How bacteria behind serious childhood disease evolve to evade vaccines


London, Jan 30 (ANI): The study of genetics has provided surprising insights into why vaccines used in both the UK and US to combat serious childhood infections can eventually fail.

The study, which investigates how bacteria change their disguise to evade the vaccines, has implications for how future vaccines can be made more effective.

Pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) causes potentially life-threatening diseases including pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcal infections are thought to kill around a million young children worldwide each year, though the success of vaccination programmes has led to a dramatic fall in the number of cases in countries such as the UK and US.

These vaccines recognise the bacteria by its polysaccharide, the material found on the outside of the bacterial cell. There are over ninety different kinds or ‘serotypes’ of the bacteria, each with a different polysaccharide coating.

In 2000, the US introduced a pneumococcal vaccine, which targeted seven of the ninety serotypes. This ’7-valent’ vaccine was extremely effective and had a dramatic effect on reducing disease amongst the age groups targeted.

Remarkably, the vaccine has also prevented transmission from young children to adults, resulting in tens of thousands fewer cases of pneumococcal disease each year. The same vaccine was introduced in the UK in 2006 and was similarly successful.

In spite of the success of the vaccine programmes, some pneumococcal strains managed to continue to cause disease by camouflaging themselves from the vaccine.

In research funded by the Wellcome Trust, scientists at the University of Oxford and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta studied what happened after the introduction of this vaccine in the US.

They used the latest genomic techniques combined with epidemiology to understand how different serotypes of the pneumococcus bacteria evolve to replace those targeted by the initial vaccine.

The researchers found bacteria that had evaded the vaccine by swapping the region of the genome responsible for making the polysaccharide coating with the same region from a different serotype, not targeted by the vaccine.

This effectively disguised the bacteria, making it invisible to the vaccine. This exchange of genome regions occurred during a process known as recombination, whereby one of the bacteria replaces a piece of its own DNA with a piece from another bacterial type.

“Imagine that each strain of the pneumococcus bacteria is a class of schoolchildren, all wearing the school uniform. If a boy steals from his corner shop, a policeman – in this case the vaccine – can easily identify which school he belongs to by looking at his uniform. But if the boy swaps his sweater with a friend from another school, the policemen will no longer be able to recognise him and he can escape. This is how the pneumococcus bacteria evade detection by the vaccine,” Rory Bowden, from the University of Oxford, said.

Bowden and his colleagues identified a number of recombined serotypes that had managed to evade the vaccine. One in particular grew in frequency and spread across the US from east to west over several years.

They also showed that during recombination, the bacteria also traded a number of other parts of the genome at the same time, a phenomenon never before observed in natural populations of pneumococcus.

This is of particular concern as recombination involving multiple fragments of DNA allows rapid simultaneous exchange of key regions of the genome within the bug, potentially allowing it to quickly develop antibiotic resistance.

The original 7-valent vaccine in the US has now been replaced by a 13-valent vaccine, which targets thirteen different serotypes, including the particular type which had escaped the original vaccine. In the UK, the 7-valent vaccine resulted in a substantial drop in disease overall.

This overall effect was a mixture of a large drop in frequency of the serotypes targeted by the vaccine with some growth in serotypes not targeted by the vaccine. The 13-valent vaccine was introduced in the UK in 2010.

“Childhood vaccines are very effective at reducing disease and death at a stage in our lives when we are susceptible to serious infections. Understanding what makes a vaccine successful and what can cause it to fail is important. We should now be able to understand better what happens when a pneumococcal vaccine is introduced into a new population. Our work suggests that current strategies for developing new vaccines are largely effective but may not have long term effects that are as successful as hoped,” Derrick Crook, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Oxford and Infection Control Doctor at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

The study has been recently published in Nature Genetics.

Pakistan on path to establish National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)


 

Asis Pacific Forum ( APF Bulletin) January 2012

Pakistan’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a bill to establish an independent human rights institution (NHRI) with wide judicial powers.

The passage of the bill on 21 December 2011 follows years of advocacy from national organisations, with advice and support provided by regional and international organisations, including the APF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Under the bill, the National Commission for Human Rights will have the power to receive and consider complaints. When undertaking inquiries, it will have the powers of a civil court and can summon any individual, public or private department.

A retired judge from the higher judiciary, or any other “eminent person of known integrity, competence and experience,” must head the body, which will include two members from minority communities and one from each province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Islamabad Capital Territory. It will also include three female members.

The commission will have the power to intervene in any proceedings involving alleged violations of human rights, to visit jails nationwide and to appoint special investigation teams of officers from police and other law enforcement agencies.

It will be required to submit an annual report to the federal government which will then be bound to lay it before parliament.

In addition, the commission will have full administrative and financial autonomy and its accounts will be audited by the auditor general of Pakistan. It will be based in Islamabad and may establish offices in provincial headquarters or other places as appropriate.

While supportive of its objectives, members of the Senate have referred the bill to the house committees on human rights and law and justice for review, with a report expected to be presented in late February.

If amendments are made, the Bill will need to be resubmitted to the National Assembly for consideration. Once approved by both houses of parliament, the Bill will require the signature of the President before becoming law.

The APF welcomes this significant progress in establishing a NHRI in Pakistan.

The APF conducted visits to Pakistan in 2005 and 2008 to meet with key stakeholders and has provided technical advice during the drafting of legislation to promote compliance with the Paris Principles.

Egypt’s Feminist Union Undergoing Reincarnation


By Jessica Gray
Monday, January 30, 2012

The venerable Egyptian women’s rights advocacy, the Egyptian Feminist Union, is coming back to life amid a flowering of civil-society groups. But the road ahead isn’t clear for a long-dormant organization that operated under British colonial rule. 

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS)–Grassroots organizations have been flowering in Egypt’s first post-revolutionary year and at least one is coming back to life.

The Egyptian Feminist Union, first founded in 1923, was shuttered just shy of 30 years later by the onset of Egyptian military rule. Now, after registering as a nonprofit a month ago, it is ramping up to give women the voice they’ve been lacking for so long, organizers say.

“We have to defend whatever rights we have and we have to go forward to equality and equity,” says Hoda Badran, chair of the group, which represents a collection of nongovernmental organizations tackling women’s issues in every governorate. “Women should have a say if any public issue or decision has to be made.”

That mission has been made harder, if anything, by recent events. Before the Jan. 25 revolution, Badran says, the country counted three female cabinet ministers.

“Later the military council came and now it’s been reduced to one. So we are going backwards,” she says.

Female demonstrators in the past year have also been targeted by security forces for virginity tests, electric shock, harassment, military tribunals and open brutality during December’s most recent clashes, centered in Cairo.
Little Action

Human rights groups and women’s organizations have fiercely objected but little action has been taken against the accused perpetrators.

The National Council for Women, a state-run group, has said little and been criticized for trying to monopolize the handling of women’s issues and stifling other organizations.

In 1952, Egypt’s armed forces wrested control of the country away from Britain, ending decades of colonization. To secure control of the Arab world’s largest country, Egyptian generals introduced military rule and shut down many nongovernmental organizations, including the Feminist Union. At that time, the union’s mission focused on suffrage, universal education and equality under the nation’s personal status laws.

Badran has a long history of taking up such causes. In the past, she served as president of the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child for two terms and is a member of numerous sustainable development, cultural and child protection organizations and councils in Egypt. She has two bachelors of science degrees — one in sociology from the American University in Cairo and the other in social work from Helwan University — and also serves as president of the Alliance for Arab Women, a Cairo-based organization that has operated throughout Egypt since 1987 to educate and train women on their rights.

She says Egyptian women have won some rights since the 1950s, including the right to vote in 1956. But compared to their male counterparts, they remain undereducated, underemployed, politically unorganized, underrepresented in government and experience more extreme rates of poverty.

Women make up only 1 percent of parliament’s 500 or so members. No women are in charge of running the country’s almost 30 governorates.

Badran hopes to change these trends, but knows it will not be easy since the union’s new status is still in its infancy.

Its first project focused on encouraging women to vote or run in Egypt’s first parliamentary polls, just completed, since the fall of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.

Mohamed Zaree, a program manager for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, says the recent parliament elections make it a good time to refocus on women’s issues and to bring human rights to the table.

“Now is the time for that conversation because the members of parliament are [accountable] to voters and could play an active role in the promotion of human rights,” Zaree says.

While it looks for funding, the union has been planning its activities from the Alliance for Arab Women’s office in downtown Cairo. It is set to hold a women’s forum in the next few months to gather groups and discuss its future as Egypt takes its first steps toward democracy.

Ever heard of sari cancer?


Doctors at Grant Medical College have stated in Indian Medical Association journal that  something called sari cancer’ is on the rise.

CHENNAI Jan 30: The next time you drape a sari, you might want to re-tie that petticoat knot. According to an article in the November issue of the Journal of the Indian Medical Association, doctors at Grant Medical College in Mumbai have reported cases of what they are referring to as sari cancer.

“We have treated three women for waist or sari cancer in the last couple of years,” says author of the article Dr G D Bakhshi, who is an associate professor of surgery at Grant. He authored the piece with colleagues Dr Ashok D Borisa and Dr Mukund B Tayade. While two of the patients diagnosed a couple of years ago are mentioned in the article, the third was detected just three months ago. All the women were above the age of 40.

“The sari petticoat, if tied in the same place day after day, can cause chronic irritation along the waistline,” says the report. “The constant irritation can result in scaling or pigmentation. But most sari-wearers don’t notice it until it gets chronic,” says Dr Bakhshi.

He adds that women need to be cautious because waist dermatoses can turn malignant as it did in the case of the three women treated at GMC.

Dr Bakhshi advises sariwearers to tie their petticoats looser or switch from the usual rope-like belt to broader ones that reduce pressure on the area. He also suggests that they keep changing the level at which they tie saris. “This kind of cancer does not really affect those wearing pants or belts because the pressure is spread over a larger area, unlike in the case of a petticoat nada or string,” he says.

Treatment depends on the stage at which the cancer has been diagnosed. “If detected early, it can be treated with reconstructive surgery. But if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes then we need to remove the malignancy,” says Dr Bakhshi. He adds that if detected early the cancer is curable.

Chennai-based dermatologist Dr Maya Vedamurthy says that around 3% of sari-wearers who come to her have waist dermatoses but she has not seen any cases where it has turned malignant. “The moment I notice it, I tell the patient to start wearing the nada a little looser or switch to a broader string,” she says.

Like sari cancer, there are several lifestyle-related cancers that are increasingly being seen in India, such as breast, ovarian and tobacco-related cancers. “There are many types of tobacco-related cancers from lung and stomach to bladder and pancreatic. The cancer is also lifestyle-related, caused by smoking as well as increased levels of pollution in the environment,” says Dr T Rajkumar, professor and head of molecular oncology, Cancer Institute, Adyar.

He says breast and ovarian cancer have similar lifestylerelated causes such as late childbirth, lack of exercise, and breastfeeding on the decline. “Working women tend to postpone the age at which they have their first child and going beyond 30 is risky. With ovarian cancer, risk factors include early menarche and late menopause,” he says. Dr Rajkumar adds that colonic cancer, which is related to a low-fibre diet, is also on the rise world over.

WTF News – mobile-phone users in North Korea to be branded ” War Criminals” and invite Death Penalty


Pyongyang, Jan 30 (TruthDive):  North Korean citizens caught using mobile phones or attempting to flee to china during the 100-day mourning period for the late president Kim Jong-Il will be branded as war criminals. They might be punished with life sentence and the repeated offenders might get capital punishment.
 , country’s Worker’s Party issued the warning in an effort to deter citizens from crossing the border and settling in China and South Korea. The reports say that around 23,000 defectors have already settled in South Korea.   The reports also said that food supplies are again dwindling and that there has been an increase in the number of people trying to cross over into China. The country thinks these defectors might turn into a major threat to the current Kim Jong-un regime and country’s stability.
Kim Jong-Il, 69, died on December 17 from a heart attack. His son, Kim Jong-un, took over from him as North Korea’s president.
In November, Reuters reported that 1 million people in North Korea would have cell phones by the end of 2011 and this is “barely four years after people were thrown into prison camps, or possibly even executed, for owning one,” the news source wrote. But, still, 1 million people is just 5 percent of the country’s total population.
It’s unclear how Jong-un will regulate cell phone use once the 100-day mourning period for his father ends.
 North Korea has been identified as the fifth-biggest threat to international stability in the world in 2012 by Eurasia Group, a US-based research and consulting firm. The research said a “lack of information about events” in North Korea and its new leader is a risk that is being “severely underplayed.”
In 2010, there were over 300,000 cell phone users in North Korea, all on a network developed by Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom. Reuters reported last November that the number has since grown to nearly a million people on the 3G capable network. However the new law is unlikely to affect all as only less than 5% of the poverty-stricken population owns a mobile phone anyway.
Also it is to be noted that this isn’t the first time North Korea has banned cell phone use; in 2008, the government reportedly confiscated mobile phones for the same reason.

 

If You Want the Peace of the Dead, Prepare for Nuclear War


 

By Ramesh Thakur
UN Chronicle 48:4 (October–December 2011), pp. 26–29

The world faces two existential threats: climate change, and nuclear Armageddon. Action on both is required urgently. Tackling the first will impose significant economic costs and lifestyle adjustments, while tackling the second will bring economic benefits without any lifestyle implications. Those who reject the first are derided as denialists; those dismissive of the second are praised as realists.
Although action is needed now in order to keep the world on this side of the tipping point, a climate change-induced apocalypse will not occur until decades into the future. A nuclear catastrophe could destroy us at any time, although, if our luck holds out, it could be delayed for another six decades. The uncomfortable reality is that nuclear peace has been upheld, owing as much to good luck as to sound stewardship. Because we have learned to live with nuclear weapons for 66 years, we have become desensitized to the gravity and immediacy of the threat. The tyranny of complacency could yet exact a fearful price if we
sleepwalk our way into a nuclear Armageddon. The time to lift the spectre of a mushroom cloud from the international body politic is long overdue.

Nuclear weapons are strategic equalizers for weaker sides in conflict relationships, but they do not buy defence on the cheap. They can lead to the creation of a national security state with a premium on governmental secretiveness, reduced public account- ability, and increased distance between citizens and Governments. There is the added risk of proliferation to extremist elements through leakage, theft, state collapse, and state capture. In terms of opportunity costs, heavy military expenditure amounts to stealing from the poor.

Nuclear weapons do not help to combat today’s real threats of insurgency, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and
corruption. As they said in the streets of Delhi in 1998: “No food, no clothing, no shelter? No worry, we have the bomb.”

Since the end of the Cold War, the risk of a Russia-United States nuclear war has diminished, but the prospect of nuclear weapons being used by other nuclear-armed states or non- state actors has become more plausible. As a result, we find ourselves at a familiar crossroads, confronting the same old choice between security in or from nuclear weapons.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has kept the nuclear nightmare at bay for over four decades. The number of countries with nuclear weapons is still in single figures. There has been substantial progress in reducing the number of nuclear warheads. However, the threat is still acute with a combined stockpile of more than 20,000 nuclear weapons; of these, 5,000 warheads are launch-ready and 2,000 are in a state of high operational alert.

The NPT enshrined multiple bargains. The non-nuclear countries agreed among themselves never to acquire nuclear weapons. They entered into a deal with the nuclear weapon states (NWS) whereby, in return for intrusive end-use control over nuclear and nuclear-related technology and material, they were granted favoured access to nuclear technology, components, and material. The non-nuclear countries struck a second deal with the NWS by which, in return for forever forswearing the bomb, the NWS would pursue good faith negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament. Article 6 of the NPT is the only explicit multilateral disarmament commitment undertaken by all NWS.

Those agreements are now under strain due to a five-fold challenge:

1. The five NPT-licit nuclear powers (Britain, China, France,Russia and the United States) have disregarded NPT obligations to
disarm.

2. Three nuclear-armed states lie outside the NPT: India, Israel,and Pakistan.

3. As an intergovernmental agreement, the NPT does not covernon-state groups, including terrorists.

4. Some NPT members may be trying to elude their non-proliferationobligations, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has withdrawn from the NPT and tested nuclear weapons.

5. Many countries are interested in nuclear energy owing to rising environmental anxieties and fossil fuel price, raising issues of
safety, security, and weaponization.

The disquieting trend of a widening circle of NPT-licit and extra-NPT nuclear weapons powers has a self-generating effect in drawing other countries into the game of nuclear brinkmanship. Adding to the five sets of concerns is the sorry state of global governance mechanisms for nuclear arms control. The Conference on Disarmament cannot even agree on an agenda. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not yet entered into force and a fissile material cut-off treaty is no nearer conclusion.

After more than a decade in the doldrums, the nuclear agenda was re-energized by a coalition of four United States national security policy heavy weights—William Cohen, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry—and given fresh momentum with President Barack Obama’s Prague Promise in April 2009 to aim for the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The Washington Nuclear Summit looked closely at the safety and security requirements of nuclear programmes and materials. The 2010 NPT Review Conference was a modest success.
Commissions such as the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and campaigns like Global Zero have helped to mobilize key constituencies. Russia and the United States have negotiated, signed, ratified, and brought into force a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (know as START II) to cut back nuclear arsenals by one third, limiting each to 1,550 deployable warheads.

Yet, there is a palpable and growing sense that START II could mark the end of nuclear disarmament progress, instead of being the first step on the road to abolition. There is little evidence of significant demand for disarmament by domestic political constituencies in the nuclear-armed states. Tellingly, not one country that had an atomic bomb in 1968 when the NPT was signed has given it up. Judging by their actions rather than the rhetoric, all are determined to remain nuclear-armed. They are either modernizing nuclear forces and refining nuclear doctrines, or preparing to do so. For example, even after implementing START II, the United States will retain a cache of reserve warheads as a strategic hedge available for rapid uploading, should the need arise, and also build three new factories for increased nuclear warhead production capacity. To would-be proliferators, the lesson is clear: nuclear weapons are indispensable in today’s world and for dealing with tomorrow’s threats.

Reflecting the technical state of 1968 when the NPT was signed, Iran insists on its right to pursue the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes—to the point where it would be a screwdriver away from developing the bomb. The world is at a loss on how to stop Iran from crossing the weapons threshold and how to persuade, coax, or coerce the DPRK from stepping back into the NPT as a denuclearized member in good standing.

Japan is the emotional touchstone in the discourse as the world’s only victim of the bomb. The United States has a special responsibility to lead the way to nuclear abolition as the only country to have used atomic bombs, and as the world’s biggest military power. The A-bomb was developed during the Second World War by a group of scientists brought together for the Manhattan Project under the directorship of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Witnessing the first successful atomic test on 16 July 1945, Oppenheimer recalled the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.” Birth and death are symbiotically linked in the cycle of life. Oppenheimer also recalled the matching verse from the Gita: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

The same duality is omnipresent in every aspect of modern day Hiroshima. The citizens of Hiroshima, in rebuilding their city, have consecrated it as a testimonial to social resilience, human solidarity, and nuclear abolition. Once again a beautiful, scenic, and thriving city, Hiroshima lives by three codes: transformation from a military city to a city of peace; to forgive and atone, but never to forget; and, never again.

The case for abolition is simple, elegant, and eloquent. Without strengthening national security, nuclear weapons diminish our common humanity and impoverish our soul. Their very destructiveness robs them of military utility against other nuclear powers and of political utility against non-nuclear countries. As long as any country has any, others will want some. As long as they exist, they will be used one day again by design, accident, or miscalculation. Our goal, there- fore, should be to make the transition from a world in which the role of nuclear weapons is seen as central to maintaining security, to one where they become progressively marginal and eventually entirely unnecessary. Like chemical and bio- logical weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented, but like them, nuclear weapons can also be controlled, regulated, restricted and outlawed under an inter- national regime that ensures strict compliance through effective and credible inspection, verification, and enforcement.

The common task is to delegitimize the possession, deployment, and use of nuclear weapons; to require no first use and sole purpose commitments; to reduce their numbers to 10 per cent of present stockpiles (500 warheads each for Russia and the United States, and 1,000 among the rest) by 2025; to reduce the high-risk reliance on them by introducing further degrees of separation between possession, deployment and use, by physically separating warheads from delivery systems and lengthening the decision-making fuse for the launch of nuclear weapons; to strengthen the authority and capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency; to establish a multilateral fuel cycle; and to toughen up supply- side restrictions.

Because the NPT has been subverted from a prohibition into a purely non-proliferation regime, the time has come to look beyond it to a better alternative that gathers all the meritorious elements into one workable package in a nuclear weapons convention. This will not self-materialize merely because we wish it so. Nor will it ever eventuate if we always push it into the distant future. There are many technical, legal, and political challenges to overcome, but serious preparatory work needs to be started now, with conviction and commitment.

Those who worship most devoutly at the altar of nuclear weapons issue the fiercest fat- was against others rushing to join them. The most powerful stimulus to nuclear proliferation by others is the continuing possession of the bomb by some. Nuclear weapons could not proliferate if they did not exist, but because they do, they will. The threat to use nuclear weapons, both to deter their use by others and to prevent proliferation, legitimizes their possession, deployment, and use. That which is legitimate cannot be stopped from proliferating.

Critics of the zero option want to keep their atomic bombs, but deny them to others. They lack the intellectual honesty and the courage to show how non- proliferation can be enforced without disarmament, to acknowledge that the price of keeping nuclear arsenals is uncontrolled proliferation, and to argue why a world of uncontrolled proliferation is better than abolition for national and international security.

The focus on non-proliferation to the neglect of disarmament ensures that we get neither. The best and only guarantee of non-proliferation is disarmament. If we want non- proliferation, therefore, we must prepare for disarmament. Within our lifetime, we will either achieve nuclear abolition or have to live with nuclear proliferation and die with the use of nuclear weapons. It is better to have the soft glow of satisfaction from the noble goal of achieving the banishment of nuclear weapons, than the harsh glare on the morning after these weapons have been used.

Professor Ramesh Thakur
Director, Centre for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament
ANU Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy
Hedley Bull Centre, Bldg 130
Canberra ACT 0200
Australia
ramesh.thakur@anu.edu.au

http://apcd.anu.edu.au

Galllantry award to Ankit Garg for an encounter in Mahasamund in 2010.


After so much uproar about the Gallantry Award to Ankit Garg accused of torturing and tormenting Soni Sori, the officials clarify that award was pronounced much before Soni Sori Case and it is for an encounter in Mahasamund in 2010.

Now what happened on 9th October 2010, here are excerpts from an  All India fact finding team into the incident  and report

Report of the Incident of 9-10-2010 in Village Ledgidipa, district Mahasamund

Background: The Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh in the eastern part of the state borders Orissa. It is primarily an agricultural region with little or no reported Naxal activity until very recent times.

On 9th October, 2010, Saturday, various evening newspapers carried reports of a fierce encounter that happened on the same day, between the Naxals and the state police force at Padakipali, near the Orissa border, in which it was claimed that 8 Naxals were killed and 2 police injured. Later, it was admitted that 2 of the persons killed were actually villagers of Ledgidipa, who were said to have been caught in the crossfire. Inspector General of Police RK Vij told PTI that the two villagers were used as a shield by the Maoists in the gunfight chhattisgarh- 6-naxals-killed-in-encounter-58547. Reports also carried news of a large quantity of arms and ammunitions having been recovered after the encounter, including a ―huge cache of explosives‖ (six-maoists-killed-in- chhattisgarh-encounter_100443592.html). The entire episode was hailed as a great achievement by Director General of Police (DGP), Vishwa Ranjan.chhattisgarh_police_kill_eight_maoits_in_enc ounter_N98249.html

Purpose of the Investigation: All wars, internal or external, are fought for control of territory, resources and power. And yet, all wars must necessarily be constrained to consciously control the so called ̳collateral‘ damages – civilians whose rights to life and livelihood, their private and shared resources, is severely endangered in all cases of armed conflict in areas of human habitation.

The incident of Naxal encounter in Mahasamund district had occurred in a region with no prior history of significant Maoist activity, or associated presence of State security forces on a large scale, although one media report carried news of a ―high level meeting‖ on the 7th of October in view of Maoists making inroads into Mahasamund district. (maoist-threat-chhattisgarh-reviews-security-news- national-kkhaOMjfadg.html)

Two villagers had died in this encounter. Confusing and contradictory reports were presented in the media on the circumstances surrounding these deaths – from the initial allegations of the villagers being Naxals, to their being unfortunate victims caught in crossfire, to their being used as human shields by the alleged Maoists. By and large, most of the media reported the official version of what occurred during the encounter. However, around 12th October, different reports began to appear in which the responsibility of civilian death began to be laid on the security personnel as having entered a village home and shot at unarmed villagers, killing them. (2010101261430500.htm)

The State responded to these deaths with unusual promptness. A high level cabinet meeting appears to have been called immediately, followed by an announcement of compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of the victims within two days of the incident, besides assuring a ̳Baal police‘ position for the son of one of victims. State Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar and Agriculture and Labour Minister Chandra Shekhar Sahu rushed to the area, to pay a condolence visit to the aggrieved family members. The State also announced a magisterial enquiry into the entire episode.

We decided to carry out an independent investigation of the incident by visiting the village Ledgidipa, where the villagers had died in the encounter of 9th October 2010, and also village Reekhadadar – the site where the alleged Maoists had first made their appearance, and meeting with the villagers there. We also intended to meet police officials at Sankra, and the SP, DSP, Collector and ADM at Mahasamund as part of our investigation into the status of their enquiry and the compensation to the families.

Investigation on 10th and 11th November 2010:

Our fact finding team of six persons set off from Raipur on the morning of 10th November. The head quarters of Block Pithoura is at a distance of about 70 kilometres from Raipur, and the villages were on a road branching off from the hamlet of Sankra under whose police station these villages fall. Our route took us through a sparse jungle of Tendu, Mahua, Teak, Sal and Semul trees after the village Bade Loram. By about 2:45pm, the skies became overcast and our vehicle got stuck in a mud ditch on the forest road. Two of our team members decided to go in search for help while the rest of us continued our effort to free the vehicle. It was already raining in a steady drizzle. About this time we saw a villager approach us and he also began helping us with the vehicle. When we shared with him the purpose of our visit, he said that he was from a nearby village (Chote Loram) and that he had witnessed the entire encounter between the police and the „atankwadis‟. The following was his narrative:

He was wandering around midday, looking for his lost bullock, when he heard rounds of firing (as many as 1000 to 2000) and 10-12 Naxals running ahead. Behind them was a large battalion in formation, shoulder to shoulder who were doing most of the firing. The Naxals themselves might have shot once or twice. He said he was afraid, and remained crouched and hidden in grasses during the entire operation. He further added that this was the first time he had ever seen Naxals, and to his knowledge they had never been seen before in the region.

At 3:45pm our two team members arrived with a tractor, and we were able to proceed. We realized then that we had been at only a very short, in fact walking distance (half a km), from Ledgidipa – our destination for the day.

We easily located the home of Gautam Patel, one of the victims of the ̳encounter‘. Since the news of our visit spread quickly in the village, the family members were waiting for us outside. Even as we entered the home, we were shown bullet marks near and on the front door of the house. We gathered in a main room facing the rear aangan (enclosed courtyard) with the members of the family that included Himadri (Gautam‘s widow), her father and son, Gautam‘s two brothers (one older and the other being the youngest) as well as the wives of all the brothers. Of these family members, Gautam‘s widow, the youngest brother and his wife, and a nephew had been witness to the killings. This was the location where the so-called ̳encounter‘ between security personnel and the villagers had occurred. (Please refer to Appendix I and II which are the Schematic Maps of the encounter site and the kitchen of the Patel family)

Homadri Patel, wife of Guatm hsows her husbands voter id , which says he us a farmer

The incident as narrated by the family of Gautam Patel:

It was around noon, ten to twelve members from the household, including the eldest brother, his son, younger brother, and Dau Konda – a deaf and mute helper of Gautam Patel, were working in the coriander fields behind their homes along with some hired help, when they started hearing rounds of firing. First they thought that these were fire crackers celebrating the birth of a son nearby.

However, when the firing intensified and moved closer, and they realized that they were hearing gunshots. In fear they started running towards their homes in the village – about 200 m away. A nephew who was bringing family members a meal in the fields dropped the meal and ran towards the houses. Dau Konda ran behind the others, gesturing to the security personnel behind him that he could not speak…and continued to run towards his employer‟s home. Meanwhile, all the villagers including the members of this family rushed into their houses and latched their doors from inside.

Dau tried to enter the eldest brother‟s house from the front, he found it locked and ran to the back entering from the rear aangan. There, he leapt across the wooden fences that separate the houses of the other brothers from that of his employer, Gautam Patel‟s house.

Gautam was eating his lunch in the aangan, being served by his wife Himadri. They saw Dau run inside the kitchen in a state of fear, and a huge commotion and sounds of firing from outside. Gautam reacted in fear by following Dau into the dark kitchen and hiding underneath the kitchen shelf.

Meanwhile 50-60 police had entered the home following Dau. They accosted Uttam, the youngest brother, and asked him where they were hiding the Naxalites. Uttam pleaded with them that there were no Naxals inside the house; only Gautam, his brother, and their servant Dau, who was also deaf and mute and other family members. The son of the eldest brother also had a gun held to his head and was asked similar questions. Despite Himadri‟s

pleading and crying that there were no Naxals in their home, only her husband and Dau, four of the security personnel forcibly entered the kitchen and started shooting in the dark, killing both Gautam and Dau. The firing hurt one of their own personnel, wounding him in the arm.

Only when they dragged the bodies of Gautam and Dau outside, did they realize that they had shot innocent villagers. In remorse, one of them shouted out “Oh Durga maiyya, I have killed an innocent man!” touching his gun several times to his forehead. The distraught family wailed and wept that there was no point in repenting, had they not seen that the victims were unarmed, in ordinary clothes of villagers?? They should have heeded the pleading of the wife, brother, sister-in-law, nephew and verified before blindly shooting. The distraught younger brother told us

“We expect the State to protect us. But if the State itself is engaged in killings of the innocent, then who can be expected to protect us?” (Please refer to Appendix III which is a photograph of the Patel kitchen.)

Following this encounter, 200-300 security personnel surrounded the house. The security force had even entered the eldest brother‟s home, and fired several rounds there. The family had heard one of the force members consult with his superiors over the wireless whether they should throw a hand grenade inside, but it appears that they were asked to exercise restraint since there could be civilians inside.

Later, the security personnel dragged in the bodies of 5 Naxals killed at another site, and loaded these on a village tractor along with corpses of Gautam and Dau. They told the other members of the security force and the gathered villagers that Gautam and Dau had been killed by Naxals, but the family loudly refuted this, pointing to the particular force members who had entered the kitchen and killed Gautam and Dau. The bodies were then transported to the Sankra police station.

The family members followed the tractor to Sankra and tried in vain to file an FIR but were refused; their letter of complaint was accepted on the next day. Gautam‟s body was returned a day after the post mortem. A nephew, Punnochand, contacted the press two days later when the police refused to hear the family‟s version of the story. The story was carried by various TV channels and even the national media.

Two members of the security force had been injured in this entire episode. One of them was injured on his arm inside the kitchen of Gautam Patel in the firing by their own guns. Another, who might have been injured elsewhere in encounter with Naxals, had a bullet wound in his thigh. A pair of bloodstained army ―fatigues‖ was found by villagers outside the family home. We were shown this garment.

Our Observations:

Grief was palpable in the house of the deceased Gautam Patel. We saw the kitchen walls riddled with bullet holes. Seven cartridges were recovered from

the kitchen. We retraced the route from their home to the coriander fields where the shooting was first heard. We saw the fields in disarray. We were told that all their labour had left in fear since the shooting incident, and there was no one to work in their fields. We also visited the eldest brother‘s home and found several bullet marks on the walls of his home too, when the security force had chased Dau from the back entrance. It is pertinent that none of the family members had actually seen any Naxals alive.

No government officials had visited the family as part of the magisterial enquiry. Even the condolences made by the ministers were during a ―Jan Samasya Nivaran Shivir‖ (Grievance Redressal Camp) at village Padakipali, to which the family members were called. The DSP, Tehsildar and TI (Town Inspector or Station House Officer) visited the family to discuss the issue of compensation. On later visits, the police came in civilian clothes.

Of the 5 lakhs promised to the victims‘ family, they had been paid Rs. 5000 for transporting the dead, Rs. 21,000 for the last rites of the deceased, and Rs. 5000 for a bill that the family owed to the local provision store.

Dau Konda‘s father, who lives across the border in Orissa has been paid only a sum of Rs. 5000; the family couldn‘t tell us if the father had been given any more sums of money, since he had left by the time they got their additional compensation.

The family has no idea how the rest of the compensation that has been announced will reach them, nor do they know what procedure they have to follow with regard to the Government job promised to Tej Kumar, the son of the deceased Gautam Patel. Regarding their request for the post- mortem report, they have been informed that until a ̳chalan‘ (charge sheet) was filed, this could not be released to them. Interestingly however, when the team members demanded a copy of the post mortem report from the TI Sankra, he told them that he could not supply a copy of the post mortem report since Himadri Patel has given them an application not to supply the copy of the report to anyone but herself!

We went to meet Dayanidhi Patel – Panch of the village. The Sarpanch belongs to another village, and has not visited since the incident. The Panch stated that he was at home when the firing started around noon, and had hid inside. At around 1pm, he went to check on the dead Naxals and said he saw 200-300 „faujis‟ (security personnel), but saw no other Naxals. He also confirmed that so far the Collector, SP, Kotwal and Sarpanch have not visited the village. The Tehsildaar has visited to get some papers related to compensation filled.

Visits to Reekhadadar, Sankra, Mahasamund

According to media reports and our background queries, Maoists had entered the region from the Orissa side, and had even put up a cultural program at Reekhadadar. There is an established camp of the CRPF at Padakipali and it appears that soon after the Maoists left Reekhadadar they were encountered by the STF from Padakipali. The report of this incident had been carried immediately by the Dainik Bhaskar with a detailed account of the episode including a photograph of alleged Maoist shaking hands with young children. The media also reported an interview given by a member of the Maoist group just prior to the encounter.

We set off for Reekhadadar on the morning of 11th November. Reekhadadar is a visibly Odiya village in terms of clothing of the villagers and the language spoken. Initially we found no villagers ready to talk to us about the day of the episode or the incidents directly preceding it. They had heard about the ̳encounter‘ only on late afternoon of 9th October. But with a little more probing, this is what the villagers reluctantly shared.

Early that morning 60-70 „atankwadis‟ in uniform, carrying rifles and bags had entered the village. This was the first time that anyone from the village had seen Naxals/Maoists in the area. They were coming from Dharampura and four members of the group spoke Odiya. They first met some village children near the water pump, a little on the outskirts of the village, and asked them to fetch them some food to eat. When villagers provided „murra‟ (puffed rice) they offered to pay for it, but the villagers refused. The villagers shared that no one felt any sense of fear or discomfort at the presence of this group in their village. They were well-behaved, chatted and shook hands with children of the village. The group camped outside the village near the fields and in visible distance of the forest.

We were taken to the area where the group had camped, by the husband of a lady Panch of the village. Once outside the village, we were joined by more villagers who were now increasingly forthcoming. They said that the visitors had introduced themselves as ̳Mav-vadis‘ (Maoists). Everyone in the group were dressed in dark uniforms and armed with rifles, except one who was in ordinary dress. They asked the villagers to join them for a cultural program. The program started between 9-10am. About 10-20 people performed and the entire basti of almost 150 people attended this program of singing and speeches by the group. They condemned various acts of Raman Singh‘s government, including the burning of eight villages. They were aware of the CM‘s proposed visit to Pithoura on 16th Oct and also were aware that the security forces were waiting for them about 2 km away. Villagers said that the Maoists had already crossed path with security forces at Jagdishpur, but at that time the number of commandos was small – only about 25 and so they did not attack the Maoists. The program of singing and speeches appears to have lasted for about half an hour.

Following this some media people appeared on the site, at the village school nearby. Some members of the Maoist team beckoned to the media to join them in the jungle for interview. Apparently Manoj Mishra from Sankra

interviewed a Maoist member called Pradeep. After this interview someone amongst them sounded warning signals on a whistle, and the whole group dispersed and started running towards the forest. We were told that this forest belt was contiguous with that we had seen at Ledgidipa from where the security forces had emerged. Villagers of Reekhadadar got news of encounter killings of Maoists and also the two villagers around 3-4pm in the evening. They acknowledged fear of visiting Ledgidipa where the villagers had been killed.

At Sankra:

We met the Station House Office (normally referred to as ̳Town Inspector‘ or TI in Chhattisgarh) of Police Station Sankra – PL Nautiyal. He had recently been appointed to this post and was in the process of taking over charge when the incident occurred. He categorically stated that the two „gramins‟ (villagers) had been killed by Naxals. He said the force had killed a total of 7 Naxals including 3 girls and 4 boys. The investigation was being carried out by the DSP, DK Sharma. According to him Naxalite activities had been going on for 1-2 months (which he later changed to 5-6 months) in the region. The Chhattisgarh and Orissa police were cooperating in the matter of hunting down Naxals in the region. Also, he claimed that unlike Bastar, the police had full cooperation of the villagers, who were not sympathetic to Maoists. He informed us that the District Collector was monitoring the compensation package, that they were seeking certain documents to proceed with the magisterial enquiry and the investigation was going on. On enquiring about the status of an RTI application filed by the PUCL, Chhattisgarh, to get a copy of the FIR and the post mortem reports of the two dead villagers, he informed us that since the case was under investigation, the FIR could not be shared at the moment and this would be communicated directly to PUCL- Chhattisgarh. He added further that the family of the victims had made a written request that the police not divulge the contents of the post-mortem report to anyone except them!

Right across the police thana we saw a camp of armed forces, in the Anaj- mandi of Sankra. In conversation with the two youngsters who were guarding this open-air, middle of the town campsite, we discovered that this was the 2nd Battalion of Chhattisgarh Armed Force who had covered the STF during the Reekhadadar- Ledgidipa encounter.

At Mahasamund:

We spent the next day trying to meet the Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, DSP DK Sharma and Collector (Ms) D. Alarmelmangai. However, none of them were available at Mahasamund on the day of our visit. We could only meet Shri Bipin Manjhi, Additional Collector, in charge of the magisterial enquiry, who did not share any information with us, claiming that he knew only as much as we did from media reports!

Our Findings:

After detailed investigation including first hand eyewitness accounts the teams came to the following conclusions:

  • Special Task Force (STF) carried out the primary attack on the Maoist team seen at Reekhadadar with the second battalion of Chhattisgarh Armed Forces providing cover. Around 60-70 Maoists were first seen and between 200-300 security personnel were involved in the encounter with them.
  • There was no cross fire from the civilian victim‘s home or involving his house, nor were the two villagers used as human shields by the Maoists. The residents were engaged in routine household work at the time when the security force entered and killed the two villagers. The ̳encounter‘ of the villagers was by the security personnel, and the eye witnesses of the bereaved family are very firm and open about this.
  • The victims could not have been confused with the alleged Maoists who were in uniform and carrying guns, several of whom had already been killed by the security personnel in forest encounters. In contrast the victims were dressed in civilian clothes and were unarmed and Dau Konda was an apparently unarmed person who was being chased across fields. The security forces did not face any threat of any danger from the civilian victims at any time. The killings were carried out without any provocation on completely unarmed civilians who were cowering from fear and fleeing the forces
  • The TI at Sankra told us that the police enquiry had concluded that the two villagers were killed by Naxalites. Not only does the TI‘s version contradict the family/eyewitness account of the killing of Gautam and Dau Konda, but the conclusion has been reached without any effort at any enquiry from the victims‘ families or other villagers.
  • Only a small fraction of the announced government‘s compensation has reached the victims‘ families. The administration has not divulged any information – either to the family, or the village representatives, or to us — about how the remaining amounts are proposed to be disbursed.
  • The attitude of the authorities towards the family of Gautam Patel after the incident is very disturbing. The family was actively discouraged from filing a complaint or registering their version of the incident at the police station. No elected representative, not even the Sarpanch, has visited the village where this ghastly incident has occurred.
  • The process of magisterial enquiry into the incident, though announced promptly after the incident on 9th October was yet to commence when the team met the officers on 11th of November and both the local police and the ADM‘s office seemed to be more interested in a cover-up to evade direct responsibility of the security force in the incident.
  • Villagers in both Reekhadadar and Ledgidipa now live in a state of fear and Ledgidipa is virtually ostracized since no outsider is willing to visit there. In fact the day after the team returned having met the TI Sankra, a newspaper carried a strange report of ―8 uniformed Naxalites having stayed the night at Ledgidipa!‖

All India Fact finding Report Download

वीरता पदक देकर अंकित गर्ग को… कलंकित किया है हर एक मर्द को-


सोनी सोरी की कहानी सुनो   

सोनी सोरी की ज़ुबानी सुनो

पढ़ी है लिखी है पढ़ाती भी है

एक माँ है, पत्नी है, साथी भी है

भारत की नारी है, वासी भी है

अधिकार से आदिवासी भी है

तिरंगे का इतना उसे मान है

लड़कर के लहराया पहचान है

भले ही अभी लोग अनजान हैं

मगर ये भारत की असल शान है

लिंगा कोडोपी की हैं ये बुआ

सुनो के इक दिन कुछ ऐसा हुआ

गाँव में तीन सौ घर जल उठा

हुए बालात्कार और सबकुछ लुटा

हत्यारा पुलिस बल था पता जो चला

लिंगा ने जाकर के सब सच लिखा

सबूतों से लिंगा के रमण सिंह हिला

यहीं से शुरू हुआ नया सिलसिला

पहले तो लिंगा को दोषी कहा

नहीं बस चला तो उसे अगवा किया

प्रताड़ित किया और भूखा रखा

फिर सोनी सोरी पर इलज़ाम गढ़ा

पैसों के लालच से बिक न सकी

तो सोनी भी बलि की बकरी बनी

उठा लाए दिल्ली से सोनी को वो

फिर सुन न सकोगे आगे है जो

अंकित गर्ग नामक एस पी है एक

वहशी दरिंदा है इन्सां के भेस

अकेली नारी को बंदी बना कर

अपने कमीनो की टोली बुला कर

सोनी सोरी को नंगा किया

माता को गाली देता गया

जब बिजली के झटकों से दिल न भरा

तो सोनी की इज्ज़त पर वो टूट पड़ा

पीड़ा से सोनी बेहोश हो गई

अत्याचार इसपर भी न रुक सका

सोनी की कोख में पत्थर भरा

सुबह को सोनी थी आधी मरी

दर्द से कराहती वो चल न सकी

चक्कर जो आया तो फिर गिर पड़ी

शरीर से निर्बल थी, मगर वाह रे वाह

टूटा न मर्दानी का हौसला

उच्चतम न्यायलय में अर्ज़ी लिखी

रमण सिंह की सरकार हिलने लगी

सीबीआई तक बातें पहुँचने लगी

हर एक अत्याचार सबूत बन गए

आईपीएस के अफसर कपूत बन गए

वीरता पदक देकर अंकित गर्ग को

कलंकित किया है हर एक मर्द को

धिक्कार है ऐसी सरकार पर

फिटकार है ऐसी सरकार पर

जिस कोख से जन्मे हैं सब के सब

उस कोख के लाज की बात है

लड़ेंगे, क़सम से हम मर जायेंगे

इन्साफ़ माता को दिलवाएंगे——– by  Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed

Letter to Editor- Gallantry Award to mr Ankit Garg


To,
The Letter Section
The Hindu

Dear Sir/Madam,
In his article (article2834675.ece) on the Republic Day gallantry award given to Chhattisgarh police officer Ankit Garg who reportedly tormented, tortured and raped school teacher Soni Sori, Aman Sethi quotes Vishwa Ranjan, Director-General of Police (Home Guards), as follows:

“The Police Medal for Gallantry is for a specific instance … it is not like the award for Meritorious Service … Ankit Garg led one of the teams in the Mahasamund [encounter].” Vishwa Ranjan also added that “the Soni Sori case was a separate issue that was now sub judice.” Apart from Mr Vishwa Ranjan’s bizarre reasoning that it is legitimate to give a gallantry award to a rapist and torturer, as long as the awardee has shown his mettle in a separate incident, what is the real truth behind the Mahasamund ‘encounter’ where his supposed ‘acts of bravery’ have earned Mr Garg the award? The murky details of this ‘encounter’ were scrupulously laid out in the report Just a little collateral damage (Just_a_little_collateral_damage.pdf) by an All India Fact Finding team.

According to the report, “On 9th October, 2010, Saturday, various evening newspapers carried reports of a fierce encounter that happened on the same day, between the Naxals and the state police force at Padakipali [in the Mahasamund district], near the Orissa border, in which it was claimed that 8 Naxals were killed and 2 police injured. Later, it was admitted that 2 of the persons killed were actually villagers of Ledgidipa, who were said to have been caught in the crossfire. Inspector General of Police RK Vij told PTI that the two villagers were used as a shield by the Maoists in the gunfight (chhattisgarh-6-naxals-killed-in-encounter-58547). Reports also carried news of a large quantity of arms and ammunitions having been recovered after the encounter, including a ―huge cache of explosives (six-maoists-killed-in-chhattisgarh-encounter_100443592.html). The entire episode was hailed as a great achievement by Director General of Police (DGP), Vishwa Ranjan. chhattisgarh_police_kill_eight_maoits_in_encounter_N98249.htm.

However it did not take long before cracks started appearing in the official version of the story. According to the report
“Two villagers had died in this encounter. Confusing and contradictory reports were presented in the media on the circumstances surrounding these deaths – from the initial allegations of the villagers being Naxals, to their being unfortunate victims caught in crossfire, to their being used as human shields by the alleged Maoists. By and large, most of the media reported the official version of what occurred during the encounter. However, around 12th October, different reports began to appear in which the responsibility of civilian death began to be laid on the security personnel.”

The Fact Finding Mission was easily able to track down the family of one of the victims, Gautam Patel. According to the family, “Gautam was eating his lunch in the aangan, being served by his wife Himadri [when] they saw Dau [a deaf and mute helper of Gautam] run inside the kitchen in a state of fear, and a huge commotion and sounds of firing from outside. Gautam reacted in fear by following Dau into the dark kitchen and hiding underneath the kitchen shelf. Meanwhile 50-60 police had entered the home following Dau. They accosted Uttam, the youngest brother, and asked him where they were hiding the Naxalites. Uttam pleaded with them that there were no Naxals inside the house; only Gautam, his brother, and their servant Dau….Despite Himadri‟s pleading and crying that there were no Naxals in their home, only her husband and Dau, four of the security personnel forcibly entered the kitchen and started shooting in the dark, killing both Gautam and Dau.”
The security personnel later told other members of the security force and the gathered villagers that “both Gautam and Dau had been killed by Naxals, but the family loudly refuted this, pointing to the particular force members who had entered the kitchen and killed Gautam and Dau.”

One might naturally ask what the much feted Mr Ankit Garg had to say about this horror show, and for which he has won the much coveted gallantry award. According to the Fact Finding report, the authors tried to “meet the Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, DSP DK Sharma and Collector (Ms) D. Alarmelmangai. However, none of them were available at Mahasamund on the day of our visit. We could only meet Shri Bipin Manjhi, Additional Collector, in charge of the magisterial enquiry, who did not share any information with us, claiming that he knew only as much as we did from media reports!”

If Mr Garg deserves the gallantry award for raping and torturing a hapless woman in his custody, and for supervising the killing of innocent people, the BSF soldiers who tortured an emaciated and helpless man, at the same time videotaping their enviable act of bravery (http://youtu.be/e5kBqutAcio) also deserve a medal for their extreme sadism, and for ensuring that the poor and the indigent of this great democratic country do not become too uppity and demand that they be allowed to live with dignity.

Sincerely,
Sanjeev Mahajan
365 Walker Drive A
Mountain View
CA 94043
USA

contact at – veejnasnajaham@gmail.com

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