

NEWS HEADLINES

GULBARG RIOT: TWO BJP LEADERS SENT TO POLICE REMAND (FEB 26, 2009, INDIAN EXPRESS)

The Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court has remanded two BJP leaders – Bipin Patel and Chunilal Prajapati, both accused of instigating a mob and rioting at the Gulbarg Society in the Meghaninagar area in 2002 – to five days in police custody.

The court, however, rejected the application of the Special Investigation Team to get the remand of the then police inspector of Naroda police station, V S Gohil, in connection with the Naroda Gam massacre case. Gohil was sent to judicial custody.

The SIT officials had demanded a police remand of Patel and Prajapati for 10 days to interrogate them to find out the other members of the rioting mob among other things. Gohil, who was the investigating officer of the Naroda Gam massacre case, is accused of dereliction of duty. The SIT officials are planning to challenge the order in the higher court.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=428636

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GULBARG SOCIETY BEYOND RECOGNITION SEVEN YEARS AFTER CARNAGE (FEB 28, 2009, INDIAN EXPRESS)

Everything has changed beyond recognition in Gulbarg Society, a cluster of bungalows amid poor middle class habitations in the eastern part of the city, which was once famous for its textile mills. If one happens to visit the place, one would be surprised that it was ever inhabited by humans. The society looks like a jungle with thick vegetation of tall trees and long grass that have grown all over the place in the seven years since the February-March 2002 violence. The 18 bungalows and six flats with decorative plants in its compound, which perhaps was the reason for naming it after the famous Gulbarg gardens in Kashmir, lie in a dilapidated state with their doors and windows missing. The soot-enveloped inside walls of the bungalows narrate the gory details of the incidents of 2002.

This is the only riot hit residential society where people have not returned to live. Other societies have been reoccupied, albeit partially, as several riot victims are still hesitant to go back there as well. Parsi couple, Dara and Rupa Mody, who lived in this society, lost their 14-year-old son Azhar in the 2002 conundrum. A film titled Parzania, with the missing of Azhar as the central theme, could not be screened in Gujarat owing to indirect threats to theatre owners from some saffron elements. The Parsi couple with their only daughter now live in the upmarket Vastrapur area. Local refer to the buildings as ‘bhoot bungalows’ owing to the dreaded sight they offer to the viewers. Survivors of the 2002 riots, who left the place under police protection after the killing of former Congress Rajya Sabha MP Ehsan Jafri and 38 other residents, have not returned to live in their ‘dream houses’, built with their life’s savings. The owners can’t even find buyers for them owing to the peculiar circumstances.

The society is guarded 24×7 by the State Reserve Police (SRP) personnel, but even they don’t sit within the premises for reasons best known to them. They sit with their .303 rifles at the gates of a government school across the road, keeping a close watch on journalists and other visitors to the site. Gulbarg Society was the only Muslim habitation in the sprawling Asarwa constituency which was won by BJP’s Pradipsinh Bhagwansinh Jadeja with a huge margin in the December 2002 and the December 2007 Assembly polls, contested amid deep communal polarisation. The BJP has been winning this Assembly seat for the last four times with a huge margin. With residents shifting to other places as per their convenience, the place has almost become irrelevant as far as the elections are concerned.

Almost all the survivors have got their names entered into the electoral rolls of the areas where they are living at present. "What is the meaning of having your names on the electoral rolls of an area where you can’t live," said Naeem, one of the survivors. The only resident, who has been keeping touch with the society on a daily basis, is Altaf Mansuri, who runs a tent business from his bungalow, after getting it partly repaired. But even he stays here only during the daytime. As soon as dusk approaches, he shuts his shop and rushes back to his new residence in Rakhial, about six kilometres away, where he has been living with his family after the riots. He says none of the bungalow owners, including a retired Inspector Yusuf Patel, and an excise department official, are willing to come here. Mansuri had lost 18 members of his family in the riots. Mansuri and some Muslim ‘larriwalas’ (handcart pullers), have, nevertheless, renovated the small prayer hall inside the society compound to meet their religious and spiritual requirements. ‘Larriwalas’ use the society premises to park their ‘larris’ at night as they too don’t like to stay here at night.

Ehsan Jafri’s son Tanvir, who works as a senior management executive in L&T in Surat says, "How can one go back to live in a society where one has witnessed the killing of their near and dear ones?" His mother Zakia, who had managed to escape from the society, had moved the Gujarat HC seeking registration of criminal offence against CM Narendra Modi and 62 others, including former Home Minister Gordhan Zadafia, but it was rejected. The matter is now pending for hearing in the Supreme Court this March. Tanvir is against the sale of the bungalows and the flats till the case continues. "Theyare evidence of the crime and we want to keep it till the final judgement," says Tanvir. The Gulbarg Society massacre is among the 10 most heinous riot cases being investigated by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). Besides the police naming 46 accused, the SIT has named 26 others, and arrested several of them including K G Erda, the then police Inspector in charge of the area and now Dy SP. He is out on bail.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=429106

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GODHRA RIOTS CASES REOPENED, 810 PERSONS CHARGESHEETED (FEB 26, 2009, TIMES OF INDIA)

Gujarat police have reopened Godhra riots cases and 810 accused have been chargesheeted following the Supreme Court’s direction. In a written reply to a question raised by Congress member Farukh Sheikh, the state government has said that the Supreme Court, acting on a petition filed by some NGOs, had directed the state police to reopen 1958 cases of post-Godhra riots which were closed.

The government, in its reply, stated that 93 cases out of 1958 have been reopened while investigation process is underway in other cases.

In 2004, the Apex Court had directed the state to reopen cases which were closed and reinvestigate them by recording fresh statements of the witnesses and victims of large scale riots in the state.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4197440.cms

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POST-GUJ RIOTS, BAL THACKERAY SAVED MODI FROM SACK (FEB 25, 2009, INDIAN EXPRESS)

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has said he prevailed on BJP leader L K Advani not to remove Narendra Modi from the chief ministerial chair in Gujarat after the Godhra riots. "Modi gaya to Gujarat gaya (If Modi is gone, Gujarat will also slip out of BJP hands)," Thackeray claimed as telling Advani at the Mayor’s bungalow in Mumbai.

"There were hectic moves to remove Modi from the post after the Godhra riots. We clearly told Advani that Gujarat will be lost if Modi is removed," Thackeray in an editorial in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said on Wednesday. Thackeray also objected to BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde equating Modi’s leadership with that of his late brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan. "Why compare Mahajan and Modi?" he asked.

"BJP is not going to get another Mahajan and his absence would always be felt by the party," Thackeray said. Thackeray’s comments came amid strain in the Sena-BJP ties and a day after media reported that Advani’s desire to meet Bal Thackeray on Tuesday could not materialise. Advani was in Mumbai on Tuesday to attend a function where he was given Rs 11 crore for the election fund by the city BJP unit.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=427931

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FIVE TOP COPS WERE SHIFTED ON EC ORDERS, ADMITS SHAH (FEB 24, 2009, INDIAN EXPRESS)

Besides DGP P C Pande and Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police O P Mathur, the Election Commission (EC) has asked three more IPS officers to be shunted out from their current plum positions. The move is considered unusual, as the dates for the Lok Sabha elections are yet to be announced. Minister of State for Home Amit Shah admitted to Newsline that Pande was transferred on the EC’s recommendation. He, however, said there was a general advisory from the EC to shift all those officers who had been earlier transferred on its orders in 2002 or during the 2007 Assembly elections from posts that had a direct or indirect bearing on the outcome of the elections. "There are a total of five such officers, including Pande, out of all those transferred in the last one week," Shah said. He, however, refused to divulge the identity of the other officers.

Usually, the EC transfers officers after election dates are notified. It is for the second time that the EC has transferred Pande from the DGP’s post. The timing of Pande’s transfer is significant. In a reshuffle on February 18, Pande was relieved from the additional charge of director of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). O P Mathur was given the rank of DG while he held the post of Ahmedabad Police Commissioner.

Pande was the Ahmedabad Police Commisioner during the 2002 riots, and was shunted out as DGP in October 2007 following the EC’s directive. But after sweeping the Assembly polls, the Modi government got Pande back as the DGP. Recently, Pande was questioned by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in connection with the 2002 riots. The state election office, following a letter from the EC, dated February 4, had sought the removal of certain police officers, which the state government did not comply with in the February 18 reshuffle. The move definitely did not go well with the EC, which, according to sources, communicated it to the state chief secretary. On February 21, the Home Department issued orders to transfer Pande as Director of ACB, and O P Mathur as DG (Communications).

According to sources, Chief Election Commissioner R Gopalaswamy, during his "private trip" to Gujarat on February 11, had met state Chief Secretary D Rajagopalan and had asked him to ensure the removal of those officers who had been shunted out by the EC during the 2002 and 2007 Assembly polls. Before the 2007 polls, the state government had dragged its feet over the transfer of four IPS and two IAS officers, but had to give in after the EC maintained a tough stance. The four IPS officers at that time were I M Desai (holding the post of DIG, Border Range), J N Rajgor, N D Solanki, S K Gadhvi (all Superintendents of Police).

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=427268

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MUSLIM LEADERS IRKED BY VHP LETTER (FEB 23, 2009, REDIFF)

Dismissing as "irrelevant" and "illogical" a Vishwa Hindu Parishad letter seeking a fatwa declaring India as a friend of Islam, Muslim groups said on Monday that the country does not belong to any particular community and Muslims are very much sons of the soil. "We have not received the letter yet and even if we receive, I don’t see any reason to reply to this irrelevant letter," All India Muslim Personal Law Board Working Committee member S Q R Ilyas said. VHP’s Dharm Raksha Manch, a congregation of seers, issued the letter last week asking Muslim clerics to state clearly that Hindus are not "kafirs" and therefore "jihad" does not apply to the community.

Maulana Adbul Khaleque Madrasi, senior cleric and vice-rector at Islamic seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, termed the letter as "illogical". "Who are they to ask us this illogical question? They should know we have launched a series of meetings across India condemning terrorism," Madrasi said. Stating that the seminary has not received the letter yet, he said: "The door of Darul Uloom is open to all. They can come here if they have any doubts on the issue."

Islamic scholar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind spokesman Abdul Hamid Noami said that he has not seen the letter. "I have not seen the letter. But what I can say now is such letters are illogical," he said."We live in India and and we love this country. We are not accountable to these Hindu groups. We have always condemned the terrorism and fought against the enemies of India," Ilyas said.

"There are three categories of place – Dar-ul Harb (abode of war), Dar-ul Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar-ul Aman (abode of peace) – The first two are not applicable to India so it’s the third one which is relevant here," Madrasi said. "Today, they are asking us to issue a fatwa. Tomorrow they may ask us to leave the country. Why should we reply to them? There is no threat to any one from Muslims," he said. The letter was issued to All India Milli Council, Dar-Ul-Ulum Deoband, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques among others.