Naxal killing: SC to re-examine CBI clean chit to cops

April 13, 2012

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to “consider” a plea for an independent probe into the killings of top Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and scribe Hemchandra Pandey in an allegedly staged gun battle by the Andhra Pradesh police, who were given clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai agreed to consider the plea after counsel Prashant Bhushan raised suspicions on the credibility of the CBI probe, which he suspected was influenced by the Union home minister as IPS officers are under control of his ministry.

Bhushan told the court that the CBI probe giving a clean chit to AP police and stating that the encounter was genuine, “does not inspire confidence” as there were several loopholes in the report submitted by the agency.

He argued the post-mortem report and other findings of the CBI was done under apparent influence of the home minister, as the IPS officers are under the overall control of the home ministry.

Bhushan claimed that Azad, could not have been killed by AP police without the approval of the home minister, who was in touch with Azad in connection with ceasefire talks between Maoists and the government. 

The court initially expressed its unwillingness to entertain the plea by Bhushan, who represented the slain journalist’s wife, Bineeta Pandey. The court, however, relented later and agreed to go through the written submissions given by him, assailing the CBI’s findings.

The court, however, added, “We are making it clear that this court is not sitting over appeal of the CBI’s investigation report.”

The apex court also agreed to examine social activist Swami Agnivesh‘ plea to inspect the CBI’s report which was, however, opposed by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, who appeared for the agency.

Azad and Pandey were killed in an alleged fake encounter in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh in July 2010.

The Supreme Court, earlier on March 16, had said that the CBI probe had established that the killings of Azad, a senior member of banned CPI (Maoist) Central Committee, and Pandey, by the AP police, were not in a fake encounter.

The bench, which had gone through the final report of the CBI in the investigation had said the agency has given evidence to support its probe.

It had said prima facie it does not appear to be a fake encounter. “I went through the report very carefully,” Justice Alam had said.

The bench had, however, agreed to Prashant Bhushan’s plea to be allowed to go through the final probe report of the CBI.

The court was hearing a petition filed by slain scribe Hemchandra Pandey’s wife Bineeta Pandey and social activistSwami Agnivesh, seeking an independent CBI probe into the killing.

They had alleged that post-mortem reports of both the persons and a fact-finding exercise carried out by rights groups clearly indicated that the encounter was not genuine.

It was alleged Azad, 58, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, and Pandey, 32, were shot dead from a very close range, which was evident from their post-mortem reports.


Who will bell the Cat ? #Tribalrights

At the receiving end: Paniyas in Gudalur. Photo: Mari Marcel Thekaekara

MARI MARCEL THEKAEKARA, April 14, 2012, The Hindu

What does one do when a tiger‘s life is apparently more precious than an Adivasi‘s?

On March 30, Kokila, an Adivasi woman, was collecting firewood with a few friends near Kozhikolly village in the Devala area of Gudalur taluk, 50 km below Udhagamandalam, when she was charged by an angry elephant. It hurled her to the ground. Mercifully, I hope, she died instantly. The elephant kicked her around like a football and smashed her into a pulp. An Adivasi who saw the incident said, “It was terrible. She was smashed to pieces, like chamandi actually. We had to collect the bits and put them into a sack. It was a sad and sickening task. We could not prepare her for burial according to our rites. There was no body left.”

A passionate conservationist asked me, “Did they get compensation?” The question angered me. Kokila was a lively, feisty, irrepressible woman. Panichis, women belonging to the Paniya tribe, are independent, proud and they tend to keep to themselves. Kokila was different. She represented her people, even becoming a Panchayat member, really unusual for a Panichi woman. I recall her taking a lead on stage in dramas. She was bold and theatrical, making everyone laugh, dancing infectiously with abandon, urging everyone to join her. How do you compensate the death of such a woman? Of any woman for that matter? Can you replace the person for her family? Her children? Her people?

No one deserves this

Does anyone deserve to die in such a dreadful manner, for absolutely no fault of their own?

I live on the edge of a forest and all my friends and community are passionate about conservation. When elephants break our water tanks, or create havoc for a few days, we accept it philosophically. After all, we are living on their turf, in once-uninhabited terrain. It’s okay to lose a little. For the poorer population, a paddy or banana field gone is their entire livelihood. I shudder when I hear people throwing huge loud firecrackers to chase away the menace. I’m even more distraught when I hear that they throw burning tyres, which will stick on the elephants’ skin, cause terrible pain and is the only thing guaranteed to make the animal move. But I know I’m reacting like a city armchair environmentalist, sitting safe and sound in my solid stone bungalow listening to the screaming and the firecrackers from a comfortable distance while poor people battle for their lives, their livelihoods and their precarious homes.

Collision course

In the last year in the Gudalur area, there have been elephant problems every day, leaving the locals angry and fearful; a really unhealthy lethal combination. Last year, two people were killed around the same time in different locations by two separate elephants. One, a poor Gurkha working as an estate watchman, far away from his northern home. The other, an anonymous youth on a bike.

Even as I mourn the dead victims — collateral damage, wild lifers would say perhaps — I understand the rage of the elephants. Elephant behaviour has drastically changed even in the last two decades I’ve lived here. Every pachyderm has bullet wounds festering and hurting the animal; injuries that have driven the once-docile beasts to regard humans as the enemy. Adivasi elders tell us that they walked among the elephants without fear 50 years ago. Those days are long gone. As I write this, I hear about a child gored by a wild boar outside her balwadi. Luckily, she’s not dead, only badly wounded, recovering in the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital.

My entire family are wildlife enthusiasts; two of my kids were born here. We’ve lived outside the sanctuary for almost 30 years now. I believe sanctuaries must be sacrosanct. I believe we must protect our tigers and our elephants and the less exciting unknown species that co-exist with them. I know all the conservationist theories. We need to move people out. But forest dwelling Adivasis have rights too. And till they choose to move out; they have a right to stay safe. The Forest Department, in order to protect wildlife, should dig those elephant trenches around vulnerable habitations. It’s hard to explain to ordinary people, apart from armchair wildlife enthusiasts, why a tiger’s life is deemed so much more important than our laughing, dancing, full-of-the-joy-of-life Kokila. A tiger’s death mostly makes it to every newspaper in the country; each life is precious, counted, documented by tiger lovers in London and New York. It makes for eye-catching, sexy photographs too. Our Kokila will never make headlines. Perhaps the Coimbatore editions will carry an item: “Tribal woman killed by elephant”.

That’s what ordinary village people find incomprehensible. Sometimes, when I think about it, I do too

Good news- Bombay High Court issues notice on suit challenging Jaitapur N-plant

By Newzfirst4/13/12

MUMBAI – The Bombay High Court Thursday issued notice to the government, Nuclear Power Corporation of India and others in a public suit challenging the proposed 9,900-MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project coming up in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
Justice D. D. Sinha and Justice V. K. Tahilramani issued the notice returnable next week, lawyer R.N. Kachwe for the activist-petitioner Hemant Patil said.

Patil contended that the JNPP could pose severe environmental and radiation hazards to the local population.

“I have demanded an independent commission of experts be constituted to look into all these aspects before the projects is given the go-ahead,” Patil, who is also president of the anti-corruption NGO, Rashtriya Bhrastachar Virodhi Janshakti, told IANS.

He also urged the court appoint a Court Commissioner to verify the actual position of the entire project and its impact on human, wild life, flora and fauna and the sea waters.

The JNPP, planned in Madban-Jaitapur villages, has been facing stiff resistance from the locals and a majority of the state opposition parties since the past one-and-half years after it was cleared by the centre.

“We have prayed for injunction against the NPCIL and Areva of France, restraining them from proceeding ahead with the project till the pendency of the case,” Kachwe said.

Sedition, Free Speech and Koodankulam: Video interviews

On 6 April, 2012, Poovulagin Nanbargal and Campaign for Justice and Peace-TN organised a panel discussion titled
“The Use and Abuse of Sedition and Other Laws to Stifle Democratic Dissent“Here’re short interviews with the panelists. The film was shot and edited by Siddharth Muraleedharan, an young activist from Chennai.

1. Interview with Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Legal Scholar

2. Interview with Adv. R. Vaigai, Madras High Court

3. Interview with Adv. M. Vetriselvan, Madras High Court (Speaking on Koodankulam — Tamil).

Sunday Reading—Jiski zuban Urdu ki tarah

April 15 , 2012, MUMBAI
Paromita Vohra,Mid-Day

As kids we often made fun of our father because he could not read Hindi. He’d grown up in Lahore and moved to Delhi during Partition, when he was twelve. Like many such others, he had learned Urdu, not Hindi, as his second-language. Of course he spoke Hindustani, which mixed Hindi with Urdu. But he leaned towards Urdu and couldn’t read the Devnagri script.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

Why did we think this was funny? Because we were growing up in a different India, where the ‘national’ language, Hindi, was default and everyone knew it. But of course there are always so many histories, even inside just one home, leave alone a country. So, Urdu was around our house, but as with Hindustani, rather casually and mixed up with many other things. There were books whose mysteries I could not unravel. Hanging out with friends, I’d sometimes hear my dad offer a sheyr as a comment. And a friend, or my mum, would respond with an answering couplet.

It’s not that ours was a house of great erudition — we were really quite a regular middle-class family. It’s just that poetry was a part of life, in a simple way, and in many homes. I only learned the languages taught to me in school — English and Hindi. So what Urdu I knew I learned in this overheard way — or through old Hindi film songs. Perhaps the fact that they were written by accomplished poets like Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi or Shakil Badayuni meant that the mixing of Urdu and Hindi was not just functional, but full of the play and pleasure of poetry. So, for many, these songs reflected our fluid relationship with language, and our everyday, popular relationship with the poetic. They were a place where the worlds of Urdu and Hindi, were not necessarily worlds of Muslim and Hindu, but where they overlapped and meshed.

Learning Urdu is on my To Do Before Too Late list. Because I’d like to graduate from quoting 1950s Hindi film songs to reading Ghalib and Faraz like my father could. However, seeing as I live in Maharashtra, I’m thinking this is one of those things I should just strike off my list, unless I want to be declared anti-national (at best). Because, presenting a “watertight case” to justify a continuing ban on SIMI, one of the affidavits filed by a policeman from Solapur cites Ghalib as an inciter of terrorism. The proof? A sheyr of course: “Mauje khoon ser se guzer hi kyon na jay, Aastane yaar se uth jaein kya!” (“Should we perish in a wave of bloodshed, yet still we will not leave the Beloved’s country”).

It’s not that they found the poem in the backpack of a terrorism accused. They just feel this is the stuff of terrorist propaganda. In another affidavit, an inspector from Ghatkopar police station cites material seized from two SIMI activists. You’d think these might be items for a bomb, or arms or at least a leaflet, right? But no. It’s a children’s magazine called Umang, which is in Urdu.
I don’t even want to suggest sensitisation courses, boss. I’m just wondering how this intelligence gathering method of ignorance and prejudice is supposed to reassure us about security! Sure, there must be terrorists who read poetry. But I doubt it’s poetry that’s causing terrorism. Prejudice of many kinds has curdled our society, separating one language from another, and us from language; but also, separating poetry from life and so, making us stupid. It has robbed us of our ability to understand complexity, ambiguity and so, our ability to live with difference.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 


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April 2012
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