It wouldn't be the first time news stories reporting unfavorably on BJP President Amit Shah vanished from news websites without explanation. At other times, news organizations have been under tremendous pressure to redact stories, transfer editors and otherwise silence inconvenient news from reaching the masses. Here are some notable stories that vanished from several sites without any official redaction or explanation offered:
Rana Ayyub, author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up who has done extensive reporting related with the Gujarat riots and Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case faced threats of rape and murder to the point that UN human rights experts called on the Indian government to protect her.
Please free to suggest stories this list misses in the comments.
Mumbai, 30 June 2016: Hundreds of savvy and well-educated flat buyers have purchased "luxurious" flats in RNA Exotica without noticing what their sale-purchase agreements clearly says: that RNA Exotica is actually a large and shabby slum rehabilitation scheme with a tiny island of rich flat-buyers. The rich people's housing project is married and tied to the rehab component in the same undivided compound -- a marriage made in hell! Not just RNA Exotica's sale-purchase agreement, but also project layouts and plans presented to MOEF, give a birds-eye-view of this nightmarish neighbourhood. With clever advertizing, a tight-lipped sales staff, and several clauses in the sale-purchase agreements that forbid investors from asking the right questions, RNA Corp has been consistently misleading its investors for many years. A prospective home-buyer never gets to read the true facts before he is inside the builder's trap!
RNA Exotica is a Apartment and Slum Rehab Project in a single compound, so you can't object to general public and outsiders in your compound. The agreement makes sure that flat-buyers will have no right in future to object to the rehab building and car park constructed adjoining RNA Exotica, in the same compound. This clause tells flat-buyers in no uncertain terms that the public parking being constructed on the rehab building is not available for their cars. Read this on page 13 and this on page 21 of the registered agreement. So, the proud flat purchasers should know from this clause that their building compound is only semi-private, unlike most of the apartment compounds that are completely private.
RNA Corp can construct anything on top of your flats, so keep quiet and mind your business. The agreement gives the builder the unlimited right to build anything on top of the "top floor" flat, and the flat-purchaser must keep mum about it. In other words, the builder can continue to commercially exploit any increase in FSI or any changes in rules, even if it causes great delay, inconvenience and losses to the flat-buyers, and the only thing that they can do is smile and feel privileged about owning a luxury flat in RNA Exotica.
RNA Corp can construct servants' toilets, septic tanks, electric sub-stations, closed garages, etc. etc. anywhere in the compound or in the building, so shut your nose, mouth and ears.The ground plans or floor plans shown in the agreement can and will be extensively changed to suit the builder's requirements, and this is plainly stated in the agreement itself. All kind of noisy, smelly or intrusive structures can and will be constructed in various parts of the building and compound where you live, including the same floor where you live, but you cannot object on any grounds because you have signed on an agreement that ties your hands. Your rights as a flat-buyer are restricted to the premises that you have purchased, and not, as is the case in other building projects, the common amenities.
RNA Corp can and will create third-party rights and entitlements to various parts of your building and compound, including clubhouse and various parts that you may mistakenly consider as your common amenities. Read this point carefully again, and you will see that this clause is not just a routinely-drafted formality, but is cleverly drafted to take away all your legal rights.
RNA Corp can decrease the common areas and facilities in your building, and you waived your right to raise any objections.People book luxury apartments not just because of spacious flats, but because of spacious and well-designed common amenities and facilities. These amenities and common spaces are factored into the price of the flat as "super-built-up area". But, after paying lakhs of rupees up front to book a flat in RNA Exotica, buyers are informed by their registered agreement on page 37 that the common areas cannot be taken for granted, and they have no right to object!
You unknowingly gave a power-of-attorney to RNA Corp to sign legal waivers on your behalf before all government authorities, without even informing you. According to this clause, the developer need not consult you or even inform before making big or small changes in the plans, because he can always sign an indemnity or undertaking on your behalf to tell the government that you are OK with anything that he does!
You have surrendered your right to independently verify title and ownership of the plot of land on which RNA Exotica is built... because agreement says you have already verified it and satisfied yourself! Mr flat-buyer, when you signed on every page of the agreement in the Stamp Duty Registrar's office, you definitely were not looking for tricky clauses like this one. But here is a clause on page 17 and another on page 25 that says that you have already verified the title and satisfied yourself, and now you have agreed not to investigate any further, or raise any objections.
Possession date is deliberately left blank. Therefore, you have no way of holding RNA Corp accountable for delay of several years, although there is technically a clause for delays. Read this clause on page 37 and its continuation on page 39.
RNA Corp can allot you car parking according to their own sweep pleasure, and you cannot object. The builder may allot you a really shitty parking in the basement, podium or stilt, and the builder may sell favourably-positioned parkings to others. You have no right to object. Read this clause on page 41.
So, Mr and Mrs Flat Purchaser, it is only in theory that you bought a luxury apartment in RNA Exotica. Your luxury apartment exists only in pretty advertisements. The fact is, you just bought a 2BHK or 3BHK in a shitty slum rehab neighbourhood overlooking the railway tracks, and you signed up on a document that says that you have no right to keep the people of your neighbourhood and sundry public from accessing your compound... and you have no right to object to this entire scheme of things. The only thing you can say now is, "It was nice being screwed by you, Mr Anil Aggarwal."
Sincere thanks to Sulaiman "Superman" Bhimani (9323642081) for his continuous detective work, which enabled and motivated me to write this article.
Even by the plummeting standards set in the last few months, the decision of the special CBI court in discharging Amit Shah, (accused no. 16 in the second chargesheet; accused no. 1 in the third chargesheet) in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, seems outrageous.
The Special CBI court without waiting for even the trial to commence, without weighing the evidence at length, seems to have suddenly concurred with the defence and the ruling party’s view that Amit Shah was caught in a political trap. Why this impatience with the process of the trial? And Shah is no ordinary accused, or accessory with a side role: he is accused of being the “king pin” or the mastermind of the triple murder.
“The entire record considered in totality”, says the court does not indicate to Shah’s role, and hence discharged him. However, what is the entire record? Even a simple, cursory looks suggest that in fact it is not hearsay but solid evidence of call details records, witness statements recorded under 161 and 164 CrPC, as well evidence of systematic and direct interference by Shah in the state CID probe into the encounter.
If the call details records were totally insignificant and proved nothing, why was there such a concerted effort to suppress all such information that pointed to Shah’s role?
The state CID investigations, which first led to the arrests of the senior police offcers, had taken on record phone call details between Shah and accused police officers. However, once the Supreme Court directed the transfer of investigation to the CBI, the CID failed to hand over the CD containing these phone conversations. A total of 331 conversations had been deleted from the record.
IGP Gita Johri, who was made in charge of the state CID investigation, recorded in Part B of her first report, how Shah attempted to sabotage the enquiry. She has recorded that though she and the Investigating Officer Solanki did not face any “hurdle” initially, “However, as soon as the statements of witnesses pertaining to confinement of Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi in the Farm House of Shri Girish Patel at Ahmedabad came to be recorded, it came to the knowledge of Shri Vanzara and Shri Rajkumar Pandian [two of the accused officers]. It is further learnt that these officers brought the above facts to the notice of Respondent No. 2, Shri Amit Shah, Minister of State for Home, Government of Gujarat.”
It further states that Shah “brought to bear pressure” on the enquiry process, resulting in the enquiry papers being taken away from her “under the guise of scrutiny”. He “directed Shri G.C. Raigar, Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime & Railways) to provide him with the list of witnesses, both police and private, who are yet to be contacted by CID (Crime) for recording their statement in the said enquiry. Such direction of Minister of State for Home goes beyond the scope of his office, was patently illegal and apparently designed to provide the same list to accused police officers ... so as to enable them to take measures in their defence.”
The CBI court did not entertain a note written by Gita Johri, in which the sentence “systematic efforts on the part of the state government” was struck out. The CBI’s case had been that this sentence had been omitted under Shah’s political pressure, whereas the court interpreted it to mean that Johri was not happy with the investigation done by the investigating officer. This is a flight of fancy, if there can be one. In fact, it is a matter of record that Johri’s initial investigation, before she was removed, proved to be path breaking. However, when she was reinstated, she took a complete U-turn. So chaffed was the apex court with her that he chastised her, while praising the investigation of the IO Solanki. The Supreme Court observed the following:
“69. We have observed that from the record, it was found that Mr VL Solanki, an investigating officer, was proceeding in the right direction, but Ms Johri had not been carrying out the investigation in the right manner, in view of our discussions made here in above. It appears that Ms Johri had not made any reference to the second report of Solanki, and that though his first report was attached with one of her reports, the same was not forwarded to this Court.
In the present circumstances and in view of the involvement of the police officials the State in this crime, we cannot shut our eyes and direct the State police authorities to continue with the investigation and the charge-sheet and for a proper and fair investigation, we also feel that CBI should be requested to take up the investigation and submit a report in this Court within six months from the date of handing over a copy of this judgment and the records relating to this crime to them.”
(Rubabuddin Sheikh v State of Gujarat reported in (2010) 2 SCC 200, p. 217.)
The Special CBI Court cannot act as though none of this happened. The “entire record” in fact points to Shah’s involvement. The conspiracy is that of three cold-blooded murders. By terming Shah’s implication in the triple murder fake encounter case as a political conspiracy carried out by CBI under directions from a rival political party, the special CBI court has cast aspersions on the Supreme Court which was monitoring the investigations closely at all stages.
Disregarding the statements of key witnesses:
The special CBI court also disregarded the statements of key witnesses: namely, the Patel brothers, Dashrath and Raman, proprietors of the successful Popular builders. Their statements to the CBI details how money was extorted from them and how they were being forced by Vanzara and cohorts to give a statement against Sohrabuddin. The statement describes a meeting as well telephonic conversation with Shah. This has been recorded under 164 CrPC, and yet this is not deemed evidence but hearsay?
One can only say that the pusillanimity of the CBI in first, not contesting Shah’s application of exemption from appearing before the court in encounter cases, then not challenging the bail to senior police officer N.K. Amin in the Supreme Court, then responding to Shah’s voluminous discharge application and marathon three day arguments with a perfunctory 15-20 minutes argument by a junior lawyer, had already made matters clear. The die had been cast on 16th May itself, when Amit Shah delivered the rich harvest of seats for the BJP.
But what it has exposed is the rot in our institutions: the u-turn of the CBI, the reinstatement of the accused cops on duty, some of them, such as Abhay Chudasma, being given coveted posting in the Vigilance squad. Worst of all, what it has shown is the abdication of even a modicum of judicial independence.
Released by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (31st December 2014)
Modi came to power unelected. Soon after his becoming Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Riots happened. Shamelessly defending the massacres as a righteous "reaction" Modi successfully polarized the majority against the minority to win in 2002.
For the younger readers, who don't remember the Vinash Purush speeches that preceeded the Vikas Purush speeches, here are some excerpts (Apologies for poorly edited video. Will try to replace with better version when I figure out the video editor):
While these speeches can get him elected by a majority just recovering from unrest and not wanting threats, this is not possible to recreate for every election.
Enter APCO - in 2006 - supposedly to promote a vibrant Gujarat (remember India shining in 2004?) but very conveniently in time for the 2007 elections.
The task was to show that Gujarat under Modi had become an ideal state that people worldwide would want to invest in and visit. APCO's advisory council is illustrious.
Of course, this was happening on the state budget. Or as elite economists like to call it, on the Gujarati tax payer's money.
We saw the "Vibrant Gujarat" campaign emerge even more strongly in 2010 and 2011 in time for Gujarat Assembly Elections 2012. Also an election Modi won.
And now here is the strange part. Gujarat Government spent massive amounts of money in 2013 to polish up Gujarat image. Incidentally, the Gujarat image was a key part of Modi's election campaign for the Lok Sabha Elections. Additionally, moving from APCO to Indian PR firms probably allowed money to deliver more as well, now that the formula was established.
One wonders why the Gujarat Government needs PR firms based in Delhi in the run up to the Lok Sabha Elections. Also, the PR firms were not just expected to promote Gujarat, but to ensure positive coverage in News media - and this is in official government documents requesting tenders.
Put together, this is a request for tenders for paid news Nationwide - not even in Gujarat. Now why in the world would Gujarat government want to acquaint people Nationwide of what is happening in Gujarat in the year before National Elections? Particularly when the Chief Minister was to use Gujarat as an advertisement of himself in his National Campaign more than BJP achievements? All pretending to be on some other budget of course - sometimes Gujarat Government, sometimes hiding behind the party being allowed unlimited expenses. Narendra Modi's speeches have constantly referred to the information spread about Gujarat by these paid campaigns as resounding praise for Gujarat (in other words, his leadership) and built his campaign around it. So not only is it use of government funds to undermine the media and fool people into thinking Gujarat gets spoken well more than other states, but also to aid personal and party campaign in National elections.
But wait. It gets better. Here's one from 2012 asking for Facebook 3,00,000 Facebook likes (from 8,000) for the IEC page (which sings virtues of Gujarat under Modi). Remember Modi's popularity boom on the internet? And yes, it wants likes in very specific ways - from Gujarat, target cities of India, target countries worldwide, etc. Page 20 onwards. You're welcome.
These requests for proposals are just a few from the first page of search results.
Quite clearly, there is a boom in advertisement of Gujarat in the build up to National Elections, ON GUJARAT GOVERNMENT FUNDS. The promotion is well beyond the state of Gujarat and the purpose it serves is unclear.
Of course the Gujarat Government has a right to market itself as an investment destination, but the use of this material in Modi's campaigns needs to be reviewed as well, considering the timing and the abundant use of exactly these kinds of services in his campaign.
There are other examples of paid news including the excellent reporting in Caravan Magazine about the right wing influence in Network 18 and a brazen instance of paid news - which ought to be verified by the Election Commission. Surely an individual's budget cannot afford Prime Time TV and still be within limits?
Last year, Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Bahl’s book, was dispatched to Gujarat to interview the chief minister, Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked Modi a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat. Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal. When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room. “Why is he talking like this?” the person recalled Modi saying. “Are we not paying for this interview?” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi. When Bahl heard about the curtailed interview, he reportedly told Fernandes, “We should have a clear line between marketing and editorial.” - See more at: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/network-effect?page=0,1
It should not be so difficult to verify whether any such interview marked as marketing appeared on TV. And, if the ones that did appear on TV after Modi filed his nomination appear in Modi's accounts. Surely one on one interviews of Prime Ministerial candidate cannot be put on a BJP budget?
CMS Media Labs analysis also shows that Modi got 33.21% of Prime Time coverage on five channels (Aaj Tak, ABP News, Zee News, NDTV 24x7 and CNN IBN) monitored (not including India TV or Times Now - where Modi interviews appeared). Modi received nearly 7.5 times more coverage than Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during prime time. Kejriwal got about 10.31% of total coverage (much of it criticism), Gandhi got only about 4.33%. In party-wise coverage, BJP had nearly 38% or about 1,507 minutes, while about 1,101 minutes or 27.75% of television news coverage went to Congress.
Additionally, several exposes that showed BJP in bad light - putting up false candidates, seats, votes and more got silenced by media.
Paid news nailed Ashok Chavan. Should Modi be an exception? Election Commission should examine details of the work furnished through hires of such PR firms on Gujarat Government funds and verify that they have not been used for National campaigning by official party and leaders accounts and that Narendra Modi's campaigns do indeed fit the 70 lakh he is legally allowed after all the loopholes or expenses have run out. Manufactured popularity must not subvert the principles of free and fair elections.
Gujarat Police gave him the “choice” of being implicated in the Godhra train burning, Haren Pandya murder and Akshardham terror, one of the men acquitted by the Supreme Court in the temple attack case alleged on Tuesday.
Mohammed Saleem was eventually sentenced to life under POTA for involvement in the Akshardham case. On May 16, the day Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi won his historic mandate, the Supreme Court set Saleem and five others free, pulling up the Gujarat Police for framing innocent people, and blaming the then home minister — Modi — for “non-application of mind”. Four of the six men had already spent over 10 years in jail.
“I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years, when they picked me up alleging there was a problem with my passport. They beat me brutally — I still have scars on my back, and I suffered a fracture in my foot. They asked me which case I wanted to be charged under — Akshardham, Haren Pandya or Godhra. I did not know what to say,” Saleem told a press conference addressed by five of the six men in Delhi. Saleem’s daughter was born four months after his arrest. He picked her up in his arms for the first time only after his release — the child is 10 years old now.
The world of Abdul Qaiyum Muftisaab Mohammed Bhai alias Mufti Abdul Qaiyum has changed completely in the 11 years that he spent in jail. His father is dead, and his family no longer lives in their old home. His acquittal by the Supreme Court, Qaiyum said, was “mere release from prison; justice had been buried at every moment in these 11 years”.
Qaiyum said the main charge against him was that two letters recovered from the two fidayeen killed in the terror attack had been written by him. He was framed, Qaiyum alleged.
“For three days and nights, they made me copy a letter that they had given me. They (the police) would bring an expert each day to check whether I had copied it well. They would ask me to copy the turns and twists of the Urdu letters so that they looked exactly the same as in the letter. I was very afraid, and did what they told me to do,” he said. “Then they claimed in court that I had written the letters.” Qaiyum said that in jail, he met the police officers who had framed him, and asked them why they had done so. “I met G L Singhal. Though they (police officers) were kept separately, we sometimes bumped into each other. I told him (Singhal): ‘Please tell me why did you do this to me.’ His young son had committed suicide, and that had made him feel what grief was. He had no answer.”
Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind which organised the press conference, said, “I am willing to talk things over with anybody to ensure such things do not happen, but I feahim (Singhal): ‘Please tell me why did you do this to me.’ His young son had committed suicide, and that had made him feel what grief was. He had no answer.”
Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind which organised the press conference, said, “I am willing to talk things over with anybody to ensure such things do not happen, but I fear that there is a real chance that this will actually happen more often.”
He said the Jamiat would approach the Supreme Court to seek punishment for the officers who had framed the men. “Supreme Court and judiciary is our last hope. The government and the media have been biased, and an atmosphere has been created in which every Muslim is seen as a terrorist,” Madani said.r that there is a real chance that this will actually happen more often.”
He said the Jamiat would approach the Supreme Court to seek punishment for the officers who had framed the men. “Supreme Court and judiciary is our last hope. The government and the media have been biased, and an atmosphere has been created in which every Muslim is seen as a terrorist,” Madani said.
This article originally appears in the Indian Express. Reproducing it here because I don't trust our government enough that articles like this may not go missing in the future.