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Linking Aadhaar to bank accounts is a recipe for creating benami[2] bank accounts and scaling benami bank transactions. It threatens to destroy your bank accounts and destroy the country’s banking system. It’s devastating that the integrity of banking processes is being destroyed by dividing, outsourcing and privatising processes integral to core banking so that they become the responsibility of no one.

Linking Aadhaar[1] to bank accounts is a recipe for creating benami[2] bank accounts and scaling benami bank transactions. It threatens to destroy your bank accounts and destroy the country’s banking system. It’s devastating that the integrity of banking processes is being destroyed by dividing, outsourcing and privatising processes integral to core banking so that they become the responsibility of no one.

Destroying the banking system

India’s Department of Revenue (DoR) has done it again.

On June 1, 2017 vide Notification №2/F .No. P.12011/11/2016-ES Cell-DOR it mandates the linking of every bank account with an Aadhaar number before December 31, 2017. While lawyers point out several illegalities, including the scope, of the notification of this subordinate legislation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the failure of the DoR to consistently protect national interest is unbelievable.

A few days back a co-panelist on a TV channel defended the DoR arguing that linking Aadhaar to Bank Accounts will weed out money laundering by verifying bank accounts. What my co-panelist did not say is money laundering is facilitated by creating benami accounts. It is also facilitated by benami transactions. Nor did my co-panelist explain how benami accounts happen or how benami transactions are scaled by money-launderers.

This latest notification ensures that the Trojan horse that they instilled into the banking system on January 27, 2011, will destroy the Indian economy along with the Indian banking system. As feared by the Reserve Bank of India before January 2011, Aadhaar is yet the best state sponsored enabling mechanism for money launderers to enable benami bank accounts. Aadhaar can even help the money launderer to take over your bank accounts. Aadhaar is also the enabler to scale benami transactions.

Here are just 5 ways in which linking the Aadhaar to PAN[3] or a bank account will hurt you, destroy India and, for those who care, an explanation of how Aadhaar creates benami bank accounts and scales benamitransactions.

The innocent will lose money, reputation and access to justice, dignity and livelihood

One, the innocent will lose money, reputation and access to justice, dignity and livelihood as their Aadhaar numbers can act as mules for money laundering, their subsidy and other Aadhaar enabled payments can be easily compromised, their access to their own bank accounts be denied, or they can be framed for economic offences. Helpless citizens and businesses may also find themselves at the receiving end of covert human rights violations as even their access to money and existence is disabled by deactivation or blocking of Aadhaar leaving no recourse to survival.

Linking Aadhaar to bank accounts or PAN converts India into the new tax haven for money launderers

Two, linking Aadhaar to bank accounts or PAN converts India into the new tax haven for money launderers as it becomes easy to remotely create benamiaccounts and operate benami transactions while claiming complete legitimacy. This will destroy India’s economy and governance.

Financing crime and terrorism will grow uncontrollably

Three, financing crime and terrorism will grow uncontrollably as it becomes increasingly difficult to discover, report or close down such operations. This will make it impossible to ensure national security as the rule of law is destroyed.

Corruption will increase

Four, corruption will increase as it becomes easier when proceeds will not be traceable to the corrupt. It will be increasingly difficult to restore swarajya and impossible to ensure suraiya.

Banks will not be able to contain non-performing-assets

Five, banks will not be able to contain non-performing-assets, fraud and financial misappropriation as the real users of banking services will be untraceable. The economy will be completely out of control as the black and white economies become indistinguishable.

We are in a policy vacuum as the NITI Aayog and the bureaucracy have failed to recognise the Trojan horse and protect national interest. Unless the RBI de-licenses the payments systems based on Aadhaar (AEPS) immediately and the government stays linking Aadhaar to PAN and bank accounts, our leadership will have failed to protect India from this fast colonisation of India by the private interests driving Aadhaar.

Enabling Benami Bank Accounts

Benami accounts get created when banks fail to identify the real customers who own the accounts. The Panama Papers exposed data of thousands of benami accounts created through a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The Panama Papers exposed one modus operandi of hiding the real owners of the assets in tax havens.

panama papers modus operandi
The use of Aadhaar as KYC for bank accounts is similar to the note from Panama Law Firm Mossack Fonseca saying “they are an honest client”

Prudent bankers recognise the importance of knowing who they bank with. It is no wonder that the RBI had warned, right from before the Trojan horse was instilled in to the RBI in 2011, that the Aadhaar enrolment process does not have due diligence. It pointed out that for Aadhaar enrolment verification is not compulsory, as confirmed by the UIDAI in the Demographic Data Standards and Verification Procedure, and does not require document based verification.

The RBI also highlighted that such use of Aadhaar as third party identification is against Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the paper issued on Customer Due Diligence (CDD) for banks by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and circulated to scheduled commercial banks by the RBI on November 29, 2004.

The RBI also observed that a fixed time document like the Aadhaar cannot be a Proof of Address. It further cautioned using Business Correspondents (BC), to open bank accounts or undertake banking transactions, as the vulnerability of the system has not been tested and co-mingling funds of different banks in the hands of BC’s was a major operational risk to the banks. While resisting the use of Aadhaar, the RBI also highlighted the Government’s concern about the perceived misuse of such accounts for terrorist financing.

Under pressure from the UIDAI and the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, the RBI, through its circular dated January 27, 2011, allowed bank accounts to be opened exclusively on the basis of Aadhaar number. However the RBI required such accounts to be put to restrictions and be subjected to conditions and limitations prescribed for small accounts.

Not happy with the restrictions, the UIDAI pressed the RBI to lift the restrictions placed on accounts opened with Aadhaar numbers under the PMLA. On September 28, 2011, again through the Department of Revenue, the UIDAI succeeded in getting the RBI to backtrack and suspend the restrictions of the PMLA on bank accounts opened solely through Aadhaar. The UIDAI also succeeded in causing the RBI further to accept eKYC or remotely using information associated with an Aadhaar number as KYC. According to the UIDAI eKYC brings scale to the ease of onboarding customers.

To put the problem in perspective, Aadhaar enrolment was completely outsourced to private parties by the UIDAI with the sole aim of building the worlds largest biometric database. Mr. Nilekani’s UIDAI repeatedly emphasised that they merely provided a framework to issue a number and store the (unverified and unaudited) data.

RTI says Aadhaar has never been verified or audited
UIDAI admits that the Aadhaar (UID) database has never been verified or audited

No one from the UIDAI or even the government even sign the Aadhaar card that is mailed back to the enrolee. The very same organisations that were declared by the UIDAI as holding databases full of ghosts and duplicates were asked to serve as “Registrars” to the enrolment process. They were even given flexibility in the collection, retention and use of the data (including biometric) that they collected.

Without a verification and audit Aadhaar enables duplicates and ghosts
Without a verification and audit Aadhaar enables duplicates and ghosts

No one in the Aadhaar enrolment process was required to identify anyone. At best they had to merely verify documents that were submitted for enrolment. Needless to say anyone in possession of your documents could enrol with minor changes in any demographic information or with different biometrics. Field stories of enrolments are replete with descriptions of biometric jugaad including using combination of persons, use of biometric masks, biometric modifications, and other ingenious methods to maximise registrations.

According to the IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, 34,000 operators who tried to make fake Aadhaar Cards have been blacklisted. Even if each operator worked for a year before being blacklisted, at about 100 cards a day amounts to over a billion cards. That is more than 95 percent of the database. The Aadhaar enrolment has been unlike that of any other identity document, easily scaling the creation of duplicate and ghost identities.

Excrept of IT Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad’s reply in Rajya Sabha on April 10, 2017
Excrept of IT Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad’s reply in Rajya Sabha on April 10, 2017

While there is widespread belief that biometric authentication at time of opening a bank account prevents benami, it ignores the field realities of mobile phone SIM cards being issued on Aadhaar photocopies and used to open bank accounts, of having remotely “downloadable” accounts, and also plain simple use of photocopies of Aadhaar or parallel Aadhaar databases to open bank accounts. With Aadhaar, banks do not have any trace of the real customer. The real customer is simply masked by a benami owner using an Aadhaar number.
Even your Aadhaar can be used, without your knowledge, by a perpetrator to open multiple accounts in order to use it to collect bribes, park black money, or siphon your subsidies. In the eyes of law enforcement, if these accounts are discovered, you will be the criminal.

benami money laundering aadhaar bank account
Is Aadhaar the new Panama?

To compound the problem, UIDAI has no liability for benami bank accounts opened with Aadhaar. After the introduction of the Aadhaar to open bank accounts, the accounts and deposits have doubled in 5 years. No one knows who really controls these accounts.

Growth of bank accounts and deposits in India
Growth of bank accounts and deposits in India

Enabling Benami transactions

Even when it had no mandate to develop banking platforms, in 2009, the UIDAI signed an MoU with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a non government company, to develop an Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS). In this MoU the UIDAI has no responsibility for your banking transactions and the NPCI has no obligation to the RBI. The payment system uses the Aadhaar linked to a bank account as a financial address to do electronic money transfers from one Aadhaar number to another.

Company data for NPCI
Company data for NPCI

Unless an Aadhaar is linked to the account, the AEPS cannot access the bank account. Linking a PAN to the Aadhaar will have the same effect as linking the Aadhaar to a bank account as the PAN is already linked to the bank account. Such accounts become Aadhaar enabled. Aadhaar enabled bank accounts are ready to be used by the AEPS for Aadhaar to Aadhaar money transfers.

Linking an Aadhaar to a bank account is done through a process called as “seeding” an Aadhaar number to a bank account. After receiving the Aadhaar number from the customer, the bank uploads such numbers’ into a “NPCI mapper” or a repository of Aadhaar numbers and Institution Identification Number (IIN) numbers used for the purpose of routing transactions to the destination banks. The IIN is a unique 6-digit number issued by NPCI to the participating bank. If you or anyone else seed your Aadhaar with another bank account, the NPCI mapper is overwritten with the new banks’ IIN. Money transferred to an Aadhaar number, using the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System, gets transferred to the bank account linked to the Aadhaar number at the branch recognised by the IIN.

A money launderer can transfer money to an account linked to an alternate IIN and then re-seed the NPCI’s mapper with the original IIN for the Aadhaar number, completely wiping out any trace of money to the alternate IIN. Like transactions of bearer shares in Panama, such money transfers becomes no different from a hawala[4] transaction between real parties who remain anonymous or benami[5].

Your Aadhaar number can be used to facilitate such benami money transfers. If these money transfers linked to your Aadhaar number are detected by investigation officers or tax authorities, you, not the real operator will be held on suspicion of economic offences.

The NPCI’s idea of Aadhaar to Aadhaar banking itself is flawed. It is surprising if the RBI has licensed this payment system under the Payment and Settlements Act.

All money is ultimately stored in bank accounts and not in the name of a person. Nowhere in the world does one transfer money to a person, you transfer it to a persons account. Money transfers to and from a bank account makes every money transfer traceable from source to destination making money laundering difficult, if not impossible.

Hawala schemes make money transfers untraceable by eliminating the bank accounts. Money transfers that, like the hawala, are based on the premise that you do not share an account number, with someone transferring money to you, are inherently flawed in auditability as they wipe out the money trail.

The idea of a mapper, as used by NPCI’s AEPS, does not allow for instructions from sender but relies on periodic update of IIN in the NPCI’s table mapping Aadhaar numbers from banks. As multiple banks have to upload the Aadhaar numbers seeded with accounts held by them, this cannot guarantee desired results.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the mapper is that it slices the business process and outsources parts. This destroys the responsibility of the payment system from any single party as was in the case of NEFT or RTGS. Neither the NPCI, the UIDAI or the banks are responsible in such money transfers. They merely provide “look-up” services. In this system, a single compromised or rogue bank branch, or the perpetuator’s ability to exploit a good one, is enough to siphon off subsidy, park black money or take bribes.

Such money transfers would be difficult, if not impossible, to trace without a whistleblower. A few cases have been reported that suggest the large scale play of this scenario already. For example more than 40,000 erroneous transfers were reported through AEPS in DBT transfers meant as part of drought relief for farmers in Karnataka. The government allegedly blamed the banks for failure to seed the correct Aadhaar numbers with the beneficiaries.

Governments across India had been using the RBI’s own payment system, the NEFT or RTGS, to undertake electronic money transfers. This is also evidenced by the fact that Aadhaar Leaks has exposed that bank details are already present in every record of the leaked data. There is absolutely no reason to switch public payments from NEFT to AEPS, run by a non-government company.

The replacement of a time tested standard of electronic money transfers under government regulation by a non-standard payment system run by a non-government company raises several serious questions of national and public interest, propriety and possible conflicts of interest.

Preventing disaster

If the government and the Supreme Court implement the wisdom of 7 orders of the Supreme Court of India on the use of Aadhaar, they can yet save the country from disaster resulting from the colonisation of India by the new East India Companies or the private interests driving Aadhaar.

In its first order of September 23, 2011 the Supreme Court had indicated that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar Card voluntarily”.

On August 11, 2015, the 3 member bench restricted the use of Aadhaar and indicated that it may not be used for any other purpose.

On October 15, 2015, a 5 member bench led by the Chief Justice had emphasised that “the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court”. It had restricted the voluntary use of Aadhaar to public distribution system (PDS) Scheme, the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distribution scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old Age Pensions, Widow Pensions, Disability Pensions), Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

In the meantime, following Mahatma Gandhi’s footsteps and refusing to link Aadhaar to anything may be the only option left for you.

On 10 January 1908 Mahatma Gandhi was arrested for the first time in South Africa for refusing to carry an obligatory identity document card commonly known as the ‘pass’.

[1] Aadhaar is a 12 digit random number assigned by India’s Unique Identification Authority of India to unaudited and unverified demographic and biometric information submitted by private enrollers.
[2] Accounts and transactions undertaken using a ghost or a duplicate identity are called benami.
[3] Permanent Account Number or PAN is a number used to track financial transactions and file income tax returns in India.
[4] Hawala is an alternative or parallel remittance system that works outside formal banking systems.
[5] This was first highlighted in September 2014 in http://www.moneylife.in/article/how-aadhaar-linkage-can-destroy-banks/38736.html

 

Originally published here.

Something strange came to my attention today. An otherwise anonymous Twitter profile, but it had an Aadhaar UID number in the place of the name. The profile said the person was a IITian, a Brajwasi, Swayamsewak, BJPite, Gaurakshak and slave of the Indian state. Oooookay.

After speaking and tweeting and writing critically about the Aadhaar (as well as the Modi government), finding Modi supporters who will go to any extents, however insane to defend whatever he does has sort of started looking like a normal occurrence.

I believed that the Twitter handle was challenging those who claim that Aadhaar to be vulnerable to hack it and prove it. After all, Aadhaar's greatest fake troll profile, run by Sharad Sharma himself had once tossed out a number saying it was an Aadhaar number as a challenge. It wasn't inconceivable that another person would pull a similar stunt.

And honestly, after the brazen arguments the government had made in court to deny Indians a right to privacy, I was pisssed enough to want to show someone just how far a person could go with an access to an Aadhaar number. So, the first order of the day was to check whether the number was an actual Aadhaar number. For those who don't know, this part is easy. UIDAI will do it for you without giving out too much identifiable information without authentication. The number was real.

Okay, so that raised the stakes a bit. Someone's UID was out there. You read "gourakshak" on a profile and given the sort of news making headlines on a daily basis, you want to make sure at the very least that it is their own identity they are compromising and not some hapless other persons. So I decided to find out who he was. It was fairly easy to find his Facebook profile. That gave me his name and surname. Searching for that name and surname along with "Uttar Pradesh" (from the UIDAI website in above screenshot) got me one potential hit on a relatively less known networking site.

I now had an email and phone number. The last three digits of the phone number didn't match those on the UIDAI website - last digit was different. As far as phone numbers go, a non-match is a non-match, but I remember making a note of it. I plugged the number I had into truecaller. That number gave me a domain name as his website.

The .in TLD doesn't offer privacy - I know this as someone who owns .in domains. So the chances were good that the information he provided the registrar while booking, was public. So I checked the whois data of that website, and voila. I had a phone number for him with three digits that matched the UIDAI website, as well as an address. Incidentally, it differed from the first number by only one digit.

Truecaller showed his name for the second number as well. This isn't a careless man. This phone profile hardly had much public information and it was used for what you'd call digital assets - ownership of a site, ownership of digital identity. The other seems to be the one for more casual use. But he'd made a big mistake using it for buying a domain that didn't protect his contact information.

How far can a person go with this information? I don't know. Available information suggests very very far, with some skill and tenacity. But it was about as far as I was willing to go to make a point about an irritation on Social Media. So far everything I had accessed was publicly available information, only collected from various sites and the address and three digits of the phone number matching that gave me the verification of the anonymous profile was publicly available information. The government may not believe citizens have a right to privacy, but I do, so I did not proceed further. I had all this is in less than 15 minutes of idling around on my computer. No major effort needed.

I may have drawn an ethical line, but I wasn't done being irritated with the foolishness and decided that at the very least, a good scare was in order. I would ask him why he had put that number there, and if he issued a Sharad-like challenge to hack it, I'd reply with partial data for his personal information to show how easy it was to know his Aadhaar number and the phone number linked to it and given the straight matches in data, I wouldn't be surprised if the address was correct too.

So I asked him. And I was in for the shock of my life. You may read the Twitter conversation that followed from this tweet on Twitter:

Suffice it to say, this man is batshit crazy. He is also probably the only Modi supporter I respect. He believes in Modi, but he is alarmed about several of his decisions and is definitely against Aadhaar. He is being forced to link his Aadhaar to everything, so in a protest of extreme compliance, he is attaching his Aadhaar to his identity EVERYWHERE. Twitter included. As you see in the thread, once I realized what he is doing, I was uncharacteristically polite with him. Because damn hell, if this isn't a Gandhian Satyagraha being done by a bhakt no less. Talk of the mind benders Twitter can throw at you. Long story short, I tried and failed to convince him to protect himself. I even told him the information I found out about him and how easily, but he did not relent.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

Done ignoring him, laughing at his folly, fighting to convince him, I had to concede he won. So I am now helping make sure his sacrifice does not go in vain. Yep. Let history note this moment, I'm openly supporting the actions of a staunch supporter of Modi - of all people.

Here is his explanation for why he is doing this. I hope the Modi and his cartel realize the kind of faith gullible people invest in them and try to serve citizens honestly instead of this digital colonization being imposed on the country without regard for individual or national safety.

I am an IITian. I studied Computer Science & Engineering for about half a decade at IIT Kharagpur. I thereby am quite initiated into the innate nuances and implications of the universe of computing. However my personal convictions took me to serve my homeland in Braj - the land of Sri Krishna - where I have been fighting relentless battles to protect, preserve and restore the heritage associated with Krishna's pastimes.
 
I have been chased by mining mafia on gun point for resisting their attempt to decimate the heritage hills of Krishna frequented by millions from across the globe; have been wounded by encroachers in our bid to transform sludge tanks back to their natural splendour; have been extended death threats by the goons of religious organisations for pressing the practice of the precept; have been booked under various malicious sections of the IPC by errand officials of the state who couldn't respond to the intellectual contest thus posed. I have been a fighter who has put my entire self to risk to bring home a point. So I don't fear anything.
 
I do revere Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have immense respect for his sincere hard work, original thinking and political gravitas, but am getting extensively alarmed with his inordinate push for policies, projects and platforms without mulling over their far reaching implications both internally and internationally. Developing India within a single generation is a laudable vision, but can it be advanced at once by pushing the simpleton citizenry of this country to a precipice, remains a perpetual concern for me as a die-hard nationalist, developmental professional and technical insider.
 
Aadhar is one such platform which never had had enticed me since inception. I have seen it as an abrogation of personal liberties in consonance with Gandhi's discomfort of carrying a fingerprinted ID paper while being in South Africa. Gandhian protest of those times sufficed with the doctrine of Passive Resistance and mass scale Civil Disobedience. But the dynamics in an ever inter-connected information age call for a different set of techniques to protest the supposed wrong doings on the part of powers of the day where citizens are being robbed off their basic liberties by a host of sinister but smart machinizations. You can only offer a creative resistance to such an oppression which does unfurl itself in ennobling eccentricities and eclectic excuses.
 
I thereby have chosen to 'purge' this all pervading monster of Aadhar by laying it open in the public domain. I chose this 98th Anniversary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak's death as it's somewhere the death of the ideal of Swaraj which he propounded and charged up the nation toiling under the clutches of British tyranny. The Aadhar tyranny is not going to be any different, it would be even worse.
 
If this is the ID, which would ensure my very existence, let it be out in the open. Let I surrender and forfeit my social identity of my name, surname, caste, religion et al and simply graduate to this all powerful ID. If this ID is required to make India a surveillance state, I am all out eager to wear a badge to this effect and to take a gps tracer injected in my blood stream so that the agents of the state can keep track of me in real time - What all I do, how much I do, how much more productive I can be.
 
I am all out to surrender myself as the Slave of Indian State, a condemned inmate who has got no rights & liberties. Let this Creative Resistance of mine be explicitly known to the mandarins of the state whose fetish for power is incessantly insatiable. Let me persecute & purge my own self dignity which was dearer to me more than my physical life for this incessant striving for a supposed national transformation. I invite the Indian State and all its actors to pounce upon me and squeeze out the minutest strands of self-pride, honor and self-respect left in me. I am after all an inmate of World's largest prison called India. I am all out to celebrate this. Are you game?

~ Raghav

Bastar. An abstract name of some strange place where there is Naxalism. And therefore a place to be avoided, to be dreaded and mostly ignored. Not a land of a people who love, have children, earn livelihoods, make houses, sing, dance and celebrate. Not a land of everyday interpersonal conflicts, a tiff with a neighbour, a fight with the spouse. Not a land where children play, tease and bruise their knees. Not a land where people can dream of a future.

Just some dark hinterland, a version of Western World’s Africa right here in India.

I bring Bastar to light. Here.

Bastar is a district in Chhattisgarh. The total area is 4029.98 sq kms. It has a population of 1,411,614 humans (as per Census 2011). 70% of this population are Adivasis belonging to multiple tribes. Chhattisgarh has the 4th largest forest land in India with 44.21% of land cover. Many sections of Bastar are poorly developed with no pucca roads and few medical facilities. Traditionally, Adivasis have depended on forest products for their livelihood. In more recent times, agriculture is a mainstay for many.

There are four main issues that should concern us as regards Bastar: 1) Adivasi rights; 2) Rights of the forests; 3) The future of Bastar; and 4) Who speaks for whom?

Adivasi Rights

Way before Naxalism became active, Adivasis often found themselves on the wrong side of forest officers. These officers had been using their authority to make life difficult for Adivasis to continue with their livelihoods. There was intimidation, rampant corruption and frequent sexual abuse.

After the spread of Naxalism and the subsequent attempts of the State to crush their rise, the many failed strategies like Salwa Judum, the everyday Adivasi has become tainted as either a possible Naxalite or a police sympathizer. S/he is born into this taint, unable to make a choice to be apolitical or non-ideological. Nor even to question State or Naxalism. With state control over media and public opinion outside of Bastar, there is a lurking assumption that every Adivasi is indeed a potential Naxalite. Erased by birth, erased by residence.

What has, therefore, followed is dehumanization of Adivasis by clumping them under a label and reducing them to an object that needs to be controlled. And mansplainers are extremely good in explaining in their daddy-voices on how one can’t trust the locals, how Naxalism has infiltrated the community and that therefore State violence is the only way out.

But Adivasis are citizens of India. They are given the same constitutional rights as all of us. They are protected by the Constitution. And no matter what we opiniate, there cannot be a localised need-based convenient interpretation or occasional reference to law. It basically means they are afforded the same freedoms that we have taken for granted — like right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to constitutional remedies, right to life. They are afforded the same human rights guaranteed by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

And yet time and again, irrespective of Government, it has been trampled in Bastar. For e.g. when Soni Sori, an Adivasi teacher spoke up in support of her nephew Lingaram Kodopi, a fearless talented journalist, she was arrested.  Cases were filed against her that led to arrest, torture and brutal sexual abuse. If it were not for the activists who followed up and publicized the gross human rights violation, we would have never heard of Soni Sori.  The courts have now cleared her of all the cases. She, in turn, has become a go-to-person who gives courage to women who have been exploited and sexually abused to speak up.

The question before us is why was she tortured? Even if for a moment we assumed she was a Naxalite, does that warrant sexual abuse and torture? Why were the Constitutional rights so openly flouted and yet key officers were not called to question?

Not only Soni Sori, but hundreds of other Adivasis have been wrongfully confined, false cases heaped on them and reports of torture have emerged from more than one place.

More recently, Bela Bhatia wrote about rampant rape of Adivasi women and random detention and assault of men in The Pegdapalli Files. This report is worth your time. For her efforts to expose the human rights violation, Bela Bhatia has been threatened and slandered.

Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) that worked for the legal rights of Adivasis have been evicted. Journalists who reported on Constitutional violation of Adivasis rights to life, dignity and property have been silenced – either by intimidation or arrest. As the India Today long story “Life in the Red” shows, journalists are reporting under the shadow of fear.

In absence of activists and journalists, we will never hear the other side of the story, the one beyond what the State machinery wants us to know.

Soni Sori campaign
Soni Sori campaign

Rights of the Forests

Chhattisgarh boasts of some of the densest forest cover in India. It is also rich in minerals, rich in natural resources. But that forest cover is quickly being depleted. Between 2011 and 2013, there is reduction of 19 sq kms (1 sq km= 100 football fields) of forest area in Bastar district alone.

Whereas Forests cannot speak for themselves, we the Citizens should ask why the forests are being cut down indiscriminately. One of the major reasons is mining. The area is rich in minerals, coal and other natural resources. A second reason is movement of Adivasis in giving up traditional forest-dependent livelihoods in favour of clearing land for agriculture which is facilitated by the State. The third reason that is cited is to evict Naxalites from these forests.

Forests hold rich biodiversity. Forests protect landscape from erosion, from multiple natural disasters, and provide oxygen to the world. How is it that under our watch the forests are being cut down and there is not more than a whisper of dissent? Except that of locals and human rights groups like Amnesty India.

Who gains by cutting the forests? The locals or big mining corporations and their corrupt nexus with politicians?

Future of Bastar

Like it or not, Naxalism arose as a counter to the atrocities committed by rich landlords. If you read Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita, you will know several stories of the horrifying crimes committed by the land-owning upper caste groups on landless. A systematic way in which groups of people were kept illiterate, under-developed, in poverty and complete dependence on the land-owning groups.

Like it or not, Naxalism empowered the marginalized, as Bela Bhatia said and I paraphrase, to name the crimes as injustice rather than fate. It is a different thing that Naxalism quickly veered into violence that consumed the very people they were fighting for. It pushed the locals into a state where they could no longer make choices, but remain in that uncertain diplomatic silence on issues.

So if we assume Mission 2016 will succeed and Naxalism will end, the question before is who will benefit from it? Will Adivasis regain rights over the land and rights to dignity? Will they have a voice in their own development and all issues that pertain to their district, to their community? Will they now begin to receive fair and just trials or will they be massacred as possible Naxalites? Will they be empowered to document injustice and successful get constitutionally-guaranteed remedies?

Or will it pave the path for multinational and big mining groups to set up shops, to make rich richer.

This is the question that we should ask. For Bastar deserves (as every land does) a prosperous, healthy and peaceful future. And the constitution guarantees that India is a democracy -- of the people, for the people, by the people. And Bastar is not an abstract name of a land, it is the breath of a people.

Who Speaks for Whom?

Why do activists speak? Is it because they have no other work to do? Are they mere noise makers disturbing the monolithic State narrative of what is happening on ground—the hurrays for the many surrenders of Maoists, the encounters that are supposed to have killed “dreaded” Naxalites, and the legitimacy of Mission 2016. Minus of course the erring journalists, the outspoken researchers, lawyers and activists. The manufacture of a public opinion -- that if you want to end Naxalism, it is given that there will be collaterals of a legitimate war, a.k.a ‘some’ Adivasis will die.

Democracy requires and is maintained by dissent. In a democracy, there can never be a single narrative. There are multiple truths jostling with each other for significance. A process that forces us to not move into easy judgments, but glimpse and empathise with the complex human lives caught in a complex web of power struggles.

And why should it concern those outside Bastar, in other words ‘us’? Don’t we all have own problems in life, our everyday struggles to make ends meet or aspirations to meet a dream? Don’t we have own interpersonal and organization conflicts to deal with?

Why should we? Because as Rahul Pandita had said in a tweet  in context of journalists and so have others, Chhattisgarh is a lab for brutal policies. You succeed in Chhattisgarh, you develop a formula, you set a precedent and then you can implement it in other parts of the country.

Then we must bring down this laboratory and return Bastar to the protection of our Constitution. Now. We have to ensure the protection, freedom of expression and dissent for local activists like Soni Sori and the many outspoken journalists of Bastar so that they, in turn, may stand up for their community.

There are three ways to support people of Bastar:

  1. Search for news on Bastar and please make yourself aware. Share news, talk about it, write about it.
  2. Follow human rights groups like Amnesty India or National Human Rights Commission and support them as needed.
  3. As a citizen, participate in the #OneMillionPostCardCampaign and send an e-card to Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr. Raman Singh asking him to bring CBI and Supreme Court to investigate matters that concern people of Bastar and Soni Sori. Let your voice be heard. http://goo.gl/forms/rvTT6CyHbI

Thank you for taking time to read this post fully. Bastar does need you!

Some information is referenced from Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita.

Featured image by Pankaj Oudhia

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When the state takes extreme steps that make no sense, I get curious. 's hanging being scheduled for the 30th of this month, while the key accused of the blasts are still at large is one such bizarre move. So I went around hunting for information on what else was going on. Here are some of the things I found out. They raise more questions than answers.

Chhota Shakeel tried to kill Chhota Rajan in Australia

On the 2nd of July, Times of published a report that described intercepted conversations between Chhota Shakeel and a key Rajan aide, who was convinced to reveal Chhota Shakeel's whereabouts in Newcastle, Australia. Times of India claims to have a copy of the intercept. A team from middle east was allegedly immediately sent to Australia. However, Chhota Rajan had already escaped after receiving a fortuitous tip off. The article also describes the 's relentless determination to eliminate an aged Chhota Rajan who is no longer a threat to them and describes previous attacks by Dawood's men to eliminate Chhota Rajan.

Dawood was involved in Chhota Shakeel's attempt on Chhota Rajan

Another report in the Times of India, also on the 2nd July said that a voice in the background, heard during a pause in the intercepted conversation between Chhota Shakeel and Rajan's aide was that of as confirmed by layered voice analysis. What the voice said is not reported.

This report also gives us an idea of the approximate date of the attempted on Chhota Rajan when it speaks of Chhota Shakeel being on the move for a month since mid-April when he went to Newcastle for the attack on Chhota Rajan. The report presumes he dropped off the radar after the intercepted conversations or the intelligence agencies would have approached the to arrest Shakeel (but not Rajan?).

*********************

Some background: Chhota Rajan was among key men of Dawood's gang before he split from Dawood due to internal rivalry and differences that got cemented after the 1993 Mumbai blasts. After the split, he escaped to Dubai with the help of Indian intelligence agencies in return for information on Dawood Ibrahim's operations. Intelligence agencies have also allegedly helped Chhota Rajan evade attempts on his life since then. Current NSA and then ex- head, Ajit Doval had also been caught once with Chhota Rajan's hit man Vicky Malhotra. Chhota Shakeel is still Dawood's key man. Chhota Rajan and Dawood Ibrahmin have since been bitter and bloody rivals with constant attempts to eliminate each other. Among India's plans for Dawood Ibrahmin remain a possibility for Chhota Rajan taking Dawood out.

An article in the Daily Mail News from November claims NSA Ajit Doval is forming links with ISIS to encourage an ISIS - TTP collaboration to destabilize Pakistan.

Given that Indian Intelligence agencies are unlikely to leave copies of intelligence intercepts lying around in public places or something, Times of India clearly got the tip off from them about a failed operation "early in the year" - as in, the news was not fresh.

Yasin Bhatkal could get help from Damascus

On 3rd July, 2015, a report in the Times of India stated that Yasin Bhatkal had told his wife that he would get help from Damascus to escape jail. This would seem unrelated to the Yakub Memon issue, except... Yasin Bhatkal used to allegedly be financed by Muzzaffar Kola of the Dossa gang which reported to..... Dawood Ibrahim.

Last year, Yasin Bhatkal's lawyer had received threats from underworld don Ravi Pujari who is currently said to be in Australia and is close to.... Chhota Rajan. Yasin Bhatkal had hardly made any news for months before this.

Chhota Shakeel reveals that Dawood Ibrahim wanted to return to India after 1993 blasts

On 4th July 2015, Times of India published a report of a telephonic interview with Chhota Shakeel in which Shakeel alleged "When we wanted to come back after 1993, you people, your government didn't allow. Bhai had himself spoken that time to Ram Jethmalani, that too in London... baat ho gayi thi... But your ministry... that Advani played the game,". This naturally led to a flurry of accusations and denials.

Other Chhota Shakeel quotes from the article:

"When agencies can hear me plotting against him (Rajan) and know where he is, why don't they get him picked up? Has he not killed people? Is he not a criminal?"

"Every time a new government comes, they make the first statement about us. Usko leke aayenge... ghus ke laayenge... Kya halwa hai? Bakri ka bachcha samajh ke rakha hai kya? Lana hai toh usko (Rajan) lao na,"

"He ran away like a mouse," Shakeel said. He claimed that not one but three key members of Rajan's group had crossed over to his side because of their confidence that they would be taken care of. "I look after even the family of Rajan's aides who had been killed by members of D-Company," (On the attack planned on Chhota Rajan reported by Times of India on the 2nd)

"Haven't killed anyone in Mumbai in the past 5-6 years. I don't want to kill innocents. He (Rajan) brings shooters from UP and gets people killed in our name. I want to continue my business. I invest money and take it back." From another report of the same interview.

On Chhota Raja's image as a Hindu gangster "This is 's job. Take him in the army, send him on the border if he is a patriot. (Patriot hai to army me le lo na... border pe bhejo na! Mulq ke liye kaam karega. Hindu don ka concept logo ka... media ka hai. He has killed all Hindus for money,"

On whether he thinks Indian intelligence agencies are soft on Chhota Rajan "We don't care. They can support him all they want, we will find him and kill him."

* An earlier interview by Chhota Shakeel to Rediff (after their first attempt on Chhota Rajan's life in Bangkok) establishes that the D-Company sees him as a traitor who grew large with their favor and betrayed them as well as stole gold from them.

** The part about Chhota Rajan killing Hindus in India is true. Among recent high profile murders is that of Jyotirmoy Dey, an investigative journalist working for MiD DAY. He is wanted in India in many criminal cases related to extortion, , smuggling, drug trafficking and film finance.

*** Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel are no saints either.

Chhota Rajan still in Australia

On the 5th of June, Times of India published another news report citing an unnamed source in the intelligence agencies that Chhota Rajan was still in Australia and had not left Australia (as reported in previous piece). Chhota Shakeel also was apparently aware of this fact and had not called off his hit men tracking Chhota Rajan in Australia.

Yasin Bhatkal claims threat to life and demands 24/7 surveillance

On 6th July, 2015, Yasin Bhatkal pled before a special court for NIA cases for CCTVs to be installed in his and for constant surveillance not only in jail, but also when being moved to court and back for hearings. Outside the jail, he pulled a letter from his pocket and threw it at reporters standing there. In the letter, he denies telling his wife about any help from Damascus or for escaping jail and fears that he could be killed in an encounter staging his escape.

refused to entertain a plea to bring Dawood Ibrahim back

8th July, 2015. The Supreme Court dismissed a plea by a previous Madhya Pradesh to bring Dawood Ibrahim back to India and that a special investigating team headed by SC judge be set up to probe why indian authorities were unwilling in bringing tje don back to country to face trial in various cases.

Daya Nayak suspended

9th July, 2015. Daya Nayak of the 83 encounters and disproportionate wealth and dubious dealings was suspended after he refused to go to Nagpur after he was transferred, citing a threat to his life.

warrant for Yakub Memon

On 15th July, 2015, a TADA court signed a death warrant for Yakub Memon, even as his mercy petition was pending in court.

Supreme Court turns down Yakub Memon's mercy petition.

22nd July 2015 Supreme Court turns down Yakub Memon's mercy petition "paving the way for his hanging" as expressed by the media.

White House Bar was demolished

28th July 2015, The White House dance bar, run by Ganesh Kamath, understood to be affiliated with Chhota Rajan's gang and owned by Meenakshi Singh, widow of Chhota Rajan's affiliate O P Singh, was demolished.

Supreme Court turned down Yakub Memon's curative petition

29th July The Supreme court turned down Yakub Memon's curative petition. The governor turned it down as well. The President's decision is awaited, but the indications are that the MHA is recommending against it. Other eminent persons are seeking an audience for another petition.

Yakub Memon hanged

30th July 2015. Yakub Memon was hanged early in the morning, on his 53rd birthday in Nagpur jail.

Is Yakub Memon's death warrant a message?

Numerous reports indicate that after the came to power this time, the gangwar is heating up again (if at all it ever cooled). Ajit Doval has a long term mission of bringing Dawood Ibrahim down. The D-Company, on the other hand seems to have stepped up the heat on Chhota Rajan, perceiving him to be an asset of the Indian intelligence (apart from their usual issues with him).

Yakub Memon is the brother of Tiger Memon, though the only place his name appears in relation with the underworld is the case where he's now got the death sentence. Both gangsters and their gangs have extensive networks in India. For example I later discovered from a source that the illegal White House dance bar, where the journalists were attacked and Raghavendra Dube got killed is a front for Chhota Rajan's activities. The source speculated that the journalists could have been attacked for trying to extort advertising revenue (as the too had accused) from the biggies of extortion, so to say. Four aides of Chhota Rajan were arrested from Dahisar by Mumbai police for extorting 15 crores from a businessman.

Ram Jethmalani stated that opposed the move to bring Dawood Ibrahim back to India when he had offered to return, fearing that their connections with him would be exposed. Sharad Pawar claimed that he refused Dawood Ibrahim's offer to return because one of the conditions of his return was that he would not go to jail! Apparently it was one thing to break a promise to Yakub Memon, sidekick with dubious culpability in actual attacks and quite another to bring the kingpin Dawood Ibrahim to India under false pretenses and then break a promise. South Africa had provided a RAW officer intel on fake identities used by Dawood Ibrahim as early as 1994. V Balachandran shares that the Indian government took his report and sat on it to date.

The Sunday guardian reports that according to US intelligence, 26/11 would not have been possible without Dawood Ibrahim's extensive network and contacts in India. Yet not only did an investigation into the Indian angle never happen, the sole attacker captured was put to death in a clandestine manner. Various people had raised questions around this at various times, from the Mossad conspiracy angle brought up by Great Game India blog to questions around Karkare's death and random anomalies like reports of a woman accompanying an attacker or white skinned attackers. Who was being protected and why?

Chhota Rajan indeed owes his survival to Indian intelligence agencies who are rumored to even tip off his people about raids by Mumbai police and seem to be counting on him to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim, even as threats, murders and crimes by his people in India mount. India has never issued a red corner notice against him, regardless of his crimes. Maharashtra government had briefly made a noise about asking to issue a red corner notice against him in the wake of the high profile murder of Jyotirmoy Dey by his hit men, and that news appears to have sunk without a trace, since. Indian intelligence clearly knew where Chhota Rajan was, when Chhota Shakeel called the hit on him. Yet the news reports only indicate that Shakeel would be arrested with the help of Australian government if he hadn't dropped off the radar. Why was there no question of Chhota Rajan being arrested?

These are both dangerous gangs that have committed crimes in India engaged in a blood feud.

Is the Yakub Memon death warrant or Yasin Bhatkal's claim of threat to his life in a staged encounter, coming on the heels of Chhota Shakeel's attempts on Chhota Rajan a message "to whomsoever-it-may-concern" to lay off Chhota Rajan "or your people could die"? Is it a way of getting Tiger Memon to pressure his associates to back off from their chase of Chhota Rajan?

More importantly for India, is our system becoming a pawn in a gang war?

Note: I am no expert on the underworld, and this is merely a compilation from news reports in the public domain.

Making of the Constitution of India - A vision document.

  • The Constituent Assembly took 2 years, 11 months and 17 days to prepare the Constitution of India. Constitution of America was prepared in 4 months and that of South Africa in 1 year.
  • 296 Representatives including Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendraprasad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Alladi krishnaswamy , Nazuruddin Ahmed, Thakurdas Bhargava, Hridaynath Kunzru, Pattabhi Sitaramaya discussed and adopted the Constitution. These were people of intelligence, eminence and learned scholars of Constitutional law. These people were devoid of any partisan motives.
  • Total 7635 amendments were tabled while 2473 amendments were actually moved to make changes in the draft Constitution in Constituent Assembly.
  • There are 5 volumes of the Constituent Assembly debate each one of more than a thousand pages.
  • This proves that the Constitution was made by a very rigorous thought process and a thorough consideration of democratic and constitutional principles.

What has the Constitution given to people of India which never before we relished during Vedic, Puranic, Mughal or British India?

  • The Constitution of India gave the below to all Indians –
  1.     Total Independence from the British Rule
  2. India became a Sovereign, Republic and Democratic country.
  3.     Modern vision and commitment of India of ensuring the principles of Equality, Liberty, Fraternity and Justice to each citizen in every walks of  Life.
  4.     Affirming to the Fundamental rights - Freedon of speech, Freedom of practice and Propagation of Religion, Right against exploitation etal. -  Part 3 (Articles 12 to 21).
  5. Parliament, Judiciary, Executive became the pillars of Democracy under the Constitution as Supreme Law. With Judiciary keeping check on the acts passed by the parliament whether affirming under the ambit of the articles and basic principles of the Constitution.
  6.      Ensuring equal rights and safeguards to women unlike during any previous rulings in India.
  7.     Idea of glorification of Multi-culturalism under the spirit of National unity and oneness.
  8.     Single-citizenship which enables and safegurds individuals from various states to pursue the opportunities in any part of the country.
  9.     Right of Writ under Article 226 and 32
  10.      Notion of The Rule of Law
  11. Principle of One Man, One vote hence One Vote, One value empowering each citizen with equal basic value, eradicating  the previous   monopoly of power through caste order
  12.    Right to amend the Constitution under Article 368
  13. Federal Structure under normal conditions but Unitary in emergency.

Condemning the Constitution: A Treacherous act and a conspiracy of the Communal forces

  • It is a habit in this country to blame and condemn the Constitution of India for every failure in this country. People usually say that since our laws are weak and have so many loopholes that is why the guilty are not brought to justice. This however is quite far from the truth.
  • The Law in this country is based on the universally accepted principle of natural justice that even if thousand criminals are set free but the innocent should never be punished.
  • If the criminals are not brought to justice it is not because the Law is weak but that the government’s machinery i.e. the CBI, CID, police etc has failed to produce the essential evidences, proofs before the court so as to book the guilty. If sufficient proofs are brought before the judiciary the laws are so strong that there is no way that the guilty can walk free.
  • Also, people generally mistake Acts (Laws) like the Indian Penal Code, Civil Procedure Code etc as the Constitution and hence they blame the Constitution. But there is a difference between the Acts made by the Parliament and the Constitution of India.
  • Some are ignorant and therefore they blame the Constitution. But some ingenious people are deliberately with full knowledge misleading the ignorant masses trying to inflate their minds with the feeling of hatred and disrespect for the Constitution of India.
  • Condemning the Constitution and showing disrespect to it is an act of treachery.
  • It is the worst kind of conspiracy of the Communal forces disguised in the Hindutva i.e. Hindu nationality movement. It is a conspiracy to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra and make India lose its secular character and democratic system.

Constitution day recalls its Chief Architect, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar categorically pointing out that Indians lack this kind of Constitutional morality in the below words:

“Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people (Indians) have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.”

Oh Indian! Pledge to save the Basic Structure of the Constitution of India!!! Pledge to diffuse in us the Constitutional Morality!!!

Happy Constitution Day!

Guest post by Sumedh Ukey and Pratik Tembhurne.

Sumedh Ukey has done Mtech from IIT Delhi, LLB from Mumbai university and now pursuing M.A. in political science from Mumbai university. He also conducts classes on Ambedkar writings called 'India needs Ambedkar' in Kalyan, East.

Pratik Tembhurne has a B.E in Electronics from Mumbai university. He is currently working for a pvt firm. Politics watcher and constitutionalist.