August 31, 2004

Press Release and Memo to Maharashtra Govt. (Concerned Citizens from Bombay)

August 30, 2004


A delegation comprising of imminent citizens and people from 30 different organisations today met the Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil to protest against the attack on Marathi newspaper Mahanagar editor Nikhil Wagle. The Chief Minister and Home Minister assured the delegation that

a) A CID investigation will be ordered in the case
b) Investigation against local police inaction
c) Also asked to the delegation to meet the Chief Minister and Home Minister after 3 weeks to check out the progress in the case.

After the assurance given by the Chief Minister and the Home Minister, the delegation pursued Nikhil Wagle to end his hunger fast, which he had been since Saturday 28, in protest against the local police inability to arrest the accused and after much persuasion arrested 4 persons and gave then bail later.

The delegation comprises of Mahesh Bhatt, Javed Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, Meena Wagle, Yuvraj Mohite, Pramod Nigodkar, Hemant Desai, Gajanan Khatu, Dolphy D’souza, Sumedh Jhadav, and others.

Memorandum to Maharashtra Chief Minister & Home Minister

Dear Sir,

As a journal and group committed to inter-community harmony and promoting reason, dialogue and the rule of law, we are tremendously concerned about the deliberate and systematic attempts to whip up communal sentiments and increase communal polarisation in the state. The absence of adequate response from the police and administration in the past week makes the situation even more ominous. That this is happening as a clear ploy on the eve of the elections is something that both the Government and administration need to address before the situation goes entirely out of control.

We refer to three specific incidents in the past week where police inaction at best could be at work.

1. Editor of Aapla Mahanagar, Nikhil Wagle was brutally attack today and narrowly escaped being burnt alive when a group of Shiv Saniks inspired by the Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Narayan Rane assaulted him and two colleagues at Malvan in Konkan-the western cost of Maharashtra on August 28, 2004. What was most worrying about the incident was the absence of any response from the local police (in fact the DYSP ) humiliated Shri Wagle and his colleagues while they were at the police station instead of registering FIRs and arresting the guilty who were named clearly by eye-witnesses to the incident. It was only after interventions by the Home secretary’s office that action was initiated locally. This does not bode well as the situation in Malvan had become very volatile on Saturday and with the health of Mr Wagle and his colleagues fragile (they only took treatment after some arrests were made) and could have errupted into something uglier. Mr Wagle is still on a hunger fast and it is disturbing that even in the matter of arrests and registering of FIRs, the police have faulted –four persons who were arrested were released on bail late on Sunday night and critical sections in the FIR like sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 109 (punishment for abetment if the act abeted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for it’s punishment) were deliberately not applied. This smacks of deliberate obfuscation of facts, Sir.

The attack took place at about 8.15 am. Mr. Wagle’s colleague Mr. Yuvraj Mohite and Mr. Pramod Nigudkar were also seriously injured until the time we are releasing the statement (2 pm on Saturday) No action is been taken on the attackers by the Malvan Police. Mr. Wagle and his colleague were attack after conducting a workshop for local activists yesterday.

Mr. Wagle and his colleague have refused any treatment until those responsible for the attack have been apprehended.

2. Bombs thrown on Friday worshippers at Mosques in Jalna and Parbhani
(clippings attached). On Friday afternoon, two-four motor cycle riders dressed fully in black and white respectively drove past Mosques where worshippers were offering Friday prayers and flung crude bombs resulting in over 18 persons being injured. While it is clear from genuine police and spot reports that -Bombs were flung from outside, many media reports especially in the Marathi papers have chosen to deliberately make out that the Bombs exploded from within the Mosque. This is nothing short of a desire to spread and create the impression that these bombs were kept inside the Mosque. This is far from the truth as your own reports will tell you. It also attempts to dliberately polarise and communalise the ground level atmosphere further. We urge you that it is the duty of the government in power to sensitise the media about such lapses and for you, as Chief Executive of the State to appeal for reason and calm. With political outfits openly declaring that they would be returning to ‘hardline Hindutva’ politics, the administration needs to be on its toes.

3. The attack on Mr. Wagle is the second serious attempted on the lives of the journalist in Maharashtra. Only four days ago, on Tuesday August 24 Mr. Sajid Rashid, editor of Hamara Mahanagar was brutally attacked Since early July, a notoriously communal Mumbai daily, Urdu Times, has been carrying out a hate campaign Against Mr. Rashid and repeated representation to the Mumbai Police Commission, Mr. A N Roy on July 20, 2004 and then again on 17/18 August of 2004 no action is been action has been taken the Mumbai Police against those who attack Mr Sajid Rashid. Mr. Rashid was stabbed brutally on his back by two attackers around 10 p.m. on August 24, 2004. He is no recuperating in the hospital. His attackers have not been apprehended.

On July 20, 2004, a delegation of MSD members, journalists-cum-human rights activists like Teesta Setalvad and Nikhil Wagle and Maharashtra Urdu Writers Association, met the Mumbai police commissioner, AN Roy, to demand immediate action against Urdu Times for inciting violence. No action has been taken against the paper.

A written memorandum handed over by the delegation clearly told the police commissioner that we had serious apprehensions of physical attack and therefore the police must initiate immediate action to restrain the police.

On August 16, 2004 Sajid Rashid filed a personal complaint with the Dongri police station, to say among other things that he feared he was being followed. On August 17, the police commissioner was apprised of the latest development and his intervention urged.

Its shocking, to say the least, that the Mumbai police did nothing to restrain the Urdu Times and on the night of August 24, a murderous attack was launched on Rashid. Fortunate to have survived, Rashid is recuperating at KEM Hospital in Mumbai. But the Mumbai police must account for its inaction and the license that it has given to the Urdu Times to preach murder.

In all the cases mentioned above, the administration has not risen to the occasion creating apprehensions in the minds of the average citizen committed to peace and reason, that vicious communal violence may be unleashed in the state on the eve of the elections and the executive and administration will be found wanting.

We urge that you take sternest action in all the cases mentioned above and also ensure that the climate in Maharashtra is controlled before events go out of hand.

Yours Sincerely,

Teesta Setalvad
Co-Editor, Communalism Combat and Director Sabrang

Javed Anand
Co-Editor, Communalism Combat and Director Sabrang