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2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander



Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])


YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report



San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.



Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.


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Elections, earnings, energy to chart equities course in 2019



Rupee currency

Mumbai, Jan 2: The coming general elections, along with the ongoing US-China trade war and crude oil prices will determine the trajectory of Indian equities in 2019.

Additionally, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) rate stance, direction of foreign fund flows, the rupee’s strength against the US dollar, quarterly earning results as well as premium valuations are expected to impact investors’ sentiments in the current year.

“The ongoing volatility may continue in the near-term due to premium valuation, slowdown in the domestic economy, muted earnings growth in the next two quarters, cascading effect of liquidity crunch in the urban and rural market,” Geojit Financial Services Head of Research Vinod Nair told IANS.

“Short-term effect of national elections, with the risk of populist measures, and the global effect of current uncertainties, will impact the performance during the initial part of 2019.”

HDFC Securities’ Retail Research Head Deepak Jasani told IANS: “The Nifty has the potential to touch 12,400 points during CY2019. This is based on various factors, namely the expectations of an earnings pick-up in Indian corporates post Q4FY19, and the resumption of FII (foreign institutional investor) inflows to the Indian markets around and post the general elections.”

“Till February, corporate earnings trends, US Fed outlook on interest rates and trade war issue developments need to be closely watched.”

In 2018, despite heavy volatility, foreign fund outflows and a weak rupee, the Indian equity market emerged as one of the best performers globally, mainly on account of a rise in the pace of economic expansion, lower inflation and a normal monsoon.

The two key indices — the S&P Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex and the National Stock Exchange’s (NSE) Nifty50 — closed higher by just six per cent and three per cent respectively, placing the Indian indices among the best-performing benchmark indices among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of countries.

However, gains were capped as crude oil prices rose and fears over a tariff war-induced global slowdown grew.

“Markets appear to be much better in the year 2019 compared to the behaviour we saw in 2018. Two important variables among others that went negative for Indian markets were rise in crude prices and consistent selling by FIIs,” SMC Investments & Advisors CMD D.K. Aggarwal told IANS.

“As of now, undoubtedly, surging crude oil prices have reversed, rupee is now stable, but the political risk and trade war concerns and other global risk factors remains as a key headwind for the markets.”

On the currency front, the Indian rupee’s strength against the US dollar will play a decisive role in charting the course of the key indices.

The Indian rupee was heavily dented in 2018. The currency fell by 9.23 per cent against the US dollar at 69.77 from its previous close of 63.87 at the end of 2017, making it the worst-performing Asian currency of the year.

Another important factor for 2019, will be the direction of foreign fund flows. Last calendar year, NSDL data showed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold Rs 33,014 crore worth of equities in 2018.

Similarly, provisional data from the stock exchanges showed that FIIs sold over Rs 73,000 crore worth of equities.

“For the short term, FIIs may come in a big way around general election time, if the markets are at an attractive entry level. Their subsequent behaviour will depend on the political situation in India and interest rate trends abroad,” Jasani added.

By Rohit Vaid

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected] )

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