Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journalists occupy government bungalows,refuse to pay rent

Senior journalists, including editors ,representatives of several Delhi, Chennai and Chandigarh based newspapersmagazines and news agencies are among the  defaulter media persons who have not paid rent for the government accommodations given to them by Madhya Pradesh government in Bhopal. The 214 journalists, who have been staying in these bungalows for years and in some cases for over three decades, owe Rs 14 crores to the MP government.

In some cases multiple bungalows have been given to a media organization.
According to the list prepared by Ajay Sharma, Director of estates, the government had to evict  some journalists from their government quarters as they did not pay the outstanding rent despite repeated reminders. As per the list , many journalists who have left the profession or staying outside Madhya Pradesh,  are still staying in government quarters. These facts came to light after the the Jabalpur High Court accepted a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking action against the journalists for unauthorized possession of government bungalows.

The PIL was filed by SP Dikshit, who retired as joint director of  directorate of public relations and information department, Madhya pradeshDikshit, who accessed government documents relating to the allocation of the bungalows through RTI,  found that the journalists were given bungalows in the posh and VIP areas of Bhopal including Char Imli, Shivaji Nagar and 45 Bungalows.  The bungalows in these areas are generally given to ministers and senior bureaucrats.

Dikshit said that even the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had termed  these possession as illegal and had asked the state to recover the rent due. “The Supreme court in 2006 had asked the state governments including that of Madhya Pradesh to get the Bungalows evicted of these journalists. However the government is doing nothing as it does not want to antagonize the journalist fraternity. Many of the organizations like UNI,Dainik Bhaskar,Jagran,Times of India, Hindusan Times and PTI have more than three houses in their name”.

According to officials of directorate of estates, which is  the department  responsible for the allocation, it has managed to take back the possession of 23  houses. “As per the rules a house to a journalist can be allotted only for the period of three years. The government is taking the required action in cases where the time period for which the houses were allocated have expired. 176 bungalows are in illegal possession while 11 journalists moved to the high court and  took a stay”, an official stated.

Dikshit said the list of defaulters as submitted by the director of estates will expand further if the dues of 2010-11,2011-12 periods are also included.

He added that Shivraj Singh Chauhan government has given plots of land  to the journalists on concessional rates at Airport Road and on Hoshangabad Road but they still continue to occupy government houses .”The Previous governments too gave them land for construction of houses at Chunna Bhatti Road .The journalists have rented out their houses to commercial establishments and staying in government accommodation,” he claimed. 

A perusal of the list ( as on 30-11-2010) reveals that many of the journalists were given the bungalows as they were working for  national newspaper, but they are still living in these bungalows despite the fact that have now shifted to operating websites.

“Many of the journalists  are now staying in Delhi or other parts of the country but they are still occupying the bungalows in Bhopal. Some of them have left the profession and are working as public relation officers for companies yet they continue to occupy these bungalows. They have also farm houses in the capital which have been given to them at nominal rate by successive government. Many political workers have been allotted these bungalows under the journalist quota”, Dikshit said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mumbai might have cried for him but it was Bombay that suffered the most because of him

The three days of drama that was played out by channels finally ended as his funeral pyre was consigned to flame ,mercifully, without Mumbai being burnt. However, his eulogization contined for long, very long.

He was a man who was accused in dozens of  different criminal cases, was indicted by law for his supremacy in the Bombay riots, had boasted that if he is arrested than the whole of Bombay will burn and yet none of the famed journalists, columnists, anchors and activists, even mentioned, even for the sake of moral ethics,  the dark side of this man. Was it fear? Hypocrisy? or both?

The next day came as a bigger shock, with all the newspapers devoting most of their resources to glorify the tale of this man, who much to my amusement, was called by one of the channels as the ‘tiger’ of Maharashtra. 

He was glorified when he was alive and he immortalized when he died. I was told by some of my friends that Mumbai mourned, like it has never before, on his death. But I believe that even though the decibel was much lower and there was not a human flood to prove it, yet the heart of Mumbai bled the most when it was attacked on the infamous night of 26/11.

Even though the ocean of followers gave the "undisputed king of Mumbai" a teary farewell, as described by a leading English daily, it is not a big ask to imagine the pain of Mumbaikars,  would have been much more, when Mumbai was burning during the 1992 riots, which led to the ‘E’ from the iconic ‘Bombay dyeing’ being erased.

The man was responsible for holding a beautiful city to ransom till he was alive and when he died the city still struggled to come out of its suffocating hold.

He created a myth that it was because of him that the under world was checked and it was because of him that the ‘religious balance’ of the city was kept in check. 

Such was his legacy, some ‘idiot’ might call it fear, that people who are admired by thousand others, made sure that their name is registered in the list of those who paid their last homage to him. He ruled through fear and this fear was evident even after his death.

But let’s step back and think of those who lost their lives in the hands of his goons. What would have been going though their minds? How would have they felt after witnessing the endless onslaught of glorification and eulogizing of someone who single handedly sowed a seed of long lasting mistrust between two communities? Someone who became world famous for ‘successfully’ holding Bombay riots?

B.N. Srikrishna Commission, that was asked to look into the riots, had these words for him-"Veteran general commanding his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims.” 

The commission had left nothing to ambiguity – “There is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders" from the level of shakha pramukh to that of Sena chief Bal Thackeray”.

But this man was never arrested, never faced trial and was never asked that how does one justify the killing of harmless humans. He was a shadow of darkness that was there even on the brightest of Mumbai night. His arrest was unthinkable- Bombay would have burned.

Whom were we praising? Some anchors told me that he was a mass leader, an efficient organizer or more ironically an artist of par excellence, who was put in the same league of R.K Lakshman by others.

But, was not he responsible for 900 deaths in Mumbai? No- that happened in 1992. Twenty years of politics and hooliganism can wash of many things, including murder.

Some would say that he deserved the state funeral that he was accorded with. They will also say that his final journey was well served by the presence of superstars, industrialists and politicians alike. But a few would like to know that was not he a murderer after all? A mass murderer?

They tell me that thousands cried when he passed away but spare a moment for those who died in 1992 and their relatives who will have to live with the fact that the perpetrator of those riots died without being brought to justice.

Mumbai might have cried for him but it was Bombay that suffered the most because of him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Delhi Police claim on Pune blast refutes Shinde’s statement

This was first carried here.

Policemen search for clues at the site of a blast in Pune in August this year. Four low-intensity bomb blasts in quick succession shook the city. PTI
The claim made by the Delhi police that it has solved the 1 August Pune blast by busting an Indian Mujahideen (IM) module, flies in the face of earlier statements made by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and the Pune police commissioner. On the day of the blast, Pune police commissioner Gulabrao Pol had said that the blast was a case of "mischief" and not an act of terror. His words were echoed by the newly sworn in Home Minister, Shinde.
However, Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar announced on 11 October that the blast was masterminded by the founder-brothers of the IM, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal. He also said that that they had arrested Asad Khan, a resident of Aurangabad, Imran Khan, a resident of Nanded in Maharashtra and Sayed Feroz, a resident of Pune, from Nizamuddin railway station on 1 October for being involved in the blast. According to Kumar, the blast was carried out to avenge the killing of suspected IM member Qateel Siddiqui in Yerwada jail in Pune on 8 June.
Kumar alleged that the terrorists had planned everything meticulously. "They brought explosives and electronic items for assembling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) from an electrical market in Budhwarpeth, Pune. They also bought digital watches and circuit boards. Ball bearings were brought by Imran from Nanded. The accused conducted reconnaissance in Mumbai before deciding on Pune," Kumar told the media.
The whole bombing plan was done inside 55 days of Siddiqui's killing. Kumar said that vital inputs were provided by Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, one of the alleged handlers of the 26/11 Mumbai attackers, who was shown to be arrested on 21 June.
However, the police commissioner did not answer how Jundal, who, as per government's own submission to the Supreme Court, was in Saudi custody, could have been a part of the plot, which was hatched after 8 June.

Siddiqui was killed on 8 June, while Jundal, after being in Saudi custody for 16 days, was handed over to India on 21 June. Going by this chronology, Jundal was arrested not later than 5 June by the Saudi authorities and hence he could not have been directly associated with the plan to avenge the death of Siddiqui.
The arrest of Sayed Feroz from the Nizamuddin railway station has also raised questions on the working of the Special Cell, which is notorious for making questionable arrests. This is not for the first time that the Special Cell has arrested someone from a railway station or a metro station. Recently, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) in its report titled "Framed, Damned, Acquitted" questioned this "routine" practice of picking up suspects without enlisting the help of independent witnesses. The JTSA quoted a couple of court observations questioning the Delhi police's actions. In the State versus Irshad Ahmad Malik case, the court noticed that any effort to enlist independent witnesses "was omitted by the police deliberately".
Similarly, in the State versus Mukhtar Ahmed case, the court questioned the arrest of an alleged accused by the Special Cell and noted that "the distance between the Special Cell office and the Azadpur Mandi (from where the accused was allegedly apprehended) is 20 kms and is dotted with numerous government offices. In the four and a half hours (the time between the receipt of secret information and arrest) they had, on the long stretch to Azadpur, the Special Cell could have enlisted some credible independent witnesses."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Police framed journalist in Israeli case, claims lawyer

Syed Mohammed Kazmi’s lawyer has pointed out several loopholes in the chargesheet filed by the Special Cell. This was first carried here.

The car carrying Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua Koren was attacked on 13 February. PTI
he chargesheet against journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi filed by Delhi police special cell is filled with loopholes. Kazmi's lawyer Mehmood Pracha alleges that the discrepancies prove that the Delhi police is trying to frame the journalist in the Israeli embassy car bomb blast case.
Kazmi is an accused in the attack on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua Koren on 13 February, which left her seriously injured. The chargesheet names Kazmi as the main accused and lists four Iranians among the suspects. Kazmi was arrested on 6 March.
The chargesheet has three different versions on the motorbike that was allegedly used by the person who carried out the attack. According to Koren, the attacker was riding a black bike. However, two independent witnesses, "A" and "B", who were driving behind Koren's car, said that the bike was red, and that there was no bike, respectively. "These two witnesses were at a vantage point to see what was happening. Even they are not sure whether the bike was black, red, or whether there was any bike," Pracha told this newspaper.
Pracha says that his client has been "made a scapegoat". "The police had to book someone. As soon as Sanjeev Yadav of the Special Cell (SC) took over the case on 26 February, the investigation went in a wrong direction. It was he who came out with the sticky bomb theory," said Pracha.
Similarly, the Special Cell cited a mobile phone number that it alleged was being used by Houshan Afshar Irani (Iranian national accused in the case). Kazmi often called this number from his own mobile phone, the Special Cell claimed. It provided a copy of Irani's passport, which it furnished as proof for obtaining the number.
Kazmi’s lawyer said that his client was being framed because he was in the forefront of the Karbala movement and the restoration of the graveyard located under Rajdhani Nursery in BK Dutt Colony.
"It is easy to use someone else's documents to get a SIM card. How can we be sure that someone else did not use Irani's passport to buy the SIM? The copy of the passport can be easily obtained from FCRO (Foreign Credentials Referral Office) .Why wasn't the statement of the shop owner who gave the SIM taken by the Special Cell?" asked Pracha.

Surprisingly, the call records of the mobile phone allegedly used by Irani to show that he was present at the attack site have not been attached as evidence.
Pracha also questions the recovery of the "bomb making material" from room number 305 of Hotel High 5 in Karol Bagh where the alleged perpetrators of the attack were staying. According to the hotel manager, the room was unoccupied from 13 February to 26 February when the police first went there to seal the room. All the other rooms were occupied during that period.
"It is hard to believe that for 13 days no one occupied this room when all the other rooms were booked. Secondly, it's harder to believe that for 13 days the hotel staff did not go inside the room to clean it."
Kazmi's lawyer said that his client was being framed because he was in the forefront of the Karbala movement and the restoration of the graveyard located under Rajdhani Nursery in BK Dutt Colony: "He was a leading member of the movement and his writings criticising Israel were not liked by people in the establishment."
"He is innocent and soon he will be released. However more than focusing on his release, Kazmi has told me that I should also make sure that the court punishes the police personnel who have wrongly framed him," said Pracha.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anti-India Hizb-ut-Tahrir raises its head, goes unnoticed

This was first published here.
The Indian government is yet to take note of the accelerating emergence of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), a political organisation banned in several countries. The HuT was recently in the news for its alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt in Bangladesh, orchestrated to bring down Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is seen as pro-India.
Till now, the only instance of HuT's presence acknowledged by the Indian security establishment is the demonstration that it arranged at Batla House in New Delhi, in 2010, to protest Israel's action in Gaza. "The HuT has a presence in the national capital. This was visible in the 2010 rally, which was mostly attended by students," said a top official who is with an anti-terror body. The HuT is known to be behind the floating of several NGOs that target police action in sweeping locations where terrorists are suspected to be clustered.
The HuT, which was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by a religious cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, has a presence in more than 40 countries. It aims to establish an "Islamic" way of life in Muslim countries and unify them under a caliphate. It continues to grow in several European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. However, it is the UK that is considered to be the HuT's main recruiting ground.
A top official with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), requesting anonymity, said that the name of HuT has not come up in any major incidents in India till now, and hence it is not seen as a major threat here. Its name also does not figure on the list of 35 organisations that have been declared as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act, 1967, which has been compiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"Do we need a covert organisation to give a newspaper advertisement before taking steps to check its activities?" asked a security expert in exasperation at the Indian government's "indifference" to HuT.
Another example he gave was the granting of an Indian visa to Anjem Choudhry, who has openly called for the overthrow of the political system in India and its replacement by (his version of) Shariah law.
A former RAW chief said that the emergence of HuT needs to be followed because of its philosophy. "Even though the HuT says that it is a non-violent political group, it is hard to believe this because its philosophy is based on the Khilafat movement of 1921, which turned violent in Kerala."
Former Director-General of Police (DGP) Hormis Tharakan feels that even though the HuT has not made its presence felt in India in an obvious way, yet, it cannot be conclusively ruled out that it's trying to build a base in India so as to cause serious problems to national security.
Commenting on the fact that no security agencies see HuT as a serious threat, Tharakan said, "Their presence in India cannot be ruled out just because they have not (publicly) undertaken any major incident. Security agencies have not studied the HuT deeply enough. They need to follow them and study their subtle way of functioning, which is quite dangerous."
Sanchita Bhattacharya of Institute of Conflict Management (ICM), a Delhi based think tank, did not rule out the possibility of the HuT working with the militant organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Indian Mujahideen (IM) covertly. "The specialty about HuT is that they are focusing on scholars and elites of the Islamic society. Unlike other militant organisations that target the illiterate and the mullahs, the HuT is focusing on the progressive population of Muslims. They try to indoctrinate the educated elite."
The Hizb ut-Tahrir follows a strong anti-Jewish policy and has repeatedly called for the dismantling of Israel. Sources in the police said that the recent attacks on the Israeli diplomat are being investigated through every angle and the HuT is on the radar.
Experts believe that the modus operandi of HuT to bring military personnel, members of academia and the elite under its umbrella makes them highly dangerous. In the past they have used this method to destabilise Pakistan where it tried to bring change through the military. Brigadier Ali Khan of Pakistani army who was arrested by the police was alleged to have links with HuT and was working on a plan to bring an Egyptian and Tunisian style uprising in Pakistan.

IB report says extremist PFI has shifted base to Delhi

This was first published here.
he Intelligence bureau (IB) has expressed its concern over the expansion of Popular Front of India (PFI) which as per its reports has shifted base to Delhi.
An IB report, a copy of which is with this newspaper reads, "PFI cadres have been trained in the use of sharp-edged weapons and in fabrication and deployment of crude bombs and IEDs." Security agencies see this as a serious security threat to the VIPs living in the city.
The fact that PFI is now making its presence felt in the capital is causing more problems for the security agencies. "PFI is not a problem limited to the southern states as was manifested in the recent shifting of its national headquarters to Delhi. Why they have shifted their base to the capital is an easy guess," said a senior official.
PFI was formed in December 2006 after merger of three prominent Kerala-based Islamic organisations, National Development Front, Manitha Neethi Pasarai and Karnataka Forum for Dignity. It first grabbed headlines in 2010 when its members chopped off the hands of a professor in Kerala for "blasphemy". Following a crack down after the incident, the state police had recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition from its offices and centres.
According to the IB, PFI is clandestinely working on indoctrinating people against the state under the garb of political empowerment. A top official with IB said, "PFI is actually concentrating on taking up the cause of the so-called injustices meted out to the Muslims to garner their support for its own agenda."
The report further states that the organisation is trying to develop links with human rights groups, Left Wing Extremist elements and various Dalit bodies. "PFI has emerged as a new area of concern due to its radical Islamic belief and covert tactics. It had recently organised a secret training camp for recruits from different parts of the country in Kerala". This was confirmed by security officials. "A Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) module that was busted in Madhya Pradesh has also revealed the link of PFI with SIMI," the source said.
In May last year, one Mohammad Niaz was arrested in Paris who was believed to be recruiting members for the Popular Front's French arm. As per Indian security agencies, Niaz was trying to set up a branch of this organisation — the Popular Front of India in France. Sources say that 80 to 90% of the people influenced or accessed by the group had Gulf or foreign links.


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