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5

To The Desk of Arun Jaitley

As ever Mr. Arun Jaitley has come up with an explanation to another contentious matter that has concerned the nation regarding the leadership of his organisation BJP.

There is a term in journalism that explains the creative exercise of proposing distinctive interpretation, especially as used by politicians to sway public opinion. Spin is the utilised word for such an exercise. Between adversarial politics it has become quite rampant to counter the brickbats of criticism by fielding spin doctors deft in the game of skirting the issues gnawing at the central discourse.

The issue of Mr. Narendra Modi’s marital status came to prominent attention when recently Mr.Rahul Gandhi brought up the issue in one of his political campaign speeches after the disclosure of certain facts about the BJP leader that have been hitherto, by all accounts, refuted and avoided for all of political history of Narendra Modi, especially recently for the last decade of his rule of the state of Gujarat by coming to power successively for four terms.

In a blog Mr.Arun Jaitley has made effort to counter the public gaze attracted by certain discrepancy regarding the said issue compounded by Rahul Gandhi’s speech.

Below are the comments and resulting questions arising out of the listed blog points being shared in the media.

Narendra Modi’s Marital Status:

In an affidavit before the Returning Officer in Vadodra, Narendra Modi disclosed the name of his "wife".

When this is the first thing to be acknowledged in the blog that legally there is a marriage between concerned two people then why is Mr.Jaitley still reluctant and adamant to only use the legitimate word wife in special quotes, as in "wife"? What is a "wife"? Is this an appropriate way to refer to a woman long denied acknowledgment and opportunistically recognized only to save your party's skin? Is he and/or the party still in denial of the legality and/or the truth in the marital status in question? Has Modi filed the form correctly or not after all this noise? If Mr. Jaitley is in doubt of Narendra Modi's wife being his wife, he could contest Modi's claim on his form.

This fact is sufficiently in public domain that Narendra Modi and the lady were made to solemnize a marriage as young children.

This too is a fact sufficiently in the same public domain that Narendra Modi has been, throughout his political history, only proposing to be a single man to gain fillip into the ranks of the RSS which prizes “celibacy”1,and thus carve out a public persona of a leader only married to the cause of his ideology. And that this contradiction, of coming out clean with the reality of his marital status, only hurt his political prospects in deep rooted conservatism of Indian culture. So we arrive at the most important questionon this issue:

Q1.Did Mr.Narendra Modi betray the nation and its citizens to further his personal political career, especially in the times of a leader like statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee who came to be revered for a celibate life in the service of his cause?

 

They never lived together. Modi dedicated himself to spiritual and political activities.The lady lived with her parents,and worked as school teacher.

First of all it is wrong to say they never lived together when it’s also sufficiently in the public domain that they spent 3 years of their marriage in proximity of each other.Secondly,and more importantly, all this has fallen flat after the self acknowledgement by the Gujarat CM after all this while that he has a wife.

While we understand that a person's private life is his own, if privacy is invoked to cover up the use of an outright lie as a USP, then it remains merely a cover up. Narendra Modi knowingly publicized his single and celibate status to project himself as a worthier politician than he apparently was - by his own standard. Clearly the single and celibate state was desirable enough to invent and use as a selling point.

We saw the "celibate" get questioned when he was exposed to have asked for state resources to be misused to spy on a woman. To a public not interested in his personal life and correctly interested in his professional life, the extraordinary unofficial deployment of state resources for the surveillance of a woman seems to be a rather inappropriate interest.

Now we see the "single" under question as well. His personal lie is his own, but what is the explanation for deliberately showcasing it as the opposite of fact?

Q2.Why Did Mr.Narendra Modi not annul the union if that is what he was driven towards for his future life as a‘celibate’ and be revered as one with no such marital history,the idea that resides well in the public domain,especially in the domains of RSS and the BJP?

By all accounts,the comments of lady have been extremely dignified.The requirement of filing an affidavit with the nomination form was directed by the Supreme Court as a part of the voter's right to know facts even about the private lives of their candidates.

While it is not our right to ask anyone to divorce, reconcile or remain separated with their wives, it most certainly raises the question of why the separation was not made legal if that was the requirement of his professional role? Why lie?

Q3.Why did Mr.Modi,all the while being the Chief Minister of a state four times over,allow the propaganda machine to propagate his “Single & Celibate”status?

The Supreme Court only gave voice to the long standing and valid expectations of the people of India.

Without this, Narendra Modi would again campaign a single and celibate status and make a virtue out of abandoning a wife and denying her existence. Last thing we need is a cult status for abandoning unwanted wives, right?

The Legal Position:

Since the marriage was never acted upon in accordance with the requirements of the then law, Narendra Modi was earlier leaving the column regarding the name and assets of his spouse blank.

Q4.Why did Mr.Modi still claim to be a “Single”when only later he had to acknowledge the fact of the said union of marriage?

It is only in September2013that the Supreme Court clarified that no column of the affidavit could be left blank.

Surely,it is seen as the solemn duty of the political candidate to come out clean on the basic question of matrimonial status to the people of the nation? Is it not a shame that it has to be made mandatory in the interest of the people for the due merit such an issue deserves?

Narendra Modi, therefore,made a truthful disclosure. Since when has declaration of a lawful relationship, whether acted upon or not,become a political issue?

Q5. Is it not the solemn duty of the political candidate to truthfully disclose the basic question of matrimonial status to the people of the nation?

Could you, Mr. Jaitley, in all honesty say that Mr. Modi has been truthful about this disclosure? Do you deny that Modi's single and celibate status has been projected as a measure of his eligibility as a leader? Are we to understand that not only was he not eligible to claim "single and celibate" then, he admits that he is not, now?

On a side note, would this explain the mega corporate loot in Gujarat and the inexplicable funding of his election campaign? Is the whole problem really that he got trusted because he wasn't a married chap with motives to engage in questionable dealings, and he actually was? Jawab do, Mr Jaitley, the nation wants to know (and mostly because Modi isn't real great at accountability and you seem to be answering at least).

Politics is the sense of will of the people.As such people deserve to know the truth and the fact is even strengthened by the order of thelaw passed bySupreme Court in the welfare of the rights of the people to know these basic facts about their leader even if the leader obfuscates and deny adding value,that the leader himself demands ofhis or her adversaries,to the political aspirations of the people.

 

Breach of “Unstated Code”:

Indian politics has an unstated code of conduct.Ordinarily,we don't drag families and ladies into controversy.

Rahul Gandhi is guilty of breaching that code.He must remember that the disturbed matrimonial relationship of a former Indian Prime Minister was never a political issue.

How many current senior Congressmen are in illicit relationships and yet have paraded their wives only for photo opportunities during nominations.

Surely if people have a right to know about the "legal"relationship of Modi,they also have a right to know about the illicit relationships of Congressmen.The latter is more relevant for people's right to know about the ethics of their candidates.

However,devoid of serious political issues and understanding of those issues,Rahul Gandhi has reflected his immaturity and desperation by making the 'Modi marriage'as a political issue.

Yes, we have heard about this code before, when Sushmaji objected to the exposes of Vadra's dealings by referring to it. Kind of like a gentleman's sparring club. You must fight with honor, it is a game. No coloring outside lines, where both may do as they will and we will let it happen.

We appreciate you for informing us that for all his faults, Rahul Gandhi isn't obeying this game of deception.

Q6. Is this statement, “Unstated Code”, not EXACTLY what BJP and Congress both deny?

This one is not about Modi alone, Mr. Jaitley. If you have an understanding between parties to not question certain kinds of wrong actions, what does that mean? Does it not mean that you allow each other unquestioned wrongs as long as they are outside the "play area"?

Is it not correct that the recent threat of Ms.Uma Bharti of putting Mr.Robert Vadra in jail if BJP forms the next government a direct retaliation of this very breach of Unstated Code or the tacit understanding between the two established parties? Ironical,isn’t it,that the case of Robert Vadra first landed up in the offices of BJP and yet it takes a breach of code that pressures the BJP to apply retaliatory threat against the Congress?

Ms.Meenakshi Lekhi on a debate on the Times Now has claimed that a Commission needs to be set up in matters relating to the “inter-state”operations of Mr.Robert Vadra and that it will only be setup in time to come.Why does it take the Rajasthan Government,formed at same time as the Delhi Government few months ago,to form a commission of enquiry when you yourself have questioned the short lived Aam Aadmi Party government that still manage to take eminent actions of National concern in the little time of governance that party functioned in?

And lastly, Mr. Jaitley, I am not a politician. Your stupid code doesn't apply to me. I see your leader lying to my country, there is no "code" that can stop me from demanding accountability.

A citizen

 

Citations:

Critics have accused Mr Modi of deserting his wife after he joined the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),which prizes celibacy.http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-26970397...at a rally in February, "I have no family ties,I am single.

Who will I be corrupt forMr Modi has been silent on his marital status while rising through the ranks in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS,the BJP's ideological mentor,an organisation in which celibacy is expected.http://www.ndtv.com/elections/article/election-2014/in-poll-affidavit-narendra-modi-says-he-is-married-brother-gives-clarification-50663

5

I have lampooned our government often over censorship and it is a Congress Government [each word is one among dozens of links on this blog criticizing our government on regimenting free speech]. This is because it is the UPA government in power. The BJP aint smelling sweet on this though I made the mistake of ignoring them.

Today, the BJP supporters online are vocal in criticizing government censorship and being condescending with anyone not supporting the shining ideal - "absolute" freedom of speech, with Twitter flooded with criticism of the Congress for using censorship for political purposes. While this cannot be disputed - our government is indeed trying to regiment dissent into compliance in various ways - both online and offline, the high moral ground currently taken by the BJP, in my view is little more than a farce when the only time it is heard is when accounts affiliated with their interests are blocked. This, in my view is not a fight for right to freedom of speech and it is pressure to reverse blocks to protect their own interests.

The washing hands off any responsibility for the condition of our freedoms of speech in my view is rubbish. BJP has played a role in censoring Speech, which it conveniently ignores now, when it wishes free speech for its own.

The first major instance of internet censorship in India was when the website Dawn.com was blocked in 1999 during the Kargil War. Rediff had posted a workaround. The IT Act didn't exist then, but here is how it was done anyway.

VSNL Acting Chairman and Managing Director Amitabh Kumar toldRediff "Yes. We have blocked the site. But it is under instruction from higher authorities." When asked about the legality of the order, Kumar said "We have done it under the authority given to us by the Indian Telegraph Act."

The next year itself, the IT Act passed. I was living in Manali when the IT Act of 2000 was passed and a mighty puzzled dehati when all of a sudden all the cyber cafes started warning of watching pornographic or "obscene" content on their premises. It was the starting point of the government moralizing use of the internet. The 67th point in the Information Technology Act described offenses:

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Their hounding of Tehelka for their Operation Westend expose is probably on par with the Wikileaks hounding by US - for exposing grave wrongs in defense forces too. Accusations of "ISI hand", "fabricated videos", etc - that BJP supporters jeer at today coming from Congress politicians have been a part of that persecution. Today their supporters are furious about blocks on Twitter profiles that still leave them with the ability to get their word out and have no impact on their journalism.

There was a fair bit of extra-legal, unaccountable censorship legalized by this at the discretion of various officials and without court orders. A letter by Seema Kazi in the Hindu in 11 November 2000 titled "Covert Censorship"  describes censorship of her emails without any court order or specific reason provided beyond "Muslims have links with Pakistan and because of reasons of security". She had stopped getting emails from MESN.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and Pramod Mahajan was the Minister for Information Technology - BJP - in case you are interested.

Flash forward to recent years. The IT Act got Amended in 2006 and 2008. The IT Rules passed with as little concern for free speech as the original act and amendments - BJP was sitting in the opposition. During the time the IT Rules passed, the BJP was actually stalling everything under the sky, Internet users were fighting tooth and nail to prevent them. If the second independence of India has to be fundamental freedoms, organizations and campaigns like CIS-India, SFLC, Save your voice, Internet Democracy and independent journalists and activists and lawyers.... are your REAL freedom fighters none of whom find even passing mention as BJP supporters suddenly become torch bearers of your online voice.

BJP has been part of the problem. This current holier-than-thou is obscene and an insult to those fighting for freedoms for ALL. Look at the categories for Free Speech and Censorship on this blog itself and I was a very, very minor player writing about Free Speech among many other things. There are dozens who dedicated themselves to researching, speaking up, leading campaigns and continue now too. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and friends went on fast in protest of the IT Rules, which was actually jeered at as "drama" by many BJP supporters.

The IT rules passed without challenge - BJP major part of opposition and yes, Congress major part of government. There is no lily white on this.

MP Rajeeve has valiantly continued to speak for our rights. He tabled an anullment motion for IT Rules. When the motion was due for debate in the Rajya Sabha, I was a fresh recipient of a takedown notice for an article describing illegal activities in sailing for "defamation". Taking a huge risk, I publicized the notice on top of the post and used the full 36 hours available to me to actually publicize the content at risk to draw attention to the problem with the IT Rules. Financially broke and up against powerful people, it was no minor thing to risk provoking further legal cases against me or possible attempts to censor my blog altogether. I lost count of people who told me to stop drawing attention and take down the post and not be stupid - even though I was wrongly targeted, but I did it anyway.

The post went viral. Lots of people including BJP supporters publicized it as an outrage. And it was. Few, other than MP Rajeeve were interested. Arun Jaitley pointed out problem with words used to define content that could be blocked. Made comparisons with the Emergency. Members of other parties like NK Singh ( JDU), Tirchy Siva, D Raja(CPI) and others  explained the problems with the rules and how its untenable to censor the internet. That is it. The motion was defeated.

However the serious points raised made Kapil Sibal agree to wider consultation. This consultation was held at fairly short notice on 2nd August 2012. It was supposed to include MPs and stakeholders. Civil society was not invited in spite of attempts to get an invitation. However Prashanth from SFLC still managed to attend. Out of 25 MPs invited, only 2 attended - neither of them from the BJP. They were independent MP Rajeeve Chandrashekhar from Bangalore and MP Derek O'Brien from Trinamool Congress. However, with stakeholders including representatives of Yahoo, ISPs and more, the objections raised were far more robust and a new and wider consultation was promised by Kapil Sibal.

This is where Free Speech in india currently stands. The government has given itself widespread rights to censor. BJP, whose supporters are absolving their own leaders and lampooning the Congress have been a part of getting us here. To claim big innocence and support for "absolute" free speech - apparently overruling laws of the land and what not when own affiliates come under the axe is the height of hypocrisy. That too for problem areas, when the blocks were applied with the interest of safety of citizens.

Interestingly BJP's anti-censorship stand extends only to the government. Their official organized efforts to consolidate control of online media have also resulted in the largest online rash of pure thugs I have encountered; who engage in abuse of political figures from other parties, gang up with on critics of BJP, often with extremely coarse language and in general leverage nuisance value and mental harassment to the point of people having to resort to blocks and being careful of what they say. These accounts work in groups when they attack and are usually anonymous profiles while real profiles disseminate propaganda and cast moral slurs on dissent without getting into actual trolling. This is social censorship - persecution into silence. Attacks on dissenting opinions include absolutely anyone who criticizes the BJP in any way from regular citizens to jounalists. Many of those profiles are currently wearing black DPs in protest of censored Twitter accounts that were at best briefly not accessible directly as web pages while continuing to function otherwise.

Many of these same people arguing for "absolute" free speech point to the US Laws. Actually most overnight free speech activists know the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution better than the one in India. The right to offend is being defended by the usual defenders of the right to be offended and persecute for it. Examples were given of the Mohammed cartoons and the pastor who burned the Qran. Same people were part of the outrage against a young man who put up a photo of himself with a foot on a Shivling. "Absolute" is clearly open to interpretation. That man has dozens of cases filed against him all over the country for it.

Great analyst moralizers are talking of Narendra Modi's moral superiority on Free Speech [black profile image on Twitter in protest too], of all things, where journalists were beaten up and put into hospital by police when they covered inconvenient things.

The answer to that is not actually zero as the question implies, but "unknown" could be zero, could be more. Good subject for RTI. Also, there is the small matter that Modi isn't elected into a position to officially censor yet. With this logic Mamata Banerjee is also pro-freespeech. Besides, if people can be attacked by the state in real life and troll teams online who needs legal actions?

ANHAD is a socio cultural organization started in 2003 as a response to Gujarat Riots in 2002. It is registered as a trust campaigns for democratic rights. When they complained against the BJP IT Cell for persecution with filthy abuses (no surprise, since attacking any reference to the government role in Gujarat Riots is a prime troll target), this June, their office was raided by the Cyber Crime Cell and three activists were jailed overnight [MUST READ] with claims that cyber crimes had been committed from their IP address a full year before on the 18th June 2011. The Cyber Crime Cell refused to detail their crime to the activists, but spoke to media saying that it was related with the Sanjiv Bhatt case. ANHAD was threatened with confiscation of three computers, when last year they owned only one.

BJP clearly didn't get the memo where free speech isn't about allowing what you want to see alone, but also upholding the right to speech in the face of disagreement.

What happened in the past is past. If BJP supporters NOW realize the value of Freedom of Speech, it would be far better if they spoke to their leaders - who get votes from them and forced them to join the fight for freedom of speech, defeat the IT Rules, force amendments in the IT act, and the First Amendment of the Constitution itself. If a piddly little MNS can force actions on their government when the reasons are right, the BJP excuses of not having majority are rubbish and a brazen attempt to not only not do the right thing, but actually ask for votes if you want it done.