Friday, February 07, 2014

Indian magazine stands by explosive interview

Cover of the Caravan magazine
NEW DELHI (AA) - An Indian narrative journalism magazine, Caravan, witnessed protests Friday outside its office and received threatening calls after it ran an explosive interview of incarcerated right-wing Hindu terror-accused Swami Aseemanand. He claimed that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a prominent Hindu nationalist organisation which gave birth to BJP, knew about his terror plans to bomb civilian targets. 
“There were calls made to our offices, asking us to be prepared and face consequences," Vinod K Jose, executive editor of Caravan magazine told a national daily Friday. "We are coming," the caller said according to Jose.
Jose added that the first call was made around 10am in Mumbai.
Over 100 protestors carrying placards gathered outside the magazine’s office and burned copies of the magazine.
The interview by Caravan magazine has created a political storm ahead of May 2014 national elections with right-wing BJP terming it as the handiwork of Congress’s “dirty tricks department.”
In the interview, Aseemanand said his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS including Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief.
According to Aseemanand, Bhagwat said, “It is very important that it (terrorist attacks) be done.  But you should not link it to the Sangh.”
Aseemanand is in jail accused of abetting five terrorist attacks between 2006 and 2008 which collectively killed 119 people.
In a hand-written letter, Aseemanand Friday termed the interview  as “fabricated” and threatened legal action. Earlier Aseemanand’s lawyer denied the interview.
The magazine Friday said that it would release audio-tapes of the interview and that It stood by the story.
The explosive interview has drawn mixed reactions in India.
Writer-activist Subhas Gatade, who is considered an authority on RSS and right-wing terror, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that he was “not at all surprised” by Aseemanand’s revelations.
“This is not for the first time that the leading lights of the RSS and other Hindutva organisations have come under the scanner for their alleged role in fomenting major terror,” Gatade told AA.
Gatade said that ‘sectarian’ organizations like RSS are cadre-based where power is rather “concentrated” in the hands of the uppermost circle.
“Without their consent, without their green signal nothing can move,” Gatade alleged.
Rakesh Sharma, internationally-acclaimed documentary filmmaker whose next film documents the rise of right-wing terror, told AA that right-wing groups cannot afford to let the interview go unchallenged saying that Aseemanad had denied making a judicial confession earlier. 
“Earlier his lawyers also denied the confessions he made - and these were not custodial confessions, but independent statements recorded with two separate judicial magistrates in two different cities,” Sharma told AA.
“The Sangh Parivar cannot afford to have these confessions or the interview stand unchallenged as they blow the lid off a sinister conspiracy to unleash terror attacks in Muslim-dominated towns across India,” Sharma said.
Ram Madhav, RSS spokesperson has expressed apprehension and questioned the timing of the interview.
“The National Investigation Agency has no shred of evidence, even against those in jail. It’s just allegations galore. There is something fishy about this whole thing... we’re studying the whole thing, we will collect more information about what happened,” Madhav told a private news channel Thursday.
Sharma debunked the issue of ‘timing’ terming the interview is a “thorough” piece of journalism.
“I don’t think either the magazine or the reporter should be put to the sword about the timing merely because 2014 is an election year. The Aseemanand interviews have been done over months; it is a painstaking and thorough piece of journalism,” he said.
Gatade shared the same sentiment.

“The easiest way to dilute exposure of a crime is calling it ‘politically motivated’”, he said.

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