Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
CBI raids on Teesta's home and offices are payback for years of fearless advocacy for victims of Gujarat 2002 pogroms
July 15, 2015
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos, has condemned the latest episode in the BJP government's continued vendetta against renowned human rights activist Teesta Setalvad. The government has unleashed a CBI probe against Ms. Setalvad, her associates as well as the organization she has spearheaded in her struggle for justice for the victims of Gujarat pogroms of 2002. The raids on Ms. Setalvad's home and offices come in the wake of the Supreme Court approving her anticipatory bail in a different case being pursued against her by the Gujarat government.
The CBI probe was initiated on the orders of the Home Ministry, that is alleging irregularities in some foreign contributions received by Sabrang Communications, headed by Teesta. Raids were carried out despite Ms. Setalvad's assurances to the CBI that she and her organization would cooperate fully with the investigation. In the case against her filed by the Gujarat government, Ms. Setalvad's organization Sabrang Trust had provided detailed responses to all the questions raised by the BJP-led government. As in previous attempts at harassing and intimidating Ms. Setalvad, the intent is clearly to browbeat her into submission and hamper the crucial work she and her organization are engaged in, in the cause of justice and accountability.
"The fact that the BJP governments, both at the state and central level have resorted to using the state security apparatus to intimidate a tireless worker for justice represents an affront to the constitutional guarantees of equality before the law for all citizens," said Mr. Umar Malick, President of IAMC. "It is ironical that the BJP had alleged that the CBI was a ‘politcal tool' in the hands of the ruling party, when the BJP itself was in the opposition," added Mr. Malick.
In stark contrast to the repressive measures against Ms. Setalvad and other human rights activists and whistleblowers, is the reprieve given to several accused in the Gujarat pogroms of 2002, at the behest of the BJP government. In February this year, 70 accused were acquitted by a local court in north Gujarat, while the Gujarat High Court granted bail to convicted mass murderer Ms. Maya Kodnani on the pretext that her appeal was pending. The dismal conviction rate in cases connected to the Gujarat pogroms, shows the government's complete lack of interest in pursuing those that killed and raped with impunity.
"The government's gunning for Teesta Setalvad does not diminish the gravity of the crimes committed by the perpetrators of the Gujarat pogroms of 2002, and the culpability of those in the administration that were complicit in the mass violence," said Mr. Khalid Ansari, Vice President of IAMC. "Despite attempts by these culprits to subvert the justice system, the long arm of the law will surely catch up with them," added Mr. Ansari.
Indian-American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our website at: http://www.iamc.com
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Modi government's hounding of Teesta Setalvad is a message to all dissidents
After Teesta, Gujarat government guns for Ford Foundation, seeks probe
Bombay HC grants interim bail to Teesta Setalvad, husband
Teesta Setalvad disappointed with court decision on Gujarat riots, will appeal
Teesta Setalvad: Wheels within wheels
Expressing their solidarity with activist Teesta Setalvad, several opposition MPs including Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress and Sharad Yadav of JD(U) today accused the Centre of "subjecting her to the worst kind of harassment" to silence voices of dissent. In a joint statement, the opposition leaders said the recent CBI recent raid at her residence was a "blatant misuse" of the central agency for "vindictive reasons".…
Setalvad has been severely critical of the BJP government in Gujarat over the 2002 riots and her NGO has been pursuing criminal cases against the accused. The state government has accused her of working at the behest of its political opponents and charged her with misappropriating money. Anand is also an activist and her husband.
The leaders hailed Setalvad, saying she had been working courageously to expose the criminal involvement of BJP leaders in the Gujarat riots, in which mostly Muslims were killed, and asserted that they were determined to support her.…
Naroda Patiya Riots Case: HC bench recuses itself, says accused tried to approach them (Jul 16, 2015, Indian Express)
A division bench of Gujarat High Court on Wednesday recused itself from hearing appeals in 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case, with the judges saying that "an accused tried to approach a colleague". The petitions were moved by former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, former VHP leader Babu Bajrangi, among others sentenced to life imprisonment challenging their conviction by a trial court in the case.
The division bench of justices M R Shah and K S Jhaveri ordered to place the matter where "either of us is not a member". Justice Shah told the lawyers representing the convicts and the prosecution, "We have some reservations on conducting the case…an accused tried to approach a colleague."
Earlier on Monday, Justice G B Shah, a member of the division bench led by Justice Jhaveri, had recused himself from hearing the case. On that day, the matter had been scheduled for fixing a date from when hearing on daily basis would begin.…
Communal tension forces Maharashtra town to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr under curfew (Jul 19, 2015, Twocircles.net)
The continued communal tension at Karanja town in Washim district of Maharashtra that had ignited under the pretext of 'Love Jihad' forced Muslims to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr at home as the curfew orders in the area continued for 6 straight days.
Karanja came under communal tension on July 13 following the marriage of a youth from minority community with a girl from another community that resulted into death of a youth belonging to minority community, injuries to many others and damages to public property.
Police had imposed curfew orders in the town on July 14 due to escalated tension as the injured youth had succumbed to death. Ever since then curfew orders continues in the town and the usually daily lives of people has been badly affected.…
Jamnagar custodial death case: HC rejects plea moved by accused, slaps Rs 25,000 fine for 'misleading court' (Jul 16, 2015, Indian Express)
The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday rejected a petition filed by a retired police officer, an accused in Jamnagar custodial death case, and slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on him for "abusing the law and misleading the court" while not disclosing the true facts of the case in the petition. Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is also one of the seven accused involved in the case.
The single-bench of Justice Abhilasha Kumari dictated the order in an open court lambasting the petitioner Shailesh Pandya for hiding certain facts of the case. The case concerns the death of one Prabhudas Vaishani who was allegedly killed in police custody in 1990.
Pandya had moved a petition challenging a sessions court's order in Jamnagar which rejected three applications moved by four co-accused who had sought documents and statements recorded by B B Desai Commission which probed the case. The sessions court had rejected their applications.…
Malegaon, Samjautha blasts: A standstill as NIA yet to set up special court (Jul 20, 2015, One India)
The Malegaon and Samjhautha blast cases have come to a virtual standstill in the absence of a special court being set up by the National Investigating Agency. We have no idea when the special court will be set up and unless the same is done, the matter will not progress, the counsel for several accused persons say.
All the persons accused in these cases will have to wait until the special court has been set up. The case has already dragged on since October 10 2010.
The cases in question are being handled by the National Investigating Agency. It is for the NIA director to set up the special court so that the matter can move forward. Counsel for Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the case tells OneIndia that the case has dragged on for too long now.…
It has emerged that more than 25 per cent of Muslim prisoners in Maharashtra do not have a lawyer to represent their cases. This was revealed in a report published in 2011 by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
Four years on, the government has taken cognizance of the report and promised to work on it. (The study was focussed on the inmates from the Muslim community and so the comparative data is not available.) The study says the education level among them was also low with 26.8 per cent being illiterate and 48 per cent not having any employable skills.
The low education background may have forced them to become low earners as 42.7 per cent of them earn between 2,000 to 5,000 only per month, the study noted. A number of prisoners have reportedly pointed out that the police were prejudiced against them, which made them vulnerable to the corrupt system.…
Ram Temple in Ayodhya: Hindu Mahasabha claims VHP 'pocketed' Rs 1,400 cr; Singhal rubbishes charge (Jul 16, 2015, Indian Express)
Hindu organisation Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) has accused Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its associate units of pocketing more than Rs 1,400 crore in cash and "quintals of gold bricks", which were collected from across the world as donations for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. The charge has been vehemently denied by the VHP.
"According to the design that Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and VHP leaders have prepared, the temple can be built by using only Rs 4 crore. There is anomaly in the use of donations that was collected for the temple’s construction. More than Rs 1,400 crore, apart from quintals of gold bricks, was collected as donation but VHP is claiming that the fund has been utilised in mere carving of stones," said ABHM national spokesperson Devendra Pandey.
On behalf of ABHM, Pandey had written separate letters to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, VHP patron Ashok Singhal, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing the VHP of misappropriation of funds.…
A mining baron arrested on charges of being a prime player in the Vyapam or jobs scandal in Madhya Pradesh paid for the air tickets and other undefined expenses of top leaders of the BJP and its ideological parent, the RSS, according to an income tax report from 2013. That report was not pursued by state police investigators who were handling the Vyapam inquiry till this week, when the CBI took over.
"We are not shielding anyone. But let's not go by one odd report… let's wait for the CBI investigation," said the BJP's Shaina NC to NDTV. The document from 2013 said Sudhir Sharma, whose vast business empire includes mines and colleges, had made "huge payments in cash for air tickets, travel bills, etc" for a group of politicians including Suresh Soni of the RSS and Prabhat Jha, then state president of the BJP.
The report was based on diaries recovered in raids on Sudhir Sharma and said the billionaire made "payments for travel arrangements of important political personalities" like Laxmikant Sharma, former Mining and Education Minister in Madhya Pradesh and Dharmendra Pradhan, now a union minister; Congress state legislator Veer Singh Bhuria, the report said, received "regular payments" from Sudhir Sharma. "All those who are guilty should be punished," said Tom Vaddakan of his party.…
…Two years ago, his daughter, then 16, was the first to file a rape charge against 'godman' Asaram Basu. On July 10, a second witness in the cases against Asaram was shot, just 7 km from their home. The alleged rape victim hardly lifts her head as she talks, seated in a corner of a sofa, staring at her fingernails. "After he (Asaram) was arrested, I thought we would be safe. I even started going for computer coaching classes. But then the threats started and I was asked to study at home," she says. She had lodged the complaint on August 20, 2013, in Delhi, accusing Asaram of raping her at his ashram in Jodhpur. A month later, Asaram was arrested.…
Asked about August 15, 2013, the day of the alleged incident, she takes a long pause. Her eyes now fixed on the floor, she recalls, "My parents and I were offered some milk. They were then asked to go away, while I was taken to Asaram's hut. He asked me about my studies, and then told me to go check on my parents. I came back and told him they were resting. I went to use the washroom, and when I returned, he was standing there without clothes. I got scared. That scene just does not leave my mind."
She said she shouted, but the hut was secluded. "He told me he was god, I should offer myself to him and started touching me. I was told my parents and I would not live if I made a scene. He said I was on the path to success and would be made a sevika."…
A young Dalit youth who was subjected to a severe third degree torture in lockup by the Kerala police and as a result had underwent an eleven day long painful treatment, has passed away on July 11. P V Sibi (39), a head load worker from Marangattupilly village of Kottayam district was the new victim of custodial torture. Sibi was taken into custody for an alleged reason of drinking alcohol in public place. Sibi is survived by wife Priya and three children.
The brutality of the police force of Kerala under home minister Ramesh Chennithala, is alarming. This incident follows the series of police atrocities on the students who protested against the delay in the distribution of textbooks for the schools. This new incident occurred on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of political emergency in Kerala.
Sibi, son of Vishwambharan and Leela was admitted to Medical College Hospital in an unconscious condition. He was put on a life support system. Doctors found cerebral bleeding due to brutal custodial torture. He succumbed to injuries on July 11.…
Opinions and Editorials
The Modi government's relentless harassment and intimidation of human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand is symptomatic of a larger strategy to suppress all dissent and dissenters in the country. There can be no justification for the manner in which the government has gone after this couple for what it claims are violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). If they are one amongst around 9,000 non-governmental organisations receiving foreign funds that are believed not to have adhered to the law, why is it that only this couple is being persecuted?
The reasons are apparent. Setalvad and Anand, and the three organisations they represent - Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Sabrang Communications and Sabrang Trust - have been in the forefront of the fight against communal forces. CJP's assistance to survivors of the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002 has been principally responsible for the conviction of around 120 persons who participated in the violent attacks on Muslims. The Bilkees Lateef case, the Best Bakery case and the notorious Naroda Patiya case stand out as instances of the effectiveness of civil society intervention.…
The harassment of Greenpeace and Setalvad are part of the larger picture that is emerging. Increasingly, the space for dissent, so essential in any democracy, is being squeezed out. It is being done through open intimidation, as seen in the CBI raid on Setalvad, or through harassment over funding, or by physical intimidation of activists, often of people who do not belong to large organisations. This incremental but diabolic and organised suppression of dissent and dissenters has to be exposed and opposed. If not, then the remaining spaces for questioning the acts of the powerful in this country will disappear altogether.
The formal declaration of the Emergency was preceded by a period when the government, bit by bit, in a sinister manner, eroded the independence of the judiciary. The separation of powers, on which the basic structure of the Constitution rests, is firm in the fundamental formation of both judicial autonomy and independence. It is this judicial integrity, autonomy and independence that are under assault and severe threat today.…
That our higher judiciary is facing a serious issue of credibility - a result of both perception and reality - makes this face-off even more sinister. The regime is riding high on this perception, never mind the fact that it represents a worldview that has shown, through past and present conduct, scant respect for fundamental rights or the Constitution. Given this complex scenario, it becomes necessary to look closely at the present attempt (even more crass than in the 1970s) of the executive to browbeat our judiciary.…
In those dark days, the silver lining was the audible protest from the Bar. Today, when we await a verdict on which the future of India could hinge, a studied silence, by and large, prevails. Faced with a regime defined by its credo of vendetta-driven governance, the India that was built on the wisdom of men and women who had, through sweat, principles and toil, fought against a colonial oppressor, needs to give voice to a spirited resistance that reaffirms its fundamentals.
According to the press reports RSS leadership is annoyed with its senior functionary, Indresh Kumar who defended Sushma Swaraj, external affairs minister in the NDA government at the Centre currently involved in the Lalitgate. The Times of India (June 22, 2015) report quoting the RSS sources said, "the leadership's annoyance with Indresh was not over the content of what he said, but the fact that he chose to dwell on the matter at all. The remark ran contrary to RSS's insistence on being an apolitical organization…" The report described it the "hands off" attitude towards BJP.
The claim of the RSS that it is apolitical and BJP is an independent political party is not substantiated if we look at the concerned documents available in the RSS archives. The most prominent ideologue of the RSS, MS Golwalkar, openly declared that it had political ambitions and wanted to control politics directly. It was in total violation of the pledge to the Government of India that RSS would not indulge in political activities.…
The RSS keeps on dissociating from its off-shoots as per its convenience. For instance it used Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM) for attacking Christians in late 1990s and when public opinion, media, judiciary and Parliament seemed to turn against it, RSS denied any relation with HJM. Moreover, when nefarious designs of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sansad were exposed before the nation, RSS announced that these were independent organizations. It is a marriage of convenience between RSS and politics.
…Ansh's father Kripal Singh was recently shot dead by two unidentified bike-borne assailants in broad daylight, few kilometers away from his house. Kripal was a witness in the molestation case against the self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu. He had given his statement in court around a year ago against Asaram and was supposed to appear for another hearing in a few days.
The assailants are still at large but the family has alleged that the he was killed by the goons of Asaram. Two key witnesses associated with the case had already been killed. Even three days after the incident, the police have been unable to identify the accused.…
Kripal was a witness in the molestation case against Asaram which was filed by the victim's father, Karamveer Singh, a transporter in Shahjahanpur. Rubbishing the media reports that Kripal was his employee, he says "He was an lic agent and used to come here almost every day for selling policies to my employees. Even on the tragic day, he had come in the morning. We had become good friends and would go to Asaram's satsang together."…
On May 30, in the course of an interview to a national daily, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a curious statement. He said that the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill was not a matter of life and death for him and that he was ready to accept suggestions. In a striking coincidence, on the same day the Union Cabinet decided to re-promulgate for a third time the LARR Ordinance, 2015, which was due to lapse on June 4.
The official reason given was that it was done to maintain continuity and to ensure that farmers did not suffer. On June 23, in the course of a trip to the United States, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaking at Stanford, California, on India's economic future said that the 2013 land law had hindered the development of rural India. His government had the numbers to have the Bill approved and could call a joint session of Parliament if it was stalled. Hopeful of the passage of what he called a "landmark reform", he did not give a timeline for the joint session but said that the Bill's passage was crucial for the next phase of economic reforms. All this was said when a Parliament-appointed Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was hearing depositions on the contentious ordinance amending the original Act.
The Bill replacing the ordinance was passed in the Lok Sabha on March 10 with 10 amendments, but the government resorted to the ordinance route following sustained opposition in the Rajya Sabha. In order to ensure that the ordinance did not lapse because of the impasse, the Rajya Sabha was prorogued. Subsequently, the President gave his assent for the re-promulgation of the ordinance for a third time.…
It is a fight that has raged on for a decade. It is a battle to ensure that poor children and deprived pregnant and lactating women get a nutritious diet. It is a war to rightfully implement the grandiose central scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). It is a cause, in which the civil society and Supreme Court (SC) had to intervene regularly to prevent the central and state regimes from side-stepping, bypassing and over-ruling the rules that were set by the apex court.
Although the original intentions of the policy makers were honest - they wanted poor children and mothers to eat well - ICDS was derailed because of obvious reasons like corruption, inefficiency and non-governance. In most states, it became a case of policy- and implementation-capture; powerful interest groups appropriated the scheme, and took it away from the locals. Politicians, bureaucrats and private contractors shared the central booty amongst themselves.…
Clearly, the well-intentioned and much-needed icds finds itself in a political whirlpool. Despite public utterances to involve local communities, the policy drafters have either deliberately or otherwise introduced clauses that may achieve the opposite objective. Modi has to tackle these crucial issues before he can convince the citizens that he offers good and transparent governance.