Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
He's been likened to a rock star or Bollywood celebrity who can draw arena-sized crowds. But to his dissenters, he is "The Butcher." When Narendra Modi visits Canada this week - the first official visit from a sitting Indian prime minister since 1973 - he will hobnob with politicians and business leaders, smile for photo ops and affirm the two countries' close relationship. But at each stop, protesters promise to call attention to the abuse of religious minorities in India and Modi's alleged complicity in the deadly 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat, when he was the chief minister.
One group, Sikhs for Justice, has even hired a Toronto law firm to formally request that Justice Minister Peter MacKay charge Modi with torture and genocide related to the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, which killed hundreds.
"Canada has been a leading advocate for human rights all around the world … Canada should stick to its values," said Jatinder Grewal, the advocacy group's Toronto-based international policy director.…
Arrest Sanjay Raut, de-recognise Shiv Sena, demands Aam Aadmi Party (Apr 13, 2015, Financial Express)
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanded slapping of a criminal case against Shiv Sena and its mouthpiece editor Sanjay Raut over the party's suggestion that voting rights of Muslims be scrapped.
Alleging that the article was aimed at seeking "cheap publicity" and with the objective of spreading "hatred" between communities, the party in a statement demanded "immediate arrest of Sanjay Raut after registration of a criminal case against him and the Shiv Sena" by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government.
The party also sought de-recognition of Shiv Sena as a political party. "The Aam Aadmi Party also demands that the Election Commission should also act against Shiv Sena under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and de-recognise Shiv Sena as a political party," it said.…
Activists, organisations deprecate fake Telangana encounter; demand CBI probe (Apr 10, 2015, Twocircles.net)
Three days after five Muslim under-trial youth were killed in what police called as "encounter" - denied by respective families calling it as deliberate killings, a number of organisations have come out heavily on the Telangana government and demanded a CBI probe into the gory incident.
Lucknow-based Rihai Manch, an organisation working 'For Resistance Against Repression', staged a protest demonstration against fake encounters at Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and demanded a CBI probe into the incidents.
A protest demonstration at Gandhi statue, Hazratganj was held by Rihai Manch along with several other political and social organisations against fake encounter of 28 people at Nalgonda, Warangal in Telangana and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh in last four days. "All these fake encounters need to be probed by CBI under the supervision of a sitting Supreme Court."…
Red sanders smugglers' killings: 2 encounters, 20 bodies, several unanswered questions (Apr 8, 2015, Hindustan Times)
The state of the 20 dead bodies and the scenes of the violence has raised serious doubts over the official version of the two encounters between Andhra Pradesh police and alleged red sanders smugglers on Tuesday morning. Although 20 alleged smugglers from Tamil Nadu were killed in the operation, none of the armed policemen or forest officials sustained injuries.
Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force DIG Kantha Rao said that the "smugglers" attacked his team with sickles, rods and axes. Asked if the attack could have been quelled without such massive fatalities, Rao said, "We gave them several warnings but they did not stop attacking us. There were over a hundred of them." Asked how many of his men were grievously injured, he said, "Nobody is seriously hurt from our side. Their superior training saved their lives."
Most of the bodies were badly decomposed leading to allegations that the encounter happened much before Tuesday as claimed by the Task Force which led the operation involving local police and forest officials. Some of the red sanders logs found next to the bodies had white paint and code numbers on them, leading Opposition leaders and human rights activists to allege that the wood was brought from a government stockyard and planted at the site.…
The postmortem report of Sheikh Hyder who died in police custody on March 21 is set to open a Pandora's Box in an already politically boiling incident. Hyder, a daily wage earner, was arrested for his alleged involvement in a case of theft of a cycle on March 21 by the Nizamabad Police Station.
The forensic department of Gandhi Medical College has provided the postmortem examination report on the RTI query of Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee (CLMC). The PM report nails the police theory of 'injury on escape' and gives detail analysis of injuries on the dead body.
On March 21, Sheikh Hyder, a poor labourer who was detained on the charges of stealing a Bicycle, died in the custody of one town police station of Nizamabad town. Police claimed that he died due to injuries inflicted while he was trying to escape from station. But his family and local Muslims believe that he died as the police used third-degree torture on him. Photographs of Hyder's dead body available with TCN, shows that on the whole body, particularly at the back and on feet there are marks that prove he was brutally beaten.…
The new anti-terrorism law in Gujarat brings back 'police confessions' through the front door (Apr 8, 2015, Economic Times)
"Indeed it seems to be the universal opinion among the natives themselves, that in criminal cases the practice is not only necessary but right. It excites no abhorrence, no astonishment, no repugnance, in their minds."
The practice in question is torture. And this is an excerpt from the report of the Torture Commission of 1855 to the British India government. Much has changed among the 'natives' in the 160 years since. But a controversial legislation passed recently in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill (GCTOC), suggests that there is still a great deal of opinion that believes the practice of torture to be "not only necessary but right".
With the public discourse largely confined to whether President Pranab Mukherjee would, following the example of his two predecessors, refuse to assent the Bill into law, little attention has been paid to the implications of the provision making confessions to the police "admissible" as evidence in the trial. Though it apparently contains safeguards to ensure that the confessions are made "voluntarily", Section 16 of the GCTOC threatens to serve as a legal cover for torture, as did its corresponding provisions in the discredited and discarded Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).…
The Rs 4,000 crore cricket-betting racket busted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Gujarat during the world cup has reached at the doors of several state police officials who forged nexus with betting operators.
Two leading bookies Tommy Patel and Kiran Patel were booked by the ED when it raided a farm house near Vadodara and over a dozen laptops and 100 mobile phones were seized.
Late on Tuesday, Gujarat home department suspended five policemen including two police inspectors (PI) of Gandhinagar and Vadodara, who were found to be linked with bookies running the racket from a farm house in Vadodara.…
UP govt forcibly demolish two relief camps of victims of Muzaffarnagar riots (Apr 8, 2015, Twocircles.net)
The district administration, with the help of local police, has forcibly evicted the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots from a relief camp in Malakpur village in neighbouring Shamli district and dismantled the huts and shanties that poor Muslims had built in last two years from donations.
Most of residents of these camps shelter poor Muslims from different villages of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, who ran for their lives as they felt threatened when the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli riots began on September 7-8, 2013. The demolition exercise took place on Saturday.
However, as these people do not belong to the eight villages where actual riots had occurred then in 2013, the Uttar Pradesh government does not recognise them as victims of riots, and hence neither were they given any compensation nor were there any rehabilitation schemes for them. The state government maintains that they should go back to their villages, but these poor Muslims are still too scared to return.…
Barely a year after he bought a bungalow in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood of Bhavnagar, prompting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia to ask neighbours not to allow him to move in, a Muslim businessman was forced to sell it off with functionaries of Hindu Right-wing groups brokering the deal.
Scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri had bought the bungalow in Bhavnagar's posh Sanatorium area on January 10, 2014. But under pressure from Hindu neighbours, VHP and RSS, Zaveri, a Bohra Muslim, sold his bungalow to real-state firm Bhumiti Associates on December 30, 2014.
Bhumiti Associates, a partnership firm of three Jains, razed the bungalow a few months ago. "Zaveri tried many things to gain a toehold in the area. He suggested renting the bungalow out to Hindus but we rejected it. He also tried to give it to a firm for shooting a film, but we did not allow that. Meanwhile, we were in touch with real-estate developers. Having realised that neighbours would not relent, he agreed to sell it," a senior RSS functionary who lives nearby and was among those leading the protests, said.…
Clerics refuse to convert 500 Valmikis who threatened to adopt Islam 'in protest' (Apr 13, 2015, Daily Mail)
As many as 500 members of the Valmiki community, who have announced plans to embrace Islam in protest against the Uttar Pradesh government's move to "remove them from their locality", faced a setback on Monday as clerics refused to be part of any conversion programme.
Around 80 Valmiki families in the Topkhana locality of UP's Rampur district had announced that they would adopt Islam on April 14 - the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar - in an attempt to "save their houses from demolition". …
Maulana Furqan Raza, who met the members of the community on Monday, said: "They have been terrorised. They are not doing this for their love for Islam. They believe that they would be able to protect their houses by adopting Islam. The authorities wouldn't dare to dislodge them from the locality if they were Muslims. However, any conversion under fear is not permitted in our religion. So we have refused to be part of any conversion programme."…
Opinions and Editorials
Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies - in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.
An entire country seems to have gone blind - unable to see that the emperor has no clothes. In this age of incessant television it should be obvious to anyone that the supreme leader does not carry conviction even when enunciating relatively higher banalities. He is at his natural best only when he mocks someone as a shehzada or slanders and vilifies an entire community through phrases such as ame paanch, amara pachees. It is an irony of history that the republic which had Nehru as its first prime minister has one now for whom even common mythology is too cerebral. He must vulgarize Pushpak Viman and Ganesha and reduce them to quackeries of aviation and surgery.
Misfortune of the nation goes beyond the man. Forces of the diabolic housed in the hydra-headed Parivaar can now accomplish the impossible. They can now occupy the political center stage without leaving off the lunatic fringe. They can adopt Gandhi without renouncing Godse; erect world's tallest statue of a leader who had punished their forefathers for assassinating Gandhi; even co-opt Bhagat Singh without batting an eyelid about what he stood for and what he had to say about ideologies like theirs. They can further refine the art of doublespeak. Their "statesmen" can pave the way for corporate plunder and call it sab ka vikas (development for all). Their "ideologues" can advocate sab ka saath (inclusion of all) by exhorting Hindu women to give birth to a minimum of four children each, lest Hindus are reduced to a minority "in their own country".…
Shiv Sena's call to disenfranchise Muslims an unpardonable act - Editorial (Apr 14, 2015, Economic Times)
Shiv Sena's call to disenfranchise Muslims is not just deplorable but an active threat to democracy, for two reasons. One, it comes from a political party that wields state power and is voiced by an elected legislator. Two, it comes in a political atmosphere that makes religious minorities feel insecure. Would a call to disenfranchise an entire community be tolerable in a fully functional democracy?
Short of calls for violence and strife, or support thereof, anyone has the right to an opinion, however distasteful. But there is also a difference between a rabble-rouser aiming for some publicity, and an elected legislator, a parliamentarian or a political party espousing such anti-Constitution, anti-national opinions.…
This is not a stray incident. The view that minorities must be turned into second-class citizens is an ideology that has always been in conflict with the idea of a secular, multicultural, diverse and democratic India. And manifestations of that destructive ideology must be opposed.
It is a sordid tale of encounters spaced less than a week from each other. It is also a first for the new state of Telangana. While the encounter in Nalgonda district claimed the lives of two valiant police officers at the hands of alleged SIMI operatives, the second incident, in Alair on Tuesday, was quite different.
Taken in with some scepticism not only by human rights activists and politicians, but also by a large section of the masses, the gunning down of five undertrials, including alleged cop killer Viquaruddin Ahmed, in a police van, that too at a time when the court was soon to arrive at a judgment, has raised serious concerns. The incident has underscored yet again the trust deficit between the police and the masses. It is a yawning gap which never seems to close.…
Encounters are no trivial developments. They require approval from the highest authorities. Those in the know have strong and valid reasons to suspect that the encounter of the five undertrials was no different. Undivided Andhra Pradesh had a blotted history of encounters.…
…The bloody gunning down of 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu by the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) in Chittoor on April 7 might seem like a natural corollary of Naidu's zeal to protect forests. Though the government calls them "smugglers", these are men hired by the ring-leaders for felling and carrying the wood. Nine labourers were killed in Eetagunta, eleven in Vachindou Banda, both in the Chandragiri mandal of the district.
As facts tumble out, the killing seems more and more like a staged encounter. DGP J.V. Ramudu said 20 men of two teams from the task force were attacked with knives, sickles, axes and stones by some 200 woodcutters. "It was in self-defence that the combing party was forced to open fire," the police chief said.
But all bodies had bullet wounds in the abdomen, face, chest and back of the neck. Some had burn marks on the arm, raising suspicions of torture. When attacked and forced to open fire, policemen are expected to fire warning shots in the air and if that fails, to aim below the knees. The post-mortem team of five doctors at the Venkateswara Ramnarain Ruia Government Hospital, however, said the men "were shot at close range".…
Anti-Terror Bill: Gujarat's 10-Year Legal Leap Backwards - By Nidheesh J Villatt (Apr 18, 2015, Tehelka)
In a hark back to what was attempted in Gujarat, but spurned by Presidential decree, the Gujarat government has reverted to confessions before police officers being admissible as per the recently passed Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GUJTOC) Bill. Gujarat is risking inviting the ire of legal and civil rights activists by going ahead with the controversial Bill.
Legal experts say that the Bill has striking similarities with the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The Bill is a slightly modified version of an earlier Bill that was passed by the Gujarat Assembly during Narendra Modi's chief ministership, but rejected thrice by the President in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
The Bill is a pet project of Modi, who made his political fortunes by a clever mix of hyper-nationalism (accompanied by Gujarati sub-nationalism) punctuated with 'jihadi terror'. The previous version - first introduced in 2003, a year after the Gujarat riots - was named the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill and was modelled after the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999, better known as MCOCA.…
At the recent Chief Justices Conference, while Chief Justice of India (CJI) H.L. Dattu made the reaching-out comment that the Supreme Court was a constitutional sibling of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to make some adversarial remarks. "Five-star activists" - wounding words these are, coming from a prime minister, and they are frightening too if interpreted as a war cry against social activism. These aren't per se words that bind down activism, but they evoke disturbing premonitions. Already the conference was mired in controversy: Justices Kurian Joseph and Vikramjit Sen had protested the scheduling of the event on Good Friday and the CJI had justified his decision.
Modi had two targets: Teesta Setalvad, who has taken up the cause of victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat; and Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace activist whose freedom to dissent and to travel was valiantly restored by the Delhi High Court. Some lawyers are thinking of filing a contempt of court petition: Modi's remark about "the issue of bail of (sic) five-star activists" is particularly unfortunate as it refers to a particular case pending before court. But it will be equally unfortunate if the judges find cause for contempt of court. More likely, they will dismiss any contempt petition on this. The point is not what the Supreme Court will do, but rather what a prime minister should or should not say.…
The social activists I have met in more than 30 years of teaching, research and activist lawyering are in no sense 'five-star activists'. Rather, they are fighters for just and lost causes. Appearing as petitioner - I recently stopped doing this owing to inclement health - I've never seen a 'five-star activist'. One may have honest differences with some social activists, but one should not question their bonafides.…