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Archive for October 19th, 2007

Rizwanur Rehman : West Bengal State Women’s Commission Condemned

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 19, 2007

(We are publishing below a statement released by a number of intellectuals and concerned citizens, regarding the openly partisan role played by the West Bengal State Women’s Commission in the Rizwanur Rehman case. ]

We are distressed to read the statement of the West Bengal State women’s Commission after its visit to Priyanka Todi whose husband Rizwanur Rahman was found dead on the railway track after he had fixed an appointment with the APDR friends regarding his harassment at the hands of the Kolkata Police who were acting in blatant violation of all legal and civil norms at the behest of Priyanka’s father Ashok Todi . Todi wanted her daughter to walk out of the marriage and had mobilized Kolkata police to terrorize Rizwan and his friend Sadiq who was witness to their marriage. The couple was called to the Lal bazaar Thana and was told by the police that Priyanka should go to her parents and they would ensure that she returned after a week. This was not to happen. She was forced to go her father but all efforts of Rizwan to talk to her after this period failed. Desperate, he contacted the APDR .

One must remember that Sadiq, who was witness to their marriage, was threatened by police . He had to go into hiding. Priyanka had gone to her parents on 8 September. Rizwan wrote a detailed account of his harassments at the hands of the Kolkata Police and gave it to the APDR. On 21 September, he talked to the APDR people and it was decided that they would meet in the afternoon. This meting was also not to take place. He was found dead on the Railway tracks. Prasun Mukherji, the Kolkata police Chief declared immediately without waiting for the customary autopsy report that it was a transparent case of suicide. He blatantly justified the illegal intervention of the police in a perfectly legal marriage between tow adults Priyanka and Rizwan, claiming that it was natural for the father of the girl to get upset over such marriage, as it was a marriage between unequals. After all, Ashok Todi is a man of more the 200 crores and Rizwan was only a Muslim of modest earning!

We know that a powerful people’s campaign is on demanding the removal of the cops involved in the whole affair which has repeatedly been rejected by the CM, West Bengal . It is now a matter of public discussion that Todi is close to Prasun . The west Bengal government is putting shameless arguments in the high court opposing a CBI investigation. It is widely believed that the CID report has been manipulated to make it a case of suicide. The state government has violated all norms in constituting a Judicial Inquiry.

In these circumstances, the visit of the State Women’s Commission to Ashok Todi’s place to know about Priyanka’s well being and the statements made by the members of the commission afterwards that Priyanka had come on her own to Todi and the Police were not harsh to her and she wanted to be left alone and to top it all, the appeal by the members of the commission to Priyanka that she should not let herself get harassed by the media make it very clear that the commission is being used to give legitimacy to the police and the government and also to Ashok Todi. Should one be surprised that the Commission did not think it fit to visit Rizwan’s family and instead went to Todi’s house which, as has rightly been said cannot be a neutral site ?
We are pained and shocked to see that despite eminent people like Jashodhara Bagchi heading the state commission it has failed to maintain an autonomous position on the case, succumbing to tow the official line of the police and the state government and that too on its own initiative without any visible pressure from outside. This is a reflection of manner in which Women’s State Commissions have been undermined nationally and in states whether it is Rajasthan or West Bengal. Time and again the interests of women and protection of their rights are compromised for political interests or for maintaining the interests of those who are powerful.

We condemn strongly the move by the West Bengal State Women’s Commission. They need to remember that these institutions were created after a long and difficult struggle and any move to make them subservient to the state would be resisted with the might of the people. The members of the Commission have lost their right to continue as they have, on this occasion and on many occasions like Singur and Nandigram failed to act in an autonomous manner.

Ram Puniyani, Academic, IIT, Mumbai
Uma Chakravarti, Historian, Delhi
Harjinder Singh, Academic, IIIT, Hyderabad
Manas Joardar
Imtiaz Ahmad , Academic, Delhi
Tamilnadu Women’s Collective
Dilip Simeon, Academic, Delhi
Jiten Nandi
Kalyani Menon-Sen, Jagori, Delhi
Mukta Sinha, Charkha Samiti, Patna
Arshad Ajmal, Al Khair Society, Patna
Rabin Chakraborty, Kolkata
Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, Delhi
Teesta Setalvad ,Co-Editor, Communalism Combat
Sheba George, SAHR WARU: Women’s Action and Resource Unit
Trupti Shah, Sahiyar, Vadodara
Meher Engineer, Kolkata
Arun Kumar, Delhi
Nasiruddin Haider Khan, Journalist, Lucknow
Ranjana Padhi, Delhi
Khurshid Anwar, Institue for Social Democracy, Delhi
Ujjwal Kr Singh, Academic, Delhi University
Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad
Apoorvanand, Academic, Delhi University
Aditya Nigam, Academic, CSDS, Delhi
Nivedita Menon, Academic, Delhi University
Rupesh, Koshish, Patna
Neelu, Nari Jagaran Kendra, Patna
Persis Ginwalla
Sushma Iyengar
Dhruv Narain, Daanish Books, Delhi
Sunita Narain, Daanish Books, Delhi
Asmita Collective, Secunderabad
Nagraj Adve, Delhi
Saleem Kidwai, Lucknow .
Md. Farooque, Muscat , Saudi Arabia
Kumar Rana, kolkata
Anuradha Talwar
Shramajibee Mahila Samity
Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum
Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement
Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay.
Nirantar, Delhi

Posted in Rizwanur Rahman | Leave a Comment »

SPOs in Naxalite belts get 300% hike in wages

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 19, 2007

NEW DELHI: With the Salwa Judum experiment going awry and exposing the local civilians employed as special police officers (SPOs) to Naxal backlash, the Centre is attempting damage control by acknowledging their role in counter-extremist operations with a hike in ex-gratia compensation for an SPO to Rs 3 lakh from Rs 1 lakh.

The increased death compensation for an SPO — finalised at a meeting of the security-related expenditure (SRE) mechanism headed by special secretary(internal security) M L Kumawat here on Tuesday, will bring him on par with police personnel who also get Rs 3 lakh in the event of death during deployment in a Naxal-infested area.

SPOs are essentially local civilians from Naxal-infested areas who are appointed on a honorarium basis to assist the police in counter-operations by providing ground-level intelligence and guiding the police teams to Naxal hideouts hidden away in deep forests.

The SPOs are provided arms during the day but have to deposit them at night. They have often been targetted by the Naxalites who go after them when they are unarmed and hence unable to defend themselves. This phenomenon has been more pronounced in Chattisgarh, where the Salwa Judum movement, a popular uprising against Naxals, gained momentum even as the forces failed to do enough to insulate the local civilians and SPOs against a Naxal backlash.

In one of the deadliest Naxal attacks this year, CPI(Maoist) cadres had descended on the Rani Bodli camp in Dantewada and killed 55 police personnel in all, of which 39 were SPOs.

SPOs, in the event of death, were until now entitled to a compensation of only Rs 1 lakh while regular security personnel got Rs 3 lakh.

The SRE scheme reimburses expenditure incurred by the states on ammunition, training and upgradation of police posts. At present 76 districts in nine states badly affected by Naxal violence are covered under the scheme.

Out of an annual budget of Rs 50 crore under SRE, Rs.14 crore has already been released till August this year and an equal amount will be released soon for making ex-gratia payments, a senior MHA official said.

The SRE scheme was comprehensively revised in 2005 to enhance the level of utilisation of funds and so far, Rs 175.55 crore has been disbursed to the States under the scheme.

During 2005-06, the total budget outlay of Rs 45 crore was spent as against the average expenditure of Rs 9-10 crore in the previous years.

Naxal hit states have found the scheme very useful in improving ground level police response in dealing with the problem, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the single biggest threat to internal security.

The scheme has been extended for a further period of five years till 2011. Statistics in the home ministry show that there have been 1509 incidents of Naxal attacks in the country so far this year, 157 police personnel, 521 civilians and 272 Naxalities have been killed.

Posted in Salwajudam | Leave a Comment »

Tide turning against Indian Maoists

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 19, 2007

By Jason Motlagh

HYDERABAD, India – An aggressive push by Indian state security forces over the past two years has blunted the Maoist insurgency in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a long-time guerrilla hotbed, but many have regrouped in remote parts of neighboring states where police remain ill-equipped to combat a surge in violence.

“There is a lull in Andhra Pradesh,” said K Srinavas Reddy, a Hyderabad-based expert on the Maoist movement in India. “Police intrusion, the use of informant networks and coordination with locals have weakened the Naxalites here.” Maoist insurgents are also known as Naxalites after the West Bengal town of Naxalbari where a communist armed rebellion began 40 years ago.

At the heart of the state’s counter-insurgency strategy is increased patrolling in areas the guerillas have typically sought refuge in along the forested northern border with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. An elite commando unit unique to Andhra Pradesh called the Greyhounds prowls the backcountry, supported by paid informants at the village level whose intelligence has led to the arrest or killing of several leaders.

The latest report by the Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR), a Delhi-based thinktank that monitors insurgent groups, said that Andhra Pradesh is now far behind the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh in terms of persons killed by Naxalite-related violence. Out of a total of 384 deaths – civilians, security forces, and insurgents – between January and September, Chhattisgarh accounted for 208, or 54%; Andhra Pradesh was a distant second with 59 deaths.

This is a sharp improvement from 2005, when the state witnessed 535 incidents of violence and 208 killings, according to government figures.

A top state intelligence official who requested anonymity touted the success of the Greyhounds in beating the Naxalites at their own game. The force, which numbers around 2,000 in the state, has been operational since 1990 in small bands of 15-25 commandos that are specially trained for deep forest pursuit and combat. Over the past three years, Naxalites ranks have fallen from around 1,000 hardcore members to some 400 today, according to the official.

“We had to update our skills in forest operations,” he said, noting that for many years state police were regular victims of insurgent ambushes. “[The Naxalites] have been masters of the jungle, so now we have started to dominate the jungle.”

Still, the government is aware that gains made in Andhra Pradesh may have contributed to an influx of guerrilla activity across its borders, particularly in Chhattisgarh. To counter this, intelligence is being shared by state agencies to coordinate tactics, and the Greyhound model is being replicated in other Naxalite-affected states such as Jharkand and Bihar where it will soon come into force.

The government is also banking on disadvantaged tribal communities on which the Naxalites rely for shelter becoming wary of the trouble they bring with them.

In July, Naxalites in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh banned farming to protest against “the exploitation of the state’s natural resources by the government”. Those who defied the ban were to be given the death sentence and, according to police, at least 11 farmers in one district were killed by insurgents for working in their fields; others had their property burned or looted.

Suhas Chakma, the director of the ACHR, says that insecurity in the southernmost districts of Chhattisgarh has been compounded by the state’s Salwa Judum “peace movement”. Established with the intent of uniting villagers against the Naxalites, it has instead stoked violence in the region by arming poorly trained special police officers and giving them a free hand to fight. The tribals, meanwhile, are stuck in the middle.

The Andhra Pradesh intelligence official admitted he was “not in favor” of the program from the start. It should be the domain of seasoned police to bring the fight to the Naxalites, he added, as his state’s successful strategy bears out.

Compared to fledgling police in Chhattisgarh, state security forces have learned from institutional experience that dates back to the late 1960s when the rebel movement first took to the Andhra Pradesh forests. There they found fertile ground among a population fed up with the vestiges of a feudal land system.

“We are the longest suffering,” the official said. “There is a saying here: The oldest patient is half doctor.”

But state-sponsored programs have produced unintended consequences that critics say will gradually feed another groundswell of Naxalite sympathies in Andhra Pradesh.

Greyhound personnel were reportedly behind the August 20 rape of 11 tribal women in the Visakhapatnam district. Victim testimonies gathered by rights groups say that the policemen raided their houses with charges that members of their family had links with Naxalite fighters, moving on to gang rape them. No action has yet been taken by state authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible.

Police are also accused of orchestrating “fake encounters”, either killing insurgents on the pretense of defensive action or classifying the deaths of unverified criminals as Naxalites to inflate an impression of success.

A top Naxalite leader, known as Somanna, was reportedly killed in a July gun battle with police in Warangal district. However, Naxalite supporters allege he was arrested and executed in a staged manner the following day. In other affected states, Indian media have documented additional incidents in which security forces killed alleged militants who villagers claim were innocent.

The state government, for its part, rejects such allegations as part of a disinformation effort by the Naxalites to keep government forces out of villages they wish to control. Officials add that a rehabilitation program is always open to insurgents who wish to surrender, and includes a large cash sum, provided they renounce violence.

Revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, an ardent supporter of the Maoist cause, acknowledges that the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh has faced setbacks. But he insists that while fighters may be depleted, grassroots support is “silent yet strong” due to the continued marginalization of tribal and lower-caste people in rural areas.

The Hyderabad native said the Naxalite insurgency has swelled and contracted over the years, likening the movement to a “phoenix bird that when killed, comes to ashes, only to rise again. In time, it will upsurge.”

Reddy, the Maoism expert, said that without a development scheme that includes land reforms that favor the tribals, the insurgency will not die away. He cited a September 7 landmine attack by Naxalites on former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Janardhana Reddy and his wife during a village tour as evidence that no amount of heavy-handed action can eliminate the threat. Although the couple survived, three members of their convoy were killed.

“Ultimately, no government can get rid of this movement through force,” he said. “Control it, yes, but they’ll never get rid of it.”

Jason Motlagh is a freelance journalist based in Delhi. This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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