On 14 June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report
on the human-rights conditions in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan. The report examines the conditions that have prevailed in the region following the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani in July 2016 by Indian security forces, which triggered the fiercest protests the valley has seen since 2010. “Indian security forces responded to protests with force, which led to casualties and a wide range of alleged related human rights violations throughout the summer of 2016 and into 2018,” the OHCHR report noted. The report noted that the Indian security forces used “excessive force” that led to “unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries.” It added that laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, or AFSPA, and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978—or PSA—have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.” Despite accusations of abuse including sexual violence, in the nearly 20 years that the AFSPA has been in force, the report noted, “there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government.”
In his book Republic of Caste, the civil-rights activist and writer Anand Teltumbde explores the foundational idea of the republic—equality—and how caste has subverted this idea and its implementation in every institution in the country. Teltumbde examines education, reservation, politics and policy, alongside ideological movements such as Marxism and Ambedkarism, violence and atrocities against Dalits, and protests such as Una in Gujarat. He shows that caste—especially the oppression of Dalits—has defined modern India.
On 6 June, in a joint operation across Delhi, Nagpur and Mumbai, the Pune Police arrested five individuals
for allegedly being “top urban Maoist operatives” who incited the violence in Bhima Koregaon—a town in Maharashtra—this January. Sudhir Dhawale, one of the five accused, is a prominent Mumbai-based activist who has worked extensively on Dalit rights. He has previously been arrested, and subsequently acquitted, in another case of alleged involvement with Maoist rebels.
Official documents with new details regarding the purpose of the judge BH Loya’s visit to Nagpur in 2014 and the arrangements made for him have been released in response to Right to Information applications. The documents show that the government of Maharashtra concealed details of enormous importance to the Loya case in its submissions to the Supreme Court. The documents were not included in the report of a “discreet inquiry” carried out by the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department soon after Loya’s family went public with suspicions about his death, in 2017. The report was the basis for the Maharashtra government’s claim, accepted by the Supreme Court, that Loya died a natural death. The documents have been submitted to the Bombay High Court as part of a new Public Interest Litigation demanding official compensation for Loya’s family.
On 7 June, Pranab Mukherjee, the former president of India, addressed a meeting of the newly-recruited cadres of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, at the organisation’s headquarters in Nagpur. Mukherjee, accompanied by the current RSS head, Mohan Bhagwat, also visited the birthplace of KB Hedgewar, one of the Sangh’s founders. In a note in the visitor’s book of the Hedgewar home—where the first-ever meeting of the RSS took place in 1925—Mukherjee wrote that
he had come to pay homage to “a great son of Mother India.”
On 25 May, arguing for the Central Bureau of Investigation against the acquittal of the former telecom minister A Raja in the 2G scam case. Tushar Mehta described the case
as a “monument of corruption in the history of India and a national shame.” Mehta made no mention of the fact that the CBI trial court judge who pronounced the judgment acquitting Raja had noted
that he waited “in vain” for seven years for legally admissible evidence in the case, which concerned the allegedly illegal allocation of the 2G spectrum. Mehta also did not mention that information already present before the Supreme Court in the coal-scam case suggests a clear need to reexamine the CBI’s investigation of the 2G case that took place during the tenure of its former director Ranjit Sinha—from 3 December 2012 to 2 December 2014.
For over a year now, the Central Bureau of Investigation has sat tightly on a First Information Report registered against its former director Ranjit Sinha. The FIR charges Sinha under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), accusing him of influencing inquiries and closing investigations in cases related to the coal scam—the scandal concerning illegal allocations of hundreds of coal blocks in India. These charges were based on the findings of a committee set up by the Supreme Court, headed by ML Sharma, a former special director of the CBI. Constituted in mid 2015, the Sharma committee was charged with looking into Sinha’s meetings with some of the accused in the scam—including the Congress Rajya Sabha member of parliament Vijay Darda, who runs the Marathi newspaper Lokmat; his son Devendra Darda, the paper’s managing director; and Santosh Bagrodia, a Congress politician who served as the minister of state for coal under the United Progressive Alliance government, from April 2008 to May 2009. The committee concluded that Sinha’s meetings with these persons had impacted the closure reports filed by the CBI in the registered cases related to the coal scam, in which these individuals were named.
Shekhar Gupta, the founder and editor-in-chief of the news website The Print, and the president of the Editors Guild of India, tweeted on 26 May
, “Since you asked: 1st, my personal (editorial) view. I do not accept stings as journalism. It’s a publicly explained view. The Print’s Code of ethics firmly bars stings, pl check the link. The code at IE barred stings too & I presume it hasn’t changed.” He was responding to Yogendra Yadav, the national president of Swaraj India, who urged Gupta
, and other editors of national news organisations, to speak up about “Operation 136: Part II
”—the second part of a sting operation by the investigative news website Cobrapost, which was published the previous day. The Cobrapost investigation looked into paid news items, and showed how dozens of media houses were ready and willing to push a Hindutva agenda on their official platforms in exchange for large sums of money.
On 13 May, Asian News International carried a report
that deemed Aquaoin, a recently founded company, the “block chain solution for India’s water woes.” Subharansh Rai, Aquaoin’s media advisor, was cited as claiming that the company consists of “a group of entrepreneurs in India who have come up with a block-chain based technology ‘Water2All’ (W2A) that can recycle waste water and make it safe for human consumption.” But in reality, Rai told me, the blockchain technology would only be used to verify the Aquaoin-brand authenticity of the bottles. The proposed machine for purifying water has little, if anything, to do with blockchain, and the company refused to provide any precise details on how it would manufacture these machines. Based on this supposed solution to India’s water crisis, Aquaoin has been promoting an upcoming “crowd sale” of its cryptocurrency from 9 to 15 June—but the fact that several team members of the company have past links to questionable cryptocurrency schemes raises concerns about this crowd-funding campaign.
On a drizzling afternoon in August last year, Raju Bhuyan, a 42-year-old resident of Mohari Baandhin Jharkhand’s Jharia town, was roaming the streets of the colony. His attention was suddenly drawn to the wall of a nearby house, on which cracks began to appear. Just as he turned his eyes away from the wall, Bhuyan recalled, a deafening thud reverberated in the neighbourhood. He realised then it was a bhudhasaan—subsidence—and he ran home to save his family. But “because there was no electricity, my wife and kids were already outside,” Bhuyan told me. “Tada-tad ghar girne lage. Sab apna ghar chodkar bhagne lage” (One after the other, the houses began to fall. Everyone began to flee their homes.)