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Archives for : June2018

Toxic Hell- Maharashtra Disregards Deaths, Bends Over To Make ‘Rehabilitation’ Pass Muster

Aritra Bhattacharya | Bilal Khan


Mahul, located on the eastern seafront of Mumbai, is the Maharashtra government’s preferred, and if one goes by its stand in court, only site available for rehabilitating over 11,000 families evicted from either side of the Tansa Pipeline and other places. Despite concerns raised in several quarters regarding the high pollution level in the area and the threat to human life due to the same, the government insists that the area is safe and habitable.













The National Green Tribunal, hearing a 2014 petition filed by residents of Mahul village adjacent to the 72-tower complex where Tansa pipeline evictees are being rehabilitated, held the area unsuitable for human habitation in December 2015. The Bombay High Court also took serious note of the pollution and its impact on the health of rehabilitated families in July 2017. A study by conducted by King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital in early 2015 reported a high incidence of respiratory issues in the area and pointed at high levels of Toluene—a volatile organic compound that causes respiratory ailments, among other things—in the atmosphere.

However, in March and April this year, the state government filed two affidavits in the Bombay High Court, stressing that 72-building rehabilitation complex is safe to live in, since pollution levels in the area are well within prescribed limits. A close perusal of the affidavits and related annexures, alongside the NGT judgement of 2015 and conversations with residents of the area, points at several gaps and omissions, and exposes the State’s desperation to make Mahul pass muster as a “rehabilitation site”, endangering the health, livelihoods and lives of the city’s poor.

Apprehensions and concerns

Eversmile Layout in Mahul—the 72-tower rehabilitation complex containing 17,495 tenements that the evictees moved in to—sits less than fifteen metres across the road alongside Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s (BPCL) refinery. The area is home to a large number of industrial units, including the refineries of BPCL, HPCL and IOC. It also has several hazardous chemical industries and thermal power plants, with the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre overlooking it along a section of the sea front.


Concerns over high pollution have held back several PAPs from moving into the tenements, even as those without any other options have trickled in through 2017. The affidavit filed by the state government in Bombay High Court on 16 April 2018 shows that a total of 10,504 tenements have been allotted to various PAPs in Eversmile Layout; this includes 5,862 Tansa pipeline evictees. However, a survey by Collective for Spatial Alternatives in February-March 2018 showed only 4,445 of over 10,000—less than fifty percent—families allotted tenements in the colony had moved in.

For families that did move in, the experience has been harrowing, if not life threatening. Many, particularly women, have nothing but a volley of abuses directed at “the authorities” who sent them to “rot here”.

“We have been dealing with breathing difficulties, heaviness/ congestion in the chest and weakness since the time we moved in,” says Anita More, who moved into the complex after her hutment in Kurla was demolished and her family was rehabilitated in June 2017. A cacophony of voices second her; many talk of the skin irritation and rashes that have now become constant companions. Some complain of severe illnesses, such as hypertension, paralysis and lung-diseases.

The symptoms described by the women match health hazards associated with VOCs, particularly toluene, a study by the Environment Pollution Research Centre (EPRC) of KEM Hospital had found in 2014. The study report, which has been questioned by the state government in its 26 April 2018 affidavit in the HC, recommended “immediately undertaking containment measures for emission of toluene”.


The shift, meanwhile, is taking a heavy toll on the lives of those who have moved in there. Apart from the immense financial strain they’re under on account of lost livelihoods courtesy the shift, residents say many people have lost their lives in the past few months owing to “unlivable conditions”. A writ petition filed in the High Court on behalf of 204 PAPs residing in the colony says 15 people have died since PAPs moved in some months ago.

Threat to health in Mahul: NGT’s 2015 order

In 2014, residents of Mahul and Ambapada villages, located next to the rehabilitation complex, approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against Sealord Containers and Aegis Chemicals for allegedly causing pollution.

In its December 2015 judgement pertaining to the application, the NGT did not order the closure of either of the industries since “the contribution of individual source of air pollution in the air quality in the area is not available on record”. The tribunal, however, made several observations on the high levels of pollution, particularly of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with respiratory ailments, in the area, and laid down a series of directions for various government departments to alleviate health concerns flagged by the applicants.

The MPCB, in an assessment carried out in June 2014, had found extremely high levels of VOC Toluene, ranging 15.3- 41 microgrammes per cubic metre, in the vicinity of Mahul and Ambapada villages. In the course of hearing the application of the villagers, the NGT directed the MPCB to submit fresh reports on ambient air quality. The MPCB subsequently engaged an external agency, (Goldflinch), for conducting air quality sampling and analysis in the area and submitted the same before the NGT via an affidavit on 4 July 2015. This second air quality tests showed that toluene levels in the area were much lower than observed in June 2014.

The tribunal, however, was extremely critical of this drop, wondering what accounted for it. In the judgement, it raises questions on the credibility of the test, including the process of data collection. It also chastised the MPCB for “not applying its mind”:

“The concentrations of Benzene, Toluene etc. as referred in the [Goldflnch] report are substantially less than the concentrations reported by the MPCB in the June 2014 report. There is no justification or any discussions about such significant variation… It is also observed that the samples were collected by the laboratory itself and there is no involvement of MPCB in collection or analysis of the samples. We are constrained to bring out such inadequacy in the report only due to the fact that the MPCB has not applied its mind on such report before presenting it to National Green Tribunal.”

Further, the tribunal asked why the MPCB had not conducted a detailed VOC assessment for Mahul, like it had done for Tarapur, Navi Mumbai, Chandrapur, Aurangabad and Dombivli. It directed the body to conduct detailed VOC assessment in the area over three years; define buffer zones between hazardous industries and residential quarters. It also asked MPCB to evolve clear standards for VOC emissions in consultation with CPCB within four months—barring benzene, there’s no established standard for permissible limits of any VOC including toluene.

Crucially though, in paragraph 25 of the judgement, the tribunal noted: “Considering such observations and also, the demonstrated link between the prevalent ambient air quality at Mahul and Ambapada villages with the health impacts in those areas, it can be observed that there is a perceptible threat to health of the residents of village Mahul and Ambapada due to prevailing air quality in the area.”

No alternative, Mahul safe: new affidavits

In more than two years since the order, the MPCB, the BMC, and the state government have done precious little to define permissible limits of VOCs, or conduct a detailed VOC assessment of the area. The NGT’s order, particularly the section that points out the perceptible threat to the health of Mahul residents owing to high pollution levels, has however emerged as a roadblock in the government’s attempts to make Eversmile Layout pass muster as a rehabilitation site.

This is because Tansa pipeline PAPs who approached the HC against the demolitions are relying on the National Green Tribunal to press the government to look for an alternative rehabilitation site. The court had asked the government to look for alternative sites following the petitioners’ demand earlier this year, given that the NGT’s observation on perceptible threat to human health due to pollution in Mahul still holds. In April this year, the court pulled up the state government for failing to identify alternative sites.

The latest affidavit filed by the government in this regard, on 26 April 2018, notes that the government has been unable to identify an alternative site, as two possible rehabilitation locations in Dinsdoshi and Marol in Mumbai have been fully encroached upon, and it would take a long time to rehabilitate those encroachers, demolish the existing hutments and build new rehabilitation complexes in their place.

This affidavit makes a reference to affidavit filed by the government on 16 April this year, which said all pollutants, including VOCs, are now within safe limits in the area, on the basis of a joint study undertaken by MPCB and NEERI in 2017. The latest affidavit also cites fresh reports on ambient air quality from the past two years prepared by KEM Hospital, which again show all pollutants, including VOCs, to be within safe limits. The reports, the government says in the 26 April affidavit, clearly show that pollution levels in Mahul have come down since the NGT order in December 2015.

It goes on to call NGT’s observations in para 25 (cited above) “sweeping” and says they were made “without having the bonafide of the exact test reports of the ambient air quality in Mahul and Ambapada villages”. The MPCB, it informs the court, filed an application before the NGT on 4 April this year asking the tribunal to modify/ clarify its earlier order in light of the new findings.

Gaps and ommissions

A close perusal of the aforementioned affidavit and reports, however, makes the gaps and omissions apparent. For instance, the 16 April affidavit says Mahul is safe and livable on the basis of a joint study undertaken by MPCB and NEERI in 2017, also submitted to the court. The study, conducted over two rounds in August and October 2017, records toluene levels in the buildings that stand barely 15-30 metres from the BPCL and HPCL refineries, at less than 1 microgrammes per cubic metre.

These figures are at a sharp variance from the toluene levels recorded in the area by the MPCB itself in June 2014, and by Goldflinch in 2015. Neither the report, nor the affidavit, however, offer any explanation of the sharp drop in VOC levels in the area. The NGT had pulled up the MPCB for not explaining the drop in levels between 2014 and 2015, but despite the chastisement, the state government continues doing the same before the HC. The MPCB’s application for clarification/ modification of the 2015 NGT order also fails to account for this sharp drop in pollutant levels; it says nothing about what control measures, if any, have been put in place in the interim period that explains this drop. Although the MPCB says an action plan has been prepared in consultation with CPCB and guidelines have been issued to petrochemical refineries, there’s no clarity on whethere they have been implemented.

The NGT order also asked the MPCB to fix permissible standards for all VOCs in consultation with the CPCB within four months of December 2015. In its application for modification/ clarification of the order, however, the MPCB makes no mention of this direction, merely noting that India has no established standards for VOCs like Toluene. The application quotes the standards defined by the Ontario, Canada administration and says fresh tests (NEERI 2017) show that “Toluene and Xylene are well within norms set by Ministry of Environment, Ontario”.

The same application, however, goes on to say that the “report shows some exceedance of …Toluene and Xylene in some locations”. Nothing explains this doublespeak within the application. In addition, it notes that the levels of benzene, chloroform and 1,2 dichloroethane do not meet the Ontario standards. Does this have health implications? The application says nothing specific, but says that these aberrations and the lack of adequate data makes it impossible to certify that “the air quality is good and there are no health impacts”. It also says it cannot ascertain the reason for the high levels of choloroform and dichloroethane in the area.

Contrary to the experiences of residents of Eversmile Layout, the application, on the basis of fresh reports from KEM Hospital, says respiratory morbidity in the area has reduced.

Whither justice?

The MPCB’s application before the NGT will be taken up on 17 May, and the next date of hearing in the High Court is 7 June. The residents of the colony, whose erstwhile houses were demolished by the state, however, continue to live amidst squalor and persistent threats to their health and safety.

Apart from the health concerns mentioned above, the rehabilitation colony itself is in a shambles. The buildings, constructed over 20 years ago, were vacant for close to two decades, and are in dire need of maintenance.

A survey conducted by the Collective for Spatial Alternatives (CSA) in February 2018 found that out of 31 surveyed buildings, 29 have broken sewer pipes; 23 do not have adequate waste collection services or functional elevators; two buildings do not have water supply, and 11 more do not have constant access to running water. The report further notes that 27 out of the 31 buildings are facing a steady stream of sewage and water overflow that are flooding its by-lanes and courtyards.

A visit to any tenement makes it apparent that they are designed like match-boxes, with little scope for natural light and ventilation. In fact, the buildings themselves stand in violation of national building control rules. The report prepared by Indorewala and Wagh notes the density of tenements in the rehabilitation colony at 1,372 tenements/hectare. This is nearly three times the 500 tenements/hectare limit permissible under the National Building Code of India.

“This colony of 72 buildings has been designed for stacking as many tenements as possible in one building, rather than providing a liveable neighbourhood to the occupants,” the report states.

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Gujarat Dalits’ struggle for rights turning into fight for prestige #socialmedia

People from the Dalit community have started social media campaigning by using “Sinh” in names.

Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
People protest the Una incident where four Dalits were flogged by self-styled cow vigilantes in Gujarat in 2016.
People protest the Una incident where four Dalits were flogged by self-styled cow vigilantes in Gujarat in 2016.(Siddharaj Solanki/HT File Photo)

A social media campaign is taking place in Gujarat, where young people from the Dalit community are suffixing ‘Sinh’ — traditionally associated with upper castes — with their name, signalling a fight for prestige in the state.

It all started when 22-year-old tutor Maulik Jadav added ‘Sinh’ to his Facebook profile name on May 10, in a statement of “self-respect” that has irked upper caste Rajputs, resulting in a few clashes between the two communities in the state since then.

Jadav’s decision was prompted by threats issued to his Dalit friend Mahipatsinh Zala allegedly by some Darbar (Kshatriya) men who wanted the latter to drop “Sinh” from his name. The word means lion in Gujarat, cognate with the name “Singh” used in other parts of the country.

Jadav’s move first triggered a war of words on the social media and then snowballed into a clash between Dalits and Darbars on May 23 in which four people were injured. The clashes come to an end with complaint and cross-complaint by the two communities but it has left a deep impact on Dalits in the region.

Hours after the clashes, the Facebook timeline of 15-year-old local Rahul Jadav read: “I have changed my name from Rahul Jadav to Rahulsinh Jadav.”

Several other Dalit youngsters from Valthera, a village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, and in many other villages in the state, followed his footsteps.

That has not been taken lightly by the Rajputs. In a village near Palanpur earlier this week, a 23-year-old Dalit man was forced to shave his moustache by two Rajputs after he distributed an invitation card for a religious ceremony with “Sinh” added to his name. Police arrested one of the two persons named by victim Ranjit Thakor.

Local activists reported several instances of Dalits being threatened by the upper caste Kshatriyas for using the word even though no complaint has been lodged with the police.

“I can name myself anything. No one has the right to suppress us just because we are Dalits,” Valthera sarpanch Bharat Jadav said and claimed that some 1,000 Dalits in his village has picked up the trend.

Kevalsinh Rathod, who leads the Samajik Ekta and Nyay Manch in Una, said: “Now, Dalits have started reacting to any injustice meted out to them. Una flogging two years ago brought out their suppressed anger of years.”

While the upper caste Darbar residents of Valthera refused to present their side of the story on the issue saying they “don’t want to comment on what Dalits are up to”, Karni Sena in charge of central Gujarat Dileepsinh Vaghela said, “Kshatriyas have earned the title of Sinh by fighting for the country. Others should understand and respect this. It is our identity…”

The rebellion

Their “rebellion” comes as the caste divide in the state refuses to cease. Dalits form about 7% of Gujarat’s population, while upper castes, excluding Patidars, account for close to 25% of over six crore people.

OBCs form the largest chunk of the population at 40% and there are around 15% tribals.

If the flogging of four Dalits youths in Una by self-styled cow vigilantes two years ago brought to national focus the atrocities against Dalits, the latest social media campaign is a manifestation of the agitation by Dalits of self-respect that the incident triggered.

In October 2017, when a Dalit youngster was thrashed near Gandhinagar for keeping a moustache, young people across the state started posting pictures of them twirling their moustache.

The Sarvaiya family of Una, which was beaten by cow vigilantes, converted to Buddhism in April saying “we decided to drop the religion whose followers had beaten us”.

Human rights activists and social expert, Manishi Jani said: “What the recent clashes indicate is that Dalits are now retaliating when others try to impose feudal system. After the Una flogging, atrocities have not stopped. But Dalits now feeling empowered and are reacting.

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Can not provide security to everyone: Goa BJP’s women chief #WTFnews

When asked about the steps the government was taking to curb incidents like the one that took place on the south Goa beach, Sawant said, “The government cannot provide security to every individual. We need to change the mentality of the people.”

Goa’s BJP women wing chief Sulakshana Sawant has made sensational comments saying that the government could not provide security to every individual. She made the comments while speaking on the rise in rape cases and the gang rape of a 20-year-old girl by three tourists on a beach in Goa last month.

“We need to change the mentality of the people. We cannot provide security to every individual. But an individual can act as a protector of the other,” said Sulakshana Sawant on Saturday, commenting on the gang rape of a woman in Goa last month.

The rape of a 20-year-old woman by three tourists at South Goa’s Betalbatim beach on 25 May has once again triggered a debate on women safety in the state. Goa attracts more than seven million tourists every year, out of which half a million are foreigners.

Sawant further said that more rape cases were being registered because more women were coming forward to report such crimes.

Only a few rape cases were reported earlier, but now many women are coming forward and reporting cases as they believe something might change it,” she said.

Sawant added that the women’s wing of the BJP in the state will request the tourism department to install CCTVs on beach stretches which are aloof in order to prevent untoward incidents, reported NDTV.

“We will tell the tourism department to install CCTVs at the beaches which are aloof and prone to crimes. But when something happens, one has to be proactive to act against it,” Sawant said.

In the past too, several party leaders have kicked up controversy by making insensitive comments on rapes. In April this year, Union minister Santosh Gangwar said a “brouhaha” should not be created over one or two rape cases in a big country like India.

“Such incidents [rape cases] are unfortunate situation… But sometimes you can’t stop them. In such a huge country, if one or two such cases are reported, one should not make a big deal out of it,” the minister had said, quoted Times Now.

Earlier in 2015, then tourism minister Dilip Parulekar, commenting on the gang-rape of two Delhi-based women in Goa, said it was a “small incident” and that it occurs where tourism flourishes. “I have said this in the past and I am saying this again that in places where tourism flourishes such small incidents occur,” Parulekar had said.

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India – Every five days, a woman is raped in Goa #Vaw #WTFnews

Murari Shetye| TNN | 

PANAJI: The past 40 days have seen Goa record a sharp rise in rape cases. Police’s latest statistics, accessed by STOI, show that the period from April 23 to May 31 have seen 11 cases, or two a week. Records suggest that the number of rape cases registered in 2018 looks set to overtake the 2017 figure, which itself was a sharp 21% hike over the previous year. Detection, on the other hand, has remained virtually the same, with the police ‘cracking’ 98% of the cases registered.


Since 2013, Goa police have registered 443 rape cases and detected 422 of them. Other crimes against women with substantial numbers are kidnapping, molestation, eve teasing, cruelty to married women, abetment to suicide, and dowry-related offences. Interestingly, since 2016, police haven’t registered a single case under the Domestic Violence Act.

Inspector general of police (IGP) Jaspal Singh recently asked police personnel to enhance their visibility on beaches and other popular areas.

Singh, in a meeting with police personnel, asked them to be sensitive to the needs of women, children and senior citizens.

Statistics over the past three years show one notable dip in police’s reporting to detection ratio — the force has ‘cracked’ just 88 of the 166 kidnapping cases registered since 2013, a strike rate of 53%. The force fares better when it comes to molestation–367 of the 380 (or 96%) cases registered since 2013 have been detected.

The focus on safety of women in Goa comes in the light of a series of crimes that shocked citizens in the state and elsewhere, with many taking to social media to vent their ire. On May 26, police arrested three Indore-based men for gangraping a 20-year-old woman at Betalbatim beach. The three gangraped the woman, filmed the act, and demanded money in exchange for not making the clip public.

On the same day, a 22-year-old chef from Kuwait and native of Kolhapur, Joseph Das, was arrested for molesting a 17-year-old German girl at Ourem beach in Canacona. Then, on May 30, the police arrested nine tourists from Pune for allegedly attempting to outrage the modesty of a minor girl at Calangue beach. The nine also assaulted the girl’s minor brother and created a ruckus before they were arrested.

Meanwhile, BJP mahila morcha president Sulakshana Sawant said that more rape cases are being reported because women think they will get justice under the BJP government.

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BJP earlier slammed Urdu – why include it now in ‘Saaf Niyat Sahi Vikas’

After having criticised Urdu, and its speakers, the BJP seems eager to use the familiar language in its own slogans. Ye kaisa insaaf?


Saaf Niyat Sahi Vikas”. Spot the Urdu words in BJP’s Twitter hashtag to mark its four years of governance. Except the party’s most-abused word ”vikas”, all others — “saaf”, “niyat”, “sahi” — are Arabic-origin Urdu words. In a recent advertisement about the BJP government installing Wi-Fi at railway stations, even the word “vikas” was replaced by the Urdu “taraqqi”. The poster read: “Bas vaade nahin, taraqqi ke pakke iraade”, where “vaade” and “iraade” are also Urdu words derived from Middle Eastern languages.

Despite the frequent use of Urdu in its campaigns, the BJP is decidedly anti-Urdu. In December last year, BJP corporator Pushpendra Singh in the Aligarh Municipal Corporation filed an FIR against BSP corporator Musharraf Hussain for taking his oath in Urdu, which is the second official language of Uttar Pradesh. Hussain was booked for trying to “hurt religious sentiments” under IPC Section 295A.

By that logic, the BJP should book itself for “hurting religious sentiments” by using Urdu in its slogans. Or it should question the whole of Bollywood for primarily using Urdu in what is supposed to be Hindi cinema, or even Firaq Gorakhpuri, a Hindu from Gorakhpur who was a famed Urdu poet.

bjp-1_052918035357.jpgThe BJP, in all its hypocrisy, profusely uses Urdu words in its sleek marketing campaigns.

When BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao tweeted in Hindi to former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah before the state elections that “the whole nation would be Congress-free”, Siddaramaiah responded by saying he doesn’t understand Hindi and that Rao should tweet to him in Kannada or English. Rao hit back by tweeting Urdu posters used by the Congress in Karnataka. When Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao declared Urdu to be the second official language of the state in November last year, the BJP condemned the move as “Muslim appeasement”.

And yet, away from its anti-Urdu (read anti-Muslim) antics on the ground, the BJP, in all its hypocrisy, profusely uses Urdu words in its sleek marketing campaigns.

In a pre-poll campaign in UP, the BJP talked of freeing the state of “ghulaami ki zanjeerein” of BSP and SP. It spoke of “ummeed” before the 2014 elections, and vowed to change Jharkand “ke haalaat”. When questioned for not delivering on its tall promises, the BJP admits its posters are only “jumlas”. Anyone who has learnt Urdu or has an interest in its etymology would know that these words have Arabic/Persian roots.



As a native Urdu speaker and a Muslim, I protest BJP’s use of Urdu in the garb of Hindi. Photo: Screengrab

Am I nitpicking? Yes.

Because when the BJP talks of going back to “pure, good old days” of Hinduism, Hindi and Sanskrit that predated the “marauding Islamic conquests”, it only makes sense to hold them to their “standards of purity” and point out the Urdu “adulteration” in their sloganeering.

But the BJP is a master at marketing. It knows only too well that if a message has to resonate with the masses, it must use words that can be understood by most. As Urdu is used extensively in Hindi cinema and Hindi news channels, all north Indians, irrespective of their faith, speak the language alongwith Hindi.

Most people are unaware that many “Hindi” words they speak are actually Urdu words. How many of us know that “baad” is Urdu, derived from Arabic (the Hindi is “pashchaat”)? Or “duniya” and “khabar” are Urdu, derived from Arabic? Or “sabzi”, “chehra”, “paani” are Urdu, derived from Persian? Can the BJP look for another title to describe the PM’s previous occupation, “chaiwallah”, because “chai” is Urdu too?

And since the PM loves to talk of his “zimmedaari”, maybe his advisors should tell him to use the Hindi “kartavya” instead. Urdu, contrary to popular perception, is not just a language of poetry, it is an everyday zubaan, spoken roz, subah and shaam. There you go, I used Urdu words which can be easily mistaken as Hindi.

This isn’t an anti-Hindi piece.

I am a North Indian, while the anti-Hindi discourse is largely a south Indian narrative. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are resisting the BJP’s subtle imposition of Hindi by including the language in road and metro signs.

In Odisha in the east, too, the BJP’s attempts to Hindi-ise road signs have been met with opposition. Last year, when-then President Pranab Mukherjee accepted the recommendation of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language that all dignitaries including the president and ministers should make their speeches only in Hindi if they knew the language, the south protested. DMK leader MK Stalin accused the Centre of treating non-Hindi speakers as “second-class citizens” and of turning the country into “Hindia”.

Unlike Stalin and his followers, I have no issue with Hindi. Indeed, I speak a motley of Urdu, Hindi and English. But as a native Urdu speaker and a Muslim, I protest BJP’s use of Urdu in the garb of Hindi, especially in the context of BJP’s larger anti-Muslim and anti-Urdu politics.

If BJP wants the nation to believe that Muslims are cow-slaughterers, love jihadis, and descendants of rabid Persian-speaking Mughals, and if it opposes Urdu on the grounds that it is spoken, read and written by Muslims, especially in madarsas, then it should keep Hindi campaigns free of Urdu words.

But it won’t, indeed, it can’t do that. Why? Because “Saaf Niyat Sahi Vikas” sounds more relatable than “Swach Ichcha Uchit Vikas”. And does anyone know what “chai” is called in Hindi

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PNB fraud: Nirav Modi papers gutted in fire at Income Tax office

PNB fraud: Nirav Modi papers gutted in fire at Income Tax office
Nirav Modi is a suspect in a massive Rs 13,000 crore loan fraud. File photo

Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Files on absconding jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi apart from several others wanted for economic offences have been destroyed in a major fire at the premises of the Income Tax department on Friday, according to sources here.

The fire that broke out at the heritage Scindia House building in South Mumbai’s Ballard Estate area around 5 pm on Friday evening raged on till early Saturday. Fire Brigade officials said it was a Level 4 fire, which indicated a high-level of seriousness. Seven persons who trapped in the premises were rescued by the fire department.

Cooling operations were completed only by Saturday afternoon and officials of the Income Tax department and the Debt Recovery Tribunal, whose offices were completely gutted, managed to enter the premises only late in the evening to assess the damage.

According to initial information available from the fire department, the blaze started in the offices of the Income Tax department and quickly spread to other parts of the building.

Sources in the Income Tax department said files pertaining to Modi and Choksi, as well as some documents relating to the Essar group, were also on the premises. They are all undergoing investigation for fraud or facing bankruptcy proceedings.

Sources in the department said assessment of the actual damage would take a few days.

RTI activist Anil Galgali, who has obtained a number of documents under the sunshine law, told reporters that the fire may have been deliberately caused by vested interests.

On the other hand, Income Tax officials felt that the fire would only cause some delays in investigations and files lost in the fire will take time to be reconstructed.

“Copies of documents are usually available at various other locations, but it will take time to ‘reconstruct’ the files,” a sources at the Income Tax department said.

Both Modi and Choksi are key suspects in a massive Rs 13,000 crore loan fraud involving several banks, including, most importantly, India’s second largest public sector bank, the Punjab National Bank. The fraud—which made headlines for days when the bank made a filing to the country’s market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, admitting there was an ongoing investigation into the loan fraud—is the largest the country has ever seen.

Both Modi and Choksi are currently on the run.

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People’s Inquest into Thoothukudi Firings finds TN Police and District Admin guilty as accused


A team comprising two retired judges of the High Court, two retired IAS, three retired senior IPS officers in addition to senior advocates, journalists and social workers has completed its 2-day inquest. A preliminary report is below.



A coalition of civil society organisations in Tamil Nadu titled, ‘Coordinating Committee for People’s Inquest into Thoothukudi Police Firing’ organised a People’s Inquest (PI) on June 2-3, 2018 at Thoothukudi and its suburbs, into the targeted killings, arbitrary detentions and torture on May 22, 2018 and thereafter, in Thoothukudi. As per the latest records, 15 protestors were killed and more than a hundred severely injured in protests against the Sterlite Copper plant. May 22, 2018, marked the 100th day of protests against the Sterlite Copper plant.


The PI team composed of: 
1. Justice (Retd.) B.G. Kolse Patil, Former Judge, Bombay High Court
2. Justice (Retd.) Hariparanthaman, Former Judge, Madras High Court
3. Mr. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary Haryana
4. Mr. Christudoss Gandhi IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu
5. Mr. Kamal Kumar IPS (Retd.), Former Director, National Police Academy, Hyderabad
6. Mr. R.B.S. Sreekumar IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Gujarat
7. Mr. Jacob Punnose IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Kerala & Special Rapporteur NHRC
8. Prof. Dr. K. Mathiharan, Forensic medicine expert & formerly with University of Malaya, Malaysia
9. Ms. Geetha Ramaseshan, Advocate, Madras High Court
10. Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Legal Researcher, New Delhi
11. Ms. Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor – Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi
12. Prof. Kalpana Kannabiran, Director – Council for Social Development, Hyderabad
13. Prof. Shiv Visvanathan, Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana
14. Ms. Pamela Philipose, Senior Journalist, New Delhi
15. Mr. Amit Sengupta, Senior Journalist, New Delhi
16. Ms. Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist, Chennai
17. Dr. Savior Suresh, Forensic Medicine Expert, Chennai
18. Dr. V.A. Ramesh Nathan, Advocate & General Secretary – National Dalit Movement for Justice, New Delhi
19. Mr. Tom Thomas, Convenor – Corporate Responsibility Watch
20. Ms. Kavitha Gajendran, Social Activist, Chennai
21. Dr. T.M.N. Deepak Nathan, President – December 3 Movement
22. Mr. T. Peter, National Fishworkers Forum, Trivandrum
23. Mr. Jasaiah Joseph, National Fishworkers Forum, Kanyakumari

The objectives of PI were –

To ascertain the facts that led to the continued protests in Tuticorin over the years and particularly in the last 100 days.
To ascertain the facts and circumstances of the incidents which lead to the police firing through gathering statements from eye-witnesses, family of the deceased, meeting the officials from Tuticorin district administration, Tuticorin district police department, representatives of the Anti-Sterlite protest committee and to ascertain who authorized the firing and under what circumstances.
To ascertain details of the police actions in Tuticorin immediately after the police firing on 22nd May
To ascertain and gather information about the actions taken by the Government of Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin district administration, police department to prevent the firing incident from happening.
To analyse the available documents, evidences from various government departments, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, petitions, affidavits, evidences, and judgments in the High Court and Supreme Court regarding the firing incident and the Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin and compilation of the same.
To suggest ways for legal intervention in all the courts, national and state human rights institutions, and other relevant bodies nationally and the United Nations.

Brief Introduction
Sterlite Copper started its operations in Tamil Nadu in 1996 by setting up a plant in Tuticorin district. Sterlite Cooper known as Sterlite Industrial India Ltd. is a a unit of Vedanta group that has setup smelter, refinery, acid plant, and copper road plant in the land allocated them in State Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu. There have been numerous complaints against the company of harming the environment and breaking the government environmental regulations. There are numerous reports which suggests that the company with help of its money power and political clout have gotten away with breaking laws.
The company carried its malpractices for many years but in 2013 the company was found releasing excessive sulphur dioxide. Many people who were living in the nearby area of the plant complained of health issues and even some women had the miscarriage due to gas leakage. Tamil Nadu Pollution Board who has been really supportive of the Sterlite Copper actions took an U-turn and ordered the company to shut down for two and half months and even set up an inquiry on the company. The National Green Tribunal allowed the factory to resume production in 2013 but the Supreme Court in a separate case fined Sterlite Copper company Rs.100 crore for polluting the environment. Since then protest against the company continued. In January 2018, the company had plans to double the capacity of the smelter but people got scared for their health and started the protest in a small village of Kumarredyapuram.
In February 2018, the anti-Sterlite movement gained momentum and on March 24, 2018, mobilized around 2 lakh people for protest. In March 2018, the plant was shut down for 15 days due to maintenance as the plant owners wanted to expand the capacity of the plant. The plant was not granted operating license beyond March 2018, due to non-compliance with environmental regulations.
On May 22, 2018, to mark 100 days of the protest, over 50000 people marched towards the District Collectorate to demand the closure of the plant.

Events on May 20-21

The Thoothukudi Administration called for a ‘peace meeting’, inviting the organisations and protesting villages’ representatives on May 20, 2018, prior to the community rally (rally hereafter) on May 22, 2018. It has been learnt from people’s testimonies that the administration used a selective approach in inviting the organisations and protesting villages’ representatives for the said meeting. People with whom the PI team interacted in Thoothukudi allege this to be a deliberate attempt of the administration to divide the anti-Sterlite movement. It has also been brought to the notice of the PI team that invitation sent to one such organisation (Makkal Adhikaram) was done to an individual who had no association with that organisation. The administration didn’t ensure that all organisations and individuals involved in anti-Sterlite movement are communicated with. The PI team observes that the district administration negotiating with only one set of the organisers made the bona fides of the administration suspect in the eyes of the people.


The district administration had assigned SAV School ground as the substitute rally assembling venue but with imposing 17 conditions. The SAV School ground is a small ground and the administration failed to get a grasp of the large number of people being part of the rally. Further, the SAV School ground is near the old bus stand and within the town which would have been more difficult administratively for the district administration. The District Collectorate and the surrounding areas are more spacious and would have accommodated more people. There were no public announcements stating the assigning of the substitute venue. The PI team observes that allowing assembly in one place and prohibiting it in another nearby place, despite knowing that the rally participants wanted to march towards the District Collectorate appears to be a strategic blunder which made Section 144 practically unenforceable. The PI team further observes that if the district administration was serious about imposing Section 144, it would have prevented even small group formations in the district. Waiting for crowd to accumulate before thinking of dispersal was a gross error and led to avoidable loss of life.

The PI team observes with grave concerns about the absence of the District Collector (DC) in the above mentioned meeting. The meeting was led by the Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police (SP) along with the Sub Collector. As the head of the district administration, it was the DC who should have led the meeting and reached out to the people. This would have been more respectful to the people who have been protesting for close to 100 days. Role of the SP is solely towards maintaining law and order. Given that the protests were seen only as a law and order issue and the demands of the people overlooked, do raise doubts on the intentions of the district and state administration.

It has to be noted that the rally participants were on for 99 days on May 21 and May 22 was the 100th day of the same. It was a common knowledge, as announced during the protests on March 24, 2018, which was attended by close to 2 lakh people, that anti-Sterlite movement has called for a large public protest at District Collectorate in Tuticorin. It is appalling that during 100 days of peaceful and non-violent protests, none of the ministers from either the Tamil Nadu state government or the union government ever reached out to the anti-Sterlite movement. The administration also waited till the very end to reach out to the anti-Sterlite movement. Clearly this move on part of the administration was much delayed and provided limited space and time for the organisers to communicate with the rally participants of any developments. In little over 24 hours, it is practically impossible to reach out to and hold discussions with the lakhs of protesters across the district.


After the above mentioned meeting between the SP and anti-Sterlite movement representatives, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 was imposed. It is to be noted that Section 144 was imposed in two police station (PS) jurisdictions only, i.e. South PS and SIPCOT PS covering largely the District Collectorate and Sterlite Industry. Sterlite had moved the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking imposition of Section 144. It didn’t make the anti-Sterlite movement as a party to the case. The Madras High Court on May 18, 2018, passed directive to the district authorities to pass appropriate orders regarding imposition of Section 144. Executive magistrates were appointed to monitor the law and order situation on May 21, 2018. Nine revenue department officials were appointed as executive magistrates to work along with the police department and to monitor the law and order situation and to inform the higher officials. The order imposing Section 144 has never been made available to the public. The same hasn’t been shared with the PI team despite several efforts.

Section 144 is declared when there is grave and imminent danger. If violence was anticipated so strongly as to warrant prior promulgation of Section 144, it is surprising that not even tahsildars were deployed as executive magistrates. The FIR version of deputy tahsildars ordering firing is highly unnatural in an anticipated law and order situation. This is specially so since the DC, Sub Collector, Deputy Collector and Tahsildars have all failed to be at the spots. The DC, Revenue officer and Sub-Divisional Officer were not present on May 22 in Thoothukudi. If the DC had declared Section 144, he should have been in Thoothukudi to oversee its enforcement. Further, the PI team observes that the police claims about extremists infiltrating the anti-Sterlite movement. Had this been so, they had 100 days to isolate them, expose them or to take them into preventive custody. This further leads to questions over intelligence failure.


The PI team observes several gaps in Section 144 imposition. The administration was fully aware about the anti-Sterlite protests at District Collectorate on May 22, 2018 well in advance and despite that waited till its eve for imposing Section 144, which do appear only symbolic. Section 144 was imposed only at 8PM on May 21, 2018. As gathered from people’s testimonies, after the Section 144 imposition, announcements were not made by the administration in most areas, to reach the information to the people. People got to know about the same only through television news around 9:30 PM on May 21, 2018 and in the newspapers the next day. It is evident that these channels were too late to communicate to the people and wouldn’t have deterred the protesters who were entering into the 100th days of the peaceful anti-Sterlite protests. It is important to note, given that Section 144 was imposed in only two PS jurisdictions, there was no legal restriction on the protesters to walk for as many as 15 kilometres, to enable them to reach and assemble at the District Collectorate.


The PI team observes that there has been clear irregularity in the process through which Section 144 was imposed and implemented. The DC has abdicated all his responsibilities.

Events on May 22, as gathered from People’s testimonies

As mentioned in the above section, from the people’s testimonies it seems evident that most participants in the rally were not aware about imposition of Section 144 and further, its limited imposition allowed people to march and gather towards the District Collectorate. Right opposite the District Collectorate on the other side of the main road, the lanes going towards the villages witnessed free movement and were not barricaded or controlled by police. These lanes connecting the main road to villages served as arteries for the protesters to march forward. People who were obstructed at certain spots which were barricaded, could easily use these lanes and reach the District Collectorate. According to the testimonies, even those who were moving towards the assigned SAV School ground for protests were stopped, thereby diverting them with crowds moving towards the District Collectorate.
People’s testimonies consistently stated that women and children were participated in the rally in large numbers and even carried food and bedding with them, indicating that the rally was a peaceful protest carried out with an intention to petition to the Collectorate their grievances. It was also revealed that inspite of presence of such large numbers of women and children, commensurate numbers of women police were not deployed.


As told to the PI team, the total police strength was around 1900 personnel and protestors were over 50,000. It is apparent that the strength of the police was not capable of controlling the large number of protestors. Most of the PS jurisdictions were not covered under Section 144 and allowed protesters to march forward legitimately and freely. Some of the testimonies from villages near the District Collectorate do mention about the limited use of tear gas but none confirms the use of water canons as means to restrict the protestors. No testimony confirmed about any public announcement or bugle call asking the protestors to disperse or move to the assigned protest area i.e. SAV School ground.


Testimonies state that when the protestors reached the District Collectorate, there were vehicles in the compound already on fire. Testimonies also reveal that some police men wearing white shirts with khakhi pants carrying stones posed as protestors and pelted stones and when they were identified by some of the protestors, the policemen swiftly ran away.
People’s testimonies confirmed the use of lathi charge on protestors in certain parts of Thoothukudi, including brutal attacks on women and children. Many witnesses produced their medical records revealing the extent of their injuries and also showed their injuries to the PI team. By way of illustration, a woman victim, who’s house the PI team visited, testified that she was badly assaulted with the butt of the rifle on her stomach, resulting in serious injury.
Several witnesses deposed on being beaten ruthlessly by the police. A polio-affected man who was beaten, testified that he had even informed the police of his disability, but was beaten on his legs inspite of the same by the police who stated that if you are disabled you should not have come for the protest.
Testimonies were also received which revealed that children who were part of the rally were ruthlessly attacked by the police and several children were illegally detained. Further these brutalities towards children continued in the aftermath of the firing during the searches being conducted by the police. Snowlin and other children. The PI team noted that inspite of such serious reported crimes and atrocities against children, the State Commission for Children did not take any immediate action.
People’s testimonies alleged targeted firing at the District Collectorate state that gunmen with assault rifles climbed on top of the police vehicles and also from the upper floors of the District Collectorate and shot at the protestors. The images in the media also confirm the same. Some of the testimonies allege that those wearing black clothes were particularly targeted, identified as protest leaders. By way of illustration, killing was also undertaken in Terespuram of a woman at 2.30 p.m. on May 22. Terespuram is 10-13 k.m. from the Collectorate, under the North PS where Section 144 was not imposed. She was one of the leaders of the movement but was not part of the protest on May 22. She was on her way to her daughter’s house in the same vicinity to deliver fish. She was shot in her head in such a manner that her face collapsed. Other killings were at Food Corporation of India Roundana and Third Mile.
It was reported by several witnesses that even after the firing and attacks on the people on May 22, when the injured people reached the Government Hospital for treatment, the police arrived there and attacked several injured and their families. People and families going to the mortuary to identify the dead were lathi charged by the police outside the mortuary. A testimony was also received by the PI team, alleging that payment of Rs. 500 was demanded by the Government Hospital for conducting CT scans on about 60 such injured people. PI team observed that families were prejudiced on account of the court order delaying the release of the bodies and dignity of the dead has been compromised.
Testimonies also revealed that 108 ambulance services were not made available. As per the accounts of the people, the 108 ambulance services were ordered by the police not to serve the people who were injured during the demonstration. Accordingly people had to avail ambulances from private hospitals such as Nalampalli and TMMK.
Testimonies received by the PI team revealed that the Government Hospital doctors provided support and treatment to the several injured. A great appreciation was noted for the role of the Bar Association, which stepped up its efforts providing free legal aid services and working round the clock to ensure release of detained and arrested persons.
It was reported in the newspapers that the protestors attacked the Sterlite residential quarters. The PI team visited the quarters and could see the car parks in the front section of the building were burnt and the vehicles parked in the ground floor of the buildings torched. The two respondents at the quarters stated that the protestors around 200 in number barged into the quarters’ campus after the firing at the District Collectorate. According to them, the protestors were armed with petrol bombs. It was told that the CCTV cameras were destroyed before throwing petrol bombs on parked vehicles. It was added that the protestors were wearing helmets and the identities couldn’t be ascertained. The PI team observed that the CCTV cameras were destroyed in the entire campus but the bombs were hurled at the vehicles only parked in the front section of the campus. The testimonies couldn’t confirm injuries to the on duty guards and policemen.
Investigations of the PI team with the Fire Department revealed that Fire control room did not get any call when fire started during the rally and by the time they got the information everything was gutted. Meanwhile during the fire at Sterlite later in the day, the fire control room was provided immediate information and could arrive there and effectively control the fire.
During the visit of the PI team with the North Police Station, a sub-inspector, who was not on duty at the North Police Station on May 22, claimed that protestors / miscreants attacked the police station, however on being asked about the damage to the police station, she was unable to confirm the damage.
It was reported that the weapon used in firing is 7.62 Self Loading Rifle, which is not advisable to be used against unarmed people and should not have been used in crowd management. It is further reported that even the people who used the SLR were plainclothed men and hence cannot be said to be policemen. Law and order matter should not have plainclothed policemen, they should wear uniform, or else they are miscreants.
A fear of reprisals is reported across testimonies. Initially several injured did not visit the Government Hospital out of fear of arrest and many left immediately inspite of going there, on account of the increasing police presence. There are also cases reported of some injured later on not wanting to take discharge on account of fear of reprisals after being discharged from the hospital, considering the continuing police action. People are scared to go and collect their articles or visit the mortuary for fear of arrest. People have testified that the police is continuing harassment and the threat of being implicated in the open FIRS which have upto 2000 unnamed accused persons under various sections, has left them terrorized. Such omnibus FIRS are prone to being misused by the police.

Events May 23 Onwards


Since the morning of May 23, 2018 there has been a sudden and huge deployment of police personnel in Tuticorin district consisting of an Additional Director General of Police, two Inspector General of Police, four Deputy Inspector Generals, 15 Superintendents of Police. This sudden increase lends credence to allegations of continuing reprisals and actions which appear to have no sanction in law.
Testimonies revealed that on the morning of May 23, 2018, groups of people along with the families of those who were dead and injured due to police firing and lathi charge, gathered in front of the Government Hospital, Tuticorin and demanded action against the police. The police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd in front of the Government Hospital. The crowd in order to escape from the police brutality had to flee from that area and ran to the neighbourhood areas and sought refuge in Anna Nagar. Even the family members and patients inside the Government Hospital were attacked with lathis by police who were present on every floor and especially targeting those wearing black shirts or cross across their neck.


Immediately, a huge posse of police personnel were deployed in Anna Nagar who ransacked the houses and other properties in that area while searching for unknown persons. The residents of Anna Nagar were in great shock to see this sudden commotion and locked themselves inside their houses. The police also opened fire at residents of Anna Nagar, and many of them who were just standing near their houses received bullet injuries. One person Mr. Kaliappan, died on the spot from the police firing. Women were also beaten up when the police entered their houses and even a 5-year old boy was stomped on the stomach and his 2-year old sister was assaulted by the police.

The witnesses have confirmed that there was a massive and unwarranted door-to-door search in several areas. The police personnel forcefully entered into the houses, damaging the properties. According to the people’s testimonies, mostly young men were targeted and were illegally arrested and taken into custody. Those who were picked up were neither taken to any police stations nor produced before Judicial Magistrates. All the testimonies corroborated that they have been beaten up mercilessly, tortured continuously, and were kept in the police hours hours for more than one and a half days without providing food, water or any medical relief. Some of the testimonies also stated these young men were then illegally detained at the Varusanadu Firing Range. 30 of them were later found to be minors. Many people have been rounded up and beaten by police. As late as 31st night at 3 a.m. in a village Meelavittan, which has a history of relentless struggle against Sterlite, which is just 1.5 km from the village, 3 young men were picked up by the police in Mufti. The women in this and other villages around the area who are in the forefront of the struggle, went the next day to the Collector to petition for their release. The Collector assured them that they will be released in one hour, however young men are still in Palayamkottai Central Prison.

From the testimonies, it is evident that the police had filed FIRs on unknown persons regarding various incidents on May 22-23, 2018, most of them being false and fabricated, they wanted some persons to be remanded in those cases. Hence, they picked up these people and forcefully made them to sign in statements stating they committed the said offences. As per one of the testimonies, a person who was already in police custody on May 23, 2018 since 1 PM has been falsely charged for torching a police bus in Anna Nagar, though that incident happened at 2.30 PM.

Many young men have been forced to leave from their homes, as they fear for arrest and torture by police even though they were not a part of anti-Sterlite protests on May 22, 2018 nor before. Those who took part in the protests are apprehending arrest as police have filed open FIRs against thousands of unnamed persons. There were even instances where, families altogether fleeing from their homes fearing false cases by police. The PI team witnessed a huge presence of police personnel and observed people still living in terror. Testimonies also stated that the CCTV cameras in Thoothukudi South Police Station were covered with cloth when the persons illegally detained were taken to that police station.


PI team feels that the health concerns faced by villagers surrounding the Plant has played a significant role in mobilising people and sustaining the campaign. PI has observed that there have been a very significant number of narratives in various testimonies, which clearly present the health hazard being central to this campaign. People have cited cases of cancer, lung and breathing related hazards, which they attribute to Sterlite. Similarly, there is, in fact, a kind of ‘skin patch’, which is now notoriously called as “sterlite patch”. Even Doctors have started using this term at the time of diagnosis; and doctors are asking patients to leave the region. The PI team observes that there requires a focussed health-based study in these villages. People also shared experiences that when they visit hospitals for cancer testing, the doctors would ask them whether they are from “Sterlite region”, clearly revealing their knowledge of such cases from the region. Some testimonies indicated that prospective grooms demanded health records of women prior to getting into marriage alliance. The PI observes that the local authorities have done nothing to organise a detailed health-based study(recommendation), which could either prove the same or at least be used to allay the fears of the people, if the health hazard theory were not true.


It is well known among villagers that Sterlite has been fined Rs 100 crore by Supreme Court for polluting the environment. For villagers, clearly environment pollution means immediate health concerns to them. It is about life and death of villagers. Protestors also cited how every successful order against Sterlite got overruled subsequently. They suspect that money is playing a significant role. PI feels that protestors sincerely believe this campaign as a positive campaign- to protect themselves and future generation from health hazards. Further, that Sterlite had to pay Rs 100 crores as fine, and yet they were allowed to continue functioning, was clearly seen as the State prioritising business interest over the public health interest.



The PI team observes that police has violated principle of right to respect for inherent dignity individual autonomy including freedom to make one choice and independence of persons by resorting not only physical assault but also to denigrate the very presence of persons with disabilities and for taking part in the protest.
The deposition of persons with disability Mr. Pradeep during the inquest has been beaten up on both legs which suffer residual paralysis due to polio mylitis. Section 7 (1) of rights of persons with disabilities has become a complete failure as the state/police/executive magistrates for not securing the persons with disabilities from violence as it becomes inherent duty of the revenue department to protect rescue and rehabilitate victims with disabilities. The team also observes Mr. G. Princeton for having been amputated above the knee in right lower limb. Thereby inducing/precipitating permanent disability. It is again to be noted that despite the news having been published in the print and visual media. The disability department present in the district collectorate office has not taken cognizance and to provide requisite psychological, physical and other relieves liable to Princeton.
The PI team also observes that number of patients in the government hospital have atleast have one fold probability to develop functional disabilities ranging from temporary to permanent if not provided with proper medical and psychological reinforcement. Standard operating procedure in dealing with disability through rehabilitation department of the hospital to welfare of the differently abled persons absent either ways. Many fearing police action have not accessed hospital and by remaining in their homes without the awareness of higher probability of residual disability if not undergoing medical care.


India being a signatory to the international convention on rights of persons with disabilities, the police and state have failed in their obligation enshrined an article 11 (situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies); article 15 (freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; article 16 (4) (freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse)



1. Sterlite should be banned with immediate effect. 
2. The Sterlite plant should be dismantled and plant area should be cleared.
3. A memorial for those killed by the police should be created by the TN Government. 
4. Establish who ordered the shooting and killing and make them accountable as per the law. 
5. Take actions against those who were responsible for the killings, injuries and continuous unlawful search, assault and harassment of the people.

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People Representing 45 NGOs Protest in Malaysia Against Visit by Modi


Demonstrators hold up placards protesting the visit of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Putrajaya on Thursday.– Photo Courtesy: Malay Mail

Many held up placards that read “Modi go home” and condemned the incidents of lynching Muslims by Hindu-rights mobs.

Web Report

PUTRAJAYA — A group of 50 people claiming to represent 45 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) demonstrated against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Perdana Putra on Thursday, accusing him of forcing Hinduism on his home nation, say press reports.

Many held up placards that read “Modi go home” and condemned the incidents of lynching Muslims by Hindu-rights mobs.

A spokesperson for the NGOs Bazeer Ahmad Mohamed Ibrahim expressed hope that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed would take considerable note of their memo.

“In India, the lowest caste (Dalits) and those from the minority groups such as the Muslims, Christians and Buddhists have been subjected to endless persecution by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is aligned to Modi’s political party.

“I hope Mahathir would speak up against such tyranny, killings and oppression having been given the second chance to rule the country,” he told reporters prior to handing the memo to representatives at the PMO.

“Many Malaysians don’t know what’s going on there. We Indians know. Muslims there (in India) are forced, threatened and paid to change religion. These things should not have happened, especially among the lower caste who are being sidelined on many levels, including economically.

“They (Muslims) are considered as pariahs in India where they are oppressed,” Bazeer claimed.

Historically, India has practised a caste system although discrimination based on this is considered illegal in the country.

The group also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office asking Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to relay their message to Modi and to inform the latter that his purported agenda would never be adopted here.

People Representing 45 NGOs Protest in Malaysia Against Visit by Modi

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A gau rakhshak who is not afraid of Modi #SundayReading

I carried home the two encounters with the predators and the victims.


Last year, around this time, the gau rakshaks had hit their zenith. They were going from lynching to lynching without a hitch. And each time, the cry was to save cows – bovines “who are their mothers, god-like creatures worth killing for”.

And then, Junaid Khan, a 16-year-old boy, returning after a day of shopping and celebration with his friends and brother, was killed on a suburban train at Ballabgarh, near New Delhi. It was during Ramzan that the fasting boy was made a target – only because of his religion. This crime was so heinous and so without reason that it touched a chord.

It was then that I proposed a film to Austrian TV – on citizens rising against communal forces.

But that was one year ago. Due to many delays and schedule clashes, the commission to make the film came through only last month. I thought about this delay and after speaking to many people, it seemed that the gau rakshaks had been forced back by public opinion. That those lynching in the name of the cow had been shown their place and had now receded and acceded. Both annoyed – because I had to reconcile to reconstructing a story posthumously mostly from stock footage – and relieved – because it seemed the menace was nearing its end.


akhlaq_060118051426.jpgMohammad Akhlaq (above) from Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri was lynched over ‘beef rumours’. His family lives in the shadow of threats. Photo: PTI 

However, the hydra was nowhere near dead; it had in fact sprouted many heads. It was therefore to my shock and horror that I found that not only were the gau rakshaks alive and kicking but have in fact metamorphosed into guerrilla armies, now armed and supported by the state and law enforcement instruments.


“Yogi Adityanathji put me in charge of getting those poor children out of jail who had killed (Mohammad) Akhlaq and I got them out.”

These are the words, said to camera, by Dev Nagar. He described himself as a worker, and when I asked him about his position, he said: “I can do love jihad or gau raksha – whatever is required”. His calling card says he is the president of the Gau Raksha Dal in Noida.

Brown and black see-through synthetic curtains bellowed while two fans whirred furiously on a decorated ceiling. Dev Nagar sat on a black sofa, surrounded by his “supporters”. He was wearing a well-ironed saffron kurta and starched white pyjamas, with rings on his fingers and a gold chain around his neck. His eyes mostly lowered, his semi-clenched jaw had a hint of a stubble. His demeanour a metaphor for his ideology. Clear cut, but could turn and dirty rough any moment.

His unabashed admission of his association with the chief minister was the beginning of many revelations.

This candour and lack of fear was something that was evident through the Gau Raksha brigade. None of them are defensive because now the state is no longer covert in the support of these men.

I asked Dev Nagar if he thought freeing the killers of Akhlaq was something he should be proud of. “He had beef in his fridge, so naturally the boys got angry.” It had not occurred to him that neither looking in someone’s fridge nor attacking Akhlaq are within the realms of the law of the country.

These blind, unreasonable unconstitutional beliefs seem to be a hallmark. Asked why he thought the cow was so worthy of murdering for, he was incensed at the very question. He listed for me the “real and scientific” reasons:  “Cows are the only animals that breathe out oxygen. They are good for the environment. Otherwise we would all die.”

It didn’t matter to him that every environmentalist would collapse with bafflement at this remark. It didn’t matter to him when I told him this wasn’t true. He just kept nodding and carried on.

turn-us-copy_060118053917.jpgAll of India needs to say, Not In My Name. Photo: PTI

“And do you know that the only survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy were people who were burning cow dung cakes in their homes?”

I stopped arguing and tried to stop him with a look of amazement and irritation. He still kept nodding – the imperceptible little movement of his head seemed to block out reason and kept his chain of brainwashing going. He extended his phone in my direction and showed how his phone was collapsing because of the 750 WhatsApp groups that consisted of gau rakshaks from all across the country, who communicate with each other.

“If a truck moves from Rajasthan and is coming towards UP, they inform us and we intercept it”. I asked him what they do after this exercise. “See I am very proud of our reaction time – it takes 5-10 minutes to solve a case where a butcher is carrying cows but if it’s a case of a hurt, or an injured cow, it takes us longer because we need to take the cow to hospital et al,” says Nagar.

“So what do you mean by reaction time of 5-10 minutes if a butcher is found? What do you do?” I pose.

“We dial 100 and tell the police, but people usually reach before that and beat them up.”

“Which people?”

“People of the area – they get really angry when they see their mother is being treated like that.”

What ensued was a long argument between us, with me trying to convince him that they should stop killing people and beating “butchers” up; because if they are truly peaceful saviours of the cow, it’s giving gau rakshaks a bad name.

And that recently, the prime minister labelled them “goondas” or lumpen elements.

His nods turned to scoffs: “Modi said publicly that we are goondas and he was going to take out a list – but what happened? Where is that list? We are still waiting.”

Not “Prime Minister”, not “PM”, not even “Narendra Modi” but just “Modi”. Nagar referred to him like he is someone who is part of their WhatsApp groups.

We argued some more, but I felt it would be more productive to throw myself at a brick wall than trying to convince him. My anger and indignation had got the better of me and I felt like I had nothing left to say to him.

I called “cut”, louder than I should have, perhaps vocalising the aggression that carpeted the room. We sat in silence, the supporters shifting uncomfortably, the fans still whirring and the crew trying to look unaffected.

lynch-690_060118052912.jpgSaira Banu says her son always wanted to do what he could to help people and this is their way to fulfil his wishes. Photo: PTI

Then Dev Nagar put out the olive branch: “Please have some tea and papads with us?”

I have perhaps never accepted someone’s hospitality so ungraciously, but I did. I broke papads with the fanatics.

That afternoon, as we drove towards the home of Junaid Khan, the 16-year-old boy who was so randomly murdered, I was forced to think about the idea of India. And if the changing colour of politics was in fact transfiguring this very idea — the core of secular values, tolerance and plurality around which we justify the existence of a chaotic, unfathomable, even messy conglomerate of states.

If, as a nation, we aren’t actually digging the ground beneath our feet and falling into an abyss of no nation, Junaid’s home a year later still wore the shroud of mourning. To this day, the boy’s mother is trying to shroud her sons from harm in a veil of her fears – her eyes follow them every minute.

They are not allowed to leave the house unless it is completely necessary and they’re never allowed to go out alone. Junaid was knifed to death and two of Saira Banu’s other sons, Hashim and Shakir, were stabbed. Shakir fought for his life in a hospital for days.

The senselessness of the killing still confounds her: “He was a happy child and we had no struggle or problems. He took money and left the house for an outing – and never returned.”

She wept, and then recovered and spoke strongly. “This is all politics – we all have the same blood in our viens…if you don’t believe me, cut your finger and mine – you will see it’s all red blood.”

I asked if she had received any compensation from the government. “No, we have not and it really hurts because they are claiming we are asking for money. The families of the killer and the abetter had come to make a settlement but we refused. How can they estimate the worth of my son? The only money we received came from Brinda Karat, god bless her, besides a small settlement for the accident from the railways.”

Shakir, Junaid’s brother, lay on the railway compartment floor, stabbed and wounded himself, and watched as his brother was stabbed to death in front of his eyes: “What I can’t forget is that there was a train bogey full of people and no one came forth to try and save us and so many of them were chanting – kill them, kill them, kill them – these are beefeaters, they Muslims.”

I asked Shakir if he has lost all faith in India and its people: “I still live in fear but so many people who have come forth to support us. The public outcry has been a balm for our wounds – India is still full of great people who believe in secularism”.

The family has sold some land and bought a plot to build a school in Junaid’s name. Saira Banu says her son always wanted to do what he could to help people and this is their way to fulfil his wishes.

I carried home the two encounters with the predators and the victims. It was the hardest feeling, to not know if one should boil over in anger or melt into tears. I chose to run, sweat and exercise – and hoped that sleep would come and leave us ready for the encounters the next day.

This time, we were heading for the heartland – the “garh” of the gau rakshaks – to Jind in Haryana, to the headquarters of the Gau Raksha Dal of Haryana, where there are men with arms, men with hatred, men with deep, entrenched indoctrination.

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