Skip to content

This post is republished in public interest from the Cobrapost website, which appears to be having trouble.

Cobrapost exposes more than two dozen media houses, including some prima donnas of India’s holy Fourth Estate, where they all show their underbelly in its most visceral form.

New Delhi: In the second part of Operation 136, Cobrapost has exposed owners and high-ranking personnel of more than two dozen media houses, both mainstream and regional, the biggest ones and the smaller ones, the oldest ones and the newer ones. ‘Operation 136: Part II,’ in fact, shows Indian media’s underbelly in its most visceral form, where even the “big daddies” do not mind agreeing to undertake a campaign that has the potential to not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party. This they will do if they are paid the right price, and sometimes they have no compunctions to quote a price as high as Rs. 1000 crore, as did the Times Group owner Vineet Jain, while others showed a propensity to indulge in any kind of illegality bordering on criminality.

The media houses agreeing to run the campaign are Times of India, India Today, Hindustan Times, Zee News, Network 18, Star India, ABP News, Dainik Jagaran, Radio One, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.

We have received an exparte stay order from the honourable Delhi High Court on the evening of 24th May, 2018, which debars us from including the Dainik Bhaskar Group in our investigation. The honourable High Court has passed the injunction in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing our side of the case, and we shall consequently be challenging the court order in the interest of truth and justice.

Senior Investigative Journalist Pushp Sharma used the same cover and the same ruse! Wearing the garb of a seasoned Pracharak, Sharma adopted malleable identities which he used according to the situation at hand. He first used his association with an Ujjain-based ashram, claiming himself to have been schooled at Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, to have studied in IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore, settled in Australia and to have been running his e-gaming company out of Scotland. Sometimes, he claimed to be the head of the Madhya Pradesh unit of Om Prakash Rajbhar’s outfit, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, charged with party affairs in Karnataka, Maharashtra and the Northeast. At times, the journalist used all his assumed identities in a single meeting. As the investigation evolved to take on a pan-India character, he assumed the identity of a representative of a fictitious religious organization, Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti, purportedly on a mission, a gupt vyavastha (secret arrangement), at the behest of the “Sangathan” to bolster the prospects of the party in power in coming elections.

The journalist approached these media houses with his hideous proposition. As he offered them a fortune in return, Cobrapost saw them all crumble under the weight of a “big business opportunity” that was knocking on their doors without asking. Almost all bent themselves backward to grab this opportunity. However, there were two notable exceptions, Bartaman Patrika and the Dainik Sambad, which refused to play ball. No amount of cajoling or inducements could bring them around.

While meeting the owners and senior-most personnel of these media houses, Sharma asked them to run a media campaign on his behalf. While offering them a big fortune in terms of ad spend, which ranged anything between few crore rupees and Rs. 500 crore, he spread wide before them these essential ingredients of his agenda:

In the initial phase, the first three months, promote Hindutva through customized religious programmes to create a congenial atmosphere.
Then, the campaign will be geared up to polarize the electorate on communal lines by promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, the likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat, among others.
As elections approach, the campaign will target opposition leaders, namely, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, caricaturing them using less than dignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, for them, in order to show them in poor light before the electorate.
They will have to run this campaign on all platforms – print, electronic, radio or digital including, e-news portals, web sites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Negotiating hard, in what you can say was a value-for-money deal, the journalist drove home all these points as they all spread a red carpet for him. The interactions that the senior journalist had with all these media houses during the course of Operation: Part II can be summed up as follows:

They agreed to promote Hindutva in the garb of spiritualism and religious discourse.
They agreed to publish content with potential to polarize the electorate along communal lines.
They concurred to besmirch or thrash political rivals of the party in power by posting or publishing defamatory content about them.
Many of them were ready to accept unaccounted cash, in other words, for the job to be assigned to them.
Some of them agreed to route cash through a third-party agency to turn it into white, even suggesting hawala routes such as Angadiyas.
Some of the owners or important functionaries admitted that they were either associated with the RSS or they were pro-Hindutva and would thus be happy to work on the campaign, forgetting the cardinal principle of journalism: neutrality.
Some of them agreed to plant stories in favour of the party in power in their publications, while others were ready to unleash their investigative teams to rake muck on opposition leaders.
Many of them agreed to develop and carry advertorials especially for this purpose.
Many of them agreed to develop content for this invidious campaign by employing their own creative team.
Almost all agreed to run this campaign on their platforms – print, electronic, FM radio or digital in its various avatars such as e-news portal, e-paper or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Some of them even agreed to run down Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Manoj Sinha, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, among others.
Some of them also agreed to run stories against leaders of BJP alliance partners, like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.
Some of them even agreed to paint agitating farmers as Maoists in their stories.
Many of them agreed to create and promote such content as would aim for the “character assassination” of leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
Many of them are ready to run the content in such manner as would not look like paid for.
Almost all FM radio stations agreed to allow their customer to monopolize their free air time.
Many FM radio stations also agreed to use RJ mentions to promote the agenda: Hindutva and character assassination of rivals.

Operation 136: Part II is unique in the sense that it not only has exposed all these media houses but has also brought to the fore the fact that in a technology-driven age an agenda can find a mobile app a very effective medium to reach out to millions of users. Our expose of Paytm does exactly that. It brings home the point that one does not need an elaborate arrangement of the conventional media such TV channels or newspapers. A simple mobile app can achieve what the conventional platforms cannot: it can deliver the message with a blink of an eye. In fact, our interaction with top Paytm honchos is quite revealing in many respects, for it not only shows the company’s affinity to both the BJP government and its ideological fountainhead RSS, but also shows that users’ data can be compromised.

As India has slipped two paces to 138 from its position of 136, as this investigation was underway, in World Press Freedom Index (https://rsf.org/en/ranking#), Operation 136 has found that most of the media houses are either owned by politicians themselves, particularly the regional ones, or patronized by politicians, and it is natural for them to become their masters’ voice. It was high time we coined a new phrase to define this journalism as crony journalism a la crony capitalism. For instance, ABN Andhra Jyothy, a prominent Telugu TV news channel is patronized by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu. It is no surprise if we hear its Chief Marketing Manager E.V. Seshidhar say: “We have very good connects with TDP … We have do [sic] lot of what do you call we have main official what do you call for AP government Andhra Pradesh government, we have official event telecaster rights for Andhra Pradesh government.” While this connect goes beyond the TDP, to include the BJP and other outfits, Seshidhar even goes to say that their newspaper Andhra Jyothy holds so much sway that they could influence the outcome of the Karnataka elections.

On the other hand, Lakshmipathy Adimoolam, the owner of the 70-year-old prominent Tamil daily published from Chennai, wears his family allegiance to the Sangh Brotherhood on his sleeve. We are, therefore, least surprised to hear him say that he has imported especially designed software which could help in the promotion of Brand Modi: “You have newsletters … sent to … brochures, leaflets sent to party workers … say there is Modiji’s picture is there, just move your camera over here … it gives audio of Modiji.”

It was not that Cobrapost has exposed only those high ranking-personnel whose business is to negotiate a deal and bring business to the organization they are working for. In the course of this investigation, Cobrapost found some senior journalists, who have now donned the mantle of owners or CEOs, genuflecting before their big-ticket client and happily agreeing to work for his agenda. One such senior journalist was Purushottam Vaishnav who is working for Zee Media as its CEO Regional News Channels. Agreeing to run down political rivals by unleashing their SIT on them, Purushottam said: “Content mein jo aapki taraf se input aayega wo absorb ho jayega … humare taraf se jo content generate hoga investigative journalism humlog karte hain karwa denge jitna hum logon ne kya hai utna kisi ne nahi kiya hoga wo humlog karenge (Whatever input you will send in the form of content that will be absorbed … the content we will generate … we have been doing investigative journalism, we will do it for you. [Compared to Zee] None of the channels has done so many … we will do that).”

In fact, our investigation establishes the fact that the RSS, and as a corollary, Hindutva, has made deep inroads into not only the newsrooms but also the boardrooms of Indian media houses where even owners either blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power and its parent organization or are eager to have an association with them. For instance, Big FM Sr. Business Partner Amit Choudhary admits to the relationship between the company that owns Big FM and the party in power in no uncertain terms: “Waise bhi Reliance BJP ka supporter hee hai (Anyway, Reliance is always a supporter of the BJP).” Then we have Basab Ghosh, Regional Sales Head of Open magazine, which is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, who also confesses to their allegiance to the RSS: “Acharyaji shayad aap bhi busy rehte hain aap shayad Open dekhte nahi hain regular. Main aapko ek baat bataata hoon. Open jitna support karte hain sangathan ka shayad hee koi karta hoga. (Acharyaji, perhaps you are a busy man and maybe you don’t read Open regularly. Let me tell you one thing. Nobody supports the Sangathan [RSS] as much as does Open).”

While the journalist had a tough time in convincing Ajay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm that he was there to fulfill the assignment received directly from the Sangathan under a “gupt vyavastha” or secret arrangement, the senior vice president of the mobile-app utility payment company candidly admitted his association with the top brass of both the RSS and the BJP. Taking his prospective client as someone belonging to the Sangh Brotherhood, he made a very shocking revelation. Referring to the stone pelting in Kashmir last year, Ajay Shekhar said: “Jab JK mein band huye the na pathar … toh humari personally PMO se phone aya tha kaha gaya tha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm user hon (When the stone-pelting stopped there in J&K, I personally got a phone call from the PMO. They told us to give them data saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users.)” Paytm users may now be wondering if the company has violated its policy of privacy and data safety!

Another interesting fact that has emerged during the course of ‘Operation 136: Part II’ is that although they might be swearing by their allegiance to the RSS or the BJP, they don’t give a damn to Modi’s public stance against black money for which the Prime Minister did not back away from subjecting the entire citizenry to untold miseries by enforcing demonetization in November 2016. Punching holes in what has been gloried as “surgical strike” against black money, we found Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Times Group, and his aide Executive President Sanjeev Shah, naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean and even suggesting to employ the services of ‘Angadias’—a Gujarati name for hawaladars or hawala operators of illicit money—to get the job done. While Vineet Jain says, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah informs us: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadia will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.” Hope our Prime Minister and other arms of his government are listening!

Of all interviews that the journalist had with the owners and personnel of all these media houses in the course of this investigation, Manda Mhatre’s stands out in its revelations. While criticizing her own party, and claiming that it was the RSS leadership which ensured she got a ticket to fight election after she switched loyalties from NCP to the BJP, what the BJP legislator from Belapur, Pune, told Cobrapost is quite revealing: “Mere ko Sangh wale bol rahe the ki Muslim masjid todo ye karo. Main boli sorry main ye nahi kar sakti. Masjid sthal sab kachre ke maafiq dekhte hain. Itna log ko hum haay nahi le sakte hain kyonki aadhe log apne se jud gaye hain (The Sangh people were telling me time and again to destroy the masjids of Muslims. I told them ‘Sorry I can’t do that.’ They all look at a masjid something like trash. I cannot afford to earn so much ill-will of all those people [by resorting to such hate] because many Muslims have joined the BJP).”

We know it well that such open confessions of their allegiance to the ideology of the RSS could be brushed aside as personal opinions, but given the position they hold in their respective organizations what they say cannot be taken lightly. The reason is that it is rather the business interests that have an overarching influence on the editorial policy of a media organization, and Operation 136 has once again shown it in ample measure. The first part of Operation 136 had exposed India TV, Dainik Jagaran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN Live 24×7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.

All these on-camera confessions make it clear that the malaise of paid news has set in deep as it is no longer confined to a few individuals who would show no scruples while publishing paid content, camouflaging it as news stories or reports. Over the years, paid news has become institutionalized, as this investigation establishes, for no one in authority in news business would receive an agenda, which is overtly communal and defamatory, with enthusiasm, let alone committing to undertake it, particularly when there are clear-cut guidelines to follow and laws to abide by.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has well laid-down provisions, for instance, to deal with various unlawful acts that these media houses agreed to commit. Section 153(A) makes any attempt to “promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups” punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine or both. Section 295(A) of the IPC also provides for the same punishment to be meted out when an individual deliberately, and with malicious intent, hurts the religious feelings of a community. Then, Chapter IXA of the IPC deals comprehensively with offences related to elections. Section 171 of the IPC makes interference with the free exercise of electoral right, in any form, punishable with an imprisonment of one year or fine or both. These provisions of the IPC, thus, ensure that the offence of polarizing a group on the basis of religion, caste or community is punished. The provisions of Chapter IXA of the IPC with regard to free exercise of electoral rights are overarching in their ambit as they are also relevant paid news to influence voters to gain electoral benefits.

In addition, the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation Act) 1995, along with Cables Rules, and Representation of People’s Act, along with Conduct of Election Rules, make paid news and communal polarization for electoral gains an offence. Both the Cable Act and the Cable Rules prohibit transmission or re-transmission of programmes that do not conform to the advertisement code. While Rule 6 of the Cable Rules prohibits programmes of communal nature or that promote anti-national attitudes, Rule 7 also lays down the advertisement code prohibits publication of advertisements of political or religious nature. Rule 7(10) of the Cable Rules further states that “all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable programmes, viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme”. Then, Section 125 of the RPA makes communal polarization an offence punishable with imprisonment for three years or fine or both, while various provisions of Section 123 declare an act aimed at polarization and the practice of paid news as “corrupt practices” making election of a candidate null and void.

Apart from these and other legal provisions, there are “Norms and Guidelines on Paid News” of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2010” of the Press Council of India, which all media establishments are expected to adhere to. But do they really care for such scrupulous adherence? Our investigation says no.

We would like to make it clear that Operation 136 should in no way be taken as an effort to undermine Indian media or question its sanctity as an institution. Our investigation does not intend to cast any aspersions or pass judgment, either, on the journalists who are working in these media platforms. They have done good journalism in the past and will do so in future. However, if the management indulges in paid news, in all its gray shades, it creates a very difficult atmosphere for the journalists to ply their trade in. This story aims to underline our earnestness to address the malaise that has been dogging Indian media for the past three decades or so and look within to make course correction, so that the faith of India’s citizenry in this vibrant pillar of democracy is not dented.

1

Cobrapost Investigates Complicity of Delhi Police in Anti-Sikh Riots in Delhi

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984, resulted in more than 3,000 deaths in the national capital. In a new sting operation titled "Chapter 84", Cobrapost exposes the open secret of police collusion to "stay in on the good side" of the Congress and the methods they used to cover up. The sting shows police officers candidly admitting to their failure as a force. Some of them confess that the top brass of the police force colluded with the government of the day to teach Sikhs “a lesson”.

The police officers covered in the sting are Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, then Station House Officer (SHO) Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO Delhi Cantonment; S. N. Bhaskar, SHO Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO Srinivaspuri; and Jaipal Singh, SHO Mehrauli.

S.C. Tandon, then chief of police, parried all questions and Gautam Kaul, then Additional Commissioner of Police, rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting. Amrik Singh Bhullar, then the SHO of Patel Nagar – who the Cobrapost reporter also met – had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them of instigating and even leading the frenzied mobs.

Cobrapost Special Correspondent Asit Dixit met these official, retired with a clear name and enjoying perks and benefits that government servants are entitled to. In their interviews with Dixit, disclosures made clearly establish the following:

  • The police force had succumbed to anti-Sikh sentiments, thus abetting rioting and arson, even encouraging rioters
  • Warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs went unheard by senior officers
  • While news of arson and rioting bombarded the police control rooms, only two per cent of the messages were recorded
  • Police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers
  • Some officers did not act for fear of punishment being transferred
  • Some police officers dumped bodies of victims somewhere else to minimize riot-related crimes
  • The police did not allow the victims of rioting file FIRs or when they filed FIRs, they clubbed many cases of murder and arson that took in disparate places in one FIR
  • Messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’
  • The government of the day did not allow the police to act while creating an impression that the police were not performing their duty
  • Senior police officers did not allow their subordinates to open fire on rioters
  • Even the Fire Brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson had been reported by police.

While former Commissioner of Police S. C. Tandon evaded questions posed to him by the Cobrapost Special Correspondent, other officers in the sting independently described S. C. Tandon's role in not providing leadership to the force in addressing the crisis. At least three officers castigated the then police chief without mincing words.

Tyagi criticizes Tandon for acting under the influence of the government of the day:

Toh jaane anjane mein wo government ke influence mein rahe hain ki unhone mismangage kiya shuru mein aur do din jab asal mein baat jab haath se nikal gayi (So, knowingly or unknowingly, he was under the influence of the government. He mismanaged in the beginning and in the first two days the situation went out of control).

Yadav accuses Tandon of not providing leadership to the force, while Bhaskar says that instead of singling out some station house officers, the police chief’s head should have rolled.

The Ranganath Mishra Commission as well as the Kapur–Kusum Mittal Committee abundantly establish that S. C. Tandon at the very least grossly underestimated the gravity of the situation in remaining complacent that promulgation of section 144 would be adequate in maintaining control. The When the Cobrapost reporter met Tandon, the former police chief excused himself saying any comment by him may create a controversy in poll season.

The breakdown of the law and order machinery was complete with messages for reinforcement being ignored by senior officials.

“Main toh apne level se ye keh sakta hoon ki jab maine chaar baje message bheje aapse force mang raha hoon toh aapne mujhe kyon nahi di (I can tell you at my level that when I had messaged them asking for force, then why did not they send it to me?).” ~ S N Bhaskar, then SHO of Krishna Nagar

Then there were senior officers like Hukam Chand Jatav who did not act even when the press informed him about the murder and mayhem all around Delhi.

Hukam Chand Jatav ye yahan ke hi the Karol Bagh ke hi IPS the toh uss time the DIG ab wo Control Room mein baithe huye the aur reporter wahan unko pooch rahe hain aur wo keh rahe hain everything is all right unhone kaha wahan toh bande mar gaye hain aapki itni duniya lut gayi hai ja ke dekho toh sahi nahi nahi main yahan Control Room mein hoon and he knew everything lekin wahan se move hi nahi kiya (Hukam Chand Jatav. Karol Bagh fell under him. He was an IPS and was a DIG at that time. He was sitting in the control room and calling him up press reporters told him of murders and arson taking place all around, asking him to go out there to intervene. He said, ‘everything is all right … no, no, I am here in the Control Room’ … and he knew everything but did not make any move).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

To make matters worse, officers like then Deputy Commissioner of Police Chandra Prakash did not allow his subordinates to open fire on the rampaging mobs.

“Na unhone [DCP Chandra Prakash] mujhe ye keh diya ki matlab likh ke bhi diya hai ye bhi keh diya yaar wo toh goli chalne se toh Indira Gandhi wala kaand itna bada ban pada hai tum kyon naya kaand khada karte ho (No, he [DCP Chandra Prakash] told me, and gave me in writing, that Indira Gandhi’s murder is big enough an event. Now should you make an even bigger event by opening fire).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Rohtas Singh alleges that Chandra Prakash had messages that would indict him changed.

“Agar wo record ho gayi hoti toh main kaafi kuch sabit kar sakta tha not even two per cent were recorded control room mein jo log book thi (If those message had been recorded, I could have proved many things but not even two per cent were recorded in the log book of the Control Room).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

“Toh wireless log book ke ki bata raha hoon … usmein kuch aise message the jo usko le baithte … jahan jahan usko suit nahi kar rahi thi wo saba change kara diya (I am telling about wireless log book … there were some such messages in it which could have been damaging for him … he had the logbook changed at places which did not suit him).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

The reason the police personnel behaved in a biased manner was the communal fluke that had infected the rank and file of Delhi Police.

“Ismein mujhe koi sankoch nahi hai kehne mein humare policemen bhi yahin local men the wo bhi communal-minded ho gaye the (I have no hesitation saying that our policemen who were drawn from the local men too had become communal minded).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Covering up the anti-Sikh riots

After several bouts of murder and mayhem, when the rioting died down upon the intervention of Army after three days, began a cover-up operation by Delhi Police. First, they did not register cases and when they did, they clubbed disparate cases in one FIR.

“Logon ne case register nahi kiye dabane ki koshish ki tere ilake mein hua ke itne lambe chaure riots hue unko koshish ki kum se kum karne ki apni naukri bachane ke liye aur utha ke body wahan fenk di Sultan Puri (The police did not register cases, instead they tried to suppress the cases. They knew there were huge riots in their areas, so they tried to minimize, even picked up corpses and dumped them in Sultan Puri, to save their jobs).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

While the police have been indicted by several separate inquiries, there has been no real action taken against those whose complacency led to humanitarian disaster, or who actively prevented action against criminals, so this investigation by Cobrapost, in my view is quite relevant and well timed given that people are making choices with regard to who will rule them.
For more details log onto: www.cobrapost.com
Follow us on Twitter: #cobrapost
Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook/cobrapost.com

Four months in jail without bail, and with testimony that has visible loopholes, certainly requires a case to be examined thoroughly, not just by the courts but also democracy’s watchdog, the media.

Tehelka’s editor Tarun Tejpal, facing a rape charge levelled by a young colleague, is languishing in a Goa jail with bail being repeatedly denied, even as his friends and family rush around for judicial intervention and justice that remains elusive.

The Citizen had a close look at the alleged victims testimony and compared it to the CCTV footage available of those fateful moments in a five star hotel lift in Goa. While there is no footage of what happened in the few seconds/minutes that the lift took to go up and come down from the second floor of the hotel, what happened around the lift does not bear any similarity to what the alleged victim claims had happened.

FrontPage
In other words while the CCTV footage does not establish one way or the other whether the finger penetration constituting rape had taken place inside the lift, it does seem that the associated trauma and agitation that the alleged victim referred to in her complaints was strangely enough not recorded by the cameras.

The verbal ‘testimony’ of the alleged victim is not fully supported by the CCTV images. Narrating the events of 7 November 2013, the opening night of Tehelka magazine’s Think Festival in Goa, the alleged victim said in her written testimony, “as we made our way out of the elevator of Block 7 at the Grand Hyatt, Mr Tejpal held my arm and pulled me back into the lift.” It must be pointed out here that earlier they were in the Lift to drop actor and guest Robert de Niro, and his daughter to their suite as the alleged victim was on what she says “chaperone” duty with the Hollywood star.

So according to her Tejpal caught her arm and pulled her back into the lift saying “Let’s go wake up Bob.” The CCTV footage does not record this at all. Instead it show that after dropping the star to his suite on the second floor, they exited the building chatting rather amicably. Of course there is no CCTV record of this but apparently a hotel staffer passing by saw the two chatting and has given a statement to this effect. Tejpal later spelt out the details of the conversation and these were reportedly highly erotic stories told by the alleged victim to him. The Citizen is not repeating these, as while she has not denied the conversation, it is outside the realm of this report.

The CCTV then records the two re-entering the foyer after about five plus minutes and they go back into the lift together. The alleged victim seemed to be walking in quite easily, with Tejpal neither holding her wrist, nor dragging her into the lift. Incidentally the Hyatt Hotel Block 7 has only two floors, so there is not much that a would be rapist could do inside without the doors opening. It is not a very busy foyer, but waiters on duty can be seen opening the lift doors for de Niro’s entourage, walking up and down, as well as guests in the few minutes that are basically under scrutiny.

Again The Citizen is not in a position to gauge what went on inside the few seconds/minute in the lift as this was not recorded and both the alleged victim and the alleged accused have their own versions of this. This is the part when the alleged rape is reported to have taken place. The lift then opens on the second floor as per the CCTV recording and both come out, Tejpal in fact a little ahead, she following without fleeing, and they move out of the range of the cameras, supposedly having taken the stairs to go down again.They are seen then exiting the building.

The alleged victim, however claims, that the lift finally stopped at the ground floor and not the second floor where they were heading in the first place. And that Tejpal manipulated the buttons. And that after the alleged rape she, “picked up my underwear and began walking out of the elevator rapidly, he was still following me asking me what the matter was.” There is no way to independently check out the conversation, but the images do not show visible signs of agitation on her part.

The alleged victim then records how she informed her colleagues in Goa, and called her boyfriend long distance to tell him what had happened. But that she did not want to lose her job so the next morning she continued as if nothing had happened. There was even a fairly normal work related exchange of messages between her and Tejpal. Then at night when she was going up to fetch de Niro she met Tejpal, according to her version and he said, “come up with me, we have to get something from Bob’s room.” She claimed that she was scared as she did not want a repeat of the night before, and said she would go up and get what was required.

“I was scared of getting into the lift with him again, and more terrified that he was going to try and take me into a room this time. By this time he was holding me by the wrist and had taken me into the lift (which is barely a few steps away from the lobby of Block 7 where he had asked me to wait),” she has said. The CCTV images are at variance with this. Tejpal was not holding her or pulling her. In fact as they were getting into the lift a guest passed by and stopped to chat with Tejpal, who then followed her into the lift.

Then of course there is her testimony of what happened inside the lift, how he lifted up her dress, and the crude remarks that allegedly followed. And that she was so upset that when the lift doors opened on the second floor she said, “I’m taking the stairs and started to walk out”. He pulled me back in, sensing that I was on the verge of hysteria–by this point he was totally comfortably physically manhandling me, but sensing my sheer panic he did not touch me until the lift reached the ground floor. Right as the doors were about to open, he patted my behind once more.”

The CCTV footage shows them getting into the lift as outlined earlier, and in 20 seconds they are on the second floor. The door opens, she walks out first, Tejpal follows her out. He then stops and without touching her turns and goes back into the lift. And she runs back behind him and enters the lift. She could have taken the stairs if all that she said had happened, it was just two floors down. There was no dragging back, no pulling her in. And 20 seconds later they re-emerged from the lift on the ground floor, and walk out quite casually together.

The jury is clearly out on this one.

This article by Seema Mustafa was originally published in The Citizen - republished here, because their site doesn't seem to be working.

When you speak truth to power, you inspire others to stand by you. When you fabricate lies and engineer perceptions for profit, they come back to bite you.

It began with an innocent reply of a gullible Modi supporter who thought to assert Modi's honor with a claim that is popularly doing the rounds. That Assange had called Modi INCORRUPTIBLE. Is Assange corrupt? Well, Assange may not be corrupt, but the person who told you he said that could be, yes?

Wikileaks burst Modi's claim of incorruptible
Wikileaks burst Modi's claim of incorruptible

But then this was hardly news. Even when Modi made the claims of "America and Wikileaks declaring after their investigations that Modi was incorruptible... not just not corrupt, but incorruptible" there were news reports of this absurd interview even at that time that pointed out the utter inaccuracy of his claim.

The cables simply reported the beliefs of politicians (in this case Congress) the Ambassador interacted with and no investigations or comparisons. They were neither the opinion of United States of America nor Wikileaks. But facts are never a strong suit of the serial faker rising to fame faster as "Feku" than any of his many titles. Every public appearance brings embarrassment over some or the other lie he peddles - be it history or geography or economy or... an endorsement his party now claims he doesn't need. If he chose to present a cable reporting perceptions of him in India as a true endorsement of him by the United States or Wikileaks, here was an entire bevy of media to merely report what he said. Not for the hridaysamarat (Emperor of Hearts) would be the "well researched" exposes by a pliant media (read open browser, read cable out to camera, tell people how to verify).

Modi's official website flaunts the lies with pride.

Modi's claims about Wikipedia and the US on his official website
‘On one side it is being said, ‘Indian government is completely corrupt’. Then there are reports by America and WikiLeaks, which refer to the state of Gujarat where the leader is un-corruptible,’ ~ Modi's official website

Gujarat Assembly Elections came and went without these lies contested.

 We actually had news media publishing his claims with the contradicting quote of the cable (with link to original NEVER provided for viewer to check). As if the cable contradicting Modi was not an issue that needed clarification or confrontation.

And yet all it took to shred the pretence was one tweet from Wikileaks when they saw the credibility that was being claimed in their name and in the name of Assange. And all of a sudden, Indian media is pretending it just noticed this. Right.

So anyway, yours truly had an inadvertent role to play in this. There is a site called Fek le! which I started after getting fed up of the disinformation provided by the Narendra Modi brigade. It is a fake news site, which uses as "authentic sources" only satire websites, comedy shows, BJP's disinformation products and anyone else acting too ridiculous to take seriously. Routinely BJP supporters come up with some ridiculous propaganda, I take the juciest (or most harmful) and report it with further fabrications and exaggerations on the satire site as entirely true with the tag "BJP Photoshop Laghu Udyog" - which can be a security service, research organization or whatever the tall claim would qualify them as. When pictures of Julian Assange endorsing Modi in Hindi started circulating, it was too good to pass, and of course Fek Le! reported them.

Turns out brains rotted by brainwashing have real poor comprehension skills, because that fake post got BELIEVED by some Namo supporting website and republished in their news round up or something. It is an occasional side effect of satire sites to get picked up by news websites with lazy staff, but this was unbelievable. Julian Assange speaking in Hindi out of loyalty to Narendra Modi, saying that America is scared of Narendra Modi and tagged with "BJP Photoshop Laghu Udyog" AND on a site called Fek Le! I mean how gullible, can anyone be? Plenty, as it turns out.

The fake photo from my site (probably, or the original, where I got it from on Twitter) started circulating again along with its versions I hadn't seen, but were existing all through to the point Wikileaks set the record straight.

I logged in late last night to discover that everyone was tagging me with Wikileaks handle that had minced no words in denying the tall tales or "feks". I was thrilled, only to discover that Wikileaks had linked to the photo on my website. And I set the record straight. Fek Le! only reproduces disinformation already in circulation and all the images and videos on it (so far) have been made by someone else. Usually the people getting "idolized" in the article. The site combats disinformation by exaggerating it, and making it ridiculously obvious and the occasional sprinkling of "news sources" and "documentary films" from satire websties or comedy shows.

But feels great to have contributed a long overdue journalistic and political confrontation .... and all because of a satire website tracking political disinformation. I do hope that this will help bring down some of the false propaganda in time for this elections.

The sheer number of posts on this blog about the alleged rape of a Tehelka journalist by Tarun Tejpal have raised eyebrows. For me, the posts have actually been several different kinds of posts, though around the same incident. My own stand has changed considerably during the process as well. I began blogging because it was an outrageous expose about Tehelka - an organization that has a strong reputation for human rights and investigative journalism. I believed that the victim was very smart and doing the right thing in demanding a sexual harassment committee (something I still believe, though I now think it is a relief that got derailed). From that point to now, is a long fall and a disturbing one for someone who usually consistently gives women the benefit of doubt. Currently, I am blogging perspectives on the Tehelka Rape scandal that media is ignoring, because I believe a unilateral and unquestioning media helps no one. And if media fails, bloggers MUST NOT, or we become vulnerable to exploitation by whoever can set the agenda.

Has media failed in covering the Tarun Tejpal rape scandal?

I think yes. I think media has become so used to the culture of press releases published lazily combined with a knee jerk tendency to create campaigns for women's rights when the victim is from the middle class, that they have gone completely derailed from anything remotely like a neutral perspective. The evidence is there all over the media, so I won't go into detail here except pointing out that this is a case, where something as mundane as a story having two sides got unilaterally passed as an outrageous claim as well as an attempt to intimidate the victim, by some of the more zealous reporting. There are other questions I have raised, glaring anomalies I have pointed out.

Regardless of whether Tarun Tejpal is innocent or guilty, when journalists and media houses start reporting interviews as "being defensive in spite of being exposed" and "continues to protect" and such, while the person being interviewed is desperately repeating the exact opposite, I think it is fair to say things have derailed from journalism to a media lynch mob beyond recognition. Even if Tejpal is guilty, the idea of reporting is to convey what happened, not your opinion on it. "Shoma Chaudhary said blah blah" would suffice and people could decide for themsleves (and likely not reach the promoted conclusion). That is for media to reflect. It is hardly the first time it has happened - the "tamasha" method of human rights reporting - and pointing out is no use. My best bet was to blog things being missed.

What will one piddly little blog like yours achieve?

I think it is the voice and idea that matters. This piddly little blog was able to come through for Keenan and Reuben's friends and families when the regular media just reported their murders and moved on. This piddly little blog came through for many causes over the years, small and big, ranging from free speech to dowry murders, and I have found that if what the voice says resonates, it magnifies on its own. Becomes small again when the resonance passes. So I am not worried about the size of the blog.

Why are you defending Tarun Tejpal or Shoma Chaudhary or Tehelka?

I am not. I don't do defending unless it is kids, who lack the voice to speak for themselves. To the best of my knowledge, Tejpal, Shoma and Tehelka are adults and perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. Nor do I have access to the thought processes of any of them. Might as well state at this point that I am not in contact with either Shoma or Tejpal and I have, in fact never corresponded with them to the best of my knowledge. My issue is with unfairness, as with most things challenged on this blog. If me challenging what I see as unfair helps them or anyone, I have no problem with it. Would I write a word to make their life easier? Perhaps, if I ran out of things of my own and they still looked like they were facing organized odds. Chances are low. I don't do favors easily and I guard the integrity of this blog with all the dedication of a rottweiler on protection duty. The only agenda here is mine. And I'm willing to own it and defend it.

Isn't this a conflict of interest? Aren't you a journalist with Tehelka?

No, I am not. I have contributed blogs to them on a per blog basis. I have not sent any in the recent months, for reasons of my own. I was never told what to write, and I would never obey, if I were to be told. And that was me submitting to their blog. Let alone my own.

I stopped sending in blogs for reasons of my own which have absolutely nothing to do with this case. If I wanted to send blogs to them again, this case would not prevent it.

Why do you hate the victim?

I don't. In fact I can relate with her anger. In her place, I would too go after my rapist and bring him down by weaponizing every skill and ability I have and I'd dance on their metaphorical grave. I'm no Gandhian like that. I actually have a list of public personalities to write gleeful obituaries for when they die - and they haven't done me any harm directly. What would I do to someone who did? I would shred them any way I could. I don't have any hesitation saying that.

I have no idea of her agenda, but in her place, vengeance would work for me better than a third party granting me justice eventually, with my target having the pull to keep the process in a limbo infinitely. I have shamelessly advocated thrashing confirmed rapists. I wouldn't blink an eye at something as well deserved as exposing. I would bring him down if I could and walk away dusting my hands as the castle blew up in the background. Yeah, the court case of a powerful and connected man can go on, but my job done, I'd have moved on well before that point, leaving the rapist to manage a further circus to stay free. If I was a journalist with widespread contacts in media, reputation for women's rights activism, in the know on how media reacts to violations of women's rights for people like us? Oh, the result would look very similar to what we're seeing. Possibly worse - at least in my fantasies. And I wouldn't even bother to remain anonymous.

So no, I don't hate the victim. I actually admire her cunning in planning this so meticulously and then pulling it off. And when I say cunning, it is with complete respect. I would LIKE to be cunning like that if my own interest were wronged.

Then what is your problem? Why are you questioning the victim's account?

It is complex. I believe what is going on is not fair. It is not retaliation against Tejpal alone - I'd be willing to accept the victim's claim of rape if Tejpal alone were the target. This is currently harming the interests and reputations of people beyond Tarun Tejpal who have not done the victim harm and are a wrong she has done on them with her actions. I won't support that for the same reason I won't support anything I see as unfair.

I have also been following this story with interest and I believe the victim is not being entirely honest with the public as well as she was not entirely honest in her own words in seeking justice from Tehelka. Dishonesty bugs me. Particularly when it is all conveniently stacked in the same direction. Then it starts looking deliberate.

A third reason is my longterm grudge against a compromised media. The victim being on a rampage for vengeance makes sense. The victim using her personal contacts in media makes sense. When our entire media starts canvassing one view in the name of reporting, this is a problem. It violates my Free Speech, which includes the right to information. An opinion is only as "free" as the input available in forming it and if media goes on a comprehensive slant on a case, then it amounts to sacrificing the intellect of the nation for your agenda. This is my biggest grudge to be frank.

And there is a second biggest grudge. I see this case as a terrifying instance of how feminist activism can be weaponized to the point of completely denying the space for any other view. Whether coincidence or tactical brilliance, when a monolith of journalists go on the rampage against sme entities, no one, but no one gets in their way - which is the only explanation of not just the lack of any contradicting voices, but the absence of the usual dimwits who make a point of being asinine in the aftermath of an incidence of violence against women. This is, of course very damaging for free speech, where a holy cow subject can simply deny space to any dissent, but worse are the possibilities for women.

If media succeeds in destroying a man completely - which is where they seem headed at the moment - on the mere word of a victim, before the courts can even get at the case, imagine the implications of hiring a woman in your office? Imagine the implications of apologizing to a woman for sexual misconduct? Imagine the sheer nightmare of protecting a star or controversial figure from accusations? Also, what is the responsibility of a place of work to the man? Is it fair to ask men to not discriminate against women and to hire them if you cannot guarantee that their side will at least be heard if there are any allegations of improper behavior?

What the victim did on its own can be understood as her response to her trauma. What the media is doing in support by abdicating all independence in favor of following the line dictated in the emails is unforgiveable. I believe it will be very harmful if a contradictory voice cannot exist at all, so I am committing to voice it as long as media seems to be on a mental vacation.

Do you think it is fair to question the victim's account? Why?

Short answer: Yes I do, or I wouldn't question it.

Long answer: The emails are clearly being released with all the efficiency of press releases, regardless of the victim also releasing pleas about her privacy. Essentially, the victim has chosen to fight her case in media courts instead of filing an FIR. In my view, if media is the court, then the media must question robustly as well. Not only is it fair, fairness demands it.

But what about Feminism?

What about it? I have no idea. Feminism to me never meant blindly supporting anyone over another over gender identity. The idea is justice, not a media riot where whoever wins the influence war writes reality. I was never a slave to feminism, just like a thousand other concepts. My feminism is perfectly untroubled with me claiming my power to wade through all sorts of conclusions and try to find an answer for why a women supporting media is suddenly lynching Tejpal through attacks on character and credibility of women close to him.

Why do you say the victim's side of the story doesn't add up?

I will write a separate post on that. Too long to add here. Will add link here when ready. Update: Here is why the victim's side doesn't add up for me.

======================

If you have more questions, feel free to add in comments, but I'm mostly done explaining myself. I'm doing this because it is needed and right.

Enhanced by Zemanta