In what appears to be a pattern of escalating assaults on Aam Aadmi Party members, supporters of the BJP tried to bully 4 AAP volunteers out of public space in Varanasi asking them to remove their caps and go away. When AAP volunteers refused to budge failed a group of 15-20 BJP supporters brutally assaulted the four leading to somewhat severe injuries.
The four were returning from an evening cleanliness drive at Durga Kund and singing patriotic songs as they headed for Assi Ghat. On the way back, they stopped at Kashi tea stall to drink water. Nandan, Kavish, Prabhat and Ankit were at the stall when the remaining group went ahead. 3-4 people approached them and told them to remove their caps. They refused. Ankit Lal claims that they had BJP badges, and AAP volunteers invited them for an impromptu debate rather than bullying tactics.
BJP supporters left and joined a group of 15-20 people at a distance and returned with the group, while the AAP volunteers continued to chat with locals. The larger group threatened again. The AAP volunteers refused to obey, and said that if the BJP workers thought that hitting them would solve anything, they were welcome to try.
The gang of BJP workers hit Nandan. Blood sprayed from his nose. Ankit Lal challenged them saying "You hit us and run and then call us Bhagoda." At which a few of the BJP workers returned and hit Ankit and Nandan again. Both were hit multiple times. Prabhat who tried to save them also got hit. The BJP workers fled on bikes leaving Ankit and Nandan bleeding. About 30 odd locals were witness to this attack.
They were rushed to Swami Vivekananda hospital, where doctors say that AAP national convenor for IT communications, Ankit Lal has damage to his left ear drum which will probably not result in hearing loss, but will take a painful week or so to heal. Nandan has a hairline fracture in his nose and will take longer to heal. Both of them are planning to return to the same place to sing patriotic songs tomorrow, as they had today.
Ankit Lal took to Twitter on returning from the hospital in pain to narrate this incident. He was very clear that they did not obey, they did not back off, they did not retaliate and they will return tomorrow.
In the meanwhile, anonymous BJP handles are attempting to portray this incident as locals hitting the AAP volunteers for drinking beer. It doesn't get any more "shameless liar" than that.
This attack is the latest installment in a series of attacks on AAP workers and leaders that are increasing in violence as elections draw closer. 5 days ago, BJP supporters brutally beat up Somnath Bharti and vandalized his car. CNN IBN journalist showed remarkable courage wading into the mob to protect Somnath Bharti. While most media blacked out this news, others seem to be pretending that Somnath Bharti was attacked by nameless people and AAP is blaming BJP. It appears that BJP supporters on shows too are not BJP enough for media with a motive.
Yesterday, someone asked me to give three reasons to vote AAP. I understand that there is a lot of invented confusion, controversy and general mud slinging about AAP. The latest is BJP workers supporting pamphlets showing Arvind Keriwal as Osama Bin Laden, while Modi sly speeched him as AK-49. All this does sway minds. But there is plenty of verifiable information that no amount of fooling can hide. Luckily it is also the most important.
Here are five to ponder.
The birth and composition of Aam Aadmi Party
Aam Aadmi Party was born from popular discontent from existing politics. It aims to address the sources of frustration. It is easy to call concerns about price rise populist, but we have seen protest movements worldwide from the rise of inequality. The varied in intensity and result from the Occupy Movement to the Arab Spring, but the middle class has never risen so strongly in a long long while. The needs driving this are real. You can fool someone into thinking something. You cannot fool people into giving up comfort and contributing money and effort day after day for months on end without any guarantees on the end. There really are enough people who see the need to change the politics of India before it is too late.
And you see the difference in the composition of the party. Congress and BJP are offering you the same kind of candidates while promising better government. As Albert Einstein said...
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
What difference in corruption does BJP or Congress expect to deliver if it continues to offer a similar number of candidates accused in crimes, riots, and scams? What is the meaning of selling tickets or helicopter candidates that local teams oppose? Who will those candidates represent?
This is such a cliche that I cringe to list it here, but I have to. Aam Aadmi Party in its short lived government took countless actions that removed corrupt officials from access to their established opportunities. Helplines against corruption, improvement in admission procedures, drastic reduction in bribery and more is of immediate relevance to you.
The FIR against Ambani, though it would achieve little in terms of punishing the collusion in increasing prices nationwide, served to draw attention and raise the alarm, which allowed the action of preventing the immediate price raise that would be sneaked up on the people to become public and be stopped till after the elections. Undoubtedly, it will not happen if Aam Aadmi Party comes to power, and whichever party comes to power will have the responsibility of their actions, but this successfully and I think for the first time allowed people a taste of direct democracy - of voting in their interest on issues that impact them. Do you think the price rise is appropriate or not? Vote accordingly.
There are very direct actionable things that are already hitting corruption where it hurts. So, unlike other parties, a BIG difference is that you don't have to vote for Aam Aadmi Party for it to fight in your interest. It will fight with whatever authority it has. As the government, it made officials accountable. It filed a cheating case as a way of attacking wrongs beyond its reach. Out of any authority, it approached the Election Commission to prevent a drastic price hike and at least give people the chance to fight it, instead of being "automatically" upgraded to inflation. It will fight with whatever it has in hand. It will fight as much as it can reach. It has no intention of stopping. It is YOU who has the opportunity to give them more authority and reach, if what it does is useful to you. I mean seriously, fighting inflation is not useful to who? Which other parties are even attempting to discuss such a serious issue and talking actions that will go into it instead of grand promises?
This is one dog that has sunk its teeth in the fleeing thief and it won't let go. They are unstoppable. I have come to believe this after fully expecting them to be defeated several times, and I have just accepted that they refuse to be blocked with the same tenacity that the political power cartels refuse to let go of exploiting the country for the profit of a few. They flow. Blocked one way, they try another.
This blog was formed to see potential for the common man with limited resources reaching beyond limits. One thing that won my respect was the Delhi Government punching way above their weight class with the FIR against Ambani. It has no authority over gas pricing. It has no control over how the country deals gas resources. So it got creative. It does have the power to act against their citizens being cheated, and the higher prices than due was cheating citizens. And they went with that, instead of moaning about what they would do if they were in power. That shook everyone and his cousin in the power cartels. The time to finesse corruption with sophisticated talk had run out abruptly.
So you have a new avalanche of the evils of AAP. Because it no longer remained about merely a Lok Sabha Election - which no one likes to lose, but isn't the end of the world, as it will happen again in five years. It was now about the death of a cash cow. It AAP was reaching beyond limits this bad as Delhi government, them coming to power would leave little left to loot by the time five years were done. Not to mention Ambani is a proud sponsor of the two parties attacking AAP as well as many of the mega TV channels. So the vitriol against AAP is not merely about the Lok Sabha Election, but about the whole business model collapsing.
Which is how you hear big questions about AAP targeting BJP instead of Congress, but when was the last time BJP threw ink on the Rahul Gandhi they hate so much?
That is the AAP effect. Much is at stake in stopping them, and they are unstoppable. And more and more people are coming to realize it.
I am not going to feed you any statistics here. I urge you to look at the quality of candidates. How many scam accused have got tickets again? How many accused in serious criminal cases have got tickets? How come those accused in riots (that coincidentally consolidated Hindu and Dalit votes against Muslims) got tickets to contest elections? What popularity are they tapping into? How exactly are these parties offering to end corruption with the same kind of people who have allowed it to thrive year after year? How many are hand in glove with big business interests? How many have been accused of crimes against women? With the same formulas of triggering riots, hate, false slander about opponents... is this not the ugly India you were fed up of?
I am sure someone is going to bring up Somnath Bharti. I am not going to defend his actions in the drug and prostitution raid. I have criticized them on this blog. However, I am not convinced of the accusations leveled against him by Ambani's lawyer, Haresh Salve. The videos or witnesses do not speak of any public stripping of the women or being forced to pee on the street. The videos clearly show police presence. The action was still unwise, because people do not need precedents of leaders leading large mobs against women - even if the actions were not criminal, because the actions it sets a role model for cannot be predicted.
Regardless, a party that fields riot accused being all sanctimonious in this instance tells you all you need to, but I leave it to your judgment.
Somnath Bharti is not the only candidate AAP is fielding. Nor is he the only one to be accused of anything. Several candidates have been withdrawn in both the previous election and this one, when proof of illegal actions by them reached the party. Role holders in the party have been removed when it was found they sold tickets. The party is making a clear and transparent effort to offer you only the best.
Most of the AAP candidates are local to wherever they are contesting. Barring a few high profile "helicopter drops" - Arvind Kejriwal included - to challenge prominent candidates they want to defeat, all other candidates, to the best of my information are local people fighting for improvement wherever they are. You have civil rights activists, RTI activists, child rights activists business people, entrepreneurs, innovators, victims of state atrocities, journalists, and as of this morning, a Nobel Prize nominee. The mix is as diverse as the needs of the people they hope to represent.
It is up to you to decide who represents you better. All parties are offering. Take your pick.
Defeating existing power cartels
Regardless of who runs the country long term, at this point, you have most of the donations to political parties unaccountable and opaque. The donations accounted for include a large number of entities that have also profited significantly from government policies. There are politicians with businesses, business houses sponsoring candidates and parties, business houses owning stakes in channels and also channels affiliated with political parties, you have business journalists getting corporate jobs and vice versa, you have journalists entering politics and returning, and you have them mobilizing over and over to promote specific kinds of decisions. To make them in the Parliament, to opine on them in media to influence what people think is in their interest, to incentivize the whole thing well.
In a country of 1.2 billion people, media caters to the realities of 1%, influences the rest to believe that those are in their interest. People who earn well and dismiss inflation as reason for caution do not realize that as long as inflation grows faster than their salary increment, they are in reality getting poorer year by year, though fat incomes don't show weight loss that easy.
You have scams exposing these incestuous relationships over and over. You have scandals and leaks showing how law was manipulated. There is no illegality in these exploitations of the country. laws and processes are designed to give some the advantage.
You cannot break this while participating in it. This is why the existing parties may offer the moon on corruption, but they cannot end it, because you cannot pick up the stool you are standing on. You have to get off it first. What they can do is spin pretty words and tell people that it isn't such a big issue, and what they are offering is better than some dubious upstart party with god knows what ancestry. They can raise questions about evils done by its representatives to shake your faith. For example the "Somnath Bharti porn domain dealer" or "Somnath Bharti spammer" episodes. They are not true. But even if they were, how is it relevant to the country whether someone sent spam emails ten years ago? Particularly when it eclipses far more serious actions AGAINST the direct interests of the people of the country - like the reports on paid news, like the reports on Social Media to create unrest and trigger riots, like the rigging up of poll surveys to fool people into thinking some parties are more popular than they really are and some are less popular than they really are?
Do you not think with elections coming up, this is of more immediate and serious concern to a democracy? Illegal actions that may hijack people's voice expressed as votes through disinformation, danger and outright prevention?
It is time to rise, people, Aam Aadmi Party is a new party. If it goes wrong, there are enough crazies in it to rise against wrong doers within as well. They have done it before and they can do it again. There is no entrenched power here. There are no opaque funds serving undisclosed interests. What you see is what you get.
The question is, do you have the courage to take it?
India Today and its sister channe Headlines Today seems to be unusually prone to "inadvertent" mistakes that surprisingly consistently look deliberate as well as designed to influence the public opinion against Aam Aadmi Party and in favor of Bharatiya Janata Party.
I am no lawyer, but mentioning several "coincidences" that seem a little unbelievable as "inadvertent". Presenting my arguments here in case anyone wants to take this ahead.
Shanti Bhushan had never written that article. It is unclear how an article echoing a popular disinformation among bjp supporters wanders onto a news website on its own and the founder of the party it defames becomes its author "inadvertently". While the artice was removed after Shanti Bhushan sent a legal notice, the pattern of fake and/or biased coverage continues.
This show traces a decade old blog post about the Topsites scam - not a news organization. A blog that is about as popular as this one. So I imagine this "expose" of paid media influencing electoral outcomes should be investigated at least as vigorously as a decade old post. Looking forward to a call from India Today asking me to appear on a panel.
How reliable are Conrad Longmore exposes? This is among the top results:
The purpose of this post not being to do a hatchet job on Conrad Longmore, I simply leave it at this. When a blogger with an unverifiable credibility makes a post, and a news channel does a 3 month investigation on it, one must ask why, because there is no shortage of bloggers with allegations. Your basic tech reporter would know this, but what do you expect when a masala journalist collects a bunch of political blabbermouths and runs a 3 month long investigation based on a decade old post without realizing something as basic as there not being special domain registrars for porn domains and that the buyer buys what they want and a SOFTWARE sells it to anyone wanting a domain, and automated directory content is not created by a human? You might as well sue google for their results containing porn and ban all Google employees from contesting in elections. Or declare that spammy phone directories like Just Dial are not a respectable way of earning a living. Let me not even get started on the Bag It Today scam that happens to be an affiliate of India Today and has the dubious distinction of lowest ratings, complaints of spam, over priced sales, refusals to refund, non-delivery and more - unlike Topsites.
The show does not mention a single law in India that Somnath Bharti broke, yet has political commentators known to have a pro-bjp stand saying things like "Even if pornography were legal, it is hardly a respectable way to earn a living". That was Madhu Kishwar, in case any one is interested. It also features Vinod Kumar Binny, who has been in a permanent state of slander against Aam Aadmi Party informing authoritatively that claims made by Rahul Kanwal are true and that is how it happened. What his authority is, for certifying this is unclear. Also unclear that if he knew that porn domains were being sold by Somnath Bharti, why did he not alert authorities? The programme can only be considered biased, since last I checked, neither Madhu Kishwar not Vinod Binny know their head from their ass on internet crime, have a known anti-AAP agenda AND were invited to comment on the panel on an issue that solely deals with cyber crime. So their invitation to the panel can only be for their comments on the person and not the alleged crime - of which they seem to be as ignorant as Rahul Kanwal, perhaps more.
Which leaves the question of which competence of theirs qualified them to comment with any authotity on scraper directories, spam, scam or Spamhaus - which, incidentally is an anti-spam organization and service with zero legal authority or independent oversight. If a Spamhaus listing is prosecutable in India, we can prosecute a third of our elected leaders based on ADR India lists too? He is speaking of money that should show in tax returns, but there is no evidence of Somnath Bharti having got that money in the first place.
Additionally, this expose ran on their website next to a targeted advertisement for Modi, which also used the misleading acronym "CAG" - which, on clicking turns out to be a team to support Modi. This advertisement no longer runs - probably because of the model code of conduct.
Together, these demonstrate a pattern of deliberately presenting an impression of members of Aam Aadmi Party declaring that it is party with bad practices.
Rahul Kanwal has also consistently made false allegations against Somnath Bharti on Twitter. An example. The person replying to his comment is Conrad Longmore, who originally did the expose of Topsites, in which Somnath Bharti was a minor name.
This has continued after elections were announced and Model Code of Conduct was in place. In the India Today Conclave, Rahul Kanwal anchored a discussion between Digvijay Singh, Amit Shah and Manish Sisodia where he remarks that Digvijay Singh and Manish Sisodia are sitting together opposite Amit Shah. This is another echo of BJP's accusations of AAP being a Congress ploy against bjp. Later on the same evening, when Arvind Kejriwal was answering audience questions, Rahul Kanwal brought up the Somnath Bharti "expose" again accusing him of inaction against his own party members. But Rahul Kanwal has to date never mentioned a single India law broken by Somnath Bharti - so what would the investigation be on the grounds of? TRPs?
Somnath Bharti had sent him a legal notice, which he ignored and continued his campaign of defamation. Today, he has produced a "Somnath Bharti" signature - which is not identical to his signature and is asking people to "see for themselves". While the blatant misrepresentations have been downplayed as "mistakes", and the consistent calls for naming the laws broken by Somnath Bharti are ignored, he continues to exploit the gullibility of masses who rarely examine the evidence on display and go by the confidence in claiming that it is proof of wrong doing.
There is a leaked video of "serial liar Arvind Kejriwal asking Punya Prasun Bajpai" (to use Niti Central lingo) to play up parts of the interview. This video was clearly leaked by someone at Aaj Tak, another channel from the India Today group. Their disclaimer on the leak makes no mention off how the footage was leaked or if this is professional protocol, but instead makes a point of stating that *they* broadcast the full interview. Subtext being "whatever Arvind Kejriwal may have requested". Casual conversation between interviewer and interviewed person is normal, as is normal for the person interviewed providing their view of what is important from the answers in terms of editing. I have never been interviewed on TV, but every single print publication that interviews me gets several "guidelines" from me regarding how my interview answers are used. This is because I have been misquoted in edits very often to the point where I don't do these interviews on phone and reply by email telling them strictly to copy-paste answers or not change any meaning. I also often find that something peripheral becomes a highlight and the crux of my argument gets a passing mention if at all. So I often stress that "This blah blah" is the most important from my answer. For someone like Kejriwal, who has had stray comments eclipse crucial issues in media coverage, I don't imagine this concern is wrong at all. It is his answer, and he has perfect authority to say what is the most important point in what he said - which would be the highlight of his answer. Whether channels do it or not, or leak the request rather than derail the interview, and so on is up to them.
I would like post interview footage of other political interviews by India Today group to be examined to establish whether such conversation is a unique thing that happened with Arvind Kejriwal, or if they are in the habit of such undisclosed instructions, which get leaked only for some people. The leak is clearly from within the organization and by a person with reasonable authority over footage tapes - which would be a specific number of people - I assume these aren't left lying around to be lost.
Someone was also able to edit it nicely to engineer a perception. Here is an "expose" of the "expose" by angry AAP supporters.
I also want to note the media bias over the lack of outrage over far more damning exposes by Gulail and Cobrapost that show actual crimes, as opposed to a casual conversation post a joint experience on camera. We have a media creating a perception that a comment really made being important in the interview and thus deserving highlight is a greater outrage than illegal use of state machinery for illegal surveillance of a private citizen for the personal interest of the Chief Minister. Or stings showing how Social Media can be used to manipulate Electoral outcomes. But then, for our media, fair elections seem to be a far more inferior priority than peddling their desired outcomes. We have so far seen manipulated poll surveys as well.
The bias is further enhanced through "hit and run" reporting, where stings against AAP proved to be doctored are broadcast, but not their being proved false. Where Conrad Longmore's expose is quoted, but not him mentioning that there wasn't a single case against Topsites for fraud. Where the "Nigerian raid" is reported, but not the fact of their complaints about forced prostitution and trafficking with collusion of police - which strangely were brought to their "assaulter" instead of those touchingly defending them. Yeah, Harish Salve vanished - to save other people. That is where that "outrage" went, but that was omitted from broadcast.
This clearly points to an attempt to influence electoral results by inventing and perpetrating a negative image about Aam Aadmi Party using television media and violates the right of citizens to receive accurate information through news.I do not believe that an editor does not notice if it is really Shanti Bhushan doing a submission or someone else. Or that they have no idea who they invite on talk shows or remain mysteriously unaware that the party that boycotted them didn't send anyone to participate in their show (or perhaps was not invited). I find it unbelievable that even a tamasha journalist would mistake Madhu Kishwar or Vinod Binny as experts on cyber crime.
In my view, Rahul Kanwal, and other sources of these mysterious mistakes that only "inadvertently" happen in a way that shows one party in bad light happen should be investigated for electoral fraud, and there should be a gag on Rahul Kanwal till the investigation is complete, in the interest of democratic rights of Indians. Parties should be chosen or rejected based on their deeds, not invented media campaigns.
If Rahul Kanwal is genuinely that stupid, then he shouldn't be on air anyway.
Headlines Today's slanderous show making allegations about Somnath Bharti was hardly the first they have gone after AAP leaders with "mistakes". Here are two times when they have interviewed "AAP leaders" slandering the party. The glitch? Both of them are BJP.
Neither VK Malhotra nor Sanjay Kaul belong to AAP, and it would be rather tough to make this mistake. considering that random people can't manifest out of thin air on a talk show, and they actually are invited. The few times I got invited at least, the content of the talk show and the stand I would represent was discussed briefly. I can't imagine a talk show blindly inviting people without knowing about political leanings, simply because they at least pretend to show all sides of a controversy or debate. Of course, when Aam Aadmi Party supporters protested, it was an "inadvertent error".
A show that incidentally proved about as much as the "sting" operation they had broadcast that alleged that AAP leaders took money to protest against people without any money actually changing hands. When the sting was exposed to be doctored, Headlines Today conveniently found a new controversy to ride and didn't notice that expose.
But this also fits a similar impersonation earlier on India Today, the news magazine website affiliated with this channel, where they published an article slandering Aam Aadmi Party by one of its founders, Shanti Bhushan that echoed the BJP propagated myth of Aam Aadmi Party's origins. Except, Shanti Bhushan NEVER WROTE THAT ARTICLE and sent them a legal notice over it. They took off the article, but I kept a copy here. It is written impersonating Shanti and you can read it for yourself to see if such a thing could have been published in "error".
Just two days ago, we were laughing our heads off at "wget" jokes because the prosecutor in Bradley Manning's trial asked him about using the Linux command "wget" as though it were a dangerous hacking tool, when in reality it is a fairly routine command used to get files. To a world ignorant about what it means, the method of asking itself would convey implications that it was a crime. An offline legal process ignorant about computer terminology.
Today, we saw worse. A fairly bizarre show by Rahul Kanwal on Headlines Today saw Somnath Bharti accused of things that make no sense if you look at the evidence on hand. The show makes several allegations about Somnath Bharti which are highly exaggerated and rather reckless to say about an MLA on National TV. Fact checking some of the stuff.
Somnath Bharti was world's worst spammer
To the best of my knowledge, this is an outright lie. The ROSKO (Register Of Known Spamming Operators) is a list of "hardcore spam-gangs" maintained by Spamhaus and lists spammers who have been banned by 3 or more ISPs. In 2005, the top 200 of this list had 3 Indian spammers. One of those Indian spammers was Somnath Bharti. This is not a compliment. However, I have found no source for him being the "worlds worst spammer". As far as I know, the title given to the program is a lie.
Kejriwal demanded proof, so it was hunted down and interpreted creatively enough to somehow support a demand for action
Rahul Kanwal begins his show with a bizarre justification. Kejriwal wanted proof to act against his ministers, so Rahul Kanwal has found him proof. Considering the amount of effort that went into digging a decade old story, it is fairly clear that this is a character assassination quest rather than anything remotely resembling news. While Headlines Today is free to broadcast what they like, I am going to take this as a deliberate mud finding and slinging expedition. Particularly since it deals with a case that is a decade old, and proves zero, but goes out of its way to imply that a certain MLA of a certain party trades in porn - in particular this is significant, because there is exactly zero evidence of Somnath Bharti's involvement with porn.
Somnath Bharti sold porn domains?
Now Somnath Bharti appearing in a "top spammers" list is a little suspicious by itself. The stated "rules" for putting someone on that list is a "three strikes" kind of thing, where three ISPs have to ban the operation for spamming before it goes on the ROKSO list. However, as Conrad Longmore, the person who "exposed" Somnath Bharti himself puts it, it was him pointing out Somnath Bharti's association with Topsites that was enough to get him into the list. It is unclear what three ISPs banned Somnath Bharti for him to qualify, but Spamhaus is fairly aggressive on that front, and supporters of spammers go on their block list as well or Topsites may have got kicked by three ISPs while Somnath Bharti was associated with it. So you don't have to spam, even if you tolerate spam, you're it. That wouldn't get Somnath Bharti on the ROKSO list, but I'm assuming Topsites must have been on the ROKSO list at that point, since at no point does Conrad Longmore actually expose anything related with spamming.
Additionally, while Spamhaus is a well recognized anti-spam service, it has no authority in terms of law enforcement. At best it flags spammers very well. This can be appealed against, but there is no neutral body accepting or rejecting appeals, and the word of Spamhaus is all it takes for your name to be kept on or taken off the lists. That said, Somnath Bharti is not currently on any list there.
Conrad Longmore's expose was of a business directory scam, which would involve getting people to pay for a listing in a directory, emails for which, I assume would go to official emails for websites provided for contacting - as opposed to unsolicited mass emails on random accounts - considering that the scammers are trying to deliver an invoice to get paid. Scam, yes if the listings purchased were not delivered. Spam? Unclear.
Somnath Bharti has consistently denied involvement with TopsitesLLC, including in 2004 itself, when his denial got added to the expose listing him. It is now 2014. He is still denying it, in spite of his visiting card being published there 10 years ago. So either he is stupid or there is more to the story than it seems. And there is a bit of a grey area, where Somnath Bharti is clearly involved, to whatever extent. My guess would be a flunky conned into buying into the business or becoming a front for it. That TopsitesLLC existed well before they "picked up" Somnath Bharti is fairly clear from Conrad Longmore's work. That Somnath Bharti was included in the trial when Dan Balsam sued Topsites for spam is clear as well from court records quoted in PCquest
"Directories LLC, Topsites, LLC, Paperless Mail, Inc. Paul Aunger, Somnath Bharti and David Nale have agreed to use only confirmed opt-in e-mail addresses when sending commercial messages and have further agreed to pay Plaintiff Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) in damages."
What is not clear is the level of Somnath Bharti's involvement in the spamming. Somnath Bharti said the settlement was easier than the cost of fighting a lawsuit in the United States, which is logical. Dan Balsam is an anti-spam activist who makes a full living out of court settlements from suing spammers. So, it also may not have seemed legally viable (my guess). Conrad Longmore himself is unclear on how much of the profits went to Somnath Bharti.
As for Rahul Kanwal showing registration records, it doesn't mean anything. As a test case, I have registered kapat.in (which will contain exposes that will make the government furious, one day) in Rahul Kanwal's name, deliberately making it clear that it is a test case. If I knew his contact info, I could plug it in there, and he'd never know he owned a domain. So, if Somnath Bharti is saying for 10 years that he isn't involved, it doesn't seem all that bright to take registration records and substitute them for his answer, unless Rahul Kanwal wants to answer for what I put on "his" website, right?
If it is a noted spammer serial registering disposable domains to discard when they get banned, why wouldn't they put names of random people they picked up or even use that "ownership of internet property" as a flattering selling point to hook people? You really think the owner of an operation will hand over ownership of operations and internet property to the new chap he picks up? You clearly have a lot to learn about the internet and "proof".
The crux of the issue really is:
By TopSites LLC's own admission, they were turning in $1.8 million a year by 2005. How much of that money made its way to Mr Bharti is a mystery. And quite how Mr Bharti reconciles his questionable past business practices with his membership of an anti-corruption political party is also a mystery.
If Somnath Bharti was taking in a share of a profit of 1.8 million in another country, that would show up as a paper trail unless Rahul Kanwal also imagines illegal channels of transferring funds. A random comment by a supporter indicates that his income tax returns don't show any such income. Rahul Kanwal doesn't show a shred of proof that any money came Somnath Bharti's way. Somnath Bharti himself is claiming identity theft.
"Back in early 2000, server of Madgen Solutions Pvt Ltd was entrusted with an associate by me who misused it without my consent/knowledge. When the matter cropped up, I came to know that the said associate had generated mass emails soliciting business and had also impersonated me on multiple occasions. On exploring I found out that the emails generated were for a legitimate business, originating from a valid traceable IP address and in proper compliance with the laws applicable in the US, ie CANSPAM Act, then... hence this breach of trust between me and this associate of mine was not pursued in a court of law."
I detour to disagree with Conrad's new analysis of guilt and "fingerprints all over", etc and don't think it refutes Somnath Bharti's claim. If the claim is of identity theft, it makes sense that the identity was used everywhere. Hardly likely that the real scammer will expose his own identity if "Somnath Bharti" is what he uses. Also, if this is a person with admin access to the server, he can pretty much do what he wants with it as admin, including putting the topsites briefly on Somnath Bharti's page. It would be phenomenal gullibility, but this is also ten years earlier.
As of this moment, I have access to the administration of six websites that have nothing to do with me. Simply login details given to me when I helped someone over the years and people aren't all that careful with changing passwords. You think if I were inclined toward doing any dubious dealings using them, I'd use my own name to be exposed?
My point is not that Somnath Bharti is innocent. It simply is that whether innocent or guilty, 1. he is responsible for what goes out from his server and 2. he has an explanation that sounds possible, though not probable. 3. I do not believe Conrad is a neutral party on this issue anymore. Not defending 10 year old work that suddenly gets slashdotted into orbit. I don't imagine anyone is going to go "Oh, his explanation makes sense and you probably should ignore my work" - he may not be wrong, but his follow up story assumes that he continues to occupy an investigative space on the Somnath Bharti issue, which I don't buy and I also don't see in his work this year. For example: "Now, I'm not an expert in Indian law (and detractors of Mr Bharti say that he isn't either) " ad hominem is a space his earlier work doesn't occupy.
[inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="@RahulKanwal" suffix="null"]There is evidence to prove that Somnath Bharti has been selling domains to porn websites. ~ Rahul Kanwal[/inlinetweet]
It is further seen from his presenting Somnath Bharti's links to porn sites, which Rahul Kanwal picked up and blasted onto National Television. Here's the deal. The Topsites were basically scraper sites of DMOZ - they duplicated content found on dmoz.org and the teenage-porn listing that got copied probably came from a page that got later taken down. I am sure there would be other "objectionable" listings.
[inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="@MadhuKishwar" suffix=""]Even if pornography were legal in India, it is hardly a respectable way of earning a living. ~ Madhu Kishwar[/inlinetweet]
This is akin to blaming Google for its search results. You can find something objectionable and ask for it to be taken out manually, but to say Google showing listings for porn means the CEO of Google has porn links... is stretching the imagination. Now I am even less of a legal expert, but the well hated IT Rules in India would consider him an intermediary who gets a free pass as long as he takes down the objectionable content, etc etc. Because not even our law makers are that foolish.
[inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="@_AamJanata" suffix=""]Woh saari baatein vastavikta hain, jaisa paper dikhta hain, waise hi hain. ~ Vinod Kumar Binny[/inlinetweet]
Vinod Kumar Binny speaks like some kind of an Aam Aadmi Party expert and claims that what the papers say is correct. This basically means he is an authority with enough knowledge to confirm the allegations. Vinod Kumar Binny needs to explain why if he thought a guy on his team dealt in porn websites, why didn't he speak up. Why didn't he speak up even after going on random rants against AAP. What is his authority and knowledge to confirm Rahul Kanwal's allegations?
Prasanto Roy believes that Somnath Bharti is a scammer. But he makes no mention of who got scammed. The supposed scam is described by Conrad Longmore, who himself writes that no case has been filed against Somnath Bharti or Topsites for it. His original expose itself says that Topsites does issue refunds if pressed. Prasanto makes it appear that the data is acquired, implying that he has no real right to it, but the Open Directory Project data is free for anyone to use. It is publicly available for reuse. So here we have a digital journalist who appears to have a grudge about commercial reuse of open content?
As for contacting people and asking them to pay for listings, I hope Prasanto has heard of "Just Dial", because God knows I've got enough calls from them trying to sell me a listing. He means the owner of Just Dial is not respectable enough for a political party? And his opinion matters, why?
That said, past gullibility is no answer, and if there is criminal or other responsibility that must be assigned, then Somnath Bharti should either expose the person who did it, or bear the responsibility of what happened on his server (which for all intents and purposes means he did it - whatever he claims). But wait. Conrad makes it clear that no case about bogus directory listings was ever brought against Topsites or Somnath Bharti. The one case in US that Somnath Bharti did settle out of court was not a criminal case. So what accountability does Rahul Kanwal actually want?
Spam is not illegal in India. No one complained about his supposedly fraudulent business practices that were the cause of the original expose Conrad did and he states it clearly himself. We could whine about the porn listings, but the IT Act and IT Rules didn't exist when the expose was done. In any case, the sites are gone, and in the random chance they still exist, Rahul Kanwal can complain and get any problematic listings taken out. So why is everyone hearing about how an MLA is into porn as business, "world's top spammer" etc? That too present tense implied for the most part? Never mind. Answer the courts. I can't imagine Somnath Bharti letting this go. I wouldn't.
Now here is the cinching part. Spamming is ugly, we all hate it, it isn't ethical, etc etc. In India, spamming is not illegal. So I have no idea what proof Rahul Kanwal is showing to Kejriwal that he is talking about in the beginning of the show.
Basically, here you have a journalist targeting a political personality with invitees from supporters of competing political parties and one ex-member with a grudge, in a pre-election mood and have left knowledge of internet laws and facts to the wind. I mean seriously, does one believe "internet expert" Madhu Kishwar opining on a directory listing for porn as "making a living" from porn? This is a political soap opera with a "novelty" theme at best.
Highly suggest that Rahul Kanwal leave tech reporting to techies.