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Aadhaar linking to Voter ID: Empowering voters or enabling surveillance?

On November 25, a standing committee will meet to discuss key electoral reforms, including the contentious proposal for linking of Aadhaar to Voter IDs

24 Nov 2021

Aadhar Linking
Image Courtesy:oneindia.com

While Aadhaar was envisaged as a nation-wide programme to provide every citizen with a unique identity document, concerns have repeatedly been raised about its possible misuse as a means of surveillance by way of linking it to multiple other documents.

Now that a House Panel is expected to meet on November 25 to discuss electoral reforms including linking Aadhaar to Voter IDs, let us take a deeper look into what this entails and possible repercussions.

Why is the House Panel meeting?

On November 25, Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kuamr Modi, is meeting to discuss a variety of electoral reforms. The chief among these are:

  • Remote voting
  • Linking Aadhaar to Voter ID
  • Common electoral roll
  • Action against elected representative who file false affidavits

The first two are key from the point of view of migrant workers, as they are registered as workers in their home states, but are unable to get adequate leave to travel to their home state in order to vote during elections.

Migrant Workers and Voting: Some facts and figures

A 2012 study showed that 78% of migrant labourers surveyed possessed voter ID cards and names present on voting lists of their home cities.

One survey shows that only 48% of those surveyed voted in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the national average was 59.7%. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, major sender states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had among lowest voter turnout rates at 57.33% and 59.21% respectively (when the national average was 67.4%).

According to the 2011 census, the number of internal migrants stands at 45 crores, a 45% surge from the earlier census of 2001. Among these, 26% of the migration, i.e., 11.7 crores, occurs inter-district within the same state, while 12% of the migration, i.e., 5.4 crores, occurs inter-state.

Then there is the subject of circular migration where migrant workers move to find work during a specific period each year, but return to their home state after that.

Another element that needs a more nuanced discussion is how the lives of migrant workers are actually impacted more by decisions taken by various government authorities in the place where they live and work, instead of their home states. But they are unable to register as voters from these states as very often they do not have a proper address, something that also impedes them in other ways – such as leaving them out of the banking system. Clearly there is a web of interconnected problems.

In fact, SabrangIndia’s sister organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had highlighted all of this in a memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI) as part of the Let Migrants Vote campaign.

Remote voting can certainly help migrant workers who would like to vote for elections being conducted in their home states. Postal voting is a mechanism that can be put to use for this purpose. This bypasses the need for inking Aadhaar to Voter IDs.

Another option is something rather basic, a measure that should have been implemented decades ago – maintain a database of migrant workers in every state on the district level if not the taluka level. This way a proper record of migrant workers can be maintained without the need to link Aadhaar to Voter ID.

These are clearly issues that need a deeper analysis and comprehensive debate before any decisions are taken on the subject. The deeply emotive subject of the right of migrant workers to vote, should not be manipulated to justify linking of Aadhaar with Voter ID.

Initial concerns about Aadhaar-Voter ID linking

Activists and data scientists had raised an alarm when it was revealed that as many as 55 lakh voters in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had been left out of the electoral process due to linking of their Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) and Aadhaar by the EC in 2015. It was alleged that the mandatory door-to-door verification was not undertaken before all these people’s names were purged from the rolls!

The move was the result of a process started in March 2015 by the election commissioners of the two states to link the two identity documents as part of the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) in a bid to weed out duplicate and bogus voters. Now, while the objective is indeed laudable, the inadvertent deletion that allegedly took place without following set procedure deprived lakhs of voters of their right to vote. In fact, following this fiasco, the Supreme Court halted the process later that year.

SC judgment on Aadhaar

In September 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Aadhaar’s constitutional validity. The Aadhaar case that was heard for a record 38 days by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwikar and Justice A Bhushan delivered the verdict months after reserving judgment in May. There were three separate judgments from Justice Sikri, Justice Bhushan and Justice Chandrachud. CJI and Justice Khanwilkar did not pronounce a separate judgment but concurred with Justice Sikri. Justice Bhushan’s judgment was also in line with that of Justice Sikri. But Justice Chandrachud wrote a dissenting judgment.

However, in a partial victory for privacy activists, controversial sections such as those dealing with the national security exception and private players demanding Aadhaar data, were struck down. Section 33(2) of the Aadhaar Act that dealt with the National Security exception was struck down. This section permitted disclosure of information, including identity and authentication information, made in the interest of national security. Justice Sikri has also read down Section 33 (1) that enables disclosure of Aadhaar information on order of a District Judge. Now the owner of the information should be given opportunity of hearing before issuing such orders.

Additionally, Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, that permitted private entities to use Aadhaar information to authenticate the identity of a person, was also held unconstitutional. Therefore, no private company can either demand Aadhaar information or make it mandatory for providing services. Aadhaar would not be required for opening a bank account or for getting a mobile phone connection.

Section 47 that allowed only the UIDAI to file criminal complaints in case of data breach has also been struck down. It has been held that exclusion of individuals from filing complaints was arbitrary.

Justice Chandrachud’s dissenting judgment

Justice DY Chandrachud wrote the lone dissenting judgment saying Aadhaar is liable to be declared as unconstitutional. “Violation of fundamental rights under the Aadhaar scheme fails on the touchstone of tests of proportionality,” he said. “Constitutional guarantees cannot be compromised by vicissitudes of technology,” he noted in a strongly worded dissenting judgment.

Justice Chandrachud also expressed his apprehensions about the misuse of data for profiling saying, “Biometrically enhanced identity information, combined with demographic data such as address, age and gender, among other data, when used in increasingly large, automated systems creates profound changes in societies, particularly in regard to data protection, privacy, and security. Biometrics are at the very heart of identification systems. There are numerous instances in history where the persecution of groups of civilians on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion was facilitated through the use of identification systems. There is hence an alarming need to ensure that the on-going development of identification systems be carefully monitored, while taking into account lessons learnt from history.”

It is this part that sends a shiver down the spine, given how Aadhaar data can possibly be used for voter profiling, targeting and even subsequent gerrymandering if Aadhaar is linked with Voter ID.

Renewed concerns about linking Aadhaar and Voter ID

Recently over 500 entities such as civil rights groups including Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Adivasi Women’s Network, Chetna Andolan, etc.; as well as groups working to defend digital freedoms and rights, such as Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 Trust, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), and the Free Software Movement of India, as well as activists, journalist and educators including CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad signed a statement calling the move to link Aadhaar with Voter ID “ill-thought, ill logical and unnecessary”.

The statement says that the signatories “are deeply concerned that this will almost certainly lead to mass disenfranchisement, could increase voter fraud, given the mass discrepancies in the Aadhaar database, and could violate people’s right to privacy by enabling voter profiling through the linkage of data sets.” It further elaborates, “India currently has no data protection law, and the current personal data protection bill has wide exceptions for the government. Any attempts to link Aadhaar to the voter IDs, would lead to demographic information which has been linked to Aadhaar, being linked to the voter database. This creates the possibilities for disenfranchisement based on identity, of increased surveillance, and targeted advertisements and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data.”  

A key reason cited is the violation of privacy and secrecy of vote. If the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal where Facebook data of millions of users was used to allegedly rig the US elections in favour of Donald Trump by micro-targeting voters with false news is anything to go by, imagine the ramifications if it was demographic data of millions of Indians sourced from the Aadhaar database…

Related:

Let Migrants Vote
Migrant Lives Matter: Open Letter to the Election Commission
CJP campaigns for migrant workers’ Right to Vote
SC upholds Aadhaar’s Constitutional Validity, but partially addresses Privacy Concerns
Understanding the Aadhaar Case

Aadhaar linking to Voter ID: Empowering voters or enabling surveillance?

On November 25, a standing committee will meet to discuss key electoral reforms, including the contentious proposal for linking of Aadhaar to Voter IDs

Aadhar Linking
Image Courtesy:oneindia.com

While Aadhaar was envisaged as a nation-wide programme to provide every citizen with a unique identity document, concerns have repeatedly been raised about its possible misuse as a means of surveillance by way of linking it to multiple other documents.

Now that a House Panel is expected to meet on November 25 to discuss electoral reforms including linking Aadhaar to Voter IDs, let us take a deeper look into what this entails and possible repercussions.

Why is the House Panel meeting?

On November 25, Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, headed by Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kuamr Modi, is meeting to discuss a variety of electoral reforms. The chief among these are:

  • Remote voting
  • Linking Aadhaar to Voter ID
  • Common electoral roll
  • Action against elected representative who file false affidavits

The first two are key from the point of view of migrant workers, as they are registered as workers in their home states, but are unable to get adequate leave to travel to their home state in order to vote during elections.

Migrant Workers and Voting: Some facts and figures

A 2012 study showed that 78% of migrant labourers surveyed possessed voter ID cards and names present on voting lists of their home cities.

One survey shows that only 48% of those surveyed voted in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the national average was 59.7%. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, major sender states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had among lowest voter turnout rates at 57.33% and 59.21% respectively (when the national average was 67.4%).

According to the 2011 census, the number of internal migrants stands at 45 crores, a 45% surge from the earlier census of 2001. Among these, 26% of the migration, i.e., 11.7 crores, occurs inter-district within the same state, while 12% of the migration, i.e., 5.4 crores, occurs inter-state.

Then there is the subject of circular migration where migrant workers move to find work during a specific period each year, but return to their home state after that.

Another element that needs a more nuanced discussion is how the lives of migrant workers are actually impacted more by decisions taken by various government authorities in the place where they live and work, instead of their home states. But they are unable to register as voters from these states as very often they do not have a proper address, something that also impedes them in other ways – such as leaving them out of the banking system. Clearly there is a web of interconnected problems.

In fact, SabrangIndia’s sister organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had highlighted all of this in a memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI) as part of the Let Migrants Vote campaign.

Remote voting can certainly help migrant workers who would like to vote for elections being conducted in their home states. Postal voting is a mechanism that can be put to use for this purpose. This bypasses the need for inking Aadhaar to Voter IDs.

Another option is something rather basic, a measure that should have been implemented decades ago – maintain a database of migrant workers in every state on the district level if not the taluka level. This way a proper record of migrant workers can be maintained without the need to link Aadhaar to Voter ID.

These are clearly issues that need a deeper analysis and comprehensive debate before any decisions are taken on the subject. The deeply emotive subject of the right of migrant workers to vote, should not be manipulated to justify linking of Aadhaar with Voter ID.

Initial concerns about Aadhaar-Voter ID linking

Activists and data scientists had raised an alarm when it was revealed that as many as 55 lakh voters in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had been left out of the electoral process due to linking of their Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) and Aadhaar by the EC in 2015. It was alleged that the mandatory door-to-door verification was not undertaken before all these people’s names were purged from the rolls!

The move was the result of a process started in March 2015 by the election commissioners of the two states to link the two identity documents as part of the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) in a bid to weed out duplicate and bogus voters. Now, while the objective is indeed laudable, the inadvertent deletion that allegedly took place without following set procedure deprived lakhs of voters of their right to vote. In fact, following this fiasco, the Supreme Court halted the process later that year.

SC judgment on Aadhaar

In September 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Aadhaar’s constitutional validity. The Aadhaar case that was heard for a record 38 days by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwikar and Justice A Bhushan delivered the verdict months after reserving judgment in May. There were three separate judgments from Justice Sikri, Justice Bhushan and Justice Chandrachud. CJI and Justice Khanwilkar did not pronounce a separate judgment but concurred with Justice Sikri. Justice Bhushan’s judgment was also in line with that of Justice Sikri. But Justice Chandrachud wrote a dissenting judgment.

However, in a partial victory for privacy activists, controversial sections such as those dealing with the national security exception and private players demanding Aadhaar data, were struck down. Section 33(2) of the Aadhaar Act that dealt with the National Security exception was struck down. This section permitted disclosure of information, including identity and authentication information, made in the interest of national security. Justice Sikri has also read down Section 33 (1) that enables disclosure of Aadhaar information on order of a District Judge. Now the owner of the information should be given opportunity of hearing before issuing such orders.

Additionally, Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, that permitted private entities to use Aadhaar information to authenticate the identity of a person, was also held unconstitutional. Therefore, no private company can either demand Aadhaar information or make it mandatory for providing services. Aadhaar would not be required for opening a bank account or for getting a mobile phone connection.

Section 47 that allowed only the UIDAI to file criminal complaints in case of data breach has also been struck down. It has been held that exclusion of individuals from filing complaints was arbitrary.

Justice Chandrachud’s dissenting judgment

Justice DY Chandrachud wrote the lone dissenting judgment saying Aadhaar is liable to be declared as unconstitutional. “Violation of fundamental rights under the Aadhaar scheme fails on the touchstone of tests of proportionality,” he said. “Constitutional guarantees cannot be compromised by vicissitudes of technology,” he noted in a strongly worded dissenting judgment.

Justice Chandrachud also expressed his apprehensions about the misuse of data for profiling saying, “Biometrically enhanced identity information, combined with demographic data such as address, age and gender, among other data, when used in increasingly large, automated systems creates profound changes in societies, particularly in regard to data protection, privacy, and security. Biometrics are at the very heart of identification systems. There are numerous instances in history where the persecution of groups of civilians on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion was facilitated through the use of identification systems. There is hence an alarming need to ensure that the on-going development of identification systems be carefully monitored, while taking into account lessons learnt from history.”

It is this part that sends a shiver down the spine, given how Aadhaar data can possibly be used for voter profiling, targeting and even subsequent gerrymandering if Aadhaar is linked with Voter ID.

Renewed concerns about linking Aadhaar and Voter ID

Recently over 500 entities such as civil rights groups including Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Adivasi Women’s Network, Chetna Andolan, etc.; as well as groups working to defend digital freedoms and rights, such as Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 Trust, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), and the Free Software Movement of India, as well as activists, journalist and educators including CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad signed a statement calling the move to link Aadhaar with Voter ID “ill-thought, ill logical and unnecessary”.

The statement says that the signatories “are deeply concerned that this will almost certainly lead to mass disenfranchisement, could increase voter fraud, given the mass discrepancies in the Aadhaar database, and could violate people’s right to privacy by enabling voter profiling through the linkage of data sets.” It further elaborates, “India currently has no data protection law, and the current personal data protection bill has wide exceptions for the government. Any attempts to link Aadhaar to the voter IDs, would lead to demographic information which has been linked to Aadhaar, being linked to the voter database. This creates the possibilities for disenfranchisement based on identity, of increased surveillance, and targeted advertisements and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data.”  

A key reason cited is the violation of privacy and secrecy of vote. If the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal where Facebook data of millions of users was used to allegedly rig the US elections in favour of Donald Trump by micro-targeting voters with false news is anything to go by, imagine the ramifications if it was demographic data of millions of Indians sourced from the Aadhaar database…

Related:

Let Migrants Vote
Migrant Lives Matter: Open Letter to the Election Commission
CJP campaigns for migrant workers’ Right to Vote
SC upholds Aadhaar’s Constitutional Validity, but partially addresses Privacy Concerns
Understanding the Aadhaar Case

Related Articles


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Kashmir based human rights activist Khurram Parvez arrested

NIA arrested him after hours of searches at his residence and the office of his NGO; he was charged under various sections of IPC and UAPA

23 Nov 2021

Human Right Activist Kashmir
Image Courtesy:brighterkashmir.com

Kashmir-based human rights activist Khurram Parvez was arrested on Monday after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out searches at his residence and the office of J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar. According to reports, Parvez’s family told the media that they received an arrest memo (case 30/2021) in which he was named.

Parvez was reportedly taken for questioning by the officials who said they were from NIA, and his phone, laptop and a few books were also seized.

The UN Special Rapporteur HRDs Mary Lawlor, Founder Front Line Defenders, posted on social media that she feared that Khurram Parvez was at risk of being charged “with terrorism-related crimes” adding, “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender” 

According to a report in The Hindu, Parvez’s family said they were intimated about his arrest in the evening in a case registered earlier this year by the NIA. He has reportedly been arrested in the FIR No. 30/2021 filed on November 6, 2021. The NIA teams were accompanied by the paramilitary and the police, when they began searches of Parvez’s house at Sonawar and the JKCCS office at Amira Kadal in Srinagar on Monday afternoon, stated news reports. The Telegraph reported that Khurram’s family said they had received an arrest memo that showed he had been booked under sections 120B, 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code and sections 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). 

The arrest of Khurram Parvez is being condemned by many, especially as it comes soon after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval saying civil society was the “new frontier of war”, during his address at a passing-out parade at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, around 10 days ago. 

 

 

NIA had raided Kurram Parvez in 2020 too

On October 28 2020, the NIA team had conducted raids at multiple places, including properties belonging to human rights defenders, NGOs, and even a media house in Srinagar, in connection with a ‘terror funding’ probe. The NIA raided the office of popular daily Greater Kashmir, as well as the home of well known human rights activist Khurram Parvez, coordinator J&K Coalition of civil society, and journalist Parvez Bukhari. The NIA had also raided a location in Bangalore, Karnataka.

According to news reports, the NIA suspects that some non-profits are “raising funds in India and abroad for carrying out separatist activity in Jammu and Kashmir.” The NIA had also searched the premises of Khurram Parvez’s associates, Parveena Ahanger who is the chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parvez Ahmad Matta and Bengaluru-based associate Swati Sheshadri, and the offices of the NGO Athrout, and the Greater Kailash Trust. 

Who is Khurram Parvez?

Khurram Parvez is a well known human rights defender from Kashmir, and had lost his leg to a militant IED in early 2000s. He was a recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2006, and is known to be a vocal critic of the government. He is the programme coordinator of the JKCCS, which was founded in 2000 by human rights lawyer and activist Parvez Imroz. Khurram had been arrested for two and a half months in 2016 by the Mehbooba Mufti-led government, stated news reports which added that Jammu and Kashmir High Court later quashed his detention as “illegal”. The JKCCS has published reports on human rights violations in Kashmir, the latest titled “Kashmir’s Internet Siege” on mass detentions and the justice system amid Internet restrictions following the abrogation of the state’s special status on August 5, 2019, which was reported by many media houses.

The United Nations’ 2020 report by the Secretary General titled Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights documented alleged reprisals in 45 countries, but that these represent only a fraction of the actual number of incidents committed, mainly by States but also by non-State actors. The report details the many cases of activists suffering prolonged detention and prison sentences, including some particularly severe cases of ill-treatment and torture. 

In reference  to India, the UN report focuses on targeting of an NGO in Manipur under the guise of violation of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA), and the vilification of Khurram Parvez and his NGO in Kashmir.

The report stated, “It was reported to OHCHR that Mr. Parvez, who in the past has been subject to travel bans, arbitrary arrest and detention in relation to his cooperation with the UN, was informed in August 2019 that he was prohibited from traveling internationally because he was placed on an ‘Exit Fly List’. It was further reported that Mr. Parvez was called in for ‘routine verification’ by police in February 2020 and, as of May 2020, three ‘First Information Reports’ filed by police in 2016 before a court in Srinagar were still unresolved."

Related:

Counter-terror raids on civil society groups signal escalating crackdown on dissent: 
NIA Raids Day 2: Fresh searches conducted in Srinagar and Delhi today
Srinagar: NIA raids human rights defenders, NGOs, media house in terror funding probe
UN raises concerns about attacks on Human Rights Defenders

Kashmir based human rights activist Khurram Parvez arrested

NIA arrested him after hours of searches at his residence and the office of his NGO; he was charged under various sections of IPC and UAPA

Human Right Activist Kashmir
Image Courtesy:brighterkashmir.com

Kashmir-based human rights activist Khurram Parvez was arrested on Monday after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out searches at his residence and the office of J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar. According to reports, Parvez’s family told the media that they received an arrest memo (case 30/2021) in which he was named.

Parvez was reportedly taken for questioning by the officials who said they were from NIA, and his phone, laptop and a few books were also seized.

The UN Special Rapporteur HRDs Mary Lawlor, Founder Front Line Defenders, posted on social media that she feared that Khurram Parvez was at risk of being charged “with terrorism-related crimes” adding, “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender” 

According to a report in The Hindu, Parvez’s family said they were intimated about his arrest in the evening in a case registered earlier this year by the NIA. He has reportedly been arrested in the FIR No. 30/2021 filed on November 6, 2021. The NIA teams were accompanied by the paramilitary and the police, when they began searches of Parvez’s house at Sonawar and the JKCCS office at Amira Kadal in Srinagar on Monday afternoon, stated news reports. The Telegraph reported that Khurram’s family said they had received an arrest memo that showed he had been booked under sections 120B, 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code and sections 17, 18, 18B, 38 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). 

The arrest of Khurram Parvez is being condemned by many, especially as it comes soon after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval saying civil society was the “new frontier of war”, during his address at a passing-out parade at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, around 10 days ago. 

 

 

NIA had raided Kurram Parvez in 2020 too

On October 28 2020, the NIA team had conducted raids at multiple places, including properties belonging to human rights defenders, NGOs, and even a media house in Srinagar, in connection with a ‘terror funding’ probe. The NIA raided the office of popular daily Greater Kashmir, as well as the home of well known human rights activist Khurram Parvez, coordinator J&K Coalition of civil society, and journalist Parvez Bukhari. The NIA had also raided a location in Bangalore, Karnataka.

According to news reports, the NIA suspects that some non-profits are “raising funds in India and abroad for carrying out separatist activity in Jammu and Kashmir.” The NIA had also searched the premises of Khurram Parvez’s associates, Parveena Ahanger who is the chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parvez Ahmad Matta and Bengaluru-based associate Swati Sheshadri, and the offices of the NGO Athrout, and the Greater Kailash Trust. 

Who is Khurram Parvez?

Khurram Parvez is a well known human rights defender from Kashmir, and had lost his leg to a militant IED in early 2000s. He was a recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2006, and is known to be a vocal critic of the government. He is the programme coordinator of the JKCCS, which was founded in 2000 by human rights lawyer and activist Parvez Imroz. Khurram had been arrested for two and a half months in 2016 by the Mehbooba Mufti-led government, stated news reports which added that Jammu and Kashmir High Court later quashed his detention as “illegal”. The JKCCS has published reports on human rights violations in Kashmir, the latest titled “Kashmir’s Internet Siege” on mass detentions and the justice system amid Internet restrictions following the abrogation of the state’s special status on August 5, 2019, which was reported by many media houses.

The United Nations’ 2020 report by the Secretary General titled Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights documented alleged reprisals in 45 countries, but that these represent only a fraction of the actual number of incidents committed, mainly by States but also by non-State actors. The report details the many cases of activists suffering prolonged detention and prison sentences, including some particularly severe cases of ill-treatment and torture. 

In reference  to India, the UN report focuses on targeting of an NGO in Manipur under the guise of violation of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA), and the vilification of Khurram Parvez and his NGO in Kashmir.

The report stated, “It was reported to OHCHR that Mr. Parvez, who in the past has been subject to travel bans, arbitrary arrest and detention in relation to his cooperation with the UN, was informed in August 2019 that he was prohibited from traveling internationally because he was placed on an ‘Exit Fly List’. It was further reported that Mr. Parvez was called in for ‘routine verification’ by police in February 2020 and, as of May 2020, three ‘First Information Reports’ filed by police in 2016 before a court in Srinagar were still unresolved."

Related:

Counter-terror raids on civil society groups signal escalating crackdown on dissent: 
NIA Raids Day 2: Fresh searches conducted in Srinagar and Delhi today
Srinagar: NIA raids human rights defenders, NGOs, media house in terror funding probe
UN raises concerns about attacks on Human Rights Defenders

Related Articles


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Archives

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Now even beggars are not spared by Assam FTs!

CJP comes to his aid of Assam beggar served FT notice, discovers name already included in NRC

22 Nov 2021

Foreigners Tribunal

During CJP's journey so far, helping Indian citizens in Assam, we have seen many instances of people from socio-economically weak backgrounds facing greater challenges in defending their citizenship. But recently we came across the case of Shukur Ali, a man who begs for a living, and is now expected to defend his citizenship. This despite the fact that his name is already included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC)!

On November 19, a team comprising CJP Assam state team in-charge Nanda Ghosh, CJP advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim and CJP community volunteer Gouranga Karmakar, went to meet Shukur Ali, a resident of Kawadi village, that falls under the jurisdiction of Manikpur Police Station, in the Bongaigaon district of Assam. A neighbour had informed our team that he had been served a notice by the Bongaigaon Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT).

“Shukur Ali and his mother suffer from some kind of developmental challenge. They are extremely impoverished and don’t have the resources to fight a case in the FT. Please help them,” the neighbours requested. While the nature of their mental illness isn’t clear as they don’t have proper certificates describing their mental health challenges, the economic hardship this FT case would place on the family became clear when we met the family.

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

We saw his 80-year-old mother Marijan Bewa struggling to stir a pot with a ladle in her wrinkled feeble hands, as she cooked the family’s meal over a modest flame in the open. His wife Jameela Khatun was tending to their 2-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, his 4-year-old son played, oblivious to the predicament his family faces. Behind them was a hut that was so dilapidated that it was surprising that it was still standing.

“He left home this morning and is yet to return,” said Jameela of her husband who was out begging to put food on the table so his family could eat one more day. The family is clearly traumatised at receiving the FT notice.

Foreigners Tribunal

We began going through his documents and discovered that his name has been included in the NRC. What’s more, Shukur Ali’s late father Abdul Jalil Sheikh’s name is included in the 1966 voters list, and his mother is still a voter.

But when it came to land documents, there appeared to be some kind of a family dispute. Though they had some land documents, one of Shukur’s relatives took possession of all the land documents, and has refused to part with them. He isn’t even inclined to share photocopies, despite repeated requests from Shukur’s neighbours who are doing their best to help the impoverished family.

In light of this, we sought the help of Mr. Rahim Ali, a well-known and highly respected retired teacher who lives in the same village and who is also a well-wisher of CJP. “This is very unfortunate,” he said upon being informed about the family’s plight, especially with respect to the issue surrounding land documents. “I will try to help you as much as I can, as I know that only CJP would come to the aid of someone who is in such dire straits,” he said, promising his full support.

Next, we started the process of arranging for a bailor. This is because, as per the rules of Bongaigaon Foreigners Tribunal, a bailor is compulsory for the hearing of FT cases at the primary level itself. We found a bailor and requested him to collect his documents. We also requested the villagers to stand by Shukur Ali’s, giving them moral support and other help whenever a need occurs. 

“I also assured the family and the villagers that CJP is here to help all citizens in need. CJP Advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim will oversee the FT case. Meanwhile, I went to the SDO office last week to work on some of Shukur Ali’s documents,” informs Nanda Ghosh.

Related:

 

Victory! Mojibor Sheikh released from Assam Detention Centre with CJP’s help
Flood victims served FT notices in Assam!

 

Now even beggars are not spared by Assam FTs!

CJP comes to his aid of Assam beggar served FT notice, discovers name already included in NRC

Foreigners Tribunal

During CJP's journey so far, helping Indian citizens in Assam, we have seen many instances of people from socio-economically weak backgrounds facing greater challenges in defending their citizenship. But recently we came across the case of Shukur Ali, a man who begs for a living, and is now expected to defend his citizenship. This despite the fact that his name is already included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC)!

On November 19, a team comprising CJP Assam state team in-charge Nanda Ghosh, CJP advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim and CJP community volunteer Gouranga Karmakar, went to meet Shukur Ali, a resident of Kawadi village, that falls under the jurisdiction of Manikpur Police Station, in the Bongaigaon district of Assam. A neighbour had informed our team that he had been served a notice by the Bongaigaon Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT).

“Shukur Ali and his mother suffer from some kind of developmental challenge. They are extremely impoverished and don’t have the resources to fight a case in the FT. Please help them,” the neighbours requested. While the nature of their mental illness isn’t clear as they don’t have proper certificates describing their mental health challenges, the economic hardship this FT case would place on the family became clear when we met the family.

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

Foreigners Tribunal

We saw his 80-year-old mother Marijan Bewa struggling to stir a pot with a ladle in her wrinkled feeble hands, as she cooked the family’s meal over a modest flame in the open. His wife Jameela Khatun was tending to their 2-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, his 4-year-old son played, oblivious to the predicament his family faces. Behind them was a hut that was so dilapidated that it was surprising that it was still standing.

“He left home this morning and is yet to return,” said Jameela of her husband who was out begging to put food on the table so his family could eat one more day. The family is clearly traumatised at receiving the FT notice.

Foreigners Tribunal

We began going through his documents and discovered that his name has been included in the NRC. What’s more, Shukur Ali’s late father Abdul Jalil Sheikh’s name is included in the 1966 voters list, and his mother is still a voter.

But when it came to land documents, there appeared to be some kind of a family dispute. Though they had some land documents, one of Shukur’s relatives took possession of all the land documents, and has refused to part with them. He isn’t even inclined to share photocopies, despite repeated requests from Shukur’s neighbours who are doing their best to help the impoverished family.

In light of this, we sought the help of Mr. Rahim Ali, a well-known and highly respected retired teacher who lives in the same village and who is also a well-wisher of CJP. “This is very unfortunate,” he said upon being informed about the family’s plight, especially with respect to the issue surrounding land documents. “I will try to help you as much as I can, as I know that only CJP would come to the aid of someone who is in such dire straits,” he said, promising his full support.

Next, we started the process of arranging for a bailor. This is because, as per the rules of Bongaigaon Foreigners Tribunal, a bailor is compulsory for the hearing of FT cases at the primary level itself. We found a bailor and requested him to collect his documents. We also requested the villagers to stand by Shukur Ali’s, giving them moral support and other help whenever a need occurs. 

“I also assured the family and the villagers that CJP is here to help all citizens in need. CJP Advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim will oversee the FT case. Meanwhile, I went to the SDO office last week to work on some of Shukur Ali’s documents,” informs Nanda Ghosh.

Related:

 

Victory! Mojibor Sheikh released from Assam Detention Centre with CJP’s help
Flood victims served FT notices in Assam!

 

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Sabrang

AASU and Assam Gov’t agree to push for NRC reverification again

Decision taken at meeting of Assam Accord committee; demand had already been rejected by the Supreme Court

20 Nov 2021

Assam nrc

At a meeting of the freshly minted Assam Accord sub-committee, representatives of the Assam State Government and the All Assam Students Union arrived at a consensus regarding the reverification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Sub-Committee for the Implementation of the Assam Accord feels that there is a need for reverification of the NRC.

This is in line with the demands of the Assam state government as well given how they have openly rejected the NRC published on August 31, 2019, claiming it had names of “foreigners”. This despite a previous plea for reverification being shot down by the Supreme Court.

The Sub-committee for the Implementation of the Assam Accord was formed on October 1 “to examine and prepare a framework for implementation of all clauses of the Assam Accord in general” and with special emphasis on clauses 6, 7, 9 and 10.

It comprised eight members with Atul Bora, the Minister for Implementation of Assam Accord acting as Chairperson. Other members include two other ministers and five members of the AASU:

  • Piyush Hazarika (Minister for Water Resources, Parliamentary Affairs)

  • Ajanta Neog (Minister for Finance, Social Welfare)

  • Dipankar Kumar Nath (President, AASU)

  • Shankar Jyoti Baruah (General Secretary, AASU)

  • Dr. Samujjal Bhattacharjya (Chief Advisor, AASU)

  • Prakash Chandra Das (Advisor, AASU)

  • Uddip Jyoti Gogoi (Advisor, AASU)

After the group held its second meeting on November 17 at Janata Bhawan in Guwahati, Atul Bora was quoted by the Sentinel Assam as saying, “At today's meeting, the AASU favoured re-verification of the NRC as that has errors. The State Government has no objection to this as the NRC is erroneous. The State Government is not satisfied with the NRC. It should not have the names of foreigners.”

He also tweeted about discussing “Article 5 of the historic Assam Accord” and a variety of subjects related to “foreigners”.

 

 

Samujjal Bhattacharjya told the Assam Tribune that there was already a petition in the Supreme Court regarding reverification, and that at the meeting, AASU also stressed the need for “strengthening mechanisms for the detection and deportation of foreigners” in order for which to happen “border police force will have to be strengthened. AASU stressed clause-wise implementation of the Assam Accord within a stipulated time.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first time the issue of reverification of the NRC has come up in Assam.

Reverification of NRC

Shortly after the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, Assam Public Works, an NGO that is at the center of the NRC case in the Supreme Court demanded a complete reverification of the list. But the apex court rejected the plea on July 23, 2019 saying, “We have also read and considered the response of Mr. Hazela, the learned Coordinator on this aspect of the matter and specifically, the stand taken by him in his report dated 18.7.2019, which is to the effect that in the course of consideration/adjudication of the claims, re-verification to the extent of 27% has already been done. In fact, in the said report, the learned Coordinator has mentioned district wise figures of such re-verification which has become an integral part of the process of consideration of the claims and objections on account of the procedure adopted. In that view of the matter, we do not consider it necessary to accede to the prayers for a further sample verification as prayed for on behalf of the Union of India and the State of Assam.”

But the government of Assam remained adamant on reverification and in September 2020, made a formal submission before the Assam State Assembly demanding 10-20 percent reverification.

On October 13, 2020, Hitesh Dev Sarma, who had previously replaced Prateek Hajela as Assam’s State Coordinator of the NRC, issued a directive to Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCR) for deleting ineligible persons from the final draft of NRC. The ineligible persons include persons belonging to categories such as Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) and Pending cases before Foreigners Tribunals (PFT), along with the descendants of persons belonging to these categories.

This led to two contempt petitions against Sarma in the Supreme Court: one by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) which states that the directive issued by him for reverification of final draft of NRC contravenes the court’s previous orders, and another by All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU). Both parties were represented by Kapil Sibal and Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi. The petitions said that the October 13, 2020 directive for reverification issued by Hitesh Dev Sarma has caused delays in filing of appeals by excluded persons, leaving their identity in the country in much uncertainty. The petitioner stated that the unilateral directions amount to wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court’s orders passed on August 7, 2018, July 23, 2019 as well as judgment passed on August 13, 2019. The SC in January 2021 issued notice to Sarma in connection with the contempt petitions.

New petition for reverification

In May 2021, Assam’s State Coordinator of the NRC again moved Supreme Court demanding a reverification of the NRC published on August 31, 2019 saying that due to major irregularity many names of ineligible people had made it to the list.

In his intervention application, he also prays for the deletion of ineligible voters from the voters list and seeks updation of the 1951 NRC. The application states that there was absence of backend verification of electoral rolls and the process of Office and Field Verifications being used to check applications was unable to detect “Manipulated or manufactured secondary documents”. Here are the key allegations of discrepancies as stated in the application.

Eligible people excluded

The application also states that sample checks have revealed that out of the over 40 lakh people excluded from the draft NRC of 2018, over 3 lakh people did not apply for the claims and objections process. It was discovered that 50,695 of these people including 7,700 Original Inhabitants (OI) and 42,925 people from other states were eligible for inclusion.

Misuse of Original Inhabitant window

On the subject of OI the application further states that many people have misused the provision and therefore have been mistakenly included in the NRC. It further said that as many as 17,196 persons were included in the NRC even though the backend verification result of their documents was negative, because officers allowed them a chance to reverify their documents.

Allegations against Wipro

Allegations were also made against Wipro which was the System Integrator responsible for maintaining the NRC database. It said that till September 13 2019 Wipro was asked to add or delete names in the database by email, something that was illegal. The application gives an example of the discrepancy saying that while on August 31, 2019 the number of people excluded from the list was 19,06,657, it changed to 19,22,851 on September 14 2019!

Allegations against previous NRC Coordinator

Hitesh Dev Sarma took over from Prateek Hajela as NRC State Coordinator amidst the controversy that erupted shortly after the publication of the final NRC. He has now alleged that not only did Hajela not hand over the password of the official email ID, his computer was found to have been re-formatted and all previous data deleted.

Delay in issuing Rejection Slips

The NRC State Coordinator also submitted that “issues of substantive importance” had also come up during the preparation of rejection slips and thus led to delays. Rejection slips basically list the reason for rejection given in speaking orders by Disposing Officers as a part of the Claims and Objections Process. Over 19 lakh people had been excluded from the 2019 NRC and were required to undergo this process.

Prayers

According to LiveLaw, the NRC State Coordinator’s application makes two prayers:

- Pass appropriate directions for a complete, comprehensive and time-bound reverification of the draft NRC as well as the supplementary list of NRC under the provision of the Clause 4(3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National ldentity Cards) Rules 2003, where major irregularities have been highlighted in the body of the instant application herein above.

- Pass appropriate directions that the re-verification be done under the supervision of a monitoring committee in the respective districts and such committee may be preferably represented by the respective District Judge, District Magistrate & Superintendent of Police.

Now, given this let us examine in detail what the newly minter sub-committee is actually trying to accomplish.

What is the real agenda of the Assam Accord sub-committee?

As mentioned earlier, the Assam Accord sub-committee was formed “to examine and prepare a framework for implementation of all clauses of the Assam Accord in general” and with special emphasis on clauses 6, 7, 9 and 10.

As per an official notification issued by the Department of Implementation of Assam Accord of the Government of Assam, the sub-committee is also tasked with examining and preparing a framework for “updation of National Register of Citizens, issues of flood and erosion, rehabilitation of martyrs' families and victims of Assam agitation and also in regard to the various problems faced by the state of Assam, including the potential for all round economic development.” The notification may be viewed here:

NRC in Assam

 

Now, let us examine each point individually.

Clause 6

This clause of the Assam Accord deal with “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” that aim to “protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

Now, it is noteworthy that there is already a dedicated Committee to look into Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The 14-member high-powered Committee had been constituted in July 2019 and had been given six months to submit its report, which it did just days before the deadline. In fact, as SabrangIndia has reported previously, in February 2020, the Clause 6 Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had submitted a slew of recommendations pertaining to Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for the interests and culture of Assamese people. This Report of the Committee on Implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord was however not made public at that time. Then, six months later, some members of the panel including Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta and three members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) released the report independently.

As per the report, what is key to the Committee’s recommendations is a series of amendments to Article 371 B. The report says, “The Committee is of the opinion that to give full effect to its Recommendations, as stated hereinbelow, several Constitutional and legislative amendments will be necessitated. The existing Article 371-B in the Constitution of India will need to be amended.”

However, it is not known if this specific matter pertaining to a Constitutional amendment was discussed during the meeting held on September 6. What is known is what Bhattacharjya told media persons after the meeting, in broad terms. “Constitutional safeguards, economic safeguards, protection of tribal belts, blocks and government lands, NRC update, sealing India-Bangladesh border, permanent solution to floods and erosion, and rehabilitation of Assam agitation victims and martyrs’ families will be on the agenda of the committee,” he said.

Now, Bhattacharya has been named one of the members of the newly appointed sub-committee. Does bringing Clause 6 under the purview of the new sub-committee mean the government had decided to ignore the recommendations of the original Clause 6 Committee?

Clause 7

This clause of the Assam Accord says, “The Government takes this opportunity to renew their commitment for the speedy all round economic development of Assam, so as to improve the standard of living of the people. Special emphasis will be placed on education and science & technology through establishment of national institutions.”

Assam is famous for its tea estates. However, dissatisfaction has been brewing among tea workers given their abysmal wages. As SabrangIndia has reported previously, Assam’s Tea Tribes have been given a raw deal yet again, with the state’s Chief Minister steering clear of making any concrete commitments when it comes to specific demands of the community, despite holding a five-hour long meeting with representatives of the tea tribes as well as intellectuals on August 30. The final outcome of the meeting was just a promise to set up a few sub-committees to study the needs of the community and submit a report. There was no commitment on granting tea tribes Scheduled Tribes (ST) status or increasing daily wages in line with demands of tea estate workers.

Meanwhile, two of Assam’s most prominent paper mills belonging to Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. (HPCL), have been lying defunct. As SabrangIndia has reported previously, as many as 1,200 workers had lost their jobs and therefore a steady source of income, when production stopped at the Cachar mill on October 20, 2015 and at the Nagaon mill from March 13, 2017. They had not been paid for over 50 months and had been demanding that the mills be revived. As many as 95 workers have died since the mills shut down. The mills had been put up for auction to pay off debts, pleas of revival having fallen on deaf ears. In fact, after failing to find any private entity to deposit earnest money for the auction, the government reached out to mill and workers representatives and announced a relief package worth Rs 570 crores. It has also agreed to take over assets of the mills spread of 2,000 acres. 

When it comes to other indicators of economic development, Assam’s oil and natural gas industry isn’t faring well either. Memories of the huge blowout of natural gas on May 27, 2020 and subsequent fire at the Baghjan oil well operated by Oil India Ltd (OIL) are still fresh. Then another explosion took place when three foreign experts were examining the site on July 22. What’s worse is that there have been huge delays in payment of compensation to the families of victims. The environmental impact of the fire was also huge given its proximity to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. In fact, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed an interim penalty of Rs. 25 crores on Oil India Limited (OIL) due to its failure in stopping the fire in Assam’s Baghjan number 5 gas well, that adversely impacted the people and ecology in the area.

In an order passed in two original applications – one moved by environmentalist Bonani Kakkar and the other by Assam-based NGO Wild Life & Environmental Conservation Organisation, a bench comprising Justices SP Wangdi and Siddhanta Das directed, “In view of the prima facie case made out against OIL on the extent of damage caused to the environment and biodiversity, damage to both human and wildlife, public health and, having regard to the financial worth of the Company and the extent of damage, we direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of Rs 25 Crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam and shall abide by further orders of the Tribunal.”

The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) had also served a closure notice on OIL on June 19, 2020, stating OIL had started operations “without obtaining prior consent to establish/consent to operate” from the pollution board. As per the notice, the operations at the Baghjan oilfield are a serious violation of the Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

The notice also stated that the production and drilling operations had been undertaken without proper safety and precautionary measures and that the company wasn’t submitting the Annual Report regularly under Section 9 of the Hazardous and Other Waste Management & Transboundary Movement Rules, 2016 which was a serious violation and liable to be punished under law in force.

It had also mentioned that Oil was destroying to aquatic life of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland of endangered species in the name of exploring oil without any mitigation measures.

But this closure notice was later withdrawn, allegedly due to an “indirect role” played by Sarbananda Sonowal who was the Chief Minister of the state at that time. On June 22, he was quoted by local media as saying that “authorities need to be more sensible” mentioning that “a lot of industries right from the thermal power plant in Namrup, Assam Gas Company, Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and all tea gardens in upper Assam are completely dependent on the OIL.”

Therefore, it appears that the government of Assam is determined to support industrialists in the state, but may not always have worker and ecological welfare as a priority.

Clause 9

This clause of the Assam Accord deals with security of the International Border. Assam shares a 280.06-kilometer-long border with Bangladesh, of which over 60 kilometers lie in the char or riverine area. It is this portion that is yet to be sealed off. The challenge arises due to the constant shifting of land masses due to a change in the flow of the rivers and tributaries in the region. A village on one char could get completely washed away, forcing people to take shelter on the nearest drier and higher ground in an erosion prone region. There are longstanding allegations that these shifting lands and course changing rivers enable illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to easily enter India. But given how these vagaries of nature are beyond the control of anyone, it is difficult to determine if the migrating villagers were originally on the Indian side of the border in the first place, as the border itself is hard to determine. The migration of char villagers also ties in with provisions of Clause 10.

Clause 10

This clause deals with prevention of encroachment on government lands. This subject is particularly topical in wake of the eviction drive being carried out in the char regions of Darrang district. Though it is nowhere near the international border, the evictions here are significant, because they appear to be selectively targeting families hailing from the Bengali-speaking Muslim minority community.

Here are a few examples of recent evictions:

June 6, 2021 - 74 families evicted from Kaki in Hojai District. Roughly 80 percent of the population here is Muslim.

June 7, 2021 - 49 families evicted from Dhalpur, Phuhurtuli in Darrang District. All, except one family, are Muslim.

August 7, 2021 - 61 families evicted from Alamganj in Dhubri District. 90 percent of the population here is Muslim. 

September 20, 2021 - Around 200 families evicted from Fuhuratoli, Dhalpur in Darrang District. All were Muslim families.

September 23, 2021 – 150 families evicted from Gorukhuti, Dhalpur in Darrang District. All were Muslim families.

Such was the hate for these alleged “encroachers” that when the families tried to protest the September 23 demolition, Assam Police personnel opened fire on them, killing two people including a 12-year-old boy, Sheikh Farid, who had nothing to do with the protest and was walking back home from an Aadhaar Centre.

There is growing suspicion that the eviction drives are just another method to get rid of Bengali speaking Muslims because not enough of them could be evicted using the National Register of Citizens (NRC). All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi said as much when he tweeted, “Their names are in 1951 NRC & 1966, 1970-71 voter lists. Their names now appearing in NRC is seen as huge slaps on the face of “anti-foreigner movement” NRC 2019 demolished the myth of illegal migration, all these decades they said there are 5-7m illegal migrants in Assam. But NRC excluded "only" 1.9m - out of which Muslims will be around 4-5L, that too mostly women & children - which means almost every excluded individual has family members in NRC. The reason to demand "re-verification" of NRC is also this failure to exclude “enough” Muslims.”

 

 

NRC Update

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated in Assam as part of a Supreme Court monitored process. The mammoth task involved verifying 6 crore documents submitted by 3.29 crore people. Over 40,000 government employees were engaged in the NRC update process under which 2,500 Nagrik Seva Kendras (NSK) were set up.

When the final draft of the NRC was published on July 31, 2018 and it excluded over 40 lakh people sending shockwaves across the state! An Additional Draft Exclusion list of 1,02,462 names of people excluded from the NRC was released on June 26, 2019. This list named people who were previously included in the NRC but were subsequently found to be ineligible for inclusion, mostly on account of being siblings and family members of people who had been declared foreigners. What followed was an elaborate Claims and Objections process, after which the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019. This excluded a total of 19,06,657 people, at least two thirds of whom were women – many of them unlettered housewives and grannies!

However, as alleged by many, including the aforementioned Owaisi, they failed to exclude enough Bengali-speaking Muslims. This could explain the Assam government’s reluctance to accept the NRC 2019, and repeated insistence of reverification despite the Supreme Court having shot down the request once.

Related:

Was the entire Assam NRC process in vain?

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

NRC officials awaiting SC order before issuing rejection slips

Government still evasive about Clause 6 Committee report

Assam Tea Tribes served another set of vague promises

Assam gov't announces relief package for defunct paper mills

Another explosion at Baghjan oil well injures three foreign experts

National Green Tribunal slaps Rs. 25 crore fine on Oil India Limited for gas well blowout

Are encroachment removal drives in Assam selectively targeting the minority community?

Assam Police Firing: 12-year-old shot dead while returning home from Aadhaar centre!

 

 

AASU and Assam Gov’t agree to push for NRC reverification again

Decision taken at meeting of Assam Accord committee; demand had already been rejected by the Supreme Court

Assam nrc

At a meeting of the freshly minted Assam Accord sub-committee, representatives of the Assam State Government and the All Assam Students Union arrived at a consensus regarding the reverification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Sub-Committee for the Implementation of the Assam Accord feels that there is a need for reverification of the NRC.

This is in line with the demands of the Assam state government as well given how they have openly rejected the NRC published on August 31, 2019, claiming it had names of “foreigners”. This despite a previous plea for reverification being shot down by the Supreme Court.

The Sub-committee for the Implementation of the Assam Accord was formed on October 1 “to examine and prepare a framework for implementation of all clauses of the Assam Accord in general” and with special emphasis on clauses 6, 7, 9 and 10.

It comprised eight members with Atul Bora, the Minister for Implementation of Assam Accord acting as Chairperson. Other members include two other ministers and five members of the AASU:

  • Piyush Hazarika (Minister for Water Resources, Parliamentary Affairs)

  • Ajanta Neog (Minister for Finance, Social Welfare)

  • Dipankar Kumar Nath (President, AASU)

  • Shankar Jyoti Baruah (General Secretary, AASU)

  • Dr. Samujjal Bhattacharjya (Chief Advisor, AASU)

  • Prakash Chandra Das (Advisor, AASU)

  • Uddip Jyoti Gogoi (Advisor, AASU)

After the group held its second meeting on November 17 at Janata Bhawan in Guwahati, Atul Bora was quoted by the Sentinel Assam as saying, “At today's meeting, the AASU favoured re-verification of the NRC as that has errors. The State Government has no objection to this as the NRC is erroneous. The State Government is not satisfied with the NRC. It should not have the names of foreigners.”

He also tweeted about discussing “Article 5 of the historic Assam Accord” and a variety of subjects related to “foreigners”.

 

 

Samujjal Bhattacharjya told the Assam Tribune that there was already a petition in the Supreme Court regarding reverification, and that at the meeting, AASU also stressed the need for “strengthening mechanisms for the detection and deportation of foreigners” in order for which to happen “border police force will have to be strengthened. AASU stressed clause-wise implementation of the Assam Accord within a stipulated time.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first time the issue of reverification of the NRC has come up in Assam.

Reverification of NRC

Shortly after the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, Assam Public Works, an NGO that is at the center of the NRC case in the Supreme Court demanded a complete reverification of the list. But the apex court rejected the plea on July 23, 2019 saying, “We have also read and considered the response of Mr. Hazela, the learned Coordinator on this aspect of the matter and specifically, the stand taken by him in his report dated 18.7.2019, which is to the effect that in the course of consideration/adjudication of the claims, re-verification to the extent of 27% has already been done. In fact, in the said report, the learned Coordinator has mentioned district wise figures of such re-verification which has become an integral part of the process of consideration of the claims and objections on account of the procedure adopted. In that view of the matter, we do not consider it necessary to accede to the prayers for a further sample verification as prayed for on behalf of the Union of India and the State of Assam.”

But the government of Assam remained adamant on reverification and in September 2020, made a formal submission before the Assam State Assembly demanding 10-20 percent reverification.

On October 13, 2020, Hitesh Dev Sarma, who had previously replaced Prateek Hajela as Assam’s State Coordinator of the NRC, issued a directive to Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCR) for deleting ineligible persons from the final draft of NRC. The ineligible persons include persons belonging to categories such as Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) and Pending cases before Foreigners Tribunals (PFT), along with the descendants of persons belonging to these categories.

This led to two contempt petitions against Sarma in the Supreme Court: one by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) which states that the directive issued by him for reverification of final draft of NRC contravenes the court’s previous orders, and another by All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU). Both parties were represented by Kapil Sibal and Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi. The petitions said that the October 13, 2020 directive for reverification issued by Hitesh Dev Sarma has caused delays in filing of appeals by excluded persons, leaving their identity in the country in much uncertainty. The petitioner stated that the unilateral directions amount to wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court’s orders passed on August 7, 2018, July 23, 2019 as well as judgment passed on August 13, 2019. The SC in January 2021 issued notice to Sarma in connection with the contempt petitions.

New petition for reverification

In May 2021, Assam’s State Coordinator of the NRC again moved Supreme Court demanding a reverification of the NRC published on August 31, 2019 saying that due to major irregularity many names of ineligible people had made it to the list.

In his intervention application, he also prays for the deletion of ineligible voters from the voters list and seeks updation of the 1951 NRC. The application states that there was absence of backend verification of electoral rolls and the process of Office and Field Verifications being used to check applications was unable to detect “Manipulated or manufactured secondary documents”. Here are the key allegations of discrepancies as stated in the application.

Eligible people excluded

The application also states that sample checks have revealed that out of the over 40 lakh people excluded from the draft NRC of 2018, over 3 lakh people did not apply for the claims and objections process. It was discovered that 50,695 of these people including 7,700 Original Inhabitants (OI) and 42,925 people from other states were eligible for inclusion.

Misuse of Original Inhabitant window

On the subject of OI the application further states that many people have misused the provision and therefore have been mistakenly included in the NRC. It further said that as many as 17,196 persons were included in the NRC even though the backend verification result of their documents was negative, because officers allowed them a chance to reverify their documents.

Allegations against Wipro

Allegations were also made against Wipro which was the System Integrator responsible for maintaining the NRC database. It said that till September 13 2019 Wipro was asked to add or delete names in the database by email, something that was illegal. The application gives an example of the discrepancy saying that while on August 31, 2019 the number of people excluded from the list was 19,06,657, it changed to 19,22,851 on September 14 2019!

Allegations against previous NRC Coordinator

Hitesh Dev Sarma took over from Prateek Hajela as NRC State Coordinator amidst the controversy that erupted shortly after the publication of the final NRC. He has now alleged that not only did Hajela not hand over the password of the official email ID, his computer was found to have been re-formatted and all previous data deleted.

Delay in issuing Rejection Slips

The NRC State Coordinator also submitted that “issues of substantive importance” had also come up during the preparation of rejection slips and thus led to delays. Rejection slips basically list the reason for rejection given in speaking orders by Disposing Officers as a part of the Claims and Objections Process. Over 19 lakh people had been excluded from the 2019 NRC and were required to undergo this process.

Prayers

According to LiveLaw, the NRC State Coordinator’s application makes two prayers:

- Pass appropriate directions for a complete, comprehensive and time-bound reverification of the draft NRC as well as the supplementary list of NRC under the provision of the Clause 4(3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National ldentity Cards) Rules 2003, where major irregularities have been highlighted in the body of the instant application herein above.

- Pass appropriate directions that the re-verification be done under the supervision of a monitoring committee in the respective districts and such committee may be preferably represented by the respective District Judge, District Magistrate & Superintendent of Police.

Now, given this let us examine in detail what the newly minter sub-committee is actually trying to accomplish.

What is the real agenda of the Assam Accord sub-committee?

As mentioned earlier, the Assam Accord sub-committee was formed “to examine and prepare a framework for implementation of all clauses of the Assam Accord in general” and with special emphasis on clauses 6, 7, 9 and 10.

As per an official notification issued by the Department of Implementation of Assam Accord of the Government of Assam, the sub-committee is also tasked with examining and preparing a framework for “updation of National Register of Citizens, issues of flood and erosion, rehabilitation of martyrs' families and victims of Assam agitation and also in regard to the various problems faced by the state of Assam, including the potential for all round economic development.” The notification may be viewed here:

NRC in Assam

 

Now, let us examine each point individually.

Clause 6

This clause of the Assam Accord deal with “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” that aim to “protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

Now, it is noteworthy that there is already a dedicated Committee to look into Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The 14-member high-powered Committee had been constituted in July 2019 and had been given six months to submit its report, which it did just days before the deadline. In fact, as SabrangIndia has reported previously, in February 2020, the Clause 6 Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had submitted a slew of recommendations pertaining to Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for the interests and culture of Assamese people. This Report of the Committee on Implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord was however not made public at that time. Then, six months later, some members of the panel including Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta and three members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) released the report independently.

As per the report, what is key to the Committee’s recommendations is a series of amendments to Article 371 B. The report says, “The Committee is of the opinion that to give full effect to its Recommendations, as stated hereinbelow, several Constitutional and legislative amendments will be necessitated. The existing Article 371-B in the Constitution of India will need to be amended.”

However, it is not known if this specific matter pertaining to a Constitutional amendment was discussed during the meeting held on September 6. What is known is what Bhattacharjya told media persons after the meeting, in broad terms. “Constitutional safeguards, economic safeguards, protection of tribal belts, blocks and government lands, NRC update, sealing India-Bangladesh border, permanent solution to floods and erosion, and rehabilitation of Assam agitation victims and martyrs’ families will be on the agenda of the committee,” he said.

Now, Bhattacharya has been named one of the members of the newly appointed sub-committee. Does bringing Clause 6 under the purview of the new sub-committee mean the government had decided to ignore the recommendations of the original Clause 6 Committee?

Clause 7

This clause of the Assam Accord says, “The Government takes this opportunity to renew their commitment for the speedy all round economic development of Assam, so as to improve the standard of living of the people. Special emphasis will be placed on education and science & technology through establishment of national institutions.”

Assam is famous for its tea estates. However, dissatisfaction has been brewing among tea workers given their abysmal wages. As SabrangIndia has reported previously, Assam’s Tea Tribes have been given a raw deal yet again, with the state’s Chief Minister steering clear of making any concrete commitments when it comes to specific demands of the community, despite holding a five-hour long meeting with representatives of the tea tribes as well as intellectuals on August 30. The final outcome of the meeting was just a promise to set up a few sub-committees to study the needs of the community and submit a report. There was no commitment on granting tea tribes Scheduled Tribes (ST) status or increasing daily wages in line with demands of tea estate workers.

Meanwhile, two of Assam’s most prominent paper mills belonging to Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. (HPCL), have been lying defunct. As SabrangIndia has reported previously, as many as 1,200 workers had lost their jobs and therefore a steady source of income, when production stopped at the Cachar mill on October 20, 2015 and at the Nagaon mill from March 13, 2017. They had not been paid for over 50 months and had been demanding that the mills be revived. As many as 95 workers have died since the mills shut down. The mills had been put up for auction to pay off debts, pleas of revival having fallen on deaf ears. In fact, after failing to find any private entity to deposit earnest money for the auction, the government reached out to mill and workers representatives and announced a relief package worth Rs 570 crores. It has also agreed to take over assets of the mills spread of 2,000 acres. 

When it comes to other indicators of economic development, Assam’s oil and natural gas industry isn’t faring well either. Memories of the huge blowout of natural gas on May 27, 2020 and subsequent fire at the Baghjan oil well operated by Oil India Ltd (OIL) are still fresh. Then another explosion took place when three foreign experts were examining the site on July 22. What’s worse is that there have been huge delays in payment of compensation to the families of victims. The environmental impact of the fire was also huge given its proximity to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. In fact, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed an interim penalty of Rs. 25 crores on Oil India Limited (OIL) due to its failure in stopping the fire in Assam’s Baghjan number 5 gas well, that adversely impacted the people and ecology in the area.

In an order passed in two original applications – one moved by environmentalist Bonani Kakkar and the other by Assam-based NGO Wild Life & Environmental Conservation Organisation, a bench comprising Justices SP Wangdi and Siddhanta Das directed, “In view of the prima facie case made out against OIL on the extent of damage caused to the environment and biodiversity, damage to both human and wildlife, public health and, having regard to the financial worth of the Company and the extent of damage, we direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of Rs 25 Crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam and shall abide by further orders of the Tribunal.”

The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) had also served a closure notice on OIL on June 19, 2020, stating OIL had started operations “without obtaining prior consent to establish/consent to operate” from the pollution board. As per the notice, the operations at the Baghjan oilfield are a serious violation of the Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

The notice also stated that the production and drilling operations had been undertaken without proper safety and precautionary measures and that the company wasn’t submitting the Annual Report regularly under Section 9 of the Hazardous and Other Waste Management & Transboundary Movement Rules, 2016 which was a serious violation and liable to be punished under law in force.

It had also mentioned that Oil was destroying to aquatic life of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland of endangered species in the name of exploring oil without any mitigation measures.

But this closure notice was later withdrawn, allegedly due to an “indirect role” played by Sarbananda Sonowal who was the Chief Minister of the state at that time. On June 22, he was quoted by local media as saying that “authorities need to be more sensible” mentioning that “a lot of industries right from the thermal power plant in Namrup, Assam Gas Company, Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and all tea gardens in upper Assam are completely dependent on the OIL.”

Therefore, it appears that the government of Assam is determined to support industrialists in the state, but may not always have worker and ecological welfare as a priority.

Clause 9

This clause of the Assam Accord deals with security of the International Border. Assam shares a 280.06-kilometer-long border with Bangladesh, of which over 60 kilometers lie in the char or riverine area. It is this portion that is yet to be sealed off. The challenge arises due to the constant shifting of land masses due to a change in the flow of the rivers and tributaries in the region. A village on one char could get completely washed away, forcing people to take shelter on the nearest drier and higher ground in an erosion prone region. There are longstanding allegations that these shifting lands and course changing rivers enable illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to easily enter India. But given how these vagaries of nature are beyond the control of anyone, it is difficult to determine if the migrating villagers were originally on the Indian side of the border in the first place, as the border itself is hard to determine. The migration of char villagers also ties in with provisions of Clause 10.

Clause 10

This clause deals with prevention of encroachment on government lands. This subject is particularly topical in wake of the eviction drive being carried out in the char regions of Darrang district. Though it is nowhere near the international border, the evictions here are significant, because they appear to be selectively targeting families hailing from the Bengali-speaking Muslim minority community.

Here are a few examples of recent evictions:

June 6, 2021 - 74 families evicted from Kaki in Hojai District. Roughly 80 percent of the population here is Muslim.

June 7, 2021 - 49 families evicted from Dhalpur, Phuhurtuli in Darrang District. All, except one family, are Muslim.

August 7, 2021 - 61 families evicted from Alamganj in Dhubri District. 90 percent of the population here is Muslim. 

September 20, 2021 - Around 200 families evicted from Fuhuratoli, Dhalpur in Darrang District. All were Muslim families.

September 23, 2021 – 150 families evicted from Gorukhuti, Dhalpur in Darrang District. All were Muslim families.

Such was the hate for these alleged “encroachers” that when the families tried to protest the September 23 demolition, Assam Police personnel opened fire on them, killing two people including a 12-year-old boy, Sheikh Farid, who had nothing to do with the protest and was walking back home from an Aadhaar Centre.

There is growing suspicion that the eviction drives are just another method to get rid of Bengali speaking Muslims because not enough of them could be evicted using the National Register of Citizens (NRC). All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi said as much when he tweeted, “Their names are in 1951 NRC & 1966, 1970-71 voter lists. Their names now appearing in NRC is seen as huge slaps on the face of “anti-foreigner movement” NRC 2019 demolished the myth of illegal migration, all these decades they said there are 5-7m illegal migrants in Assam. But NRC excluded "only" 1.9m - out of which Muslims will be around 4-5L, that too mostly women & children - which means almost every excluded individual has family members in NRC. The reason to demand "re-verification" of NRC is also this failure to exclude “enough” Muslims.”

 

 

NRC Update

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated in Assam as part of a Supreme Court monitored process. The mammoth task involved verifying 6 crore documents submitted by 3.29 crore people. Over 40,000 government employees were engaged in the NRC update process under which 2,500 Nagrik Seva Kendras (NSK) were set up.

When the final draft of the NRC was published on July 31, 2018 and it excluded over 40 lakh people sending shockwaves across the state! An Additional Draft Exclusion list of 1,02,462 names of people excluded from the NRC was released on June 26, 2019. This list named people who were previously included in the NRC but were subsequently found to be ineligible for inclusion, mostly on account of being siblings and family members of people who had been declared foreigners. What followed was an elaborate Claims and Objections process, after which the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019. This excluded a total of 19,06,657 people, at least two thirds of whom were women – many of them unlettered housewives and grannies!

However, as alleged by many, including the aforementioned Owaisi, they failed to exclude enough Bengali-speaking Muslims. This could explain the Assam government’s reluctance to accept the NRC 2019, and repeated insistence of reverification despite the Supreme Court having shot down the request once.

Related:

Was the entire Assam NRC process in vain?

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

NRC officials awaiting SC order before issuing rejection slips

Government still evasive about Clause 6 Committee report

Assam Tea Tribes served another set of vague promises

Assam gov't announces relief package for defunct paper mills

Another explosion at Baghjan oil well injures three foreign experts

National Green Tribunal slaps Rs. 25 crore fine on Oil India Limited for gas well blowout

Are encroachment removal drives in Assam selectively targeting the minority community?

Assam Police Firing: 12-year-old shot dead while returning home from Aadhaar centre!

 

 

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Kashmir: Four killed in Hyderpora gunfight

IGP Kashmir says civilian was "militant associate", family denies charge

16 Nov 2021

Kashmir
Image Courtesy:fastkashmir.com

Four people were killed in the Monday night gunfight in Hyderpora area of Srinagar. According to Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, these include two militants including a foreigner identified as Haider/Bilal Bhai, a local named Mudasir Gul who the police termed to be an Over Ground Worker (OGW) or “militant associate”, and the building owner identified as Altaf Ahmed, who has also been named as Altaf Ahmed Bhat in some media reports.

The IGP held a press conference at Police Control Room (PCR) Srinagar, and said that after receiving a tip off on the presence of militants near national highway at Hyderpora, “Police, CRPF and the army laid a cordon and when the suspected spot was zeroed in, militants fired indiscriminately at the forces.” 

Kashmir Police also shared details on social media:

IGP Kumar said that Haider/Bilal Bhai and his local associate possibly, from Banihal area of Jammu, were killed in the gunfight. He added, “We have called a family from Banihal to identify the slain.”

He said that the building owner may have been killed in the “cross-fire”. He said, “It is not clear whether militant bullets or the bullets fired by forces hit him. Militants were carrying pistols and it would be clear after investigations whose bullet hit him.”

The fourth person killed was an OGW who had allegedly provided space to Haider to use as a “militant hideout.” He added that Mudasir Gul, who was living on rent in the building, had provided shelter to Haider and his associate and so, “This way he was harbouring militants. Mudasir was also involved in ferrying Haider from the recent attack site of Jamalatta Srinagar where a police man was injured.” He further said that Mudasir was a businessman/contractor by profession, and was also running a call centre.

Mudasir’ family has denied the charges and demanded justice.

 

According to a report in Greater Kashmir, the IGP stated that  two pistols, two magazines, half-a-dozen mobile phones and a few computers were recovered from the encounter site. However the police did not hand over Altaf Ahmed’s body to his family, because according to IGP Kumar, “There was an apprehension of law and order.”

Altaf and Mudasir were buried in Handwara in northern Kashmir, reported GK. For the last two years, police in Kashmir do not hand over the bodies of militants killed in encounters to the family for last rites citing their funerals create a law and order situation, according to a report in News18.

However, Altaf Ahmed’s family have denied the police claim that he had any links with militants. According to News18, Altaf’s family has said that he was used as a human shield and had no links with any militant group, and have demanded justice for him. Police officials said that he was injured in a terrorist fire and later succumbed to his injuries. “As per source and digital evidence, he has been working as a terror associate,” said IGP Kumar. 

But the family of Altaf Ahmad, a shopkeeper who owned the multi-storey building, alleged that he “was used as a human shield during the gunbattle.” His niece Saima Bhat, said, “My uncle has been murdered. He was used as a human shield in a staged encounter. He runs a hardware shop and owns the complex where the forces had come for checking.”

His daughters also said the same and recounted the sequence of events.

 

Related:

Hundreds mourn Srinagar resident Mohammad Ibrahim Khan
J&K: Police book students who allegedly celebrated Pakistan cricket win under UAPA
J&K: More migrant workers shot dead by terrorists over the weekend, all eyes on Centre

Kashmir: Four killed in Hyderpora gunfight

IGP Kashmir says civilian was "militant associate", family denies charge

Kashmir
Image Courtesy:fastkashmir.com

Four people were killed in the Monday night gunfight in Hyderpora area of Srinagar. According to Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, these include two militants including a foreigner identified as Haider/Bilal Bhai, a local named Mudasir Gul who the police termed to be an Over Ground Worker (OGW) or “militant associate”, and the building owner identified as Altaf Ahmed, who has also been named as Altaf Ahmed Bhat in some media reports.

The IGP held a press conference at Police Control Room (PCR) Srinagar, and said that after receiving a tip off on the presence of militants near national highway at Hyderpora, “Police, CRPF and the army laid a cordon and when the suspected spot was zeroed in, militants fired indiscriminately at the forces.” 

Kashmir Police also shared details on social media:

IGP Kumar said that Haider/Bilal Bhai and his local associate possibly, from Banihal area of Jammu, were killed in the gunfight. He added, “We have called a family from Banihal to identify the slain.”

He said that the building owner may have been killed in the “cross-fire”. He said, “It is not clear whether militant bullets or the bullets fired by forces hit him. Militants were carrying pistols and it would be clear after investigations whose bullet hit him.”

The fourth person killed was an OGW who had allegedly provided space to Haider to use as a “militant hideout.” He added that Mudasir Gul, who was living on rent in the building, had provided shelter to Haider and his associate and so, “This way he was harbouring militants. Mudasir was also involved in ferrying Haider from the recent attack site of Jamalatta Srinagar where a police man was injured.” He further said that Mudasir was a businessman/contractor by profession, and was also running a call centre.

Mudasir’ family has denied the charges and demanded justice.

 

According to a report in Greater Kashmir, the IGP stated that  two pistols, two magazines, half-a-dozen mobile phones and a few computers were recovered from the encounter site. However the police did not hand over Altaf Ahmed’s body to his family, because according to IGP Kumar, “There was an apprehension of law and order.”

Altaf and Mudasir were buried in Handwara in northern Kashmir, reported GK. For the last two years, police in Kashmir do not hand over the bodies of militants killed in encounters to the family for last rites citing their funerals create a law and order situation, according to a report in News18.

However, Altaf Ahmed’s family have denied the police claim that he had any links with militants. According to News18, Altaf’s family has said that he was used as a human shield and had no links with any militant group, and have demanded justice for him. Police officials said that he was injured in a terrorist fire and later succumbed to his injuries. “As per source and digital evidence, he has been working as a terror associate,” said IGP Kumar. 

But the family of Altaf Ahmad, a shopkeeper who owned the multi-storey building, alleged that he “was used as a human shield during the gunbattle.” His niece Saima Bhat, said, “My uncle has been murdered. He was used as a human shield in a staged encounter. He runs a hardware shop and owns the complex where the forces had come for checking.”

His daughters also said the same and recounted the sequence of events.

 

Related:

Hundreds mourn Srinagar resident Mohammad Ibrahim Khan
J&K: Police book students who allegedly celebrated Pakistan cricket win under UAPA
J&K: More migrant workers shot dead by terrorists over the weekend, all eyes on Centre

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When will Indian fishworkers be assured of their safety on high seas?

National Fishworkers Forum India, Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy condemn firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s maritime security agency

12 Nov 2021

FishermanImage: Getty Images

The National Fishworkers Forum India (NFF) and the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) have issued a joint statement to condemn the firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). One of the workers was killed and another injured when PMSA troops converged on two Indian fishing boats on Saturday, November 6, off the coast of Gujarat. The joint statement adds that while the Pakistan government statement claims the victims “were in Pakistan’s territorial waters,” the fishworkers have refuted that. 

The deceased was identified as 32-year-old Sridhar Ramesh Chamre from Maharashtra’s Palghar district. According to news reports, the Porbandar Navi Bandar police have also registered a First Information Report (FIR) against 10 officers of the PMSA. They have been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), and 114 (presence of abettor when the offence is committed).

The injured fishworker was identified as Dilip Solanki (34), who according to The Indian Express was the captain of the boat named Jal Pari, and sustained a bullet injury, but is now stated to be out of danger. According to the NFF statement another boat was “taken into custody by PMSA”, while Jal Pari, which was trying to turn away, was fired upon. The boat, however “ managed to return to the Indian coast with 6 crew members and the body of  Shridhar Ramesh Chamre.” 

 

 

The PMSA reportedly issued a statement on November 8 and denied “firing on the boat and using lethal weapons against fishworkers.” However NFF states that Shridhar Chamare was “shot in the chest multiple times”. He was the helper on the boat and is survived by his parents, wife and two daughters aged 6 and 8. The NFF and PIPFPD state that they “have consistently demanded a ‘no arrests policy’ of  fishworkers - whose livelihood is based on the sea and have repeatedly warned both the  governments against any lethal action including firing. Yet these incidents continue to happen.”  

Every year, hundreds of Indian and Pakistani fishworkers are arrested by the neighbouring country’s naval armed forces. And every year, some of them are released as confidence-building measures by the governments. Once arrested, these fishworkers can be jailed from four months to a few years.

The Indian government has strongly condemned and taken serious note of the killing of an Indian fisherman by PMSA, reported Mirror Now terming it to be a case of “unprovoked firing.”

According to NFF,, this latest tragedy has put the spotlight back on fishworker arrests by the two countries. “The mechanisms available for faster release of fishworkers are  no longer effective in securing their early release or ensuring that they are not mistreated  in the jails. We have repeatedly requested the release of jailed fishermen…” stated the two organisations adding, “As per the United Nations Convention on Law of Seas (UNCLOS), those who  encroach upon waters, cannot even be arrested, let alone be fired upon by either security  force.” 

The arrest, they say, “takes away the dignity of their work”, and also pushes their families on the brink of poverty as they get very little support from anywhere. 

According to NFF, factors responsible for cross border fishing included “depleting resources in  the Arabian sea as well as the increasing industrialization across the coasts of India.” The statement recalled that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a public announcement way back in September 2013, at Palghar that once elected, his government will end arrests and killing of fishers.”

The NFF and PIPFPD have now asked that the civil society come together and “demand that the Indian and Pakistani  Governments act urgently to adopt a solution to this four decade-old conflict so that not another soul is lost to this mindless violence.”

According to a report in NDTV, as of February 2021, “Pakistan acknowledged that 270 fishermen and 49 civilian prisoners, who are Indians or believed to be Indians, are in their jails” adding that  “there were 77 Pakistan fishermen and 263 Pakistan civilian prisoners in India's custody, the government had said in the Rajya Sabha.”

 

Related:

I don't have 100 dollars to reach the port: Indian fisherman in Iran

“If the fish dies it is GDP. If fisherman dies its ex gratia”

Lockdown 2020’s impact on migrant fishworkers will last longer than the season did

When will Indian fishworkers be assured of their safety on high seas?

National Fishworkers Forum India, Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy condemn firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s maritime security agency

FishermanImage: Getty Images

The National Fishworkers Forum India (NFF) and the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) have issued a joint statement to condemn the firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). One of the workers was killed and another injured when PMSA troops converged on two Indian fishing boats on Saturday, November 6, off the coast of Gujarat. The joint statement adds that while the Pakistan government statement claims the victims “were in Pakistan’s territorial waters,” the fishworkers have refuted that. 

The deceased was identified as 32-year-old Sridhar Ramesh Chamre from Maharashtra’s Palghar district. According to news reports, the Porbandar Navi Bandar police have also registered a First Information Report (FIR) against 10 officers of the PMSA. They have been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), and 114 (presence of abettor when the offence is committed).

The injured fishworker was identified as Dilip Solanki (34), who according to The Indian Express was the captain of the boat named Jal Pari, and sustained a bullet injury, but is now stated to be out of danger. According to the NFF statement another boat was “taken into custody by PMSA”, while Jal Pari, which was trying to turn away, was fired upon. The boat, however “ managed to return to the Indian coast with 6 crew members and the body of  Shridhar Ramesh Chamre.” 

 

 

The PMSA reportedly issued a statement on November 8 and denied “firing on the boat and using lethal weapons against fishworkers.” However NFF states that Shridhar Chamare was “shot in the chest multiple times”. He was the helper on the boat and is survived by his parents, wife and two daughters aged 6 and 8. The NFF and PIPFPD state that they “have consistently demanded a ‘no arrests policy’ of  fishworkers - whose livelihood is based on the sea and have repeatedly warned both the  governments against any lethal action including firing. Yet these incidents continue to happen.”  

Every year, hundreds of Indian and Pakistani fishworkers are arrested by the neighbouring country’s naval armed forces. And every year, some of them are released as confidence-building measures by the governments. Once arrested, these fishworkers can be jailed from four months to a few years.

The Indian government has strongly condemned and taken serious note of the killing of an Indian fisherman by PMSA, reported Mirror Now terming it to be a case of “unprovoked firing.”

According to NFF,, this latest tragedy has put the spotlight back on fishworker arrests by the two countries. “The mechanisms available for faster release of fishworkers are  no longer effective in securing their early release or ensuring that they are not mistreated  in the jails. We have repeatedly requested the release of jailed fishermen…” stated the two organisations adding, “As per the United Nations Convention on Law of Seas (UNCLOS), those who  encroach upon waters, cannot even be arrested, let alone be fired upon by either security  force.” 

The arrest, they say, “takes away the dignity of their work”, and also pushes their families on the brink of poverty as they get very little support from anywhere. 

According to NFF, factors responsible for cross border fishing included “depleting resources in  the Arabian sea as well as the increasing industrialization across the coasts of India.” The statement recalled that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a public announcement way back in September 2013, at Palghar that once elected, his government will end arrests and killing of fishers.”

The NFF and PIPFPD have now asked that the civil society come together and “demand that the Indian and Pakistani  Governments act urgently to adopt a solution to this four decade-old conflict so that not another soul is lost to this mindless violence.”

According to a report in NDTV, as of February 2021, “Pakistan acknowledged that 270 fishermen and 49 civilian prisoners, who are Indians or believed to be Indians, are in their jails” adding that  “there were 77 Pakistan fishermen and 263 Pakistan civilian prisoners in India's custody, the government had said in the Rajya Sabha.”

 

Related:

I don't have 100 dollars to reach the port: Indian fisherman in Iran

“If the fish dies it is GDP. If fisherman dies its ex gratia”

Lockdown 2020’s impact on migrant fishworkers will last longer than the season did

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UP: Mid-day meal cooks get Rs. 7,500 but three months salary still pending

Varanasi’s local authorities say they could only pay five months of mid-day meal cooks’ salaries with the funds they received

11 Nov 2021

Uttar PradeshImage Courtesy: indiatoday.in

After repeated government promises of delivering eight-months pending wages of mid-day meal cooks, Varanasi workers on November 11, 2021 said they received only Rs. 7,500 that accounts for five months of labour.

Veteran cook Laxmi breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when her bank account finally showed credited money. Sadly, her happiness was short-lived when she realised the Uttar Pradesh government had only sent her wages of five months of work – Rs. 7,500 – instead of eight months of salary – Rs. 12,000.

“I checked my account this morning and I saw I received some money. But it isn’t the complete amount I should receive,” Laxmi told SabrangIndia.

Her news has especially confused her colleagues, who said that they haven’t received any similar intimations or updates from their accounts. With two-to-six children in every house of the five cooks in Mahaulipur, Cholapur block’s public primary school, the need for money grows dire. However, according to Mid-Day Meal Authority (MDMA) Varanasi AD(B) Kishore, the school department has no more funds to pay the pending money to workers.

“We received these funds some days ago and immediately distributed them among people. All the cooks will get their wages soon but as of now, there is no more money. We are waiting for the next allocation of cash,” he said.

Since February, MDM cooks have demanded full payment of their wages that amount Rs. 12,000 per 3.95 lakh cooks in the state. This means that cooks received Rs. 50 for a day's work as opposed to MGNREGA workers who received around Rs. 200 daily. Since 2017, these women continue to voice their complaints about their low wages and even mobilised at the state-level. Nowadays, bereft of any job security, cooks said they can only trust the word of the government.

Related:

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UP: Mid-day meal cooks get Rs. 7,500 but three months salary still pending

Varanasi’s local authorities say they could only pay five months of mid-day meal cooks’ salaries with the funds they received

Uttar PradeshImage Courtesy: indiatoday.in

After repeated government promises of delivering eight-months pending wages of mid-day meal cooks, Varanasi workers on November 11, 2021 said they received only Rs. 7,500 that accounts for five months of labour.

Veteran cook Laxmi breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when her bank account finally showed credited money. Sadly, her happiness was short-lived when she realised the Uttar Pradesh government had only sent her wages of five months of work – Rs. 7,500 – instead of eight months of salary – Rs. 12,000.

“I checked my account this morning and I saw I received some money. But it isn’t the complete amount I should receive,” Laxmi told SabrangIndia.

Her news has especially confused her colleagues, who said that they haven’t received any similar intimations or updates from their accounts. With two-to-six children in every house of the five cooks in Mahaulipur, Cholapur block’s public primary school, the need for money grows dire. However, according to Mid-Day Meal Authority (MDMA) Varanasi AD(B) Kishore, the school department has no more funds to pay the pending money to workers.

“We received these funds some days ago and immediately distributed them among people. All the cooks will get their wages soon but as of now, there is no more money. We are waiting for the next allocation of cash,” he said.

Since February, MDM cooks have demanded full payment of their wages that amount Rs. 12,000 per 3.95 lakh cooks in the state. This means that cooks received Rs. 50 for a day's work as opposed to MGNREGA workers who received around Rs. 200 daily. Since 2017, these women continue to voice their complaints about their low wages and even mobilised at the state-level. Nowadays, bereft of any job security, cooks said they can only trust the word of the government.

Related:

MDM cooks refute gov't claims of 8-month wage payment
UP: Mid-day meal cooks not paid wages for eight months of wages
UP: Anganwadi workers, MDM cooks and ASHA workers non paid wages for months!
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Why did Times Now give a platform to communal, seditious statements?

Times Now Summit 2021 allows Kangana Ranaut to say independence was ‘alms’, Himanta Biswa Sarma to say ‘India belongs to Hindus’

11 Nov 2021

Times Now Summit 2021Image Courtesy:timesnownews.com

Times Now in its branded Times Now Summit 2021 gave a free run to actor Kangana Ranaut to make seditious statements on India’s independence and get away with it. The recent Padma Shri recipient was allowed by anchor Navika Kumar to make statements claiming that India’s freedom in 1947 was a “bheek" (alms given to a beggar) and that “real freedom came in 2014” as that was when the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

Kangana virtually conducted her monologue on her own version and idea of “nationalism”, patriotism, “history” and India’s freedom struggle. Understandably she mostly spoke about herself, and her admiration for PM Modi, Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, etc. However, while she was on a roll on these and other subjects she has claimed to do “research on'', Kangana Ranaut’s remarks about the freedom struggle, and Independence being given as ‘alms’ have been called out by many.

National Executive Member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Preeti Sharma Menon, has filed a complaint against Ranaut for these remarks. She tweeted, "Submitted an application to @MumbaiPolice requesting action on Kangana Ranaut for her seditious and inflammatory statements on @TimesNow under sections 504, 505 and 124A. Hope to see some action".

 

Kangana Ranaut also called the Congress party an ‘extension of the British,’ and said, “Savarkar, Lakshmibai, or Netaji Bose…these people knew that the blood will flow but it shouldn’t be Hindustani blood. They knew it... They paid a price, of course. Woh azaadi nahi thi, woh bheek thi. Aur jo azaadi mili hai woh 2014 mai mili hai (That wasn’t freedom, that was alms. We got real freedom in 2014.)”

Most people have taken this as an insult to India’s freedom fighters, and freedom struggle. Many have also said that any other citizen would have been pulled up by the police for making such seditious statements by now. Kangana however, was not even questioned or interrupted by anchor Navika Kumar, who encouraged the conversation to carry on that tangent.

Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena called her a “WhatsApp history fan”. 

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Varun Gandhi took to Twitter posting a clip of Kangana’s comment and asked if this was madness or treason to disrespect freedom fighters’ sacrifices and adding that Kangana had insulted the “sacrifice of Mahatma Gandhi sometime” and was “respecting his killer sometime”

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma says India belongs to Hindus

The Times Now Summit 2021 also gave a platform to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to say that “India belonged to Hindus”. He added that madrassas should also be shut down. Sarma was to speak at the summit on how to overcome various challenges in the North-East. 

However, the Chief Minister continued to make communally coloured statements such as, "Some people in Assam want to make mullahs through madrassas… If I go to a Muslim area and say that I want to make their kids doctors, they should feel happy. This is part of my freedom of expression to suggest that I want them to be doctors, not mullahs. The choice, obviously, is theirs." According to the CM, "Everyone should go to Muslim areas and ask them to shut down madrassas. They should ask them to make schools. Politicians should have the guts to say this even if it creates fault lines. I have stopped giving funds to all government madrassas.” When he was asked about the settlement of Hindus from Bangladesh, the CM added, "India belongs to Hindus. The word 'Indian' came in 1947, for 7,000 years, we were known as Hindus. I believe in civilisation and this is a Hindu civilisation. You cannot disconnect us from our roots. Every Hindu who is in trouble has his motherland to come back to." 

When asked about CAA-NRC and immigrants in India, he said, "If you are from UP and Bihar, religion does not matter but if you are from my neighbouring state, it does matter. If you have a passport, visa, you can certainly come to the state."  According to Sarma, "Immigrants have posed a threat to Assam's culture and identity. Once communal politics was started by the other side, people of Assam responded. It started in 2006, when the United Democratic Front (UDF) under the leadership of Badruddin Ajmal, emerged in Assam and since then, polity has fragmented. If immigrant Muslims have tried to assert their identity, indigenous Muslims, Hindus and Christians have equally said that they have the right to counter communal politics'' this transcript was quoted by Mirror Now online, proudly shared by Times Now and retweeted by Sarma himself. 

Related

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Why was Himanta Biswa Sarma let off with just a warning?
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Sessions court dismisses Kangana’s plea against Javed Akhtar’s defamation case
K’taka HC sets aside order directing FIR against Kangana Ranaut for tweets about farmers' protests

Why did Times Now give a platform to communal, seditious statements?

Times Now Summit 2021 allows Kangana Ranaut to say independence was ‘alms’, Himanta Biswa Sarma to say ‘India belongs to Hindus’

Times Now Summit 2021Image Courtesy:timesnownews.com

Times Now in its branded Times Now Summit 2021 gave a free run to actor Kangana Ranaut to make seditious statements on India’s independence and get away with it. The recent Padma Shri recipient was allowed by anchor Navika Kumar to make statements claiming that India’s freedom in 1947 was a “bheek" (alms given to a beggar) and that “real freedom came in 2014” as that was when the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

Kangana virtually conducted her monologue on her own version and idea of “nationalism”, patriotism, “history” and India’s freedom struggle. Understandably she mostly spoke about herself, and her admiration for PM Modi, Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, etc. However, while she was on a roll on these and other subjects she has claimed to do “research on'', Kangana Ranaut’s remarks about the freedom struggle, and Independence being given as ‘alms’ have been called out by many.

National Executive Member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Preeti Sharma Menon, has filed a complaint against Ranaut for these remarks. She tweeted, "Submitted an application to @MumbaiPolice requesting action on Kangana Ranaut for her seditious and inflammatory statements on @TimesNow under sections 504, 505 and 124A. Hope to see some action".

 

Kangana Ranaut also called the Congress party an ‘extension of the British,’ and said, “Savarkar, Lakshmibai, or Netaji Bose…these people knew that the blood will flow but it shouldn’t be Hindustani blood. They knew it... They paid a price, of course. Woh azaadi nahi thi, woh bheek thi. Aur jo azaadi mili hai woh 2014 mai mili hai (That wasn’t freedom, that was alms. We got real freedom in 2014.)”

Most people have taken this as an insult to India’s freedom fighters, and freedom struggle. Many have also said that any other citizen would have been pulled up by the police for making such seditious statements by now. Kangana however, was not even questioned or interrupted by anchor Navika Kumar, who encouraged the conversation to carry on that tangent.

Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena called her a “WhatsApp history fan”. 

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Varun Gandhi took to Twitter posting a clip of Kangana’s comment and asked if this was madness or treason to disrespect freedom fighters’ sacrifices and adding that Kangana had insulted the “sacrifice of Mahatma Gandhi sometime” and was “respecting his killer sometime”

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma says India belongs to Hindus

The Times Now Summit 2021 also gave a platform to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to say that “India belonged to Hindus”. He added that madrassas should also be shut down. Sarma was to speak at the summit on how to overcome various challenges in the North-East. 

However, the Chief Minister continued to make communally coloured statements such as, "Some people in Assam want to make mullahs through madrassas… If I go to a Muslim area and say that I want to make their kids doctors, they should feel happy. This is part of my freedom of expression to suggest that I want them to be doctors, not mullahs. The choice, obviously, is theirs." According to the CM, "Everyone should go to Muslim areas and ask them to shut down madrassas. They should ask them to make schools. Politicians should have the guts to say this even if it creates fault lines. I have stopped giving funds to all government madrassas.” When he was asked about the settlement of Hindus from Bangladesh, the CM added, "India belongs to Hindus. The word 'Indian' came in 1947, for 7,000 years, we were known as Hindus. I believe in civilisation and this is a Hindu civilisation. You cannot disconnect us from our roots. Every Hindu who is in trouble has his motherland to come back to." 

When asked about CAA-NRC and immigrants in India, he said, "If you are from UP and Bihar, religion does not matter but if you are from my neighbouring state, it does matter. If you have a passport, visa, you can certainly come to the state."  According to Sarma, "Immigrants have posed a threat to Assam's culture and identity. Once communal politics was started by the other side, people of Assam responded. It started in 2006, when the United Democratic Front (UDF) under the leadership of Badruddin Ajmal, emerged in Assam and since then, polity has fragmented. If immigrant Muslims have tried to assert their identity, indigenous Muslims, Hindus and Christians have equally said that they have the right to counter communal politics'' this transcript was quoted by Mirror Now online, proudly shared by Times Now and retweeted by Sarma himself. 

Related

Evicted families will be rehabilitated only if name appears in NRC: Assam Gov’t 
Why was Himanta Biswa Sarma let off with just a warning?
Twitter suspends Kangana Ranaut's account for urging Modi to show 'virat roop from early 2000s' in Bengal
Sessions court dismisses Kangana’s plea against Javed Akhtar’s defamation case
K’taka HC sets aside order directing FIR against Kangana Ranaut for tweets about farmers' protests

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No Koli voices in the planning of coastal road project: Mumbai’s fisherfolk

Worli’s Koli community appeals to the BMC to heed the request of a wider navigation span

11 Nov 2021

Worli FisherfolkImage Courtesy:dnaindia.com

The Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Ltd. an organisation representing the interest of the Koli community who are traditionally engaged in catching and selling fish, has expressed dissatisfaction with how the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been ignoring their concerns. They say that Worli fisherfolk would not have had to protest and block the coastal road project work if the BMC had consulted them before.

For years now, Worli fisherfolk have protested the coastal road project that threatens the livelihood of the city’s fishing community. Recently, the Koli community also mobilised in large numbers to condemn the construction of an interchange between the coastal road and Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) that was sanctioned without consulting locals. Community member Nitesh Patil blamed the BMC for on-going arrest by consistently failing to meet their requests for the last three years.

“Our primary demand for all these years has been a navigation span of 200 meters between the two columns of the Coastal Road connector, and compensation, although important, is a secondary issue. It is still not too late to make the necessary design change. We will continue our agitation till our demand is met,” said Patil on Wednesday.

On November 9 the BMC said that due permissions, clearances and compensation for fishers in relation to the navigation span for the Coastal Road project have already been made.

In response, Worli fishers said that the BMC did not adhere to one of the conditions of the Coastal regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, speaking against the hampering of fishing activities and mandating an adequate navigation span to allow fisherfolk to navigate their boats.

Further, they denied administrative claims that two fishing societies were consulted before the Fisheries Department granted the NOC in 2017. The community in fact revealed in a press release that though members made multiple representations to the BMC and relevant authorities since 2018 regarding the insufficient navigation span, they were left out of the loop completely.

“It is unacceptable to us, but we have not received a response to our letters, nor were we called for a meeting to explain our concerns. The coastal road has already destroyed our intertidal fishing area through reclamation causing us great hardship and losses, and now if the navigation route is not provided, our livelihood will be entirely finished,” said Patil in the letter.

Decrying the BMC for threatening Koli livelihood, Patil said that the coastal road connector bridge will add more columns in an already narrow span between the BWSL in front of Cleaveland Bunder. This will make it harder for fisherfolk to navigate the rocks and strong currents.

In assuring the competence of the contentious span, the BMC cited the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Code of Practice for Design of Ports and Harbours guidelines that require a span five times the width of the boat for single carriage and eight times the width for double carriage. As per fisheries department data, the largest registered vessel operating in Worli Koliwada is 3.8 metres wide. Thus, the navigation span should be at a maximum of 30.4 meters for double carriage, said the authorities.

“The Mumbai Coastal Road Project has a navigation span of 60 meters, which is almost double the prescribed navigation span,” the BMC’s statement said.

However, fisherfolk found this unsatisfactory and pointed out that the guidelines referred to by the BMC were meant for Harbour entrance channel design and not for bridge columns in the open sea. “The BMC knows that these are two very different things. Furthermore, as the BMC knows very well, that this standard specifies the minimum requirement, not what the permissible maximum distance,” said Patil.

Patil argued that the appropriate distance for navigation ought to be based on the specific geomorphic conditions and tide pattern and currents. He also pointed out that the aforementioned standards do not disallow large spans and decried the BMC for misleading the public. The community reminded municipal authorities that the BWSL has two large spans of which one span is specifically for navigation of fishing boats. The government took these measures on the demands of the fisherfolk. As such, fishers requested the BMC to accept Koli demands and make the requested changes to the navigation route.

Related:

Mass fish deaths in Airoli’s holding ponds!
Mumbai's Koli folk decry coastal road project
Maharashtra’s fishing community fights to protect its 'golden belt' coast
Dahanu locals reject JNPT survey that pushes for a new port at Vadhavan

No Koli voices in the planning of coastal road project: Mumbai’s fisherfolk

Worli’s Koli community appeals to the BMC to heed the request of a wider navigation span

Worli FisherfolkImage Courtesy:dnaindia.com

The Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Ltd. an organisation representing the interest of the Koli community who are traditionally engaged in catching and selling fish, has expressed dissatisfaction with how the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been ignoring their concerns. They say that Worli fisherfolk would not have had to protest and block the coastal road project work if the BMC had consulted them before.

For years now, Worli fisherfolk have protested the coastal road project that threatens the livelihood of the city’s fishing community. Recently, the Koli community also mobilised in large numbers to condemn the construction of an interchange between the coastal road and Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) that was sanctioned without consulting locals. Community member Nitesh Patil blamed the BMC for on-going arrest by consistently failing to meet their requests for the last three years.

“Our primary demand for all these years has been a navigation span of 200 meters between the two columns of the Coastal Road connector, and compensation, although important, is a secondary issue. It is still not too late to make the necessary design change. We will continue our agitation till our demand is met,” said Patil on Wednesday.

On November 9 the BMC said that due permissions, clearances and compensation for fishers in relation to the navigation span for the Coastal Road project have already been made.

In response, Worli fishers said that the BMC did not adhere to one of the conditions of the Coastal regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, speaking against the hampering of fishing activities and mandating an adequate navigation span to allow fisherfolk to navigate their boats.

Further, they denied administrative claims that two fishing societies were consulted before the Fisheries Department granted the NOC in 2017. The community in fact revealed in a press release that though members made multiple representations to the BMC and relevant authorities since 2018 regarding the insufficient navigation span, they were left out of the loop completely.

“It is unacceptable to us, but we have not received a response to our letters, nor were we called for a meeting to explain our concerns. The coastal road has already destroyed our intertidal fishing area through reclamation causing us great hardship and losses, and now if the navigation route is not provided, our livelihood will be entirely finished,” said Patil in the letter.

Decrying the BMC for threatening Koli livelihood, Patil said that the coastal road connector bridge will add more columns in an already narrow span between the BWSL in front of Cleaveland Bunder. This will make it harder for fisherfolk to navigate the rocks and strong currents.

In assuring the competence of the contentious span, the BMC cited the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Code of Practice for Design of Ports and Harbours guidelines that require a span five times the width of the boat for single carriage and eight times the width for double carriage. As per fisheries department data, the largest registered vessel operating in Worli Koliwada is 3.8 metres wide. Thus, the navigation span should be at a maximum of 30.4 meters for double carriage, said the authorities.

“The Mumbai Coastal Road Project has a navigation span of 60 meters, which is almost double the prescribed navigation span,” the BMC’s statement said.

However, fisherfolk found this unsatisfactory and pointed out that the guidelines referred to by the BMC were meant for Harbour entrance channel design and not for bridge columns in the open sea. “The BMC knows that these are two very different things. Furthermore, as the BMC knows very well, that this standard specifies the minimum requirement, not what the permissible maximum distance,” said Patil.

Patil argued that the appropriate distance for navigation ought to be based on the specific geomorphic conditions and tide pattern and currents. He also pointed out that the aforementioned standards do not disallow large spans and decried the BMC for misleading the public. The community reminded municipal authorities that the BWSL has two large spans of which one span is specifically for navigation of fishing boats. The government took these measures on the demands of the fisherfolk. As such, fishers requested the BMC to accept Koli demands and make the requested changes to the navigation route.

Related:

Mass fish deaths in Airoli’s holding ponds!
Mumbai's Koli folk decry coastal road project
Maharashtra’s fishing community fights to protect its 'golden belt' coast
Dahanu locals reject JNPT survey that pushes for a new port at Vadhavan

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Will Haryana Chief Minister listen to Padma Shri wrestler’s silent demand?

Hearing impared international level wrestler Virender Singh is sitting on protest with his Padma award, asking the Manohar Lal Khattar led Haryana gov't to give deaf athletes their due

10 Nov 2021

Padma ShriImage Courtesy:indianexpress.com

Wrestler Virender Singh Yadav was recently conferred the Padma Shri award for his achievement in sports. A deaf and mute athlete, he then went on to do something that may make a loud noise in the days to come, especially if the mainstream TV media reaches him soon.

Yadav, wearing his many hard earned medals, and holding the scroll containing his Padma award citation, is now sitting in protest outside Hayana Bhawan in Delhi. He took to Twitter to share the news that he will sit in protest till Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recognises the state’s hearing impared sports persons as para-athletes. Singh, who was born in Sasroli near Jhajjar in Haryana, cannot speak or hear, but has already made a brave and loud statement with his act of demanding the rights for others like him. He asked the Haryana CM, “Sir, I am sitting on the footpath of your residence Delhi Haryana Bhawan and I will not move from here till you will give equal rights to deaf players like para players, when the Center gives us equal rights then why not you?”

Ironically Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had taken to Twitter to congratulate Singh when he received the Padma Award a few days ago. Khattar had hailed Singh as a “son of Haryana and para wrestler” after he won the award.

In the Deaflympics, Singh won three gold and a bronze medal in the 74 kg category and has now demanded that he wants the same rights,  prize money and accolades as para athletes. He said, “For the past four years, I have been running from pillar to post. I am a junior coach even today and have not received any cash award,” adding that he had also spoken to the Prime Minister yesterday, and that the decision was now for Khattar to take.

Singh, who is also known as the 'Goonga Pehelwan', received the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Singh posted a photo of himself sitting on the footpath outside the Haryana Bhawan here holding on to the Padma Shri, with the Arjuna Award trophy and many other medals. Singh has hinted that he has been denied the rights accorded to Paralympic athletes. According to reports, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD)  is the body which conducts sports events specifically for sportspersons who are only deaf. The Deaflympics, though recognised by the International Paralympic Committee, are not a part of the Paralympic Games. Hence the hearing impaired athletes do not get the same benefits that Paralumpians get in India as indicated by Singh.

Virender Singh won his first gold at the 2005 Deaflympics, where he had to spend ₹70,000 of his own, reported The Bridge. But as the win didn't bring any recognition he deserved. Virender had to resort to participating in village dangals to support himself.

As reported by the Indian Express a few months ago, in 2007, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was ratified by India and pursuant to it the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act) was enacted. “Section 30 of the RPD Act elaborates on the measures that have to be undertaken to ensure sporting rights of Indians with disabilities. It mandates restructuring of courses and programmes to ensure access, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities; redesigning infrastructure; developing technology to enhance potential and talent; allocation of funds, etc.,” stated the news report. However, it added, “The Paralympic Committee of India, Special Olympics Bharat and the All-India Sports Council for the Deaf — have all failed in complying with the mandates of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.” It is yet to be seen how CM Khattar responds to this public expose by Padma Shri Virender Singh.

Related

Haryana: Tensions rise between farmers and BJP leaders
BJP regime’s words don’t match actions: Farmers

Will Haryana Chief Minister listen to Padma Shri wrestler’s silent demand?

Hearing impared international level wrestler Virender Singh is sitting on protest with his Padma award, asking the Manohar Lal Khattar led Haryana gov't to give deaf athletes their due

Padma ShriImage Courtesy:indianexpress.com

Wrestler Virender Singh Yadav was recently conferred the Padma Shri award for his achievement in sports. A deaf and mute athlete, he then went on to do something that may make a loud noise in the days to come, especially if the mainstream TV media reaches him soon.

Yadav, wearing his many hard earned medals, and holding the scroll containing his Padma award citation, is now sitting in protest outside Hayana Bhawan in Delhi. He took to Twitter to share the news that he will sit in protest till Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recognises the state’s hearing impared sports persons as para-athletes. Singh, who was born in Sasroli near Jhajjar in Haryana, cannot speak or hear, but has already made a brave and loud statement with his act of demanding the rights for others like him. He asked the Haryana CM, “Sir, I am sitting on the footpath of your residence Delhi Haryana Bhawan and I will not move from here till you will give equal rights to deaf players like para players, when the Center gives us equal rights then why not you?”

Ironically Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had taken to Twitter to congratulate Singh when he received the Padma Award a few days ago. Khattar had hailed Singh as a “son of Haryana and para wrestler” after he won the award.

In the Deaflympics, Singh won three gold and a bronze medal in the 74 kg category and has now demanded that he wants the same rights,  prize money and accolades as para athletes. He said, “For the past four years, I have been running from pillar to post. I am a junior coach even today and have not received any cash award,” adding that he had also spoken to the Prime Minister yesterday, and that the decision was now for Khattar to take.

Singh, who is also known as the 'Goonga Pehelwan', received the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Singh posted a photo of himself sitting on the footpath outside the Haryana Bhawan here holding on to the Padma Shri, with the Arjuna Award trophy and many other medals. Singh has hinted that he has been denied the rights accorded to Paralympic athletes. According to reports, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD)  is the body which conducts sports events specifically for sportspersons who are only deaf. The Deaflympics, though recognised by the International Paralympic Committee, are not a part of the Paralympic Games. Hence the hearing impaired athletes do not get the same benefits that Paralumpians get in India as indicated by Singh.

Virender Singh won his first gold at the 2005 Deaflympics, where he had to spend ₹70,000 of his own, reported The Bridge. But as the win didn't bring any recognition he deserved. Virender had to resort to participating in village dangals to support himself.

As reported by the Indian Express a few months ago, in 2007, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was ratified by India and pursuant to it the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act) was enacted. “Section 30 of the RPD Act elaborates on the measures that have to be undertaken to ensure sporting rights of Indians with disabilities. It mandates restructuring of courses and programmes to ensure access, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities; redesigning infrastructure; developing technology to enhance potential and talent; allocation of funds, etc.,” stated the news report. However, it added, “The Paralympic Committee of India, Special Olympics Bharat and the All-India Sports Council for the Deaf — have all failed in complying with the mandates of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.” It is yet to be seen how CM Khattar responds to this public expose by Padma Shri Virender Singh.

Related

Haryana: Tensions rise between farmers and BJP leaders
BJP regime’s words don’t match actions: Farmers

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