Friday, December 27, 2013

We will Soldier On (Zakia Jafri CAse)

December 27, 2013

On behalf of thousands of survivors of the 2002 genocidal pogrom that took place in Gujarat from February – May 2002, the Citizens for Justice and Peace expresses deep disappointment and anguish at the verdict of the Magistrate Court, Judge BJ Ganatra accepting the dismissal of serious criminal charges of criminal conspiracy against chief minister Narendra Modi and 59 others. The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation team (SIT) had filed a closure report in this case, despite finding many of the serious allegations in the Zakia Ahsan Jafri complaint dated 8.6.2006 to be true. The Judge on 26.12.2013 accepted the closure report of the SIT.

Amicus Curiae in this unique case, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran had differed significantly with the SIT and opined that there was enough evidence to prosecute Modi under Sections 153(a), 153(b) and 166 of the Indian penal Code. The CJP will continue to assist Smt Zakia Ahsan Jafri in appealing to the higher courts for justice.  The 3-4 tiered system of justice in India is designed to correct wrongs and we are confident that the serious charges of criminal conspiracy, abetment, murder, arson etc will finally result in the prosecution of the powerful. Meanwhile it remains a trying time for survivors and human rights defenders who stand firm in their fight for justice.

A detailed analysis of the 450 page judgement will be made available by the CJP within a week. Meanwhile, the CJP would like to state that the detailed construction of criminal conspiracy and abetments presented before the Magistrate’s Court on legal and factual grounds was completely ignored by the Court despite substantive evidence from the investigation papers.

Counsel for the Complainant, relying on statements recorded by the SIT, documentary and other evidence existing on the record of the Trial Court, had argued, in detailed oral arguments presented to the Court, between June-September 2013, that though the law requires establishment of only  a prima facie case of serious suspicion for framing charges against Modi and other accused in offences of cognisable nature, but, in fact, there exists more than ample evidence, which is not only sufficient for framing charges but also for proceeding with the trial and for convicting Modi and other accused on charges of conspiracy and abetment for committing murder, arson and brutal massacre throughout Gujarat.

The widespread violence that engulfed Gujarat spreading to 19 of the State’s 25 districts – 14 very seriously - post the tragic burning to death of 59 persons in the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express is perhaps the worst ever record of reprisal communal violence in post-Independence India.  It was not simply the number of lives lost, though the number — perhaps 2,000 — is not insignificant. It was the cold-blooded manner in which they were taken, as armed militias with high level government sanction, ensured a high level brutality in the killings, mutilation, rapes and burnings. Over 200 girls and women suffered sexual violence, 18,000 homes and 1,200 hotels were gutted. The unfortunate pattern behind the reprisal killings was that the loss of life and property was that of the minority.

Since 2002, when the National Human Rights Commission filed its Interim and Final Reports and 2003 and 2004 when the Hon’ble Supreme Court first pulled up the State government for absence to ‘observe its Raj Dharma' and accused it of criminal negligence:“The Neros in Gujarat fiddled as Gujarat burned”. Serious allegations of top level criminal conspiracy in masterminding the violence have been made against the chief functionaries of the government.

The NHRC concluded in its Report dated 31.5. 2002 that “there was a comprehensive failure of the State to protect the Constitutional rights of the people of Gujarat”.  The Supreme Court of India, while severely indicting the Gujarat government, transferred two trials outside of Gujarat i.e. BEST Bakery and Bilkees Bano. The Supreme Court has been well aware of the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 carnage and the Court's orders, one after the other, in different cases related to the 2002 carnage, have reflected this. Various orders passed by the Supreme Court, including the path-breaking directions in the Best Bakery case and other important developments, ultimately led to the formation and reconstitution of the SIT on 26.3.2008 to further investigate nine of the crucial trials relating to the 2002 carnage.

Of the 300 violent incidents all over the State of Gujarat that took place with sinister precision and conspiracy, two of the worst in terms of intensity took place within Ahmedabad (Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society) with over 200 brutal massacres, including daylight rapes and burnings the day after the Godhra train burning on 28.2.2002. At the Gulberg society where Mrs Jafri and her husband lived, a total of 69 persons were massacred in cold blood after young girls and women had also been raped. Over 200 distress phone calls, including several to the commissioner of police, Ahmedabad and chief executive of the state had brought no relief. By August 2002 the Government itself had recorded 185 cases of         attacks on women of which 100 were in Ahmedabad city and 57 attacks on children of which 33 were in Ahmedabad alone. Totally, 225 women and 65 children were killed.

Evidence from the State Intelligence given to the Chief Election Commission (CEC) in August 2002 revealed that communal incidents had taken place in 993 villages and 151 towns spread over 153 assembly constituencies (out of a total of 182 in the state). By Aug 2002 (as recorded in the Report of the Women’s Parliamentary Committee) as many as 132,532 persons had been displaced / forced to leave their houses & were living in 121 riot relief camps of which 58 were in Ahmedabad city. By 1st June 2002 (as recorded in the Report of the Women’s Parliamentary Committee) there had been 4954 cases   (2023 urban and 2931 rural) of residential houses having been completely destroyed. There were a further 18,924 cases of partially damaged houses (11,199 urban & 7095 rural) - i.e. more than 23,000 houses had been destroyed or damaged by the rioters.  Thereafter a further 5000 urban houses and a 1000 rural houses were destroyed or damaged.

It was the sinister planning and systematic nature of violence that led the widow of the slain former parliamentarian,  Smt Zakia Ahsan Jafri, assisted by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP),to file a complaint dated 8.6.2006 of criminal conspiracy and abetment to commit mass murder, violate established criminal law and police manual norms, destroy records and evidence against the chief executive of the State- Narendra Modi and 59 others.

After the complaint of Smt Jafri was filed on 8.6.2006,  when the Gujarat police refused to register a case of serious offences of cognizable nature, Smt Jafri and Citizens for Justie and Peace (CJP approached the Gujarat High Court with prayers to order registration of FIR and transfer of investigation to the CBI. When the High Court rejecting the Petition, Zakia Jafri and Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP) approached the Supreme Court. Notice was issued on their Petition (SLP No. 1088/2008) on 3.3.2008. Thereafter, vide Order dated 27.4.2009 the SIT, which was already probing in other  incidents, was asked “to look into” the Complaint dated 8.6.2006. An Amicus Curiae was also appointed to assist the Court in this crucial case. The SIT submitted its final report to the Supreme Court in May, 2010 stating that while several of the allegations were found to be true, no criminal prosecution could be initiated. The Supreme Court had then directed the Amicus Curiae to assess evidence collected by SIT and give an independent view. In his final report, the Amicus Curiae recommended the prosecution of A-1 Narendra Modi under Sections 166 and 153a and 153b of the Indian Penal Code.

Inspite of enough material on record to frame charges against Modi and other accused, the SIT chose to submit a final report. The Supreme Court directed that the said report of SIT will be considered by the Trial Court. The Supreme Court also protected the right of the complainant to access the records collected during investigation and file her protest petition. (This is a right under Indian law but was specifically outlined by the Supreme Court in its final judgement dated 12.9.2011). Despite the voluminous evidence collected by the SIT during investigations and the clear-cut assessment of the Amicus Curaie, the SIT filed a closure report on 8.2.2012 and refused to provide the Investigation papers to the Complainant in contempt of the Supreme Court's order. The Ld. Magistrate granted the Complainant her right to the Investigation Papers on 10.4.2012 but it took Zakia Jafri & CJP another year to access all the Investigation reports of the SIT submitted to the Supreme Court. The SC directed this on 7.2.2013 after which the Protest Petition was filed on 15.4.2013.

Existing statements and documentary evidence were clear indicators of a high level criminal conspiracy and abetment to ensure that mass murder and other offences are committed against innocent citizens. Detailed arguments were made by the advocates for the Petitioner between June-August 2013 pointing out from the material on record that a strong case for framing charges against Modi and other conspirators is made out for the trial to proceed and that at this stage what the law requires is only establishing a prima facie case of strong suspicion.

Evidence that exists against Narendra Modi and 59 powerful accused include :-

·         Deliberately concealing knowledge of the provocative, anti-Muslim sloganeering by kar sevaks at the Godhra station when the Sabarmati Express reached five hours late on 27.2.2002, which information had been sent to him directly by DM/Collector Jayanti Ravi and willfully failing to take stern action and allowing violent incidents to escalate after the train left Godhra by about 1.15 p.m. especially at Vadodara station where a Muslim was attacked and killed and at Anand where the train stopped hereafter ensuring that the state allowed a hate-filled and threatening atmosphere against Muslims build right up to Ahmedabad where the train finally reached around 4 p.m. and where bloodthirsty slogans were being shouted. FIRs in 19 brutal incidents against Muslims are recorded on 27.2.2002 in Ahmedabad itself. Curfew was not imposed despite these incidents resulting in deaths breaking out.

(Evidence of this :-  Fax Message Sent by DM Jayanti Ravi and Message of the SIB are available @ .Annexure III, File XLI at Serial Nos 1 and Annexure IV, File IX, Serial Nos 241-in the SIT record)

·         Conspiring with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to plot and allow reprisal killings all over Gujarat. The first phone call that Modi makes after DM Ravi’s fax reaches him is, not to appeal for peace and calm, but phone secretary VHP, Gujarat, Dr Jaideep Patel and direct him to Godhra. The Conspiracy between Modi and the VHP is hatched and unfurled to cynically ensure state-wide reprisal killings. Phone call records show these phone calls between PA to Modi AP Patel and Jaideep Patel immediately after the chief minister receives news of the Godhra tragedy. Phone call records made available by Rahul Sharma (IPS, Gujarat) also show that Powerful Accused were in touch with the chief minister’s office (CMO) and the landline numbers of the chief minister.

(Evidence of this :- Page 5-6,Annexure Volume IV to Protest Petition contains AP Patel’s Phone Records and at Annexure IV, File V and VI in SIT Papers; Conspicuously, the SIT records statements of all officials of the chief minister’s office (CMO) following CJP’s submission of the phone records to the Supreme Court but does not record A.P. Patel’s.).

·         Cynically, and illegally allowed Post Mortems Illegally out in the Open at the Railway Yard, Godhra where the burnt and mutilated corpses were laid in full view of an aggressive and irate crowd of RSS and VHP men and women, who were gathered there in violation of Curfew Orders @ Godhra. Deliberately allowing photographs of the burnt corpses to be taken and widely circulated by the RSS-VHP and media in general, despite it being prevented under law; Modi dispatching Accused Nos 2-Ashok Bhatt to oversee illegally conducted post-mortems; Modi was himself present when these post-mortems were conducted out in the open @ the railway yard in front of a mob of RSS and VHP men;

(Evidence of this
:- Phone call records between Modi and Bhatt, former health minister (since deceased) are evidence of how the latter was dispatched to Godhra; the Godhra Sessions Court judgement 69/2009/ 86/2006. 204/2009 @ Page 105; This was handed over to the Court on 29.8.2012 comments on the illegality of the post mortems and also has a vivid photograph showing the bodies lying in the open in the Railway Yard at Godhra; Section 223, 4(vi), Volume III Gujarat Police Manual lays down specific legalities to be followed for post mortems that specifically direct no photographs of gory bodies being allowed.).

·         Directing that the unidentified bodies of Godhra train victims should be handed over to Jaideep Patel, a non-governmental person, that too belonging to a supremacist and communal VHP to be brought to Ahmedabad where aggressive funeral processions in full public view were allowed. Modi directed this at a meeting at the Collectorate in the evening of 27.2.2002 before he returned to Gandhinagar. Jaideep Patel was allowed to be present at an official meeting at the Collectorate. Jaideep Patel is a co-conspirator and also facing trial for mass crimes in the ongoing Naroda Gaam case. Modi is specifically guilty of allowing the escalation of violence from Godhra to other parts of Gujarat and taking decisions contrary to law.

Evidence of this :-  DM Jayanti Ravi’s statement to the SIT dated 15.9.2009 @ Annexure I Volume I, Sr Nos 19 in the SIT record, clearly states Jaideep Patel was present at the meeting at the Collectorate though Modi and Jaideep Patel, both denied it

·         Specifically instructing his top policemen and administrators not to act evenhandedly in the days to follow and “allow Hindus to vent their anger.” Two senior bureaucrats present at the meeting have stated that cabinet ministers were present at a meeting that went on well past midnight. Haren Pandya, a minister in Modi’s cabinet in 2002 had given evidence of this to the Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal headed by Justice Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant in 2002 itself. Later in 2009 a serving officer from the state intelligence, Sanjiv Bhatt also gave the same evidence before the SIT and the Supreme Court.

(Evidence of this :-
 (i) Statement of Haren Pandya to the CCT dated 13.5.2002 @ Internal Page 82 Volume II of the Concerned  Citizens Tribunal Report in section on State Complicity @ Annexure III, File, I, D-2, D-3, D-4 of the SIT Record/Papers.; (ii) On 27.10.2005, in the Fourth Affidavit, R.B. Sreekumar before the Nanavati Commission dated 27.10.2005 stated that K. Chakravarthi, DGP Gujarat (A-25) had given information of the same words being uttered by A-1 Modi at the meeting on 27.2.2002 ; (iii) On 11.07.09 Statement of Shri R.B. Sreekumar, formerly Addl.DG (Int.), Gujarat  to the SIT (Annex I, Vol I Sr. No.5, SIT Papers/Record) where he confirmed this; (iv)On 12.08.2009,Statement of Shri Vitthalbhai Pandya, father of Late Haren Pandya, R/o, Paldi, Ahmedabad  (Annex I, Vol I Sr. No.12, SIT Papers/Record) where he stated that his son Haren Pandya had told him about attending the meeting at the residence of A-1 on 27.2.2002 in the late evening as also of the provocative instructions given by A-1; (v)
On 28.8. 2009, Justices P.B. Sawant and Justice Hosbet Suresh gave two separate statements. Both eminent Judges, retired Supreme Court and High Court respectively, also stated that three serving IPS officers, Sami Ullah Ansari, Himanshu Bhatt and Vinod Mall also deposed before them in person requesting anonymity but confirming that such illegal instructions were issued.(Annexure I Volume I Sr.Nos 16 & 17 of the SIT Record/Papers); (vi) On 30.10.2004,Mr. Rahul Sharma stated in his deposition on oath before the Nanavati Commission that when he spoke to his superior officer DGP, Gujarat, A-25 Chakravathi on 1.3.2002 at about 10:22 p.m. to request to make more force available for him at Bhavnagar, the DGP told Mr. K Chakravarti also told him that “the bureaucracy had been completely neutralised”.
Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran has clearly stated in his Interim and Final reports before the Supreme Court (20.1.2011 & 25.7.2011) that Evidence regarding the unlawful and incendiary words spoken at the meeting of 27.2.2002 should be tested in a trial.)
·         Modi allowed violence to continue unabated until early May 2002 when KPS Gill was sent by PM Vajpayee to the state; the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), April and July 2002 and Central Election Commission (CEC) were misled about the spread and intensity of violence. This was willful subversion of the justice system. The Subversion of the Home Department under A-1 in which co-accused, Gordhan Zadaphiya, MOS Home, A-5, Ashok Narayan, ACS Home, A-28,  and K Nityanandam, Secretary, Home, A-34 played an active part included deliberately misinforming the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India about the extent and spread of violence:- Correspondence exists to reveal how senior VHP and RSS men were being kept out of the FIRs and charge sheets related to serious massacres being filed by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch; how violence was recurrent and was being allowed with even ministers like Bharat Barot directly involved.

(Evidence of this :- the NHRC and CEC Reports as also the correspondence between the NHRC and chief secretary Subha Rao, also an accused (Accused Nos- 27) are clear testimony of this subversion; ACS Home Ashok Narayan’s letters to DGP available in SIT record show the subversion in keeping names out of FIRs etc)

·         Hate Speech was indulged in by Modi himself, on 27.2.2002 and right until the infamous Becharaji speech made top set off his election campaign on 9.9.2002 and also cynically permitted by the Home Department under him to spread poison and incite violence against Muslims and Christians. The State Intelligence under ADGP-Int RB Sreekumar had specifically recommended prosecution of the VHP for a series of incendiary pamphlets but this was ignored. SP Bhavnagar, Rahul Sharma too had recommended the prosecution of Sandesh, the Gujarati mainstream newspaper for publishing false and provocative photographs and reports. Both the NHRC and Editor’s Guild had also strongly recommended prosecution of those guilty of hate speech. Modi had, instead sent congratulatory letters to those newspapers who had spread lies and venom. RB Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt are among the officers persecuted by the Gujarat government under Modi (home minister).

(Evidence of this :- Modi’s speech and its transcript is clearly communal; Gujarat’s Intelligence department responding to the National Commission for the Minorities (9.9.2002) clearly assessed the deleterious impact of the speech ; Official letters of then ADGP Sreekumar dated 16.4.2002, then SP Bhavnagar, Rahul Sharma and then CP Vadodara all strongly recommending prosecution of VHP’s hate pamphlets and the Sandesh newspaper –all part of the SIT record--were ignored by the political head of the GOG Home department, Modi. Ashok Narayan’s statement to SIT dated 13.12.2009 available in the SIT Record @ Annexure I Volume I states that Modi was extremely dismissive of these repeated requests for prosecution)
·         Modi is guilty of ordering the Destruction of Crucial documents including Wireless Intercepted Messages, Vehicle logs, Police Control Room records and others on 30.3.2008, four days after the Supreme Court appoints the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on 26.3.2008. He has headed the Home ministry portfolio since that date.

(Evidence of this :-(Pages 70-77 of the Compilation that consists of documents from the SIT Record; Annexure IV, File I Sr Nos 23)

Taizoon Khorakiwala                Nandan Maluste                Teesta Setalvad
I.M. Kadri                                   Cyrus Guzder                     Javed Akhtar         
Alyque Padamsee                    Anil Dharker                       Ghulam Pesh Imam 
Rahul Bose                                Javed Anand                      Cedric Prakash

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vindictive Governance A La Modi

Rahul Sharma was first charge sheeted after he appeared before the Amicus Curaie Raju Ramachandran and shared insights from the CD of phone call records (January 2011) that picked holes in the SIT'smistaken investigations into the Zakia Jafri and CJP Complaint. It was through an analysis fo these ohone call records that we were able to show that the first call that Modi made when he was officially informed of the Godhra train burning was NOT to appeal for peace and calm but to call Jaideep Patel of the VHP, despatch him to Godhra and then allow post mortems of the gruesome corposes in front of a mob in the open. Modi visited Godhra while such illegal post mortems were on, and thereafter directed that the dead bodies of the Godhra victims were handed over to Jaaideep Patel to be transported to Ahmedabad. There, funeral processions with rabid mobs on the rampage launched attacks on the innocent minority. (ember 26, 2013)
Zakia Jafri/CJP Criminal Case verdict on Dec 26 2013.

Rahul Sharma was also among the upright police officers who ignoring political directives from Govardhan Zadaphiya and Modi ensured law and order was maintained in the Bhavnagar town and district. 400 Muslim children were saved in a Madrassah becauise of his brave actions. It is for this reason that he is at the receiving end of undignified treatment by the Modi governmen t.

Good Governance ?? !!!!!

IG promotions: Rahul Sharma ignored over his role in two probes into ’02 riotsExpress News Service : Ahmedabad, Wed Dec 11 2013, 02:52 hrs

The state government said that IPS officer Rahul Sharma was superseded in the promotions announced on Monday because of two on-going inquiries against him. Other 1992 batch officers, including Sharma's colleague and friend Rajnish Rai, were promoted to the IG rank. Sharma is posted as DIG (Armed Units) in Vadodara. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) S K Nanda said, "The inquiry proceedings are going on against him so his case is put in a sealed cover."

Sharma had, in 2004, submitted two CDs containing call logs of two cellphone firms, during the 2002 Gujarat riots as evidence he had collected when assisting the probes in the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacre cases. Sharma had filed a detailed rejoinder before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in February this year, challenging the allegation that there was mala fide intention behind his submitting the CDs containing call records of the 2002 riots period to the Nanavati Shah Commission. The CAT had reserved the order in March.

Rai, who had arrested IPS officers D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh M N in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had also fought a battle in CAT, challenging the negative remarks in his annual confidential report which delayed his promotion. The government, however, expunged those remarks purportedly to avoid details of his scathing affidavit coming out before CAT. The affidavit had brought out the dubious role of former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah in connection with the fake encounter case. Sharma, who was issued a chargesheet in 2011, had contended that he was being victimised for deposing before the Nanavati Commission, which is probing the riots.

Even as Sharma sought immunity under Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, which safeguards witnesses from civil and criminal proceedings, the government, in its affidavit filed on January 3, tried to delink the chargesheet from Sharma's act of submitting the CDs and argued that the chargesheet cannot amount to either a civil or criminal proceeding. It was also the government's case that Sharma "volunteered" to give the CDs to the commission with mala fide intention to save himself from any criminal or civil action.

Sharma was also issued a show cause notice for alleged "irregularities" during his posting as DIG of the SRP unit in Rajkot. It was alleged that Sharma had shown 'irregularities' at his work during his tenure in Rajkot and handed cash rewards to a few inspectors "without following administrative procedures". Sharma had also replied to the show cause notice, which is with the State Home Department.

Dictator Rules (Censorship by Moditva)

Dictator s Rule

Last week some friends found this link on the internet in a newspaper no less important that The Economic Times. Click there and the article was removed?
Guess why ?

Because here is what it said....Read on...

Kindly see the link below. The Economic Times removed this section on Narendra Modi after putting it online.

Is Modi Our Palin?

Dheeraj Tiwari

 Insulting the intelligence of voters is could be suicidal in an election year. In the 2008 US Presidential elections, Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for the vice president’s post, committed that offence. In 2013, is Narendra Modi following in her footsteps?

 When Palin started her campaign, commentators gave the ‘hockey mom’ a real chance. After all, she was folksy, which America loves, good looking and a would-be grandmother to boot. The concoction was deadly and Republicans lapped it up. A war veteran, John McCain as the head and a mommy as his aide fell in line with the American dream.

Modi’s team has also created a similar aura around him. Decisive, incorruptible and earthy – are the characters which largely define Modi’s campaign. If BJP is to be believed, Modi is the underdog of Indian politics, a ‘chaiwala’ who through his sheer hard work has managed to rise in the political hierarchy. In his own words, he is not a ‘shehzada’ but a ‘sevak.’

 Till this point, the script runs perfect. But the American dream crumpled when the mommy started getting her facts wrong. Palin was ridiculed when she claimed to have an insight into American foreign policy because Russia is the next door neighbour to her state of Alaska.

Back home, Namo replicated that feat in his Independence Day speech at Bhuj. He almost took the same neighbourhood line as Palin and while lambasting Pakistan claimed that his voice reached Pakistan first and Delhi later. This came from the same man who some months ago had offered Sindh province in Pakistan, the ‘Gujarat model’ to overcome its power crisis.

While Palin called Afghanistan a neighbouring country, Modi brought Taxila from Pakistan to Bihar. There is an uncanny resemblance between these two politicians in getting their facts wrong, again and again. Their supporters may term this as unpretentious behaviour.

Perhaps, voters could have forgiven Palin, the winner of the Miss Wasilla pageant for not knowing what lie beyond the American shores but the crowd booed her when, at a public rally, she said that the state of North West Hampshire is in the Northwest of Americas. Modi so far has been spared this public ignominy.

 A closer look at their campaign and one gets a feeling that perhaps the fates of Palin and Modi are intertwined. Days after being nominated for the Presidential elections, the Republican supporters were shocked that Palin’s unwed daughter was five months pregnant. Palin, who by then had projected herself as ‘Bible-believing Christian,’ ultimately lost out on the traditional conservative Republican base. Modi, too, is now embroiled in a snooping scandal as his aide Amit Shah has managed to score a self goal against his ‘saheb’. 

 In the midst of this jamboree these down-to-earth leaders and their supporters forget that the voter cannot be fooled, or at least for long. So, when Palin described that the Iraq War is ‘a task that is from God,’ voters knew that she was making no sense. Unfortunately for his supporters, Modi is catching up with Palin.

 After historical blunders such as calling Gandhi Mohanlal instead of Mohandas, and claiming that Nehru did not attend Patel’s funeral, Modi is now treading on more difficult terrain. In a Jodhpur rally, Modi claimed that he may not be as educated as the country’s finance minister but he knew that buying gold is not leading to inflation. His first lecture in economics may have got a thunderous applause in the rally but he might have lost the faith of voters who till then would have bought into his image as the deliverer of Gujarat’s vibrant economy.

 It is time that Modi should learn from the mistakes which Palin committed. After all he would not like to be remembered as Palin, who finally had to be told that there was no tradition of concession speeches by running mates, and that she would not be speaking. Not anymore.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who cast the First Stone? Is it any wonder that the RSS/BJP are opposing the PCTV Bill ?

Who casts the first stone?

Teesta Setalvad, Communalism Combat, March 1998

Hindu communal organisations have always maintained that it is always the Muslims who start riots, forcing “justifiable retaliatory acts by Hindus in self-defence.” But virtually every single officially-appointed judicial commission to probe into the cause of riots in different parts of the country has found the RSS and other majoritarian communal outfits guilty. We reproduce some excerpts below:

Report of the Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry investigating the Ahmedabad riots of 1969:

There was not only a failure of intelligence and culpable failure to suppress the outbreak of violence but (also) deliberate attempts to suppress the truth from the Commission, especially the active participation in the riots of some RSS and Jana Sangh leaders."

Report of the Justice D.P. Madon Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad of 1970:

If the events surrounding the Shiv Jayanti procession in Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad are looked at more closely, the start of the riot was not with the simplistic reaction of the procession being attacked by a group of Muslims. Tension did not begin with the Shiv Jayanti celebrations of that year but began in 1964, the first year that the practice of publicly celebrating Shiv Jayanti had been started and had seen an annual build up in tensions since.

This practice did not only introduce the poison of communalism in Bhiwandi indirectly, but through the years, the organisers did not make any attempt to disguise the real motive and anti-Muslim slogans and provocative floats were part of the celebrations from the very beginning, the first year. In spite of police opposition, the organisers made every attempt to incite rioting by insisting on taking their procession through Muslim-dominated areas, throwing gulal (coloured powder) at Mosques and shouting incendiary slogans like "we will grind any one who opposes us into dust."

In his report to his superiors, the SP, Thane district has stated, "I found that a section of Hindu elements, particularly the RSS and some PSP men, were bent upon creating mischief. Their idea in accompanying the procession was not so much to pay respects to the Great Shivaji but to establish their right and, if possible, to provoke and humiliate Muslims."

It was in 1970 that for the first time propaganda was carried on in villages exhorting villagers to participate in the Shiv Jayanti procession in Bhiwandi and this was the first year when villagers were mobilised to participate by the Rashtriya Utsav Mandal, an offshoot of the Jana Sangh, and the SS and the object of these organisations in bringing villagers to participate was ‘to intimidate the Muslims’, the participants carried lathis to which bhagwa (saffron) flags were tied, banners of the three organisations, the Jana Sangh, the RUM and the SS, were displayed by processionists.

The villagers shouted provocative, anti-Muslim slogans, behaved aggressively, threw gulal on the Moti Masjid at Bangad Galli and Hyderi mosque situated at the junction of Dargarh road and Sutar Alli aided by a passive police.

Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Tellicherry Disturbance, 1971, Justice Joseph Vithyathil:

I n Tellicherry the Hin dus and Muslims were living as brothers for centuries. The ‘Mopla riots’ did not affect the cordial relationship that existed between the two communities in Tellicherry. It was only after the RSS and the Jana Sangh set up their units and began activities in Tellicherry that there came a change in the situation. Their anti-Muslim propaganda, its reaction on the Muslims who rallied round their communal organisation, the Muslim League which championed their cause, and the communal tension that followed prepared the background for their disturbances.

According to the RSS, until the Muslims give up their separatist attitude and join the mainstream of Indian National Life there will be no communal harmony in this country. Guruji Golwalkar is said to have a very simple remedy for communal riots in India. He said: "Let Muslims look upon Rama as their hero and the communal problems will be over." (Organiser, June 20, 1971). That is what the rioters who attacked the house of Kuhammad asked him to do. "If you want to save your life you should go round the house three times repeating the words ‘Rama, Rama’. Kunhammad did that. But you cannot expect the 70 million Muslims of India to do that as a condition for maintaining communal harmony in the country. This attitude of the of the RSS can only help to compel the Muslims to take shelter under their own communal organisation.

Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Jamshedpur, April 1979:

T he evidence of government offic- ials shows that after the communal riots of 1964, the Ram Navmi Festival, like other festivals, became the occasion for greater vigilance and alertness for the law and order authorities; simultaneously the number of Ram Navmi processions kept on increasing till it had risen to 79 in the year 1979.

In the run up to the communal build up before the elections prepared by the Intelligence Branch, Jamshedpur (dated March 23, 1979) there was special mention made to the Divisional Conference of the RSS scheduled to be held on March 31 and April1 in which, among others, the RSS sarsanghchalak was to participate.

The dispute on the route of the procession (the administration after consideration had denied permission for the route to pass through Muslim areas) became sharp and agitated reactions from a group of persons calling themselves the Sanyukt Bajrang Bali Akhara Samiti who systematically distributed pamphlets to heighten communal feelings and had organisational links with the RSS. A call for the defiance of the authority and the administration when it refused permission for one of the routes led to a violent mob protesting and raising anti-Muslim slogans and thereafter an incendiary leaflet doing the rounds of Jamshedpur (issued on behalf of the Sri Ramnavmi Kendriya Akhara Samity) that is nothing short of an attempt to rouse the sentiments of Hindus to a high pitch and to distort events and show some actions as attacks on Hindus that appear to be part of a design.

A survey had already established that all policemen, havaldars, home guards etc. were at heart ready to give support to them (Hindu communalist organisations). This not only shows the extent of the planning that had been going on, but also how the people in general were being assured of protection from punitive action by the police, due to the alleged attitude of its subordinate formations.

Justice Venugopal Commission of Inquiry into the Kanyakumari riots of 1982 (prolonged confrontation between Hindus and Christians):

T he RSS adopts a militant and ag
gressive attitude and sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the rights of Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to teach the minorities their place and if they are not willing to learn their place to teach them a lesson. The RSS methodology for provoking communal violence is:

a) rousing communal feelings in the majority community by the propaganda that Christians are not loyal citizens of this country;

b) deepening the fear in the majority community by a clever propaganda that the population of the minorities is increasing and that of the Hindus is decreasing;

c) infiltrating into the administration and inducing the members of the civil and police services by adopting and developing communal attitudes;

d) training young people of the majority community in the use of weapons like daggers, swords and spears;

e) spreading rumours to widen the communal cleavage and deepen communal feelings by giving a communal colour to any trivial incident."

(Researched and compiled by Teesta Setalvad)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Voices Rise for Accountability in Governance, Against Hatred

Voices Rise for Accountability in Governance, Against Hatred

Teesta Setalvad

It was an energizing week end, November 23-24 at Allahabad when over 1,000 activists from different parts of the country, representing mass organisations assembled at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to both demand the tabling of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 in the Winter Session of Parliament and to launch a united and concerted battle against communal and fascist forces. On the Sunday evening at the public meeting to round up the deliberations, representatives of five political parties joined the stage to lend voice and weight to the Insaaf Sab Ke Liye Campaign.

Starting now between November 26-December 20, 2013, letters/Memorandum will be sent to Rajya Sabha MPs and Lok Sabha MPs from all parties to demand the tabling of the Bill. The Winter Session of Parliament starts from December 5 and ends on 20, 2013. On December 5 and 6, 2013, thousands of SMs and emails will be sent to the elected representatives of both houses of Parliament. A one page Memorandum will also be sent to all MPs , Political Party Office Bearers at National and Regional and State Levels, within and outside the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Already since October 28, 2013, thousands of post cards have reached Prime Minister Manmohansingh’s office making the same demand.
December 15-25 2013. An online petition is also on.       If Central government
does not deliver, then the Insaaf Sab ke Liye campaign will put pressure to be put
on Parties like CPI(M), CPI to table a Non-Official Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Meetings are also planned at different cities and districts of UP.  Already,
December 18 and 19 2-13 have been chosen for two  meetings in Benaras and
Lucknow respectively.  

December 19 is special also because it is the death anniversary of Ram Prasad
Bismil at Gorakhpur jail and Asfaqulla Khan at Faizabad jails.(1927) Both  were
Revolutionary Poets. Ram Prasad Bismil was an Indian revolutionary who
participated in Mainpuri Conspiracy of 1918, and the Kakori conspiracy of 1925,
both against British Empire.

On Monday, 19 December 1927, Ashfaqulla Khan is known to have taken two
steps at a time, as he walked up to the post. When his chains were released, he
reached for the hanging rope and kissed it by saying these words: "My hands are
not soiled with the murder of man. The charges framed against me are a bare
false. Allah will give me the justice." And at last he recited in Arabic the shahadah.
The noose came around his neck and the movement lost one of its shining stars
in the sky. He was born at Shahjanpur on October 22, 1900. December 19, 2013
should resonate in Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Faizabad and Shahjanpur this year. The
life story and friendship of Bismil and Ashfaqulla is a precious historic legacy.
It was the withdrawal of the non cooperation movement by Gandhi that drew Khan into the Revolutionaries fold. Bismil an Arya Samaji and Asfaq a devout Muslim, both shred the fervor of a free and united India. They sacrificed their lives on the same day of 19 December 1927 in different jails of Faizabad and Gorakhpur.
UP becomes critical because it is the ground for focus and
mobilization of communal forces presently as was witnessed in Muzaffarnagar.
All those of the readers of the column who wish to become actively involved in
the campaign please write in at

Other ideas  flowed to energise a short Term Campaign Suggestions Against
Communalism and Communal  Violence. January 26-30 2014will be observed as
Equality, Non-Discrimination Week Commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the
Killing of Gandhi to expose the Ideology that Killed a symbol of communal
harmony. This Ideology is alive, powerful and pernicious today. The Opportunity
will be used to focus on
--Bringing Alive Manifold Facets of the Indian National Movement that fought united against the forces of communalism and colonialism
--Distributing Literature on the Ideology and Political Vision of the Extreme Rightwing forces that were responsible for the Murder of Gandhi
--Bringing this in Creative Forms to Youth and the Young

Other important dates in the calendar are December 25, 2013        The Day of the Mahad Satyagraha when the Manusmriti as a sumbol of caste oppression was burnt under the leader ship of Dr Babasaheb  Ambedkar in 1925.
January 3, 2014                  The Birth Anniversary of Savitribai Phule. Savitribai Jyotirao Phule was a social reformer, who, along with her husband, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, played an important role in improving women's rights in India during the British Rule. Born on January 3, 1831, died on March 10, 1897, Savitribai was the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India  in 1852 with girls from all communities including Mali, Chamar, Muslim. He first teacher was Fatima Shaikh.. When husband and mentor Jyotiba Phule and she were ostracized by their community for their robust anti-caste and struggle, Usman Shaikh was the first to give them shelter. Here is a tailor made story of communal harmony and solidarity.

February 3, 2014. Birsa Munda was a great tribal leader and a folk hero, belonging to the Munda Adivasi who was behind the movement that rose in the tribal belt of Jharkhand during the British Raj, in the late 19th century making him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement. Birsa Munda is named with great respect as one of the freedom fighters in the Indian struggle for independence against British colonialism. His achievements in the freedom struggle become even greater considering he accomplished this before his 25th year. Birsa's devotion to his people was such that he was almost revered as God by his followers. By the time he was in his 20s, his activities in the tribal areas of Jharkhand state  had already begun to worry the British establishment to a considerable extent. He was finally caught by the British on 3 February 1900 when he was only 25 years old. He died soon afterwards in mysterious circumstances on 9 June 1900 in Ranchi Jail. His birth anniversary which falls on November 15 is the foundation day of Jharkhand State and also celebrated by Jharkhandi people and official function takes place at his Samadhi Sthal, at Kokar Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand.

Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed Azad was an Indian scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. His fiery leadership of India’s Muslims is epitomized in the historic speech made by him from the steps of the Jama Masjid in Delhi after independence, and partition. Following India's independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government. Born on November 11, 1888, his death Anniversary can be Observed on February 22, 1958
Description: cleardot
“Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands of years Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.” (From the Presidential Address - Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, I.N.C. Session, 1940, Ramgarh)
March 2013 for Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh and April to remember doyens like Jyotiba Phule, Pandita Ramabhai and Babasaheb. For Phule born on April 11, 1827 the struggle against the oppression of caste was critically linked to a society of egalitarianism and non-discrimination in the name of faith. But for the wisdom and clarity of constitutional expert and mass leader Babasaheb born on April 14, India  would not have had a constitution that was so unequivocal on equality and non discrimination. April brings us memories of one more historical figure, a woman, Pandita Ramabai born on April 23, 1858. Ramabai was an Indian social reformer, a champion for the emancipation of women, and a pioneer in education.

Fervour and creativity will make this campaign live and vibrant.
Join us and help save the Indian republic.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Media and Social Transformation

Media and Social Transformation
Media and Its Current Specifications-An Exploration into the Global Impact of the Media, a National Seminar at English Department of the Sullamussalam Science College Areacode, Kerala, November 12-13 2013]
Teesta Setalvad
As I begin this address on an issue of great national import, Media and Social Tranformation, I would like first to remember three men for whom the letter and the written word was a special and particular form of communication.
Through Al Hilal, an Urdu weekly established in 1912, Azad, India’s first education minister who we fondly remember as Maulana Azad who’s birth anniversary passed just two days ago, November 11 and who shared his date of birth with Acharya Kriplalani. Azad’s political views were radical and revolutionary and because he so trenchantly and fiercely criticized the British for racial discrimination and exploitation of our resources and the needs of the common people across India. He opposed the communal basis for the Partition of Bengal in 1905. Al Hilal was banned in 1914 under the repressive Press Act. Azad was jailed till early 1919 in Ranchi. Returning to an India that now had Gandhi, he grew close to the leader and launched  Al-Balagh, which increased its active support for nationalist causes and communal unity.  That his words and reach were powerful is clear from the fact that the British again outlawed this second publication under the Defence of India Regulations Act and arrested him, again.
He was a severe critique of the Jinnah and the demand for a separate Pakistan. As the Muslim League adopted a resolution calling for a separate Muslim state in its session at Lahore in 1940, Azad was elected Congress president in its session at Ramgarh. Speaking vehemently against Jinnah's two nation theory — the notion that Hindus and Muslims were distinct nations – Azad lambasted religious separatism and exhorted all Muslims to preserve a united India, as all Hindus and Muslims were Indians who shared deep bonds of brotherhood and nationhood. In his presidential address, Azad said:"...Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands of years Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity."
He was a strong critique of Partition and in his historic address in 1947 as bloodshed was the norm, said, “I am proud of being an Indian. I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure is incomplete. I am an essential element, which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.” After independence he became a strong votary for the universalisation of education as our first education Minister.
As part of another great Indian’s struggle spanning over 4 decades, that culminated in drafting of the Indian Constitution, for Dr. Ambedkar, communication, mobilisation and struggle meant creating spaces and launching publications in the print media. For him, this was crucial for emancipating the untouchables. In 1920 when he had just begun his struggle, he launched a Marathi fortnightly, “Mooknayak, (the leader of the dumb)” with strong editorials. Though this magazine survived just for about a year and half it made an impact. In April 1927, Dr. Ambedkar started the magazine called Bahishkrit Bharat (The Ostracized India), a more organised effort after Ambedkar bought a printing press with public donations. The Bharat Bhushan Printing press that brought out Bahishkrit Bharat. This effort was carefully organised and the editorial standard of the issues was carefully maintained by Ambedkar. The journal lasted two years; again in 1930, Dr. Ambedkar thereafter started yet another new journal named, Janata (The People) and this journal had a life of 26 years. He was assisted financially in these endeavours by Shahu Chhatarapati Maharaj of Kolhapur. The name of the journal was changed to Prabuddha Bharat (Enlightened India) when he was in the process of launching the massive historic conversion to Buddhism. In the context of today’s ethics and morals, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s word on Journalism in India (1943) is relevant: Journalism in India was once a profession. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the manufacture of soap. It does not regard itself as the responsible adviser of the Public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India its first or foremost duty. To accept a hero and worship him has become its principal duty. Under it, news gives place to sensation, reasoned opinion to unreasoning passion, appeal to the minds of responsible people to appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible. Lord Salisbury spoke of the Northcliffe journalism as written by office-boys for office-boys. Indian journalism is all that plus something more. It is written by drum-boys to glorify their heroes. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become so blind as we see it in India today. There are, I am glad to say, honourable exceptions. But they are too few and their voice is never heard. ( Reference: SECTION VIII, Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah. Vol-I, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches)
Dr. Ambedkar and M.K.Gandhi were contemporary journalists. Gandhi used to write through Young India in the 1920s and then through Harijan in the 1930s. Many a time, opposed in their views and approaches they sparred sharply on issues of focus,  most especially caste and the entrenched evils of discrimination. Their differences did not in any way lessen their respect for each other, however and Babasaheb was among the first to reach the mourners when Gandhi was shot dead – in independent India’s first act of terror by the bullets of Hindutva—on January 30, 1948.
Their heated debate and different approaches can be summed up in these words of Ambedkar when invited by Gandhi to write in his journal. From Ambedkar, At the end of our conversation on Saturday last you asked me to send a message for insertion in the first issue of your new weekly 'Harijan'. I feel I cannot give a message. For I believe it will be a most unwarranted presumption on my part to suppose that I have sufficient worth in the eyes of the Hindus which would make them treat any message from me with respect. I can only speak as man to man. As such it may be desirable that the Hindus should know my views on the momentous issue of Hindu social organization with which you have chosen to occupy yourself. I am, therefore, sending you the accompanying statement for publication in your 'Harijan'.” This was the text of the statement sent by Ambedkar  The Out-caste is a bye-product of the Caste-system. There will be out-castes as long as there are castes. Nothing can emancipate the Out-caste except the destruction of the Caste-system. Nothing can help to save Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle except the purging of the Hindu Faith of this odious and vicious dogma."

Now coming back to the present, India with its diversity and pluralism, an India yet steeped in poverty and prejudice, can we imagine a situation where political men, leaders and Indians, sparred and civilized manner through the battle of the word in the realm of ideas? A battle that is fought with a level playing field, where the problems faced by India, south and north, east and west, are dealt with intricacy and subtlety?

Instead we are today faced with the hegemonic influence of the electronic media, that today is at the beck and call of powerful corporations who own the channels and a print media that tries desperately to cope with the frenzied pace of 24 X 7 noisy news hour not unaffected by paid news.

Periodically we have addressed the issues of perspective and fairplay in the Indian media. One such exercise was in late 2006 when we found that the Indian media turns a deaf ear to issues of caste and mass mobilization. At the outset of our niche independent journalistic journey, we had tracked how the 1992-1993 post Babri Masjid demolition violence dropped off the coverage of the national media especially when crucial witnesses of the affected minority began deposing before the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission from 1993-1998. (Communalism Combat, August 1994..Sounds and Silences). We have re-visited the issue. In 2006, Shadow and Silence, we analysed how the media remained complicit in non-focus and coverage of Adivasi, Dalit and Urban issues. Then, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief, CNN-IBN and IBN 7, in an interview with CC admited that there has been a big shift in the media becoming "metro-centric" but denies anything more active at work than simply an urban bias. "The fact of the matter is that the media is metro-centric and as a result we do lose out on the less shining parts of the country. The reason for this however is much more the tyranny of distance than any bias." The relative or complete absence of media coverage of issues arising out of Adivasi struggles in the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, or even the seven states located in the north-eastern part of the country, is matched by the dominance of frivolous and titillating coverage of ‘happenings’ in metros. Worse, the distinctly upper caste tilt and twist to the manner in which developments are viewed and interpreted can be gleaned, for instance, from the epithets that were used for a whole decade against a politician like Laloo Prasad Yadav. A survey conducted by the Delhi-based Media Study Group points to a distinct absence of caste diversity and a predominance of the ‘upper’ castes within the upper echelons of the Indian media (see "Media pundits", CC, July-August 2006). In late 2006, India lost a politician who – like him or hate him – changed the course of this country’s politics decisively. The death of Kanshi Ram and the ensuing coverage by the media (barring a few exceptions) reflected a dismissive upper caste bias. The first quarter of 2006 saw the dramatic story of the shooting (and subsequent death) of BJP leader Pramod Mahajan by his brother and, a few months later, the unsavoury conduct of his son, Rahul Mahajan. Excessive and disproportionately wide coverage of the first episodes and later, a delicate dismissal of the son’s involvement with drugs by an otherwise vigilante media, do leave some questions unanswered. Following the July 11 bomb blasts in Mumbai the media, especially television, came in for sharp criticism. Repeated images of police round-ups of youth in minority dominated areas created the public impression that dozens of Muslim suspects were being interrogated. The subsequent release of all these persons, save one or two, did not attract comparative coverage. This raised questions about the ethics of television channels that actively contributed to creating a public image of who the guilty are but then remained silent when the answer proved indecisive. A specific case related to a prominent Hindi television channel. The channel broadcast an inaccurate report relaying that after the bomb blasts firecrackers were burst at Padgah village, off Mumbai. The fact that the village is minority dominated and that it is home to persons allegedly accused of participating in earlier terror attacks, added spice if not truth to the broadcast. Agitated residents protested this coverage to the village sarpanch and registered an oral complaint with the police (who refused to register a first information report, FIR). A meeting was thereafter held with various members of the mohalla committee condemning the coverage. Several sarpanches and gram panchayat chiefs attended the meeting. However, the said channel carried no correction in its subsequent telecasts. Similarly, an accompanying story reveals local and national media coverage of the recent violence in Mangalore where the role of the police has also escaped any media scrutiny. This was Sardesai’s reasoning. "If properties are sealed in Delhi I will have four OB (Outside Broadcast) vans stationed there to capture the story but if a much more serious issue arising out of farm labourers’ struggles erupts in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand or the North-east, I am limited by the fact that I just do not have an OB van located there," says Sardesai. "How do I telecast a protest in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand when I do not have an OB van stationed there? Therefore a protest in Chhattisgarh or Adivasis being shot at in Kalinga won’t make news the same way as workers being beaten in Gurgaon, just out of Delhi. It is the tyranny of distance at work here." Increasing space given to religio-ritualistic stories is also a relatively recent phenomenon. It is not only the channels but also pages of the print media that are lending more and more space to festivals like Holi and Diwali and even customs like Karva Chauth! On October 2 each year, Dussehra day, 16 lakh persons (at the minimum – the outside figure is 20 lakh) converged at Nagpur to celebrate the golden jubilee of the mass conversion of Dalits, under the leadership of Dr Ambedkar, to Buddhism. While the local Marathi press did cover the event, providing its own colour and interpretation, the national media and television channels simply skipped the story."CNN/IBN did a forty-seconder on the event but it is true we did not carry the pictures. We did however follow this up with a panel discussion on the contribution of Ambedkar. There is a point there in the absence of coverage but it is the geographical factor – Delhi is easier but it is true that we must introspect on the issue. Maybe we are making excuses," reflects Sardesai. On September 29, 2006 a ghastly gang rape and mass murder at Kherlanji in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district left four members of a Dalit family brutally massacred with Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, the father, being the lone survivor. The Maharashtra police and administration were continuously making irresponsible statements and events so far already suggest a clear attempt to suppress evidence of the crime during the primary stage of investigations itself. The post-mortem report was a travesty of a document and despite the gory conditions in which the mother and daughter’s bodies were found, Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (which is applicable for the offence of rape) has not even been applied. But the Kherlanji case did not become a Jessica Lal or Priyadarshini Mattoo case for the media. Why?
In 2013,  the acquittal of the 26 people found guilty for the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre of 1997 by the Patna High Court received perfunctory coverage but for the The Hindu.
The sessions court found the caste warriors guilty but the Patna High Court acquitted the offenders. Were there any extensive debates on national newshour and television? No. Why, is the question that we need to ask. An interview done in June 2012 of Brahmeshwar Nath Singh by Dan Morrison of The Telegraph is telling. He had traveled to Ara, the seat of Bhojpur district in Bihar state, to meet Brahmeshwar Nath Singh, the leader of the Ranvir Sena. An illegal army of wealthy landlords, the Ranvir Sena left a bloody trail through low-caste villages of what is now southwest Bihar during the 1990s and early 2000s.Mr. Singh had been the group’s mastermind, and was a demi-god to the feudal bosses who felt besieged by Maoist guerillas and the increasingly assertive peasants who supported them. “Violence for the restoration of peace and harmony is not a sin,” the white-haired farmer told me, as his youngest grandson capered at his feet. Four days later, Mr. Singh, 65, was gunned down during his morning walk. His followers then rioted in Ara, burning the local circuit house and several government cars. On Saturday, as tens of thousands of seething mourners poured into Patna for his funeral, young men carrying bamboo staves and iron rods beat passersby and torched hundreds of cars while the police fled their advance. Mr. Singh’s body was cremated as night fell on the banks of the Ganges River. The national media let this crucial verdict that raises questions of accountability, violence and justice unaddressed. The upper caste and class bias of the media in India is matched by its deep rooted communal blinkers.
Hate crimes, generated through hate speech and hate writing are rarely focused or deconstructed on television or even in print unless the offenders are an Akbaruddin Owaisi or a Qadar Rana (Muzaffarnagar). The vitriolic offenders of the Hindu right, especially the Praveen Togadias, Ashok Singhals, the Giriraj Kishores and Narendra Modi’s are given short shrift, excused for the persistent and perennial criminal lapses as the upper caste and communal sway of the media reveals itself. Togadia, is presently trawling Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ground level preparation for the polls of 2014. He lays the ground for BJP’s hopeful reaping of electoral dividends. Varun Gandhi’s speeches made when the country and UP went to the polls, escaped the long arms of the law in the sessions court at Pilibhit and we have now challenged his acquittal in the Sessions Court. Tehelka and for one short evening Headlines Today carried the expose of how over 75 witnesses were ‘turned hostile’ by Varun Gandhi’s men, but the media steadfastely refuses to cover the process and tactic of hate speech by communal and supremacist outfits to create an atmosphere where hate crimes can break out. Amicus Curiae of the Supreme Court, Raju Ramachandran (in the Zakia Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace case against Narendra Modi and 59 others) has recommended the prosecution of Modi under sections of the criminal law violated by him when he spilt vitriol in 2002-2003 especially at Becharaji in Mehsana in September 2003. But the media, complicit in the whitewash attempts on the man, fail to remind readers and viewers of the criminal liability of the man argued in the Zakia Jafri (and Citizens for Justice and Peace) case pending judgement before the Magistrate in Ahmedabad. The media refuses to pin blame on the men within the national opposition, Yogi Adityanath, Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi currently facing legal action on the criminality of the use of hate speech to incite violence against innocent members of the minority.
Muzaffarnagar 2013 is another story of how hate speech and hate writing came into play and were used cynically to take over 75 innocent lives and render over 42,000 displaced. If this country is to be saved from the fires of communal violence again and again, the media more than anyone else should pull off its kid gloves when it speaks to the fomenters of hate speech and hate writing. Major political players, however influential monetarily should not be protected from this cynical means used to spread division. FIRs for inflammatory speeches, have been filed against 4 BJP leaders, one Congress leader and one politician of the BSP. Subramanian Swamy and Praveen Togadia, both pathological in their hatreds for minorities have been booked for abusive and incendiary ‘twitters’. But the hasty bail granted on October 21, 2013 was scantly covered by the national media. Presumably Som moves freely in Uttar Pradesh with no restrictions or consequences.
Far from being a vehicle for social change or transformation, large sections of the media have become the means to perpetuate not just the status quo but clearly visceral narrow, business, corporate and even communal agendas. A recent wakeup call earlier this year was the appeal by Press Council Chairperson,(PCI) Markandey Katju “to exercise restraint in reporting cases of bomb blasts and terrorist cases,” and avoid doing anything which may “fan or promote communal hatred and animosity.” Justice Katju was responding to a letter sent to him by National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Chairman Wajahat Habibullah after the Hyderabad blasts earlier this year. The letter said that “even before the completion of the investigation [in the Dilsukhnagar blasts of February 21, 2013] and on the basis of what appears as unfounded conjecture, the media appears to have targeted a particular community.”
Mr. Habibullah referred to an article by B. Raman, a former intelligence official and security analyst, who had written: “It seems to have become the trend that if it is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If it is Muslim, he has to be from the IM [Indian Mujahideen]. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].” The NCM Chairman highlighted the need to discourage such a trend. Agreeing with the note, Justice Katju said in a statement: “Since an impression has been created in some quarters that most Muslims are terrorists, the police often arrest some Muslims on mere suspicion. Once such a Muslim is arrested, it is difficult for him to get bail…even if he is ultimately found innocent, nobody can restore so many years of his life spent in jail.” There were a large number of cases falsely implicating Muslims, he added. The PCI chief said that within an hour or so of a blast, TV channels started showing messages or emails sent by an organisation with a Muslim-sounding name, claiming responsibility. This was “irresponsible” as any “mischievous person” could have sent the message. “By showing this on TV screens, a message is conveyed to the viewers, even if by insinuation, that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb-throwers.”
We do not yet know how a mature and confident Indian print media will respond to these serious advisories. The blustering electronic media driven by the corporate interests of their financiers (top level anchors are today not mere journalists but corporate executives driven by an entirely different ethic) are unlikely to be shaken out of their crass unprofessionalism. It is the National Broadcasting Authority (NBA) that is the regulatory mechanism for this medium. Is it independent and autonomous? One of our visible national television networks claiming the highest ratings sells itself on Pakistan hating and bashing several times each week.
The media’s role in unprofessionally jumping to conclusions on perpetrators of violence has been matched by the failure of the state government’s concerned to prosecute officers responsible for the deliberately malafide and malicious investigations and prosecutions. Until these unprofessional acts are punished, such crimes of negligence and delinquency are likely to be repeated.
History of sorts was created on March 12, 2013 when India’s leading information technology firm Infosys that has created corporate legends of sorts by its ethic was compelled (after Court proceedings valiantly assisted by the Rajasthan unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties lawyer Prem Kishen Sharma) to pay Rs 20 lakhs in compensation to Rashid Hussain, an IT engineer whom it unilaterally sacked after he was simply detained by the Rajasthan police for the 2008 Jaipur blasts. Infosys took this questionable action when Rashid was simply detained not formally arrested or charge sheeted even. Infosys however terminated him within weeks of the detention without issuing any show-cause notice and without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. Corporate India’s dedication to human rights values stands exposed. Rashid was kept in detention for 10 days and was later released as no evidence against him was found. Rashid Husain challenged the termination order in the local labor court in August 2008. After three years of hearing, the labor court delivered judgment in his favor in March 2011.   According to Rashid's counsel Prem Kishan Sharma, the court had observed there were "mala fide" intentions behind his termination. Still Infosys resisted. Infosys moved the Rajasthan High Court in April 2011 against the labour court judgment. After 20 months in the High Court, Infosys agreed to pay a compensation of Rs.20 lakh to the sacked engineer. After the settlement between Infosys and Husain, the High Court disposed of the case on 21st Jan 2013, scant media coverage of this has been seen. No apology from the Rajasthan state or its police was forthcoming, let alone Infosys.
Remember in contrast, how Australia as a country in the Commonwealth of Nations apologized unreservedly to Bangalore-based Dr Mohammad Haneef for wrongly detaining him on terror charges three years before (2010). Not only that, an undeclared amount in compensation was paid, in the hope that this would mark the end of an "unfortunate chapter".  "The AFP (Australian Federal Police) acknowledges that it was mistaken and that Dr Haneef was innocent of the offence of which he was suspected," the Australian government said in a public apology. "The Commonwealth apologises and hopes that the compensation to be paid to Dr Haneef will mark the end of an unfortunate chapter and allow Dr Haneef to move forward with his life and career," it said, according to AAP report. Haneef, 31, is a cousin of Sabeel Ahmed -- the main accused in the failed attack on the Glasgow International Airport in the UK in 2007. The Indian doctor, who was working at the Gold Coast Hospital since September 2006, was arrested on July 2, 2007 from the Brisbane airport. He was charged with recklessly giving support to a terrorist organisation when his mobile phone SIM card, which he had left with his cousin before coming to Australia from the UK, was linked to the attack. His 12-day detention was the longest without charge in recent Australian history, triggering outrage in India as well as in Australia. The formal apology came after Haneef agreed on a substantial but undisclosed compensation payout from the government after two days of negotiations.
In contrast, governments and even in some cases, courts, driven by the aggressive campaigning and hate mongering by the communalist Hindu right stridently oppose compensation and reparation being paid to those who were wrongfully accused and tortured for the Mecca Masjid blasts. The National Commission for Minorities had in August 2011 recommended that the policemen guilty of unwarranted detention of youth should be prosecuted, a compensation amount of Rs 3 lakhs each be paid to the victims, and this amount should be deducted from the emoluments of accused policemen. The response of the Andhra government to the NCM recommendations has been questioned as callous and insensitive and now the high court has turned the decision down.
Wasif  Haider from Kanpur, the city of his birth did well academically and was employed in an envious position at Fortune Five Hundred American Multi-national Health Care Company namely Becton Dickinson India Ltd. based at Kanpur U.P. Then comes the nightmare haunting this young man’s life that has simply not gone away. For reasons best known to the Uttar Pradesh police, he was implicated in number of false criminal cases under various provisions of Indian Penal Code. He languished in jail for eight years subjected to all kinds physical, mental and psychological torture. Today after the acquittals there are no criminal cases pending against him and while he was incarcerated reports in The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala, Hindustan and Aaj appeared covering the course of the cases and the acquittals. But in a remorseless display of unprofessionalism even after Wasif’s release on 12.8.2009, a few of these publications, one in particular, kept referring to him as “aatanki Wasif” or “terrorist Wasif.” Should not these publications be made to pay in compensation for this determined defamation?
Wasif has challenged this media house and now tries to battle a lower court’s order dismissing his complaint against the editor, publisher and CMD of the Jagran group through an appeal in the Allahabad High Court. To cite just a few examples, on 28, 9.2010, Dainik Jagran  (page 8) published a fictitious bit of news calling Wasif a traitor and gangster lodged in Bareily jail. Wasif released in 2009 had never been lodged in the Bariely Jail and on the date mentioned there was no sedition case pending against him. Then, again on 09.12.2010, the newspaper Dainik Jagran at page 4 dubbing him a terrorist even providing the public with his mobile number! Such a systematic vilification campaign was intended to impact on his reputation and social relations. Again the same newspaper on 11.12.2010 called him a terrorist on page 1, a campaign that was furthered through a report published again by the same newspaper on 28.12.2011.
Calling a person terrorist while the case is on (and as in this case resulted in acquittals) is unethical reportage and bad, unprofessional journalism. It has ethical, societal and financial implications. Even after his acquittals through 2003, 2004, 2005 he is still referred to as a terrorist.
Surely in civil and criminal terms some action needs to be initiated against those sections of the media that violate all norms of professional ethics and standards and in fact misuse their power to make and break reputations? The Press Council of India makes recommendations but it is Courts that can actually set precedents and make amends. It is to be hoped that many of those wronged like this by an unchecked and virulent media are compensated for, monetarily. Substantially. As in the case of Dr Hanif who was given an undisclosed amount by the Australian government apart from a much publicized apology. Freedom of expression as all our fundamental freedoms comes with a deep responsibility. To the truth, above all else.
Finally, the single biggest hurdle for the media and any role towards social transformation comes from the phenomenon of paid news, paid opinion polls, all promoting a particular neo-liberal, communal and supremacist ideology.
It would be apt to end with apprising this eminent gathering of the recommendations of the report of the Election Coverage Monitoring Committee appointed by the Press Council of India to monitor and cover elections in Gujarat in 2012. Among other recommendations the need to monitor and act immediately on complaints of paid news was high-lighted as the need for the PCI to issue revised draft guidelines on the issue. The Committee recommended that the Election Commission should be advised to hold work-shops on suspected paid news for the field officials ahead of elections in any State. Media experts, editors and senior journalists can be drafted to brief the officials tasked with conducting elections at the Centre and more particularly at the State-level on paid news both in electronic and print media. Like Election Observers, appointed by the Election Commission of India, there should be Media Observers, comprising senior journalists from outside the concerned states, going to polls. Media Observers should be stationed periodically in the concerned state from the time the Code of Conduct begins till the final day of voting. PCI should have a mechanism to have a list of dedicated and sincere journalists, for conducting the duty as Media Observers, in not so familiar regions. Media Observers should be made accessible to all stakeholders, including man on the street, for registering any case of ‘paid news’.
The Committee observed that, “ In the recent past, major political parties and ‘resourceful’ candidates as well, have been in practice of having ‘elaborate media centres’ region wise. For example, for 2012 Assembly polls in Gujarat, corporate-like media centres were set up in various centres of Gujarat, as part of poll strategy by the political parties. There should be close monitoring on these media-centres, as most likely ‘nexus’ is established from these Media Centres of political parties, for ‘favourable’ reports both in print and electronic media.” Besides, public hearings by PCI appointed Committee should be held in each region at regular intervals, for all those concerned to register any complaints, regarding misuse of media and paid news. The hearings should be conducted a number of times, say fortnightly, during the period from beginning of Model Code of Conduct and final day of voting. An elaborate follow-up should be done, after each hearing. With actions taken/suggested reports being made available in the public domain.
Stringent ethical monitoring norms need to come from within the media as a democracy sustained by independent coverage can not recommend censorship. Social media and the internet have also raised serious issues of ethics, balanced coverage, hate speech and deterrents. While censorship cannot be the advised solution, the absence of independent evaluation and monitoring of deleterious trends within media bodies and organisations, on the issues of balanced representation, democratic coverage of issues concerning the largest number pose a serious threat to professional and independent journalism. The deliberate blind eye turned to perpetrators of hate speech and hate writing by the majority has caused a severe alienation among the oppressed and deprived sections of the population who have little or no faith today and scant respect too, for the Indian media as a whole. This is a sorry situation indeed. The media’s failure to tackle these serious issues and its domination and hegemony has raised such questions that now demand some answers:-
·        Is there a monopoly between the leadership of newspapers and channels on the one hand and among membership and representation of media monitoring bodies like the Editor’s Guild, National Broadcasting Authority, rendering independent assessment, a farce?
·        Who decides the composition and authority of these bodies? Are those being judged also the Judges? Wither then autonomy, integrity and independence?
·        What about the ownership, financial arrangements of newspapers and television channels? Today a major corporate player has bought into two of the major English channels and the famed Ennadu language network. Does the Indian public not have the right to know when these financial changes are effected and made?

Not tackling these questions and issues of national import have at the moment put the Indian media’s credibility at an all time low. With its rich robust and independent history and tradition, in the Indian sub-continent and the worlds, urgent corrective measures are needed to restore public confidence.
(The author is a human rights defender, journalist and educationist)
[Paper read at Valedictory Session at can u typecan u type                                                                                                                                                                                                           can Media and Its Current Specifications-An Exploration into the Global Impact of the Media, a National Seminar at English Department of the Sullamussalam Science College Areacode, Kerala, November 12-13 2013]