August 17, 2008

Hindu bombers break myth; Two terrorist arrested

Posted in Hindutva tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:35 am by zarb

Hindu bombers break myth; Two terrorist arrested

Mumbai: Two Hindu “terrorists” were arrested today for allegedly planting bombs at theatres, prompting the Maharashtra chief minister to say this had shattered “the myth” that all bombers came from a particular community.

Ramesh Hanumant Gadkari, 50, and Mangesh Dinakar Nikam, 34, are accused of targeting shows of Ashutosh Gowariker’s film Jodhaa Akbar and a Marathi play that is a spoof on the Mahabharat. They are charged with two blasts that injured several people and an attempted bombing.

Police said the duo were members of the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Jana Jagruti Samiti, organisations involved in protesting “denigration” of Hindu religious icons as in, allegedly, M.F. Husain’s paintings.

“These (the bombings) were definitely terrorist acts as they were carried out by people motivated by an ideology,” said Hemant Karkare, chief of the anti-terrorist squad that nabbed the accused.

“The arrests? have broken the myth that persons belonging only to a particular community are involved (in blasts),” chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.

Those arrested were produced before the Mazgaon court and sent to police custody till June 24.

According to information collected by the ATS, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti was formed by Dr Jayant Athawle in 2002. It has protested against three major issues ? paintings of Hindu deities by M F Hussain, the Marathi play Yada Kadachit now called Amhi Panchpute, and the movie Jodhaa Akbar.

“Their sphere of activities extends into the hinterland. While we do not have evidence to directly link them to the Bajrang Dal or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, they have protested together on occasions,” said Karkare, denying any link between the two accused and the Nanded blast and adding that all three were ‘clearly terrorist acts motivated by ideology’.

The ATS has indicated that more arrests are likely to follow in this case. “Gadkari and Nikam are full-time sevaks for Sanatan for the last three years. Their links with any terror outfit is yet to be established. Nikam taught Gadkari about bomb-making and one of the two bombs was manufactured within the premises of Sanatan Ashram,” said investigating officer B B Rathor. Nikam had provided a detonator and explosives to make the bomb.

The police got the clues from the number of the motorcycle used by the bombers. The licence number was entered in the log book of the Thane theatre’s parking lot. “We have got evidence of their involvement and are looking for at least half a dozen accused in this case,” said Param Bir Singh, additional commissioner of ATS.


Cops deny illegal detention of SIMI activist

Posted in Human Rights, Minorities tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:40 am by zarb

Wife of an activist of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has said that police have illegally detained her husband in connection with the serial blasts in Surat.

However, Ahmedabad police have denied the allegation.

Sazia, wife of Sajid Mansuri, a SIMI activist, told reporters in Surat that her husband was picked up by the Special Operations Group of Bharuch police from Lukman Society in Bharuch last Saturday and has been untraceable since then.

Meanwhile, Joint Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, Ashish Bhatia who is heading the investigations in the serial blasts case has denied having detained Mansuri.

“Nobody by the name of Sajid has been detained by us in connection with the serial blasts,” Bhatia said.

Bharuch District Superintendent of Police Subash Trivedi also denied picking up any man named Sajid.

Sazia, who came to her relative’s place in Surat last week said, “We were sleeping when the police team came at around 10 pm to our house and took Sajid with them. They gave me a contact number and asked me to call them after two days.”

“When I called up the number, I didn’t get clear answers,” she said adding that Sajid is innocent and has not done anything wrong.

In 2001, police had arrested 123 SIMI activists who had gathered for a meeting at Rajshree Cinema hall in Surat. Sajid was one of the participants of the meeting held after the outfit was banned in 2000. However, he had managed to escape the arrest and has been absconding since then.

July 26, 2008

Muslims in Mumbai at the Receiving End

Posted in Human Rights, Minorities tagged , , , , , , at 10:37 am by zarb

Muslims in Mumbai at the Receiving End

Abuse and discrimination after the train blasts in Mumbai

The Milli Gazette Online

The 11 July 2006 blasts in suburban railway trains in the western Indian city of Mumbai killed at least 207 people and injured more than 700 according to official sources. No individual or group officially claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, a large segment of the media, the police as well as a number of politicians and Hindu nationalist groups were swift to point the finger at Islamic ‘terrorist organisations’. A leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party declared that “in the Mumbai blasts case, the terrorists were most probably Muslims”.

K.P. Raghuvanshi, head of Mumbai’s Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) in charge of investigating the bombings initially, alleged the involvement of a well-coordinated “big power”. The Mumbai police now claim the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.

Muslim leaders strongly condemned the bombings. Nevertheless, immediately in the aftermath of the bombings, about 350 men, mostly of Muslim origin and from Muslim majority areas in Mumbai, were detained overnight by the ATS for interrogation. The suburb of Mahim was especially targeted by the ATS and more than 250 people from the area were detained and interrogated a few days only after the blasts.

A directive was further issued by the government of the state of Maharashtra – of which Mumbai is the capital – calling on the state police to “thoroughly investigate every Muslim who travels abroad”.

Accordingly, police forces carried out a number of investigations, conducting raids without proper legal documents, visiting and questioning several Muslim executives travelling abroad, especially to West Asia, and asking them to provide proof of their travel. In the neighbouring state of Gujarat, where violence against the Muslim community has been more pronounced, and indeed vicious, the state home department asked the police to monitor the movements of certain groups and collect details of the members of the group.

Labelling a community

The harassment and discriminatory treatment even led some to conceal their religious identities, with some Muslim men shaving off their beards and women casting aside their burqas. Heena Kausar, for instance, suffered humiliation and harassment on a public bus. The police stopped the bus she was in for a ‘routine check’ and searched her. “They picked me from all those passengers because I wore a burqa,” she said. “A male constable asked me to lift my veil and then frisked me,” she told reporters. The trend of concealing religious identity is not a new phenomenon in Mumbai. The same phenomenon was seen in Mumbai’s Muslim-majority areas in the aftermath of the 1993 blasts in the city.

In Mumbai and elsewhere, Muslim men were picked up for questioning and often detained for days. Some were reportedly tortured. According to Farhana Shah, a lawyer representing some of those accused in the blasts case, “police high-handedness with Muslims in Mumbai isn’t new.” What is new is “that the community is being seen only through the prism of terror. The result is that when you pick up educated innocents and slap them around for a couple of days, they walk out as different people. It just ends up reinforcing their sense of being persecuted victims.” One of Ms Shah’s clients who was picked up by the police was whipped with a canvas belt and verbally abused. He was released three days later after the police, he said, realised he “knew nothing about the blasts”.

Mumbai Director General of Police P.S. Pasricha was reported as saying: “Yes, we did a lot of combing and questioning just after the blasts. After that, however, we have been very, very discreet.” Police in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura detained 20 Muslim men, including 11 from Maharashtra. Those held had no specific charges against them except that they were found close to the Bangladesh border. Muslim members of Parliament, outraged by the way Muslims were harassed in the name of investigations, asked Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that such abuses were halted. They drew attention to the fact that the basic civil and political rights of hundreds of Muslims had been violated since the beginning of the investigations and that police forces had completely disregarded the requirements to be followed in cases of arrest and detention as laid down by the Supreme Court of India in 1997. The fundamental right of a person who has been arrested or detained to inform a friend or relative was ignored.

A group of nearly 150 Muslim scholars raised its concern during a conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, stressing the danger of the “accused presumed to be guilty” approach adopted by security agencies during investigation as well as the use of the term ‘Islamic terrorism’, thereby accusing the entire Muslim community as “collaborators of evil”. It urged the Prime Minister not to “tar the community with the same brush”. The fact that legal rights have been neglected and human rights violated has increased the sense of victimisation felt by the Muslim community. According to Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, General Secretary of the All India Ulema Council, it is “as if the police are out to prove that members of only one particular community are terrorists”.

Prime Minister Singh acknowledged a few weeks after the blasts that “terrorism has resulted in certain sections of our population being targeted, with the result that a wrong impression has been created of the radicalization of the entire Muslim community”. He cautioned that while dealing with terrorism, no innocent person should be harassed. If a mistake is made, effective remedial and corrective measures must be taken well in time, he said.

Statements by Hindu nationalist organisations and parties, however, have continued to take a strident, often violent, stand. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) advocating, for instance, has accused madrasas of being “breeding grounds for terror infrastructure” and, referring to a group of radical activists, said they should be “ruthlessly crushed”.

Leaders of the BJP have accused the Indian government of adopting a ‘soft’ stance and have called for the revival of tough anti-terrorism measures such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was repealed in 2004. The danger of the reinstatement of POTA lies in the fact that it was used with particular force against the Muslim community after the bombings in Mumbai in 2003.

Following a number of allegations of the police’s misbehaviour during investigations, Mumbai Police Commissioner A.N. Roy sent a letter to Muslim community leaders in September 2006 to reassure them that any police official showing bias against Muslims would be punished. His letter was sent to more than 100 community leaders in an effort to prove the police’s dedication to justice. No innocent would be targeted and in case there were complaints about harassment, Roy assured the community that he as well as other top police officials would meet them personally to redress their grievances: “there is no question of bias against people of a certain community… our investigation machinery has been set up in a way to ensure there is no bias. Still, if there are any holes in this system, we are ready to amend it. Police officials who are guilty of any bias will be punished”.

However, there has yet to be any concrete example of a police official being punished for violations ranging from racist verbal abuse to physical torture.

The silence of the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) is also appalling. The only reaction of the NHRC after the blasts was to issue a notice regarding the difficulties being faced by the next of kin of the deceased and the victims suffering serious injuries. It made no mention of the discrimination faced by the Muslim community or of the violations of human rights committed in the name of investigation, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions.

Alienation of the Muslim community

As Muslim leaders have warned, this situation has further alienated a community that was already facing marginalisation and discrimination before the blasts. The town of Mumbra, 40 kilometres from Mumbai and having a large Muslim population, was labelled “terror city” as a result of an alleged plot to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2004, and has been a refuge for Muslim families fleeing from violence in states such as Gujarat.

However, living in Mumbra also means living with labels. “Yes, we can educate ourselves, but now, especially after the train blasts, who will give us jobs with Mumbra in our address column?” is the main feeling amid Mumbra’s Muslim population. Interviews and testimonies of Muslims living in Mumbai and other places around the country confirm this trend. The resentment and fear are palpable. Police forces meanwhile are stationed in large numbers in these areas.

This feeling of alienation and discrimination of the Muslim minority is particularly dangerous in a country with strong Hindu fundamentalist forces, which have a vested interest in promoting Hindu-Muslim conflict. The anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 blighted India’s claims of being a tolerant society. The failure of the State was striking – it was not a failure born of incompetence; rather, the evidence pointed to the state apparatus willfully abdicating its duties in favour of pursuing its communal and ideological agenda. The State then failed to mitigate the effects of the horror, dispensing with the necessary measures to restore citizens’ faith in the State machinery – adequate financial compensation for lives and property lost and the quick, fair and efficient trials to bring the guilty to book.

Now, with the community continuing to be the target of discriminatory treatment in the aftermath of the July 2006 blasts, the sense of alienation is bound to increase. In view of the global tendency to categorise Muslims as “terrorists,” it is important that India gives a clear signal to its Muslim minority that it does not take this position. The respect of a minority’s rights is fundamental to secure peace and unity, especially in a country like India that claims to tolerate, value, and indeed celebrate, its multiculturalism. (Human Rights Features)

July 3, 2008

Arthur Road Jail: cruelty on bomb blast accused continues

Posted in Human Rights tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:38 am by zarb


Arthur Road Jail: cruelty on bomb blast accused continues

Mumbai: Whether it is the culprit of Mumbai local Train Bomb Blast or Malegaon Bomb Blast both are still now waiting for completion of their case in judicial custody. Even in prison they are being tortured. Police and ATS are bothering them. Their human rights are being violated and their complaints are being neglected. These were exposed by defense lawyers and relatives of the victims of Bomb Blast. In this regard a young Muslim Mohammed Ali Shaikh resident of Gowandi who was accused of Mumbai Local Train Bomb Blast had filed a complaint in MOCOCA court some days ago.

Mohammed Ali Shaikh had accused ATS officers that they were torturing him to accept the sin frequently. He is being bothered in Arthur Road Jail Too. Police is harassing Mohammed Ali Shaikh’s wife and relatives. It is learnt that police go in mid night to his home and threaten his family. Such complaints were too registered but no heed was paid towards this complaint. Nurul Huda Shamsul Huda a victim of Malegaon Bomb Blast too lodged such complaints that since last 15 months that not only police of Nagpada and Kalachauki but also local crime branch of Malegaon and officers of Azad Nagar police station are torturing him regularly which weakened him mentally and physically. He is suffering regular headache but administrators of Arthur Road Jail is not providing him medical aid. Several complaints of bad behavior with the culprits of Mumbai Local Train Bomb Blast and Malegaon Bomb Blast but the all these complaints are not changing the attitude of authority. Lawyers and relatives of Mumbai Local Train Bomb Blast and Malegaon Bomb Blast made superintend Sawati Sathe responsible for violating the human rights and bad behavior with the victims who are in judicial custody. But so far nothing has changed even after complaints. Recently several accused of Bomb Blasts had filed a case against Sawati Sathe that Swati Sathe targeted victims of bomb blast in the wake of asking, though where hearing is continue is victims’ Jail but in spite of all these reality he was forced to wear the uniform of prisoners. The lawyers and relatives of Bomb Blasts accused that cruelty is going on the victims of Bomb Blast by violating the human rights of culprits in any manifestation. Jail authority and police are birds of a feather flock to gather.

June 2, 2008

A report on bomb blast at the house of prominent RSS activist in Nanded, Maharashtra

Posted in Hindutva tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 5:32 pm by zarb

— By Dr Suresh Khairnar, Ahmad Kadar and Arvind Ghosh,

Secular Citizen’s Forum & PUCL, Nagpur, May 2006

Bomb blasts at the house of a RSS activist at Nanded on 6th April 2006 was not reported in any newspaper outside Nanded. We in Nagpur came to know about the blasts through a Mumbai based anti-communal activist Ram Puniyani who phoned to inform us of the incident & suggested that a fact finding team should immediatly visit Nanded to find out the facts.

We, three activists of Dharma Nirapeksha Nagarik Manch, Nagpur, Dr Suresh Khairnar, convener (DNNM, Nagpur and PUCL, Nagpur), Ahmad Kadar & Arvind Ghosh proceeded to Nanded on 22nd April 2006 morning at 10am & reached Nanded the same evening at 6pm. We reached the spot of the bomb blast immediately on reaching Nanded.

The house is located in Patbandhare Nagar in Taroda Budruk Upanagar, a densely populated area of Nanded. It is a posh two storied house of approx 3000sq ft built up area, now locked from outside by the police since the day of the blast. The name of the house prominently written on the wall was: Sri Laxmi Nrisinha. The name of the house owner written on the nameplate was Laxmanrao Rajkondwar, ex- executive engineer at Irrigation department. The man is a known RSS activist in the city. Two huge paintings adorned the walls of his house, one that of Lord Ram, another that of Hanuman. A Bajrangdal flag was flying high on the top of the house.

The first question that comes to mind is why should anyone indulge in the secret & sinister activity of making bombs in such a prominent house which can be identified even from a distance as the house owned by a Sangh Parivar person? The only plausible explanation seems to be that the prominent house of a respectable person is a good cover for such activities. Son’s business of selling crackers provided a double cover for manufacturing of bombs.

The neighbors we met were tight lipped & did not want to say much, except that on 6th April at about 1.30am they had woken up to an extremely loud noise and a powerful vibration under the impact of which their windows had opened automatically. When we asked the neighbor staying in the opposite house, how come he did not have even an inkling of the activities of his neighbor, he said you might stay opposite a neighbor for an entire life & yet may not know a thing about them. However he vouched that his neighbors were perfect gentlemen, religious & respectable people. He also told us that next to his house live a police constable who had reported about the blast to the nearby Bhagya Nagar police station.

Next we visited this police station at Bhagya Nagar, which is at a stone throwing distance from Rajkondwar’s house. The Policemen however refused to co-operate with us saying that Srikant Mahajan, PI, who is dealing with the case is not available. He was not reachable through his mobile either. Those who were present at the police station refused to divulge any information regarding the incident.

From the police station we proceeded to the house of Rajaram Wattamwar who is a local working president of Rashtra Seva Dal,a retired professor with socialist background. The first question he asked us was what was the motive of our fact-finding team? He strongly felt that the innocents should not be implicated in the incident & he hoped that this was what had brought us to Nanded. Laxman Rajkondwar according to him is a good man, a very religious & respectable man. He had gone to Shirdi with his wife, daughter-in law & granddaughter when the incident happened in his home. It must have been an accident etc.

The views of Rajaram Wattaram’s on the incident of bomb blast, who is also the president of an organization supposedly formed to expose Sangh Parivar shows the amount of communal bias among the Hindu community.

However he was good enough to provide us with the copies of the local newspapers of days immediately following the incident. He even helped us to contact the editors of some of the local newspapers. It is from theses newspapers as well as our visit to the office of Prajavani, a reputed local newspaper & interaction with its editor & the reporter dealing with the bomb blast incident that we could gather a fair amount of information about the bomb blasts.

On that fateful morning at 1.30am hearing the loud explosion & powerful vibration (which some mistakenly thought was an earthquake) people ran towards the house of Rajkondwar & saw smoke coming out of the house. The impact of the blast was so great that some of the doors & windows of the house had blown away to a distance of 50ft.Two boys were found dead on the spot & three were found seriously injured. One of the boys killed was Naresh Rajkondwar (age 29) the son of Laxman Rajkondwar the owner of the house. The second boy killed was Himansu Venkatesh Panse (age 31). Three persons seriously injured were 1) Yogesh Ravindra Deshpande (31), 2) Maruti Kishor Wagh (22) and 3) Gururaj Jayram Tupttewar (25). The sixth person who in spite of injury managed to escape was Rahul Pande. At first police & the press had declared that only 5 persons were present in the house at the time of the incident. It seems that after interrogation of the 3 injured persons they came to know about the escaped person Rahul Pande who managed to escape on a motorcycle, first to Umarkhed & then to Pusad for treatment of his injuries. He is reported to have told the doctors that he suffered the injuries due to a cylinder burst. He was later arrested from Pusad.

The story that was published in the next morning newspapers was that the blast occurred due to sudden bursting of crackers stored in the house as part of the family business. But doubts persisted, since if crackers catch fire there would normally be a series of bursts & not a single powerful blast as had happened in this case. Moreover the house did not catch fire as is expected in an accident involving crackers. The cracker theory was blasted on 7th April at 4pm when post mortem report was released. The report revealed that bomb parts were found and extracted from the bodies of the dead. The doubt that it must have been a bomb blast was further confirmed on the night of 7th April.

The police search of the house had continued the next day & it was at night that a live pipe bomb was discovered under a sofa along with bomb making materials. As per reports this bomb was taken to an open space out of the city & diffused with the help of an anti-bomb squad. “The blast was very powerful and only the concrete structure survived. Everything else in the house was destroyed. Both the bombs were powerful devices. The recovery of the second bomb and other preliminary investigations clearly show that people assembled in the house were preparing the bomb when the first one went off. We will know more about it only after we speak to the injured people,” said a police official.” It is also reported that after this discovery of the live bomb the houses of the injured in the bomb blast as well as some office bearers of RSS & Bajrang Dal were raided & some documents seized although police have not revealed any of these documents to the press or the public yet. It is also reported that the police has taken 4 people including Rahul Pande into custody. Himansu Panse is said to be the mastermind behind the whole project & Rahul Pande the technical expert.

A police investigating team has been formed under the leadership of Fhattsinh Patil, SP. Srikant Mahajan, Ramesh Bhurawar, Rajendra More, Gopinath Patil, Manikrao Perke & Wamane constitute other members of the team. A ‘Bombshodhak & Bombnashak pathak’ has also been formed which has been deputed to search live bombs & diffuse them. It has been reported that the workings of some of the Hindutwavadi organizations in the city are being investigated. Suryapratap Gupta IG, Nanded has confirmed that a live pipe bomb was found at the house of Laxman Rajkondwar and that all the accused are connected with Bajrang Dal. He has also gone on record saying Rajkondwar’s house was a center for manufacturing of bombs. However the police has maintained silence on the motive for the manufacturing of bombs at Rajkondwar’s house, wherefrom they acquired the material for making the bombs and if the perpetrators of the crime had nationwide connections.

Whereas one of the accused Rahul Pande is reported to have disclosed that the accident occurred due to a mistake in setting timings to the bomb, the police is yet to confirm officially if they were indeed engaged in the making of a bomb when it exploded. FIR has been lodged about unlawful and careless storage of crackers in a residential house against Laxman Rajkondwar, the owner of the house. However the most worrying fact that has been revealed is that the live bomb discovered under the sofa is an I.E.D type sophisticated bomb with timer & operated through remote control. A supplier of chemical material to colleges has been questioned in this regard. It is also reported the accused had been arrested during the Ayodhya Ram Mandir episode.

The police after the initial revelation is now keeping mum over the incident & have not revealed much even to the local press. They have instructed the press not to write much about the incident since that would affect the course of police investigation. This is perhaps the reason why practically nothing has appeared in the local newspapers after the first two days of the incident. No local paper has yet written editorial comments upon it. The local BJP MP Mr D.B Patil has given warning to the police not to harass activists of Sangh Parivar over the incident. Local Shiv Sena MLA Anusuatai Khedekar has also issued a similar warning. Bivagiya Sanghachalak Shamrao Jagirdar released a press statement saying that the young men engaged in the bomb making activity at Rajkondewar’s house were not connected with RSS. RSS does not believe in such activities & violence is against the ideology of RSS. He also assured the police of all assistance & co-operation but at the same time issued a warning against any atrocities on RSS activists during investigation.

State Bajrangdal chief Shankar Gaikwad said, “My local functionaries have told me that it was not a bomb explosion at all. Some crackers caught fire and resulted in the death of two and serious injuries to some others. But none of the dead was from the Bajrang Dal. State BJP spokesperson Vinod Tawde said: “We have heard nothing from the police so far. In any case, what does the Bajrang Dal’s involvement in this, if at all, have to do with us? We are an independent political party with an independent political agenda.”

To get a clearer picture of the incident of bomb blast at the house of a RSS man whose son & friends belonging to Bajrang Dal were engaged in bomb making, it would be necessary to give a brief description of the city of Nanded from the point of view of relations between different communities. Nanded is a city with a population of 8 lakhs out of which 1 lakh is Sikh. 2 lakhs Muslims, & the rest Hindus. It is a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs due to it being the place of Samadhi of Guru Govind Singh. Nanded is in the region of Marathwada, which was part of the Nizam state before 1957 & hence has a history of Hindu-Muslim tension. Nanded since long is a communally sensitive district. It is agriculture based with very little industrialization & a lot of closed sugar mills. There is tension also between the Sikh & the Muslim communities. Recently there has been a case of elopement of a 17 year old Sikh Girl with a Muslim youth who also happened to be the brother of corporator Anwar Javed (NCP), as a result of which the two communities were in a mood of confrontation. The bomb blasts happened during these days of standoff between Sikhs & the Muslims. There is a rumor that is making its rounds in the city of Nanded that these people engaged in bomb making had plans to attack Muslim places of worship in the disguise of Sikhs & that turbans, beards & moustaches to be used during such intended attacks have been seized from the house of an accused.

However we have come to know from the police sources that police has seized maps of a few Mosques situated in nearby districts from the houses of the accused which give credence to the rumors.

This report remains inconclusive due to lack of availability of authentic information from the official sources, although there exist strong indications that deep communal conspiracies were being hatched by the Hindutwavadi forces in the city of Nanded. Implementation of these conspiracies have been temporarily aborted due to the accidental blast of a bomb while in the process of making, at the house of a prominent RSS activist of the city.