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During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.

The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:

This, says Aroor, was deemed a “story” worth following up because it was tweeted by an elected representative. And so, he says, the IT reporter in the area filed a follow up “quoting sources”. Here is the report he cites; read it carefullyand see if you can find a single source being quoted. Also note, vide this report, how quickly a Union minister latched on to the incident and gave it a political coloration.

But most importantly, note this: In the follow-up report that Aroor presents as exhibit A in defense of his brand of journalism, the reporter has not spoken to anyone from police/law enforcement to find out what actually did happen. What follows is a startling abdication of every single journalistic norm (Emphasis mine):

Deciding that this would be our top story at 5pm, we invited both the police and BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje to join us on our show. Given logistical constraints on the ground, the option was provided to pre-record with both or either. While Shobha Karandlaje took our questions, the police did not join us on the show.

A tweet promoting the show carried the gruesome allegations of the BJP MP and sources on the ground – a tweet that I personally composed. Unlike my earlier tweet, this one didn’t carry quotes indicating that it was an allegation.

Starting at the top: On what basis did Aroor decide this was the lead story? At this point, 24 hours after the body was discovered, all he had was the intemperate allegation of a politician with a long history of fomenting communal trouble. Note that as soon as the body was discovered, Karandlaje began to talk of ‘jihadi forces’ and of the ‘targeted killing of Hindu activists’. Note also that even as she was busy using the killing of a young boy to further her party’s political ends, she latched onto another incident to light further fires:

In actual fact, however, the girl in question was attempting to escape the attentions of a stalker, Ganesh Eashwar Naik.

This, then, is the person on whose unsupported word Aroor based an editorial decision on. Note, further, that his focus is on “getting police on the show” — not first checking with the police to find out what the story really is. And he compounds his criminal error when he, in his own words, “personally composed” a tweet carrying the allegations — without quotes, or other indications to suggest they were merely allegations. In other words Aroor, who starts off with a verbose defense of his journalistic integrity, took an allegation and converted it into a personal attestation.

Much is then made of how Aroor in a subsequent broadcast asked Karandlaje if she had any specific proof to back up her allegations. Which begs the question: Isn’t that what you ask first, before you decide if the allegation deserves air time? Giving a fact-free allegation considerable air time, giving it your imprimatur by airing it as fact sans the telltale quote marks, and then asking if there is any proof is so far removed from basic journalism that it constitutes a sackable offense were it a tyro; when the “consulting editor” of a major channel does this, it is way beyond the pale. And then there is this:

Later that evening, the police, which had sparked its own controversy by declaring that the death was a “samanya saavu”, released a Q&A report with a forensics doctor, a document that appeared to fully contradict the BJP’s explosive charges. I happened to be among the first to tweet this out:

Wait, what?! How did the police “spark its own controversy”? The meaning of the police statement is clear — or would be, if you weren’t determined to see it through a predetermined lens: the police is saying, merely, that this is not a communal incident. Apparently Aroor believes he fully fulfilled his responsibility as a senior journalist by suggesting — some 48 hours after he decided to run a full fledged story based on an unconscionable tweet — that the BJP should now explain the basis of its charges:

And then, this:

The following day, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah tweeted that the death of Paresh Mesta was “unfortunate” – a curious choice of word. Just as the BJP was certain this was a gruesome murder, was he certain this wasn’t murder at all? Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”? Was he simply alleging that this wasn’t murder, but a natural death, much like the Karnataka Police had done the previous day?

Seriously, is this guy compos mentis? “Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”?”, he asks. Sorry, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? And then he goes on to parse the CM’s statement, and in the process put words in the mouth of the police — note that the police did not say it was a natural death; that is not what “saamanya saavu” meant.

And then there is this (emphasis mine):

The following morning, putting the spotlight on the political war that had broken out, we planned a morning face-offbetween the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the issue. While the BJP joined us, the Congress apparently declined, forcing us to plan a face-off between the BJP and a member of the CPI (considering the allegations were of a political killing). Here’s that full broadcast:

“…forcing us to plan a face-off…”?!!!! Really? By then, four days had passed; communal tensions had been created by an unsubstantiated allegation — and Aroor admits that the allegations are unsubstantiated — and yet this consulting editor is still riding the fake news for all it is worth. His focus is on the next sensational talk fest, the next “show”, the next spin.

Related reading: The Rise of the Pseudo-Event

Remember what he says at the outset?:

I’ve been branded a communal hatemonger, a rabble-rouser and a plainly bad journalist who deliberately picked up the Paresh Mesta story with the specific intention of, among other things, “scoring TRPs”, “fanning communal tensions before the Karnataka elections”, “currying favour with the BJP”. Calls have gone out from several quarters for my sacking, arrest or both. I stand accused by some of these sites of peddling fake news.

Net net, by his own admitted actions, Aroor has amplified an unsubstantiated allegation, which gave it oxygen, which led to communal tension; his journalistic choices have been irresponsible throughout. As for the allegation that this “story” has to do with the Karnataka elections, consider what is happening on the ground:

#1. Karandlaje in short order propagated a fake story of jihadi rape. #2. Even two weeks after the original incident, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was openly threatening violence in the state. Read that again, slowly: A Union Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law, threatening violence and bloodshed. #3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continues to beat the drum of “justice” at a rally in Karnataka. Again — this is the central minister for Home — the man in charge of law and order in the country. #4. Tensions flare in Belagavi and every time some semblance of peace is restored, there is a fresh outbreak.

Do you need to be told that the next major state election is in Karnataka? Here, a clip from a story cited earlier (Again, emphasis mine):

Even after the state government handed over the investigation into Mesta’s death to the Central Bureau of Investigation on December 13, the BJP refuses to scale down its protests. For the coming week, it has announced a “jail bharo andolan”, calling upon people across Karnataka to court arrest to protest the Congress government’s policy of favouring Muslims. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has accused BJP of using Mesta’s death to create trouble for political gains.

The communal tensions come at a time when political parties are preparing the ground for Karnataka assembly elections to be held in the first half of 2018. In 2012, BJP had won in just one of the six constituencies in Uttara Kannada district and one of the eight constituencies in neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district. The 14 seats in coastal Karnataka will prove crucial in deciding the winner of next year’s election.

Connect the dots: Karnataka is Congress-ruled. Elections are due. The BJP, consistent with its win-at-all-costs methodology, has in rapid succession used two fake stories to stoke communal tension, and already begun to propagate its time-tested “favoring Muslims” allegation — the party’s go-to trope in every single election, in every single state. And all this is happening in the one region where the BJP is most anxious to gain a foothold.

Here is the part that should scare you: The dates for the Karnataka elections have not even been announced yet. And already, a former state-level minister, and two Union ministers, have done their damndest to light fires. Who knows what else is in store as the campaign actually gets under way?

All of which is why the “journalism” of the likes of Aroor — thoughtless, if I am being charitable; unprincipled, if I am being honest — is so dangerous; it is the oxygen that feeds the flames of bigotry, of hatred.

Elsewhere:

#1. BJP MP Kirron Kher joins the long line of politicians using fake photos to stoke faux patriotism

#2. A “fringe” outfit (I’ll have more to say on these fringes in a later post) in Karnataka is outraged that Sunny Leone, gasp!, is scheduled to perform at a New Year’s event in Bangalore. What will she wear?! Will she wear anything at all?!! Shock, horror!! And so the police — whose duty is to maintain law and order, not cater to every damn bunch of lunatics threatening the peace, decides to cancel the event. That is who we are today — a nation captive to every ragtag outfit that can say it with stones.

#3. Proving yet again that politics is the last refuge of the certifiably insane, a BJP MLA says that Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma chosing to get married in Italy is an unpatriotic act. The bit that should worry you?: “The crowd that had gathered there was seen applauding as the MLA was speaking.”

#4. The Hindu Jagran Manch — yet another of our ‘fringe’ groups, of which more here — threatened violence if Christian-run schools in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas. Which is par for the course with the HJM. What should make you sit up and take notice is this: A Union minister saying, in support of the HJM threat, that schools are not religious places and people should celebrate only in their homes.

#5. A CAG report, which names Ramdev’s Patanjali in a list of polluters, provides a grim view of the Clean Ganga project.

Now, as per the CAG report, the river in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi happens to be along one of the most polluted stretches. In six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal oxygen levels in the water have plummetted from the level it were in 2012-2013. Total coliform bacteria levels in all cities of UP, WB and Bihar was very high. The water quality in these cities was not even fit for bathing.

#6. In Rajasthan, a man kills a Muslim, videotapes the incident, and uses the videotape to raise money for an anti-Muslim campaign. Over 700 people from across the country deposit over three lakh in his account. A Hindu group supporting the killer clashes with police and raises a saffron flag over the area courthouse premises. And it turns out that the wrong man was killed.

Unpack this slowly:

During grilling, Shambhul told police that labourer Mohammed Afrazul, a resident of West Bengal’s Malda, was not his target.

He wanted to kill one Ajju Sheikh because he was in contact with a girl whom Shambhu regarded as his sister. But we suspect Shambhu had an affair with her,” said Rajendra Singh Rao, police circle officer of Rajsamand.

This hero on whose behalf people are raising funds and attacking cops brutally killed a man while meaning to kill another man he believed had eyes on ac”sister” he was having an affair with. Now what? Can the 700 idiots who “contributed to the cause” ask for their money back?

Tailpiece: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to TimesNow which, these days, is on a batshit hashtag trip, is engaged in Mission Sab Ka Saath. Per which Modi, on December 19, met fisherfolk in Kerala who were affected by Cyclone Ockhi and told them this:

“This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that’s why I myself have comeWe are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing return back,” he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.

But even that is nothing compared to what he said next:

“The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief,” he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.

“…claps from the grief-stricken families”? Where is that facepalm emoji when I need one?

The cyclone hit the Kerala coast on November 30.

Originally published by Prem Panicker here.

BUJ condemns HT Media's decision to shut down 6 editions

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) strongly condemns the illegal decision of HT Media Ltd to shut down six editions of Hindustan Times (HT) at Bhopal, Indore, Ranchi, Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi with effect from 09 January 2017.

The closing down of six editions at one go is an unprecedented event in the history of Indian print media and has clearly been done to circumvent the implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award which was upheld by the Supreme Court by its judgment dated 07 February 2014.

Apart from closing down six editions, HT Media Ltd is also illegally "pruning" staff in various departments as well as in The Mint, a sister publication from the Group and has shut down the business bureaus in Mumbai and Delhi, besides the bureau in Kolkata. Hundreds of journalists are likely to lose their jobs as a consequence of these malicious and illegal decisions.

HT Media Ltd, a BSE listed entity, with a yearly turnover of over Rs 2000 crore has not implemented the Award in any of its units and has forced employees to submit undertakings under Clause 20(j) of the Award to renounce the benefits under it.

The Company has also failed to implement Clause 9(b) of the Award which entitles even those working on contract basis to receive Variable Pay at the rate of 30 per cent of basic scale.

Section 16-A of The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 (45 of 1955) expressly prohibits a newspaper establishment from dismissing, discharging or retrenching any newspaper employee by reason of its liability for payment of wages under the Award.

Further, the Hon'ble Supreme Court is currently hearing a bunch of Contempt petitions filed against various newspaper establish managements and was all set to hear arguments on several legal issues including an interpretation of Clause 20 (j) of the Award.

It is astonishing that a hugely profitable company like HT Media Ltd (whose third quarter of Calendar 2016 earnings stood at Rs 602.23 crore) has chosen to illegally close down six editions of Hindustan Times and sack several other journalists working in various bureaus rather than implement the Majithia Wage Board Award.

Furthermore, the Company's official website has projected a total revenue of Rs 662.40 crore, in Q1FY2017, which constitutes an increase of 7.5 per cent over the corresponding quarter of the previous year. It also maintains a strong balance sheet position with a net cash of Rs 823.40 crore.

The BUJ demands that the management of HT Media Ltd should immediately revoke its decisions to shut down six editions and sack journalists in various bureaus, failing which it will draw the attention of the Honorable Supreme Court to these developments in the hearing slated for 10 January 2017.

BRIHANMUMBAI UNION OF JOURNALISTS

23-24-25, Prospect Chambers Annexe, D.N.Road, MUMBAI - 400 001

Phone: 022-22816671

1

The Indian socio-political space is polarized as never before. The religious and economic right wings came together in an unprecedented show of solidarity and gave India its first Prime Minister who refuses to answer any questioning. The writing was on the wall. Subramanian Swamy had detailed the RSS "plan" as far back as 1999 with remarkable accuracy if one is to read it with the wisdom of hindsight.

Arundhati Roy had spoken of the economic separation going on in the Indian society in words that have since been seared onto the minds of most people who read them.

What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere.

Journalists, bloggers, social media commentators have been pointing to this situation coming. This blog has certainly not pulled any punches, and the only surprise in it is the number of people who apparently did not imagine that people given to disregarding law and country while not even in power are wreaking complete mayhem now that they are.

Repulsive utterances and acts have systematically decimated any gullible people who had believed that the country would thrive under a Hindutva right extremist government. Pretty much the only supporters the government has left is its core constituency - those who support them not in spite of their communally hostile views and acts, but because of them. Businessmen are already talking about lack of investments, rupee continues to sink and so on.

Call it BJP's anti-intellectualism committing suicide by pitting itself against institutions of education or call it the simple end of the election campaign resulting in the fog of advertising coming off people's eyes, blaming the right is not such a difficult thing these days. They seem to be doing more than half the work themselves.

In the process, what is happening is a complete absolution of those who are not these barbarians. The nice halos of liberals, intellectuals, leftists and what not other identities with lofty morals are shining brilliant more from the lack lustre contrast of a determinedly incompetent right than any particular merit of their own.

How easy it has become to forget that the Congress pretty much handed the country to BJP on a platter, or that the excellent campaign of Kejriwal suddenly stopped talking of deliverables and dived into Gods after pitching the meager finances of the party into Varanasi and ensuring that hundreds of other seats did not campaign well for shortage of money? A careful Modi wave respected the Gandhi and Yadav parivars even when it swept across UP in a historic win. BJP returned the favor in Delhi elections giving AAP the landslide win so close to Kejriwal's heart. Of course, Kejriwal wasn't ungrateful. After becoming CM and whisking off for treatment at the supposedly hated PM's recommendation, his party did a nice purge of leftists who could have a problem with placing results over ethics or process.

And it goes on. Rahul Gandhi has started finding his eloquence. A near dead left is suddenly visible on Twitter. The country, as is normal for a democracy has no real answer for who should lead it.

Unless India wants to keep swinging between opportunists, the need of the hour is for a struggle for the intellect. A struggle to examine social norms, assumptions, and holy cows and test them against own reasoning, own experiences in life,  own sense of judgment. A struggle to assert own authority to demand accountability and performance from a government.

While there is no doubt that the Hindutva right is a disaster for India not just socially and economically, but in terms of intellectual capital, fundamental freedoms and perhaps even national integration itself, blaming the Hindutva right for the state of the country would be a mistake. For all their faults, their unsuitability was never hidden. A phenomenal carpet bombing of propaganda, entire cover ups of history, brutal and crude campaigns, opportunistic use of human rights propaganda and more got them a landslide victory. A complete multi-pronged brainwashing campaign with a budget to rival the GDPs of entire countries and still, their vote share wasn't a third of the voters in the country.

Can a citizen afford to forget that while the Hindutva right may be guilty of conducting this "advertising scam" and while it may be "guilty" of governing exactly as it has always said it wants a country to be run, it is the complacency of the left and the intellectuals that completely failed to challenge even a single prong of the facade? The word intellectual implies a mind that spends time in thought. A mind capable of more efficient thinking, more robust processes of concluding. Is it not time that the citizen asked whether the country's public intellectuals have served it well?

I have yet to find a reasoned argument that can engage with a crude and illogical defamatory conclusion that makes up in quantity what lacks in quality when it comes to propagation. Why is it that our intellectuals have not made an effort to fight the dangerous undermining of critical thinking nationwide, even as there has been no shortage of them screaming alarm that it was happening?

The right has never pretended to include people. Their concept is simple. "We are the rightful rulers of this land, and we'd like the rest of you to vanish. In any case, we will oppose you anything you want, fundamental right or otherwise" This is no secret. The fundamental of the ideology plays out when it is possible to simply accuse someone loudly enough for it to be a truth to be fixed with a lynch mob. It is not that the mob is stupid enough that no one realizes that the targets are probably framed. It is that the mob is fine with the destruction of the targets for whatever the superficial reason. Be it a Dadri lynching or "terrorists" in JNU.

The question of national integration has to be one for the left to answer. Because the left claims to believe in inclusion. Have they been talking to be understood by all, if a country can be fooled into pseudo-nationalist outrage at the drop of a hat? Have our public thinkers thought loud enough?

While our upper and middle classes are seceding into the stratosphere economically, is it not equally true that our intellectuals have so seceded into an intellectual stratosphere that their ideas of free speech and fundamental rights don't sound familiar to the masses?

A blog by a right wing blogger, Amrit Hallan comes to mind. In it, he compares why Niti Central shut down, but Scroll thrived. To me, the reason seems to be that Niti Central was set up with the specific purpose of electoral propaganda when BJP was in the opposition. Its archives contain often reckless condemnation of a lot of things done by the UPA2 that BJP is currently doing, and it is no longer a suitable publication for the purposes of those it served, because its own archives would condemn those it favors. My guess is that in a few months, it will mushroom up in another avatar with content more suitable to publicizing the work of this government and nothing inconvenient criticizing very similar actions by another government.

But reading the piece by Amrit Hallan was a revelation. Not because his analysis differed from mine - that is bound to happen - I have an extremely cynical view of political propaganda as a whole and BJP affiliated propaganda in particular. What stunned me was how he saw the "Left". From reading his post, the inescapable perception is that of the "left" as he puts it (including leftists and "Congis", activists, etc) as a monolith. He goes to the extent of speaking of leftists promoting each other by name or linking to pieces and creating an artificial credibility where none exists. To look at the piece in terms of its merit as a debate would laugh it off the stage, because it is so absurd.

Yet, if someone does not understand the thinking that leads to stands on fundamental rights, would not completely independent instances of agreement with rights they do not wish to give appear to be an incomprehensible conspiracy? If I did not understand, say for example architecture and published something that creates an unstable building for reasons completely beyond my knowledge, would experts who trashed my article not appear as a conspiracy of elitists unwilling to recognize my masterpiece because I did not agree with them?

Would it not appear as a conspiracy to someone conditioned to react with hate to "enemies" of India, if their reaction were criticized for impinging on the rights and safety of another? To someone who has never had a deep dialogue on citizenship and the right of every citizen to their nation, would it not appear that there was nothing being impinged in order to correct a perceived threat?

If I wrote an article criticizing the beef ban in Maharashtra from an animal husbandry perspective, Asad Owaisi retweeted it, because he perceives the beef ban as a targeting of Muslims, a few dalit activists retweeted it because of the lack of recognition of dalits eating beef as a legitimate diet of Indian Hindus, if those endorsing fundamental freedoms retweeted it because they oppose the imposition of religious belief on people..... would it not appear to be a conspiracy to a well meaning, if ignorant urban product who has never cared for cattle, but been brought up considering it holy and further radicalized to believe that a cow is nothing and nothing but a symbol of Hindu faith?

Why would an urban mind think about the crisis of fodder and water in rural India? Why would it think of a centuries old thriving trade (and exports) of Kolhapuri chappals? Why would it think of massive income from the export of beef, because Indian taboos make India the only country in the world where beef (considered superior meat) is actually cheaper than goat meat, resulting in massive export business? These things are not told to the mind, the ideas of individual rights are not informed to the mind. What remains is a fog of outraged insult that anybody would kill and eat their mother. That is where the bizarre questions come from.

Would you kill and eat your mother?

Well, I wouldn't tie her in a cattle shed either!

That is what they know. Then begins the desperate search to make an emotional stand sound logical.

No one can know what they don't know. What sort of an intellectual capital have we created that there are so many among our masses who are unaware of the reasoning behind fundamental rights? What sort of an intellectual capital have we created that there are so many left in ignorance that they can be fodder for opportunists to feed ideas for political profit? How is it that we can have a country where the population of cows rivals that of states, and yet the products of our education have no idea of the economy cattle sustain beyond religious faith?

The cow is just an example. This kind of deficit of reasoning that results in dangerous, life threatening outrage can be traced to a lack of adequate information, lack of education, lack of public debate.

We could sneer at them for their stupidity, but it would be useful to remember that we are all products of our circumstances. None of us were born wise. None of us stop learning. All of us learn in various ways unique to us that trigger deeper thought on assumptions that often lead to complete changes in views.

Whose responsibility is it to inculcate such thought? Actually, no one's. Today, we have an abundance of activists pointing out problems and demanding solutions from governments and advocating change, but relatively few reformers who create change regardless of society or government. Governments themselves have over and over abdicated this responsibility. Remember, it wasn't fanatics ruling when we chose to embrace liberalism so thoroughly that our films went from coolie and mazdoor heroes to flashy cars and item girls. It wasn't fanatics in rule when our media chased wealth so thoroughly that national integration was no longer for public content. No more ek chidiya anek chidiya and mile sur mera tumhara. Now paisa bolta hain.

Well, paisa spoke. It spoke so loud that it created an entire fantasy world for youth who never experienced a public space where children dreamed of becoming teachers and scientists instead of MBAs and MNC employees. It never told them of social injustices and showed them films like Amar Prem. Their world is one where these ugly things don't happen. In fact, they are "less privileged", if you look at the bling they are bombarded with as "normal".

You cannot expect private individuals to educate public intellect. You cannot even force them to speak so that they are understood by masses without violating their rights to free speech. That almost sounds like forced conscription for weapons of mass instruction. Something a government will never bring about regardless of political party in power, because idiots are easier to con with pipe dreams than people asking why midday meals are so pathetic and where the money went.

So who is left, whose responsibility it is to create intellectual capital?

No one's. It is a responsibility abdicated by one and all.

But I can tell you what will happen if we do not have a more thinking citizenry. We will burn each other to the ground when incited by opportunists for goals that won't give us a thing beyond the heady sense of being the neighbourhood's biggest bully. Regardless of whether it is the left or the right, the dalits or the brahmins, the Muslims or the Hindutvawadis, everyone will burn. No matter who the opportunists, the ones dying in street fights are always cannon fodder.

8

Below is an email by one Rajeev Bajwa to Arvind Kejriwal and Pankaj Gupta (dated March 30, 2015) complaining of irregularities in donated funds. Aam Aadmi Party should act on this person's request and take appropriate action. This email has been leaked by a dissenting volunteer of AAP.

Hello Arvind ji & Pankaj ji,

My name is Rajeev Bajwa and I am AAP supporter from day one and one of the leading Donors from New Zealand and also one of three POC's of New Zealand.

I am writing in regards to the CASH DONATIONS (Rs. 49000.00) deposited on dated 06/05/2014 into the personal account of Ms. Preety Mehra's ICICI Noida Branch (Receipt attached)

BACKGROUND / OVERVIEW :

During Lok Sabha (PUNJAB) Elections May 2014 - S. Kaharg Sing Sidhu ji's took initiative and made an efforts to do a fund raiser night for AAP and we raised 10 lac of Donations on that night.

Out of these collected Donations;

8 Lac out of 10 lacs raised by sidhu ji was transferred via Girish Mailar's Indian passport - this caused us some trouble - We received many complaints from other volunteers that Girish has accepted all thanks and credits on his individual name and projected him self as he has donated this from his own pocket where as donations were collected in a fund raiser dinner - Resultant marked "?" on Girish's integrity amongst all other volunteers in NZ.

2 Lacs were transferred via my own Indian Passport - I declared every single rupee of that on social media giving all the due credit to all volunteers & donors especially Sidhu ji.

Couple of days before Varanasi elections Girish contacted me and asked to arrange an urgent funds transfer of Rs.100,000.00 into Preety Mehra's PERSONAL account held at ICICI Noida Branch.

When I asked reason that why we can not donate directly into AAP official account then Girish insisted me not to transfer into official AAP account because volunteers are not getting any funds in Varanasi and they are desperate for financial support and Girish assured & confirmed that it is coming from reliable source which includes Shalini Gupta, Prayas Chaudhary, Vijay Sirohi.

Girish further assured me & Sidhu ji that a proper official AAP donation receipt will be provided.

I discussed this matter with S. Kharag Singh Sidhu (2nd AAP POC of NZ in Auckland)

Considering the critical situation and as explained by Girish that the request is coming from reliable AAP volunteers we decided to go ahead however I decided to ring Pankaj Gupta ji for clarification on this.

I called Pankaj Gupta ji's personal mobile - Pankaj ji was very busy and asked me to call one his assistant.

I spoke to Pankaj ji's assistant and I was told that it is NOT allowed to donate in ANY of the volunteers personal accounts and I was asked to provide names of those volunteers if someone is asking to transfer funds into their personal accounts.

I further raised this feedback with Girish & Sidhu ji that it is NOT officially recommended and is a BIG NO NO.

Girish then contacted these volunteers and provided their phone numbers in India, I spoke to Anurag, he said he is in Varanasi with Varun Gupta and they are 20 -30 people and they ran out of funds and do not have any support from AAP at that stage and they desperately need cash to arrange food for volunteers.

He also promised to send us photos of current location and scenario once they get a chance.

After considering all this and thinking we need to take risk, we (Sidhu ji, Myself) agreed to Girish's request to send them money. Girish further insisted that they need money immediately so I had to call my Father in India (Hoshiarpur) to deposit Rs. 100,000.00 into the personal account of Preety Mehra (wife of Varun Gupta - Seattle USA) held at ICICI Noida branch.

My father was very busy so he had to send one of his employee (Manjit Singh) to deposit cash in Preety's a/c -

To ensure that money has been received by correct person, I tried to contact Anurag & Varun repeatedly on their mobiles but they did not pick up my phone at all. Luckily it was only first installment of Rs.49000.00 out of one lac was deposited. As you can not deposit more that Rs49000.00 cash in one particular day otherwise banks ask for further details of income etc, etc..

Later after raising this matter further with Girish, I was given an online meeting details on fuse so that I can clarify if I want to clarify this matter further but I never received any official donation receipt or any photos from Varanasi as promised by Varun Gupta & Anurag over the phone.

After two days of chase I received a wahts up message that Rs. 49000.00 were received into Preety's account.

Till date Varun Gupta failed to make ANY effort to clarify this unaccounted donation received by him rather it seems to me that he is avoiding this matter including me personally on all fronts i.e. social media etc.

I may be wrong and my observations may be wrong - I am not trying to judge any ONE person here. All I want to REQUEST you is that please chase this tail so that we can find out if there are any MORE similar anomalies in FUNDS transferred to personal accounts.

Regards,

Rajeev Bajwa

[Note: This email describes a donation clearly made against the advice of AAP leaders. It is also written after the current crisis in AAP emerged and as such, I see this more as a complaint of misdeeds by rogue volunteers/workers than an allegation on the party itself.]

4

In the National Executive (NE) meeting yesterday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) removed Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from their Political Affairs Committee (PAC). This action comes after a long growing rift within the party, which some staunch Kejriwal followers sneeringly referred to as "socialists". Another explained that the party was socialist overall, but these people called themselves socialist - or whatever that is.

[tweetthis]Leaders of AAP's Delhi state unit are bringing disgrace to the party with their unfounded and toxic witchhunt.[/tweetthis]

There are several allegations against the duo that have been brought out into the open by the party in ways that do more to reveal the ugly methods to achieve political objectives than shed light on the supposed crimes of Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav. Addressing some here.

Yogendra Yadav is ambitious

This accusation coming from the blind supporters of the person who has not let ultimate power rest in any hands other than his own since the birth of the party is so absurd as to make no sense. In a party claiming to be against high command, it would be logical to expect that once Arvind Kejriwal was Chief Minister, someone else would take over the party's command. Not even BJP and Congress have this kind of singular control over power. Without ambition, AAP wouldn't exist. It now appears that the sole ambition to lead must be Kejriwal's and all other ambitions must be to support. I see nothing wrong in expecting Arvind Kejriwal to resign.

Yogendra Yadav made a public spectacle of differences in the party.

This is not true. Manish Sisodia started the public accusations game (READ THESE AGAIN) in the wake of the Lok Sabha Elections disaster with a public letter criticizing Yogendra Yadav for his differences with Naveen Jai Hind. The very fact that Yogendra Yadav alone got what amounted to an "expose" of inappropriate behavior for a spat between two people shows which side of that spat Manish Sisodia fell on. Yogendra Yadav's reply to this letter STATES HIS PREFERENCE to keep this quiet and replies with generic but important issues plaguing AAP - the questions raised in this letter were never addressed to the best of my knowledge. Incidentally, Naveen Jai Hind has continued his vicious vendetta against Yogendra Yadav to date and it is currently widening fissures in Haryana AAP.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav threatened press conferences, sabotaged party campaign

I have not seen evidence of this. Raising questions where party is clearly going wrong, in my eyes amounts to support of the party and not sabotage. If these questions raised repeatedly are never answered, while the opposite claims are made in public, it would be the duty of any honest person to be the whistleblower - incidentally something AAP respects a lot except in own party. Several Kejriwal supporters have claimed that "Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had to be constantly managed to not harm AAP." Considering that Prashant Bhushan could draw attention to anything he said any time and Yogendra Yadav was routinely appearing for the party in national media, this accusation is absurd.

If they wanted to damage the party, they could have done it any time. What they appear to be doing is raising urgent and genuine questions about party functioning to strengthen the party - which got managed by shutting them up over and over and the problems remain. These questions have been asked by me as well as many others who thought AAP actually was being honest about its values. The Kejriwal faction clearly appears to be fine with the lack of democracy as long as they get power in Delhi. The damage to AAP does not appear to be a concern, since the core circle of power is sitting lush with self importance right now and have no wish to contest further elections. It appears that this is being projected as "socialist" - a disturbing echo of BJP's contempt for democracy.

This is about greed for Rajya Sabha seats

So what if it is? Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have both acted in the interest of the party. Denying seats is very different from running a public vilification campaign against them. One is a party decision, the other is party sabotage.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have embarrassed the party publicly

Increasingly, the much acclaimed honesty of the Aam Aadmi Party appears to be the "appearance" of honesty rather than actions of honesty. If dishonesty in a party committed to honesty is exposed, it is an opportunity for reform. If dishonesty in a con is exposed, it is a trigger to shoot the messenger. In my view, a party that doesn't follow appropriate decision making procedures but makes big claims of representative democracy is dishonest. This was also reflected in their all male cabinet, independently of any influence or accusations by either Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav. When a senior party leader has communal posters put up, while the party claims to fight communalism, it is dishonesty. For an honest party, the embarrassment is that these things happened, for AAP, the embarrassment appears to be that these things got exposed. It is like saying "it is okay to steal as long as you don't get caught" - a far cry from the advertised adamant principled stands.

Prashant Bhushan wanted a post for his sister.

So what? The question ought to be one of merit, yes? Last piece of propaganda was all about merit determining this - and all the people making the accusations actually didn't have an issue of merit about her. As for family members, I hear Ankit Lal wanted a ticket for his wife that Yogendra Yadav didn't allow? Notice how he hasn't been kicked as head of social media for wanting it.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav interfered with the candidate selection process

[tweetthis]Where did AAP follow its much claimed candidate selection process that Bhushan or Yadav interfered?[/tweetthis]

What candidate selection process? From the much hyped start, we have seen people walk into the party to get seats. If they flagged names for scrutiny and two candidates actually had to be withdrawn, it only shows that their concerns were legitimate. Perhaps the Kejriwal club wanted to run with the problem candidates for reasons of their own?

Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan supported AVAM

I have said this before and I say it again. If an argument has merit, it has merit. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Regardless of who incites and who funds. While the mysterious 2 crore funding was not illegal, it was clearly dubious that no one in AAP has any idea of who gave so much money. For a party that made a huge fuss about donations received on social media, not a single day reported such a massive donation. I had independently asked Ankit Lal about this and he explained that only online donations get reported on social media. I went to the extent of asking him to confirm the payment with their accounts with bank, as they could just as easily be planted if the website got hacked.

Regardless, it seems rather strange that no one celebrated such massive donations received in a day for a party that got thousands of tweets celebrating a few lakhs received routinely. This amnesia is rather strange, even if not illegal for the party and does raise questions of who exactly this mysterious donor is to donate such a massive amount without anyone noticing. More importantly, even after the controversy broke, there is no attempt to find out the source of the donation - which to me indicates that the source is known to those who matter and can order an investigation. So I don't see AVAM's questions as entirely irrelevant, though their timing was certainly mischievous and motivations unknown.

If people raising questions about party functioning gravitate toward others raising questions about party functioning, I don't see this as a conspiracy so much as long festering questions that are important enough for people to persist in seeking answers and raising the pressure. To dismiss them as anti-party activity is as good as saying expecting transparency from AAP is against the party culture - regardless of TV studio claims.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were hungry to contest elections

Unless it is only Delhi that needed the oh-so-honest party, I fail to see the problem with this. The Lok Sabha defeat was more because of Kejriwal's stunts in Varanasi that appropriated party resources disproportionately to fight from a deliberate position of disadvantage AND key speeches ignoring what AAP was promising to focus on random allegations and accusations. If he'd stayed in Delhi, there would be far more people in the Lok Sabha today. But a growing conspiracy theory says that this was pre-planned, just like the BJP sweep of UP was pre-planned. This is further supported by the fact that a disproportionate number of bogus voters found in Varanasi has not led to so much as a whimper of protest or call for repolling by Aam Aadmi Party. 6.5 lakh duplicate names in a constituency with 17 lakh voters can hardly be a "mistake".

Incidentally, the push to contest Lok Sabha Elections nationwide is what got Kejriwal the flood of volunteers from all over India, arriving to saturate the Delhi Campaign on the ground. They immediately got thanked in the form of "Thanks for Delhi, but we won't be contesting in your area, we will focus on delivering here." All of a sudden the government that claims to have delivered miracles in 49 days is in a desperate rush to be able to deliver its promises at all in five years to the point of not finding any women worthy of delivering them and the chap holding the ultimate leadership not even attending an NE meet as crucial as this one (but has time to handle party responsibilities if Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and their pesky questions are removed).

Obviously Kejriwal can't do both. And he can't let go of power enough to let the party grow either.

The bottom line is clear. Kejriwal & Co have got what they wanted. Now they intend to enjoy it and ignore any questions raised because no one can do a thing to them anymore. Not the people of Delhi, not supporters, members or donors of the party. If they all turned against him, they still can't do a thing for the next five years. Accountability is no longer an issue. Kejriwal has no time for anything except... um... 10 days delivering promises to Bangalore district of Delhi. The rest was a fantasy woven to con enough people into donating and supporting.

Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav got removed democratically

This is complete nonsense. If Arvind Kejriwal not only clings to power, but uses the affection people have for him as a weapon to influence party decisions, it is not democratic. If Kejriwal submitted a resignation as National Convenor and refused to withdraw it unless Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were removed, it is emotional blackmail. Plain and simple. It is a misuse of the affection people have for him to use their wish to continue following him to eliminate people from positions of power. It is not democratic to request Mayank Gandhi to refrain from voting and Mayank doing so raises questions about his commitment to party democracy as well. The replacement of the representative from Rajasthan was clear cut "vote rigging". After all this tamasha, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were defeated by a mere three votes. Democratic my foot.

[tweetthis]The ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the PAC is brute eviction of dissenting minority.[/tweetthis]

If the NE decision actually represented the views of the party, there wouldn't be supporters still using "paanch saal Kejriwal" pictures for their profiles furious about the ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. Staunch supporters have abruptly stopped. This was a wrong decision on every level. You can rig "democracy", you cannot make a decision that doesn't reflect the interests of those it claims to to "feel" right.

With this decision, the Aam Aadmi Party has openly shed the burden of ethics weighing it down for so long. With five years of government secure, and Kejriwal in no mood or need to contest anything anymore, the Kejriwal camp has simply abandoned the party in the rest of the country with their reckless actions for ego.

In the process, what the AAP seems to have forgotten in their intoxication with themselves is that governments come and go. Five years is not very long in the life of a nation. An anti-corruption party targeting Prashant Bhushan with an underhanded hate campaign and removing him from the PAC is its own one sentence self-explanatory story.