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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.

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This article stating that Ved Pratap Vaidik was participating in the TrackII dialogue representing RSS and Modi (Ved Pratap Vaidik met Hafiz Saeed in same trip, confirming my suspicions about his interview) was apparently originally published in Manorama but isn't accessible anymore. Only copy seems to be in Kashmir Watch, which some people couldn't access. Duplicating it here for the sake of record.

Money matters

By Kallol Bhattacherjee

Focus on trade likely to be the defining feature of Modi's foreign policy

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in Bhutan on June 15, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was hosting a special Indian guest and his companions in Islamabad, who had come for a Track II dialogue. While the Prime Minister's Office is tight-lipped about editor and columnist Ved Pratap Vaidik's visit to Islamabad, he is believed to have gone to Pakistan as the representative of the RSS, tasked with dispelling misunderstandings about the Sangh Parivar and its south Asian agenda.

Vaidik had travelled to Lahore on his own to meet Sharif in May last year after the Pakistani leader won the elections. In return, Sharif, reportedly, rewarded him with rare access and contacts, which he used extensively during a trip to Pakistan early this year to convince its leaders that Pakistan can do business with India under Modi.

Najam Rafique of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, which is hosting the Track II dialogue, told THE WEEK that Vaidik represented not just the RSS, but also Modi. “Vaidik is visiting us as an emissary of the Indian prime minister. On June 23, he is addressing an in-house meeting at ISSI. The agenda is how to revive the Pakistan-India dialogue process and what issues are to be taken up. The Indian side is resisting to discuss Kashmir,” he said. Sources in Islamabad said the Modi government's focus was on trade, especially getting the non-discriminatory trade agreement ratified by Pakistan. Rafique, however, said it might not be easy and would require some arm-twisting by India. “The Pakistani side is insisting that Kashmir should be on the table during the Track II dialogue. But, there is a widespread understanding that trade has to come first,” he said.

Given the sensitivities involved, not all details are on public domain, but Union Minister Arun Jaitley's comment about a possible dialogue with separatists in Kashmir has added to the sentiment that the Modi government will manage south Asia unconventionally, with a surprise cast of characters, if necessary. Darakhshan Andrabi, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Socialist Democratic Party, who is lobbying Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for creating an alternative political platform in Kashmiri politics, said the Track II dialogue with Pakistan was aimed at attempting an enabling condition for going ahead with other aspects of life, like trade and development.

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said the Modi government's emphasis on trade with Pakistan, the rest of south Asia and the major world powers could well be the defining feature of Indian foreign policy under Modi. “Allowing Pakistani banks in India and the State Bank of India to operate in Pakistan and granting non-discriminatory market access to India by Pakistan will add to India's growth economy status. Much of our diplomatic stalling of the last five years happened because the world, after celebrating our economic growth for some time, suddenly started perceiving us as a low-potential economy hobbled by a weak political structure. India's diplomacy will change dramatically if Modi can create an impression by his initial deals in south Asia and Japan that India will prioritise trade over other differences, whether big or small,” he said.

These priorities will be reflected in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's foreign trips as well. Swaraj, fresh from her tour to Bhutan, accompanying Modi, is expected to leave for a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on June 26, carrying forward the Look East dynamic of Modi's foreign policy. Already, the Bhutan visit of Modi is being interpreted as a message to China not to snatch away India's partners in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Saran said the September session of the UN General Assembly, which Modi was likely to attend, would give his team another major opportunity in perfecting its trade diplomacy. In Washington, DC, the United States India Political Action Committee, the organisation that facilitated the pre-election US visit of Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, is doing unofficial groundwork for Modi's visit. “We are excited about the defence IT sector as a new area, as India plans new investment zones in defence production,” said Sanjay Puri of USINPAC.

An immediate challenge for Modi will be in breaking ice with Italy, which is taking advantage of the football season by selling T-shirts with the names of the Italian marines charged for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast. “The European Parliament will be headed by Italy from September and there is a possibility that tough Italy-India ties might hurt India-EU ties,” said a European ambassador.

The Modi-Swaraj-Doval team has begun with an intense plan of action. But, given the uncertainties in the world of diplomacy, it may also need some luck to succeed.

The gambit

Modi's tenure has begun with a bang:

* Neighbouring heads of state at the swearing-in ceremony
* First foreign visit to Bhutan, emphasising its significance
* Back-channel talks on with Pakistan
* Hosted Chinese foreign minister and Russian deputy PM
* Talks scheduled with Bangladesh PM
* Interactions being worked on with leaders of the US and Japan
* Renewed focus on trade diplomacy

-Source: The Week, India-
Print Version

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An article by Shehzad Poonawala debunked several cover up propaganda myths spread by BJP about the 2002 Gujarat Riots and got taken down. Here is the article.

This article by Shehzad Poonawalla was originally published on DNA as "Mamata Banerjee calls Narendra Modi 'butcher of Gujarat'; here are 9 mythbusters on 2002 post-Godhra riots". It got taken down. Naturally, it finds a home here.

For those who have developed “selective and motivated” amnesia about the truths of 2002 riots in Gujarat and are suddenly buying into the myths being perpetrated by Narendra Modi's PR machinery, here are a few myth-busters to refresh your memory and perhaps your conscience

Narendra Modi surrounded by security and fans

Myth no 1: Post-Godhra violence was brought under control within 2-3 days by Narendra Modi’s government

Truth: “The violence in the state, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time.”

Source: Final Order of the National human Rights Commission chaired by the very respected Justice JS Verma, available here

Myth no 2: Gujarat Police acted fairly by taking action against rioters from every side

Truth: “We women thought of going to police and telling the police as in the presence of police, the houses of Muslims were burnt, but the police told us 'to go inside, it is doom's day for Muslims”

Source: PW219 testimony which was admitted as part of Naroda Patya judgment that led to conviction of Mayaben Kodnani, Narendra Modi’s cabinet minister who led murderous mobs during 2002 riots. It is available here.

Myth no 3: No conspiracy by the Gujarat government; post-Godhra violence was a spontaneous reaction

Truth: “A key state minister is reported to have taken over a police control room in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing directions not to rescue Muslims in danger of being killed.”

“Voter lists were also reportedly used to identify and target Muslim community members”

Source: Report of Human Rights Watch, April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3(C). Available here

Myth no 4: Modi allowed a fair prosecution of those accused in rioting and hence even his cabinet colleague Mayaben Kodnani was convicted

Truth: “The modern day 'Neros' were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.”

“Law and justice become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice. Public order as well as public interest become martyrs and monuments.”

“From the facts stated above, it appears that accused wants to frustrate the prosecution by unjustified means and it appears that by one way or the other the Addl. Sessions Judge as well as the APP (Shri Raghuvir Pandya, the public prosecutor in this case at the time was a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contested elections from Ward 20, Vadodara in the 1996 Corporation Elections on a BJP ticket!) have not taken any interest in discharge of their duties.”

Source: Supreme Court in Zahira Habibulla H Sheikh And Anr vs State Of Gujarat And Ors on 12 April, 2004 CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004. Available here

Myth no 5: Narendra Modi never justified post-Godhra killings

Truth: “Responding to queries regarding various statements attributed to him by the media, Mr Modi denied citing Newton’s law. Nor had he spoken of “action-reaction”; he had wanted neither the action (at Godhra) nor the subsequent reaction. When we cited footage in Zee to the contrary (Annexure 4A), there was no reaction from Mr Modi”

Source: Editors Guild Fact Finding Mission Report dated 2002. Available here

Myth no 6: Narendra Modi speaks only about development in his speeches. Even after 2002 riots, his speeches were never laced with communal poison

Truth: Narendra Modi’s reported speech: “For several months, the opposition has been after me to resign. When I did, they did not know what to do and started running to Delhi to seek Madam's help. They realised that James Michael Lyngdoh, the Election Commissioner of India, is their only saviour.Some journalists asked me recently, ''Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy?'' I said I don't have his janam patri, I will have to ask Rajiv Gandhi. Then the journalists said, ''Do they meet in church?''. I replied, ''Maybe they do.'' James Michael Lyngdoh came and visited Ahmedabad and Vadodara. And then he used asabhya basha (indecent language) with the officials. Gujaratis can never use such language because our rich cultural heritage does not permit it. Then he gave a fatwa ordering that the elections can't be held. I want to ask him: he has come to this conclusion after meeting only members of the minority community. Are only minority community members citizens of India? Are majority community members not citizens of this country? Is the constitutional body meant only for the minority community? Did he ever bother to meet the relatives of those killed in the Godhra carnage? Why didn't he meet them? Why didn't he ask them whether the situation was conducive for polls? Why? James Michael Lyngdoh ( says it slowly with emphasis on Michael), the people of Gujarat are posing a question to you.”

Source: Reported speech of Narendra Modi, September 30, 2002. Available here

Myth no 7: Narendra Modi never applied for a US Visa (when it came to light that he was denied one)

Truth: “The Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Mr. Narendra Modi, applied for a diplomatic visa to visit the United States. On March 18, 2005, the United States Department of State denied Mr. Modi this visa under section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because he was not coming for a purpose that qualified for a diplomatic visa. Modi's existing tourist/business visa was also revoked under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who "was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for a visa to the United States. The Ministry of External Affairs requested that the Department of State review the decision to revoke his tourist/business visa. Upon review, the State Department re-affirmed the original decision.” This decision applies to Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department's detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state."

Source: Statement by David C. Mulford, US Ambassador to India, March 21, 2005. Available here

Myth no 8: Vajpayee never asked Modi to observe “Rajdharma”, did not rap him for 2002 riots

Truth: “In comments which appeared to back criticism of the state authorities, Mr Vajpayee said he would speak to political leaders about allegations that they had failed to do their job. "Government officials, political leaders, need to respond to the task. The constitution guarantees equal rights for all," he said.The state government is controlled by the BJP, and the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has come in for particular attack over the way the authorities reacted to the violence. At the Shah Alam camp in Gujarat's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, Mr Vajpayee said that the Godhra attack was "condemnable" but what followed was "madness". "The answer to madness is not madness," he said in an emotional speech."The duty of our government is to protect the property, life and honour of everybody... there is no scope for discrimination," he said in an apparent reference to allegations that local officials had turned a blind eye to the killings.”

Source: Vajpayee says riots “shameful” – BBC News report April 4th 2002. Available here

Myth no 9: It's not sheer opportunism that well-known Modi-baiters like Smriti Irani, have today become his cheerleaders

Truth: "Smriti Irani who unsuccessfully contested from Delhi's Muslim-dominated Chandni Chowk constituency in the April-May parliamentary elections, blamed Modi for BJP's recent electoral reverses. "Whenever people mention Gujarat they only talk about the riots and try to corner the Gujaratis on the issue. So, in order to maintain the respect that I have for Atalji and the BJP, I won't hesitate to take this step( of going on a fast to seek Modi's removal) ," she said."

Source: Times of India report dated December 12, 2004. Available here

These myth-busters took me just one hour to compile. So it's quite surprising that none of the stalwarts who interviewed Modi, (some of whom saw the events of 2002 unfold in front of their very own eyes), never counter-questioned him further and exposed the glaring gaps in his "rebuffed" narrative. Much like Smriti Irani, I guess, each night they must be saying to themselves "Hey Ram"....

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A PIL has been filed by Anand Jondhale in the Mumbai High Court about irregularities in Sailing. Some of the stories are among those I exposed here. Others are ones I had been meaning to write. This quick post just places it all out for your convenience.

The PIL names:

  1. Union of India
  2. State of Maharashtra
  3. The Secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
  4. President, The Yachting Association of India (YAI)
  5. Captain Homi Motivala
  6. Captain Arvind Raghuwanshi
  7.  Lt. Col Gautama Dutta
  8. Captain Monty Khanna
  9. Captain Rajesh Sarin
  10. The Commissioner of Customs
  11. Central Intelligence Unit
  12. The Chief Commissioner of Customs,Zone-I
  13. The Director of Income Tax (Intelligence)
  14. The Special Director,  Directorate of Enforcement
  15. The Ministry of Shipping Mercantile
  16. The Chief Surveyor and Marine Engineer
  17. The Secretary, Home Department
  18. Mr. Anil Ambani
  19. Mrs. Tina Ambani
  20. M/s. Reliance Transport & Travels Pvt. Ltd.
Quoting salient parts of the petition. You can download the original petition here: Sailgate - PIL filed in Mumbai High Court

This Petition is being moved for an exemplary action in relation to corruption by certain personnel of Armed forces in the Sports of Yachting, illegal commercial exploitation of boats/yachts for personal benefits without valid permissions and customs clearance which has resulted in huge misappropriation of taxpayers money spent by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for winning an Olympic Medal in the Sports of Yachting and the unchecked, unimpeded, unhindered, unrestricted movements of boats and yachts which has already caused a gigantic terror attack on the city of Mumbai on 26th November, 2008.

...

4.1 The Petitioner states that, the Government of India is spending crores of rupees through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to win an Olympic medal in the sport of yachting and this is done through Yachting Association of India (YAI) which is headed by none other than the Chief of Naval Staff. The Petitioner would like to bring the following facts to the notice and request for exemplary action in relation to corruption by certain personnel of the armed forces in the sport of yachting and illegal commercial exploitation of boats for personal benefits without valid permissions and customs clearance. The Petitioner states that, in June 2005, the Honorary Secretary General of the YAI had reported cases of misappropriation of Government funds by some serving / retired armed forces personnel. A xerox copy of report of the Honorary Secretary General of the YAI dated 03/06/2005 is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “A” to this Petition.
The Petitioner states that, It was brought to the notice of the President YAI, that a few yachtspersons who had participated in overseas events, during 2004 - 2005, had allegedly submitted false bills and supporting documents and thus claimed excess funds from the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India, through the YAI.

4.2. The Petitioner states that, accordingly, the Indian Navy conducted an enquiry to ascertain the facts and determine the total amount misappropriated, so that necessary action could be initiated to punish the guilty and the excess money claimed by submission of false bills by them could be refunded to the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India. The Petitioner further states that, It was established that some of the yacht persons had indeed falsified bills, receipts and other supporting documents and claimed excess funds. A copy of the report dated 28/11/2005 submitted by Captain Rajesh Sarin to the Honorary Secretary General is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “B” to this Petition.
The Petitioner states that, it can be noted that while the investigation / inquiry were conducted most of those who had submitted false accounts were serving with either the Indian Navy / Indian Army and once it was established that they were guilty of misappropriation of Government funds, no action was initiated to punish the guilty and for unknown reasons token sums were recovered and deposited with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India in late 2011. A copy of the YAI letter dated 22/11/2011 is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “C” to this Petition.

4.3. The Petitioner further states that, those found guilty of embezzlement were quietly let off and Captain Homi Motivala, Captain Arvind Raghuwanshi and Lt Col Gautama Dutta resigned from the armed forces, without any action being taken against them. The Petitioner states that, it is pertinent to mention that when the enquiry was being conducted by Captain Rajesh Sarin, the then President of the YAI and Chief of the Naval Staff had appointed Captain Monty Khanna as the Secretary General of the YAI. It was during his tenure that the necessary actions on the guilty had to be initiated, however, he manipulated the system in such a manner that all those found guilty were permitted to get away. The same officer, who is now promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, has once again been appointed as the Secretary General. This is in utter disrespect of the high standards of morality that should be exercised by the Indian Armed Forces and action needs to be forthwith taken on the guilty and the YAI Secretary.

4.4 The Petitioner further states that, some of the yachtspersons are operating bank accounts in foreign countries. It is pertinent to mention that no individual is permitted to open a bank account outside India without the approval of the Reserve Bank of India, however, despite knowing the rules no action was ever initiated against such officers by the administrators of the YAI. Several of the active defense personnel and participating in government funded sports events have been fraudulently claiming pension from the ministry of sports and youth affairs since 1998 despite being actively participating and claiming sports prize. The Petitioner states that, YAI had recommended Captain Homi Motivala for the cash award, for coaching sailors, who had won a Gold Medal at the World Championship. This bogus claim of coaching was refuted by some members of the YAI and when it was established that the claim had been irregularly made, Captain Motivala, was asked to donate Rs. 7.50 lakhs to the YAI and no further action was ever taken. In addition, Captain Motivala was recommended for award of the Dronacharya Award which was conferred by the Government of India in 2003. The Petitioner states that, it is pertinent to mention that when it was found that he was not eligible for the cash award or conferment of National honor, why no action was ever taken to revoke these awards and even today these officers get their monthly pension for cheating. A xerox copy an email dated 03/05/2004 from Commodore S. K. Mongia to Admiral Madhvendra Singh describing aforesaid illegal activities is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “D” to this Petition.

4.5 The Petitioner states that, Property of the Indian Navy is being commercially utilized by a Private Limited Company which has been registered with the address of Indian Naval Waterman Ship Training Centre, Colaba, Mumbai. Commander R Mahesh,a serving Naval Officer, is one of the Board of Directors of this Private Limited Company. This is against all rules of the Armed Forces. How can pvt ltd company operate from defence property? A copy of the incorporation certificate and PAN CARD of the said company is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “E” to this Petition.

The Petitioner states that, there was a time when the citizens of India, our great country used to look at the officers of the armed forces with great respect due to their dedication to this country and for their willingness to sacrifice their lives to protect the country. However the incidents highlighted above, have tarnished the image of the armed forces. The xerox copies of the news paper reports regarding the scam committed by the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7 are annexed herewith and marked Annexure “F” to this petition.

4.6. The Petitioner states that, Lt Col Gautam Dutta has been found guilty of several financial irregularities in the Army Court of Inquiry but his father Maj Gen S Dutta threatened and pressurized the enquiry officer. Lt Col Gautam Dutta quietly resigned from the Army to escape punishment and set up Marine Solutions Pvt Ltd to import luxury yachts for the rich and famous. The Petitioner states that at the behest of Respondents Nos. 18 to 19, 120 feet luxury yacht TIAN was imported by marine solutions by fraud to cheat the customs of import levies. The xerox Copy of the notice u/s. 124 of the Customs Act issued by the Commissioner of Customs (Imports) in this matter is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “G” to this Petition.

TIAN was impounded by the Customs and it was given provisional release restricting the movement of the TIAN yacht. TIAN commander captain Homi Motivala who also resigned from the Navy because of an enquiry into financial irregularities and got Dronacharya award on bogus claims has been filing false TIAN YACHT MOVEMENT REPORTS with the Customs. TIAN is not supposed to leave Mumbai harbour without customs approval but the Goa Port Master and Harbor Master reports show that TIAN has been in Goa Panaji port regularly. Commander Homi Motivala has submitted passenger and cargo manifest of TIAN yacht with Goa Port Authority at the same time the Customs Fortnightly Movement reports shows TIAN is in Mumbai harbor. The Petitioner states that, TIAN is a Pleasure Yacht from Ferretti, Italy and cannot be used for any other purpose except for passenger transport but the Cargo manifest submitted with the Panaji Port reveals Iron Ore cargo on TIAN. After inflatable dinghy-borne terrorists laid siege to Mumbai in the country’s worst terror attack four years ago, security agencies and politicians both at the Centre and State had spoken of improving coastal security. Four years later little seems to have changed. The xerox copies of Detention Memo, Port Clearances, Vessel Profile, Provisional Release Letter are annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “H Coll.” to this Petition.

4.7 The Petitioner states that, Marine Solutions also operates an illegal party barge ISOLA at the restricted Mora coast, Uran. ISOLA was originally constructed as a dumb service pontoon meant for transportation of waste and scraps from ship to shore and was registered as DUMB SERVICE PONTOON PIT STOP at KALYAN in 2009 but has been operating as a luxury floating hotel ISOLA from 2010 onwards by Lt Col Gautam Dutta and his father Maj Gen S Dutta without permission or approvals from Mumbai Port Trust, Mercantile Marine Department of the Shipping Ministry, Coast Guard, Navy and the local authorities like the Maharashtra Maritime Board. ISOLA is frequented by top business corporates and bureaucrats with music and free flowing liquor on the high seas posing grave security threat and risk to the shipping traffic and underground power and data cables linking the commercial capital Mumbai to the financial world centers viz. Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York. All relevant documents are annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “I” to this Petition.

....

:: SYNOPSIS ::

Year 2003:

Captain Motivala was recommended for award of the Dronacharya Award which was conferred by the Government of India.

03/05/2004:
Commodore S. K. Mongia writes to Admiral Madhvendra Singh describing the illegal activities of the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7.

June 2005:
The Honorary Secretary General of the YAI had reported cases of misappropriation of Government funds by some serving / retired armed forces personnel. It was established that some of the yacht persons had indeed falsified bills, receipts and other supporting documents and claimed excess funds.
YAI had recommended Captain Homi Motivala for the cash/Dronacharya award, for coaching sailors, who had won a Gold Medal at the World Championship.This bogus claim of coaching was refuted by some members of the YAI and when it was established that the claim had been irregularly made, Captain Motivala, was asked to donate Rs. 7.50 lakhs to the YAI.

2009-10:
Property of the Indian Navy is being commercially utilized by a Private Limited Company which has been registered by the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7 with the address of Indian Naval Waterman Ship Training Centre, Colaba, Mumbai. Commander R Mahesh,a serving Naval Officer, is one of the Board of Directors of this Private Limited Company. This is against all rules of the Armed Forces. How can pvt ltd company operate from defence property?

22/11/2011:
While the investigation / inquiry were conducted most of those who had submitted false accounts were serving with either the Indian Navy / Indian Army and once it was established that they were guilty of misappropriation of Government funds, no action was initiated to punish the guilty and for unknown reasons token sums were recovered and deposited with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

Year 2011 :
Lt Col Gautam Dutta (R.No.7) quietly resigned from the Army to escape punishment and set up Marine Solutions Pvt Ltd to import luxury yachts for the rich and famous. At the behest of Respondents Nos. 18 to 19, 120 feet luxury yacht TIAN was imported by Marine solutions by fraud to cheat the customs of import levies. A notice u/s. 124 of the Customs Act was issued by the Commissioner of Customs (Imports) in this matter.

TIAN was impounded by the Customs and it was given provisional release restricting the movement of the TIAN yacht. TIAN commander captain Homi Motivala who also resigned from the Navy because of an enquiry into financial irregularities and got Dronacharya award on bogus claims has been filing false TIAN YACHT MOVEMENT REPORTS with the Customs. TIAN is not supposed to leave Mumbai harbour without customs approval but the Goa Port Master and Harbor Master reports show that TIAN has been in Goa Panaji port regularly. Commander Homi Motivala has submitted passenger and cargo manifest of TIAN yacht with Goa Port Authority at the same time the Customs Fortnightly Movement reports shows TIAN is in Mumbai harbor. The Petitioner states that, TIAN is a Pleasure Yacht from Ferretti, Italy and cannot be used for any other purpose except for passenger transport but the Cargo manifest submitted with the Panaji Port reveals Iron Ore cargo on TIAN. After inflatable dinghy-borne terrorists laid siege to Mumbai in the country’s worst terror attack four years ago, security agencies and politicians both at the Centre and State had spoken of improving coastal security. Four years later little seems to have changed.

Marine Solutions also operates an illegal party barge ISOLA at the restricted Mora coast, Uran. ISOLA was originally constructed as a dumb service pontoon meant for transportation of waste and scraps from ship to shore and was registered as DUMB SERVICE PONTOON PIT STOP at KALYAN in 2009 but has been operating as a luxury floating hotel ISOLA from 2010 onwards by Lt Col Gautam Dutta and his father Maj Gen S Dutta without permission or approvals from Mumbai Port Trust, Mercantile Marine Department of the Shipping Ministry, Coast Guard, Navy and the local authorities like the Maharashtra Maritime Board. ISOLA is frequented by top business corporate and bureaucrats with music and free flowing liquor on the high seas posing grave security threat and risk to the shipping traffic and underground power and data cables linking the commercial capital Mumbai to the financial world centers viz. Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FBI seizes server providing anonymous remailer and many other services from colocation facility.

Contacts:

  • Riseup Networks, Devin Theriot-Orr, 206-708-8740, sunbird@riseup.net
  • May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, jm@mayfirst.org
  • ECN: Isole Nella Rete, inr@riseup.net

Attack on Anonymous Speech

On Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 Eastern Time, U.S. Federal authorities removed a server from a colocation facility shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New York City. The seized server was operated by the European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, who, among many other things, provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that was the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.

“The company running the facility has confirmed that the server was removed in conjunction with a search warrant issued at the request of the FBI,” said May First/People Link director Jamie McClelland. “The server seizure is not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication.”

Disrupted in this seizure were academics, artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights groups, community centers, documentation and software archives and free speech groups. The server included the mailing list “cyber rights” (the oldest discussion list in Italy to discuss this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, and other groups working to support indigenous groups and workers in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. In total, over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists, and several other websites have been taken off the Internet by this action. None are alleged to be involved in the anonymous bomb threats. The seized machine did not contain any riseup email accounts, lists, or user data. Rather, the data belonged to ECN.

“The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person,” said Devin Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup. “This is particularly misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server regarding the source of the threatening emails.”

“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who have had to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such threatening actions. However, taking this server won’t stop these bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for thousands of unrelated people,” continues Mr. Theriot-Orr. “Furthermore, the network of anonymous remailers that exists is not harmed by taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder why such drastic action was taken when authorities knew that the server contained no useful information that would help in their investigation.”

The FBI purportedly seized the server because it was hosting an anonymous remailer called Mixmaster. Anonymous remailers are used to send email anonymously, or pseudonymously. Like other anonymizing services such as the Tor network, these remailers are widely used to protect the identity of human rights activists who place themselves and their families in grave danger by reporting information about abuses. Remailers are also important for corporate whistle blowers, democracy activists working under repressive regimes, and others to communicate vital information that would otherwise go un-reported.

The Mixmaster software is specifically designed to make it impossible for anyone to trace the emails. The system does not record logs of connections, details of who sent messages, or how they were routed. This is because the Mixmaster network is specifically designed to resist censorship, and support privacy and anonymity. Unfortunately, some people misuse the network. However, compared to the rate of legitimate use, the abuse rate is very low. There is therefore no legitimate purpose for the FBI to seize this server because they will not be able to obtain any information about the sender. This is plainly extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free speech and anonymity on the internet and serves as a chilling effect on others providers of anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.

In absence of any other leads, the FBI needs to show that they are making progress in this case, and this has meant seizing a server so they can proudly demonstrate they are taking some action. But what this incident shows is they are grasping at straws and are willing to destroy innocent bystanders for the sake of protecting their careers.

About the organizations involved

MayFirst/People Link (mayfirst.org) is a politically-progressive member-run and controlled organization that redefines the concept of “Internet Service Provider” in a collective and collaborative way. May First/People Link’s members are organizers and activists who elect a Leadership Committee to direct the organization. Like a coop, members pay dues, buy equipment and then share that equipment for websites, email, email lists, and other Internet purposes.

Riseup Networks (riseup.net) provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change. Riseup creates democratic alternatives and practices self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications.

ECN (European Counter Network – ecn.org) is the oldest independent service provider in Europe providing free email accounts, mailing lists, and websites to organizations, activists, and movements that are involved in human rights, freedom of speech and information in Italy and Europe. ECN is anti-fascist and works towards a just and equal society. Years ago, before sites like Youtube and Vimeo existed, ECN created a platform called NGV where people could upload and share independent video of human rights violations. Nowadays ECN works primarily with anti-fascist and anti-Nazi movements in all of Europe, providing space and resources to political and social centers.

Questions / further reading

Q: Doesn’t Mixmaster/anonymous remailers enable criminals to do bad things?

A: Criminals can already do bad things. Since they’re willing to break laws, they already have lots of options available that provide better privacy than mixmaster provides. They can steal cell phones, use them, and throw them in a ditch; they can crack into computers in Korea or Brazil and use them to launch abusive activities; they can use spyware, viruses, and other techniques to take control of literally millions of Windows machines around the world.

Mixmaster aims to provide protection for ordinary people who want to follow the law. Only criminals have privacy right now, and we need to fix that.

Some advocates of anonymity explain that it’s just a tradeoff — accepting the bad uses for the good ones — but there’s more to it than that. Criminals and other bad people have the motivation to learn how to get good anonymity, and many have the motivation to pay well to achieve it. Being able to steal and reuse the identities of innocent victims (identify theft) makes it even easier. Normal people, on the other hand, don’t have the time or money to spend figuring out how to get privacy online. This is the worst of all possible worlds.

So yes, criminals could in theory use mixmaster, but they already have better options, and it seems unlikely that taking mixmaster away from the world will stop them from doing bad things. At the same time, mixmaster and other privacy measures can fight identity theft, physical crimes like stalking, and so on. Please see the tor FAQ on abuse for more information.

Q: How does Mixmaster / Anonymous remailers work?

A: Anonymous remailers work by connecting to other anonymous remailers in a chain, and every one in that chain removes the mail header information making it impossible to find the real sender.The Tor project maintains a list of typical users of this and other anonymity systems, and theMixmaster home page