July 29, 2009

life in general: ugly violence of political parties through students

Since a couple of decades, political parties in India have infiltrated student bodies across all educational colleges and institutes in the country. They all fund and motivate young students to indulge in all kinds of crass violence. The worst among them all is the Bharatiya Janata Party's Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Pratishad (All India Students Association).

In August 2006, a professor in a town in India was beaten up badly. He died. TV footage clearly showed who the attackers were (ABVP and BJP activitists). The college principal and a few other college officials were witnesses. Later, in the court case, the witnesses retract their earlier testimonies identifying these attackers. The TV footage record disappears from the TV channel's office. The chief minister visits the attacker but not the victim's wife. The high court judge acts lenient on the case and acquits the attackers.

More on the sordid details of this shocking case can be read in this newsreport. I also reproduce below the entire newsreport:


No One Killed The Professor

Despite dozens of eyewitnesses and incriminating TV footage of the brutal assault, those accused of killing HS Sabharwal have walked free. DIVYA GUPTA reports

Resolute Prem has vowed to appeal against the acquittal of her husband’s alleged killers

KOMAL SINGH Sengar, 46, wears the look of a haunted man as he stands atop a mount of dirt and pebbles in a corner of Madhav College, Ujjain. His clothes hang on his emaciated frame. After we exchange telephone numbers in low tones, I tell him it’s important for us to talk. He says, “College mein baat nahin karunga. Saadhe panch baje ke baad. (I won’t talk in the college. After 5:30pm.)” A few hours later, a local police inspector calls me. Sengar has filed a complaint claiming I threatened him and his family with “dire consequences” if he didn’t give me a “favourable” interview.

Sengar is well known in Ujjain. You don’t need an address to find him. Ask an autorickshaw driver or a shopkeeper or a random passerby, and they’ll point you in his direction. Sengar lives with his family in an 800sq-ft house in Alkapuri, a middle- income residential neighborhood. Until six months ago, they lived in a smaller, rented house in the low-income urban sprawl of Desai Nagar. His new house cost him Rs 5 lakh.

“The poor guy had trouble getting a bank loan as nobody was ready to give it,” says Anand Mangal, from whom Sengar bought the house. “He got a private loan, but I don’t know where he got that, whether he sold land or from relatives or elsewhere.”

Sengar’s dubious fame dates back to a single moment nearly three years ago, on a fateful Saturday, when he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, with his trusted friend and guru, Prof HS Sabharwal. That day, Sabharwal paid with his life and Sengar, perhaps, with his soul.

VANISHING ACT The ABVP activists ran into Prof HS Sabharwal on campus, brutally beat him up and then ran away. Scenes of the assault were shown live on TV

On Saturday, August 26, 2006, the entire sacred Hindu town of Ujjain seemed to have descended outside Madhav College’s rusted iron gate named Gaurav Dwar. The place resembled a mini battleground with hundreds of police personnel outside the college, along with cavalry, teargas squads, police videographers and photographers. Ujjain’s print and TV journalists were present, too. Simultaneously, hundreds of white kurta-clad Congress workers milled around agitating as part of a jail bharo andolan.

The 120-year-old Madhav College, alma mater of celebrated Hindi poet Shiv Mangal Singh Suman, is reputed to be a fertile breeding ground for future MLAs and MPs. In 2006, the atmosphere there in the lead up to the student union elections was unusually charged. The Congress-affiliated NSUI had won the elections through most of the past decade. In 2003, after the BJP routed the Congress in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP’s student wing, the ABVP’S political prospects at Madhav College received a shot in the arm too. The BJPled state government announced a new election format. The NSUI, opposed the new format, alleging it would favour the ABVP.

Amidst immense confusion, the college principal LN Verma called a faculty meeting that day and an unanimous decision was taken to cancel the elections. Then, Verma did something puzzling, which later also proved fatal. He had two notices put up in quick succession – one stating that the elections were on, and another saying they had been cancelled.

Predictably, all hell broke loose at the college. First, the NSUI vandalised the principal’s office. A little later, ABVP activists threatened and abused faculty members and smeared mud on a professor’s face. As these assaulters turned back, they ran into Prof HS Sabharwal on the campus and brutally beat him up. Scenes of the assault were broadcast live on TV.

A few minutes later, at 2:06pm, Sabharwal was pronounced dead. The postmortem report said broken ribs and bleeding lungs had stopped the flow of oxygen to his brain, leading to his death.

A creature of habit and routine, Prof HS Sabharwal, head of the college’s political science department, normally drove to work in his car. But on that Saturday, he went by scooter to college. Sabharwal planned on returning home quickly for lunch with his wife, Prem. “He didn’t like leaving me for even two minutes,” Prem reminisces, smiling shyly. “After marriage, when I came to live in Ujjain from Delhi, he preferred that I didn’t work. Even though it was a small town, we had a golden life together.”

Years ago, as a student at Madhav College, Sabharwal had been reputed as a deft hockey player and an excellent orator. Ironically, he had also been the president of the ABVP. At 5 feet 11 inches tall, Sabharwal cut a strong but pleasant figure with a “jolly nature”, as his family and students remember him. “Prof Sabharwal treated the students as his friends,” says LLB student and NSUI leader Rajesh Bathli. “He loved mixing with and spending time with the students.” Sabharwal’s son Himanshu recalls a candid conversation with his father in which the professor freely admitted that teachers rarely took classes, saying, “Why should we suffer the students’ abuses?” Perhaps, in quieter moments, Sabharwal may have also wondered about other critical issues – the politicisation of university campuses beyond recognition; the power play of the political parties in universities and colleges — the first building blocks of their future cadres — which has eroded the sanctity of education and the culture and purpose of learning; the political interference that forces teachers to toe the line of political parties in power.


SABHARWAL DIED WITHIN three to four minutes after the assault on him by ABVP activists. Why and on whose orders were they let inside the college when it had already been ordered closed?


Faculty meeting called by college principal to take a final decision on the holding of elections begins. It arrives at a unanimous decision to cancel elections

10AM – 10:15AM

In a puzzling move, principal issues two notices. First, that elections will take place and then, minutes later, another one that elections are cancelled

11 – 11:30AM

NSUI activists pour into the college campus. They vandalise the principal’s office. Within 15 minutes, they are caned out of the premises by the police


The Principal closes the college and orders a lockdown of both its gates. Faculty, college staff and policemen on duty remain inside the college

12:30 – 12:45PM

CSP Manoj Singh escorts into the college a group of 25-30 ABVP activists and BJP corporators, who threaten, abuse and smear mud on faculty members

1:45 – 1:50PM

The group of ABVP activists and BJP corporators meet Prof Sabharwal on their way out of the college. They assault and beat him up and run away


Prof Sabharwal breathes his last. He is escorted by Komal Singh Sengar and others to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead on arrival

But Sabharwal wasn’t known to be shy of words or as someone easily intimidated by unruly students, says Himanshu. “Fear was far away from him.”

The trial of such a public killing should have been an open and shut case. But the most incriminating evidence — footage shot by Ujjain’s local TV news cameramen as well as the police videographers and photographers, which showed the ABVP activists attacking Sabharwal — vanished mysteriously. The police named 69 eyewitnesses. But these did not include many professors or police officers, including Manoj Singh, YP Singh and K Runwal. Sabharwal’s son Himanshu claims that Principal Verma confirmed to him that three local BJP corporators — Sonu Gehlot, Satyanarayan Chauhan and Mohan Yadav — were in the group that assaulted his father. But the investigating agency, the state CID, did not record their statements. A crucial forensic examination was sent to BJP-ruled Gujarat, after the Supreme Court transferred the case to Nagpur so the trial could happen in a “non-BJP led state.”

FATAL LOOPHOLE The statements of all 69 witnesses in Sabharwal’s murder case were recorded by the CID – evidence not admissible in court. Why did the police not record these statements before a magistrate?

On his part, Principal Verma left the task of reporting the professor’s killing to the college peon, Sengar, and sports coach, Manohar Dodiya. This made both Sengar and Dodiya the prime witnesses on whose testimony the prosecution’s case rested. Both later turned hostile, leading to the acquittal of those accused of the killing. Dodiya told TEHELKA that the FIR for Sabharwal’s killing was lodged “several hours” after the attack. The FIR does not record the time it was registered, which is a mandatory requirement. Further, the statements of all 69 eyewitnesses were recorded by the CID, which rendered these accounts inadmissible as evidence. But why did the police not record these statements before a magistrate? Sabharwal’s son Himanshu claims he handed a crucial piece of evidence to the then Superintendent of Police, Jaideep Prasad, and the investigating officer, BK Vyas. This was a CD that an ABVP activist named Sanwar Patel gave to Himanshu. The CD, says Himanshu, showed the accused ABVP activists and the BJP corporators assaulting Sabharwal. The SP and the investigating officer failed to pass on the CD to the prosecution. Regrettably, Himanshu did not keep a copy of the CD. “I gave the footage to police officers investigating the case,” says Himanshu. “I trusted them at the time.”

The national spotlight was on. Media pressure had built up. A man was beaten to death in broad daylight before hundreds of eyewitnesses and dozens of video cameras. The opposition in the state was waiting in the wings, ready to pounce. Someone had to pay the price, at least for a while. Six ABVP workers — Shashiranjan Akela, Vimal Tomar, Hemant Dubey, Panjak Mishra and Sudhir Yadav — were arrested on charges of murder and rioting.

Things didn’t work out in Ujjain for Sabharwal’s family and they realised they wouldn’t get a fair trial. They petitioned the Supreme Court to transfer the case to a “non-BJP led state”. The request was granted after 18 months. Nagpur became the new venue for seeking justice. The trial at Nagpur began in March 2008. On July 13, 2009, the judge acquitted all the six persons accused of Sabharwal’s murder.

The judge sought cover in the finer points of law to soften the blow. Though they may have been guilty, he said, “justice could not be done to Sabharwal” as the prosecution “failed miserably” to prove the case against the accused. The accused afforded a defense team of some of the country’s most highly paid lawyers, hired to create “reasonable doubt” to use legal parlance, to get them off the hook. The prosecution lawyer, Pratul Shandilya, on the other hand, faced difficulties right from the start. The investigating agencies were slow and selective in forwarding crucial documents to him. The government proved tardy in clearing the payment of his fees . But the most difficult part for him was proving to the court that the statements of the witnesses recorded before the investigating agencies were indeed true. “All the key witnesses turned hostile,” says Shandilya unhappily.

SELECTIVE COMPASSION CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan met accused ABVP activist Vimal Tomar at the hospital soon after Sabharwal’s killing. But he has not met the professor’s widow even once in three years to offer condolences

The supporters of the accused broke into street celebrations. Elsewhere, the slain professor’s widow cried some more, and their son believed a lot less. “Nobody was willing to come forward and say what really happened,” says Himanshu. “The truth is that my father was killed inside the college. The only people who were inside at that point were the ABVP activists group, the professors, the principal, the policemen on duty, Dodiya and Sengar.”

“I had accorded him the status of God after the killing, but I think he was pressured a lot,” said Prem Sabharwal of Sengar, who, before turning hostile, had given a signed affidavit to Himanshu and an interview to TV news channel, NDTV, in which he named all the accused.The court didn’t consider the evidence relevant.

Upon being released from prison after their acquittal, the six ABVP activists went into hiding. “After the unfair media campaign against these innocent men, we don’t trust the media anymore,” ABVP leader Vishnudutt Sharma told TEHELKA.

A secondary schoolteacher in Ujjain, Shashi Ranjan Akela was one of the main accused. When we called his home, his father said Akela had gone away to “offer prayers”. Vishal Rajoria, whose father is a police officer, wasn’t home as well. His sister said it had been a tough three years for the family. Pankaj Mishra, who lives in the Police Officer’s Colony near Ujjain’s Mahakala temple was not at home either. Said his mother: “Woh to hamesha apne ABVP doston ke saath hi gaayab rehta hai. (He always seems to disappear with his ABVP friends.)”

Soon after Sabharwal’s brutal killing, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan met ABVP activist, Vimal Tomar, one of the main accused, at a hospital in the city of Indore. But he has never called on Sabharwal’s widow to offer condolences. Chouhan’s first reaction to Sabharwal’s killing was to call it an “incident”. In three years, his police failed to catch the killers who beat a man to death before dozens of eyewitnesses, watched by millions on national TV.

Clearly, those lower down in the Darwinian social pecking order have become scapegoats in a case, which, in reality, was dead on arrival at the court. It was systematically stripped of all crucial evidence by the state security machinery and investigating agency prior to the start of the trial, with direct support from the chief minister and the ruling dispensation. The road to justice for HS Sabharwal has arrived at a crossing. If we head in one direction, then ours is not the world’s biggest banana republic. If we head the other way, ours is not the world’s biggest democracy.

July 22, 2009

life in financial markets: minor changes in shareholding pattern...

Here are the last 3 quarters' aggregate shareholding patterns of 500 companies of S&P CNX 500 index here in the Indian equities market. Not too significant changes, except that insurance companies (predominantly LIC) whose aggregate shareholding had gone up from 6.9% in December 2008 to 7.3% in March 2009 has now come down to 7.1% in June 2009. Also, the FIIs' shareholding that had come down from 13.3% in December 2008 to 12.8% in March 2009 is now back up to 14.3% in June 2009 (click on the images to see them enlarged and clear)

July 19, 2009

life in general & financial markets: clintons & india's corrupt

The ultimate sycophancy is being carried out during USA's Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, current ongoing few days visit to India. It is not surprising that much of the Indian media [that is known to shamelessly ignore the corruption of India's politicians, bureaucrats (IAS, ICS & IPS officers) and industrialists/company bigwigs] is going ga-ga over what Clinton is doing and whom she is meeting.

This is still ok but the tone of most of the media stories is adulatory in nature and most media columnists and senior journalists are completely silent on the recent and far past of Clintons' (Hillary now as US Secretary of State), and Bill earlier when he was the US president for 8 years from 1992 to 2000) notorious penchant for wheeling dealing with companies for monetary gains by abusing their official positions in the US government.

Barrack Obama, in his misguided sense to keep the cool in Democratic Party, gave in to the pressure from his party's corrupt elements to give an important position to Hillary Clinton. This was despite the fact that Hillary's campaign to get the Presidential nomination in Democratic Party in 2008 was very ugly and nasty towards Obama's nomination campaign.

In India, Ambanis and Tatas are shamelessly close to this corrupt couple. It started in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was the president of the US. Their sycophancy continues with Hillary because the Clintons are known to operate as one when it comes to their ugly wheeling-dealing activities.

Look at what New York Times reports on Hillary's visit to Bombay. I would laugh if it were not a serious matter:

"..But she began her visit to India, the first by a top official from the Obama administration, by discussing climate change, education and health care with private-sector potentates.

Flanked by Mukesh Ambani (estimated net worth: $19.5 billion) and Ratan Tata (estimated net worth: $1 billion), Mrs. Clinton heard ideas from seven other guests about how Indian companies could provide health care, education and banking services to India’s desperately poor.

“You’re so right, Ratan,” Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Tata when he explained how his Tata Group was delivering nutrients to children and young mothers through daily staples like milk. “If we could get the nutritional status of children to improve, it would solve so many problems.”

The purpose of her visit, Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference on Saturday, was to “broaden and deepen” dialogue between the United States and India. Given the potential for friction in the issues that face the two countries — climate change, trade and the insurgency in Pakistan — Mrs. Clinton’s visit with business leaders was more than a sidelight.

The United States is clearly hoping that Indian business will help bridge potential gaps between the two countries.

Mr. Ambani, for example, proposed that Indians and Americans work together to develop “clean technologies” that would reduce carbon emissions. The Indian government is resisting the Obama administration’s push for a global treaty that would mandate cuts in carbon emissions, arguing that developing economies deserve to grow without compulsory constraints...."

See what is happening above. Obama administration wants US itself to commit to carbon emissions cuts and not just use its superpower position and join hands with other industrial countries such as Japan, Germany, UK and France to pressurise China and India to also commit to carbon emission cuts.

The way I see it the industrial powerhouses are not doing enough and not doing much right about genuinely reducing their carbon footprints on Earth and their footprints are the highest. Obama wants to genuinely do something. But he is stacked against powerful opposition from the corporate world in US and Europe.

The governments of India and China are taking refuge under a ridiculous argument -- "the West developed and we should also be allowed to develop without constraints to protect the environment". Its like saying "you exploited someone to become wealthy and we also want to exploit that someone to become wealthy" knowing very well that "someone" in this case is our Mother Earth and her previous natural resources.

The carbon footprint of the affluent of China, India and S.Korea are as high the national averages of the industrial nations. Not only will their governments fight against all global efforts to curb carbon emissions but their industrialists will go all out and utter all kinds of lies in front of Western governments' top officials like Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a very easy target to influence for Ambanis and Tatas. In India, right now, during Clinton's visit to India the top Indian industrialists must be carrying forward their thoughts such as "Pamper her and bribe her directly or indirectly to allow us to pollute the air, river, soil and mountains of India".

The Clintons are easy to bribe (do a google on 'clintons corruption'). But at least the proportion of American journalists exposing their corruption is way more than the proportion of Indian journalists exposing corruption in India of politicians such as Sharad Pawar, Kamal Nath, P. Chidambaram, Bal Thackeray, Narendra Modi and many many more across the Indian political spectrum. The Indian media has also been threatened, dierctly and indirectly, by companies such as Ambani's Reliance and Ratan's Tata group whenever there is a story exposing any bit of activity, including environmental violation norms, by these companies.

July 16, 2009

life in general: India's divide & rule policy for its own people

Violence, whether indulged in by private, insurgent/renegade groups or by government-sponsored groups can not but be condemned. In remote areas of India, where Indian and foreign companies are trying to set up large-scale industrial/mining projects the state of affairs is so bad that Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram, Sonia Gandhi and the rest of the Congress party gang should stop claiming to the world at large about India being a great democracy. Its false.

In India, Naxal groups are private groups that operate on their own without support from any machinery of the state. Many a time they indulge in violence that is condemnable.

Then there are state-sponsored groups such as Salwa Judum that indulge in 10 times more ugly violence than Naxalites. Tehelka, the weekly magazine, has done an expose of Salwa Judum using sexual violence against the women in Chattisgarh. The National Human Rights Commission of India has shamefully failed to even take cognizance of this, leave aside taking concrete action to bring the rapists to book quickly. Tehelka's story brings all this--and much more--out.


The Evil That Men Do

Tribal women claiming rape by Salwa Judum men in Chhattisgarh put a question mark on the NHRC, which rejected their testimonies.

Photographs by SHAILENDRA PANDEY AJIT SAHI Editor-at-Large

In the Indian setting, refusal to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault in the absence of corroboration as a rule is adding insult to injury. A girl or a woman in the tradition- bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident that is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred… [A rape victim’s testimony] does not require corroboration from any other evidence, including the evidence of a doctor. — Supreme Court justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam, July 2008

FOR DECADES, the Supreme Court of India has cleaved to a rigorous legal standard in cases of rape: the testimony of the victim is enough evidence to launch the prosecution of the accused. Successive judgments over the years have reinforced this position. Thousands of convictions of alleged rapists have been effectively obtained on the basis of victims’ testimonies, with no corroborative evidence sought or offered. Often, the courts have overlooked minor discrepancies in the victims’ accounts, if the main narrative holds up.

Jurists and social commentators in India have long argued that, apart from being a most heinous crime against a woman’s person, her rape doubly curses her in the Indian society by imparting her a stigma that no other crime matches. That is why criminal investigation processes that the police must follow, as well as the judicial procedures prescribed when charges of rape arise, are unambiguous. This is best illustrated in the case of Hindi film actor Shiney Ahuja, who was arrested last month in Mumbai when his maidservant accused him of raping her. Ahuja has been denied bail, and rightly so, for his right to seek justice shall arise at the trial and not before or outside it.

But what happens when rape becomes a brutal tool of class oppression in a wider social, political and economic war that men wage against one another, the raped women merely the pawns on their chessboard, the act of rape itself a side story, a cold-blooded strategy to terrorise an entire population into submission? What happens when the victims of rape are some of India’s most destitute tribal women, who live in virtually unreachable forests in subhuman conditions; who have absolutely zero access to the police, the judiciary, the media; whose verdant lands the mighty industrialists covet because they hold in their womb some of India’s richest mineral resources?

What happens when those accused of rape are the hired guns of a dubious state-backed militia that is the frontline in one of the world’s most brutal civil wars? What happens when the Indian State pivots this war against deeply entrenched Maoist insurgents on a take-no-prisoners approach, because unless the Maoists are killed off and millions of tribal people removed from their forests, hills and fields, corporate India won’t be able to claim the bounties of their lands? What happens when it is abundantly clear that accepting the charges of rape from such women would be very dangerous indeed because that step just might begin to unravel this barbaric anti-people militia, bringing an end to its unchecked reign of terror?

THIS IS the heartrending story of Chhattisgarh, and all the above questions have only one answer: the Indian State cannot afford to honestly investigate these women’s charges of rape and secure them justice. Therefore, it must be forced to do so. In the following pages, readers of TEHELKAwill find graphic gut-wrenching testimonies of some tribal women of Chhattisgarh describing how they were brutalised by the men of the Salwa Judum, the tribal militia that the state government sponsored four years ago and has since terrorised tens of thousands of innocent tribal people, burning their houses down, forcing them to abandon their villages where they had lived for generations, to move into squalid government- controlled “camps”.

We traveled deep in the state’s highly forested southern region known as Bastar, and located six women who were raped by the men of the Salwa Judum [literally, peace movement]. We also spoke to one man who saw his sister raped and then found her killed; their father, too, was killed then. The women and the man we met voluntarily gave their testimonies to us, which we have recorded on tape. Most rapes pertain to the period following the setting up of the Salwa Judum in 2005.

But the most disturbing part of this story came last year when the Supreme Court asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to go to Chhattisgarh and investigate the charges of murder, rape, pillage and arson brought against those men of the Salwa Judum who have been hired and armed by the state police as Special Police Officers (SPOs). The report that an NHRC ‘fact-finding’ team wrote is deeply troubling in that it blindly toes the police and government line.

Created by Parliament in 1993 as an autonomous statutory human rights watchdog, the NHRC has long pretended to be the champion of the underdog. Log on to its website today, and you will be justified to feel a gush of relief at the rather selfcongratulatory headlines about jobs well done – “NHRC takes suo moto cognisance of the alleged fake encounter in Uttarakhand and recommends CBI inquiry”; “NHRC takes the railways police IG to task as cops throw pregnant woman from moving train”; “NHRC orders the payment of three lakh rupees monetary relief in a case of death in police custody”.

And yet, the NHRC refused to accept the testimonies of these tribal women of Chhattisgarh that unequivocally detail how SPOs brutally raped them. Instead of making the legally and morally sound recommendation that the state government launch the prosecution of the accused, the NHRC wrote: “During the enquiry of some specific allegations, the enquiry team also did not come across any case of rape which could be substantiated.” Shockingly, the NHRC happily absolved the accused too: “The allegations of rapes levelled against the SPOs and security forces were not substantiated during the enquiry.”

The most stunning fact, of course, is the NHRC’s rejection of the testimonies of five women from a single village – Pottenar in Bijapur district – who deposed before it. Says the report: “The matter was personally enquired from each of the five girls by a lady IPS officer of the team. During the enquiry, it was observed that there were many inconsistencies in the versions of alleged victims, in the petitions given by them, as well as in the statements of the alleged victims. These inconsistencies were with regard to the number of rape victims, number of SPOs who took them away from the camp, number of SPOs who actually committed the act and their identity and the accompanying circumstances.”

Shockingly, the report goes on to say: “All the victims stated that none of them reported this matter to their parents or relatives or anyone else in the camp or to the police.” Because the women raped by policemen did not report the rape to the police, their testimonies are suspect?

So just when did the NHRC convert itself into a trial court? Just when did it become the job of the NHRC to summarily dismiss, without proper investigation, the charges of rape directly brought forward by the alleged victims of that crime?

The chicanery at the NHRC began as it formed the investigative team. Acting on a lawsuit from activist-lawyer Nandini Sundar against the Salwa Judum, the Supreme Court said: “…We feel that in view of the serious allegations relating to violation of human rights by Naxalites and Salwa Judum and the living conditions in the refugee settlement colonies, it will be appropriate if the NHRC examines/verifies these allegations... We leave it to the NHRC to appoint an appropriate fact-finding Committee with such members as it deems fit...”

So what did the NHRC do? To investigate charges of rape against Special Police Officers who are fully backed by the state police and the government, the NHRC decided to send a 16- member team — made up of exclusively policemen and women! This included three IPS officers, four Deputy Superintendents of Police, seven inspectors and one constable. Just why would the country’s premier human rights watchdog not include even one well-respected independent social activist in its fact-finding team? (The team head, former DIG Sudhir Chowdhary, refused to talk about this. “I have nothing to add to what is already in the report,” he told TEHELKA.)

IRONICALLY, THE NHRC investigation in Chhattisgarh was launched at the behest of complainants Nandini Sundar and others, because they claimed that the Salwa Judum was brutalising innocent tribal people of Chhattisgarh. Yet, an overwhelming part of the NHRC report is based on the testimonies of people inside the Salwa Judum camps – all, therefore, predictably speaking in support of the Salwa Judum. An overwhelming number of documents and conversations relied upon are with the state police – whose very conduct the team had gone to investigate. The police and/or other security agencies accompanied the NHRC team’s “independent” visits to the villages to investigate allegations of police excesses. The petitioners complained that, once, after the NHRC enquiry team had visited a village, “the Salwa Judum leaders subsequently went there and issued death threats…” So how did the NHRC investigate this complaint? It sought a report from the state’s Director-General of Police!

In fact, the entire NHRC report reads like a primary school textbook that pares down everything to a simple black-andwhite narrative, the Salwa Judum overwhelmingly white – and hardly guilty of any excesses, absolved of all charges of rape and murder – and the Naxals the blackest of the blacks, the grossest violators of human rights. The 16-member NHRC team toured the region a total of only two weeks. But its report reads like a sociological treatise waxing eloquent on the history of the Naxal movement, offering innumerable sweeping statements without any piece of evidence that they may have collected during their two-week investigations.

Shockingly, the NHRC report says: “From the interaction with the villagers it also appears that many of the tribal girls were sexually exploited by the Naxalites.” And yet, the NHRC did not move to document the testimonies of such girls.

At least one of the petitioners, former CPIMLA Manish Kunjum, says the NHRC report quotes him wrongly that he “admitted during interaction with the enquiry team that the policies followed by the Naxalites were responsible for the spontaneous outburst of the tribals”. “I never said anything of this sort,” Kunjam told TEHELKA. “They are exaggerating my view.”

All is not lost, though. On June 16, 2009, some of these victims saw a glimmer of hope as Amrit Kerkatta, a local judicial magistrate in a Dantewada sub-district, began recording the testimonies of six rape victims after receiving their petitions. On July 3, he heard six witnesses, one for each of the victims. The judge has now fixed the next hearing for July 17.

Sudha Bharadwaj, a lawyer at the Bilaspur High Court in Chhattisgarh who is representing these women, told TEHELKA: “The magistrate has taken the longest possible route to make doubly sure that the testimonies of the women are on record. It is now up to him to prepare the charge-sheet — which the police should have done in the normal course — and commit the case to trial.”

If indeed the accused are finally tried on the basis of the testimonies of the raped women, then the lawyers representing the victims will certainly press these words of Supreme Court justices Pasayat and Sathasivam:

“It is an irony that while we are celebrating woman’s rights in all spheres, we show little or no concern for her honour. It is a sad reflection on the attitude of indifference of society towards the violation of human dignity of the victims of sex crimes. The socio-economic status, religion, race, caste or creed of the accused or the victim are irrelevant considerations in the sentencing policy. Protection of society and deterring the criminal are the avowed objects of law and that is required to be achieved by imposing appropriate sentence.

“We must remember that a rapist not only violates the victim’s privacy and personal integrity but inevitably causes serious psychological as well as physical harm. Rape is not merely a physical assault — it is often destructive of the whole personality of the victim. A murderer destroys the body of his victim, a rapist degrades the very soul of the helpless female.

“A prosecutrix of a sex offence cannot be put on par with an accomplice. She is in fact a victim of the crime... What is necessary is that the court must be conscious of the fact that it is dealing with the evidence of a person who is interested in the outcome of the charge levelled by her.”


Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 28, Dated July 18, 2009





Married with daughter


SPO Joga
of Seesod village

IHAD BEEN married only a month when the Salwa Judum men raped me. This was two years ago. My husband was home. It was about 9am. My mother-inlaw was still asleep.

I was winnowing rice just outside my house, and that is when I saw a force of uniformed men approaching our house. They were in green fatigues and carrying guns.I ran to my mother-inlaw and shook her awake.

My husband was inside eating breakfast. The SPOs had once before caught my husband, so I told him to run away to escape the force.

The uniformed men came and caught me and started beating me up. One of them asked me for the house keys.

I opened the house for them. They tore up the sack which held the rice. One man held me. He then took me inside the house. The other men began throwing stuff out of the house.

One man then raped me. He is known as Joga of a village named Seesod. I can identify him. My mother-inlaw had run away by now. They ransacked the house and took my mother-in-law’s money. My husband returned at night. I told him I had been raped. We did not go to the police. The next day my mother-in-law took me to the hospital at Dornapal.

I told the doctor I had been raped and I was in terrible pain. I don’t know what the doctor said. I don’t know what my mother-in-law paid him as fees.



Possibly a minor when raped


Veko Soma
of Korpar village, Odiya Rajesh of Polempalli village, Suyid Idma of Palem village

MY PARENTS died six years ago of illnesses. I live with my late brother’s widow. On the day I was raped about three years ago, I had gone with another girl to the woods to pick mahua flowers. At noon, several men in uniforms and carrying guns attacked us. They were SPOs who lived in nearby villages and often passed by.

Four men held me down. I know three by name. They dragged me to a field and disrobed me. As each raped me, the other three held me down. This lasted probably two hours. All four raped me repeatedly. They kept saying, “Don’t worry. I will marry you later.” I wept all the while. I begged them not to pin me down so brutally as it hurt my limbs. They threatened they would kill me if I told anyone of being raped. Once done, they abandoned me there. My clothes lay torn at some distance.

A woman helped me up. Another fetched me her wraparound. They brought me back to my house. The sun had set by now. I told my sister-in-law I had been raped. She washed me with warm water and gave me a herbal drink. I developed an infection and bled for days. My limbs ached for weeks.

I was too scared to tell anyone else. My sister-in-law informed her family and the sarpanch, Sudi Nanda. I gave him the names of three of my rapists. He later told me he went to the police station and reported my rape. I trust the sarpanch still. But the police never came to talk to me or investigate. I didn’t go to the police station myself. A few journalists came and interviewed me, but I never heard anything come of it. I don’t know of any court case in the Supreme Court. I don’t know the NHRC.

I have come across my rapists several times at the weekly market. They avoid me and I avoid them. If I ever look at them, they melt away in the crowd. Do I want my rapists punished? If you can help me, then please send them to jail.

Why didn’t I go to the police? [Goes quiet]



We found my sister’s body after 10 days. She had been raped, stabbed and shot in the mouth

Possibly between 18-20 years old


Salwa Judum SPOs
of raping and killing his sister, and killing his father

SALWA JUDUM men raped my sister on December 29, 2006. Then, they stabbed her, put a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. At the same time, they also killed my father by first beating and then shooting him. At that time, I was working in Andhra Pradesh as a movie theater attendant and visiting home.

On that day, a number of SPOs surrounded our village. They fired upon a villager named Motiram near the village pond. The bullet hit his arm. He ran back to the village. The SPOs began burning down the village. Almost 35 houses were burned down. They even burnt the cowsheds and the haystacks.

I had only recently built a new house at a cost of Rs 50,000. All our belongings were burnt to ashes. They caught my father, Gantal Kanhaiya, and began beating him mercilessly. They brought him inside my grandmother’s hut near our house. I had, meanwhile, hid myself in the housetop granary. From there I saw them thrash my father repeatedly. My father lost consciousness and died later.

The SPOs dragged my 20- year-old sister, Gantal Sridevi, out of her room and began beating her too. They then took her inside my uncle’s room. She was crying and screaming. When my mother pleaded with them to let my sister go, a man put a gun in my mother’s mouth and threatened to kill her. They even beat up my grandmother. They beat my wife and snatched her mangalsutra. They stole all our valuables, including money.

The SPOs dragged my sister near the forest, to a spot close to the pond and raped her. We found her body after 10 days. She had been stabbed and was shot in her mouth.

I didn’t go to the police or register an FIR because I was scared. We cremated my sister. That day four people were killed, including Motilal, the man who had been shot first of all. The local priest, Ramaya, was also shot dead when he was trying to flee his house, which they set on fire. I didn’t approach the Supreme Court.


July 12, 2009

life in financial markets: why allow pnotes at all when you can set them completely free?

A little over a month back, I contributed to the magazine I currently write for, a story on how foreign institutional investors (FIIs) investing in India should not want to -- nor be allowed to by the Indian securities market regulator -- to issue access notes or participatory notes to global investors wanting to invest in Indian equities.

I wrote all foreign individual or corporate investors should instead be allowed direct access to Indian equity exchanges through the local brokers of National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange.
Here is that story:

Close back door, open front one
It is time for Sebi and the finance ministry to take focus away from encouraging P-notes and instead permi foreign investors to invest directly in India's listed equities

Emboldened by the 19-20 May spike in the equity prices, the domestic bulls, on the back of global bulls, are bracing themselves to go on the rampage in the Indian equity market in the coming months.

In next few months, it could get inevitable that the issues of access to Indian market for foreign investors and its potential of being used as a backdoor conduit for Indian hot money are likely to play on the minds of the government and the capital market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

BW takes stock of the impact of the happenings on this front in the last two years and the potentialities of regulatory improvement going forward.

A few months before—and culminating in—October 2007, Sebi, under sustained pressure from the finance ministry to help curb the rupee's rapid rise against the dollar by reining in the large net foreign institutional investor (FII) inflows that were understood then to be the largest contributors to rupee appreciation.

Sebi banned any FII or their sub-account (FII-SA) from trading in Indian exchange-traded equity derivatives that were used as underlying in the issue of participatory notes (P-notes). P-notes are access notes that, usually global investment banks, issue, chiefly from Singapore and Hong Kong, to leveraged long or short funds (usually, hedge funds) and small-sized long-only asset managers who find the registration process, in any market such as India's, too cumbersome.

Sebi had then also barred all FII-SAs from issuing P-notes. The idea then was to make the P-note issuing FII-SAs register with Sebi as FIIs and in the process get more information about them to regulate them better. This was because there were doubts about Indian hot money, stashed overseas, entering the Indian market through the backdoor using P-notes.

But there was a bit of flip-flop. In May 2008, the October 2007 restrictions were legally notified as amendments to Sebi's regulations for FIIs. But young turks in the finance ministry were putting pressure on Sebi to remove the restrictions on P-notes and only require that investors to which FIIs would issue P-notes to were regulated in their home countries.

On 30 October 2008, Sebi once again amended its FII regulations and removed most of the restrictions, including the ban on P-notes with derivatives as underlying. The P-note issuance ban on FII-SAs, however, stayed. From then till date the FIIs, though, were again free to issue all kinds of P-notes with the only condition being that the end-investor has to be regulated in its home country.

The results from all this flip-flop have been mixed. The issuance of P-notes by the earlier largest P-note issuing FIIs has certainly come down. This is seen from the greater-than-1% shareholding data in companies from stock exchanges' quarterly shareholding pattern data. The largest (as of October 2007) P-note issuing FIIs that were have significantly scaled down their exposure (see table: Where did they disappear?).

(click on the image below to see it enlarged & clear)

Further, P-notes with the end-result being that of a short in the Indian cash or derivatives market have been near-zero for more than a year now. This is seen from the twice-a-week disclosures made to Sebi by the FIIs which are made public by Sebi.

The global financial crisis and the global economic slowdown also intervened to make P-note unattractive for a while. "Every thing fell off the rail in 2008 with the Lehman collapse and the crises in the other large investment banking firms as the global liquidity got sucked out," says Akil Hirani, managing partner in Majmudar & Co, a corporate law firm that has FII clients among others.

Despite all this, post-October 2007, the trading volume figures of FIIs in the Indian cash and derivatives market (see graph, 'Hit a bit') do not show a decline any sharper than the overall fall in traded volumes in the market.

(click on the image below to see it enlarged & clear)

Hedge funds, usually the investors to which P-notes are issued by Sebi-registered, have seen a rise in their assets under management in May. As per Eurekahedge, a hedge funds monitor, the industry got $11.3 billion net inflows in May, the largest in ten months.

If there is a global liquidity explosion once again the regulators will again be seized of the consequent dollar's decline against the rupee and the concerns of Indian hot money routed through P-notes. But market players are hoping that this time the policy debate goes beyond harping on the role of P-notes and FIIs or FII-SAs.

As Indian investors get to invest in overseas securities markets (under the overall Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ceiling of $2,00,000) such as that of the US and UK where they have to only comply with the Know-your-client (KYC) norms of the exchanges' brokers, questions are being asked of when the reverse will be allowed. "Why should the P-note exist at all?" asks Shankar Sharma, managing director of First Global Broking. "P-notes create artificial barriers and jacks up transaction costs for, say, Mr. Robinson, from investing directly in securities traded on Indian exchanges."

In May 2008, Sebi had relaxed the FII regulations compliance requirements for foreign pension and university endowments that did not thereon had to be regulated in their home country, like the rest of the FIIs, to seek Sebi registration as FIIs and invest in Indian market. But can it go further and do away with the need for registration for at least foreign individual investors wanting to invest in the Indian securities market. "In my view, Sebi should restrict the use of P-notes completely and allow direct and unfettered access to foreign investors," says Sharma.

In any direct access, foreign investors will have to sign up as clients of Indian brokers having membership of stock exchanges here and trade directly like an Indian investor does. Other Indian market intermediaries are also warm to the idea of such unfettered access for foreign investors. "Even if it involves foreign exchange convertibility issues, I would welcome a move to allow foreign investors from directly accessing our equity markets," says Vineet Suchanti, managing director of Keynote India.

Concerns of Indian hot money and backdoor route can be addressed by laying down strict enforcement of existing KYC and anti-money laundering (AML) norms. "Keep the documentation and eliminate the foreign middle men," says Sharma. Indian brokers get a chance to compete for broking revenues from such free access.

If un-licensed direct access to foreign investors is allowed then Sebi will have to make the two stock exchanges do a thorough surveillance of the KYC and AML compliance by the brokers catering to such foreign clients.

The US and UK regulators, for instance, allow foreign investors to trade directly on the stock exchanges there without any licensing process. But they make their exchanges, the NYSE Euronext and the London Stock Exchange for instance, require their member-brokers to seek thorough information, as compliance to KYC and AML norms, of their clients regardless of whether they are local or foreign.

The same can happen in India as well. But Sebi will have to seek the Reserve Bank of India's permission to allow flow of dollars into and out of the country by the foreign investors who are not registered with Sebi as FIIs. It is a doable proposition and could be the way forward.

July 10, 2009

life in general: sexist jokes encourage male violence against women

As a man, privy to private male conversations between male friends/colleagues, I know how petty and vulgar jokes are passed against females.

This recent research (and a previous one that follows below after the first) shows how it even courages male violence against women:

Recent research:

01/07/2009 - Sexist jokes favour the mental mechanisms that justify violence against women, according to a study

Those are the conclusions of a research work carried out at the University of Granada (Spain) in a sample of 109 university male students aged between 18 and 26 years old The results of this work will be released tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July in the framework of the 'International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter’, held in Granada

UGR News Sexist jokes (and all the variants of this kind of humour) favour the mental mechanisms which urge to violence and battering against women in individuals with macho attitudes. Those are the conclusions of a study carried out at the University of Granada, that will be released tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July in the framework of the world most renowned international symposium about humour and its scientific applications ('International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications') that will be held in Granada.

In order to carry out this research work, the scientists applied several questionnaires to a group of 109 university male students aged between 18 and 26 years old. They showed them two series of jokes, one of them with sexist jokes where women were denigrated and another one
with common jokes, without any kind of sexist content. Next, the researchers proposed them several scenes with different cases of battering against women, from minor to serious attacks, to ask them how they would react in this kind of situation.

They are more tolerant with violence The work proved that those who had listened to sexist jokes were much more tolerant with male battering than those who had not, this is, that this kind of humour favours the mental mechanisms tolerant with violent behaviour towards women. However, the researchers warn those individuals affected by sexist humour showed a previous tendency to tolerate violence against women, as we can gather from a survey which weighed up sexist attitudes against women.

Some of the items of the scale used by the scientist to measure men’s sexist attitudes were: "Deep down, feminist women intend women to be more powerful than men", "Most of the women do not fully appreciate what men do for them" or "There are many women who make sexual insinuations to men and later they reject their advances just to make fun of them".

This work has been carried out by professors Mónica Romero-Sánchez, Mercedes Durán, Hugo Carretero Dios, Jesús L. Megías and Miguel Moya, of the departments of Social and Experimental Psychology of the University of Granada, and will be officially presented tomorrow Thursday 2nd of July at 5 PM in the Carmen de la Victoria of Granada, within the 'International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter’.

The results of this research work have been accepted to be published in the renowned US ‘Journal of Interpersonal Violence’.
Reference: Mónica Romero Sánchez. Department of Social Psychology of the University of Granada. Mobile: 699 876 200 E-mail: monicaromero@ugr.es

Previous one:

Nov '07
Jon Hanson recently examined the overlooked effects of sexualized stereotypes in televised advertisements about women, including ads characterized as quasi-public service announcements.

We now bring news of a new study by Thomas E. Ford of Western Carolina University which finds that jokes about blonde’s intelligence and women drivers lead to hostile feelings and discrimination against women. The study will be published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Below is an excerpt from a Newswise summary of the study.

A research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor indicates that jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women.

“Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,” said Thomas E. Ford, a new faculty member in the psychology department at WCU. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”

Ford, who conducted research into sexist humor with three graduate students at his previous institution of Western Michigan University, presents their findings in an article accepted for publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, one of the nation’s top social psychology journals. The article, “More Than Just a Joke: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor,” is scheduled for publication in February.

In the article, Ford and the graduate student co-authors describe two research projects designed to test the theory that “disparagement humor” has negative social consequences and plays an important role in shaping social interaction.

“Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior,” he said. “The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.”

n one experiment, Ford and his student colleagues asked male participants to imagine that they were members of a work group in an organization. In that context, they either read sexist jokes, comparable non-humorous sexist statements, or neutral (non-sexist) jokes. They were then asked to report how much money they would be willing to donate to help a women’s organization. “We found that men with a high level of sexism were less likely to donate to the women’s organization after reading sexist jokes, but not after reading either sexist statements or neutral jokes,” Ford said.

In the second experiment, researchers showed a selection of video clips of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits to a group of male participants. In the sexist humor setting, four of the clips contained humor depicting women in stereotypical or demeaning roles, while the fifth clip was neutral. The men were then asked to participate in a project designed to determine how funding cuts should be allocated among select student organizations.

“We found that, upon exposure to sexist humor, men higher in sexism discriminated against women by allocating larger funding cuts to a women’s organization than they did to other organizations,” Ford said. “We also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations. We believe this shows that humorous disparagement creates the perception of a shared standard of tolerance of discrimination that may guide behavior when people believe others feel the same way.”

The research indicates that people should be aware of the prevalence of disparaging humor in popular culture, and that the guise of benign amusement or “it’s just a joke” gives it the potential to be a powerful and widespread force that can legitimize prejudice in our society, he said.

July 07, 2009

life in financial markets: invest in green ETFs

The next 5-30 years is going to be the best years for green energy companies and if you are an investor in global markets having access to global exchange-traded-funds listed on exchanges such as NYSE-Euronext and London Stock Exchange then I would strongly encourage you to go out and there and buy green or alternate energy ETFs.

You could invest once every month in one or more of these ETFs. After accumulating about 10-15 such ETFs you could add to these ETFs plus occasionally keep picking up other or new ETFs in the field of green energy.

I know of at least two such ETFs that can be immediately invested in. The first is Van Eck Global Alternate Energy that is listed on NYSE-Arca and designed to mimick the Global Ardour Index. The second one is
ETFS DAXglobal Alternative Energy Fund that is listed on London Stock Exchange and designed to mimick the Daxglobal Alternative Energy Index.

Even investors in India should invest in these rather than putting their money in environmentally and socially unfriendly companies such as Reliance Industries, other Reliance companies, DLF, Unitech, pharma companies, Sterlite, Sesa Goa and pesticide-manufacturing companies.