India – Put Gram Sabhas in charge of all social sector schemes


NAGAPATTINAM, May 22, 2013

P. V. Srividya

Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
TOPICS

Mani Shankar Aiyar-led committee prescribes a mechanism for panchayat control

How relevant is panchayat raj in the everyday lives of the people? What is the role of panchayat raj institutions (PRIs) in poverty alleviation and human development? Is poverty alleviation possible through a peripheral role for panchayats as conceived in various Central sector schemes?

Taking up these questions, the Mani Shankar Aiyar-led Expert Committee on “Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for effective delivery of public goods and services,” which submitted its report to the government recently, has suggested that the Gram Sabha should be empowered to monitor and make decisions on all the social sector schemes — Central and State. Citing MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme as the model for other schemes, Mr. Aiyar told The Hindu in Mayiladuturai that this move will remove the lacunae in the ‘last mile delivery’ of the schemes.

A panchayat-driven social sector expenditure model empowers the community with a sense of ownership as against the bureaucracy-driven, top-down model currently inbuilt in the Central sector schemes. It calls for a rethink on the way central sector schemes (CSS) on poverty alleviation are designed and the need to retrieve PRIs from the fringes to their rightful place as drivers of rural welfare.

Outcomes are not in sync with the outlays, says the report. The multifold increase in social sector expenditure has barely translated into positive outcomes. There was no tangible rise in the Human Development Indices, despite the exponential increase in social sector expenditure.

The Committee — drawing its template from the Prime Minister’s address to the Conference of Chief Ministers in 2004 that calls for a rethink on the top-down design of programmes — prescribes Activity Mapping for each CSS. Activity Mapping envisions clear delineation of “functions, finances and functionaries,’ shifting the ownership of Schemes from the line departments to elected Panchayats. The report illustrates model Activity Mapping for eight CSS to lead the way.

Grassroots devolution

When the Panchayat Raj experiment was started two decades ago, there was a certain degree of naïveté in believing that effective devolution would just happen, Mr. Aiyar recalls. “Unlike the West, with its local government experience in parishes and counties, here local government was imposed from above. We had to devolve, while the West evolved from local governments.” But, ours was the first such experiment at grassroots devolution leading to tangible social engineering, says Mr. Aiyar.

The Committee’s recommendations include a Centre-drafted model Gram Sabha law to motivate State legislation; freezing of rotation of reserved seats to two or three terms to incentivise good work and facilitate capacity building of panchayat leadership; incentivise PRIs for transparency and accountability and the States to devolve; reorient the outlook of lower bureaucracy to panchayats. The report also prescribes collateral and institutional measures such electronic tagging of funds, setting up of a National Commission for Panchayat Raj, and strengthening Gram Sabhas in PESA areas (tribal areas to which the Panchayat system has been extended by law).

The report recommends the MGNREGA scheme and BRGF (Backward Regions Grant Fund) model that locate PRIs as central to implementation. “We have wonderful examples in MGNREGA and BRGF. MGNREGA was initially worked out without a role for Panchayats. On my personal intervention and literally in a midnight, government’s amendment to the Bill, (and) a strong role for Panchayats came by. Today, it is a highly functional scheme,” says Mr. Aiyar.

While the Committee advocates strong Gram Sabhas that the panchayats are accountable to, the Bill on Land Acquisition lends only consultative powers to the Gram Sabhas.

Even as Mr. Aiyar sees no inherent conflict between intent and action, he does believe there are vested interests. ‘The Sub Committee under me strongly recommended consent by Gram Sabhas. But, there are always vested interests.” Also, most States have not legislated on powers for the Gram Sabhas.

According to the report, effective devolution leads to better outcomes, which in turn engenders political will. It was lack of bureaucratic will and not political will that has stalled effective devolution, says Mr. Aiyar. “My recommendations as chairperson of the Empowered Sub Committee of the NDC (National Development Council) were not acted upon by the Planning Commission. The Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission and the Cabinet Secretary are not elected and their inability to enforce their own circulars reflects lack of bureaucratic will.” The political class did not bear down on the bureaucracy like it did with MGNREGA.

“It is bureaucracy that will have to produce the methodology of devolution. But they did not. Now our report illustrates how to do it through Activity Mapping. They just have to implement it.” Recounting a personal conversation with Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, Mr. Aiyar says the former Prime Minister envisioned a generation’s time for effective devolution. “It is only 20 years now; we have five more years to realise that dream, if our recommendations are implemented.”

 

Maharashtra – Uterus removal racket under Rajiv Gandhi Insurance Scheme #Vaw #WTFnews


IBN7 | Posted on May 24, 2013 a
Insurance Scheme has been busted in nine districts of Maharashtra. The racket was running in the nine district including Latur and Usmanabad. The racket came in light after a social organisation Tathapi did a study and alleged that several women has lost their uterus due to the racket.

It is alleged that the removal of uterus has been carried to siphon off money under the Rajiv Gandhi Insurance Scheme. Tathapi worker Medha Kale claimed that the study showed that government hospital were not carrying out the uterus removal operation and even if such a procedure was carried out due to medical emergency, the cost was very low. But such operations were carried out on a large scale in private hospitals as they used to charge a big sum of money for the same.

In Andhra Pradesh, too, about 1,100-1,200 such cases have been found.

NGO alleges uterus removal racket running in MaharashtraIt is alleged that the removal of uterus has been carried to siphon off money under the Rajiv Gandhi Insurance Scheme.

According to Tathapi doctors were carrying out the operations after telling the patients that if they don’t undergo surgery, they could die. Almost 50 per cent of the women were told that their uterus needs to be removed to stop excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle while 21.8 per cent women being told that they suffered from white discharge. Almost six per cent women were told that they could suffer from uterine cancer if they did not get their uterus removed.

After this the doctors used to charge several thousand of rupees for the surgery. Most the women who underwent surgery are aged between 20 and 30 year

 

#India – Little kids in slums more vulnerable to sexual abuse


CHILDRAPE

Ambika Pandit, TNN Apr 21, 2013,

NEW DELHI: The voices from 1,580 families in 28 slums, resettlement and unauthorized colonies of Delhi speak in unison about vulnerability of their children and why they are more likely to be victims of violence and sexual abuse than a child living in a planned neighbourhood.

With 75% of the mothers labouring to run the house, the children in the age group of 0-6 years are usually left in the care of an older sibling or the neighbour. But with more and more cases of sexual abuse by known persons, the neighbourhood is no longer the safest option, says a survey by a network of grassroot NGOs working on issues of children under six in urban poor settlements of the capital.

The survey, carried out last year by the network Neenv (Delhi Forces), was followed up with public hearings in various settlements to lay bare the struggles of these people in bringing up their children.

Chirashree Ghosh from Mobile Creches, an NGO which has been working with children in resettlements for over two decades, pointed out that the survey and public hearings brought to fore the vulnerabilities of children in these pockets, home to 64% of Delhi’s population.

The survey also found that just 59% families owned a house. Worse still, only 57% owned pucca houses, reflecting the poor economic status of the families. Adding to the difficulties is the social scenario, with 66% families being nuclear, 67% children below 6 years and 76% working mothers labouring hard to earn their daily bread.

In such a scenario, inadequate anganwadi facilities make survival tough. The survey found that just 20% children were benefitted from anganwadi centres. About 20% children were left under the care of older siblings who are often made to drop out of school to manage the smaller children . Nearly 18% kids are left with neighbours and 5% taken along by mothers. It was also seen that 9% accidents of children took place in the absence of parents.

According to the women and child development ministry’s 2010-11 report , the Rajiv GandhiCreche Scheme had reached 5.83 lakh children in India and 7,700 in Delhi. It is estimated that there are 16 crore children under 6 years in India and six crores require care.

The public hearings also revealed that the most vulnerable among the migrants living in the slums are also the children.

#India – Suprme Court rejects Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s appeal #deathpenalty


Supreme Court verdict could impact other death row prisoners

death-penalty
Reported by A Vaidyanathan, Ketki Angre, Edited by Surabhi Malik | Updated: April 12, 2013

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court has ruled that a death sentence cannot be commuted to life imprisonment because of a delay in execution.

The court has rejected an appeal by Devinderpal Singh Bhullar against his hanging, and could impact the cases of 16 other prisoners on death row who have pleaded against their punishment.

Bhullar had appealed against his execution on the grounds that his petition for mercy was kept pending by the President of the country for eight years. He was given the death sentence for killing nine people with a car bomb in Delhi in 1993.

Bhullar’s wife was in court when the verdict against him was announced. “The court didn’t consider our points,” she said.  Bhullar’s family and friends say that his time in prison has affected his mental health.

Activists and lawyers for Bhullar and other prisoners have said that inordinate delays in deciding requests for clemency amount to cruelty and violate the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In Tamil Nadu, today’s verdict will be  carefully assessed to determine the potential fallout on the case of  three men who have spent 22 years in a jail in Tamil Nadu for their role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Their appeal for clemency was rejected after 11 years in August 2011.  All parties in the state have passed a resolution stating that they should not hang.

Human rights groups have been critical of India for executing two prisoners in the last few months. Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab was hanged in November 2012 in Pune for his role in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. In February, Afzal Guru was hanged in Delhi; he had been convicted of assisting in the attack on Parliament in 2001. His family was informed of his execution two days after he was buried at Tihar Jail.

 

#India- Question mark over issuing resident identity card plans #NPR #UID


ET, March 25, 2013

 

200 px

NEW DELHI: The government is having second thoughts about the wisdom of having a national identity card for all Indian residents — an idea that was first mooted by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, was promised by Congress as part of its 2009 election manifesto, and has been approved by the cabinet on different occasions in the past. At the first meeting of the group of ministers set up under Defence Minister AK Antony to review the proposed expenditure on such cards, ministers raised basic questions about the purpose of issuing resident I-cards — queries that have been already settled or resolved by previous decisions. Over 150 countries issue such national I-cards to their residents, including Germany, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Will the resident identity cards serve any purpose? These cards must serve a larger social purpose which should be demonstrable,” said a senior minister who is part of the GoM, when asked about the dithering over the decision to issue I-cards based on the National Population Register (NPR) being created by the census office.

The worries seem to be political as Congress does not want to spark a debate over who is a resident or who is a citizen. It may be looking to delay the process of issuing I-cards, which would have coincided with the build-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and five major state elections over the next seven months.

“The resident I-cards could unleash a fresh form of politics over Indian citizens versus residents,” admitted a minister.

Any discussion on this subject will throw up the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, an important vote bank in several states like Assam and West Bengal. The Congress brass is also apprehensive that a resident identity card based on biometric (finger print and iris) data collected for the NPR would be seen as a tool that could be used to target minorities.

Nearly Rs 4,000 crore has already been spent on the NPR exercise to collect biometric details of all residents, of the Rs 6,600-odd crore approved by the cabinet for the purpose. But on January 31, the cabinet did not clear the expenditure for issuing I-cards to 82 crore adult Indian residents at a cost ofRs 5,500 crore, feigning confusion between the NPR and Aadhaar numbers being issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Home ministry officials had made a presentation to the GoM on March 13 about these I-cards’ utility in addressing security concerns as well as delivering the government’s welfare programmes to the poor — and the executive decisions over the past several years to issue them. But ministers aren’t convinced. “The security applications of NPR cards are not clear,” said the minister quoted earlier, requesting anonymity. “If someone runs away after triggering a blast, how will having an NPR card help? Police enquiries also result in tracing such people even without identity,” he pointed out.

Another minister who is part of the GoM said security concerns flagged by the Indian Navy after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks have already been addressed by the coastal NPR exercise that was conducted on a priority basis. But the exercise covered only 1.2 crore people in 3,331 coastal villages and small towns. Major cities like Chennai and Mumbai and larger towns that dot India’s coastline are yet to be covered, said a senior government official.

In June 2012, the committee on strengthening coastal security against threat from sea had directed the census office to complete the NPR, and issue I-cards to people in all the remaining coastal areas on a priority basis. The National Security Council Secretariat has made a similar request to the home ministry to provide identity cards to people living in the Siliguri corridor in the North-East.

Officials are baffled by the government’s growing reluctance over the issue of such cards despite explicit assurances to Parliament that this would be the logical conclusion of the NPR exercise. They point to Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s approval of the I-card costs following elaborate deliberations by the Expenditure Finance Committee, which over three meetings had settled all the concerns or doubts raised about NPR cards by the Planning Commission, UIDAI and ministries.

“Normally, once the finance ministry okays an expenditure, the cabinet simply ratifies the move as all the pros and cons have been thoroughly examined by the ministry. It’s very unusual for the government to send the issue to a GoM,” a secretary-rank official remarked at a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office last week to discuss the UPA’s Aadhaar-led ‘game changer’ — direct benefit transfer.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and UIDAI chief Nandan Nilekani are special invitees to the GoM that also includes Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Chidambaram.

The home ministry has requested the Cabinet Secretariat for the GoM to be reconvened soon and is preparing a fresh note on how NPR cards will address security threats in the areas of border management, immigration, counter-insurgency and terrorism.

 

 

 

Kudankulam nuclear power project cost up 14%


Construction began in Sept 2001 with estimated cost at Rs 13,600 cr; expenditure on the project at Rs 15,454 cr till Jan 2013

 Economy & Policy » News » News

BS Reporter  |  Chennai  March 21, 2013

The delay in commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has pushed the project cost up around 14 per cent. When construction began in September 2001, the government had joined hands with Russia for the project, which was then expected to cost Rs 13,600 crore. But according to the government, till January 2013, expenditure on KNPP was Rs 15,454 crore.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy said, the expenditure on Kudankulam Project (KKNPP Units 1&2 – 2 x 1000 Mw) till January 2013 had been Rs 15,454 crore and efforts were being made to commission the first unit in May this year. It may be noted that the project was supposed to go on stream in Sept 2007.

KNPP is in the coastal village of Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, 650 km south of Chennai. An inter-governmental agreement for the project was signed in Nov 1988 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and erstwhile Soviet Union’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, for construction of two reactors.

However, the project was in a limbo for a decade due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the post-1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. There were also objections from the United States on the grounds that the agreement does not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Then, the construction began only in September 2001 and the cost was estimated to be $3 billion (around Rs 13,600 crore).

In a statement to the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the minister, said in nuclear power plants, a series of activities including integrated system tests, first criticality, subsequent performance tests, synchronisation of the unit with the grid and raising of power in steps take place.

The nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam employ several safety features to ensure protection of people and the environment even under most stressful situation like extreme natural events leading to a loss of power and cooling water supply, the minister said.

 

Constitutionally incorrect to hang the three, says judge who confirmed death for Rajiv killers #deathpenalty


By, TNN | Feb 24, 2013

Constitutionally incorrect to hang the three, says judge who confirmed death for Rajiv killers
Justice Thomas said the judgment itself had ‘errors’ as the death sentences had not considered the antecedents, nature and character of the accused.
CHENNAI: It would be ‘constitutionally incorrect’ now to hang the three people sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, said Justice K T Thomas, who headed the Supreme Court bench that confirmed the death sentences. “It was my misfortune to have presided over that bench,” he told TOI.

More than 13 years ago, it was a three-judge bench headed by Justice Thomas that confirmed death sentence for Nalini Sriharan, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. Nalini’s death penalty was commuted to imprisonment for life by Tamil Nadu governor in April 2000 on the basis of a recommendation of the state cabinet and a public appeal by Sonia Gandhi. The TADA had originally awarded death sentence to all the 26 accused persons. When the matter reached the Supreme Court, which was the only appellate forum under theRajiv Gan as a referred trial, capital punishment was confirmed only for four.

In an interview, Justice Thomas said the judgment itself had ‘errors’ as the death sentences had not considered the antecedents, nature and character of the accused. Hence any decision to hang the three could now be termed as ‘constitutionally incorrect’ and a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, he told TOI. Going a step further, the judge said case deserved a review, considering the antecedents and character of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.

“At a time when the Supreme Court bench headed by me pronounced judgments in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, apparently, we did not consider the nature and character of the accused who were sentenced to death penalty by us. It was only many years thereafter a bench headed by Justice S B Sinha pointed out that without considering the nature and character of accused, a death sentence should never be awarded. His judgments mentioned errors in previous SC judgments and that applies to Rajiv Gandhi assassination case,” he said.

Also, he pointed out the three have been in prison for 22 years. “For any life imprisonment, every prisoner is entitled to have a right to get his case reviewed by the jail authorities (to determine) whether remission can be announced or not. Since the accused in Rajiv Gandhi case were death convicts, they underwent a long period of imprisonment without even having the benefit of life imprisonment,” he said. “This appears to be a third type of sentence, something which is unheard and constitutionally incorrect. If they are hanged today or tomorrow, they will be subjected to two penalties for one offense.”

In 1999, Justice Thomas had agreed with two others on the bench in respect of death penalty for only Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. As for Murugan’s wife Nalini, he gave a dissenting, but minority, verdict preferring imprisonment for life.

When TOI contacted Justice V R Krishna Iyer, former judge of the Supreme Court, he said death penalty could not be considered as a punishment. “It is just another act of murder, a judicial murder, by the state. It is high time for India to abolish death penalty and India has not gained anything from death penalties in the past,” he said.

The three death convicts have completed almost 22 years of imprisonment. Their execution, which was scheduled to be held on September 9, 2011, was stayed by the Madras high court for six weeks in August that year. The case has since been transferred to the Supreme Court, to be decided after the Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar case verdict is delivered.

 

Why India Needs The Death Penalty


CARTOON COURTESY: FACEBOOK
OPINION
India is not a weak state. This is not about Politics but Justice. Justice must not only be strong but also seen to be strong.

So, The Law has been taking its Own Course, without any help from the political bankruptcy of the Kangress party. The Law took its Own Course and hanged Ajmal Kasab before a Parliament session and co-incidentally Afzal Guru before another Parliament session. The Law’s Own Course is stranger than the river Kosi which changes direction at will (actually, even the Kosi river changes directions because of corruption in the unnecessary embankments the Bihar government builds).

Criticism that the United Progressive Alliance government helped the Law take its Own Course has been taken too personally by the otherwise thick-skinned government. So personally that they even have a response! There’s been unfounded criticism  that Afzal Guru was unfairly targeted to deprive the BJP of a stick they’d been beating the Kangress with, to play to the gallery, to appear strong, pro-active and to prove that we indeed have a government in place. But you can’t please everybody. For instance, Omar Abdullah, otherwise a good boy, had the gumption to ask the Gandhi Party to ‘prove’ that Afzal’s was not a selective execution.

The Collective Conscience of Society, by which we mean the evil side of Rashtrapati Pranab Poltu Mukherjee, Misses Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and Shri Sushilkumar Shinde, has thus been awakened. Replying the critics is easy. We can just hang a few more people. There are so many to hang, where do we start? Let’s dispense with some non-Muslims for a change? After all, Rarest of the Rare happens Every Third Day. Let’s find someone who’s not a political hot potato. No Khalistanis or Tamil nationalists please, we can only hurt Kashmiri sentiments because Misses Gandhi is 50% Kashmiri and Rahul baba 100% only. Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have already been forgiven by Priyanka didi.

And so they found four guys who killed 22 people in a landmine blast. Five of themwere policemen. Waging war against the state, killing policemen. When policemen kill people we say “Law and Order” or “Encounter”. That’s exactly also what we can say when we hang killers of policemen!  These four guys were with that bandit Veerappan, the Collective Conscience only wishes he was alive so we could feel rejoice with the thought of him choking to death. But since we killed him in an encounter long ago, we could kill these four. Killing people who kill people is the best form of reforming killers. If Sharia states do it why can’t we? We are the land of Due Process and self-multiplying Gandhis.

Killing those four in return will definitely establish that India is a country where the Rule of Law Prevails. That will leave only 472 more Rarest of the Rares to be despatched.  God knows how many political crises the United Progressive Alliance government will face until elections come. How many more chopper purchase scams, how many more exposes by whatshisname Kejriwal, how many more people taking exception to rape and demanding stupid committee reports to be implemented as if these people own the country! Not even Digvijaya ji’s personal Swami and astrologer can tell the embarrassment that’s in store when there will be assembly elections in five states later this year. Some irritants will ask for food security bill and some will say budget is not good and inflation is too much and cash is not transferring through Nandan Nilekani’s nose. Every time the ungrateful aam aadmi whines like a cry baby, show them the Collective Conscience. Hang some bastard and the camel will come under the hill!

There may be some teething troubles like lack of rope but rest assured the Planning Commission will do something and we’ll pull off the Great Indian Rope Trick just as well as we pulled off the Commonwealth Games.

So what if a little bit of lying is needed? Lying for a good cause is as good as speaking the truth, as Advani ji, Narendra Modi ji and George Orwell ji always say. Why can’t the Kangress take the best of Hinduism from the Hindutvawaadis? To give you the example of lying for the good of the Collective Conscience, Chiddu had said Afzal was not being hanged because executions are by Serial Order. Much older mercy petitions have not been disposed off, he had argued, so why are you harping on Afzal? If anyone now asks what happened to Chiddu’s Serial Order theory, we can just say he was a bit over-influenced by Nandan’s UID numbers. He now looks after the fiscal deficit, Shinde is da man.

Similarly, don’t let these four Veerappan guys meet their lawyers once Poltu da rejects their mercy petition. If they can’t meet lawyers how will they sign on affidavits asking for judicial review? See how smart we are! Don’t reveal the date on which we want to hang them, we’ll decide depending on when Arnab Goswami is particularly angry with us. If somebody goes to the Chief Justice asking him to stay the execution, he can always say what proof they are going to execute the next day?! Pray tell, when there is no baans how will anyone play thebansuri.

But listen, we can’t hide from the public that we’ve rejected their mercy petitions. Such special honour is only reserved from Pakistanis like Ajmal Kasab and Kashmiris like Afzal Guru. That’s because Kashmiris are an integralpart of India,and Pakistanis our estranged brothers (Sardar Patel ji and Nehru ji helped create Pakistan.) Letting the public know that we’re going to hang the four Veerappan guys, they may go to the court and delay their execution by arguing that we delayed it! Just like that Saibanna character.

To help the Law take its Own Course, we must always hang people in secrecy, not give the losers time to cry before their families or write long last letters or god forbid, meet their lawyers to file review petitions! Already that Saibanna escaped our rat trap and went crying to the court, arguing that he should not be hanged just because we took so long to decide to hang him. What hypocrites these human rights types? Don’t those they killed have human rights? First these people complain like cry babies that the Law takes too long to take its Own Course, and when the Law takes its Own Course they still complain and say want the Law to take even more time to take its Own Course! Do they believe in the Constitution of India? Are they Maoists or what?

We ourselves had to stop that Rajoana‘s execution because the Sikhs don’t want it. Arey, is Collective Conscience of Society not applicable to the Sikhs? Are the Sikhs not an integral part of India like the Kashmiris? Why is the BJP not demanding Rajoana’s execution? This is why we hate hypocrites and always ask people to vote for Kangress. This is why the Kangress is a Secular party.

These human rights types, who think only humans have human rights, don’t realise we are in the new India – India After Rahul Gandhi. They give silly arguments from Old India. They cite some Kehar Singh vs Union of India (1989) and B P Singhal vs Union of India (2010) to say the orders of the President under Article 72 of the Constitution are subject to judicial review. Arre, what is the point of giving Rashtrapati ji the power of mercy if it is still to be subjected to judicial review once the Law has taken its Own Course.

Didn’t the Law take its own Course when three thousand trees were cut to make up for the big tree fell in 1984? Didn’t the Law take its own Course when Gujarat played Holi with Muslims? In Bhagalpur, Kokrajhar, Khairlanji and so on, didn’t the Law take its Own Course? So why are these hypocrites defending Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru and those Veerappan’s buddies?

Just as promises are meant to be broken, mercy is meant to not be given. India is not a weak state. This is not about Politics but Justice. Justice must not only be strong but also seen to be strong. Those who confuse Justice with Politics and claim that Law has taken some course other than its very Own, forget that as Misses Gandhi once said, Yeh janta hai sab jaanti hai.

All these people need to understand that we are not like any other banana republic. We are our own indigenous Hindu banana republic with secular values, democracy, freedom of speech, rule of law, independent Kangress-friendly media, Kashmir, ten per cent growth rate. (Ok, Montek ji will double check the latest growth rate and let us know.) Other banana republics don’t have these things.

We the Mango People of Banana Republic, let us hang the guilty, Parliament session by Parliament session. Let us bang our heads on the wall and say Jai Hind! Jai Sonia! Jai Hind!


This was first published in Kafila

 

#India- UPA strays off Sonia’s course #Deathpenalty


KALPANA KANNABIRAN, The Hindi feb 10, 2013

On November 20, 2012, India was one of 39 countries that voted against the U.N. General Assembly draft resolution, which called for the abolition of the death penalty. A day later, Ajmal Kasab was hanged after being pronounced guilty of perpetrating terrorist attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Afzal Guru was executed on February 9, 2013. Although there is a world of difference between the two cases, there are questions that arise in common in relation to the death penalty.

The eschewing of the death penalty is not a matter of judicial reason alone. It is not the prerogative of courts. In fact, the writ of the courts is limited. It is essentially a matter of politics. On what basis did the government vote to retain the death penalty? On what basis did the former President turn down a mercy petition? On what basis does the UPA government push for the rejection of mercy petitions by the President?

These questions have a context that we have lost sight of. Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of UPA, has gone on record in a letter to President Narayanan arguing strongly in favour of clemency for those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, and she also spoke on behalf of both her children, one of whom is now a Member of Parliament representing the Congress Party, and an acknowledged leader. The pain and loss was deeply personal. But it was also political. It concerned the assassination of a former Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition. In taking this principled stand, Sonia Gandhi was also putting the practice of politics and the public good above the personal loss she and her children suffered. In doing this, she drew a radical convergence between the personal and the political that should have become the guiding principle for the entire Indian parliament’s political stand on the death penalty. In what is a deep and unexplainable contradiction, the government led by her party has undermined her own stand on this matter. Was there a discussion? What is the justification for this contradiction?

The loss of memory of deliberative politics has tragic consequences in our time. Memory is not honoured or kept alive by taking life “lawfully” (or “justly” even if unlawfully). There is no justice in the death penalty. We need today, more than ever, to remember that there is an irreversible principle Sonia Gandhi and her children established in the matter of the death penalty — a principle that separates personal anger and grief from the idea of justice. It is this principle that should guide parliamentary and governmental deliberations on the death penalty — and indeed also guide presidential deliberations on clemency, thereby setting new measures for the practice of politics — and indeed governance in India. Its repeated negation in letter and spirit is a very worrying sign of our times.

(Kalpana Kannabiran is Professor and Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad.)

 

The Forgotten Communal Riots of Bhagalpur- 1989 #Justice


 

pic courtsey- http://bhagalpurinfo.blogspot.in/
Vol – XLVIII No. 03, January 19, 2013 | Warisha Farasat , EPW

Twenty three years ago Bhagalpur district witnessed one of the worst communal riots in post-independent India. The victims – mainly Muslims – are still struggling, socially and financially. This essay lays out the main findings of the official commissions of inquiry set up to investigate the carnage and interweaves the context of a research study by the Centre for Equity Studies documenting the experiences of victims/survivors in Bhagalpur on justice and reparations, and makes policy recommendations on the framework for reparations for the victims.

Warisha Farasat (faramusa@hotmail.com) is with the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi.

Two months before the riots, between 12 and 22 August 1989 on the occasion of Muharram and Bisheri Puja, communal passions were already running high in Bhagalpur, which had a history of communal clashes. However, the immediate trigger of the Bhagalpur riots was the five-day Ramshila programme of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). As part of a wider nation-wide Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, Ramshila – bricks for the proposed grand Ram Mandir (temple) in Ayodhya – were to be carried in five processions through the rural areas of Bhagalpur and converge on the 24th in the town. The growing influence of the right-wing forces to polarise society on communal lines had already vitiated the atmosphere and provocative actions during the processions made matters worse.

The outbreak of communal violence on 24 October 1989 in Bhagalpur was preceded by a series of rumours spread by criminal elements that around 200 Hindu students living in lodges near the university area had been killed by Muslims. This was followed by another rumour that 31 Hindu boys had been murdered and their bodies dumped in a well at the Sanskrit College. As it turned out, both rumours were baseless, but they fanned the communal violence (Minorities Commission 1990: 242).

A three-member Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the Bihar state government to investigate the Bhagalpur pogrom, concluded that the riots were triggered by the Ramshila procession (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 14). It also named several police officials, including the then superintendent of police, K S Dwivedi for failing to stop the violence and recommended further investigation into the role of the official machinery during the riots.

The Political Players

The Bhagalpur riots took place when the Congress was in power in Bihar and Jagannath Mishra was the chief minister. Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, during his visit to the riot-affected areas ordered that Dwivedi be immediately transferred because of his controversial role in the riots and anti-Muslim bias. However, the transfer orders triggered protests from the VHP and other Hindu right-wing forces, forcing Gandhi to rescind his orders (Chopra and Jha 2012). Even today, survivors note that had Dwivedi’s transfer order not been revoked at the time, many lives would have been saved since many of the worst atrocities took place after this. Indeed, the subsequent Commission of Inquiry constituted to probe the riots indicted Dwivedi and noted in its report:

We would hold Dwivedi, the then superintendent of police, Bhagalpur, wholly responsible for whatever happened before 24 October 1989, on 24th itself and [after the] 24th. His communal bias was fully demonstrated not only by his manner of arresting the Muslims and by not extending them adequate help to protect them (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 114).

The Congress government at the time did little to either stop the riots or provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims and their families. Even Lalu Prasad Yadav, who won the 1990 elections on a secular platform in Bihar, did not make enough effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Bhagalpur riots. Indeed, many among the survivors believe that Yadav avoided any action because many of the rioters who led the mobs against the Muslims belonged to his caste.

Similarly, even the efforts of the current incumbent, Nitish Kumar, who heads a coalition of Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, have been piecemeal, and the major issues of justice, accountability of police officers, and reparations remain unresolved. The wounds of the mass violence were kept open and festering; even now victims recount the brutality of the massacre and the lack of justice thereafter in great detail.

Awaiting Justice

Though 23 years have passed, the victims of the communal carnage are still struggling, socially and financially. In only a handful of cases, such as the Chanderi and Logain massacres, have the guilty been punished. In Chanderi village, 65 Muslims were hacked with machetes and their bodies thrown into a pond. Mallika Begum – the sole surviving witness – courageously withstood all threats and enticements offered by the accused to secure the conviction of 16 persons who were involved in the massacre. In Logain village, 118 persons were slaughtered. To hide the truth, the perpetrators buried the bodies in the fields and subsequently planted cauliflower over this mass grave.

Even in the handful of cases where the rioters were convicted, such as Kameshwar Yadav in the infamous Parbatti case, the witnesses live under fear of reprisal. While Kameshwar Yadav was involved in many killings and incidents of leading the mob during the riots, he was finally convicted in 2007 for the murder of Mohammad Munna, son of Bibi Waleema, who was a resident of Parbatti area in Bhagalpur town (Yadav 2007). No protection or support was provided to these witnesses who testified against the rioters. A relative of Bibi Waleema, who is a street vendor, told us that he has stopped selling goods in his locality and now plies his trade far away as he fears for his life.1

The most heartbreaking challenge for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots is their struggle against forgetfulness. The brutality of the mass violence committed against the Muslims has faded out of public memory even as the victims await justice and rehabilitation. The stories of the murder of around 1,000 Muslims – men, women and children hacked with machetes, entire families killed and dumped in ponds, or people locked inside their homes and burnt alive – are now remembered only by the survivors or the immediate families of the victims who have been fighting a lonely battle.

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi was perhaps one of the few civil society groups that documented the riots in detail, particularly the role and complicity of the police in the rioting (People’s Union for Democratic Rights 1996). Apart from PUDR’s effort, there have been intermittent visits from individual activists to meet with the survivors and the victims’ families. Overall, there has been very little documentation or support extended by human rights groups to the survivors of the carnage.

The official records of the Bhagalpur riots, alongside other major instances of communal violence, have been comparatively examined and analysed extensively in an earlier report by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) titledAccountability for Mass Violence: Examining the State’s Record (Chopra and Jha 2012). This report provides a fresh insight into the mechanics of communal violence at the four sites – Bhagalpur (Bihar), Gujarat, Nelli (Assam) and Delhi (the anti-Sikh riots of 1984) – and concludes that the state has failed to punish the perpetrators or provide adequate compensation to the victims and their families.

A Fractured Town

This lack of redress has meant that even in 2012, Bhagalpur remains a deeply divided town. Today, the BJP’s national Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain, represents Bhagalpur in Parliament. His two consecutive victories in the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket are being projected as a new harmony. However, the truth on the ground is contradictory. With little movement towards justice, rehabilitation or reparations, the political dispensation has always been keen to avoid confronting the ghosts of the 1989 riots. The threat of communal violence returning may seem to have diminished, but in various ways the occurrences of 1989 loom large. The communal divide run across all societal and business transactions. It has been widely reported that Hindus buy provisions from Hindu shopkeepers while Muslims patronise Muslim businesses and shops.

In fact, an anecdote from a recent experience of the CES research team reaffirmed this communal divide. The CES local team comprises researchers and activists from different religious communities. Last year, when we were in the process of setting up an office in Bhagalpur, we identified an apartment. An agreement was reached between CES and the landlord, and one month’s rent was paid in advance. However, after barely a couple of days, the landlord, who was also living in one of the apartments of the building, created a huge ruckus over a small issue and asked us to vacate the premises within two weeks. After we had found another office space to rent and were finally moving our furniture from the apartment, we confronted and asked her why she had asked us to vacate the apartment so suddenly and without any reason. Her response was:

Hum Musalman aur scheduled caste ko ghar nahi dete hain; agar mujhe pehle pata hota ki is team mein Musalman bhi hain, main kabhi ghar nahi deti(We do not let our houses to Muslims and scheduled castes and if I had known earlier that this team had individuals from the Muslim community also, I would have not agreed to rent my apartment in the first place).

While her response disturbed us, it also laid bare the social realities of modern India: though secularism was enshrined in the Constitution a long time ago, in practice it is present only at the fringes. Indeed, communal and religious polarisation pervades our societal interactions.

Social scientist Ashutosh Varshney has argued that state and police bias have little to do with communal rioting; fractured civic relations and engagement between communities are mostly responsible for communal rioting (Varshney 2002). In the context of Bhagalpur, though, it appears that the communal violence in fact led to fractured civic relations. As far as the rioting was concerned, the police and other state authorities failed to protect Muslims. The complicity of the Bihar police in the riots was spelt out in the Commission of Inquiry Report, which indicted the local police at various levels. Not only did the local police fail to control the communal violence, in several instances they participated in targeting Muslims.

The State of Bihar

The lack of justice and compensation for the victim/survivors is further exacerbated by the dismal and impoverished state of affairs in Bihar. To understand how little has changed in the state you need to travel through rural Bihar in the peak of summer. The summer months are marked by oppressive heat and acute power outages, with several districts receiving electricity only once in two days. In the Human Development Index Report 2011, Bihar ranked the lowest in the distribution of households with electricity for domestic use in 2008-09, at a mere 30.5% (Institute of Applied Manpower Research 2011: 390).

In fact, in rural Bihar only 24.5% of the households have electricity for domestic use, with rural Uttar Pradesh (UP) a close second at 37.6% rural households receiving electricity (ibid). This past summer, even urban townships in Bihar reeled under massive power cuts. Even the wealthy were left in the dark, as there was no electricity to charge the power backups. Only 3% of the government schools in Bihar have electricity and only 8.8% of children under age six have received any service from an anganwadi centre in the past year (ibid: 194). A social worker in Bhagalpur complained: “Nitish has given more power to Patna so that everyone thinks that Bihar has changed. But Bihar lives in its villages. Nothing has changed there.”

Since Bihar is one of the most densely populated states in the country, much of the village life spills over on to the highways. Little children scurrying about, men and women carrying stacks of dry paddy on their heads, mud houses lined with cowdung cakes, and farmers ploughing their fields make for an idyllic imagery of village life. But life is not easy. A local shopkeeper tells us that kerosene lamps still remain the most reliable method of lighting their houses in the evenings.

With Bihar remaining one of the most impoverished states in India, the question of just reparations and accountability for communal violence is even more important since many of the victims/survivors affected by the Bhagalpur riots belong to desperately poor backgrounds. In the following sections this essay lays out the main findings of the official commissions set up to investigate the carnage. It then interweaves the context of the CES research study documenting the experiences of victims/survivors in Bhagalpur on justice and reparations. Given the failure of state institutions to respond to victims/survivors’ demand for legal justice and reparations, where do the victims/survivors stand? What about crucial questions of accountability and reparations for instances of mass violence such as Bhagalpur? In this regard, the essay will outline a few interim findings of the research and make policy recommendations on the framework for reparations-compensation for Bhagalpur survivors.

Commissions of Inquiry

In 1990, the Government of Bihar constituted a Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act (1952) to examine the communal disturbances. The inquiry sought to provide an explanation for the occurrence of the communal violence, examine individuals and institutions responsible, and recommend measures for preventing the reoccurrence of such disturbances. A total of 126 witnesses were examined. According to the report, the riots spread to 250 villages in which approximately 900 people were killed and about 50,000 people were affected (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 10).

Ultimately, two separate commission reports were compiled – one by the chairperson, justice Ram Nandan Prasad, the other being collectively released by the two other members of the commission, justice Ram Chandra Prasad Sinha and justice S Shamsul Hasan. Justice Prasad chose to submit his report independently due to a disagreement with the findings of the other members on the Commission.

In addition to the three-member Commission of Inquiry, the then chairman, S M H Burney, and members of the Minorities Commission of India also visited Patna and Bhagalpur on 22-24 January 1990 and prepared a report. In its own words, the Minorities Commission explained that its mandate was to examine the measures being taken for the rehabilitation of those affected by the riots rather than inquire into the causes of the riots, which had been entrusted to a Commission of Inquiry. The findings and recommendations of both commissions have been drawn upon and interwoven wherever appropriate in this essay.

During his election campaign in 2004, Nitish Kumar promised that if elected he would ensure that justice and compensation were provided to the victims of the Bhagalpur riots. When he assumed office as chief minister after winning the elections, he made some efforts to revisit the Bhagalpur riots. While this endeavour was a good first step, it failed to go beyond tokenism and many victims are still waiting for justice and reparations.

As part of its election pledge, the Nitish Kumar government first pushed for the formation of another commission of inquiry to reconsider the issues of justice, compensation and rehabilitation for the riot victims/survivors. Consequently, under Section 3(1) of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Act XL, 1952), the governor of Bihar in February 2006 constituted another single member commission of inquiry headed by justice N N Singh since it was felt that the earlier three-member Commission of Inquiry did not deliberate on issues regarding fixing individual responsibility, and that adequate and sufficient rehabilitation had not been provided to the victims and their families.

Moreover, a large number of cases arising out of the Bhagalpur riots had also ended in submission of final reports or acquittal of the accused. The N N Singh Commission of Inquiry was mandated to inquire into the conduct and performance of the investigating and prosecuting agencies of cases arising out of the Bhagalpur riots, which ended in the submission of a final report and acceptance thereof by the court in the absence of concerted, coordinated and proper steps by the prosecuting agencies. Moreover, it was asked to analyse the circumstances under which investigating officers submitted final reports, and lapses on their part that may have led to closure of court cases. This commission was also asked to examine the issue of relief and rehabilitation for the riot victims, including the issue of distress sales. Finally, it was asked to suggest remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of communal riots.

It was also laid down that the deputy inspector general of police, northern region, Bhagalpur would supervise the team, which would report its progress to him every fortnight and he would, in turn, report to the commission about the progress made in the investigation every month. However, the fate of the N N Singh Commission of Inquiry has been no different than what plagued the commissions set up previously. This commission has received several extensions and even after six years of its formation, a final report has not been submitted to the government or made public. Recently, the tenure of the N N Singh Commission was extended, yet again, until 28 February 2013 (The Telegraph,2012).

A second initiative of the Nitish Kumar JD(U) government was to mandate the deputy inspector general of police (criminal investigation department) Girija Nandan Sharma to scrutinise the records in the Bhagalpur riot-related cases and examine whether some of these cases could be revived. After visiting the courts, examining the records, and studying the cases that were closed, Sharma recommended the reinvestigation of 29 cases, which included seven cases in Banka district and the rest in Bhagalpur district. Subsequent to the riots, as part of administrative realignment, a separate Banka district was carved out from the former Bhagalpur district. Sharma recommended that the cases that were closed was because of lack of evidence or the failure of the police to produce witnesses before the court be reopened. Amongst these were several cases of murder, arson, rioting, and destruction of property.

The CES Research Study

The official figure of the number of persons that were killed in the Bhagalpur riots was 1,000, but the unofficial count exceeds 2,000, double the official figure. Though the extent of the bloodshed and destruction during the riots was massive, it has completely faded out of the public memory. In fact, the strategy of the consecutive governments in Patna seemed to continuously defer any action, and with the passage of time turned the riots into a forgotten carnage. In fact, a survivor once remarked during a trip there: “Agar yahan pe airport hota to shayad zyada NGOs aur log hame bhi dekhne aate” (If there was an airport in Bhagalpur, then perhaps more NGOs and individuals would have come to see us/our condition also). Ironically, the anatomy of the Bhagalpur riots is quite similar to that of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom – both were large-scale rural riots. We believe that if there was speedy and comprehensive legal justice for the Bhagalpur communal violence, it would perhaps have been harder to carry out the Gujarat pogrom.

Given that very little has been written about the condition of the victims of the Bhagalpur communal violence, CES launched a detailed research study with the victims/survivors to document their experiences of justice, rehabilitation and reparations for the communal riots. The research study is qualitative and primarily hinges on the narratives and experiences of the victims’ families. Within traditional research methodologies, there is a clear distinction between “research subjects” and researchers, wherein the former are supposed to provide the information that the researcher is supposed to record and analyse. The research methodology for the CES study breaks away from this traditional paradigm, with the research being conducted alongside victims/survivors and members of the local community. By using this methodology, there is no doubt that a nuanced learning on issues of communalism, reparations and justice would emerge.

Detailed narratives of victims/survivors from the riot-affected areas in and around Bhagalpur are being collected by a team of local researchers. In these accounts, their experiences about the three main aspects of justice, compensation and rehabilitation are being documented. As we have started a preliminary analysis of the victims’ interviews, and juxtaposed it with the official policies, the challenges in government policy and its implementation regarding the riot victims become evident. While a clearer and a more detailed set of findings will be outlined in the final report, the present essay identifies and lays down some of the preliminary and interim findings of the research. A caveat is that some of these findings may be clarified further or modified subsequently based on a final analysis of the interviews, since data collection is still underway. However, these interim findings are being put in the public domain with a view to start a discussion on the almost forgotten Bhagalpur riots, alongside the larger issue of reparations and accountability for communal riots in general.

The following sections explore the two urgent issues of compensation and justice in the context of some of the interim findings of the research documenting the experiences of the victims/survivors.

Issue of Compensation

Working closely with the victims and their families in Bhagalpur over the last year, we have been confronted with challenges that have beset the government compensation policy for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots. Even after 22 years, many victim families have not received any compensation. The state government had announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for persons whose family members were killed. Later, in 2006, the compensation amount was enhanced to an additional Rs 3.5 lakh for the family members of those killed. However, there have been several discrepancies both in the compensation policy as well as the implementation of the policy whereby many families have been left out. In several cases, CES has facilitated the process of the survivors preparing their compensation applications to the district authorities responsible for disbursing the compensation.

(A) Need for a Holistic Concept of Reparations: With the development of a rights-based approach, the term compensation is beginning to be replaced by reparations, which symbolises a more holistic, dignified and just way to address the harm suffered as a result of human rights violations. Financial or monetary compensations are just one of the components of a comprehensive reparations policy. Reparations initiatives can be designed in many ways. They may include a range of measures such as financial compensation, social services such as healthcare or education, and symbolic measures such as formal apologies or public commemorations. Within this scheme, reparations are viewed more as a matter of right for the victims rather than charity on the part of government. The United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparations provides for compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition. Under these principles, effective remedy includes: (a) equal and effective access to justice; (b) adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered; and (c) access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.2

In India, the law on compensation has evolved through cases of custodial killings, torture, and communal violence. With the decisions in D K Basu vsState of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610) and Nilabati Behera vs State of Orissa(1993 Crl LJ 2899), the right to receive compensation for violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution or the right to life has been crystallised. In cases of communal violence, the government has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay compensation.

(B) Interim Policy Recommendations on Compensation: We have placed the information received by the victim families within this legal and policy framework and tried to identify the challenges in the current compensation policy to make policy-based recommendations. The following insights are therefore informed both by best practices and applications received from the riot victims.

Foremost, for the Bhagalpur riots, there is no provision of any compensation for property other than the loss of a house. Therefore, a more holistic compensation package should be developed to provide at least some monetary compensation to the victims whose shops were looted and burnt, cattle was destroyed or looted, and household items were destroyed or looted, as well as those persons who lost their fertile agricultural land and were forced to flee their villages.3

The loss of property was not properly assessed or quantified, government policy for the repair of destroyed houses was grossly inadequate, and the amounts that were paid to the victims’ families were meagre. The amounts that have been paid for the loss of a house should be enhanced at least 10 times of what the victims originally received, or an actual market value estimate of the houses should be made for persons who have already received some compensation. At the same time, it should be determined whether some families have been left outside the ambit of compensation for loss of property and their names should be included in the fresh list.

Since no steps were taken to resettle or rehabilitate persons who were forced to flee their villages and homes due to the communal violence, a clear policy needs to be developed to assist families who have not returned to their villages but may still want to go back to their native place, which they left behind during the riots.

The current compensation policy also restricts the incidents of rioting for compensation for death to a time frame that is unfair and unrealistic. The time frame for compensation has been fixed for incidents of rioting or violence that occurred between 24 October 1989 and 30 November 1989, and 20-21 March 1990.4 It is well known that the pronounced communal atmosphere continued until much later and there were smaller incidents for almost the entire year during which many persons went missing (and were presumably killed) or were found dead. Therefore, the policy should be revised to include cases of killings or missing persons within a full year of the riots. Missing persons, in particular those who went missing on the dates other than those prescribed by the government notification, remain a major issue for compensation and a clear policy needs to be outlined to include their families. More specifically, the timeline should be extended to include incidents that took place between 24 October 1989 and 31 October 1990.

There are many cases of death in which no First Information Report (FIR) has been registered by the police and since government authorities have refused to accept anything except for a FIR as proof of death, many victims have been unfairly left out of the ambit of compensation. It is therefore recommended that the government direct its officers to include other documents as proof of death, including a letter from the mukhiya (village headman) stating that the person was killed during the riots, a letter from any other local government authority stating that the person was killed during the riots, a birth certificate or other documents that prove that the person was living in the local area and has been missing since the riots, or any other document or testimony that points to the fact that the person was killed during the riots.

Although there is provision for compensation for injured persons, only 23 persons have been paid under this scheme. Even those who have been paid have received a meagre Rs 1,000-Rs 10,000. The revised policy on injured persons itself states that an amount of up to Rs 1,25,000 can be paid to injured persons. It is recommended that as there are many cases where family members suffered serious injuries, they should also receive compensation that is due to persons who were injured.

There is no clarity on the issue of lineage or descent, which has resulted in many applications being rejected, or close family members of persons who were killed not receiving compensation in the end. These discrepancies need to be clarified at the earliest and in a manner that there is no scope for confusion, and without any loopholes, so that family members can receive the compensation money.

Finally, in some cases, government authorities have refused to pay compensation claiming no funds were available. Several families of victims were recently informed that they could not be given the enhanced amount of Rs 3.5 lakh for the death of their kin as sufficient funds are not available with the local authorities.5 It must be noted here that it has been almost 23 years since the Bhagalpur riots, and several of the victims who are eligible by government standards have also not been fully compensated. This money should be released immediately.

Issue of Justice

The larger study will examine legal justice and the experience of victims/survivors in great detail. Nonetheless, a few urgent observations are underlined here. As mentioned earlier, 29 cases were reinvestigated based on the recommendations made by the report submitted by DIG Girija Nandan Sharma. It was encouraging that several of the serious cases of rioting from Bhagalpur were reopened based on Sharma’s reports. Nevertheless, today we see that these cases are not being tried in a speedy and rigorous manner. The Office of the Special Public Prosecutor, which was mandated to pursue these cases in the courts, has been working without any government oversight or supervision. Obviously, government is not supposed to interfere in the legal process, but it should at least require the Special Public Prosecutor to submit progress reports from time to time on these cases, and ensure that these cases are prosecuted diligently. Otherwise, merely reopening of cases would not mean much.

Often, the victims themselves are not in a position to understand or access the legal justice system to ascertain that their cases are meticulously prosecuted. In other states, including Gujarat, the reopened cases have been diligently prosecuted not because of the efforts of the government but because civil society organisations and public spirited individuals, along with victims/survivors, have kept a close watch and intervened in cases whenever required. However, while efforts in Gujarat are extremely human and financial resource-intensive, very few resources are available to pursue legal justice or reparations in Bhagalpur.

Furthermore, in his report Sharma concluded that many of the investigating officers were deliberately negligent in investigating the cases that were assigned to them after the riots and did everything to delay and hinder proper investigation. In fact, the Sharma named individual investigating officers and police officers in his report who were directly responsible in stymieing investigations after the riots. Similarly, the three-member Commission of Inquiry had also named several police officials in their report but no action has been taken against these police officers until now.

Even K S Dwivedi, who was indicted by the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry, was never punished, and the current state government promoted him as an additional director general rank officer (Bihar Times 2011). Most recently, he was made additional director general (wireless and technical services) by the state government. Instead of facing investigation and prosecution, several officers named in the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry or Sharma’s report, have been promoted. Even more reprehensible and condemnable is that Dwivedi has been awarded the president’s medal on the eve of Independence Day this year for distinguished services despite having been held directly responsible for the Bhagalpur riots by the Commission of Inquiry (The Times of India 2012).

Epilogue

As our research reveals, successive governments of different political parties have failed to comprehensively address the issues of justice accountability, reparations and rehabilitation of victims of the 1989 communal violence in Bihar. Similarly, the compensation policy has also failed to provide the much-needed acknowledgement and support to the victims/survivors. CES has tried to engage the Bihar state government, and has submitted policy-based recommendations, which we hope will also help the government in redesigning the compensation policy for the riot victims. Even if the Bhagalpur riots have faded from public memory, the horrors are still alive amongst the survivors in Bhagalpur who are still awaiting meaningful justice and reparations. But, perhaps, the most important learning is that communalism pervades our societal fabric, and there needs to be a collective response to ensure that it does not result in violence and discrimination based on religious affiliations.

Notes

[This report is part of a larger study led by Harsh Mander on various communal carnages by the Centre for Equity Studies. Foremost, thanks to Harsh Mander for his insightful comments on this draft version. I would also like to thank Pritarani Jha for her rigorous commitment and engagement with the research study. I am very grateful to Mallika Begum, Pravir, Mohammad Mahmud, Sunita Prasad, and Mohammad Tarique who are the mainstay of our engagement in Bhagalpur; to Amin Reza Khan for providing tireless research support and advice; to Navsharan Singh for her constant intellectual and substantive inputs and advice on the research study; the International Development Research Centre for supporting the research study; and mostly to the survivors of the 1989 communal violence in Bhagalpur who have courageously struggled for truth and accountability and agreed to share their stories with us.]

1 Interview, Bhagalpur, 5 April 2011.

2 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (“Reparations Principles”), adopted 16 December 2005, GA res 60/147, UN Doc A/RES/60/147 (2005), Principle VII.

See also Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity (“Impunity Principles”), UN Doc E/CN 4/2005/102/Add 1, 8 February 2005, adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in Resolution E/CN 4/2005/81, 15 April 2005, principle I; and Reparations Principles, principle 11.

3 By Letter No 29189-293, Relief and Rehabilitation Department, Government of Bihar, dated: 29 December 1989.

4 By Letter No-88 (Administration), DM’s Office, Bhagalpur, Dated: 30 July 1996.

5 By Letter No – C/C I Com – 4201/08, Home (Special) Department, Government of Bihar, Dated: 14 August 2009. In case of dead/missing persons, their dependents were allotted Rs 3.5 lakh. This amount was in addition to the ex gratia amount of Rs 1 lakh earlier disbursed by the state government.

References

Bihar Times (2011): “Dwivedi, Two Others to Become ADG”, 2 September, viewed on 25 October 2012,http://www.bihartimes.in/Newsbihar/2011/Sep/newsbihar02Sep2.html

Chopra, Surabhi and Pritarani Jha, ed. (2012): Accountability for Mass Violence: Examining the State’s Record, May (forthcoming as a book by Three Essays Collective), viewed on 22 October, http://idl-bnc.idrc.ca/dspace/bitstream/10625/49277/1/IDL-49277.pdf

Institute of Applied Manpower Research (2011): India Human Development Report 2011 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), viewed on 20 October 2012, http://www.pratirodh.com/pdf/human_development_report2011.pdf

Minorities Commission (1990): Twelfth Annual Report of the Minorities Commission from 1 April 1989 to 31 March 1990 (New Delhi: National Commission for Minorities).

PUDR (1996): Recalling Bhagalpur: A Report on the Aftermath of the 1989 Riots (New Delhi: Peoples Union for Democratic Rights), viewed on 20 October 2012, http://www.cscsarchive.org:8081/MediaArchive/liberty.nsf/(docid)/6D275AE9ADEF5130E5256A1C00210FAB

Sinha, Ram Chandra Prasad and Shamsul Hasan (1995): Report of the Bhagalpur Riot Inquiry Commission (Patna: Bhagalpur Riot Commission of Inquiry).

The Telegraph (2012): “More Time for Bhagalpur Panel”, 29 August.

The Times of India (2012): “Two IPS Officers Get President’s Police Medal”, 15 August, viewed on 26 October,http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-15/patna/33215722_1_…

Varshney, Ashutosh (2002): Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Yadav, J P (2007): “Hindu Activist Found Guilty in Bhagalpur Riots Case”, The Indian Express, 24 November, viewed on 22 October 2012, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/hindu-activist-found-guilty-in-bhagalp…

 

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