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The greatest wonders of all time, the tear drop on the cheek of time and the symbol of undying love has been under a lot of controversy recently with a cloud of political clout hovering over it. The magnificent structure built with ivory-white marble, standing tall at 240 feet amidst the city of Agra has been a bone of contention between various religious and political groups alike with regards to it’s origin for a long time now.

It all started with a writ petition that was filed by the late INA freedom fighter known for his Hindu-centric historical revisionism, Purushottam Nagesh Oak in the Supreme Court to declare that the Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu king. The Division Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed Oak’s petition as being ‘misconceived’ and remarked that he had ‘a bee in his bonnet’. The Allahabad High Court dismissed a similar petition in 2005 brought by Amar Nath Mishra, a social worker who claimed that the Taj Mahal was built by the Hindu king Parmar Dev in 1196. From a judicial standpoint, these theories proved futile and as a consequence, could not attract the court’s attention.

In 2014, another theory stirred up when Laxmikant Bajpai, the ex-State President of BJP from Uttar Pradesh claimed that Shah Jahan bought the land from King Jai Singh in order to build the marble mausoleum. According to his theory, a substantial part of Taj Mahal was actually a part of ancient Tejo Mahalaya temple’s land which was purchased by Shah Jahan from King Jai Singh. This was in fact, in retaliation to the demand of Azam Khan, an MLA from Uttar Pradesh to hand over the Taj Mahal to the state waqf board and appoint him as the mutwalli (caretaker). This controversy raises the question, should we pay any heed at all to these alleged theories of Taj Mahal’s origin or just ignore them like any other political tussle?

Tourists walk in front of the historic Taj Mahal in the northern Indian city of Agra July 8, 2007. The Taj Mahal has been chosen as one of the modern day seven wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife and is one of the world's most famous monuments. Picture taken July 8, 2007. REUTERS/Brijesh Singh (INDIA)

The latest remarks by Sangeet Som, the MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Sardhana constituency calling Taj Mahal a blot on Indian culture and history and a symbol of slavery that was built by traitors led to another controversy. The denigrate comments disgracing the 17th century marble mausoleum coupled with the omission of one of the seven wonders of the world from the UP tourism booklet listing popular spots in the state garnered a lot of criticism across the country. The chief minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath supposedly supports the view of his fellow party-worker as evident from his comment made in June while on a tour to Bihar stating that Taj Mahal is not a reflection of Indian culture or heritage.

What exactly is the true story behind the origin of Taj Mahal, I suppose, we’ll never know. So why not just sit back and enjoy the majestic structure’s beauty as it is without raising any further questions and preserving the world-renowned monument. It reminds me of the famous quote by Rick Warren, “We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it”. After all, we do celebrate the architectural monuments built during the British Raj without much reluctance, don’t we?

Before I get into deconstructing the coverup, let us get one thing straight. If the government were innocent, taking straightforward action would have been a simple issue. There would be no need for organized trolls, massive fake news deployment on right wing blogs, smear campaigns against a doctor recognized to have saved lives in a nightmare that already took too many. The coverup, in my eyes, is a confession of guilt. Because direct and appropriate action needs to be avoided, it becomes important to manipulate the country into believing another reality.
Running through the various coverups, diversions and scapegoating attempts.

Siddharth nath singh - Uttar Pradesh health minister

No child died due to lack of oxygen supply

Known facts blow this nonsense claim out of the water so much, there is little to dispute. Oxygen supply was stopped. Patients who died were dependent on oxygen. Efforts were made to ventilate them manually, efforts failed, they died. People saw their kids struggle to breathe and die. If this isn't death due to lack of oxygen, one wonders what is.


Why was oxygen supply absent?

7 deaths a day is normal, explain Uttar Pradesh government

But the death toll is more than 7 per day. It is:

August 7: 9 (4 NICU, 2 AES, 3 non-AES)

August 8: 12 (7 NICU, 3 AES, 2 non-AES)

August 9: 9 (6 NICU, 2 AES, 1 non-AES)

August 10: 23 (14 NICU, 3 AES, 6 non-AES)

August 11: 7 (3 NICU, 2 AES, 2 non-AES)

Given that one doesn't expect doctors, administrators, magistrates to be illiterate, one must conclude that this is a deliberate misreporting of facts that the UP govt is doing.

Yogi Adityanth calls deaths a 'despicable incident'

One wonders which deaths Yogi Adityanath is talking about. The ones that didn't happen as a result of oxygen deprivation or the ones that are not out of the ordinary because 7 deaths a day is normal.

The Uttar Pradesh government is denying a problem with the deaths at all.

So, if there are no deaths out of the ordinary, what is Yogi Adityanath calling despicable? The normal happenings in Uttar Pradesh?

One tends to agree that what is coming to light about how things work in UP is ghastly, even if we don't agree about the deaths being routine.

Pushpa Sales, oxygen supplier booked

The hospital did not pay the bills for the oxygen. The supply was cut off after the supplier continued to provide oxygen for months without payment. When they could no longer do it, the government, instead of finding out why they were not paid, is investigating them for stopping supply. What is to investigate in why they stopped supply? Oldest reason in the book - unpaid bills!

Principal of college resigns / sacked

Depending on which version you believe, the principal of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College resigned on the 12th - the day after the tragedy. The government apparently was planning to sack him, but he had already resigned.

Why did he resign or why did the government want to sack him, if there were no death due to lack of oxygen, as claimed by the health minister and the number of deaths was normal?

"No oxygen deprivation."No postmortem that would prove it conclusively either

there is no provision to get postmortem conducted on patients who died of infection. “Hence, we are not conducting autopsy on bodies of the children"
Dr. P K Singh
New Principal of BRD Medical College
"No post-mortem was done on the deceased"
Siddharth nath singh - Uttar Pradesh health minister
Siddharth Nath Singh
Health Minister
"No postmortem is being conducted on the children who died at the hospital. No family member has come forward till now requesting that postmortem be conducted. We have received no orders for autopsy, in case postmortem examinations were conducted, the cause of death would have come as cardio respiratory arrest."
Dr. K K Gupta director general of medical education
K K Gupta
Director General (Medical Education)
“A detailed inquiry is on… There was no shortage of oxygen,”
Anil Kumar
Gorakhpur Division Commissioner
“I have not received any directive to conduct autopsy on the bodies.”
Ravindra Kumar
Chief Medical Officer

Hospital staff kept the information about non-payment from Yogi Adityanath

Um... oops. Pushpa Sales wrote letters directly to the Chief Minister's office. Multiple times. Well in advance. If Yogi Adityanath won't be informed by hospital authorities AND he won't be informed by his own office about his correspondence, perhaps he should resign and make way for a CM at least respected by his own staff.

Adityanath had made mega efforts against encephalitis

Deaths happened after oxygen supply failed. Only 12 out of 60 deaths in 5 days were in the encephalitis ward. If govt can't understand names of wards, then their competence on encephalitis fight too is suspect. God knows what Adityanath fought, if he cannot even recognize the name or lack of it.

Or, it is a deliberate irrelevant diversion to project Adityanath as blameless.

“Anyone found guilty will not be spared,” ~ Adityanath

If this isn't just lip service to appear to be taking the deaths seriously, why were autopsies not ordered to establish the cause of death conclusively? Why was the doctor who saved more children from dying sacked and organized party trolls put to the job of smearing his reputation? Why is there no investigation into the delay in paying Pushpa Sales for the oxygen supply or investigating rumors of demands of kickbacks?

The targeting of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad

The organized BJP fake news and paid tweeting machinery is at work spreading rumors about Dr. Kafeel Ahmad. Identical points made in identical posts across known BJP fake news websites display a desperate and rambling array of accusations against Dr. Kafeel Ahmad.

Clearly, someone with a reason went digging for dirt on him after appreciative reports of his role in the Gorakhpur tragedy emerged. No such compilation predates the incident. All the compilations make several identical accusations. It seems that BJP does not appreciate anyone saving lives in Uttar Pradesh.

Or more likely, BJP does not like a Muslim saving lives, when it is clearly their thug Adityanath's govt that has fucked up big time and resulted in these deaths. Therefore, standard process. Sleaze, slander, carpet bomb false information.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad stole oxygen cylinders from the hospital

During normal operations, oxygen is supplied to a large central tank and piped through the hospital for providing to patients. A tank is large enough to last the entire hospital for 6 days and costs several lakh rupees. Oxygen cylinders are only the emergency backup, and repeatedly missing or empty cylinders would be noticed. This is like saying someone stole your society's water tank and no one noticed. This is ABSURD.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad spent a year in jail for raping a woman

The minimum sentence for rape in India is 10 years. It is impossible for a rape convict to be out of jail in a year, unless he spent a year in rape without trial and was set free for lack of a case - which is the police closure on record - of him being falsely accused.

If cases being filed is evidence of guilt, Adityanath has cases of murder and attempt to murder against him. Sack? Yes, please.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad was responsible for oxygen supply

Not true. Verified by several individuals and news outlets. Besides, bhakts need to decide whether there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen, or whether there were deaths due to lack of oxygen, requiring someone to be sacked for the lack, in which case, the paper trail for investigating lack of payments is useful. Multiple letters to both the hospital as well as the CM show that the matter was raised often by the supplier. So why was he not paid?

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad's ward was the only one with deaths - no adults depending on oxygen died.

False. 18 adults died. This was reported by local newspapers well before the incident became a national outrage.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad supported Samajwadi Party and was appointed by them. He was a critic of BJP

Irrelevant even if it were true. The political beliefs of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad are irrelevant to the situation and should not be a reason to punish him in a misplaced political vendetta.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad had an illegal private practice

It is common for doctors in government hospitals to have a private practice - though it is illegal. Government salaries do not pay as well as private practice and enforcing this rule would result in good doctors stopping working at government hospitals. However, in the case of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad, it isn't true, as he was employed by the hospital on an "ad hoc" basis and was not a full employee and thus the rule did not apply to him.

Even if all the allegations against Dr. Kafeel Ahmad were true (and they seem pure fiction so far)

There is no official explanation for why he was sacked. His guilt on other issues does not explain why he is sacked after saving lives when he was employed just fine before. The sacking of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad does not explain why the bills for oxygen were not paid.

Clearly, there is every effort to evade looking at the obstruction of payments to Pushpa Sales that led them to cut off oxygen supply to the hospital.

Combined with multiple allegations of kickbacks, avoidance of autopsies to establish cause of deaths, a CM who had been informed of the dues pretending to be unaware of them, and organized trolling and fake news being employed to deflect attention and invent scapegoats, it seems clear that the holds on payments came from someone high up in Adityanath's government - the person/s is being protected now.

Otherwise, it would have been a simple matter of finding the deaths outrageous, like everyone else and calling for an investigation into the dues owed by the hospital and the deaths to establish the cause. There would be no need to find someone to blame - the people naturally to blame would be known to the masses and they would be behind bars by now.

The latest rabbit from the same old hat. That of discriminatory policies by college managements against interests of socially or economically backwards students and then disproportionate and unjust action against students who protest against it.

Press Release by Richa Singh, President, Allahabad University Students Union

Attempt to dissolve Allahabad University Student Union, after student protest erupted against compulsory online application for admission

  • Student protest erupted against compulsory online application form for admission
  • Student demanded for offline option, along with online
  • VC rusticated President, Vice-President and General Secretary of the union and then withdrew the order in an hour
  • Attempt to slap serious criminal charges against president Richa Singh by the VC
  • Richa Singh decided to intensify the struggle against compulsory online application and against VC’s attempt to implicate her under false charges

30th April, 2016, Allahabad. On Saturday large scale student protest erupted in Allahabad University against compulsory online application form for those seeking admission in post graduate courses. Students demanded option for offline along with online as most of the students come from rural background. President, Richa Singh said, “When most of the central universities like BHU, AMU, JNU, Hyderabad University and others have both the options then why not in University of Allahabad. It is more than needed in Allahabad University because it is located in a state which has 78% of rural population. Thus, making online application compulsory is going to prevent the entry of many, coming from rural background and from marginalized community.”

When students went with their demand to VC, he not only refused to meet with the elected office bearers of the student union but also locked himself in his office. Against that, for more than two hours, students organized dharna in front of VC office but in vain.

In a most shocking act, in the evening university authorities sent a press release, rusticating the President, Richa and other office bearers for organizing protest without informing the students. However, within an hour, press release was withdrawn and instead of that high powered committee is constituted to take disciplinary action against protesting student leaders. Student leaders have termed the act as an attempt to dissolve student union for the purpose of curtailing the student voice and movement. VC has also lodged criminal complaint against Richa Singh in police station. Richa said, “It is an attempt to implicate her under false charges and is in continuity with the previous acts. However, she is not going to be intimidated.” In the past also VC made attempt to expel Richa Singh but could not after the issue was raised in the Parliament. VC has also banned all kinds of political activities and programme inside the university campus.

Against the dictatorial acts of VC and to demand offline option, student leaders have taken the firm resolve to intensify the struggle in the coming days. They have decided to approach Members of Parliament of all political parties to take a categorical stand on making online application compulsory in a Central University, located in a state with 78% rural population. They have also decided to take the issue to the common people in Allahabad and neighbouring district, so that wider public opinion could be formed against the policy which in no uncertain terms is going to affect the prospects of students coming from rural background and from marginalized community.

Interesting is to note that till now 92% applicants have opted for offline mode for applying under graduate courses where both the options are available.

Originally shared by Anisha George on Facebook

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Business Standard has written a piece challenging the data on farmer suicides from Uttar Pradesh titled "As farmers commit suicide, Uttar Pradesh hides their deaths". It is a pretty good piece and necessary. In the interests of accuracy of information, I am pointing out a correction in the statistics attributed to P. Sainath in the article.

Over 20 years—between 1991 and 2011—more than 1.5 million farmers, distressed by crop failure and death, committed suicide across India, according to P. Sainath, journalist and Magsasay Award winner, who analysed National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. The NCRB reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs, collecting data every year from states.

The article linked to from the Hindu site is indeed by P. Sainath, but provides no data that will offer the number of suicides as 1.5 million.

To the best of my knowledge, the number of farmer suicides, as per NCRB data and quoted by P. Sainath is "nearly 296,438 farmers between 1995 and 2013 (both years included)". This, being five times less than 1.5 million, deserved a clarification, though it does not detract from the point the article makes about fudged farmer suicide data in Uttar Pradesh in any way. For more information, you may read "Maharashtra crosses 60,000 farm suicides".

Disclosure: I (Vidyut) publish P. Sainath's blog.

Late last week, a special CBI court adjourned the bail application of Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter cases, accepting his excuse that he was engaged in political work in New Delhi. Shah, 49, the first serving Home minister of a state to have gone behind bars in a criminal case of murder and conspiracy had a legitimate reason to skip court hearings. He was presiding and taking part in day-long meetings in Delhi with senior RSS leaders and BJP functionaries who were all set to seal his fate as the next BJP President.

Amit Shah Narendra Modi BJP
Amit Shah becomes President of BJP in spite of extremely dubious credentials

There is a significant back story to his exemption which did find its way as a small snippet in the media but needs to be brought to light as Shah, the man who waved the magic wand for BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the PM’s confidante and the number two in the government now takes over the reins of the party. Amit Shah had twice in the past sought exemption from personal appearance citing political work, but the then CBI judge JT Utpat had found his excuse inadequate for the court to grant him relief. On June 20, while hearing the application, Utpat allowed the same but made a scathing remark “Everytime you are giving this exemption application without assigning any reason,” he told Shahs counsel. In less than a week, Utpat was transferred to a Pune court before he could preside over Shahs discharge application. Shah managed his way out with a tried and tested formula of transferring judges, practiced brazenly in his home state of Gujarat through his tenure as Home Minister.

As a journalist covering Gujarat extensively since 2005, as someone who exposed Shah’s role in the fake encounters in the state and who can claim to have knowledge of his political trajectory, I would not mince my words in suggesting that by appointing Amit Shah as the president of the party, the BJP has hugely disrespected the law of the land and signalled an all time low for the criminal justice system of India. For the cases against Shah are for crimes so gruesome that the cloak of political astuteness will be too short to cover it.

In its chargesheet filed in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, the CBI which had been investigating the case under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court of India had not just named Shah as one of the key accused and conspirators but also named him as the head of an extortion racket which involved underworld thugs, politicians and businessmen. In its submission before the apex court bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan, the CBI stated that the minister was in cahoots with senior cops from Gujarat including the likes of DG Vanzara and Abhay Chudasama who had been sentenced for cold-blooded murder – concluding that Shah was a hardcore criminal. Shah was also chargesheeted in the murder of Kauser Bi, the wife of Sohrabuddin who according to the official papers was raped, sedated, killed and her body burnt and thrown in a river.

One could have well debated the merits of the CBI chargesheet and read political motives but for the fact that the Supreme court itself gave CBI the sanction to arrest Shah at the same time, coming down harshly on the Gujarat state police investigation led by the then top cop Geeta Johri for going slow and misleading the courts. If the SIT verdict on Narendra Modi’s role in the Gujarat encounters is to be held as the final word, by virtue of it being monitored by the apex court, it is baffling then that Narendra Modi who promised clean and transparent governance to this country and setting up fast track courts to look into cases of criminal charges against politicians has turned a blind eye to Shah’s criminal past.

Shah has been Modi’s confidante since his days as a pracharak in Gujarat and Maharashtra. With Shah's induction on the national scene first as the General Secretary of the BJP and now as the BJP President, Modi has risked his own political image for the sake of his ally and friend who has put to shame the best political pundits and strategists from North India with his shrewd manoeuvring. In the coming days, the party will have to prove its popularity not just in the by-elections of Uttar Pradesh but also in the forthcoming Assembly Elections in three states, the most significant being the battle for Maharashtra. Party insiders have stressed on Maharashtra being a prestige battle for Modi whose party swept the Lok Sabha elections a couple of months ago. Going by the minutes of the internal meetings held between Modi, Shah and senior heads in the BJP and the RSS, the Prime Minister has silenced his detractors in the party who were against Shah's elevation citing his ability to churn out big numbers.

Many in the Gujarat BJP believe that Modi has been under tremendous pressure by Shah to return the favours he has allegedly bestowed on his mentor in the last two decades of their association. It’s a well known fact that during Modi's rebellion against former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and in his fight with the ex-Home Minister of Gujarat Haren Pandya, it was Shah who stood firmly by Modi's side galvanizing the cadres and leaders in favour of his boss.

As the second in command in the Modi dispensation, the youngest minister in his cabinet who held charge of twelve ministries including the powerful Minister of State for Home, Shah single-handedly thwarted all trouble that came in the way of Modi with his office getting the infamous tag of the “dirty tricks department of the CM”. It was under his tenure as Home Minister that the Gujarat police went on a spree of fake encounters in the state – holding regular press conferences for the media with the bodies of the alleged assassins on display. The officers would claim that the Gujarat CM was under threat from jihadists who were out to assassinate the man who brought back Hindu asmita in Gujarat.

While the chief minister managed to leave unscathed during the investigations of most of the encounters which were later pronounced as fake, Shah found himself listed as the prime accused in three encounters, his role in the other two being probed by the CBI with investigations in the case still on.

Another major dent in Shah's image came with his alleged involvement in the Snoopgate scandal, in which he is heard instructing one of his key lieutenants – IPS officer GL Singhal who was then incharge of the ATS, to carry on surveillance on a young woman. The tapes which were released late last year created a furore after it became obvious that Shah as the Home Minister of the state was using state machinery to snoop on innocent civilians, monitoring their moves. In this particular case, a young woman whose movements, including aspects of her personal life were being reported to the CM on a daily basis.

With such serious criminal charges against him, has Modi denigrated the position of the party president by handing over Shah the reins of the party. Would it now be safe to assume that Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted against the interests of the judiciary by rejecting the nomination of Gopal Subramaniam as a Supreme court judge as he was also the amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. Ever since the Prime Minister assumed office, ex-CBI directors including Ashwini Kumar and AP Singh who were at the helm of affairs in the CBI during the investigation of the encounters, find themselves being at the receiving end of Shah's wrath. While Kumar has stepped down as governor of Nagaland, AP Singh is reportedly under pressure to step down as member of the UPSC after the Income Tax department served notices to him and his family members in an investigation into alleged tax evasion by meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

These could all well be coincidences if one were to take a larger liberal view of the developments including the transfer of 89-year-old ailing governor of Gujarat Kamla Beniwal, who under her tenure locked horns with Modi and Shah over the appointment of Lokayukta in the state. But even if one were to dismiss these actions against officials, lawyers, judges who played significant roles in the criminal justice process involving Amit Shah as conjectures, will it not be pertinent to suggest that by appointing Shah as the BJP President, Modi has acted in contradiction to his promise of a free and fair government, which will have no space for vindictiveness. Hasn't Modi and the BJP under the guidance of the RSS just made the first attack on the principle of clean governance on the basis of which the party came to power? Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to answer this one.

This piece is authored by journalist & writer, Rana Ayyub. She tweets at @RanaAyyub. Sharing it here with the consent of the author.