Shehla Masood case: court reserves order on bail pleas of two accused


My Friend Shehla Masood

My Friend Shehla Masood

Press Trust of India  |  Indore  April 10, 2013 

The special CBI court today reserved its order on the bail applications of two of the accused in the Shehla Masood murder case — alleged shooters Saquib Ali ‘Danger’ and Tabish Khan — till April 12.

Judge Anupam Srivastava reserved the order after hearing the arguments by defence lawyer Pradeep Gupta and CBI’s senior prosecutor Atul Kumar.

The accused had filed the pleas in December.

Advocate Gupta had argued that the trial was underway for over a year and would go on for long, so the accused be given bail. But prosecution argued that final arguments were yet to take place and the bail applications could be considered afterwards.

Five people are on trial for the murder of Shehla Masood, an RTI activist, in Bhopal‘s Koh-E-Fiza locality on August 16, 2011: Zahida Parvez, Saba, Saquib Ali Danger, Irfan, and Tabish.

Zahida Pervez, an interior designer, is accused of conspiring to kill Masood.

 

#Srilanka – The killing of a young 12-year-old boy


CALLUM MACRAE, The Hindu FEb 19.2013

  • CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.
    No Fire Zone/Channel 4CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.
  • CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that these this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.
    No Fire Zone/Channel 4CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that these this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.
  • CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.
    No Fire Zone/Channel 4CHILLING DETAILS: Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that this photograph showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera.

New photographs of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran’s son just before he was shot dead, obtained by Channel 4 TV, leave more questions for Sri Lanka to answer about war crimes

It is a war that has produced some truly terrible images, but this one is particularly disturbing. A young boy sits looking distressed, like a child who has been lost in a supermarket. He has been given a biscuit or some kind of snack. In the second photograph, he is looking anxiously up, as though hoping to see someone he recognises.

The boy is Balachandran Prabakaran, the 12-year-old son of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabakaran.

These photographs, which we are releasing today, form part of the new evidence in the forthcoming feature documentary “No War Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” the culmination of three years of research which will be shown for the first time next month in Geneva, to coincide with the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. The new evidence in the film is certain to increase pressure on the Indian government not only to support a resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability, but also to ensure that it is robustly worded, and that it outlines an effective plan for international action to end impunity in Sri Lanka.

The new photographs tell a chilling story. This child is not been lost of course: he has been captured and is being held in a sandbag bunker, apparently guarded by a Sri Lankan Army soldier. In less than two hours he will be taken, executed in cold blood — and then photographed again.

Forensic pathologist’s opinion

In these photographs, which digital image analysis indicates were taken with the same camera, we can see he has been shot five times in the chest. Separate video footage, also apparently filmed as a war trophy by government soldiers, shows that alongside him lie the bodies of five men. They appear to have been Tamil Tiger fighters, probably his bodyguards. They have been stripped, bound, blindfolded and then shot in the head.

The new photographs are particularly important evidentially, because they prove that Balachandran was not killed in crossfire, or in a battle. His death was deliberate and calculated. The pictures fill in chilling details on the circumstances of his murder — and leave the Sri Lankan government with yet more questions to answer about just how systematic the executions at the end of the war appear to have been. Last year, we first revealed video footage and stills which showed Balachandran’s body shortly after his execution. These were analysed for us by a respected forensic pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder, to assess the cause of death.

The professor identified what he thinks is the first of the shots to be fired at the boy: “There is a speckling (on the skin) from propellant tattooing, indicating that the distance of the muzzle of the weapon to this boy’s chest was two to three feet or less. He could have reached out with his hand and touched the gun that killed him.”

The professor said the angle of the shots suggested that after that bullet was fired, the boy fell backwards and was then shot four more times. Unlike the men around him, there was no indication that the boy had been blindfolded or bound, so it was possible that the boy may have been made to watch the execution of his guards before the gun was turned on him.

The new photographs released today give us a chilling insight into what happened before that. They appear to demonstrate that the situation was calm and orderly. Balachandran was given a snack and some water. There was time to take photographs while he was held in the bunker and again afterwards. The forensic analysis report on the photographs concludes that there is “no evidence to indicate fabrication, manipulation or the use of effects to create the images” and concludes that the photographs “appear to be an accurate representation of the events depicted.”

From the separate video sequence recorded later (which has also been authenticated by both digital video analysis), it is clear that there were several military personnel in the area.

Where the trail leads to

It is difficult to imagine the mindset of an army in which a child can be executed in cold blood with apparent impunity. It also raises extremely difficult questions for the Sri Lankan military. With every month that passes, the evidence of systematic execution of prisoners grows. The pattern of apparent sexual violence against female fighters is disturbing in the extreme.

As the respected international human rights lawyer, Professor William A. Schabas, says in our film: “If you look at what looks like the mass execution of naked prisoners, these all add up to possibly the claim that this was in fact systematic — and that could point to the highest levels in the military authority of Sri Lanka as being responsible for war crimes of summary execution, killing and torture.”

India’s role

And in Sri Lanka, of course, the highest levels of the military are virtually the same as the highest levels of the government. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have some very difficult questions to answer.

They may well continue to simply deny the evidence and cite the undoubted crimes of the Tamil Tigers. But as a defence, it is becoming increasingly threadbare. The crimes of one side do not justify the crimes of another. A government which claims to adhere to international humanitarian law cannot hide behind the brutal suicide bombings or the brutalised child soldiers of the Tigers. But for India there is a dilemma too. Because it matters not just what the answers to these questions are. It also matters who asks these questions. India is central to this.

It has been said before, but it is true, and worth repeating. Without justice there can be no peace and reconciliation, and without truth there can be no justice.

This is not an academic exercise in historical accountability. The men responsible for these crimes are still in charge. They are continuing to brutally repress Tamils in the north and persecute anyone who criticises the government including, as we have seen with the impeachment of the Chief Justice, their own judiciary.

If there is no attempt to address these issues and to bring justice to those who suffered, the fear is that in the short term, political repression in Sri Lanka will increase and that in the long term, history is destined to repeat itself with yet more bloodshed and regional instability.

It seems to most human rights defenders around the world, including those in India, that the only way ahead in this situation is for the creation of a credible, independent, international inquiry into these events, as called for by the U.N.’s Panel of Experts. That inquiry should examine all the crimes committed by both sides.

If India was to declare its support for such an inquiry, many hope it could mark the start of the long, delayed movement towards peace, reconciliation and political justice in Sri Lanka.

(Callum Macrae is director, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.” nofirezone.org)

 

Making waves with news- Khabar Lahariya #womenempowerment


MEENA MENON, The Hindu

BREAKING INTO A MAN’S DOMAIN:The newspaper is empowering women.PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT.

BREAKING INTO A MAN’S DOMAIN:The newspaper is empowering women.PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT.

For a newspaper that’s ten-years-old, Khabar Lahariya (News Waves) has certainly made waves, as its name suggests. It won the Laadli Media Award in December 2012 for gender sensitivity, and before that the Chameli Devi Jain and UNESCO awards. The 40 women who run the newspaper in six districts are from backward communities and mostly live in remote areas of the country. They walk sometimes over 10 kilometers to gather news, have to put up with sustained taunts and opposition and face the challenge of establishing themselves in a male-dominated profession.

Yet they wouldn’t give this up for the world. Young Shalu from Lucknow says, “I got to see Bambai [Mumbai] and for me that alone is worth it. I want nothing more.

The Lucknow edition comes out in Hindustani and for Rizwana Tabassum, it was her desire to become a journalist just “so I can ask other people lots of questions”, she says. Rizwana is from Varanasi and her parents often insist she come back home before dark. More than her parents, it’s her neighbours and busybodies who are more worried. “Others have big problems due to my work and timings,” she laughs.

Guddi started working for the Sitamarhi edition of the paper in 2010 which comes out in Bajjika, the local language. She had to take her daughter, whom she has named Leher after the paper, along with her after the neighbours complained that she was leaving the child behind. Her husband, too, ticked her off but Guddi was firm. She told her husband he had a role to play in the child’s upbringing.

One day, when she had to go far away to meet labourers who hadn’t been paid for three years, Leher fell ill and she was faced with a tough call. She insisted her husband accompany her and her daughter and she made them wait while she did her story. On her way back she took the child to hospital. “Five days after my story appeared, the labourers were paid their salaries,” she grins.

Some of the women like Meera from Chitrakoot, is a post graduate and others are still studying, points out Shalini Joshi from the NGO Nirantar which has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground.

Government programme Mahila Samakhya had a newspaper called Mahila Dakya which closed in 2000. Meera says people were disappointed when it shut down. They said they missed reading about government schemes and local news. There was a discussion on reviving it and in 2002, the new paper was launched. “We drew lots to decide on the name and Khabar Lahariya was chosen,” says Kavita.

The first edition was printed in 2002 in Chitrakoot in Bundeli language and in 2012 the sixth edition in Varanasi in Bhojpuri was launched. The eight-page paper has special editions which can go into 12 pages on some days. The weekly launched its website in Mumbai recently and already has a huge following on Twitter and Facebook.

The women not only gather news, they also do the layout and search for international and national news on in the Internet for which there is a section. Initially, some of them were scared to even touch a computer but now they are all net savvy. The paper comes out in Bundeli, Awadhi, Bajjika, Bhojpuri and Hindustani and has a readership of 80,000 with a circulation of 6,000 copies. The readership is high because one paper is often read by more than 15 to 20 people.

The newspaper is running due to support from the Dorabji Trust and the United Nations Democracy and Equity Fund. Shalini says the money from the awards goes to bring out the paper but they are formulating a business plan. The cost of the paper is Rs. two while production cost is Rs. six. So it is difficult to sustain the paper on sales alone and other options are being examined. The journalists are being trained in using Internet and information and communication technology, says Bishakha Datta from Point of View.

The women are acquiring a formidable reputation with the government as well. “ Aa gayi Lahariya wali(the Lahariya woman has come) — they say when I go to offices. Once I had gone to a hospital where a hand pump was damaged and took pictures. Even before my story appeared, it was repaired,” says Savita.

“At first it was difficult but we made contacts and we also gave them the paper. They were very happy to read their stories,” Sunita says, adding that sometimes people couldn’t pay Rs. two but she still gave it to them.

The women also pointed out that in their milieu even wearing a salwar kameez was not an option and talking to men was taboo. Especially after the Delhi gang rape incident, Arshi from Lucknow says that her parents were warned by her relatives not to let her go out. “My mother supports me and we don’t even wear a naqab as is customary,” she adds.

While there are the usual cynics, the women said that most people valued their work and it had brought change, for instance, some villages had lights because of reports, people got their salaries and in one instance, a Dalit woman who cooked mid-day meals could stay back despite opposition from the upper castes in Sitamarhi. For these women to break into a “man’s domain” has been exhilarating.

 

The decade-old multi-lingual Khabar Lahariya is serving hinterland news to its readers and championing women empowerment at the same time

 

 

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