Dateline: Muzaffarnagar/politics/people

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The cosy relationship Jats and Muslims enjoyed for years in the sleepy villages of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh was ruptured badly when the molestation of a girl and subsequent killings of three young men took a communal colour, sowing seeds of mistrust among communities. Many believe the sudden spurt of communal violence in this district is a precursor for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Army had to be called into the district, which houses tracts of sugar cane fields and a number of steel plants and paper mills, for the first time after the trouble during demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. This itself shows the extent of polarisation and deterioration of situation. Village elders go to the extent of saying that even during partition, there were no riots in the town. Jats and Muslims used to live in peace though they were on the opposite sides of the political divide since the death of former Prime Minister Charan Singh.

For an electoral sweep in the sugar-belt of western Uttar Pradesh, any party needs to have the support of two of the three blocks – Jats, Muslims and ‘others’. Charan Singh understood this very early and he weaved the Jat-Muslim electoral combination to emerge the winner in successive polls. But his passing away in 1987 spelt the death for this political alliance too.

Jats and Muslims drifted apart politically with the former going with Charan Singh’s son Ajit Singh, the president of Rashtriya Janatal Dal (RLD), while Muslims herded to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s camp.

Though Jats and Muslims were in different political camps, it did not result in spoiling their relationship in the region. After Charan Singh’s death, Jats were voting for and Muslims for Mulayam. However, the fresh troubles have extended the political divide between the two communities to religious level due to collapse in political and administrative leadership.

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Many feel that the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar were part of a game plan. The district, with a population of 41.43 lakh men and women residing in 4,049 square kilometres, may not be the chosen one but the first opportunity was grabbed. The worrying signal is that the spread of communal conflict in rural areas and reversing the trend of riots starting in rural areas.

POLITICS

As the communal divide deepens, many see it as an exercise aimed at electoral polarisation with Lok Sabha polls in mind. Theories and speculation are abounding on who is going to benefit from the polarisation.

Who stands to gain from the dismantling of the Jat-Muslim alliance is a million dollar question as elections are still seven-eight months. BJP may believe. It may be jumping the guns to derive a conclusion at this time as it all depends how the principal players like BSP, Samajwadi Party, RLD, Congress and BJP use the opportunity in the coming months.

But one thing for sure that the disenchantment among Muslims in Muzaffarnagar with the Samajwadi Party is spreading and Mulayam is in all probability going to lose huge chunk of minority community votes. It may not be the Muslim votes alone, he may also stand to lose Hindu votes too because of the dismal performance of the government led by his son Akhilesh Yadav. The general perception is that BSP and BJP will gain from the polarisation.

BJP is trying hard to win over influential Jat leaders like Rakesh Tikait, the son of late Mahendra Singh Tikait, while BSP is wooing Muslims, who feel that the administration did not aid them in the time of troubles. Muslims need a sense of security and if Mayawati can provide it, they will go with her.

On its part, the RLD will be trying to arrest the flow of Jats from their fold to the BJP. Ajit Singh will have to convince Jats that he is the man for them and his recent statements show that he is also trying to win over Muslims to fill the gaps left by those from his community.

The recent riots have left a deep scar in Muzaffarnagar and the sugar belt and to build harmony would be a task for the parties. A fresh bout of violence would mean that the thin thread, which still exists between Muslims and Jats, would be broken forever. Erasing the mistrust among communities will be a Herculean task as villagers have started talking in terms of ‘them and us’.

Despite stories of a section of Jats helping Muslims at the time of difficulty, Muslims still fear to go back to their villages. Nobody applied balm to the frayed tempers. Both groups believe the administration favoured the other. The collapse of administration and political leadership led to the sowing of mistrust, which now appears to have become irreversible.

It is here where the role of political parties will come — to bring back peace and amity in the region and ensure that the day-to-day living goes on as usual.

However, the question remains whether the fire lit in Muzaffarnagar for a communal polarisation ahead of general election will spread to other parts of the country. The UPA-led government feels so and has asked states like Jammu and Kashmir, UP, Karnataka and Bihar to be on the watch. The country witnessed a spate of terrorist attacks in 2008, including the deadly Mumbai attacks. Like this, will communal riots be the norm of the day before the elections?

GROUND ZERO

Jats blame it on the attack on those people who were returning from a ‘Mahapanchayat’ called to decide on the killings of two youths belonging to the community. Muslims, fearing retribution, appeared to have chosen offence as the best defence and attacked them while the Jats were returning.

The fresh bout of violence, the third one in a year in Muzaffarnagar, assumed larger proportions this time and for the first time, there was a mass exodus of Muslims from villages where they are in a minority. They refuse to return to their villages as the riots left a deep scar in Muzaffarnagar and the sugar belt.

In western UP, the two communities have lived in peace, sharing historical links. Both communities have gained from the agricultural revolution. There were social and political differences but communal amity was not disturbed.

A fresh bout of violence would mean that the thin thread, which still exists between Muslims and Jats, would be broken forever. Erasing the mistrust among communities will be a Herculean task as villagers have started talking in terms of ‘them and us’.

The exodus of the Muslims, with just what they were wearing and leaving whatever little they have at their houses, shows this. Travel to any Muslim dominated village in Muzaffarnagar district, one can see people from other villages fleeing their in search of security. The fear is palpable. In Shahpur, around 20 km from Muzaffarnagar town, there are over a 1,000 Muslim families from five villages seeking shelter in ‘Islamabad basti’. One can see scores of women sitting in open space in the basti while a common kitchen where food is being prepared. Wait for another ten days or so and only then, we will decide whether to return, says one of the villagers.

Despite stories of a section of Jats helping Muslims at the time of difficulty, Muslims still fear to go back to their villages. Nobody applied balm to the frayed tempers. Both groups believe the administration favoured the other. The collapse of administration and political leadership led to the sowing of mistrust, which now appears to have become irreversible.

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This is despite some powerful Jats in some villages extending a helping hand to Muslims under attack. Some village heads took scores of Muslims to their own houses, provided shelter, security and food. Some of them even transported Muslims to safety after they found that the minority community members were not safe in their villages. However, individual help was not enough for Muslims to stay in their own villages.

What the Muslims are looking for is security for themselves and their property, which they claim is not forthcoming. The fleeing of Muslims also shows that the Jat community calls the shot in villages where they have a majority. On the camera, they may say they want the Muslims to return but at the same time, they do not hesitate to claim that it was the other side, which started it all.

The locals blame it on administration and politicians for the fresh violence. They feel that a political game was played on them with elections in mind. Theories are abound about political realignment but people in the western UP are keeping their cards close to their chest though they show their clear anger against the present Samajwadi Party government. The question remains whether the fire lit in Muzaffarnagar for a communal polarisation ahead of general election will spread to other parts of the country.

(This article is an amalgamation of two articles I wrote. Part of it were published by Deccan Herald in its Spotlight page on Sep 15, 2013)

Dateline: Muzaffarnagar/all is not lost here

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Sanjeev Balia, a village-head in Uttar Pradesh, did the unthinkable as he rode scores of Muslims to the safety of Islamabad! But this Islamabad is not in Pakistan but a settlement in Shapur, barely five kilometres from Dulhare where the possible victims were living.

Balia, himself a Jat, did not join the rioters from his community and with his 20 security guards armed with rifles took the Muslims first to his house on Saturday and fed them. When he felt that they would not be safe in his house, he arranged tractor trolleys and took them to Palde village from where they were asked to go to ‘Islamabad basti (hamlet)’.

If not for the village head, said 40-year-old labourer Mohd Dilshad, we would not be alive now. Others from the village vouch for this.

The Islamabad basti is the new home, even if it is temporary, not just for Dulhare villagers. Those from Kutba, Kutbi, Goyla and Kakra too have found shelter there.

All these villages had seen a mass exodus of Muslims but the Jats residing there say that those from the minority community has left the place just out of fear. They counter that there was no targeting of the minority community in their villages.

The ‘Islamabad basti’ has now opened a community kitchen there. The locals have also donated clothes, which are put on a cot in the locality.

From these five villages people have fled without taking their belongings and leaving their houses and livestock there. “We have left our buffalos there. We do not know whether we will get them back,” said Mohd Saifi of Dulhare village.

Many women from the villages were also there. They complained about the looting in their houses. “We have arranged some jewellery and clothes for the marriage of our daughter. Everything is gone,” said Haseena of Kakra village.

Asif, who just finished Class XII, of Kakra village had another complaint. “I have lost all my certificates as they burnt my houses,” he said.

The village elders say they have not seen any communal problems in their villages since Independence and believe that political considerations before the elections are the reason for these problems.

A visit to Kakre village, which has a High School in a dilapidated building, one can find locked houses and some buffalos wandering. It also has a tuition centre run by a postgraduate where tuition for mathematics is given.

Pramod Kumar, owner of a grocery shop at the entrance of the village, says he still does not understand why Muslims left the village. “Nobody asked them to leave. There was no tension here. No damage is done to any property here,” he said.

Jagmer Singh, a local, said the attack on the villagers, who were returning from the Jat panchayat, Purbaliyan area seemed to have triggered the riots in the district. “Several from our villages have also been injured. The Muslims might have feared that there will be a backlash,” he said.

Inside the village, miscreants damaged a mosque and locals believe outsiders did it to create trouble.

Dateline: Muzaffarnagar/ fear, fear, fear everywhere

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Fear was the emotion that was writ large in the lanes and bylanes of the riot-hit Muzzaffarnagar with people even not daring to peep onto the streets to know even as normalcy is slowly returning to the UP town of five lakh residents, 120 km from Delhi.

Nobody was daring to come out and Muzaffarnagar turned into a ghost town even as curfew was relaxed for two hours in the evening. Moreover, when some one was spotted out of his house, he, be it a Muslim or a Jat, just spoke about their suspicion and anger against the administration.
None of them believes that the toll of 38 as on Tuesday evening in the almost fortnight-long riots is the true figure. Every second person one meets in the town or the villages have their own figures and tales.

Many people missing in villages like Kakra, Dulhare, Goyla, Kutba and Kutbi know many who are still missing.

Says Sumit Bal from Krishnapur village, who suffered a bullet injury in his leg and is in hospital, “there are at least 100 people who are missing in my village. When the riots happened, some of them were pushed into canal. One or two bodies were fished out. We do not know where the others are.”

Mohd Asif from Kakra, another village, also echoes Bal. “Many people have perished in canals during riots,” he said. Mohd Shanawaz of Dulhare village says that he knows the missing of at least three girls from Kakra Kutbi village.

The administration and police said that they cannot jump into conclusions. During riots and other testing times, people move out to safety. “To declare them dead is not the right thing to do now,” a senior official said.

Whatever the administration say, people from both the Muslim and Jat communities believe that police and government officials did not come to their rescue.

“We called police but they did not come to our rescue and when they came, they were telling us that we were the culprits,” Shah Faizal of Sohran village said.

Pramod Bal of Krishnapur said they called for help but police did not bother to come. “They kept saying everything is peaceful,” he said.

This mistrust on police and administration is what prompting people to remain scary of stepping out despite Army conducting flag marches and ensuring that no untoward incident takes place.

This is exactly why the NH-58, which passes through Muzaffarnagar, from the toll plaza in Meerut district to the riot-hit town wears a deserted look. The eateries on the National Highway remain closed so as the other shops.

The Army presence starts from the tollbooth and one can witness their increased presence six km from the town in Vahlana. A driver, who frequents the NH-58, said the stretch looks deserted and he took less than three hours to cover 120 km from Delhi to Muzaffarnagar when usually during peak hours take more than four hours.

One could see a semblance of life only when one move towards Shamli from Muzaffarnagar where one can see some shops is opened and people having their usual siesta outside their homes in a cot.

(Another report from Ground Zero appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 11, 2013. Photo/Shemin Joy from the heart of the town)

Dateline: Muzaffarnagar/what have we done to deserve this?

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A 70-year-old Sakuran, a mentally unstable Muslim woman, lie in a hospital bed with her head splashed with bricks oblivious of what is happening outside. A young unani practitioner Shah Faizal writhes in pain two beds away unable to fathom why he became a target for the rioters while attending to patients at his small clinic.

Whether it is for 37-year-old Awnesh Kumar or school student Mohd Najim Sethi too, all have similar tales and all of a sudden, they find themselves in hospital beds. As they narrate their tales, they ask what did they do deserve this punishment and why we have become pawns in a game of intrigue, as they have never had a riot in their localities since Independence.

The riots, spread over a week in the Muzafarnagar town and a number of villages in the district, have united them in pain and suffering.

The violence, which began on August 27 with a molestation incident, has so far claimed 38 lives. Muslims and Jats were on a warpath in the district.

The tale of Sakuran from Nath village tells a story of irony at the time when people have taken the path of violence. While the whole of Muzaffarnagar was on boil, Sakuran was loitering around her village and fell victim to the rioters despite some well-meaning Jats stood guard of her house as well as that of others.

The story does not end there. The Jats who were giving security to their Muslim neighbours were driven away from the scene by their community members who clashed with them. As soon as the handful of Jats was out of sight, the others went on a rampage, setting on fire the houses of minority community members and attacking them. Sakuran fell in to the hands of the rioters and suffered serious head injuries.

The elderly woman was brutally thrashed by the hooligans while her sons and daughters-in-law were in the safety of another house. A heavily bleeding Sakuran was rushed to the Muzaffarnagar district hospital, a teary-eyed daughter-in-law Akthari Begum says.

“If not for those of our five Jat neighbours who sat the whole night in our house, we would have been killed,” she says. At least five houses were set on fire in the area.

Awnesh (26), who belongs to the Jat community, was also admitted in the same hospital with injuries on head, legs and hands. He was returning from a ‘panchayat’ called by the community when Muslims attacked their trolleys in which they were travelling.

“Even women were pelting stones from rooftops while men were pounding us with lathis,” said Awnesh.

All had a complaint that the police force was of no help for them and repeated calls to the village-heads and administration were ignored. “The village-head (pradhan) was repeatedly telling police that there was no problem in our area,” said Akthari.

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Faizal, the 26-year-old unani practitioner, had sent his parents and sisters out of their house to safety while staying with his younger brother Shah Azam (25) to attend to his patients.

“A mob came to my house which also houses the clinic. There were some patients. They asked me why I was providing hideout to them and attacked me. My brother was also injured. My patients who were on drip were also attacked,” Faizal said.

Sethi, the 15-year-old student from Bohra Khurd, was with his grand father on way for a marriage in a vehicle when he was attacked. “The mob threatened the driver, a Hindu, who tried to drive us away to safety. They made him run away. They did not ask me anything. They just caught hold of me, stabbed me on my shoulder, hit me with sticks and rods,” he said.

“What have I done to deserve this punishment,” he added.

Photos (by Shemin Joy) 1: Sakuran 2) Shah Faizal

(I was in Muzaffarnagar for a day. This is first of a report, appeared in Deccan Herald on September 11, 2013, on what I saw in the villages there. More reports to follow)

Terror: Some big guns may be in but miles to go before India can relax

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Indian security and intelligence agencies are on a high with back-to-back success in netting daring terrorists. Since June 2012, the Indian agencies have nabbed at least four high-ranking suspected terrorists from Abu Jundal to Yasin Bhatkal besides the smaller fries. If LeT’s Jundal was the “handler” of ten terrorists who carried out the audacious Mumbai terror attack in 2008, Yasin was the “go-to-guy” for the Indian Mujahideen operatives after top leaders of the terror outfit fled India. These arrests –Jundal, Fasih Mohamed, Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin – over a period of 14 months have been a feather in the cap of the security agencies.

This also depicts India’s new found aggressiveness in pursuing prized targets even if they are holed up abroad and ability to convince foreign countries, especially in the Gulf, to locate, detain and hand them over. New Delhi’s success can be gauged from the fact that India managed to get Jundal and Mohammed deported from Saudi Arabia, a traditional ally of Pakistan, in June and September last year while Nepal helped track Tunda and Yasin last month. Interestingly, with both the countries, India does not have an extradition treaty.

With these arrests, some of the big guns are in and agencies have dealt a severe blow to the terror network of Indian Mujahideen but the work is still half done. India succeeded in even getting Saudi to act against those who had links with Pakistan but New Delhi is still not able to get Pakistan onboard to fight non-state actors operating from their territory. Whether it is Saudi or Nepal, both cooperated with India after hectic negotiations and eliciting a promise that Indian agencies will not reveal their involvement, which may put them in trouble in their home constituencies. But Islamabad has not heeded to India’s repeated requests for speedy trial in Mumbai terror attacks while its Army is accused of aiding terrorists to launch attacks at the borders and in India.

It is not just the aid a section in Pakistan – be the ISI or the Army — gives to anti-India terrorists but the reluctance to hand over Indians holed up in Pak safe houses and the continued denial about their presence in that country is also bleeding India. The list is not that small which includes Pakistanis also: Dawood Ibrahim, Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal, Hafiz Sayed, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and Iqbal Kana among others.

Will Pakistan change its mind? Will Pakistan realize that bleeding India will bleed Pakistan too? One should not be too optimistic to believe that Islamabad will hand over Sayed or Lakhvi or accept that Dawood or the Bhatkals are in Pakistan. It is at this point that India should use its relentless diplomatic charm and offensive, which should be complimented by the agencies’ continuous liasoning with their counterparts to pressurize Islamabad. Damned with an unwilling Pakistan, New Delhi will have to look up to friendly and unfriendly countries for help in apprehending terrorists. The arrests in the past one year were important and substantial but India cannot heave a sigh of relief as it has hit just the tip of an iceberg. Until it gets the top guns, India cannot relax.

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At a time the agencies are hitting the bull’s eye, one should also not forget that the competition among the police forces to “solve” terror cases or “avert” attacks are sometimes result in the persecution of innocents. Despite the successes, the recent examples may not be encouraging. The arrest of Liyaqat Ali Shah, a former militant who was on the way to surrender before Jammu and Kashmir authorities, by Delhi Police and those of scores in Mecca Masjid blast case by Hyderabad Police stand proof for this.

The reports about Yasin telling his interrogators from NIA that it was not Mirza Himayat Baig, who is now on death row in connection with the Pune German Bakery blast, but Qateel Siddique who was with him while planting bombs could be read in this context. This version is corroborated by interrogation reports of slain IM operative Siddique by Delhi and Bangalore Police but the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra Police, which arrested Baig, chose to ignore this. Siddique incidentally was killed in a jail in Maharashtra and now there is no way to corroborate Yasin’s statement once again. One does not know what the truth is but conveniently the issue is buried and nobody dares to dig it up. It will be a travesty of justice if Baig is innocent and is made to undergo punishment. Such incidents, dangerously repeating, will end up in people losing faith in the system.

The ugly competition and one-upmanship among the police forces are also an issue of concern. The anti-terror officers of Delhi Police and ATS do not see eye to eye is not a secret any more. There is no coordination and both the forces try to outsmart each other. The fight between the two forces even resulted in Yasin managing to escape from Pune soon after the blasts there in 2011 when the ATS arrested two “informers” of Delhi Police who were being used to entrap the IM top operative and his aides.

Turf war may be the norm for men in uniform and even the United States is not an exception in this regard. ‘The Way of the Knife’, a book by Mark Mazzetti of New York Times, chronicles the fight between the CIA and Pentagon to usurp the ‘war against terror’ to be waged. India cannot afford such turf war or competitive one-upmanship or fraudulent arrests while dealing with terror if it wants to capitalize on the recent successes when it continues to one of the most persistently targeted countries by transnational terrorist groups like LeT. One should not forget that India lost over 800 people to terrorism last year.

(This article appeared in Deccan Herald Panorama section on September 14, 2013)

tRAGEDY tHY nAME iS BhOPAL

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A broken boundary wall through which people can easily get in, play cricket and steal rusted machines from the Union Carbide factory. This scene bears testimony to the government’s callousness in dealing with the gas tragedy that ravaged Bhopal 30 years ago.

Spread over a 35 hectare plot where tonnes of toxic waste are buried since its inception in 1969, the factory now resembles a ghost house where a few old security men with lathis roam around and some elderly men rearing cattle oblivious to the looming threat beneath their feet. It was only Wednesday, five men were arrested while trying to steal machines from the now dilapidated factory.

Experts of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and activists of Satinath Sarangi-led Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) among others have now formulated an action plan for ridding the site of high contamination, demanding that the government take immediate and long term steps.

During a visit to the factory site, where the leakage of methyl isocyanate on December 4, 1984 left over 3,787 dead and around six lakh with injuries and other problems over a period of time, one can see traces of deadly mercury with naked eye still accumulated in the rusted machinery. Walk inside through the bushes, one can also sight the abandoned “killer tank” from which the gas leaked on December 4 night.

According to CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan, the danger is still looming large despite the shutting down of the factory three decades ago as almost every study in years after the tragedy to examine the impact of waste dumped in the premises and outside has shown large-scale soil and water contamination.

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T R Chauhan, a former supervisor of the plant which dealt with methyl isocyanate, said since 1969 when the factory started its operations, toxic wastes were dumped inside the factory itself and at the Solar Evaporation Plant (SEP) in 15 hectares located outside the premises.

“Over the years, the waste has been a continous source of soil and water contamination and therefore, a cause of serious public health concern,” Bhushan said.

A CSE analysis of 15 studies conducted by various government and non-government groups like CSIR, CPCB and NEERI have confirmed contamination and has more convergence than divergence, said CSE Programme Manager Amit Khurana. The CSE has now come up with the suggestions of the expert group which consisted of stakeholders like CPCB, NGOs and experts and presented it as an action plan which the government can work on.

“Bhopal has become toxic and it was like talking on Bhopal has also become toxic (because of divergent views among stakeholders). It has changed and we have a common action plan for dealing with the toxic waste,” he said.

Experts believe that the waste has been dumped up to two metres below the ground and it needs immediate removal. The Action Plan talks about immediate fencing and guarding of the factory to prevent access to people who may fall victim to the toxics. Also witnessed is the construction activity at the SEP area which has to be prohibited.

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The Action Plan also wants the immediate excavation, recovery and characterisation of waste dumped at the factory site. One can witness that people have encroached on the SEP where waste is still there and constructed shanties.

It also recommends the detoxification, dismantling and decommissioning of the plant, machinery and structure while preserving the MIC plant and control room among others for making an “apt memorial” for the victims.

Experts and activists were also in agreement about the need for conducting a study about the effects of the gas tragedy a little far from the plant. Also, there is no continous monitoring.

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“Most of the studies so far have concentrated on two-three kilometres near the plant. We need to study the impact of the tragedy, say in areas which are ten km far and so on,” Bhushan said.

Sarangi said there was a quarterly monitoring by Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board from 1998 but it was scrapped by the state government two years ago. “We don’t have continous monitoring,” he said.

Photo 1 (by Suoparno Banerjee/CSE) — A tank inside the Methyl Icocyanate (MIC) plant in the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal.

Photo 2 (by Shemin Joy) — Former Union Carbide T R Chauhan employee at the MIC plant in Union Carbide factory in Bhopal.

Photo 3 (by Suoparno Banerjee/CSE) — The MIC plant

Photo 4 (by Souparno Banerjee/CSE) — The killer tank from which gas leaked.

(A report from Bhopal on August 1, 2013. Centre for Science and Environment took a group of journalists to Bhopal and I was one among them. This report appeared in Deccan Herald on August 2, 2013)

tHIS mUMBAI pOLICE cOMMISSIONER iS FuLL oF IdEAS

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Trust Mumbai Police Commissioner Dr Satya Pal Singh to come up with bizarre ideas of dealing with security issues. And the latest is – impose a collective fine on villagers and punish elders and village heads if one among them helps naxals in their hamlets.

This is one of the suggestions Mumbai Police Commissioner Dr Satya Pal Singh articulated in a police journal to tackle Maoist insurgency in the country.

A Chemistry post graduate who also holds a PhD in public administration and MBA degree, Singh believes that “the snake in a home is to be searched, driven out or neutralized” to “face the reality instead of believing in the rhetoric”.

The 1980-batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, known for making ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks (see box), also wants the government to consider enactment of an “appropriate” law in this regard which enables the security apparatus to restrict Maoist movement.

The remarks — made in an article ‘Fire in Forest: Tackling Maoist Menace’ in the latest issue of the Indian Police Journal of Bureau of Police Research and Development — have evoked strong reaction from activists and former police officers.

“…Extremist and public movements should be regulated through the institution of collective responsibility meaning thereby that hosting the extremists by one in the village, attending the meeting of extremists, providing them food etc, blocking the roads by felling trees etc should hold the entire village responsible.

“A collective fine for all village residents or curfew for 2 days may be thought of. Alternatively, the village Sarpanch, police patil and other village-elders should be punished. Every member of a village, above 12 years of age, must be registered with the District Administration and be issued an Identity Card,” Singh says in the article.

Singh is also of the view that for own survival, almost everyone, except the sickly and coward, believes that a snake has to be killed even though this principle may “sound to some as violative of animal or human rights”.

Though Home Minister Shinde had recently described Maoists as “terrorists”, government has said that it would talk to the naxals if they abjure violence.

Prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan describes this as the “typical fascist mentality” of Indian Police. “Police in India has become an organized mafia. It is the worst of police and a threat to democracy,” he told Deccan Herald.

Rights activist and lawyer Vrinda Grover says it is strange that he still remains the Commissioner and that he has not read the law. “If a junior officer commits an encounter killing, then Singh also should be punished if one goes by his logic.

“What can a tribal do if a gun-wielding Maoist enters his home and demands shelter? He has no option. Maoists say they do not believe in Constitution. Singh has taken oath under Constitution and he cannot deviate,” she says.

CPI(ML) Polit Bureau member Kavita Krishnan says Singh’s remarks was an “appalling idea” that goes against the basic principle of justice that the community cannot be held responsible for the individual’s crime. “Even an individual villager should not be charged for helping a Maoist.”

“What Singh is doing or advocating is to criminalize the adivasis by criminal behaviour of the civil and police administration. There is also a hidden argument of providing blanket powers to police or security forces. The desperation is to deny the adivasi their legitimate right to live a dignified life,” Rona Wilson, Secretary (PR) of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners, says.

Country’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi feels that people too must have the sense of freedom to express, which again is missing today in view of deprivations, economic, political, social and human.
Holding that Maoists don military uniform and that their “guru-mantra” being violence, Singh asks that should the security agencies wait for their attack or should it go should it go all out in search of them.

“When there is a question of killing or be killed, who would prefer to be killed instead of taking the other’s life? Let us face the reality instead of believing in the rhetoric,” he says while Krishnan calls it an open anti constitutional call for murder.

THE SATYA PRAVACHANS FROM SATYA PAL SINGH

“I have guns for the goons and roses for law-abiding citizens,” Singh said in 2008 after taking over as Pune Police Commissioner.

“Ram never left Sita; that is totally a concocted story and people are not aware about the truth; hence they keep on saying such things,” Singh said during a panel discussion on July 6, 2013.

“Police have many limitations. Policemen have no right to hit the culprits with batons. Forget about hitting them with a baton, we don’t even have a right to slap them. But you (woman) could slap those who tease you and we will bring the culprits to book. We would not question the victims for slapping,” Singh said at a function organised to create awareness among women on February 12, 2013.

“For implementing law and order, violence is sometimes necessary, even State violence. You cannot just give lectures, sometimes you have to resort to violence. Violent people cannot understand words,” Singh said in an article he wrote in a website years ago.

(A report filed on July 9, 2013 for Deccan Herald)

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