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Imagine a democratic protest where a million farmers, labourers and others march to the capital and compel discussion of the exploding crisis of the countryside in a special three-week session of Parliament

Farmer long march in Mumbai. Night at somaiya ground
Farmer long march in Mumbai. Night at somaiya ground. Photo: People's Archive of Rural India

 

India’s agrarian crisis has gone beyond the agrarian.

It’s a crisis of society. Maybe even a civilizational crisis, with perhaps the largest body of small farmers and labourers on earth fighting to save their livelihoods. The agrarian crisis is no longer just a measure of loss of land. Nor only a measure of loss of human life, jobs or productivity. It is a measure of our own loss of humanity. Of the shrinking boundaries of our humaneness. That we have sat by and watched the deepening misery of the dispossessed, including the death by suicide of well over 300,000 farmers these past 20 years. While some – ‘leading economists’ – have mocked the enormous suffering around us, even denying the existence of a crisis.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has not published data on farmers’ suicides for two years now. For some years before that, fraudulent data logged in by major states severely distorted the agency’s estimates. For instance, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal and many others claimed ‘zero suicides’ by farmers in their states. In 2014, 12 states and 6 Union Territories claimed ‘zero suicides’ among their farmers. The 2014 and 2015 NCRB reports saw huge, shameless fiddles in the methodology – aimed at bringing down the numbers.

And yet they keep rising.

Meanwhile, protests by farmers and labourers are on the rise. Farmers have been shot dead – as in Madhya Pradesh. Derided or cheated in agreements, as in Maharashtra. And devastated by demonetisation, as in just about everywhere. Anger and pain are mounting in the countryside. And not just among farmers but amongst labourers who find the MNREGA being dismantled by design. Amongst fisherfolk, forest communities, artisans, exploited anganwadi workers. Amongst those who send their children to government schools, only to find the state itself killing its own schools. Also, small government employees and transport and public sector workers whose jobs are on the anvil.

Vishwanath Khule, a marginal farmer, lost his entire crop during the drought year. His son, Vishla Khule, consumed a bottle of weedicide that Vishwanath had bought
Vishwanath Khule of Vidarbha’s Akola district, whose son Vishal consumed weedicide. Farmer suicides are mounting, but governments are falsifying numbers. Photo: Jaideep Hardikar / People's Archive of Rural India

And the crisis of the rural is no longer confined to the rural. Studies suggest an absolute decline in employment in the country between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

The 2011 Census signalled perhaps the greatest distress-driven migrations we’ve seen in independent India. And millions of poor fleeing the collapse of their livelihoods have moved out to other villages, rural towns, urban agglomerations, big cities – in search of jobs that are not there. Census 2011 logs nearly 15 million fewer farmers (‘main cultivators’) than there were in 1991. And you now find many once-proud food-producers working as domestic servants. The poor are now up for exploitation by both urban and rural elites.

The government tries its best not to listen. It’s the same with the news media.

When the media do skim over the issues, they mostly reduce them to demands for a ‘loan waiver.’ In recent days, they’ve recognised the minimum support price (MSP) demand of farmers – the Cost of Production (CoP2) + 50 per cent. But the media don’t challenge the government’s claims of already having implemented this demand. Nor do they mention that the National Commission on Farmers (NCF; popularly known as the Swaminathan Commission) flagged a bunch of other, equally serious issues. Some of the NCF’s reports have remained in Parliament 12 years without discussion. Also the media, while denouncing loan waiver appeals, won’t mention that corporates and businessmen account for the bulk of the non-performing assets drowning the banks.

Perhaps the time has come for a very large, democratic protest, alongside a demand for Parliament to hold a three-week or 21-day special session dedicated entirely to the crisis and related issues. A joint session of both houses.

Two women sitting at Azad maidanIn Mumbai, covering their heads with cardboard boxes in the blistering heat.
We can’t resolve the agrarian crisis if we do not engage with the rights and problems of women farmers PHOTO • BINAIFER BHARUCHA / People's Archive of Rural India

On what principles would that session be based? The Indian Constitution. Specifically, the most important of its Directive Principles of State Policy. That chapter speaks of a need to “minimise the inequalities in income” and “endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, opportunities….” The principles call for “a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”

The right to work, to education, to social security. The raising of the level of nutrition and of public health. The right to a better standard of living. Equal pay for equal work for men and women. Just and humane conditions of work. These are amongst the main principles. The Supreme Court has more than once said the Directive Principles are as important as our Fundamental Rights.

An agenda for the special session? Some suggestions that others concerned by the situation can amend or add to:

3 days: Discussion of the Swaminathan Commission report – 12 years overdue.

It submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006 that cover a multitude of vital issues and not just MSP. Those include, to name a few: productivity, profitability, sustainability; technology and technology fatigue; dryland farming, price shocks and stabilisation – and much more. We also need to halt the privatisation of agricultural research and technology. And deal with impending ecological disaster.

3 days: People’s testimonies.

Let victims of the crisis speak from the floor of Parliament’s central hall and tell the nation what the crisis is about, what it has done to them and countless millions of others. And it’s not just about farming. But how surging privatisation of health and education has devastated the rural poor, indeed all the poor. Health expenditure is either the fastest or second fastest growing component of rural family debt.

3 days: Credit crisis.

The unrelenting rise of indebtedness. This has been a huge driving factor in the suicide deaths of countless thousands of farmers, apart from devastating millions of others. Often it has meant loss of much or all of their land. Policies on institutional credit paved the way for the return of the moneylender.

3 days: The country’s mega water crisis.

It’s much greater than a drought. This government seems determined to push through privatisation of water in the name of ‘rational pricing’. We need the right to drinking water established as a fundamental human right – and the banning of privatisation of this life-giving resource in any sector. Ensuring social control and equal access, particularly to the landless.

3 days: The rights of women farmers.

The agrarian crisis cannot be resolved without engaging with the rights – including those of ownership – and problems of those who do the most work in the fields and farms. While in the Rajya Sabha, Prof. Swaminathan introduced the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill, 2011 (lapsed in 2013) that could still provide a starting point for this debate.

3 days: The rights of landless labourers, both women and men.

With mounting distress migrations in many directions, this crisis is no longer just rural. Where it is, any public investment made in agriculture has to factor in their needs, their rights, their perspective.

3 days: Debate on agriculture.

What kind of farming do we want 20 years from now? One driven by corporate profit? Or by communities and families for whom it is the basis of their existence? There are also other forms of ownership and control in agriculture we need to press for – like the vigorous sangha krishi (group farming) efforts of Kerala’s Kudumbashree movement. And we have to revive the unfinished agenda of land reform. For all of the above debates to be truly meaningful – and this is very important – every one of them must focus, too, on the rights of Adivasi and Dalit farmers and labourers.

While no political party would openly oppose such a session, who will ensure it actually happens? The dispossessed themselves.

Midnight walk to Azad Maidan
The morcha of farmers from Nashik to Mumbai in March has to go national – not just of farmers and labourers, but also others devastated by the crisis PHOTO • SHRIRANG SWARGE / People's Archive of Rural India

In March this year, 40,000 peasants and labourers marched for a week from Nashik to Mumbai making some of these very demands. An arrogant government in Mumbai dismissed the marchers as ‘urban Maoists’ with whom it would not talk. But caved in within hours of the multitude reaching Mumbai to encircle the state legislative assembly. That was the rural poor sorting out their government.

The highly disciplined marchers struck a rare chord in Mumbai. Not just the urban working class, but also the middle classes, even some from the upper middle classes, stepped out in sympathy.

We need to do this at the national level – scaled up 25 times over. A Long March of the Dispossessed – not just of farmers and labourers, but also others devastated by the crisis. And importantly, those not affected by it – but moved by the misery of fellow human beings. Those standing for justice and democracy. A march starting from everywhere in the country, converging on the capital. No Red Fort rallies, nor skulls at Jantar Mantar. That march should encircle Parliament – compel it to hear, listen and act. Yes, they would Occupy Delhi.

It might take many months to get off the ground, a gargantuan logistical challenge. One that has to be met by the largest and widest coalition possible of farm, labour and other organisations. It will face great hostility from the rulers – and their media – who would seek to undermine it at every stage.

It can be done. Do not underestimate the poor – it is they, not the chattering classes, who keep democracy alive.

It would be one of the highest forms of democratic protest – a million human beings or more showing up to ensure their representatives perform. As a Bhagat Singh, if alive, might have said of them: they could make the deaf hear, the blind see and the dumb speak.

This article was originally published in the People's Archive of Rural India on June 22, 2018

Mumbai, 14th March, 2017: Today, I received an email that was sent on behalf of Ekta World Pvt Ltd that worried me for a few minutes -- yeah, but only for a few minutes before I clearly saw that this crooked builder was bluffing and intimidating once again.

(Background: Ekta World has a troubled relationship with truthfulness and factuality. A couple of days back, the builder tried to scare freelance journalist Raju Vernekar that a matter was "subjudice" and that he would file a defamation suit against him also. That tactic backfired; instead of preventing Vernekar from publishing his story, it actually triggered him to publish this story in Afternoon Despatch & Courier! More about this incident in my blog here.)

Today, while at work, I received the following email: 

"From: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 4:36 PM
Subject: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: vernekar.raj@gmail.com, member@linkedin.com, krish.kkphoto@gmail.com, vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in
Cc: deepti.n@ektaworld.com

Respected Sir / Madam,
Please find herewith attached copy of an Application for interim and ad-interim injunction to be moved against you Mr. Vineet Malik and Krishna Raj Rao in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai on 15th day of March, 2017 at 11.00 am or so soon thereafter, on behalf of my client M/S Ekta Parksville Homes Pvt.Ltd.
Please take notice that, you may remain present if you so desire at the above mentioned time and date and venue.
Thanking you,
Yours faithfully
Avinash Vidwans, Advocate."

Attached to this email was this word file. The fun contents of this file are dissected and analyzed in my blog here. (For the sake of continuity, I am forced to separate these, but please don't miss reading it, because the bluffs contained in that document are really hilarious!)

Anyway, after my first reaction subsided, I wrote this email in reply:

From: Krishnaraj Rao <krish.kkphoto@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 6:41 PM
Subject: Re: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Cc: Raju Vernekar <vernekar.raj@gmail.com>, member@linkedin.com, Vineet Malik <vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in>, Deepti Nair <deepti.n@ektaworld.com>, Gopal Mehta <advocategcm@gmail.com>, "Adv. Abdul Rasheed Qureshi" <i.rasheed1357@gmail.com>, Ashok Mohnani <ashok.m@ektaworld.com>

Dear Mr Avinash Vidwans,

1) I have been given no reason to believe that you are an advocate, or that you have been duly appointed by Ekta Builders to represent them. You have not even sent a copy of your vakalatnama signed by Mr Ashok Mohnani. Kindly furnish adequate proofs immediately.

2) Further, I have been given no reason to believe that the word file that you have sent to me is the authentic and true copy of the "Special Civil Suit" that you claim is being filed at Vasai Court. Hence, it cannot be considered to be Notice served to me. Kindly serve notice immediately in a way that will be legally acceptable and verifiable, i.e. hard copy or scanned copy of stamped and registered "Special Civil Suit".

3) Please note further that you have deliberately and malafidely served this notice without giving adequate notice of 48 hours to enable us to respond. You have sent me this unsigned word file with barely 16 hours of notice, the previous evening. Hence, your foregoing email cannot be considered to be proper service of notice under any circumstances.

4) Please note further that Vasai Court is in no way the proper jurisdiction for filing of your case. Just because you have a project at Virar does not mean that you can file at Vasai. You also have a project at Nashik; that does not give the Nashik court proper jurisdiction over your case. As your client's registered office is at Bandra, the court with proper jurisdiction will also within Mumbai jurisdiction. Hence, for want of proper jurisdiction, your court injunction, if filed, will be without proper jurisdiction, and will give me cause to seek proper reliefs against you for abuse of the judicial process.

5) Moreover, as there is currently no court injunction of any nature against my writings, please note that I will be publishing two stories about your double-dealings and fraudulent dealings with your customers before 3 am tomorrow morning. Since they are based solidly on documentary proofs that are in public domain, and are in public interest, there is no need for me to seek rebuttal from your client.

I wish your clients good luck in their attempts to restrain us from exposing their cheating and fraud. And when the proper occasion arises, I look forward to seeing your clients in court. Please be forewarned, I will spare no efforts to expose your clients' fraudulent dealings, and I shall widely report the outcome of each and every court proceeding in future. That is not a threat, but a solemn promise.

For the record: I am acting on my own behalf as a freelance journalist. Mr Vineet Malik and other clients of Ekta World are my sources of information. I have not received a paisa of remuneration from these persons, nor do I intend to at any time in the future.

Please feel free to produce this email as proof before any forum, judicial or otherwise.

Best Wishes,
Krishnaraj Rao

-------------------

After writing this email, I decided to put into public domain all that I had to say about the dealings of Ekta World before the next morning (Wednesday, 15th March), by when the Civil Judge may be induced to give an arbitrary order muzzling me.

But then, my activist colleague Sulaiman Bhimani checked the causelist and found that there is no hearing scheduled tomorrow (i.e. 15th March, 2017). As per the below causelist, the next hearing date is 18th April 2017, and the case status is "Awaiting Summons". We are not needed to attend the hearingtomorrow, because there is no hearing!

So, Ekta World is bluffing as usual. The date given in the lawyer's email is a lie. The question is: Why this lie? Are they thinking that we will panic, scramble to engage a lawyer, work overnight to draft a reply, and turn up at Vasai court at 11 am tomorrow, only to find with disappointment that there is no hearing? Or is Ekta World's top honcho Ashok Mohnani hatching plans to have us assaulted or killed on the way to the court? Or, has he laid a trap to fix us by framing us in a false case of some sort? Vasai is a notorious area, being the home-turf of well-known criminal gangs.

As always, watch this space for further developments. Dekhte rahiye iss dharavahik ki UGLY kadee!

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

PS: And in case you are wondering what I wrote about Ekta World that has them running to Civil Court, read these blog posts:

 POSTED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081

End of January marks the grape harvest season around Nashik. After falling prices after demonetisation led farmers to slash down standing tomato crops last month to make way for emergency sowing of wheat to eat, hope had rested on the grape crop coming up. However for all the reports in media about farmers adopting cashless methods and grape exports and what not, the ground reality remains grim. Here is a report from the Maharashtra Times.

Maharashtra Times report on the impact of demonetisation on grape trade in Niphad, Nashik

Rough translation

Grape season in crisis

Cash crunch in banks continues; traders and farmers frustrated

Cash crunch in the city (Niphad) continues two and a half months after demonetisation with farmers, traders and citizens furious about not being able to access their own money. This taluka, famous for its grapes is completely strangled by the note ban this time around. Grape trade has slowed due to lack of enough cash with grape farmers.

In many banks in Niphad, there is tension between bank management and employees. The announcement from two days ago of being able to withdraw a lakh rupees from current accounts has dissipated in the face of banks not having enough currency notes to give out and the fury of customers is reaching boiling point. Bank officials are being forced to deal with furious customers due to lack of cash.

RBI's directive of giving 40% cash to rural banks has proved hollow. Rural banks still don't have cash. Forget 40%, not even 4% cash has reached rural banks as seen from the condition of State Bank and regional and nationalized banks in Niphad.

At the moment, the grape season has started in the Niphad region. Even traders coming from other regions are not able to obtain money. Unless the cash crunch in banks is resolved urgently, the grape season will be muted. Grape growers are demanding that the rural banks get provided with cash as per procedure.

Received a mere 12 lakh

Employees of the Niphad branch of the State Bank of India had gone to the Reserve Bank branch in Mumbai to get cash for distributing. They had gone for a day with a vehicle and police escort for the cash they would bring. Instead of a day, they had to stay there for two days and got only 12 lakh on the third. They returned with this meagre amount, having spent for three days stay in Mumbai to obtain a mere 12 lakh.

State Bank provided us cash for 50 days during the note ban. Since the last 5-6 days, they themselves don't have cash. As a result, we are not able to give farmers their own money. We are managing the finances of the bank with great difficulty.

~ Mohan Surana, Manager, Niphad Urban Bank

 

I have come here to buy grapes for trade. For that, to pay labour, minor expenses, I went to withdraw a lakh rupees at the bank. However, they returned my cheque saying that there is no cash.

~ Amitkumar Gupta, grape trader, Ugaav

4

 

Narendra Dabholkar has become an icon of rationalist thought in India, but his works being mostly in Marathi are understood by few non-Maharashtrians for either endorsement or criticism. I am attempting to translate some of his speeches, so that his thoughts may reach more people and inform opinions. This is part 2 of the speech, starting around 11:30 minutes into the speech. Part 1 is here: Narendra Dabholkar's speech on tradition and superstition - English translation Part 1

The act against black magic and superstitions may not have been passed (It was passed after his murder), but nobody noticed that a law containing "Dev" (God) came into force in Maharashtra four years ago. The name of that act is Devdasi Prevention act 1934. It got amended four years ago. Now, if you marry a girl who has completed eighteen years of age to a God, then the person conducting the wedding is a criminal, the person marrying is a criminal, the parents of the person being married are criminals and those attending are criminals. You cannot say that parents and girls are willing, so what is your problem?

When I untangled the first jat (dreadlocks): We oil and comb our hair daily. Poor girls in rural areas may not. Sometimes their hair gets tangled and the tangles keep increasing and they are not able or don't untangle them. Once it starts becoming visible someone says "This is Yellama's jat." Then slowly they start offering her vermillion and turmeric, then applying banyan tree sap, then eventually she starts "channelling the goddess", then she starts taking the goddess for worship around the village and eventually becomes a devdasi and lands up into prostitution.

The jat that this whole thing begins with, the first time I untangled it, was 27 years ago. I still remember there was a beautiful eighteen year old girl called Mangala and I convinced her to untangle her old dreadlock. It was a four year old thick and long dreadlock. But before I could untangle it, the girl's mother came to meet my wife and told her "your husband doesn't know. He is putting his hand on Yellamai's jat. Yellama is a vengeful woman and if she gets enraged, she doesn't rest till she has made a guy wear a sari (emasculated him)." It is over twenty five years since I untangled the jat and I am still roaming around in these (male) clothes only.

From that one dreadlock, there were enough lice to supply the entire district of Satara. So our dispensary (Dr. Narendra Dabholkar practiced medicine till 1982) had women lining up to untangle their dreadlocks. Now the thing is, the woman who has a jat wears a cowrie necklace around her neck. Until that necklace called darshan must be put on another woman's neck, there is no permission to untangle the dreadlock.

You know what idea we did? Not we, my wife, I didn't used to be there. When the woman who wanted her hair untangled said "I have darshan on my neck, what do I do?" My wife used to say "Put it on my neck". So my wife used to wear the darshan and untangle her hair and our dispensary had darshans hung in rows. Nothing happened to us.

Why am I telling you this? Because even today the reality of our society needs to be understood and it isn't as simple and straightforward as it appears.

I had gone to Nashik. Nashik is preparing from now for the arrival of Sinhastha (Kumbh mela) in three years. Last time, a mere (sarcasm) 70 lakh people had arrived on one day to bathe in the river at one auspicious moment. 29 died crushed. Now this time around the estimates are for a crore. India has a fertile mind. So a discovery has happened in India that is found nowhere else in the world. It goes something like this.

Dev (Gods) and danav (demons) together churned the sea. 14 treasures emerged from it, the last of which was amrut. Now logically, if both did the work, they could have shared the proceeds. But Gods decided that they wanted to keep it all and started stealing it away. Both Gods and demons grabbed the vessel with amrut inside. 12 years they struggled to take it. In the process, one drop of amrut spilled on each of Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Godavari (Nashik). So we have discovered that in those twelve years if you go and at that exact moment bathe in the Godavari, your bank balance (karma) for sin for the last twelve years becomes zero. This facility can be found nowhere else in the world.

So thousands of sadhus arrive in fancy clothes and cars. They need thousands of liters of shrikhand and tens of thousands of liters of milk. When they go for the ritual bath, they fight like little children over who goes first. They smoke marijuana. All this isn't said by Narendra Dabholkar, but the one proclaimed to be equal to a sage in Maharashtra, who got a dnyanpeeth award. Kusumagraj (Marathi poet and author Mr V.V. Shirwadkar) has a poem called Sinhastha - have you read it? He has described all this in it.

[recites the poem - describes the excesses of the celebration and ostentatious "austerity"]

And for this last year, 433 crores were spent out of state coffers. At a time when half the schools in Maharashtra didn't have tin roofs or chalk and blackboard. I had gone there. I had printed copies of this poem and I had gone there to distribute it. Some Akashwani man saw and came over and interviewed me. And after the intervew, he hung his head and asked me if it would be okay if the interview played after the Sinhastha.

The budget for three years later is 1300 crores. What is the priority? Whoever wants to go and bathe can go and bathe. Why is money being spent from our pockets on religious things instead of the malnourished children?

The real problem is that we have all decided not to use intelligence. The biggest problem with traditions and orthodox practices is that we don't understand what we do. This question is not related with anyone's individual religious practices.

Vata savitri is worshipped. Shyamchi Aai (classic by Sane Guruji) describes how Shyam's mother is ill and she instructs him to go around the banyan tree on her behalf, and Shyam being male is ashamed to do it. She asks him, what is to feel ashamed in doing something good? I extrapolated this to what today's Shyam's mother would say and what today's Shyam should say. Shyam is Sane Guruji. For the last fourteen years, I'm the editor of Sadhana, established by Sane Guruji, so I have a right to ask this question.

What is the meaning of this? Firstly, after doing the vata savitri puja, the husband's life gets extended, and secondly, every birth, for seven years, she gets the same husband. This is what the vata savitri tradition tells us. So, for a doctor like me running a hospital, it is very easy. Put on a saline drip for the patient inside, plant a banyan tree outside and give a bundle of thread to the wife. Tell her "here, your husband has been started on saline, you wrap this thread around the tree seven times. By whatever reason, what matters is your husband will be saved"

The man you called Hindu Hriday Samarat, that Swatantraveer Savarkar has written that the banyan tree will shade the traveler under it, but when it is old and diseased, it will collapse on the traveler under it. Worshiping a banyan tree that doesn't even understand whether to shade or crush the traveler under it is worshiping falsehood. This isn't Narendra Dabholkar talking, it is the first Hindu Hridaysamrat Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who said it.

In Kolhapur, women were worshiping the banyan tree on the vata savitri day, going around the tree. A jeep came at full speed, one of the women was pulled into it by her arm, and it took off. It was outrageous. A woman was worshiping in the village and she got kidnapped like this, and people gave chase on motorcycles. The jeep wasn't going fast and they caught up with it. They asked "don't you understand anything? The woman was worshiping and is this appropriate?" The man who had pulled her asked the people "Do you know who I am?" "Who are you?" "I am her husband."

The people were surprised. "What's wrong with you? Your wife was worshiping for your long life and to get you as a husband for seven births, what is your problem?" The man replied "Two years since we married, she didn't even stay with me two months, I'll stay like this or what for seven births?"

I asked a woman who seemed clearly uninterested in the motions of the worship whether she was asking for the same husband for seven births, and she replied "I did ask for this same husband for seven births, only wished that this was the seventh birth."

What are we doing? What are we examining? We don't even understand that the traditional practices and rituals we do.

This is the end of part 2. Part 3 will be posted soon.

10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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