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This post is republished in public interest from the Cobrapost website, which appears to be having trouble.

Cobrapost exposes more than two dozen media houses, including some prima donnas of India’s holy Fourth Estate, where they all show their underbelly in its most visceral form.

New Delhi: In the second part of Operation 136, Cobrapost has exposed owners and high-ranking personnel of more than two dozen media houses, both mainstream and regional, the biggest ones and the smaller ones, the oldest ones and the newer ones. ‘Operation 136: Part II,’ in fact, shows Indian media’s underbelly in its most visceral form, where even the “big daddies” do not mind agreeing to undertake a campaign that has the potential to not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party. This they will do if they are paid the right price, and sometimes they have no compunctions to quote a price as high as Rs. 1000 crore, as did the Times Group owner Vineet Jain, while others showed a propensity to indulge in any kind of illegality bordering on criminality.

The media houses agreeing to run the campaign are Times of India, India Today, Hindustan Times, Zee News, Network 18, Star India, ABP News, Dainik Jagaran, Radio One, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.

We have received an exparte stay order from the honourable Delhi High Court on the evening of 24th May, 2018, which debars us from including the Dainik Bhaskar Group in our investigation. The honourable High Court has passed the injunction in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing our side of the case, and we shall consequently be challenging the court order in the interest of truth and justice.

Senior Investigative Journalist Pushp Sharma used the same cover and the same ruse! Wearing the garb of a seasoned Pracharak, Sharma adopted malleable identities which he used according to the situation at hand. He first used his association with an Ujjain-based ashram, claiming himself to have been schooled at Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, to have studied in IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore, settled in Australia and to have been running his e-gaming company out of Scotland. Sometimes, he claimed to be the head of the Madhya Pradesh unit of Om Prakash Rajbhar’s outfit, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, charged with party affairs in Karnataka, Maharashtra and the Northeast. At times, the journalist used all his assumed identities in a single meeting. As the investigation evolved to take on a pan-India character, he assumed the identity of a representative of a fictitious religious organization, Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti, purportedly on a mission, a gupt vyavastha (secret arrangement), at the behest of the “Sangathan” to bolster the prospects of the party in power in coming elections.

The journalist approached these media houses with his hideous proposition. As he offered them a fortune in return, Cobrapost saw them all crumble under the weight of a “big business opportunity” that was knocking on their doors without asking. Almost all bent themselves backward to grab this opportunity. However, there were two notable exceptions, Bartaman Patrika and the Dainik Sambad, which refused to play ball. No amount of cajoling or inducements could bring them around.

While meeting the owners and senior-most personnel of these media houses, Sharma asked them to run a media campaign on his behalf. While offering them a big fortune in terms of ad spend, which ranged anything between few crore rupees and Rs. 500 crore, he spread wide before them these essential ingredients of his agenda:

In the initial phase, the first three months, promote Hindutva through customized religious programmes to create a congenial atmosphere.
Then, the campaign will be geared up to polarize the electorate on communal lines by promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, the likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat, among others.
As elections approach, the campaign will target opposition leaders, namely, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, caricaturing them using less than dignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, for them, in order to show them in poor light before the electorate.
They will have to run this campaign on all platforms – print, electronic, radio or digital including, e-news portals, web sites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Negotiating hard, in what you can say was a value-for-money deal, the journalist drove home all these points as they all spread a red carpet for him. The interactions that the senior journalist had with all these media houses during the course of Operation: Part II can be summed up as follows:

They agreed to promote Hindutva in the garb of spiritualism and religious discourse.
They agreed to publish content with potential to polarize the electorate along communal lines.
They concurred to besmirch or thrash political rivals of the party in power by posting or publishing defamatory content about them.
Many of them were ready to accept unaccounted cash, in other words, for the job to be assigned to them.
Some of them agreed to route cash through a third-party agency to turn it into white, even suggesting hawala routes such as Angadiyas.
Some of the owners or important functionaries admitted that they were either associated with the RSS or they were pro-Hindutva and would thus be happy to work on the campaign, forgetting the cardinal principle of journalism: neutrality.
Some of them agreed to plant stories in favour of the party in power in their publications, while others were ready to unleash their investigative teams to rake muck on opposition leaders.
Many of them agreed to develop and carry advertorials especially for this purpose.
Many of them agreed to develop content for this invidious campaign by employing their own creative team.
Almost all agreed to run this campaign on their platforms – print, electronic, FM radio or digital in its various avatars such as e-news portal, e-paper or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Some of them even agreed to run down Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Manoj Sinha, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, among others.
Some of them also agreed to run stories against leaders of BJP alliance partners, like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.
Some of them even agreed to paint agitating farmers as Maoists in their stories.
Many of them agreed to create and promote such content as would aim for the “character assassination” of leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
Many of them are ready to run the content in such manner as would not look like paid for.
Almost all FM radio stations agreed to allow their customer to monopolize their free air time.
Many FM radio stations also agreed to use RJ mentions to promote the agenda: Hindutva and character assassination of rivals.

Operation 136: Part II is unique in the sense that it not only has exposed all these media houses but has also brought to the fore the fact that in a technology-driven age an agenda can find a mobile app a very effective medium to reach out to millions of users. Our expose of Paytm does exactly that. It brings home the point that one does not need an elaborate arrangement of the conventional media such TV channels or newspapers. A simple mobile app can achieve what the conventional platforms cannot: it can deliver the message with a blink of an eye. In fact, our interaction with top Paytm honchos is quite revealing in many respects, for it not only shows the company’s affinity to both the BJP government and its ideological fountainhead RSS, but also shows that users’ data can be compromised.

As India has slipped two paces to 138 from its position of 136, as this investigation was underway, in World Press Freedom Index (https://rsf.org/en/ranking#), Operation 136 has found that most of the media houses are either owned by politicians themselves, particularly the regional ones, or patronized by politicians, and it is natural for them to become their masters’ voice. It was high time we coined a new phrase to define this journalism as crony journalism a la crony capitalism. For instance, ABN Andhra Jyothy, a prominent Telugu TV news channel is patronized by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu. It is no surprise if we hear its Chief Marketing Manager E.V. Seshidhar say: “We have very good connects with TDP … We have do [sic] lot of what do you call we have main official what do you call for AP government Andhra Pradesh government, we have official event telecaster rights for Andhra Pradesh government.” While this connect goes beyond the TDP, to include the BJP and other outfits, Seshidhar even goes to say that their newspaper Andhra Jyothy holds so much sway that they could influence the outcome of the Karnataka elections.

On the other hand, Lakshmipathy Adimoolam, the owner of the 70-year-old prominent Tamil daily published from Chennai, wears his family allegiance to the Sangh Brotherhood on his sleeve. We are, therefore, least surprised to hear him say that he has imported especially designed software which could help in the promotion of Brand Modi: “You have newsletters … sent to … brochures, leaflets sent to party workers … say there is Modiji’s picture is there, just move your camera over here … it gives audio of Modiji.”

It was not that Cobrapost has exposed only those high ranking-personnel whose business is to negotiate a deal and bring business to the organization they are working for. In the course of this investigation, Cobrapost found some senior journalists, who have now donned the mantle of owners or CEOs, genuflecting before their big-ticket client and happily agreeing to work for his agenda. One such senior journalist was Purushottam Vaishnav who is working for Zee Media as its CEO Regional News Channels. Agreeing to run down political rivals by unleashing their SIT on them, Purushottam said: “Content mein jo aapki taraf se input aayega wo absorb ho jayega … humare taraf se jo content generate hoga investigative journalism humlog karte hain karwa denge jitna hum logon ne kya hai utna kisi ne nahi kiya hoga wo humlog karenge (Whatever input you will send in the form of content that will be absorbed … the content we will generate … we have been doing investigative journalism, we will do it for you. [Compared to Zee] None of the channels has done so many … we will do that).”

In fact, our investigation establishes the fact that the RSS, and as a corollary, Hindutva, has made deep inroads into not only the newsrooms but also the boardrooms of Indian media houses where even owners either blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power and its parent organization or are eager to have an association with them. For instance, Big FM Sr. Business Partner Amit Choudhary admits to the relationship between the company that owns Big FM and the party in power in no uncertain terms: “Waise bhi Reliance BJP ka supporter hee hai (Anyway, Reliance is always a supporter of the BJP).” Then we have Basab Ghosh, Regional Sales Head of Open magazine, which is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, who also confesses to their allegiance to the RSS: “Acharyaji shayad aap bhi busy rehte hain aap shayad Open dekhte nahi hain regular. Main aapko ek baat bataata hoon. Open jitna support karte hain sangathan ka shayad hee koi karta hoga. (Acharyaji, perhaps you are a busy man and maybe you don’t read Open regularly. Let me tell you one thing. Nobody supports the Sangathan [RSS] as much as does Open).”

While the journalist had a tough time in convincing Ajay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm that he was there to fulfill the assignment received directly from the Sangathan under a “gupt vyavastha” or secret arrangement, the senior vice president of the mobile-app utility payment company candidly admitted his association with the top brass of both the RSS and the BJP. Taking his prospective client as someone belonging to the Sangh Brotherhood, he made a very shocking revelation. Referring to the stone pelting in Kashmir last year, Ajay Shekhar said: “Jab JK mein band huye the na pathar … toh humari personally PMO se phone aya tha kaha gaya tha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm user hon (When the stone-pelting stopped there in J&K, I personally got a phone call from the PMO. They told us to give them data saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users.)” Paytm users may now be wondering if the company has violated its policy of privacy and data safety!

Another interesting fact that has emerged during the course of ‘Operation 136: Part II’ is that although they might be swearing by their allegiance to the RSS or the BJP, they don’t give a damn to Modi’s public stance against black money for which the Prime Minister did not back away from subjecting the entire citizenry to untold miseries by enforcing demonetization in November 2016. Punching holes in what has been gloried as “surgical strike” against black money, we found Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Times Group, and his aide Executive President Sanjeev Shah, naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean and even suggesting to employ the services of ‘Angadias’—a Gujarati name for hawaladars or hawala operators of illicit money—to get the job done. While Vineet Jain says, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah informs us: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadia will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.” Hope our Prime Minister and other arms of his government are listening!

Of all interviews that the journalist had with the owners and personnel of all these media houses in the course of this investigation, Manda Mhatre’s stands out in its revelations. While criticizing her own party, and claiming that it was the RSS leadership which ensured she got a ticket to fight election after she switched loyalties from NCP to the BJP, what the BJP legislator from Belapur, Pune, told Cobrapost is quite revealing: “Mere ko Sangh wale bol rahe the ki Muslim masjid todo ye karo. Main boli sorry main ye nahi kar sakti. Masjid sthal sab kachre ke maafiq dekhte hain. Itna log ko hum haay nahi le sakte hain kyonki aadhe log apne se jud gaye hain (The Sangh people were telling me time and again to destroy the masjids of Muslims. I told them ‘Sorry I can’t do that.’ They all look at a masjid something like trash. I cannot afford to earn so much ill-will of all those people [by resorting to such hate] because many Muslims have joined the BJP).”

We know it well that such open confessions of their allegiance to the ideology of the RSS could be brushed aside as personal opinions, but given the position they hold in their respective organizations what they say cannot be taken lightly. The reason is that it is rather the business interests that have an overarching influence on the editorial policy of a media organization, and Operation 136 has once again shown it in ample measure. The first part of Operation 136 had exposed India TV, Dainik Jagaran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN Live 24×7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.

All these on-camera confessions make it clear that the malaise of paid news has set in deep as it is no longer confined to a few individuals who would show no scruples while publishing paid content, camouflaging it as news stories or reports. Over the years, paid news has become institutionalized, as this investigation establishes, for no one in authority in news business would receive an agenda, which is overtly communal and defamatory, with enthusiasm, let alone committing to undertake it, particularly when there are clear-cut guidelines to follow and laws to abide by.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has well laid-down provisions, for instance, to deal with various unlawful acts that these media houses agreed to commit. Section 153(A) makes any attempt to “promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups” punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine or both. Section 295(A) of the IPC also provides for the same punishment to be meted out when an individual deliberately, and with malicious intent, hurts the religious feelings of a community. Then, Chapter IXA of the IPC deals comprehensively with offences related to elections. Section 171 of the IPC makes interference with the free exercise of electoral right, in any form, punishable with an imprisonment of one year or fine or both. These provisions of the IPC, thus, ensure that the offence of polarizing a group on the basis of religion, caste or community is punished. The provisions of Chapter IXA of the IPC with regard to free exercise of electoral rights are overarching in their ambit as they are also relevant paid news to influence voters to gain electoral benefits.

In addition, the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation Act) 1995, along with Cables Rules, and Representation of People’s Act, along with Conduct of Election Rules, make paid news and communal polarization for electoral gains an offence. Both the Cable Act and the Cable Rules prohibit transmission or re-transmission of programmes that do not conform to the advertisement code. While Rule 6 of the Cable Rules prohibits programmes of communal nature or that promote anti-national attitudes, Rule 7 also lays down the advertisement code prohibits publication of advertisements of political or religious nature. Rule 7(10) of the Cable Rules further states that “all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable programmes, viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme”. Then, Section 125 of the RPA makes communal polarization an offence punishable with imprisonment for three years or fine or both, while various provisions of Section 123 declare an act aimed at polarization and the practice of paid news as “corrupt practices” making election of a candidate null and void.

Apart from these and other legal provisions, there are “Norms and Guidelines on Paid News” of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2010” of the Press Council of India, which all media establishments are expected to adhere to. But do they really care for such scrupulous adherence? Our investigation says no.

We would like to make it clear that Operation 136 should in no way be taken as an effort to undermine Indian media or question its sanctity as an institution. Our investigation does not intend to cast any aspersions or pass judgment, either, on the journalists who are working in these media platforms. They have done good journalism in the past and will do so in future. However, if the management indulges in paid news, in all its gray shades, it creates a very difficult atmosphere for the journalists to ply their trade in. This story aims to underline our earnestness to address the malaise that has been dogging Indian media for the past three decades or so and look within to make course correction, so that the faith of India’s citizenry in this vibrant pillar of democracy is not dented.

We've been seeing this phenomenon all through since the 2014 Lok Sabha election that swept the BJP to power in India. Assorted supporters of Modi and BJP backing off warily as individuals or in groups as they realize that the trailer and the film have little in common. And of course there are those like me, who insist that this is one blame that cannot be laid at BJP's feet, because the trailer and the film are exactly the same, except that those "discovering now" have now been removed from the ranks of the protected and added to the ranks of the disenfranchised. And that appears to have made all the difference.

These people come in a few broad categories of regret:

Organizations with an agenda

Every large collective that could be exploited for votes was tapped into by the BJP. From affiliates of its parent RSS to criminal godmen with profits to make or crimes needing impunity. From rights groups to identity struggles and across ideologies. With overt deals for support or subtle manipulation. And one by one they have been waking up to the disaster that this government is. Many business houses are staring at the economy in disbelief today. Surely they will be assessing who they fund next.

One feels pity for the likes of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan, who literally blew away five years worth rights for farmers because they were fooled by pretty promises and didn't look to actually verify claims. They have had brutal awakenings with the collapse of the agrarian economy. First the cattle slaughter ban decimating their investments in cattle, then the demonetisation decimating their income and crippling investment into the new crop cycle and finally the GST - which very few understand, but which is severely restricting the MSME. Going from threatening to tie cattle outside BJP offices over the cattle slaughter ban to writing bitter articles about malpractices and raging farmer protests, SSS is basically doomed to a limbo till the next elections and yes, very definitely out of love. Similar scams have played across other collectives of people and this includes RSS organizations like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, reined in for long from protesting exploitative labour laws, declining jobs and the demonetisation. The RSS has wisely given them permission to protest against the BJP - likely so that they can be told to shut up when it is time for elections again.

Then of course there are the likes of Ram Rahim. Facilitated in every effort to escape accountability to the point of allowing a build up of violent protesters to intimidate the Court from an unfavorable verdict and flown out by helicopter after being convicted! It came as no surprise to anyone that Ram Rahim's sudden departure from remaining apolitical to endorsing BJP openly had come with an understanding of cases against him being dropped. Regardless, with the discovery of 600 skeletons from Dera Saccha Sauda, it is pretty much understood that he will spend the rest of his life in jail or graduate to the Parliament. Needless to say, his supporters are unlikely to vote for the BJP again either.

For profit organizations

With the Congress failing, BJP had made it abundantly clear that you were either with them or against them and those with them would prosper. The likes of Ramdev went on to build empires and gained favorable government actions, land and more - and he isn't going to ditch BJP in a hurry. The rest were dreaming of bonanzas, but are left staring at their own balance sheets as the economy slows and all kinds of dubious gamechangers helicopter in.

And I'll include corporate media here. As the propaganda for the next election starts warming up, several channels that could see nothing but good in the BJP and nothing but evil in the Congress have suddenly returned to journalistic integrity. Hatchet jobs on BJP opponents are off non-BJP channels now. Which should not be understood as the profession finding ethics, but a more likely answer being closer to wallets - the expected bonanza for the corporate media did not materialize, while their journalists were systematically stripped of dignity. Where as recently as last year, journalists thrashed by BJP goons on court premises held silent marches in support of themselves, but the TV screens remained loyal to the autocracy, today the non-BJP media is merrily erupting into criticism of the very same things it was not able to see for the last five years.

Because BJP's considerable ad revenue not withstanding, corporate media is a business and there is no such thing as a business doing well in India these days - unless you're Alibaba. Mobile wallets celebrated a bonanza for a few months and will likely hit a worse situation now as cash returns. The smart ones converted to payments banks. The rest will likely be left scratching their heads wondering what happened like everyone else. Corporate media runs on advertising revenue. Arnab lying without consequence to the public is no longer half as funny as outright hate mongering would have been a short year ago. There is trouble in the cowshed. Media is back to being BJP affiliated media or up for grabs and the twain don't meet right now. And they won't, unless BJP bankrupts its own mouthpieces, or fixes the economy. The ones roped in by their wallets are off seeking their fortune in greener pastures. Both being unlikely, the coming election is likely going to be bipolar with "reality" depending on what channel you are watching.

The economic right wing

If the political right is about majoritarian might being right and under the bus with the rest in the social sphere, the economic "right" (also known as "pro-capitalism") is about prpfits being right and under the bus with the rest. THe two converged smoothly under the BJP govt with the upper caste and upper class providing a hinge that was in common with both for the most part. It is inherently a perspective that lacks egalitarian ethics and was ripe for the plucking when it came to exploiting for votes. Disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities seduced religious supremacists, while deprivation of economically vulnerable gave the pro-profits a high. The mentality is the same - rob the less powerful and distribute among the powerful for instant high of prosperity and power combined with contrast with those lower sinking further. Sadly, it is one thing to disenfranchise the poor and quite another to disenfranchise the profiteers. Honeymoon there was over the minute the economy gods stopped smiling. So people who didn't really see a problem with BJP's extremely disturbing relationship with fascism and made utopian proclamations along the lines of "shaadi ho jayegi to apne aap jimmedar ban jayenge" are now suddenly realizing that communalism is an unacceptable thing after all. Because they can hardly whine about losses to big business when people dying in queues didn't make them blink.

Those who overlooked the sheer number of hate mongers supporting Modi, because it would help bring the "pro-business" to power are now scandalized that the hate mongers voted Modi for hate and not economy. Somehow they hadn't paused to analyze whether the collapse of law and order and decisions by people turning "intellectual" into an insult would help or harm economy. It was one thing to believe that a few dead people and impoverished people-not-like-us were an acceptable price for getting the perfect environment where the free market could ride into the sunset on a swastika. It was quite another thing for the promised free market to not materialize. The GDP was a final slap to their gullibility - for those who still hadn't been repulsed by the economic slaughterhouse that the demonetisation was (many believed it hurt only the poor and not so much the cashless, till corporate profits dropped - people dying in queues was regrettable necessity - economic slowdown was sin). Now they realize the cost. They condemn the damage done to country. Regardless, claimed ethics aside, the bottom line is that they no longer believe the BJP can do anything useful for the economy, or they'd have been fine with a genocide or five too. Today, even Rupa Subramanian of all people admired Rahul Gandhi's speech - of all things. It doesn't get any more "game over, BJP" than that.

The gullibles

These are, quite simply idealistic but lazy fools, who want good things to happen and are content to endorse someone to deliver it without oversight and consider their duty done. They are busy and are quite happy to leave the details to someone who has a good ad. As the propaganda fog wears thin, they are waking up from their zombie like complacency to realize that their ideals that they trusted BJP to enact are not actually being acted on and are all upset in the manner one rants at customer support - when in reality they have been scammed for their votes and influence, not just been provided bad service to.

This class of gullibles also includes various activists who served as useful fools for BJP objectives - sometimes even when they are ideologically opposed to BJP. Feminists, for example were used to bring down credibility of Sheila Dixit government first and then the ethics of the entire left with a series of trials by media of anti-BJP public figures accused of abusing women, anti-Aadhaar activists were used to discredit UPA2 on Aadhaar or Muslim reformers challenging Triple Talak to discredit Islam or the skillful inflaming and use of Tamil nationalist sentiments on Jallikattu to disrupt and control Tamil politics, even as protesters thought they were rejecting BJP. This was basically the skilful magnification of selectively chosen causes to bring down opponents while not caring about those causes in the least. This continues today, because Social Media idealists are a lazy lot, given to exhibitions of ethics more than analysis of social realities and independent conclusions and actions. It is easier to trend a tag provided and be "neutral" by criticizing "even their own" without noticing that there never is a tag for all the rapists in the Parliament - including those defending a convicted Ram Rahim - for example. Useful fools, they are called and in my view, such activists do more harm than good by reducing important struggles to political tools.

It would be ironic that the left or parties that have come up on the basis of activism can't engage activists in protest like the BJP - except it isn't ironic, because BJP is the only party that actually systematically targeted various activists to leverage their influence and use them as fronts instead of making statements as themselves. This is how it was from the start when the Hindutva brigade learned at the lap of the Zionists on how to use rationalists and atheists to discredit Islam - the good old Orkut days. Indian atheists rarely fall for this selective incentive for criticism anymore (Taslima Nasreen and Tarek Fatah are not Indian).

When own tail is on fire

And then there is the sort of BJP supporters who are fine with BJP till they become the victims. In many ways, this already includes the organizations that are backing off and the oracles of the free market, but it also includes several individual cases like Dr. Jwala, who got disenchanted when she accused Tajinder Bagga of harassment and instead of finding support, found herself unfollowed by a Prime Minister who allegedly doesn't unfollow people, while Tajinder Bagga got appointed as spokesperson of the party. It includes the three office bearers of ABVP in JNU who resigned. Now ABVP has been up to a lot of shit in JNU, but it took demands for JNU to be shut down and their own education to be imperilled for them to realize that the BJP stand was wrong. Target minorities, undermine institutions, frame people, violent protests and all is fine. But such a terrible college must not be shut down, because their degree gets into trouble then. Cue ethics.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Now it remains to be seen how BJP makes a play for credibility once more to con people for 2019 and how many of these gullibles fall straight back into their laps once the light and sound show begins.

Something strange came to my attention today. An otherwise anonymous Twitter profile, but it had an Aadhaar UID number in the place of the name. The profile said the person was a IITian, a Brajwasi, Swayamsewak, BJPite, Gaurakshak and slave of the Indian state. Oooookay.

After speaking and tweeting and writing critically about the Aadhaar (as well as the Modi government), finding Modi supporters who will go to any extents, however insane to defend whatever he does has sort of started looking like a normal occurrence.

I believed that the Twitter handle was challenging those who claim that Aadhaar to be vulnerable to hack it and prove it. After all, Aadhaar's greatest fake troll profile, run by Sharad Sharma himself had once tossed out a number saying it was an Aadhaar number as a challenge. It wasn't inconceivable that another person would pull a similar stunt.

And honestly, after the brazen arguments the government had made in court to deny Indians a right to privacy, I was pisssed enough to want to show someone just how far a person could go with an access to an Aadhaar number. So, the first order of the day was to check whether the number was an actual Aadhaar number. For those who don't know, this part is easy. UIDAI will do it for you without giving out too much identifiable information without authentication. The number was real.

Okay, so that raised the stakes a bit. Someone's UID was out there. You read "gourakshak" on a profile and given the sort of news making headlines on a daily basis, you want to make sure at the very least that it is their own identity they are compromising and not some hapless other persons. So I decided to find out who he was. It was fairly easy to find his Facebook profile. That gave me his name and surname. Searching for that name and surname along with "Uttar Pradesh" (from the UIDAI website in above screenshot) got me one potential hit on a relatively less known networking site.

I now had an email and phone number. The last three digits of the phone number didn't match those on the UIDAI website - last digit was different. As far as phone numbers go, a non-match is a non-match, but I remember making a note of it. I plugged the number I had into truecaller. That number gave me a domain name as his website.

The .in TLD doesn't offer privacy - I know this as someone who owns .in domains. So the chances were good that the information he provided the registrar while booking, was public. So I checked the whois data of that website, and voila. I had a phone number for him with three digits that matched the UIDAI website, as well as an address. Incidentally, it differed from the first number by only one digit.

Truecaller showed his name for the second number as well. This isn't a careless man. This phone profile hardly had much public information and it was used for what you'd call digital assets - ownership of a site, ownership of digital identity. The other seems to be the one for more casual use. But he'd made a big mistake using it for buying a domain that didn't protect his contact information.

How far can a person go with this information? I don't know. Available information suggests very very far, with some skill and tenacity. But it was about as far as I was willing to go to make a point about an irritation on Social Media. So far everything I had accessed was publicly available information, only collected from various sites and the address and three digits of the phone number matching that gave me the verification of the anonymous profile was publicly available information. The government may not believe citizens have a right to privacy, but I do, so I did not proceed further. I had all this is in less than 15 minutes of idling around on my computer. No major effort needed.

I may have drawn an ethical line, but I wasn't done being irritated with the foolishness and decided that at the very least, a good scare was in order. I would ask him why he had put that number there, and if he issued a Sharad-like challenge to hack it, I'd reply with partial data for his personal information to show how easy it was to know his Aadhaar number and the phone number linked to it and given the straight matches in data, I wouldn't be surprised if the address was correct too.

So I asked him. And I was in for the shock of my life. You may read the Twitter conversation that followed from this tweet on Twitter:

Suffice it to say, this man is batshit crazy. He is also probably the only Modi supporter I respect. He believes in Modi, but he is alarmed about several of his decisions and is definitely against Aadhaar. He is being forced to link his Aadhaar to everything, so in a protest of extreme compliance, he is attaching his Aadhaar to his identity EVERYWHERE. Twitter included. As you see in the thread, once I realized what he is doing, I was uncharacteristically polite with him. Because damn hell, if this isn't a Gandhian Satyagraha being done by a bhakt no less. Talk of the mind benders Twitter can throw at you. Long story short, I tried and failed to convince him to protect himself. I even told him the information I found out about him and how easily, but he did not relent.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

Done ignoring him, laughing at his folly, fighting to convince him, I had to concede he won. So I am now helping make sure his sacrifice does not go in vain. Yep. Let history note this moment, I'm openly supporting the actions of a staunch supporter of Modi - of all people.

Here is his explanation for why he is doing this. I hope the Modi and his cartel realize the kind of faith gullible people invest in them and try to serve citizens honestly instead of this digital colonization being imposed on the country without regard for individual or national safety.

I am an IITian. I studied Computer Science & Engineering for about half a decade at IIT Kharagpur. I thereby am quite initiated into the innate nuances and implications of the universe of computing. However my personal convictions took me to serve my homeland in Braj - the land of Sri Krishna - where I have been fighting relentless battles to protect, preserve and restore the heritage associated with Krishna's pastimes.
 
I have been chased by mining mafia on gun point for resisting their attempt to decimate the heritage hills of Krishna frequented by millions from across the globe; have been wounded by encroachers in our bid to transform sludge tanks back to their natural splendour; have been extended death threats by the goons of religious organisations for pressing the practice of the precept; have been booked under various malicious sections of the IPC by errand officials of the state who couldn't respond to the intellectual contest thus posed. I have been a fighter who has put my entire self to risk to bring home a point. So I don't fear anything.
 
I do revere Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have immense respect for his sincere hard work, original thinking and political gravitas, but am getting extensively alarmed with his inordinate push for policies, projects and platforms without mulling over their far reaching implications both internally and internationally. Developing India within a single generation is a laudable vision, but can it be advanced at once by pushing the simpleton citizenry of this country to a precipice, remains a perpetual concern for me as a die-hard nationalist, developmental professional and technical insider.
 
Aadhar is one such platform which never had had enticed me since inception. I have seen it as an abrogation of personal liberties in consonance with Gandhi's discomfort of carrying a fingerprinted ID paper while being in South Africa. Gandhian protest of those times sufficed with the doctrine of Passive Resistance and mass scale Civil Disobedience. But the dynamics in an ever inter-connected information age call for a different set of techniques to protest the supposed wrong doings on the part of powers of the day where citizens are being robbed off their basic liberties by a host of sinister but smart machinizations. You can only offer a creative resistance to such an oppression which does unfurl itself in ennobling eccentricities and eclectic excuses.
 
I thereby have chosen to 'purge' this all pervading monster of Aadhar by laying it open in the public domain. I chose this 98th Anniversary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak's death as it's somewhere the death of the ideal of Swaraj which he propounded and charged up the nation toiling under the clutches of British tyranny. The Aadhar tyranny is not going to be any different, it would be even worse.
 
If this is the ID, which would ensure my very existence, let it be out in the open. Let I surrender and forfeit my social identity of my name, surname, caste, religion et al and simply graduate to this all powerful ID. If this ID is required to make India a surveillance state, I am all out eager to wear a badge to this effect and to take a gps tracer injected in my blood stream so that the agents of the state can keep track of me in real time - What all I do, how much I do, how much more productive I can be.
 
I am all out to surrender myself as the Slave of Indian State, a condemned inmate who has got no rights & liberties. Let this Creative Resistance of mine be explicitly known to the mandarins of the state whose fetish for power is incessantly insatiable. Let me persecute & purge my own self dignity which was dearer to me more than my physical life for this incessant striving for a supposed national transformation. I invite the Indian State and all its actors to pounce upon me and squeeze out the minutest strands of self-pride, honor and self-respect left in me. I am after all an inmate of World's largest prison called India. I am all out to celebrate this. Are you game?

~ Raghav

3

With the government making the Aadhaar-PAN linkage mandatory, many people now find themselves in a position where the government has them by their money. Either forfeit the tax deducted at source or get an Aadhaar. Welcome, you prosperous people, to what those climbing trees to get their right to food have been going through for a while now. Give up your biometrics, or give up your hard earned money. Maybe you don't need to do either.

I was forced to get an Aadhaar when my father died because it got too much to handle all the places needing a change of name and wanting an Aadhaar. With disabled kid and mom, I didn't have the resources to get into protracted wars and I caved. I still regret it. But maybe some preventative measures could prevent you from sharing my fate.

Now I find various like minded people who have determinedly refused to get an Aadhaar made being forced to choose between their money and their security by a government hell bent on forcing security risks on citizens.

I don't know if this will work. But it is worth a shot. Even if it doesn't work fully, whichever parts of it work will bring some measure of privacy, if you are in a position to not be able to give up large sums of money due to you and find yourself forced to get an Aadhaar made. And frankly, why should any blackmailer make a monetary profit from their blackmail?

Step 0: Get an Aadhaar with as little non-disposable information as possible

Don't fill in any information that is not mandatory. Use a rented address rather than your permanent one. Or someone else's address - if homeless people can get Aadhaar, surely you can find a place, not yours to call home temporarily. Buy a separate SIM for Aadhaar use. Don't use your real number for it. I'd probably be doing all I could to make sure my fingerprints too appeared different, but I have no practical ideas on how to achieve it. Maybe use sandpaper. Or work on a construction site before going to make an Aadhaar? God knows enough poor labourers have been denied food because of such damage to fingerprints creating a mismatch.

Update: Some people said you can no longer get a SIM without Aadhaar. In this case, get the Aadhaar with your normal SIM and after you get Aadhaar, get a new SIM and update your Aadhaar to use that SIM.

Step 1: Get a bank account using the Aadhaar

Apparently, you don't get a tax refund unless your Aadhaar is linked to your PAN as well as a bank account (you end up providing bank account while filing anyway). So use a disposable bank account for that. Withdraw your refunds from ATMs. Don't transfer to your real accounts. Don't link your other accounts with Aadhaar.

Step 2: Use your Aadhaar wala phone with this bank account

Don't use this SIM for anything other than the bank and Aadhaar.

Step 3: Link this Aadhaar with your PAN

File taxes online as normal, give your Aadhaar number to the spy state and "prove" that your PAN is real. Get a refund into your bogus real account.

Step 4: Keep this toxic circus safe from your real life

Withdraw your refunds from ATMs. Don't transfer to your real accounts. Leave the phone with the SIM at home and don't take it around with you. Better still, someone else's home. Keep your physical Aadhaar card in a locker and forget about it. Do not photocopy, do not submit anywhere.

Last step

When Aadhaar inevitably fails, throw that SIM away, close the damn bank account and console all the scammed people.

 

To worshippers of Aadhaar who will outrage at this subversion - note, none of this is illegal

You can do what you wish with your own body, including work hard on a construction site and wreck your fingerprints. Buying SIM cards is legal, creating bank accounts is legal, renting homes is legal. The government wants to "authenticate" that people filing taxes are "real" people and are pretending entire bank statements don't prove it. Well, unless the government intends to use the information to spy on people, this stripped version of compliance that protects our data to at least some extent, shouldn't be a problem for them.

So go fuck yourself.

1

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely.

George Orwell, 1984, p. 127

Newspeak, for those unfamiliar with Orwell, is the name of an artificial official language in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Much of the vocabulary of Newspeak is based on Doublethink. Doublethink is the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them. The language in Orwell’s 1984 transforms societal values and the lives of the people completely.

From 2009, when Aadhaar was officially born, the governments in India too have invented an artificial official language. Let’s call it Aadhaarspeak for want of an official name. Although Newspeak is much more than WYSIWYDG, my tech friends call it WYSIWYDG. That’s the opposite of WYSIWYG.

Aadhaarspeak is considered the language of progress. The language of a youthful India. A language of technology and the future. A language that will transform India into a super power, whatever that is. It’s the language where the government is paperless, cashless, and presence-less.

As even existence in India becomes impossible without Aadhaar, many say that the purpose of Aadhaarspeak is to digitally colonise IndiaSome deny that Aadhaarspeak will cause the country to rid its people of their sovereignty, to become democracy-less, bank-less and defence-less.

dictionary meaning of colonization
Are we the new Aadhaar colony?

There is no official dictionary of Aadhaarspeak. That’s why very few know of its existence. That’s also one of the reasons why very few understand what it means. I mean what it really translates to. If you don’t know a whole vocabulary, you don’t understand its world. You can’t make sense of the debate. You miss the point. Before you know it the language changes yourworld, your life with it. It alters your ability to survive or even exist.

So I decided to attempt a glossary for the benefit of those who like to know about it, understand their world and describe it accurately. Its purpose is simply to provide the beginner a first introduction to Aadhaarspeak. It can also be considered as merely a documentation of the voluntary words of 2017.

This modest effort is work-in-progress. Slow, with no sponsorship or even official recognition. This compilation is the result of contributions from hundreds of officials from various governments, thousands of people from all walks of life and over seven years of research. Hundreds of public documents, news reports contributed to this compilation. Painful, as the official references keep playing hide and seek. And sometimes even disappearing altogether. It is, therefore, neither complete nor the official version. Any official denials are, therefore most welcome, especially to set the record absolutely straight for posterity.

If it sounds like technology jargon, some of it is just that. In its fullness Aadhaarspeak is the work of genius. I leave it for you to attribute the quality of goodness or evil to the genius. For that is your right to choice, I would not rob from you. Especially as it will tell me more about you, than of the genius designing Aadhaarspeak.

I recognise that many users of Aadhaarspeak face many limitations in using it to communicate the past with those in the future. That, in the spirit of Newspeak, must be merely accepted as the shortcoming of those who cannot accept the universality of Aadhaarspeak.

Like any glossary is not meant to be read from A to Z, this too should not be read from A to Z. It is meant as a reference, not as a novel. Some early readers have commented that each word could become a Kafka plot, a Galsworthy tragedy or a Solzhenitsyn description of life in the now extinct USSR. That, is merely their imagination running wild.

Those seeking to end Aadhaarspeak seek right to choice, right to self-rule, freedom from coercion, and call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar

Just so you know, any resemblance to doublethink is, then, purely your imagination. As many geniuses have highlighted, after all, how can doublethink, the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them, be progress?

The intense debate in the highest courts of the land on just one word from Aadhaarspeak, privacy, after almost 5 years of whispered conversations in corridors on some of Aadhaarspeak, speaks volumes for the power of each word. It may take a lifetime to settle them all. Unless of course they start with the one word they started with in 2013 that is not in Aadhaarspeak.

The word that may not be spoken formed the directions of the highest court of the land in its orders of September 23, 2013. It’s a word we dare not utter anymore as no one, say the official statistics, suffers anymore as we are now voluntarily in Aadhaar land.

Supreme Court Order of September 23, 2013 in WP 494 of 2012
Supreme Court Order of September 23, 2013 in WP 494 of 2012

They say we-the-people have not spoken. We uttered no words when we spent long hours in queues to deposit our hard earned money back in the bank. So the official version must be true.

But then, I am told there are still overwhelmingly large number of individuals who are resisting and even rewriting the Aadhaarspeak. They hope this edition of Aadhaarspeak will be discarded. They look with hope to the Supreme Court to declare this list as corrupt and illegal. They pray that the Supreme Court will restore our right to choiceright to self-rulefreedom from coercion, and a call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar. They will ensure that these will not become thought-crimes.

Many would want the world to believe we are not the Mahatma’s India anymore. There is little meditation, satyagraha or civil disobedience left in us anymore. That, said the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, is what character is all about. It is what shapes us and makes a nation great.

Can I offer you my own identification instead of the one you issue to me?

Perhaps those amongst you who are wiser and more equipped to create liberationspeak, for those of us who cannot understand or have little use of Aadhaarspeak, I wish you success. I wish you well. Godspeed.

In Part II, till then, is a first, still work-in-progress, attempt to compile a glossary of Aadhaarspeak.

 

Originally published here.