Ex-RSS chief traced

K S Sudarshan, the former RSS chief who had gone missing since morning has been finally found. He was sitting outside the Lalith Mahal hotel in Mysore after he had gone for his morning walk.

One of the by standers spotted him and informed the police after which he was brought back. He has now been taken to hospital for treatment.

The former RSS leader was suffering from amnesia and police say that he could have forgotten his way back home. He had left his home in Mysore early this morning for a walk and went missing after that.

Ex-RSS chief K S Sudarshan goes missing

Pic: facenfacts.com

Former General Secreatry of the RSS, K S Sudarshan has gone missing from his residence in Mysore. It is said that he is missing since 5 am today.
The police have confirmed the same and say that they are looking out for him.

Sudarshan is said to be suffering from amnesia. The 71 year old former leader of the RSS had gone for a walk this morning and did not return home. foul play has been ruled out at the moment as the police believe that he may have lost his way back home.

Serial blasts bear local signature

Pic: Sakaal

Members of the National Investigating Agency who are part of the Pune serial blasts probe say that the entire operation looks as though it had been probed locally. Right from the timer devices, a locally made clock and locally purchased bicycles, all indications are that the entire operation was planned in the city itself.
The blasts were triggered off by a timer device and clocks were used for the same. Looking at these timer devices it has become clear that these were purchased locally for the blasts.
While a finger has been pointed towards the Indian Mujahideen, the police have now recommenced the questioning of the tailor who was injured in the blasts. The police say that there appears to be something fishy about this person as he is not too confident about his own answers. Although the police are unable to link him to any module or outfit, they feel that questioning him could provide more clues. At first he had said that he had picked the box out of curiosity and the next time around he said that he had not picked up any box. He could be in a state of shock, but we will give him some more time to come out with the exact version police officials part of the probe also said.
Although the police continue to question this man, Patil, they are yet to register a case against him which would mean that he is not being treated as an accused as yet. However as a precautionary measure the police have impounded his passport.
Apart from this the police have also sent the materials used to assemble the bomb to the forensics sciences lab. While it more or less clear that there was ammonium nitrate, they are foxed by the sticky substance used in the bomb. It is odurless and could be a sort of gel used in the bomb making process, police also pointed out.
With regard to the bicycles, the police said that they were questioning the man who sold them the cycles. He is a local vendor and he has told the police that the bicycles were purchased only yesterday a couple of hours before the blast. With the help of this person the police will draw out a sketch apart from using the footage they managed to get from the CCTVs.
The Maharashtra ATS will also revisit the German Bakery case to find some clues and connection to this attack. It is too early to say whether the two attacks were inter connected or not, but the routine procedure and questioning of some of the accused in that blast will also take place.

Pune Modules- Pune plays host to modules of both the Indian Mujahideen as well as some of the Right Wing groups. Both these factions are literally at war with each other for many years now. The modus operandi used by both modules is similar in nature and at the moment it would be very difficult to pin point as which of these groups could have carried out the attack. Although the IM had resurfaced out of Bihar it would not be correct to say that their modules are dead in Pune, which was once their head quarters, Intelligence Bureau officials point out. The probe is open ended at the moment but the real picture would emerge soon, officials also pointed out.

Guns and criminal MP’s

PIC: TOI

It is bad enough that we have leaders with pending criminal charges against them. But what happens when the very same leaders get guns from the government.
The Association for Democratic Reforms has put out a report analysing the 82 MPs who have purchased guns from the government.
A total of 756 guns were sold to MPs and VIPs between 1987 and 2012. A total of 675 guns were sold between 1987 and 2001, 39 between 2001 and 2004, and 42 between 2005 and 2012.
Between 2001 and 2012, 82 MPs have purchased guns from the government. 18 of these 82 MPs who were sold guns have pending criminal cases against them, including charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping etc., at the time of sale.
Amongst the 82 MPs who have been allotted guns from the government, Atiq Ahmed from Uttar Pradesh has 44 criminal cases including charges of murder, attempt to murder etc., followed by Abu Asim Azmi from Maharashtra and Rakesh Sachan from Uttar Pradesh with 7 cases each.
These are guns seized by Customs and then sold to MPs and VIPs on a first come first served basis. In earlier years these guns were sold well below market price. Recently the price was hiked.

Is IM responsible for Pune blasts?

With not much information coming the way of the investigating agencies, the angle of pertaining to the Indian Mujahideen has cropped up. Sources say that they are examining the CCTV footage which was available on three of the cameras.
Sources say that although the imagery is hazy they night be able to pick up vital clues. However the police find themselves at a disadvantage since they do not have access to all the cameras on the site since most of them were not functional.
As part of the investigation routine, the police are now narrowing down on the suspects. While they treated the tailor as a suspect first, police have not managed to pick up much information from him. They even questioned his wife for details.
Police sources say that the bicycles that were used were brand new. They have taken the man who sold the bicyles for questioning and are hoping to find the trail. The police believe that the cycle shop owner who is said to be from Pune could provide them with some information. The police also add that the attack was locally planned and was done with precision.
A team of the Intelligence Bureau which is at Pune says that they are looking for a possible Indian Mujahideen hand in the attack. It does bear their signature and the manner in which it was planned and executed it looks to be the job of a professional outfit. It would take some time to join the dots, but the police are already questioning several persons and are hopeful of some leads soon, sources also pointed out.

Pune serial blasts diverts Anna Hazare protest

Pic: http://www.pardaphash.com/

Even as the serial blasts at Pune may have managed to divert the Anna Hazare protest  police continue to look for clues into the attack. Although the motives have not been ascertained as yet, the police at some level feel that there could have been some sort of a diversionary tactic as they also sanitized the area in which Anna Hazare and his team are undertaking the protest in New Delhi. Immediately after this blast, members of the Anna Hazare team have been advised not to go through with their protest outside the Balgangadhar auditorium due to security reasons.

The investigation into this case spells trouble for the police right from the start. They are starting on a back foot as there has been no intelligence what so ever with regard to an attack of this nature. The other concept that the police had been speaking about was that of a rehearsal for something bigger to come. However the Intelligence says that it would be too much of a risk to take for any organization to conduct such a rehearsal since they would be well aware of the heat stepping up.

However the days ahead for the police and the Maharashtra ATS in particular appears to be tough where this case is concerned. They have not yet found any movements or traces to pin point as to who could have carried this attack. Moreover the suspect who they were questioning turned out to be a curious by stander who opened one of the boxes leading to the explosion.

The manner in which the bomb was assembled indicates that it was more to create a scare and a diversion rather than destruction. The bomb was loosely assembled and the fact that it was kept in a cake box with a low powered trigger mechanism in the form of pencil sized batteries is an indicator that the intention was not to kill.

The other classic goof up in this case is the CCTV like has been the case in most cases of bomb blasts in this country. Even in the last major case that was 13/7 the police found it extremely difficult to work on the case as the CCTVs were not in proper condition. They had to make to with hazy imagery which in fact took them more time than usually required to track the culprits.

Even in this case one of the Close Circuit Television cameras outside the Mc Donalds was not working properly. Even the CCTV camera outside the Dena bank is not in working condition which has only made their job even tougher.

Although the explosions were of very low intensity, security agencies say that it cannot be treated lightly as the planning was precise. The bombers managed to fox everyone in the Indian security set up and plant five bombs which went unnoticed.

Meanwhile the various security forces have branched out to various parts and are collecting clues regarding the attack. Members of the Indian Mujahideen are being grilled and also some within the Right Wing groups who were responsible for some of the blasts are also under scrutiny. It is more than mischief and had a message in it, said an officer of the Intelligence Bureau.

Tailor no more a suspect

The local tailor who was being questioned as one of the suspects in the Pune blasts is not a suspect police sources say. Dayanand Patil was the only person injured in the blast and he had been questioned as a suspect last night.

Police now confirm that Patil a local tailor had only picked up the bag out of curiosity when the explosion took place. It was a routine procedure to question him since according to the eye witnesses he was the man with a bag which led us to think that he could have been one of the persons who planted the bomb.

Meanwhile the police still remain clueless over  the motives and also the group which could have carried out the attack. All angles of the probe are open at the moment. We are checking in on the intelligence pertaining to the Indian Mujahideen and also some right wing groups, police sources also pointed out.

The police have sent the bombs for examination by the forensic sciences lab. At the moment they are saying that there are traces of ammonium nitrate and also a sticky substance which could be the gel version of the fertilizer.

There are at least 200 police personnel on the job and currently they are looking for leads into the case. There have been various motives that have been thrown up, but nothing is certain as yet.

Naxal trouble- Between two sets of guns- Part 3

Dr. Binayak Sen. Pic: dianuke.org

The final part of this three party series will deal with Maoist and government abuses and also the Binyak Sen case. The report Between Two Sets of Guns was prepared by the Human Rights Watch:

Maoist Abuses

While human rights defenders have not often come under direct attack from Maoists, many say they are operating in an environment of fear and are unable to criticize Maoist abuses. Activists fear the Maoists because they have a long history of brutality towards those they perceive to be informers or class enemies.

The Maoists do not tolerate critics. Activists that criticize them for killings, extortion, or other abuses suffer threats and warnings. According to one local activist:

The Maoists kill people, saying that they are police informers. They killed one man who was doing good work on health and education. They said they were killing him because he had a cell phone, and was therefore a police informer. Everyone has a cell phone these days. Will they kill everyone?

Maoists keep a close watch on the activities of activists. Many activists spoke of Maoist questioning and threats, some saying they had to obey orders from local commanders who decreed what government services could be provided. One activist told Human Rights Watch:

We work in a very poor area. The people there are really suffering. I knew that the Maoists were there, but I did my work and avoided them. One day, I was stopped. They were quite nice and polite. They asked about my work, but then they mentioned my family, and where we lived. They talked about their concerns about the police. I knew that I had been warned and that they were watching.

So great is the fear of Maoists that most activists did not wish to be identified when they described threats and abuses. Said one tribal activist from Chhattisgarh:

The Naxals have brought attention to our issues, but we cannot always support their methods. They have become a headache for us. They kill villagers randomly. And also they have brought the police into our villages because of their actions. The Naxals are not there when the police come, so they abuse us instead.

The fact that Maoist operations have led to increased police scrutiny and suspicion was described by other activists as well. One of them described the problem:

Government programs are on paper only so many people have to migrate for livelihood. But now in our area, there is police on one side and Naxals on the other. When villagers travel for work, the Naxals say “You are a police informer.” The police say “You went for Naxal training.”

Many of the activists interviewed for this report are engaged in providing government-approved services to villagers in remote areas, such as health care or food assistance. An activist from Orissa told Human Rights Watch:

Those of us that are working on NREGA [National Rural Employment Guarantee] are always in trouble. On one side there are corrupt contractors. On the other we have Naxals. They support some contractors who give them money. Other times they don’t want us to create awareness about people’s rights. We have to find the protection where we can. Sometimes police, sometimes Naxals.

A tribal activist from Jharkhand complained that while both the Maoists and the government claimed to be protecting tribal communities, he believed they were really engaged in a battle to benefit themselves:

In Jharkhand in particular there have been repeated allegations that some Maoists, or groups claiming to be Maoists, are engaged in corruption. When criticized for the killing of Niyamat Ansari (described below), the Maoists put up posters condemning respected activists such as Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy, and two Jharkhand-based activists, Nand Lal Singh and Gokul Vasant. Another poster called for a people’s court to punish them.

Activists also complain that some civil society groups act to promote Maoist causes and then oppose those that speak out against Maoist abuses. Gladson Dungdung, an activist in Ranchi, whose harassment by state authorities is described below, wrote in April 2012 that:

There are three major violators of the human rights, i.e., the state, the non-state actors (Maoists, other Naxal and criminal groups) and the society as a whole. However, the state is constitutionally responsible for the protection of human rights and in fact the small forces emerge only whenever and wherever the state fails in delivering justice.

But, these days, it has become a fashion for the so-called Human Rights Activists to cry foul on human rights violations committed by the security forces but they keep mum when the non-state actors do the same thing. Hence, it is obvious that they are also batting on behalf of the Naxals similar to the state, who bats for the corporate houses? These kinds of actions of the so-called Human Rights Activists will only add more problems in the civil rights movement and put questions in the credibility of the Activists’ voices and the person like me will also struggle for identity?

Killing of Sister Valsa John, Jharkhand

Valsa John, a nun with the Sisters of Charity, had been involved for many years working on behalf of tribal people in Jharkhand, particularly those displaced by mining operations. On November 15, 2011, in Parkur district, a group of about 50 people that reportedly included about 30 Maoists broke into her home and murdered her. Police asserted that the immediate motive for the attack was preventing Sister John from helping a rape survivor file a complaint with the police, which villagers wanted settled out of court, but that her broader activities were at issue.

According to Dumka inspector-general Arun Oraon, “The Maoists are trying to make inroads into Pakur to extort money from a mining company. The rebels, however, did not use firearms to kill her. They let the villagers do that so that they could convey a message that even an influential person like Valsa could be killed if Maoists did not approve of that person.”

Maoists admitted to their role in Sister John’s killing. In an interview with the BBC, Naxal spokesman Somnath said, without providing any basis, that Sister John was “working for the interests” of mining companies. Because she had “let down the tribals,” he said, the Maoists had to “resort to the extreme step.”

Police arrested about a dozen villagers soon after the killing, including at least one with alleged Maoist ties.

Government Abuses

The Indian state has used sedition laws to curtail the right to free speech, stopped peaceful protests by issuing prohibitory orders, and concocted criminal cases to lock up critics of its policies and practices in areas with a large Maoist presence. Government-supported vigilantes have attacked activists, claiming that those who criticize government rights violations are Maoist supporters.

Arbitrary Arrests and Torture

Human rights workers and activists, particularly those that speak out against abuses by government forces, fear being labeled “Maoist” supporters and being taken into custody or worse. Local activists concede that they do come into contact with the Maoists: working in remote parts of in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh makes that inevitable. State security forces, frustrated by their inability to track Maoist fighters who slip into the forests in the adjoining states, often direct their attacks against “soft” targets—villagers from areas that support the Maoists and activists who criticize police abuses and state policies.

Local activists find it necessary to accommodate some Maoist demands in order to carry out their humanitarian work. This might include reaching an agreement on the areas where they can work or the services they deliver, or simply to be able to continue their activities. Government officials are often aware of this.

One police official in Orissa told Human Rights Watch that, “It is the duty of these activists to tell us about Maoist movements. If they hide these facts about a banned group, they are naturally suspects as well.” The officer recognized, however, that informing on the Maoists could put people at risk, particularly in areas where police can barely protect their own staff from ambushes and targeted killings by Maoists.

During meetings of grassroots human rights activists in Ranchi and in Delhi, many activists told Human Rights Watch that they had criminal charges pending against them. Most asserted that the authorities had filed these charges as a means of harassment and intimidation, and that the charges were based on an assumption that critics of the state are secret Maoist supporters.

A number of activists acknowledged that the situation is complicated because there is evidence that some activists do act as fronts or are ideological supporters of the Maoists, but note that authorities too often act on the assumption that activists are criminally supporting the Maoists, even in the complete absence of evidence of support.

That the charges brought against activists are often not based on strong evidence is borne out by the fact that, when finally brought to trial, activists in many cases have been acquitted. Said one activist: “We are constantly worried about being taken into prison. The government can accuse us of anything, and then we are left to try and prove our innocence. It can take years.”

Lawyers confirmed to Human Rights Watch that some activists have spent several years in jail before being acquitted.

Lower courts have been reluctant to grant bail in cases of alleged Maoists. The accused often have to go through the appeals process all the way to the Supreme Court before they are granted bail.

Case of Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and activist with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a long-time critic of government policy towards the Maoists, was detained on May 14, 2007, under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. Sen had earlier criticized this 2006 law because it permitted detention for “unlawful activities,” a term so loosely defined that it can be used to curtail peaceful activities of individuals and civil society organizations in violation of the Indian constitution and international human rights law.

The authorities initially detained Sen on the grounds that he was acting as a courier between jailed Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Guha, who was allegedly a Maoist supporter. Sen had been visiting the 70-year-old Sanyal as his doctor under the supervision of prison authorities, who were authorized to search him. During Dr. Sen’s trial the jail authorities said that they had never found Dr. Sen acting as a courier. Altogether he met Sanyal 33 times in Raipur Central Jail, all with prior police permission.

Sen was eventually charged with, among other crimes, treason, criminal conspiracy, sedition, anti-national activities, and waging war against the state. Evidence presented by the police included letters that were allegedly delivered by Sen, and documents and Maoist propaganda materials that were apparently recovered from his house. The police believed that Sen met with the Maoists when he traveled to remote areas to provide medical aid to the tribal population in Chhattisgarh state’s Bastar area and relayed messages to Sanyal. Evidence presented by the police included material gathered from his computer, mostly documents already in the public domain, letters that were recovered from Guha that Sen had allegedly delivered, a post-card from June 2006 written to Sen by Sanyal from Raipur jail regarding his health as well as his legal case, duly signed by the prison authorities, newspaper clips, and some documents that were described as Maoist propaganda materials.

On December 24, 2010, a Raipur district court convicted Sen on sedition charges and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The judge found no evidence that Sen was a member of any outlawed Maoist group or that he was involved in violence against the state. Immediately after the verdict, Sen’s bail was revoked and he was arrested.

Harassment of Civil Society Activists

Activists report being threatened by both Maoists and government security forces. Many admit to self-censorship in their work to escape retribution. For instance, a young tribal man told Human Rights Watch that he works with villagers to inform them of their rights, and as a result has repeatedly been threatened by both the police and the Maoists:

I am a local, so I can go everywhere. People know me. I can highlight issues, tell people that they must protest if there is an arrest or killing. I have been exposing police atrocities, so they are angry…. The police say, “You travel all over the place. Why don’t the Maoists kill you?” But the thing is the Maoists are angry with me, too. The local leaders. They say I am inciting people against Maoists. All I am doing is telling people that they should protest to protect their lives. They are stuck between two sets of guns, and they should say that they are suffering. I was told by the police, “We are watching. You talk too much, and you will be in jail, defending murder charges.” Another policeman told me: “We have our suspicions but we don’t have proof. Once we catch you, you will be killed in a fake encounter.”

Another activist said that his home was searched in what he believes was an effort to frighten him. His family is always nervous for his safety. He said:

The security forces don’t like my work. So they came and broke my house in the village, saying that it was a security risk. I complained to the district authorities, but there was no response. I live in fear. I don’t travel alone because I will be killed, and each side will blame the other. No one will speak for me.”

The police have sought to discredit critics by publicly asserting that they are Maoists or Maoist-supporters. Nandini Sundar, one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case challenging the government’s use of Salwa Judum vigilantes, said that she was falsely named by the police in a press release in connection with an attack on a politician in July 2010. The allegation was later withdrawn.

Another petitioner, Manish Kunjam, a former legislator complained that he did not get adequate police protection despite receiving repeated threatening phone calls and warnings. He alleged that his “consistent stand against all kinds of violence, whether by Naxalites or Salwa Judum, as well as his stand against forcible and fraudulent land acquisition and mining by corporate, ha[d] earned him many powerful enemies.”

Also Read: Part 1 and Part 2

Serial blasts- probe update

The preliminary investigation into the Pune serial blasts have shown that there was a great deal of planning and was carried out by experts. Although the Intelligence Bureau have not pin pointed any organization to be behind the attack, the biggest suspect continues to be the Indian Mujahideen as the blast has been carried out in their strong hold of Pune.

Although it will be the forensics sciences team which will finally ascertain the exact contents of the bomb, preliminary investigations show that the bombs used in Pune are quite similar to the one that was used during the Bangalore blasts. The bomb disposal squad which managed to defuse one of the bombs have found a sticky substance in the bomb. The substance appears to be similar to the one that was used in the Bangalore blast. In the Bangalore blasts the substance which was used was the ammonium nitrate gel and had the brand name Raja gel. The bombs in Pune could also have had the same substance, the police suspect.

The other material has that been found in the bomb are iron pellets and also an Indian made timer device apart from sophisticated circuits.

The manner in which the blasts have been carried out does not give the impression that it was a hurried operation. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that there has been a great deal of planning as it is not easy to plant so many bombs on such short notice. Moreover the sophistication with which the bombs were made and also the smooth manner in which the foot soldiers went about their job unnoticed gives the indication that it was a well planned operation.

However there is one thing that is clear and that is that the explosions at Pune were more of a warning signal and it was not aimed at creating a major destruction. The fact that the packaging was in a cake box is another indicator that the impact was always going to be low.

Normally such low intensity attacks aim at conveying a message or also could be a rehearsal for something big to come.

However the question is whether an outfit such as the Indian Mujahideen which is depleted would carry out an attack only as a drill and waste its resources. The IM has been neutralized a great deal and its expert bomb makers have been arrested. But there are a couple of their men who are still on the run and have been itching to carry out strikes in order to grab some attention. IB officials say that the IM cannot be written off at any point. They were written off a couple of years back, but they came back strong with the Delhi blasts and also the 13/7 blasts which was carried out by their new module at Darabanga in Bihar.

While the pattern in which the attack was carried out points largely towards the IM, police are careful in pointing fingers to any particular outfit. There was a general intelligence alert regarding Pune. However there is still no clarity on whether the inputs provided by the IB to the Maharashtra police was actionable in nature or not.

The police are currently questioning the injured person as they are treating him as a suspect in the case. There is also a possibility of the Maharashtra ATS questioning Abu Jundal to find out if he was in the know of an attack of this nature. Jundal had however not revealed any Pune plan, but had spoken extensively about an attack being planned at the Nashik Police academy. In addition to this the police would also be questioning many of the IM operatives who have been arrested recently.

Return of the bicycle bomb

Pic: The Hindu

The bicycle has once again become the vehicle of terror. Terrorists have often chosen bicycles to plant the bombs and it has been seen many times in the past including the horrific blasts at Jaipur which killed scores of people.

Today too one of the bombs was found on a bicycle and one often wonders why this poor man’s vehicle has been chosen several times as a carrier of terror.

The use of a bicycle to plant a bomb has also been witnessed during the, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Malegaon blasts and also the Uttar Pradesh court blasts.

Prior to these blasts, the use of bicycles to plant bombs was seen mostly in Assam which even led the administration to moot the idea of registering bicycles.

The bicycle continues to be a preferred vehicle to plant bombs as it very often does not catch the eye of the security. Moreover if the person planting the bomb is on a bicycle then he very often does not undergo security checks thus making it almost a fool proof operation.

Bicycles often do not catch the attention of security agencies. Moreover it is easier to ride into a crowded place with a bicycle without being noticed.

The bicycles are often the symbol of a common man and planting a bomb on it does often create a major fear in the minds of the public. The other reason is that while planting bombs on bicycles the impact also could be higher since the bomb is out in the open and the range it could cover would be more.

The use of the bicycle bomb is however not restricted to India alone. It began in the United Kingdom when the IRA used to bomb Northern Ireland.

The use of the bicycle bomb has also been found extensively in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq and also Russia. It continues to be a popular vehicle to carry the bomb as the scrutiny of the same is extremely low. Nowhere are bicycles checked like the way the rest of the vehicles are and hence over the years it became a preferred method to plant the bomb.

Security agencies also say that it is safer than a car bomb since there is no record of a bicycle as it does not require any registration. A person could easily get a bicycle with no documents, plant the bomb and leave. Security agencies would also find it extremely difficult to find a trail as there would be no records for a bicycle.