Monday, August 17, 2015

Towards a Secular South Asia

Teesta Setalvad

Identity Politics has a way of dividing men, women, ideas, cultures and societies. So when we kill and maim in the name of a faith, when communalism dominates our political worldview, there is a real danger of every reaction, every initiative being looked at in the name of faith. Nothing could be more short-sighted or dangerous.
Over the past ten days, one more milestone in the struggle for justice for the Survivors of 2002 was marked when a former Ahmedabad city court judge  Himanshu Trivedi recounted, publicly the anti-Muslim sentiment expressed by lawyers and judges after the 2002 communal violence, and why he supported our actions. In 2011, he had got in touch with me privately but last week he went public through a facebook post in my support.
In a phone interview with media outlets like, Citizen.In and the Wire, Trivedi, now living in Auckland, New Zealand, revealed details about his experiences during and after the communal violence that shook his faith in the justice system: he not only witnessed police complicity in the attack on Muslims, but also saw lawyers and judges display extremely prejudiced opinions.“I have been saying all of this for ten years, but there were no listeners earlier,” said Trivedi, who is happy that his attempt to reach out to Setalvad has drawn attention to his story and the issue of compromised justice in the case of the Gujarat riots. “I have supported Teesta because I believe in supporting anyone working for humanity.”
Trivedi was  a judge who resigned from Ahmedabad’s City Civil and Sessions Court in 2003 and now lives in New Zealand. In the recent interviews he has elaborated on the state of affairs there. “The state of Gujarat wanted us (the judges and the judiciary of Gujarat) to be acting against the minority community (albeit with no written orders but definitely communicated in loud and clear messages to us)”.
One of Trivedi’s reasons for quitting the judiciary, he says, was because he was “sworn to the Constitution of India” and could not in good faith participate in these actions. Trivedi was a colleague of Jyotsna Yagnik, the special court judge who in 2012 convicted Gujarati minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi for violence during the riots. Since then, she has received several threatening letters and menacing phone calls. Trivedi describes Yagnik as a “wonderful human being” who believed in always being “legal and righteous”.
I saw the police hand out inflammable material’ he has said in these recent explosive interviews. “The riots of 2002 began on February 28, one day after the Godhra train burning incident that killed 59 people. On the morning of the riots, Trivedi’s family heard some noises from the street outside their building. He went with his young daughter to the balcony and witnessed a mob of around 40 people attacking a small dhobi shop run by a Muslim.
“It was the only shop targeted in our area, and the crowd first looted it," said Trivedi. "Then I saw a police jeep approach and officers in uniform distributed inflammable material to the crowd. Then the shop was burnt.” He felt helpless, but didn’t figure out the implications of what he saw till a couple of weeks later, when one of his friends came to visit him.
“My friend and I were sitting on my terrace, talking about the riots and how society was suffering, when he suddenly started crying,” said Trivedi. “Everyone knew that I had always been politically unaffiliated, but that day my friend told me for the first time that he was the president of VHP chapter in a suburb of Ahmedabad.” Trivedi’s friend – whom he did not wish to name – said that on the day of the riots, he was part of crowd that torched a Muslim-run restaurant opposite the High Court judges’ bungalows area. “He told me that they knew it was run by Muslims because three months before the violence, lists were distributed detailing who works where and who lives where,” said Trivedi.
Trivedi’s is a fascinating, wrenching tale.  An observation that my dear friend and lawyer, Mihir Desai made when he read the interview was, “One thing that bugs the Regime about this struggle for justice is that people like Trivedi, you, Teesta and I, Mihir are Gujaratis!”. While this observation is bang on and true, it brought home the fact, again to me, how all of us begin to see issues and struggles through the prism of identity.
In next door Bangladesh, days after Trivedi’s revelations, following the murders of Rajeeb Haider, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahmna, and Ananta Bijoy Das, just a few days back, , the Mukto-Mona writer, blogger, and activist Niloy Neel has been hacked to death. He wrote in Mutko-Mona as well as in Istishon, and Facebook under the name of “Niloy Neel” (twitter: #NiloyNeel). In addition to writing, Niloy Neel was involved in various social justice movements and was the founder of the Bangladesh Science and Rationalists Association.
Ansar Al Islam, the Bangladesh branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for murdering Niloy Neel in his own home, in front of his family, because of his writing. The fundamentalists continue in their tradition of responding to the pen with machetes; the government of Bangladesh continues to supply the fundamentalists with all that is necessary to keep their machetes honed. One by one the enlightened, the freethinking writers, and activists of Bangladesh, are being brutally murdered. Their only crime is taking a stand against injustice, and superstitions prevalent in society. A machete may kill, in a cowardly manner, a human being of flesh and bone; it cannot kill their ideology. Our fight will continue. With all our strength we will continue to speak our minds, our dreams. For as long as there is even a single member of the freethinking community alive; for as long as a single sentence written by freethinking writers survives.
Who spoke out against this killing here in ‘secular’ India? I first got the news from dear comrade in arms Shamsul Islam, who despite his name may not even be considered Muslim enough due to his firm principled stands on issues of faith and reason. Few other organisations in India, Hindu or Muslim or Others, all of whom, draw their survival from identity politics have raised their voices against this brutal attack.
What happens in India today has an implication for the entire sub-continent, for South Asia. Which is why the ideological moorings of the current regime spell danger for a peaceful, democratic and secular South Asia? But if we, similarly see hideous and dangerous tendencies growing in Bangladesh, Sri lank, Myanmaar or Pakistan, can we afford to be silent?
To our own peril.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Respecting Young Minds July 10, 2015

Respecting Young Minds

Teesta Setalvad
The problems of policy creation (and even correction) are often rooted in the mind-set of those in positions of power. The unthinking decision of the Maharashtra government to dub those students studying in madrassas as out of school children is both prejudicial in its mindset as it is reflective of a simplistic understanding of the ground reality.
Prejudicial because, while the government sought to label madrassa going children thus, it conveniently ignored those going to Vedshalas (religious schools), also existent in Maharashtra. Nikhil Wagle, senior journalist tweeted this the day the controversy broke loose. Why should these young also not be counted as out of school children? Is there one policy worldview for the majority and another for the minority?
The day this decision of the Maharashtra government was announced, I immediately reacted saying that the genius of Premchand,  the father of modern Hindustani literature, born in 1880 (July 31st) at Lamahi Village near Banaras, was nurtured first in a Madrassah in Lalpur at age 7 where he learned Persian and Urdu. Even today, students of different communities enter madrassahs and gain much, a cultural value system and approach to life. What is it, then about madrassahs that draws speedy and swift reactions? It is the sight of young men, regimentally in long lines or queues, with the redoubtable skull cap that bothers us? Or is it something more ?

For decades now, large sections the Muslim community have demanded the rationalisation of education within madrassas, in fact pressing for secular education to be provided. Some of the madrassas have done well and their students have gone on to pursue higher education within the formal system. The proper course of action for the Maharashtra government — if it was genuinely concerned for madrassah students or the genuine welfare and empowerment of Muslims — should have been to constitute a state Madrassah board along the lines of other states like West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. There are 1,890 registered madrasas in Maharashtra, with over one lakh enrolled students. In 2013, the previous Congress-NCP government had launched the Dr Zakir Hussain Madarsa Modernisation Scheme under which 550 madrasas availed of grants to the tune of Rs5.5 lakh, of which Rs2 lakh was allocated for infrastructure, Rs3 lakh for salaries, and Rs50,000 for procuring library books. Why then is the BJP-led Maharashtra government not interested in pursuing this tested path ?

Any tradition or culture, or even a religion, needs constant and intellectual growth to make it flourish and prosper. We are seeing today, worldwide the manifestation of Islam that is not just a mockery of a great faith and philosophy but is displaying an exclusivist and violent face that many practioneers would insist, militates against its inherent credo. Why then should not we all, caring about this manipulation look at the versions of this great faith being imparted within the religious school ? Ask whether or not modern, inclusive, gender sensitive interpretations are being taught to those who stay and study there?

Just as those studying in Vedshalas must learn and know of the social, religious and reformist movements against the cruel hierarchies of caste-based atrocities and exclusions, the moves towards temple entry.....

That young minds need to grow in an atmosphere that facilitates rationality and questioning is without doubt the greatest challenge before us today. While parts of the Madrassah-driven system of educationist is isolationist, making those who pass through vulnerable and ill-equipped to face the challenges of modern socio-economic realities,
the real challenge within Indian education is free and fair access to education for all first, and education that actually promotes Indian Constitutional values of equity and non-discirmination, second.  While the Indian madrassah may fall sorely short on this front – where the valued fundamentals of equality and non-discrimination are unflinchingly promoted (even when they may seen to be at conflict with one or another version of religious instruction), the Rahstriya Swayamesvak-driven and funded Bal Shishu Mandir, Saraswati Mandir and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-driven Ekal Vidyalaya (concentrated in India’s adivasi areas) are guilty of as bad or worse. These schools, promoted by an ideology and a worldview that intrinsically militates against the fundamentals of the Indian Constitution, actually  hone young minds into a reality that respects the hierarchical and discriminatory, be it on the question of caste, gender or citizenship. Would this or any other state government care to try and monitor the curriculum taught at such schools? They are producing  young men and women, who unfortunately become ripe cadres for these politically supremacist organisations.

At a time when my work with education and pedagogy was respected, and I had a seat in the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) between 2004-2014 (at least), I had suggested, strongly that a Committee be set up that looks at the issue of ‘Regulaory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks taught in Schools outside the Government System. Such a Committee was set up. It made substantive recommendations. Its terms of references were clear :(a) To study and report on textbooks in government schools not using the CBSE syllabus; (b) To study the textbooks and curriculum of schools outside the government system, including those run by religious and social organizations; (c) To suggest an appropriate regulatory mechanism for institutionalising the issue of preparation of textbooks and curricular material. Such a mechanism was concretely suggested (2009) [see ] but once again, as on many crucial issues, a historic opportunity was lost.

Today, with an aggressively partisan saffronisation agenda on the anvil, with the systemic take over of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the NCERT, the National Book Trust (NBT) and Children’s Book Trust (CBT), it is time that the opposition parties, nationally and in the states, revive debate over this concrete mechanism. Unspeakable damage to our young would have been inflicted otherwise.
As a post script: the report of the chief ninister’s study group, used by the current dispensation, which was titled ‘The Socio-Economic and Educational Backwardness of the Muslims in Maharashtra,’ and which had estimated that contrary to the position of the Hindu right, just 2.3% of Muslim children in Maharashtra study in madrasas, did not only look at the issue of a modern, secular education for Muslims. It addressed issues of institutional bias in the law and order machinery, in the criminal justice system and this entire section was authored by me. I contributed to it substantively along with Mehmood-ur-Rehman, an erudite bureaucrat and academic. In coming weeks. I shall deal with those findings and recommendations that need desperate and immediate redressal.
Will this saffron hued dispensation that rules the progressive state of Maharashtra implement also those portions of this report that impact, every day on the life and security of our countrywomen and men, Muslims, simply because of the deep-rooted institutional prejudice that has been allowed, uncorrected, against them ?
The question, desperately begs an answer.


Friday, July 3, 2015

History, Faith, Tokenisms and Vote Bank Politics Teesta Setalvad

History, Faith, Tokenisms and Vote Bank Politics
Teesta Setalvad
Last year, 2014, we neither heard nor witnessed any Eid Greetings from the Prime Minister’s Office. Analysts speculated that a hurriedly planned programme in BAARC was organized just so that he would not be required to answer questions on the notable omission. This is just a month after he had not only visited the Pashupatinath temple (Nepal) but gifted materials worth Rs 4 crore (.60 lakhs there. So while the news of attempts to get schools to work on Christmas (sic) and the overzealous efforts of the ministry of HRD in this regard made news, this silence did not. Three years before, the refusal to don the customary skull cap had led to much speculation, and heat. So what’s in a name, a visit, some words? Are these mere tokenisms for a head of government? Or are they ‘appeasement’ for the small, small minds of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).  
It’s your good guess, which would be as good as mine. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander… 
So while it’s fine for the fine man at the top to indulge in his bit of isms, its not for Sanjay Joshi (remember the old animus between the two pracharaks ??) to wish fellow Indians, ‘Ramzan Mubarak.’ So to appoint an incompetent chancellor to a university, a man who is at best is a businessman of questionable practices (so what if he belongs to the Muslim minority??) is fine for the MHRD, but for self respecting Muslim professionals to demand a share in representatiom, in India’s police, administrative services, teaching fraternity etc etc borders on the defiant.!!!!
Now we hear that the spin doctors surrounding the man at the top, will help him perform the ultimate, a visit to a historic site,  to India’s oldest and India’s first masjid, the Cheraman Juma Masjid, in Kodungalloor in Kerala. This
writer visited the area after the historic tsunami in 2004. As inscribed on the masjid’s stone marker, the mosque was built about 1,400 years soon after Idslam’s arrival on India’s shores. The Arabian Sea has been the first waterway and connection between India and West asia. Hence, Christianity, and Islam travelled with traders not through cruel military might as RSS-sponsored history teaches us.

Kodungalloor was the capital of the ancient kings of Kerala and from 622-628 CE the ruler of the realm was a great savant called Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara Ravi Varma. Cheraman Perumal was the title given to the seniormost of the kingdom’s rulers. When  Malik bin Deenar and 12 of his trade associates landed in Kerala and were engaged in trade there. Their way of trading however was distinct from that of earlier Arabs and attracted people beyond mere business relationshipsand this is what took the king and his men to the practices of Islam, a faith to which they had recently converted. Stories and accounts of the faith and the Prophet Mohammed enthralled the ruler, who eventually (historical accounts differ, converted to a faith, he believed to be revolutionary that spoke of equality and justice).
The Masjid, as such it can be seen was designed and constructed according to principles of Hindu art and architecture. It is situated in Methala village, in Kodungalloor, barely 20 km from the Irinjalakuda railway station in Kerala’s Thrissur district. There are two tombs, that of Malik bin Deenar and his sister, within the masjid premises.
Until 1984 the Cheraman Juma Masjid retained its facade as a typical Kerala structure. In 1984 the local Muslim jamaat, which repaired the building, decided that the new structure should be more like an Islamic shrine with minarets. While retaining the inner configuration of the edifice, the exterior was changed completely. Referring to this, a member of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage reportedly said that in 1984 the trust was formed to protect Indian heritage from such radical alterations. But by 1984 the Masjid had been given a new exterior. Otherwise the trust would have appealed and ensured that the 1,400-year-old facade of the structure (although repaired many times) was kept in its pristine grandeur.
Following an exhaustive historical scrutiny, one thing however is certain. Muhammad bin Qasim or Mahmood Ghaznawi were not the originators of the Islamic faith in India; they were only some of the Muslim rulers associated with the rise of Islamic governance in the land. Yet popular lore (laced with hatred for the ‘Muslim’ other) prefers the narrative of the sword wielding Bin-Qasims or the marauder Ghaznavi (there have been similar marauders from the ‘Hindu’ side wherein Buddhist stupas have been razed) so that contemporary politics of supremacy and division can reign supreme. 
So if the spin doctors, do plan this move, could an Open Letter go out please to the premier? Ensure that due respect to ‘how faiths travelled’, the origins of Islam, and Christianity are given sanctity not just in PR token isms but in the taught history in our schools especially now that the ICHR/NCERT are being overtaken by men of a blighted vision?

Urdu and Indonesia

Urdu and Indonesia

Be it news about the modern revival of Urdu or the Indonesian figures of the Ramayan, there’s no news like good news

Teesta Setalvad

Dr Undre set up this school in his ancestral village because he wanted to give back. Like Ghulam Pesh Imam, Ghulambhai to us, who returns to his village in the Konkan belt whenever he can, makes one with the rural ambience and inhales the flavours of the Maharashtrian coastal countryside, diversity and inherent respect for the plurality that is this land, is the mantra  that guides them. Recently four Urdu-speaking girls of the Dr A R Undre English High School (ICSE) and Junior College (ISC) at Borli Panchatan village in Raigad district (Maharastra) did exceptionally well in an Indian language that we have failed to preserve and revere as much as we should. While the middle class north Indian, even non-Muslim would grudgingly remark about the meethi tehzeeb palpable to the language and it’s culture, the pragmatic Gujarati would prefer restricting enjoyment of the flavour to a ghazal-filled evening but ignore the radical history of not just the language but the writers and poets, many of them Muslims, who enriched it, over centuries. Premchand, our very own father of fiction, crafted his masterpieces in the Urdu script and Firaq Gorakhpuri, gave life an blood to this culture through his writings.
So when the English medium school at Borli Panchatan village in Raigad, which offers Urdu as an optional subject at ICSE board examination registered such success in Urdu language (results out last week) what was so special ? That one of the students was Samruddhi Shyam Waghmare the topper who secured 90% marks in Urdu, beating Madiha Muazzam Undre by two marks never mind that Madiha was the overall topper in the class of 64 students ? Or that apart from Samruddhi who got 90% in Urdu, there were her other classmates, Harshada Dilip Cherphale who also opted for Urdu as an optional subject and secured 86% marks and Simran Deepak Karambe, again who chose Urdu and got 88%? And that there was also Kshitij Pradeep Khopkar who obtained 60% marks also embracing the language of culture and resistance as I have termed Urdu.
This publication has done me the honour of publishing me regularly and it is my dream too that I obtain mastery over this language, soon, some day. But coming back to Dr Undre, a surgeon in Mumbai, who set up this school in his ancestral village, in 1990. He took a decision to change the affiliations of his school from the SSC Board to ICSE Board because the latter offers an optional Indian language (100 marks paper) as a compulsory subject. His dream was to enable young learners to appreciate the literary beauty and culture of this tradition.
What is it about Urdu that fires the imagination, literary and figurative? That it can open the windows to the writings of Maulana Azad, not just  a fiery fighter for India’s freedom but a famed writer in Urdu who penned "Ghubar-e-Khatir", a collection of letters written from prison to his friend, Habeeb ur Rahman Khan Sherwani ? Or the poetry of a Ghalib, the political writings of Faiz Ahmed Faiz (his Hum Dekhenge is a powerful allegorical use of the religious to signal a people’s revolution), the penning of Nazrul Islam? Are we as Indians not denying ourselves of this great tradition and world, when young learners are not given enough options to learn about our rich and variegated past?
On a trip to Indonesia recently, I was enchanted to find myself greeted everywhere by a lovely smile, a bent head and folded palms. Much like our Namaste this greeting proved as the next few words will, that plurality ad diversity is not ours alone. As versions of the Ramayana still richly preserved within Indonesian cultural heritage is the description of “Prabu Kresna ” (our Krishna Bhagwan). I bought a bunch of leather puppets, beautifully crafted and hand-painted that we shall share with young children in schools. Here is what is says about Kresna, “  When he was young, his name was Narayana. Kresna became the king of Dwarawati and the adviser of the Pendawa families. He had an invulnerable weapon ‘CAKRA” (chakra)which had the shape of a sacred arrow and “the Wijaya Kusuma” Flower.He is a symbolof a wise and intelligent king, a war political observer.” And then there is Rahwanah, the Indonesian Ravana and Dewi Shinta, somewhat special to me because that is where my mother gets her name. Sita, to us. Here is what the Indonesians, ever respectful of their past and traditions say about her, Dewi Shinta, “…In the Ramayana classical story, Shinta was Sri Rama’ wife. She was kidnapped and locked up by Rahwana.She was released by her husband and helped by Hanuman, the white monkey and Lesmana her brother-in-law.To prove that she was still a virgin she was burned by her husband, but the fire didn’t harm her, hance proving her innocence.A symbol of faithfulness and honour.”

For those who may not know it not only is Indonesia a democracy technically but also the largest Muslim country in the world. Respect for different traditions and ways of worship run through a myriad traditions and I recall that Dr Asghar Alisaab, speaking of recounting tales of a Maulana Vishnu in Indonesia. I will return to the theme at a later date but for this week, the news of young girls mastering Urdu, the sights and sounds of myriad traditions alive and kicking in Indonesia, this is the stuff that good old good news is made off. Hardened journalists rarely go for the good, preferring going for the jugular, that which hurts, wakes us up, causes a sensation. Not something that is warm, reassuring and comforting. That builds traditions and cultures, every day as we mix and mingle, share and learn.
Gheetoisation kills that culture building and formation. Forces, through violence, those of the same faith, or colour, or race to habit in pre-defined holes, earmarked territories. In our battle for a lasting, enduring pluralism, a secular plurality, must be a sustained battle against the politics of enforced and other, ghettoisation.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Strong and small Julio Ribeiro

Strong and small
Modi is a tall leader. Then why does his government sometimes act in petty, vengeful ways?
Written by Julio Ribeiro | Published on:May 27, 2015 12:00 am

“Pseudo-secularism” is alive and kicking in our country. After I voiced my concern about the peaceful Christian community becoming a soft target of Hindu extremist elements, I received a pile of mail, overwhelmingly supportive but with the expected dose of hate messages. “Pseudo-secularists” outnumbered “secularists” by a wide margin.

What warmed the cockles of my heart was that the bulk of the support was from a wide assortment of Hindus, many of them old friends but many also individuals not known to me till then. A young Bengali executive I met at an airport came up to me to voice his agreement with my stand. The critics included a couple of my former colleagues in the IPS — incidentally, strangers to me — who, I learnt, had served in the country’s premier intelligence agencies. How could they have arrived at any objective conclusion in the course of their work if they were so steeped in a particular ideology?

Here, I must mention an honest, upright, remarkable police officer, a year senior to me in the service. S.E. Joshi, who hailed from a distinguished family in Amravati in Vidarbha, retired as chief of R&AW. When we were junior, he was the central intelligence officer covering Vidharba and Marathwada. I was superintendent of police of Parbhani district and then Nanded, both in the Marathwada region. Joshi would make half-yearly trips to review the work of his officers and stayed with me whenever he visited.

The Marathwada districts had been merged with the old Bombay state, later Maharashtra, from the nizam’s Hyderabad. The influence of the Razakars was still felt. The IB officer who patrolled my districts was a Brahmin from Vidarbha, as was Joshi. When I praised his deputy’s acumen, Joshi cautioned me to be careful in accepting all that he told me. “He is biased against Muslims,” he said, “and bias is a major defect in any intelligence operative’s armour”. It was a lesson I never forgot.

Contrary opinions, even extreme ones, should be taken seriously. They exist in every religion in all countries of the world. Religion brings out the best and the worst in human beings. We are lucky that hatemongers can be counted on one’s fingers. Among the voices which did not like what I had said was that of Jagdish Bhagwati, an internationally known economist, and of T.V. Mohandas Pai, the IT wizard. I got the feeling that they felt that my writing would denigrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and weaken him in the eyes of the Western world, which he was so assiduously wooing for investments.

Actually, I want Modi to succeed. Let me make this clear. After Indira Gandhi, he is the only strong leader we have had. And the country needs a strong leader, a determined leader, a charismatic leader. Modi gives the impression that he is such a leader. Only he can change the mentality of a people. Many voted for Modi and not for the BJP — numerous Christians I know did. They voted for development and jobs. What needs to change if the country is to develop is the “chalta hai” attitude of the people when they routinely, though unwillingly, pay speed money to the lower rungs of the bureaucracy, when they disregard the rules of the road, when they litter public places without batting an eyelid and accept injustices without protest. Only a strong leader like Modi can lead a public campaign to rectify these innate defects in our collective psyche.

But instead of concentrating time and energy in bringing about such fundamental changes, his governmentseems to prioritise fixing Greenpeace and Teesta Setalvad, that intrepid champion of justice for the Muslim minority that fell victim to the 2002 Gujarat killings. In its anxiety to take revenge on Setalvad, the government has upset a universally acclaimed philanthropist organisation, Ford Foundation, which has funded a nationally recognised centre of learning and thinking, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Why is the Modi government wasting the precious goodwill it enjoyed after it was voted to power in small, mindless, negative acts of vengeance that do not behove a great nation? Is Modi the only giant among pygmies? We hear that he is the puppeteer who pulls all the strings from the PMO. In which case, how did this petty piece of governance get past him — especially when the complaint against Ford Foundation’s support to Setalvad’s NGO emanated from his own home state, Gujarat?
I hope Bhagwati is listening. He should advise Modi to refrain from acts of petty-mindedness that will only boomerang on all his other valiant attempts to reform the economy. And Pai should add his bit of advice. I am sure that on this issue, both of them think like me and numerous other fellow Indians.

The Modi government has completed a year in office. Its report card is positive. It has secured good grades in certain subjects — corruption in the higher reaches has gone down, noticeably down. In the lower reaches, it is business as usual. Modi will have to act drastically against those who refuse to reform. The voter must know that she can get what is legally due without having to grease palms.
And that brings me to the question that is uppermost in my mind. I run an NGO called Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT). It was established a decade ago in Mumbai by B.G. Deshmukh, a former cabinet secretary and a true servant of the public. The PCGT relies heavily on the Right to Information Act to fight the day-to-day corruption that troubles people.

Why is Modi so wary of the RTI that he does not think it necessary to appoint a chief informationcommissioner and information commissioners at the Centre? Is this his idea of good governance? He was also reluctant to fill the posts in Gujarat when he was chief minister there. Does he feel that he can single-handedly fight corruption without institutions in place? There are many others like me who would like to know.

The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab, and is a former Indian ambassador to Romania.

The law on Extra Judicial Killings Part- II Teesta Setalvad Published in Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu, May 2015

The law on Extra Judicial Killings
Part- II
Teesta Setalvad

Why do Indian institutions observe the law more in it’s breach? A critical judgement of our Indian Supreme Court makes it mandatory for the law to ensure complete transparency and accountability in the case of brutal acts of killing.

What must be done after the incident of extra-judicial killing?
In September 2014 the Supreme Court of India (in PUCL vs State of Maharashtra ) laid down clear guidelines about the action that needs to be taken in the aftermath of an incident of extra-judicial killing:
a) para 31(2): "If pursuant to the tip-off or receipt of any intelligence, as above, encounter takes place and firearm is used by the police party and as a result of that, death occurs, an FIR to that effect shall be registered and the same shall be forwarded to the court under Section 157 of the Code without any delay. While forwarding the report under Section 157 of the Code, the procedure prescribed under Section 158 of the Code shall be followed."

So the first requirement is the recording of a First Information Report (FIR) about the incident. At a minimum the FIR must contain- the fact that the 'encounter' took place, where it took place and details of the resultant deaths that occurred. Shockingly, it is common practice for the police, particularly those in the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh to lodge the FIR against the deceased individuals without naming the police personnel responsible for the deaths. However in the PUCL case the Apex Court has clearly directed that the fact of 'homicide/murder' of the deceased be recorded. By implication the names of the police personnel who caused the deaths and the offence of 'homicide/murder' must also be mentioned in the FIR, especially because the identity of the perpetrators is already known.
2) "31(3): An independent investigation into the incident/encounter shall be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer (at least a level above the head of the police party engaged in the encounter)."
So the next requirement is that the Investigation Officer must be: 1) from the CID or another Police Station and 2) of a rank higher than that of the person who headed the police party.
3) 31(3)(g): "Any evidence of weapons, such as guns, projectiles, bullets and cartridge cases, should be taken and preserved. Wherever applicable, tests for gunshot residue and trace metal detection should be performed."
31(13): "The police officer(s) concerned must surrender his/her weapons for forensic and ballistic analysis, including any other material, as required by the investigating team, subject to the rights under Article 20 of the Constitution."
So the next requirement is that the weapons used in the incident must be taken away from the police personnel, preserved and sent for ballistic examination. I am unable to understand the connection with Article 20 as it is about non-self incrimination and protection from double jeopardy. Perhaps readers might like to educate me about this.
4) "31(4): A Magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Code must invariably be held in all cases of death which occur in the course of police firing and a report thereof must be sent to Judicial Magistrate having jurisdiction under Section 190 of the Code."
So in the Telangana case- the inquiry into the murder of the undertrials must be conducted by a Judicial Magistrate under Section 176, CrPC as the deaths occurred in police custody. But in the Andhra case an inquiry under Section 176 may be conducted by any Magistrate from the Executive or by a judicial Magistrate.
5) "31(15): No out-of-turn promotion or instant gallantry rewards shall be bestowed on the concerned officers soon after the occurrence. It must be ensured at all costs that such rewards are given/recommended only when the gallantry of the concerned officers is established beyond doubt."
So in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, human rights activists and organisations must watch out for the list of awardees of gallantry or police medals or promotion orders that may be given to the officers involved in the in two incidents in future.
6) 31(16): "If the family of the victim finds that the above procedure has not been followed or there exists a pattern of abuse or lack of independent investigation or impartiality by any of the functionaries as above mentioned, it may make a complaint to the Sessions Judge having territorial jurisdiction over the place of incident. Upon such complaint being made, the concerned Sessions Judge shall look into the merits of the complaint and address the grievances raised therein.
There are many more directions in the PUCL judgement. Under Article 142 and 144 of the Constitution they become the law of the land which must be followed scrupulously.

Meanwhile, here are some of the NHRC's guidelines about how post mortem (PM) examination of the bodies of victims must be conducted after incidents of extra-judicial killings occur (2nd attachment):
1) Clothing of the body of the deceased should not be removed by the police or any person. Media reports indicate that the bodies of the victims in the Andhra Pradesh incident had been stripped to their underclothes and their clothes were lying in a heap beside them (See: So the trend of disobeying the law, norms and standards continues after the incident. This is why I have put together these norms and standards.
2) The PM examination must be videographed along with a recording of the voice of the doctor conducting the examination. The Apex Court in the PUCL case has directed that the PM examination must be conducted by two doctors from the District Hospital one of whom should be its head, as far as possible;
3) 20-25 colour photos pf the bodies must be taken from the angles specified by the NHRC. The photography/videography must be done by a person trained in forensic photography and videography;
4) Within 48 hours of such incidents the police must send detailed reports to the NHRC and later on send PM reports, reports of the magisterial inquiry, ballistic examination and most importantly reports containing the names and designations of the officers responsible for the deaths and whether the use of force was justified and the action taken was lawful.
All these directions and guidelines have been laid down and must be followed so that each incident is properly documented, investigated and the guilt of the persons responsible is determined for further action in law.
Finally, as RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak has pointed out, since those killed so brutally and the police are citizens of India, the expenses of the salaries of those who killed are borne by the Indian taxpayer, the sandalwoos trees (centre of the Andhra incident) are also public property, the authorities must release information about each and all of these under the Right to Information Act, 2005!
The central government, under the Regime has virtually rendered paralysed the RTI by not appointing a CIC (Chief Information Commissioner) for months despite recently promising the Delhi High Court that it has! Transparency scares all those in authority making a mockery of democratic and accountable governance.


When the law kills (Part – 1) Teesta Setalvad Published in Rashtriya Sahara Urdu, May 2015

When the law kills
(Part – 1)

Teesta Setalvad

More than a month ago, on the same bloody Tuesday, April 7, 2015, in the newly formed Telangana and Andhra Pradeh brutal killings took place. Two incidents, when lawmakers became the killers. ‘Extra judicial killings’ (and enforced disappearances) are issues of gross human rights violations where our Courts have spoken, albeit in a very delayed a diluted form.
Within five to six weeks of these ghastly killings (that did not make it to the private television networks for any rational or human rights based discussions) none less than India’s defence minister justified a trigger happy attitude in the armed forced in Jammu and Kashmir, when in an interview to the TOI, he said, “ Our proactive attitude is to identify terrorists and then effectively neutralise them. Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage.” While there was suitable outrage at the remarks and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPIM issued a strong statement through its polit bureau, the overall lack of accountability in our law and order machinery, unlawful killings and disappearances especially when it comes to margialised sections, our poor, our Muslim minority, our Dalits and Adivasis raises serious questions of humane governance and accountability in our democracy.

The two most recent unlawful incidents took place in the Warrangal district of Telangana where the police escorting five under-trial prisoners shot them dead on the pretext that one of them tried to snatch a firearm from one of the escorts in a bid to flee police custody; and the second incident where 20 men alleged to be smugglers of red sandalwood were shot dead in the Seshachalam forest of Chittoor district in a joint-operation conducted by the Andhra Police and Forest Officials.

It is worse how the head of the Andhra Police, Director General of Police, J V Ramudu when questioned by journalists, whether the police in the Chittoor incident could have shot the deceased in the legs to avoid such a large number of deaths is alleged to have replied: "Is there a law that you should shoot on the legs? Dont ask nonsense questions(sic)". Readers may check this news item at this link: This denila of their basic functioning and accountability sums up, in a nutshell, the attitude of the law to it’s citizenry.

The Andhra Pradesh Police Manual mentions the following norms regarding the use of force in relation to smugglers who are categorised under 'Organised Crime:
"J Organised Crime:
543-1-B. Organised crime is committed against property, persons or human welfare, engineered by a leader with members professing fierce loyalty. Organised crime in a large measure affects law and order and public order...
D. Boot legging, prostitution, gambling, manipulation of bids or tenders in auctions and contracts, land grabbing, illegal possession or dispossession of property, protection money, rigging elections, loan sharking (usury), extortion, kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking, illicit trade in fire arms, explosives, smuggling, thefts of antiquities and cultural properties, trading in animal skins and human organs are some of the activities of criminal groups, which are some times small outfits and sometimes large...
546-3-A-D. The resistance to arrest is likely in such cases. In effecting arrest no force than what is permissible under the law should be used. All guidelines regarding arrest should be complied with." (Vol. 2, Chapter 29 accessible at:
954-1-A. Police are expected to work within the framework of law and are not expected to take law into their own hands on the plea that the existing law is not sufficient. They cannot play that role of lawmakers and judiciary. It is for the other wings to take care on the point of sufficiency or insufficiency of law. Police are only expected to play the role of an enforcing agency.
Reasons for violation of human rights by police
950-1. Some of the reasons for violation of human rights by police can be attributed to the following,
A. Lack of interrogation techniques.
B. Lack of scientific temper and professionalism.
C. Lack of knowledge of criminal law and procedures for investigation.
D. Unrealistic public expectation for results.
E. Political and official pressures for quick results.
F. Misconception that laws are not sufficient to achieve results legally.
G. Sadistic pleasure on the part of some police officers.
Code of conduct for the police to avoid allegations of violation of human rights
954-1-B. The police in establishing and enforcing law must as far as practicable, use the methods of persuasion, advice and warning. When use of force is inevitable, it must be as per the procedure and to be the bare minimum.  (Vol. 2, Chapter 54 accessible at:
Right of Private defence
740-3. In the matter of dispersal of unlawful assembly the right of private defence can be exercised to protect the life and property of public or to protect themselves. This right can be exercised by using force as much as is necessary and as long as it is necessary. This right extends even to the causing of death in certain cases as laid down in section 100 IPC as against body and in section 103 IPC as against property. The police should exercise this right cautiously. Any amount of exceeding the right may make them liable for penal action as per law. Therefore, the police officers must make a judicious use of this right, only in dire need to save the life and property, when occasion arises as shown in sections 100 and 103 IPC."  (See Vol. 2, Chapter 39 at:

Not once, not twice but thrice does the Andhra Pradesh Police's own operations manual require reasonable restraint in the use of lethal force. The DGP's alleged statement is in complete violation of the norms and standards laid down by the police for themselves. I am not even going into the international standards on the use of force and also what has recognised by Courts in India to buttress my argument as they only strengthen this position.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the High Court in Hyderabad have sought reports about the Chittoor incident from the Government. The district administration has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the Warangal incident while the NHRC has issued notice demanding a report of the incident from the Telangana Government. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh there is outrage. But not much seems to have affected the establishment.

Worse is the statement of the Defence Minister. It is almost a sanction for unilateral killing if the Intelligence decides that someone is a terrorist. Notorious for its mis-judgements and misdemeanors this wing of our state law and order apparatus, (the IB and RAW) are not accountable to Parliament even, years after operations are ‘planned’ and ‘executed.” Besides be it in the Hashimpura case (in which a trial court recently acquitted 16 persons in probably India’s worst ever case of extra judicial/custodial killings, the paramilitary, military and army have been virtually held completely unaccountable and let off the hook.

Despite judgements of the Supreme Court that, under Articles 142 and 144 of the Indian Constitution become the law and need to be implemented, impunity rules. And the Indian people suffer at the hands of an increasingly unaccountable state.