usreports


Only Partly True

Two Rival US Based Reports and the Coverage
they Get

123 words of
temperate praise for “perhaps India’s best example of effective
governance” for Gujarat in a US Congressional report released on
September 1, 2011 had the leading Indian television
channels/electronic media salivating as this was timed perfectly
with the Supreme Court Verdict ordering Zakia Ahsan Jafri and
Citizens for Justice and PeaceÂ’s complaint to be forwarded to a
Trial Court for charge sheeting of chief minister Narendra Modi and
61 othersÂ…

 530 words, two
days later,  in a US Freedom of Religion Report dated September 13
2011 that raised serious questions about the Gujarat GovernmentÂ’s
Failure to protect religious freedom and ensure justice, was
subjected to the tokenism of scrolls while ModiÂ’s much televised
fast got him 24X 7 free publicity and coverage.


Does this amount to embedded
Journalism? 

Excerpts from
the Two Reports that appeared Back to Back

 

US Congressional Report India Sept 11 2011

Notable
State-Level Developments

Perhaps IndiaÂ’s
best example of effective governance and impressive development is
found in
Gujarat
(pop. 60
million), where controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi has
streamlined economic processes,
removing red tape and curtailing corruption in ways that have made
the state a key driver of national economic growth. Seeking to
overcome the taint of his alleged complicity in deadly 2002
anti-Muslim riots, Modi has overseen heavy investment in modern
roads and power infrastructure, and annual growth of more than 11%
in recent years. The state has attracted major international
investors such as General Motors and Mitsubishi and, with only 5% of
the countryÂ’s population, Gujarat now accounts for more than
one-fifth of IndiaÂ’s exports.193

Another positive
example in 2011 has been Bihar (pop. 104 million), one of
IndiaÂ’s poorest states, where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has won
national attention through his considerable success in emphasizing
good governance over caste-based politics; he is credited with
restoring law and order across much of the state, as well as
overseeing infrastructure and educational improvements of direct
benefit to common citizens projects.194 KumarÂ’s Janata Dal (United)
party, in alliance with the main national opposition BJP, won an
overwhelming reelection majority in November 2010 state elections.

The examples set in
by Chief Ministers Modi and Kumar may have inspired the popular
leader of IndiaÂ’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (pop.
200 million). Chief Minister Mayawati, who is widely believed to
maintain national political ambitions and was at the forefront of a
nascent  “Third Front” in 2009, has shifted her own focus much
more toward infrastructure projects such as road-building and
improving the stateÂ’s poor energy grid.195

An ongoing movement
to carve a new state out of Andhra Pradesh (pop. 85 million)
has caused sometimes major public disturbances. The UPA government
had first committed to form the new state in late 2009, but has
since deferred, causing protests. Because the new state would
include the important high-technology hub of Hyderabad, the movement
could have both domestic and international economic implications. In
March 2011, 100,000 proponents of a new Telangana state were
detained by police and another 50,000 rallied in defiance of an
unofficial curfew. In July, a statewide protest strike disrupted
business and transportation, and nine Congress party Lok Sabha
members resigned over their partyÂ’s failure to take a stand on the
issue.196

In the key eastern
state of West Bengal (pop. 91 million), the group of
communist parties that had ruled the state for 24 years met with an
historic reversal in 2011 state elections, falling from 235 assembly
seats to only 61. The big winner was the Trinamool Congress of
Mamata Banerjee, a federal cabinet minister in the Congress-led
national coalition (her party had in the past allied with the BJP).
As West BengalÂ’s new Chief Minister, Banerjee is faced with
repairing one of IndiaÂ’s poorest states.

In Tamil Nadu
(pop. 72 million), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a major
Congress Party ally in the national coalition, was routed and lost
power in June state assembly elections, winning only 30 seats after
having won 160. Their rivals, sometime BJP allies All India Anna
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), now enjoy an overwhelming
majority in that state. Finally, Jammu and Kashmir (pop. 13
million) held local Panchayat (village-level) elections from
April to June, described by the stateÂ’s chief minister as the first
“real” such poll in 33  years (the 2006 round was deferred due
to security circumstances and the 2001 round was not considered
credible by most observers). More than five million voters
representing more than three-quarters of the electorate cast votes
in the largely peaceful election. New Delhi urges the state
government to move quickly on a devolution plan that would transfer
more power to the more than 4,000 newly elected village leaders.197


Notes/References 

189 “India’s Prime
Minister Shuffles Cabinet,” New York Times, January 19, 2011.

190 “Will Singh’s
Understatement Become His Undoing?,” Time, January 26, 2011;
Sadanand Dhume, “Corruption on

Singh’s Watch”
(op-ed), Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2011; “India PM
Manmohan Singh Denies ‘Lame Duck’

Charge,” BBC News,
June 29, 2011.

191 “Congress’
Tough Talking With DMK Yields Results,” Hindu (Chennai),
March 10, 2011.

192 “Rahul Gandhi:
A Leader in Waiting for World’s Largest Democracy,” Reuters,
June 29, 2011.

193 “A Glimpse at
India, Minus the Red Tape,” Wall Street Journal, January 14,
2011.

194 “Turning Around
an Indian State,” New York Times, November 23, 2010.

195 “Highway in
India Offers New Solution to Land Fights,” New York Times,
February 22, 2011.

196 “India: Arrests
Before Telangana ‘Million-Man’ Rally,” BBC News, March 10, 2011;
Strike Grips India State, Piles

Pressure on
Government,” Agence France Presse, July 5, 2011.

197 Ajit Kumar
Singh, “Democracy and Its Discontents,” Outlook (Delhi), July
4, 2011
————————————————————————————————————————–

 US
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT

SEPTEMBER 13 2011

In January six
Muslim women from Godhra, Gujarat, wrote to the chief justice of the
Gujarat High Court requesting him to take up the case of alleged
physical and sexual assault by the Godhra police in December 2009,
during a police operation in INDIA 11

the Muslim sections
of the city in the wake of rioting and a stone-throwing incident.
The Godhra superintendent of police said the allegations were
fabricated to prevent the police from entering the area, “which is a
known hub of illegal animal slaughter.” The magistrate in Godhra
initiated a query based on the complaint filed by the women. A
three-person team from the National Commission of Women visited the
city to investigate the allegations and found that some compensation
had been provided, but their findings have not been publicized.

There was continued
concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to arrest those
responsible for the communal violence in 2002 that killed over 1,200
persons, a majority of which were Muslim. Media reports indicated
some Muslims still feared repercussions from Hindu neighbors as they
waited for the court cases to be resolved.

The Gujarat
government appointed the Nanavati-Mehta Commission in 2002 to
investigate the violence. The term of the commission was extended
for the 15th time, with the final report on the 2002 Gujarat
communal violence now due on June 30, 2011, when the term of the
commission ends. The Commission has received over 50,000 affidavits
and supporting documents from various witnesses, and has stated that
it is in the process of writing the final report. Several victims
have accused the Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the
Supreme Court in March 2008, of pressuring them to dilute its
earlier testimony before the Nanavati-Mehta Commission. In many of
the cases tried in Gujarat’s lower courts, the accused were
acquitted due to lack of evidence or changes in testimony.

By the end of
January, the Gujarat government had paid additional compensation to
the next of kin to all victims, including those of 228 missing
persons declared dead in February 2009. However, the amount
disbursed to persons was disputed between the state and central
governments. A case filed by an NGO for full housing compensation
was pending in the Gujarat High Court at the end of the reporting
period.

During the year
Citizens for Justice and Peace, a group advocating for justice for
victims of the 2002 violence, raised doubts about the work of the
SIT in investigating 10 major cases. Several victims voiced concern
that the SIT intimidated eye witnesses and produced additional
witnesses to foil the prosecution. In February the Supreme Court
appointed an additional and senior lawyer to review the SIT reports.
Also in February, the public prosecutor in the Gulberg Society
Massacre case resigned, citing a lack of cooperation from the SIT in
bringing the perpetrators to justice. On March 15, the Supreme Court
halted the Gulberg trial after allegations of SIT bias in favor of
the alleged perpetrators and also ruled that other special trial
courts would not pronounce judgments in the other cases until the
Supreme Court gave its verdict about the SIT. On April 6, the
INDIA 14

Supreme Court
ordered the removal of two high level officers from the SIT and
ordered the appointment of two new officers to the SIT on May 14.

On March 27, at the
request of the Supreme Court, the SIT questioned Gujarat Chief
Minister Narendra Modi regarding the complaint filed by Zakia Jafri,
a survivor of the Gulberg Society killings who had tried since 2006
to register a complaint against Modi and 60 other high-level state
officials for their alleged role in the violence. The SIT submitted
its final report on the Jafri complaint to the Supreme Court on May
14. At years end, media reported the SIT inquiry report stated that
there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against
Modi and other high-ranking officials in the Gujarat state
government. The SIT gave no public comment regarding the leak. A
three-judge bench of the Supreme Court is due to convene on March 3,
2011, to determine the next steps into the investigation.

In October 2009,
ten days before Prashanth Bhushan was to submit his report on the
SIT report, the Government of Gujarat accused him of bias against
Chief Minister Modi. Bhushan then recused himself from the
investigation. The Supreme Court approached several noted lawyers,
and in November lawyer Raju Ramchandran was appointed to review the
SIT reports. As of December 6, neither Subramaniam nor Ramchandran
had submitted a report on the SIT investigation to the Supreme
Court.

In 2007 the
newsweekly Tehelka published secretly recorded interviews in
which many of the accused admitted their roles as well as police and
BJP leadership complicity in the 2002 violence. In 2008 the NHRC
requested an inquiry by the CBI into the Tehelka tapes; the
CBI concluded in November 2009 that the tapes were authentic. The
media reported the conclusion that the tapes were genuine and, on
March 22, Tehelka and Citizens for Justice and Peace released
the authenticated tapes in the public domain.

Hundreds of other
court cases stemming from the 2002 violence (which were not in the
purview of the SIT) remained unsettled.

The situation for
many persons displaced by the 2002 violence remained difficult. In
September, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement
Monitoring Center reported that approximately 19,000 persons
remained displaced eight years after the violence, living in 86
relief colonies that lacked adequate infrastructure and typically
were not connected to city centers. INDIA 15

At the end of the
reporting period, more than 80 Muslims accused in the Godhra
train-burning case remained in jail despite various rulings by the
central government’s Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA)
Review Committee and the Gujarat High Court that POTA charges
against them should be dropped, and that they should be granted
bail. The bail issue remained before the Supreme Court.

Trials in several
other high profile cases that the Supreme Court had ordered in 2009,
including the Gulberg case, were continuing at the end of the
reporting period. Former Gujarat BJP minister Maya Kodnani, and VHP
leader Jaydeep Patel, accused in the Naroda Patiya case, were
questioned by the SIT in August. Kodnani and Patel remained on bail
while the trial continued in special court at year’s end.

In March 2006 the
commission appointed by the Indian Railways, the Justice Banerjee
Commission, concluded that the Godhra train incident, which sparked
the 2002 Gujarat violence, was an accident. In September 2008 the
Nanavati-Mehta Commission concluded that the Godhra incident was a
conspiracy. At the end of the reporting period, the Supreme Court
had not ruled on the dispute between the Indian Railways and the
Gujarat government about the release of the Banerjee report to the
public.”


 

 


 

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