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Protecting terrorists: at what cost

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The NIA Court in Hyderabad has acquitted all the five persons accused in 2007-Makka Masjid blast case. The judge said he had carefully examined documents, material evidence placed on record and declared none of the allegations could be proved against any of the accused, “hence, all five accused stand acquitted”. Without casting any aspersion on the court verdict, a very pertinent question should not elude common minds. Then who planted the bomb and who killed the people. At least eight people had died and 58 others injured when the bomb blast was triggered during Friday prayers. It can’t be that the people will die and nobody would be responsible. As rightly put by senior Muslim leader AssaduddinOwaisi that the NIA bungled the case by not pursuing it in the court with all the evidence required to get the accused convicted. The NIA’s lackadaisical approach towards the case could be understood by the fact that 10 people were made accused in the case by NIA but only five persons—head of VanvasiKalyan Ashram Swami Aseemanand, RSS vibaghpracharakDevendra Gupta, RSS karyakartaLokesh Sharma, member of Hindu VicharManch, BharathMohanlalRateshwar and RajendarChowdary, a farmer went under trial. Other accused, SandeepDange, RamchandraKalsangara and AmitChouhan are on the run while key accused Sunil Joshi was murdered. The chargesheet is yet to be filed by NIA against one accused, Tejaram, who is out on bail. The NIA had nabbed RajendharChowdary, a 35-yearold farmer, and TejramParmar, a 31-year-old mason, for allegedly planting bombs at the historic mosque on May 18, 2007. Later, the NIA did not even include Parmar’s name in the chargesheet and Rajendhar was acquitted. Even more importantly SwamyAseemanand had confessed before the Tis Hazari court in New Delhi in 2010, stating that he was involved in the execution of bombing at Mecca Masjid. In his confessional statement, Aseemanand had even named one Muslim youth Abdul Kaleem as the reason for his atonement. During his stay in Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad in connection with the case, he got in touch with Kaleem, who had been jailed and tortured in the past in the same case. “His innocence changed my mind and prompted me to confess my crime,” he reportedly said in the statement. Soon after the blast, the Hyderabad police arrested 90 Muslim youth from different parts of the old city of Hyderabad, suspecting their involvement in the incident. The Central Bureau of Investigation did a parallel probe into the role of the suspected Muslim youth. The police filed charge-sheet against 21 Muslim youth, but failed to produce any evidence about their involvement. As a result, all of them got acquitted in January 2009. It was in fact Maharashtra state’s Anti Terror Squad (ATS) chief HemantKarkare who discovered the Hindu terrorists’ link with the Makka Masjid blast. HemantKarkare was killed during 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Former home minister Susheel Kumar Shinde is on record to have admitted rise of Hindu terrorism in India. Shinde said in no uncertain terms that RSS and BJP were promoting Hindu terrorism in India. However, with BJP’s rise to power in 2014, the policy towards Hindu terrorists drastically changed and investigating agencies were asked to go slow. RohiniSalian, Special Public Prosecutor in the case related to the Malegaon 2008 blasts said that since the BJP government came to power she had been under pressure from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go “soft” in the case. It is anybody’s guess that protecting terrorists or sympathizing with them, more so, at government level shall have disastrous consequences for the country. It would not only encourage them to re-take to their nefarious activities but would also attract other unscrupulous elements to such activities. India is a secular democracy and tolerance is the mainstay of it. If extremist elements are let free to have their way, it would affect the whole edifice of the country. BJP-led government at the centre must understand the dangers impending in such moves. The secular sections in the country should come forward and take the lead to frustrate the designs of putting India on extremist course.


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Editorial

Threat of Right Wing Nationalism

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At a time when the international community was focusing on the issue of a series of deadly ‘lone wolf’ attacks across the globe by the Islamic State, ignoring the rise of ‘White Nationalism’ against ‘Islamist invaders’, a white man, identified as Brenton Tarrant, in his late 20s carried out the deadliest attack ever witnessed in New Zealand. Tarrant killed 49 Muslim worshippers at two separate mosques – Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque – in Christchurch. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that 41 people were killed at Al-Noor Mosque while another seven were killed at Linwood Mosque. One person died at a hospital. 42 people, including a four-year-old child, were reported injured. Several others, including nine Indian citizens, are missing.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted that “this can now only be described as a terrorist attack”. She also noted “it is clear; this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. New Zealand never before in its history had witnessed a terror attack of this scale. Indeed, as per reports, New Zealand’s terror threat level has been lifted to high for the first time in its history, following the attack.

Meanwhile, the lone attacker, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, in his 74-pages document titled The Great Replacement has disclosed that “New Zealand was not the original choice for attack” and he carried out the attack there because he believed that an incident in New Zealand would bring to attention the truth of the assault on our civilization that nowhere in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was nowhere left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration.

 

In an attack similar to Christchurch, six people were killed and another 19 injured in a shooting incident at a mosque in Canadian city of Quebec’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood on January 29, 2017. A French-Canadian student, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged for the attack.

Bissonnette, like Tarrant, was ‘fighting’ for ‘White Nationalism’. According to an April 18, 2018, report, in a video of his police interrogation shown in court, Bissonnette is heard telling officers that his three-minute-long attack was set off by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message of welcome to refugees in the wake of President Trump’s entry ban, which was issued two days before his attack at the Sainte-Foy mosque. The report also stated that Bissonnette spent hours in front of his computer screen reading about mass shooters and scouring the Twitter accounts of right-wing commentators, alt-right figures, conspiracy theorists and President Trump.

Bothe the attackers – Tarrant and Bissonnette – had no criminal history and were under no watch list.

Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University (US) and author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, following the Christchurch attack rightly observed as saying, it’s a particular form of hate and hate crimes that blames immigrants and outsiders and people who look different. It’s impossible to see this crime and this mass murder just as a mass shooting. It took place in the context of the global spread of white nationalism.

At least 11 attacks (excluding the one at Christchurch) by white supremacists have been recorded over the past eight years across Europe and the US resulting in at least 124 fatalities. Though not all these attacks directly targeted immigrants they were intended to pressurise Governments to change immigration policies. The most prominent of these included the October 27, 2018, killing of at least 11 people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, by Robert Bowers; the killing of Labour Party Member of Parliament Jo Cox in Birstall, West Yorkshire, UK, on June 16, 2016; and the worst of these, the July 22, 2011, attack by Anders Behring Breivik, which resulted in the killing of 77 people.

Sadly, countries facing this problem feign ignorance of such developments across the globe, most prominently since the Syrian crisis and the resultant immigration of Muslims into western countries and rising Islamophobia. According to a September 11, 2018, report, the top countries by origin of asylum seekers in the EU since 2014 were Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, all countries with recent or ongoing conflicts. Between 2014 and 2017, a total of more than 919,000 Syrians applied for asylum in the EU.

Colin Clarke, an adjunct political scientist at the RAND Corporation and a senior research fellow at the Soufan Centre, observes

But while we pay a lot of attention to jihadist terrorism, we’ve been very slow and stubborn to realize that right-wing terrorism is very global, too.

The problem of the increasing threat of right wing nationalism has the potential to derail global peace and needs to be addressed with great urgency across the world.

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Editorial

Death in the afternoon

The Kashmir Monitor

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Kashmir is again on the edge. The death of a 28-year old man Rizwan Assad Pandit of Awantipora in SOG custody has sparked outrage across the political and peoples’ spectrum. Politicians of all hues are enraged over the gruesome incident. On Wednesday valley shut under a protest strike called by the separatist Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL). It cannot be a mere chance that Rizwan died when he was in custody. Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police has a shameful history of arresting people, killing and torturing them in custody. Some police officers associated with SOG have earned the notoriety of kidnapping and killing people for ransom. They have often been shielded by their seniors and political masters and even promoted in ranks merely for the brutality they did. Soura triple murder case would always haunt the minds in this regard. A DSP (Abdul Rashid Khan alias Rashid Billa) arrested three persons on June 23, 1999 who were part of a baraat. During frisking the police found some cash with them (reportedly Rs.30, 000) which ultimately became the cause of their death. Three after their arrest their bodies were found in Uri Baramullah. Instead of taking any cognizance of the crime the concerned officer committed, he was given full protect by his senior officers. One of the senior officers from Punjab reportedly sheltered him in his farm house in Punjab to evade the arrest under court orders. Though a court in Jammu acquitted him in 2008 but the families of the victims were never satisfied with the court direction. On 3o July, 2011 Nazim Rashid Shalla of Sopore town was picked by a joint party of SOG. He was returned dead to his father Abdul Rasheed Shalla next morning. Shalla, who visited the police station to see his son after his arrest, saw SOG men beating Nazim. He saw his son laying flat on the floor in half-dead condition. He was forced to leave the site only to receive his body next morning. State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a government appointed body, in 2013 confirmed the concerned Superintendent of Police (SP) involved in Nazim’s killing and recommended action against him. No action was taken against the SP. The same officer (he was DSP then) was found guilty by the SHRC of raping and torturing mother-daughter duo at Zachadara in Handwara in 2008. Despite these findings by SHRC, he was promoted as a SP. He was also awarded the Director General of Police’s Commendation Medal for 2010, Gallantry award on 26 January 2012, a Presidents Police Award for Gallantry on 15 August 2012. That is how criminals are rewarded in Jammu and Kashmir.
The list of criminal actions of the SOG is quite a long one. Rizwan is the latest addition to hundreds of persons who have been done to death during custody. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the death of Rizwan but people in Kashmir know how such commissions are used as a façade to hide murderous actions of the police. Not a single case referred to the commissions set by various governments in the state was ever completed. The farce of inquiry commissions is played to pacify the anger among the common people. If government is serious in dealing with Rizwan’s case sincerely and judiciously, the concerned members and officers of the SOG should immediately suspended till inquiry is completed. Since that has not been done, and that would never be done, Rizwan’s case too would be buried in official files soon. Since events and incidents occur in Kashmir so quickly, people barely remember what had happened yesterday. If the governor’s administration wants to be remembered for some good things in Kashmir, Governor Satpal Malik should immediately act against the SOG men involved in Rizwan’s killing.

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Editorial

Tourist Industry at the receiving end

The Kashmir Monitor

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Even as the harsh winter days are over and the spring is dawning in the horizons of Kashmir but its problems continue to haunt the people every moment. The main among these problems is the paucity of power supply—a trouble that touches every individual. Despite the improvement in weather conditions and increase in water flow in the valley’s water bodies, the darkness continue to loom large in Kashmir. It is not difficult to imagine a life with power. But the power woes have affected the tourist industry the most. People associated with tourist trade complain that the lack of electricity in hotels, houseboats and other places of tourist-lodge have a negative effect on the psyche of visiting tourists. All the charm tourists enjoy in the day turns into an ordeal for them in the evening which continues throughout the night. Hundreds of tourists have been thronging daily to witness the snowy scenes in the valley. With the valley having witnessed heavy snowfall this winter, the charm and beauty of Kashmir has gone up beyond bounds. It is after several winters that the valley has witnessed a good snowfall. Last winter went completely dry. The valley is presently host to hundreds of tourists who have come from non-snow zones across India and outside world to enjoy the picturesque snowfields and mountains. Hotels and huts in the land of snow—Gulmarg—are fully occupied. A thick blanket of snow is still covering the Gulmarg bowl and its surroundings making it a great attraction for tourists. Tourists have come from different parts of the country besides from abroad. Tourists are having a good time here. They are enjoying the snow and the snow clad mountains in the backdrop. This is despite the fact that the temperature here runs in sub-zero during the night. But what mars their mood is the lack of electricity. It gives a frightening picture in the evening when the darkness spreads its tentacles around. Most of the hotels have put in place alternate arrangements like diesel generators for lighting. But turning on number of generators simultaneously makes the whole atmosphere earsplitting noisy. It makes a horrible picture of this unparalleled tourist place. The visiting tourists too have on record expressed their displeasure on the poor power supply and the delight and charm one gets in the snow vanishes once one reaches hotel. Frequent and long unscheduled power cuts destroyed the whole mood.

The power scenario is worst of all in the Dal Lake where visitors stay in houseboats. The houseboat owners say that they cannot light on diesel generators as they have very limited space in the houseboats. The generators cause so much noise that the visitors get annoyed.  This has a telling effect on the overall tourist industry. In the prevailing tense situation, tourists usually come after hard persuasion by tour and travel agents. It is the word of the mouth that motivates them. But when they confront with issues like no-power in the hotels, they have all the reason to counsel their friends against visiting the valley. The local residents of Kashmir live such a life permanently. While the city population avails the power supply in bits and pieces, most parts of the rural Kashmir have to remain content with sporadic but meagre power supply. Over the past few days, people in several areas protested on the roads against the government failure in providing scheduled power supply to the consumers leading to halt in traffic movement at various places. This scene is repeated every year with no attention from the powers-that-be. The present dispensation headed by Governor Sat Pal Malik has appeared somewhat different. He recently raised a genuine concern of the people of Kashmir over arbitrary rise in airfare with the Prime Minister. One hopes that the Governor would take note of what is happening with the people in these wintery days and deliver in mitigating the problems of immediate nature confronting them.

 
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