Posts Tagged ‘ Corruption Scandals ’

NaMo’s Lok Pal

Finally the Indian Parliament has passed the Lok Pal Bill and we saw a lot of grand standing and credit posturing by all the political leaders of the Congress and the BJP.

Something surreal and sublime was happening in the country. For we Indians, used to seeing all political parties dispatching newly elected MLAs and MPs to some impregnable forts, blatant horse trading to cobble together majority, and parliament/ state assemblies being stalled for the silliest of reasons, this was a welcome change. The only time we saw our parliamentarians display unity was when it comes to their pay cheque.

Suddenly our leaders became goody two shoes. Post the Delhi elections we saw the victor and the vanquished, begging, prodding, and cajoling their biggest opponent Aam Aadmi Party to form the government. Parliament was ‘debating’, yes you read it right, debating on the need for an ombudsman organization, state funding of elections, electoral reforms, food security, price rise etc. Leaders were making ‘astounding discoveries regarding engaging people’. Basic principles of participative democracy is presented as ‘a bold new idea’. Our political class was displaying a new sense of exalted virtue and political morality. And India sure looked close to becoming a ‘paradise’.

Suddenly the leaders from Congress and BJP were graciously congratulating Anna Hazare for his contribution to ‘enact the Lok Pal Bill’. This was the same leaders who shooed away Anna and his India Against Corruption Movement, the last time around, ie., 2011, saying they were duty bound ‘to protect against outsiders trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament’.

This time around, Anna, on his part, graciously accepted the ‘compromise Lok Pal’ offered by the government and called off his fast at Ralegan Siddhi. But, the most curious part was that all the leaders who spoke, conveniently forgot the contribution made by Arvind Kejriwal. But lost in the din was yet another important news – ‘Gujarat got its Lokayuktha’. And that brings me to the reason for writing this article.

ModiBut before we start I would like to take the legal meaning of ‘Ombudsman’ from which the concept of Lok Pal was born. In Government/Politics and Diplomacy, ‘ombudsman’ is a commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.

Gujarat passed Gujarat Lokayukta Act in 1986, but almost from the time Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Lokayukta, has not been functional.

In 2001, when Modi came to power in Gujarat, Justice RM Soni’s was the Lokayukta. Justice Soni was appointed during Keshubhai Patel’s rule in 1998 and his term expired in December 2003 and the post has been lying vacant since then. From then on Modi scuttled every move to appoint a Lokayukta and make the Gujarat Lokayukta, functional.

Finally on 25 August 2011, the Gujarat Governor, Dr. Kamla Beniwal, appointed Justice R. A. Mehta to the post of Lokayukta of Gujarat. Justice Mehta was recommended for the post by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court S.J. Mukhopadhaya in June 2011.  A miffed Modi accused the Governor of running a parallel government in the state supported by the Congress and demanded that she be recalled.

The Gujarat government then challenged the appointment in the Gujarat High Court, arguing that the Governor could not make the appointment without the State government’s advice. On 10 October 2011, the two-member High Court bench gave a split verdict and in January 2012, a third member upheld Beniwal’s decision. This was a major blow to Modi.

The Gujarat government then approached the Supreme Court, however lost the case. The SC upheld the Gujarat High Court’s verdict that though the decision on Lokayukta appointment was made without consultation with or approval from Modi, it was as per the letter and spirit of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.

The Gujarat government appealed against the SC verdict twice, but lost. Even after the SC upheld his appointment, Justice Mehta however desisted from charge of the office, citing 23 reasons. The controversy over his appointment, he said, had ‘denigrated the office of the Lokayukta and it had lost all the grace and dignity.’ (Read full text of his resignation letter here)

This was Modi’s chance. As is the norm in Gujarat, Modi wanted to appoint his man-friday for the role of Lokayukta, but he knew that this would not stand the scrutiny of law. So he now framed a new bill – Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013.

The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, was passed by the state assembly in April, 2013, but, unfortunately, on 2 September 2013, the bill was returned by Gujarat Governor. On 1 October 2013, the state assembly passed the bill for the second time. But this time Governor Dr. Beniwal was constitutionally bound to accept the bill. Thus finally Modi had his way and succeeded in subverting the Supreme Court decision on the appointment of Lokayukta.

Unlike the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986 the new bill provided primacy to the Chief Minister, over the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, in appointing the ‘ombudsman’. The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 empowers a selection committee chaired by the Chief Minister appoints the Lokayukta. The panel comprises the Speaker of the Assembly, a Minister, the Leader of Opposition, the State Vigilance Commissioner and a High Court Judge, ‘to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegium of five senior judges’.

The new Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any ‘public functionaries’ from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

Then we saw Jayaram Ramesh capturing headlines saying ‘Modi talking on lokayukta is like Asaram talking on rape’. Jayaram was spot on, but then you know that these politicians only put on a public show to deride each other in varying degrees restraining themselves only to varying degrees of their innate civility or belligerence as is their habit. But they go ahead and do what they want anyway – even change a law or bring in a new one to suit their whim and fancy.

Lokayukta is an ombudsman body which is supposed to look into irregularities brought to its notice against the decisions taken by the state cabinet and the administration. Then how can the Chief Minister who is the head of the state cabinet have supremacy in deciding who should be the ombudsman?

This not only belies fundamental logic and intelligence. To me, it is a travesty of the institution of the ombudsman, but also provides an indication of authoritarian incoherence and double speaks by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Heads up – the politicians win. Tails up – the people lose !!!

Cartoon : Courtesy Satish Acharya

Criminality in Indian Political System

For the first time, I had seen a ray of hope when in July 10, 2013 the Supreme Court of India upheld the 2004 Patna High Court ruling, which held that when a person in custody was disqualified to vote, he was also disqualified from contesting the elections.

This ticked the political parties in Parliament and they joined hands to amend the Representation of the People Act 1951 to negate the impact of the apex court verdict directing immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on being sentenced for more than two years in a criminal case.

Learned lawyers in Parliament like Kapil Sibal and Arun Jaitley introduced a provision to Section 62(5) which says “by reasons of the prohibition to vote under this sub-section, a person whose name has been entered in the electoral roll shall not cease to be an elector.” In effect treating a person in lawful custody in a criminal case as a voter and hence qualified to contest elections.

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The political parties of all hues backed the UPA Government on the move to amend the Act. To understand why this unity you need to understand the criminal antecedents of our elected representatives. According to an analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW), the Lok Sabha has 30% ie., 162 members have criminal cases against them. 14% have serious criminal cases. Our State Assemblies put together has 31% ie. 1258 members have criminal cases against them. 18% have serious criminal cases. In a break-up of political parties, 75% of Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs since 2004 have declared criminal cases against them, followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal with 46% such candidates and Janata Dal (United) with 44%. The BJP and Congress were at 31% and 22%, respectively.

Now you should understand the urgency. The apex court passed the judgement on July 10, 2013 and the amendments to RPA was rushed through in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on August 27, 2013 and September 7, 2013 respectively.  The amendments to the bill were passed within about 15 minutes in both houses, after a brief discussion. Some members of course wanted an elaborate debate on the amendments but the overwhelming majority of the House, including Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal, Leader of Opposition in LS and RS – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, pushed for its passage even without discussion.

Now the final nail on the coffin of this attempt to cleanse our Parliament of dirty politicians have been done by Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya.  Through their judgement they have effectively killed the collective hope of the people of India. It must be recalled here that in 2002 and 2003, two vital orders from the same Supreme Court had made it compulsory to candidates to file information regarding any or all criminal cases pending against them, their educational qualification as well as details of the combined wealth of the candidate and their spouses.

But I still have indomitable faith. My faith is in Aam Aadmi Party, for I find them as a few good men and women, who have taken a stand to clean the dirt in politics and I am willing to give them a chance.

My request to all my friends in Delhi is to go out and cast your vote for the Aam Aadmi Party and then we can build the movement to a credible alternative to these Criminal Politicians, across the country.

God Bless India.

PS : I am not a member of Aam Aadmi Party but just a Indian citizen tired of seeing the desperation of both Congress and the BJP. Both wants to make it a Presidential election showing a Pappu and a Feku. We know them, we have seen them in action. They have brought down the standard of debates in Parliament and election rallies to pits. We have also seen them both in action together in Parliament to scuttle the best opportunity to decriminalize the Indian political system.

Cartoon : Courtesy The Hindu & Copy Right Keshav

Silencing the Brave

If today the scams are tumbling out of the closet the primary credit must go to some excellent investigative journalism, not by the big TV channels but by journalists from small time newspapers. Therfore the news of the senior journalist Chandrika Rai and his family have been murdered to silence them is shocking.

Chandrika Rai, a freelancer for dailies Navbharat and The Hitavada, was found murdered at his Jabalpur residence along with his entire family – wife Durga, son Jalaj and daughter Nisha – in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district on February 18th, 2012, Saturday. Rai was exposing the dirty dealings of the illegal coal mafia in MP. This is not the first time such heinous act has been committed. The murder of journalist Jyotirmoy Dey eight months ago is still green in memory.

Also the statistics that during the past one year at least one RTI activist has been killed each month is a chilling news indicating how criminals have over law into their hands and the police appear to be unable to stem the rot. It is a reflection of the inefficiency of the state administrations all over the country and with curruption ruling the roost it appears to be clear case of political-criminal nexus that is playing havoc with governance.

By February 20th, 2012, Monday the mainstream media, confused about its own role conflicted between market valuation/TRP and authentic reporting, seems to have forgotten Chandrika Rai. The spat between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virendra Shewag took precedence over the killing of a fellow journalist, albeit from a small newspaper. As a viewer really hope that the mainstream media will abandon its misplaced priorities and redeem its credibility to some extend.

Photo : Courtesy DailyBaskar.com

Politics of Lok Pal Bill

It is a pity that the corruption debate in ‘Incredible India’ has been hijacked by competitive politics in the country. We are indeed ‘incredible’. We have worked really hard to prove Sir Winston Churchill, right, about his observations, when the matter of the independence of the Indian Subcontinent came up in the British Parliament. 

Churchill as Leader of Opposition in House of Commons of the British Parliament was visibly upset about the demand for Independent India, and the reasons for that are given in this extract of his speech – “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They are Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India”.

These words from 1947 in hindsight, are prophetic. While Indian politicians and the rich have stashed away black money, estimated anything between $500 billion to $1.5 trillion, outside the country, successive governments have been bundling to pass the Lok Pal Bill – an ombudsman organisation, an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India, envisaged 42 years back. The fact remains that the manipulative self seeking politicians and bureaucrats have not only failed to pass meaningful laws against corruption and have made the ones that are passed, virtually ineffective.

But when the plundering reached benchmark levels, we have had middle class messiahs, who declared ‘war against corruption’. Remember T N Seshan, the garrulous Chief Election Commissioner whose inspired fear among the politicians and awe among the middle classes in the mid-1990s. Seshan’s efforts did see a reduction in overt election expenses, but within a few months of retiring as CEC, he attempted to beat the netas by joining them. In 1997, he lost the Presidential Elections as a Shiv Sena candidate while in 1999; he lost by over 1.8 lakh votes as the Congress-backed candidate against L K Advani in Gandhingar. Twice hurt, Seshan eventually retired to a quieter life in Chennai, embraced by Rotary Clubs but forgotten by the vast multitude of his countrymen.

And today we have Anna Hazare, the Gandhian who has lead a lot of non violent protests against corruption in Maharastra, Padma Bhushan awardee of 1992 for his efforts in establishing Ralegan Siddhi as a model self sufficient village and now leading the movement to enact a strong anti-corruption act – the Jan Lok Pal Bill. On 5 April 2011 when Anna decided to exert pressure on the Government of India and go on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar, it became a ‘made for television’ moment, artfully choreographed between the World Cup and IPL so as to gain maximum eyeballs. But unlike the 1990 Seshan moment, when there was no ‘round the clock television’, the Anna Hazare movement instantly had the legitimacy from the television addicted cheering middle classes.

The middle class anger had been ignited further by the sudden exposure of a rush of mega corruption scandals from the 2G spectrum to the Commonwealth Games. The nation was stunned by the realization that strutting VIPs were in fact plunderers. And perhaps murderers were not far behind if the unfolding drama of the ‘suicide’ of Bacha, Raja’s aide, is any indication.

With people’s disgust with corruption now out in the open, the well-accented television appearances by Congress leaders, was not helping. The principal opposition party, the BJP, grouping in the dark after being routed in 2009 General Elections tried to prop up Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in order to hijack the Jan Lok Pal movement.

But not drawing inspiration from the public mood or taking reformative action, the UPA Government unleashed a systematic campaign to counter the growing popularity of Anna Hazare, employing everything from high-decibel propaganda to clandestine investigations by intelligence agencies. Baba Ramdev backed out and retreated to his ashram in Haridwar. The Government also lined up the Brahmins, the suave Kapil Sibal and the cynically suave P. Chidambaram, to discredit the people’s movement.

Every well meaning Government would have taken the opportunity to take inspiration from the candlelight marches and social media networks campaigns but the UPA Government and the so called ‘Mr. Clean’ PM Manmohan Singh let that historic opportunity of engaging the middle class with public life, slip bye.

Every learned Indian citizen acknowledges that the Lok Pal Bill drafted by the Government and the Anna Hazare team has flaws. The UPA Government initially shied away from a public debate. The debate became further trivialized on inclusion of Prime Ministers Office/ Judiciary under Lok Pal or not. Then the impatience and distrust with each other ultimately turned the debate into an ‘all or nothing’ debate between the Government and the civil society group.

An omnibus Jan Lok Pal as envisaged by Anna Hazare group for sure is not going to end corruption, neither is the farcical Lok Pal Bill passed by the Union Cabinet, yesterday. The Lok Pal Bill is just a defensive feint enough to get by the public anger. The UPA Government sure will now hurry the Lok Pal Bill through in both houses of Parliament, flouting all rules of propriety and transparency, without engaging in a debate or even perhaps voted unanimously by politicians of all hues.

But by passing the Lok Pal Bill, under the compulsions of narrow party politics and to protect the mighty and powerful, the bull-headed Government may have snubbed the civil society out of the way (or so they believe) but the fact remains that in their attempt to defend against ‘outsiders’ trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament, the lawmakers of the country have further alienated the middle class and ensured that they remain ‘outsiders’.

But there is still hope. Hope comes from relatively toothless Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde could do to the powerful Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. 

Middle class activism in India is yet to mature to develop the momentum and self-belief to go beyond constantly searching for messiahs /demi-gods, who will slay the political demons of our time. The rage may be real, the desire for change may be well-intentioned, but am still not sure if it can really transform society unless it goes beyond the clever sound bite, or the ‘mera neta chor hai’ slogan. The Government of the day and the once to come, am sure will realise that hope and aspiration of youth energy, blocked by inertia and curruption, will lead to revolt. If not now, at a later date.

Video: Copyright with YouTube &

Interesting Snipets : Courtesy Wikipedia

The first Lok Pal Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, Lok Pal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed.

The current version is a diluted version drafted by Pranab Mukherjee (Finance Minister), P. Chidambaram (Minister of Home Affairs), Veerappa Moily (Minister of Corporate Affairs), Kapil Sibal (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) and Salman Khursid (Minister of Minority Affairs). It allows for setting up of a Lok Pal and frees it up to investigate and prosecute MPs and higher bueaucracy without being shackled by official sanctions, but it doesn’t give it complete autonomy either in selection process or its administrative and finiancial control. It excludes the PM from its purview and just hives off all the rest no protection to whistelblowers, no state Lokayuktas, no mechanism of checking corruption in judiciary and midle bureacracy, and a seriorly ill thought out grievance redressal mechanism.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) along with the members of the India Against Corruption Movement. The draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within 2 years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lok Pal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. It wants to protect whistleblowers. It wants to create a super-structure of high-integrity individuals to curb and prosecute corruption among MPs, highrer bureacracy, lower bureacracy, clerks, peons, police, every government department and project, the judiciary and the PM. 

Foot Note : Not that I agree with Churchill. India has produced more strong and calibered leaders than the whole Western world put together. But I just would urge every Indian to remember the statement by Churchill in the British Parliament when you go to exercise your franchise the next time. That is, if you do 🙂

Cricket Betting : Bain of the subcontinent

When the Television across the globe broadcast the footage from Britain’s News of the World in which Mazhar Majeed, a 35-year-old British property developer and sports agent, give details of when three “no-balls” would be delivered by Amir and Asif during the Test match at Lord’s that ended yesterday, there was anger and outrage in Pakistan.  The bookie claims Pakistan Test Captain Salman Butt to be the ring leader.

This is not the first time that Pakistan cricket has been embroiled in such a controversy.

It was way back in 1979-1980 when Pakistan were accused of throwing matches on their tour of India. Pakistan players were also accused of throwing their semi-final against Australia in the 1987 World Cup. Those allegations remain unsubstantiated.

But charges naming individual players surfaced in 1994 when Australian players Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May alleged that Pakistan skipper Salim Malik had approached them to bowl badly and lose the Karachi Test.

Then in 1998, Wasim Akram resigned as Pakistan skipper after bowler Ata-ur-Rahman had accused him of offering the bowler Rs. 3 lakh to bowl waywardly against New Zealand. The same year Rashid Latif accused Akram, Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed of fixing matches.

Year 2000 became the World cricket’s year of shame, when the Delhi Police charged the late South African Captain Hansie Cronje of fixing his team’s ODI series against India. As if taking a leaf out of Delhi Police’s book, the Pakistan Cricket Board, instituted a one-man judicial commission that found Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman guilty of fixing matches and recommended life bans for the two. The commission also noted that Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed should not be allowed to captain Pakistan in the future. The same year, South Africa Cricket Chief Ali Bacher said he had been told by former Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Majid Khan that two matches involving Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, against India and Bangladesh, were fixed.

Then there was a period of five years when Pakistan cricket seemed to be getting back on track, but again in 2006, Pakistan cricket was hit by a controversy during the tour of England. Angered after being accused of ball-tampering and penalised five runs by umpire Darrell Hair, Pakistan forfeited the fourth Test against England at The Oval after refusing to take the field in the evening session on day four in protest.

But early 2010, again, the clouds of match-fixing began to hover again over the Pakistan team. In January after Pakistan lost every match during their tour of Australia, the PCB and ICC Anti Corruption Unit launched investigations. The PCB enquiry saw Mohammad Yousuf, Younus Khan, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan banned while Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Kamran Akmal, were fined and placed on probation.

In the scandal which came to light now the television footage showed Amir, who was named the Pakistani Man of the Series, bowl two of the no-balls by stepping comfortably beyond the crease, prompting pundits to comment on the unusually clear nature of the infringements. But other events predicted by Majeed, such as an over in which Butt would deliberately fail to score a run, failed to materialise. The Scotland Yard team is investigating the case took statements from Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal.

The former International Cricket Council President Malcolm Speed said that the game’s governing body could seriously consider suspending Pakistan. All eyes are on the new ICC President and ‘Indian’ Sharad Pawar but the response of the Indian public is one of glee.

It was indeed funny to watch Indian TV commentators spoof at the Pakistani system, questioning them of letting off errant palyers like Akram,  Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal etc in the past, forgetting that our own Ajay Jedeja (who is a star commendator in one of the popular TV channels), Mohammed Azarudin, Vinod Kamble were also accused of the same crime in the past. None in the media spoke about Miandad making Dawood a ‘sambandi‘ then or even now. The rotten state of the gentleman’s game was for everyone to see then, but it looks like whole world, India as a cricketing country, Board of Control for Cricket in India and our star players, are in a state of denial.

The Pakistani players, some of them in their late teens and early twenties looked like amateurs in the betting arena. Indian players probably could give a lesson or two these armatures. Thanks to Lalit Modi, IPL and the likes, our players  have perfected the art and we in India play at a very different scale of match-fixing.

Video : Copyright News of the World & YouTube

World’s Longest Traffic Jam; Great Stall of Superpower China

Recently crowned the world’s second-largest economy, China now has the dubious distinction of spawning the world’s longest traffic jam. Baffled by the bumper-to-bumper gridlock, the Chinese government has mobilised hundreds of policemen to clear the 100-km (60 miles) long stretch of the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, riddled with vehicles for 13 days, with the pile-up almost reaching the outskirts of the capital.

Experts say the mega-jam on National Expressway 110 would take atleast a month to clear. But unlike India there have been no reports of road rage, and the main complaint has been about villagers on bicycles selling food and water at 10 times the normal price.

 The pile-up of trucks brought traffic into China’s capital to a grinding halt and is directly attributable to China’s voracious appetite for energy and automobiles. And it was created by a surge in trucks carrying coal from the province of Inner Mongolia to the suburbs of Beijing, where power plants continue to suck up and incinerate millions of tons of the black rock. China still relies on coal for 70% of its energy demands and most of that coal travel on roads connecting mines in the nation’s hinterland to its eastern ports.

Last year Inner Mongolia surpassed Shanxi province to become China’s biggest coal supplier. A shortage of railway capacity connecting Inner Mongolia to port cities such as Caofeidian, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin, where coal is shipped to power plants in southern China, has forced suppliers to rely on trucks to feed the power plants around Beijing. The roads overloaded by coal trucks damaged the highway roads and pavements which necessitated maintenance work. Since Aug. 14, due to road maintenance and extreme congestion, China’s Expressway 110 has become a big parking lot.

At its current pace of consistent GDP growth for last 30 years, some analysts believe that China’s economy could overtake the US by 2020. But this incident has raised questions about whether China’s infrastructure is adequate for handling the growing number of cars and trucks added to its streets every year.

In 2009, China with its fast-expanding middle-class, overtook the United States to become the world’s biggest car market and now in 2010 China seems to be building another Great Wall. It’s just that this one is made of cars. So much for the Superpower debate going on in Indian television’s after Ragahav Bahl’s book – Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise.

Photo : Copyright with Telegraph

Proud to be an anti national

We live in a dangerous India today. Kalmadi seems to belong to that ideological school – a new, scary trend in this country – which labels anyone and everyone as anti-national if they dare to “question the system”. You protest against killing of innocent people by security forces, you are anti-national. You protest against a dam, you are anti-national. You protest against real estate mafia grabbing agricultural land, you are anti-national. You protest against the displacement of tribals from their land, you are anti-national. You protest against raping of women by army men, you are anti-national. You speak against wastage of public funds, you are anti-national. So even if it means I am going to be branded an anti national I thought I should write for this man in my blog.

He lost his right leg in a bomb attack in 1992. He is hypertensive and acutely diabetic. His upper body is restricted by chronic spondylosis. He was arrested on 8 April 1998 in connection with 1998 Coimbatore seriel blasts in which 60 people were killed. He was imprisoned for nine and half years in Coimbatore prison without any trial or bail. For five of those years, there wasn’t even a chargesheet. When his trial did begin, he was prevented from attending most hearings on the grounds that his presence in court would be a threat to law and order. He was denied parole to attend his mother’s last rites. He was denied bail for treatment that he urgently needed (for high blood pressure, diabetics and spondylosis), while in jail, unlike the dubious fakers who complain about every possible illness, to beat the law.  He was finally released on August 1, 2007 after being acquitted of all charges. He is now arrested for complicity in 2008 Bangalore serial blasts by the Karnataka Police.

What is so special about Abdul Nasar Madani, 45, President of Kerala’s People’s Democratic Party that someone should be so keen to keep him locked up?

For that I would have to tell you about the days in 1993 when I worked in Network Television as a Stringer Journalist which produced a small half an hour current affairs program in Asianet, the Malayalam Channel called “Kannadi”. It was positioned as poor mans “World This Week”.  Having heard of the fiery speeches of Madani, through recorded cassette tapes which were clandestinely distributed, the NTV team decided to interview him and I accompanied the unit. Madani had in the past been charged for inflammatory speeches and had police cases against him for the same, including one at Kozhikode in 1992.

The interview at Madani’s Ernakulam residence was experience of a lifetime. There was a calm around this handsome bearded man in crutches, as he spoke to the Kannadi’s anchor journalist T N Gopakumar in a composed manner. After the interview we accompanied to a public rally and we were shocked to see a huge transformation. It was oratory at its best. 

The moment Madani got on the podium, he was spitting venom against every political party, every news paper and generally against our great Indian hypocrisy. But lot of what he said made a lot of sense to the more knowledgeable people of Kerala. He could strike a cord with every middle class Keralite. It looked as though the draught in Muslim leadership in the country was over. Here was a leader who would stand up for his people.

After we had enough sound bites recorded what our boss Lenn B Jesmas’s said, still rings in my ears “This guy will not go too far. It is a question the Muslim Leadership and the Muslim League will not allow him to grow”. But with all due respect to Lenn’s journalistic assessment, I know now that Madani had more enemies than the Muslim League. The Muslim League sure was frightened by Madani, as they saw its sway in Kerala’s Muslim heartland of Malabar, deteriorate.

Madani had by then built a bit reputation as dissenter. He mocked the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by floating the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS). Following the Babri Masjid demolition on 6th Dec 1992, Madani launched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with the stated objective of “Muslim-Dalit-backward caste” alliance. The same year, Madani became the target of an assassination attempt, allegedly by Hindu right wing activists, in which he lost his right leg. The ISS, though banned (in 1993) and the PDP managed to tease and rankle the RSS. The PDP, among other things, strongly and repeatedly condemned the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Congress Government in Kerala under Karunakaran and the opposition CPM was also miffed because in the 1991 elections Madani refused support either of the alliances.

In February 1998, a series of blasts rocked Coimbatore, the city known as Manchester of  South India. The BJP was in saddle at the Centre and Jayalalitha (an ally of the BJP then), in Tamil Nadu, then. The Coimbatore explosions were projected as an attempt to kill the second Iron man of India, Home Minister L.K. Advani. Arrests followed, dozens of them. Suspects are picked up and thrown in jail, the more the merrier. Madani, a long time enemy of the RSS, was also among those interned. Why? Because one of the accused named him as conspirator. No proof, no evidence, just an individual’s confession, whose validity in Indian law was entirely dubious.

Nothing was heard of the accused number 14 for years, save that he is in Coimbatore jail. The Tamil Nadu police dilly-dallies and delays. Year piles on year, yet no chargesheet. Madani is still in jail for a crime that nobody can prove. Procedure after procedure, statute after statute is violated, until it begins to appear that the law stands in violation of Madani rather than the other way round. Finally after 5 years, after court raps a charge sheet was filed. Madani was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code – spreading communal hatred, criminal conspiracy and sedition.

Jayalalithaa’s government, it appeared, was set itself on keeping Madani in Coimbatore in order to please its ally BJP. Under the influence of Muslim League the Karunakaran or Antony Government and the Nayanar Government which came to power in 1996, wouldn’t help Madani’s cause either. For the majority of nine and half year incarceration, the Government of Kerala’s official position was Madani’s entry into his home state would create a communal situation. But the 2006 Elections, through a secret understanding with PDP, V S Achuthanandan’ saw his fortunes turning green in the muslim dominated northern part of Kerala. After the elections the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution for Madani’s release.

Finally after spending 3390 days of lonely life in jail without legal sanction and without any trial, Madani was  indicted of all charges and released from Coimbatore jail on 01 August 2007.

Now the Karnataka Government, the first BJP Government in the South of India, is continuing the witch hunt. This time too there is no proof. Again one of the accused in the Bangalore Serial blast case has named Madani a conspirator. The Karnataka Police claims that Madani was associated with Laskar-e-Toiba’s South Indian commander Thadiyantavide Naseer, the prime accused in 2008 Bangalore serial blasts, 2006 Kozhikode twin blasts and other cases related to recruitment of Muslim youth as terrorists.

The Karnataka Police claims that Naseer confessed to police that he met Madani before the serial blasts in Bangalore and discussed plans. Madani’s wife Sufiya Madani was arrested on terror charges in the Kalamassery bus arson case, which was choreographed by Naseer and for complicity in the serial blasts.

However this time around Madani has been charge-sheeted in the case in June 2009 itself.  But then, is there something called the law too which is meant to be above all of this politics? Am sure only Justice Krishna Iyer is listening.

Photo : Copyright with Rediff.com