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Archives for : Human Rights

Is India descending into mob rule?

Cow vigilantes in IndiaImage copyrightAFP
Image captionVigilante cow protection groups have been acting with impunity

On Thursday a 15-year-old Muslim boy, returning home from Eid shopping with his three brothers, was killed in a brutal assault by a mob of about 20 men on a train in the north Indian state of Haryana.

Police say that the reason for Junaid Khan‘s murder – in which his three siblings were also injured by the knife-wielding mob – was mainly because of a row over seat space on the train.

But a man arrested for being part of the mob said on TV that he was goaded into it by others because Muslims ate beef.

Shaqir, one of the surviving brothers, told reporters in the hospital that the attackers “flung our skull caps, pulled my brother’s beard, slapped us, and taunted us about eating beef”.

Under Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist BJP, the cow has become a polarising animal and religious divisions are widening. Restrictions on the sale and slaughter of cows are fanning confusion and vigilantism.

Two years ago, a mob killed farm worker Mohammed Akhlaq over “rumours” that his family had stored and eaten beef.

A relative holds a photograph of slain Indian villager Mohammad Akhlaq at his home in the village of Bisada,Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMohammad Akhlaq was a farm worker lynched in 2015 over rumours that he ate beef

Vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people for transporting cattle. Muslim men have been lynched by Hindu mobs, mostly in BJP-ruled states, for allegedly storing beef and, in one case, for helping an mixed-faith couple elope.

Many are wondering whether India is hurtling towards a “mobocracy” under Mr Modi’s watch. They also question the prime minister’s silence over the killings.

There is a sense of a rapid breakdown of law and order when it comes to protecting minorities.

The police at the railway station in BJP-ruled Haryana failed to save the teenager on Friday. The local police station chief told The Times of India newspaper that they could not rescue the boy because of the crowd.

“Such things happen. Whenever there is a riot or fight such things happen and people say some communal things but we can’t do anything,” he said.

Narendra ModiImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe lynchings are giving Narendra Modi’s government a bad name

The chief minister of BJP-ruled Rajasthan, where 55-year-old dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was lynched in April, offered condolences over his “demise” without mentioning the fact that he had been murdered. A BJP lawmaker said he had “no regret” over the killing because Khan was a “cow-smuggler”.

The spate of mob murders is earning a bad name both for Hinduism and Mr Modi’s government.

“India is slipping beyond the pale. It is unfathomable that the ancient Hindu horror at the taking of life, any life – the very same doctrine of ahimsa, or non-violence, that governed the beliefs of men like Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr – should in our time be used as a justification for murder,” noted author Aatish Taseer, writing in The New York Times.

The Economist magazine has suggested that under Mr Modi debate about communal relations has “atrophied”.

Relatives of lynched policemanImage copyrightAFP
Image captionA Muslim police officer was beaten to death by a Muslim mob outside the main mosque in Indian-administered Kashmir

But India’s senior most bureaucrat in charge of law and order, Rajiv Mehrishi, has instead accused the media of “over reporting” the incidents.

“I don’t think it [hate crime] is new in India. It is feudal in nature. Today, they shake the conscience. You cannot say lynching or hate crimes are something new. I think they are over hyped and over reported,” he said.

To be sure, hate crimes are not new to India. The crisis of violence is not unique to the country either – many point to the US, where there are high rates of gun crime.

And mob lynching is also not new to India. Hundreds of people – more than 630between 1982 and 1984 alone – were murdered by mobs during the three-decade-long Communist rule in West Bengal. The reckless vigilantism was blamed in part on political oppression and appalling law and order. Interestingly, there was little public outrage.

On the day of Junaid Khan’s killing, a Muslim police officer was beaten to death by a Muslim mob outside the main mosque in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Earlier this month a Muslim activist was allegedly murdered by overzealous government officials after he objected to them taking pictures of women defecating in the open.

India has a shambolic record when it comes to religious violence. It ranks fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance, according to a recent Pew Research Centre analysis.

Women are routinely branded as witches and lynched to death for property in large parts of the country. There are also high rates of domestic violence.

The skeletal remains of several buses belonging to a private travel company are parked in the yard after being set on fire by an angry mob during violence due to the Cauvery water disputeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionAn angry mob set fire to several buses during violence over Cauvery river water dispute in Bangalore last year

But the problem with Mr Modi’s government, say many, is that it is seen as ineffective – or unwilling – to rein in the thuggish Hindu mobs.

It is, in the words of sociologist Shiv Visvanathan, a “politics of insecurity and anxiety” which is leading to anarchy even as the “state watches lynching as a spectacle”.

Many wonder whether India is staring into a dangerous abyss when a government with a majority led by a powerful leader refuses to condemn hate crimes and a vast number of citizens stay silent or appear to privately support it.

A lawyer tweeted that he had “family elders supporting [the lynchings]. Took me great self-control to avoid anger”.

Why is there a lack of outrage outside a handful of journalists, teachers and activists? Have most Indians become inured to violence and intolerance?

On Wednesday, countrywide protests are being planned against such “targeted” murders.

What many Indians who choose to remain silent do not realise is that small-scale and large-scale violence are intimately connected. The perpetuation of hate crimes can easily lead to wider violence.

“Every act of violence that you tolerate without protest, brings it a step closer to your doorstep. It is because small violence is tolerated that big violence is rendered possible,” writes Sudipta Kaviraj from Columbia University.

It is a warning India ignores again and again.

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India – Govt. is restricting protests, stifling dissent #FOE



A combination of coercive and non-coercive means is being used to silence criticism

Opposition by major political parties against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s plans to establish its total dominance of the electoral landscape is still quite feeble. But public protests have surfaced to challenge its social and political agenda and the attempt to impose an exclusionary Hindu identity. More importantly, the economy is in distress. There is hardly any job creation for the 12 million people who enter the workforce annually. This would surely be a source of disquiet for the middle classes who form the core support base of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even supporters have begun to complain that despite the government loudly trumpeting its achievements, key policies have simply not delivered acche din.

In the air

Discontent is in the air, it is palpable in the growing protests and the appearance of non-sectarian mass movements in different parts of the country. Farmer protests have broken out in several States; Dalits are a disenchanted lot and have taken to active protests, from Una to Saharanpur, despite the systematic attempt to woo them; the ongoing student protests in universities highlight the continuing resistance against assaults on the autonomy to think and the right to engage with ideas the ruling dispensation disapproves of. Even though these protests are not pervasive and do not pose a serious challenge to the BJP’s winning spree in elections, they have nonetheless invited the wrath of the government.

At a broader level, dissent has been curbed through a combination of coercive and non-coercive means. These include reducing the remit of Right to Information (RTI), curbs on foreign-funded NGOs, criminalisation of dissent through sedition provisions of the penal code, and the hounding of human rights activists and civil society groups. One can add to this list the recent CBI raids on NDTV which many people have rightly read as a message to the media in general to fall in line, if they haven’t already done so. This is similar to the way in which the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Film and Television Institute of India were targeted earlier with the express purpose of eradicating important sites of dissent. Each of these institutions is perceived as a threat to the ideological agenda of the regime, raising inconvenient questions that the regime feels needed to be silenced.

Recent experience shows a concerted effort by the government to dampen anti-regime protests either by remaining in denial and dismissing protests, or more often by using police powers to discourage people from protesting. Three protests in the past few months exemplify this trend. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh began protests over low prices for their crops on June 1. Mandsaur became the nerve centre of the protest, resulting in five deaths in police firing. After that, demonstrations and rallies were not allowed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and these restrictions remained in force for several days.

Likewise, in Saharanpur, the police and administration imposed Section 144 to restrict assembly after a man was killed in a clash between the Dalit and the Thakur communities. Here too, Opposition leaders were denied entry and the police prevented people from reaching protest sites or using them for organising protests.

In the third case, the police arrested a handful of Lucknow University students earlier this month for blocking the convoy of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and showing black flags to him when he was on his way to attend a programme in the university. Students arrested for breaching security of the Chief Minister were later denied bail. The State government justified its harsh actions by branding everyone who protested as ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘Naxalites’ when actually such branding can be termed as a diversion from the social and economic disentitlements occurring in reality.

Curbs on protest are not new, but there is a sense in which these negative trends have accentuated or sharpened over the past three years, marking an unprecedented attack on the politics of opposition. The previous government too made things difficult for protest movements. The ‘India Against Corruption’ movement is known to have had difficulties in getting permission for centrally located places to organise their anti-corruption protest. The midnight arrest of Baba Ramdev by the Delhi Police at Ramlila Maidan in June 2011 when he was carrying out a protest against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s inaction on the black money issue is a clear case of government overreach.

The Supreme Court had pulled up the UPA government and Delhi Police for the crackdown. It said the right to protest or join a protest is an essential part of free speech, and upheld the right to assemble. Additionally, it argued that it is an obligation of the state to make this effective and not restrict it by imposing restrictions on assembly. Not surprisingly, Arun Jaitley, then Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, welcomed the landmark order, but criticised the charge of “contributory negligence” (an obligation on the protesters to obey every lawful order which in this case is Section 144) against Baba Ramdev, which he argued amounts to a surrender of the right to protest. In other words, if protesters are within their right to protest, they are equally within their right not to accept an illegal order denying them the right to protest.

Times have changed

But the same lofty principle doesn’t seem to apply to protests organised against the current dispensation where citizens are compelled to abdicate the right to protest because the state arbitrarily decides to throw the ‘anti-nationalist’ label at anyone who questions the government and protesters are regularly accused of disturbing peace to stop them from reaching protest sites.

The police in Haryana recently booked 15 Dalit protesters on sedition charges in Karnal; they had demanded the release of four Dalits arrested for a murder committed during a clash between castes at a village in Ambala three months ago. These men had met the Haryana Chief Minister on April 24 to demand a fair probe into inter-caste clashes. In effect, by charging them with sedition the police action has declared that it is now illegal to criticise the government or gather people for a protest.

At this point, when uncritical nationalist fever is running high in the country, such arbitrariness will make it more difficult to exercise the right to protest which is an integral part of constitutional guarantees.

So, where does this leave the issue of democracy? This is precisely the space in which dissent and democracy make their connection. Freedom of expression and its concomitant, the concept of dissent, are essential for democracy. It is a concept that contains within it the democratic right to object, oppose, protest and even resist. In the end, keeping dissent alive is to practise what Edward Said called “speaking truth to power” in his penultimate 1993 Reith Lectures. Or as he put it, “No one can speak up all the time on all the issues. But, I believe, there is a special duty to address the constituted and authorised powers of one’s own society, which are accountable to its citizenry, particularly when those powers are exercised in a manifestly disproportionate and immoral war, or in a deliberate programme of discrimination, repression, and collective cruelty.”

Zoya Hasan is professor emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University and distinguished professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi

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Gujarat Class X students cannot answer 2+2+2?

In Gujarat, OMR heroes turn out to be zeroes


  • Results of 850 Class X students were cancelled after authorities found major discrepancies between their OMR and descriptive exam results
  • The students had scored 40-49 marks out of 50 in the objective question paper but scored only 0-3 m
Results Of 850 Class X Students Cancelled
In a shocker, results of 850 class X students were cancelled by Gujarat Secondary and HIgher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) after authorities found major discrepancies their OMR and descriptive exam results. These students had scored 40-49 marks out of 50 in the objective question paper but scored only 0-3 marks in descriptive papers raising strong suspicion that mass copying had happened.Startlingly, the suspicion was confirmed when these students, called in batches of 100 each for questioning, could not even do basic math like adding 2+2+2 or giving correct answer to simple single-digit multiplication.Majority of the students co uld not write correct spelling of `cricket’ and drew a blank when asked `What is the capital of Gujarat?’ “Results of 850 students from 10-odd centres in Dahod, Mahisagar, Tapi and parts of Saurashtra have been cancelled. Siddhartha While there is no proof of mass copying, our questioning of the students was a huge shocker as the SSC students could not give answer to basic questions which a grade 2-5 student can easily tell,“ said RR Thakkar, vicechairman of GSHSEB.

Thakkar said that the students were first asked to answer questions asked in the OMR test where they scored brilliantly . “The students could not answer and gave lame excuse that they had learnt by rote and forgotten as three months had passed till they wrote the exam.“

Curiously , while the stu dent’s poor le vel of educa tion pro mpted aut horities to take action, how did the students selecti vely write correct answer remains a mystery . “All CCTV footage was checked and there is no hint of mass copying,“ said board member K A Butani.

Ironically , authorities suspect that teachers in connivance with principals may have dictated answers to objective questions from outside classrooms to evade being caught on CCTV fearing grant cut if the result of schools is less than 30%. Extra vigilance may be ordered at these centers next year.

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Punjab: Bajrangdal activists hinder Christian prayer with violence

Patiala: Bajrang dal workers on  June 17 ,  created nuisance in a Christian prayer gathering at Ghagha Road Samana Patiala.

Shivsena activists inculpated the prayer meet of alleged forced religious conversion and kindled a havoc. However, the Punjab police later intervened to stabilise the scene.

The three-days gathering is still due for Sunday as well as Monday. Deputy Commissioner of Patiala, Amit, has said if the violence continues the gathering would be given a halt.

source- siasat  daily

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Maharashtra – Std XII book drops `ugly women pay more dowry’ para

Rahi Gaikwad
Following a nationwide furore, embarrassed state govt makes changes to Std XII sociology textbook chapterEducationists say such content is not the way to make students aware about social problems, call for better screening of textbook writers

A paragraph on dowry has been removed from the Maharashtra state board’s Std XII sociology textbook, months after the content led to a nationwide furore for listing `ugliness’ as one of the reasons for “more dowry“. A chapter titled `Major Social Problems in India’ read: “If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls, bridegroom and his family demand more dowry.Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bride groom as family. It leads to rise in the practice of dowry system.“

The chapter goes on to explain how `kulin’ marriage ­ a marriage between a man from a higher caste and a woman from a lower caste ­ can also result in a bigger dowry demand.

The deeply regressive content, which was circulated on social media in February, was slammed by citizens, including educationists, forcing state Education Minister Vinod Tawde to issue an explanation that the content was an attempt to explain social reality.

Mumbai Mirror has learnt that the embarrassed state government issued a notification to the affiliated schools in April that the paragraphs have been dropped from the reprinted versions of the textbook.

“For the books already printed, we have issued instructions to divisional boards that the particular portion stands cancelled. We have also given directions to Balbharti, the state board’s textbook publishing bureau, to delete the portions from the reprints,“ Krishna Kumar Patil, secretary of the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, told this news paper. The textbook is authored by six people, and also discusses gender inequality and domestic violence. The chapter lists 12 major causes for dowry demand, including “expectation of the bridegroom“ and “compensation principle“.

Professor PG Jogdand, former head of the Department of Sociology at the Mumbai University, said removing portions from the chapter on dowry was a case of better late than never. “This is not a good way of explaining the practice of dowry as it also shows the handicapped in a poor light. We do have to orient students to the social problems but we cannot comment on someone’s handicap,“ Jogdand said.

This is not the first instance of school textbooks’ content raising eyebrows. In May last year, it was reported that a Std VIII textbook of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education had erased Jawaharlal Nehru and his role as India’s first prime minister, and also Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by Nathuram Godse. A month later, it emerged that another textbook of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education, in a chapter on Sindhi poet Sant Kanwar Ram, said it was a “woman’s duty to follow her man“.

While Tawde told Mirror that a panel of “experts“ decide the textbook contents, educationists insisted on a process to ensure the content was free of bias. Professor Jaswandi Wamburkar, formerly associated with the writing of Std VIII history textbook for the state board, said having reputed academicians on the textbook committee could help check biases in content.

“The process of scrutiny is already very stringent. After the textbook committee prepares the final draft, it is given to teachers for reading. Perhaps the process of selection of writers needs to be done more meticulously,“ she said.

Vibhuti Patel, head of the Department of Economics at SNDT, who specialises in Economics of Gender Development, lamented that textbooks were “known to have many generalised notions about women’s roles, including that of homemakers“.

“To avoid them, selection of textbook writers should be based on academic rigour and record of publications.There should be intensive training in gender sensitivity, sensitivity towards multiculturalism, and human rights,“ Patel said.

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Kovind, Dalit Politics and Hindu Nationalism


By- Ram Puniyani

Image result for kovind

By nominating Ramanth Kovind as the Presidential candidate, BJP has tried to play the politics of tokenism to the hilt. Mr. Kovind is a dalit from UP. While many names were doing round from BJP parivar, finally they settled down for a person who is dalit in name and Hindu nationalist in ideology. Last three years of Modi Sarkar has not only seen rising violence against Muslims, religious minorities but also against dalits in particular. Starting from banning of Periyar Study circle in IIT Madras, to creating a situation where Rohith Vemula, a dalit research scholar, had to take his life, to ‘cow-violence’ against dalits in Una, the dalits as a social group have come under severe attack, which is by product of Hindu nationalist politics. Apart from this; there are also instances where the a Central minister equated dalits to dogs, a BJP leader, UP BJP vice President Kripa Shankar Singh said that Mayawati was worst than a prostitute. Incidentally he was apparently reprimanded but through back door his wife was given the ticket for assembly elections and later was made a minister in Yogi cabinet in UP. To add salt to the injury one saw the horrific anti-dalit violence against dalits in Saharanpur as Mr. Yogi came to power and upper caste are feeling more powerful. When the Bhim Army under Chandrasekhar protested against the attack on dalits, the young Dalit leaders were arrested while to attackers were left off with minor charges.

This move of nominating Kovind, seems to be a superficial attempt to assuage the deep injury inflicted upon the dalits of the society. One recalls here that after the Gujarat carnage, orchestrated on the pretext of Godhra train burning, and the deep wounds inflicted upon Muslims in Gujarat Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam was chosen by BJP to be the President of India. It was another tokenism, which did not change the deeper anti minority dynamics in the society. This is what tokenism is supposed to be doing, creating an impression that one is offering a helping hand.

Mr. Kovind has been a RSS swayamsevak; he has donated his ancestral house for RSS work. His opinions as reflected in many of his statement show that he regards Islam and Christianity as alien religions. This came out when he was participating in the debate on Rangnath Mishra commission report, when the issue of reservations for dalits converting to Islam or Christianity came up for discussion. Mr. Kovind says that education should have primacy over reservations, undermining reservations for dalits.

As a part of BJP, Kovind has been trying to woo the non-Jatav Dalits in UP in particular. BJP-RSS have won over many a dalits. Likes of Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, who has been compromising the interests of dalits for the sake of personal power, said that all those who oppose Kovind should be regarded as anti dalit! What does it mean to be a dalit leader today? There are many of the likes of Kovind and Paswan who seal their lips when atrocities against dalits are going on and are rising. The dalit leadership is in the dilemma today. Many of Ramvilas Paswan variety of dalit leaders are aligned with Hindu Nationalist politics of BJP-RSS as it gives them perks and power. But there is a large number of others who are engaging in the protests against the system on the issues of survival and dignity of the dalits, for their rights as equal citizens. For the dalits the major achievement has been the coming into being of Indian Constitution, a document giving them theoretical equality. It gives them the ground on which they can stand and struggle for their rights.

On the other hand the politics of RSS has been opposing Indian nationalism, in favor of Hindu nationalism. RSS politics has been upholding the scriptures which have provisions of caste hierarchy inherent in them. As such Hindu nationalism has come a long way during last close to a century or so. Is it a coincidence that RSS came up in the context of the rising protests by dalits in the form of non Brahman movement in Vidarbha region of Maharshtra. This movement was against the social structure which gave primacy to landlord Brahmin. The movements based on equality have been running parallel to the freedom movement. The dalits were articulating their needs through agitations and movements for equality. Hindu nationalism upheld the age old system; it upheld the caste structure in a subtle way. In due course, especially after the decade of 1990s the politics of RSS-BJP has been opposing reservation and equality for dalits. It has operated at multiple levels to co-opt the dalits in to their political fold. Adding on to Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which has been working for Hidnukaran of Adivasis (Hinduisation), Samajik Samrasta Manch (Social harmony forum) came up to oppose the struggles for Samata (equality) in favor of ‘harmony amongst castes’. Through cultural mechanisms it has been trying to propagate that dalits have been defending Hinduism against the attacks from Islam.

Lately RSS combine has been making attempts to pay respect to Ambedkar, by calling him Great Hindu, by observing his anniversary at grand scale etc. Ambedkar’s politics and Hindu nationalist politics are polar opposites. Ambedkar stands for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity while Hindu nationalism is for the hierarchical values of Vedic times. Through social engineering dalits have been made to participate in destruction of Babri Masjid and also to participate in anti Muslim violence. How do assess Mr. Kovind? The politics of a person is not just guided by birth, dalits propagating and working for Hindu nationalism are harming dalits in a serious way, while even non dalits upholding the path of Ambedkar are truly working for uplift of dalits!

Mr. Kovind must have taken the oath of RSS, which calls for primacy of Hindu nation.

Indian Constitution is for Indian nationalism.

What will he uphold as President of India, the former or the latter?

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Mumbai – Activist raped after she exposed Mangrove killers #WTFnews

Activist raped after she exposed mangrove killers
Rubble from the razed shanties
Five men sexually assaulted her a day after her complaint led to the demolition of their illegal hutments in Kandivali’s Charkop

An activist engaged with conserving the mangrove cover in Kandivali’s Charkop area was raped by five men on Sunday afternoon after her complaint led to the tearing down of illegal hutments raised on the green patch at Sai Dham Nagar.

The Charkop police have booked 45-year-old Jialal Chouhan, his sons Ram (25) and Laxman (20), Munnalal Prajapati (45), and Ram Milan Yadav (45) for rape and assault under Indian Penal Code sections 326 and 376, among others. The first information report was lodged on Monday.

The mangrove swamp in Kandivali routinely sees trees getting killed, debris dumped indiscriminately, and unauthorised structures constructed to be sold for up to Rs 12 lakh.

The activist is associated with a non-profit called Anyay Nivaran Bhrashtachar Nirmulan Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sanstha, which works against corruption, injustice and environmental destruction.

On Saturday, she lodged a plaint with the forest department about the shanties that she had seen come up in the past few days on land which is supposed to be protected by the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) norms. A day later, she was sexually abused for getting the authorities to enforce the regulation.

Archana Shinde, state president of the NGO the activist was working with, told Mirror: “She was assigned the task of monitoring mangroves. After her complaint on Saturday, the structures were demolished.”

Then, around 3.30 pm on Sunday, the men who had built the shacks went to her home and began filming her from the window to terrorise her, Shinde said. “They dragged her outside and hit her with an iron rod. She was thrust to the floor and raped. Her mother heard the commotion, arrived at the spot and called the police. It must have been 4 pm then,” she said.

She was taken to Ambedkar Hospital nearby, where she received stitches on her face and ribs. Shinde said that the police didn’t inform the hospital about her case.

The victim spoke with Mumbai Mirror over phone. “I didn’t know being a complainant would create this nightmare. They have destroyed my spirit. I am unable to go to the bathroom. My whole face is swollen. I am in terrible pain. Even the police are hand-in glove-with the rapists,” she said.

Her lawyer, Laxmi Narayan, said that the police official on duty at Charkop police station, Mahadev Tukaram Bhonsale, didn’t register the FIR on time. “Instead, he went to her house and arrested a family member after taking a cross-complaint from the accused. He pressured the victim to withdraw the plaint,” he said, adding that her statement hasn’t been recorded accurately. “I am going to make another complaint,” he said.

Bhonsale said the FIR had been registered on Monday and that the matter was in court.

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India – Linking #Aadhaar to bank accounts is a recipe for creating benami bank accounts


Linking Aadhaar to bank accounts is a recipe for creating benami bank accounts and scaling benami bank transactions. It threatens to destroy your bank accounts and destroy the country’s banking system. It’s devastating that the integrity of banking processes is being destroyed by dividing, outsourcing and privatizing processes integral to core banking so that they become the responsibility of no one.Enabling Benami Bank Accounts

A few days back a co-panelist on a TV channel argued that linking Aadhaar to Bank Accounts will weed out money laundering by verifying bank accounts. Money laundering is facilitated by creating benami accounts. It is also facilitated by benami transactions.

Benami accounts get created when banks fail to identify the real customers who own the accounts. The Panama Papers exposed data of thousands of benami accounts created through a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The Panama Papers exposed one modus operandi of hiding the real owners of the assets in tax havens.

Prudent bankers recognize the importance of knowing who they bank with. It is no wonder that the Reserve Bank of India noted right from 2010 that the Aadhaar enrolment process does not have due diligence, verification is not compulsory as confirmed by the UIDAI in the Demographic Data Standards and Verification Procedure, and does not require document based verification. The bank also highlighted that such use of Aadhaar as third party identification is against Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the paper issued on Customer Due Diligence (CDD) for banks by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and circulated to scheduled commercial banks by the RBI on November 29, 2004. The bank also observed that a fixed time document like the Aadhaar cannot be a Proof of Address. It also cautioned using Business Correspondents (BC), to open bank accounts or undertake banking transactions, as the vulnerability of the system has not been tested and co-mingling funds of different banks in the hands of BC’s was a major operational risk to the banks. While resisting the use of Aadhaar, the RBI also highlighted the Government’s concern about the perceived misuse of such accounts for terrorist financing.

Under pressure from the UIDAI and the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance the RBI, through its circular dated January 27, 2011, allowed bank accounts to be opened exclusively on the basis of Aadhaar number. However, the RBI required such accounts to be put to restrictions and be subjected to conditions and limitations prescribed for small accounts.

Not happy with the restrictions, the UIDAI pressed the RBI to lift the restrictions placed on accounts opened with Aadhaar numbers under the PMLA. On September 28, 2011, again through the Department of Revenue, the UIDAI succeeded in getting the RBI to backtrack and suspend the restrictions of the PMLA on bank accounts opened solely through Aadhaar. The UIDAI also succeeded in causing the RBI further to accept eKYC or remotely using information associated with an Aadhaar number as KYC. According to the UIDAI eKYC brings scale to the ease of onboarding customers.

To put the problem in perspective, Aadhaar enrolment was completely outsourced to private parties by the UIDAI with the sole aim of building the world’s largest biometric database. Mr. Nilekani’s UIDAI repeatedly emphasized that they merely provided a framework to issue a number and store the (unverified and unaudited) data. In fact, no one from the UIDAI or even the government even signs the Aadhaar card that is mailed back to the enrollee. The very same organizations that were declared by the UIDAI as holding databases full of ghosts and duplicates were asked to serve as “Registrars” to the enrolment process. They were even given flexibility in the collection, retention, and use of the data (including biometric) that they collected. No one in the enrolment process was required to identify anyone. At best they had to merely verify documents that were submitted for enrollment. Needless to say, anyone in possession of your documents could enroll with minor changes in any demographic information. Field stories of enrolments are full with descriptions of biometric jugaad including using a combination of persons, use of biometric masks, biometric modifications, and other ingenious methods to maximize registrations. The Aadhaar enrolment has been unlike that of any other identity document, easily scaling the creation of duplicate and ghost identities.

While there is widespread belief that biometric authentication at time of opening a bank account prevents benami, it ignores the field realities of mobile sims being issued on Aadhaar photocopies and used to open bank accounts, of having remotely “downloadable” accounts, and also plain simple use of photocopies of Aadhaar or parallel Aadhaar databases to open bank accounts. With Aadhaar, banks do not have any trace of the real customer. The customer, in turn, can simply point to a benami owner using an Aadhaar number.

To compound the problem, UIDAI has no liability for benami bank accounts opened with Aadhaar. After the introduction of the Aadhaar to open bank accounts, the accounts and deposits have doubled in 5 years. No one knows who really controls these accounts.

Enabling Benami transactions

The UIDAI signed a MoU with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a non-government company, to develop an Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS). In this MoU, the UIDAI has no responsibility for your banking transactions and the NPCI has no obligation to the RBI. The payment system uses the Aadhaar linked to a bank account as a financial address to do electronic money transfers from one Aadhaar number to another.

Unless an Aadhaar is linked to the account, the AEPS cannot access the bank account. Linking a PAN to the Aadhaar will have the same effect as linking the Aadhaar to a bank account as the PAN is already linked to the bank account. Such accounts become Aadhaar enabled. Aadhaar enabled bank accounts are ready to be used by the AEPS for Aadhaar to Aadhaar money transfers.

Linking an Aadhaar to a bank account is done through a process called as “seeding” an Aadhaar number to a bank account. After receiving the Aadhaar number from the customer, the bank uploads such numbers’ into an “NPCI mapper” or a repository of Aadhaar numbers and Institution Identification Number (IIN) numbers used for the purpose of routing transactions to the destination banks. The IIN is a unique 6-digit number issued by NPCI to the participating bank. If you or anyone else seed your Aadhaar with another bank account, the NPCI mapper is overwritten with the new banks’ IIN. Money transferred to an Aadhaar number, using the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System, gets transferred to the bank account linked to the Aadhaar number at the branch recognized by the IIN.

A money launderer can transfer money to an account linked to an alternate IIN and then re-seed the NPCI’s mapper with the original IIN for the Aadhaar number, completely wiping out any trace of money to the alternate IIN. Like transactions of bearer shares in Panama, such money transfers becomes no different from a hawala transaction between real parties who remain anonymous or benami.

The NPCI’s idea of Aadhaar to Aadhaar banking itself is flawed. It is surprising if the RBI has licensed this payment system under the Payment and Settlements Act.

All money is ultimately stored in bank accounts and not in the name of a person. Nowhere in the world does one transfer money to a person, you transfer it to a person’s account. Money transfers to and from a bank account make every money transfer traceable from source to destination making money laundering difficult, if not impossible. Hawala schemes make money transfers untraceable by eliminating the bank accounts. Money transfers that, like the hawala, are based on the premise that you do not share an account number, with someone transferring money to you, are inherently flawed in auditability as they wipe out the money trail.

The idea of a mapper, as used by NPCI’s AEPS, does not allow for instructions from sender but relies on the periodic update of IIN in the NPCI’s table mapping Aadhaar numbers from banks. As multiple banks have to upload the Aadhaar numbers seeded with accounts held by them, this cannot guarantee desired results. Worse, this slices the business process and outsources parts such that it destroys responsibility of the payment system from any single party as was in the case of NEFT or RTGS. Neither the NPCI, the UIDAI or the banks are responsible for such money transfers. They merely provide “look-up” services. In this system, a single compromised or rogue bank branch, or the perpetuator’s ability to exploit a good one, is enough to siphon off subsidy, park black money or take bribes.

Such money transfers would be difficult if not impossible to trace without a whistleblower. A few cases have been reported that suggest the large scale play of this scenario already. For example, more than 40,000 erroneous transfers were reported through AEPS in DBT transfers meant as part of drought relief for farmers in Karnataka. The government allegedly blamed the banks for failure to send the correct Aadhaar numbers with the beneficiaries.

That such transfer of funds is not affected with NEFT, when Aadhaar Leaks has exposed that bank details are already present in every record of the leaked data, creates grave suspicions. There is absolutely no reason to switch public payments from NEFT to AEPS, run by a non-government company. The replacement of a time-tested standard of electronic money transfers under government regulation by a non-standard payment system run by a non-government company raises several questions of national and public interest, propriety and possible conflicts of interest.

Destroying the banking system

The Department of Revenue has done it again. On June 1, 2017, vide Notification No.2/F .No. P.12011/11/2016-ES Cell-DOR it mandates the linking of every bank account with an Aadhaar number before December 31, 2017. While lawyers point out several illegalities, including the scope, of the notification of this subordinate legislation under the PMLA, the failure to consistently protect national interest is unbelievable.

This is not just a threat, it is a destruction of the Indian banking system. Here are just 5 ways in which linking the Aadhaar to PAN or a bank account will destroy India.

One, linking Aadhaar to bank accounts or PAN converts India into the new tax haven for money launderers as it becomes easy to remotely create benami accounts and operate benami transactions while claiming complete legitimacy. This will destroy India’s economy and governance.

Two, financing crime and terrorism will grow uncontrollably as it becomes increasingly difficult to discover, report or close down such operations. This will make it impossible to ensure national security as the rule of law is destroyed.

Three, corruption will increase as it becomes easier when proceeds will not be traceable to the corrupt.

Four, banks will not be able to contain non-performing-assets, fraud, and financial misappropriation as the real users will be untraceable. The economy will be completely out of control as the black and white economies become indistinguishable.

Five, the innocent will lose money, reputation and access to justice, dignity, and livelihood as they can be easily compromised, denied access or framed. Helpless citizens and businesses may also find their access to money disabled by deactivation or blocking of Aadhaar with no recourse to survival.

We are in a policy vacuum as the NITI Aayog and the bureaucracy has failed to recognize and protect the national interest. Unless the RBI de-licenses the AEPS immediately and the government stays linking Aadhaar to PAN and bank accounts, our leadership will have failed to protect India from this fast spreading cancer of Aadhaar. In the meantime, refusing to link Aadhaar to anything may be the only option left for you.


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Open letter to PM Rutte about the visit of Indian PM Modi to the Netherlands

Talk to Narendra Modi about human rights violations



On June 27, Prime Minister Modi of India will pay his first official visit to the Netherlands. Reasons for this visit are the 70 years diplomatic relations between India and the Netherlands and the fact that the Netherlands is one of the largest investors in India.Silent support for violence of hindu extremists
The close Dutch relationship with India is a good reason to address the deteriorating human rights situation in India during the discussion with the Indian Prime Minister. Under Modi’s hindu-nationalist government, the marginalization of minority groups such as Dalits (‘untouchables’), Christians and Muslims has increased significantly. Especially these groups, together more than a third of the Indian population, are nowadays regularly victims of extremist Hindu groups who respond by violence to every alleged abuse of cows. The government of India largely ignores this violence. In April of this year, Human Rights Watch also expressed her concern about this. In that month, ‘cow protectors’ killed a 55-year-old man who was on his way with his cattle truck.
We urge you to ask Prime Minister Modi to actively promote the rights of minorities and to speak out against the violence of the Hindu extremist groups.

Freedom of expression heavily under pressure
India is known as a country with a great diversity of civil society organizations that are e.g. addressing rights violations and appeal to the government to act against them. However, the freedom of critical human rights and environmental organizations – which are supposed to be crucial for a democracy – is heavily under pressure. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Association stated last year that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government on getting foreign funding “might disproportionately affect those organizations engaged in critical human rights work, those which address issues of government accountability and good governance, or represent vulnerable and minority populations or views.”
Recently, for example, Dalit organization Navsarjan was unable to receive money from foreign donors. Navsarjan carries out development programs for Dalits and supports Dalits to stand up for their rights.

Refusal of visa hampers cooperation for human rights
Also for Dutch civil society organizations it becomes increasingly difficult to cooperate with Indian human rights organizations and to support their work. Another way to frustrate this cooperation is to refuse visas for employees of Dutch organizations, including journalists. For example, the person signing this open letter has been refused a visa for India for almost 15 years.
In response to parliamentary questions, Minister Koenders of Foreign Affairs announced in February that the Netherlands will exert itself to “pay attention to this situation [the various obstacles for Indian and Dutch civil society] and will continue to do so”. The visit of your colleague Modi is a unique opportunity to emphatically discuss this issue again and to make it a point of permanent attention in the bilateral and multilateral relations with India.

Violations of labour rights by Dutch companies
With his program Make in India, Modi wants to put India on the map as an economic superpower. Success stories about economic growth are manifold. The downside of it gets much less attention. According to the Dutch policy on international corporate social responsibility, doing business in a country like India is not free of obligations, but must comply with the OECD Guidelines for responsible business conduct. As often confirmed by your government, there are often substantial, serious violations of labour rights in the supply chains of Dutch and other companies that are operating in India. For example, girls work as modern slaves on cotton fields and in spinning mills for products that international companies sell on the Dutch market. Also in for example vegetable seed production, mining and processing of natural stone and the production of leather products, Dutch companies are involved in systemic rights abuses.

Actively together against child labour, exploitation and modern slavery
Currently, at the initiative of Minister Ploumen, Dutch civil society organizations, companies, trade unions ánd the Dutch government are working together on solutions in various sector agreements [called covenants], including in the textile sector. But to address the labour and human rights problems in Indian supply chains of Dutch companies, engagement of the Indian government is indispensable.
In line with her policy, the Dutch government should take the opportunity of this state visit to do the maximum within her capacity to get the support of the Indian government to address child labour, modern slavery, exploitation and other abuses in the chains of Dutch companies.

Gerard Oonk
director India Committee of the Netherlands

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India – Why the BJP has no incentive to stop the lynching of Muslims

By Sushil Aaron

HT fileFamily members of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer who was allegedly lynched by vigilantes for transporting cows in Rajasthan in April, sit on a dharna to demand justice for him. In recent months, a string of deadly mob attacks on Muslims has triggered outrage across India, with critics accusing the Narendra Modi government of not doing enough to stop these assaults. (HT file)

There is no doubt that a form of medieval madness has taken over India in the shape of Islamophobia and regular lynching of Muslims in different states. The situation has moved quickly from not renting out homes to Muslims to refusing to tolerate their presence in public spaces. Muslims are being taunted on trains and streets, fights initiated and lynched. The lynchings have become so common that we do not know which one to respond to. Should we weep for Mohammad Naeem in Jharkhand or Hafiz Junaid in Haryana? How many remember the details of Pehlu Khan’s murder in Rajasthan? Mohammad Akhlaq is now just another milestone in this steady journey of wanton death. Many on social media who were horrified by Srinivas Kuchibotla’s murder in the US in February are strangely muted about the lynching of Muslims in India.

There is scarcely a word of condemnation from the BJP’s leadership. Forest fires in Portugal get more notice from this government than the ravaging of India’s social fabric that has taken centuries to nurture. Rather than express concern – let alone enforce the law – the Union Cabinet and BJP leaders found a way to signal to gau-rakshaks that they are on the same side. They skipped President Pranab Mukherjee’s iftar reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in an unprecedented flouting of convention and political grace. The politicians are essentially conveying to the vigilantes that they too have such contempt for Muslims that they’d rather not be seen in public breaking bread with them.

The striking thing about vigilantism now is that there is no incentive for the BJP to make it stop. The Opposition is powerless, the police are bystanders, courts have not shown interest, the ruling party feels that it will no longer lose elections and so it has no dread of the hustings.

There is also notably no fear of violent retaliation. Muslims in India are effectively hostages in their own land, unable to take on a section of the majority that is fortified by a State that looks the other way in the face of gratuitous violence. Vigilante violence also tests the bonds of transnational Muslim solidarity. Ordinarily, Pakistan and Pakistan-based terror groups would use violence or the threat of violence as leverage over the Indian government to bargain on Kashmir or relax anti-Muslim policies elsewhere. (The 1993 Mumbai blasts were a reaction to the riots that targeted Muslims in December 1992 and January 1993.) But Congress and BJP governments react very differently to terror attacks. The Congress is weakened by them while Hindu nationalists are bolstered by them. In the current climate attacks can provide the excuse for more bloodletting and subsequent consolidation of Hindu identity. That’s the bind Hindu vigilantes put Islamabad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in.

There is thus a deterrence at play here for the vigilantes to exploit. But deterrence breaks down sometimes, which also works for the BJP. The Pakistani army and the LeT may have a measure of geopolitical reason, groups like Islamic State may not (which is why we are hearing more about IS as a threat to India lately). When terror attacks happen in India or where there is a spike in militancy in J&K as is expected they can quickly change the direction of the debate and harden middle class attitudes towards Muslims in general.

To get a sense of this, consider what happened in Kashmir over the last year. Security forces reacted excessively to the outpouring of grief following Burhan Wani’s killing last July, firing live ammunition and pellets at civilian protestors that left about 100 people dead, blinded many and partially blinded hundreds. The debate has now moved away from the high civilian toll to a representation of stone-pelting youth as terrorists. This was achieved through sheer repetition in the public sphere, with no quarter given to Kashmir’s complex past or its suffering. Over the last month, the government has come under criticism over Major Leetul Gogoi tying Farooq Ahmad Dar to a jeep, but suddenly a crowd in Srinagar lynches deputy superintendent of police Ayub Pandith – an act widely condemned by Kashmiris – and now it becomes difficult to get the focus back on State action. In other words, one act is enough to draw an equivalence and gloss over a lengthy, bloody past and turn the debate in the direction the government wants.

We are likely to see more Ayub Pandith moments in Kashmir and other states of India. No one outrageous act will be allowed to build up for too long; there will either be another distraction, another outrage – either by design or the logic of circumstances. Paresh Rawal’s tweet on Arundhati Roy ensured that attention was diverted from pictures of Naeem drenched in his own blood.

Lynching not only acts out hatred for Muslims, it also serves to generate support, acquiescence and fear among the different constituents of the Hindu middle class. The key sources where this cohort picks up independent, contrarian views – universities, media, writers, filmmakers and artists – are being tamed. Throw in the spectre of open violence on the street and its compliance is assured. It is very easy to silence people when there is no rule of law. A troubled conscience unsure of peer support is often no match for a frenzied and organised political force. Many will flit between fear and helplessness (about lynching) and rage (about violence in Kashmir). It’s a condition geared to produce moral flight and political apathy, which suits the BJP as it seeks to quickly consolidate Hindu identity. Sunil Khilnani famously wrote in The Idea of India that “in a fundamental sense, India does not merely ‘have’ politics but is actually constituted by politics.” Right now the possibility of politics is being threatened by organised fear.


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