(Part 1) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

More than 70 blasts in last six months and scores of people dead. The latest in the series of unending violence against India is the bold and daring attack that took place in Mumbai. The latest attack was totally different from previous bomb blasts and took everybody by surprise.

Around 11 (according to media reports) terrorists walk into our country by a sea route and create the kind of mayhem that we witnessed in last few days. This is unprecedented. It is very sad that so many innocent people had to lose their lives because of the incompetence of our political leadership coupled with weak law enforcement and intelligence setup.

The attack on Mumbai was waiting to happen. While the political blame game has already claimed its first casualty (Shivraj Patil), we need to sit back and analyze the situation. Resignations of a minister or few officials will not fix the situation we are in. The Mumbai attack has presented the top leadership of the country with a unique opportunity; to entirely change the way we perceive national security and also revamp the crumbling law enforcement and intelligence apparatus in our country.

Some of the important factors that we must consider before we move forward to bring a revolutionary change are mentioned here:

  1. Multiple agencies, overlapping objectives, zero coordination
  2. Lack of accountability of Intelligence agencies
  3. Politics over national interest: Politicisation of Intelligence agencies
  4. Long coastline but negligible security
  5. Lack of strategic vision and political will

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Multiple agencies, overlapping objectives, zero coordination:

It has emerged now that various intelligence agencies had passed on vital inputs regarding an impending attack on India’s financial capital. Information was also passed on to various state and central agencies about the arrival of RDX. The following is a list of the information that the different agencies and individuals had apparently passed on:

  • A warning four months ago from the President of the local fishermen’s union, Damodar Tandel, that he had received information from his colleague in Gujarat that ammunitions and explosives were being smuggled into Mumbai. Tandel wrote a letter to the official in-charge of the port. It was treated as a general statement and no action was taken.
  • India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), had sent an advisory about terrorists entering Mumbai via sea route. The same was even sent to the Prime Minister’s Office. RAW even intercepted a satellite phone call between terrorists and passed on the information to various agencies, but no action was taken.
  • The Intelligence Bureau (IB) too warned the Indian Navy about a possible entry of terrorists in Mumbai from the sea route, but again no action.
  • Even the Taj hotel was warned about the possibility of a terror attack.
  • Some villagers living near the shore in South Mumbai informed the local police about a group of youngsters climbing out of a rubber raft. There was no follow-up on this too.

No action was taken on the available inputs and the terrorists carried out a daring attack in full media glare. Why did this happen? If we had prior information about the attack, then what went wrong. The failure to prevent the attack suggest negligible or zero coordination between various intelligence agencies. The various agencies that we are talking about here are

Research and Analysis Wing: This external intelligence agency of India is a wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, which functions under the PMO. The RAW chief reports to the National Security Advisor. The agency has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The repeated failures of the country’s top intelligence agency in past few years demand a complete overhaul of the agency.

Intelligence Bureau: IB carries out operations within the country and it comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The bureau is already facing acute shortage of field operatives. The lack of coordination between the RAW and IB is very well known and needs to be rectified immediately.

Military Intelligence agencies: The Directorate General of Military Intelligence (DGMI), a part of the Army, is the most prominent one. Its personnel carry out intelligence activities near India’s forward posts, border areas and diplomatic missions in various countries.

The Air Force and the Navy have their own intelligence gathering units.

A Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was created in 2002 to facilitate coordination between these three units, but it is already short-staffed and doesn’t have enough funds.

Intelligence units of Paramilitary forces: Organisations like the Central Reserve Police Force and the Border Security Force (BSF) maintain their own intelligence network in the areas they operate in.

Intelligence units of other agencies: Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Special Protection Group (SPG) and National Security Guards (NSG) have their own units.

Intelligence units of the state police: Every state has its own local intelligence unit like the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Special Branch or the Crime Branch. These units, which are a primary source of information on the ground, have the advantage in detecting the terror networks, but the condition of these departments in almost all the states is pathetic. The implementation of police reforms still seems to be a distant dream. The most important problems that plague them are increasing police-criminal nexus and rampant corruption, which prevents them from gathering quality intelligence.

These multiple agencies at the central and state levels have no mechanism to share and collate information. Advisories are sent to various agencies, but there is no follow-up action.

Apart from these intelligence gathering units, India does not have an anti-terror agency which can just gather intelligence on terror networks and also investigate terror-related cases on both central and state level. There is a greater need for an anti-terror agency after what happened in Mumbai. Most of the policemen on the streets of Mumbai in the initial hours of the attack had the good old .303 rifles. How are they expected to take on the highly trained and heavily armed terrorists? It seemed the state government and the officials did not even knew what hit them. The chief minister took almost two hours to ask for the assistance of NSG guards.

Click here for (Part 2) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

Click here for (Part 3) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

(Part 2) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

 

Lack of accountability of Intelligence agencies:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was readying for a trip to China in January this year when he asked the chief of the external intelligence agency (RAW) for a briefing about his assessment on the current Chinese leadership. The RAW chief prepared a report which talked about Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji. Interestingly both these leaders,  former president and the premier of China respectively, retired in 2003.

The incident was luckily reported in a foreign media publication. Had it not been reported, we would not have known the true state of the mess the external intelligence agency is in. Imagine the head of India’s premier intelligence agency not having the most basic information on a country like China, with which we are involved in border disputes and also fought a war in 1962. The decision to test nuclear weapons in 1998 was also attributed to the rising prominence of China. And this is not just one isolated incident.

As the country’s premier foreign intelligence agency, it is expected that the person who heads it is competent enough to handle the post. The repeated failures (Kargil, sexual harassment allegations, poor intelligence on terror, corruption, penetration by foreign agencies) of the country’s top intelligence agency in past few years demand a complete overhauling of the agency. The agency is plagued by over bureaucratisation of the appointment system and allegations of favoritism in promotions.

In the recent times, the agency has been in news for all the wrong reasons since the current chief took over. Some of the incidents which were reported in the media are:

  • It was found that the current RAW chief did not know who he was meeting on a number of important meetings. One of them (in August 2007) was with the Commander of the US Pacific Command, Timothy Keating, who the RAW chief kept on referring as John Negroponte. Negroponte is the United State deputy Secretary of State.
  • Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the way the RAW chief spoke with him, a media report said. The report, quoting Afghan sources, stated that the he ill-treated Karzai and spoke to him while chewing and spitting out tobacco.
  • Allegations have also been made against the RAW chief for trying to influence the former Nepalese PM G P Koirala to award a contract of hydropower project to an Indian firm floated by his friend.

The agency suffered a huge setback when one of its senior official turned out to be a mole of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US. Rabinder Singh fled to the US via Nepal and there are already allegations of the involvement of other officials in his disappearance.

According to sources, the agency was one of the best in the world in the past. But infighting between different lobbies (RAS and IPS) in the agency and weak political leadership has brought it to this level.

Politics over national interest – Politicisation of Intelligence agencies:

Security analysts have time and again warned against the use of intelligence agencies for political purposes. But our history suggests that our short-sighted politicians have repeatedly ignored these warnings and use agencies like the Intelligence Bureau for spying on opposition leaders and politicians of other parties.

Questions have also been raised about the appointments of the heads of RAW and IB, which are political. Unlike countries like the United States and Britain, the RAW chief is appointed directly by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). As in the US, we too need a system wherein the head of the agency as important as RAW is appointed after a rigorous assessment procedure. In simple words, we too need a system wherein once the PMO selects a candidate for the top post, he has to be confirmed by a Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence (which has members from all the top political parties). But what is strange here is that RAW is not accountable to the Parliament of India and hence to the people of the country. The agency is not subject to parliamentary review and is also out of reach of the Right to Information Act.

In the US, both the Congress and the Executive Branch oversee the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) activities. According to the CIA website, “In the Executive Branch, the National Security Council – including the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense – provides guidance and direction for national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities.”

“In Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as other committees, closely monitor the Agency’s reporting and programs,” the website  notes.

Apart from the lack of information on some very covert operations ordered by the US President, a huge amount of information on CIA activities is available in public domain. The agency even has a post of Director  of Public Affairs, who advises the CIA chief on all media, public policy and employee communications issues. The Director of Public Affairs also serves as the spokesperson for the CIA.

This has not been the case in India. Despite huge blunders made by the head of the premier intelligence agency, he is still being retained. Reason: The Opposition parties might blame the government for his blunders and score brownie points if he is removed.

Click here for (Part 1) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

Click here for (Part 3) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

(Part 3) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

Long coastline but negligible security:

India has a 7,516 km coastline, 1197 islands and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spanning 2.02 million sq km, which is expected to go up to almost 3 million sq km after the delimitation of the continental shelf. Now what resources do we have to monitor the coasts?

Various agencies monitor the coastal areas in different states but here too there is lack of coordination. Agencies like the Coast Guard severely lacks funds.

If the terrorists entered by sea route, then what was the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy doing? Do we even have a coastal security plan?

Numerous reports of lax security along our coastline have appeared in the media but our incompetent leaders does not seem to have any idea about it.

I remember a special investigative report aired on CNN-IBN channel after the Mumbai train blasts. The report, called Operation Water Rat, made startling revealations about the pathetic state of coastal security in and around Mumbai. But no lessons were learnt after that.

Spineless politicians with no political will:

Indian politicians lack strategic vision and lack political will to take bold actions. Every action needed to tackle challenges like terrorism is viewed through the prism of vote-bank politics. They have taken the people of this country for granted. Media channels, quoting various intelligence sources, clearly stated that prior inputs were given to the state and central government before this attack. And the liar Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deskmukh, said they had no prior information. The chief minister should be booked for treason for his criminal negligence in not taking action on the available information and speaking blatant lies.

Speaking about political will; according to intelligence sources, the route taken by the attackers to enter the country is the same used by Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. The security and intelligence agencies have already hinted at Dawood’s involvement in anti-national activities. What is stopping them to taken action against him. Look at what United States is doing in Pakistan. Their drones are already eliminating terrorists from Pakistan’s volatile NWFP province. Our spineless politicians does not have the guts to get Dawood eliminated in his house in Karachi. Instead of raising the issue of Dawood Ibrahim in Parliament every few months for political gains, the politicians will now have to show some action too. The BJP speaks a lot about tackling terrorism but the nation has not forgotten how shamelessly they gave into the demand of hijackers during the Kandahar hijack crisis.

The terrorists stuck Mumbai at 9.30 pm on November 26, 2008. It took the elite National Security Guards almost nine precious hours to reach the attack sites. The NSG contingent was flown from Delhi to Mumbai after many hurdles. It does not take an expert to tell that many lives, including those of senior police officials, could have been saved had the NSG team reached earlier. Also why NSG is stationed only in Delhi. There have been terror attacks in other metro cities of the country in the past. Why nobody thought of stationing them in important cities like Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai?

On top of that, the honourable Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil declared before the media that 200 NSG guards were on their way to Mumbai. How foolish can one get? This could have definitely given enough time to the attackers to get ready for the elite commandoes. Even the investigating agencies have pointed towards this glaring faux-pas.

It is about time we elect professionals to handle our country. The current lot of politicians and the political parties are a disgrace to our country.

Click here for (Part 1) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

Click here for (Part 2) Mumbai terror attack: Time for action

Torture allegations: Sadhvi Pragya’s affidavit

The Malegaon blast case investigation has come under the scanner again with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L K Advani alleging ill-treatment of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).

Sadhvi Pragya was arrested by the ATS in connection with the Malegaon blast.

The National Security Advisor M K Narayanan met Advani last week and assured him that allegations of torture against the ATS levelled by Sadhvi Pragya will be investigated.

According to the senior BJP leader, his charges against the ATS were based on the details mentioned in the court affidavit submitted by Sadhvi Pragya.

Below is the affidavit submitted by the Sadhvi in the Nasik court.

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‘I was beaten day and night, my chastity was questioned. I wanted to commit suicide…’ – Sadhwi Pragyan Chandrapal Singh Thakur says in her Nasik court affidavit.

NASIK
C.R. NO. I – 130/08
(RE-NUMBERED AS C.R. No. 1 – 18/08 at ATS)

State of Maharashtra: Complainant

Thru’ ATS
V/s.

Sadhwi Pragyan Singh Thakur & Ors: Accused

AFFIDAVIT

I, Sadhwi Pragyan Chandrapal Singh Thakur, Age 38 years, Occupation — Nil, residing at 7, Ganga Sagar Apartment, Katodara Road, Surat, Gujarat State do hereby state on solemn affirmation as under:

1. I say that I am a resident of Madhya Pradesh. My parents live in Surat, Gujarat where they shifted residence a couple of years ago. I say that for some years now, I found myself becoming increasingly detached from the material world and correspondingly found tremendous comfort and solace in Spiritualism. Accordingly I decided to renounce the material world and become a Sanyasin. On 30.1.2007, after performing the appropriate Hindu Religious rites and prayers I became a Sadhwi. I say that ever since then, I have been residing in a ashram at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. My life at the Ashram almost exclusively consisted of prayers, meditation, yoga and the reading of spiritual texts. At the ashram I did not watch TV channels and had practically no access to newspapers.

2. I say that apart from my activities at the ashram, I travelled chiefly around North India for the purpose of religious discourses and sermons. In connection with these latter activities, between 23.9.2008 and 4.10.2008, I was in Indore where I stayed at the residence of one Annaji who is my disciple. In the evening of 4th October, 2008, I returned to my ashram in Jabalpur.

3. I say that on 7.10.2008, when I was at Jabalpur Ashram, I received a call from a police officer from the ATS, Maharashtra, called Mr Sawant, who wanted to know about my LML Freedom vehicle. However, I told him I had sold it long back and not concerned with it. However, he insisted me to come down to Surat as he wanted to question me at length about it. I was reluctant to go to Surat by leaving the Ashram and insisted for him to come down to Jabalpur, but he refused and told me to come down to Surat as early as possible.

4. I further say that accordingly I travelled to Surat by train via Ujjain and arrived at Surat on 10.10.2008 early in the morning and my disciple Shri Bhimbhai Pasricha had to receive me at Railway Station and I went to his place at Atop Nagar.

5. I say that here at about 10 AM, I met officer Mr Sawant who had apparently travelled to Surat to trace the ownership of a LML Freedom two wheeler and I questioned him as to what had happened to my vehicle and why you are asking about it. I say that I it was at this point time, Mr Sawant told me that my vehicle had been allegedly planted with the explosives and subsequently detonated in Malegaon in the last week of September. I also say that it was here for the first time, I came to know that my old vehicle had been allegedly used in Malegaon blast, which was completely shocking to me. I confirmed to Mr Sawant that the LML Freedom 2 wheeler of the colour and number, he mentioned had once belonged to me.

6. I say that in Surat during the course of my interrogation with Mr Sawant, I mentioned to him that the LML Freedom two wheeler once owned by me was subsequently sold to one Sunil Joshi of Madhya Pradesh way back in October, 2004 and that Mr Joshi had paid me Rs 24,000/- for the same. I had also signed the necessary TT Form for RTO transfer in October, 2004 itself. I categorically asserted to Mr Sawant that since October, 2004 I had no control over the vehicle or its movements and usage.

7. I further say that in spite of my answers, Mr. Sawant repeatedly asked me how the vehicle reached Malegaon and how it came to be involved in the bomb blast on 29.9.2008. I repeatedly replied that I could not answer his questions as I had no control of the vehicle since October, 2004.

8. I also say that Mr Sawant however informed me that he did not believe me and that I would have to accompany him and his ATS team to Mumbai for further interrogation and he assured me that after such interrogation I would be free to go back to my ashram.

9. It is significant to mention that I was not formally arrested on 10.10.2008. Even though no formal summons to attend as a Witness was served upon me to make my self available for interrogation in Mumbai, and even though I was within my rights to insist that I be interrogated at the place where I reside ie Jabalpur, trusting Mr Sawant and having nothing to hide, I agreed to accompany the ATS team to Mumbai. I say Mr Sawant told me take my father along with me. However, due to his old age, I told him it was not proper take down him to Mumbai and suggested that my disciple, one Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha, in whose very residence my questioning was being done by the ATS. I further say that at 5.15 PM myself, Mr Pasricha and the ATS officer left Surat and reached Bombay on the very night of 10.10.2008. In Bombay I was taken straight away to the ATS office at Kalachowkie.

10. Thereafter for two days I was detained and interrogated by the ATS team in Mumbai. The questions were repetitive and directed at somehow involving me in the bomb blast in Malegaon on 29.9.2008. My answers remained constant throughout.

11. I further say that on 12.10.2008 the ATS changed the mode of interrogation and became extremely aggressive with me. At first they asked my said disciple Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha to beat me with sticks, belts etc, on my palms, forehands, soles, etc. When Mr Pasricha refused to do so, he was severely beaten by the ATS. Ultimately with the greatest reluctance, he complied with the ATS orders but obviously being my disciple, he exerted the very minimum of force on me. He was then pushed aside by a member of the ATS squad knows as Khanwilkar, who then himself commenced beating me severely with a belt on my hands, forearms, palms, feet, soles, causing me bruises, swelling and contusions in these areas.

12. I say that from the 13th onwards, I say that I was beaten during the day, night and midnight . On two occasions I was even woken up in the early hours of the morning at 4 am and questioned about my knowledge of the blasts. On these occasions, I was beaten by a senior officer having a moustache, whom I can identify. In addition I was subject to vulgar abuse and obscene language by members of the ATS team interrogating me. My Guru was abused and my chastity was questioned. I was physically and verbally traumatised to the extent that I wanted to commit suicide.

13. I further say that on 14th taken out for the examination at a far away place from ATS and was brought back in the afternoon and that I day I had no meeting or even knowledge about Mr Pasricha.

14. I say that on 15th October, after noon, both myself and Mr Pasricha were taken by ATS vehicles to Hotel Rajdoot in Nagpada locality of Mumbai and were kept in Room Nos. 315 and 314 respectively and we were made to sign the Hotel Entry register, however, we did not pay or deposit any money with the hotel manager, which was done by the ATS.

15. I say that after putting into this hotel I was asked to make phone calls from mobile No. 94066 00004 and from one more mobile instrument not belonging to me to speak couple of persons including one of my female disciple and I was asked to say that I was in a hotel in Mumbai and hale & hearty and was doing fine. I say that at that time, I did not know why I was made to say so. I would reveal the name of my female disciple at an appropriate time.

16. I say that as a result of the custodial violence/torture, mental stress, anxiety that were developed in the process, I was subjected to, I developed acute abdominal and kidney pains. I lost my appetite, became nauseous and giddy and prone to having bouts of unconsciousness. In view of this, within few hours after putting in Rajdoot Hospital, I was removed from the ATS office and was taken a hospital which learnt it to be Shusrusha Hospital wherein I was kept in ICU. I say that within half an hour Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha came down to Shushrusha Hospital with some ATS men and my Hospital admission forms, and other medical examination forms, etc were signed by him. I say that Mr Khanwilkar deposited money to the hospital management for me, which I learnt from Mr Bhimbhai. I say that after some time Mr Pasricha left the Hospital along with the ATS men and thereafter I have no contact with of any nature.

17. I say that I underwent a treatment over here for 3 to 4 days. I say that as my condition did not improve, I was taken to another hospital whose name I cannot recall. This hospital consisted of a high rise building where I was treated for 2 to 3 days. I say that no female police constable was by my side either in Hotel Rajdoot or in either of the two hospitals.

18. I say that both at the hotel and the hospitals, I was carried on a stretcher and my face was always covered with a black hood to avoid my face from being seen. From the second hospital, I was brought back to the ATS office at Kalachowkie.

19. I say that I was finally arrested on 23.10.2008 and produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nasik on 24.1.2008. I was remanded to police custody on that date till 3.11.2008. Up to the 24.10.2008 and even sometime thereafter, I was denied access to a Lawyer or any member of my family. A polygraph test was conducted on me while I was in illegal detention prior to 23.10.2008. Thereafter a second polygraph test was conducted on 01.11.2008. On 04.11.2008, after I was remanded to Judicial custody on being presented before Nasik court on 03.11.2008, I also say that a Narco analysis test was also conducted on me.

20. I say that both the lie detector test as well as the Narco analysis test were conducted with out my consent. Never the less all these investigative tests have only established my innocence in the Malegaon bomb blast that took place on 29.9.2008. I finally was allowed to meet my sister Mrs Parthibha Bhagwan Jha on the evening of 02.11.2008, who had brought vakalatnamas of Advocate Ganesh Sovani who was engaged by my sister and her husband Mr Bhagwan Jha and had met him couple times in that week. This meeting was not conducted in private since members of the ATS stood within hearing distance of my sister and myself. I met my Advocate Ganesh Sovani for the first time in the court room of this Hon’ble Court very briefly for 4 to 5 minutes prior to the arguments commencing on my remand application on 03.11.2008.

21. I say that this period of 4 to 5 minutes was too short for me to give complete instructions as to what had transpired from 10th October onwards, about my vehicle, my stay at Kalachowkie, my illegal detention, the ill-treatment mitigated to me by ATS men, the beating job that was forced on my disciple to beat me, but which he carried out reluctantly, without any force, etc. I say that for this reasons, all the details had not reflected in the hand written application that was placed on record by my advocate Mr Sovani, for paucity of time to give all these instructions.

22. I say that on the evening of Wednesday 12.11.2008, I was allowed to meet my Advocate Ganesh Sovani for about 5-6 minutes again in the presence of female staff of Byculla jail. I say that again on 13.11.2008 I was allowed to talk to my said lawyer for 8-10 minutes to give him some more details. Thereafter, on Friday 14.11.2008 evening at about 04.30 PM, I was given nearly 20 minutes to talk to my said lawyer at length, and it was during this period I could narrate my entire ordeal with the ATS which is reproduced herein above.

23. I unambiguously state that I am totally innocent of any offence whatsoever. In particular I have no connection with the Malegaon bomb blast of 29.9.2008. While my former ownership of LML Freedom 2 wheeler, which was allegedly used in the Malegaon bomb blast entitled the ATS to interrogate me, that agency was not entitled to subject me to the treatment mentioned herein above. Their conduct discloses a blatant violation of statutory provisions of law, custodial abuse and violence, mental and physical torture and prolonged illegal detention. The ATS are fully aware that I am innocent. It appears however that they have a mandate from their political superiors to necessarily implicate me with Malegaon blasts with a view to suggest that Hindu Religious extremists were resorting to terrorism. The prolonged illegal detention, custodial abuse and physical torture were designed to compel me to confess to crimes I had not committed. This attempt of false implication persisted for the entire period between 10.10.2008 and 02.11.2008 . During this entire period I was deliberately isolated from my family and denied access to Lawyers. I say that no arrest panchanama was done after my arrest on 23.10.2008 and I was never asked about the names, addresses and telephone / mobile Nos. details to whom I would like to convey my arrest. I say that attention from my illegal detention was sought to be diverted by the ATS by daily leaking information regarding my involvement which was manifestly false and only indicated the malafide nature of the investigation..

24. I say that While I was thus painted as a sinister mastermind of the Malegaon blasts, a role which has now been subtly reassigned by the ATS to Lt Col Purohit — crippled and vulnerable as I was by the detention, abuse and torture, I could not protest my innocence. Nor was I allowed access to family, friends and Lawyers who could have done so.

25. I say that it is necessary that a detailed enquiry of my illegal detention, custodial torture, etc needs to be done and for which I am ready and willing to get subjected to any such medical test or tests and I also want the ATS officers, who interrogated me, tortured me, etc should also be put to the same tests.

26. I say that the ATS has caused blatant violations of my human rights and I should get a justice and they need to be adequately dealt with as per the provisions of law.

27. In the circumstances I now pray for the following relief:

a) that the ATS be directed to submit an explanation for my detention without authority of law between 10.10.2008 and 23.10.2008;

b) that enquiry/investigation be conducted into my accusation made hereinabove on oath, regarding custodial torture/violence and mental and psychological abuse;

c) that such investigation as referred to in (b) above, include a polygraph test, as well as Narco analysis on me to determine the veracity of my accusations;

d) that such investigation to include a polygraph test and narco analysis on officers of the ATS named by me, and also of those officers whose names, I do not know, but I can identify, for they subjecting me to mental and physical abuse during custody as well as others to be identified by me;

e) that a report be called for from the ATS for the reasons of my admission in two hospitals (Shusrusha an another) and the medical treatment undergone by me at the said two hospitals;

f) The ATS be directed to disclose the reasons for my stay at Hotel Rajdoot at Mumbai.;

g) For such further and other reliefs as may be fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.

Filed in court on 17.11.2008
Contents Explained to the
Deponent in Hindi &
Confirmed with Deponent.
(Deponent)

Identified by me:
ADVOCATE

Media witch-hunt for the Obama moment!

BY MANOJ KEWALRAMANI

Something’s just not right with the Indian media.

On the one hand, we cringe with disgust at Raj Thackeray’s identity politics as tearing the Republic apart, abhor the fact of vote-bank politics and communal tensions and more-than-politely, yet tactfully, disagree with reservations – particularly in the private sector.

On the other, we shy away from what really needs to be done to rid our socio-political structures of these ugly truths and rather prefer to pander to tokenisms in our debating discourse on TV. Undoubtedly grand debates with hosts ranging from rabid rabble-rousers to patronizing patriarchs in prime-time slots are better at attracting text messages, web votes and pandering to the ‘public need’ for entertainment.

In short, we have a nauseatingly recurring disease of missing the woods for the trees.

While reserving a cost-benefit analysis of this “interactive trend” for a later date, let me substantiate my argument with the Indian media’s understanding of Barack Obama’s historic election victory.

As much as Barack Obama’s win has fascinated India, the media has merely focused on one fact – his race and therefore so-called “minority” status. That has launched, with incredulous rancor, the hunt for a Bhartiya Obama who would be the winner of the single-greatest five-yearly reality TV event.

“Since 1947, India has NOT had a single Muslim or Dalit Prime Minister,” exclaimed some commentators, while lambasting constant Brahmin representation at 7 Race Course Road. Others drew parallels with UP Chief Minister Mayawati, clearly keen to be PM, and the controversial Gujarat leader Narendra Modi, who belongs to the very backward ‘ganchi’ caste.

Ah celebrity culture, how we crucify perspective for hits, views and eyeballs!

In this parochial diatribe, what was brushed under the carpet was the “change” that America displayed and that Indian mainstream discourse has allowed to be shrouded under the fog of noise.

Obama’s win is not historic from the prism of ‘Oh a black (minority) candidate won’ but rather in terms of how a substantial section of America voted for someone who doesn’t want to play “minority-majority politics.”

Just a sample of that was the landmark “perfect union” speech delivered in the city of brotherly love where Obama called, urged African-Americans and whites to understand the underlying and legitimate reasons for anger on all sides and address them through investing in America and not narrow identities.

Apart from proving himself as stronger on the issues – economy, foreign policy and healthcare – his appeal and charm was not in being black or not being black enough, but rather in being American – it was an appeal for renewing the fundamental premise of the world’s oldest democracy, a sense of shared destiny.

So for those seeking an Obama moment in India, the first step is to alter the language of our politics, and in that the media should be the frontrunner – for this change will have to be a bottom-up phenomenon. Wasn’t that the Obama call?

The answer lies in addressing and redressing the wounds of our past while realizing that we need not continue to live as slaves to that history. We need to shred papers and scripts that urge us to discuss tokenisms like the need for a Dalit, Muslim, Yadav, Protestant, Catholic, Bihari, Marathi, Bengali, Brahmin PM, etc, while understanding the concerns of each of these and other groupings as Indians.

The dialogue should centre on not a change where we treat the state not as a community playground, but an institution that stands for good governance, security and prosperity for all – irrespective of who sits at the top.

The Obama moment is not when one or the other community gets a PM, but rather when it doesn’t matter to which community the PM belongs.

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with Canary Trap. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

Malegaon blasts case: Too many loose ends

The investigations into the Malegaon blasts in Maharashtra is getting interesting with each passing day.

The news channels are full of stories related to the blasts and also whether Indian Army’s Lt Col Srikant Purohit and other accused had a role in blasts at Nanded (2006, 2007), Jalna (2004), Ajmer (2007), Samjhauta Express (2007).

However, two extremely peculiar trends can be observed in the coverage of India’s encounter with ‘Hindu terror’.

Firstly, all the stories are attributed to the so called “SOURCES”, which seems to suggest that information is being selectively leaked by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to the media.

This raises the larger question that if the leaks are being offered by official sources, then why now and what do they aim to achieve?

  • There have been evidence of the involvement of right-wing activists in bomb blasts. Infact, there was enough evidence against some of right-wing elements who were interrogated after the 2006 Nanded blasts. The ATS even carried out narco-analysis tests of those arrested and had prepared a report. Why then was there no leak of information then and why no action was taken against these elements in 2006? The timing of these investigations and the pace with which selective information is being leaked suggests a political conspiracy at the highest levels of the UPA government.
  • Also, what the ATS is saying now is true, then it suggests that all the previous declarations about involvement of terror groups in Malegaon, Nanded, Thane, Samjhauta blasts were a result of shabby investigations. The investigating agencies declared after the Samjhauta blasts that they had leads suggesting the hand of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in the act. Now suddenly the ATS has made a U-turn and declared that Lt Col Purohit had supplied the RDX used for the blast.
  • If Lt Col Purohit masterminded Samjhauta blasts, what intelligence inputs did India give Pakistan to act on in this case in the anti-terror mechanism meetings? The government kept saying they have shared the inputs with the Pakistan government.
  • The ATS had to seek the permission of the Army before interrogating and arresting Lt Col Purohit. But what is surprising now is the way in which the results of the narco-analysis of the army officer is being selectively leaked to the media. “Lt Col Purohit admits to his role in Samjhauta blasts during the narco tests,” was one of the headline being carried out by the news channels. Why is the defence ministry and Mr A K Antony silent even when sensitive information relating to its serving officer is being leaked to the media like this?
  • At the same time it is also quite difficult to digest the fact that a man who once trained them and who was a serving officer in the Army’s military intelligence would start spelling the beans so easily during the narco-analysis tests. The entire nation saw a similar drama of results of narco-analysis tests being leaked to the media during the investigation of Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. CBI, India’s premier investigating agency, did not come out with any evidence in the end. The case is in cold storage now.
  • There are also doubts over whether the ATS has any concrete evidence against the Sadhvi and the army officer apart from the remains of the bike used in the Malegaon blasts. A report in a leading English daily, while accessing the remand applications filed by the ATS in the court, pointed out that while tall claims were being made about the involvement blast accused, the agency does not have evidence to back it.

The Congress party has demanded setting up of a multi-disciplinary task force to conduct a thorough investigation into the leads thrown up by the Malegaon blasts case. The government should focus on carrying out sustained investigations from a central agency to find out the reach, resources and the strength of these terror elements. What happened after Nanded blasts should not be allowed to happen again. Playing politics will only harm the peace and unity of our country.