In this issue of IAMC News Digest
- Prosecute Narendra Modi, Reconstitute SIT: Popular Front
- Another Guj officer comes out against Modi
- Gujarat govt withdraws security cover of IPS officer who deposed against Modi
- Court rejects Gulberg victims’ plea to analyse call records of CM, others
- Gujarat, Rajasthan cops slapped with Prajapati murder case
- 4 years on: Rai fights for grades, Vanzara faces 4 encounter cases
- NIA issues charge sheet against 2 in dargah blast case
- 30 injured in communal clash in Meerut
- Allahabad HC passes formal decree on Babri title suit
- Sex scam hits police academy in Kolhapur
Opinions & Editorials
- Resurrecting the buried – Editorial
- An officer & a Gujarati – By Samar Halarnkar
- Anna Hazare Movement: Its’ Project Brahmanism! – By Goldy M. George
- Watts in it for me? – By Tusha Mittal
- Sex ratio, patriarchy, and ethics – By K.S. Jacob
- Will this God town turn into ghostville? – By Sai Manish
Sunday May 1, 2011
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguard India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has expressed deep concern at the reported withdrawal of security for IPS Officer Sanjay Bhatt, and at the prejudiced role played by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) team appointed by the Honorable Supreme Court.
Mr. Sanjay Bhatt, IPS, DIG SRPF Training College, Junagadh, had filed affidavit(s) regarding the SIT’s investigation of Ms. Zakia Jafri’s case against Mr. Narendra Modi and other officials. Mr. Bhatt’s affidavit reportedly contains vital evidence that incriminates Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr. Bhatt’s testimony regarding Mr. Modi’s instructions to allow anti-Muslim violence to continue unabated, has already been adequately corroborated. Mr. Modi and his associates had claimed that Mr. Bhatt was not present during the February 27, 2002, meeting. However, Mr. Bhatt’s driver has already confirmed that he had driven Mr. Bhatt to the meeting with Mr. Modi, and had waited for him till the meeting ended.
Further, Director General of Police R.B. Sreekumar, IPS (Retd), in his deposition before the State Government’s Nanavati commission, had also filed affidavit(s) stating that Mr. Modi had clearly instructed the anti-Muslim violence to continue.
Earlier, Mr. Haren Pandya, a former State Minister, had submitted similar information to the Citizens Tribunal headed by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Haren Pandya was assassinated.
“Mr. Sanjay Bhatt’s reported statements have been more than corroborated by three different people – a Director General of Police, a former State Minister, and his official government driver. Further, there is clear, present, and imminent danger to Mr. Sanjay Bhatt’s life, and to the lives of his family members,” said Shaheen Khateeb, President, IAMC.
Therefore, the Indian American Muslim Council urges the honorable Supreme Court to immediately offer ample and effective security to Mr. Sanjay Bhatt, and his family members. We also request that the Honorable Supreme Court look closely at the reported nefarious role played by the SIT team investigating this case, and take meaningful measures to ensure that justice prevails in Ms. Zakia Jafri’s case.
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The National Executive Council of Popular Front of India has demanded prosecution of Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi who has been “proved time and again to be the kingpin behind the genocide of the Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002.”
“Many agencies, activists and investigators have already proved beyond doubt that Modi’s hands are sullied with the blood of the innocent victims of genocide. The affidavit filed by Sanjeev Bhatt, the senior police officer from Gujarat, in the Supreme Court reveals that as Chief Minister Modi had given specific instructions to the police to allow the Hindutwa activists to have a free hand in the riots and to look the other way when minorities were attacked systematically in a well executed genocide plan engineered by Sangh Parivar” PFI said in a statement today.
PFI has also demanded reconstitution of Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team to ensure “all culprits including Modi are brought to book and punished exemplarily.” “The Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate certain crimes in the state has proved itself to be servants of Modi,” PFI alleged.
National Executive Council of Popular Front of India has also demanded complete ban on Endosulfan pesticide and cancellation of Jaitapur atomic reactor project. The group has also urged vigilance about Hindutva infiltration in anti-corruption movement.
The PFI meeting was presided over by Chairman E. M. Abdul Rahiman. General Secretary K. M. Shareef presented reports and moved resolutions. Those who attended the meetings include Vice President Muhammad Ali Jinna and members Moulana Usman Baig, Prof. P. Koya, Yasir Hasan, Ya Moideen, Hamid Muhammad, Anis Ahmed, Elyas Thumbe, Karamana Ashraf Moulavi, O M A Salam, Muhammed Roshan and A. S. Ismail.
- Prosecute Narendra Modi (May 1, 2011, People’s Democracy)
- RJD asks Modi to quit as Gujarat CM (Apr 24, 2011, IBN)
- Modi’s Prosecution must Begin without Delay: SAHMAT (May 1, 2011, People’s Democracy)
- Muslim League demands dismissal of Narendra Modi (Apr 26, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Yet another Gujarat officer has come out openly against Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the post-Godhra riots of 2002. Suspended IAS officer PN Sharma, arrested for his alleged role in a land scam, has written a letter from the Bhuj Special Jail in which he makes this startling disclosure, “I had received a phone call from the Chief Minister’s Office, stating that I should ask my brother KN Sharma, then posted as IGP Ahmedabad Range, that he should abstain from taking any proactive measures in favour of the minorities.”
Sharma in the letter has sought a date to depose before the SIT, so he can name the officers who made the call and state the exact nature of the conversation. More and more officers serving in Gujarat have now begun to openly speak up against Narendra Modi and the way the communal riots were handled in the first few days, beginning February 28, 2002. A few days ago, DIG Sanjeev Bhatt’s sworn statement to the Supreme Court created a flutter. He said Modi, on the night of February 27, 2002, had directed officials to allow Hindu mobs to vent their anger against Muslims.
Sanjeev Bhatt said, “I know my truth and I’ve stated my truth. I’ve said it in an affidavit before the highest court of the land.” The Congress has said that Modi, since his ascent to the Chief Ministership, has blatantly used the bureaucracy, while the BJP has maintained that officers like Bhatt and Sharma are acting under Congress orders. GPCC President Arjun Modhwadia said, “Their success or failure depends on how well they implement the political agenda of Narendra Modi. But even today, there are many brave and upright officers.”
BJP President Nitin Gadkari said, “DGP has denied that Bhatt was neither invited nor was he there in the meeting. Congress has been misusing CBI and courts against Gujarat. The affidavit came after 8 years under pressure from Congress, it’s a conspiracy. 2000 encounters in the whole country and only 16 happened in Gujarat but only Modi is being targetted by Centre. It’s vindictive politics.” As investigations continue and statements for and against Modi’s role continue to surface, the Supreme Court has the tricky job to decide what really took place in the state almost 10 years ago.
- Godhra commission to hear Bhatt in-camera (Apr 29, 2011, Times of India)
- Guj riots: Bhatt to reveal more on Modi’s role (Apr 30, 2011, IBN)
- JSM questions ex-DGP Chakravarthi’s motive (Apr 27, 2011, Times of India)
- Former Gujarat DGP pleaded amnesia before Nanavati-Shah commission in 2004 (Apr 27, 2011, DNA India)
Gujarat govt withdraws security cover of IPS officer who deposed against Modi (Apr 29, 2011, Indian Express)
Days after he submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court to say Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wanted “Muslims taught a lesson” for “the burning of kar sevaks at Godhra” in 2002, IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s security detail was withdrawn on the orders of the state Director General of Police. Instead of four guards, he will now have a lone policeman guarding him.
“There is no way I am going to allow this. My family needs to be protected,” Bhatt told The Indian Express, saying he was drafting a reply to the DGP. Bhatt had been recommended Y-category security – it comprises a security team of 11, including seven armed guards outside the house – after police intelligence underlined the threat he faced in view of his disclosures to the Special Investigation Team probing the riots cases.
Since no decision had been taken on providing him Y-category cover, he had made his own security arrangement at his residence, using four men drawn from the SRP Training College where he is currently posted as Principal. But the Gujarat Police today decided that Bhatt and and his family could do with only one policeman as guard.
DGP Chitranjan Singh told The Indian Express: “We have provided an armed constable from Ahmedabad Police at his residence on his request for security.” He declined to discuss the issue any further. Bhatt has been writing to the state government for months, seeking adequate security for himself and his family. Last Sunday, a man who heckled him and claimed to be a Modi fan, was arrested by police.
Bhatt said he had also written to the SIT for security cover. “I wrote to (SIT chief R K) Raghavan stating that since I have made revelations that may upset the Modi government, I need protection for myself and my family. The SC had made it mandatory to provide security to witnesses who are deposing before SIT,” he said, adding that there had been no response so far.
- Security withdrawal desperate measure of intimidation: Bhatt (Apr 29, 2011, IBN)
- DGP goes one step further, threatens Bhatt over ‘leave’ to depose at SIT (May 1, 2011, Indian Express)
- Gujarat’s duty to give security to Sanjiv Bhatt: Chidambaram (Apr 29, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Former ADGP writes to SIT, NHRC for security of Sanjeev Bhatt (Apr 26, 2011, IBN)
Court rejects Gulberg victims’ plea to analyse call records of CM, others (Apr 27, 2011, Indian Express)
The special trial court for the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case on Tuesday dismissed a petition by some of the victims and eye-witnesses to direct the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to get the call details of certain persons, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, officially analysed.
The special trial judge for the case, B J Dhandha, dismissed the application on the ground that the SIT was still investigating the case and was going to place its report before the Supreme Court. The details of all calls made from mobile phones during the 2002 riots have been procured by IPS officer Rahul Sharma and stored in a CD, which forms part of the evidence put forward before the court by SIT. The petitioners had contended that the call details of certain persons have not been bifurcated officially and brought before the court.
The list of persons whose call details had been sought to be officially analysed include Tanmay Mehta, Anil Mukim and Sanjay Bhavsar, who were posted with the CM’s office at the relevant time, the then DGP K Chakravarthi and former Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadafia. The petitioners had demanded that statements of these persons should be recorded and their phone numbers and their conversations during that period should be verified by the SIT.
- IT submits its report to SC (Apr 25, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- ‘Courage to speak up on Godhra riots a positive development’ (Apr 25, 2011, The Hindu)
- SIT on Godhra ignoring evidence’ (Apr 25, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Congress accuses LK Advani over 2002 Gujarat riots (Apr 27, 2011, DNA India)
The Central Bureau of Investigation Friday registered a case against Gujarat and Rajasthan police officials in the Tulsi Prajapati murder case, an official said. The development comes in the wake of a Supreme Court order of April 8 on a writ petition filed by Narmada Rai, mother of Prajapati.
The case has been registered against police officials of Gujarat and Rajasthan – whose identities have not been revealed – for their alleged involvement in the criminal conspiracy of wrongful restraint, confinement, abduction and murder of Prajapati and “causing disappearance” of evidence in the matter. The official said the apex court order and Narmada Rai’s petition form the basis of the CBI first information report in the case (BSI/S/2011/0003).
The investigations into the matter will be carried out by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which had earlier probed the 2005 Sohrabuddin fake shootout case, the official said. Prajapati, a close aide of Sohrabuddin, an alleged extortionist and gangster, was killed in an alleged shootout near Chapri village in Banaskantha district on Dec 28, 2006.
- CBI files fresh FIR in Tulsiram encounter case (Apr 30, 2011, Times of India)
- Amit Shah faces arrest in Tulsi Prajapati case (Apr 29, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Tulsiram case: Probing missing links will be challenge for CBI (Apr 30, 2011, Times of India)
- Custody of accused in Dara Singh fake encounter case extended (Apr 30, 2011, IBN)
Four years ago to the day, Gujarat police added a blot on its name and a feather to its cap. Deputy inspector general of police Rajnish Rai arrested DIG D G Vanzara, superintendent of police Rajkumar Pandian and Rajasthan cadre IPS officer Dinesh M N for killing Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake encounter and murdering his wife Kauserbi. The arrests in the case, closely watched by the Supreme Court, shocked the Gujarat government and the fake encounter and Kauserbi’s mysterious death remained the central issue of the two major elections in the state in this period.
Rai was promptly put off the Sohrabuddin case and found himself fighting a copying case framed against him in a law exam he took at a college in Gandhinagar. Lately he filed a petition before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) against the lowering of his appraisal grades in 2007, soon after he had made the sensational arrests. Later SC gave the case to CBI which arrested the then minister of state for home Amit Shah and DCP Abhay Chudasama, adding to the list of 15-odd policemen from Gujarat and Rajasthan who are already in jail. Shah, who was shown as the prime conspirator, is out on bail.
Trouble for Vanzara however only multiplied and now he might end up in four fake encounter cases. Denied bail in the Sohrabuddin case, the three IPS officers were charged with the fake encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati, a prime witness to the Sohrabuddin killing. One more IPS officer, Vipul Aggarwal joined the gang behind bars.
Recently the SC transferred the Tulsiram case to CBI and Shah might be re-arrested. After being arrested in two fake encounter cases, Vanzara and a new set of top cops might face arrest in a third encounter case – the Ishrat Jahan killings of 2004. The city crime branch shot dead Mumbra girl Ishrat and three others branding them terrorists out to kill chief minister Narendra Modi.
The Gujarat high court earlier this week gave full powers to IGP Satish Verma in its SIT to investigate the case which already has ample evidence to show this encounter was fake. The fourth case is the encounter of Bhavnagar youth, Sadiq Jamal Mehtar where the state government, fearing the case might go to CBI, proposed to appoint a Special Task Force (STF) to probe it.
- High court reserves order in 2003 staged shootout case (Apr 25, 2011, New Kerala)
- Gujarat govt against Sadiq encounter probe going to SIT (Apr 26, 2011, Times of India
- Sadiq Jamal encounter case: Brother says no to STF probe (Apr 25, 2011, IBN)
- Government to file second affidavit in Sadiq Jamal case (Apr 24, 2011, Times of India)
The NIA today filed charge sheet against two accused in infamous Ajmer Dargah blast case before the special designated NIA Court here and charged them with murder and unlawful activities. The charge sheet was filed by the investigating-prosecuting agency against accused Harshad Solanki and Mukesh Vasani who were arrested from Gujarat by the Rajasthan Police ATS six months ago. Harshad Solanki is an accused in infamous Best Bakery massacre of Gujarat.
The stipulated 180-day deadline – prescribed in cases under NIA Act – for filing charge sheet was due to expire today. However, charge sheet against Sangh Parivar functionary Swami Aseemanand an accused in this case and other terror blasts including in Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad and on board the Samjautha Express, is yet to be filed and the that is expected to be filed on April 30. Charge sheet against some accused had already been filed in October last year which had referred-as conspirators/planners – certain hindu leaders including RSS leader Indresh Kumar.
The blast in dargah during holy month of Ramzan in October 2007 had left three persons dead. The hearing in the case till now was being held in Ajmer but case was transferred yesterday to Special Court here by Ajmer Chief Judicial Magistrate Ratan Lal Mund following notification by the government to designate the CBI Special Court here as Special Court to hear the cases under NIA Act.
- NIA plea to transfer dargah blast cases to special court (Apr 30, 2011, Times of India)
- Joshi murder case:Sadhvi Pragya produced in MP court (Apr 25, 2011, Rediff)
- Judicial custody of Aseemanand extended (Apr 30, 2011, Hndustan Times)
- Mumbai trust wants Abhinav Bharat to change name (Apr 25, 2011, Indian Express)
A communal clash over a cleric in a mosque being roughed up led to at least 30 people, including 10 policemen, being injured, police here said Monday. Seventeen people have been detained. Violence erupted late Sunday in Qazipur village after a group of youngsters allegedly manhandled the imam of a local mosque. In protest, some members of the Muslim community took to the streets, torched several commercial establishments and roadways buses.
As the news spread, tension gripped other areas with members of both communities indulging in vandalism, arson and pelting stones at each other. When prevented, members of the warring groups also attacked policemen in Zakir Colony and set a police outpost on fire. Police had to use teargas to disperse the protesters. “We have detained 17 people for their involvement in communal clash,” Superintendent of Police Prabal Pratap Singh said in Meerut, some 500 km from Lucknow.
“Investigations are being carried out to ascertain whether the clash was pre-planned by some anti-social elements,” he added. IGP Rajnikant Mishra told IANS: “As of now, the situation is completely under control. Senior police officials and district administration officials are camping at places that witnessed the clashes.” According to officials, police forces have been deployed at various places to prevent any further flare-up.
- Meerut clash: DIG suspended, DM shifted (Apr 27, 2011, Indian Express)
- PAC posted in Meerut after communal violence (Apr 26, 2011, The Hindu)
- Meerut mobs riot through the night (Apr 26, 2011, Indian Express)
- NAC to seek Ministries’ view on communal violence draft Bill (Apr 30, 2011, The Hindu)
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Thursday while extending its status quo order for three months passed the formal decree on the judgment in the title suit of Ramjanam Bhoomi/Babri Masjid. The special full bench comprising Justice SU Khan, Justice Sudhir Aggrawal and Justice VK Dixit stated, in the in final decree, that the portion below the central dome where at present the idol is kept in makeshift temple will be allotted to Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara will have the right over the Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi Sthal.
The bench also stated that the three parties of the suit namely Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Central Board of Waqfs and Hindu Mahasabha in mutual understanding can divide the land acquired by the central government. The Muslim party will not be given less than one third of the land acquired by the central government. All three parties will be given equal land in the acquired land. All the three parties will have separate passage and they will have no rights to interfere in each other’s land.
The special full bench also stated that help of central government can be taken for division of land and all the three parties will get equal area in the disputed land. The parties will also have the right to submit their suggestions in this regard to the court within three months while till then status quo will be maintained at the disputed site.
The special full bench has passed the decree after considering the objections filed by the parties in reference to its judgment on September 30 last year in the Ram Janam Bhoomi/Babri Masjid title suit. The special full bench has reserved its judgement on the objections filed by the parties on December 10, 2010. The Sunni Central Board of Waqfs has filed an appeal against the September 30, 2010 judgment in the Supreme Court in which the apex court has issued notices to all the parties.
- Want speedy disposal of Babri case: AIMPLB (Apr 25, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- CBI is trying to shield Advani in Babri Masjid demolition case (Apr 24, 2011, Siasat)
- Why BJP has not sought apology for Babri demolition, asks Cong (Apr 15, 2011, Yahoo)
- AIMPLB to oppose Wakf Amendment Bill, Right to Education Act (Apr 25, 2011, IBN)
Head constable Yuvraj Kamble who was suspended after being arrested on charges of raping a trainee constable for over two months at Kolhapur’s police training center, has blamed his senior officers. Investigation has so far found incriminating phone call records which ascertain that Kamble called the complainant to his room on the night of the incident.
Medical examination of the complainant who got pregnant also corroborate her claim. But Kamble’s shocking claim of involvement of some senior officers is now under scrutiny. Additional SP and Investigating Officer Maithilee Jha said, “We have arrested the accused and an investigation is going on and whatever comes out of the probe, no matter how big officials are involved, they will be brought to book.”
Kamble’s wife though has defended him. While the investigators have found incriminating evidence against Kamble, the more shocking question of whether any senior officers were involved is what the investigators will now probe, and the statements of all the 71 trainee constables could throw up some crucial clues in this sordid scandal.
- Cop rapes colleague’s daughter (Apr 16, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- Woman raped by railway official in moving train (Apr 30, 2011, Times of India)
- Maharashtra minister’s aide arrested for alleged molestation (Apr 16, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- ’10, not 5 girls were raped at Panvel home’ (Apr 29, 2011, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
The charges made by a senior police officer against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi are dead serious. According to Sanjeev Bhatt, who was posted as the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) during the post’Godhra riots in Gujarat, in a meeting on February 27, 2002, called immediately after the Sabarmati Express carnage, Mr Modi had told a gathering of police officers to be “indifferent” to rioters who were ‘reacting’ against the deaths of karsevaks near Godhra junction. In his affidavit to the Supreme Court, Mr Bhatt also made the even more damning comment about the chief minister stating that the post’Godhra situation “warranted that the Muslims be taught a lesson to ensure that such incidents do nor recur ever again”.
The former DCP added that the special investigation team (SIT) set up by the apex court in 2008 to reinvestigate into the 2002 Gujarat riots ‘ and Mr Modi’s alleged involvement in them ‘ was conducting a ‘cover’up’ operation. Someone from within the statutory system pointing fingers with specific charges at the Modi government is not a fuzzy, liberal outburst. It is a matter suggesting something far more reliable in the courts of law. The BJP has reacted by stating that there is nothing new in Mr Bhatt’s affidavit. In this, Mr Modi’s defenders aren’t wrong.
That Mr Modi was somehow involved in the massacre of Gujarat’s citizens and had then proceeded to make life difficult for investigators has been a point of bitter dispute between detractors of the BJP and its supporters for nine years and counting. But the charge of the SIT having threatened a key witness ‘ Mr Bhatt’s colleague at the SIB ‘ to the investigations into the murder of Congress MP Ehsaan Jaffrey by a mob “with arrest and other dire consequences”, points to a drastic but more confirmable malaise. In February this year, the Gujarat government issued a show’cause notice against Rahul Sharma, a senior IPS officer, for sharing telephone records with inquiry panels. So yes, the charges of obfuscation aren’t new.
But Mr Bhatt’s accusations should provide investigators new evidence, new leads, new witnesses. There is no reason why we should take a police officer’s word about being present in a chief ministerial meeting at face value. But there is no reason why we should take the word of the Gujarat government and Mr Bhatt’s former boss that he wasn’t there at face value either. With Mr Bhatt citing witnesses in the affidavit likely to come before the Supreme Court on April 27, one of these versions can be found to be true. The Gujarat riots may have receded in the public and political horizon over the last nine years. But if there is someone who brings new evidence that props up old charges, that may be helpful for the Supreme Court to confirm ‘ or deny ‘ what has been swirling around in the public domain since February 2002.
- Dead Of Night – By Smruti Koppikar (May 9, 2011, Outlook)
- Modi case: Justice depends on SC – Editorial (Apr 24, 2011, Asian Age)
- Shadow over Modi – Editorial (Apr 25, 2011, Economic Times)
- Will Modi get away? – By Kuldip Nayar (Apr 24, 2011, Deccan Herald)
‘It isn’t that I have taken a Viagra for courage. If I think of the consequences, I will not be able to act. If nothing happens, it’s fine. I’ve done my best.” This is what Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt told me when I pointed out the inglorious consequences visited on the few officers who have previously tried to implicate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his administration in the riots of 2002. Earlier this month, Bhatt, 47, filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court of India (SC) saying its Special Investigation Team (SIT) was ignoring evidence ‘ including floppy disks, cellphone records and documents ‘ that he had submitted establishing official complicity in one of independent India’s bloodiest riots. A Gujarati and a graduate in geotechnics engineering from the elite Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Bhatt in his affidavit says he told the SIT of a late’night meeting on February 27, 2002 ‘ where Modi allegedly said the police must allow Hindus to vent their anger ‘ and provided “verifiable details” about a larger cover’up aimed at undermining the judicial process. Instead, says Bhatt, he faced “unconcealed hostility” from the SIT.
“I have time and again tried to bring these facts to the notice of the SIT but they seem disinclined to follow up these important leads,” says Bhatt’s affidavit, which he drafted himself earlier this month, unsure of whom to trust. He also accuses the SIT of having “chosen to intimidate certain witnesses” who testified to his presence at the meeting with Modi. Some background: When it seemed clear that Gujarat would not duly investigate the riots, the SC created the SIT in March 2008 to probe the nine worst massacres of 2002. Trials in these cases are now underway. Bhatt’s affidavit relates to the SIT’s latest task: investigating the death by burning of 69 people at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, including former Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jafri. The court ordered the probe after a special petition from his widow, Zakia. Why did Bhatt wait nine years to speak up? His contention: as an intelligence officer, he was bound by confidentiality. When the SIT first summoned him in November 2009, Bhatt told its officers he would reveal what he knew only if a criminal case was registered. With his career at stake, he wanted his testimony to count, not be part of a vague inquiry.
“Given the conditions that have existed in Gujarat for almost the last decade, it would be very unrealistic to expect any government servant to depose freely and fearlessly before any forum, including the SIT, unless he or she is provided adequate protection and complete immunity from persecution from a highly vindictive administrative setup,” says Bhatt’s affidavit. The Gujarat government indeed persecuted the few officers who chose to control mobs instead of letting them run riot in 2002 or, later on, tried to follow the judicial process. What has since emerged is a pattern of lost records and official amnesia, of investigations soft’pedalled in a manner to undermine eventual prosecution. For instance, of the seven officers whose presence was confirmed in the February 27 meeting, two told the SIT that they had a loss of memory. Another did not deny Bhatt’s presence but said he could not remember if he was there. Of the other four, only K Chakravarthi, police chief in 2002, said Bhatt was not there.
In May 2010, the SIT submitted to the apex court a progress report ‘scooped in February 2011 by the newsmagazine Tehelka’ that confirmed the non’cooperation of officials, Modi’s inflammatory speeches, his administration’s partisan behaviour, the appointment of Hindu extremists as public prosecutors, and persecution of neutral officers. Even so, there are escape hatches in the SIT’s approach. When SIT inquiry officer AK Malhotra last year asked Modi who came to the February 27 meeting, the chief minister, according to the report, named seven officers and then said ‘ without being asked ‘ “Sanjeev Bhatt, then DC (Int.) did not attend, as this was a high’level meeting”. SIT chairman RK Raghavan, a former Central Bureau of Investigation director who handpicked the investigating team, in his comments said, “Bhatt is considered an unreliable witness, especially because no official, who is known to have definitely attended the meeting has spoken of his presence there.” Yet, his inquiry officer, Malhotra, termed the testimonies of the seven officers unreliable because they were either rewarded by Modi or continue in service.
The SIT has constantly needed pushing from the SC. Here are two instances of what happened after a dissatisfied court last month ordered the SIT to probe Modi’s complicity. One, after years of claiming that police records from 2002 were destroyed, then commissioner PC Pande is now learned to have submitted scanned copies of more than 2,000 pages of those records. Two, investigators again approached Bhatt, who believes they still aren’t doing enough. He clearly hopes the SC will now call him to testify directly. Bhatt will not reveal his evidence. Instead, he quotes to me this verse from the Hindi poet Dushyant Singh: Sirf hangama, khada karna, mera maksad nahi / saari koshish, hai ki ye, soorat badalni chahiye / mere seene mein nahi, to tere seene mein sahi / ho kahi bhi aag lekin, aag jalni chahiye (It is not my intention to only create sensation / All my efforts are to create change / If not in my heart, then in yours / wherever the fire, it must burn).
- A few good men in uniform – By Praveen Mishra (Apr 24, 2011, Ahmedabad Mirror)
- Insecure state – Editorial (Apr 30, 2011, Indian Express)
- ‘The SIT Isn’t Functioning Properly’ – Sanjiv Bhatt with Outlook (May 9, 2011, Outlook)
- Here’s the smoking gun. So how come the SIT is looking the other way? – By Ashish Khetan (Feb 12, 2011, Tehelka)
I have been following all the different sets of emails and other communications since Anna Hazare began his hunger strike. Much before he paid his kudos for Modi and Nitish and his recent statement supporting MNS, it was clear to at least a few of us that it’s a modern way of placing Brahmanism on a capitalistic plank. Let me put my point very blunt. One might agree or disagree it solely rests with one’s wisdom. The new model of Project Brahmanism is to fight against corruption and population growth not against casteism, fascism, communalism, gender inequity, capitalism or anything else. Well corruption had been always a yardstick to freeze the core issues of any region. The issues I have mentioned above that I have mentioned about. The word corruption is a misnomer, for it implies that there is something called honest… capitalism.
Corruption is worked into the fabric of capitalism. Sir Francis Drake made a fortune as a “privateer,” the polite word for pirate. In addition to indulging in the very lucrative slave trade, he routinely captured and ripped off French ships. One nation’s piracy was another nation’s foreign policy. In the film “The Untouchables”, Al Capone tells a group of reporters, “You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.” This is not only the creed of criminal gangs but also of states. What one state considers a criminal act-for example, the invasion of Iraq – another, the U.S. , considers kindness with a gun. Corruption reaches its most frenzied peak at the height of economic booms, when everyone’s trying to get rich. Speculation drives up stocks, and profits. Books are doctored to hide problems so that the good times can continue to roll. When the bubble bursts, the most egregious scandals are exposed. To retain an image of fairness, the courts prosecute a handful of cases. This does not eliminate corruption, but temporarily drives it underground. Faith is restored in the system, and the whole cycle begins again.
But capitalists will engage in anything that is highly lucrative if they can get away with it. Moreover, if they are willing to line the pockets of politicians, they often can get away with it. When we look into the history almost all fascist movements started by “cleans…ing all corruptions” all over the world. Slowly it moved against minorities of all walks in the course. Why the movement of Irom Sharmila for minimum democracy in those states has not been attracted the “media” or the “agitated youth” and “Gandhians” of this country? I want to bring to your notice a small thing.. Please follow this link… http://cgnetswara.org/index.php?id=4158 It’s related to PESA area. Adivasi houses have been bulldozed against Gram Sabha resolution in Surguja of Chhattisgarh… but it never becomes an issue; nor its part of any sort of corruption.. If corruption is the real issues then why don’t people talk about the “CORRUPT” mindset of every Indian who believes in Brahamanism? Is it not a state of mental corruption?
And remember the entire upper middle class crowd who walked behind Anna are the same ones who were in the anti-Mandal agitations in early 90s, the anti SC-ST reservation movements on the streets of Delhi in mid-2000s. So someone tell us who are these ones? Are they not the supporters of Casteism, Fascism, Communalism, Capitalism… Are they not driven by the social system and market forces? This might give you an impression that I am supporting corruption per se which is not correct. But what one needs to understand is that corruption is not the real issue. It is just one of those indicators. The real issue is much deeper. In India project Capitalism wouldn’t survive with all its neoliberal programs unless they take support of the already existing social and political domination and exploitation. As such Capitalism is relatively modern than Brahmanism and therefore the survival of Capitalism could only become a reality when the upper hand remains Brahmanism. Remember Brahmanism is a social ideology of complete domination and for Capitalism to align with there is no better ideology than Brahmanism.
At this stage let me make a point. Brahmanism as an ideology could be amidst anyone – not only among Brahmans but also among others. I know many Brahmans who are not Brahmanical. Having said this it is also essential to make another point that Brahmans in the past had contributed extensively to the growth of Brahmanism as an ideology. The contribution of textualisation of history to regularisation of the texts is a definite attribution which is neither hidden nor could be erased. Even today a sizeable number of them do have similar expressions, language, body language, gestures, postures, attitudes, etc. Naturally it builds a sense of complete domination to unpredictable magnitude. These forces had successfully operated the mass attack on Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, working class and women; further succeeded in disintegrating all these; created more and more confusion. Today Brahmanism as a rigid structure might have become more fluid, but has emerged as a billion dollar program. New formats, new incarnations, new methods have been devised. One cannot be ignorant to these developments.
- Activism unbound – By Bhaskar Ghose (Apr 23, 2011, Frontline)
- Hazare movement & the Delhi drama – By R.K. Raghavan (Apr 22, 2011, The Hindu)
- The master of the black buck? – By Ashish Khetan (May 7, 2011, Tehelka)
A Leafy Village in Kerala, Pathanpara, never found access to India’s electricity grid. That is why for the last several years, this village has been generating its own electricity. Raju, a dhoti-clad cashew nut farmer, operates Pathanpara’s five kilowatt (KW) micro hydropower plant. He lives in the village and earns a salary of Rs 2,250, paid by the People’s Electricity Committee (PEC). The power generated is shared equally by the village, following a code of conduct laid down by the PEC. Driven by a sense of collective ownership, each household in the village knows it cannot ‘overdraw’. Once a year, villagers gather for a day of voluntary work to remove excessive silt deposits that may hinder the functioning of the plant. The PEC decides the tariffs and collects payments. It now has a surplus of Rs 60,000. With the money raised, the PEC has already paid the loan it took to buy land for the water tank. Further north, in Bihar’s Tanuka village, the midnight kerosene lamps have been replaced by fluorescent light bulbs. This became possible when a start-up that calls itself Husk Power Systems designed a technology to generate power using rice husk, available in abundance in the village and usually discarded after rice is harvested. When heated, the rice husk releases gas that can be used to power electric generators. A small rice husk plant can light up several hundred homes for more than six hours at a time. First implemented in 2009 in Bihar, this project has since been replicated in 60 villages in India. It is, in part, supported by the Indian government. This same biomass gasification method was attempted by the villagers of Uranturai panchayat in Tamil Nadu using locally available wood. When they realised it would lead to extensive deforestation and wasn’t sustainable, they called it off. The village then decided to collectively invest in a windmill.
The electricity generated from the windmill directly feeds into the state electricity grid. For supplying this electricity, the village earns Rs 8 lakh per year from the electricity board. This method, known as the feed-in-tariff mechanism, is most popular in Germany. In Germany, several homes have rooftop solar panels directly linked to the grid. The solar electricity generated automatically feeds into the grid. This removes the need for a back-up battery – one of the drawbacks of the solar energy option. The grid becomes the storage point, and the household turns from consumer to producer of electricity. An attached meter records the units consumed and produced. Tariff or income is calculated on the difference. Back in India, several hundred kilometres from Mumbai, a man is shot dead in police firing in Jaitapur in Maharashtra – one of India’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots. Local protests against the proposed nuclear power plant there are quelled with lathi charges and villagers arrested for murder, to push through a 9,900 MW power project. Further east, in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district, another four people are killed in police firing while protesting proposed thermal power plants planned on wetlands. The story of two Indias is repeated so often, it has become a tired cliché, and yet in every policy debate, in every national riddle, when you look for the core issue, it is the same story that floats up through the layers: the story of the India that gains at the cost of the India that loses. The people’s anger in Jaitapur and Srikakulam captures India’s energy riddle: how to provide affordable electricity to a country of 1 billion in a sustainable, environment-friendly way? Every form of energy generation brings opposition. Hydro projects have adverse impacts on ecology and affect the livelihoods of people living downstream. Thermal projects bring high carbon emissions, the health hazards of fly-ash, the downsides of coal mines and, when located on coastlines, the damage of hot water released into the oceans. Wind energy on a large scale requires vast tracts of land.
Biofuels mean diversion of land use from food crops to fuel crops. Solar power does not seem to have the necessary upscale. And Fukushima is terrifying proof of the vulnerabilities of nuclear power. Which direction should India move then? The grassroot experiments traced above are hopeful signposts, marking possible routes to the dream of complete rural electrification. But are these innovations capable of generating enough power for the high energy needs of urban lifestyles, manufacturing units and big industry? What about the unfulfilled aspirations of those who have not? Can one legitimately deny rural India the luxuries of air-conditioning and 24-hour electricity the rest of India enjoys? But who will bear the price for it? Urban India rages when there are power cuts. Rural India rages when plants are built on its back. No Indian would say no to electricity. But each one would say: Don’t generate it in my backyard! So what really is the heart of the matter? More investment. More jobs. FDI. Mega dams. Mining. Thermal plants. Hydro-projects. Nuclear power. And now, the world’s largest nuclear park. All of this is meant to create a more developed India. Meant to sustain an 8 percent growth rate. Meant to widen the net of the middle class. Meant to lift the masses out of poverty. Why are the people of Jaitapur and Srikakulam angry then? Sixty years ago, India had 1,000 MW of power. Today we have 170 times that. Yet every major power project in the country is ridden with conflict. It is the masses who are opposing them. What lessons should the government draw from this? Too often, the opposition to power plants is read as an opposition to development. Those who question such projects are bracketed as ‘anti-growth’, while its ardent supporters are bracketed as ‘anti-people’. To solve this riddle, perhaps it is time to sift through the real issues.
The first lesson is, often the opposition to power projects is not necessarily to the projects themselves but the manner in which they are bulldozed onto people and the manner in which their benefits are allocated. The costs are borne in another backyard, but the benefits only trickle out. Trickle up. Too often, power projects are sanctioned in the name of the poor but the power generated never reaches them. Land is seized unfairly; the compensation is insufficient; environmental impact assessments are fudged; health hazards are not mitigated; the best technology is not used; honest costbenefit analyses are not done; and the access to benefits is unfairly skewed. At the core of India’s energy riddle then is the absence of best practices: the absence of trust. Of course, there are other issues. The absence of efficiency. The challenge of determining real demands. The challenge of asking, is it possible to re-train consumer needs? How is one to bridge the gap between rural India’s search for basic light and a fan and Mukesh Ambani’s monthly electricity bill of Rs. 70.69 lakh? How is one to find the middle point that is sustainable? How is one to find the balance? ELECTRICITY FOR All’. That was India’s stated objective in its National Electricity Policy 2005. Six years later, 400 million households do not have electricity supply. India’s flagship rural electrification programme – the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna (RGGVY) – instituted to bring free electricity connections to all BPL families, has not met any of its targets. A 2009 Parliamentary Committee on RGGVY said: “The Committee is deeply concerned to note that the Ministry of Power has lost sight of its target of 100 percent rural electrification due to unrealistic planning and poor implementation.”
Meanwhile, according to research by Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former IIM Bangalore professor and author of The Economics of Hydropower, we require only 2 percent of our present electricity generation to provide lifeline consumption of power to unelectrified villages. According to RGGVY, 30 units per month are enough to meet the energy needs of a village household. “Going by that rate, we need 1.2 billion units per month. We are currently producing 67 billion units per month,” says Jhunjhunwala. Clearly, efficiency is a major hurdle to achieving our energy goals. India’s current installed power capacity is 1,73,626 MW, with the Central government providing 31 percent of the share, the private sector 21 percent and the rest coming from the states. The Ministry of Power estimates that in order to sustain an 8 percent growth rate, India needs 4,45,000 MW by 2021-22. According to a survey by the Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), we are consuming 8,04,000 giga watt hours of electricity. Their forecast: we will consume 9,68,659 giga watt hours in 2011-2012. “That means a jump of 10 percent every year,” says Jhunjhunwala. “This is highly exaggerated.” Other policy experts agree. “We don’t require conventional power plants in these numbers,” says energy policy analyst Shankar Sharma. “Improving our existing system and fixing the leaks can alone give us 30-40 percent more power. We can continue without adding a single megawatt.”
- People’s Struggles vs Political Opportunism – Editorial (Apr 30, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- ‘We will not let Tabrez’s sacrifice go in vain’ – By Nikhil M Ghanekar (May 7, 2011, Tehelka)
- Rush in now, repent later – By Siddharth Varadarajan (Apr 25, 2011, The Hindu)
- Yes, let there be light. But no pain – By Kunal Majumder (May 7, 2011, Tehelka)
India’s sex ratio, among children aged 0-6 years, is alarming. The ratio has declined from 976 females (for every 1000 males) in 1961 to 914 in 2011. Every national census has documented a decline in the ratio, signalling a ubiquitous trend. Preliminary data from the 2011 census have recorded many districts with sex ratios of less than 850. The ratio in urban areas is significantly lower than those in rural parts of the country. Reports suggest evidence of violence and trafficking of poor women and forced polyandry in some regions with markedly skewed ratios. The overall steep and consistent decline in the ratio mandates serious review. Sex selection and technology : Medical technology (like amniocentesis and ultrasonography), employed in the prenatal period to diagnose genetic abnormalities, are being misused in India for detecting the sex of the unborn child and subsequently for sex-selection. Female foetuses, thus identified, are aborted. A large, nationally representative investigation of married women living in 1.1 million households documented markedly reduced sex ratios of 759 and 719 for second and third births when the preceding children were girls. By contrast, sex ratios for second or third births, if one or both of the previous children were boys, were 1102 and 1176 respectively. A systematic study in Haryana documented the inverse relationship between the number of ultrasound machines in an area and the decline in sex ratios. Studies have also documented correlations of low sex ratios at birth with higher education, social class and economic status. Many studies have concluded that prenatal sex determination, followed by abortion of female foetuses, is the most plausible explanation for the low sex ratio at birth in India.
The steady decline in the sex ratio suggests that marked improvements in the economy and literacy rates do not seem to have had any impact on this index. In fact, the availability of new technology and its easy access for the urban, wealthy and the educated have worsened the trend and harmed the status of women in Indian society. Sex selection and statutes : A prolonged campaign by women’s groups and civil society organisations all over the country, in the wake of the skewed child sex ratio in the 1991 census, led to the enactment of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1994. However, this statute was not effectively implemented, leading to further skewing of the sex ratios as recorded in the 2001 census. Social and financial pressures for smaller families intensified the misuse of such technologies to ensure the birth of sons. Such misuse cut across barriers of caste, class, religion and geography. The Act was amended in 2003, to include the more recent pre-conception sex selection techniques within its ambit, with the aim of tightening regulation to provide more teeth to the law to prevent the practice. It mandated the regulation of sale of technology, the registration of diagnostic centres, the monitoring of medical personnel, procedures and protocols. It has procedures for complaints and appeals and regulation by local authorities. And yet, the problems of implementation are ubiquitous. Violations go unpunished with very few cases being booked and a zero conviction rate. The collusion between people, the medical fraternity and the administration has resulted in the worsening of the sex ratio and failure of the Act to make a difference.
Patriarchy and prejudice: The social system of patriarchy, with males as the primary authority figures, is central to the organisation of much of Indian society. The system upholds the institutions of male rule and privilege and mandates female subordination. Patriarchy manifests itself in social, religious, legal, political and economic organisation of society. It continues to strongly influence Indian society, despite the Constitution’s attempt to bring about an egalitarian social order. Patriarchal societies in most parts of India have translated their prejudice and bigotry into a compulsive preference for boys and discrimination against the girl child. They have also spawned practices such as female infanticide, dowry, bride-burning and sati. They have led to the neglect of nutrition, health care, education, and employment for girls. Women’s work is also socially devalued with limited autonomy in decision-making. The intersections of caste, class and gender worsen the situation. Despite its social construction, patriarchal culture, reinforced by the major religions in the country, maintains its stranglehold on gender inequality. The prevalent patriarchal framework places an ideological bar on the discussion of alternative approaches to achieve gender justice. Ethical blindness: The declining sex ratio cannot be simply viewed as a medical or legal issue. It is embedded within the social construction of patriarchy and is reinforced by tradition, culture and religion. Female foeticide and infanticide are just the tip of the iceberg; there is a whole set of subtle and blatant discriminatory practices against girls and women under various pretexts. It is this large base of discrimination against women that supports the declining sex ratio.
Many approach the problem superficially and focus on the declining sex ratio and its medical and legal solutions. But those who seriously engage with the issues have found that much unethical conduct that goes on, whether in one’s social or work life, happens because people are fooling themselves. Men, the dominant figures, and older women, who have lost the battle and have joined hands to form the ruling coalition, overlook many transgressions because it is in their interest to maintain the patriarchal culture. With such focus on patriarchal goals, the ethical implications of important decisions fade away. Such ethical fading results in engaging in or condoning behaviour that one would condemn if one were consciously aware of it. It results in ethical lapses in our social world, which are pervasive and intractable. While viewing the girl child from only the narrow and bigoted, or financial perspectives, one fails to notice that many decisions have an ethical component. Consequently, one is able to behave unethically in relation to girls and women, while maintaining a positive self-image. Ethical fading also causes one to condone the unethical behaviour of others. Such “motivated blindness” tends to disregard issues that work against patriarchy. With the acceptance of patriarchal standards, based on religion or culture, even the most honest people have difficulty being objective. Those who overtly or covertly accept and defend patriarchy have a conflict of interest which biases their decisions against girls and women, in contexts both big and small. It is the everyday casual and hurtful misogyny-gendered language, sexist innuendo, stereotyping and jokes, small institutional inequities, sexualisation of society encouraged by advertising, media and capitalism that actually undergird violence of all types against women.
Need for gender justice: Viewing the sex ratio as an individual or medical issue and suggesting medical or legal interventions to end the practice reflect poor understanding. While strict implementation of the law will help reduce female foeticide and infanticide, it will not eliminate the problems. Simply exhorting the general population and the medical profession to desist from such practice without attempting to change patriarchy will prove futile. The major barrier to mainstreaming gender justice and scaling up effective interventions is gender inequality based on socio-cultural issues. The systematic discrimination of girls and women needs to be tackled if interventions have to work. Although medical intervention (of sex determination and selective abortion of female foetuses) in the sex ratio stands out as causal, it is the more hazy but ubiquitous and dominant relationship between gender and patriarchy that has a major impact on the outcome. The failure to recognise this relationship and the refusal to tackle these issues result in the declining sex ratio. Debates on gender equality should not be reduced to talking about culture, tradition and religion. The prevalent patriarchal framework needs to be acknowledged as causal, interrogated and laid bare. Discussions on alternative approaches to achieving gender justice are mandatory. While women are guaranteed equality under the Constitution, legal protection has little effect in the face of the prevailing patriarchal culture. India needs to confront its gender bias openly. It would appear that nothing short of a social revolution would bring about an improvement in the health and status of women in the country. Irony and hypocrisy are the two words that come to mind when patriarchal societies talk about justice for their women. Surely, the disappearance of millions of girls in India is reason enough to question the acceptance of patriarchy and search for an egalitarian social order.
- See Any Girl Out Here? – By Neha Bhatt (May 9, 2011, Outlook)
- Where have all the girls gone? – By Kalpana Sharma (Apr 16, 2011, The Hindu)
- Policing The Ratio – By Amba Batra Bakshi (May 9, 2011, Outlook)
Long before the advent of IPL, the who’s who of cricket got together to play in the middle of nowhere. In 1997, two devotees of Sathya Sai Baba – Sunil Gavaskar and West Indian Alvin Kallicharran – staged an India XI vs World XI match on a hilltop stadium in Puttaparthi with the then prime minister IK Gujral and the godman in attendance. Sachin Tendulkar’s men thrashed the Arjuna Ranatunga-led World XI but the result did not matter. What came next left the spectators, including Zaheer Abbas, Hanif Mohammad and Clive Lloyd, stunned – a 20 kg trophy made of gold, so heavy that it had to be brought on a cart. It was an open primer on the economics of spirituality, not to be found in the hardbound editions of Marx or Samuelson. Since then, Sai Baba’s influence has multiplied – both monetarily and spiritually. His trust owns a university, multispeciality hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bengaluru, an airstrip, a planetarium, thousands of medical missions across the world, prime properties worth hundreds of crores across India, schools in every continent from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Ndola in Zambia to Manakau on the northern tip of New Zealand, gold and silver deposits close to a tonne, plenty of cash and so on. Baba has left behind a fortune that has never been under the lens of India’s tax authorities and is estimated to be worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore by conservative estimates without factoring in the many sub-trusts that are affiliated to the central trust.
Adding the donations received by the sub-trusts, the entire worth of the central trust could be almost double that figure, even though numbers available with the home ministry state that the central trust received just Rs 56.94 crore in 2008-09. With that kind of fortune and a following that includes heads of state, tycoons, sports stars and legal luminaries, there is a lot at stake in the abode of Sai Baba. The succession riddle must be solved quickly precisely to secure the fate of billions of dollars accumulated by the central trust during Sai Baba’s lifetime. And the biggest mystery now is over the existence of a will signed by the godman. Sources at Prasanthi Nilayam, the main ashram, claim that Sai Baba’s personal assistant Satyajit is the only one who knows about the will. He is believed to have discussed with a prominent trustee the legal implications before making the will public. Rumour has it that the will entrusts Satyajit with substantial control over the trust. Having come to the ashram as an orphan at the age of five, Satyajit impressed the godman with his single-mindedness and dedication, rising up the ranks to enter Baba’s inner circle. Dissenting voices claim that Satyajit’s men have been spreading rumours of his being the chosen one and say there was no word of any will written by Baba. “When Baba himself said he will live till the age of 96 before being reborn, where is the question of a will?” asks a source in the central trust on condition of anonymity. “Satyajit’s followers are cooking up stories. I can assure you there is no will.”
Critics have been fuming at Satyajit for hogging the limelight during Baba’s funeral and the secrecy he enforced when Baba was in hospital. Even inside the central hall of Prasanthi Nilayam where Sai Baba was buried, Satyajit exercised total control on who could enter the inner circle to pay their last respects. An open letter circulating in Puttaparthi written by Prof Shyam Sundar, an old-time devotee, makes outrageous claims, including accusing Satyajit of feeding the Baba an overdose of sleeping pills that resulted in multi-organ failure. These letters are compounded by Baba’s family claiming that they were not allowed to even see the ailing godman. “We are being pushed out of the ashram by security personnel. Some vested interests are not even letting us pay our last respects to Baba,” says Janaki, the granddaughter of Baba’s sister. If Satyajit produces a will, things will heat up in Puttaparthi. The other contender – Baba’s nephew J Ratnakar – is considered to be a novice even by the trustees even though he has the powers to sign cheques on behalf of the trust. A businessman who controls the cable network in Puttaparthi, Ratnakar does not find favour with many trustees including retired IAS officer K Chakravarthi, who is known to wield enormous influence in the trust.
However, the dark horse who has been as proactive as Satyajit in handling the affairs of Baba’s funeral is Andhra Pradesh Industries Minister J Geeta Reddy. A noncontroversial Dalit leader belonging to the Mala community from the Zaheerabad constituency, Reddy claims to have been inducted into politics by Rajiv Gandhi when she was a successful gynaecologist. She was reportedly upset at not being allowed by Satyajit to see Baba when he was in the intensive care unit. A miffed Reddy reportedly rushed back to Hyderabad and complained to Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy on 14 April. She floated the idea of invoking the provisions of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, to effect a takeover of the trust by the Andhra Pradesh government. However, the chief minister scoffed at the thought. “There is no question of that (a takeover) yet. Everything will be done as per the wishes of Baba and the government will not intervene in the matters of the trust,” the chief minister later told TEHELKA. Geeta Reddy has since been campaigning in Puttaparthi to make her presence felt. SAI BABA used to advise many foreigners who came calling to donate extraordinary amounts. One of them was Issac Tigrett, the founder-creator of Hard Rock Cafe. Tigrett donated half the proceeds of the sale of the franchise, totalling more than $100 million, and came to Puttaparthi in search of spiritual awakening. Sai Baba advised Tigrett to open a retreat modelled on Auroville. He launched a project in Coorg named The Mystic Inn of the 7th Ray, which is still a work in progress. Now with Baba’s demise, there are question marks over the future of such projects.
Foreigners prefer to give to Baba’s trust because such donations are not taxed and they can see the impact of their money on the ground. “It is better than stashing away millions in Cayman Islands or Switzerland. You don’t pay tax and end up helping the needy,” says Nir Floretti, an Italian chef who came to pay his last respects. On a much more micro level, the town of Puttaparthi now faces the prospect of fading into oblivion. Sources close to some trustees told TEHELKA that one of the main reasons for burying Baba in the central hall of Prasanthi Nilayam rather than cremating him was to keep his aura alive. “Devotees can feel his presence that way and they will continue to come. Without devotees, this god town will turn into a ghost town,” warns Prasanna, a hotel owner in Puttaparthi. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, a sense of fear runs through the townfolk about the hardships of life that would follow Baba’s death. Despite the spiritual legacy, it is worldly matters that have been troubling lakhs of devotees who have already been devastated by the death of their beloved guru.
- Grip of Irrationality – Editorial (Apr 30, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- That Irrational High – By Ajith Pillai (May 9, 2011, Outlook)
- Bhagwan Satya Sai: Faith Marginalizes Reason – By Ram Puniyani (Apr 27, 2011, Countercurrents)
- Holy Smoke And Mirrors – By Rahul Singh (May 9, 2011, Outlook)