Saturday, July 13, 2013

Poor Tokenism

Seven days before Reuters published its exclusive, a privilege denied by PM aspirant to an Indian news agency or channel, we had been contacted persistently by a Reuters correspondent while I was in New Delhi (July 5).
Not Ross Colvin or Sruthi Gottipati who now carry the journalistic honour of grabbing moments with a man who rarely likes to be questioned, especially if the questions are persistent like say those of Karan Thapar in 2007. Thapar keen to get to the bottom of what Modi actually felt about 2002, did not  simply casually record –as Reuters has done – Modi’s response but asked, insistently, whether Modi actually regretted the mass reprisal killings that had taken place, post Godhra, on his watch. Modi simpered, dithered, glared and admonished…when none of that worked, and Thapar persisted, Modi did what he does best. He  walked out.
Not so with Reuters, that managed its exclusive but failed to, conspicuously, persist with any accurate, difficult or pinching questions.
The young man from Reuters who finally tracked me down in the Sahmat office at 29 Ferozeshah Road last week was clueless, he said, about Gujarat 2002. Apologetic about this ineptness, he kept saying that his bosses had asked him to track down the SIT report. They had not bothered to contact us directly.
We insisted that he, read Reuters,  do what fair journalism demands, look at the SIT Clean Chit in context; examine also the Amicus Curaie Raju Ramachandran’s report that conflicted seriously with the SIT Closure and Clean Chit (opining that there was material to prosecute Narendra Modi on serious charges).
Both the SIT and the Amicus were appointed by the same Supreme Court. We insisted that Reuters examine the Supreme Court Order of 12.9.2011 that gave us the inalienable right to file a Protest Petition, we pointed out that Reuters must read the Protest Petition itself that we filed in pursuance of this order on 15.4.2013, peruse the arguments that we have been making before the Magistrate since June 25, 2013.  
We tried, as best as we could,  to communicate that Reuters should read the SIT Clean Chit in the context of these overall developments.
No, No said Reuters that had possibly already bagged the interview by then.
Who says a politically important interview should address all developments and facts, in a nutshell, tell the whole and complete story? Much better to perform a tokenism, throw in a few questions about 2002, not persist with questioning the man charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder and subvert criminal justice with the complexities and gravity of charges and legal procedures that he currently faces – and which are being argued in Open Court in Ahmedabad. Easier to be glib, grab headlines in all national dailies including by the way the one in Telegraph which is the only newspaper to report that Modi used “kutte ke bacche” not puppy as an analogy for which creatures may inadvertently get crushed when a “road accident happens.” Never mind that many have been convicted for criminal negligence when they drive and kill.
On business and development, too, while Reuters plugs the man themselves in the first paragraph of the interview, there are no real probing questions on Foreign Direct Investment, the Gujarat government’s back out to solar power companies (reported two days ago in the Economic Times) and so on….
So quite apart from the more than despicable “kutte ke bacche” comment that Modi reportedly made, quite apart from the fact that he chose Reuters for his debutante mutterings not a national agency or channel, what is truly tragic about the whole exercise is the compliant journalism that it reflects.
The Reuters interview is not a dispassionate or thorough exercise that attempts to genuinely probe opinions and views. It is a sensational tokenism.

Teesta Setalvad, secretary Citizens for Justice and Peace

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Modi unfit for PM post: Anna

Patna: Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare on Thursday questioned Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections saying the Gujarat chief minister was not sincere about rooting out corruption as he has not taken steps for setting up a Lokayukta, a post lying vacant since 2003 in the state. 
    “I want to ask Modi why has he not made Gujarat corruption free and why did he not bring a bill for setting up Lokayukta in his state,” he said in reply to questions by reporters. So many complaints of corruption have been coming from Gujarat, he said.     “People are tossing his (Modi’s) name for the PM’s post ... If he is so good a candidate why did he not bring a strong Lokayukta bill?” Hazare, who launched his ‘Janatantra Morcha’ here on Wednesday, said.     “This proves that Modi is not interested in making a corruption-free India,” the Gandhian said.     On a question on the probable future PM, he said, “Anybody can become PM - what difference will it make ? The country has seen so many prime ministers in the past 65 years what difference has it brought? Change will come only when people will have the independence to choose their PM.”     Hazare said he will not accept a ‘weak’ Lokpal Bill. “Bring a strong Lokpal Bill which can fight for the cause of poor and downtrodden. Then only we will support it,” he said.     The Lokpal Bill would be passed in the budget session of Parliament, which commences in the second half of next month, according to a letter by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Hazare. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lokayukta appointment

After long legal battle Justice Mehta yet to give nod for new role

Supreme Court has upheld his appointment despite stiff opposition from state govt, but Justice Mehta has kept everyone guessing

Ahmedabad Mirror Bureau

    Looks like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will have the last laugh on the lokayukta issue. After a year-long legal battle that saw his government vociferously protesting the name of Justice (retd) R A Mehta proposed by Gujarat governor and seconded by the Opposition Congress party and subsequently the Supreme Court upholding his appointment, it seems Justice Mehta is not keen to take over as the lokayukta.
    Justice Mehta becomes the second consecutive retired Gujarat High Court judge who has reportedly expressed unwillingness to assume the position. This has led to serious question as to why are High Court-appointed retired judges not willing to become lokayukta in Modi’s Gujarat.
    The state government reportedly approached Justice Mehta about a week back, requesting him to assume office following the Supreme Court judgment of January 2, he remained non-committal.
    Though he refused comment to M i r r o ron the issue, well-placed sources in Delhi told this newspaper, “Justice Mehta is not keen and has requested a better replacement to be looked out for. He has not
cited any specific reason but requested to be excused.”So far crores of rupees has been spent on the legalities of the appointment with the state government hiring nearly 50 legal luminaries in the country to stall the appointment of Justice Mehta as the lokayukta.
Governor Kamla Beniwal had shocked the nation by appointing a lokayukta without consulting the chief minister and his cabinet on August 25, 2011. She had claimed that since Modi government had consistently failed to go ahead with appointment, she used her discretionary power to appoint the lokayukta. The governor was dubbed as a Congress puppet by the state government and her action declared “unconstitutional” by it.
    This case became a huge controversy when a high court bench gave a split verdict with a judge upholdingthegovernor’
sdecisionwhiletheother allowingthestategovernment’splea.Thecasewas then referred to a single judge who upheld the governor’s decision.

Between the Lines

Communalism legitimised ~ kuldip nayar
One way to give secularism a chance is to punish those who in any way undermine it. The destroyers of Babari Masjid are yet to be punished. In the same way, Mr Narendra Modi has been let off  despite 3,000 Muslims having been massacred on his watch
No doubt, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is less rhetorical than before in its references to Muslims. There can be two reasons for this. One, the party has its eyes fixed on the scenario after the general election in early 2014. It would need the support of secular parties to have a majority in the Lok Sabha ~ the Lower House of Parliament. Any adverse remark about Muslims may cost the party and endanger its chances of constituting a viable coalition.
Two, the BJP feels that it can afford to give the impression of being liberal at a time when soft Hindutva has gripped even Leftist parties. The Congress has been steadily losing its secular credentials over the past few years. If any proof was needed, the Gujarat Assembly election provided ample because the party never touched on the ethnic cleansing that state chief minister Narendra Modi had attempted in 2002 with the help of BJP cadres and the police force during its poll campaigns. The Congress thought that it might alienate Hindus by talking about the killing of Muslims during a crucial election campaign.
This must have come as a shock to Muslims throughout the country because they vote, by and large, in favour of the Congress. Yet, it must be the biggest dilemma for the Muslim community to find out which party is liberal. The radicalisation of the community is not the answer, as it is happening. This would be used as evidence to stigmatise the community. Muslim terrorism has no chance against Hindu terrorism simply because of the numbers.
I realise that some Muslims, out of desperation, have taken to violence. But this is also the path Hindu militant organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the Ram Sene and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad want the community to take. The bomb blasts at Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad have proved the guilt of these organisations. Initially, the suspicion was on Muslims ~ as is police practice ~ and young Muslim men were picked up at will. At Hyderabad, they were even beaten by police. But a detailed investigation revealed a Hindu hand.
In fact, the random arrests of Muslim youth are the biggest worry of the community. A delegation, including Hindus, recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek a remedy. His promise to take action has resulted in fewer Muslim youth being detained, but the community is far from satisfied. Many young Muslim men are still rotting in jail, awaiting posting of cases for hearing. Worse is the loss of time which could have been utilised for pursuing higher studies or in some useful work.