Three questions for Madhu Kishwar


JUNE 13, 2013
Guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA

Dear Madhu,

20+ years ago, I picked you up at the airport in Austin and you stayed at my home there for a few days. You had come there to deliver a lecture, as I’m sure you remember. We developed a friendship based on a degree of mutual respect and liking. I think you’ll agree? Several years after that I remember a stimulating afternoon sitting with you in Panchgani, catching up on many things and discussing various issues threadbare.

We haven’t met in some years now, but I’m going to call on the privilege of our 20+ years of friendship as I write these lines.

I have no problem at all with your desire to learn about Gujarat and Narendra Modi for yourself. Nor with your desire to see beyond what you’ve called the “targeting” of Modi. Nor with your speaking in support of Modi: if there are people who criticize Modi, I understand and accept that there are those who support him — it’s a democracy we live in after all. Nor with your speaking your mind: you have always done so and it’s the least I expect from you. (In turn, it’s the least you should expect from me).

No Madhu, I have no problem with any of that. And I’m not going to get into debates about Gujarat’s development (as with most things, there are multiple ways of looking at it). Not even into debates about what Modi did or did not do in 2002 to stop the massacres. I travelled there in that time and I have my own opinions, but I realize others see things differently.

There are probably three things I do have problems with.

One is in your reply to Zahir Janmohammed. Your third sentence there says his letter “annoyed me no end.” Your sixth sentence says “my annoyance kept increasing at your jaundiced viewpoint.” It seemed to me this set the tone for the whole reply. So I’d like to ask: Zahir’s viewpoint is clearly and dramatically different from yours; does that necessarily mean it is “jaundiced”?

These are wrenching, divisive issues you and he and all of us are grappling with. I can’t deny they get people on all sides annoyed. But you actually end your letter to Zahir by saying we need to “know how to bridge divides rather than widen them”. How do we bridge divides if we start out by calling the other guy “jaundiced”? What happened to respecting the other guy’s views and engaging with them? Is it not conceivable that some might see your views as jaundiced? And if so, what if they began a note to you by saying “I’m annoyed by your jaundiced views”? Would you feel like continuing a dialogue with such a person?

After all, I didn’t agree with some of what you said that afternoon in Panchgani (among other things, we discussed the RSS). Yet I think you will agree, if you remember that conversation, that I didn’t call your opinions jaundiced, and that it was indeed a stimulating afternoon.

I don’t know if you think this is a trivial thing. But I don’t. I think this is fundamental to any attempt at understanding and dialogue. And given the divisions and polarization I see around me, we need dialogue more than ever. Or the anger and hatred, I fear, will one day consume us all.

The second is your criticism of Teesta Setalvad (for example, in your interview with News Livehere) — among other things, for all that’s happened with the SIT. Npw I will support fully your right to disagree with Teesta. But surely you know — to pick just one thing to wonder about — of the discrepancies between the preliminary and final SIT reports? For example look at a couple of side-by-side excerpts here. What happened to “The explanation given by Shri Modi is unconvincing and it definitely hinted at the growing minority population” in the preliminary report?

This is the kind of thing that has people, and not just Teesta, asking serious questions about the SIT report.

The third is one Kodnani. For me, one thing about 2002 stands out and so many years later, I cannot see any way to suppress its implications. In 2007, after he won the Gujarat Assembly elections, Modi actually appointed Maya Kodnani as his Minister of Women’s Development and Child Welfare. He did this despite knowing what she had done in 2002 (for which she is now in prison). We know so because Modi’s own government, in which Kodnani was a Minister, actually filed an affidavit in the High Court in 2009 saying Kodnani “was the leader of mob … she was instigating the mob to commit crime and therefore she was playing the main role.” What’s more, “she is a minister in the present government, so there are ample chances of tampering with prosecution witnesses by way of giving threat.” (See this article for some details).

Overseeing the welfare of Gujarat’s children and its women’s development for a period a few years ago was a lady doctor who, a few years before that, had orchestrated the murder in Naroda-Patiya of 90+ Gujaratis, including 34 children and 32 women. Knowing that history, Modi appointed her to that position.

It’s simple, then: A man who knowingly appoints a murderer as Minister of Women’s Development and Child Welfare is not a man I want to see as PM of this country. It astonishes me that anyone would.

Good luck, Madhu. As always, I wish you only the best.

Yours,
Dilip

 

#India – Custodial Torture – Tailor, Farmer, Bootlegger, and many young men #mustread


The Hell Of Living Souls

A tailor. A farmer. A bootlegger. Often just young men going about their day. brutally tortured, then acquitted. G Vishnu captures the impunity with which this happens. And why society needs to react
G Vishnu

G VISHNU , Tehelka

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

If the protector becomes (the) predator, civilised society will cease to exist… Policemen who commit criminal acts deserve harsher punishment than other persons who commit such acts, because it is the duty of the policemen to protect the people and not break the law themselves

- Supreme Court of India, 2010

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only — even if illegal — way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false. Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.

The story of Ratanji Vaghela is symptomatic of the sheer randomness of this brutality. On 27 April, Gujarat Police arrested Vaghela, a patient of depression and amnesia, for crossing the path of an official convoy in Gandhinagar. The family alleges torture, due to which he had to be hospitalised with severe wounds. “There are very few countries in the world where torture is as systematic and endemic as in India,” says New Delhi based campaigner Suhas Chakma. Rights activist Teesta Setalvad of Mumbai agrees: “Torture is not the exception, but the norm in jails as well as prisons across India.”

 Sarfaraz
‘At the station, the inspector forced my penis into my mother’s private parts. He kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time’
Sarfaraz A Mumbai domestic worker who was arrested when he went to report his wife’s suicide

Vaghela may still turn out lucky. On a plea from Chakma, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous statutory watchdog, has ordered the state government to pay him an interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh and probe the allegation that he was tortured. But for the tens of thousands of citizens subjected to brutal torture across police stations and prisons in India, there is virtually no end to the tunnel.

“I have seen people beaten until they collapsed. I heard a prisoner was beaten until he died,” says Binayak Sen, a rights campaigner in Chhattisgarh, who spent two years in prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for sedition. “There is no question of natural justice. It is done with impunity. This is the everyday reality of torture in Indian jails.” Sen, whose incarceration became a global cause and who is on bail having appealed his conviction, says he was called crazy when he protested the torture of fellow prisoners. He says he never saw a victim of torture try to seek justice.

While the rest of the world is no stranger to torture by State agencies, India has the dubious distinction of sticking out as a sore thumb in the comity of nations. Along with half-a-dozen tiny nations such as Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, India is the only big country that has failed to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, by outlawing torture and legislating punishment, despite signing it. An attempt to legislate to outlaw torture went into deep freeze in 2010 after rights campaigners pointed out howlers in the draft Bill and a parliamentary committee began to sift through it.

As a result, an architecture of torture dominates India’s law enforcement, and the judiciary turns a blind eye. “We have seen the courts demand action against the police, but in most cases, torture invokes only a verbal outrage on the part of the judiciary,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, a long-time campaigner against torture. “It does not necessarily lead to effective prosecution of the perpetrators of torture.”

If ever a stink stirs judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, compensations are paid out, but any prosecution of the guilty drags forever. Stunningly, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, a government agency, shows there have been no convictions despite numerous cases filed against policemen and prison staff.

Activists reckon that most deaths emanate from torture, though, of course, officials always deny that. Most deaths are written off as suicides; very many are put down to illnesses and diseases. And the number of those who survive is exponentially larger and highly underreported. For most victims, torture begins a never-ending nightmare.

Mukesh Kumar, 21, was arrested on 24 January in Sheikhpura, a district in Bihar 120 km south of state capital, Patna, for bootlegging. According to a complaint he later filed with the State Human Rights Commission, Kumar was taken to the official residence of the city’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Babu Ram and thrashed. A baton was pushed into his rectum. (The police deny the charge.) Doctors at a hospital where he was brought four days later found his intestines had ruptured. He was told they might never heal.

 Naresh
‘When the policemen caned my soles, the pain shot up here (head). Three days later, I confessed that I had planted the bomb’
Naresh Sank Kujuri A tribal who was accused of planting a bomb in Gadchiroli that killed 12 CRPF personnel

Kumar’s relatives admit that, desperate to feed his family of five, he had taken to plugging moonshine. They were forced to bring him to the State-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for surgeries that have already cost Rs 2 lakh. “He passes stool through a pipe and can’t walk to the toilet,” says Kumar’s uncle, Dhiraj Singh. “What do you do when the guardians of law commit such a crime?” After newspapers wrote of the torture, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the SP transferred out. “All the policemen involved in the case, including the SP, have been transferred,” says Sheikhpura’s new SP, Meenu Kumari. “I cannot comment further.”

With 11 crore people, Maharashtra has just over half the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, it tops the country in the number of cases of custodial deaths and torture by police and in prisons, beating even India’s most populous state. Recurrent bombings, supposedly by homegrown Islamic fundamentalists, and a Maoist rebellion in the state’s east have stoked the appetite for torture among the law enforcement agencies.

On 26 March 2012, a bomb exploded in Gadchiroli district, killing 12 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. It responded by raiding surrounding villages with the police, who arrested 11 men. “Every morning and evening, we were hung upside down and our feet, ankles and back caned,” Nanaji Chambrupadha Bapra, 28, told this reporter on a visit to his village. “After four days, the police stopped the torture but still won’t release us,” adds Shatrugan Rajnaitham, 18. The men were instead charged with waging war against the State. They were bailed after three months.

“There is no evidence against them but they were picked up because it was convenient,” says their lawyer, Jagdish Mishram. And fruitful. “When they caned the soles, the pain shot up here,” says Naresh Sank Kujuri, 26, pointing at his head. “Three days later, I told them I had planted the bomb.” The families of these men, all poor farmers, have run up debts of lakhs of rupees on legal and health expenses. Of course, the police reject the charge. “None of the men were tortured,” Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque told TEHELKA. “We arrested them on the basis of evidence.”

Kujuri’s story illustrates how torture is entirely self-defeating. Bandhu Mishram, 46, a tailor in Nagpur district and a veteran of torture, describes how the police set about implementing their regime of torture. He has been arrested thrice in a short life: in 1984, 1996 and 2010. In his early years he was targeted, he says, for his trade unionism and activism to demand a separate state of Vidarbha in the east of Maharashtra. In 2010, the police named him a Maoist rebel and arrested him.

“They break you down scientifically when they want a confession,” he says. “They know how to make you feel hurt and anxious.” Mishram was hung upside down between a tyre and his feet were caned for an hour. They made him believe his wife and mother were being raped in the next room. For hours he heard screams as the policemen laughed. A fellow inmate told him his wife had been raped and killed, and her body chopped and dumped. “I wanted to kill myself. Thankfully, I saw my wife in the court the next day.” Mishram spent three months in jail before being bailed. In 2012, he was acquitted of all charges. He has filed a petition against his tormentors.

Does Indian law allow torture? Actually, no. Activist Arun Ferreira, who spent four years in Nagpur prison until January 2012 and was charged under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), witnessed many fellow inmates suffer torture. “Even solitary confinement is illegal but every prison in India has cells for solitary confinement,” he says. “The State uses torture as a weapon. It is systemic for a reason.” He points to the hypocrisy of the State in an anti-torture Bill that the government rushed through Lok Sabha in 2008 and that, activists found, actually exempted torture in some cases.

‘At the 2008 UN Human Rights Convention, many countries asked India why it still hadn’t ratified the convention on prevention of torture. Then India had said it would legislate a domestic law. Five years later, there’s no law yet’

Vrinda Grover Human Rights Lawyer

‘Doctors ought to provide relief and recourse but medical services available to prisoners are inadequate. The medical staff treats them with disdain. By and large, doctors reinforce the messages imposed by jail authorities’

Binayak Sen Pediatrician and Public Health Specialist

‘Torture needs to be defined under the IPC. An amendment is pending in Parliament and that needs to be enacted. There is a proper definition of torture that is universally accepted, and it should be brought in as an offence’

Teesta Setalvad Civil rights activist

‘The worst thing is that courts don’t take notice of complaints. When undertrials are presented before them, they invariably complain about custodial torture. Courts brush aside these claims. They don’t pay any heed to such grievances’

SR Darapuri Former IG, Uttar Pradesh

 

Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-activist, SR Darapuri of Lucknow, has a rare insider’s perspective on torture. “The worst thing is that the courts do not take notice of the complaints. When these victims appear before the courts, invariably they make these complaints and the courts just brush them aside. Our whole system is infested.” As for the courts, although they have begun to take greater cognisance of torture by police and prison staff, they are still far from being in an overdrive to end the practice. A public lawsuit against custodial torture filed by lawyers Rebecca Gonsalves and Vijay Hiremath is gathering dust at the Bombay High Court since 2003. Over six years ago, the Supreme Court directed all states to set up a Security Commission as a watchdog for law enforcement to free it of political control. That is yet to happen.

“We must recognise that our criminal justice system has all but collapsed,” says the petitioner in that case, former Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Prakash Singh. “Even simple cases take three to five years.” Then, the society expects quick results. “Decent people have asked me why don’t we just take out criminals and terrorists. Torture is easy closure because they know justice won’t be delivered otherwise.”

Singh says reforms alone would make the police democratic and accountable and not dance to political masters. But says Supreme Court lawyer Grover: “More than reforms, we need accountability. The police have an institutional bias against minorities, the Dalits, the poor and the women. And the political class uses the desensitised police to push its agenda.” Mumbai lawyer Yug Mohit Chowdhry, who has represented several victims of custodial torture, says the police are understaffed, under-equipped, underpaid and stretched. “They have to manage everything from law and order to domestic disputes,” he says. “When we make them work like animals, they behave like animals.”

Actually, animals behave better.

When Naushad Sheikh, 45, accused of being a thief, died in custody in Navi Mumbai on 16 March, police said he had banged his head on an iron grill. The autopsy showed wounds across the body. A co-accused told the Maharashtra Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Sheikh was subjected to “bhajirao”, a severe lashing with police uniform belts whose buckles caused deep wounds on his head. The co-accused also said Sheikh was hung upside down and beaten with a cricket bat.

“Custodial death is inhuman. Nobody should be subjected to torture,” Additional Commissioner of Police Qaiser Khalid told TEHELKA. “Let us wait for the CID findings.” But will a probe be impartial? Not in the experience of the family of Rafiq Sheikh, 35, a cosmetic company executive in Mumbai, who was arrested on 28 November 2012 in a fake currency racket. When his brother, Majhal, went to meet him on 2 December, Sheikh was dead. “The deepest wounds were on his legs. The soles of his feet had blackened from the beating,” says Majhal. “I want those cops to pay for what they did.”

In this case, too, a co-accused testified that policemen belted and caned Sheikh for hours. A judge of the Bombay High Court noted that the wounds appeared inflicted by others. When Sheikh’s family filed a criminal case, the police assigned the probe to a CID team that includes an officer who was himself once charged with the killing of an accused named Khwaja Younus in January 2003. Now Assistant Commissioner of Police, Praful Bhosale was known as an “encounter specialist”, who had killed 74 alleged criminals. Bhosale was suspended for four years and reinstated in 2010.

On 15 April 2011, police in the northeastern state of Tripura arrested Harak Chandra Chakma, a 32-year-old tribal, for taking part in a tribal celebration. He claimed the police attacked him with a blunt object. Photographs showed injuries on his thighs, back and below the knees. He was hospitalised for 10 days. Four days after the torture, the Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network, an NGO, moved the NHRC. An inquiry proved Chakma’s torture by the police. What happened then to the guilty? One of the three named in the report was suspended. No action was taken against the others.

A hair-raising account of torture has come from a Bengaluru journalist, Muthi-ur- Rahman Siddique, who was released in February after being in prison for six months allegedly for a terror plot. In all, there were 14 accused in the case. “One was beaten, hung upside down, and had petrol poured into his private parts,” Siddique told TEHELKA. Another accused, Obaid-ur-Rehman of Hyderabad, had his finger broken. “Most were given electric shocks on their genitals.” The police deny the allegations.

Justice typically eludes victims of torture for decades. In 1989, a domestic worker named Sarfaraz went to the police in Navi Mumbai to report that his wife had hanged herself and died. Instead, the police accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. They allegedly called his mother to the police station, stripped both of them, and forced them into sexual positions. “After some time, a constable took me into a room where my mother was being held,” reads Sarfaraz’ shocking statement to the court. “She was in the nude. I was forced to strip naked even as I begged them to let us go. An inspector took me to my mother and put my hands on her breasts. After making her lie down on a bench, he asked one of the constables to shake my penis. They tied me up and beat me again. I was untied after a point and they pushed me on my mother. The inspector was forcing my chest to her breasts and my penis into her private parts. The inspector kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time.” It is a narrative that Sarfaraz reproduces with a kind of clarity as though it happened yesterday. He was then paraded naked in his neighbourhood. After he was acquitted in 1991 of trumped up charges, he filed cases against the three policemen who were instrumental in making him suffer. It was only last year that the case was finally taken up by a fast-track court.

 
‘Every morning And evening, We were hung upside down and our feet, Ankles and back caned. The torture continued for four days’
Shatrugan RajnaithamA tribal from Gadchiroli who was charged with waging war against the State

Policemen long enjoyed impunity from prosecution because the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a set of rules coded in 1973 to administer criminal jurisprudence, stipulates that officials cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the discharge of their duties. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 had allowed sentences of up to seven years for a range of acts that can be considered as torture. But to prosecute cops under these laws has traditionally been next to impossible. Few victims are forensically examined. A lack of a witness protection mechanism deters the victims from taking on the guilty. Compensation is yet not a fundamental right. The courts have taken a minimalistic view on claims for compensation from acts of torture. As such, awards vary across India.

In 2005, an amendment to the CrPC mandated a judicial probe on the death or disappearance of a person or rape of a woman in custody. But it has hardly lessened the use of torture. Deaths from torture are almost always passed off as suicides. “What led them to the extreme act and how they commit suicide with strange objects like shoe laces, blankets, jeans, etc are (questions) never answered,” says a report by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO that activist Chakma heads. “How the victims had access to the means like poisons, drugs, electric cables, etc in custody remain(s) unknown.” Many victims, who are healthy prior to their arrest, develop medical complications once in custody. “They are subjected to torture and murdered. With the acquiescence of the medical fraternity, the police are able to describe the death as medical complications.”

Internationally, it is becoming hard for India to escape censure. As early as 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced anguish over the extensive use of torture by India’s law enforcement agencies. The Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008 expressed serious concern over the impunity that India afforded to its men in uniform who tortured citizens in custody. In March, Henri Tiphagne, a leading global activist from the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, joined a public hearing against torture at Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. “Torture is inflicted not only on the accused but also on petitioners and complainants,” he told the gathering. Of course, the government has long turned a deaf ear to domestic and international voices against the culture of torture. And unless it is shaken out of its complacence, tens of thousands more will continue to be brutalised by the men in uniform.

vishnu@tehelka.com

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt, Nupur Sonar, Imran Khan and Ratnadip Choudhury

The Importance of Zakia Jafri’s Protest Petition


 (EPW 25MAY2013)

Vol – XLVIII No. 21, May 25, 2013 | Teesta Setalvad

 

The protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri against the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team report, which absolved Narendra Modi of all responsibility for the 2002 killings in Gujarat, is an important step towards justice for all the victims. This article recapitulates the long and diffi cult battle for justice through the courts and exposes the complicity of the SIT in protecting Modi from his crimes.

Teesta Setalvad (teestateesta@gmail.com) is secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace.

It is not often that the battle against aggressive communalism gets sustained and validated through courts of law. This communalism is not just visible in instances of violence but encompasses the sustained mobilisation that precedes the violence, it includes hate speech and writing, as well as the deliberate debilitation of preventive measures of law and order to prevent such violence and protect the lives and properties of citizens. In the south Asian context, majoritarian communalism, fed in an insidious manner by its minority prototype, has the proclivity to deteriorate into authoritarianism, even fascism. Events, past and present, in Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India are testimony to this. In the cases of all countries of the region, communalists of the majority find ready partners with their mirror-images among the minority.

For over four decades now, aggressive communalism has made deep inroads into the pillars of the Indian republic, executive, legislature and even the judiciary. The calculated, and bloody mobilisation of an ostensibly religious kind by India’s main opposition party from the late 1980s was purely political; it consolidated a vote bank of middle- and upper-class Hindus while demonising the “minority vote bank” as the raison d’être for its existence. This section of Indians, fortuitously a numerical minority yet substantial in numbers at 27 to 30% of the overall vote, has aggressively celebrated the bloody attacks on minorities and on its opposition. Writers and commentators have analysed this phenomenon as the republic’s descent into proto-fascism, with forces of the Hindu right (the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the parliamentary wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – and its other avatarsthe Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD)) manipulating institutions of democratic governance. Our administration, our police, even our courts of justice barely withstood this systemic onslaught.

Some Success

It is in this unique context that the battle for acknowledgement, justice and accountability for the well-orchestrated state directed and executed crimes of 2002 in Gujarat, needs to be understood. For over 11 years now, a steely band of survivors, backed by groups of civil and legal rights groups and activists have extracted for the first time a degree of acknowledgement, transparency and accountability from an indifferent system. One hundred and sixteen life imprisonments pronounced to, among others, policemen, powerful politicians (one former minister) and strongmen of outfits of the VHP and BD, is a success story in its own right.

What the Zakia Jafri protest petition filed on 15 April 2013 attempts is to take this battle for accountability several steps further, and deeper. In carving out a substantial case of criminal conspiracy planned and executed by the state’s chief minister, who is also its home minister, this unique and historic legal intervention raises serious questions about the systemic build-up of communal mobilisation and inaction by state agencies and actors, the state and government’s specific response to a tragedy like Godhra on 27 February 2002 and their lack of intent to contain the impact and spread of violence.

This protest petition also brings focus on the lacunae in checking hate speech and propaganda, asks for facts about summoning assistance from the military and paramilitary forces, and does a comparative analysis of districts and police commissionerates worst affected by violence (which were 15 in number) and those where the police and civilian officials refused to bow down to political masters. It also highlights the role of whistleblowers, of survivors/activists/legal and civil rights groups, and of the media in pinning down accountability on the political leadership for these mass crimes.

Gathering the Tinder

Gujarat in early 2002 was sitting on a communal cauldron, carefully stoked since October-November of 2001. Records of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that are well-documented parts of the protest petition (annexures to the affidavit of former SIB Gujarat chief, R B Sreekumar) as well as responses received from the office of the chief minister during the course of the investigation, clearly establish that sustained efforts to keep districts and cities of Gujarat on the boil were afoot (reference p 178, paras 426-42 of the protest petition). What these indicate is that the then newly sworn in chief minister, Narendra Modi who had been brought in by the party’s national leadership after a series of bye-election losses in September 2001, was at the helm of the law and order machinery as the state’s home minister but did little to act against this communal mobilisation.

SIB warnings include detailed notings of the aggressive anti-minority speeches being made by BJP leaders as also of the VHP and BD. One such comment, by one Prahlad Patel on his way to Faizabad-Ayodhya, recorded by the SIB would prove to be prescient, “Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai” (The inside information is that the police is working with us). Despite this climate and the warnings, Godhra – with a poor record of communal violence – was left unguarded and unprepared. Despite platoons of the military and paramilitary being not far away (at Vadodara), they are not galvanised. When the Sabarmati Express arrived five hours late at the Godhra station on the fateful day of 27 February 2002, Gujarat was already sitting on a communal tinderbox.

It is how the Godhra tragedy has been deliberately manipulated that requires a careful and dispassionate study for all those concerned with non-partisan governance. The first information on Godhra received by the chief minister from the district magistrate, Jayanti Ravi, details the sequence of events – aggressive and provocative sloganeering by kar sevaks that caused a mob of Muslims to gather and pelt stones. The reasoning that explains partially, at least how and why a crowd gathered when the train stopped after it had left and the chain was pulled, is thereafter deliberately and consciously obliterated by the government in official statements and releases. The chief minister in the assembly around 1 pm hints at a sinister and Machiavellian conspiracy (paras 50-54 at pp 37-39 of the protest petition and paras 127-74, pp 71-92 of the protest petition).

It is other jigsaws in the puzzle that have fallen into place during the analysis of investigation papers and preparation of the protest petition that point to the chilling manoeuvres by men and women in positions of governance to abdicate their oath to the Indian Constitution and consciously allow a chain of criminal actions to spiral out of control.

Lighting the Fire

Between 9 am, when news of the tragedy at Godhra had been received, and 10.30 am, when an official meeting of home department officials was called by the chief minister, phone call records (that were deliberately ignored by the Special Investigation Team (SIT)) show that the chief minister was in close touch with Jaideep Patel (accused in the criminal complaint). Jaideep Patel, far from being a man from officialdom, was actually a strong man of the VHP, general secretary of their state unit. Despatched to Godhra soon after these telephone conversations it was the same Jaideep Patel who thereafter attended an official meeting at the Collectorate at Godhra (para 69, p 45 of the protest petition) and to whom the chief minister ordered the 54 dead bodies of Godhra victims to be handed over to. It was this VHP man who was given the responsibility of transporting these bodies to Ahmedabad in a motor cavalcade that caused violence in its wake (paras 73-81 at pp 47-50 of the protest petition) and it was Jaideep Patel who handed them over to the authorities at Sola Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad.

Jaideep Patel thereafter was also charged with being an instigator of mobs to commit violence at Naroda Gaam, the next day, 28 February 2002. This close contact between the chief minister and Jaideep Patel, both accused in Zakia Jafri’s criminal complaint dated 8 June 2006 continued right through till 28 February 2002 when the massacres at Naroda and Gulberg were being executed. At 15: 26:06 hours, Jaideep Patel called the chief minister at his official number and had a conversation lasting 141 seconds. Jaideep Patel’s was one of just three calls on this number. Incidentally, all the office and residential numbers of the chief minister for both days show a shockingly low number of calls, raising more questions than they answer. The mobile number of the chief minister has been left deliberately uninvestigated by the SIT (para 106, p 61 of the protest petition).

After these surreptitious indications of the criminal conspiracy that was to unfold, the chief minister, then health minister, Ashok Bhatt, minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and Jaideep Patel were in touch and a controversial decision to conduct post-mortems on the bodies of the unfortunate Godhra victims, in the open at the railway yard in full public view of an aggressive crowd of VHP members baying for blood, was taken. The chief minister, who is accused number 1 in this protest petition, was present at Godhra at the railway yard while these illegal post-mortems were allowed (paras 473-77, pp 211-12 of the protest petition).

Law and procedure are exacting about whom the dead bodies are to be given; they require that the bodies remain in the safe-keeping of the police authorities (in this case the Godhra police where the case was registered) until claimed by relatives to whom they need to be handed over with due procedure. Photographs of gruesome and gory remains are strictly prohibited from being displayed or published (para 480, p 214 of the protest petition). Not only were the gory charred remains of the burnt passengers displayed but they were widely publicised in violation of Section 233, 4 (vi), Volume III of the Gujarat Police Manual.

Initiating Investigations

The narrative behind this legal journey is in itself an exploration into systemic efficacy and response. Zakia Jafri, widow of slain former parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri, first filed this criminal complaint before the director general of police, Gujarat. The man to hold this position on 8 June 2006, the date of the complaint, was none other than the many times promoted despite being indicted commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, P C Pande. When the Gujarat police failed to register a first information report (FIR), she along with the organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace approached the high court and later, when relief was denied further, the Supreme Court of India. On 27 April 2009 the Supreme Court seeing merit in the issues raised by the complaint handed it over to the already appointed SIT under former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director, R K Raghavan.

The investigations by the SIT resulted in four reports, three before the Supreme Court. While the SIT, despite contradictory findings, concluded there was no evidence against any of the accused, the amicus curiae (friend of the court) senior counsel Raju Ramachandran reported to the contrary. His report dated 25 July 2011 told the Supreme Court that there was a clear case for the prosecution of Modi and three others, at the least. Based on this contrary advice, the Supreme Court on 12 September 2011 told the SIT to file its final report after considering the amicus’ contrary view and, in the event of this being no different from its conclusions before the Supreme Court, specifically entitled Zakia Jafri to a complete set of the investigation papers to file a competent protest petition. After a battle of five years, the complaint that began with a plea for registration of an FIR had now proceeded to the stage of a charge sheet being filed against the accused.

The SIT did not change its conclusions and filed yet another report stating that no criminal charges were made out. Equally questionable was its adamant refusal to comply with the Supreme Court’s order of 12 September 2011 and give all the investigation papers to Zakia Jafri. The 514-page protest petition is an elaborate testimony to the reasons behind the SIT’s refusal to comply. Its own investigation papers have provided a wealth of further evidence about the complicity of the top political and administrative offices of the state government in paralysing its own administration into inaction, deliberately refusing preventive arrests or the declaration of curfew, allowing funeral processions to be the launching pads of attacks and rioting, etc. By 2013 it is clear that the SIT has not only performed an unprofessional job in a desultory manner, it is today, through its partisan conclusions, becoming a spokesperson for the Modi administration abandoning its role as an independent investigating agency that it was bound to be, given its appointment by the Supreme Court.

Ignoring Evidence

R K Raghavan, A K Malhotra and Himanshu Shukla, the three main spokespersons for the SIT, have cynically misled the Supreme Court when they stated that the funeral processions of the railway burning victims in Godhra and at least five to eight other locations (Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand) were peaceful. The evidence from police control room (PCR) records submitted by P C Pande (accused in the complaint) to the SIT after 15 March 2011 reveal a cold-blooded mobilisation of RSS and VHP workers at the Sola Civil hospital from 4 am onwards on 28 February 2002 in aggressive anticipation of the arrival of the dead bodies.

Repeated PCR messages, that the home department under Modi and P C Pande were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat, crowds were mobilised to aggressively parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. The then joint police commissioner, Ahmedabad, Shivanand Jha, also an accused in the complaint was jurisdictionally in charge of Sola Civil Hospital in zone 1. As the messages extracted show, repeated PCR messages desperately ask for more “bandobast”, they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat, of a 5,000-6,000 strong mob accompanying the bodies and finally one message also says that “riots have broken out” (paras 559-60 at pp 244-47 of the protest petition).

These records also reveal what the SIT was trying hard to conceal: that the Ahmedabad police under P C Pande, the then minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya (accused in the complaint), and Narendra Modi had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his incendiary slogans, Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil hospital to accompany the processionists, but they did not have enough forces to send to Naroda Patiya where at least 96 persons were massacred in broad daylight and 69 persons at Gulberg society the same day and around the same time as these aggressive processions were being allowed.

Sustained warnings from the SIB, even after the Godhra tragedy on 27 February 2002, show that large sections of the police were aware and knew of what should be expected all over the state now that the Godhra tragedy had happened. As early as 12.30 pm on 27 February a SIB officer, through fax number 525, communicated to the headquarters that there were reports that some dead bodies would be brought to Kalupur Hospital station in Ahmedabad city. The same message said that kar sevaks had given explosive interviews to a television channel at Godhra and had threatened to unleash violence against Muslims.

But it is the panic messages from 1.51 am onwards on 28 February 2002 from police wireless vans positioned at Sola Civil Hospital demanding immediate protection from Special Reserve Police platoons and the presence of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) zone 1, that are a grave testimony to the planned gory scenario that was to unfold. The message at 2.44 am on 28 February 2002 informed that the motor cavalcade had reached Sola Civil Hospital. Page No 5790 of Annexure IV, file XIV reveals that at 04.00 am a mob comprising of 3,000 RSS workers had already gathered at the Sola Civil Hospital. Again, another message three hours later at 7.17 am (p 5797 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents) says that a mob of 500 people was holding up traffic. By 11.55 am a PCR message was sent out saying that the Hindu mob had become violent and had set a vehicle on fire and was indulging in arson on the highway.

The message at 11.55 am (page no 6162 Annexure IV File XV) says that “Sayyed Saheb, the protocol officer had informed Sola-1 that riots have started at Sola civil hospital at the high court where the dead bodies were brought”. Again, there is another message with no indication of time (page no 6172 of 28 February 2002) that states that the officers and employees of the hospital had been surrounded by a 500 strong mob and they could not come out. The message also made a demand for more security for the civil hospital at Sola.

In a cynical disregard of this hard documentary evidence, the SIT, in its first investigation report dated 12 May 2010, in the chairman’s comments dated 14 May 2010 and in its final report dated 8 February 2012 says that the funeral processions were peaceful.

On the morning of 28 February 2002, another SIB message says that a funeral procession was allowed to take place at Khedbrahma, a town in Sabarkantha district, and adds that soon after the funeral procession two Muslims on their way to Khedbrahma were stabbed and the situation had become very tense. All this and more has been ignored by the SIT completely.

Other documentary evidence of deliberate acts of provocation by the likes of Jaideep Patel, Kaushik Mehta (both also accused) and Dileep Trivedi were recorded by the SIB. They made inflammatory false statements of “women being molested at Godhra” and the SIB records that other meetings at Vapi, Khedbrahma, Bhavnagar, etc, are being held by RSS, VHP and the BD to whip up sentiments (paras 631-37, pp 274-76 of the protest petition). One message at Annexure III, file XVIII (D-160) at page no 19, message no 531 from SIB police to K R Singh at 6.10 pm on 27 February 2002, actually records that “on 27 February 2002 at 4.30 pm when the train arrived at the Ahmedabad Railway station, the kar sevaks were armed with ‘dandas’ and shouting murderous slogans ‘khoon ka badla khoon’”.

SIT: Omissions and Commissions

While Modi travelled 300 kms to Godhra and returned the same night, he did not visit any of the refugee camps where women, children and men of the minority community had taken shelter until well after the 21-22 May 2002 visit of J S Verma, the then chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and former chief justice of India. He also announced a discriminatory compensation package for those killed at Godhra and those thereafter. The crucial, and sensational, meeting at his residence on the night of 27 February 2002 is where direct evidence of the conspiracy in operation has been alleged. Officers and others who were present have, over the past 11 years, indicated that clearly illegal orders were conveyed by the accused chief minister. Unlike crucial law and order meetings at times of crises, this meeting has not been minuted.

What transpired at this meeting was first publicly revealed through the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Crimes Against Humanity – headed by Justices V R Krishna Iyer, P B Sawant and Hosbet Suresh. Thereafter in the course of the SIT investigations, a serving officer of the Gujarat police, Sanjiv Bhatt testified directly and corroborated this. The protest petition makes a strong case for testing this evidence in court. Amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran in his report to the Supreme Court had also clearly opined that it is not for the investigating agency to prejudge the evidence but place it to be tested during trial.

Despite the evidence of intense communal mobilisation, bloodthirsty speeches and actual attacks on Muslim citizens on the day of the Godhra tragedy, there is no appeal for peace and calm by the state’s chief minister and home minister. No preventive arrests were made, despite 19 attacks on minorities in Ahmedabad on 27 February 2002 itself, nor were prohibitory orders issued. There is no clarity either, from the investigation papers, as to when the army was actually called and deployed. The SIT had not bothered to record the statement of major Zameeruddin Shah, in charge of the army operations in Gujarat, nor that of K P S Gill, sent by the central government in May 2002 simply because the violence continued and refused to stop. Hence the protest petition, apart from praying for the charge sheeting of all the accused, also makes a strong case for a transfer of the further investigation to an independent agency.

The failure of the SIT was in its inability to examine the evidence objectively. An honest and robust investigation would have made a strong comparative analysis between those districts of Gujarat that burned and those that withstood the illegal instructions from above while succumbing to rampaging militias of the RSS-VHP-BD combine from below. Bhavnagar and Panchmahals are interesting studies. Superintendent of police Rahul Sharma, despite all attempts to unleash bloodshed, held his own, even though reinforcements and troops were deliberately delayed by his seniors in Gandhinagar. Annoyed at his non-partisan conduct he was transferred by 26 March 2002. Brought to the crime branch, he again made significant inputs about non-partisan charge sheets in both the Gulberg and Naroda Patiya investigations; he was transferred yet again.

In Conclusion

The narrative of the conspiracy of partisan governance and subversion of the justice process runs parallel to a cynical policy of punishing those officers who refused to become collaborators in the planned bloodshed. Unfashionable as it is to quote from Jawaharlal Nehru when he said that “The [real] danger to India, is from Hindu right-wing communalism”, it seems more than appropriate given the continued attempts by the government in power in Gujarat and the party in power, to belittle what has been an onerous and exacting battle, fought at great risk, within the courts.

 

Memorandum to Revenue Secretary Gujarat government- Forgotten Citizens of 2002


 

March 13, 2013

 

FORGOTTEN CITIZENS OF 2002

 

As a follow up to the collective decisions made at the Eleventh Memorial of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002, Survivors and lawyer representatives of the CJP met with Gujarat Revenue Secretary DJ Pandian and submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the grave issues that they face in terms of absence of amenities. Attached is a copy of the memorandum given to the government today. Issues related to home and land regularisation, sanitation and public health in the Faisal Park, Vatwa, Ektanagar, Citizens Nagar areas have been raised in the memorandum. The Revenue Secretary assured the delegation that the Collector, Ahmedabad and Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad would look into the issues raised by the memorandum at the earliest.

 

Victim Survivors of 2002 who are also IDPs (internally displaced persons) continue to languish in sub-human conditions eleven years after the state sponsored massacre which saw the brutal killings of over 2,000 members of the minority community and rendered thousands homeless. A year long protest programme to demand dignified rehabilitation from the Gujarat government was launched from Citizen’s Nagar, Bombay Hotel area from Thursday, February 28 2013, the eleventh anniversary of the pogrom.  The year-long mobilisation on behalf of IDPs will continue and extend to other rehabilitation colonies and IDPs living all over Gujarat. The memorandum will be accompanied by a detailed survey of 180 homes from these localities. The CJP will assist IDP communities all over Gujarat throughout the state to ensure regularization of their lands and homes, the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, access to primary health and education.

 

 

 

 

Fr Cedric Prakash                                                                                Teesta Setalvad

 

URGENT PRESS RELEASE- condemning attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Christians in Pakistan


URGENT
PRESS STATEMENT
Sunday, March 10, 2013

CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, MUMBAI

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Mumbai condemns the attack on innocent Hindus in Bangladesh over the past week and Christians in Pakistan yesterday by a angry mob of 7,000 and more. We appeal to all Indians and the wider human rights community to join us  in condemning these dastardly attacks.

While condemning the targeted and  violent attacks against Bangladesh’s minority Hindu community, the CJP calls upon the Indian government and international organisations to ensure that the Bangladeshi authorities provide them with better protection. There have been disturbing reports that individuals taking part in the protests called by supremacist Islamic parties (including reportedly led by Jamaat-e-Islaami, Bangladesh) have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh, scores of Hindu homes and shops have also been burned down, leaving hundreds homeless. The attacks have come in the wake of protests to implement the findings of the country’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). The role of the Jamaat-e-Islaami-Bangladesh has been pointed to in the recent anti-minority attacks. In Pakistan, regarding the targeted attack against a group of Christians in Lahore, the CJP urges the Indian government and international organisations to lend voice to their demand that the   the Punjab government should have given the Christian community more protection in Lahore following the false allegations of blasphemy.

All of us undersigned condemn these dastardly attacks and call for the immediate punishment of those guilty. It is long overdue that the demands of human rights activists from all countries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Afganistan, Srilanka, Burma and Bhutan are met and a South Asian Commisison/Authority for Human Rights  Protection is established that looks into all instances of cross border human rights  violations, atrocities against women and children and traffking, caste atroctries and attacks on identities, ethnicities and religious minorities. CJP has been part of efforts to set  up this kind of mechanism for over a decade.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary & trustee

Other trustees: IM Kadri (Vice President), Raghunandan Maluste (Vice-President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Alyque Padamsee, Cyrus Guzder, Javed Akhtar, Taizoon Khorakhiwala, Anil Dharkar, Rahul Bose, Javed Anand, Ghulam Pesh-Imam, Cedric Prakash

Eleven years of carnage: Gujarat still needs focus on social harmony


By Sayed Isthiyakh2/28/13

 

Eleven years on, victims of the infamous Gujarat carnage are still awaiting justice. They are still denied of basic rights in their own homeland and forced to live in an alienated state, with 16,000-18,000 displaced persons without secure homes or safe drinking water says Teesta Setalvad, who has been engaged in pursuit of justice for the victims.

The eleven year long journey of legal battle was full of obstacles and miseries, but life imprisonments to 116 perpetrators including former Minister Maya Kodnani  was a watershed, says Setalvad. “Perhaps, it was the first time in the history of India wherein perpetrators were brought to justice for targeted communal violence; it has been the only reflection of justice we could see.”

So that the level of conspiracy doesnt stop with  Maya Kodnani, the 15 April Protest Petition in the Zakia Jafri case  will be very crucial for justice, says Setalvad referring to the efforts to legally pin responsibility for a high level conspiracy for the state wide perpetrated mob frenzy. The  Supreme Court appointed SIT headed by RK Raghavan had given a clean-chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others. “We hope that larger conspiracy will be exposed one day.”

According to Setalvad, the victims of Gujarat carnage still live in the state of alienation where they are being denied even the basic housing, land, and water rights. “We would soon initiate a campaign against such alienation and will send memorandums to various ministries.”

Articulating various challenges being faced in the struggle for justice, Setalvad thanks the targeted  community. “The trust and the steadfastness showed by the survivor community was remarkable, otherwise fighting a legal battle with a powerful state – which is equipped with advocates, bureaucrats and all crucial records – isn’t an easy task.”

Indeed, the restless hard-work by our team of advocates and volunteers and the co-operation by the victims have produced some results despite several tough challenges and atmosphere of the hostility created by the opposite parties, she further explained. “bahut hee kam log hain jo lambi ladai ladtein hai” (very few people fight long battles)

Referring to  reports of discrimination against the students of minority community in schools and a recent incident at Akshardham Temple, where a Muslim girl student from Kerala was not allowed to enter the temple, Setalvad expresses concerns over unchanged social harmony in the state. The ruling party in Gujarat clearly thrives on a polarised polity ; it was the duty of opposition parties to build social harmony in the state, but it has failed to do so, says Setalvad, who also heads the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace.

But Teesta sees hope from  the Gujarat youths. Citing that the ‘Tale of Tears’- a play by Kabir Thakur on the 2002 carnage – has been attracting youth from all the communities, she says, “there is always hope that a social awakening and realization is out there waiting to happen.”

 

#Gujarat- Memorial to a Genocide: Citizenship of Junk #NarendraModi


We built a monument here, to the witness as storyteller, to the activist as historian. And to the spectator as a citizen who will not be allowed to forget

Shiv Visvanathan

I’ll begin personally. I’m a sociologist and I have served as a kind of assistant munshi to Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar (former Director General of Police, Gujarat) during the 10 years during which these riots were studied. I want to begin very practically. Romila Thapar put it beautifully. Genocide — and here I want to distort it a bit — like Hinduism, is a way of life. And when it’s a way of life, how does the
survivor remember?

This question came in a very pragmatic way when I was tailing the photographer who shot many of the pictures that you see here today: Binita Desai. And the first question she asked was, What are we building?

It cannot be a monument, because, we felt, and she agreed, that a monument is a tribute to forgetting. We want to remember. She said it can’t be a museum because a museum is a tribute to erasure and we need to remember. Mukul Mangalik said it beautifully (when he asked), How is philosophy possible after the genocide?

I think comedy is possible after a genocide because the most tragic comic figure in Gujarat is Narendra Modi. And if I had to build a museum today I would do a Madame Tussaud’s on Narendra Modi… It is very interesting that Modi’s range of colours are a semiotic delight. He uses speech because he somehow thinks speech can exonerate a genocide.

The other point that I want to emphasise is how to remember when a society is desperate to forget and when a society thinks development is the art of forgetting? When these photographs were being shot, an old man came to us just as we were moving out to the car; he stopped and he said, I want to just tell you a story. He said, My son was arrested at the age of 15, he is 25 today. They put him in jail in Calcutta. I don’t have the money to go and see him. Can you send him a message?

I think comedy is possible after a genocide because the most tragic comic figure in Gujarat is Narendra Modi. And if I had to build a museum today I would do a Madame Tussaud’s on Narendra Modi

It is this struggle of memory against erasure that we want to capture here. Because what we want to build here is a memorial… because what we watched after the riot was how a citizenship of memory was constructed between a group of activists and a group of survivors. It’s an invitation to story-telling and why  storytelling is important?

The biggest monument that Narendra Modi as a fascist administrator built to the riots was a waste dump. When the riots began it was exactly two-and-a-half feet high. Today, it’s seven storeys high, higher than Humayun’s Tomb and it is a tribute to the survivor. Because today the survivor realises he is treated by the Gujarat government as a piece of junk and junk needs to remember. Junk refuses to be erased, junk demands that its role in history be told and retold.

And this memorial is the tribute to the survivor, to the witness. And I want to just begin with one last story which captures for me the craftiness of this whole process. One of the journalists who went to Godhra came back and said the BJP is moving towards an electoral plan for Godhra — the social contract they offered captures what I call the evil of this project. Because they went to each of the Muslim families and said, If you vote for us we might release some of the sons arrested over the last 10 years. That is the kind of evil we have to confront and to do that we built a monument here, to the witness as storyteller, to the activist as historian. And to the spectator as a citizen who will not be allowed to forget.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist and commentator.

From the  Hardnews :

NOVEMBER 2012

After Girish Karnad, Taslima Nasreen rips into V S Naipaul


Krishna Kumar   |   MAIL TODAY  |   New Delhi, November 3, 2012 |

Taslima Nasreen, V S Naipaul and Girish Karnad
Taslima Nasreen, V S Naipaul and Girish Karnad
Reverberations in the literary world are still being felt a day after playwrightGirish Karnad slammed Nobel laureate V S Naipaulon Friday. Karnad attacked the organisers of the Mumbai Literature Fest, slamming them for honouring Naipaul as Karnad accused the novelist of being ‘anti-Muslim’.While Karnad has been criticised by the organisers of the literary festival for targetting Naipaul, the playwright has found unexpected support from Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Nasreen on Saturday tweeted that Naipaul was an Islamophobe. “Girish Karnad is right, Naipaul is tone deaf, wrote nothing about Indian music in his big books on India. Naipaul is a mean Islamophobe writer,” the Bangladeshi writer posted on the micro-blogging website.

She also called Naipaul ‘a male chauvinistic pig’ for his earlier statement claiming that he found no woman worth his literary match. Responding to a tweet she claimed, while “Girish Karnad is neither a Hindu hater nor Muslim hater, Naipaul is definitely Muslim hater.” She added that Naipaul would not have been so famous if he had written his books in one of the regional languages of India. “If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India,” she said.

Responding to some tweets from Naipaul’s fans after her tweet, Taslima said, “Literary giant? Because he got Nobel Prize? So many worthless dumbos got Nobel prize,” Taslima alleged.

How the whole tiff started:
On October 31, Mumbai Lit Fest organisers felicitated Naipaul with the Life Time achievement award.On October 2, Karnad who was supposed to talk in a sessions which focused on theatre and his life and work, however did not speak on the subject calling it ‘boring’ and instead went on target the organisers for felicitating Naipaul earlier.

Calling Naipaul ‘tone deaf’, Karnad said, “Now Mr Naipaul has written three books on India. If you read them, you find that not even one of them contains any reference to music. He has gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music. I think that only means that he is tone deaf,”

He further claimed that Naipaul was anti-Muslim, “Now again, what he says is predictable, which is that the Muslims destroyed Indian architecture that everything went to pot. They were the raiders, they were the destroyers, and you have to look at any building to see what happened during the Muslim regime,” Karnad said.

In fact what could cause further controversy, she further ranted and also attacked Mother Teresa when she agreed with another tweeter who questioned Teresa getting a Nobel. “Teresa did everything to make her Jesus happy. She let patients suffer, didn’t give medicine,” Taslima said.

Taslima Nasreen’s comments are surely going to ensure that Karnad’s comments on Naipaul will be alive for a long while.

Meanwhile reacting to Karnad’s comments, festival director Anil Dharker released a statement slamming the playwright. “We were all taken aback by Girish Karnad’s attack on V S Naipaul. After all, we had invited him (Karnad) to speak about his journey in theatre, and Naipaul had nothing to do with that,” Dharker said.

Dharker refuted Karnad’s claim that Naipaul was anti-Muslim, “As for Naipaul being anti-Muslim, his wife Nadira is Muslim and her two children are being brought up as Muslims. Naipaul writes about how Muslim rulers and invaders of the past destroyed temples, monuments and so on. That’s historical fact, and who can argue against that? That does not make Naipaul anti-Muslim.”

“I also resent the implication that we, as organisers, are somehow not secular. I am a Trustee of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) led by Teesta Setalvad, and we have been fighting over 200 cases in court against (Narendra) Modi and his government over the 2002 Gujarat violence,” Dharker said in his

 

PRESS STATEMENT- Justice Markandey Katju on #Faizabad


 

 

Oct 30, 20012 – Press – Realease

 

I have received a letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, Co-editor of Communalism Combat mentioning in detail a serious communal accident which occurred on the evening of October 24, 2012. According to this letter, a huge group of people attacked the Nawab Hasan Raja Masjid in the chowk area of Faizabad for four to five hours committing arson and looting including looting of a large number of shops. The aforesaid Masjid was totally gutted and destroyed by the vandals as also the office of the bilingual Hindi-Urdu publication ‘Aap ki Taaqat’ that stands for communal amity and promotes the Ganga-Jumna Tehzeeb, and the concept ‘Hindi Urdu do Behen’. The office of the aforesaid newspaper is in the first floor of the aforesaid Masjid.  The editor of the publication, Manzar Mehdi, is President of the Urdu Press Association and the publication attracts 80 per cent advertisement support from the Hindu community. The Masjid every year welcomes the Durga goddess processionists and other processions with floral tributes. The mosque that dates back to 1790 A.D. has always practised and preached communal harmony.

 

What has hurt Mr. Mehdi most is the ambivalence of the national media (except the Hindustan daily which published the true facts) and he has alleged that the media has not seen it as an attack on the freedom of the press. “Why is the media deserting its own, especially a small publication that has become a symbol of intercommunity harmony?” asked Mr. Mehdi.

 

It is alleged in the letter that the lock of the Masjid was broken, and the Masjid looted and gutted down. The newspaper Aap Ki Taaqat’s office located on the top floor of the Masjid was also not spared, and it has been vandalized. Books were trampled upon and torn, the computer was destroyed.

 

On receipt of the aforesaid letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, I have today appointed a one man committee of Mr. Sheetla Singh, Member of the Press Council of India and a very senior journalist who is also editor of Jan Morcha of Faizabad to enquire into this complaint and submit his report at the earliest. I have spoken to Mr. Sheetla Singh and Ms. Teesta Setalvad on telephone.

 

If the allegations in the letter of Ms. Setalvad are correct it is a serious criminal offence which tends to disrupt the secular framework of our Constitution and society, and deserves condemnation and harsh punishment.

 

Immediate – Release – Malicious Campaign against Teesta Setlavad by the Newspaper’ The Pioneer “


25.10.2012

Press Release

 

CJP Rebuts Malicious Campaign by The Pioneer

 

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai based registered trust strongly rebuts the malicious campaign once again launched by the Pioneer a newspaper edited by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Chandan Mitra. In a story laced with outright falsehoods the newspaper has alleged that the CJP has violated the law, namely the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

 

Since we work in the public domain we place the following facts for your information while emphasising that what the Pioneer  has been resorting to since 2010 constitutes unprofessional journalism: not once were we contacted before this or other stories was carried. In October 2010 we had through our lawyers issued a legal notice to the newspaper (pasted below) following a spate of articles which visibly toned down that newspaper’s coverage after the notice. This time too legal action will follow.

 

The CJP has not violated any law or rule and has collected donations for its primarily legal rights work from national and international sources through lawful means. The Pioneer deliberately picks out CJP’s Secretary Teesta Setalvad for its remarks on violations when it is not her but a Board of Trustees that have been functioning collectively and supporting this work. Teesta is deliberately being projected as recipient with malicious intent.

 

CJP provides legitimate legal aid to help victims of mass crimes to access justice, a Constitutional mandate supported by international human rights standards. Bringing perpetrators of violence to justice – is being deliberately dubbed as mala fide activity.

 

“Seeking donations in the name of helping riot victims” is a vague generalization. Different donors made contributions for specific purposes and not something as vague as “helping riot victims”.  The donations received by CJP were for two very specific objectives:

 

(1) Legal Aid to victims of the mass crimes: We emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose.

 

(2) Aid for Two Ambulances for Mumbai City: In the wake of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, a need was felt for a citizens’ initiative to augment the existing ambulance service in Mumbai. This was in view of the fact that very many people who received bullet injuries at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus simply bled to death because they were not enough ambulances to rush the injured to hospitals. We again emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose. Two ambulances purchased with such contributions have been in service in Mumbai since 2009. Donations from international music personalities and groups including Jethro Tull through his manager Ian Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Chatwals (through the IMG Lakme group) were received to run these two ambulances that even today run in Mumbai.

 

(3) The foreign contribution received from Ford Foundation was for “Peace building activities in Gujarat & Maharashtra”. We affirm that the money was earmarked and utilized accordingly.  It was a grant received for a period of 3 years, received in three annual instalments after submission and approval by Ford Foundation of annual narrative and financial reports.Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are only two of the  6 trustees of Sabrang Trust.

 

Since 2010, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFT) has been supporting our legal work and the amount received from them has been utilized for legal aid alone as per the itemized budget approved by UNVFVT (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture). It is a matter of great pride for CJP that its legal efforts to bring justice to the victims of the communal carnage in Gujarat is supported by UN agency and administered by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva.

 

The CJP would like to emphasise that the accounts of both CJP and Sabrang Trust are audited annually within the stipulated time every financial year and the audited accounts along with the auditor’s report are submitted regularly in the prescribed format to the Income Tax Department, the Charity Commissioner’s Office and the FCRA department of the Union ministry of Home Affairs.

 

The CJP with its committed Board of Trustees consisting of IM Kadri (President), Nandan Maluste (Vice President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Teesta Setalvad (Secretary), Cyrus Guzder (Trustee), Alyque Padamsee (Trustee), Anil Dharker (Trustee), Javed Akhtar (Trustee), Taizoon Khorakiwala (Trustee), Rahul Bose (Trustee), Javed Anand (Trustee), Gulam Pesh Imam (Trustee), Cedric Prakash (Trustee) stands by the work it has undertaken to ensure implementation of the rule of law through providing legal assistance to victims and witnesses of mass crimes.

 

Both the CJP and Sabrang Trusts are two separate entities. All expenses of both trusts are incurred after sanction is received from the Trustees.

 

From September 2010 right until when our lawyer Ms Aparna Bhat served a legal notice on The Pioneer  on October 23 2010, this newspaper has first indulged in pathetic, one-sided slander-mongering against Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (Copy of Legal Notice pasted below) even going to the journalistically unprofessional levels of publishing Teesta Setalvad’s colour photograph on the editorial page, simply based on one-sided and vicious statements of a former employee who had been discontinued due to unprofessional activities on 18.1.2008. After the legal notice, some semblance at objectivity was pursued by the newspaper.

 

Now again on 25.10.2012, a series of falsehoods have been published by The Pioneer, with a deliberate and malicious intent. The CJP would like to state that The Pioneer is functioning like the cheap propaganda wing of the party in power in Gujarat and not a newspaper. The fact remains that CJP’s consistent legal aid to victims and witnesses has been one of the factors –along with the Supreme Court’s monitoring and witness protection — enabling them to depose in Courts against powerful accused. It is these vested interests supported by the powerful in the state which are, in a concerted fashion, launching this current malicious and ill-intentioned attack on CJP.

 

We would also like to point out that previously vicious allegations of “tutoring” by CJP have been unequivocally turned down and rejected by the trial courts in Gujarat (Sardarpura and Naroda Patiya cases-2011,2012), Best Bakery case (2006.2012) and SC Registrar General’s Report (2005). Despite this spokespersons and lawyers of the ruling party in Gujarat continue to spout falsehoods on television in the media. The Pioneer in general and through its article published today, is part of this pattern.

The persistent falsehoods against our organization despite this vindication in courts of law is a tactic and part of the vicious rumour-mongering that the political party responsible for the violence in the state of Gujarat and its parent organizations are well-known for. The motivations behind earlier campaigns by the Pioneer, edited by a man who is member of Parliament from the party that is in power in Gujarat, and other spokespersons are not simply to malign CJP—the real motive is to intimidate witnesses and even attempt to obstruct the course of public justice.

 

I.M. Kadri                                           Nandan Maluste                                Teesta Setalvad

(President)                                         (Vice President)                                 (Secretary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Trustees:

Arvind Krishnaswamy                         Javed Akhtar              Cyrus Guzder                               

Alyque Padamsee                              Anil Dharker                Javed Anand

Rahul Bose                                         Cedric Prakash           Ghulam Pesh Imam

Taizoon Khorakiwala

 

 

 

 

Legal Notice Sent on 23.10.2010

23.10. 2010

 

Editor,

Pioneer

Chandan Mitra

 

Dear Sir,

 

I am retained by and act under instructions from the Citizens for Justice and Peace who has advised me that your newspaper Pioneer has been carrying a series of slanderous articles against them particularly targeting their Secretary, Ms.Teesta Setalvad.

My clients advise me that since the past two months especially, but even earlier, months on    6.9.2009,  7.9.2009, 8.9.2009. 10.9.2010, 12.9.2010, 22.09.2010, 18.10.2010 and 19.10.2010, 20.10.2010 and 22.10.2010 Days you have made allegations against the Secretary stating that she has influenced witnesses, altered their versions of their statements and is trying to mislead the course of justice. My clients advise me that these allegations are an utter distortion of the truth and slanderous, made with a political motive to protect those accused of heinous crimes in 2002. They advise me that since you belong to the same political party that is currently the ruling dispensation in Gujarat and which is being criminally investigated for conspiracy into mass murder etc. you have a vested interest in these slanderous and defamatory reports.

 

My clients further advise me that you are making these baseless allegations on the basis of alleged disclosure made to you by a former employee of my client without verifying the same from my client and not verifying the facts.  In your newspaper, you are also carrying the same allegations either attributed to this former employee, or some of the accused in the ongoing trials or the State of Gujarat itself.

 

My clients further advise me that the articles are being published at a time when the trials are in progress and eye witnesses are deposing, and moreover that a criminal investigation into the political dispensation in Gujarat is underway and is aimed at, if not likely to affect the course of justice and is a clear case of interference with the administration of justice.

In the circumstances you are hereby called upon to desist from carrying out these articles, which are clearly slanderous and defamatory in nature immediately failing which my clients would be forced to take appropriate legal action both criminal and civil as they may be advised.

 

I am sure that you would comply with the requisition contained herein and thus obviate the necessity of having to initiate any action against you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Aparna Bhat