Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gujarat human rights activist Cedric Prakash's office burgled mysteriously; aim: to look for PC data

Prakash being conferred French award for contribution in human rights
By Our Representative
In an unusual development, senior Gujarat-based human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash’s office was burgled on the night between October 7 and 8, 2014, and those who broke in took with them only his desktop personal computer, a hard disk, the keyboard with all connections meticulously cut. In a statement, Prakash said, “The intruders seemed to have moved around in several places of the office (some footprints evidence this) but were careful not to have disturbed /upset anything else.”
Prakash said that while he suspected something fishy, he did not want to make the burglary an issue. “We had no intention to go to the media on this; but since last night some media have been calling us – since they seem to have received news of this incident from some ‘police source’; that is why this statement”, he added.
Yet, according to Prakash, “What is obvious that what took place in Prashant on the night of October 7-8 was no ordinary theft. It was meticulously planned and executed apparently by professionals or with the help of some. The sole aim was obviously to get the data which was on my PC. It is common knowledge that since we are a Centre for Human Rights Justice and Peace, we have been taking an equivocal stand on human rights and justice very specially on critical issues affecting the minorities, the poor and the marginalized of Gujarat”.
Prakash, a close associate of well-known human rights campaigner Teesta Setalvad, has been in forefront in the fight for the 2002 Gujarat communal riot victims. His office became famous after young BJP leader Haren Pandya, pitted against then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, deposed before an independent commission of inquiry. Speaking in camera, Pandya, who was slain in March 2013 mysteriously, blamed Modi for giving instructions to Gujarat top-cops to remain indifferent during the early days of riots.
In 2006, Prakash won the prestigious Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, one of the highest French civilian awards, acknowledging his commitment to human rights. Championing the rights of vulnerable sections, and a campaigner against Gujarat’s anti-conversion law, Prakash invited the ire of Goa chief minister Manahar Parrikar ahead of Lok Sabha polls for his address before Christians suggesting how Gujarat model was fake. Parrikar publicly wondered why was Prakash was in Goa.
Notably, lack of religious freedom in Gujarat was one of the reasons, along with complicity in communal riots, cited by the US government to deny visa to Modi in 2005. Modi's visa ban was automatically lifted following he becoming the Prime Minister of India in May 2014.
In his statement, Prakash said what seemed to surprise him was those who burgled hisoffice did not even take away “some cash, in a drawer which was opened, which could have easily tempted an ordinary burglar.” The burglary of the NGO office he heads, Prashant, on Drive-In Road in Ahmedabad, took place when he was away. “On October 6-7, 2014, I was in Bombay to participate in some important meetings and programmes”, he said.
On returning to Ahmedabad by a very early flight, Prakash said, he first went to the office building of Prashant before going to his residence, which is just behind on the same campus. “I opened the Centre, went into my cabin and was about to start the computer, when I realized that my desktop computer was missing”, he said.
“I was rather alarmed when I simultaneously noticed that the back door of our Centre (which is adjacent to my cabin) was broken open with a bed sheet just lying on the steps below. I called my Jesuit companions and telephoned some of my office colleagues immediately and also called the police emergency number 100 to register a complaint”, he said.
“In a matter of minutes, the police arrived and they were there for most of the day till almost 4.30 pm. In between, they had called in the dog squad, the forensic and the finger-print experts. Besides, the routine inquiry was done with me and with my colleagues. An FIR dated October 8, 2014 was filed with the Ghatlodia Police Station, Ahmedabad”, Prakash said.

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