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During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.

The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:

This, says Aroor, was deemed a “story” worth following up because it was tweeted by an elected representative. And so, he says, the IT reporter in the area filed a follow up “quoting sources”. Here is the report he cites; read it carefullyand see if you can find a single source being quoted. Also note, vide this report, how quickly a Union minister latched on to the incident and gave it a political coloration.

But most importantly, note this: In the follow-up report that Aroor presents as exhibit A in defense of his brand of journalism, the reporter has not spoken to anyone from police/law enforcement to find out what actually did happen. What follows is a startling abdication of every single journalistic norm (Emphasis mine):

Deciding that this would be our top story at 5pm, we invited both the police and BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje to join us on our show. Given logistical constraints on the ground, the option was provided to pre-record with both or either. While Shobha Karandlaje took our questions, the police did not join us on the show.

A tweet promoting the show carried the gruesome allegations of the BJP MP and sources on the ground – a tweet that I personally composed. Unlike my earlier tweet, this one didn’t carry quotes indicating that it was an allegation.

Starting at the top: On what basis did Aroor decide this was the lead story? At this point, 24 hours after the body was discovered, all he had was the intemperate allegation of a politician with a long history of fomenting communal trouble. Note that as soon as the body was discovered, Karandlaje began to talk of ‘jihadi forces’ and of the ‘targeted killing of Hindu activists’. Note also that even as she was busy using the killing of a young boy to further her party’s political ends, she latched onto another incident to light further fires:

In actual fact, however, the girl in question was attempting to escape the attentions of a stalker, Ganesh Eashwar Naik.

This, then, is the person on whose unsupported word Aroor based an editorial decision on. Note, further, that his focus is on “getting police on the show” — not first checking with the police to find out what the story really is. And he compounds his criminal error when he, in his own words, “personally composed” a tweet carrying the allegations — without quotes, or other indications to suggest they were merely allegations. In other words Aroor, who starts off with a verbose defense of his journalistic integrity, took an allegation and converted it into a personal attestation.

Much is then made of how Aroor in a subsequent broadcast asked Karandlaje if she had any specific proof to back up her allegations. Which begs the question: Isn’t that what you ask first, before you decide if the allegation deserves air time? Giving a fact-free allegation considerable air time, giving it your imprimatur by airing it as fact sans the telltale quote marks, and then asking if there is any proof is so far removed from basic journalism that it constitutes a sackable offense were it a tyro; when the “consulting editor” of a major channel does this, it is way beyond the pale. And then there is this:

Later that evening, the police, which had sparked its own controversy by declaring that the death was a “samanya saavu”, released a Q&A report with a forensics doctor, a document that appeared to fully contradict the BJP’s explosive charges. I happened to be among the first to tweet this out:

Wait, what?! How did the police “spark its own controversy”? The meaning of the police statement is clear — or would be, if you weren’t determined to see it through a predetermined lens: the police is saying, merely, that this is not a communal incident. Apparently Aroor believes he fully fulfilled his responsibility as a senior journalist by suggesting — some 48 hours after he decided to run a full fledged story based on an unconscionable tweet — that the BJP should now explain the basis of its charges:

And then, this:

The following day, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah tweeted that the death of Paresh Mesta was “unfortunate” – a curious choice of word. Just as the BJP was certain this was a gruesome murder, was he certain this wasn’t murder at all? Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”? Was he simply alleging that this wasn’t murder, but a natural death, much like the Karnataka Police had done the previous day?

Seriously, is this guy compos mentis? “Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”?”, he asks. Sorry, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? And then he goes on to parse the CM’s statement, and in the process put words in the mouth of the police — note that the police did not say it was a natural death; that is not what “saamanya saavu” meant.

And then there is this (emphasis mine):

The following morning, putting the spotlight on the political war that had broken out, we planned a morning face-offbetween the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the issue. While the BJP joined us, the Congress apparently declined, forcing us to plan a face-off between the BJP and a member of the CPI (considering the allegations were of a political killing). Here’s that full broadcast:

“…forcing us to plan a face-off…”?!!!! Really? By then, four days had passed; communal tensions had been created by an unsubstantiated allegation — and Aroor admits that the allegations are unsubstantiated — and yet this consulting editor is still riding the fake news for all it is worth. His focus is on the next sensational talk fest, the next “show”, the next spin.

Related reading: The Rise of the Pseudo-Event

Remember what he says at the outset?:

I’ve been branded a communal hatemonger, a rabble-rouser and a plainly bad journalist who deliberately picked up the Paresh Mesta story with the specific intention of, among other things, “scoring TRPs”, “fanning communal tensions before the Karnataka elections”, “currying favour with the BJP”. Calls have gone out from several quarters for my sacking, arrest or both. I stand accused by some of these sites of peddling fake news.

Net net, by his own admitted actions, Aroor has amplified an unsubstantiated allegation, which gave it oxygen, which led to communal tension; his journalistic choices have been irresponsible throughout. As for the allegation that this “story” has to do with the Karnataka elections, consider what is happening on the ground:

#1. Karandlaje in short order propagated a fake story of jihadi rape. #2. Even two weeks after the original incident, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was openly threatening violence in the state. Read that again, slowly: A Union Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law, threatening violence and bloodshed. #3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continues to beat the drum of “justice” at a rally in Karnataka. Again — this is the central minister for Home — the man in charge of law and order in the country. #4. Tensions flare in Belagavi and every time some semblance of peace is restored, there is a fresh outbreak.

Do you need to be told that the next major state election is in Karnataka? Here, a clip from a story cited earlier (Again, emphasis mine):

Even after the state government handed over the investigation into Mesta’s death to the Central Bureau of Investigation on December 13, the BJP refuses to scale down its protests. For the coming week, it has announced a “jail bharo andolan”, calling upon people across Karnataka to court arrest to protest the Congress government’s policy of favouring Muslims. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has accused BJP of using Mesta’s death to create trouble for political gains.

The communal tensions come at a time when political parties are preparing the ground for Karnataka assembly elections to be held in the first half of 2018. In 2012, BJP had won in just one of the six constituencies in Uttara Kannada district and one of the eight constituencies in neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district. The 14 seats in coastal Karnataka will prove crucial in deciding the winner of next year’s election.

Connect the dots: Karnataka is Congress-ruled. Elections are due. The BJP, consistent with its win-at-all-costs methodology, has in rapid succession used two fake stories to stoke communal tension, and already begun to propagate its time-tested “favoring Muslims” allegation — the party’s go-to trope in every single election, in every single state. And all this is happening in the one region where the BJP is most anxious to gain a foothold.

Here is the part that should scare you: The dates for the Karnataka elections have not even been announced yet. And already, a former state-level minister, and two Union ministers, have done their damndest to light fires. Who knows what else is in store as the campaign actually gets under way?

All of which is why the “journalism” of the likes of Aroor — thoughtless, if I am being charitable; unprincipled, if I am being honest — is so dangerous; it is the oxygen that feeds the flames of bigotry, of hatred.

Elsewhere:

#1. BJP MP Kirron Kher joins the long line of politicians using fake photos to stoke faux patriotism

#2. A “fringe” outfit (I’ll have more to say on these fringes in a later post) in Karnataka is outraged that Sunny Leone, gasp!, is scheduled to perform at a New Year’s event in Bangalore. What will she wear?! Will she wear anything at all?!! Shock, horror!! And so the police — whose duty is to maintain law and order, not cater to every damn bunch of lunatics threatening the peace, decides to cancel the event. That is who we are today — a nation captive to every ragtag outfit that can say it with stones.

#3. Proving yet again that politics is the last refuge of the certifiably insane, a BJP MLA says that Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma chosing to get married in Italy is an unpatriotic act. The bit that should worry you?: “The crowd that had gathered there was seen applauding as the MLA was speaking.”

#4. The Hindu Jagran Manch — yet another of our ‘fringe’ groups, of which more here — threatened violence if Christian-run schools in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas. Which is par for the course with the HJM. What should make you sit up and take notice is this: A Union minister saying, in support of the HJM threat, that schools are not religious places and people should celebrate only in their homes.

#5. A CAG report, which names Ramdev’s Patanjali in a list of polluters, provides a grim view of the Clean Ganga project.

Now, as per the CAG report, the river in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi happens to be along one of the most polluted stretches. In six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal oxygen levels in the water have plummetted from the level it were in 2012-2013. Total coliform bacteria levels in all cities of UP, WB and Bihar was very high. The water quality in these cities was not even fit for bathing.

#6. In Rajasthan, a man kills a Muslim, videotapes the incident, and uses the videotape to raise money for an anti-Muslim campaign. Over 700 people from across the country deposit over three lakh in his account. A Hindu group supporting the killer clashes with police and raises a saffron flag over the area courthouse premises. And it turns out that the wrong man was killed.

Unpack this slowly:

During grilling, Shambhul told police that labourer Mohammed Afrazul, a resident of West Bengal’s Malda, was not his target.

He wanted to kill one Ajju Sheikh because he was in contact with a girl whom Shambhu regarded as his sister. But we suspect Shambhu had an affair with her,” said Rajendra Singh Rao, police circle officer of Rajsamand.

This hero on whose behalf people are raising funds and attacking cops brutally killed a man while meaning to kill another man he believed had eyes on ac”sister” he was having an affair with. Now what? Can the 700 idiots who “contributed to the cause” ask for their money back?

Tailpiece: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to TimesNow which, these days, is on a batshit hashtag trip, is engaged in Mission Sab Ka Saath. Per which Modi, on December 19, met fisherfolk in Kerala who were affected by Cyclone Ockhi and told them this:

“This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that’s why I myself have comeWe are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing return back,” he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.

But even that is nothing compared to what he said next:

“The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief,” he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.

“…claps from the grief-stricken families”? Where is that facepalm emoji when I need one?

The cyclone hit the Kerala coast on November 30.

Originally published by Prem Panicker here.

This is the second day in a row I've discovered something suicidally whacky on Twitter. The first was when I found a profile with a UID number on it. Today was crazier. Vivek Namibar, a journalist with India Today with a verified handle on Twitter, posted a series of tweets that can only be described as extremely disturbing. You can check them out here:

The thread describes a "suicide challenge game" that involves the participants taking on various tasks assigned to them by a "curator" on the internet. Seemed complete nonsense, but the handle was a journalist and myth or fact, the tweet had already been shared almost a hundred times (and counting). So I decided to find out more.

Based on the myth that blue whales come to the shore when they want to die, the alleged game encourages participants to do various tasks that are depressing or scary or involve self-harm over a period of 49 days and they are asked to kill themselves on the 50th day. One person was arrested in Russia on charges of encouraging 16 people to commit suicide. Various reports and unsubstantiated numbers of teenagers who have killed themselves because of the game. Reports that it had spread to the UK, reports that French police were warning people. Vivek was warning that the game may have reached India with one death in Mumbai and another in Bangalore that he could not trace.

Given the gravity of the warning, I thought it was important to investigate and at least do some initial straight talking based on what I found.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the Blue Whale Challenge exists

While it is hardly unheard of that depressed teenagers (and even perfectly healthy ones as well as adults) succumb to undesirable influences on the internet, given today's modern world of technology, it is impossible that if an organized game involving interaction over the internet over 50 days existed as a link in a large number of deaths in multiple countries, goes undetected. In the event of a suicide, a person's communications will be examined. If the suicide is suspected to have happened because of influences on the internet, there will be an investigation and at least some kind of concrete information would have come up. Given that several of the tasks reported involve self-harm, including making cuts on the body, carving a whale on various parts of the body and so on, it would have been hard evidence linking various suicides - there is no such evidence. There would be statements from the family about this kind of self-mutilation happening before the suicide. There are no such reports.

The game seems to be some sort of an urban myth that originated in Russia. It is possible that there may have been communications or some interactions involving depressed teenagers who committed suicide and tasks and so on, but there is absolutely no proof that such a game exists. It is just that we tend to notice more what has been brought to our attention, so if such a link is heard about, anything that could remotely fit starts looking like it is true. If I told you a pimple was forming on your nose when we met in person, you'd touch your nose a lot more, exploring its contour to catch that pimple!

The only place where the game seems to have spread is in Brazil with several suicides and suicide attempts allegedly related with the game reported. yet there is are no reports of investigations or arrests.

What is the real danger of the Blue Whale Game?

Well, it is obvious. An urban myth that runs wild and gives people ideas. Ideas that exploit others, or seductive ideas for suicidal people to make one last statement and dramatic exit. Another reporter who tried to find out about the game and wrote about it found that a lot of the comments he received were from teenagers seeking the blue whale game! Needless to say, regardless of whether the game exists, it is providing a source of curiosity and potentially interesting teenagers with suicidal tendencies. He provided a button with his story that said "Start game" and over 9% of people who read his article and its warnings clicked the button anyway. The button led to a page where people were asked why they wanted to play the game and answers ranged from the curious to those really wanting to end their lives.

Sociopaths may see opportunity in the teenagers being interested and seek to harm them by engaging them in what they are seeking and expect. An urban myth that makes suicide sound like some kind of rite of passage may encourage vulnerable minds to lose objectivity and choose self-harm.

Malicious online entities could engage people in the game and provide people with links that infected their computers with malware. After all, a person looking to find a person encouraging them to commit suicide is hardly going to expect a hacker.

All the usual cautions about strangers on the internet apply.

What is the good news?

Is there a good news about the blue whale game? Well, yes. Given that the blue whale game involves tasks to be completed over 50 days, tasks that involve fairly conspicuous behavior, like going to the tops of building and standing on the edge, standing on bridges, cutting their arms, cutting designs onto their limbs - this behavior is very easy to notice and trigger concern. And the good news is that it must go on for almost two months before the suicide. I think it beats a teenager committing suicide on a whim and gives people a chance to notice the problem and gives them a chance to change their minds. 49 days of bizarre behavior has a much better chance of someone intervening than a teenager leaving for college and stepping in front of a train. There is no need for paranoia. It isn't true, and even if it were, it has a better chance of someone noticing it and putting a stop to it than an "unorganized" suicide, so to say.

How dangerous is the blue whale game?

This is tough to say. Given that there is no evidence the game exists, there is no "threat score" one can attach to it. I saw several videos said to be music shared as a part of the challenge and I don't feel suicidal at all. And I am someone who has no problems with suicide and have even been suicidal myself in the past. So if there were some mystical power that would make a viewer want to kill themselves, or at least depressed, I should feel something. Nope. Zero wish to kill me. Anyone who watched and did feel depressed probably was reacting to the title saying that it would make them feel depressed or something. There are no supernatural powers in the video.

That said, obviously, self harm is dangerous and suicide is fatal. So I guess, even if the game doesn't exist if people find the idea appealing and try to copy it, it is obviously dangerous. I imagine too many horror movies in the middle of the night on a sleep deprived brain would fry anyone's sense of well being. Nothing catching up on sleep won't fix, I imagine.

The real danger of such secret, coercive interactions would likely to be predatory behavior with teenagers. Online sexual predators, risk of malicious code being downloaded to computers, personal information breached or willingly given that can make someone vulnerable to blackmail... the sane thing to do here is to keep your computer's security updated and not engage in intimate conversations with strangers.

Some last words about this blue whale suicide game thing - try the pink whale challenge instead

The reporter who did that story on the blue whale game and found the teenagers interested created an alternative pink whale challenge. Not going to link to it. If you really landed here looking for something, it will satisfy your need to search for it and find it and you can play it.

With or without the blue whale game, teenage depression and suicides are growing. There is a need to be supportive of vulnerable people and to provide a compassionate listening ear. If you find anyone around you being unusually depressed, engaging in self-harm, withdrawing from the world, do take a moment to check on them, and if necessary, speak with their friends and/or families and see that they receive any attention needed.

If you find yourself interested in suicide, seek help. More importantly, seek information. When emotions are low, it is harder to be convinced that things aren't as bad as we perceive them. Hard facts devoid of positive or negative emotion can serve as an anchor for sanity and allow you to gain a sense of perspective. Contact suicide helplines (search for them). Talk about it with friends you trust to listen to you. Make an abrupt change in life. Quit an environment making you unhappy, try something altogether different. It is a sort of metaphorical rebirth, you know? The giving up of an old unsatisfying life and the trying out of something that appeals more. I have done that often in life. Change careers, live in a different place, break up or fall in love, whatever.

Remember, thoughts of death may be common, acting on it is not. There is no need to fear. It is better to empower yourself with information and pragmatic action. If you are happy, if you care for yourself and seek help when you feel low, you aren't going to want to die, and no game can make you want to do it. That is just the internet being what it is.

Update: After publishing this post, it has come to my attention that the one Mumbai boy's suicide is behind this speculation of the Blue Whale challenge. This is in spite of the police not finding any history of altered behavior in the boy or signs of self mutilation - both of which would have been present if this were a case of the alleged "Blue whale challenge". Regardless, an incredibly uncritical media has widely reported the death as a potential Blue Whale game suicide, Devendra Fadnavis has apparently promised an inquiry saying that if it is an online game, it can easily be blocked (compounding gullibility with rank ignorance of the internet). And to top everything, this was brought up in the Parliament and the government may probably be preparing to issue some kind of a warning on the issue. While they are at it, they should also warn people against trusting Lord Voldemort. The complete gullibility of the media and the state and center governments is staggering. This is what you get by promoting stupidification and superstition. Critical thinking goes for a toss.

 

blue whale game news
How a suicide got attributed to the fictional blue whale game and swept through media, got concerned Chief Minister to promise action and got taken seriously in Rajya Sabha

Viral trends of this sort spread with panic and reach the fertile ground of the minds of those discontented with life who find them appealing. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the media and the Parliament ought to show restraint instead of introducing Indian youth to such ideas made all the more melodramatic for the attention they get. There are countless suicides in India on a daily basis. While this one is very sad as well, there is no need to go overboard about it and jump to conclusions that have no evidence in the reported facts of the case.

Update 2: More info on Snopes

2

10th September, 2016, Cuttack: One is puzzled by the accounting treatment for Justice Indrajit Mahanty's Rs 2.5 crore working-capital loan for his hotel, The Triple C. Lakhs of rupees are withdrawn and repaid every month in two SBI loan accounts in the name of "Justice Indrajit Mahanty" and strangely, not in the name of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., the company that has leased the hotel from him. As a High Court judge, Justice I. Mahanty gets a monthly salary of Rs. 1.35 lakhs, and therefore is liable to pay Income Tax. But repayment of principal plus interest could reduce or eliminate his taxable income. Suppose his tax returns are dodgy, can Income Tax authorities summon his lordship personally for questioning u/s 131 of Income Tax Act, and compel production of his lordship's books of account?

We asked Mr Binoy Gupta, a retired Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA), who holds a Ph.D. in Law. His reply was: "There are no exemptions in any law for any Supreme Court or High Court Judges from any judicial or quasi judicial proceedings. Our department has taken action under the Income Tax Act against them."

We requested Mr Gupta for case studies (with or without the names of the judges) to substantiate his claim of having taken action against judges. His response was: "I can not give any instances today. But I stand by my statement that Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have no special status so far the applicability of Income Tax Laws are concerned."

And then Mr Gupta added that bringing a judge to justice is a tough job. He wrote: "If any govt. servant engages himself in business, his department can and does take action. But the procedure for taking action against Judges is far too complex... impeachment which is extremely difficult."

Given the absence of case studies and other details of judges being held accountable by Income Tax authorities, our gut feeling is: IT authorities will never dare to summon his lordship, because (a) they would be in awe of a high court judge, and (b) because the high court has superior jurisdiction over the Income Tax department, and not vice versa. Even if judges do not enjoy de jure immunity from quasi-judicial and administrative authorities, they enjoy de facto immunity. No government official will risk rubbing a high court judge the wrong way by questioning him, even if the law permits him to do so!

Justice Indrajit Mahanty may or may not have broken any laws, but he is definitely in breach of the code of ethics on multiple counts. Must we all act like Gandhi's three monkeys and remain silent?

In return for such unquestioned authority and immunity, judges are expected to keep their affairs transparent and straightforward, by abstaining from business activities. Their income should ideally consist of their salaries, and interest on fixed deposits etc. -- nothing more complicated than that. To quote YK Sabharwal, former Chief Justice of India, who spoke on the Judicial Canon of Ethics, "Almost every public servant is governed by certain basic Code of Conduct which includes expectation that he shall maintain absolute integrity... manage his financial affairs in such a manner that he is always free from indebtedness, and not involve himself in transactions relating to property with persons having official dealings with him." Please note that seeking building permissions, bank loans, hotel licenses, etc. etc. are all transactions with the government, administration and public sector, who all have "official dealings" with a high court judge in his judge-like capacity. Such transactions adulterate the purity of Justice Indrajit Mahanty's judgment.

According to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life (adopted by Full Bench of Supreme Court on7th May, 1997), "A Judge should not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business, either by himself or in association with any other person. 

And according to the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, 2002, "A judge shall not only be free from inappropriate connections with, and influence by, the executive and legislative branches of government, but must also appear to a reasonable observer to be free therefrom."

Read all these documents on judicial ethics and in that context, understand the significance of Justice I Mahanty's actions. Justice Indrajit Mahanty may or may not have broken any laws, but he is definitely in breach of ethics on multiple counts.

So, must we all remain silent like Gandhiji's three monkeys? Must we all adopt a policy of See-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil when it comes to judges? Must the adulteration of our judicial services be allowed to continue under cover of a conspiracy of silence?

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
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Posted By 
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5

To,

Mr. S.K. Pattanayak IAS

Additional Chief Secretary, Home

of Karnataka

 

Room No. 222, II Floor

Vidhana Soudha

Bangalore – 560001

 

Dear Mr. Pattanayak,

 

In view of the killing of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi this morning in Dharwad by unidentified miscreants using firearms, believed to be extremists, it would be pertinent to bring to your notice a credible threat to Prof. K.S. Bhagawan as the 'next target'.

 

This morning, on 30 August 2015, a person by the name of Bhuvith Shetty ( His twitter handle is @GarudaPurana ), who claims himself to be the co-convener of in Bantwal claimed in a tweet at 10:41 am that it was Bajrang Dal who had wanted to kill U.R. Ananthamoorty and had actually killed Prof. M.M. Kalburgi. In the same tweet, he ominously warned that Prof. K.S. Bhagwan is next on the assassination list.

 

The screenshot of the tweet has been attached to this e-mail. (Annexure 1)

 

The url to the twitter profile @GarudaPurana is below:

https://twitter.com/GarudaPurana

This handle was probably changed to the one below, which was still deactivated or deleted.

https://twitter.com/BhuvithShetty

 

Once this threat was noticed and people began taking note, the handle @GarudaPurana was either deactivated or deleted by the said Bhuvith Shetty.

 

It must be noted that he had earlier claimed to have chopped off the hands of some Muslims. (Annexure2)

 

This e-mail may be treated as a formal and may kindly be forwarded to the appropriate official with jurisdiction to investigate this and take necessary action. The tweet itself is in violation of several section of the IPC and hence prosecutable.

 

I had tried speaking to Commissioner of Police, Mangalore City Police on the number 0824 2220801 but couldn’t reach him. I have left a voice message in his answering machine though.

 

In anticipation of swift and appropriate action,

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Nilim Dutta

Annexure 1
Annexure 1
Annexure 2
Annexure 2

4

In the National Executive (NE) meeting yesterday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) removed Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from their Political Affairs Committee (PAC). This action comes after a long growing rift within the party, which some staunch Kejriwal followers sneeringly referred to as "socialists". Another explained that the party was socialist overall, but these people called themselves socialist - or whatever that is.

[tweetthis]Leaders of AAP's Delhi state unit are bringing disgrace to the party with their unfounded and toxic witchhunt.[/tweetthis]

There are several allegations against the duo that have been brought out into the open by the party in ways that do more to reveal the ugly methods to achieve political objectives than shed light on the supposed crimes of Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav. Addressing some here.

Yogendra Yadav is ambitious

This accusation coming from the blind supporters of the person who has not let ultimate power rest in any hands other than his own since the birth of the party is so absurd as to make no sense. In a party claiming to be against high command, it would be logical to expect that once Arvind Kejriwal was Chief Minister, someone else would take over the party's command. Not even BJP and Congress have this kind of singular control over power. Without ambition, AAP wouldn't exist. It now appears that the sole ambition to lead must be Kejriwal's and all other ambitions must be to support. I see nothing wrong in expecting Arvind Kejriwal to resign.

Yogendra Yadav made a public spectacle of differences in the party.

This is not true. Manish Sisodia started the public accusations game (READ THESE AGAIN) in the wake of the Lok Sabha Elections disaster with a public letter criticizing Yogendra Yadav for his differences with Naveen Jai Hind. The very fact that Yogendra Yadav alone got what amounted to an "expose" of inappropriate behavior for a spat between two people shows which side of that spat Manish Sisodia fell on. Yogendra Yadav's reply to this letter STATES HIS PREFERENCE to keep this quiet and replies with generic but important issues plaguing AAP - the questions raised in this letter were never addressed to the best of my knowledge. Incidentally, Naveen Jai Hind has continued his vicious vendetta against Yogendra Yadav to date and it is currently widening fissures in Haryana AAP.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav threatened press conferences, sabotaged party campaign

I have not seen evidence of this. Raising questions where party is clearly going wrong, in my eyes amounts to support of the party and not sabotage. If these questions raised repeatedly are never answered, while the opposite claims are made in public, it would be the duty of any honest person to be the whistleblower - incidentally something AAP respects a lot except in own party. Several Kejriwal supporters have claimed that "Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had to be constantly managed to not harm AAP." Considering that Prashant Bhushan could draw attention to anything he said any time and Yogendra Yadav was routinely appearing for the party in national media, this accusation is absurd.

If they wanted to damage the party, they could have done it any time. What they appear to be doing is raising urgent and genuine questions about party functioning to strengthen the party - which got managed by shutting them up over and over and the problems remain. These questions have been asked by me as well as many others who thought AAP actually was being honest about its values. The Kejriwal faction clearly appears to be fine with the lack of democracy as long as they get power in Delhi. The damage to AAP does not appear to be a concern, since the core circle of power is sitting lush with self importance right now and have no wish to contest further elections. It appears that this is being projected as "socialist" - a disturbing echo of BJP's contempt for democracy.

This is about greed for Rajya Sabha seats

So what if it is? Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have both acted in the interest of the party. Denying seats is very different from running a public vilification campaign against them. One is a party decision, the other is party sabotage.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have embarrassed the party publicly

Increasingly, the much acclaimed honesty of the Aam Aadmi Party appears to be the "appearance" of honesty rather than actions of honesty. If dishonesty in a party committed to honesty is exposed, it is an opportunity for reform. If dishonesty in a con is exposed, it is a trigger to shoot the messenger. In my view, a party that doesn't follow appropriate decision making procedures but makes big claims of representative democracy is dishonest. This was also reflected in their all male cabinet, independently of any influence or accusations by either Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav. When a senior party leader has communal posters put up, while the party claims to fight communalism, it is dishonesty. For an honest party, the embarrassment is that these things happened, for AAP, the embarrassment appears to be that these things got exposed. It is like saying "it is okay to steal as long as you don't get caught" - a far cry from the advertised adamant principled stands.

Prashant Bhushan wanted a post for his sister.

So what? The question ought to be one of merit, yes? Last piece of propaganda was all about merit determining this - and all the people making the accusations actually didn't have an issue of merit about her. As for family members, I hear Ankit Lal wanted a ticket for his wife that Yogendra Yadav didn't allow? Notice how he hasn't been kicked as head of social media for wanting it.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav interfered with the candidate selection process

[tweetthis]Where did AAP follow its much claimed candidate selection process that Bhushan or Yadav interfered?[/tweetthis]

What candidate selection process? From the much hyped start, we have seen people walk into the party to get seats. If they flagged names for scrutiny and two candidates actually had to be withdrawn, it only shows that their concerns were legitimate. Perhaps the Kejriwal club wanted to run with the problem candidates for reasons of their own?

Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan supported AVAM

I have said this before and I say it again. If an argument has merit, it has merit. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Regardless of who incites and who funds. While the mysterious 2 crore funding was not illegal, it was clearly dubious that no one in AAP has any idea of who gave so much money. For a party that made a huge fuss about donations received on social media, not a single day reported such a massive donation. I had independently asked Ankit Lal about this and he explained that only online donations get reported on social media. I went to the extent of asking him to confirm the payment with their accounts with bank, as they could just as easily be planted if the website got hacked.

Regardless, it seems rather strange that no one celebrated such massive donations received in a day for a party that got thousands of tweets celebrating a few lakhs received routinely. This amnesia is rather strange, even if not illegal for the party and does raise questions of who exactly this mysterious donor is to donate such a massive amount without anyone noticing. More importantly, even after the controversy broke, there is no attempt to find out the source of the donation - which to me indicates that the source is known to those who matter and can order an investigation. So I don't see AVAM's questions as entirely irrelevant, though their timing was certainly mischievous and motivations unknown.

If people raising questions about party functioning gravitate toward others raising questions about party functioning, I don't see this as a conspiracy so much as long festering questions that are important enough for people to persist in seeking answers and raising the pressure. To dismiss them as anti-party activity is as good as saying expecting transparency from AAP is against the party culture - regardless of TV studio claims.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were hungry to contest elections

Unless it is only Delhi that needed the oh-so-honest party, I fail to see the problem with this. The Lok Sabha defeat was more because of Kejriwal's stunts in Varanasi that appropriated party resources disproportionately to fight from a deliberate position of disadvantage AND key speeches ignoring what AAP was promising to focus on random allegations and accusations. If he'd stayed in Delhi, there would be far more people in the Lok Sabha today. But a growing conspiracy theory says that this was pre-planned, just like the BJP sweep of UP was pre-planned. This is further supported by the fact that a disproportionate number of bogus voters found in Varanasi has not led to so much as a whimper of protest or call for repolling by Aam Aadmi Party. 6.5 lakh duplicate names in a constituency with 17 lakh voters can hardly be a "mistake".

Incidentally, the push to contest Lok Sabha Elections nationwide is what got Kejriwal the flood of volunteers from all over India, arriving to saturate the Delhi Campaign on the ground. They immediately got thanked in the form of "Thanks for Delhi, but we won't be contesting in your area, we will focus on delivering here." All of a sudden the government that claims to have delivered miracles in 49 days is in a desperate rush to be able to deliver its promises at all in five years to the point of not finding any women worthy of delivering them and the chap holding the ultimate leadership not even attending an NE meet as crucial as this one (but has time to handle party responsibilities if Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and their pesky questions are removed).

Obviously Kejriwal can't do both. And he can't let go of power enough to let the party grow either.

The bottom line is clear. Kejriwal & Co have got what they wanted. Now they intend to enjoy it and ignore any questions raised because no one can do a thing to them anymore. Not the people of Delhi, not supporters, members or donors of the party. If they all turned against him, they still can't do a thing for the next five years. Accountability is no longer an issue. Kejriwal has no time for anything except... um... 10 days delivering promises to Bangalore district of Delhi. The rest was a fantasy woven to con enough people into donating and supporting.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav got removed democratically

This is complete nonsense. If Arvind Kejriwal not only clings to power, but uses the affection people have for him as a weapon to influence party decisions, it is not democratic. If Kejriwal submitted a resignation as National Convenor and refused to withdraw it unless Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were removed, it is emotional blackmail. Plain and simple. It is a misuse of the affection people have for him to use their wish to continue following him to eliminate people from positions of power. It is not democratic to request Mayank Gandhi to refrain from voting and Mayank doing so raises questions about his commitment to party democracy as well. The replacement of the representative from Rajasthan was clear cut "vote rigging". After all this tamasha, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were defeated by a mere three votes. Democratic my foot.

[tweetthis]The ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the PAC is brute eviction of dissenting minority.[/tweetthis]

If the NE decision actually represented the views of the party, there wouldn't be supporters still using "paanch saal Kejriwal" pictures for their profiles furious about the ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. Staunch supporters have abruptly stopped. This was a wrong decision on every level. You can rig "democracy", you cannot make a decision that doesn't reflect the interests of those it claims to to "feel" right.

With this decision, the Aam Aadmi Party has openly shed the burden of ethics weighing it down for so long. With five years of government secure, and Kejriwal in no mood or need to contest anything anymore, the Kejriwal camp has simply abandoned the party in the rest of the country with their reckless actions for ego.

In the process, what the AAP seems to have forgotten in their intoxication with themselves is that governments come and go. Five years is not very long in the life of a nation. An anti-corruption party targeting Prashant Bhushan with an underhanded hate campaign and removing him from the PAC is its own one sentence self-explanatory story.