Friday, January 30, 2015

Trafficking of children to cottonseed fields of Gujarat

Trafficking of children to cottonseed fields of Gujarat

ICN, 20-1-2015

An article by India Committee of the Netherlands based on the annual report 2014 of Dakshini Rajasthan Mazdoor Union, Udaipur, India.

(photo: The Hans India)

Every year thousands of tribal children from South Rajasthan and North Gujarat are trafficked to cottonseed plots in North Gujarat for work in the cotton seed fields, in particular to do cross-pollination by hand. This work is done in the rainy season, from August to September. Since many years the trafficking of children for cottonseed cultivation is a serious human rights issue. The Dakshini Rajasthan Mazdoor Union aims to combat trafficking through the documentation of trafficking incidences, stopping trafficking of children where possible as well as advocacy with the media, the state government and other institutions. The Union also helped farmers to get paid in time – and not e.g. only after a year - for the seeds they produce for seed companies.
Incidences of child trafficking in 2014
For their work on child trafficking the Union focused on one cluster of villages in 2014, the Maadri–Phalasia cluster in Jhadol tehsil (sub-district) in Udaipur district, Rajasthan. This is a rural area, mainly inhabited by tribals that are dependent on subsistence farming for their income. The Union estimates that 7.000 to 8.000 children were trafficked from this cluster alone. Many other areas were not covered by the 

union because of capacity constraints. Roughly 10% of the total catchment in child trafficking in 2014, was in the Maadri-Phalasia cluster.
To gain information on child trafficking Union volunteers conducted a household survey in two villages of Maadri–Phalasia cluster. Through the survey 14 child labourers were detected to have been trafficked to work on cottonseed plots. Also Union functionaries provided intelligence to the police about the trafficking of children. In 40 villages they watched over the occurrence of child trafficking. Information was shared with the district administration and contact with the local police was maintained. The police control room was called about 10 times and informed about possible trafficking of children. As a result of the intelligence four vehicles transporting children were intercepted by the police. In some cases the police responded slowly or did not respond at all.
In spite of the high prevalence of child trafficking in Maadri–Phalasia cluster it was not easy to document incidences in detail. Through a network of labour contractors, locally called ‘mates’, children are trafficked. Mates have become smart in using all kind of methods to cover their tracks, including the transportation of children by night, taking children by public transport mixing up with other passengers, bribing the police of stations on the route and crossing interstate borders by foot through forest terrain. Furthermore parents who have send their children for work due to economic constraints, do not easily admit having send them. Also farmers do not allow outsiders to enter their cottonseed plots, which makes it difficult to investigate the prevalence of child trafficking and child labour in the Gujarati cottonseed industry.
The Union documented details of 4 trafficking cases that were filed with the police in 2014. One of these cases is the result of intelligence provided by the Union. In 2013 the trafficking for wage labour has been recognized as a crime and was included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as section 370. In 2014 for the first time section 370 was used. Out of the 4 cases, 2 cases have been brought into criminal jurisprudence through section 370 of the IPC. See the story about Reshma, one of the filed cases, below.
The case of Reshma, a lost childhoodReshma is a 12 year old tribal girl living in a village 10 kilometers away from Phalasia, a large village in Jhadol tehsil. Reshma attended the village school and passed class V in the second half of the year 2013. She then got admission into 6th standard. Her father, Shanti Lal, is a small farmer who is forced to migrate during the off season for wage labour. He is very keen on ensuring the continuation of Reshmas’ education and got her admitted to the upper primary school in class VI. Reshma is the 6th child of her parents. She has three married brothers and one married sister. None of her family members have ever been to Gujarat for work. The tradition in the tribal community is that after marriage the sons move out and start living separately from their parents.
In the month of July Shanti Lal went to Udaipur, which is about 100 kilometers away from their home town, for wage labour at construction sites. In absence of her father, Reshma was enticed by Ramesh, a labour contractor living nearby, to go for work in cottonseed plots in Gujarat. Ramesh told her that she could continue her schooling in Gujarat. She would have to work only for two hours a day. He did not tell her what wage she would receive in Gujarat. Reshma was also not paid any advance, a common practice while recruiting. Reshma went away with Ramesh without informing her family. She was taken to Gurajat by Ramesh and his mother along with a group of 8 to 10 other girls. Reshma was the only one from her village.
The reality in Gujarat turned out to be very different. Reshma had to get up early in the morning at 4:00 AM and she was forced to work through the day with only one break for having breakfast and doing morning duties. Reshma and the other girls got wheat flour from the plot owner and were told that the cost would be deducted from their wages. They never got any advance payment and Reshma did not keep record of the number of days she worked. However worse was to come!
Almost three months after she began working, one day when she had gone out to relieve herself in the morning she was raped by Ramesh. Then after three days in the night Ramesh pulled her away from her sleeping place and raped her again. He also threatened her that he would sell her off in Gujarat or drown her in a well if she would tell anyone about the rape. Reshma was traumatized. She did not know what was happening to her. Due to the death threat she did not share her trauma or complain with anyone. She waited for a chance to run away. After 4 days, at 7:00 AM, she ran away without informing anyone. Her home town was hundreds of kilometers away and she had no money with her. She roamed around in the countryside for almost 10 days begging for food and shelter from people whom she met.
In the meantime her father, Shanti Lal, was informed by Ramesh that Reshma had run away. He asked his relatives whether Reshma has reached any of them. This was not the case. Then he approached the police, but the police did not file a report and asked him to wait instead. Since the police would not take any action, Shanti Lal organized a search mission himself. Together with some family members and friends he hired an experienced taxi driver who was familiar with the trafficking route to Gujarat. The group could not find Reshma and came back empty handed. After the first search they went back by motorcycles and searched for Reshma again. They reached the location where Reshma had worked. The workers at the plot said that Reshma worked with them, but that she left suddenly and none of them knew why.
Ten days after her disappearance, Shanti Lal got the news that his daughter returned back home. She was in a disheveled state. She had been living in the open air begging for food from strangers. Finally she was lucky to meet a group of workers from her village who were returning home. The group brought her back. Reshma was a in a trauma. Three days after she came back, she told her father what happened to her. Shanti Lal went to the police office again. Still the police was not willing to file a report. Instead they brought both parties together and advised Shanti Lal to settle the case with the offender for money. Shanti Lal also got together with the village elders. The offenders father attended the meeting and said that there is nothing they could do for Reshma. Her wage for about 3 to 3.5 months of work remained due.
The matter came to light six months later in the month of June when a student, doing an internship for the Union, visited the village where Reshma and her family are living to conduct a survey about the trafficking of children. An activist of the Dakshini Rajasthan Mazdoor Union took the intern to the household of Shanti Lal for the survey. Once the case came to light, the Union arranged an appointment for Reshma and her father with the Inspector General of the Police in Udaipur. He ordered a case to be filed and Ramesh got arrested.
The Union facilitated the rehabilitation of Reshma by getting her enrolled in a school. Nevertheless her family came under constant pressure of Ramesh and his family to withdraw the case. The Union approached the District Authorities to enroll Reshma in a residential school to guarantee her safety. After this nothing really happened for three months. Then the Union got the case published in the local media. The media exposure resulted in immediate response by the government. Reshma is now enrolled in a residential school for tribal girls in Udaipur District.

Involvement of police personnel in trafficking operations
The Union received reliable information that some police personnel were actively involved in trafficking operations. Police officials were taking a commission for letting the vehicles carrying children pass through the interstate border.
A case of a Union activist who received a threat to his life supports the information on the involvement of police personnel in trafficking operations. The Union activist was assisting the police with the anti-trafficking operations. He was involved in getting a vehicle intercepted. The driver got arrested but was released on bail. After his release the driver met the Union activist and said that the police told him to hit the activist with his vehicle for the reason the activist was troubling the police by constantly reporting complaints to the police control room about the possible trafficking of children.
In their annual report 2014 the Union states that not all police officials are corrupt. There are also police officers who actively assisted in anti-trafficking operations.

  Cotton field, Jhadol (photo: Seva Mandir)
Tribal seed farmers not paid properly
Over the past years there has been an increase in tribal farmers lured by unscrupulous agents to take up seed farming. The cultivation of cottonseed is a complicated business. Farmers are contracted by seed companies to cultivate seeds under close supervision of their company staff. The final produce is tested. If the germination rate of seeds falls beyond a certain level the whole batch is rejected which leads to high losses for the farmer. Also tribal farmers often are not skilled enough to fully understand the process and pitfalls at each step of the production of cottonseed. The small size of their plot further led to an increase in number of intermediaries, each charging a commission.
Over the past two years the union has seen a large number of farmers being told by the companies that their harvest has failed. The failed share became very high. Even farmers whose sample had passed were still not paid one year after the harvest. After a large number of such complaints reached the Union, meetings were organized. The Union compiled the complaints and passed these on to the district administration. A sit-in was also organized at the district collector office in Udaipur to discuss the issue.
The Union also pursued the cases with the different seed companies, among them Nuziveedu Seeds, Ankur Seeds and Monsanto. A case was received against US-based multinational Monsanto. The Union wrote to the companies’ human rights commission about the default in payment to tribal farmers. The company responded. After protracted negotiations with the field officers and agents operating for Monsanto, the agent paid an amount of Rs. 150.000 to the seed farmers under pressure of Monsanto officials. However the agent came back on the agreement and tried to file a police complaint against the tribal farmers.
The Union has also tried to register a police complaint for the reason that farmers have been cheated by seed companies. After advice from the local police, the case was presented before the Criminal Investigation Department at state level. A high ranking enquiry has been ordered.

Read also: "Child labour rules Gujarat cotton fields" (The Hans India, June 30, 2014)

Landelijke India Werkgroep - 20 January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015



From: Shamsul Islam <>
Date: 29 January 2015 at 10:02

After the murder of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, the RSS was banned on February 4, 1948. It was banned for anti-national activities and the government communiqué (issued by the Home Ministry headed by Sardar Patel) banning the RSS was self-explanatory:

"In their resolution of February 2, 1948 the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS." [Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, p. 64.]

The communiqué went on to disclose that the ban on the RSS was imposed because,
"Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist
methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police
and the military." [Ibid, pp. 65-66.]

It is well-known that the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, had a soft-corner for the RSS and continues to be a favourite with the RSS. However even Sardar Patel found it difficult to defend the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhiji's assassination. In a letter written to the head of the RSS, Golwalkar, dated 11 September 1948, Sardar Patel stated:

"Organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS…Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot." [Ibid, pp. 26-28.]

Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were jointly responsible for the murder of Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, this fact was further corroborated by Sardar Patel in a letter to a prominent leader of Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee on July 18, 1948. Sardar wrote:

"As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji's murder is subjudice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organizations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy.

“The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure." [Letter 64 in Sardar Patel: Select Correspondence 1945-
1950, Volume 2, Navjiwan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, pp. 276-277.]

India: Modi Government Should Act on Rights Pledges Tightening Space for Activists; Threats to Free Speech, Association

 Modi Government Should Act on Rights Pledges
Tightening Space for Activists; Threats to Free Speech, Association
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: HRW Asia <>
Date: 29 January 2015 at 20:01
Subject: India: Modi Government Should Act on Rights Pledges

For Immediate Release
India: Modi Government Should Act on Rights Pledges
Tightening Space for Activists; Threats to Free Speech, Association

(New York, January 29, 2015) – India’s new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should bring public officials, police, and military personnel who commit serious rights abuses to justice, Human Rights Watch said today in the release of its World Report 2015. The government, elected in May 2014, should act to fulfill its campaign commitments to implement laws promoting women’s rights, improve access to health and sanitation, end discrimination, and ensure development benefits for the poor and marginalized.

In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price.

There was some encouraging progress on accountability for abuses in 2014, Human Rights Watch said. A military court sentenced three soldiers and two officers to life in prison for the 2010 extrajudicial executions of three villagers in Jammu and Kashmir state, according to a military announcement in November. Yet this rare success was overshadowed by the government’s failure to repeal or amend the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides effective immunity from prosecution to military personnel for serious human rights abuses. The court ordered release of the 2004 judicial investigation into the killing of Manorama Devi in Manipur state revealed that the soldiers who tortured and then killed her were protected from prosecution by the AFSPA.

“India’s law that protects soldiers from being prosecuted for even the most egregious abuses has no place in a democracy,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Modi government should seek to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and ensure justice for security force members who commit serious violations.”

In 2014, authorities tightened restrictions on nongovernmental organizations critical of big development projects that activists say will harm the health and livelihoods of affected populations as well as the environment.
The awarding of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Indian children rights activist Kailash Satyarthi put a spotlight on the millions of children in India still engaged in the worst forms of labor. Caste-based discrimination and neglect of tribal communities remained a problem. Despite legal reforms to better address violence against women and children, there is still no monitoring to ensure proper implementation. In November 2014, at least 16 women died and many others were critically ill after undergoing sterilization procedures in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, leading to an outcry against target-driven approaches to family planning programs that undermine freedom of choice and quality of care.

The Modi government intensified engagement with world leaders to promote trade and investment and revive the Indian economy but failed to speak out on human rights abuses, and continued to abstain on key UN resolutions such as on North Korea in November.

“Modi is seeking to be more engaged with finding solutions to global challenges and yet his government has shown no signs of breaking from India’s disappointing legacy on human rights concerns abroad,” Ganguly said. “As an emerging power, India should promote, not ignore, the rights of those that are suffering under repressive regimes.”

To read Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2015 chapter on India, please visit:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on India, please visit:

For more information, please contact: In Delhi, Jayshree Bajoria (Hindi, English): +91-8130-737-878 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @jayshreebajoria
In Mumbai, Meenakshi Ganguly (Bengali, Hindi, English): +91-98-2003-6032 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @mg2411
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or
In New York, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @johnsifton


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In parting shot, Obama prods India on religious freedom

In parting shot, Obama prods India on religious freedom

NEW DELHI Tue Jan 27, 2015 4:54pm IST
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS-Jim Bourg
1 OF 5. U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi January 27, 2015.


(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in on one of India's most sensitive topics as he wound up a visit on Tuesday, making a plea for freedom of religion to be upheld in a country with a history of strife between Hindus and minorities.
Hours before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia, Obama warned India not to stray from its constitutional commitment to allow people to freely "profess, practice and propagate" religion.
"India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation," he said in a townhall address to mostly young Indians.
Obama's speech, after three days in New Delhi aimed at cementing a strategic partnership, was widely interpreted as a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose rise to power emboldened activists to declare India a nation of Hindus.
He made no direct reference to Modi, who was banned from U.S. travel for nearly a decade until last year after deadly Hindu-Muslim violence in a state he ruled in 2002.
Lately, religious conversion has again become a divisive political issue, after hardliners with links to the BJP claimed Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.
About a fifth of India's 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism.
"The message is that India is a democratic country, it is not a Hindu country or a Christian country, it is all together, India has respect for all religions," said Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, a Muslim priest who heads the All India Imam Organisation, after the speech. He was standing with a Hindu holy man from one of India's pilgrimage towns, Rishikesh.
Modi has warned lawmakers from his own party to stop promoting controversial issues such as religious conversions and to focus on economic reforms, but Obama's message was quickly seized by political opponents of the prime minister.

"I do hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was listening to the speech carefully," said Manish Tewari of the opposition Congress party, criticising Hindu activists for promoting a "majoritarian ethos that goes against the grain of liberal democracy".

Monday, January 26, 2015

"10 Questions Modi and Obama should have been asked." By: Siddharth Varadarajan( Published in: NDTV)

 "10 Questions Modi and Obama should have been asked."
By: Siddharth Varadarajan
Published in: NDTV
Date: January 27, 2015

(Siddharth Varadarajan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University)

If you watched the "press conference" Narendra Modi and Barack Obama addressed on Saturday evening, chances are the same thought went through your mind as mine: what a waste of an opportunity!

I mean, how often is it that journalists, especially from India, get to put a question to Modi? Since he became Prime Minister last May, Modi has taken scores of selfies with Indian journalists but not fielded a single question on the record. Not one. In August, he spoke to Japanese journalists on issues of bilateral concern. Last September, he gave an interview to Fareed Zakaria on CNN before his visit to the US, but the interaction had a scripted feel in which an English voice-over took the place of Modi's own Hindi replies. So starved has the Indian media been of the chance to interview their Prime Minister that it had to settle on the next best thing: talking to Zakaria about what his experience with Modi was like. The CNN anchor didn't say much but he did reveal that the deal involved very tough negotiations with the Prime Minister's Office, the details of which he was not at liberty to disclose.

As for Obama, the White House press corps frequently interacts with him, but till he landed in Delhi this time, Indian journalists, by my count, have only managed to ask him five questions: three on Pakistanincluding this gem of an exchange, one on job creation, and one, an utter clunker: "What is your vision for India in the next decade? And how vital is this relationship for your administration's worldview?"

When Modi went to Washington, the Indian side refused to allow any questions to be put to him so his "press interaction" with Obama was limited to the two leaders making their own statements. This time around, the US side was insistent that questions be allowed. Reluctantly, the Prime Minister's Office agreed, on the condition that there be just one question each from the American and Indian media, to be chosen by the White House and Ministry of External Affairs spokesman respectively.

The US reporter asked Obama about the Ukraine and Yemen, and then slipped in a question to Modi about climate change. The Prime Minister gave what I consider to be a high-quality answer, the details of which have been reported elsewhere. But the question put to him by the Indian reporter "selected randomly" about the chemistry between the two leaders was such a dud that it was positively embarrassing. To make matters worse, the reporter congratulated Modi and Obama for having had such an excellent meeting!

As I scratched my head in wonderment, I thought, OK, either this presser's been rigged or the selected hacks blew it. Reporters attend a press conference to get news, not to massage the ego of national leaders or let them waffle. So what could they have asked Modi or Obama? Here's my list of ten questions:

1. To Modi: Both of you have spoken of a breakthrough in the nuclear deal. Could you tell us what assurances were provided to American companies on the liability front, and whether it's true that your government told the US that Indian victims of a potential nuclear accident will not be able to sue a US supplier for damages even if the accident is its fault?

2. To Obama: American law allows nuclear operators to pursue damages from their suppliers in the case of an accident, so why has the US government been resisting this provision in Indian law? And when American nuclear suppliers can be sued in US courts by victims of a nuclear accident -- a California court had admitted a case against General Electric, brought by US sailors for the Fukushima accident - why are you worried about Indian victims suing American suppliers in an Indian court?

3. To Modi: In 2008, your party had officially described the Indo-US nuclear deal as a sell-out to America and Ms Sushma Swaraj, who was then Leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, told the media that a BJP government would renegotiate the agreement. Now you are saying this same agreement is the "centerpiece of our transformed relationship" with the US. What has made you change your mind?
4. To Obama: You have sanctioned Russia for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. Why has the US been unwilling to take any punitive measures against Israel for its illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

5. To Modi: What does the Indian government think about the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent absorption into the Russian Federation?

6. To Modi and Obama: Do India and the US agree that the forthcoming Paris agreement on climate change should not be legally binding, and not permit a review of emission targets? And does the US believe the new agreement should distribute the burden of emission reductions based on historical emissions, the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities, and equity?

7. To Obama: The whole world has seen the Senate report on how the CIA tortured prisoners. Isn't the United States obligated under the Torture Convention ( which it is a party to) and its own domestic laws to prosecute those who committed - and those who ordered -these brutal acts?

8. To Modi: You have said you are proud of your association with the RSS, but ever since you became PM, individuals and organizations connected to the RSS, including MPs from your party, have been saying and doing things which make India's Muslim and Christian minorities insecure. Do you endorse those activities? If not, why have you never publicly and directly condemned these individuals and organisation for spreading hate and intolerance?

9. To Obama: The US, including your administration, denied Mr. Modi a visa to visit the United States despite the fact that he was an elected Chief Minister of Gujarat, something even the previous government criticised you for. Do you concede you made a mistake? Did you change your mind on the visa issue only because he became PM and you finally realized your boycott would adversely affect bilateral ties?

10. To Modi: Your government has passed several ordinances, including one which amends the Land Acquisition Act and farmers are once again apprehensive about their land being taken away to benefit corporate India's projects. If there was indeed some urgency involved, why was a draft not circulated soon after you came to power, so that its provisions could at least have been debated in the Lok Sabha and by the general public?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


R.I.P..RK LAXMAN (26th January 2015)

Good bye RK LAXMAN!
 Thanks for all that you have meant to so MANY MILLIONS of US
to SPEAK and WORK for the COMMON MAN
 to ensure that 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

“We, the People of India” -Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

“We, the People of India”
                            -Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

“We, the People of India” we again proudly say
On this our country’s sixty-sixth Republic day
We extol the values of our great Constitution
Glad that we have slowly   matured as a nation
We say Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
Are the four pillars of the largest Democracy
There is   indeed so much to boast in theory;
In practice dare we look at the painful reality?
The truth is that there is anything but Democracy
The   totally one-man show is sheer autocracy
The few powerful rich loot and plunder at will
At their beck and call is a paid media most shrill
A shady nuclear deal is bought, signed and sealed
What will later happen to Indians is not revealed
The poor do   lament and in pain they whine
While the guys up there say “all is fine”
The bogey of conversion is part of the game
After all minority-bashing is also their name
As lip –service continues to ideals most high
We wonder whether one needs to laugh or to cry?
“Cry loudly” we say today with depth and in solidarity
Our Constitution to preserve and protect for posterity!

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad – 380052Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333    Fax:  (079) 27489018 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Brushing Aside the Conspiracy Angle by Manisha Sethi in EPW

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Manisha Sethi <>
Date: 24 January 2015 at 22:20
Subject: Fwd: Brushing Aside the Conspiracy Angle: on Amit Shah's discharge

Brushing Aside the Conspiracy Angle

The order by the Central Bureau of Investigation providing a clean chit to former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah has wiped out the entire slate of the Supreme Court's intervention in various encounter death cases. The discharge of the "lynchpin" of the conspiracy despite voluminous material providing strong grounds for proceeding with the trial will ultimately raise questions about judicial independence.

Manisha Sethi ( teaches at the Centre for Comparative Religions and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
It is a matter of record that the State of Gujarat – after stout denial – admitted that Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife had been killed in illegal police custody. It is also a matter of record that the State of Gujarat ultimately – again after much dodging and subterfuge – accepted that the Tulsi Prajapati encounter was stage-managed.
In both cases, charge sheets were filed, committed to sessions with great alacrity, and trial dates fixed. However, the Supreme Court noted that this urgency arose from the desire of the Gujarat police to keep the two cases separate. Their “trenchant refusal” to draw the dots between the two sets of killings was part of the reason why the Supreme Court transferred the investigations to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with the express direction to unearth the wider conspiracy, if any. The CBI, in the course of its investigations, is said to have found Amit Shah (currently the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party) to be the “lynchpin” of the main conspiracy. Shah was arraigned as accused number 16.
Just as 2014 drew to a close, in view supposedly of settled principles of law and evidence on record, the special judge for the CBI discharged accused number 16 in the fake encounter and murder of Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bi and Tulsi Prajapati. The accused number 16 is widely recognised to be the chief lieutenant of the most powerful person in the current power hierarchy in the country. The Court also found “merit” in the contention that the accused has been “shown to be involved in this case by the CBI for some political reasons”.1
It is true that Amit Shah was no ordinary person to be among the accused. He was the state home minister when the encounters took place – Sohrabuddin’s and Kauser Bi’s in December 2005 and Tulsi Prajapati’s exactly a year later in 2006.
Anyone familiar with criminal trials will vouch for the low rate of discharge at the stage of framing of charges under Section 227 ofCrPC. Under this section, the judge is expected to merely sift the evidence to come to a conclusion whether or not there are “sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused”. Very clearly, at this stage, the judicial mind was not exercised by the question of an accused’s guilt or innocence, which can only be determined in the course of a trial, but simply whether a strong suspicion existed about the accused’s possible complicity in the crime alleged. In other words, the CBI court for the present was not asked to sit in judgment of Amit Shah’s guilt, but only to decide whether there existed strong enough indications to link the BJP president to these grisly murders. The court in its wisdom found none. It rejected the plethora of witness statements recorded under sections 161 and 164CrPC as mere “hearsay”, evidence of systematic and direct interference by Shah in the state CID probe into the encounter as “vague and subjective” and material evidence of phone call records between Shah and the senior police officers accused of murder as insufficient.
Phone Call Records
Let us turn first to the high level of telephonic exchange between Shah and police officers including D G Vanzara, S Rajkumar Pandian (then superintendent of police, ATS, Ahmedabad), N K Amin, and others in the period in which the killings took place. In its charge sheet, the CBI found this high telephone traffic between a minister and field level officers to be odd:
As per the official protocol, a Minister of State for Home, Government of Gujarat would be normally expected to talk/discuss with the Home Secretary and/or the Chief Secretary, and further, if he were to be so briefed, then also, he would be expected to talk/discuss with the Chief of the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) or the Crime Branch.
Shah’s lawyer while moving his bail application in 2010 had submitted to the Gujarat High Court that the abnormal volume of phone calls between Shah and police officers owed to the
abduction of a young boy which was investigated by Mr Amin and, therefore, as a public representative and Home Minister, he was constantly kept in touch to get the information about the progress of the matter and as a public representative in such situation he is not to see the protocol and, on the contrary, the protocol is not required to be followed in such situation as media was also focusing on that case.2
In the discharge application, however, the abducted boy is completely forgotten and a new theory about the minister’s signature “style of functioning” – of being in direct and constant “touch with field level police officers… particularly when the law and order situation in the State of Gujarat after the Godhra riots was too delicate to handle” is brought forth. Forget the fact that Soharbuddin and Kauser Bi were killed in December 2005 – three years after Godhra. This is a theory that is appreciated by the Court, which adds by way of observation:
The judicial notice of the fact well can be taken that terrorist activities have increased and are rampant all over the world. In such a situation, if a Home Minister of a particular State enters in a direct dialogue with officers like the Superintendent of Police working at the ground level is not a matter of surprise, unusual or unnatural as the CBI proposes.
In fact, the admission of continuous and close interaction between Shah and police officers (whose call detail records prove their location at the site of the farmhouse where Sohrabuddin was eliminated) should be cause for serious suspicion about Shah’s knowledge and role in the conspiracy, and not evidence of his ignorance of such a conspiracy.
Furthermore, if the call detail records were totally insignificant and proved nothing, why was there such a concerted effort to suppress their existence? It was the state CID, which during the course of its investigations had taken phone call details between Shah and accused police officers on record. However, once the Supreme Court directed the transfer of investigation to the CBI, the CID failed to hand over the CD containing these phone conversations. A total of 331 conversations had been deleted from the record by O P Mathur, recently brought in by minister Shah as head of the state CID to replace Rajneesh Rai, who, by arresting the top police officers of the state for the murder of Sohrabuddin, had proved to be intractable.3
Attempt to Sabotage CID Enquiry
The earliest record of Shah’s direct interference comes from one of the early reports filed by inspector general of police, Geeta Johri, who was made in-charge of the state CID investigation. In PartB of the slim 24-page report, Johri recorded how Shah had attempted to sabotage the enquiry. She wrote that though she and the investigating officer (IO) inspector V L Solanki did not face any “hurdle” initially,
However, as soon as the statements of witnesses pertaining to confinement of Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi in the Farm House of Shri Girish Patel at Ahmedabad came to be recorded, it came to the knowledge of Shri Vanzara and Shri Rajkumar Pandian [two of the accused officers]. It is further learnt that these officers brought the above facts to the notice of Respondent No. 2, Shri Amit Shah, Minister of State for Home, Government of Gujarat.
It further states that Shah “brought to bear pressure” on the enquiry process, resulting in the enquiry papers being taken away from her “under the guise of scrutiny”. He “directed Shri G C Raigar, Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime & Railways) to provide him with the list of witnesses, both police and private, who are yet to be contacted by CID (Crime) for recording their statement in the said enquiry. Such direction of Minister of State for Home goes beyond the scope of his office, was patently illegal and apparently designed to provide the same list to accused police officers ... so as to enable them to take measures in their defence.”
The report also mentions a meeting of senior police officers that Shah had convened at Circuit House, Gandhinagar on 30 January 2006, where he introduced the theory that Kauser Bi and Sohrabuddin were not married, while admitting in a “cavalier manner” that she may have been killed as well.4
The Key Statements against Shah
The reference to another meeting called by Amit Shah surfaces repeatedly through the witness statements. Three crucial statements, all recorded under 164CrPC, taken together point unmistakably to the role of Shah. The first and the most direct source of incrimination is the statement of Gyanchand C Raiger, who was at the time ADGP (Home guards) with the additional charge as the ADGP CID (Crimes). He stated that Shah called a meeting, which was attended by him, P C Pandey and Geeta Johri. Shah was livid at the direction the CID probe was taking under the then IO Solanki, asking how a mere inspector could dare to investigate senior police officers. Raiger states that he refused to follow the “illegal instructions” being demanded by Shah and asked for a transfer.
Raiger’s statement receives corroboration from V L Solanki’s misstatement. He submitted that Geeta Johri conveyed to him the details of this meeting where the minister had made his displeasure and “bad mood” at Solanki’s report apparent, and asked him to change the report. Rajendra Acharya, Geeta Johri’s typist-cum-secretary, in his statement confirmed that Solanki had once emerged from Johri’s chamber after a meeting and told him about the pressure on him to change the report following Johri’s meeting with the minister.
How can this entire set of statements be dismissed as mere “hearsay”? Raiger’s statement related to Section 164 of theCrPC is direct, while Solanki’s and Acharya’s statements lend weight to that. Shah’s counsel insist that even if taken at face value, these statements do not hint at any conspiracy on his part.
That a minister would go to these lengths to protect his men, whom he admittedly was in close contact during the period of both encounters (Sohrabuddin and Prajapati) means nothing? How could it be that a minister whose style included having his ear to the ground through personal contacts with everyone in the field, remained in the dark as his top officers abducted and killed three people?
Geeta Johri’s Fluctuating Stand
The court also dismisses the possibility of such a meeting since Geeta Johri had denied that such a meeting ever took place. Her flip-flops have been significant signposts in the story of this investigation. In fact, it is a matter of record that Johri’s initial investigation, before she was removed from her post, proved to be path breaking. However, when she was reinstated, she took a completeU-turn on the case. The apex praising the investigation of the IO Solanki chastised Johri for her work. The Supreme Court observed the following:
69. We have observed that from the record, it was found that Mr V L Solanki, an investigating officer, was proceeding in the right direction, but Ms Johri had not been carrying out the investigation in the right manner, in view of our discussions made here in above. It appears that Ms Johri had not made any reference to the second report of Solanki, and that though his first report was attached with one of her reports, the same was not forwarded to this Court....
81. In the present circumstances and in view of the involvement of the police officials the State in this crime, we cannot shut our eyes and direct the State police authorities to continue with the investigation and the charge-sheet and for a proper and fair investigation, we also feel that CBI should be requested to take up the investigation and submit a report in this Court within six months from the date of handing over a copy of this judgment and the records relating to this crime to them.5
The Supreme Court’s Role
In fact, the Supreme Court’s detailed orders and observations point to a scrupulous monitoring of the investigations by the apex court. By terming Shah’s implication in the triple murder fake encounter case as a political conspiracy carried out by CBI under directions from a rival political party, the special CBI court has cast aspersions on the Supreme Court’s work which was monitoring the investigations closely at all stages.
It should also be kept in mind that though the Supreme Court did not cancel the bail granted to Shah by the Gujarat High Court in 2010, it held:
Had it been an application for grant of bail to Amitbhai Shah, it is hard to say what view the Court might have taken but the considerations for cancellation of bail granted by the High Court are materially different and in this case we feel reluctant to deprive Amitbhai Shah of the privilege granted to him by the High Court. The same court was convinced that in order to preserve the integrity of the trial it is necessary to shift it outside the State.6
The Rajasthan Connection
The special court while discharging Amit Shah has also taken the view that the CBI could not sustain the motive they had ascribed to him as “Sohrabuddin was already involved in many cases and was an absconding accused, which is not in dispute, and there was a reason for the Gujarat and the Rajasthan Police to nab him.” This is a classic justification for encounter killings in the annals of our criminal justice system. Is not the court already pronouncing verdict on the genuineness of the encounter by saying so? The court further wonders how Rajasthan police became involved since Shah could not have had any control over them. This immediately reminds us of the Gulabchand Kataria case. A BJP leader from Rajasthan, Kataria was named an accused in the supplementary charge sheet filed by the CBI in 2013. (The same year, when Vasundhra Raje formed the government in the state, Kataria was made a minister.) If anything, the intimations of a wide political conspiracy have been comprehensively ignored.
Questions Remain
The special CBI court also disregarded the statements of key witnesses: namely, the Patel brothers, Dashrath and Raman, proprietors of the successful Popular Builders. Their statements to the CBI detail how money was extorted from them and how they were being forced by Vanzara and cohorts to give a statement against Sohrabuddin. The statement describes the meeting as well as the telephonic conversation with Shah. This has been recorded under 164CrPC, and yet this is not deemed evidence but hearsay and unreliable.
What is also disconcerting is the short shrift given to the sequence of events leading up to the murder of Tulsi Prajapati. Prajapati was killed just when the CID team was to leave for Udaipur jail where he was lodged in connection with another crime to interrogate him. Prajapati had a foreboding about the impending danger and had been writing feverishly all through the year to the Udaipur collector, various courts and even the National Human Rights Commission seeking protection.7 He was finally eliminated enroute from Ahmedabad to Udaipur returning from a court appearance. He was murdered in the border district of Banaskantha. Was it a mere coincidence that the home minister had transferred DIG Vanzara as DIG Border Range to be posted at Banaskantha just days before Prajapati’s encounter?
The 75-page discharge order devotes less than two pages to the CBI counsel’s contentions, reflecting the increasing sparseness of the challenge posed by the prosecuting agency. Shah’s application to the CBI court seeking exemption from appearance before the court during the hearings was barely contested. In November 2014, the CBI told the Supreme Court that it was no longer interested in pursuing its own challenge to the Bombay High Court order granting bail to police officer N K Amin. The CBI’s lily livered response to Shah’s voluminous discharge application and marathon three-day arguments was a perfunctory 15-20 minutes argument by a junior lawyer.
The die had been cast on 16 May itself, when Amit Shah led the BJP’s electoral campaign delivering a rich harvest of parliamentary seats for the party. The reinstatement, one by one, of the entire phalanx of police officers accused of plotting and carrying out the abductions and killings, by the Gujarat government, was a sign of the times. Abhay Chudasama, accused of using Sohrabuddin’s gang to carry out a range of illegal activities, and accused of ultimately trapping him besides extorting money from the Patel brothers, has been reinstated as superintendent of police of the vigilance squad at Gandhinagar.
The collapsing of the case against Shah will shake the foundations of the case, as the order has dismissed the motive behind the conspiracy as well as the bulk of evidence in one stroke. The order has wiped out the entire slate of the Supreme Court’s intervention, returning us to the stage before the CBI was asked to investigate the wider conspiracy angle. The discharge of the “lynchpin” of the conspiracy despite voluminous material providing strong grounds for proceeding with the trial will ultimately raise questions about judicial independence.
Amit Anilchandra Shah vs CBI, Mumbai, 30 December 2014. The Court of Sessions for Greater Bombay.
Amitbhai vs Central on 29 October 2010, Gujarat High Court.
3 “Another Top Cop under Scanner for ‘Erasing’ Amit Shah Reference in CD” by Neeraj Chauhan and Ujjwala Nayudu, The Indian Express, 27 July 2010.
4 See “Geetha Johri Report Speaks of ‘Collusion of State Government’” by Neena Vyas, The Hindu, 5 May 2007.
Rubabuddin Sheikh vs State of Gujarat reported in (2010) 2 SCC 200, p 217.
Central Bureau Of Investigation vs Amitbhai Anil Chandra Shah And Anr on 27 September, 2012, Supreme Court of India.
Narmada Bai vs State 0f Gujarat & Ors on 8 April, 2011, Supreme Court.