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10

Sanjay Dutt got convicted and sentenced to jail under the Arms Act. Of the five years he was sentenced to, he has served a year and a half, so at most he will go to jail for three and a half years. This seems to have put eminent people into shock and trauma. There are many speaking of his "mistake" and how he has suffered or it.

The Head of the Press Council of India and former judge, Justice Markandey Katju has written to the Governor of Maharashtra pleading for pardon to Sanjay Dutt under article 161 of the Constitution. SP, NCP and Shiv Sena want Sanjay Dutt to be pardoned. People from the film industry are in grief. Poor innocent man made a mistake. He has turned his life aound since then. Pardon him.

A mistake is when someone lets their gun licence lapse. A mistake is when someone lets a bag be kept at her home without knowing what is in it and it turns out to be weapons. A mistake is when someone unknowingly befriends a person and he turns out to be a gangster responsible for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. A mistake is drinking and driving. Is it a mere mistake for a person to have contacts with terrorists and acquire 3 automatic assault rifles (two of which he returned)?

It is hardly something one can do without realizing the gravity and illegality of it and being fine with it. Besides, as MN Singh, who led the blasts probe as JCP (Crime) put it, ‘One doesn’t go running for help to gangsters’

The gilded people seem to buy Sanjay Dutt's story that after receiving threats during the Mumbai riots (or felt threatened by the Mumbai riots - depending on source) he acquired the weapons from Dawood Ibrahim's younger brother Anees for self defense, conveniently ignoring that he already had three licenced firearms when he got three assault rifles. These guns were part of large amount of weapons smuggled in by Dawood Ibrahim to arm radicalized Muslims to retaliate for the Mumbai Riots.

After all, a press release by a film star is shinier than that tape of intercepted phone call between Chota Shakeel and Sanjay Dutt featuring Mahesh Manjrekar, Harish Sugandh and Sanjay Gupta played by the police in special court. This call had happened well after Sanjay Dutt's arrest, the start of court proceedings, etc. On 6th November 2002, the TADA court gave 98 accused a 2 month exemption while it considered 12,000 pages of evidence. They were to not leave the city. On 11th, five days before the CBI's deadline to file a reply to a defense application, our "innocent mistake maker" Sanjay Dutt was on the phone with Pakistan based gangster Chhota Shakeel, in a casual conversation, introducing him to two "fans" of his - in Nashik. Confronted with this tape, he claimed to not remember the conversation because he had been drinking. He did admit to being in Nashik with Harish Sugandh, Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar that evening.

"He didn't use the illegal weapons!" They say. But neither did he volunteer any information that would help get perpetrators of the horror arrested. It is very easy to realize mistakes after you get nailed. Heck, you have the Delhi Gang Rape rapists realzing their mistake now too. What part of any action he did indicated it was a mistake and not deliberate before his arrest? If he genuinely had made a mistake, the significance of the easy arms and grenades he got from gangsters cannot have escaped him in the face of the horrendous 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Yet his only action was destruction of evidence.

He successfully fought his battle with drugs! I fail to see how this is relevant to anything. His defense doesn't seem to have said that he was doped and thus unaware of what he was doing.

Has Sanjay Dutt so much as said sorry for affiliating with gangsters who perpetrated such a horror over Mumbai and the country? We do have reports of him admitting guilt to cops and a crestfallen Sunil Dutt (his own father) “Because I have Muslim blood in my veins. I could not bear what was happening in the city.”. 50 accused in that case submitted letters of appeal requesting for a death sentence if they were to be called terrorists. They were all convicted under TADA. Some of them on far less damning evidence.

Yusuf Kasam Khan, son of a freedom fighter wrote, "Your honour had granted me bail. I attended court regularly without caring for heavy rain and traffic for seven years. I am a true Indian. I and my wife with two small children cannot live with the label of terrorist.". Yunus Gulam Rasul Borodia wrote "Though no rifle was found at my instance, I was booked for a recovery which is not in my house. Yet I am convicted under TADA, whereas Sanjay Dutt who got AK 56 for self-protection is convicted only under the Arms Act."

Hotshot public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam dismissed these as pressure tactics, but apparently not the hours of footage on TV speaking of Sanjay Dutt's "mistake". Not the number of politicians and film personalities speaking up for him.

The usual Congress puppets speak up for his pardon, while the Congress of course keeps its clothes clean of any dirt. Shiv Sena (with similar connections) was a major part of the Mumbai Riots that made Sanjay Dutt realize the "Muslim blood in his veins" - something media amnesia misses. Is the Shiv Sena guilty over their actions and wants him pardoned, because what he did was natural after what they did? Samajwadi Party tried to give him a Loksabha seat, but when his case got in the way, they made him President of the Party! But then Politicians are luckier than most in getting away with crimes.

Someone with minimal interest in politics to the point of stating disinterest in media interviews both before and after that political stint. Direct president! Wah Munnabhai! Considering the amount of backstabbing that goes into such posts in parties, one only must wonder at the amount of introspection this needed. Now they still bat for him in his time of need. NCP is the coalition partner of Congress in Mumbai. Congress has made no official statement, the high command's reputation is not worth him, but Amar Singh and types have put in a good word.

The CBI, famously known as the puppet of the ruling party failed to present call records with terrorists, their chargesheet against him conveniently excludes the hand grenades that would have taken the case firmly out of Arms territory straight into TADA. The weapons Sanjay Dutt possessed were 3 AK-56 rifles, 9 magazines, 450 cartridges,a 9mm pistol and over 20 hand grenades. Yet enough damning evidence is public. Including a sting interview of his own lawyer who said he would be unable to explain why Sanjay Dutt, whose links with gangsters were clearly established as well as knowingly receiving and concealing illegal arms from them, was not punished under TADA when a woman who didn't even know the bag she allowed to be kept in her home contained guns and the owner of the car in which arms were transported there got convicted under TADA.

The second half of 2006 and early 2007 saw unprecedented convictions of the rich and the powerful. People wondered if it was the dawn of a new era of justice. Khushwant Singh wrote “Convictions of Shibu Soren, Navjot Sidhu, Santosh Singh, Manu Sharma, Sharda Jain, Sanjay Dutt and others showed that no matter how important or celebrated a person, he or she is not above the law.”. Since then we have seen a few more, including Raja, Kalmadi, Kanhimozi and Maya Kodanani among others.

Yet, our sense of justice seems to not have caught up with the word of law in the equality we claim to want. Religion, region, caste and most notably class are still game changers when it comes to being punished for a crime or getting away with it. High profile criminals have no problems returning to a life of respectability while other lives are destroyed on suspicion alone. So we have this absurdity of public figures mourning how his life has been disrupted badly.

Sanjay Dutt was convicted at least, countless others rot in prison waiting for trials to start. They do not have the luxury of anticipatory bail and fancy lawyers paid to exploit every loophole they can find for their freedom. Their society will not accept a criminal back as respectable - even one suspected of a crime, let alone proven to have committed it. Consider the case of a certain employee of DRDO who got arrested on suspicion and while charges were framed against others, he was let off. He lost his job in the DRDO in any case - a calamity of hardship and indignity Sanjay Dutt never faced.

Afzal Guru, who was at best a minor accomplice in the Parliament attacks without any real control got hanged amid much celebration of justice delivered. If we are talking of a person reforming, the Hindu's report of his hanging is touching in its description of how he never advocated separatism, violence of any sort and actually talked of universal brotherhood. Forget pardon or commuting death sentence to life, but acknowledging that if he was at fault at some point, he was "reformed" (that golden word) and in the face of an entire valley in grieving, possibly stopping jeering at him. He was under watch in the Tihar Jail from his first arrest. He never got out. He is still buried there. Now that would be a life destroyed.

There is Sadhvi Pragya who is seeking bail for a long time, suffering for cancer. Her scooter was used in the Malegaon blast, but she is no longer under suspicion for Sanjay Joshi's murder. There are no arms, bomb material, etc attached to her name. Is her life ruined or what?

Sanjay Dutt went on to deliver some of his biggest hits in between his stints in jail. He managed to marry, have kids, have a prosperous career, become the president of a political party and gather enough of a following that will consider him to be the wronged party and victim in a remarkably watered down process of justice that ended with the Supreme Court of the country sentencing him.

But, for our elites, Sanjay Dutt was likely the first "real person" to be destroyed by justice system with five non-continuous years of jail, which are pregnant with potential for "best behavior" discounts, possible legal gimmicry or outright political pardon.  

1

My husband thinks that I am defaming him, and wants the other side known. Fair enough. I have typed this out as dictated by him (translated from Marathi).

  1. I don't want to say anything. I don't want to say anything from inside the home in public. I can speak with my close friends, but it is wrong to bring it up on social networks. Whether the problem is mine or yours.
  2. Bringing it up in front of the world means you are only going to say your side, and the world will only sympathize with you. It happens like that only, whether you intend it or not. If I do it tomorrow, I will do that only. That is human tendency. How many of them personally know you? But they will vote for you. "How much tormenting is happening, poor girl". The nature of person at such a stage is 100% like that. The grass is greener on the other side, only I am in a bad condition.
  3. I watch Satyamev Jayate with interest. I saw the episode on Domestic Violence. I have the same views as Aamir Khan, and I am personally angry that this is happening in my home.
  4. My story is a rare case. I am a victim of domestic violence by my wife. I cannot prove this, and I am in this sorrow, so I am bearing this silently.
  5. My innocence has been misused from day 1 of the marriage. From the start, some things were clear that they would not be allowed in my home. Before the wedding, and after, there have been many parties in my home, but when only my parents are not there. And the home was clear of all evidences before they came. This doesn't happen now. And I have stopped doing it too after all these years.
  6. I told my wife that if she wants to smoke, and she is quitting soon, then she can smoke in the home, but she continues till today.
  7. It is not my nature to talk about these things in front of the village. What will these people do? Will they patch up? My wife don't want to patch up.

I asked him if he wants to comment specifically on me talking about his alcoholism, since that is the most of what I talked about. He doesn't want to talk about it in front of the world like the rest of the issues from inside the home.

Anyone who wants to comment on this can speak with him on 9869433342, as he is not internet savvy and will not be able to monitor or reply to comments to this post.

Note: These views are not mine. These are a result of my husband feeling that the internet is being used to create an opinion against him, and he wants the other side of what I speak on domestic violence or alcoholism known. He sees himself as someone who has been wronged by me. I see this as any other reply to my posts, and am publishing it.

3

Aamir Khan's very excellent foray into television activism has stunned viewers and brought many facts to undeniable light. As I observed the reactions in social media, a few questions come to my awareness.

What motivates cynics?

It is a fairly known factor that any kind of an activist ends up with a struggle to retain legitimacy. Online activism has led to us being called arm chair activists. Anna Hazare's andolan got called "deluded masses", most kinds of activism faces skepticism that it can actually result in any change at all. Today, Aamir Khan's show reached massive audiences countrywide, ended with a call for very specific action that will result in convictions of doctors for sex selective abortions - something that hasn't happened so far - and could set a new precedent propelling the fight against female foeticide into more actively enforced circumstances.

That someone the significance of one of the leading superstars of the country is asking for something so specific and clearly needed makes it highly likely to work out, if only to save face, and the only logical conclusion of the court cases has to result in punishment. One would think this is a fairly important step right here. Yet, we find people focusing on defaming him or devaluing his efforts or otherwise undermining the impact.

This brings up the question of why this is so. What is it that makes a significant section of vocal influencers undermine efforts for social change? The actors may change, but resistance remains constant. Some said it was a case of sour grapes with media professionals jealous of the impact. Possibly. Others thought that people have a vested interest in human rights being violated to feel powerful. Maybe.

I don't know what the reason is, but the fact remains that some of the other lack of perfection seems to bother significantly vocal members of our country enough to discredit calls for change. The perceived lack changes, the people change, but undermining efforts to create change is a constant.

Must activism be free?

There were a lot of reactions to the effect that the show being a for profit effort was fake. This is a view that has come up often, where "connections" or financing  is seen as a lack of authenticity. My view has always been that the utility and investment of effort/resources in an action determines its authenticity. At the same time, I have heard disparaging comments by people as diverse as the Prime Minister of the country to random Tweeps where intent is attributed to the activist rather than valuing the issues raised. Notable examples are the "foreign hand" in the Kudankulam activists, or a comment on this blog, where the work of Sainath was discredited because his grandfather was a President and he got cash awards.

Does it really matter if someone earns from working on social concerns? Does it not make sense that such work earn for the activist so that it is sustainable? But whether it is so or not, what is the explanation of the requirement of "free" with social work? Is your country not worth someone working for its well being to be compensated financially?

Also, the lines are rather blurred. We have college degrees in social work no one expects to be free. We have social workers and NGO employees with salaries from their organizations. We have never expected that the people working on the vaccination programme not be paid, nor do we expect that news channels that disseminate information on social conditions be free - both as in advertising free as well as no channel fees. On the other hand, any individual making extraordinary effort must do it for free. Worse, if someone gets money for what they do, then it is a fair "proof" of their evil intent - this is even standard operating procedure with the government to derail dissent. What is the logic?

And the Aamir Khan situation is even more bizarre, because here you have a proper commercial show on a commercial channel backed by corporate sponsors, anchored by a celebrity. What part of this says that it was either cheap enough to produce to expect it to be made for free? Worse, just because a commercial venture is vital to the country, we expect not just that it be available to us for free, but that no one should pay its creators? In other words, make useless commercial content and earn, but do not make anything useful to the country if you want to earn? What crapshoot logic is this?

Strangely, no one expects the galaxy of crime shows, talk shows and what nots to be free. Why? Are they irrelevant to National Interest? The big difference between Satyamev Jayate and the other shows comes down to their content. The other shows are reporting/discussion, while SJ leverages the space into activism and actual calls for action. So it must fit the starving, khadi clad stereotype? How does such thinking help our country at all?

Or is it more unconscious resistance trying to delegitimize fights for rights on one hand, while ensuring that they always lack resources for survival on the other?'

Will this seed a trend?

The refreshing realism of Satyamev Jayate, its subject matter and its relevance to the masses - so far including the very poor - is new for television advertizing in content, intent and nature and size of target audience. Would the success of this result in more programmes catering to national interest? Are we in fact witnessing the emergence of a more mature phase in television programming? One show does not a trend make, it is true, but recently, Jay Hind also got a late night slot on Colors. So obviously there is some awareness on some level that the audience is ready for or media is ready to risk rocking a few boats.

The high voltage JanLokpal Andolan resulted in massive coverage, talk shows, and such content, further pushed by worldwide news of protests - be it the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street. Needless to say, money was made from activism related content, though news. Is this an experiment toward more activist programmes with deliberately created content as opposed to coverage?

The distinction I am making with existing programming is the presence of a high profile superstar, and the subject being an issue rather than incidents, with multi-faceted content around that issue that ranges from data to interviews to calls for action in National Interest. Existing shows stick to reportage.

Corporate sponsored activism

Less noticed by people is the fact that this show also signifies a milestone in human rights activism - corporate sponsorship. It may be argued that the sponsorship was for a guaranteed to sell programme by a superstar, with guaranteed massive viewership. And that may indeed be the truth. But the fact remains that the content of the programme was what it was.

I find this something to keep an eye on, considering that there are significant areas of human rights violations where corporations are guilty. Will such activism be effective on those fronts? Possibly through sponsorships of unrelated corporations? Or will it drown out those issues and end up creating a smokescreen of impunity for corporations, by questioning of corporates going missing from consciousness even as voices for human rights in general rise? For example, Coca Cola - the company Aamir Khan endorses is accused of spoiling water resources for the poor citizens near its plants. How does this impact the ability of such a show to take on the burning cause of the water crisis?

Time will tell, but I see this as a fragile balance that will inevitably come up on the front of human rights.

Why do we only question the "innocent" side?

An important perspective would have been that of a doctor caught in a sting who still continues to offer services, or family members who want a boy at all costs. We never explore that. Be it rapists who don't get questioned, school teachers who abuse students not getting questioned, murderers, corrupt policemen, parents of juvenile rapists or criminals... whoever. Why is it that our reporting, finding out, talk shows, everything always focus on questioning the victim, but raising no questions from those who commit crimes or promote or condone them?

 

There are some other questions, but they are too vague in my mind. This post will be updated.

1

I had stuff to do today, and not being a TV watcher at all, I had no particular interest or awareness of a new show. Wandering into the kitchen, I overheard some and went to watch. This is the episode.

For someone actively interested in human rights, the information in this show was no news. But what I think is noteworthy is that this was Doordarshan - reaching "every household in the country" with hard hitting facts on the gender imbalance in the country and the reality of female foeticide. This reaches people who may not read newspapers or may not be interested in such stories, people who didn't pay attention to census data, people who may not watch news. They watched Aamir Khan, and he was brilliant in highlighting the facts as they stand. Data interspersed with real people and real exxperiences, comments from professionals, exposing the apathetic nature of our response to this crime.

It doesn't make much impact other than among those tuned in to human rights when you say that criminals enjoy impunity from the state and law. But when Aamir Khan bluntly asks on National Television how many doctors have had their licences revoked for terminating girls selectively, and the answer is "None", people sit up and take notice. Then what are all those PSAs on TV all about is the first question that comes to mind. The pretense lies bare.

That Aamir Khan is totally himself and finding out on in view of the audience rather than presenting only adds to the sense of the audience discovering for themselves.

Interviewing journalists who did an expose of more than 100 doctors offering gender selective abortions, including ghastly recommendations of killing the girl child if born live because the pregnancy had progressed too much, is coming face to face with the reality of what is happening. Then the viewer finds out that it is the journalists who suffered legal hassles including arrest warrants, but the doctors are fine and in business and even getting promotions. This kind of a lens on what is happening in the country is important. It takes away a big rock the creeps hide under.

The call for very specific action - to set up a fast track court for all these cases to be tried quickly and in one place is a very well targeted action point that should directly lead to convictions. That a star of Aamir Khan's magnitude takes the lead makes it difficult to ignore. This kind of activism is new, and much needed.

Another thing the show did very, very well was linking dowry, female foeticide, infanticide, trafficking of women for marriage and crimes against women at large. The interconnectedness of women's rights and the self-sustaining cycle of abuse it results in when they all feed each other. The magnitude of the problem and the enormous challenge in fixing it. It is a very difficult link to explain, but I think the show managed to pull it off very well.

There were many critics on social media. Some called it a copy of various human rights shows others quoted vast amounts of money Aamir Khan is making. Strangely, these people don't find their very expensive film viewing of the same exorbitant film star excessively expensive. It raises the other question of human rights work being expected to be non-profit alone - as though working for human rights makes people less deserving of profits.

In my view, the show raises important questions, effectively uses the charisma and following of a superstar to address urgent needs of the country. When it is Aamir Khan telling people to write to the CM of Rajasthan, hopefully it results in a large enough demand for action to compel the government to act or explain its inaction.

That there are detractors surprises no one. Any human rights efforts are always through a curtain of a chauvinistic status quo ridiculing the effort for change. That it did not spare Aamir Khan either is only a matter of reassurance that it made a genuine effort. Otherwise, there was no need for resistance.