#India -No jeans, mobile phones for Brahmin girls: BJP MP #Vaw #moralpolicing #WTFnews


We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,’ BJP MP Raghunanandan Sharma tells Rediff.com‘s A Ganesh Nadar.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Raghunandan Sharma has come up with the following suggestions to check crimes against women: Girls should not be allowed to use mobile phones before marriage and women should not wear jeans.

Sharma — a member of the Rajya Sabha and vice-president of the BJP’s Madhya PradeshImages ] unit -expressed his views at a meeting of Brahmins in Ratlam district on Sunday.

The BJP MP termed mobile phone usage by students, particularly young girls, as a big menace and the genesis of other evils.

Sharma lambasted girls wearing jeans, saying it was the attire of American cowboys and in no way gelled with Indian culture.

Sharma, who was born a year before Independence, told Rediff.com on Tuesday, “I don’t know what the problem with you journalists is. I was at my samaj meeting. It was a meeting of my society of Brahmins.”

“I am a representative of the Brahmins and I am their leader. I was trying to suggest ways to improve my society. The advice was only for Brahmins, not for the country.”

“I was speaking not as a MP or a BJP leader, I was speaking as a Brahmin to other Brahmins. I have my ideas of improving my society, what is your problem?”

“We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,” Sharma added.

“I have every right to tell my society of Brahmins how to dress, not to use mobile phones and whatever I think is good for my society.”

“Nowhere did I suggest that I am trying to change the country, change my party’s views or change my state’s views. This was advice only for my people and meant only for them

 

Why We Protested Against Narendra Modi


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

By P. K. Vijayan & Karen Gabriel

09 June, 2013
Countercurrents.org

The past few days have witnessed the grand spectacle of Narendra Modi emerging as the front-runner for the post of Prime Minister, from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Our growing sense of dismay and foreboding at this spectacle has however, led to some annoyance, the essential refrain of which is, ‘Why not Modi? Why are you so hostile to him? Look at what he’s achieved in Gujarat – maybe it’s time he was given a chance to do the same for India….’ We were immediately reminded of how we were met with the same response when Modi came to Delhi University on 6 February 2013, and we protested.

At the time, he had visited Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in the University, ostensibly to deliver a lecture on ‘vikas’ (progress) and ‘development’. We, along with many others, stood outside SRCC throughout his talk, protesting peacefully but vehemently against him. The Delhi Police repeatedly lathi-charged us, used water-cannoning, and (in open collusion with ABVP activists) indulged in extremely communal and sexually violent abuse and molestation of the female protestors. Nine of the protestors (including one of us) were gratuitously charged under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, with rioting armed with deadly weapons, obstructing public servants, assaulting public servants, damaging property, etc. That matter is pending investigation with the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Why did this happen? Because we protested against Narendra Modi. At that time too, several colleagues, students and sundry well-wishers expressed bafflement: while they were sympathetic to us for what had happened with the police, they couldn’t understand why we were protesting in the first place. After all, Modi was just coming to deliver a lecture on development, and, as they saw it, he too surely had the right to freedom of speech. What, they asked, was the harm in listening to him? The subtle, implicit accusation was, we had it coming – and on two counts: one, because we ‘hypocritically’ violated our own principles by seeking to deny Modi his freedom of speech; and two, because we protested his airing his views on ‘development’. Let’s deal with the second count first.

Presumably, we would have been forgiven if we had been protesting against Modi for making say, an explicitly communal speech, or defending the carnage of 2002. Not for one moment did it cross our interlocutors’ minds that Modi speaking on ‘development’ was, in fact the implicit defence of that carnage. Here was a man projected in several quarters, not least in the business community that SRCC is so strongly connected to, as the future Prime Minister of India. This ‘lecture’ was his first major public event since this projection began: did they seriously expect that he would come to make incendiary communal speeches, just when he is being projected as Prime Ministerial material now? Obviously not!

But does that mean that the Modi of Gujarat 2002 has vanished, because he won’t talk that way – or even talk about it? Has the man responsible for the deaths of Muslims on a scale tantamount to genocide suddenly been absolved of that sin because he now speaks only of ‘vikas’? And ‘vikas’ for whom? Blatantly corrupt corporates and business houses? There are reports that the Gujarat government has lost thousands of crores of rupees in land sold to industrial houses like the Tatas, Essar and the Adani Group way below its market cost. According to the Planning Commission’s Suresh Tendulkar Committee, Gujarat has the fastest growing poverty rate in the country. There is ample evidence to show that, on major indices of human development, taken individually and together, like literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, etc., states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have done far better than Gujarat – but there is no call to promote these states as models of development. 44.6% of children under five in Gujarat suffer from malnutrition; the maternal mortality rate stands at 172/lakh, which is extremely high; sex ratios are far below the national average; the poverty rate in tribal areas is as high as 57% – one can go on rattling off the figures, but the point is clear: ‘development’ in Gujarat is neither particularly phenomenal, nor has it touched the masses.

No, the reason why Gujarat is being promoted is because Modi has wooed and welcomed big business investment on an unprecedented scale in Gujarat. This means big funding for his party as well: the BJP will be suitably and generously rewarded by the Tatas and Ambanis who are being fawned on so assiduously by Modi. Combine this with his well-known ability to rabble rouse through war-mongering, hate-speech and general communal machismo, and you have a lethal new political soft pornography. It continuously suggests, without making any explicit connections, that Modi’s communal machismo is what is needed for genuine ‘vikas’. It weaves a general discourse of ‘development’ as rampant privatization, through which big business brings malls full of consumer goods, high-tech cities with gated colonies and huge inflows of foreign direct investments. Just as soft porn offers an endless supply of sameness disguised as variety, but incites desire for this nonetheless by perpetually presenting it as exclusive, yet tantalizingly available – so too, this model of development generates a powerful illusion of choice and promotes it as exclusive, privileged, available only through investment in the new economy. And Gujarat 2002 flickers through it as the subliminal hardcore pornography of this discourse – gutted houses, dismembered bodies, raped and murdered women, slashed wombs spilling chopped foetuses, terror-filled faces screaming for mercy.

These images of the full fury of state power unleashed provide an important, implicit and tacit guarantee to big business: that as long as Modi is in control, and in their pockets, they need fear no unrest from the masses they will oppress and exploit, because Modi’s state has shown that it is more than capable of acting without any restraint whatsoever – legal, ethical, moral or constitutional. The message is clear, and from all evidence, thrilling to large sections of the middle classes: if you want to enjoy the luxuries of ‘development’, as tailored by wholesale privatization, somewhat paradoxically, you need a state that shows itself to be strong enough to push that through – violently, vehemently, viciously. Economic might is made possible, and accompanied, by brute force, and the thrilling, ego-boosting, endless middle class desire for that might is fully fulfilled in Modi’s display of force. This is what marks Modi’s promotion of the same economic model practiced by the Congress, as different: the latter is perhaps as communal as the BJP, but it still hesitates to communalize these same economic policies as openly as Modi’s Gujarat did. Which also means that if the Modi model gains ground, the Congress will not hesitate to adopt it – effectively intensifying both the communalist and neo-liberalist tendencies that are already seeping through our socio-polity.

This is what we were protesting against. Modi on ‘development’ is not separate – and must not be separated – from Modi on Muslims/Christians/communists. Modi on ‘development’ is as dangerous and poisonous as Modi on the need for genocide. Promoting Modi in Delhi University was an audacious initiative, aimed at testing his acceptability in a space like the university that is, by definition, supposed to be a progressive, democratic, secular space. We now know better. The university not only gave SRCC consent to invite Modi, but also permitted the deployment of a huge police force on campus, armed not just with lathis and the occasional side-arm (as would have been the case in the not-too distant past), but astoundingly, with assault rifles, a water cannon and even a few machine guns! The university administration was clearly not only signalling acceptability to Modi, they were rolling out the red carpet of the bruised and beaten bodies of protestors for him. And if the university can be successfully sold the idea that Modi is selling ‘development’, and therefore will be allowed to address the university community, even if protest has to be openly and brutally crushed for that, then the rot has set in far more than we had gauged.

Which brings us back to the first allegation – that we are denying Modi the right to free speech, which we ourselves insist on so vehemently. The ingenuousness of this argument is matched only by its convenience. Modi is the last person who needs someone rushing to his defence, to exercise free speech or anything else. Let us for the moment forget that he has never himself been a defender of this right. Let us remember instead some other things we forget when we make such an argument. We forget that freedom of speech is no abstract, absolute freedom but has restrictions on it that are also constitutionally pressed. We forget that the right to protest against Modi is as much a matter of freedom of speech; Modi’s right in this regard is neither superior to, nor more valid than ours. We forget that freedom of speech is not just a legal provision but is above all a political provision. We forget that, as a political provision, freedom of speech must necessarily be understood and exercised in the political context in which it is invoked. (If this was not the case, and if freedom of speech was an absolute right, all forms of hate speech, obscenity and other inflammatory discourse could happily take recourse to this and spew venom with impunity.) In this case, the context is crystal clear: Modi the Hindutva leader was selling ‘development’ as his political ride, from a communal-fascist Chief Ministership to a communal-fascist Prime-Ministership. We protested against Modi’s coming, therefore, on principled political grounds, without hate-speech or obscenity – but that is what we were rewarded with by the police and Modi supporters.

It is true that in this particular instance, Modi’s lecture on ‘development’ was unlikely to attract any of the constitutional restrictions on free speech. But, as we have already argued, the political context is vital in understanding the limitations of free speech. Which is why, in a context in which Modi is being openly promoted as the next Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP, Modi on ‘development’ is as sinister as the openly communal Modi. ‘Development’ is the Trojan horse that Modi (and the BJP) is hiding inside, to ride to Prime-Ministership This is what we were protesting against. And in the heart of Delhi University, we found a quick, small replay of what happened in Gujarat in 2002: the police joined hands with the supporters of Modi to wreak vengeance against the protestors. This is the sign of the India that will unfold under Modi, and this is what we were protesting against. What is at stake is the idea of India itself, and if that is an idea worth protesting about, then many more of us should be protesting against Narendra Modi.

Dr. Karen Gabriel, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of English, St.Stephen’s College, Delhi University. Dr. Karen Gabriel has been writing extensively on cinema, nationalism, gender, and sexuality. She has been actively engaging especially with questions of state violence, repression, democratic rights, etc.

Dr. P. K. Vijayan, Asst. Prof., Dept. of English, Hindu College, Delhi University. He has written on masculinity and nationalism, and has been actively involved in addressing the policy change in higher education initiated with Delhi University. They have co-authored several pieces on various issues.

 

The unmasking of Narendra Modi #mustread


Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
June 05, 2013

Senior BJP leader LK Advani being garlanded by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi during his Jan Chetna Yatra at Daman and Diu of Gujarat Border in Vapi.

I woke up on Monday morning to a mailbox flooded with messages from Gujarat. There were hundreds of clippings of Gujarati newspapers reporting BJP leader LK Advani’s latest comments against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the message from BJP members from Modi’s own state that said, “Advani sachu bolya ke Gujarat toh pahle thi j samrudh hatu–Modi a toh Gujarat ne lutyu! (Advani speaks the truth when he says Gujarat was always prosperous – on the contrary Modi has looted Gujarat)”

The second part of the statement was most certainly not Advani’s but those BJP members who sent me the messages had been crying from the rooftops for a long time about Modi’s propaganda and propensity to lie and exaggerate. For example, they went viral when in March this year, Modi, speaking to women entrepreneurs, laid claim to Lijjat Papad as a Gujarat state enterprise when in fact it was born in the bylanes of the very Maharashtrian locality of Girgaum in Bombay (That’s when he earned the ‘Feku’ tag.) He laid claim to Amul–the milk in your tea comes from Gujarat – when he, in fact, had nothing to do with the enterprise. Hemant Fitter, a former BJP member who quit the party to join Keshubhai Patel‘s Gujarat Parivartan Party, told me that Modi treated the Amul founder Dr Verghese Kurien very badly, forced him out of Anand in his last years and did not even accord this modern revolutionary, who transformed India, a state funeral.

Now my inbox is flooded with messages–supported by newspaper clippings–that even I, not a Modi fan, find appalling. One of these says that the Modi government has sold blood donated by people for Rs. 11 crore. Another speaks of how farmers are being criminalised and punished for drawing water from their own wells in the interest of multinational water companies. The Surat Municipal Corporation is allegedly not being allowed to draw water from the Tapi River for its residents when constitutionally every city on the edge of a river has the right to free water from that source. Another clipping speaks of government schools being closed down in Gujarat and education largely being handed over to private entrepreneurs. Yet another clipping speaks of 5,00,000 graduates being on a pay of just R2,500, 10,00,000 unemployed and 40,00,000 Gujarati families living below the poverty line. The message – Modi vikas na gappa mare (Modi is simply gassing about development).

But what tickled me pink was a widely-circulated morphed picture of Modi. It is made to look like a poster of Dabangg – Modi’s face on Salman Khan’s uniformed body asking – “Swagat nahi karoge hamara?’ (Will you not welcome me?)

Obviously, Modi as prime minister seems a less welcome proposition to even Gujaratis unlike what we have been led to believe and Advani seems to have brought some fresh hope to a large number of BJP workers who are now elated at the prospect of this old fox gradually and eventually exposing Modi for what he really is. I had never thought I would ever agree with Advani. But I have made the same comparisons that Advani is now making between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat though my argument was for Nitish Kumar’s own ‘BIMARU’ Bihar coming up from scratch to a golden enterprise. And that, too, without having to endanger a single Muslim to return to power. In fact, I had always wondered why Modi should be seen as exceptional when even some BJP-ruled states had developed well – and the party had returned to power in those states, though they do not lack commitment to Hindutva as at least Madhya Pradesh, which has shielded many saffron terrorists, proves.

Now that Advani, the patriarch of the BJP, has come to recognise, however late, that Modi is really no exception, a good deal of hope is rising even among BJP members that the truth about Modi will prevail.

And the naked truth is that Modi’s bid to become PM, apart from a hyped up exercise in self-aggrandisement is actually more an attempt to run away from Gujarat before Gujarat catches up with him as all the viral uncharitable messages about him seem to suggest is clearly happening.
Looking at how Gujarat is electrified by Advani’s Modi-baiting, the PMO is going to be no cake walk for the self-proclaimed lion of Gujarat, I should think!

 

ATTN DELHI- Protest Demo Against UP Custodial Death of Khalid Mujahid @May23 #mustshare


Khalid Mujahid: Yet Another Custodial Death of So Called “Terror Accused” in UP!

In UP under SP Rule: Injustices To Muslim Victims of Witch-Hunt Continue Unabated while Communal Hate Mongerer Varun Gandhi Allowed To Go Scot Free!

Demand Justice for Custodial Death of Khalid Mujahid in UP! Reinvestigate the Communal Hate Speech Case of Varun Gandhi!

Join Protest Demonstration Against UP Govt on 23 May

Assemble at Jantar Mantar at 11.30am and

March to UP Resident Commissioner’s Office, UP Niwas, Ambadeep Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

 

Khalid Mujahid, a so-called “accused” in the 2007 serial blasts in UP died on Sturday 18 May in police custody, yet another shameful injustice to a victim of Muslim witch-hunt. Khalid, a resident of Mariahu in Jaunpur and a Madarsa teacher, was arrested by the special task force of the UP police in December 2007 following serial blasts in UP and immediately and declared, of course without any evidence, to be an ‘operative of the Harkatul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI)’. Since then, he has been languishing in jail for last 6 years! Following sustained protests against false framing, a commission was formed to probe the matter. The report submitted in 2012 found discrepancies in the “official” police case against Khalid. On the basis of the report, the UP govt. was forced to  file an application in the court to withdraw case against Khalid.However, the court turned down the application. According to the activists, UP govt put up a weak application and now Khalid has died under mysterious circumstances, raising serious questions of cover up and conspiracy.

It is indeed yet another copybook instance of killing and suspicious death in Police custody of so called “terror accused” against whom police never managed to provide any evidence! One has not forgotten, how just last year 8 June, Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi of Darbhanga, arrested since Nov 2011, on charges of ‘involvement’ in several blast cases, was strangled to death by two gangsters, Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, inside Yerawada jail in Pune. Let us note, Maharashtra ATS had failed to file a chargesheet against Qateel in the 7 months from November 2011 till June 2012. In the Adarsh scam, accused got bail because the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated 6-month period. If the same norms had applied, Qateel should have been free, given the failure of authorities to assemble any proof against him. Yet, he remained in jail, and the ATS kept claiming he was a ‘key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative.’ From Maharashtra to Hyderabad, Gujarat to Darbhanga, the horrific saga continues unabated– framing innocent youth without a shred of evidence, torturing them for years together behind bars, and finally killing them off in custody or in fake “encounters”. These shocking cases- from Malegaon to Hyderabad, Bangalore to Azamgarh and Darbhanga-underline the vulnerability of Muslim youth routinely arrested on terror charges.

The cases also expose the duplicity and hypocrisy of the ruling regimes who never tire of swearing by ‘secularism’.During the UP elections, we have seen cynical competition between the SP and the Congress to woo support of the beleaguered Muslim community. Yet, in practice, whether it is the Congress-ruled Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh or the SP ruled UP, they are competing with the BJP in the false framing and custodial attacks on Muslim ‘terror-accused’.

Contrast this Witch-Hunt With How SP Govt in UP Manufactured  “Clean Chit” for Varun Gandhi in the Public Hate Speech Case! Varun Gandhi made the worst of anti-Muslim, venomous, hate-mongering speeches in Pilibhit before the previous Lok Sabha elections. The hate speech was delivered in large open public meetings and the entire country saw and heard them through TV channels then! But, suddenly, when the matter came up in the court, Samajwadi Party’s UP administration could not produce any video footage of the incident and several witnesses turned hostile! The recent Tehelka sting operation- aired by Headlines Today- exposed how the UP state machinery and an SP leader happily colluded with the BJP to manufacture the ‘clean chit’ for Varun Gandhi!

It is high time that this twin trend of communal politics - of state patronage to communal forces and hate-mongerers on the one hand and unabated state-sponsored witch-hunt of minorities on the other, this time enacted in UP,  is exposed and resisted.

We strongly condemn the custodial death of Khalid Mujahid and demand that all those responsible for framing him and responsible for his custodial death are brought to book. Moreover, the case against Varun Gandhi’s hate speech should be reopened, and all those responsible for scuttling the case against him – especially the Public Prosecutor and the officials in the UP government – should be punished for the shameful subversion of the judicial process.

We appeal to you to a Join Protest Demonstration against UP Govt. on 23 May

Assemble at Jantar Mantar at 11.30am and March to UP Resident Commissioner’s Office, UP Niwas, Ambadeep Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

 

Narendra Modi – Caesar can do no wrong


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread


 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

 

After his triumph in Karnataka where he thundered in four electoral constituencies, losing all four to the Congress whom it seems his fulminations did not persuade the crowds to “hate” enough, Narendra Damodar Modi found more  accolades  awaiting him at home in Gandhinagar,  where he is used to being  Caesar,  for his customary good governance.  Good governance that began in early  2002 with the decisive quelling of the uppity Gujarati Muslims, yielding a decade of funereal  peace and quiet conducive to profit maximization.

A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court has had the gumption to accuse his government of “shielding, protecting, and siding with police officials” arraigned in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing.

At a time when stories of  executive interference in the investigative workings of the  Central Bureau of Investigation are the flavour of the electronic channels, justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed  how the Special Investigation Team had earlier alleged interference on the part of the State, while the CBI report left no doubt that the State government was shielding the accused cops  (see The Hindu, May 11).  Just to remind ourselves that, apart from being Caesar, Modi is also the Home minister of the state, and has been so from day one.

Poor CBI has recently been driven to issuing  an arrest warrant against Additional Director General of Police, P.P. Pandey—no less—who seems to have gone missing with the benign connivance of the government in Gujarat, a circumstance rather reminiscent of the many months through which the convicted and sentenced Babu Bajrangi was shielded and hidden away  under the aegis of Caesar himself as per Bajrangi’s confessions  on the Tehelka  Sting tapes.  One has of course lost count of the number of similarly high-ranking police officers similarly accused in other fake encounter killings  who are cooling their heels in the slammer—all, no doubt,  testimony to the proverbial good governance of Narendra Modi.  Ask an Adani, or an Ambani, or a Tata, and they would tell you how all these underside happenings are of little account so long as good   governance keeps extending to unimpeded freebies and bonanzaz for them in the supreme  “national interest.”  Indeed the latest to join that chorus is the redoubtable  icon of entrepreneurial success and probity, Shri  Narayanmurthi. It seems the shining roads of Ahmedabad have done it for him.

Then there is the case of the senior IPS officer, Satish Verma, who was a member of the SIT in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter  case,  and the first to call the killing a cold blooded murder.  While the Court had instructed the CBI to continue to avail of the services of Satish Verma inorder to nab the other accused, the State government sought his services elsewhere in  habitual deflection of Court  orders.

In the meanwhile, news comes that the judicial magistrate who had been hearing Zakia Jaffri’s  Protest Petition on a day to day basis has been transferred after a week or so into the hearings. Just to recall that the Protest Petition challenges the conclusions drawn by the Raghavan-led  SIT whom the Supreme Court had appointed to enquire into the Gulberg massacre case.     The challenge, which is based on hitherto concealed evidence comprising call records and case diaries pertaining to the fateful days—Feb.,27 to March 1, 2002—demonstrates, for those who care to see, both the complicity of the Gujarat government at the highest level in the killings, and the failure or unwillingness of the SIT to admit such evidence and draw the inferences it should have drawn, although the amicus curiae in the case, also appointed by the Supreme Court,  was to independently hold that the evidence already recorded by the SIT was sufficient to warrant the filing of charges against Modi. Indeed the Supreme Court itself had been askance at the inexplicable divergence between the SIT’s  recorded evidence and its exoneratory  conclusions with respect to Modi.

It is not clear at the time of writing as to who might have been the authority that has  ordered the transfer of the magistrate in the case, the Hight Court or the Government.  If the former, it is regrettable that the honourable court should not have considered  the delay, perhaps an inordinate one, that will not but be caused in the disposal of the Petition, since a new incumbent cannot but take a great deal of time to master the details of the SIT report, and the more than a thousand pages of text and audio-visual evidence annexed thereof  challenging the exonerative conclusions by the SIT.  If, on the other hand, the transferring authority in the case has been the Gujarat government, what could be a greater giveaway of how, true to pattern,  it intends to thwart consideration  of the Protest Petition, since its admittance would lead directly to the filing of charges against  the accused listed by  the Petitioner, at the head of which list happens to be Narendra Modi.

A further piece of news concerns Shri Gulab Chand Kataria, an erstwhile minister and bigwig in the Rajasthan BJP, who has been now charge -sheeted for complicity in the Sohrabuddin  fake encounter murder.  The  BJP top brass sees this to be a sinister conspiracy on behalf of the Congress party which it accuses of using the CBI in the matter with the ulterior purpose of going after Modi.  Poor CBI, it can do nothing right, except when it aids and abets the BJP in its difficult times.  Sterling example:  the murder of Modi’s  cabinet colleague, the late Haren Pandya was generally recognized for what it was—a supari killing to eliminate the prospect of Pandya  testifying openly  to what had transpired at the meeting Modi held with his sartraps on the late evening of February, 27, 2002.  Recall that he had actually confided to the Citizens’s Enquiry Panel that Modi had issued instructions to his police not to thwart the vendetta on behalf of Hindus that was sure to happen the next day during the VHP  bandh call which was supported by the BJP. The investigation in the matter was passed on to the CBI by the then Home Minister of India, L.K. Advani, and, lo and behold, the CBI quickly concluded the murder to have been the work of “jehadi elements”.  Interestingly, all the accused were  freed as innocent victims by the Court, and the real killers were never investigated or caught.  The BJP and the then NDA government at the centre tom -tommed this finding of the CBI as exemplary proof of the disinformation against Modi.  And yet, the same CBI’s  case against Gulab Chand Kataria is a priori being propagandized by the BJP top brass as a case of proven vendetta.  Just to note: from all available independent sources that have thus far gone into the Sohrabuddin killing, as well as the subsequent murders of his wife, Kausar Bi, and the only witness to the events, Tulsi Ram Prajapati, the CBI may indeed have an open and shut case against both Kataria and Amit Shah, the latter  erstwhile Minister of State for Home affairs under Modi at the time, and already charged.

However you look at it,  there continues to be an exonerative Teflon all over Narendra Modi; no matter what sorts of facts keep emerging about his reign in Gujarat, no screaming, holier-than-everybody  television anchor, not to speak of his own party people who never fail to point fingers every second of every day, and may I add with dismay, some noted mainline Dailies, may persuade  themselves   to think one bad thought about Modi.

The fact may be that, notwithstanding their  routine imprecations on behalf of democracy and the rule of law, most corporates who own these channels, and who fund the print media,  and the elites who cotton to them with gusto are all at bottom looking for the great dictator to arrive in  the blazing purity of saffron, willing to set the country right through  edicts in the  superman style.

When the American Constitutional regime was being considered, one of the central contentions was whether the new world should opt for a government of men or  laws.  As is well known, the chips fell in favour of laws, since the good book taught, and teaches, that all  humankind is depraved because of the “original” transgression of Adam and Eve.

It seems that here in India where in Hindu thought depravity is never a serious matter, and never  unmanageable at any rate, our forward-looking generation now pines for the  rule by one man who may, if he so wishes, be a law unto himself.

Currently, no Indian demogauge fits that requirement more than Modi.  Thus the Teflon and the immunity in elite perception.

___________________________________________________________________

Badri Raina,

 

How Varun Gandhi silenced the system #hatespeech


After the hate speeches, a shocking subversion of the law. Rahul Kotiyal and Atul Chaurasia chronicle how BJP’s Varun Gandhi played dirty to save his political future

Rahul Kotiyal
Atul Chaurasia

This is a story about a terrible travesty. Varun Gandhi, 33, has recently been in the news for two reasons. First, he has been exonerated of all charges in the hate speeches he allegedly made in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Second, he has been made the national general secretary of the BJP, the youngest politician ever to be elevated to this post.

Now, an explosive TEHELKA sting investigation shows he is not entitled to either. TEHELKA’s investigation proves that not only did Varun make the venomous speeches he is accused of, he has compounded the original wrong by brazenly subverting the entire judicial process to get his name cleared. He has also indulged in anti-party activities, deliberately making his own party candidate lose an Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 so that a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader sympathetic to him could win and help him fix the cases against him.

The subversion of justice has been so blatant that all 88 witnesses in the cases have turned hostile. This is perhaps unprecedented in any criminal case in the world. Many of these witnesses have been caught on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras admitting they were coerced or bribed into changing their testimonies. They speak of how Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Amit Verma and other police officers threatened witnesses. In one instance, a witness claims he received a call directly from Varun’s office. The witnesses also speak of how the judicial process was turned completely on its head; how their testimonies were taken in the absence of the judge; how their statements were crafted by the lawyers and their thumb impressions or signatures taken; of how they were not cross-examined, often not even summoned to present their testimonies.

Startlingly, these accounts are strongly corroborated by key BJP and SP leaders caught on TEHELKA’s cameras. (In fact, BJP leader Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar— district vice-president of Pilibhit — gives the most devastating account of Varun’s actions.)

The investigation also found that Public Prosecutor MP Verma — tasked with upholding the law of the land and bringing the guilty to justice — and the court itself were suspiciously negligent in following due process in bringing the high-profile leader to justice.

For instance, 18 witnesses were examined in a span of just two days. They all turned hostile, but neither the public prosecutor nor the court raised any flags. They failed to object even when other witnesses gave blatantly contradictory statements. Further, when Varun refused to give a voice sample — crucial evidence for the prosecution’s case — the public prosecutor agreed to it without any objection. Several important witnesses were not even produced in the court because the public prosecutor himself filed an application saying there was no need for them to do so.

As an example of cynical political expediency — a willingness to bend every institution of democracy — the story could not get starker. Or darker. What also makes this story particularly significant is that it lays bare how easily systems are subverted by the powerful in this country.

Before the evidence, the backdrop: Varun Gandhi’s controversial political journey began in 2009 when he decided to stand for his first Lok Sabha election from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh on a BJP ticket. As a Nehru-Gandhi scion, Varun should have been one of the natural inheritors of what is perhaps the world’s most illustrious political legacy. But his mother Maneka Gandhi’s famous spat with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had meant political anonymity for him.

In March 2009, that anonymity was rudely broken when visual footage of Varun spewing venom at Muslims in his election rallies erupted on national television. The country was astounded. Here was Jawaharlal Nehru’s great-grandson in a role absolutely antithetical to the idea of India his great grandfather had played such a pivotal role in establishing.

Millions watched as these hate speeches — captured by several people on their phones and cameras — were played on loop on television channels. At the Election Commission’s insistence, two cases were filed against Varun for inciting hatred and creating communal disharmony. He was arrested on 28 March 2009 and stayed behind bars for 20 days.

Another case was registered against him for the violence that took place during his surrender at the Pilibhit court. He was charged for rioting, damaging public property and attempt to murder. Yet, though thousands had heard his speeches at the rallies and millions had watched it on television, on 4 May 2013, the Sessions Court of Pilibhit acquitted him of all the charges in these three cases, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

The illegal and immoral lengths Varun went to, to get these exonerations, have all been caught in TEHELKA’s sting investigation. But this was not Varun’s first brush with the law. He had picked the Pilibhit parliamentary seat for his first election because his mother Maneka had won several Lok Sabha elections from there. On 1 August 2008, on a tour through his constituency, Varun and his associates were headed towards Barkhera, a town 22 km from Pilibhit. On the way, Varun’s car got stalled in a pothole in a village called Jyorah Kalyanpur. While the problem was being sorted, Varun and his supporters got down and tried talking to people around. Most huts in the village were sporting flags of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS) and the Congress party. This displeased Varun and he enquired why this was the case. A local shopkeeper, Bharatveer Gangwar, replied that the flags were there because the RKMS was working for the people of the area.

Phool Chand ‘Acharya Ji’, a resident of the village and an eyewitness to the incident, recounts what happened after this. “Varun got angry with Bharatveer and said whatever had been done for the village had been done by his mother Maneka. Bharatveer replied that people supported RKMS leader VM Singh because he had fought for the welfare of the local sugarcane farmers. Varun did not like this and slapped Bharatveer. Varun’s supporters also started beating him. The villagers tried to stop them but Varun’s supporters had weapons and no one had to courage to stop Varun.”

At 6.30 pm on 1 August, Bharatveer lodged an FIR against Varun and his associates at Barkhera Police Station. On the other hand, an FIR was also lodged from Varun’s side by Yogendra Gangwar, the then BJP district president, at 9.10 pm. While the first FIR said exactly what Phool Chand told us, the second FIR said that Bharatveer had fired at Varun from a country-made pistol, looted 10,000 from him and fled with his associates while brandishing the pistol.

The police investigated both the cases, found the case lodged against Bharatveer as false and filed a closure report. In the case lodged against Varun, however, the police filed a chargesheet on 24 December 2008. This was the first criminal case filed against Varun in Pilibhit district.

By this time, Varun had understood that the Gandhi name alone was not sufficient to ensure his victory in the constituency. There were several reasons for this. In the delimitation exercise, many areas that voted exclusively for Maneka had gone out of the constituency. To exacerbate the challenge, Bahedi, which had a mixed population of both Hindus and Muslims, had come into Pilibhit constituency. Three of the five Assembly seats of Pilibhit had Muslim MLAs whereas the population of Muslims in the region was only 35 percent. Mindful of this, Varun seems to have decided the best way to ensure a victory was to polarise the election on communal lines.

This became evident in early 2009 as the campaign picked up pace. According to the locals, on 22 February, Varun declared himself as the only saviour of Hindus in the country at Ram Manohar Lohia Balika Inter College of Lalori Khera village in Pilibhit and started speaking against Muslims. This hate speech at Lalori Khera was mentioned in the election petition filed against him in the Allahabad High Court. Throughout the course of its investigation, TEHELKA was repeatedly told that before the 2009 General Election, wherever Varun held a poll meeting, he swore on the Gita that he would “cut off the hands and necks of Muslims”.

On 6 March 2009, Varun was supposed to address an election meeting at the Deshnagar locality of Pilibhit. He reached the venue at around 9 pm. Shariq Parvez, a local reporter, tried to record the speech but was forced by Varun’s supporters to turn off his camera. He could only record a few minutes. Varun told those gathered at the Deshnagar rally, “If you want to save the Hindu religion, vote for me. If a Hindu doesn’t vote for me, he would be betraying his religion.” He also warned, “See! These Muslims may say anything… every vote of theirs would go for that katua (a derogatory term for Muslims…) understand? Therefore, every vote of yours should go for Hindustan…”

In the meantime, Shailendra Singh, a local youth, recorded Varun’s entire speech on his cell phone. Shailendra says, “I had heard from several people that Varun was regularly giving speeches to inflame communal passions. Therefore I decided to record his speech. No one was allowed to make a video so I switched on the record button on my cell phone and kept it in my pocket.” (TEHELKA is in possession of this audio clip of around 28 minutes.)

The next day, on 7 March, Varun gave the same anti-Muslim speech at a locality known as Dalchand. He told the people that 13 Hindu women had been raped by Muslims over the past few days, yet the offenders were roaming scot-free. He also warned the public that the area had three Muslim MLAs, and if the trend continued, the area would turn into Pakistan. People needed to vote for him, he said, so he could establish a Hindu nation. (TEHELKA enquired about these rapes, but found no complaints or FIRs had been registered. This rumour about the rapes though had spread like wildfire and become a huge point of tension before the election.)

By this time, all of Pilibhit knew about Varun’s inflammatory speeches. On 8 March, a few reporters succeeded in recording his speech at Barkhera. It was this hate speech that a shocked nation watched in 2009. Several sadhus dressed in saffron were also present on the dais with him.

Taking serious note of the case, the Election Commission transferred the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate of Pilibhit and directed the district administration to take strict action against Varun. Two criminal cases were filed against him on 17 and 18 March for his inflammatory speeches at Dalchand and Barkhera.

VM Singh — a distant relative of Varun’s and the Congress candidate contesting against him — sent the Deshnagar audio clip to the Election Commission on 16 April. He also sent affidavits of four eyewitnesses — Prashant Kumar Rao, Mukhtar Ahmed, Kadir Ahmed and Shailendra Singh — who were willing to testify about Varun’s inflammatory speech at Deshnagar. But the police did not file an FIR in this case.

However, on 22 March, all three election commissioners passed a strongly worded order regarding Varun’s speech in Barkheda. They said, “The commission has seen the CD, not once but several times repeatedly, and is fully convinced and satisfied that the CD has not been tampered with, doctored or morphed as alleged by the respondent.” While admitting its inability to debar Varun from contesting the election till he was found guilty by a “competent court of law”, the Election Commission also observed, “in the considered opinion of the commission, the respondent doesn’t deserve to be a candidate in the present General Election…”

Although his legal troubles had increased, for the moment, Varun had succeeded in his political gameplan. His supporters started promoting him as a Hindu leader in Pilibhit. Slogans were plastered across the area, “Varun nahin aandhi hai, doosra Sanjay Gandhi hai” (He is not just Varun but a storm, he is a second Sanjay Gandhi).

Afroz Alam, a local resident and CPI(ML) worker, says, “Varun turned the whole election into a Hindu vs Muslim one. He would start his speeches by saying ‘If any Muslims are present, they should leave. I don’t need the vote of any Muslim.’ His supporters also began spreading rumours. Everywhere it was said several Muslim boys had raped a Hindu girl in the adjoining village, or that some Muslim boys had beaten a Hindu youth. Several times during the night, people on 10-12 motorcycles would go around brandishing sticks and torches and making a lot of commotion. The next day it would be rumoured that they were Muslim bandits.”
Though he was on a winning streak, worried about the criminal cases against him, Varun filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court asking the cases to be quashed. The court dismissed his petition on 25 March 2009. Afraid he would be arrested any moment, Varun decided to score a political point by surrendering. To prepare the ground for his arrest, he gave instructions to his supporters to organise a massive crowd in front of the court on 28 March.

The Pilibhit court almost waylaid this carefully planned spectacle. It said since the cases had not reached it through any formal medium yet, it couldn’t send Varun to jail. A new plan was hastily formulated. The then BJP district president Yogendra Gangwar filed an affidavit in the court saying that since two criminal cases had been filed against Varun, he wanted to surrender and should be sent to judicial custody. (TEHELKA is in possession of this affidavit). Clearly, Varun did not want his preparations to go waste.

This devious strategy was corroborated on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras by Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar, the BJP district vice-president and a confidant of Varun’s who had arranged his Barkhera rally. Here’s what Gangwar had to say: “I had received an instruction from Delhi asking us to get a large number of people on the day of the surrender. I said I would manage it. The police was deployed in Ghaziabad and Noida. But the Gandhi family is the Gandhi family. People like you and me cannot even think like them. There is a bypass on the Moradabad highway, a convoy of nine vehicles left for Bareilly from there and one went towards Sitarganj. Ten more vehicles joined the convoy from there. When the convoy was stopped in Bareilly, Varun Gandhi was not in it. I got a call saying Varun had reached the jail gate.”

This crowd gathered by Varun indulged in violent protest. Several vehicles and buildings were vandalised or set on fire and stones were pelted with such ferocity that around 20 people, including five policemen, were injured. A case was registered against Varun and his supporters for this incident on 28 March itself.

As soon as Varun was arrested, his mother Maneka took command of his communal electoral campaign. On 28 March, she went to the district hospital to meet the injured and held a Muslim inspector to be responsible for the fracas. She said, “Around 45 injured people have been admitted to the hospital. Of these, 25 have been injured by a single police inspector whose name is Pervez Miyan.” Apparently this inspector was not even present when the incident took place and was posted about 20 km away at Barkhera.

Varun spent 20 days in jail. By the time he got out, he had become the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (Emperor of Hindu Hearts). He won a landslide victory in the election, outstripping his nearest rival by more than three lakh votes. The costs would haunt him later. Varun now had three cases against him for violation of the model code of conduct, breach of peace, threatening and fighting with locals, giving inflammatory speeches, damaging public property, promoting enmity and acts prejudicial against communal harmony, attacking the police and rioting.

If he had been convicted in these cases, Varun would have had to spend an extended time in jail. His political life would have taken a beating. Perhaps, he would have been debarred from standing for elections. But by 4 May 2013, Varun had managed the costs: he stood acquitted in all the three cases against him.

Before delving into how Varun got himself acquitted by the court, there is first the story of the political collusion between him and the SP. While she was chief minister, Mayawati had slapped a draconian NSA (National Security Act) case against Varun. But the SP’s victory proved very useful. In October last year, several newspapers in Uttar Pradesh reported that the Akhilesh Yadav government wanted to drop the cases filed against Varun. When this became public, many Muslim organisations and Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, protested strongly. Afraid of alienating its voter base, the SP government finally did not drop the cases against Varun but fast-tracked them.

Ashwani Agnihotri, the former president of the Pilibhit District Bar Association, says, “I have been practicing in Pilibhit for several years. I have never seen a case where as many testimonies were taken in a single day as in Varun’s case.”

Why was the SP government so favourably inclined towards Varun? TEHELKA’s investigation found Varun — the general secretary the BJP is counting on to bring it back to glory days in Uttar Pradesh — played an important role in defeating his party candidate Satpal Gangwar in the 2012 Assembly election so that the SP candidate Riyaz Ahmed could win in Pilibhit. (Ahmed is currently the Khadi and Village Industries Minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s government as well as the state president of the SP’s minority cell.)
TEHELKA is in possession of a damning audio tape in which Rizwan Malik, Varun’s media in-charge in Pilibhit, tells Mohammad Sadar, president of the BJP’s minority cell in Pilibhit, that they must ensure BJP candidate Satpal Gangwar’s defeat because Varun wants it done. Here are excerpts of the conversation between Malik and Sadar:

Rizwan Malik: Don’t ask me… I’m saying don’t ask me. Now whatever is possible, take the appropriate decision…
Mohammad Sadar: Like what? Say something.
Malik: Now what can be clearer than his, Varun Gandhi has said that Satpal should not win, Satpal should not get the votes; that’s it. He has to lose. Now you have to decide who will defeat him. Whoever is going to win, you start working with him, what can I say?
Sadar: Then it’s fine.
Malik: You understood everything?

TEHELKA tried to substantiate this by talking to Satpal Gangwar. At first, he was reluctant to talk, but he later accepted it was Varun who made sure he lost. To prove this, even he had an audio clip. This is an excerpt of TEHELKA’s conversation with Satpal:

TEHELKA: I just wanted to ask you about the video that the boy had recorded… which meeting was it actually?
Satpal: It’s not a recording of a meeting but of a telephonic conversation. It was said on the phone that support the BSP (BSP ko ladao…)
TEHELKA: BSP ko ladao or make sure it wins…
Satpal: Yes, make sure the BSP wins.
TEHELKA: Is Varun himself giving the instructions or is some close confidant of his giving the instructions.
Satpal: Varun Gandhi is himself giving the instructions.

Haroon Ahmed, who knows the politics of Pilibhit very closely, says, “The BSP was not in the fight. The Hindu votes were polarised towards the BJP in the Lok Sabha election. Satpal Gangwar could have won on the same grounds in the Assembly election. But, in this scenario, if the BJP’s vote share was divided with the BSP, it would directly benefit the SP. This was what happened and SP’s Riyaz Ahmed won the election. This is how Varun helped the SP government and they reciprocated by trying to withdraw the cases against him.”
In the most damning evidence, BJP district vice-president Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar — the man responsible for organising Varun’s Barkhera rally — corroborated all of this on TEHELKA’s sting camera. He candidly admitted the job of influencing the Muslim witnesses was given to Riyaz Ahmed. He also describes in vivid detail the venomous things Varun had said and how the police was used to coerce witnesses later.

It is important to note that Parmeshwari is clearly a trusted member of Varun’s team in Pilibhit. After Varun was made general secretary, posters across Pilibhit came up congratulating Varun. Parmeshwari features prominently in these posters next to Varun.

Here are some excerpts of TEHELKA’s chilling conversation with Parmeshwari:

TEHELKA: Was there some controversy in 2009?
Parmeshwari Dayal: There was some controversy… the truth was… whatever was printed was true.
TEHELKA: Did he say that?
Dayal: Yes, he said that… I was in charge of that meeting that became famous in Barkhera. Ten thousand people participated.
TEHELKA: There were 10,000 people?
Dayal: At least 10,000.
TEHELKA: That means it was a big meeting. So, what happened in the meeting?
Dayal: The truth was there was one group here of VM Singh (the Congress candidate). It was Varun vs VM. The code of conduct was in place. His men recorded the whole thing in the CD and gave it to the Election Commission. When the Election Commission uploaded it on the Internet, it became known the world over. And the opposite happened.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: He had said those things… it became famous… It would have been restricted to Pilibhit… whatever he said, he said in Pilibhit… But they recorded the whole twenty two and a half minutes (Dayal abuses)… and sent it to the whole world… The CD was made by VM Singh’s men… They gave it to the government… and he became famous…
TEHELKA: Then how was the matter resolved?
Dayal: Resolved? All the witnesses turned hostile.
TEHELKA: How did the witnesses turn hostile? Did the police…
Some extraneous conversation follows at this point. Then, Dayal continues.
Dayal: Varun Gandhi can stop anyone from getting a ticket… the same will happen in Sultanpur and the same here… his roots are that strong.
TEHELKA: So, the matter was settled in the court?
Dayal: Yes, all of them got settled… only one is left.
TEHELKA: How were the witnesses managed?
Dayal: Riyaz babu is a minister in the Samajwadi Party government… and Gandhiji has direct relations with Mulayam Singh… Mulayam had said to take back the cases but Bukhari from Delhi started protesting.
TEHELKA: Yes, he had asked for the case to be taken back.
Dayal: The minister from here, Riyaz… He was pressurised. He was told all the witnesses are Muslims, just resolve the matter quickly! So Riyaz got all the Muslims together one by one… I went on that court date.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: So all the witnesses were dealt with…
TEHELKA: And how did the Hindu witnesses turn hostile?
Dayal: They turned hostile under police pressure…
TEHELKA: Under police pressure?
Dayal: The SP (Superintendent of Police) used to call them over. There was one witness… the SP called him over and said, are you literate? He said he had done his PhD. He was a literate person. The SP asked him what his pay was; he said 25,000. The SP said, you must have got a good bride. He said, yes. The SP asked him if he loved his wife; he said yes. The SP said, you want to continue loving her or stop loving her? Then go and think about what you have to say in the court. You want to go back home or not? This is how it happened.
TEHELKA: Who was the SP?
Dayal: I don’t remember his name.
TEHELKA: Was he from Pilibhit district?
Dayal: Yes… several cases like this happened.

Dayal goes on to explain at great length how the meeting was held and how the godmen on the dais were paid. Then TEHELKA asks him another question:

TEHELKA: By the way, what controversial thing was Varun saying?
Dayal: He said this… Phool Babu was a minister with the BSP. There were some atrocities against the Hindus… snatching someone’s buffalo; getting it butchered… So he said, if any Muslim raises his hand towards a Hindu, cut off his hand. If he raises his head, cut off his head… He said Bisalpur has the biggest disease (referring to its Muslim residents). So first I would buy a factory over there, a petrol pump, then I would get it sprayed by a helicopter, and then I would get the basti vacated after setting fire to the place.
TEHELKA: He said that?
Dayal: Yes, he said that. The vendors here would not go to the Muslim areas.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: All of them stopped. They were so afraid… Whole Pilibhit was afraid. (He laughs).

It is important to mention here that Riyaz Ahmed is no incidental stranger to the story; he is an old associate of Maneka. When she had left the Congress and formed the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch, Ahmed was its secretary. Reportedly, it is he who introduced Maneka to Pilibhit. In his conversation with TEHELKA, he brushes off allegations of his own links with Varun’s case. However, significantly, he too admits there was a widespread management of administration, witnesses and the judiciary to settle the cases.
But, more on that later. First, read how each of the cases against Varun was made to disappear into thin air.

Case 1: Assault on Bharatveer Gangwar
Charges: Assault, criminal intimidation and threatening to Kill
Date of incident: 1 August 2008
FIR: 1 August 2008
Chargesheet: 24 December 2008
Under Section: 452, 352, 323, 504 and 506 IPC

As mentioned earlier, the first case filed against Varun in Pilibhit was for his assault on the shopkeeper Bharatveer Gangwar. This case was being heard since 2008. Now suddenly, it’s been closed. The process of disposing off the cases against Varun started last year in October-November. Some were managed in courts; others outside the court. The assault case was settled outside the court.

Why did Bharatveer, who had steadfastly been fighting Varun for four years, suddenly decide to reach an understanding? Bharatveer refused to speak to TEHELKA about this. His fear was unmistakable. However, his lawyer, Ashwani Agnihotri, had this to say: “The current Superintendent of Police Amit Verma called Bharatveer and told him to take back the charges. Bharatveer told him he would discuss the matter with me and get back. He tried ducking the SP’s call the second time, but when the SP called him the third time, he used the methods of the police and explained — or should I say threatened — Bharatveer. The SP told him if he did not listen, he would have to face the consequences.” According to Agnihotri, the SP told Bharatveer he would be sent to jail on some trumped-up charge.

Realising he was helpless, Agnihotri advised Bharatveer that if he wanted to settle the matter, he should get an affidavit from Varun to safeguard himself. Bharatveer had lodged an FIR and given his statement to an investigating officer. According to Agnihotri, if he turned hostile in court, Varun could file a defamation suit against him.
Subsequently, Agnihotri says a relative of Bharatveer’s went to Varun’s house in Ashoka Road, New Delhi, and got the affidavit. “The matter was settled only after we got this affidavit,” says Agnihotri.

TEHELKA has not been able to corroborate Agnihotri’s story through any other testimony on camera. However, the 2008 cadre IPS officer, SP Amit Verma, that the lawyer refers to also played an important role in disposing of other cases against Varun. Verma has been posted in Pilibhit since May 2012.

Case 2: Hate Speech at Barkhera
Date of Incident: 8 March 2009
FIR: 17 March 2009
Chargesheet: 11 July 2009
Under Section: 153(A), 295(A), 505(2) IPC and 125 Representation of People Act
Number of witnesses: 34

Varun’s speech at Barkhera was the most infamous. It was this speech that was telecast across most news channels. It had seemed inevitable that Varun would be punished — or at least censured — for this. However, all 34 witnesses in the case have been declared hostile.

Even a cursory glance at the statements of these witnesses exposes glaring discrepancies. For instance, several policemen deployed as security at Varun’s election meeting were made witnesses. Yet, many of these policemen gave ridiculous statements in court. Prosecution witness No. 13, Constable Kishore Puri, for example, told the court he was on security duty on 8 March 2009, but “he had no idea about any rally, etc.” Prosecution witness No. 11, Head Constable Hetram, also admitted he was on security duty that day in Barkheda but did not listen to any speech of Varun. Witness No. 10 Ramendra Pal; witness No. 14 Mathura Prasad; and several other policemen said similar things. But there was no protest from the public prosecutor.

This laxity is evident in other crucial aspects of the case. Varun’s voice sample was the most important link in the case. However, when he refused to give it, the prosecution did not object or insist.

In fact, things get even curiouser. The police had sent a video of Varun’s speech to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Chandigarh for verification. The police also sent one camera, one cassette, one cell phone and one memory card of a cell phone to the lab. CFSL Additional Director SK Jain found the videos on these devices to be the same, but he also wrote in his report that the videos were “not original”. However, he clarified the meaning of the words “not original”. According to him, something is deemed a “original video” when it is shot in one take. As there were cuts in this video, it could not be called original.

The cuts Jain mentions in his report could have arisen due to two reasons. First, stringers — as hinterland freelance journalists are called — sometimes record their videos in parts because they have a limited space for recording. The second reason for the cuts could have been that the videos were recorded secretly as Varun’s supporters were forcefully prohibiting any recording.

Importantly, the CFSL did not raise any doubts about the authenticity of Varun’s voice on the videos. However, Jain said in his report, “To identify and verify the parts of the speech, it is important to take a balanced sample of the accused person’s voice.” The final decision would have to be taken on the basis of a voice sample. But the prosecution failed to press for it.

Beside the CFSL, the news channel NDTV had also got the CD of Varun’s hate speech verified by Digital Evidence Legal Video Services, an independent forensic lab in the US. Its report declared the CD to be authentic and said there had been no tampering. NDTV submitted this report in the Pilibhit court for permission before the report was telecast. (TEHELKA is in possession of this report).

During the course of the hearing, Asad Hayat, general secretary of the Awami Council, a trust in Uttar Pradesh, filed a petition stating Varun’s voice sample should be taken and if he refuses, it should be held against him. Hayat also pleaded that news channels that had telecast the hate speeches be made witnesses in the case. This was rejected by the court because the prosecution that should have supported it actually protested against it saying Hayat’s petition was “worthy of dismissal”.

The prosecution filed one more application in court that strongly suggests it was working to acquit Varun rather than convict him. This petition filed on 18 February 2013 said that since Jain had already submitted his forensic report, there was no need for him to appear as a witness. This was a bizarre position to take as Jain was the only person who could clarify the significance of the ‘cuts’ in court.

In the same petition, the prosecution also requested the court to exempt District Magistrate Mahendra Prasad Agarwal and Rajendra Prasad Jain, the policeman who gave the Local Intelligence Unit report, from appearing as witnesses. How can the prosecution ask for any witness not to appear in court?

Such negligence coupled with the witness testimonies caught on TEHELKA’s sting cameras makes it shockingly clear how Varun subverted the law and silenced an entire system.

Here’s what happened with Witness No. 4, Ram Avtar.

Avtar was made an eyewitness by the police. It was his responsibility to support the prosecution case. But in his statement to the court, Avtar said there had been no election meeting by Varun at Barkhera and neither had he given any inflammatory speech.

When TEHELKA spoke to Avtar, on the other hand, he acknowledged on hidden camera that he was actually present at Varun’s election meeting at Barkhera and had heard his speech. In fact, he said Varun had also given anti-Muslim speeches at his village Dadiya Bhagat.

Here’s what Avtar told TEHELKA: “Even in my village, Gandhiji had said that there are three Muslim MLAs in the district, do you want to turn this place into Pakistan? If I become the MP, and any Muslim commits any atrocities like Phool Babu is committing, then I would cut off the hands of those Muslims.”

As for his turning hostile in court, he told TEHELKA, “Policemen came to take me for my testimony. First they said, take him straight to the SP’s bungalow. Then they said, both the government and the administration want the matter to be resolved, why should you bother? Why should you get caught in this mess? (Hum kyon lafde mein paden?) Politicians are involved in this (Netaaon wali baat hai).”

It must be emphasised here that these policemen — whose responsibility was to encourage and provide protection to the witnesses to tell the truth — were coaching witnesses to reverse their testimonies. Avtar and other witnesses recorded their statements in the court after such instruction.

This is the account of witness No. 6, Abdul Rehman.

Rehman stays near Barkhera and owns a tent house. The tent for Varun’s election meeting was booked from his shop. He was also made an eyewitness in the case. But when he gave his statement in court, Rehman said, “I did not go to the election meeting, I was at my shop. The tents were booked for the meeting, but were not sent.” The main reason why the police had made Rehman a witness in the first place was because his tents were used in the election meeting. But now the political wind had changed and the police did not want the truth told.

Rehman accepted in TEHELKA’s sting that tents from his shop had indeed been sent for the meeting. But clearly no one was interested in the facts of the case. Here’s what Rehman told TEHELKA on camera: “The lawyers were not asking anything in the court, what I had seen or heard. We were just made to stand while the lawyer was writing.”

Shockingly, he goes on to say, “The magistrate was sitting there and in front of him the lawyer was telling us to write ‘I was not present at the rally’, ‘I did not see anything’, ‘Varun did not say anything, nor did I hear anything…’ meaning to retract my statement.” Rehman also says that everyone had heard Varun’s speech but, driven by fear, nobody was ready to testify truthfully. He told TEHELKA, “Everyone is corrupt. A CD is recorded in front of you. It is playing in front of you and still you are denying and saying he (Varun) did not say that. Tell me, what testimony can anyone give in such a case?”

This sordid story plays itself out again and again with dismal familiarity.

Here’s what happened with witness No. 17, Mohammad Yameen and witness No. 18, Mohammad Raza. Both Yameen and Raza had been listed as eyewitnesses in the case. But like everyone else, Raza, a nagar adhyaksh with the SP, told the court he had not heard Varun’s speech or gone to his rally. On TEHELKA’s camera, however, he admitted he had received a call from Varun’s associates to shape his testimony in Varun’s favour.

He says, “I got a call from there (Varun Gandhi). Everyone was pressurising me. They said give your testimony, it would be beneficial for him. I said fine.” During this meeting with Raza, our camera stopped working in the middle so we decided to meet him again. In the second meeting, Yameen was also present. Like Raza, Yameen had testified that he was neither present at the election meeting nor had he heard Varun’s speech.

On TEHELKA’s camera, however, he explains the truth. “I will tell you,” said Yameen, “that day Varun Gandhi had given his speech. Several mahatmas (godmen) were also present. I was standing right there. As soon as he climbed the stage, Varun Gandhi said Jai Shri Ram… Then he said I want to tell my Hindu brothers that there are already two or three Muslim MLAs in the area and if you do not pay attention, Pilibhit will turn into Pakistan… Then he said if someone raises a hand towards any Hindu I would cut off that hand… He talked like that.”

When TEHELKA asked why they had not told the court any of this, both Raza and Yameen replied that no one was working properly in the case (“Koi bhi iss mamle ki pairvi thik se nahin kar raha tha”). In such a scenario, nobody wanted to make enemies. Yameen also corroborated that several police officers of the district, including the SP, had played a major role in getting the testimonies changed.
“The SP was involved,” Yameen told TEHELKA. “The SP had got the testimonies changed from all the witnesses. This is the truth but who can confront the government? Who can confront such a senior leader? We did not have any local support. When a senior officer like the SP says he wants the case resolved, what can anyone do?”

The story keeps getting darker. The police not only manipulated local residents but even journalists on behalf of Varun. This is what happened with witness No. 31 Mohammad Tariq.

Tariq was among the most important witnesses in the case. He was the reporter who, along with another journalist friend, Ramveer Singh, had recorded Varun’s speech at Barkhera. The whole case rested on Tariq. The police in its chargesheet had written that Tariq would prove he had recorded Varun’s speech on his camera. In his testimony to the court, however, Tariq accepted he had gone to Barkhera and recorded Varun’s speech along with Singh, but denied listening to the speech himself.

This took the ludicrousness of the proceedings to a fresh scale. How can anybody accept that a reporter who works on a story has no idea what his story is about? Tariq recorded Varun’s speech and sent it to his channel. The whole nation saw his footage. And now, here was Tariq claiming he had not heard the speech.

What is even more surprising is that both the public prosecutor and the court accepted this testimony without raising any objection. (Shariq Parvez, witness No. 30 in the case and himself a journalist, told TEHELKA on sting camera that Tariq had been paid 5 lakh to obfuscate his testimony. TEHELKA has no way of verifying this claim.)

Now, read the account of witness No. 34, Ramveer Singh.

Singh, a reporter with Sahara Samay, had recorded Varun’s speech along with Tariq. When the prosecution asked him if the police had taken any CD from him, he said they had not. Besides this, Singh — an eyewitness who had recorded the entire speech — was not asked further questions.

Singh, however, accepted on hidden camera that he had indeed heard the speech and recorded it with Tariq. “Everyone was sold out,” he told TEHELKA, “everyone including the prosecutor. They only asked me one question, ‘Did you give the CD?’ I had actually not given the CD to the police; I had given it to the channel, the channel had given it to them.”

If Singh had been asked even one more question, it would have become clear that he had given the CD to his channel who had given it to the police. But clearly nobody in the court was interested in the truth. After his fleeting examination, the public prosecutor requested the court to end the prosecution evidence.

(Parvez again told TEHELKA that Singh had been demanding lakhs of rupees to throw his testimony. Finally, he cut a deal with the SP and was gifted a Maruti Wagon-R car as a bribe to speak in favour of Varun. TEHELKA was unable to corroborate this claim independently. Ironically though, when we had carried out our sting on Singh, it was fairly dark and his face was not very visible. But at one point, a mechanic came in with his Wagon-R car and its headlight illuminated Singh’s face and it got captured in our camera.)

But set aside what witness No. 30 Shariq Parvez told us about others. Here’s what he told us about himself.
Parvez was the third local journalist to appear as a witness in the case. The police had listed him as a witness in both the Barkhera and Dalchand cases. In its chargesheet on the Barkhera case, however, the police wrote that “Shariq would prove he had recorded Varun’s speech at Deshnagar on his cell phone.” This was bizarre.

Why was the police trying to prove the Deshnagar case in its Barkhera chargesheet? (It’s worth remembering here too that despite audio clips and affidavits of the Deshnagar speech being sent to the Election Commission, the police had failed to register a case.) At any rate, Parvez turned hostile in court and said he had not recorded Varun’s speech at Deshnagar.

In its order acquitting Varun, the court noted Parvez’s testimony as follows, “He was not present in the meeting. On 7 March 2009, he had not made a recording of Varun’s speech in Deshnagar on his cell phone. During examination, he had said he had not recorded the audio clip. His statement is that he had not gone to the meeting and had not recorded any audio clip, therefore his testimony is not trustworthy.”

This was even more bizarre. While giving its verdict in the Barkhera case, why was the court quoting Parvez’s statement on Deshnagar and mentioning the date of the Deshnagar incident as 7 March instead of 6 March?
Here’s what Parvez told TEHELKA on camera. “I was constantly getting calls from the administration. The PRO of the SP himself called me and told me to give my testimony in a particular way.” A little later, he says, “RV Singh (Ramveer Singh, his fellow journalist) opened up only when SP Amit Verma talked to him.”

Parvez goes on to allege several things. For instance, he told TEHELKA, “MP Verma, the public prosecutor, told me that everything is done. I understood they were managing everything from the top.” Parvez then goes on to make specific references of bribes paid to the public prosecutor and judge. Yameen had told TEHELKA something similar: “The police inspector told us that we have managed the judge, we have managed the public prosecutor, the government is also with us.”

TEHELKA is refraining from printing the exact allegations as it has no way of verifying them. However, disturbingly, no less than Riyaz Ahmed — a sitting minister in the UP government and the Pilibhit MLA — tells TEHELKA exactly the same thing.

TEHELKA: When we saw the footage, we had thought it would be an open-and-shut case. Of course, you have been observing things more closely from the ground.
Riyaz: Yes, I was a candidate.
TEHELKA: Yes, you were a candidate. So, haven’t any questions come up around here that how did these cases get buried?
Riyaz: See, I’ll tell you…
TEHELKA: Yes, do tell us.
Riyaz: See, the first thing is that many of the witnesses were their people. Second, they obliged everyone. They paid 10 lakh to someone and 5 lakh to someone else. Someone took 11 lakh, someone took a big car. In one way or the other, everyone received something.
TEHELKA: You mean the witnesses?
Riyaz: Yes, the witnesses. But they even went to the extent of obliging the judiciary in a big way.
TEHELKA: You mean the Pilibhit court?
Riyaz nods in affirmation.
TEHELKA: Was the administration also involved?
Riyaz: Yes, they too were obliged.

Case 3: Hate Speech at Dalchand
Date of incident: 7 March 2009
FIR: 18 March 2009
Chargesheet: 11 December 2010
Under Section: 153(A), 295(A), 505(2) IPC and 125 Representation of People Act
Number of witnesses: 15

The Dalchand mohalla of Pilibhit, where Varun had held an election meeting, is dominated by the people of the Valmiki community. Varun had been speaking of Muslims at all his election meetings as a disease to be eradicated. Here too, he spoke along similar lines, “When the time is right,” he said, “this disease will be eradicated. I’m not a general, I’m a politician, but a Valmiki would become a general and eradicate this disease.”

The FIR in this case was filed 10 days after the incident. TEHELKA’s investigation found the police had listed witnesses in a completely arbitrary manner. They carelessly included people who had genuinely not heard Varun’s speech. The court’s order said no video of the speech was presented in the court in this case. And while the Barkher case had 34 witnesses; this had just 15. Hence, from the very beginning, a very weak case was presented before the court.

Yet, the pattern of subverted justice played itself out even here. The legal process was manipulated, false witnesses were produced, a mockery happened in the name of testimony and the judgment went in favour of Varun.

Both the Barkhera and Dalchand cases were being heard by Chief Judicial Magistrate Abdul Qayum. In the Dalchand case, all the witnesses TEHELKA spoke to, revealed a startling fact. The judge was not present in court on the day of their testimonies. The police presented such false witnesses that there were glaring discrepancies in their statements but no justice could be had because the judge himself was not present.

Whenever a witness is presented in a court, it is the responsibility of the judge to ensure the witness is not under any duress. Statements made in the presence of the police have no legal validity as there is always a doubt that the police could have used coercion to extract a statement. Therefore, under Section 164 of the CrPc, only testimonies given before a judge is considered legally relevant.
In the Dalchand case, according to the four witnesses TEHELKA spoke to, even this elementary justice could not be had because the judge was not present.

Take a look at the testimony of witness No. 1, Vijay Pal, the prime witness in the case.

Pal’s testimony reads, “There was no election meeting of Varun Gandhi in Mohalla Dalchand on 7 March 2009. I did not step out of my house, I did not hear Varun Gandhi’s speech, neither did he give any speech against the Muslims.” There are stark discrepancies in this statement. Firstly, an election meeting did take place there; this is why the FIR was filed in the first place. Secondly, if Pal had not gone to the meeting and not heard Varun speak, how could he know whether Varun spoke against Muslims or not? This is what Pal told TEHELKA over the phone.

TEHELKA: Did you meet the judge in the court?
Vijay Pal: No, not the judge, the testimony took place in front of Peshkar sahab (the Reader).
TEHELKA: The judge was not present in court?
Pal: No, the judge was not present.

When witnesses are testifying against an influential person, it doubles the responsibility of a judge to ensure they are not under any duress. The seriousness with which the CJM of Pilibhit was conducting this case became increasingly evident with every new person TEHELKA spoke to.

Here’s what witness No. 4 Riyasat told TEHELKA.

TEHELKA: What happened in the court?
Riyasat: When I reached, they asked me to get my photograph clicked. I told them I was coming straight from the field and had only 40-50 with me. The rickshaw-puller charges 20, the photograph cost 20, so how would I go back? The policeman said he would pay for the photograph, but I refused. I took money from my elder brother and had my photo clicked. I gave them three copies. They attached my picture to the file. They did not ask me anything else. No witness got a chance to go inside.
TEHELKA: You mean no witness went inside the court?
Riyasat: No, all the papers were already there. Just the photographs were pasted on them.
TEHELKA: All you did was put your thumbprint on it?
Riyasat: Yes, I put my thumbprint and came back.
TEHELKA: Did the judge ask you anything?
Riyasat: No, the judge had been on leave for three days. I had gone to the court thrice and come back. My time and money was wasted. Finally, I went again on the 20th.
TEHELKA: Was the judge present when you gave your testimony then?
Riyasat: The judge was present, but it was lunch time. We all came back after putting our thumb impressions.
TEHELKA: None of you met the judge?
Riyasat: None of the witnesses met the judge.
TEHELKA: There was no conversation?
Riyasat: No.
TEHELKA: Did you give your thumb impression in front of the judge or outside the court?
Riyasat: In front of the peshkar (Reader) who sits.
TEHELKA: In front of the peshkar?
Riyasat: Yes.

TEHELKA also heard about the absence of the judge from witness No. 2, Pratap.

TEHELKA: Did the judge ask you anything?
Pratap: No, the peshkar (Reader) and ardali (orderly) were there.
TEHELKA: The judge was not there?
Pratap: The judge was not there.

Witness No. 5 Nafees also corroborated that the judge was not present.
Hence, without being present in court, without hearing all the witnesses, without even having them questioned in front of him, magistrate Abdul Qayyum exonerated Varun Gandhi on 27 February 2013 in the Mohalla Dalchand hate speech case.
Reading all of this, even a child would know the due process of law has been brazenly subverted in clearing Varun’s name. In fact, it is hard not to be dazed by the extent and scale of it.
At the very least, this expose begs the question: should these cases not be sent back for retrial? And how should those involved be punished?
But the story still doesn’t end here. Varun Gandhi’s ‘Operation Cover-Up’ left no piece unturned.

Case 4: Inciting riots, assault on the police and destroying public property
Date of incident: 28 March 2009
FIR: 28 March 2009
Number of witnesses: 39

On 4 May 2013, Varun was exonerated in the last case against him, in which he was accused of rioting, assault and attempt to murder. This exoneration came towards the end of TEHELKA’s investigation so we could not pursue it extensively. However, merely scratching the surface of the case makes several problems evident. For one, BJP leader Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar’s account captured on TEHELKA’s cameras proves the hyper-charged crowd that gathered during Varun’s surrender was pre-meditated. As he told TEHELKA, he was “instructed” to marshall a huge crowd there.

But what follows is even starker. Besides Varun, nine other people had been listed as accused in the case. The number of witnesses was 39. Yet, though Varun has been acquitted and all the witnesses have turned hostile, the trial against the other accused is still in the initial stages.

Ashwani Agnihotri, a senior advocate from Pilibhit, explains, “If there are more than one accused in a case, usually, their trial is conducted together. An accused can be separated from the others only if he is absconding and not appearing in court. But Varun Gandhi was given this special privilege by the Pilibhit court.”

The manner in which testimonies for this case was recorded is similar to the two earlier cases. Here too, around 10 witnesses were produced in court on the same day. All of them turned hostile. But no questions were raised.

Varun is now perhaps unique in the history of the Indian legal system. He had three cases against him with 88 prosecution witnesses. Every single one of them has turned hostile. Just this is enough to raise suspicions. Surely, the higher courts need to take note of it. It’s not just Varun’s reputation that is at stake, but the whole idea of credible courts.

When TEHELKA contacted Varun, he said he did not want to respond to the story.

The idea of India is based on several cardinal plinths: the idea of plurality and equal rights for all its citizens are perhaps the two most sacred of those plinths. Varun’s hate speeches violated this in deep and wounding ways.

But his elaborate cover-up went a step worse. The idea of democracy is predicated on the rule of law. In trying to clear his name by subverting the entire judicial process, Varun crossed an even greater line.

Today, he stands acquitted in all the cases. Major political responsibilities have been given to him and the BJP is considering him as a future tall leader. But are Varun’s acquittals merely the story of an accused getting away with a crime? Or will these cynical exonerations strengthen the foundation over which similar crimes can prosper in the future?

If the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had been brought to book, perhaps the carnage of 2002 would have been less vile and rampant, if not stemmed altogether. The political patronage given to the perpetrators of 1984 gave rise to people like Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani. If Varun had been meted proportionate punishment in time, perhaps Akbaruddin Owaisi would have learnt to hold his tongue.

Like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Varun’s inflammatory speeches could have proved disastrous. Parmeshwari Gangwar, a close associate of Varun, said on TEHELKA’s hidden camera, “The vendors would not go to Muslim-dominated areas in Pilibhit, they were so afraid.” Ramveer Singh, the reporter who recorded Varun’s communal speech, says, “The things he said in Barkhera were very dangerous. There is a Muslim locality close by with at least a 1,000-1,500 Muslims. If they had thrown stones from their rooftops, a 100-200 people in the market could have died.” Ram Avtar told TEHELKA that the villagers had even begun making preparations to kill Muslims. “The intelligent people of the village did not agree with this, but many illiterate people said this politician is good. We are Hindus; he is saying the right thing. So, the villagers started making preparations to kill Muslims.”

It is a happy trick of fate that the ugly spark that Varun Gandhi had lit did not turn into a flame. But the sad truth is, he has shown yet again that rather than walk the hard path of true leadership, Varun is willing again and again to sacrifice the very ethos of this nation merely to further his political ambitions. A poor way to reclaim a lost legacy.

rahul@tehelka.com | atul@tehelka.com

How many skeletons can Narendra Modi fit in his closet?


Two biographies of the desperately aspiring Narendra Modi are reminders that Gujarat’s ‘CEO’ can’t hide from his grisly past, argues Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

18-05-2013, Issue 20 Volume

Photo: AFPPhoto: AFP

With a substantial section of the Indian media choosing to hype the upcoming 16th General Election as an American presidential style contest between Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it is not surprising that popular interest in the controversial leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has grown exponentially in recent months. Predictably, two journalist-authors and their publishers have sought to ride the crest of this wave of interest about a person who is arguably the most divisive and deeply contentious political personality in India at present.

It is, of course, a separate matter altogether that Modi’s attempts to project himself as a potential prime minister of the world’s largest democracy may well come to nought and his endeavours at playing a wider role in national politics outside Gujarat may prove to be more bluff and bluster than hard realpolitik. It is also very likely that if he is indeed sought to be projected as the tallest leader of the BJP, he will run into considerable opposition from not just within his own party, but, more importantly, from within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition headed by the BJP. There is a real and present danger that the NDA may implode if Modi acquires the stature that he apparently seeks, an outcome that would likely result in the coalition’s next largest constituent, the Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, breaking ranks with the BJP.

The Namo Story Kingshuk Nag Roli Books 208 pp; 295The Namo Story
Kingshuk Nag
Roli Books
208 pp; 295

Even more significant is the fact that it will be extremely difficult — rather impossible — for a so-called national political party and one of its important leaders to aspire to lead a heterogeneous country like India on a Hindu nationalist agenda after alienating one out of seven of the country’s citizens who believe in some variant or the other of the Islamic faith. Despite his best efforts at wooing them in his state, Muslims in India have a visceral hatred for Modi and this is hardly a secret inside and outside the BJP. In fact, as many political analysts have argued, the best bet for the Congress is to have a strong Modi in Gujarat, for this automatically ensures that Muslims and a section of ‘liberal’ Hindus remain distant from the BJP.

As Kingshuk Nag points out right in the beginning of The NaMo Story — much shorter and more tightly written than Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times — there is perhaps no one in the country who is indifferent to Modi: you either love him or you hate him. His personality is not amenable to dissection in nuanced shades of grey. There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ as far as the Gujarat chief minister is concerned. Nag is clear where he stands. He is certain (as is this reviewer, who has been quoted in The NaMo Story) that Modi will never ever be able to live down the fact that he presided over an administration that oversaw the genocide of at least 700 Muslims, most of them in Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, in a three-month period between late- February and early-May 2002. The ghosts of the not-too-distant past will invariably return to haunt Modi over and over again, no matter how hard he tries to change his public image to that of a go-getting, pro-business leader, the chief executive officer of an industrialised and commerce-friendly state. Some of his overtures have borne fruit: it is hardly surprising that he is the only leader who has been showered with so many accolades by corporate captains, who otherwise prefer to play coy about disclosing their preferences about political leaders.

Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay Tranquebar 420 pp; 495Narendra Modi: The
Man, The Times
Nilanjan
Mukhopadhyay
Tranquebar
420 pp; 495

Mukhopadhyay is more ambivalent in his condemnation of Modi, although it would be unfair to describe his book as either a hagiography or an authorised biography of Modi. He goes to great length to explain what motivated him to behave the way he did and what went through his brain when he chose to ask certain questions (and not ask others) while he interacted with the protagonist of his book. The author tries hard to establish his credentials as an objective political analyst. Given that he had written an earlier book on the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid (The Demolition: India at the Crossroads), he has sought to situate the rise of Modi in the BJP in the broader historical context of the emergence of political Hindutva. That he should describe himself as persona non grata in Modi’s world is more a reflection of the intolerance of the Gujarat chief minister than the author’s attempt to portray the latter’s ‘human’ side.

But what is especially disappointing is that Mukhopadhyay has chosen to either completely ignore or play down substantially the views of certain individuals. Such people include the journalist-activist Teesta Setalvad and dancer-activist Mallika Sarabhai. One may or may not endorse their views, but for them to be ignored altogether in a book about Modi took this reviewer by surprise. Even stranger is the fact that there is hardly a mention in the book of a certain Maya Kodnani, former minister for women and child development in Modi’s government and state legislator from Naroda, who is now behind bars for her abhorrent role in the communal riots — the only woman and the only MLA to be convicted so far.

Nag, on the other hand, has highlighted how the Gujarat chief minister sought to become a votary of economic liberalisation and small government as he rose above his humble, low-caste origins in a relatively underprivileged family. The person who was not a particularly bright student in a nondescript school later became an ardent advocate of the use of ‘hi-tech’ in his election campaigns. From serving tea to wearing designer kurtas, the metamorphosis of Modi from a servile small-time party worker to a egoistic megalomaniac is documented. Nag also points out instances of corruption and crony capitalism in Modi’s government despite his claims of running a squeaky-clean administration.

Both authors have written about Modi’s ‘hidden’ wife to whom he was betrothed at a young age, but never lived with. And both books expectedly end somewhat abruptly. For Modi’s story is far from over. Nag rightly wonders if he was prescient when he told a gathering of well-heeled businessmen from across the world that he hoped to be meeting them again in the January 2015 edition of ‘Vibrant Gujarat!’

letters@tehelka.com

Mobile Phone of RSS Leader used to trigger Bangalore blast


Thursday, 9 May 2013
May 09:

The investigation into the April 17 bomb blast near the BJP office in Bangalore has now taken a new turn with police finding that a stole SIM card and phone of a prominent RSS leader was used to trigger the blast which left 11 policemen and five civilians wounded. The police sources have told The New Indian Express that the mobile phone of the RSS leader was stolen just a day before the blast.

“We did a technical investigation of what triggered the improvised explosive device (IED) that injured 11 policemen and five civilians. Through a mobile tower near the bomb blast area we traced a number, which was registered in the name of a prominent RSS leader from Karnataka. We found out that the cellphone was stolen from him just a day before the blast,’’ the English daily has quoted a top police source as saying.

The probe team has collected all relevant material, including CCTV footage of the person who parked the motorbike prior to the blast. The footage is said to have showed that the suspect tried to park it in front of the BJP office gate twice, but security personnel stopped him. “The footage clearly shows him parking the mobike, with the front facing the road. His face is not clear in any of the shots as he is wearing a helmet,’’ the source said.

So far, nine suspects – all Muslims — have been arrested in the case from different parts of Tamil Nadu and some of them from jail. However, the latest finding of the police about the SIM card may point to another culprit group. It is most possible the phone of RSS leader was stole by people around him. And as the police said it was stolen just a day before the blast, then it is most likely that the culprits planned and executed the act while being in Bangalore itself.

Meanwhile, the Bangalore Police on Tuesday produced blast suspects Rehamathulla (29), Asgar Ali (29), Hakeem (31) and Tenkasi Suleman (24), arrested from Salem jail, and Suleman (31), who was arrested in Coimbatore, before the ACCMM I court. The five were remanded in police custody till May 18, along with Kichan Buhari and Basheer, the other suspects.

 

#India -Why Narendra Modi should not be the PRIME MINISTER


T.K.ARUN.MODI1 TNN, T K ARUN
Narendra Modi should not become the prime minister, because that would destroy the idea of India as a nation that celebrates unity in diversity, where multiple identities prosper in harmony and dignity. Equally, democracy and the rule of law would be casualties under Modi. For the BJP, Modi’s ascent to the top would mean a hasty end to any hope of evolving into a centre-right party minus a Hindu majoritarian agenda.

The tutored rants of a pseudo-secular hack who cannot see the glory of growth, prosperity and social harmony achieved in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership? That, of course, would be the typical reaction of Modi’s fan following, whose ardour only grows with every objection to their leader’s elevation to the pinnacle of power. But passion and protest are no substitute for the analysis of hard facts.

Gujarat has indeed prospered under Modi. Modi is an able administrator, gives scope for innovative ideas from bright sparks in the bureaucracy to be deployed on the ground. He has been able to curb petty corruption at the retail level. The state has a viable power sector and everyone pays his bill. All this is true.

Much of it is true for other states as well, except for the success story in power. Bihar has grown faster than Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra more or less match its growth rates. And Gujarat lags in reducing poverty, showing that the growth it achieves is rather lopsided. Women have a raw deal, with high levels of anaemia and low levels of college education, compared to several other states.

Gujaratis are an enterprising people, have been the most enthusiastic in taking advantage of liberalisation and globalisation and have propelled economic growth in their state. The chief minister certainly can take credit for not standing in the way but even more certainly cannot take credit for the Gujarati business acumen accumulated over history.

But Modi’s vaunted achievement is not just to have led growth. There is no denying his charisma as a leader, the conviction and force with which he speaks and his ability to move his audience with oratory.

Leadership power, unfortunately, is not an automatic argument in his favour. What he leads his followers to becomes all the more important, the more inspirational he is as a leader. And this is where the rub is. What he believes in, what he has practised, is extremely divisive, inimical to liberal democracy.

Modi is not on the best terms with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This is not because the Sangh suspects him of any ideological deviation. Rather, Modi personifies the Sangh’s belief system. The problem is that Modi is too authoritarian to accept the discipline even of the Sangh. This authoritarian streak has manifested itself as quashing of dissent and fostering of leaders like Amit Shah, prime accused in encounter killings, extortion rackets.

It is not factually true that there have been no attacks on Muslims in Gujarat after the pogroms of 2002, but there has been relative peace. Under his government, the Sangh Parivar has taught the Muslims of Gujarat to live as second class citizens, their safety and security guaranteed not so much by the commitment of the state to protect the rights of citizens as by patronage conditional on good behaviour. This, indeed, was the ideal laid down by the Sangh’s Guru Golwalkar, who strongly believed that India should be the land of Hindus and followers of other religions should live here not as equal citizens under a secular constitution but as second class citizens enjoying truncated rights. The Sangh no longer says this openly but nor has it repudiated its most influential leader’s teachings. The Sangh and all the organisations it has formed and/patronised, including the BJP, propagate the myth that Hindus are an oppressed, exploited group in India while the minorities are coddled with undue benefits. This myth is used to fan hatred towards non-Hindus and to unify Hindus on the basis of such hatred.

This attempt is inimical to democracy and peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths. It is also inimical to the traditional Hindu ethos. At the level of theology, Hinduism recognises no deviance in the pursuit of spiritual equilibrium, tantric sex and austere, ascetic, intellectual pursuit of the ultimate and everything in-between being all equally acceptable. With a pantheon that has more gods than there were Hindus at the time of Independence, Hinduism has no problem accepting a few more gods, whatever their names.

Inclusiveness with regard to multiple paths of spirituality is not the same thing as tolerance. Hindus have little tolerance when it comes to caste trespasses. That honour killings continue even today stands testimony to this form of intolerance. Yet, the philosophical core of Hinduism, advaita, lends itself to radical interpretations that negate caste and see universal humanity across nations, races and other divisions. One such interpretation was espoused by Vivekananda, whose views have little in common with the sectarian vision of the Sangh and its acolytes like Modi. For Vivekananda, all religions lead to spiritual realisation, just as all rivers lead to the ocean. For the Sangh and Modi, Muslims and Islam are anathema. This has nothing to do with Vivekananda or his thought.

Hypocrisy, intolerance and authoritarianism will become instituted in the central government, if Modi were to become prime minister. For any other BJP leader, such institutionalisation would be a risk, countered by the system’s inertia. With Modi, that would be a certainty.

India’s prosperity depends on voluntary unity of its constituent diversity. Attempts to subordinate some sections will inevitably lead to schism. The deep alienation induced by the bloody campaign to demolish the Babri mosque is still playing out as occasional terror strikes. The point is to create integration and inclusion, not further alienation that descends into civil war.

 

Press Release- Release All Activists of the PFI Charged Under UAPA and Sedition Immediately and Unconditionally


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

29/04/2013

Protest Against the Criminalisation of Muslim Youth!

Scrap UAPA and All Draconian Laws!

 

 

On the 23 April 2013, around 11 in the morning, twenty one activists aged 20-25 of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested from a building that was under construction at Naraath, Kannur district, Kerala. The arrest as reported in the press was done under the leadership of DySP P. Sukumaran of the Kerala police. After the 21 activists were taken away from the site of the arrest, the police claimed to have seized two country bombs, one sword and materials that can be used for making country bombs along with literature of Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). All these were displayed before the media at the site.

After the much publicised display of seizure materials before the media the police was quick to slap Sec 18 of the draconian UAPA as well as 153-B of the Sedition Act on the 21 activists. These draconian clauses were beside the sections slapped under the arms/explosives act and on unlawful assembly. The police also declared that they are looking into the ‘terror links’ of these activists. And that they will raid every office of the PFI throughout the State. Some sections of the media even went ahead to say that the possible links of these activists with the recent blast that took place near the BJP office in Bangalore is also being looked into by the police. And as this is being written the Karnataka police have already stated the possible role of SDPI in the Bangalore blast.

The first and foremost question that comes up is the haste with which the police evoked draconian laws such as UAPA and Sedition act on the activists of PFI for possessing a couple of bombs and some literature which was already in the public domain as it was distributed among the people in the campaign against the growing threat of Hindu communal fascism. This is typical of the modus operandi of all investigating agencies that enthusiastically implicate Muslim youth in every blast case or conspiracy or waging war against the state that one has witnessed in the states of UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc. It is significant that the arrests and sudden evoking of the UAPA is happening in Kannur district of Kerala known for violent partisan clashes between rival political parties (be it CPM, BJP/RSS, Congress) trying desperately to gain supremacy over their adversaries. As long as it is a fight between CPM and the RSS/BJP/Bajrang Dal/VHP combine as opposing parties, the rules of the game are simple. One can hear constant appeals from the ‘civil society’ for ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ and the need to move away from the politics of an eye for an eye. It generally becomes a discourse on violence in abstract without any critical reference to the context (socio-politico-economic) in which this is being addressed. The need to shun violence completely from politics is foregrounded against the vote bank politics indulged in by the Congress, CPM, BJP or the UDF and LDF. Beyond that there is not even any inkling of a ‘terror plot’ let alone the question of ‘waging war’ against the state. But it goes without saying that there has been no dearth of reports of capture of bombs and weapons from the office of the CPM save incidents of RSS/BJP activists dying while moving with / making bombs in the same district.

Once there has been assertion from the side of the Muslims in terms of open and militant campaigns against the growing trends of Hindu communal fascism in the State in particular and the Indian subcontinent in general, the discourse of the ‘politics of peace’ has taken a different turn. Sooner than later one is witness to the state sponsored discourse on Kerala becoming a hub of ‘Islamic terror’ and highly publicised/sensationalised arrests of youth alleged to have been involved in ‘terror plots’. Beyond that, if any such ‘plots’ ever got proved before the court of law was not of much interest for ‘literate Keralam’. The PFI neatly fits into the logic of this narrative of the imminent ‘Islamic threat’ as any such mobilisation of the minorities away from or other than the established permutation and combination of the electoral donkey in UDF and LDF will disturb the electoral applecart of the Congress, CPM or even the BJP which is yet to make its electoral presence in Kerala.

It is still vivid in our memories that when the IT Cell, of the Kerala Special Branch Police’s illegal swoop into the mails of more than 250-odd Keralites in the state (most of them Muslims) was exposed before the public, instead of taking action on the officers responsible for such incriminating acts from the investigating agencies, the police threatened their own officer who stood against such acts of impunity and arrested the lawyer who was giving legal advice to the conscientious officer. The media house that carried the story was threatened and the leading journalist who published the story was not spared.

The timing of such sensationalised arrests and the spawning of speculation of a larger plot with the entry of the Karnataka police and reports in the media of the ‘involvement’ of the SDPI in the Bangalore bomb blast before the BJP office all indicate the same old game plan of an increasingly criminalised and communalised police and investigating agencies of India. As we have time and again mentioned the UAPA sanctions the perception of the reality as authentic not the reality itself. So for a motivated (on communal lines) police officer to quickly assume that the youth arrested from the building in Naraath can’t be but a ‘terrorist’ or can only think and act in an ‘unlawful’ manner or are capable of ‘waging war against the state’ fits perfectly with the ideology of the perception as reality and hence the arrests and knee jerk reaction of slapping UAPA and charges of sedition on the twenty one of them. A considerable section of the media which hatches such spurious stories only mystifies the perceptive reality and does not make any responsible effort to disentangle the often muddled versions of the investigating agencies and the police covering up their acts of impunity under the garb of the so-called ‘war against terror’.

It is high time that the UAPA and all such anti-people, draconian laws which criminalise all forms of dissent/political expression of the vast sections of the people be scrapped forthwith. We at the CRPP strongly condemn such motivated arrests of activists of people’s movements and stand for their right to freedom of expression and dissent. Since the motivation to slap charges of UAPA and Sedition on the PFI activists is political it becomes important to demand the unconditional release of all the activists as to expect a ‘fair’ trial for them would be live in a mystified world. The CRPP calls upon all the freedom loving and democratic people of the subcontinent to join hands to defeat these criminal, communal and fascist designs of the Indian state and its counterpart in the UDF-led Kerala government.

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

President

 

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

 

MN Ravunni

Vice President

 

P Koya

Vice President

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations