The #Leveson Inquiry Report

The Leveson Inquiry Report, published by Lord Justice Leveson, looks into the culture, practices and ethics of the press in Britain. On July 13, 2011, British PM David Cameron announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal in the country.

This report also makes recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance consistent with maintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards in the UK.

Click here to read the entire report and other documents of the inquiry

Carving communal constituencies: Countdown to 2014


While we have been tenderly performing the final rites in Mumbai of our full blown fascist and riveted on the blood sport of putting to sleep a 26 year old terrorist from Pakistan, I have, by way of a diversion, looking at the deteriorating communal situation nearer home, in UP. Let me begin with Faizabad, the precursor of Lucknow’s great culture.

Shahjehan Bibi, about 50, a yellow dupatta covers her shoulders in such a way as not to expose the grimy, torn kurta. Her face is expressionless with fatigue. Her piercing eyes, set in dark circles, are two continuous streams. Her tears do not stop. How does one break this forbidding silence? Who knows she may give out a primal wail like Om Puri in Aakrosh.

The torn sleeve in her right hand is held like a handkerchief to wipe her tears. She whispers, with gentle deliberation the names of her three daughters – very floral names they are: Gulshan Bano, 26, Gulistan Bano, 24 and Gulfishan Bano, 22. They are hiding in a distant village. “I was beginning to collect jewellery for their marriage”, she hiccups. What kind of jewellery? “Three silver earings.” She lifts her finger upwards where a thatched roof once was and which protected the family, winter, summer and monsoons.

The picture gets even more grim in countless villages around Faizabad, once the epitome of Awadh’s composite culture. There are about a dozen houses of Shahjehan Bibi’s neighbours gutted likewise by mobs.

Phoolpur Takia is a colony of Muslims called Faqirs living in rows of thatched huts, whose primary occupation is making small tazias for the Moharram observance.

To burn their huts on the eve of Moharram is to destroy them financially. But there is always that indestructible will to survive. I was quite amazed seeing some of them on their haunches making bamboo frames for tazias in their roofless homes.

In a sense, the tensions of Faizabad are a continuation of a dozen or so incidents of communal violence across the state that began soon after Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav ascended the Chief Minister’s gaddi in Lucknow in March. One is not suggesting that the Chief Minister or his party is responsible for the violence. But there is incontrovertible proof that his grip on the administration is pathetic because violence has never been stopped. Above all the Chief Minister has never considered it worth his while to visit the places where these incidents have taken place. Did someone say: Muslims vote SP?

What has happened, follows a pattern: series of hamlets or villages around Bhadrasa town, within a stone’s throw from Faizabad, have been surrounded by arsonists and all the huts, without exception, belonging to Muslims have been gutted. Diligent care has been taken to ensure that the fire does not spread to a Hindu hut.

Ask Nazreen, or anyone else in Phoolpur Takia. They will have the same narrative.

The arsonists, brandishing trishuls and lathies chanted “Jai Sriram”. They ran from the predominately Hindu village of Phoolwaria, across the pond, towards Phoolpur Takia. Petrified women heaved a sigh of relief when three police vehicles drove towards Phulwaria. But after a conversation with the torch carrying mob, the police vehicles backed up and drove away. The mob descended on Phoolpur Takia and burnt everything – even the bamboo skeletons for the tazias. What was that conversation between the police and arsonists about?

Tension in Faizabad was palpable when idols of Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati at the famous Dev Kali temple nearby were found missing from their pedestals on September 22.

Yogi Adityanand and his cohorts turned up, flaring at the nostrils, spewing brimstone and fire, threatening to shake heaven and earth if the idols were not recovered. Supposing the culprits were Muslims. Trust the police therefore to have searched for the idols in Muslim enclaves of Azamgarh. Mercifully, they were recovered from the possession of four Hindus (each from a distinct caste) from Kanpur.

With Dussehra and Eid due on October 24 and 27, the communal gameplan now needed another booster. Immediately stories were floated of a Muslim boy having teased or molested (take your pick) a Hindu girl. The stories dominated the front pages of Hindi newspapers published on Dussehra Day. That day, being a holiday, there would be no publication the next day. So rumour would have more time to spread – right into Eid.

Loot, arson anti Muslim violence gripped Faizabad on October 24 when a large procession, carrying Durga idols, passed the main market past the historic 18the century mosque which is considered a model of communal harmony. Hindu women in hundreds climb the mosque for a darshan of the Durga procession. The mosque arranges for the flowers which can be showered on the idols. This year the organizers of the Procession asked the women to stay home. Could there have been a more tell-tale proof of planning for violence? And yet, the police did nothing. Atleast fifty shops were looted, item by item and then burnt.

Only the next day were the arsonists in the rural areas mobilized, the ones who reached Shahjehan Bibi’s village.

Mitr Sain Yadav, SP MLA, says “Hindus and Muslims had both voted for the SP in recent elections. The effort now is to separate them.” Who gains from this separation? Gainers from the mischief, across UP, will be sorted out later. The effort now is to rattle Akhilesh Yadav.

Also, there is careful social engineering involved in the pattern of conflict. It is no longer Hindu vs Muslim. This time Pasis, Lohars, Mallahs and a series of sub castes from among the Dalits are being individually pitted against the Muslims – a consolidation of Dalit sub-castes with Muslim as foil.

But much the most ominous slogan in Faizabad gives a clue to minds of people like Yogi Adityanand.

UP ab Gujarat banega
Faizabad shurruaat karega

(UP will follow the Gujarat model. Faizabad is the start)

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Strategic Maneuvers: Revolving Door from the Pentagon to the Private Sector

A new report Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has found that 70 percent (or 76) of the 108 three-and-four star US generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took jobs with defense contractors or consultants.

In at least a few cases, the retirees have continued to advise the Department of Defense while on the payroll of defense contractors, suggesting the Pentagon may not always be receiving unbiased counsel, the research states.

The report further states:

The retired generals and admirals moving into the private sector in general do not appear to be breaking any rules. Nonetheless, their heavily traveled path through the military-industrial complex continues to raise important questions about the intersection of national security and the interests of private companies that stand to make billions of dollars.

Click here to read the entire report

The Worst Prime Minister


Six-and-half decades later, while the debate on India’s best prime minister can be agreeably contentious and healthy, the choice becomes absolutely restricted and nauseating when it comes to choosing the worst. On embarking on this exercise it is therefore only appropriate to spell some parameters.

To begin with it may be said that on Independence we gave ourselves a resplendent Constitution which envisages a popularly elected head of the executive called the prime minister. The spirit of the Constitution is mutilated whenever the country is thrust with a prime minister who is not a popular leader. It is because a selected prime minister inherently feels that he owes nothing to the people of this country and survives on ‘extra-constitutional’ mandate given by ‘extra-constitutional’ powers which invariably have ‘extra-territorial’ loyalty and distraction

India PMs

In the history of democracies there have been accidental prime ministers indeed. They come by accident due to transient aberrations in the established constitutional process and exit no sooner the constitutional process is restored, but, only when the constitutional process is totally subverted by internal and external forces does the selected prime minister have long haul in the office.

As the guiding leader of the country a prime minister should have vision, to realize which, he should weld the requisite team called the Cabinet. No member of the team should look beyond his shoulder. All that they should be aspiring for is praise and satisfaction of the head of the cabinet i.e the prime minister. They must worry his displeasure. Rewards and punishments to Cabinet colleagues should be sole prerogative of the leader. No other person in the ruling party or the coalition should be able to dwarf the prime minister by issuing certificates of performance from time to time.

A prime minister need not be a fiery orator but should be politically articulate and must exude political conviction. A person who cannot enthuse others by his communication skills can be anything but a leader. Often the eyes of leaders do more talking than their tongues. Being visually blank and tongue-tied cannot be passed off as decency which in turn cannot be a substitute for effective and transparent communications. As a young boy when Churchill was selected for Royal Military College, Sandhurst he went to the doctor to get rid of the lisp in his speech. When told that his problem was not a disqualification for the military he astonished the doctor by saying that he intended to serve as a soldier for only a few years, following which he would take to politics and become a statesman.

A prime minister should not have ostentatious life style and must avoid conspicuous consumption but more importantly should brook no corruption even by coalition partners. The integrity in the governance by the prime minister can be gauged by the number and scale of judicial interventions in exposing corruption in the government. It is not only an indictment of the government but the institution of executive and the constitutional imbalance between the organs of the State. Other organs are forced to assert when the executive becomes corrupt and morally weak. Only a prime minister with depraved sense of nationalism will allow his cabinet colleagues to abuse and erode constitutional institutions. Any opposition which allows a prime minister to continue who consciously or otherwise facilitates corruption is equally guilty of sedition.

An elected prime minister can be given some benefit of doubt with regards to vote-bank politics. An elected but statesman like prime minister, rises above it in favour of nation-building. Nevertheless if a selected prime minister indulges in vote-bank politics he can be considered dangerous because his compulsions could then only be ambition, and internal and external pulls. Such a prime minister is always under blackmail.

Body language and demeanour are vital attributes of a prime minister. He should be able to look straight into the eyes of the leaders of other countries. He should treat ‘certificates’ or endorsements by global leaders on his performance with nonchalance if not suspicion. It’s his certificates which should create ripples in the international arena. No world leader should have the gumption to adopt a supercilious, haughty or indulgent posture in dealing with him or her, least of all patting on the back. When it comes to national interest a prime minister should be a tough customer. A compromised prime minister will substantially lack in such attributes.

During the independence struggle, specially after the end of so called ‘extremist phase’ and beginning of the ‘agitation phase’ the leaders with barrister degree became the spear-heads. Even then there were insinuations regarding subversion of few of them by Intelligence agencies during their stay in Britain. Some of them continued to send their children to that country for general education even after Independence and even if institutions in India had better education to offer. But those were relatively innocent times. It is now no longer secret that countries offer educational and job opportunities to wards of key dignitaries for creating diplomatic and Intelligence leverages. Ideally a prime minister should not have had extended education or employment abroad and his or children should not be citizens of other countries. The danger lies in the fact that this phenomenon by and large is unidirectional. In any case if successive prime ministers have not created educational facilities appropriate for wards of country’s decision makers they have been amiss in their national duty.

Notwithstanding the source of political sustenance the measure of a prime-minister’s patriotism and stature is the manner he or she deals with issues of common concern to the country like security and corruption, no matter who raises it. A conscientious and patriotic prime minister will not downplay issues of corruption and impropriety that rob the very soul of the nation even if his own party members or benefactors are involved. The lack of seriousness say on issues like black money in Swiss banks can be discerned by the people, thanks to the media and more so social media, and is construed as admission of guilt.

A prime minister should also be judged by the level of security the people of the country enjoy and the respect and concern he or she treats the armed forces with. Only a subverted prime minister plays politics with the armed forces and plays one security agency against the other. George Bush during his visit to Andhra Pradesh met American soldiers who were in India for joint military exercise and then had word of advice for the then Chief Minister the Late Y Rajshekhar Reddy as to how a head of state should treat the armed forces.

Finally a prime minister, whether selected or elected, must add muscle to the constitutional culture and democracy as such. He or she should be thankful to the people of India and no one else. It is his or her bounden duty to the people of India to pave the way for a meritorious prime minister. A prime minister is a sinner if he or she acquiesces to extra-constitutional arrangements whether legally or morally. To warm  the prime minister’s seat for someone undeserving as a an act of fealty amounts to betrayal of the people of India and a grave sin committed on the motherland.

Confronted with intractable moral dilemmas a prime minister should have the courage to throw it all lest his remaining life and his future generations will live in ignominy and history will be most unkind to him.

Within these essential parameters I leave it for the readers to choose India’s worst prime minister.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a guest blogger for Canary Trap)

HSBC’s ‘strange’ apology to Ambanis and Herve Falciani

India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal on Friday revealed details about black money and the names in the HSBC list handed to the Indian government by France. After he spoke, some journalists asked him a question: Why did HSBC apologize to Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani?

‘Strange’. Few months back, the Swiss Unit of HSBC Plc expressed regret and apologized for involving Ambani in the investigations by the IT authorities in India because his name appeared in the list containing names of HSBC account holders.

“The bank in a letter to Mr Mukesh Ambani clearly stated that neither he nor his company, RIL (Reliance Industries Limited) have a beneficiary account with the private banking division of the bank,” media reports stated.

I mentioned the word ‘strange’ earlier because the list handed to the Indian government by French authorities was not a formal list prepared by HSBC.

According to available information, the Indian list may have been a part of HSBC-data, which contained the names of 130,000 tax dodgers from several EU countries. “The data was allegedly stolen in 2008 by ex-bank employee Herve Falciani, who was then fired by the bank and arrested. Falciani is said to have stolen the data in 2006 and 2007 and then attempted to sell it to several governments,” a report on Darker Net’s website stated.

“Sources said just as in the case of the LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, details of HSBC’s Indian account holders have emerged because a former employee stole data in 2008 and later handed these over to French authorities. Several countries including UK, Spain, Italy and France itself have used this data for tax evasion investigations,” a news report in The Indian Express dated August 7, 2011 stated.

According to another media report “HSBC in Geneva has a total of 100,000 accounts and it said no accounts outside the Geneva office of the bank were involved in the data leak”. The recent release of a partial list containing details of 2059 bank accounts allegedly secretly held by Greeks in a Swiss branch of HSBC  is also a part of that stolen HSBC-data.

So the ‘strange’ thing that begs attention is why would HSBC apologize to an Indian businessman if they had not officially given the list to anybody and that it was an allegedly stolen list? Also, if indeed Reliance and Ambanis have no account in HSBC, then did Falciani include their name in the list on his own? And if yes, why did he do that?

4-Herve Falciani

Meanwhile, here’s a timeline provided by HSBC and published by a Swiss portal on the entire data theft episode:

  • ​End 2006-beginning 2007: HF (Herve Falciani) works on a migration of client data between systems and takes the opportunity to steal data, probably over a period of months.
  • Summer 2008: The bank first becomes aware that the Swiss Federal Prosecutor investigates into a possible data theft and that an identified female subcontractor had tried together with an unidentified man to sell data to several banks in Lebanon.
  • 22 December 2008: a female employee is arrested for questioning; she denounces HF, who is then arrested for questioning. He subsequently flees from Switzerland to France.
  • Throughout 2009: Following a request for legal assistance sent by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, the French prosecutor seizes the data at the residence of HF in France, but returns it neither to the Swiss authorities nor to the Bank.
  • Summer 2009: the Bank is shown an email of HF: a list of 7 names of individuals linked to accounts opened with the bank, containing errors.
  • Summer 2009: The French Government states that it is in possession of data but refuses to give its sources.
  • 9 December 2009: Le Parisien publishes a full story and first indications are made of a larger number of client accounts impacted. No evidence of these assertions is provided to the Bank. A press release is distributed.
  • January, 2010: The stolen data held by the French authorities is returned to the Swiss Federal Prosecutor.
  • 3 March 2010: Some copies of the stolen data which were held by the French authorities are returned to the Bank by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor. The full extent of the theft is now demonstrated for the first time.

Click here to read more about who is Herve Falciani

Also Read:

Black Money, money laundering, HSBC lists, and media

India Against Corruption activists Arvind Kejriwal on Friday dropped another bombshell by revealing few names of the people who allegedly have bank accounts in HSBC, Geneva. They are a part of the list of roughly 700 people which was handed over to the Indian government in July 2011.

Kejriwal also accused the government, especially then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, for showing leniency towards some of the top corporate whose names are allegedly in that list.

“Developments of the last few years have given a ray of hope that if Indian Government acted tough like its US counterpart did a few years back, India also might get access to the list of those having their undeclared accounts abroad. However, Indian government seems to be more interested in helping the guilty rather than punishing them,” Kejriwal said.

While the Indian media keeps reiterating that Kejriwal’s expose contain repackaged information which was already out in public domain, no media outlet has till now reported or even attempted to find out the names of people in that list. This, despite reports that government was letting off these tax evaders by giving them a way out.

Click here to read more documents on Black Money and Illicit transfer of funds 

Greek journalist

In complete contrast to what media in India do, a Greek journalist named Kostas Vaxevanis recently published a partial list containing details of 2059 bank accounts allegedly secretly held by Greeks in a Swiss branch of HSBC. The details were published in a Greek magazine Hot Doc. The list has names of prominent political and business figures of Greece.

According to media reports the names published by Vaxevanis are believed to be those contained in the so-called “Lagarde List” that was given in 2010 to the Greek Minister of Finance by the current head of the IMF and then-French minister for Finance, Christine Lagarde.

According to Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, Vaxevanis was charged with a misdemeanour for breach of the law on the protection of personal data and, if found guilty, could face a fine and a prison sentence, reportedly of up to two years.

Amnesty has expressed concern over the slapping of criminal charges against the journalist for disclosing information in the public interest.

Click here to view the entire list of Greek HSBC accounts

Probe against HSBC

Meanwhile, this is not the first time such serious allegations have been raised against HSBC. In July this year, a probe report of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that “global banking giant HSBC and its U.S. affiliate exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls.”

Click here to read that entire report