Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Missing Malegaon Dot

The recent arrests in Ajmer blasts of October 11, 2007 flies in the face of then Home Minister Shivraj Patil who had publicly blamed Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh without taking any laundry break! The standard statement of Home Minister is not issued in individual capacity but a reflection of official stand of the government. So who fed the words in the mouth of Home Minister? It is clear now that he was misled by a section of intelligentsia. This episode speaks volumes about the power of intelligence agencies: it has the potential to mislead any government.
The notorious right-wing trend of targeting Muslims began with Malegaon September 8, 2006 blasts. It was a pioneer project whose first experiment was performed in Malegaon’s Bada Qabristan. Emboldened by false arrests and biased investigation, these elements swore to repeat ‘Malegaon syndrome’. The syndrome first travelled South in the form of Mecca Masjid blast on May 18, 2007. Here again, they met with success. The syndrome raised its ugly head in North in the form of Ajmer blast on October 11, 2007. It returned to Malegaon once again on September 29, 2008 to complete a full circle. It was grit, determination and honesty of Hemant Karkare that exposed the face of right-wing terror. Malegaon 2006 blast occurred on Friday on the day of Shabe-Barat. Mecca Masjid blast took place on Friday again. Ajmer blast was triggered on Thursday; the day people throng Ajmer Sharif dargah. Malegaon 2008 blast went off in the holy month of Ramadan at Bhikku chowk where Muslims gather in large numbers after tarawih prayers. All this falls under one pattern.  Therefore, it will not be incorrect to assume that Hyderabad and Ajmer blasts were exact replica of Malegaon.
Like Malegaon, dozens of innocent Muslims were rounded up and beaten in Hyderabad in order to weave a fictional narrative of terror. Senior journalist Seema Mustafa who interviewed all the accused has remarked that “In Hyderabad not a single policeman has been made to pay for the illegal detention and terrible torture of young Muslims detained for days and weeks for alleged involvement in terror attacks. All were finally released as no evidence substantiating the charges was found, but not before their lives were ruined with many of them still unable to pick up the pieces.”
Soon after the Ajmer blast, investigators had found a SIM card that led them to link dargah blast to Mecca Masjid blast but yet intelligence agencies blamed Muslims! A little investigation would have revealed the identity of the SIM card holder but investigators didn’t bother to investigate! It has now become clear that Devender Gupta procured the fake identity of Babulal Yadav from Ranchi which helped Chandrashekhar Barod to buy the SIM cards that were used to trigger both the blasts. Both used low intensity explosives, kept in tin boxes with iron pipes folded around them. Cellphones were used to trigger both explosions; using SIM cards bought with the same fake identity and Telugu newspapers were used in both cases to wrap the bombs.
All these years security agencies have been sniffing out the same old and ‘standard pattern’. The theorists of the old and standard pattern suggest that whatever happens in India (Prime Minister’s sneeze included!) is the ultimate outcome of the designs made on the other side of the border. And designs are implemented by the educated Muslim youths of the country. Isn’t it a unique case of remote-control governance? What more, deadly designs direct these youths to kill their co-religionists in mosques and dargahs!
So if our intelligence agencies are to be believed, believers are being killed by the believers. So is it safe to assume that the devotees at Akshardam temple were gunned down by their co-religionists? Or should we conclude that the 7/11 train blasts were the handiwork of Hindus? What would be the reaction of the Hindu mass, if we extend believers versus believers’ theory in the Varanasi temple blast?
The turn of events in Ajmer and Hyderabad blasts have shown a new path which intelligence agencies need to tread carefully. Time is ripe for India to come out of its conditioned mentality. Investigators must break their mental blocks. Indian law enforcement agencies suffer from the fatal disease of prejudice. India is once again going through the ‘siege within’ phase. Our National Security Advisor must ensure that a new and broad pattern of investigation continues instead of selective intimidation.
Surprisingly, Malegaon 2006 blasts have not figured anywhere in the ongoing Ajmer and Hyderabad investigation. The root of right-wing terror lies in Malegaon’s Bada Qabristan. There is an urgent need to connect the dots and form a triangle of Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer. Perhaps, the mystery will unfold in MCOCA court later this month when Malegaon case stands up for argument. 
CBI does not have any Hemant Karkare but there are judicial officers like Justice ML Tahiliyani who firmly believe in rule of law and fast-track justice.

Sunday Inquilab, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clowns and Drumbeaters of IPL

Sunanda Pushkar should have known that mainstream media cannot sustain on the virtue of silence which she very closely guarded till it became unbearable. Silence can never transform into a sound bite. Is there any newspaper or news channel in the world which can boast of running a successful “story” on silence? Media cleverly follows the rules of sacrifice. It has to perform the ritual irrespective of the fact that there is no sacrificial lamb in the slaughter ring. Journalists shudder when they think of their “deadlines”. In journalism deadline is equivalent to death. Thus Sunanda Pushkar became the sacrificial goat of IPL. And her partner Shashi Tharoor sacrificial lamb or scapegoat!

Sunanda and Shashi make an odd couple in the sense that the former chose silence and latter preferred noise! As they say, opposite attracts!

When Sunanda refused to entertain media, she was turned into a vamp from woman. Rumour, gossip, derogatory slant replaced pure reporting. Sunanda was portrayed as morally loose woman with “insatiable ambition”. It’s not crime to be ambitious. One reputed English magazine said, “It’s a bit ambitious on her part to claim she’s a businesswoman in her own right when her present job profile says she is a mere sales manager at TECOM Investments”. From a “gawkish girl from small-town Jammu” to event manager of “C-class” fashion shows, the portrayal of her personal life in the media is highly questionable on principles of journalism. The media did a “medieval witch hunt” instead of doing investigative journalism.

The controversy started when Lalit Modi revealed the investment pattern of Kochi franchise on at 3:16 am on April 11. “25 per cent of Kochi team is given free to Rendezvous Sports for life. The same equity is non-dilutable in perpetuity. What does that mean”? Modi wrote on Twitter. He further wrote that he was told by Shashi Tharoor “not to get into who owns Rendezvous. Specially Sunanda Pushkar”.

Each one of us has political loyalty and Lalit Modi is no exception. He was keen to get a team from Ahmedabad because of his “proximity” to Narendra Modi. It is precisely for this reason he was delaying signing of contract with Kochi team. It was only after Shashi Tharoor sent his Officer on Special Duty Jacob Joseph in the middle of night, at 2.30 am that Modi signed the contract. Soon after that Lalit Modi went online and deliberately revealed the name of Sunanda Pushkar to embarrass Shashi Tharoor or more precisely Congress party.

It is no big deal that Shashi Tharoor tried to get a team from Kochi. It is also no big deal that Shashi Tharoor “promoted” Sunanda Pushkar because that’s how IPL has been functioning ever since it began. Lalit Modi’s friends and relatives are stakeholders in IPL but there has been no controversy over so-called “impropriety”. BCCI did nothing to tame this professional misconduct on the part of Lalit Modi. Congress government is guilty of connivance. The ownership of IPL teams is no secret but yet Central government sat quietly. Congress woke up from the deep slumber only when its minister Shashi Tharoor’s name figured in the controversy. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that everyone is guilty in this circus called IPL. As veteran journalist M. J. Akbar wrote, “Everyone knew what was going on, from Mauritius-funding to insider-betting to coke-and-company parties. Silence was purchased by the allotment of some direct or indirect slice of the expanding pie….from each according to ability, to each according to greed”.

The shelf life of news is very short. News, like humans, dies every day. Akbar aptly writes, “The most useful weapon in the politician’s armoury is public amnesia about yesterday’s news, replaced by fresh reports that emerge from the baking oven of information, accusation and speculation”.

Phone-tapping has already taken over IPL. The process of “public amnesia” has just begun. Media has always been effectively utilized to serve this purpose. Media should play the role of a watchdog and not an embedded drumbeater.

We all will forget that there are dozens of Lalit Modis, Sunanda Pushkars and Shashi Tharoors in the IPL circus. We have only identified three clowns although the truth is that this circus is full of clowns.

We need a magician to get rid of these clowns. And a watchdog to chase drumbeaters. 

Sunday Inquilab, May 2, 2010