Thursday, July 23, 2020

CBI Inquiry Demands; an opportunity to set the records straight?

July 23, 2020, 1:44 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

The central Bureau of Investigation has been in the news more often than not as a political punching bag, usually referred to, by opposition parties as the ruling party’s instrument that swings along the direction given by the Union Home Ministry. In June 2013, a prominent leader of the BJP Mr. Arun Jaitley, then in opposition, had said, “The role of the CBI in framing charges against BJP leaders in Gujarat and Rajasthan has demonstrated that the CBI is acting in order to serve the dictates of the party in power.”

Not just political parties, the investigating agency had faced the wrath of the Apex Court too, which termed CBI as ‘a caged parrot’, in 2013. The court had rapped the CBI for sharing the status report on coal allocation scam probe with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials of PMO and Coal Ministry. Again, in 2019, criticizing the CBI for its action in the case against former ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar, Congress leader and former FM P Chidambaram tweeted, “Adventurism and megalomania have overtaken investigators!”

Thus far , in 2020, there are at least 5 strong demands for CBI inquiry. While the handling of the case by CBI might not be a sure shot to justice but the fact that demands for their involvement gain more incitation indicates, among others, the possible dwindling condition of trust many state police departments have and the increasing desire felt by many for a national investigating agency, undeterred by the coercions and obligations of local politics. The psychological assurance people yearn to experience- of having exhausted all possible means to justify their hypothesis associated with the cases could also be one main factor. Not forgetting the fact that either the State Government or High courts/Supreme court has to transfer the cases from states to the Investigating agency, let us look at some of the recent cases where CBI inquiry has been demanded;

1. Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death

The ever increasing demand for CBI inquiry into Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death has gained more momentum after BJP veteran Subramanian Swamy divulged his support for an inquiry by the central investigating agency. In his tweet on the 18th of July 2020, Mr. Swamy wrote, “The possibility of CBI investigation ordered by government in the SSR alleged suicide case has vastly increased. At the very minimum, the CBI can begin with investigation of the induced or assisted suicide crime under Sections 306 and 308 read with Section 120 A&B of IPC.” The official statement on SSR’s cause of death concluded by the hospital and endorsed by the Maharashtra Government is, “ death by asphyxiation.”

Taking many people by surprise, SSR’s Girlfriend Ms. Rhea Chakraborty tweeted on 18th of July, a month after the actor’s demise, a request for CBI inquiry to unearth the reasons for having taken such step, hinting at suicide being the cause of death, much to the dismay of the fans who have bombarded her with series of tweets for her conclusion on the cause of death. These new developments have refuelled the millions of fans who have been demanding CBI probe for the last many days. Irrespective of Maharashtra Government officials’ unrelenting stance , we might see the case being transferred to the premiere investigating agency in the larger public interest to have a noble fore-closure on the issue.

2. BJP MLA alleged suicide in West Bengal

The death of a BJP MLA in Bengal reportedly by suicide as per the state police official statement has led the BJP Bengal unit to demand CBI probe into the incident. The state BJP unit has made open their suspicions of the involvement of rival politicians in the death of the legislator. Adding weight to the demand for the inquiry, the West Bengal Governor too had tweeted, “Political violence and vendetta @MamataOfficial shows no signs of abating. Death of Debendra Nath Roy, Hemtabad MLA-Uttar Dinajpur District, raises serious issues including allegations of murder. Need for thorough impartial probe to unravel truth and blunt political violence.” Superintendent of police, North Dinajpur District, Sumit Kumar, while briefing on the progress of the inquiry has said, “One person Niloy Singha, mentioned in the suicide note has been arrested. Interrogations are being done. Prima facie it is a case of suicide. We have registered a case u/s 34 and 302 of IPC which includes murder also. No stone will be left unturned in the case.”

3. Killing of Gangster Prakash Dubey

Debates on custodial death took a new turn after the death of wanted gangster Prakash Dubey. Many human rights activists have pointed out the possible extra-judicial killing of the gangster and his aides and have sought CBI inquiry into the incident. In fact, a few have filed PIL at the supreme court requesting the apex court to initiate an inquiry over the whole incident. A Times of India report titled, “Former senior cops outraged..” has at least 3 former DGP of states terming the nature of death as an “incident unfortunate, outrageous, untenable in a civilised society” and called for an inquiry into the incident.

According to a Press Trust of India report, “A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said it may consider appointing a committee headed by a former judge to inquire into the encounters of Dubey, his aides as well as the killing of eight Uttar Pradesh policemen by the gangster.” The UP police statement on the death states that Gangster Vikas Dubey was shot dead Friday by police when he was trying to flee after the car carrying him from Ujjain overturned on an isolated stretch of the highway on the outskirts of the city. The statement added that the gangster snatched a pistol from one of the policemen injured in the accident and was shot when he opened fire while trying to flee. Six policemen, including two from the Special Task Force, were hurt in the accident and the exchange of fire around 6 am.

4. Phone tapping allegation in Rajasthan

Post the allegation on the Rajasthan state Government’s tapping of the state legislators to foil another toppling of Congress Government amidst Mr. Pilot’s rebellious acts, the BjP Rajasthan unit has been demanding a CBI probe into the incident. A day after Congress cited some audio clips to accuse a few saffron party leaders, including Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, of conspiring to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in the state, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra hit back at the Congress. According to PTI report, Patra asked at a Press Conference, “These are serious questions that we want to ask the Congress high command and Ashok Gehlot. Was phone tapping done? Assuming that you&’ve tapped phones, was the SOP followed? Did the Congress government in Rajasthan use unconstitutional ways to save themselves when they found themselves cornered?”

5. Allegation of State cover up on Drug Mafias in Manipur

The arrest of an accused drug-lord Mr. Lunkhosei Zou has triggered a series of allegations, affidavits and counter-affidavits involving the investigating officer Ms. Thounaojam Brinda Addl. SP and the Government of Manipur. The present accusation and counter-accusation in and outside the court have many of the people left wondering whom to give credence to. If there are sections of people who subscribe the official version of the Government that the CM and his party is leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to curb drug menace, there are equal, if not more number of the public who share their solidarity with the police officer’s claim that a high-level hand is at play to shield the accused drug-lord Mr. Lunkhosei @Sesei and the unholy nexus prevailing in the state. Caught in between are some, who find both the narratives of the two sides convincing enough.

Interestingly, the Manipur Youth Congress have called for CBI inquiry into the entire events. The development captures the attention of most people considering the fact that it is not a run-of-the-hill incident when an opposition party to the central Government had demanded CBI inquiry into a case. The case being sub- judice and the likelihood of the accused being put away will want many to doubt the need for CBI inquiry. But if the allegations submitted by Ms, Brinda in her counter-affidavit to the Manipur High court in a court contempt case, wherein the Investigating officer has vented our her displeasure for granting bail to accused Mr. Lunkhosei, is to be relied upon, the alleged nexus between politicians and drug-lords could be investigated for the larger good of the public. The only question is- will the Manipur High court take cognizance of the gravity of the allegation?

Final Judgement

It is yet to be ascertained if the demands for CBI inquiry into the incidents mentioned above will eventually see the actual hand-over of the cases to the investigating agency. Nevertheless, the newfound love for CBI allows, if given a kick at the cat, the investigating agency to put the records straight once and for all that the CBI, though having administrative allegiance to the home ministry has what it takes- to rise above political vendetta and shine as an agency of truth and justice. The question however remains; will CBI be given the responsibility? Or more importantly, can CBI live up to its standards, if given the onus? We sincerely hope so.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Banning dog meat; is it animal rights versus tribal rights?

Banning dog meat; Is it animal rights versus tribal rights?

July 15, 2020, 7:48 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

The Nagaland Government’s ban on the import and sale of dog and dog meat has witnessed mixed responses from the public, across the country. Sure enough, many animal rights activists welcomed the move and lauded the Government for its bold move. The recent debate on the ban of dog meat took an ugly turn when one person proclaiming to be an animal rights activist uploaded a video wherein the said person openly threatened the tribal people of Nagaland and requested people to boycott Nagaland. The clarifications and apology tendered by the person a few days later notwithstanding, the public outbursts against the call for questioning the food habits of the tribal people continue to pour in from various quarters. The reactions proved that North East people in general and the tribal groups in particular have had enough of the repeated cultural invasions.

There are sizeable number of the human population who’d love nature more than a few self-proclaimed activists but have certain food habits, which may be different. A couple of years ago, in December 2018, a poor Mizo woman selling a dog, compelled by the family’s economic conditions, was harassed by two women who claimed to be ‘Animal rights activists’ at Silchar, Assam. It was later reported that the pregnant women had a miscarriage due to the physical assaults meted out to her by the so-called activists. Glaringly evident is the simple fact that, when one’s love for animals exceeds one’s love for human, it goes without saying that some thing is not right with our understanding on animal rights and more so, tribal rights. I am not for or against any particular diet, and most importantly I am not against people fighting for Animals Right in a civilized way. The question is rather to ask ourselves if HUMANITY should not be the first concern for all.

Wrong rights?

While we draw the thin line between Animals rights and Human rights, one crucial element is the need to get rid of our whimsical concept that- only some animals feel pain; dogs to be precise. Also, worthy to note is the cultural food habits of people concerned. Benighted self-proclaimed activists are not relied upon to be conscious of the massive sociological challenges our founding fathers would have gone through when formulating a constitution for a diverse country like India and the accommodative elements thus required for the idea that is India. Not to mention the 5th and 6th schedule of the Indian constitution which acknowledges the tribal people and their rights, any right-thinking person is expected to respect the diversity of this beautiful country, repeatedly corrupted by radical thoughts and actions that could destabilise the unifying fabric of the nation by imposing unwarranted diktats on the tribal people.

Attribution of meats as a reason for pandemic

The unsatisfactory findings related to the cause of COVID-19 has led many to make their own assumptions. It is not surprising that many people used the opportunity to advocate a vegetarian dietary culture and labelled meat as a carrier of the virus without any evidence to support their claim. Surprisingly, many gave up eating pork, chicken, and beef. The number of people abstaining from non-veg has increased manifold. I for one wish to stay away altogether from any meat products, let alone dog meat. It is a voluntary abstinence and if not for the forced preaching and taunting, many would have given up on their own, even if temporarily. But to use this moment of hardship to pass a legislation banning consumption of meats or dog meat to be precise is akin to opportunistic leverage of the pandemic to invade the rights of the tribal people. If needed be, a restriction order specifically mentioning the timelines would have resolve the issue, unless the motive is to permanently ban dog meat irrespective of concerns related to the origin of Corona virus.

Tribal tradition

Taking animals’ lives for dietary purpose, be it chicken or dog by the tribal people doesn’t involve any atrocities or torture. It is only for the purpose of the meat that they are killed. Dog meat as part of tribal culinary is a tradition that went back as far as time immemorial. In some tribal customs, the killing of dog is a traditional requirement when the priest had to invoke prayers (Known as Kithoi among Kuki Tribes). It was a sacred act, which was believed to have kept evil spirits at bay. Thus, the ill-informed presumption that dogs are killed or harmed as a lack of love for animals is the absence of understanding the tribal people and their culture, who have a deeper bonds with animals than many self proclaimed lovers of animals.

Double standard love

Many animal rights activists, especially those highly vocal to ban dog meat, who have vociferously fought their human counterparts have shown no lost love when it comes to stray dogs. Is favouritism card being played even on the canine populace? Normal expectation on activists is that, the same way they unleash unsolicited attacks on preaching the ban of dog meat, they'd owned up to the issue of stray dogs and the menace they have caused. Homeless, unfed, and condemned of attacking humans, the stray dogs have no one to represent their cause. May be, it is not the rights of the animals per se but the rights of a section of people that is consciously targeted with different motives. For, any true lovers of animals would have advocated euthanasia-like solution for all the stray dogs to put an end to the sufferings the animals have gone through. And once, that life of misery ends, what happened to its meat should not concern rights activists as being burnt, buried or eaten would cause no harm or comfort to the dead animal.

The last Say

Dogs are human’s best friends and that human includes the tribal too. And the same way an act of cutting a beautiful flower and given to our loved ones does not represent our hate for the flowers, the consumption of meats of pigs, beef, chicken, and dog meat is not out of enmity or hatred towards the animals. These animals are domesticated for their meat. Nevertheless, if the Government in its infinite wisdom, while representing the will of the people for their betterment, felt it justified to ban killing and selling of dogs, the public has no choice but to trust the people they have elected to represent them. All the same, the elected representatives should not only convince the people for resorting to ban dog meat but also assure them that, their rights- especially cultural rights will not be encroached and a commitment that they, the Govt. would be open to relook their decision, if so demanded by the public.

In what now appears like Animal rights versus Tribal rights, the general perceptions of the generals will highlight the attitude towards the tribal people. If we cannot love our fellow beings but profess our love for animals, either we are lying or we need to be tamed! While there are serious issues around us to get to grips with at this juncture, the least fruitful would be to engage our time and energy on what should appear on the plates of the tribal people. At the end of the day, it is the tribal people that should have the last say in matters related to the law and governance, let alone food choices, of their land and not some animals or for that matter their lovers!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

National Sports University, Manipur in alleged ‘Tribal land row’

July 7, 2020, 2:51 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

TS Haokip & Dr. Haokam Vaiphei

All is not well with the proposed National Sports University, Manipur- the first Sports University in Asia. The Varsity, the foundation stone of which was laid by the Prime Minister in March 2018, is broiled in controversy even as construction for the said varsity continues amidst all the ensuing dramas. Issues concerning to; land ownership, process of allocation of the site, and naming of the varsity have been the bone of contention for years, at least to the villagers of Haraothel. The site of the proposed National Sports University is located 17 kilometres from the state capital and is said to be located in Koutruk, Imphal West, which the villagers of Haraothel, Kangpokpi District have been contesting the claim for long by holding their ground firmly that the Varsity is located at Haraothel village.

Legal status of the varsity site

A writ petition No. 667 of 2009 of the then Imphal Bench – Guwahati HC, now the High Court of Manipur has been filed by one Mr. Khaidem Megha Singh of Senjam Chirang and others including Mr. Nongthombam Rajan Singh of Senjam Khunou petitioning the invocation of the writ of mandamus for conducting revenue survey of Senjam Khunou village and Senjam Cherou village. The writ also claimed that ‘HARAOCHING’ is a hillock located near Koutruk village – a village last surveyed in 1960 by the Revenue Department, GOM and recorded as Dag. No. 1 of Village No.47 – Koutruk. That Haraoching is the hill land of the villagers of Senjam Chirang and Senjam Khunou. Interestingly, the writ petition has now been withdrawn.

Haraothel villagers had also filed a writ petition in 2017 stating that the said hillock and Koutruk Dag No.1 belongs to the village of Haraothel and falls under Kangpokpi District, then Senapati District since time immemorial. As the said land falls under Tribal Hill land, MLR &LR Act 1960, does not apply to the region, and as such no pata exist. According to the Chief of Haraothel, as mentioned in his press release dated 13-06-2020, published in a few Manipur state dailies, the current Land allotted and utilized for NSU Complex unconditionally and inevitably belongs to the Hill people i.e Haraothel, Konsakhul & Leilon Vaiphei Village since time immemorial claiming with the written record of Case No. and dated;

a) In the Court of PMSD Hill Mics. Case no. 388 of 1920-21
b) In the Court of Hill Minister misc. No.94 0f 1947-48
c) In the Court of SDC Sadar + Thoubal Hills Criminal Case No. 121/ S + Th. Hills of 1952
d) In the Court of Chief Commissioner Manipur CC Hill Cril. Appeal Case No.5 of 1953.

Signed by

i) C. Gimson ICS, President Manipur State Darbar, Dated 06/12/1920
ii) R. Khuthing, BA, MBE M-C Minister i/c Hill Administration, Dated 02/07/1948
iii) Maisnam Nabakumar Singh SDO Sadar, Dated 08/11/1950
iv) R.P Bhargava, Chief Commissioner, Manipur Dated, 07/08/1953

Concerns on Tribal land

The Government’s allocation order, which has been kept aloof even to the Chief of Haraothel Village, constituted Koutruk Dag No. 1 that comprises the entire 147 acres land of Haraothel village, under Saitu Gamphazol, Kangpokpi District – a tribal land. Therefore, the villagers of Haraothel feel it only justified to demand an acknowledgment in return by naming the varsity as National Sports University, Haraothel and not NSU, Koutruk. Notably, the Hill Area Committee was bypassed while passing the Act for the establishment of the National Sports University. When faced with the statement that NSU does not include tribal land, a Petition has been filed by Haraothel villagers to the National ST Commission. The commission had instructed the State Government to furnish details supporting claims that the proposed varsity does not include tribal land. The reply is reportedly awaited till today.

Issue of Fair compensation

The acquisition order for the varsity had proposed compensation of acquired lands at the rate of Rs. 1000 per acre. This seems to be another act of rubbing salt to the wounds of the Haraothel villagers, who, apart from being embroiled in the issue of compensation have to walk the extra miles in finding justice regarding ‘the allocation of their lands through erroneous process’ without taking into concern the people’s voice. If the stance that- the project has majority of the land under Haraothel village, a tribal land, is true, the project will require proper rehabilitation so that the tribal villagers of Haraothel are not robbed of their right to fair compensation and transparency as per Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

Communal Angle

Issues in Manipur are easily given communal twists and the NSU issue is no different. Since Haraothel village comes under Kangpokpi District, their issue has been taken up by Kuki Inpi Kangpokpi, Kuki Students’ Organisation, Sadar Hills, and Zillai Leilon Block (Vaiphei Students’ Association) to bring justice to the issue of compensation, land acquisition process and the naming of the University. When the representatives were denied a meeting with the Chief Minister who visited the site on the 9th of June 2020, the Kuki CSOs unimpressed by the CM’s act of disregard and ignorance to one of the most important stakeholders to the project i.e representatives of Haraothel villagers, have proposed an economic blockade. The move was opposed by the Meitei based Senjam Khunou & Senjam Chirang Joint Development Organisation (SKSCJDO) which issued a statement demanding for the immediate withdrawal of the blockade. The statement also appealed to all concerned to consult only with the representatives of Senjam Khunou and Senjam Chirang villages with regard to any matter concerning National Sports University and threatened the villagers of Haraothel, Kuki Inpi Kangpokpi for any undesirable outcome as a result of the economic blockade, if effected.

The tension was only resolved after a Cabinet Minister of the State Government met the representatives of the Kuki Inpi Kangpokpi and promised them of resolution. The call for the economic blockade was eventually lifted though the present assurance by the Government to resolve the issue is not the first instance of such. The Kuki Inpi Kangpokpi District, however, cautioned that in case of any element attempting to create issues or problems out of the National Sports University site, the Kuki people in Kangpokpi District will oppose and fight tooth and nail.

Voice of the villagers

‘We want the National sports university in the village. It is in fact a privilege not just for the village but the entire Hill people of the state, who so far has not been blessed with the opportunity of any institute of national importance established in the Hill Districts . But, due process should be followed in terms of compensation, land acquisition, and also the naming of the site,’ said Mr. K. Vaiphei of Haraothel Village. As for the villagers of Koutruk, they have alleged that Haraothel village is a recently established village; the land has always been part of Haraoching Hills of Koutruk village. Therefore, the varsity should be named National Sports University, Koutruk. Interestingly, the villagers of Koutruk have donated 200 acres of land for the construction of the varsity free of costs. The proposed map, though it has more than 400 acres of it, most works which are under construction are situated in Koutruk Dag No. 1, which is the whole of Haraothel village.

Way forward

National Sports University is too good a facility for Manipur to be bogged down by issues that the State Government is more than capable to handle it. Before the issue is blown into an ugly communal tussle, if not another Hill-Valley debacle, the Government should amicably resolve the issue by involving all the stakeholders. Memories of month-long economic blockades on the national highways and its inconvenience to the people of the state are still fresh in the memory and it will be the last thing that people would want at this interval of time when, not just the nation but the world is faced with an indomitable task of controlling the pandemic. Compensations, allocation of lands, the naming of the varsity are issues that should have been long resolved before the construction begins. Nevertheless, as physical construction works continue for National Sports University, Haraothel, it is the hope of the people of the state that the University will see the light of day without any injustice to all the stakeholders concerned.

(Mr.T S Haokip is a former development professional and has served as a consultant to the Ministry of Rural Development. He is the author of the book HILLY DREAMS. Dr. Vaiphei is Assistant Professor, Political Science at Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi)

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