The VIP syndrome

It was just as I thought it would be. Amidst all the rage over frisking of our former president, A P J Abdul Kalam himself never registered a protest. From whatever I have known of him through papers, one minor brush with him at the Ahmedabad airport following his visit to Gujarat after the 2002 riots and his books, I felt he would not have objected to going through a security check.

He comes across as a humble and learned man and he reflected the same when the incident happened at New Delhi. Perhaps he understands that the security requirements of the present time are much different from the law that was written in 1934. 9/11 had never happened then and certainly IC 814 had not been hijacked. He knew his responsibility and he acted accordingly.

While it can always be debated whether Kalam was particularly checked for the way his name sounds, we should also hope that other “VVIPs” act in the same dignified manner when asked for security checks. They are no super mortals and they need to realise that. In fact at a time when the agencies across the world use diplomatic channels to carry out espionage activities, it is time we think over a “VVIP” Act, written nearly seven decades ago. Our VVIPs are incensed because they consider themselves demi gods and frisking would dent that image. And therefore this entire song and dance.

We have always been complaining that most of the acts under our law are archaic. Then doesn’t this act be one so as well? Shouldn’t we work toward amending this too? The security needs have changed and so the act must change too.

Coming back to Kalam, he has again come forth as a model citizen and its not only MPs and VVIPs who should learn from him but we too need to realise that security checks help us. Be it at malls, stations or airports, if we complain about them, then we should not complain about terror acts.

And as far as getting even with America comes, we should frisk all VVIPs and could have done it when Hillary Clinton was in India. Remember the old adage? Don’t get mad, get even.

By Shailendra Mohan, Monday July 27, 2009 , New Delhi, India  
Source: NDTV

Truth behind Ranbir Singh Encounter must be Revealed

THE CONTROVERSIAL encounter of Ranbir Singh took place on July 3 and police says that he was riding a motorcycle with his two friends when the police stopped him at a check post. The three men got into an altercation with a sub-inspector, who had asked them to stop and then fled into a nearby forest after snatching his service revolver.

Later they were intercepted at the forest and Ranbir was gunned down in an encounter, while other two managed to escape. However, Uttarakhand Inspector General of Police NA Ganapati gave a different version. He said when the police opened a suspicious-looking bag that the boys were carrying, a countrymade revolver was found in it. The boys then overpowered an police official, snatched his revolver and fled, he said. Thereafter an encounter took place. Some police officials said that the trio was part of a gang that extorted money from businessmen.

Background of Ranbir Singh:

The family told the reporters that Ranbir Singh was a bright student and has no criminal record. According to Ranbir’s father Ravinder Singh, his son is innocent. “Show me his criminal record. The police just killed him to get medals. The police are threatening me now,” he said, sobbing and trying to console his wife. He went to Dehradun to join his office. There is a prime witness, who refutes policemen’s claim.

Autopsy report:

The autopsy report of Ranbir is out. The post-mortem report suggests that Ranbir’s body was brutally tortured and there were signs of multiple fractures. The body bore mark of 12 bullet injuries. These reports have gone against the police version of encounter and it appears that he was brutally tortured before being shot dead.

Government action:

Uttarakhand government ordered CID probe after there were allegations that the encounter might be faked.After the autopsy report, eight police officials, including SSP Sinha have been suspended.

My personal opinion is that there must be an inquiry by central agency at the earliest. If this encounter is fake then the case must be dealt with utter seriousness. The crime of murder is even more heinous if committed by the police.

The officials involved must be tried for murder along with those who tried to cover the case. The police is there to protect the citizens and not to kill them for some vested gains. This case calls for a speedy trial and a clear and quick justice.

The family is shocked after loosing their son for no fault. This case should be an eye-opener for all the officials, who feel that the life of common man carries no value. I am not running into conclusions but circumstantial evidence against police is too strong. We must support the family of Ranbir because the similar thing can happen to us as well. We must ensure that the case does not die its natural death and it becomes another instance of short public memory.


Let not ‘BJP ka Gandhi’ get away easily

In the backlanes of Uttar Pradesh, Varun Feroze Gandhi is referred to as the “BJP ka Gandhi”. It’s a reference indicative of what’s been perhaps the 29-year-old poet-politician’s central dilemma in life so far: the struggle to carve an independent identity for himself outside of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy.

His cousin, Rahul, has been bequeathed the keys to the family business. His aunt Sonia is the Supreme Leader of the Indian National Congress. Varun, and his mother, Maneka, have always been the ‘outsiders’, blessed with the surname of India’s most powerful political family without any of the privileges. Which is why the so-called ‘other Gandhis’ have been forced to look for career options. Maneka has found her niche in the world of animal rights activism. Varun too, judging from the content of his speeches in Pilibhit, also now appears to have found his feet as the BJP’s new Hindutva posterboy.

When Varun joined the BJP five years ago, it was an important moment for the party. For decades, the BJP has had to live in the political shadow of the Nehru-Gandhi family. While the dynasty was seen as the sophisticated Brahminical elite of Indian politics, the BJP, and its earlier avatar of the Jan Sangh, was dismissed as a ‘bania’ party of petty traders and ‘sanghis’. The entry of professionals – journalists, bureaucrats, armymen – in the 1990s went a long way in ending the isolation and enhancing the acceptability quotient of the saffron outfit.

Varun’s entry ended the ‘untouchability’ of the BJP once and for all: if an LSE educated member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan could join the BJP, then how could the party be treated as a pariah any longer? The fact that he was the son of Sanjay Gandhi, the face of the abhorrent Emergency, hardly mattered. He was, above all, the great grandson of Jawaharlal.

In fact, within weeks of Varun joining the party, there was a section of the party that was already projecting him as the generation next leader of the BJP. He was even almost pushed into contesting elections in 2004 itself, till someone in the party remembered that the young man wasn’t even 25 and therefore was ineligible to contest the elections.

The desire to have Varun as a BJP face wasn’t just about ending the monopoly of the Congress over the Gandhi-Nehru family name; it was also designed to defeat the Nehruvian political project. Central to the Nehruvian ideal has always been the belief in a secular state that would protect all religions without any distinction. For the BJP, this model of secularism was based on ‘appeasement’ of minorities and needed to be rejected.

The secular-pseudo secular debate has been at the core of the Hindutva ideology and has played a major role in the rise of the BJP in the last two decades. For the sangh parivar , Nehru was, to use the words of a sangh ideologue, “the leader of a perfidious operation that led the country to surrender to Islamic separatism.” What better way to hit back at the much-reviled Jawaharlal than to have his great grandson question the very essence of his legacy?

Which is why Varun’s rhetoric in Pilibhit – the kind which might make even a Bal Thackeray blush – should come as no surprise. Varun was not given special treatment in the BJP so that he would be just another politically ambitious young man waiting his turn. He was catapulted into the arclights to fulfill a particular role: a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family who had wholeheartedly embraced the Hindutva ideology.

That he chose his mother’s constituency of Pilibhit to make his inflammatory remarks is also not unexpected. With a substantial Muslim population, Pilibhit has a history of communal trouble. In the 1930s, resolutions moved in the central legislative assembly to ban cow slaughter had sparked off violence in the region. If today, Varun seeks to revive the cow slaughter issue it should be seen in a specific historic context: as a well-read young man Varun probably knows that this is just the kind of issue that will have an emotional appeal in the region, and could polarize the electorate in his favour.

And yet, there will still be those who will ask just why Varun chose this moment to take up a potentially divisive campaign when his party leadership itself has shown the capacity to look beyond its traditional revivalist agenda, and focus on issues of governance. The simple answer: he probably thought he could get away with it. Had it not been for an alert and enterprising media, he probably would have got away. After all, hate speeches have been made routinely in this country in recent times, yet no one has been really punished.

The only senior political figure who has been held guilty by the judiciary of hate speech has been Bal Thackeray in 1999, that too 12 years after the original offence was committed. The Shiv Sena big boss was initially deprived of his basic right to vote and contest in elections for a period of six years, but even here the punishment was later commuted to just two years. This, despite the fact that Thackeray has been unapologetic and explicit in his venomous speeches and writings against the minorities for over forty years now.

Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Gaurav yatra in 2002 was laced with invective against the minorities, the election commission issued warnings and notices, yet could do little else as Modi stormed to victory in the ensuing elections. In 1984, the Congress publicity campaign spread fear and hatred towards the Sikhs, yet it wasn’t banned. Nor did it stop Rajiv Gandhi from becoming the prime minister. Whether it be political imams who appeal for votes in the name of Islam, or Hindu leaders who target the minorities, little has been done to actively enforce existing legislation against hate speech.

Perhaps, Varun too will eventually get away, and in all probability, even win his election from Pilibhit. Once the media frenzy settles, it is even possible that Varun will be lionized as a gutsy individual by those who believe that such rhetoric is necessary to put minorities ‘in their place’. Maybe, this is the inevitable price we must pay as a nation for having allowed our politics to degenerate into a snake-pit of divide and rule.

And yet, if we have any faith in the idea of India as a multi-religious society with a republican constitution, we must not allow Varun to get away so easily. That’s the least Jawaharlal and our founding fathers would expect of us.

By Rajdeep Sardesai
Source: IBN

In the name of Allah

Delhi has been targeted again by teror outfits.
Indian Mujahideen claimed the responsibility of Delhi bomb blasts and in an email they said, “In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahideen strikes again! Do whatever you can, within five minutes from now, feel the terror of death.” In one their previous email it emphasised on the involvement of local gangs and went on further saying “We the terrorists of India – the Indian Mujahideen – the militia of Islam whose each and every Mujahid belongs to this very soil of India, have returned to execute the compulsion of Allah.” The investigating agencies claim that Indian Mujahideen is the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in a new guise.

These terrorist organisations have used “Allah” so many times that it feels that God justifies their stand and action. Whatever they are doing is permitted to them by God. This very concept of these organisation rattles me and I have few questions to these terror outfits.

Does Allah allows killing of innocent people?

What arguments do the militants have to justify their acts of terrorism and violence?

Why these outfits are against the prosperity and development of their own nation? Is Allah greater than one’s nation? (Indian Mujahideen claims to be an All Indian organisation)

These questions came into my mind after I read about terror organisations claiming again and again that their actions are vindicated by Allah. I read few materials on the Internet. “Mazhab ke naam pe khoon” or murder in the name of Allah is the most cowardice act.

Given below is the excerpt from Quran.
The Qur’an says:…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom. (Al-An`am 6: 151).

Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of human life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. Allah says in the Qur’an says: … if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. (Al-Ma’idah 5: 32) Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing all of humanity. If this is what is written in Quran then I wonder how come there has been so misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.

I most strongly condemn all acts and forms of terrorism because it is my deep rooted belief that not only Islam but also no true religion, whatever its name, can sanction violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children in the name of God.

Unless god himself from his holy throne split the heavens open and spoke to me. I find no justification in justifying murder in the name of god.

The fact is that these terrorists have no religion and they are trying to create fear and tension in the world for some unclear reasons. They are trying to shield their crime and guilt in the name of Allah. If they have waged the war against the country then also they should follow Islam. If they feel that fellow Indians are their enemy then Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly in the battlefield.

Exclusive: SIMI chief’s shocking revelations

From a moderate start to a dreaded terror outfit, the Students Islamic Movement of India has come a long way.

Though the theories attached to the shift in stance by SIMI are relatively old, Safdar Nagori, the most prominent face of the banned outfit, said in his confession statement before the Madhya Pradesh police that SIMI had decided to intensify operations in India in 2001 after it had been banned by the then National Democratic Alliance government.

Nagori in his confession statement admitted that he and his men had undertaken a massive recruitment drive .

In the process, they recruited several youth to the outfit following which training was imparted to each of them. He said that the idea was to transform SIMI into a militant outfit.

The confession is very much on the lines of the interview given by Nagori prior to the outfit’s ban.

In the interview, he said it is not when an individual is harmed, but when an entire community finds itself collectively persecuted that the cry for jihad is given.

If nothing works then one is forced to revolt, take to arms.

Nagori said that he was an extremist and not a fundamentalist and his actions were never on the basis of religion.

“I was pained and angered by the atrocities against Muslims worldwide and the turning point was the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots only made matters worse,” he said.

Giving details about the training programme, Nagori said that nearly 25,000 SIMI activists met in Mumbai in 2001 and this was the first time that the call for jihad was given.

The meeting also hailed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as a true warrior. Prior to Nagori’s arrest, there were 400 active SIMI members known as the Ansars and 20,000 Ikhwans who were ordinary members.

The training programme for SIMI began in Jammu and Kashmir. They trained along with the Hizbul Mujahideen. Following this, the selected cadres were assigned to major terror operations in the country.

Further, he also gave information regarding a training camp in Choral, Madhya Pradesh. He confessed that the training camp in Choral was unique and was used to train different classes of militants for different kinds of operations.

Nagori also spoke at length about the manner in which the SIMI split into two groups, thanks to differences of opinion. He said during his interrogation that the main reason for the split was due to ideological differences between his faction and the Misba-ul-Islam faction.

While the Islam faction wanted the SIMI to have a more moderate approach, Nagori pressed for a more aggressive view. Nagori made the same claim during his narco-analysis which was conducted in Bengaluru recently.

He said that SIMI did give it a try to sort out the differences and they met at Ujjain. Nagori found that he had a majority of the members supporting him. This is when he decided to breakaway and carry forward the outfit with his ideology.

Nagori also spoke about his idea of recruiting more educated youth into the outfit. He said that persons from an IT background were preferred and in this regard a technical cell was also started. He said the idea of recruiting persons from an IT background was because these persons could remain low key and they were excellent planners.

Nagori also mentioned about the Shaheen Force, an all-woman wing of SIMI. He explained during his confession and narco-analysis that women could convince their children easily to take the SIMI route and hence he had decided to float this wing.

He felt that women could help boost the membership of SIMI.

Source: REDIFF

The Second Murder

Sometimes, a single event can tell us more about the times we live in than an entire library full of sociological treatises. The Aarushi murder case is one such event. The responses to the case reveal the flaws in the institutions that we depend on: the police, the government, the media and the great Indian middle class itself.

But, first, let’s clear up one thing: I’m not a detective and neither are you. One of the problems with the way in which we have approached this case is that we’ve all spent too long trying to solve the mystery of who the killer was. That’s a legitimate goal, but not one that we, in our living rooms or our OB vans, are qualified to pursue. Perhaps her father killed her; perhaps he didn’t. I don’t know. And nor do you.

Many of us forget that there are two separate issues at stake here. The murder mystery is only the first. The more important one is our response to the murder. How have we treated the reputation of a slain 14-year-old girl? What does the manner in which the police have behaved tell us about law and order in India? Should we have any faith in our political system? And is it time to regulate the media?

The Police: The Noida police appear to have the investigative abilities of the Keystone Cops and the sensitivity of the Gestapo. At almost every stage, the case has been bungled. There’s been the failure to properly search the house and, therefore, the inability to discover the corpse of their chief suspect. There’s the fiasco of the remand of the father with no evidence, no confession, no motive and no murder weapon.

More worrying is the way in which the police have deliberately set out to destroy the reputation of a murdered teenager. The IGP in charge of the case has called Aarushi “characterless”. Her emails have been leaked to the media. So have her texts to her friends, violating not just her privacy but that of her schoolmates.

Most worrying of all is the IGP’s obsession with sex. Every possible motive leads back to sex. First, there was the extraordinary statement that Rajesh Talwar found his daughter in an ‘objectionable’ position with Hemraj, the servant. As Aarushi and Hemraj are dead, and Rajesh Talwar denies the story, how could the IGP possibly have known about the incident? Then, there’s the suggestion that Rajesh Talwar was having an affair with a colleague and that his daughter objected; off the record, the police have painted the parents as orgy-goers and wife swappers. And now, the cops are claiming that the father was motivated by anger at Aarushi’s relations with various boyfriends.

This is not a sex crime. So why are the Noida police going on and on about sex, ruining the reputations of the dead and the living without a shred of evidence?

My guess is that they are not just incompetent, they are also sex-starved. Perhaps the IGP needs professional help.

The Government: The media act as though the Noida police report to nobody. Some channels have even confused the IGP with his boss, the DGP of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, there is a chain of command. The DGP reports to a home secretary who reports to both a chief secretary and the home minister.

What is bizarre is that nobody in this chain of command has reprimanded the IGP or taken the investigation away from him. Instead, chief minister Mayawati has turned it into a political issue.

Imagine now that a joint commissioner of the Delhi or Bombay police had referred to a murdered child as “characterless”. The media uproar would have been enough to seal his fate. Why doesn’t the same happen in UP? In fact, why does this never happen in UP? Even during the Nithari killings, the Noida police got off scot-free, and Mulayam Singh’s brother dismissed the serial murders as being of little consequence.

I would argue that it’s the difference between national parties and regional parties. A BJP, CPM or Congress chief minister would have felt obliged to act, both because of an innate sense of right and wrong, and because of public pressure. But neither Mayawati nor Mulayam have any sense of right and wrong. As for the media uproar, they don’t give a damn: it doesn’t touch their vote-banks.

Now that regional parties threaten to take power at the Centre as part of a Third Front, it’s worth pondering the difference.

The Middle Class: As an educated Indian, I share the general outrage at the shredding of reputations, the sloppy investigation, the manhandling of a suspect against whom there is no solid evidence, and the denial of the presumption of innocence.But let’s consider another scenario. Suppose Hemraj had lived. The police were certain to have arrested him. Would anybody in the middle class have given a damn about how he was treated in custody? We, who are so angered by the manhandling of Rajesh Talwar, would have been unaffected by the third-degree methods that would almost certainly have been used on Hemraj. He would have been beaten up and tortured into signing a confession. He would have no right to privacy, no presumption of innocence and none of us would even have noticed.

I have always been suspicious of the manner in which every crime committed in a middle class home is blamed on the servant. Whether it’s a robbery or a murder, the cops never bother to draw up a list of suspects. They always arrest the servant and declare, a few days later, that he has confessed.

This has less to do with detective work and more with callous laziness. The motto of all Indian police forces is: we will hang the suspect and then find the evidence. It’s far easier to blame the servant than to launch an investigation. Rarely is any genuine evidence ever found. Instead the case rests on confessions and bogus ‘recoveries of stolen objects’.

Do we in the middle class mind? No, not at all. None of the outrage that has been expressed in this case ever extends to servants, to the poor and to anyone who is non-middle class.

The Media: Has there been any case where the media have behaved so badly? TV channels have carried MMSes purporting to show Aarushi’s loose ways. Even if these were genuine, there were privacy issues involved. But they were fakes. The channels carried them without verification. And now, they don’t even bother to apologise.The coverage of the Aarushi murder has been marked by lurid sensationalism. Anchors have appeared on the screen with their hands dipped in red paint. Fraudulent ‘re-enactments’, based on a dubious sense of what really happened, have been telecast. Even the English channels, which pride themselves on being more sensitive than their Hindi counterparts, have telecast the contents of private SMSes, sometimes, having them read out in theatrical re-enactments.

In their pursuit of ratings, television channels have acted as though no liberal value (presumption of innocence, privacy etc) matters and no journalistic rule (verification, attribution etc) is valid.

In their own way, the media have been as bad as — if not worse than — the Noida police. Journalists are too self-obsessed to sense the revulsion with which educated Indians have responded to media coverage of this case. Broadcasters sometimes believe that they can do anything they like as long as they get ratings, because there’s nobody to stop them.

But I think somebody will stop them. For the last five years, the government has been trying to regulate the media. All of us have fought this effort, arguing that self-regulation is the answer.

After all, we have asked our readers and viewers: who would you trust more — a civil servant or a journalist?

Ask that question today, and I suspect that we, in the media, would not like the answer. If the civil servant is an educated person, determined to impose liberal values and standards of accuracy, and the journalist is some sensation-hungry moron, metaphorically dancing on the grave of a murdered child, speculating breathlessly about her love life, and vulgarly suggesting that her parents were sex maniacs — well, then, my guess is that most educated Indians would pick the civil servant over the journalist.

The vagaries of Indian politics will ensure that the Noida police get away with murdering Aarushi all over again. But the media may not be so lucky. Any demand for regulation will now have widespread public support.

And can you really blame the public for feeling this way?

Vir Sanghvi in HT dated 01.0608

Point to Ponder Over Raj Thackeray

I agree that this post on the speeches by the MNS chief Raj Thackeray has come quite late but I intended it to be delayed as my first response is quite impulsive and need not be of any wisdom. Now I do not claim that the post contains unquestioned knowledge, deep thinking or wisdom but obviously it would be less inflammatory, less impulsive which makes it worthy of a look.( mind you not read) The second reason for the delay was that I intended to do a lot of research before I write this one. (And for a change I did that but forgot to take down the notes.)

If you have been following “The Hindustan Times” you must have not missed an excellent article on the issue by Vir Sanghvi I too, in my last post tried to make a subtle point with my sarcastic humour, which to my great regret went unnoticed.

Now statistics tells us that about 22% of the mumbai population is of UPites while Biharis comprise about 3%. So, one can agree that to some extent the north Indians are a burden on the city’s infrastructure. I, therefore takes Raj Thackeray’s words on the face value and agree that North Indians should leave the Mumbai, but before I do that I have some issues.

Going by your logic, Mr. Raj the Gujratis must leave Mumbai before Biharis and ultimately the city should be handed to the handful of fishermen community which were the original inhabitants of Mumbai.

Let’s even forget the above logic. Mr. Raj Thackeray is the elite leader of India, so as a commoner I am sure I have twisted the fact to suit me! And Mr. Thackeray is right when he asks the North Indians to leave, but let’s look at the facts again. Mr. Thackeray says we provide cheap labour and hence we are depriving the “sons of the soil” of their livelihood. Again during the entire protest period your target group were daily wage labourers, and the Taxi drivers. Though you spoke against the white collar jobs but you did not target them. Evidently, they are of secondary importance to you!

Hitler in his Mein Kemph said on the very first page The German people have no right to indulge in colonial policies until they have brought the brothers of the same motherland under one Reich (Sic). If it’s true then by the principle of duality, if you have to move your own people out of your home, make sure, the illegal aliens are turned out first.

I want to ask Mr. Raj Thackeray as to why no campaign was targeted towards the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant before targeting the North Indians. Dharavi the largest slum of Asia,is in Mumbai and a majority of them are illegal immigrants working as petty labourers and often unlawful activities. Yet almost every tenth house sports the MNS flag in Dharavi. These illegal immigrants have got their fake voter cards and huge vote bank for any political party in the city.

So, my dear Mumbaikars and Indians, wake up if we can’t see the true colour of these politicians and keep on falling in their dirty traps and electing them time and again. We will be proving the SOB Winston Churchill claims right that India in 50 years will be ruled by 3R’s Rogue, Ruffians and Rustics!!!

Why Dr Binayak Sen must be released

Dr Binayak Sen seems to have caught the imagination of the mainstream media in India at last. But one has to remember that he has spent a year in a Chhattisgarh jail.

An international award by the Global Heath Council named after Jonathan Mann to Dr Sen for his untiring work in the field of people’s health and human rights followed by a strong appeal by 22 Nobel Laureates demanding his release seems to have convinced the media that there is something extraordinary about Dr Sen’s arrest and that the issue needs to be probed.

Dr Sen, a paediatrician by training, was arrested on May 14 last year by the Chhattisgarh police under the dreaded Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which are in many ways more draconian than the now repealed Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act.

The police claimed it had evidence to prove that Dr Sen was actively helping out Maoists by providing them logistic support. The only piece of evidence they have been able to show till date is the fact that he made 33 visits to Narayan Sanyal, an old, ailing Maoist leader in jail. They were perfectly legal visits and allowed under the jail manual, not something clandestine. Sanyal was suffering from many diseases and required regular medical support.

As a civil right activist and doctor it was not unusual for Dr Sen to come into contact with extremist Maoists, especially since he was in Chhattisgarh, which is reeling under the bloody conflict between the state and the Maoists.

His plea for bail in the Supreme Court was rejected, which did not find it necessary to verify the claims by the state counsel. It agreed with the state that a free Binayak was a threat to the national security in Chhattisgarh.

The state is a dangerous place for civil right activists. It is the most recent destination for rich capitalists eyeing its mineral rich land and want it to be made available. How do you do it unless the tribals are driven out of their lands?

This is a state where governance is traditionally and criminally tilted in favour of moneylenders and the land and forest mafia. And welfare schemes aimed at the poor, especially the tribals, do not trickle down.

In such a scenario there is bound to be an emergence of a movement for justice. It does not necessarily have to be non-violent as the exploitation of the poor, who have been forced to be part of the developmental state, is extremely violent. National prosperity stands in striking contrast to the increasing impoverishment of the tribals.

Chhattisgarh was fertile land for the Maoist movement as the state failed shamefully to make the mechanism of justice work for the poor. Its loyalty to rich, national and multinational companies creates a compelling urge to eliminate anyone coming in the way. A report by an expert group set by the Planning Commission to look at the developmental challenge in extremist affected areas, says, ‘there is, however, failure of governance, which has multiple dimensions and is not confined to the inefficiency of the delivery systems only. It is not fortuitous that overwhelmingly large sections of bureaucracy/technocracy constituting the delivery systems come from the landowning dominant castes or middle classes, with their attachment to ownership of property, cultural superiority and a state of mind which rationalises and asserts their existing position of dominance in relation to others. This influences their attitudes, behaviour and performance.’

‘Internal displacement caused by irrigation/mining/industrial projects, resulting in landlessness and hunger, is a major cause of distress among the poor, especially the Adivasis. It is well known that 40 per cent of all the people displaced by dams in the last 60 years are forest-dwelling Adivasis� The law and administration provides no succour to displaced people and often treats them with hostility since the displaced people tend to settle down again in some forest region, which is prohibited by law. The Naxalite movement has come to the aid of such victims of enforced migration in the teeth of the law.’

The report further states that the Adivasis displaced from Orissa and Chhattisgarh, settling in the forests of Andhra Pradesh would have been easily evicted by officials but for the presence of the Naxalite movement.

Suffering from continuing land loss and displacement, dwindling livelihood resources, acute malnutrition and pitched against a formidable combine of profit-hungry companies and a callous administration, Adivasis found some solace from the Maoists. The Maoists therefore are not the cause but a result of the miseries of the Adivasis.

Instead of addressing these issues, the state took recourse to a militarist shortcut by helping in creation of an armed campaign called Salwa Judum which vowed to eliminate the Maoists. It employed Adivasis in its ranks, most of the times forcibly. It is not a coincidence that Salwa Judum started days after the signing of contracts between the state and some companies.

Salwa Judum is a law unto itself. Though it is claimed to be a peaceful people’s movement in reality it is a State-sponsored peoples’ militia which marches into villages, forces people to join or burns their houses, destroys their cattle, livelihood and drives them out. More than 640 villages have been evacuated in this drive. Lakhs of Adivasis have been forcibly removed from their habitations and some 40,000 of them live in Salwa Judum camps set up by the government, living in hellish conditions as another state-sponsored Administrative Reform Committee report found out. The committee was lead by senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily.

The Supreme Court was forced to express its displeasure of Salwa Judum by observing that the government cannot arm people and instigate them to kill others. Defending Salwa Judum was not a state lawyer but counsel for the central government who made an astonishing admission that the state police were unequal to the might of the Maoists. They were employing as special police officers only those who have been at some point, in some way been victimised by the Maoists, he pleaded. It was extraordinary for a state to openly defend an army of revenge.

Dr Sen’s consistent opposition to Salwa Judum is the real cause of the state’s ire. It was all good and rosy till he confined himself to providing health services to the poor. In fact, the government had invited him to advise on its health programmes.

Binayak Sen was a gold medallist from the prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu. He decided to leave his teaching job at Jawaharlal University in New Delhi to move to Chhattisgarh in 1978 to work with the legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, who built up the formidable Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Niyogi was later killed by the industry mafia. Dr Sen moved around in villages, establishing clinics and providing healthcare to those who were damned by State-run systems.

But as Dr P Zachariah, his teacher at CMC, says, “His interest in civil activism grew out of witnessing malnutrition deaths among children. The lack of governance worried him deeply. Chhattisgarh is a complicated state with a complicated history. The government did not meet the people’s needs and it was easy for Naxalites to exploit that. The government found it difficult to deal with militants who operated out of dense forests and took a very repressive stance. In the end, it led to the creation of Salwa Judum.”

“The police machinery too was getting large funds to fight the Naxalites. In the dark days that followed, people began to disappear. As a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Binayak couldn’t help but get involved. The PUCL was constantly approached by villagers saying that their relatives had disappeared. The police had to be approached, FIRs had to be filed, and Binayak began to help,” Dr Zacharaiah said.

Areas of disagreement between Dr Sen and the state government were bound to emerge. He could not have approved of measures like Salwa Judum. His work as the general secretary of the state’s PUCL became a pain for the government. He was also staunchly anti-communal and critical of the activities of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Adivasi-dominated areas. Otherwise a quiet man, this English-speaking doctor was increasingly becoming a cause of worry for the state government. He was, like other law-abiding activists, a critic of unlawful encounters by the police and thus an impediment to national and multinational companies. He needed to be silenced and removed from the scene.

This was done by the state symmetrically, with an active help from the local media. In April and May last year, the Chhattisgarh police stared a vilification campaign against him when he was away in Kolkata to see his ailing mother. He was declared an absconding Naxalite doctor who had fled to evade arrest.

Dr Sen’s brother circulated an open letter telling the world that he was not absconding, had gone to visit his mother and the police was in fact indulging in this vilification only to justify his arrest. His fears came true. Dr Sen returned to the state capital Raipur and was immediately arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

These laws do not need actual acts of conspiracy to make you criminal, even a perception that you may, even in future entertain thoughts which would be potentially against the state interest is sufficient reason for arrest.

Appeals by several civil right activists and individuals demanding the repeal of such absurd laws and the release of Dr Sen have been treated with disdain by the Chhattisgarh and central governments.

There is a strong belief in the establishment that all civil right activists are nothing but a respectable cover for extremists of all kinds, including the Maoists. They very conveniently ignore the criticism of Maoist violence by these individuals. What is disturbing is that if this liberal middle space is gone, there would not be a counter voice to violence.

It is only appropriate that the Global Health Council chose Dr Sen for its Jonathan Mann award. His international colleagues cutting across disciplines have asked the state and central governments to create situation for him to be able to receive this award in person which would be given in a public ceremony in the US on May 29. Given the arrogant insensitivity of our state institutions, it is unlikely that the appeals would be heard.

Can we expect our judiciary to help redeem the promise the Constitution makes to the people to safeguard their right to hold opinions and express it even if goes against the official line the state would like all of us to follow?

By: Apoorvanand, he is a literary critic and a Reader in Hindi at Delhi University

Source: Rediff

Terrorism doesn’t shock us anymore!

If terrorism is ultimately tamed, it will be because India is India. The Jaipur blasts of Tuesday, despite the horrendous toll they have taken in terms of human lives, will have little or no impact on anything — policies, people’s lives, or the much-hoped-for communal polarisation. Terror no longer has the capacity to shock. It is nothing more than another bus tragedy or train mishap that we read about everyday — however callous that may sound. The law of diminishing returns has set in.
But there are more fundamental reasons why terrorism no longer terrorises us. One, in a country as large and diverse as India, no incident or cause is big enough to upset the whole population. Even within the same region or community, the diversity is large enough to absorb shocks of almost any magnitude. For example, the Kashmir issue has almost little resonance amongst Muslims elsewhere in the country. The cause of the Kashmiri Pandits — ostensibly a Hindu cause — has few takers outside the Sangh Parivar.
The second reason is the cellular nature of Indian communities — largely derived from caste, religious and linguistic affiliations. Unlike large monocultural ethnic groups like the Han Chinese or Japanese, India’s various communities are more narrowly focused in their sense of oneness. The Olympic torch issue may inflame all of China against Tibetans, but the large influx of Bangladeshis in India does not exercise most Indians too much. Maybe a Thackeray here or an RSS there, but certainly not the whole of India.
Indians’ narrow sense of community probably has casteism to thank for. It is fashionable to view caste only as an oppressive tool — which it certainly is — but that’s really not the defining thing about caste. Caste is community and trust within the in-group. Conversely, what happens outside almost does not concern the community. It is this aspect that insulates it from threats in the external environment. It is this aspect which also ensures that a murderous terror attack in one part of the country does not incapacitate some other part.
I am not saying terrorism targets castes, but the idea of caste (or narrow in-group) permeates our way of thinking and automatically narrows down our sense of the larger community. On the downside, this means we are callous about the sufferings of other human beings. A Jaipur blast does not anger Indians a few hundred miles to the north or south of the city. It seems like someone else’s problem. But you can be sure that within the narrower communities that are affected by the blasts, money and help will pour out in torrents.
Through the last several hundred years, caste has been both oppressor and preserver in the Indian context. The onslaught from the west may have brought in new rulers and different religions, but India’s various communities, largely grouped today under the banner of Hinduism, withstood it because Hinduism has no centre, no focal point. Its cellular structure has been divided by caste, and by religious and regional affiliations. It is worth noting that even when people converted from one religion to another, the cellular structures went along with them — which is why we have Muslim and Christian Dalits talking about extending reservations to themselves, even though there is theoretically no caste system in the two religions concerned.
The main thing about a cellular structure is that the destruction or decimation of one cell does not impact the other parts. Just as neutering one cell of the Al-Qaeda does not end the terror menace, the targeting of one geographical, regional, or physical part of India does not affect the rest of the country. India is seldom ripe for revolution for the same reason. At any point of time, the interests of one group work against the interests of the rest, and popular waves often sink in the sands. India’s cellular diversity is giving terrorists a hard time. They won’t — rather, can’t — win here.

From: DNA Newspaper dated 15/05/08
Blast after blast, terror is losing
by R Jagannathan

Unique Protest in Supreme Court by YFE

A report of what happened when students gathered at the SC lawns to appeal against the way 27% reservation for OBCs is being implemented.

Wondering why the youth brigade didn’t come up with strong reactions immediately after the Supreme Court ruling that gave way to 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs? Well, this could be safely attributed to the proverbial silence before the storm.
On April 25, students did something nobody has ever done before. It was an appeal alright! Yes, again! But the venue wasn’t Jantar Mantar or the India Gate lawns but the main garden of the Supreme Court of India. Yes, this was the first-ever appeal to be held inside the Supreme Court premises in Indian history. Two hundred students had gathered to convey a message to the government – not to dilly-dally on the SC’s terms and to respect the judgment and clear the concept of the ‘creamy layer’.
Are you wondering how did 200 students get inside the SC gate? This was a strategy. Said a student present, “We walked in one after one and started pouring in since early morning. It was easy to walk in and engross ourselves in cups of chai before starting our appeal around 11 am. We had wanted this to be a silent affair but it didn’t turn out to be just that. We were literally plucked from the ground and dragged into police vehicles and then sent off to the Tilak Marg police station.”
The students offered resistance, held hands and sat close in a huddle and the police wasn’t very kind to them. While some students were tugged, others were pulled and dragged, some were lifted off the ground and some were slapped. It wasn’t the best way to deal with them and, as a result, around ten students were hurt, taken to RML and some lost their phones. Once the authorities realised that this was a strategy, Section 144 was applied that barred anybody from entering the SC.
There was a twist in the tale too! After students were sent to the Tilak Marg police station and released a while later, the entire crowd came running back to the Supreme Court. But this time they couldn’t enter the premises and slogans started at the gate. They were again put in police vehicles and taken to the police station a second time. “We are here to make a point,” said another student, adding, “We aren’t here to go back.” And what exactly is that point? “Implement SC’s judgment, please. Make the new list of OBC beneficiaries, keep to the SC’s take on the creamy layer and provide no reservations at the PG levels,” answered Jiten of YFE. Students from JNU, DU, IP University, AIIMS and MAMC were a part of this movement. And what did the students do post being released a second time? “We went to get some clothes. Our clothes were ruined with the amount of manhandling we were subjected to,” informed a student.