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Mumbai -To fix whistleblower, bank moves from verse to worse

ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu, June 13, 2013 

Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo
The Hindu–Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo

Union leader Devidas Tuljapurkar faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the Bank of Maharashtra, as it suspects him of being the whistleblower behind a story in “The Hindu” on July 7, 2012.

For one unfortunate whistleblower, things have gone from verse to worse. Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. And since it can’t pinpoint them, the bank has gone after internal critics on novel grounds. It has chargesheeted a Union leader and ex-Director of the BoM for acts “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.” That is, for publishing 19 years ago, a poem it calls ‘vulgar and obscene,’ in the Union’s in-house magazine, ‘Bulletin.’ That poem is the basis of the Bank’s charge sheet against a worker with an impeccable service record.

In 1984, the Marathi poet Vasant Dattatraya Gurjar wrote a satirical poem titledGandhi Mala Bhetla Hota (Gandhi met me) which shook the literary world with its polemical content. In 2013, Devidas Tuljapurkar, General Secretary of the All-India Bank of Maharashtra Employees Federation, faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the bank, ostensibly because the Bulletin, of which he was editor, carried that poem in 1994!

The real reasons for going after Mr. Tuljapurkar appear to have little to do with poetry and seem far more prosaic. He has been a thorn in the flesh of his management. Both, as an alert employee and, for a while, as Workman Director on the bank’s Board. He has also drawn the RBI’s attention to the BoM’s odd handling of some corporate accounts and advances which, he charges, are being favoured at the expense of BoM’s main depositors — lakhs of small farmers, working people and retired employees. But the BoM leadership has something more against him. They suspect him — with no basis or proof — of being the whistleblower behind a story in The Hindu, July 7, 2012. That story exposed how the bank had granted a Rs. 150-crore loan to a defaulter owing BoM Rs. 40 crore by greatly weakening the terms of the original sanction letter. The defaulter company was a part of the United Breweries (UB) group headed by Vijay Mallya. The expose embarrassed Bank Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Narendra Singh, sparking a whistleblower witch-hunt.

But no whistleblower was found. And after several transfers of senior officers within the bank, the search hit a dead-end. Ironically, it was an unthinking action of the Reserve Bank of India that handed the BoM management a scapegoat: Devidas Tuljapurkar.

Mr. Tuljapurkar told The Hindu, “Last October, I wrote a letter to RBI Governor D. Subba Rao highlighting questionable corporate advances and imprudent banking decisions of BoM at the instance of CMD Narendra Singh.” The letter, written in his capacity as a Union leader, was backed up with facts and documents. Having served as a Director on the Board of BoM from 2004 to 2009, he was very familiar with the rules and procedures.

However, the RBI failed to protect his identity as a whistleblower. In one of those unthinking acts of bureaucracy, the RBI routinely forwarded Mr. Tuljapurkar’s letter to the very BoM management that it exposed, for their comments. The bank had found its scapegoat and Mr. Tuljapurkar’s ordeal began. “Since I had written a letter to RBI, the management assumed that it was also I who had leaked that story about gifting a Rs. 150-crore loan to Mallya’s company. They wanted to corner me, so they started scanning my history,” he says.

And all they could come up with was a poem from 1984. Vasant Gurjar’s poem is a political satire that is scathing about the followers of Mahatma Gandhi who, in the poet’s view, were merely serving their own interests. In 1994, the poem was published in the ‘Bulletin’ the house magazine of the Union. In March 1995, an organisation called the ‘Patit Pavan Sanghatana’ filed a complaint against the Bulletin for publishing the ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ poem. As editor of the Bulletin, Mr. Tuljapurkar was made an accused in the case.

This May 3, 19 years later, the BoM management issued an internal charge sheet against Mr. Tuljapurkar. It accuses him of ‘publishing such an inflammatory, vulgar, obscene and objectionable material in the magazine “Bulletin” meant for bank employees …” And claims that circulating that issue of the Bulletin on the BoM’s premises (in 1994) was “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.”

Interestingly, the ‘State Performances Scrutiny Board, Government of Maharashtra’, headed by well-known Marathi poet F.M. Shinde, has a very different take on the poem. In January 2011 the Scrutiny Board made it clear that the poem is neither obscene nor vulgar. “What Gandhi had envisioned about Swarajya is nowhere to be seen. The poet has expressed this in satirical form,” Mr. Shinde had said.

Apart from ignoring the Board’s view, the BoM seems to take no notice of the Supreme Court’s order in the case against Mr. Tuljapurkar. “After the FIR in 1995, we approached both the sessions court and the High Court to discharge me from the case. But that was rejected and our appeal is pending in the Supreme Court,” he says. “The apex court, in its order dated July 7, 2010, stayed all proceedings in lower courts in this case and the actual trial has not even started in any court.”

The charge sheet accuses Mr. Tuljapurkar of not disclosing this pending litigation against him while serving as the Workman Director of the bank and for knowingly making ‘false statements’ in the forms of the bank. BoM CMD Narendra Singh took personal interest in the entire matter, says Mr. Tuljapurkar. The CMD placed the 19-year old case before the board meeting in January this year, recommending action against the union leader.

All this sidesteps the truth that Mr. Tuljapurkar’s name was mentioned in the FIR as editor of the Bulletin and not in any ‘personal capacity.’ It also ignores the fact that even charges in the case are yet to be framed. Calls, faxes and emails from The Hindu to Mr. Singh have so far drawn no response.

Meanwhile, an outraged All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), to which Mr. Tuljapurkar’s union is affiliated, has called for an agitation across the entire BoM on June 17. “We demand immediate withdrawal of the charge sheet slapped against him and thorough investigation of loans sanctioned by the bank to various corporates ever since the present chairman took charge,” CH. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, AIBEA, told The Hindu. He added that the BoM being a public sector bank, every citizen had a right to express concern about its financial health. “We shall fight back any attempt at victimisation.”

If the departmental inquiry against Mr. Tuljapurkar proceeds the way bank management wants, it could result in his dismissal. A whistleblower exposing the questionable actions of a public sector bank could be dismissed for publishing a poem in 1994. He is also a man who, while a director of the bank, transferred all the money he received as sitting charges for Board meetings to the Union’s account via cheque, accepting no monetary benefits as a director.

“I wrote to RBI because I found Mr. Singh’s financial moves unhealthy for the bank’s future. Hence I’m being targeted and victimised. They aim to make an example of me so nobody in future will dare raise his voice. It has to be stopped,” he said.

 

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Dalit boy forced to carry footwear on his head as punishment, wary Dalits flee #WTFnews

By Harish Murali | ENS – MADURAI

08th June 2013

Pechiammal (61), the grandmother of Dalit boy Arun Kumar who was forced to walk on streets where caste Hindus reside carrying his footwear on his head at Vadugapatti near Usilampatti, is worried about the future of her grandson.

“After my daughter Nagammal gave a police complaint against a caste Hindu youth for humiliating her son Arun Kumar, both have left for our relative’s house fearing for their lives,” said Pechiammal, who was seen sitting alone in the house at Vadugapatti. The village wore a deserted look on Friday, while the caste Hindus ‘closely monitored’ the movement of those Dalits who dared to venture out.

Narrating the atrocities that happened to Arun Kumar, Pechiammal said, “My grandson went to the Kallar Government High School to check his annual exam result. When he was returning, he walked barefoot following the ‘dictum’ of the caste Hindus, carrying his footwear in his hand. However, when he saw a group of students playing cricket, he stopped to watch the game. Unable bear the heat, he put the footwear down and stood on it. It was then that caste Hindu youth Nagamaalai spotted my grandson and forced him to walk carrying the footwear on his head.”

“What happened to Arun Kumar is not unusual. Since Nagammal filed a police complaint, the caste discrimination in our village has come to light,” said a cross-section of Dalits.

About 70 Dalit families live in a ‘colony’ (secluded area earmarked for Dalits) in the village. However, none of them are allowed to walk wearing footwear in the streets of caste Hindus. “We also walk barefoot to a ration shop which is located in the caste Hindu area,” said Alagar (33), a resident.

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Pakistani Dalits – the disadvantaged survivours

 


By Amar Guriro 

KARACHI: Dalits or co-called lower caste Hindus – comprising 90 percent of Pakistan‘s religious minorities – are the most underprivileged, with lowest access to education, said a study conducted by Pakistan Hindu Seva (Welfare Trust).

The report said only 16 percent Pakistani Dalits get basic education and only 3 percent of them reach graduation level, while 2 percent go for postgraduate studies.

According to Indian National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Dalits are ‘outcasts’ falling outside the traditional four-fold caste system consisting of the hereditary Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra classes; they are considered impure and polluting and are therefore physically and socially excluded and isolated from the rest of society.

“Majority of Dalit students are compelled to leave their education between primary and middle level because of their parents low income, who neither work in public sector nor on daily wages, but rather do mean jobs to survive.”

Explaining facts behind the low literacy ratio, the study said that it was because of the dropout ratio of Dalit students during primary and middle school, as their parents find it difficult to afford their educational expenses. Even though the public sector schools give exemptions, the rest including uniform, school shoes, and books are the parent’s responsibility, which they find difficult to fulfil.

Dalits are on the last step of ladder of Hindu caste system, in which they are treated as third-grade citizens. Most Pakistani Dalits live in different districts of Sindh with a majority in Mirpurkhas division and Thar Desert.

“Doughts in the Thar Desert frequently prompt temporary migration of Dalits to barrage areas to scour water, livelihood and fodder for their livestock. This seasonal migration affects their children’s education,” said the study.

Dalits often work as landless peasants on farms of some of the most powerful feudal lords, who treat them as slaves. “In many places, the landlords ask Dalits about the strength of their family members for assistance in work, prior to employing them. Resultantly, influential land owners take Dalit children under their custody, which is another reason behind low literacy ratio,” the study claims.

“In Pakistan, parliament approved thousands of programmes for health, education and poverty reduction during each of their reign, but none of the programmes specifically focus on the issues faced by Dalits,” said Vice President Hindu Seva, Chander Kolhi.

Low literacy rate combined with lack of awareness regarding basic human rights has made matters worse for Dalits; facing issues like bonded labour, being denied seats in public transport, and made to clean toilets, even after passing primary or secondary level education, they are systematically discriminated against, he said.

“Government must know that minorities are a valuable asset and have been living here for a long time, even before partition. It is their right to get complete and free education, good health facilities at hospitals, proper freedom and employment as per their eligibility,” said Kolhi.

“It is unfortunate and sad, that it has been more than six decades since the establishment of Pakistan, but the discrimination and gap between minorities and majority keeps widening with no hope in sight,” said Hindu Seva President Sanjesh Kumar.

 

source- http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/

 

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Women Health Activist Madhuri Ben released, joins anti-dam stir

Gwalior, June 1, 2013

Pheroze L. Vincent, The Hindu

Human rights activist Madhuri Krishnaswamy, better known as Madhuri Ben, was released from Khargone Women’s Sub Jail on Thursday after she agreed to get bail in a 2008 case of rioting and assaulting a public servant.

In 2008, Madhuri Ben — who heads the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan (JADS) — alerted the health and police officials in Barwani district after a tribal woman gave birth to a child on the road after being evicted from a primary health centre. Pharmacist of the PHC Vijay Chouhan filed the case against her. The case was closed by the police, only to be reopened by the court, which sent her to a fortnight of judicial custody on May 16 after she refused to seek bail.

The JADS is involved in an agitation of Barela tribals in Khargone district against the Kharak Reservoir Project. On May 25, police arrested 27 tribal people for rioting, trespassing and obstructing the government officials from performing their duty.

Ms. Ben filed a review petition with the Barwani district judge on grounds that a long time had lapsed after the complaint. She said she had refused bail as a form of satyagraha.

“After I saw innocent Adivasis being sent to jail, I realised it is important for me to be available to participate in their struggle. Choukhand village [centre of the agitation] is one of the few tribal villages that are better off economically. This project threatens to take away their prosperity in one stroke,” she told The Hindu .

After her release she headed straight to Choukhand to join the dharna. She said she would continue to “shame the State government” by protests in Khargone and Bhopal.

 

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#India -Police action traumatised anti-dam tribals in MP #Stateoppression #humanrights

Chaukhand village, Khargone (MP), May 30, 2013

Pheroze L. Vincent

  • Villagers staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M. Faruqui
    The Hindu Villagers staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M. Faruqui
  • Villagers including children staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone disstrict in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M. Faruqui.
    The Hindu Villagers including children staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone disstrict in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M. Faruqui.
  • Villagers staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone disstrict in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M.Faruqui
    The Hindu Villagers staging indefinite dharna at Kharak Dam at Chaukhand village in Khargone disstrict in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, demanding proper compensation. Photo: A.M.Faruqui

Sisters Kalibai and Phulbai are in a state of shock after they were caned by the police on May 25. Aged 8 and 6, they rushed towards their father Tudpiabai Gangaram on seeing him being caned by the police during a protest against the Kharak Reservoir being built beside their village.

“I said don’t hit my father. My father asked us to run away. Before we could run the policeman hit us also,” said Kali, struggling to talk with her swollen mouth. Phul asked her to open her mouth. “Her tooth broke as the cane hit her mouth,” she said pointing at a missing tooth.

Chaukhand has been resisting the construction of the dam, a minor irrigation project in Khargone and Barwani districts, roughly 350 km south west of Bhopal. Inhabited by the Barela tribe, the village grows wheat, jowar, soya, groundnuts and other traditional millets, beside River Kharak. Most residents do not have documents for the land they cultivate. The reservoir will submerge parts of seven villages.

Work on the project, which had started less than a year ago, has stopped for the last two months due to protests by locals. There are daily dharnas under the village peepul tree demanding a comprehensive rehabilitation policy, before the dam comes up.

“We had started work only on the 55 hectares for which claims were settled at roughly Rs. 3 lakhs per acre according to the collector’s guidelines. The problem is with those who don’t have documents. The principal secretary has decided to give them a relief amount of Rs. 4 lakhs per hectare. On Saturday we went to talk with the villagers when the situation deteriorated,” said Executive Engineer SS Raghuvanshi of the Water Resources Department.

Villagers narrated a different story. “At 10.30 a.m. we were on dharna as usual when four police vans came with around 150 male and female officers. The Sub Divisional Magistrate Jitendra Singh Chouhan was in front. They formed a line. We went to the SDM and asked when we will get compensation. He said that everyone with documents will get compensation but first we must clear the area,” said Shivram Kanase an activist of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) which works in the area.

The villagers asked them to pay the compensation before starting work. Police then forcibly evicted them from the site. “They chased me and snatched my child from my arms and threw him on the ground. That policeman’s breathe smelt of liquor. He beat me with his cane,” said Samranabai, a local resident.

Collector Navneet Kothari is on leave and Superintendent of Police R. P. Singh refused to answer queries. He said, “You do your job. If I say there was no lathi charge, will you believe me?”

Another lady named Banchibai Ningole, with an infant at her breast, was arrested from her house, said villagers. Totally seven men and twenty women are in judicial custody. They were denied bail on Wednesday. The police have told the court that they are on the look out for others and that if released, the 27 would rejoin the protests.

“I asked the SDM why his men were beating women and children. He said that we were stopping government work and we would be locked up. Inspector T. C. Usre caught my hand and hit me. The women constables didn’t do anything. Maybe they felt bad for us,” said Gyanibai Jadav.

SDM Chouhan denied the occurrence of a lathi charge. “Villagers attacked the workers at the site. I told them that we won’t tolerate violence. We can convey their objections to the government. Police only removed them from the machines. There was no lathi charge,” he told The Hindu.

Many men and women showed the cane scars on their backs and legs. Four children with bruises claimed they had either been hit or had fallen while running from the police. The counsel for the arrested, C. K. Pathak said that he wasn’t pressing charges on the police as he first wants his clients to be released.

Bail was denied on a day when CM Shivraj Chauhan visited the district to conduct a mass marriage. On May 28 the government announced a Rs. 212 crore package for oustees of the Omkareshwar Dam, which will be given on condition that they vacate their homes by July 15. The evictees in neighbouring Khandwa had gained international prominence when they went on jal satyagraha by indefinitely immersing sitting in the River Narmada last year.

Here in Chaukhand, an uneasy peace prevails with villagers unsure of whose lands will be occupied and how much money they will get. Many fields have already been filled with rocks by the construction contractors. They are also under pressure from panchayat leaders not to obstruct the construction. Both the dharna continues and construction work has stopped.

Villager Sakaram accompanied this reporter on the way out of the village, which is connected to Dhulkot Panchayat by a long un-metallled road filled with stones. Ambulances don’t come here, he said, and many women have complicated pregnancies due to the journey on bullock cart to the hospital.

On Thurday a Barwani court granted bail to JADS leader Madhuri Krishnaswamy, who was arrested a fortnight back for a 2008 case of rioting. Ms. Krishnaswamy took up the case of a tribal woman giving birth on the street after being evicted from a primary health centre. The suspended pharmacist had filed the case on her.

“Last time we all voted for BJP as they promised us land pattas. This time we are going to meet (Congress state president) Kantilal Bhuria ji when he visits Khargone of June 4,” Mr. Sakaram added. He goes to public meetings of both the Congress and the BJP. “One day they will listen to us,” he explained.

 

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Chattisgarh- After Maoist Attack , Police dismantle big camp in Sukma

RAIPUR, May 30, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu 

Within 72 hours of Saturday night’s devastating Maoist strike, Chhattisgarh police have removed one of their biggest camps from Minapa in Sukma district, located deep inside the forest, possibly fearing another attack. File photo

PTI Within 72 hours of Saturday night’s devastating Maoist strike, Chhattisgarh police have removed one of their biggest camps from Minapa in Sukma district, located deep inside the forest, possibly fearing another attack. File photo
SLIDESHOW

A Congress convoy, returning from the party’s Parivartan Yatra (transformation rally), on May 25, 2013 was waylaid near Darbha forest in Jagdalpur. At least 16 people were killed and 25 others were injured. Picture shows view outside the hospital in Raipur.

 

Questions surface about the wisdom of setting it up

Within 72 hours of Saturday night’s devastating Maoist strike, Chhattisgarh police have removed one of their biggest camps, from Minapa in Sukma district, located deep inside the forest, possibly fearing another attack. The camp was removed lock, stock, and barrel on Tuesday, 15 days after it was set up. Reportedly, it housed a thousand personnel.

Till last week, police officers were talking about the camp as a major strategic advance in the direction of the Andhra Pradesh border. But repeated firing by rebels on the camp had clearly put the police on the back foot.

Constables and junior officers on the ground believe that the Minapa camp, 50 km south of Sukma, had a vital link to the Darbha attack on Saturday, which saw the death of 27 Congress workers and leaders. “All attention was focussed on reaching supplies and facilities to Minapa,” said one officer.

Sources said the camp was a fine example of “horrendous planning.” It was set up even as the monsoon was approaching. “The camp should have been set up in October or November, so that it would have been well-established by the time the monsoon arrived,” said a constable.

The camp lacked even basic facilities such as toilets. There were no shade-trees to give cover — from rain, heat or stray firing. Personnel were spending their nights virtually in the open in an area largely controlled by Maoists.

Some constables told The Hindu that casualties were growing. “They went out to defecate and got shot. One died of bullet injuries and another got shot. One died of snake bite; there was no anti-venom available,” said one of them.

Constables alleged they were virtually left in the jungle to rot and die. “We were left in an open space, in the forest, in temperatures above 47 degrees, and told to set up facilities, to defend ourselves and go on the offensive. This was absurd,” said one.

Moreover, some of them were brought from the plains of Chhattisgarh. They had limited knowledge of the terrain and often suffered from dehydration. One officer said the camp was intended to be in place only for 15 to 20 days. “It was an experiment carried out to place an additional camp in the Maoist hotbed for two weeks during the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) of the Maoists, so that we can engage them while they are busy planning,” he said. But the Maoist TCOC continues.

Director General of Police Ram Niwas defended the camp project. “We clearly achieved what we wanted to achieve. The Maoists were pushed back [during the TCOC],” he said.

Mr. Niwas was not ready to accept the views put forward by the constables. “There are officers with decades of experience who designed the plan and worked on it, and we achieved our target. If constables start finalising plans, how are we going to operate?”

 

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Soni Sori gets bail in one more case #Goodnews #Vaw

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu , may 30, 2013

An activist protest demanding release of Soni Sori. She got a bail in one of hte eight cases on Thursday by a Chhattisgarh court. File photo
The HinduAn activist protest demanding release of Soni Sori. She got a bail in one of hte eight cases on Thursday by a Chhattisgarh court. File photo

There are close to 2,000 cases in which tribal people have been languishing in jail since two to seven years. Tribal schoolteacher Soni Sori has been granted bail by a court in one of the eight cases filed against her.

Tribal schoolteacher Soni Sori has been granted bail by a court in south Chhattisgarh in one of the eight cases filed against her.

She has already been acquitted in six cases, her lawyer K.K. Dubey told The Hindu.

A charge sheet was filed against Ms. Sori and others in December 2010 at the Bacheli court for allegedly torching vehicles in Nerli, near Dantewada.

Recently, she was awarded bail in the case.

“She could not be acquitted like in other cases as the witnesses did not appear,” said Mr. Dubey.

Earlier this month, Ms. Sori and her relative, activist-journalist Lingaram Kodopi, were acquitted in the Avdesh Gautam case.

They were accused of planning and executing an attack on a local Congress leader and contractor Avdesh Gautam in which two persons were killed. Thirteen other co-accused, including Congress leader Vijay Sodi, CPI leader Lala Ram Kunjam and a panchayat member of Dantewada, Sannuram Mandawi, were also acquitted and released for want of evidence by a Dantewada court.

The only case pending against Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi is the controversial Essar Steel case. They have been accused of arranging “protection money” on behalf of the company to Maoists. The main accused, D.V.C.S Verma, general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, Essar contractor, were arrested for allegedly disbursing the money.

While Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi are in jail, like thousands of undertrial tribal people of south Chhattisgarh, Mr. Verma and Mr. Lala had been granted bail.

The charge sheet has been presented to Dantewada district and sessions judge Anita Dehariya. Charges will be framed by the court sometime in June.

“I hope after this bail and previous acquittal it will not be a problem to get a speedy trial and hopefully acquittal in all cases,” said Mr. Dubey.

While Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi’s cases were defended by a team of lawyers and monitored by the press, national and international rights groups, there are close to 2,000 cases in which tribal people have been languishing in jail since two to seven years.

“I once tried to put the number of cases together and it was over 600 only in the Dantewada court. It must have crossed 800 now,” said senior advocate Ashok Jain. Majority of these tribal people do not speak any other language than Gondi, have little or no money to pay a fee, have no national or international rights group to defend their cases and have been booked for allegedly participating in Naxal activities.

In private conversation, top bureaucrats, politicians and lawyers acknowledge that a majority of these cases do not merit a trial in higher courts. “This is a tragedy for a democracy,” said Mr. Jain.

In an interview to The Hindu earlier this week, Chief Minister Raman Singh acknowledged that a “huge number of cases” were pending in various district courts.

 

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UID will result in loss of freedoms: WikiLeaks backer #Aadhaar

The Hindu, By V. Sridha

Computer security expert , Jacob Appelbaum at a talk in TERI complex in Bangalore on Tuesday. Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash
The establishment of a centralised database of Indian citizens such as the Unique Identification (UID) project will result in the loss of freedoms on a “societal scale,” according to Jacob Appelbaum, a staunch supporter of the WikiLeaks project.

Addressing a small gathering of hacking enthusiasts here late on Tuesday, Mr. Appelbaum, an associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said he was “horrified” by the establishment in India of the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which was being used to gather a diverse range of analogue and digital information, including telephone records, text messages and Internet traffic. “We live in the golden age of surveillance,” said Mr. Appelbaum, a U.S. citizen who has been detained by U.S. law-enforcement agencies on at least a dozen occasions.

“The problem with the Unique Identification (UID) system or the CMS is not that it will not be perfect,” but the fact that it would result in people being forced to “behave differently” because they would be under surveillance or have to live in fear of it. “This amounts to a loss of freedom,” he argued. “To watch is to control, and surveillance is a kind of control.”

Warning of the possibilities of data theft, Mr. Appelbaum said that though “fingerprint lifting may appear far-fetched now,” techniques for enabling “transferable fingerprints” were being discussed in the public realm. Iris scans, he told The Hindu, were also “far from being foolproof.”

“These are things that deserve resistance, not protest, because protest happens when you do not go along with something,” he said. “Resistance, on the other hand, happens when you stop others from going along.” “I also think we need to build alternatives to these systems.”

Though he conceded that there might be a need for citizen identification systems in society, he argued that centralising them posed grave dangers to the freedom of citizens. “When we centralise the collection of information, we actually centralise the place that an attacker would like to attack to gain control of society,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

The “intentions” of those in authority do not matter because “general purpose information systems” were difficult to protect. “We can try, but there is a threshold of attack, where someone will probably win.” “If there are valid concerns of national security, espionage or terrorism, does it make sense to make a centralised system with all the records of usage of phones, Internet browsing, emails, fingerprints?” “Doing this may result in losses on a societal scale,” he said.

Mr. Appelbaum, co-author, with Mr. Assange, of Cypherpunks: Freedom and the future of the Internet, said “dragnet surveillance” systems amounted to “a tyranny of sorts.”

Example from Nazi Germany

Arguing against the notion that technology is benign, Mr. Appelbaum recalled the use of punching card technologies deployed by the Nazi regime in Germany to target Jews, Communists and others social groups. The machines enabled the regime to determine how many Jews or Communists lived in a particular residential block, he said. “We can understand from the past what possibilities exist in the future for surveillance,” he said. “In fact, when people suggest that surveillance causes no harm, they are denying history.”

He recalled the “Athens Incident” of 2004, when the telephone switches leading to the Prime Minister and a number of Greek parliamentarians were subjected to wiretapping with “interception systems.” He pointed out that telephone-switching standards established in the U.S. were mimicked all over the world. “There is a trickledown effect in all this. So, Greece gets them [interception systems] just the same way as Iran gets them, and just about the way the U.S. has them,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

“The theory goes that the FBI [the Federal Bureau of Investigation], which is legitimate, goes to a court and never abuses its authority, and so everything is fine.” But the “backdoors” built into these switches made them vulnerable to anyone who might have access to the switch through a computer network.

Internet freedom

“In theory, the Internet allows us to be free, but the fact that almost by default, the Internet is not secure implies a breakdown of this freedom,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “This results in a strange situation: people have the freedom to communicate and say what they want, but does the surveillance actually allow them to be free?”

An expert hacker, Mr. Appelbaum said: “Technology is quite boring, when compared with the richness of societies.” Urging the audience to read his book, he said: “You have my blessings to download it from Pirate Bay.”

 

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Subramanian Swamy tweets ‘being gay is a mental disorder’ #WTFnews #Homophobia

Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy‘s anti-gay tweet attracts criticism
29 MAY 2013 | BY ANNA LEACH
Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy

Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, the president of the Janata Party, wrote ‘Being gay is a mental disorder’ in a tweet on Monday (27 May).

The tweet attracted instant criticism although some thought it was a joke and others agreed with him. ‘Gay is not natural, it’s hormone problem,’ said one.

Indian LGBT rights campaigner Harish Iyer tweeted Swamy saying: ‘I think swamy you need to get educated. Let’s meeet. I offer free counselling to homophobes.’

Swamy appeared to be unfazed by the accusations of homophobia and tweeted ‘Looks like most CRTs are “queer”.’ CRT is a derogatory reference to members of the Congress political party,Gaylaxy reports.

Swamy, a right-wing Hindu, is a former cabinet minister and was an assistant economics professor at Harvard. He has caused controversy for anti-Islamic views, for example in an ‘incendiary’ article in response to the Mumbai bombings in 2011 which prompted the National Commission for Minorities to press criminal charges.

The politician’s daughter Suhasini Haider is a news anchor for Indian TV channel CNN-IBN.

Gay sex was decriminalized in Indian in 2009 when the Delhi High Court repealed Section 377 of the British colonial era penal code.

 

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Chhattisgarh- No Maoists were present when forces opened fire, say villagers

May 19, 2013

 

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

“The villagers gathered in one particular area for community dining, which is a ritual at this time of the year. It is part of the seed festival and there were no Maoists around. The forces opened fire without any provocation,” said a local on condition of anonymity.

Locals of Chhattisgarh’s Edesmeta village — where at least nine persons were killed during a gun battle late on Friday purportedly between security forces and Maoist fighters — have told The Hindu that there was no Maoist presence in the area at the time and that the forces had fired without provocation.

“The villagers gathered in one particular area for community dining, which is a ritual at this time of the year. It is part of the seed festival and there were no Maoists around. The forces opened fire without any provocation,” said a local on condition of anonymity. Two other villagers seconded his testimony.

The incident had taken place in Bijapur district’s Edesmeta forest — about 600 km south of the State capital Raipur — under the Ganglur police station during a combing raid by joint forces. Reports suggest that most of the victims were innocent civilians. Senior officials confirmed that at least seven casualties were villagers and prima facie not attached to the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Chief Minister Raman Singh has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The dead villagers were identified as Guddu (10), Pandu (45), Bahadur (12), Joga Karam (40), Punem Lakhkhu (15), Punem Sonu (40), Karam Chhonu (42) and Karam Masa (27). Guddu and Pandu were father and son, as were Bahadur and Joga Karam. CRPF soldier Devaprakash died after he was shot in the forehead.

Police say at least one of the slain villagers was a Maoist and that they seized a country rifle made from the spot with the CPI-Maoist’s ‘West Bastar Division’ inscribed on it.

The incident took place when six teams of joint forces — a mix of State police, CRPF personnel and elite commando force CoBRA — were converging upon the Maoist stronghold, Pidiya, from six different directions. “In last few months we have moved in the Pidiya area thrice. We are targeting Pidiya as it is a strong base of the Maoists,” Additional Director-General of Police (Naxal Operation) R.K. Vij told The Hindu.

The forces were reportedly moving from six police stations — Sarkeguda, Jagargunda, Basaguda, Cherpal, Kirandul and Ganglur — towards Pidiya and reached Edesmeta village, around eight km from Pidiya, when the Ganglur team came under heavy fire.

“There were some villagers who were cooking food for a group of Maoists. One of them came towards the force and alerted the rest of the team; firing started and the forces retaliated,” said a senior officer. The senior officers told The Hindu at least seven persons killed in the exchange of fire could be “innocent villagers”. Another officer said “they could also be with Maoist militia”.

On Saturday, senior officers told The Hindu that Maoists were using the villagers as “human shields”. However, other officers refuted this claim and said the villagers were shot when they happened to stray into the firing line.

Post-mortem was conducted in Ganglur police station.

 

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