The link below is to an article concerning high speed rail in Australia. In the light of the ‘slow speed’ broadband policy announced by the Coalition, I wonder if they have a take on high speed rail? Perhaps they might unveil a network of unsealed roads and the new birth of Cobb and Co? After all, there is only so much you can do with high speed rail.
BJP assemblyman convicted in two murders in 2008 violence says he’s innocent.
NEW DELHI, January 28 (CDN) — India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (Jan. 25) rejected the bail granted to Hindu nationalist Orissa state legislator Manoj Pradhan following his conviction in the murder of a Christian, Parikhita Nayak.
Pradhan, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was convicted on June 29, 2010 of “causing grievous hurt” and “rioting” and sentenced to seven years of prison in the murder of Nayak, of Budedi village, who died on Aug. 27, 2008. In its decision, the Supreme Court ordered the High Court to reconsider its decision to grant him bail.
Pradhan had been granted bail by the High Court on July 6 on grounds having won the April 2009 state assembly election. Contesting the election from jail, he had become a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing Kandhamal’s G. Udayagiri constituency. On Sept. 9, 2010 he was convicted in the murder of Bikram Nayak of Budedipada, for which he was sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment (see http://www.compassdirect.org, “Court in India Convicts Legislator in Second Murder Case,”
Sept. 10, 2010). He received bail within 40 days of that conviction.
Parikhita Nayak’s widow, Kanaka Rekha Nayak, had challenged the granting of bail before the Supreme Court. She pointed out in her petition that there were seven other murder cases against Pradhan, including the second conviction.
“Being an MLA was not grounds for granting of bail,” she told Compass.
Nayak’s petition also argued that, because of his position, Pradhan intimidated witnesses outside of jail. She told Compass that, after receiving bail in spite of their convictions, Pradhan and an accomplice continued to roam the area, often intimidating her.
In the Supreme Court decision, Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjaron wrote that the High Court should have taken into consideration the findings of the trial court and the alleged involvement of the respondent in more than one case.
“The [bail] order clearly reflects that the High Court was mainly impressed by the fact that the respondent is a sitting MLA,” they wrote. “In the circumstances, we find it difficult to sustain the order.”
Pradhan was accused of stopping Parikhita Nayak and then calling together a large group of persons armed with axes and other weapons, who then hacked Nayak to death; afterward they sought to dispose of the body by burning it.
Pradhan denied all charges against him, telling Compass by telephone that they were “baseless.”
“I have full faith in the judiciary system, and justice will be done,” Pradhan said, adding that he and other “innocent people” have been arrested due to political pressure and that the real culprits are at large.
On his next move, he said he would surrender himself to police custody if necessary and then file another application for bail.
Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, told Compass that he was pleased.
“Pradhan deserves to be behind bars in more than one case, and it was a travesty of justice that he was roaming around terrorizing people,” Dayal said. “He was not involved in every single act of violence, but he was the ring leader. He planned the violence; he led some of the gangs.”
Dibakar Parichha of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Catholic Archdiocese told Compass that police records showed that Pradhan was a “field commander of Hindu extremists sent to kill Christians.”
The state government’s standing counsel, Suresh Tripathy, supported this week’s cancellation of bail.
Cases against Legislator
Pradhan told Compass that a total of 289 complaints were registered against him in various police stations during the August-September 2008 attacks on Christians in Kandhamal district, Orissa, out of which charge sheets were filed in only 13 cases.
Of the 13, he has been acquitted in seven and convicted in two murder cases, with six more cases pending against him – “Three in Lower Court, two in the High Court and One in the Supreme Court,” Pradhan told Compass.
Of the 13 cases, seven involved murder; of those murder cases, he has been acquitted in three.
Cases have been filed against Pradhan for rioting, rioting with deadly weapons, unlawful assembly, causing disappearance of evidence of offense, murder, wrongfully restraining someone, wrongful confinement, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses, voluntarily causing grievous hurt and voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means.
Pradhan was also accused of setting fire to houses of people belonging to the minority Christian community.
The Times of India reported Pradhan as “one of the close disciples” of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, whose assassination on Aug. 23, 2008, touched off the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal and other parts of Orissa.
Status of Trials
Expressing complete dissatisfaction in the trial system, Dayal told Compass that the two Fast Track courts are “meting out injustice at speed.”
“One of the main reasons,” he said, “is lack of police investigation, the inadequacy of the department of projections to find competent public prosecutors, and the inadequacy of the victim community to find a place in the justice process.”
As a result, he said, victims are not appropriately represented and killers are not appropriately prosecuted.
“Therefore, the two courts find enough reason to let people off,” Dayal said.
Complaints filed at a police station in Kandhamal after the violence of 2008 totaled 3,232, and the number of cases registered was 831.
The government of Orissa set up two Fast Track courts to try cases related to the violence that spread to more than a dozen districts of Orissa. The attacks killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions.
The number of violent cases in the Fast Track courts is 231 (non-violent cases numbered 46, with total cases thus reaching 277). Of the violent cases, 128 have resulted in acquittals and 59 in convictions; 44 are pending.
Of the 722 people facing trial, 183 have been convicted, while 639 have been acquitted.
Report from Compass Direct News
Six sentenced for anti-Christian rampage; tensions persist.
NEW DELHI, September 10 (CDN) — A fast-track court in Orissa state on Monday (Sept. 7) sentenced six people to four years of “rigorous imprisonment” and a fine of 2,000 rupees (US$41) each for their role in anti-Christian violence in the state’s Kandhamal district a year ago.
The court in Phulbani ordered them to remain in prison another three months if they are unable to pay the fine. Additional Sessions Judge Shobhan Kumar Das announced they were convicted of setting Christian houses on fire and engaging in unlawful assembly by defying curfew.
Following the assassination of a Hindu leader on Aug. 23, 2008, Kandhamal district was the epicenter of nearly three months of violence by Hindu extremists that killed at least 100 people and burned more than 4,500 houses and over 250 churches and 13 educational institutions; 50,000 people were displaced. Although Maoists took responsibility for the assassination, Hindu extremists blamed Christians in order to ignite large-scale violence on the minority community.
Sentenced on Monday were Kiringa Kanhar, Lasia Kanhar, Gananath Kanhar, Lankeswar Kanhar, Naresh Kanhar and Gorekh Pradhan. Police had charged 11 people, all residents of Tambasuga village, for burning the houses of Ladada Kanhar and his two sons in the same village in August of last year. The court acquitted five of them for lack of evidence.
The government has set up two fast-track courts at Phulbani, Kandhamal district to bring justice to the victims of violence. A total of 831 cases of violence have reportedly been filed.
“The police have dropped around 300 First Investigation Reports out of the 800-odd cases due to various reasons like lack of evidence,” Orissa High Court attorney Bibhu Dutta Das told Compass.
On June 30, Fast Track Court-II had convicted and sentenced Chakra Mallick of Gochhapada for his involvement in the violence. Mallick was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of 4,000 rupees (US$82). At the same time, 15 others were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
In addition, Fast Track Court-I had sentenced five people – Bisra Kanhar, Durbasha Kanhar, Rabi Kanhar, Gupteswar Kanhar and Naresh Kanhar of Salaguda village – to six years of prison and a fine of 6,000 rupees (US$123) each.
With the conviction of the six people on Sept. 7, the total number of convictions for the violence increased to 12, while at least 42 others have been acquitted.
Police reportedly arrested 680 persons for their alleged involvement in the violence, and 10,000 people were named in 827 cases registered during the anti-Christian rampage last August. Charge sheets have been filed in 437 cases, with investigations underway in another 354 incidents including the rape of a nun, Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj told media.
The two Fast Track courts are expected to deliver more verdicts soon. But attorney Das told Compass that the two judges assigned to the Fast Track courts are capable of taking on more cases than they have so far; he predicted they would see an increase soon.
“We will request the [Orissa] High Court to intervene in this situation so that police can speed up investigations,” Das said.
Kandhamal District Collector Krishan Kumar said investigations had already concluded in two-thirds of all cases submitted to police, and that charge sheets had been filed.
“Ten to 12 people have already been convicted in the span of one year,” he said. “This shows that the Orissa government is very serious about justice.”
Fearful Witnesses Attorney Das told Compass that the distance between the Phulbani court and the villages of witnesses is 70 to 80 kilometers (nearly 50 miles), and that they refuse to attend hearings because they have not been provided security.
“Only after a warrant is issued by the court to the witness do they appear before the court,” he said, “for in that case the police usually accompany them to the court since it is a warrant.”
District Collector Kumar told Compass that no witnesses had filed First Information Reports asking for police protection.
“If anybody asks for protection, it will be given to them,” he said.
The state government has shut down the last of the relief camps for victims of the violence that began after the assassination of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples at his Jalespata ashram (religious hermitage) in Kandhamal district on Aug. 23, 2008.
The last two camps at Tiangia and Mandakia had housed some 700 refugees from the violence. The government had set up 14 relief camps in Kandhamal alone to accommodate the thousands of people who came in searching for shelter; the violence eventually spread to 14 of Orissa’s 30 districts.
A relief camp in Tikabali in Kandhamal district was shut down on July 27, and when 35 families from there finally returned to their village of Bodimunda on Aug. 29, Hindu extremists attacked them at night. They damaged their tents, and fighting erupted as Christians tried to defend themselves.
“The superintendent of police of that area was informed, and the police intervened on time,” District Collector Kumar told Compass. “There were no casualties, and no one was hurt.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Somali pirates have captured yet another large ship off the coast of Somalia. This time the ship was carrying military hardware and supplies to the Kenyan government. The Ukrainian freighter had 33 T-72 battle tanks on board, as well as grenade launchers and ammunition bound for the Kenyan military in a legal arms purchase. The shipment is valued at about $30 million dollars.
When the ship was nearing the Kenyan port of Mombasa, about 320 km from land, it was surrounded by three speed boats with armed Somali pirates on board.
The Somali coast is infested with pirates, with estimates suggesting that there are up to 1 000 pirates operating in the region. Pirates have seized some 25 vessels this year and attacked at least another 25, with 14 vessels still being held by pirates.
In my opinion it is high time, indeed beyond time, to crush the pirates of Somalia. According to reports there are now US and Russian warships patrolling the region. But more needs to be done, with a relentless campaign needed to remove the pirate problem.
Currently vessels are being held for ransoms that on most occasions are being paid. By paying the pirates, the pirate problem is only being encouraged. The pirates must be stopped – not only off Somalia, but in all areas in which they operate, including Nigeria, Aden, Indonesia, etc. Perhaps a force under the direction of the UN Security Council is what is required.