Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gujarat govt "war" on Dalit activists? Minister seeks inquiry against Dalit NGO, cops file FIR to placate Mevani

By Our Representative
Gujarat's top Dalit rights organization, Navsarjan Trust, has taken strong exception to a senior Gujarat minister, Atmaram Parmar, in charge of social and justice empowerment department, seeking to “inquire into” the use of funds under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) norms, wondering whether the matter comes under him.
“His ministry and department are nowhere involved in any capacity on any of these matters”, executive director, Manjula Pradeep, has said in a statement, adding, “At the outset, we welcome any impartial inquiry by the judiciary.”
Pradeep, who earlier took exception to Parmar blaming what he called “Christian” NGOs as being behind the post-Una Dalit uprising following the gruesome flogging of four Dalit youths on July 11, has said, “Navsarjan Trust goes through audit every year. We have an internal as well as external auditor.”
She says, “Every year the Audited report is submitted to the Charity Commissioner, Income Tax Department and to the Home Ministry”, even as warning, “We are not shying away. And if nothing is proved in the inquiry then the state government will have to face the consequences as the minister has gone on the record.”
While it is not known whether the decision of the Gujarat minister to do an inquiry into the foreign funds has the sanction of chief minister Vijay Rupani, who is known to take a sober view of things, the development has come alongside the state police filing FIR against Una uprising leader Jignesh Mevani.
Mevani, a practicing lawyer, has been charged with going ahead with road block demonstration at Income Tax Circle in Ahmedabad (click HERE) on Tuesday morning, along with hundreds of sanitation workers, even though the police refused permission. The FIR also blames him for "attack" on the police van, leading to cracks on the police van which had come to take agitators away and detain them for the day.
Others who have been named under the FIR are Amrish Patel, Bharat Zala and other sanitation workers' leaders. The development has taken place in the aftermath of the successful completion of the sanitation workers' agitation (click HERE). The sections invoked in the FIR are 143,146, 294(b), 332, 34,186,18, 427 of the Indian Penal Code.
This apart, Sections 3 and 7 of the Damage to Public Property Act have also been invoked. Denying the charges, an alternative media organization, Dalit Camera has released a footage of the kind of violence being dished out by the police, saying it is a “trick of blaming the workers of destroying window panes when in fact they did so themselves” (click HERE).
According to media reports, the Gujarat minister's “decision” to initiate criminal proceedings against Navsarjan Trust comes despite the fact that the Gujarat High Court asking Amreli police to “take a quick decision” whether a police complaint should be lodged on criminal complaints filed by some former employees of the NGO.
In her ruling, Justice Sonia Gokani reportedly directed Amreli police to decide whether the complaints disclosed any cognizable offence. If an offence was revealed, the police were directed to lodge an FIR, otherwise they should explain in writing to the complainants why the FIR was not possible.
Significantly, the Amreli police, which found nothing against the NGO for nearly a month, following which these ex-employees approached the Gujarat High Court demanding the registration of an FIR.
The employees had alleged, in their complaint to the High Court, that the NGO obtained Rs 30 crore from a Switzerland-based funding agency, Swiss Development Corporation to pay its field workers, even as stating their funds were stopped by its trustees but were later released.

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