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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sonia Gandhi 4th richest politician in the world

by Preeta Memon
September 19, 2012

As India is approaching towards a general election in less than a year, the leader of ruling Indian National Congress has been listed as world's fourth richest politician with a total wealth of over US$ 18 billion, which is invested in real estate, telecommunication and various business projects around the world, while significant portion of the amount is also deposited in secret bank accounts. Italian born Indian politician Sonia Gandhi alias Antonia Maino was already in the controversy centering one of the biggest bribe scandals in India – 3G Spectrum -- wherefrom influential politicians looted billions of dollars through corruption and fraud.

Business Insider has a short feature, "Meet The 23 Richest Politicians In The World", and Dr Manmohan Singh's boss, Ms Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi is listed as the 4th richest with wealth estimated between US$ 2-19 billion. This must have given Kapil Sibal and Digvijaya Singh the conniptions, and I am sure that it lends more weight to Dr Subramanian Swamy's charges against AM aka SG.

Sonia Gandhi's late husband and former Prime Minister of India, Rajeev Gandhi came into media's exposure, when he was caught into Bofor's kickback scandal, though Indian government tried its best to defend Rajeev Gandhi to be a 'Mr. Clean' by tightly restricting access to official documents by the media. What was Rajiv Gandhi's fatal error in politics? It does not need a seer to say that it was his claim to honesty — branding himself as 'Mr Clean' — that proved fatal to him. Indira Gandhi was his contrast. Asked about corruption in her government, she said nonchalantly, 'it was a global phenomenon'. This was in 1983. An honest Delhi High Court judge even lamented how could corruption be controlled when someone holding such a high position had almost rationalised it. The result, no one could ever charge Indira Gandhi with corruption, because she never claimed to be clean. But, ambitious to look ideal, Rajiv proclaimed honesty and so provoked scrutiny; in contrast, Indira, opting to be practical, immunised herself against scrutiny. Eventually, Rajiv's claim to honesty became the very cross on which he was crucified in the 1989 elections when the Bofors gun shot the Congress out of power. The lesson to the political class was: don't claim to be honest, if you really are not so. The hard lesson seems forgotten now by the Gandhi family itself. Sonia Gandhi, instead of following Indira's safe path, is wrongly caught on Rajiv's risky steps. The consequences seem to be ominous. Will the politics of 1987 to 1989 repeat?

Following Rajiv and forgetting Indira, Sonia Gandhi proclaimed 'zero tolerance' to corruption at a party rally in Allahabad in November 2010. She repeated it at the Congress plenary in Delhi weeks later. Asking the cadre to take the corrupt head on, she said that her party was 'prompt' in acting against the corrupt; 'never spared the corrupt' because corruption impedes development'. This was almost how Rajiv Gandhi spoke in the Congress centenary in Mumbai 25 years ago. Two crucial differences marked Rajiv away from Sonia. First, when Rajiv claimed to be 'Mr Clean', he had no scams to defend against. But, Sonia claims to be honest amidst huge and continuing scams — CWG, Adarsh, 2G Spectrum allocation scam…. Next, Rajiv had a clean slate to begin with, with no known skeletons in his cupboard till the Bofors scam smashed his 'Mr Clean' image. In contrast, Sonia's slate is full of credible exposures of bribes and pay-offs in billions of dollars secreted in Swiss bank accounts, not counting Quattrocchi's millions from Bofors. To make it worse, for almost two decades now, she has not dared to deny the exposures or sue the famous Swiss magazine or the Russian investigative journalist who had put out evidence of bribe against the Sonia family. Seen against this background, Sonia's vow to act against the corrupt seems like a suspect hooting 'catch the thief' and scooting away. This is the main story that unfolds here:

US$ 2.2 billions to 11 billions:
A stunning exposure on Sonia Gandhi's secret billions in Swiss banks came, surprisingly, from Switzerland itself, where the world's corrupt stash away their booty. In its issue of November 19, 1991, Schweizer Illustrierte, the most popular magazine of Switzerland, did an exposé of over a dozen politicians of the third world, including Rajiv Gandhi, who had stashed away their bribe monies in Swiss banks. Schweizer Illustrierte, not a rag, sells some 2,15,000 copies and has a readership of 9,17,000 — almost a sixth of Swiss adult population. Citing the newly opened KGB records, the magazine reported 'that Sonia Gandhi the widow of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was controlling secret account with 2.5 billion Swiss Francs (equal to US$2.2 billion) in her minor son's name'. The US$2.2 billion account must have existed from before June 1988 when Rahul Gandhi attained majority. The loot in today's rupee value equals almost Indian Rupees 10,000 crore. Swiss banks invest and multiply the clients' monies, not keep them buried. Had it been invested in safe long-term securities, the US$ 2.2 billion bribe would have multiplied to US$ 9.41 billion (Indian Rupees 42,345 crore) by 2009. If it had been put in US stocks, it would have swelled to US$ 12.97 billion (Indian Rupees 58,365 crore). If, as most likely, it were invested in long-term bonds and stocks as 50:50, it would have grown to US$11.19 billion (Indian Rupees 50,355 crore). Before the global financial meltdown in 2008, the US$ 2.2 billion bribes in stocks would have peaked at US$ 18.66 billion (Indian Rupees 83,900 crore). By any calculation the present size of the US$ 2.2 billion secret funds of the family in Swiss banks seems huge — anywhere between Indian Rupees 43,000 plus to some Indian Rupees 84,000 crore!

KGB papers:
The second exposé, emanating from the archives of the Russian spy outfit KGB, is far more serious. It says that the Gandhi family has accepted political pay-offs from the KGB — a clear case of treason besides bribe. In her book The State Within a State: The KGB and its Hold on Russia-Past, Present, and Future, Yevgenia Albats, an acclaimed investigative journalist, says: "A letter signed by Victor Chebrikov, who replaced Andropov as the KGB head in 1982 noted: 'the USSR KGB maintains contact with the son of the Premier Minister Rajiv Gandhi (of India). R Gandhi expresses deep gratitude for the benefits accruing to the Prime Minister's family from the commercial dealings of the firm he controls in co-operation with the Soviet foreign trade organisations. R Gandhi reports confidentially that a substantial portion of the funds obtained through this channel are used to support the party of R Gandhi'." (p.223). Albats has also disclosed that, in December 2005, KGB chief Victor Chebrikov had asked for authorisation from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, "to make payments in US dollars to the family members of Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ms Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi." And even before Albats' book came out the Russian media had leaked out the details of the pay-offs. Based on the leaks, on July 4, 1992, The Hindu had reported: "the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service admits the possibility that the KGB could have been involved in arranging profitable Soviet contract for the company controlled by Rajiv Gandhi family".

Indian media:
Rajiv Gandhi's sad demise delayed the Swiss and Russian exposé on Sonia being picked up here. But Indian media's interest in it actually coincided with Sonia Gandhi assuming leadership of the Congress. A G Noorani, a well-known columnist, had reported on both Schweizer Illustrierte and Albats' exposés in Statesman (December 31, 1988). Subramanian Swamy had put out the photocopies of the pages of Schweizer Illustrierte and Albats' book in his website along with the mail of the Swiss magazine dated February 23, 2002 confirming that in its article of November 1991 it had named Rajiv Gandhi with a total of Swiss Franc 2.5 billion ($2.2 billion) in secret account; it had also offered to supply a original copy of the magazine to Swamy. (See: These facts were again recalled in my article in The New Indian Express (April 29, 2009) written in response to Sonia Gandhi speech at Mangalore (April 27, 2009) declaring that, "the Congress was taking steps to address the issue of untaxed Indian money in Swiss banks". The article had questioned her about her family's corrupt wealth in Swiss banks in the context of her vow to bring back the monies stashed away abroad. Rajinder Puri, a reputed journalist, has also earlier written on the KGB disclosures in his column on August 15, 2006. Recently, in India Today (December 27, 2010) the redoubtable Ram Jethmalani has referred to the Swiss exposé, asking where is that money now? So the Indian media too has repeatedly published the details of the secret billions of the Gandhi family investigated by the Swiss and Russian journalists. Amal Datta (CPI(M)) had raised the US$ 2.2 billion issue in Parliament on December 7, 1991, but Speaker Shivraj Patil expunged the Gandhi name from the proceedings!

But, what has been the response of Sonia or Rahul, major after June 1988, to the investigation by Schweizer Illustrierte and Albats and to the Indian media's repeated references to their investigation? It can be summed up in one word: Silence. Thus, apart from the exposés, the deafening silence of the Gandhis itself constitutes the most damaging and self-incriminating evidence of the family's guilt. When Schweizer Illustrierte alleged that Sonia had held Rajiv Gandhi's bribes in Rahul's name in Swiss banks, neither she nor the son, protested, or sued the magazine, then or later; nor did they sue A G Noorani or Statesman when they repeated it in 1998, or later; nor would they sue Subramanian Swamy when he put it on his website in 2002; neither did they sue me, or the Express when the article was carried in April 2009. When major papers, The Hindu and The Times of India included, had carried the expose on KGB payments in the year 1992 itself adding that the Russian government was embarrassed by the disclosures, neither of the Gandhis challenged or sued them; nor did they sue Yevgenia Albats when she wrote about KGB payments to Rajiv Gandhi in 1994. Neither did they act against Swamy when he put Albats' book pages on his website or when Rajinder Puri, a well-known journalist, wrote about it in his column on August 15, 2006. However, a feeble but proxy suit was filed by Sonia loyalists to defend her reputation when Albats' exposé was made part of the full-page advertisement in The New York Times in 2007 issued by some NRIs to 'unmask' Sonia to the US audience, as they claimed. The suit was promptly dismissed by a US court because Sonia herself did not dare file the suit. Shockingly even that suit did not challenge the $2.2 billion Swiss account at all!
Imagine that the report in Schweizer Illustrierte or in Albats book was false and Sonia Gandhi did not have those billions in secret accounts in Rahul Gandhi's name or the family was not paid for its service to the KGB as alleged. How would they, as honest and outraged people, have reacted? Like how Morarji Desai, then retired and old at 87, responded in anger when, Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, had mentioned in his book that Morarji Desai was a 'paid' CIA mole in the Indian Cabinet. Morarji Desai forthwith filed a libel suit. Commenting in The American Spectator, Rael Jean Isaac wrote in 2004, five years after Morarji Desai had passed away, that Hersh habitually indulged in character assassination; and in his attempt to do down Henry Kissinger, Morarji Desai became the victim. Isaac added that Desai, 87, calling it a "sheer mad story", reacted in outrage with a libel suit seeking US$50 million in damages. When the suit came up, as Desai, 93, was too ill to travel to US, Kissinger testified on Desai's behalf, flatly contradicted Hersh's charge and stated that Desai had no connection to the CIA. That is how even retired and old persons, honest and so offended and outraged, would act. But see the self-incriminating contrast, the complete absence of such outrage, in Sonia, who is reigning as the chairperson of the UPA now, neither retired or tired like the nonagenarian Morarji Desai, being just 41 when the story broke out in Schweizer Illustrierte. Imagine, not Sonia or Rahul, but Advani or Modi had figured in the exposés of Schweizer Illustrierte or Albats. What would the media not have done to nail them? What would the government of Sonia not have done to fix them?

Indian Rupees 20.80 lakh-crore loot:
The billions of the Gandhi family being both bribes and monies stashed away in Swiss banks, they are inextricably linked to the larger issue of bringing back the huge national wealth stashed abroad. All world nations, except India, are mad after their black wealth secreted in Swiss and like banks. But India has shown little enthusiasm to track the illicit funds of Indians in Swiss and other banks. Why such reticence?

When during the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP leader L K Advani promised to bringing back, if voted to power, Indian monies estimated between $500 billion and US$1.4 trillion stashed abroad, the Congress first denied that there was such Indian money outside. But when the issue began gathering momentum, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi had to do damage control and promise that the Congress too would bring back the national wealth secreted abroad. Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a non-profit institution working against global black funds, has recently estimated that the Indian wealth secreted away is about $462 billion, approximately equal to Rs 20.80 lakh-crore. The GFI says that more than two-thirds of it was looted away under the liberalisation regime. This is what the GFI says about the character of the loot: "From 1948 through 2008, India lost a total of $213 billion in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight)" through "tax evasion, corruption, bribery and kickbacks, and criminal activities". Does one need a seer to say under what head would the $2.2 billion in Sonia family's secret account (which would have grown to $9 to $13 billion by now) fall? But accretions, if any, from the loot in 2G and CWG where the numbers are even bigger are not still accounted. Now comes the more critical, yet practical issue. When the Sonia Gandhi family is among the suspects who have secreted away monies abroad, how will it affect the efforts to bring back the wealth stashed away by others?

Looters safe:
Just a couple of examples will demonstrate how the government is unwilling to go after Indian money secreted abroad. As early as February 2008 the German authorities had collected information about illegal money kept by citizens of different countries in Lichtenstein bank. The German finance minister offered to provide the names of the account holders to any government interested in the names of its citizens. There were media reports that some 250 Indian names were found in the Lichtenstein Bank list. Yet, despite the open offer from Germany to provide the details, the UPA-II government has never showed interest in the Indian accounts in Lichtenstein Bank. The Times of India reported that "the ministry of finance and PMO have, however, not shown much interest in finding out about those who have their lockers on the secret banks of Liechtenstein which prides itself in its banking system". But under mounting pressure the Indian government asked for details not under the open offer but strategically under India's tax treaty with Germany. What is the difference? Under the tax treaty the information received would have to be kept confidential; but, if it were received openly, it can be disclosed to the public. Is any further evidence needed to prove that the government is keen to see that the names of Indians who had secreted monies abroad are not disclosed?

The second is the sensational case of Hasan Ali, the alleged horse-breeder of Pune, who was found to have operated Swiss accounts involving over Rs 1.5 lakh-crore. The income tax department has levied a tax of Rs 71,848 crore on him for concealing Indian income secreted in Swiss accounts. This case is being buried now. The request sent to the Swiss government was deliberately made faulty to ensure that the Swiss would not provide details. Some big names in the ruling circles are reportedly linked to Hasan Ali. That explains why the government would not deepen the probe. It is Hasan Alis and the like who transport through hawala the bribes of the corrupt from India. If Hasan Ali is exposed, the corrupt will stand naked. This is how the hawala trader and the corrupt in India are mixed-up.

Is it too much to conclude that thanks to Sonia family's suspected billions in Swiss accounts the system cannot freely probe the US$ 462 billion looted from India at all? Tail-pieces: The total wealth of both Gandhis, as per their election returns, is just Rs 363 lakh, Sonia owning no car. Sonia lamented on November 19, 2010, that graft and greed are on the rise in India!! Rahul said on December 19, 2010, that severe punishment should be given to the corrupt!


An open letter to Oprah Winfrey from an Indian who eats with her hand

Rituparna Chatterjee

"I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still?" - Oprah Winfrey

Dear Oprah,
Even as I try to wrap my head around your amazingly presumptuous statement, your host breaks into a huge grin and says "usually we use only one hand to eat." Good god. But there's laughter around the table. You will soon realize that food humour is the best kind of humour in India, next only to toilet humour.

The upper-middleclass family you visit offers you a thali, an assortment of food that in India is considered a filling and balanced meal. The man of the house points to a green lump in the corner. "That's okra." "This? This is okra?"

Only, in India we call it ladies finger. In fact, if vegetable vendors had their way bhindi would join bandobast in the English dictionary any day. I am mildly thankful to you for not referring to it as gumbo, which I am sure would have baffled millions watching the spectacle that you made of our way of life.

You are helplessly disarming when you ask your host to show you how to eat with your hand. "I have never eaten with my hand but I can try." They fall over each other to oblige. Use one finger to hold the bread (puri) down and tear like this. Now dip it in anything you want. See? So easy.

Oprah, you brave, brave thing, you are now one of us. Millions of us risk infection every day to eat food with our hands. When a child is born we teach it to eat with the hand. In the desolate, backward hole we live in, this is considered perfectly normal. Our table manners are minimal but they do not include humiliating our host with a question that plainly indicates our backwardness. 

We, the Indians who amaze you with our resilience and our sparse lives in 10X10 slum chawls, have always thought you were well travelled, well read and well spoken. How do we know? We watch your show of course. We have had cable television revolution since 1992. Poverty is an inseparable part of India, you say, and seek out the human stories that make the grind bearable.

But which India have you come looking for? The one that shops at state-of-the-art supermarkets and vacations abroad or the one whining about their misery in tiny holes of homes with LCD televisions on the walls? The India that scrapes by with $200 a month but sends its children to subsidised government schools to pick up fluent English? The India of your press information - fascinating, with its many-headed goddesses and grimy, naked children playing by roadside hovels - or the India of the future - an economic superpower that looms large outside the range of an average American's myopic vision?

Oprah, your comment about eating with the hand is really not that big a deal to us; we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country. But as a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework. Using our hands to eat is a well established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it. A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that. 

In fact, we scoff at people who try to tackle their pizzas and rotis with cutlery. In one sweeping, general statement you linked the usage of cutlery to our progress. If anything, the mockery brings out in sharper focus the underlying insecurity and the latent threat developed nations sense from third world countries such as ours. Do you say you did not mean it as an offence? It is then an abominable insensitivity to Indian hospitality. 

I am a part of the nation that struggles to give its people a livelihood and sometimes fails to even provide basic amenities such as a showerhead in their bathrooms (gasp!). Don't even get me started on our problems; you will miss your flight back. We have seriously twisted issues but shooting innocent people at random inside a cinema theatre is not one of them. Our problems are generically different from yours. But we don't make a spectacle out of yours. That's the difference.

You have become the butt of jokes here, some well deserved, some not so much. Did you think the idea of 'India' is the culmination of an Algebraic equation? You are not alone in this sweeping ignorance and larger insensitivity. But you are a powerful brand ambassador of the America that tries to make sense of Indians. If this is the level of awareness you bring to our country, and the half-informed truths you take back, I feel apprehensive for the people you influence.

Yes, we eat with our hands and it's high time we stop eating out of yours. 

(Oprah's Next Chapter premiered on Discovery Channel on July 20 and 21, 8 PM with a simulcast on TLC and Discovery Channel Tamil. Sunday Special on July 22, 8PM to 10PM)


Thursday, 13 September 2012

नरेन्द्र मोदी और नीतीश कुमार : दो मित्रों की कहानी

नरेन्द्र मोदी और नीतीश कुमार क्रमशः गुजरात और बिहार के मुख्यमंत्री हैं और इन दिनों लगातार सुर्खियों में हैं। दोनों न केवल एक ही राशि के हैं, बल्कि एक ही राजनीतिक गठबंधन के भी; लेकिन दोनों में आजकल ठनी है। कम-से-कम दिखता तो ऐसा ही है। लेकिन कम ही लोग जानते हैं कि नीतीश कुमार का अन्तरमन नरेन्द्र मोदी से गहरे प्रभावित रहा है। आज दिख रही शत्रुता में भी कभी-कभी मुझे मित्रता का ही भाव दिखता है। मनोविज्ञान में प्यार- घृणा एक ही सिक्के के दो पहलू माने जाते हैं। इन दोनों की मित्रता और शत्रुता कुछ ज्यादा ही गड्ड-मड्ड हो गयी है।

एक घटना को याद कर रहा हूं। 2004 की गरमियां थीं। लोकसभा के चुनावों का नतीजा आ चुका था और बिहार में लालू प्रसाद के नेतृत्व में यूपीए को निर्णायक बढत मिली थी। जार्ज-नीतीश के नेतृत्व में एनडीए बुरी तरह पिट चुका था। नीतीश जी मेरे घर आये थे। फ़ुरसत में थे, सो घंटों दुनिया जहान की बातें होती रहीं। मेरा कहना था कि नरेन्द्र मोदी के कारण एनडीए को हार का सामना करना पड़ा। नीतीश जी इसे मानने के लिए तैयार नहीं थे। मैं नरेन्द्र मोदी के खिलाफ़ रुख लिये हुए था। नीतीश जी ने स्थिर और गंभीर होकर कहा – नरेन्द्र मोदी बीजेपी का नया चेहरा है। वह अति पिछड़े तबके से आता है। घांची है, घांची। गुजरात की एक अत्यल्पसंख्यक पिछड़ी जाति है यह। बीजेपी की ब्राह्मण  लाबी उसे बदनाम करने पर तुली है। इसमें वाजपेयी तक शामिल हैं। डायनमिक आदमी है। आप अगर उससे एक बार मिल लीजिएगा तो उसका प्रशंसक हो जाइएगा। निहायत गरीब परिवार से आता है। सादगी और कर्मठता कूट-कूट कर भरी है उसमें। नीतीश जी एक त्वरा (ट्रांस) में थे। वह बोले ही जा रहे थे। मोदी द्वारा दिये गये एक आतिथ्य को चुभलाते हुए उन्होंने अपनी बात को एक विराम दिया – ‘मैं तो उसका फ़ैन हो गया हूं।‘

मुझे आश्चर्य होता है नरेन्द्र मोदी का यह फ़ैन आज उसके लिए फ़न काढकर कैसे बैठा है। क्या इसे ही राजनीति कहते हैं। क्या मुस्लिम वोट बैंक पर सेंध लगाने के लिए यह सब हो रहा है। या फ़िर कुछ और बात है?

मैं नहीं बता सकता कि असलियत क्या है। क्योंकि नीतीश कुमार से इन दिनों  मेरी व्यक्तिगत दूरी है। अनुमान आखिर अनुमान होते हैं। कहनेवाले तो यह भी कहते हैं कि प्रकारांतर से नीतीश कुमार नरेन्द्र मोदी की मदद ही कर रहे हैं, वे उन्हें लगातार चर्चा में बनाये रखे हुए हैं। ऐसा मित्र-लाभ भला कौन नहीं पाना चाहेगा। संभव है इस बात में कुछ सच्चाई हो, लेकिन सार्वजनिक संबंधों की जो कड़वाहट नीतीश कुमार ने पैदा की है, वह तो दिख रही है। इस कड़वाहट से शायद उन्हें किसी बड़े नतीजे की उम्मीद है। लेकिन क्या यह संभव है?

नरेन्द्र मोदी बीजेपी की ओर से प्रधानमंत्री पद के संभावित उम्मीदवार हैं। नीतीश कुमार के मन में भी इसी पद की व्याकुल लालसा है। स्वार्थ के इस टकराव ने ही मित्र को शत्रु बना दिया है। ऐसे में कोई क्या कर सकता है?

पिछले बिहार विधानसभा चुनाव के ठीक पहले जहां तक मुझे याद है जून 2010 में नीतीश कुमार ने पटना में आयोजित बीजेपी राष्ट्रीय कार्यसमिति की बैठक में शामिल होने वाले लोगों के लिए अपने सरकारी आवास पर एक भोज का आयोजन किया था। ऐन वक्त पर एक विज्ञापन का बहाना बनाकर उस भोज को रद्द कर दिया गया। विज्ञापनकर्ता कोई व्यापारी था और उसने 2009 में लोकसभा चुनाव के दौरान जालंधर में एक ही मंच से चुनावी उद्घोष कर रहे नरेन्द्र-नीतीश की जगमग तस्वीर अखबारों में प्रकाशित करा दिया था। दरअसल वह बिहार की धरती पर इस तस्वीर के साथ नरेन्द्र मोदी का इस्तकबाल करना चाहता था। बदहवास नीतीश ने सामान्य शिष्टाचार को भी ताक पर रख दिया। बाढ के समय गुजरात सरकार द्वारा भेजी गयी सहायता राशि लौटा दी। नीतीश, नरेन्द्र मोदी से अपने संबंधों के सार्वजनिक करने के विरुद्ध थे। विज्ञापनकर्ता ने शायद इस बात को गंभीरता से नहीं समझा था कि कुछ सम्बन्ध - खासकर प्रेम सम्बन्ध – के सार्वजनिक करने के खतरे ज्यादा होते हैं। यही हुआ। भाजपा नेताओं को अपमानित होना पड़ा। उन्होंने सब कुछ बर्दाश्त किया। हालांकि उन्हें इन सब का अभ्यास है। उत्तर प्रदेश की राजनीति में मायावती के नखरे भी उन्होंने खूब बर्दाश्त किये हैं। यह गठबंधन की विवशता है। भाजपा अपनी दुधारु गाय के लताड़ भी बर्दाश्त करेगी। असलियत तो यही है न कि भाजपा के राजनीतिक खूंटे पर नीतीश हैं। न कि नीतीश के खूंटे पर भाजपा।

2012 के राष्ट्रपति चुनाव में नीतीश ने भाजपा के उम्मीदवार का समर्थन न करके कांग्रेसी उम्मीदवार प्रणव मुखर्जी का समर्थन किया, तब एक बार फ़िर मीडिया ने नीतीश की धर्मनिरपेक्षता को थपथपाया। मीडिया ने इस बात की भी समीक्षा नहीं की कि इस मामले में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की बात कहां आती है। क्या भाजपा समर्थित उम्मीदवार संगमा सांप्रदायिक चरित्र के हैं? और नहीं तो फ़िर क्या कांग्रेस ही धर्मनिरपेक्षता का असली घराना है। नीतीश ने इस बीच ऐसा अलाप लगाया मानों वह ही धर्मनिरपेक्षता के मुख्य ध्वजवाहक हैं और इस मुल्क की सेक्यूलर पालिटिक्स बस उन्हीं के बूते चल रही है। किसी ने भी वास्तविकता को सामने लाने का साहस नहीं किया कि प्रणव मुखर्जी कांग्रेस से अधिक अंबानी घराने के उम्मीदवार थे, और नीतीश को इस घराने के विरुद्ध जाने की हिम्मत नहीं थी; क्योंकि इस घराने का एक दूत नीतीश के दल में सांसद के रुप में बना हुआ है, और पूरे दल को संचालित करता है। नीतीश की पीठ थपथपा रहे लोगों को भी याद रखना चाहिए कि प्रणव के समर्थन में नीतीश थे, तो बगल में बाल ठाकरे भी थे।

मैं उनलोगों में नहीं हूं, जो नरेंद्र मोदी को गोधरा उपरान्त दंगों के लिए क्लीन चिट दे चुके हैं, या फ़िर बाबरी मस्जिद मामले के लिए आडवाणी के कृत्यों को भूल चुके हैं। 2002 का गुजरात दंगा भयावह था और मुख्यमंत्री के रुप में नरेन्द्र मोदी की जिम्मेवारी थी कि वह उसे रोकें। मैं उन्हें आज भी दोषी मानता हूं। लेकिन क्या वह अकेले दोषी थे? उस वक्त केन्द्र में अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी प्रधानमंत्री थे। उन्होंने गुजरात सरकार को बर्खास्त क्यों नहीं किया? उनके पास तो बाबरी मस्जिद ध्वंस के बाद कई राज्य सरकारों को एक साथ बर्खास्त किये जाने का उदाहरण मौजूद था। वाजपेयी ने गुजरात दंगों के पूर्व बिहार में सेनारी नरसंहार पर बिहार सरकार को बर्खास्त कर राष्ट्रपति शासन लगाया था। सेनारी दुर्घटना से गुजरात दंगे कहीं ज्यादा भयावह थे। जब एक नरसंहार के लिए बिहार सरकार बर्खास्त हो सकती थी, तो फ़िर गुजरात सरकार क्यों नहीं? क्या नरेन्द्र मोदी ने अकेले राजधर्म का पालन नहीं किया था? वाजपेयी कौन से राजधर्म का पालन कर रहे थे।

और वाजपेयी को मसीहा मानने वाले नीतीश कुमार ने तब किस राजधर्म का पालन किया था? नरेन्द्र मोदी की आज वे चाहे जितनी तौहीन कर लें, उन्हें यह नहीं भूलना चाहिए कि उस वक्त रेलमंत्री वही थे और गोधरा कांड रेल में ही हुआ था। उसके पूर्व गाइसल ट्रेन दुर्घटना में नैतिक जिम्मेदारी लेते हुए रेल मंत्री पद से त्यागपत्र देने वाले (हालांकि त्यागपतत्रित  सरकार से) नीतीश गोधरा हादसे का निरीक्षण के लिए भी प्रस्तुत नहीं हुए। आश्चर्य है कि यह आदमी भी आज नरेन्द्र मोदी को नसीहत दे रहा है और वह भी दंगों को लेकर।

नरेन्द्र मोदी और नीतीश कुमार दोनों गोधरा मामले में दूध धुले नहीं हैं। दोनों ने, और फ़िर दोनों के दादागुरु वाजपेयी ने भी तब राजधर्म का पालन नहीं किया था। दोनों विज्ञापन प्रिय हैं, और दोनों ने विकास पुरुष की पट्टी अपने माथे पर खुद बांध रखी है। उपलब्धियों की बात की जाय तो गुजरात और बिहार दोनों राज्यों में बेतरह  असमानता बढी है। दोनों जगह के अमीर ज्यादा पावरफ़ुल हुए हैं, और गरीब ज्यादा दयनीय।

लेकिन नरेन्द्र मोदी और नीतीश कुमार में कुछ गैरमामूली अंतर भी है। नीतीश बिहार के कुलक उच्चकुर्मी परिवार से आते हैं और नरेन्द्र मोदी गुजरात के निर्धन अति पिछड़े घांची परिवार से। नीतीश के पिता वैद्यराज और कांग्रेसी नेता थे जबकि नरेन्द्र के पिता मामूली चाय दुकानदार- जहां नरेन्द्र ने अपना बचपन ग्राहकों के जूठे गिलास मांजकर गुजारा। नीतीश इंजीनियरिंग की पढाई कर रहे थे, तब नरेन्द्र एक वकील परिवार में डोमेस्टिक हेल्पर थे – जहां रोज नौ कमरों की सफ़ाई और पन्द्रह लोगों के खाना बनाने का काम उन्हें करना पड़ता था। उन्होंने प्राइवेट परीक्षायें देकर येन केन प्रकारेण डिग्रियां हासिल की हैं और जो सीखा है दुनिया की खुली युनिवर्सिटी में सीखा है। वह दक्षिणपंथी राजनीति से जुड़े हैं, लेकिन उनका बचपन और युवावस्था रुसी लेखक मैक्सिम गोर्की की तरह संघर्षमय रहा है। एक अंतर और रहा है नरेन्द्र मोदी और नीतीश में। मुख्यमंत्री के रुप में भी नरेन्द्र सादगी पसंद रहे हैं। उन्होंने चापलूसों-चाटुकारों को अपने से दूर ही रखा है। दागदार लोगों से जुड़ना नरेन्द्र मोदी को पसंद नहीं आया। लेकिन यही बात नीतीश कुमार के लिए नहीं कही जा सकती। कभी साफ़-सुथरी छवि वाले नीतीश आज विवादों से घिरे हैं। उनकी जीवन शैली बदल चुकी है। आरटीआई से प्राप्त जानकारी के मुताबिक अपने सरकारी आवास और पैतृक गांव को संवारने में उन्होंने सरकारी खजाने से सैंकड़ों करोड़ रुपए खर्च किये हैं। चापलूस, अपराधी और दागदार आज उनकी खास पसंद हैं और अपने खानदान की मूर्तियां स्थापित करने में मायावती से वह थोड़ा ही पीछे हैं।
(लेखक प्रेमकुमार मणि हिंदी के प्रतिनिधि लेखक, चिंतक व राजनीतिकर्मी हैं। उपरोक्‍त लेख फारवर्ड प्रेस के सितंबर, 2012 अंक में उनके कॉलम ‘जनविकल्‍प के तहत प्रकाशित हुआ है)


How spiritual leaders are being targeted...?

Indeed a disgusting story — a concerted, converging attempt to tarnish Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram in Kerala by demonstrable lies and falsehoods. “Amma” as Mata Amritanandamayi is affectionately known is not just a Hindu spiritual lighthouse. She is a power house of service to people that has grown to unbelievable heights. Before unfolding the despicable story, here is a helicopter view of this mighty spiritualised social service, all accomplished, believe it, in just a decade or thereabouts — and that is precisely what seems to have made Amma and the Ashram the target.

The Ashram has built and handed over more than 25,000 houses till 2002 to the poor and needy, with plans to build, and building, another 100,000 — a scale that governments will not dare. It has undertaken massive disaster relief in Bihar Kosi floods (2008), earthquake in Kashmir (2005), Katrina hurricane in New Orleans in the US (2005), Mumbai floods (2005), Tsunami in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (2004), Kumbakonam school fire (2004) and Gujarat earthquake (2001). It has donated $1 million for relief and rehabilitation after Tsunami in Japan last year, apart from offering services in quake-hit Haiti. The Ashram has also set up an orphanage in Kenya.

The Ashram has built a huge university — the Amrita University — that has tie-up with 25 leading American universities, including the Yale, Harvard and Princeton universities. It is one of the seven from Asia in the 16-member consortium of European Union Educational Initiative funded by the European Commission. The Ashram runs three engineering institutes as ‘technological gurukulas’; its Coimbatore technical institute campus has installed India’s supercomputer, Param. It runs the Amrita School of Business ranked 17th among the top private B-Schools in India aligning management education with Sanatana Dharma; a school of education to train teachers; a school of media studies and communication.

Its medical institute at Kochi in Kerala — a 1,400-bed huge super speciality medical facility manned by 200 doctors qualified from the best medical institutes all over the world — is ranked as the eighth best professional medical colleges in India. It also runs an Ayurvedic college; a dental college; a college of nursing; a pharmaceutical college; four colleges of arts and sciences; a medical research institute; a nanosciences centre, with acute researches in molecular biology, bioinformatics, human genetics, immunology, hemopoesis, stem cells, cancer, cell signalling, neurosciences; and a research lab engaged in core areas of computing and communication with the MHRD, DST, DIT, DBT and DRDO as research partners and more than 50 industry partners and ranked as one of the largest supercomputer clusters in the world. The list is still not complete. All this have happened and continue to happen because of one true spiritual soul whose magnetism has lured thousands of young men and women as monks, celebates and volunteers, to serve the needy. See how this great institution is targeted by lies and falsehoods by hands and minds that just wield a pen or a mike.

Now it all started on August 1, 2012, around noon. When Amma was giving dharshan to her devotees, suddenly, a bearded man in dhoti, with no shirt, ran through the dharshan hall, pushing all out of his way. Yelling “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim”, he shockingly removed his dhoti, scaled up the stage in his underwear only and was just three feet from Amma, when the devotees surrounded to protect her. The police team stationed at the Ashram since an attempt on Amma in 2005, immediately apprehended the man and took him into custody. Even as the police led him to its van, he continued to shout “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim”. He was a stranger, never seen in the Ashram ever.

The police video shows him walking and climbing on to the police van on his own. Since he was bare-bodied, there was not a scratch on his front or back, both visible on the video. Anyone can see the dramatic episode, captured in security cameras. The police registered the Ashram’s complaint as FIR. He was therefore in police custody from around noon on August 1, 2012. Later it became known that he was one Satnam Singh from Bihar.

A shocking news appeared that, on August 4, Satnam died of severe injuries in police custody. His cousin, Vimal Kishore, a reporter in Aaj Tak channel in Delhi, addressed a press meet on August 5. The transcript of his interview showed Vimal Kishore as saying that he had visited Satnam in Karungappally police station sub-jail cell on August 2.

Kishore said: “And at that time, as I had seen him in underwear only, there were no marks on his body. Not a single mark! And today [August 5], which I had seen, there are around 30, 35 marks on his body. He was beaten by a rod, I think-hot rod. Maybe it’s a matter of investigation, but the body speaks itself.”

Kishore added: “And that day was a rakhi day. I had brought rakhi from Delhi from his sister. I just asked the policeman, ‘Shall I tie the rakhi to him?’ They said, ‘No, you can’t. It is banned over here.’ And when Satnam heard this, he insisted, ‘Please, please, please, please tie the knot. Please tie the rakhi! All my Satan will go out from my body.’” According to reports, Satnam, extremely aggressive and violent, had attacked other inmates in the jail. The reports seem true because Kishore himself had told the media that Satnam, aggressive, “even challenged me: ‘You can come into the cell, and I will show you my power.’” It does not need a seer to say what the truth is. The nine irrefutable facts are: one, Satnam was a stranger to the Ashram; two, he suddenly, menacingly ran towards Amma, shouting “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim”; three, no one harmed him in the Ashram; four, police took charge of him immediately on the noon of August 1, with not a scratch on his body; five, he was, thereafter, in police custody, with the Ashram out of the picture; six, his own cousin had seen him on August 2, safe with, in his words, “no single mark on his body”; seven, he died of extensive injuries in government custody on August 4; eight, it is the police who are answerable as to why and how he died; nine, the Ashram is explicitly innocent. Now see how, suppressing all vital facts and fabricating lies, a converging campaign to vilify Amma and the Ashram is on.

The commentators are different, but all of them wrote the same lies. They all converged to lie that the Ashramites had subjected Satnam to inhuman treatment and virtually said that they killed him. Their bluff has been called by the videos of the security and Kishore’s press meet. They concertedly made the vicious charge that Satnam was killed because he was uttering Islamic prayer. Besides being a lie, isn’t it a clear attempt to instigate communal feelings against the Ashram? One commentator asked why the Ashram did not help Satnam in police custody. Not funny? How could the Ashram help a man in police custody? Another wrote that Amma’s “mad devotees” with “excessive devotion” were inhuman to Satnam. Inhuman? Satnam’s cousin says there was not a single (injury) mark on his body on August 2. Could any other religious group be that human and peaceful as the Ashramites? He also added that the “brahmin” lad from Bihar, “the land of Buddha”, a “seeker of truth” and “bramhajnana”, was on a “spiritual trip” to Kerala, the land of Sankara and Narayana Guru. But where does he get all this exotic information? What about the reports he had attacked the other inmates in the jail, which was implicitly corroborated by his cousin Kishore’s version that Satnam was aggressive and violent. He further wrote that Satnam “approached” Amma with the Islamic prayer that just meant ‘in the name of the most compassionate and merciful God’, for which he was done away with by the inhuman Ashramites and the government was reluctant to order inquiry. Satnam “approached” Amma? Or was charging at her? Did the writer care to look at the video, where he runs half naked to her? Obviously he has not cared to know the facts. Is he not also convergently inciting the Muslims against the Ashram? And finally the cat is out of the bag: he wants a government inquiry to tarnish the Ashram’s image here; more abroad. The third writer wrote that Satnam’s journey to death began from the Ashram, saying that he met his fate because of the Islamic prayer that the Ashram could not digest. The same model, like the other two: suppress the truth and advance the lies, and promote communal hatred against Ashram? The fourth commentator wrote that Satnam was handed to the police after “fatal” blows implying that Ashramites had caused his death. This writer also joins and supports the others’ lies. Yet another article in a newspaper suspected to have extremist connections, goes one step further and says that Satnam’s was not an isolated case, and the Ashram has a history of murders! The intent is clear: to harm the Ashram, which is doing yeoman service to the needy and is building the nation’s spiritual brand abroad. They all converge to tell these patent lies: Satnam came to Amma; Satnam was beaten and injured by them; he was inhumanly treated because he uttered Islamic verse, which the Ashramites could not digest. They converge to incite the Muslims against the Ashram; press for government inquiry into the Ashram. Why?

It raises far-reaching questions indeed. How and why do all commentators tell the same lies? Make the same charges suppressing the truth? Write separately with convergent effect? Who or what makes them converge? Is the Ashram becoming the test for whether Hindu spiritualism could exist with honour in minority-politics dominated Kerala? Last year, it was Sai Baba; now Amma? QED: Obviously some hidden hand is operating against the Ashram.

Author : S Gurumurthy | E-mail: | First Published : newindianexpress


"India has no reason to be grateful to Mother Teresa"

Sanal Edamaruku 
President of Rationalist International
 "India, especially Calcutta, is seen as the main beneficiary of Mother Teresa's legendary 'good work' for the poor that made her the most famous Catholic of our times, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and a living saint. Evaluating what she has actually done here, I think, India has no reason to be grateful to her", said Sanal Edamaruku, Secretary General of the Indian Rationalist Association and President of Rationalist International in a statement on the occasion of her beatification today. The statement continues:
Mother Teresa has given a bad name to Calcutta, painting the beautiful, interesting, lively and culturally rich Indian metropolis in the colors of dirt, misery, hopelessness and death. Styled into the big gutter, it became the famous backdrop for her very special charitable work. Her order is only one among more than 200 charitable organizations, which try to help the slum-dwellers of Calcutta to build a better future. It is locally not very visible or active. But tall claims like the absolutely baseless story of her slum school for 5000 children have brought enormous international publicity to her institutions. And enormous donations! 

Mother Teresa has collected many, many millions (some say: billions) of Dollars in the name of India's paupers (and many, many more in the name of paupers in the other "gutters" of the world). Where did all this money go? It is surely not used to improve the lot of those, for whom it was meant. The nuns would hand out some bowls of soup to them and offer shelter and care to some of the sick and suffering. The richest order in the world is not very generous, as it wants to teach them the charm of poverty. "The suffering of the poor is something very beautiful and the world is being very much helped by the nobility of this example of misery and suffering," said Mother Teresa. Do we have to be grateful for this lecture of an eccentric billionaire?  

The legend of her Homes for the Dying has moved the world to tears. Reality, however, is scandalous: In the overcrowded and primitive little homes, many patients have to share a bed with others. Though there are many suffering from tuberculosis, AIDS and other highly infectious illnesses, hygiene is no concern. The patients are treated with good words and insufficient (sometimes outdated) medicines, applied with old needles, washed in lukewarm water. One can hear the screams of people having maggots tweezered from their open wounds without pain relief. On principle, strong painkillers are even in hard cases not given. According to Mother Teresa's bizarre philosophy, it is "the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ". Once she tried to comfort a screaming sufferer: "You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you!" The man got furious and screamed back: "Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing." 

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Price, she used the opportunity of her worldwide telecast speech in Oslo to declare abortion the greatest evil in the world and to launch a fiery call against population control. Her charitable work, she admitted, was only part of her big fight against abortion and population control. This fundamentalist position is a slap in the face of India and other Third World Countries, where population control is one of the main keys for development and progress and social transformation. Do we have to be grateful to Mother Teresa for leading this worldwide propagandist fight against us with the money she collected in our name? 

Mother Teresa did not serve the poor in Calcutta, she served the rich in the West. She helped them to overcome their bad conscience by taking billions of Dollars from them. Some of her donors were dictators and criminals, who tried to white wash their dirty vests. Mother Teresa revered them for a price. Most of her supporters, however, were honest people with good intentions and a warm heart, who fall for the illusion that the "Saint of the Gutter" was there to wipe away all tears and end all misery and undo all injustice in the world. Those in love with an illusion often refuse to see reality.


Could Indian spirituality have helped Mother Teresa?

Mother Teresa has done unparalleled service to India. Could she also have benefited from theunparalleled spiritual wealth of India? Yes, definitely!

Although Mother Teresa lived in this ancient land of rich spiritual heritage, she stayed away from Indian spirituality and remained an island unto herself. It is not uncommon for spiritual seekers to lose sight of what is happening inside them when they get involved in serving others.

Whether many so-called religious people are really on the spiritual path itself is questionable. They neither acknowledge nor recognise the conflicts and agony that one faces on the spiritual path. Mother Teresa has been so sincere and honest to herself that she expressed what she was experiencing. On the spiritual path, what is most important is to be honest with yourself and recognise what is happening within you.

Serving others uplifts one's energy, but it does not alleviate one from the inner torment. For that, one has to understand the mechanics of consciousness and their relation with pleasure or pain. This knowledge is found in many Indian scriptures such as the Upanishads, Yoga Vashistha, Ashtavakra Geeta and Tripura Rahasya.

The knowledge of Vedanta could have helped Mother Teresa get over her doubts and quench her intense seeking. All the states described in her letters are mentioned in the nine obstacles to yoga enunciated by Maharshi Patanjali.

Mother Teresa would have benefited immensely from Maharshi's enunciations on how to face the obstacles of Vyadhi (ill-health), Styana (procrastination), Samshaya (doubt), Pramada (carelessness), Aalasya (laziness), Avirati (craving), Bhranti-darshana (confusion), Alabdha Bhumikatva (lack of any spiritual attainment) and Anavasthitva (emptiness or agonising state of mind).

Mother Teresa seemed to have gone through the agony of these states of consciousness without the knowledge of spiritual science. This is akin to a person suffering from malaria, not knowing what medicines to take.
What Mother Teresa experienced is not different from what many saints from different religions, including Sri Ram, went through. Sri Ram found his guidance from Maharshi Vashishtha in the form of Yoga Vashishta. In the scriptures it is said that only one who is well versed in some practice of samadhi can help one to overcome spiritual torment and misery.

When orthodox beliefs limit us from looking beyond, it becomes an impediment on our spiritual journey.

One on the spiritual path should have an open mind and, at the same time, honour orthodoxy. Spirituality beyond the boundaries of a religion can help one to cope with loneliness, isolation and emptiness. It need not be seen as a betrayal of one's own religion or philosophy.

Spiritual practices like yoga and meditation do not in any way conflict with one's religious beliefs. Take the example of Father Bede Griffith who came to India and studied yoga and Vedanta philosophy in Trichy. These teachings helped him to overcome obstacles on the spiritual path while remaining true to his faith as a devout Christian monk.

Being orthodox, Mother Teresa perhaps thought she would be betraying Jesus if she searched for answers to her dilemma in Indian spirituality. A seeker has to keep the goal in front and if there is a block on the path, he or she has to find an alternative route to the goal.

When we see God as an object of perception, that is when we are totally lost and misery follows. From the scene to the seer, from the object of perception to the perceiver... that shift of consciousness makes all the difference on the spiritual journey. This is how the real joy, which is the nature of consciousness, gets kindled. And all the barriers, mental blocks and intellectual inhibitions that our understanding imposes can be transcended by experiencing the precepts of Vedanta.

It is unfortunate that people are not open in their thinking. I am sure that just a few sessions of pranayama and meditation would have helped Mother Teresa to overcome those days of darkness and inner torment. Thousands of seekers on the spiritual path experience this state, but they overcome it once they practise dhyana.

The Indian philosophy talks of three types of misery - physical, mental and spiritual. Spiritual torment is the worst. The agony and torment that one experiences is at the level of the mind and to go beyond the mind, go beyond thoughts, is the very purpose of samadhi. Mind is the cause of both bondage and liberation. Unless one knows how to quieten the mind, it is impossible to achieve inner peace.

The mind can be transcended through yoga sadhana. Yoga is not asanas alone; pranayama and meditation are an integral part of it. Patanjali Yoga Darshan, Adi Shankara's Drig Drishya Viveka, Vigyan Bhairav Tantra of Kashmir Shaivism, Thirumandiram of Saint Thirumula all offer different techniques that help one overcome spiritual torment and misery.
Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta respectively are the three remedies to eliminate mala (impurities in the body) vikshepa (disturbances in mind) and avarna (veil that covers the light within). While ayurveda helps people to calm their thoughts, pranayama and meditation help one become happy from the core of their Being.

Happiness is only a sign of connection with the divinity deep within. Through these Vedantic practices, you can experience the scintillating consciousness that you are. It is a simple recognition of what is and has always been in us, and with us, as our self.

The basic principle of Vedanta is that what you are seeking is already there, like the air around you. You don't have to go somewhere searching; you only need to become aware. In the same way divinity, or the consciousness, bliss, love, is already present in you; it is only a matter of recognising it.

Scientific temper and Vedantic knowledge together make one whole and bring inner stillness. And that is the essence of Indian spirituality. Critics often ask what use is spirituality if the underprivileged are not taken care of. What they fail to see is that wherever there is genuine spirituality, a component of seva or service has always been attached to it. And this can be seen through the length and breadth of this country.

In the realm of consciousness, as you sow so shall you reap. If you think suffering is an important tool for uniting with God, then you are bound to attract it. If you sow a seed of suffering, that multiplies. The lack of experience of dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (equanimity) can keep a seeker morose and dull. To overcome this, one needs a shift in understanding about heaven and hell, and about the consciousness that is all pervading. Spirituality alone can bring that shift.

In the Eastern philosophy, experience comes first and then faith follows. In the occidental way of thinking, belief comes first and then experience. Mother Teresa had faith but was struggling for an experience. And it was experience which turned atheist Vivekananda into a swami. Ironically, Kolkata witnessed both in the same century!

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Hindustan Times


'Hang me if guilty' - Measuring Modi's guilt through media's own eyes

So much water has flown down the Ganga since 2002. Gujarat has shone on the International map in so many fields, one can go on speaking for whole day, and yet fall short of time while mentioning its achievements over past decade. On the riots' front, not only Gujarat observed its very first curfew free decade since it was created, the 2002 riots have also seen speedy justice as per Indian standards and a record number of convictions, which only point to the fact that Gujarat government, despite enjoying full trust of the people, didn't hinder the course of law and justice. In fact, Narendra Modi himself had urged the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and Gujarat High Court to suggest names for forming an enquiry commission and it was at their recommendation that the Nanavati commission was formed while he could have appointed a man of his choice to commission an enquiry. The Supreme Court of India did not find anything against him and directed the lower court to carry on the proceedings. Mind it, the much hyped 'Nero' remark has absolutely no written mention. Given the lies about Ehsan Jafri's daughter being killed when she was actually in America, and numerous other lies that were spread, it would be a very small lie to be planted. Also, note that some of Gujarat riot cases have gone to the bench of Justice Aftab Alam, who has been alleged to possess a very communal mindset by a former Judge of Gujarat High Court and former Lokayukta, Justice S K Soni in his complain to the Chief Justice of India as reported here.

Here, we look at the facts that the main-stream English media known for its secularist discourse itself had published at the time of riots, and urge our readers to ascertain how guilty Narendra Modi is. Of course, it is for those, who are still asking for his blood, having crossed all limits of tireless calumny in the name of justice and betraying their contempt for even the Supreme Court.

01. To prevent any riots from breaking, Modi issued shoot at sight orders at Godhra immediately after Godhra carnage. Reported by ToI (and others) on 27th Feb itself. 827 preventive arrests were also made.

02. VHP appealed to Hindus to maintain peace while asking Muslims to condemn the grave crime and not shield the culprits. Again, reported by ToI on Feb 28th, morning. In fact, Narendra Modi himself issued an earnest and touching appeal in Gujarati to maintain peace.

03. Gujarat government deployed entire police force of Gujarat on duty. The state government also deployed Rapid Action Force personnel in Ahmedabad and other sensitive areas while the Centre rushed CRPF men to assist the local authorities to maintain law and order, as reported by Mid-Day here on 27th Feb itself. Mind it, it's all Government's preemptive actions, even before the actual riots broke.

04. Modi ensured that the bodies of the victims were cremated near the hospital where they were brought for post-mortem at 3.30 a.m. on February 28 from Godhra. Bringing bodies form Godhra to Ahmedabad was a necessity first because there's no storage facility at Godhra and the bodies were badly charred, and secondly, most of the victims were from Ahmedabad and nearby areas as the train itself was Ahemedabad bound. The Sola Civil Hospital is on the western outskirts of Ahmedabad where the Muslim population is negligible. It was reported by India Today in a story ironically titled, "Sins of Modi"

05. When riots still broke out at such high intensity on 28th February, Modi requested the 3 neighbouring states of MP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra for sending their police forces to help curb the situation. Each of the three states was Congress ruled at that time and they all refused to help their neighbouring state at the hour of such humanitarian crisis just to have more and more muslims killed and strengthen their vote-bank by painting Modi communal. Here's Narendra Modi himself elaborating (video) on that. (Watch 2:57 onwards)

06. Nevetheless, the day riots broke out, on Thursday, 28th February, The Hindu reports how indefinite curfew had been clamped in 26 cities and towns in the state to prevent riots from spreading and how Modi frentically called for Army units on 28th February itself. Hindu report is of 1st March morning and it says, Army had arrived and was to be deployed soon. An India Today report after the riots were over recollects how the army was indeed staging a flag-march at Ahmedabad at 11:30 am the next morning on March 1st, that's barely 24 hours after riots having been started.

07. However, the Hindu anger at the ghastliest killing of Ramsewaks was so massive, even the combined strength of Indian Army, State police and RAF etc. had to struggle. ET report dated March 1st, confirms this same fact.

08. Not just this, the India today story, published on 18th March, after the riots were over, admits how the Police was simply outnumbered by masses. It writes, "Considering that the mobs that simultaneously surfaced at nearly half a dozen places numbered from 2,000 to 10,000, the forces proved woefully inadequate. At one point on February 28 there were at least 25,000 people targeting the Muslim localities in Ahmedabad alone." It also publishes the statement of the then Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad Mr. P.C. Pande saying: "In my 32-year career I have never seen something like this. It was an upsurge, unstoppable and unprecedented. A stage came when it became physically impossible for the police to tackle mobs running into thousands".

09. It was in such horrible situation that the Police still braved. It fired at rioters and eliminated 98 of them, as reported by the then Union Minister Arun Jaitley, on the floor of the House later. Of course, not to forget how Gujarat police saved the people who'd taken shelter in Ehsan Jafri's house from a 20000 strong mob, even when Jafri fired at them and injured 15 people. The facts of Jafri's firing at 20000 strong mob are mentioned even in the SIT report. Out of nearly 250 people who'd taken shelter at his house, 39 were killed and 31 went missing, the rest were rescued by Gujarat police, again, mind it, from a 20000 strong mob. Even the tribals were so enraged at the heinous killing of Ramsewaks that they too were out on killing muslims in revenge. Gujarat police saved 2500 muslims from certain death at Sanjeli as reported by India Today.

10. As the Organiser later reported here: “The police had fired over 10,500 rounds… In addition, in all, 15,000 tear gas shells had also been burst during the Gujarat riots… A lot of mischief was played by the electronic media, which went on repeating some of the gory incidents of riots day after day... An image was thus created by the collaborating media that the massacre of Muslims was continuing unabated in Gujarat, day after day. The truth is that the total number of riot-related accused that came to light in entire Gujarat was 25,486 (17,489 Hindus and 7,997 Muslims). The efficiency of the Police can be gauged from the fact that out of the above mentioned number, as many as 25,204 accused were arrested-out of which 17,348 were Hindus and 7,856 were Muslims. The police in Gujarat was therefore not sleeping at any time.

Now, these are hard-facts as reported by the same secularist media (except the last point, which comes from RSS' News Weekly) at the time the riots were taking place or just after that. Going through these facts establishes without doubt that Narendra Modi and the Gujarat government did whatever it could have to control the situtation and prevent the crisis from worsening. Where does the allegation "Modi had given 3 days to run riots" stand against these facts, Tehelka's bunch of sting-lies notwithstanding, either? But, the culprits who have not been nailed include those secularist hate-mongers who catalysed and fuelled the Hindu anger by suggesting in no unclear terms that Godhra was either an accident or if it was an attack, Hindus themselves were to be blamed because they'd 'provoked' Muslims by visiting Ayodhya. This was criticised later by Vir Sanghwi, himself someone from the Secular brigade.

Can those 'cannibels' in media and elsewhere, who are still craving for the blood of Narendra Modi with their mind full of misdirected hatred counter any of these facts, as these are the facts reported by them only. Now, Narendra Modi is sagacious enough to remain unperturbed as he clarified during his hangout recently. But the matter of concern is that this calumny has continued even when Narendra Modi has risen to becoming a beacon of hope for a belagured nation in no uncertain terms. At such troubled times, asking for Modi's blood out of personal hatred not based on facts but on prejudices, isn't that tantamount to being a traitor against the nation?

(Courtesy: for collection of media reports links)


Black money inaction is betrayal

Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.
Black money inaction is betrayal
The UPA government’s betrayal of the nation and the people’s trust is an unpardonable crime.
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Ganghi
n the light of government's scandalous inaction regarding retrieving black money looted out of India and preventing its further loot, the Supreme Court order directed the Union of India to appoint the High-Level Committee constituted by it as a Special Investigation Team, to be headed by the former eminent Supreme Court judges — Hon'ble Mr Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy as Chairman and Hon'ble Mr Justice M.B. Shah as Vice-Chairman.

The Apex Court directed that the Special Investigation Team, so constituted, "shall be charged with the responsibilities and duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings, and prosecution, whether in the context of appropriate criminal or civil proceedings of:

"(a) all issues relating to the matters concerning and arising from unaccounted for monies of Hassan Ali Khan and the Tapurias;

"(b) all other investigations already commenced and are pending, or awaiting to be initiated, with respect to any other known instances of the stashing of unaccounted for monies in foreign bank accounts by Indians or other entities operating in India; and

"(c) all other matters with respect to unaccounted for monies being stashed in foreign banks by Indians or other entities operating in India that may arise in the course of such investigations and proceedings."

Instead of promptly creating the team and starting a vigorous drive for repatriation of stolen national wealth, the government did nothing for weeks together, after which it filed a petition to the Supreme Court to recall its order.
The Court further clarified "that within the ambit of responsibilities described above, also lie the responsibilities to ensure that the matters are also investigated, proceedings initiated and prosecutions conducted with regard to criminality and/or unlawfulness of activities that may have been the source for such monies, as well as the criminal and/or unlawful means that are used to take such unaccounted for monies out of and/or bring such monies back into the country, and use of such monies in India or abroad. The Special Investigation Team shall also be charged with the responsibility of preparing a comprehensive action plan, including the creation of necessary institutional structures that can enable and strengthen the country's battle against generation of unaccounted for monies, and their stashing away in foreign banks or in various forms domestically.

"(v) That the Special Investigation Team so constituted shall report and be responsible to this Court, and that it shall be charged with the duty to keep this Court informed of all major developments by the filing of periodic status reports, and following of any special orders that this Court may issue from time to time;

"(vi) That all organs, agencies, departments and agents of the State, whether at the level of the Union of India, or the state government, including but not limited to all statutorily formed individual bodies, and other constitutional bodies, extend all the cooperation necessary for the Special Investigation Team so constituted and functioning;

"(vii) That the Union of India, and where needed even the state governments, are directed to facilitate the conduct of the investigations, in their fullest measure, by the Special Investigation Team so constituted and functioning, by extending all the necessary financial, material, legal, diplomatic and intelligence resources, whether such investigations or portions of such investigations occur inside the country or abroad;

"(viii) That the Special Investigation Team also be empowered to further investigate even where charge-sheets have been previously filed; and that the Special Investigation Team may register further cases, and conduct appropriate investigations and initiate proceedings, for the purpose of bringing back unaccounted for monies unlawfully kept in bank accounts abroad."

No honest government should have any quarrel either with the findings recorded by the Supreme Court or the final directions issued by it.

Ministers of the government including the Prime Minister and leaders of the Congress party should have tendered an apology to the nation and made a solemn pledge that they will repair the damage caused by their corrupt non performance and dereliction of duty. The appointment of Special Investigation Teams for investigation of serious offences where the available agencies have shown ineptitude or abdication of their obligations has been a regular feature of the Hon'ble Supreme Court compelling performance of constitutional duties by delinquent servants of the state. In the present case the Supreme Court has done nothing unusual.

But, instead of promptly creating the team and starting a vigorous drive for repatriation of stolen national wealth, the government did nothing for weeks together, after which it filed a petition to the Supreme Court to recall its order. In the meanwhile, complete opportunity was given to the involved criminals to arrange to secrete the money and destroy evidence of their crimes. I consider this act of government nothing short of treason. Did not the ex-Finance Minister very glibly announce to the press that the amount available in Hassan Ali's account is a mere $50,000 (as against the original amount of more than $8 bn)? No one could miss the triumphant smirk that he wore on his face as he said this, in place of the shame or disgrace that should have followed the serious strictures. Somewhere, sometime, he will have to explain to the nation and people of India. In due course the Apex Court and certainly the sovereign court of the people of India will condemn and punish the government.

I must now ask a few questions to the Hon'ble Prime Minister and the president of the Congress party about some of their recent crimes against the nation and the people of India:

1) The Congress government having taken over by legislation all the rights of the victims of the Bhopal tragedy the government sued for the recovery of $3.3 bn (Rs 183,029,028,977). You settled this amount for 1/7th of the original claim and in addition non compoundable offences of serious nature stood compromised and the proceedings quashed. There is credible evidence that the Union Carbide paid much more but the government managed to receive it under the table. Why are you not producing the correspondence and the relevant notings which resulted in this corrupt compromise?

2) Hassan Ali's Swiss account with the credit of over $8 bn was discovered in 2007. The Swiss offered to give all information. All that they asked you to do was to tell them that you were seriously investigating a money laundering offence. Is it not a fact that your government frustrated this?

3) When the French got the names of criminals spread throughout the world including Indians, they offered to share the information with our government without any cost or condition. Please disclose to the nation what steps you took to get the money and the names of the offenders?

4) Did not the German government manage to obtain a large number of offenders' names and also make a similar offer to your government? Will you please inform the nation what steps you have taken to secure this information from the Germans?

5) Do you admit that you have received a large number of names from the two governments not because of your pressure and persuasion, but out of their sense of obligation to the world community?

6) The Apex Court directed that the Union of India shall forthwith disclose to the petitioners all those documents and information which they have secured from Germany, in connection with the matters discussed. Why are you not disclosing the names which the Supreme Court has directed you to disclose to the petitioners?

Betrayal of the nation and of the people's trust are unpardonable crimes, particularly when at least one third of our population is struggling for survival, and is swathed in poverty. There appears to be no sign of penance from the government yet, but they would be insane to think that they can escape culpability for their crimes.

India's Gandhi family The Rahul problem

Sep 10th 2012, 11:10 by A.R. | DELHI

WHAT is the point of Rahul Gandhi? The 42-year-old scion of the Gandhi dynasty, which has long dominated India’s ruling party, is still the most plausible prime ministerial candidate for Congress at the looming 2014 election. In advance of that, possibly within weeks, he may get some new party post (some talk of a “vice presidency”) or possibly a government job (as rural affairs minister, perhaps?). A cabinet reshuffle is awaited, with the washed-out monsoon session of parliament swirling down the drain.

Promoting Mr Gandhi now would in theory make sense for Congress. He has long been presumed the successor-in-waiting to Sonia Gandhi, his mother and the party’s president. He needs time to start showing some skills as a leader before campaigning starts in 2014. And for as long as Mr Gandhi does not rise, it is hard for other relative youngsters to be promoted without appearing to outshine him. That has left Congress looking ever older and more out of touch.

But he has long refused to take on a responsible position, preferring to work on reorganising Congress’s youth wing, and leading regional election efforts, both with generally poor results. The problem is that Mr Gandhi has so far shown no particular aptitude as a politician, nor even sufficient hunger for the job. He is shy, reluctant to speak to journalists, biographers, potential allies or foes, nor even to raise his voice in parliament. Nobody really knows what he is capable of, nor what he wishes to do should he ever attain power and responsibility. The suspicion is growing that Mr Gandhi himself does not know.

The latest effort to “decode” Mr Gandhi comes in the form of a limited yet rather well written biography by a political journalist, Aarthi Ramachandran. Her task is a thankless one. Mr Gandhi is an applicant for a big job: ultimately, to lead India. But whereas any other job applicant will at least offer minimal information about his qualifications, work experience, reasons for wanting a post, Mr Gandhi is so secretive and defensive that he won’t respond to the most basic queries about his studies abroad, his time working for a management consultancy in London, or what he hopes to do as a politician.

Mrs Ramachandran’s book—along with just about every other one about the Gandhi dynasts—is thus hampered by a lack of first-hand material on its subject. Mr Gandhi can only be judged by his actions, his rare and halting public utterances, and the opinions of others who work near him. Given that limitation, she does a decent job: sympathetically but critically analysing his various efforts. She concludes that his push to modernise the youth organisation of Congress as if it were an ailing corporation, applying management techniques learned from Toyota, were earnest and well-meaning but ultimately doomed to fail. “Brand” Rahul, she suggests convincingly, is confused. A man of immense privilege, rising only because of his family name, struggles to look convincing when he talks of meritocracy.

The overall impression of Mr Gandhi from Mrs Ramachandran’s book is that of a figure who has an ill-defined urge to improve the lives of poor Indians, but no real idea of how to do so. He feels obliged to work in politics, but his political strategies are half-baked, and he fails to develop strong ties with any particular constituency. He has tried to disavow the traditional role of a Gandhi (which would pose him as a Western-educated member of the elite with a near-feudal style of concern for the masses) preferring to pitch himself as a man ready to drink the dirty water of village peasants, and to eat food among the most marginalised of society. But his failure to follow up on such gestures (and many others), with policy or prolonged interventions to help a particular group, suggests a man who strikes an attitude but lacks skills in delivering real change—either as election results, or social improvement.

Part of the problem is presumably the coterie of advisers who surround Mr Gandhi. Western-educated, bright and eager to cosset their leader within a very small bubble, they appear unready for the messy realities of Indian politics: the shady alliances that are required to win elections; the need to strike deals with powerful regional figures who increasingly shape national politics; the importance of crafting a media strategy in an era of cable TV news. More basically, they seem not to have developed any consistent views on policy. What does Mr Gandhi stand for: more liberal economic reforms; defensive nationalism; an expansion of welfare? Instead they prefer to focus on tactics. Perhaps because of their poor advice, their man too often looks opportunistic and inconsistent.
Opportunities have presented themselves to Mr Gandhi in the past couple of years. One was the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement, of last year and this, when young, urban, middle-class voters, in the main, expressed rage at huge scandals overseen by the elderly folk who run Congress and their coalition allies. Mr Hazare’s campaign successfully drew on their anger, yet it was a halting, confused movement. Mr Gandhi might have intervened at some point, and tried himself to tap into public anger over corruption and inequality, and drawn some of the sting of the Hazare camp’s efforts.
Or, when Mrs Gandhi was absent, being treated abroad for a serious illness (rumoured to have been cervical cancer), he might have taken charge and confronted the anti-graft campaigners. He could at least have set out evidence for how the government was tackling graft, claimed credit for the government’s introduction of a right-to-information act, and lauded the fact that suspect politicians had been arrested and (temporarily) put in jail. Instead he flunked the test in hiding, not daring to speak out, other than in one ill-advised intervention in parliament.

Another opportunity of sorts was to energise Congress in state elections. The failure of the campaign led by Mr Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh (UP) early in 2012 is briefly but convincingly assessed in the biography. Congress did worse in the state during the assembly elections than it had in the 2009 general election. Mr Gandhi led the party to a humiliating fourth place, even doing dismally in constituencies where the Gandhis have long been local MPs.

Perhaps he was doomed to fail from the start (voters did not think Congress could win in the assembly elections, so did not see a reason to “waste” their votes). But his methods—poor public speaking, a failure to understand how particular castes and religious groups would act, weak connections to local organisers—did not help. The main mistake, in retrospect, may have been that he invested so much of himself in that particular poll. But similar efforts, in Bihar and Kerala, in recent years, brought similar results.

Since the poll in UP Mr Gandhi has made little impact on Indian politics. That would change quickly if he is indeed promoted to a higher position and takes on a bigger role. But the growing impression of the man—certainly the one promoted by Mrs Ramachandran’s “Decoding Rahul Gandhi”—is of a figure so far ill-prepared to be a leading politician in India.

Just possibly, therefore, this is the moment for Congress to dare to think of something radical: of reorganising itself on the basis of policies, ideas and a vision for how India should develop, and not on a particular dynasty that seems, after various iterations, to be getting less and less useful. Mrs Ramachandran’s book does not touch on this thought, but it is high time for the powerful within Congress to think about it.

(Picture credit: AFP)


Monday, 10 September 2012

Fear of forced conversion drives Pak Hindus to India

Fear of forced conversion drives Pak Hindus to India
848 Hindus have taken refuge in Jodhpur in the last three months.
Vishal Baristo  Jodhpur | 9th Sep 2012
Hindu refugees who have fled from Pakistan, in New Delhi. Photograph: Abhishek Shukla
he fear of losing their faith through forced conversion is making Pakistani Hindus leave for India by the droves. Carrying horrific tales of conversion to Islam, rape, extortion and bonded labour, 848 Hindu migrants have taken refuge in Rajasthan's Jodhpur in the last three months. In 2011, the total number of Pakistanis reaching Jodhpur was 325.

Jodhpur's Al Quasar Nagar has 50 houses belonging to Pakistani Hindus. Mohan Singh, who arrived here last month with his wife and a three-year-old son, feels lucky to have crossed the border in time. After the adverse publicity over Hindus migrating to India, the Pakistan authorities are now making people sign a bond making it mandatory for them to return to Pakistan within the stipulated period.

Mohan, who came to India on a pilgrim visa, has found security and support in the arms of a local NGO, Simant Lok Sangathan. Mohan says he had to flee because Hindus are being forced to embrace Islam. Rinkle Kumari's case is recounted with horror by the immigrants. The 19-year-old girl from Mirpur's Mathelo town disappeared on 24 February 2012, only to reappear as Faryal Shah. All those who have been helping the Sindhi Hindu family to reclaim the lost girl are being termed as infidels and "agents of America".

Every Hindu girl, whether literate or not, is aware of Rinkle's fate. They too have been facing similar pressures. 16-year-old Teeja says that the honour of Hindu girls and women is not safe in Pakistan. "They abduct Hindu girls and women, rape them and force them to marry Muslims after conversion," says a tearful Naseeba.

Hindu men too are in danger, as they are being forced into bonded labour. Some of them have been tortured in the private jails belonging to powerful landlords, says Raimal, who has taken refuge in Al Qausar Nagar along with 10 of his family members.

He pleads with the Indian government to rescue the Hindus from across the border as most of them are poor and cannot afford the Rs 10,000 per person visa fee required to cross the border.

Life in India is not easy for these people as they have to work as unskilled labourers. But many such as Khemu from Devi Nagar do not want to leave India even after their visas expire. Simant Lok Sangathan is fighting for their cause. Hindu Singh Soda, its president, has presented to the authorities a list of 138 migrants for visa extension, but is yet to get a reply.


Foreign-funded protests?