Tag Archives: Bombay High Court

Anna’s downfall

December 29 will be etched in my memory & that of Bombay’s history. The evening when yours truly asked Anna Hazare the question, “Anna aap ko lagta hai ki BJP ne aapko kal sansad mein dhoka diya aur iski vajah se aapki ran niti ghalat hui?” The office driver Tiwari told me, “Mein lifetime woh din nahi bhulunga. Ab dheere dheere public jaan rahi hai yeh Anna ko BJP ka samarthan mil raha hai..bahut achcha sawal kiya apne, arey uska pack up hua…” He had heard, but turned to Kejriwal. I repeated the question by actually taunting him.. “Diya na dhoka, kal raat BJP ne, sansad mein…ghalat hui na apki ran niti…” Anna & Kejriwal had a small discussion. Infuriated Anna came out in public about his political agenda, “Dhokadari paksh Cong hai, Cong ne gaddari ki hai aur hum Cong ke khilaf hai…hum dusrey paksh ke khilaf nahi hai”…excellent, the one point I strongly believed in but had NO evidence to prove it to the world. The man, Anna Hazare himself had spoken these words, got miffed & walked off the stage. Over, for Anna, the press conference was over. Upset with me & the rest of the media, as a result.

But the fact is that the truth was out in the open. A whole new drama of Anna being declared unfit had already been played out the previous night. By then, Mumbai’s journalist fraternity had begun hearing whispers of the health conspiracy. We were ‘informed’ Anna may be shifted to a hospital on the first night he wasn’t. The crowds at the most were at 7000, despite many claims. By then all conspiracy theories were put forward by the Team Anna – Mumbai is sitting with their hands clasped, wearing bangles. The police & govt have ensured that networks of all their cell phones get jammed. That the Airtel tower at Malad had caught fire wasn’t even spoken about nor was that seen as a real cause. Also, while except for Anna & VIPs all the rest of public, including us media were forced to make several diversions. It was for security. But the Anna’s team insisted this was being done deliberately to harass them. They also came up with an innovative idea of taking buses to all stations, “Get people to sit in these buses & bring them to MMRDA. How can Mumbai sit quiet.” It then became one whole ego trip. Something that has simply led to the down fall of a so-called ‘doosri azadi’ second freedom movement…sure..

Yet again Anna’s fast attracted attention of media & politicians from across the country. Dec 27th was the D-Day. Anna was to come to Mumbai and then begin his fast for three days, would have been indefinite had the Parliamentarians not tabled their Lokpal Bill. Now by the time the Parliament had begun it was evident that the Govt was table it, a few days before Anna Hazare went on his fast it was clear the Parliament was extended for 3 days & the discussions, debates et al was to take place ONLY on Lokpal Bill.

Yet Anna went ahead with the fast. A lot had happened in the interim period. A huge drama unfolded over the venue. Firstly it was kept a huge secret whether it would be Delhi, Mumbai and if any of the two then the specific venues. The so-called ‘Gandhian’ (please it’s time people stopped abusing this term) was dissuaded from going to Delhi. Why? Because of the extreme cold Mind you, the late Mahatma Gandhi wore only a hand spun dhoti, NOT laundered with sparkling white, or ironed or starched. He did NOT wear sadra or shirt…he also did NOT fast to extort or even short change himself. Here were given to understand that Anna would not be able to tolerate the cold weather and hence he was requested to sit on a fast in Mumbai.

A completely wrong decision. I actually welcomed it, I remember tweeting about this & also faced the wrath of his followers who abused me. Simple reason, because the first time round there was a lot happening…while it was evident that there was a growing angst among the citizens, rising prices, inflation, more & more news of corruption & scams, the govt seemed taken aback. The stupid mistakes made by the esteemed Home Minister P Chidambaram who nearly made a hero out of a delusional man, the mood was anti-govt.

However in December 2011, the story was different. The Parliament promised, extended the winter session & publicly committed to discussing & debating about JLP Bill. Secondly, Mumbai’s first time venue was ideal. Azad Maidan was perfect, bang opposite the Victoria Terminus it is excellent for commuters. A huge floating population every hour is ensured. Curiosity was immense hence a lot of people came & went. Plenty of Colleges are nearby, as a result the whole buzz about Anna proved effective. Even those commuters who travel fromChurchgate,VTis only 15 minutes walking distance. Most importantly, the timing for the protests was very good. Between 10.00am-6.00pm, as a result the planners of the campaign could bring people in hordes every hour.

Another important development had taken place in the interim period. While the first time was successful, with immense backing from RSS, it wasn’t proved till October. Fresh evidence began coming out about RSS backing, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief went on record to confirm, Nitin Gadkari the BJP national president supported Bhagwat’s claim. Moreover when we speak of corruption, etc Team Anna’s members began getting exposed. It was finally evident to the general public they too weren’t above board. Involvement of Kiran Bedi in fudging travel re-imbursement claims from NGOs, she defending it was worse, her daughter using OBC certificate for getting admission for medical seat in Manipal college, Kejriwal’s IT fines & non-payments. Even Anna’s former colleagues & friends who alleged the man wasn’t above board. Justice PB Sawant’s report still holds true, he said as regards the accounts & audit, Anna wasn’t given a clean chit. Team Anna also seemed strongly upset with govt’s inclusion of NGOs in the gambit of Lokpal Bill. A sore point with the members of Anna’s team. All of them are connected with some NGO or have their own. Some are facing some allegation or the other. In the interim period news began trickling that Ashoka Foundation had reportedly provided lakhs of funds to Team Anna for various RTIs. As part of their project. News of Ford Foundation supporting the Ramlila ground fast too had appeared.

Everything just came to surface at the same time. Meanwhile the Team Anna & the their outfit in Mumbai the India Against Corruption applied for MMRDA grounds. Now while they claimed to be the organisers, they applied in the name of some other NGO, on their letter head. When the MMRDA made inquiries & asked for clarifications, it came to light that IAC wasn’t even registered. Now this is the same outfit that collected lakhs of rupees from general public in the name of ‘anti-corruption’ but mind you had not even bothered to register itself. This amounts to grave charges against the members – this actually amounts to criminal offence. Yet, they shamelessly asked for discount and when they were refused they tried applying to many other grounds as their venue.

In this whole period the fights between Team Anna erupted here in Mumbai. The Bhrashtachar Virodhi Andolan convenor Bhavesh Patel began to get side-lined by IAC head Mayank Gandhi. Now Mayank is the son of scion of Lok Group, a builder. Sure, most will shrug & say if he is clean then why not. He is being given an office in south Mumbai Dosti Group-another leading builder of Mumbai- in his own complex. The founder of Dosti group told me on-camera “I give full support to Anna, with tan, man dhan…my heart, soul & money…” he went on to tell me that Team Anna has a lot of money and they are comfortable yet he would like to contribute. All claim to be ‘Gandhians.’ Gandhi’s story is something they need to learn.

Patel had got so frustrated with Mayank that at one time he told me that Mayank had actually planned to book a ground in the name of ‘shaadi’ for wedding & then make Anna sit for three days. Here a Mayank tells Anna what to do, in the case of Gandhiji, the famous GD Birla sat at Gandhiji’s feet.

The reason of their conflict was as interesting to me as the conflict itself. It clearly meant the cracks had deepened & that too at the mouth of the impending fast. Ooh lala…I was expecting disaster. As expected IAC went on to making denial for discount an emotional issue. However neither Mayank nor other IAC members had come out honestly to the public confessing that they weren’t a registered outfit. They really under-estimated the judiciary of this land & filed a petition.

The Bombay High Court wrapped Team Anna strongly. Much needed too. They were put in their place rightfully so. The distortions and les were brought to light, including the fact that IAC wasn’t registered. The HC asked what’s become of this money and how can people trust such an organisation. They were rightfully denied right to get discount and book MMRDA in the name of IAC. That is the first time Anna spoke & said it was a wrong move to approach the courts. Not at all shocking from a man who has zero regard for the Constitution of India or the judiciary. This wasn’t the end. The whole fast was managed like a PR event. All the PR persons, name them, Poonawala’s sons, (yes the Derby stud man), many who we’ve seen ‘managing’ events. Anna’s stage was way beyond common person’s reach. Then a no-man’s zone for security, then us, the media with our back sides to the audience, which was totally cut off from Anna. Public isn’t dumb, they can be naïve, and a people’s movement is based on people…here there as a HUGE disconnect. The people were completely ‘kept away.’

The choice of MMRDA too was a error of judgement. Ask around and no sane, practical Mumbaikar will bother going to MMRDA. More so anyone without a vehicle will just not venture into this lonely area where govt offices are there and only rock shows which the rich can afford. This is the popular perception of MMRDA. So was this. The flag seller who made lakhs in August during the Ramlila fast, was broke by the end of the first day. “Very shocking” was what he barely managed to tell. The RSS backed organisation that provided catering services noticed that even despite the Bharatnagar Slum dwellers coming and eating free food for 3 days, they still had sufficient amount of food. Something had gone amiss somewhere.

Anna was moved out under pretext of ill-health. He was taken to Ralegan Siddhi. I had reached hours before him, let me tell you, nobody from his village was excited. This was al waiting to happen. The Sarpanch was absent and so were the otherwise naïve villagers who would call on him. This was a Anna’s solo-journey of a setback & lack of people support. The lies continued. While he was unwell, Anna suffered a major mental set-back. I strongly believe he is taken by the whole idea of ‘sacrifice’ and becoming martyr. However reality taught a lesson. After many days Anna on new year was moved to Sancheti’s Hospital, Pune. It is a hospice for recovering from bone & joints surgeries, accidents. While Anna suffered from so-called lung infection. He was moved to this hospital. On top of that the dr, Sancheti is reported to have said, “Anna shouldn’t be fasting and to recover he needs to go to some unknown destination.” Now I’m not a medical doctor, but sure am aware that there is no scientific basis to such claims.

However few things got further exposed. In the press conference, Anna made strong anti-women’s comments. He said that women who don’t bear children, will never be sensitive to the experience of a delivery like child-bearing women. A completely ridiculous allegation. He should be flogged in the same manner that he believes those who drink alcohol should be. Anna retracted on every threat he had made-sitting on fast in Delhi, surrounding Parliamentarians, campaigning in the 5 states for elections & the famous ‘jail bharo.’ His ridiculously oft-repeated speech that one gets free food in jail, so all should got to jail. That this is the way to fight corruption, many a stupid citizen got carried away. To go to jail one has to have criminal offence & it’s a shame if anyone is proud of that. Else one only gets detained and that’s really what happens in such cases. In the former, your whole life changes, and swear you’re life is f@#$%^d if you have criminal charges on your name.

Anna is self-proclaimed Gandhian, someone who has never believed in non-violence, he has made public this ugly side. Flogging those who drink, defending the slap that a man gave Sharad Pawar, saying ‘why only one.’ Just last night, Anna defended those who resort to violence for running out patience fighting against corruption, they all expose Anna’s dark & is that the real side? There is no excuse for use of violence, when all along the drama and lies of non-violence was what drove this campaign. Slowly his true self is getting exposed in public. I shudder that time will come when people will start looking through his talks and fake ideology.

Serving a death sentence

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

don’t much understand what is true as regards Indo-Pakistan politics. On one hand we suck up to them. On the other we snub them & scream rhetoric. But we somehow seem pale in our response when we need to. I don’t know how it should be I am NO expert on it. But yes one thing i know a peaceful neighbour country is beneficial to India as much it is to Pakistan itself.

I am immensely shocked with the 26/11 2008 attacks. I lost on a mentor & few friends. The way they were killed is one part of the immense grief & shock. The more aggravating part is how the very police who should have rushed help and they had the time to rescue the shot officers –Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Salaskar -were thrown on the street & were made to stay to there for over half an hour. Sad, this shouldn’t be the end that I’d ever wish even for my enemy. That is why even i felt, if the police had that once chance, they should’ve shot Kasab then and there. That didn’t happen.

Now he is in our custody. The custody & hearing has been written about, spoken at length, debated, no sorry being debated all the while. I have no energy or inclination to even comment on it. What i do know is Kasab is desperate & hence he resorts to all sorts of behaviour.

On my scholarship course for conflict management, i came across a Pakistani MA who was then attending a peace course. He did everything under the sun to try & get an opportunity to stay on in Bangkok, far away from the ravaged country –Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He & I had our differences, our talks & even debates. The 1 thing he slipped casually while talking was that MA was once a LeT operative. I was taken aback immediately. I kept it in my mind.

I worked for a newspaper then which hadn’t cared for my scholarship, especially in the middle of global recession i took it up-Mid career scholarship-the newspaper HR & editors didn’t even support me. I went without a salary for 4 months. So why the hell should i give this superb story to that newspaper? Yet i did only because my journalistic instinct told me this is a ‘dhasu’ story Neeta.

I got talking to MA 1 evening. I persuaded him to give me his full story. The reason i am telling it now, is because i now can understand Kasab’s life. The ease with which the perpetuators of terror lure jobless youth in Pakistan, giving attractive sops of physical training & then fascinating their imagination with rocket launchers & eventually brain washing them. I can imagine how these reckless youth are willing to unleash terror on others. In case they cross over they are dead, if they join advanced jihadi training & don’t cross border, then too they are dead. That is Kasab a dead man alive.

On road to terror, mother’s love stopped him

Strap: A Kashmiri travels from a terror camp to university after seeing the light of reason in time

MA Shafqat, like many young men caught in his circumstances, acquired training in insurgency from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to cross over the border from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). But as the day of reckoning came closer, Shafqat’s soul was tormented by the gentle feelings he got whenever he thought about his mother. He fled the terror camp.

Today, Shafqat, who believes Kashmir should be free, attends a peace course in Bangkok from where he plans to reach out to the world with his ‘Azad Kashmir’ cause.

“My mission is still the same: to see a united, peaceful Kashmir. However, I feel that the means to achieve it must change. I strongly believe that my dream cannot be realised through violence. We have to take recourse to peaceful means,” Shafqat, a fellow at the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Centre, Chulalongkorn University, says, explaining the profound change he has undergone in his political outlook and personal life.

He says it is easy for him to put himself in the shoes of Ajmal Amir, aka Kasab, the lone terrorist to be caught in 26/11, an event that for Shafqat brought back memories of his days in the ISI’s terror nursery. “You must understand that had Ajmal refused to do what he did, he would not have remained alive. I backed out after the first round of training. Had I crossed over into Kashmir, my fate would have been sealed.”

Shafqat’s journey into the terror camp started from his college — Khan Mohammad Khan College in Plandari, PoK — where he was active in the students’ movement, the main agenda of which was Kashmiri liberation. Insurgency training was a step away. “The camps had been originally set up by the United States to fight the Russians in Afghanistan by proxy. When the Russians pulled out, the ISI took over the camps from the Americans,” he says. “During the day we were given discourses and other training. At night we learnt how to handle arms and rocket launchers. It was hush-hush. People in the vicinity didn’t even have a whiff about our activities.”

The key moment in Shafqat’s transformation came when he realised that he had to ultimately cross the border. “My mother would have died of shock,” he says. “I could feel her pain. After being through the first phase, I knew if I became a terrorist my family would be ruined. It was my mother’s love that stopped me.”

After the change of course, he decided to see the world and spend time in the pursuit of knowledge. He read voraciously and met new people. All this opened his mind to fresh possibilities of pursuing his dream. “Through my peace studies, I have realised there are many ways to reach out to people… I am trying to find answers to questions like why isn’t China — Asia’s superpower — taking a stand on Kashmir? Why do we need to be slaves of either Pakistan or India?” Shafqat asks rhetorically, then pauses and ponders. There is a glint of optimism in his eyes, the sort of thing that differentiates radicals, but not when they are far gone in the alley of terror.

Kasab & his fellows were given some specific details. They got lost, they went to some other places & fired aimlessly out of frustration. Nariman House was on their list, but were the others, NOBODY knows for sure. They were DITCHED by his bosses, the assassins who masterminded the whole thing. Those real criminals live in their haven – Pakistan. They are being protected, while Kasab is doomed to die.

But he shouldn’t be killed, i don’t think killing will solve our basic problem –terror. The whole ideology & perpetuation of this crime has to be totally wiped out & for that those who abet this crime, allow it to fester, or spread & more so who turn blind eye to it need to be taught a severe lesson. Kasab has to be kept alive. I don’t care, my taxes are being wasted on digging roads, filling pot holes, on flying the skunk of politicians helping them to lead a luxurious life at my cost, then feeding 1 poor Pakistani is NO drain on my economy or tax. He needs to be kept alive to make him realise his mistake.

Everyday his living should be a curse for him. Every minute a reminder to what he has done. Yes, he shouldn’t get instant death for the terror he unleashed on all. But i also know he has a mother too, he has a family back home too who will be reminded everyday that they lost a SON to a misled ideology. That they were used, abused by the people in their homeland for their misplaced mission –to destroy human beings. The Kasab family should be an example for more poor families across the globe & Kasab an example for such misled souls that life is doomed.