Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
"Failure" to prosecute Modi for 2002 riots: Gujarat workers', activists' meet blames Indian judicial system (May 12, 2015, Counterview)
As the day draws closer for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate his one year in office (May 26), a well-attended meeting in Ahmedabad's town hall sought to sharply focus his "culpability" during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The occasion was the first death anniversary of well-known Gujarat High Court advocate Mukul Sinha, who shot into prominence for cross examination of government officials at the Nanavati Commission, appointed by Modi as Gujarat chief minister to "investigate" the anti-Muslim riots.
The commission's final report, which is said to have given Modi a clean chit, has still not been made public. Speaking on the occasion, Justice Hosteb Suresh - one of the three members the Indian People's Tribunal fact-finding team headed by ex-Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer to inquire into the Gujarat riots between March and April 2002 - blamed the justice system of India for failing to persecute Modi. Calling the riots genocide, Suresh, was former Mumbai High Court judge, regretted that the Supreme Court handed over the proceedings against Modi to a judicial magistrate.
Girish Patel, veteran Gujarat high court lawyer, also spoke in a similar tone. Citing the report by Raju Ramachandran, amicus curiae (friend of the court) for the Supreme Court of India in the 2002 Gujarat violence case, Suresh underlined, "Enough material was available made by Ramachandran to prosecute Modi. The Supreme Court should have proceeded with a chargesheet against Modi. Yet, it decided to hand over the proceedings to magistrate. Tell me, which magistrate will dare prosecute him?"
He was 23, had just qualified to become a doctor, and was the pride of his doting parents. Then, at around 4 pm on February 6, 2008, a knock on the door changed everything. "I spent seven years in hell. They stole the best years of life. I want to live now, I want my life back," Allah Baksh Yadwad told The Sunday Express.
On April 30, Yadwad was acquitted by a Hubli court of all charges levelled by the Karnataka Police which claimed he was a member of a "SIMI module" and had participated "in conspiracy meetings aimed at establishing (an) Islamic government in India". But a copy of the judgment said it all: the prosecution, relying on Investigating Officer S S Khote, lined up 45 witnesses - including 24 medical students - to prove Yadwad's guilt, but none of them supported the police version. In the end, the judgment devoted 39 paragraphs to illustrate Yadwad's innocence.
Police went on to link Yadwad to Asif, who they alleged had conducted mass prayers, violating rules, at the KIMS hostel. Yadwad alleges that after he was picked up from his home in Hubli, he was threatened, slapped and made to sign on eight blank sheets of paper by police.
Cellphone records of 4 of 20 killed blow holes in Andhra police version of massacre (May 19, 2015, Indian Express)
The two FIRs filed by forest officials on the "encounter" near Tirupati on April 7 claim that the 20 alleged "smugglers" killed by Andhra Police and forest guards were chopping and carrying logs of red sanders in the Seshachalam forest the previous night. However, phone records of at least four of the victims, examined by The Indian Express, blow holes in the official version.
A close scrutiny of the Call Detail Record (CDR) reveals that two of them were travelling for most of that night, and arrived at the encounter spot - Chandragiri Mandal near Rangampet village - only at around 2.30 am on April 7, barely three hours before the "encounter".
The records also show that a third victim had reached the Tamil Nadu-Andhra border, over 100 km from the encounter site, at around 5.30 pm on April 6, while the cellphone of the fourth remained active till at least 7.55 pm on April 10. All four were shot dead on April 7, between 5.30 am and 6 am, by a group of forest guards and members of a police task force formed to prevent smuggling of red sanders, according to the FIRs.
A day after signages named after Muslim personalities were found defaced, allegedly by a right wing political outfit Shiv Sena Hindustan, the police found that they were not just blackened and pasted with pictures, anti-religious slogans were also painted behind them.
Sources from Delhi Police confirmed that it was a hate crime. Signages on both sides of Ferozshah Road, Safdar Hashmi Marg, Tughlak Road, Akbar Road, Humayun Road, Shahjahan Road and Aurangzeb Road were found smeared in black ink around Wednesday midnight.
The Aam Aadmi Party also issued a statement against the act of sabotage on Friday. "The Modi-led government is helping right wing groups in talibanising the country It seems that the dream of 'achhe din' marketed by our PM and his campaign managers also include days when intolerance would be at its height," the statement added.
Tension gripped Muzaffarnagar district following a clash between two people of different communities, resulting in the death of one on Thursday in Dahakheri village under Sikhera police station area. Police force from nearby police stations was rushed to the village to prevent any further untoward incident.
The incident took place following a minor argument between one Sanjeev and Rashid of the same village over payment of a mobile phone. The argument soon turned into a fight and Sanjeev allegedly hit Rashid with a spade resulting in his death.
Soon, members of the deceased's community reached the police station and gheraoed it demanding arrest of the culprit. The situation was reportedly tense till last reports came in.
The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) has disbanded the advisory committee of its journal comprising 21 eminent historians from around the world, including Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib.
The council's member-secretary Gopinath Ravindran opposed the decision taken during a meeting of the journal's editorial board held this week, people familiar with the matter told ET. The decision to disband the committee is among the first taken by the country's top historical research body after it was reconstituted by the NDA government in January.
The Indian Historical Review is the refereed journal of the ICHR that has been publishing research work in history since 1974. It is one of the few Indian journals found on the prestigious Thomson Reuters list. The panel was disbanded in a meeting of the journal's editorial board, headed by ICHR Chairman Y Sudershan Rao, on Tuesday.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday upheld a trial court verdict acquitting two Kashmiri men and a Pakistan national accused of being "terrorists". It also pointed out serious lacunae in the prosecution story. Three years ago, the trial court while acquitting these men had pulled up the Special Cell of the Delhi Police for the probe into the case.
The Special Cell had arrested the three from Dilli Haat in April 2007 claiming that it had received secret information that arms and explosives were to be delivered by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba to a Pakistani fidayeen in Delhi in order to carry out an attack to disrupt the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the 1857 Revolt.
The court noted that the arms, ammunition, RDX and money, which police had claimed had been brought to Delhi by Shafqat and handed over to Hassan - was not recovered from the accused in front of public witnesses. Further, the court held that the hand grenades that were allegedly recovered from the accused had never been produced before the court as evidence and no explanation had been given to explain their absence.&hellip
The legal case on the plea to declare the Taj Mahal a Shiva temple took an interesting turn on Wednesday with several tourist bodies in Agra asking the district court not to allow the monument to become a "Babri Masjid."
Lawyer Harishankar Jain, and five others, had moved the court with the plea that Hindus should be allowed to offer worship at the Taj Mahal which they said was a Shiva temple once. Their petition wanted the court to direct the authorities to restrain any religious activity by Muslims and remove all graves from the premises.
At the hearing, the Approved Guide Association sought to intervene. "The Taj Mahal is a major tourist attraction and a symbol of national pride not only for Agra but also for the entire country. The Mughal monument should not be made controversial. The court should ensure that it is not turned into another Babri Masjid," Vireshwar Nath Tripathi, an office-bearer of the association, said.
Another witness in rape case against Asaram's son attacked in Haryana (May 13, 2015, Hindustan Times)
Unidentified assailants on Wednesday shot at a key witness in the alleged sexual abuse cases against arrested self-styled godman Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, in Haryana's Panipat district, police said.
Mahender Chawla, who was attacked by two unidentified persons at a village on the outskirts of Panipat, received bullet injuries on his shoulder but is said to be out of danger. Chawla is the sixth witness in the case to be attacked - two of them killed - ever since the father-son due was arrested in 2013 in separate cases of alleged sexual abuse.
In February, a prosecution witness was stabbed at a court premises in Jodhpur, while another was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district in January, both crime suspected to have been committed by followers of the controversial godman. Both Asaram and Sai are lodged in a prison in Rajasthan.
Punjab police summoned by caste commission after 'violent' crackdown on dalit protesters (May 14, 2015, Daily Mail)
The Punjab Police are in the dock for cracking down on the dalit students who were protesting against private bus owners on May 6 in Faridkot.
The police action has now come under the scanner of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), which has taken notice of the circumstances under which the students were arrested.
NCSC vice-chairman Dr. Rajkumar Verka, who was approached by the families of 14 arrested students, asked the officers to appear before the panel on May 15.
Opinions and Editorials
India's capitalist democracy has surely turned a page in the 21st century. A thousand headed Cobra has come-off its age and has started vexing its fangs, spewing out the deadly venom of communalism in all directions. Modi, took the reins of power with a slogan of ruling India for 60 months, at least. But within the first 12 months itself the Modi led BJP's regime has created an extreme fear psychosis in the minds and hearts of India's multitudes. One is reminded of the mythological fable in which hundreds of snakes coming out, one after another from the huge anthills, spitting out poison.
If one draws a balance sheet of Modi's first 12 months in power it is nothing but a regime which has directly and indirectly polarised the Indian society on the lines sectarianism, casteisim and communalism. The increasing clamor for a countrywide Beef ban by the Hindu fundamentalist forces is only a tip of the iceberg, which is waiting to explode to a wider anti-Dalith, anti-Muslim and of other persecuted sections. This attempt of imposing a mono-food culture in a multi cultural and multi faceted society is bound to have serious repercussions on the entire Indian population.
The poisonous slogan of "We are all Hindu - We are all one" is certain to turn into a communal gangrene. This false and pseudo uniformity is professedly anti-progressive, anti-egalitarian and anti-women. This has to be challenged unreservedly and unequivocally by mass working peoples' mobilisations cutting across all sectarianism and all divisions that divide us.
Resist Degradation Of Indian Criminal Justice System! - By Concerned Citizens (May 14, 2015, Countercurrents)
The undersigned civil society organizations and concerned citizens have taken serious note of a news report (IE May 11, 2015) about the intimidation of a retired judge, Ms Jyotsana Yagnik, who, in her capacity as special judge had, in August 2012, convicted former Gujarat BJP minister Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others in the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya.
The Indian criminal justice system is being politically degraded with every passing day. With regard to the violence in Gujarat in 2002, there have been instances of several encounter-accused policemen being re-instated and cases against them being quietly dropped. Meanwhile in Maharashtra, there is no sign that the murderers of Narendra Dabholkar and Gobind Pansare will ever be caught. In Bihar, the acquittals of those accused of massacring Dalits in Shankarbigha and Bathani-tola show that the justice system is incapable or unwilling to punish those who commit mass crimes. Now we have an upright judge being threatened, whilst murder convicts guilty of heinous crimes are out on bail, and suspended policemen obtain re-instatement.
An onslaught on justice is taking place in broad daylight. It is now clear that the Modi-led government finds India's criminal justice system and independent judiciary to be an obstacle blocking its long-term plans. The incidence of prejudice in the courts is nothing new - the 1984 pogrom inaugurated a new era in the erosion of Indian justice. The NDA government has given impetus to this process. The ideological hooligans of the so-called 'Sangh parivar' are convinced they are above the law. Corruption does not merely have monetary implications. The erosion of judicial independence taking place before our eyes is also corruption. Building trustworthy public institutions is a prolonged process that takes decades. But they can be destroyed very rapidly, especially when state power is used (covertly or openly), to intimidate judges like Ms Jyotsna Yagnik.
It doesn't take a US Commission to know that religious freedom is shrinking in India but it does help in throwing a light on this subject. There has been a new wave of anti-conversion laws passed since 2000 that takes away individual's right to choose a religion - a clear violation of fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The Article 25 of the Constitution gives citizens of India the right to "profess, practice and propagate religion," all these rights have come into increased attack in the last few years.
A total of eight states have passed anti-conversion laws. Orissa (1967), Madhya Pradesh (1968), and Arunachal Pradesh (1978) were the early ones. Tamil Nadu (2002), Gujarat (2003), Chhattisgarh (inherited from MP in 2000, amended in 2006), Himachal Pradesh (2006) and Rajasthan (2008) were the new states to pass laws that restricted religious freedom.
A look at the news reports, especially since the new NDA government took office last May, shows the vitriol and hate that Hindu right wing leaders are subjecting Muslims and Christians on a regular basis. That some of these hate mongers are part of the government makes it so much more worst.
Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri tells his own frightening story of the security agencies manipulating such laws in his book, 11 Years Behind the Bars. Mufti was arrested in connection with the Akshardam terror attack on September 24, 2002 in which 32 people died. The Supreme Court had acquitted all the six accused, three of whom were sentenced to death, on May 16, 2014, after the trial court found them guilty. The Gujarat High Court upheld the lower court's verdict. Seeing through the plot in the carefully crafted story of the Gujarat Crime Branch, the apex court saved Mufti from the hangman's noose. The two-judge bench of the court remarked that "Fiction must make sense," a tell-tale comment on the sinister and fake narrative put together by the investigators.
It is true that "national security concerns" have attained the status of a holy cow. Nobody dares to question a narrative which hinges upon "national security". The Mufti case, too, bears stark testimony to this dreadful phenomenon. No politician - barring a few honourable exceptions - raised the issue or even questioned Gujarat Crime Branch how it cracked the case, within days, of the case being transferred to it from the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). The ATS, which was originally entrusted the investigations, was groping in the dark for a year. The gullible media lapped up the stories. For them, the story could be based only on the official version.
Democracy requires a culture of accountability. Unfortunately, we, being a young democracy, have not been able to internalise the fundamental values of a democratic culture. The lack of accountability has led to the emergence of parallel power centres within the government. I believe, the plot, the melodrama, and the tricks involved in the Akshardham case have not ended. The tactics used by the Gujarat Police, I do believe, are still at work against someone vulnerable by the same or another group of investigating officers.
In three separate cases, high profile and influential individuals - a Bollywood star, a powerful politician, and a former business baron - were allowed to walk free by appeals court despite being found guilty by lower courts.
The actor was found guilty of running a vehicle over people sleeping on the street, the politician of amassing unaccounted wealth and the former business baron of corporate fraud.
The wheels of justice grind slowly in India - more than 30 million cases are pending in its courts and more than a quarter of them have been unresolved for at least five years. Snail justice ends up benefitting the rich as witnesses can be intimidated and bought and political pressure and money power can be used to influence and subdue prosecutors and sometimes judges.
Backlash against Dalits who dare shows the stranglehold of the caste system in India - Editorial (May 13, 2015, DNA India)
The stoning of a Dalit marriage party in Madhya Pradesh's Ratlam district by upper caste villagers because the groom dared to ride a horse and his family dared to take out a baraat procession is a testimony to the social realities of rural India. The televised visuals of the groom, Pawan Malviya, wearing a helmet, a mandatory safety equipment for motorcyclists, while riding a horse, vividly explains the contradictions of India's tryst with modernity.
Riding a horse is viewed by the upper-castes as their tradition, and Dalits, denied such privileges for long, would also like to partake in such traditions. Though the Constitution banned untouchability, gave the Dalits the same right to vote as the upper-castes, and legislations enacted since have penalised untouchability in all its forms, oppressive practices continue to be reported with alarming regularity.
Nevertheless, many Dalits have been freed of the economic shackles related to occupational mobility and property ownership that the caste system had imposed on them. It is evident that the act of riding a horse, carrying a sword, and taking out a procession was a manifestation of Dalit aspirations of being seen as social equals. The backlash against Dalits who use public space with confidence and pursue customs that were once the preserve of upper castes indicates that reactionary mindsets are still a dominant strand in Indian society.