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THIS NEW YEAR 3 Reluctant revellers tell their tale P48 FREE.FAIR.FEARLESS






‘I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye’

‘Since 80 percent of the people of Malegaon are Muslims we should explode the first bomb in Malegaon’ ‘Sunil Joshi took the responsibility of targeting the Samjhauta Express’

‘In March 2006, Pragya Singh Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Bharat Riteshwar and I decided to give a befitting reply to the Sankatmochan temple blast’

Not Muslims, RSS pracharaks were behind the 2006 Malegaon and Samjhauta Express blasts. ASHISH KHETAN scoops Swami Aseemanand’s explosive confession P30

had objected then itself that one party should send one representative and voice one opinion. He said there was no consensus and that he was appointing the Srikrishna Committee as a resolution mechanism. We made submissions to the committee, which has now given its report to the Centre. Now it is up to the Centre to deliver on its promise. Instead, it has invited two representatives from each party, one each from Telangana and coastal Andhra. This shows it wants to dodge the issue, confuse it. Again the same story will get repeated. Our experience with smaller states has been disastrous. What makes you think Telangana will be any different? Who says so? Compare the economies of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh with those of the states from which they split. Their growth rates are much higher. Chhattisgarh is growing faster than Madhya Pradesh. The experience is good, the people are happy. Telangana was an independent state from 1948 to 1956. I find it quite funny when people say it will be a small state. It will be bigger than 17 existing states of India.

TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao tells SOPAN JOSHI that the Centre is trying to dodge statehood for Telangana

‘Telangana’s first chief minister will be a Dalit’

Data suggests Telangana is beer off on economic indicators than coastal Andhra. Why do you want to separate? Let me tell you something surprising. It is not that Telangana is poor or backward. Look at the revenue of Andhra Pradesh. Commercial taxes collected in the state are to the tune of 24,000 crore — from one single department. Out of this, 16,000 crore comes from Telangana. Our complaint is that it is our money, but others are benefiting from it. We want self-respect and self-rule; nothing in the world can substitute that. Telangana has been a hotbed of the Maoist insurgency. You haven’t said anything about how you want to tackle it. Says who? Telangana experienced Naxalism for three decades. But it is a forgotten story here. If at all there is Naxalism, it is along the Andhra-Odisha border. Are you doing all this to become the CM of the new state? This is rubbish. I’ve said it not less than a thousand times that the first Telangana chief minister will be a Dalit. We have not zeroed in on a name right now, but there are so many leaders. When the occasion comes, we will evolve a consensus on a Dalit chief minister.

Why do you obstruct every process to move forward on the Telangana issue? We are not obstructing it. I’m the leader of a great emotional moment; I have to maintain the wavelength of the people; I have to keep pace; I cannot go against the wishes of the Telangana people.

It is the Congress that stands between you and statehood. Yet you have offered to merge the TRS with the Congress. Why? That was before the 2009 general elections. I have not offered to merge the TRS with the Congress recently, and the stories in the media about my offer were distortions. I have denied these reports, but my denial was not carried prominently in the national media.

Why have you refused to aend the meeting on Telangana? They are not going to reach any decision there. P Chidambaram had called a similar meeting last year in which he invited two representatives from each party. I

Will we see violent protests in the month ahead? It is an emotional issue; there are a lot of young people associated with it. It is difficult to say what will happen. The people are not going to rest till we get statehood.


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26 In the run-up to the Assembly poll, plans are afoot to push freed ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa into mainstream politics ASSAM | RATNADIP CHOUDHURY


09 ~


16 ~


20 ~







Salmaan Taseer’s assassination is a rude awakening for liberal voices in Pakistan

A likely pre-budget Cabinet reshuffle could see changes in the big four ministeries at the Centre

Punjab Youth Congress president charts a new course to change the fortunes of the crisis-hit state




Rob Letterman’s Gulliver’s Travels is crass, bathroomhumour slacker comedy

‘Girls can be very distracting’

‘Manish lived with a love for life that most of us give up on by adulthood’









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THE KING’S LOOT Hats off for the well-researched story. It clearly exposes Raja’s true colours. His ambition drove him to outsmart even his mentor. The adage ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ no longer rings true as politicians like Raja secure their own future by looting the country in broad daylight. IRFAN IQBAL GHETA, ON EMAIL


Refer to Jeemon Jacob’s ‘The House That Raja Built’, 1 January. Whether Karunanidhi knew about what Raja was doing or not is immaterial. Until and unless the large sum of money is returned to the government coffers, such talk is useless. The government should immediately cancel the 2G licences, get the money back from telecom companies and initiate a new round of auction with utmost transparency. BAL GOVIND, ON EMAIL


Refer to ‘The Unturned Stone’ by Rana Ayyub, 1 January. All the investigating agencies involved will do as lile as possible and drag the case on until these men die of old age. Look at the cases against Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar for orchestrating the murder of thousands of Sikhs; they are still walking free. Had these army officers been Sikhs or Muslims, they would have all been court martialled by now and thrown into jail. Most likely they would have been liquidated by the army or the CBI. You think this is far-fetched? How come Narendra Modi is still free? There is plenty of


blood on his hands. How about LK Advani for planning the Babri Masjid demolition? Look at how many times Simranjit Singh Mann has been arrested. Look at the charges against him. The Indian government does not have the stomach for dealing with Hindutva. RAJBIR S SANDHU, ON EMAIL

Though your article highlights a possible terror link between the army and Hindutva groups, it ignores the cause and effect of many undesirable policies of the State because of which we are in this situation. Since Independence, the Centre’s policy has been that of minority appeasement. In the name of secularism, both the government and the media have rallied behind the minorities, turning a blind eye towards their hand in crime and at the cost of the majority for material gains. It’s high time the media restrains itself from creating an unfavourable atmosphere in the name of secularism. VENKATESH KIKKERI, ON EMAIL


Refer to ‘The Glitz and the Gore’, by Manmohan Gupta and VK Shashikumar, 25 December. In a country where crores are spent on ‘Save Tiger’ campaigns, it is a disgrace that such illicit trade is happening in broad daylight. The exorbitant amount of money expended on the advertisements of these campaigns should be used instead in spreading awareness about poachers and their methods. YASHKUMAR SINGH, ON EMAIL


Refer to ‘In the Court of the Father’, by Brijesh Pandey and Kunal Majumder, 18 December.

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The article places conclusions before proof. It is unfair and inaccurate. Quoting senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, it says that I, Shivam Sharma, a Lucknow-based lawyer with a legal practice of just three years, had filed income tax returns of 80 lakh. This is absolutely false and scandalous. I have put in about a decade in legal practice (registered in 2001). My last two IT returns were 2.6 lakh and 3.81 lakh respectively, the tax last paid being 10,000 and 32,305 respectively. This offending article has brought my name and that of my family into disrepute. I may add that my father, Justice Rakesh Sharma, sat as a judge at the principal seat of the high court at Allahabad till his retirement in July 2010, whereas I have been practising at the Lucknow Bench from day one. It is shocking to

learn that such a statement was made by a senior counsel and former law minister without verifying facts. SHIVAM SHARMA, ON EMAIL


Refer to Pulp & Noir, 8 January. On the cover, Siddharth Chowdhury’s name was erroneously printed as Siddhartha. In the contents page, the Issue Design should have been aributed to Sudeep Chaudhuri. Refer to Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s ‘The ABC of the 2G scam’, 1 January. The total loss to the country due to the 2G telecom scam could be more than 1,000 for each citizen and not 10,000 as mentioned.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT Refer to Jeemon Jacob’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Loot’, 25 December. My colleagues in Nakkheeran and I always held TEHELKA in high esteem. We used to feel that there is a kindred spirit elsewhere too to bring out the truth against all odds. Our shared history of fighting for justice, truth and taking on the powers-that-be from the point of view of ordinary citizens should make us natural partners. However, with enormous sense of hurt, I must point out that the piece carried by your esteemed publication has blatantly false and concocted news, causing irreparable damage to my name and professional standing as a journalist. My residential flat was raided by the CBI on 15 December and nothing incriminating was found. The investigating officers took away the property document relating to my flat, the loan documents regarding the purchase of the same, my cell phone’s SIM card, passport and bank passbook. A document was issued regarding the items taken away. But TEHELKA made the following harmful, totally manufactured claims: 1. My wife Jayasudha is the general manager of Niira Radia’s Chennai office. 2. The CBI had unearthed documents from my family residence in Perambalur relating to various financial dealings, including land transactions. 3. I was interrogated by the police in 1998 in connection with the murder of a police informer, Bhaktavatsalam, by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.

All these rather damaging false assertions could have been avoided if your reporter had bothered to check the facts. As a scribe, I always made myself available to any journalist in my two-and-a-half decades as a reporter and then as associate editor. My wife has nothing to do with Radia, and for that maer has never been employed anywhere till date. The CBI did not search my family residence in Perambalur in the first place, let alone unearthing documents relating to any land transactions. And I was never ever interrogated by the police in connection with any aspect of Veerappan’s excesses. A KAMARAJ, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, NAKKHEERAN JEEMON JACOB CLARIFIES

1. My source had informed me that Jayasudha was working with Vaishnavi Communications. I cross-checked the information with two others who confirmed she was indeed working for Niira Radia’s firm. But I don’t have the documents to prove it. I admit I should have sought a response. 2. It is true that though Kamaraj’s Besant Nagar flat was raided, I had erroneously reported that there was a raid also at his Perambalur residence. I stand corrected. 3. In the well-known Bhaktavatsalam murder case, some Nakkheeran staffers were implicated and several employees, including senior editors like Kamaraj, were questioned by the Crime Branch in January 2003 in the course of the investigation.


IN THE TRAP Refer to ‘The Glitz and the Gore’, by Manmohan Gupta and VK Shashikumar, 25 December. Following up on the leads provided by the TEHELKA exposé on tiger poaching, the National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (NWCB) has launched one of its biggest law enforcement operations. A special team led by Pithoragarh Divisional Forest Officer DTG Sambandam along with Assistant Conservator of Forest Mahipal Sirohi and Forest Ranger Himalaya Singh Tulia achieved the first breakthrough on 23 December when they caught Kailash alias Gullu, one of the poachers exposed in the TEHELKA investigation. “We arrested Gulab Singh Kutiyal (Kailash) as he tried to pass through the forest checkpost in Dharchula on the Indo-Nepal border,” says Sambandam. With this arrest, wildlife crime control officials have been able to track down several criminals involved in the illegal international wildlife trade. The team has recovered a cell phone from Kutiyal that has the phone numbers of several people involved in the poaching network. “We have confirmed that Kutiyal is a resident of Dharchula and his network received tiger and leopard skins from the Terai region of Uttarakhand. These were then smuggled to China through the Indo-Nepal border or transported to Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi for further shipment to international buyers,” says Sambandam. “The TEHELKA investigation has had a terrific impact because it has provided us with a lot of leads that helped us conduct a massive intelligence-led enforcement operation. We have circulated all the pictures of the poachers revealed by TEHELKA,” says Sambandam.

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Arambagh, West Bengal

SUNIPA ROY, 63 Psychiatrist

Sunipa Roy, a psychiatrist and chronic patient of bronchial asthma, was no stranger to anxiety. But what concerned her even more than her inability to catch her breath at times was the acute helplessness and anxiety faced by her autistic patients and their parents who were totally at sea while dealing with the disability. In 1986, Roy started the Uarayan Day Care Centre in Kolkata for differently abled children with three students. Ten years later, she set up the Uarayan Residential Centre in Arambagh in Hooghly district. Currently, there are50 children in the day care centre, now located in Salt Lake, and 22 in the residential centre. Located 90 km from Kolkata, the residential school is home to children as young as 30 months who suffer from autism, Down’s Syndrome, Aention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, epilepsy, drug resistance, etc. They are taught reading, writing, theatre and functional academics once their learning curve slows down. “I became interested in these children when I was studying psychiatry,” recalls Roy. “Since the role of medicine is limited, I always wanted to do something that could help them and their parents live with dignity.” BY N I S H ITA J H A

I wanted the differently abled kids and their parents to live with dignity’ ROY MAY BE REACHED AT +91 98300 38783


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Salmaan Taseer’s death is liberal Pakistan’s loss


a security threat — so how BEENA SARWAR HERE ARE no less Editor, Special Projects, Jang Group, Pakistan did he end up on the secuthan 24 groups suprity detail of a governor porting Qadri on FB who was already receiving death threats? and one against what he did, that says it According to the post-mortem, he fired 41 all. #salmaantaseer”. So went a tweet from a felbullets into Taseer’s back while the governor low Pakistani early morning on 5 January, the was getting into his car. He then threw down day after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, his weapon and raised his arms in surrender. the Punjab governor who took a courageous Standard operating procedures in VIP guard stand against religious extremists in Pakistan. The Facebook pages cropping up don’t quite duty require the other guards to immediately say it all. Facebook is usually slow to take action open fire even if the assailant is one of them, exagainst pages that users consider abusive. In plains my military analyst friend Ejaz Haider. this case, many of those pages (mostly started So why did the other guards not follow the SOP? by young men who like western shows like Sex Chillingly, Qadri has revealed that he had told and the City, support Pervez Musharraf and say his colleagues what he was going to do and asked they follow Islam — any conthem not to open fire, as he tradictions here?) were taken would surrender. Which down within 24 hours — means that he was confident which means enough people of getting away with it. “Now reported them as abusive. the judicial process will take When it comes to religion, over,” predicts Haider. “The there is confusion in people’s judge/prosecutors will be minds in Pakistan. This conthreatened, and the murderer fusion has been building up will be declared a hero.” over the years, particularly Qadri’s smiling face was since the US, Saudi Arabia, flashed on television chanPakistan and their allies took nels, along with his comup cudgels against the comments that “Taseer is a munist threat in Afghanistan blasphemer and this is the and injected religion into the punishment for a blaspheAfghans’ war of liberation mer”. He is reported to have against the Soviet invasion. told interrogators that Taseer Calling it a ‘jihad’ or a holy had called the blasphemy war enabled them to draw in laws ‘black’ and had deMere allegation of ‘blasphemy’ Muslim fighters from around fended Aasia Noreen, the has been enough to incite the the world. The late Eqbal AhChristian woman sentenced mad warned against this long to death for ‘blasphemy’. murder of over 30 people so far before the horrific events of Taseer’s role in highlighting 9/11 and US President Bush’s the Aasia Bibi case was sigimmature response sent the world into a downnificant although some have criticised his highward spiral of violence, especially Pakistan, the profile visit to her jail cell and his promise to frontline state in America’s war first against the obtain a presidential pardon for her, which circommunists and then against extremist Islam. cumvented due process. The mere allegation of The questions arising from Taseer’s assassi‘blasphemy’ has been enough to incite the murnation indicate that some forces in Pakistan are der of over 30 people so far. Taseer’s is the most continuing along the old trajectory. The assashigh-profile. sin, 26-year-old Malik Hussain Qadri, was asGiven the current climate, it is unlikely to be signed to the elite force guarding the governor. the last. For things to significantly change, ‘deep It now emerges that he had been removed from state’ will have to change its policies of support the Special Branch because he was perceived as for ‘jihadis’ and jihadi mindsets.


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14 MAY 2007

STILL NO COUNTRY FOR GOOD MEN The Binayak Sen story has been about sending out a message, not facts or justice. KUNAL MAJUMDER & ANIL MISHRA pick out the shocking holes in the case


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24 DECEMBER 2010


N 24 DECEMBER 2010, Dr Binayak Sen — a man who has now become a cause célèbre across the country — was sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, for “conspiracy to commit sedition”. Sen had worked for 30 years with the tribal poor in the state both as a doctor and a human rights activist. According to the Chhattisgarh state, however, Sen is a dangerous Maoist leader who is a serious threat to national security. There was a spontaneous surge of outrage in civil society and the media over this scandalous miscarriage of justice. But there was little that could be done. The State had timed itself well. It was a day before Christmas. The high court and Supreme Court were on vacation; most lawyers were away. It would be at least two weeks before Sen’s family could appeal. Enough time for the dread to sink in; the message to go out. The case against Binayak Sen is so weak, a few days after the judgement, eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani thundered that he would resign from the BJP if Sen was not released. But from the very beginning, the case has only been about sending out a

message; not about facts or justice. Three years ago, when many in the media were still sceptical about the rights and wrongs of Sen’s case and no one was ready to stand up for him, TEHELKA had done a cover story on him laying bare the fictitious case that had been concocted against the doctor (No Country For Good Men: The Doctor, the State, and a Sinister Case, 23 February 2008). Chhattisgarh Director General of Police (DGP) Vishwa Ranjan had admitted to TEHELKA then, “Left to myself, I would have kept Binayak under surveillance, not arrested him.” On 27 December 2010, speaking to TEHELKA again after Sen was sentenced, he claims he was misquoted. “What I actually said was I would have kept Binayak under surveillance and nailed him with more concrete evidence.” Ranjan, who spent most of his career with the Intelligence Bureau is now the face of the Chhattisgarh government’s ‘war’ against Naxals. But in the three years that elapsed between the two conversations, neither DGP Vishwa Ranjan nor the state’s prosecution team could come up with any clinching evidence. What they relied on instead was creating baseless paranoia. In its closing

arguments, for instance, the prosecution argued that both Sen and his wife Ilina should be put away for life because, among other dangerous affiliations, they had links with the ISI. Their basis for saying this? An email from Ilina Sen to Walter Fernandes, director of ISI, which happens to be the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi! This was not a stray gaffe. The whole prosecution case built against Sen is littered with such malevolent faux pax. In fact, the primary charge itself is ludicrous. On 19 December, during his closing arguments in court, special public prosecutor TC Pandya admitted that there is no direct evidence of conspiracy against Sen. But that did not stop him from having a thesis. This, in brief, is what it is. According to the prosecution, Binayak Sen, who is national vice-president of the People’s Union for

There is no direct evidence of conspiracy against Binayak Sen, admits special public prosecutor TC Pandya

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‘If the high court in Chhattisgarh has its thinking straight and unbiased, it will overturn the decision on Binayak Sen’ AMARTYA SEN


‘I will be very happy to fight for him. Personally, I think the case is weak. I think Sen has been wrongly convicted. I would resign from the BJP if Sen is not released’ RAM JETHMALANI CRIMINAL LAWYER & BJP MP

‘I feel that Sen is a very fine human being and because of this, the judgement against him needs to be reviewed’ DIGVIJAYA SINGH



Civil Liberties (PUCL) (set up by Jayaprakash Narayan in 1976 during the Emergency) had met the jailed Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal 33 times in prison, between 26 May and 30 June 2006. During this time he had smuggled out seditious letters from Sanyal and passed them on to tendu leaf contractor Piyush Guha, who was supposedly acting as a courier for the Maoists. Three of these letters were supposedly seized when Piyush Guha was arrested on 6 May 2007. Based on this, Pandya argued that Sen was trying to establish an urban network of the banned extremist group, the CPI (Maoist). However, none of this bears scrutiny. The three “seditious” letters are themselves ludicrous. They are addressed to a “Dear Mr P”, a “Friend V”, and a “Friend” and are unsigned. They could have been written by anybody and planted on Guha. In any case, their content is far from explosive. They complain about jail conditions, the onset of age and arthritis. They also congratulate P, V and Friend that the “ninth congress” has gone well and urge them blandly to expand “work” among the peasantry and urban centres. Sufficient basis to jail a doctor of peerless reputation for life? But that is not all. Even the jailers testified against the prosecution’s argument, saying there was no way Sen could have passed these letters on from Sanyal to Guha because their meetings were held under such close supervision. There are other glaring discrepancies. After Sen was first arrested in 2007, the police had built such a miasma around him that he was denied bail twice both by the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Supreme Court. During the bail hearing in the Supreme Court, investigating officer BBS Rajpoot had claimed in his affidavit that Guha was arrested from Mahindra Hotel

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in Raipur, where he was meeting Sen. But when both witnesses from the hotel turned hostile, the prosecution suddenly changed its position. In the trial court, it claimed the police had arrested Guha on Station Road, near the Raipur railway station and that Mahindra Hotel had been a “typing error”! The court accepted this patently laughable assertion. The prosecution then introduced a new witness — Anil Kumar Singh, a clothes vendor — who they claimed was “passing by” when Guha was arrested on Station Road. Singh said he had “heard” Guha telling the police during his arrest on Station Road that Binayak Sen had passed the letters on to him. Even a novice would find that a thin assertion. (Singh’s address was listed vaguely as Noorani Chowk, Raja Talav — a little akin to saying someone lives in Dharavi, Mumbai. TEHELKA, however, tried to track Singh down in this locality but found no one who had heard of him.) But that is the least of it. Three years ago, when DGP Vishwa Ranjan had spoken to TEHELKA , he had said confidently that since they had seized Sen’s computer CPU, they were sure to find a lot of evidence against him. The irony of his assertion seemed to have escaped him: Sen had already spent more than a year in jail by then and here was the DGP talking futuristically about the evidence that they would now surely find against Sen. Despite all that delayed effort, this is the ‘key’ evidence that was marshalled against Sen: again, an unsigned typed letter allegedly written by the Maoists thanking Binayak Sen for his ‘service’, which the police claims to have seized from his house. However, unlike other items that were seized from Sen’s house during the search, this typed letter does not have either his or investigating office Rajpoot’s signature as



(IPC), and sentenced him to life imprison-

W Smoking gun? DGP Vishwa Ranjan is yet to present any clinching evidence against Sen  On the warpath Wife Ilina Sen says that she has lost her faith in the Indian judiciary

'When we asked the judge to check the video of the seizure, he asked for a printout of the video!’ recalls Ilina

proof that it was found in his house. “The judge simply accepted the police version. When we asked him to check the video footage of the seizure, he asked for a printout of the video!” recalls Ilina. This footage was shot with the permission of a District Magistrate when Sen’s house was searched by the police on 19 May 2007. Even the three letters to P, V and Friend allegedly seized from Guha do not bear his signature to prove it was taken from him, nor does Guha’s arrest memo mention the seized documents. However, DGP Vishwa Rajan claims, “If we had to plant evidence, we would have planted something more incriminating.” But the ludicrous holes in the case go on endlessly. A postcard written by Ilina Sen addressing Kusumlata Kedia of the Gandhi Institute in Varanasi as ‘Comrade’ becomes evidence of Ilina’s Maoist ideology. “Comrade ussi ko kehte hai jo Maowadi hai (Only Maoists address each other as comrades),” argued special prosecutor Pandya. Investigating officer Rajpoot claimed to have seen a video of Sen meeting Naxalites inside a forest, but when questioned by the defence whether those Naxalites were armed and uniformed or just ordinary tribals, he could not give a clear answer. Another police officer claimed Sen had participated in Maoist meetings in the jungle, but on cross-examination, conceded it could be hearsay. Deepak Choubey, son-


in-law of Narayan Sanyal’s landlord in Raipur, testified that Sen had recommended Sanyal for the house. The defence claims this to be totally untrue. Its position is stengthened by the fact that Choubey claimed that Sanyal was arrested from Raipur in January 2006. However other police testimonies assert Sanyal was arrested in Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh. The prosecution had also claimed that Sen met Sanyal 33 times in less than 35 days, lending their meetings a kind of false urgency. However, Sen’s family claimed the meetings were spread over 18 months and each time Sen had filed an application to the jail authorities on the PUCL letterhead. The meetings took place in the jailer’s room, and instead of conversing in English or Bengla, they stuck to Hindi, so that every word could be understood by the supervising officer. Jail officials confirmed this. Most crucially, back in 2007, when news had first started appearing in local papers that the police had declared “Naxal leader Binayak Sen” as absconding, far from running away or seeking anticipatory bail as his well-wishers had urged, Sen, who was visiting his mother in Kolkata, came racing back to Raipur. “There must be some misunderstanding,” he said. And driven by his idealistic belief in Indian democracy, his own good intention and years of public service, he went voluntarily to the police station to clear the air. They arrested him instead. The Chhattisgarh Police, therefore, did not arrest some dreaded combatant on the run, they arrested a citizen who had gone to them in good faith. Despite all this, on 24 December 2010, at around 1 pm, Justice BP Verma pronounced Sen guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit sedition under Section 124(a) read with 20 (b) of the Indian Penal Code

ment. In his 92- page judgement in Hindi, Verma declared Sen and Guha had aided and supported the Communist Party of India (Maoist) by carrying three letters written by Sanyal. The three were also convicted under Section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and Sections 8 (1), (2), (3) and (5) of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, which charged them with supporting, aiding and abetting the activities of a banned organisation. Justice Verma, who had replaced Justice BS Saluja midway into the trial and had only become a judge a year-and-half ago and is still on probation, announced: “The way that terrorists and Maoist organisations are killing state and Central paramilitary forces and innocent Adivasis and spreading fear, terror and disorder across the country and community implies that this court cannot be generous to the accused and give them the minimum sentence under law.” Rather than justice, was the judge handing out deterrence? “Two days before the verdict, the newspapers had screamed about the police bandobast being lined up for the judgement day,” Ilina told TEHELKA . “How did they know the verdict is going to be in their favour?” A week later, at a Delhi press conference, her disillusionment is even clearer. “My faith in the judiciary is weakening,” she said. “Sometimes I do think about walking into one of the embassies of a liberal democracy and asking for asylum.” She might be wise to do that. The effort to nail Binayak Sen has included attempts to implicate the PUCL, of which he is the national vice-president. In 2004, when the Maoists had called a ban against voting, Ajay TG, a photographer-cumfilmmaker, had accompanied a fact-finding team of social activists that included Delhi University sociology professor Nandini Sundar and Binayak Sen, to south Bastar to assess the impact of this ban. A group of Maoists had accosted them and seized Ajay’s camera. Weeks later, a man visited Ajay at his home and apologised on behalf of the Maoists, saying they had mistakenly thought the team was from the government. However, they were willing to buy him a new camera if he could write down the make of his destroyed equipment. In all innocence, Ajay wrote a letter addressed

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W Deja vu Binayak Sen is taken back to the sessions court in Raipur on 24 December

to the Maoists asking his camera be replaced. In 2008, the police seized this letter during a raid on the house of Malti Rao, the wife of Gudsa Husendi, Maoist spokesperson. Ajay admitted to writing the letter explaining the circumstances under which he had done so. But he too was arrested for being a Naxalite. The police then claimed that Malti worked with Binayak and Ilina’s NGO Rupantar. Rupantar’s Malti, however, turned out to be a different person. (Speaking at a conference in Berkley in California in 2008, DGP Vishwa Ranjan admitted that arresting Ajay TG may have been a mistake. “It is possible he may not have been a Naxalite. There might have been some kind of technical error.”) Ajay is now out on bail. Ram Jethmalani is not the only lawyer incensed by the judgement against Sen. At the press conference in Delhi on 3 January, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out that in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962), the Supreme Court had ruled that provision 124(a) in the Indian Penal Code was a relic of a colonial, pre-Constitution era, and that it infringed on the individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression. “The Supreme Court had ruled that if, and only if, there is incitement to violence and public disorder, will the charge of sedition be said to be complete. The Raipur judge completely disregarded this important judgement in Dr Sen’s case,” Bhushan said. He also questioned the very premise of the case. “The letters that Sen allegedly couriered, on which the charges against him were based, do not contain any con-


spiracy to commit crime or violence, but are routine letters written by somebody in prison. No acceptable, legally tenable evidence exists to back up this charge. Even if there is evidence, does it warrant life imprisonment?” That is the key question. Why has the State been so adamant in making a lesson out of Binayak Sen? The answer lies outside the court. turned 61 on 4 January in jail. A gold medallist from the prestiB gious Christian Medical College in Vellore, INAYAK SEN

he had moved to Chhattisgarh exactly 30 years earlier to work with Shankar Guha Niyogi, the legendary mine workers’ unionist. Sen helped set up the Shaheed Hospital at Dallirajhara, built with the workers’ own money. Later, he moved to the Mission Hospital in Tilda, and then, in 1990, joined his wife Ilina in Raipur to set up Rupantar, an NGO that has for 18 years trained village health workers and run mobile clinics in remote outposts. As Dr Suranjan Bhattacharji, director, CMC Vellore, says, “Binayak walked the talk. He was an inspiration for generations of doctors. He reminded us that it takes many things — access, freedom, food security, shelter, equity and justice — to make a healthy society.” In 2004, the medical college honoured Sen with its prestigious Paul Harrison Award. The citation read, “Dr Binayak Sen has carried his dedication to truth and service to the very frontline of the battle. He has broken the mould, redefined the possible role of the doctor in a broken and unjust society, holding the

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cause much more precious than personal safety. CMC is proud to be associated with Binayak Sen.” Even DGP Vishwa Ranjan calls Sen “a good doctor”. However, all of that changed in 2005 when the State launched its infamous Salwa Judum initiative — raising and arming a tribal civil militia to fight the Maoists, triggering a kind of civil war. Sen, whose work straddled both medicine and human rights, protested strongly against the excesses of the Salwa Judum and the State’s atrocities against the tribals. This earned him the State’s ire. Anyone who opposed the Salwa Judum was deemed a Maoist. You were either with Us or with Them. The State wanted to send out a message: Fall in line. Even a man as illustrious as Binayak Sen can be put away. The irrational doggedness with which the police has pursued the case has only driven the message home harder. On 31 December 2007, seven months after he was arrested, the Indian Academy of Social Sciences conferred the RR Keithan Gold Medal on Binayak Sen. On May 2008, still

Anyone who opposed the Salwa Judum was deemed a Maoist. You were either with Us or with Them

in jail, he was given the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Around the same time, 22 Nobel Prize winners appealed to the Indian government for his release. But none of that was enough to keep Binayak out of jail. Now, as the fight for his release stretches in the months ahead, he will become a test case for pulling back some of the draconian laws that are threatening to change the very fabric of indian democracy. As Amartya Sen says, “Democracy has to be judged not just by the institutions that formally exist but by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people can actually be heard.’’ The first step woud be for the Chhatisgarh High Court to suspend the trial court judgement against Binayak Sen.



PM likely to deal himself a

better hand. Pre-Budget BY SOPAN JOSHI



is most likely before the Budget session of Parliament starts in February. Sources in the Congress expect the reshuffle before 25 January as ministers will need time to settle in before the Budget is finalised. The reshuffle is tied to the reconstitution of the Congress Working Committee (CWC),

which was to happen before the Congress plenary held in Burari on 18-20 December. But both got delayed, probably because of the outbreak of various scams, the Congress’ embarrassing defeat in Bihar, and the crisis caused by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s walking out. Asked to comment on the possibility of a reshuffle, Congress spokesperson Manish

Tewari said, “The Cabinet is in the domain of the prime minister and the CWC is in the domain of the Congress president. I am not in a position to comment on either.” The jobs of the three ministers who resigned — Minister of State (MoS) in the external affairs ministry Shashi Tharoor who fell victim to the IPL controversy, MoS in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan who was appointed Maharashtra chief minister after Ashok Chavan resigned because of the Adarsh housing scam, and telecom minister A Raja, who quit in the aftermath of the 2G scam — have to be reallocated. Kapil Sibal has four ministries under him now, and Sharad Pawar, who is also president of the International Cricket Council, had asked the prime minister to lighten his workload in July last. Congress circles report talk of external affairs minister SM Krishna either getting shifted to the commerce ministry or

moving out of the Cabinet. The prime minister is quite keen to rid the Cabinet of anybody facing corruption allegations; Krishna’s name has cropped up in land allotment scams in Karnataka. Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister for coal, is also on the exit list. If Krishna goes, it would mean a rejig of the Big Four: finance, home affairs, defence and foreign affairs. This might mean a shift for P Chidambaram, who is not exactly in party general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s good books. The party will also be bothered about Muslim representation in the Cabinet, especially after Azam Khan’s return to the Samajwadi Party. He has already pointed out there was only one full-fledged Muslim minister: Ghulam Nabi Azad of Jammu & Kashmir. This has fuelled speculation that Salman Khurshid, MoS with independent charge of corporate affairs and of minority affairs, will get

S August lineup A rejig is possible in the big four ministries with Home Minister P Chidambaram (far right) likely to be shied to another department


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elevated to Cabinet rank. Uttar Pradesh gained importance after the Bihar debacle. likely to stay put, despite earning the ire O of several Union ministers and NE MINISTER

party seniors for obstructing development projects by not granting them environmental clearance, is Jairam Ramesh. While he has the backing of the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi, the prime minister’s first priority is economic growth. Then there is the question of balancing Cabinet positions with party requirements. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad might get a change of

There has been talk of a generational shift in the CWC, with the old guard being eased out

portfolio and a greater role in the party organisation; he already has charge of Tamil Nadu, which will go to Assembly polls soon. Another state with approaching Assembly polls is West Bengal, which is in the charge of Andhra Pradesh MP Keshav Rao, who has gone to the extent of threatening to quit the Congress if Telangana is not created. The Congress already has a highly volatile ally in West Bengal, TMC’s Mamata Banerjee. Minister of Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh state president Suresh Pachauri, and Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi reportedly seek a greater role in the party organisation. The Congress leadership might want a change in Andhra Pradesh — Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily is in charge of the state now. Similarly, Defence Minister AK Antony is in charge of Maharashtra. Four ministers (three now, with Prithiviraj Chavan off to Maharashtra) hold the position of general secretary. They are Azad, Mukul Wasnik (Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, who also looks after Bihar) and V Narayanasamy (Ministries of Planning and Parliamentary Affairs). There has been talk of a generational shift in the CWC. The old guard comprising stalwarts such as Arjun Singh and Mohsina Kidwai is expected to give way to a younger lot (the joke is that the Indira loyalists will give way to the Rajiv loyalists.) Sources say there is a tussle on, with Rahul Gandhi demanding a greater role for his youth team in the party, featuring names such as Jitin Prasada and Jyotiraditya Scindia. However, Rahul is unlikely to join the Cabinet.




FIX WORK DEADLINES IT refunds in 12 weeks. Applications disposed of in seven days. Penalise if deadlines are not met.


INSTALL CCTVs In offices, and link them to the vigilance wing. Helps if people know their actions are being recorded.

3 4


IMPOSE COMMUNITY SERVICE Make three years of this mandatory after the prison terms are completed.


CANCEL PERKS Strip the guilty of retirement benefits. It would make bribes far less attractive.


MARK PAN CARDS Punch a hole, for instance, in the PAN cards of the persons found guilty.


IMPOSE GRAFT TAX On persons with marked PAN cards. Say, 20 percent of earnings.


DISALLOW INSURANCE Take away insurance cover of those with marked PAN cards.


HONOUR THE HONEST With incentives and awards. Is a great motivation to stay clean.


EMPOWER INTEGRITY Encourage political parties to reserve 10 percent posts for persons with less than 2 lakh savings.

10 THINGS IT SHOULD NOT 1 Put government survival ahead of punishing the corrupt 2 Hide behind judicial processes 3 Weaken the regulators 4 Claim innocence. It is their job to know and act 5 Be afraid 6 Ignore genuine needs. Lower level salaries could be better 7 Dither 8 Resist transparency 9 Be seriously vulnerable to money 10 Minimise the issue

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The Rediscovery of Punjab Alarmed by a report on the decline of Punjab, one man walked 45 days, over 1,200 kilometres across 21 districts, to learn the truth

UNTIL OCTOBER 2010, much of Punjab didn’t know what was happening with Punjab. It still doesn’t. But a story was told then (TEHELKA Cover, Punjab: Rich and Ruined, 2 October 2010), that has begun to alter the way the people of Punjab look at themselves. The heat and noise of impropriety in the country, what the Prime Minister calls the air of despondency and cynicism, has obscured the decay of Punjab, once India’s proudest and most dynamic state. We put it on the table. That Punjab is a generation away from possible extinction because of drugs, alcohol, pesticides in farms, and a culture of denial. The responses varied. The government, led by the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, opted to look the other way. The intelligentsia was most perturbed. Some people were upset, they thought only one side of Punjab was talked about. But most ordinary folk were happy that at last the truth of Punjab was told. One man went into deep thought. Ravneet Singh is a young Congress hope, grandson of for-


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mer Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, who was assassinated in office in 1995. Ravneet is also the first Congressman in recent times to have won an open inner-party election, in the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC). As President of the PYC, it is Singh’s job to make a difference to the youth of his state. Ravneet says he was alarmed by the scale of the destruction in Punjab, as the TEHELKA story demonstrated. “We were looking for ways to connect with the youth. The story showed us how to,” says Ravneet. In Punjab the Congress tends to be wary of going to the people, because of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in parts of north India. In the past 15 years, not many Congress politicians have reached out though the party has headed governments in the state. Ravneet decided it was time to. By the time he was through, his feet, legs and body were sore and his toes needed to be separated by a doctor. This is his story, in his words. VIJAY SIMHA



W Walking the talk The padayatra began on 1 November and came to an end on 15 December

It will take 15 years of social revolution for Punjab to recover’ BY RAVNEET SINGH, CONGRESS MP, ANANDPUR SAHIB


OR A while now, we have been aware that there is a problem in Punjab. But, we were not sure what precisely we, in the Punjab Youth Congress, should do about it. We held a meeting the day after the TEHELKA story on the deterioration of Punjab appeared. On one hand was the TEHELKA story that triggered much thought in us. On the other hand was Rahul Gandhi’s repeated caution that we must not earn discredit by doing anything half-hearted. So we pondered long and hard. We decided we needed to go to the people first and understand why the situation in Punjab has turned so grave. We didn’t want to talk of religion or votes, which seem to put people off, especially the youngsters. We needed a new revolu-

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tion. So we called it the New Revolution Padayatra. I, as president of the Punjab Youth Congress, would walk 1,200 km in 45 days across Punjab. The padayatra began on 1 November and concluded on 15 December at Ludhiana. We chose two main themes: drug addiction and female foeticide. shock was in a village called Channo in Fatehgarh district. We M were there on Diwali night. Channo is not Y FIRST

a very rich village. In fact, I learned many things about Punjab. The general perception is that Punjab is among the richest states in India, but I found deep-rooted widespread poverty in the state, especially its interiors. In Channo, we found a group of farmers were sitting idle in the mandi. There was too much moisture in their produce this year because of the heavy rains and no one was buying. In any case they had a poor harvest. We offered candles and a few firecrackers, which we had brought with us to distribute. The women were all at home. Not celebrating, just sitting and talking. The men were lying around in a group, mostly drunk. The youngsters were in another group, playing cards and high on smack. This was Fatehgarh, not Amritsar, and they were still heavily addicted. When we reached Bhatinda, we found 50 to 60 cancer patients in almost every village. Everyone wither had cancer or hepatitis. My aunt had hepatitis so I know how bad it can get. At least two chief minister’s families have cancer patients but the administration is still not sensitised enough. The people in the villages here had accepted illness as their fate. Most of it comes from the polluted water and air. During my yatra I found that you can’t drink natural water in Punjab now. Everything comes from RO filters. All villages have an RO plant to escape the brackish water. The RO plants need frequent maintenance so the villagers suffer anyway. I also

Only two things open early in Punjab: liquor vends and pharmacies. You can see queues of addicts from dawn


found women picking cotton for as little as 60 a day when even MGNREGA wages are about 100. This is Punjab. In the beginning, people seemed wary of us. They probably thought we had come to seek votes. But slowly, by the time we neared Amritsar, they began to join us. Women came out in large numbers and said they would join us in the fight against drugs. The main issue in Punjab is drugs. It has got tricky because the traditional drugs like opium and smack are not so heavily abused now. They are still there but it is the pharmaceutical drugs that are causing havoc. Synthetic drugs have taken over. Everywhere in Punjab we saw medical shops. In every village, even where there are only 1,000 people, they had four medical shops mostly operating without licence. We would start early every day for the yatra. And we saw the same sight each morning. The markets across the state open at 10 am. But two things start early in Punjab: medical shops and liquor vends. I saw them open even at 6 am with the staff sprinkling water, cleaning the place and getting it ready like one would do for a flower shop. I checked at nearly 30 places. There is a queue of people every morning at medical stores. If they can’t get their supply of drugs at that point, they buy alcohol at a nearby vend and drink for a couple of hours until their supply arrives. When we

would walk past schools and colleges, we saw the same thing done a little differently. At some places, policemen in vehicles would be keeping an eye on the medical shops. So, the staff would stock their stuff in a car and settle down at eateries near schools and colleges. Small kiosks that are called canteens. No one bothers them there and the trade flourishes. Punjab has been a bright star for India, which is now in a state of ruin. This is not apparent until you go to the interiors. I see no ray of hope for Punjab as things stand and this is should be a big worry for Punjab and India. Even a single example will show how bad things are. Sometime in early December, the army held a camp near Ludhiana to enlist soldiers. Traditionally, Punjab used to have the maximum number of soldiers in the Indian Army. In this exercise, the army was hiring for 18,000 vacancies. Only 1,924 were selected from Punjab. Youngsters were rejected because some didn’t have the necessary height, others didn’t have the chest, and still others didn’t have the stamina. Today, Punjab is so unfit. Seventy percent of the youth is on drugs and 40 percent couples are unable to conceive because of drugs. In my yatra, I realised that a big change is needed to save Punjab. It must start with us politicians, though it cannot be limited only to the government and political par-

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W Ground reality Ravneet’s fact-finding mission focussed on two main themes: female foeticide and drug addiction that has ravaged the state

The time for petty politics is over. All parties must unite to run a mass movement to save Punjab

ties. We found at many places people were reluctant to come out and join the yatra openly. They said they were with us but didn’t dare to say so or show it openly. They were afraid of the police, who were keeping an eye on the yatra, zooming in and out, hovering around us all the time. This is a symptom of the political culture in Punjab. When governments are formed, political parties tend to target opponents rather than focus on development. This breeds a desire for revenge and when the other side comes to power, they do the same thing. Some activists said there were 60 FIRs against them. change. The time for petty power politics is over in Punjab. All T parties must come together to run a mass HIS MUST

movement to rescue Punjab. Even then, it would take 15 years of social revolution for Punjab to recover. Our New Revolution will not stop with the padayatra. In a cou-

ple of months, we would host a big seminar where we hope to come out with a Punjab Revival Policy. But that alone is not enough. We must all decide, whichever party we are from, not to give drug dealers tickets in the next election. The Election Commission must keep a strict watch so that drugs are not given for votes. I saw that people have awakened a little because of the yatra. Some may have begun to think as well. There was a youngster who came rushing to me as I was leaving Patiala. He had read our pamphlet and asked if we were helping people get off drugs. He said he was a smack addict and was fed up. He wanted to give up but didn’t know what to do. He was ostracised as an addict in his village. I told him we couldn’t get people off drugs. We were only telling them drugs were bad. This brings me to another problem in Punjab. There are no decent deaddiction centres in the state. There are a few local ones, where they beat up patients. Families get fed up and leave the addicts in these places. They get no proper treatment. There is no dignity and they don’t know what to do once they are off drugs. I know NRIs who spend up to 5 lakh on kabaddi tournaments in their villages. It would be so much better if they helped set up good rehab centres for addicts. I tell the NRIs I know but I hope others reading this would come forward to help.

My focus is not on the ones already addicted. I want to intervene and stop the next generation from becoming addicted. Every third house has an addict. Punjab has nothing to give the next generation. Its land has gone to the colonisers. Most people have sold their land. Now, even migration to the West has slowed. This would cause a great problem over the next 15 years. People in other states are happy with basic things like good roads. In Punjab, they compare themselves with Canada. They want big lives. They won’t do small work. The big work isn’t there because industry is moving out to other states. So, I see more people getting into drugs in the coming years. Big decisions have to be taken. 2011 will be a bad year for Punjab. The Akali government will not be interested in the state because elections are due in 14 months. They will look at an exit strategy. The Congress has to carefully scrutinise its people and pick only those of integrity. The padayatra has definitely sensitised me and the members of the Punjab Youth Congress about the expectations of the people from the political leadership. What is worrying me is that we found a majority of the people fed up with the present system. They are silent. Their silence is bothering me now.

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Perfect murder?

Or a perfectly botched probe? BY BRIJESH PANDEY

S Media glare Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar at a Ghaziabad court

understand the importance of forensics. This case should serve as an eye-opener for the force as well as policy planners. Police at the thana level is not equipped to carry out scientific probes. Had they been, the case would have been solved long ago.” Then came another shocker. Forensic investigators at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics in Hyderabad said that the vaginal swabs drawn from Aarushi were substituted with samples from an unknown woman. What followed was a CBI flip-flop. The case was handed over to a CBI team headed by Joint Director Arun Kumar, but it was unable to make a breakthrough.


IGHT FROM the day 14-yearold Aarushi was found dead in her apartment in Noida on 15 May 2008, it has been a case study of how not to conduct a criminal investigation. The botching-up process started by the Noida Police was duly carried on by the CBI. First, in true Indian police style, the missing servant Hemraj was declared the main suspect. Logic? The person missing from the scene is the one guilty of the crime. QED. What followed was something the Noida Police had not bargained for. All hell broke loose when a retired Noida police officer reached the spot the next morning and went up the staircase leading to the terrace. He broke open the lock. Hemraj’s body was lying there. It was a huge oversight on the part of the Noida Police. But this wasn’t the end of the circus. As news of Hemraj’s body being found spread like wildfire, television crews swarmed the place, trampling all over the crime scene. Nobody thought of sealing the place. Perhaps in its acute embarrassment over the Hemraj fiasco, the police forgot important forensic clues were being destroyed. If that wasn’t enough, the way Aarushi’s post-mortem was conducted and swabs and viscera were handled, effectively sealed the fate of the case, much before it was handed over to the CBI. It was initially claimed by Dr Sunil Dohre that the swab contained a white discharge similar to semen, but later his boss Dr SC Singhal told the media that slides prepared from the swab had tested negative for semen. In its closure report, the CBI had also


mentioned that Aarushi’s uncle Dinesh Talwar tried to influence Dr Dohre, a charge that was denied by the family. Not only this, lab assistants Navneet and Vikas are alleged to have mishandled the forensic samples they received from the Noida Police. The CBI has also mentioned that the samples were contaminated to such an extent that it was impossible to get evidence from them. A senior UP police officer said on the condition of anonymity: “This case was killed in the initial phase. The way the whole investigation was conducted is a scary reminder to all of us that in the 21st century, we are still stuck with archaic methods — and most importantly, we don’t

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Aarushi’s cell phone, which was missing since the murder, was recovered by the Delhi Police Crime Branch, adding to the CBI’s discomfort. But even this proved futile as all the data had been wiped clean. Based on the outcome of narco tests, the CBI declared that Aarushi’s parents were innocent and it was the servants who did it. But it was unable to prove the charges. When Ashwani Kumar became CBI chief in August 2008, he constituted a new team for the case. But even this team found neither motive nor weapon. So, will the double murder remain an eternal mystery? Nobody has a clue.



A REBEL GOES MAINSTREAM ULFA’s Arabinda Rajkhowa is a free man. But will peace follow? asks RATNADIP CHOUDHURY


HE HISTORIC Rang Ghar in Assam’s Sivasagar district — the seat of the Ahom kings — had thousands of visitors like any other day. But for once, on 2 January, they hadn’t come to see Asia’s oldest amphitheater but to get a glimpse of rebel leader Arabinda Rajkhowa, who, along with five other comrades, formed the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) at this very location on 7 April 1979. Released on bail from the Guwahati


Central Jail in six TADA cases, Rajkhowa, 54, travelled back to Upper Assam, the ULFA stronghold. The ULFA chairman’s release clears the decks for proposed peace talks between the government and the banned outfit. But Rajkhowa’s homecoming goes much beyond that. “If a honourable situation for talks is not created, I will return to the people and ask them whether I should pick up arms again,” Rajkhowa thundered while addressing a crowd at Boarding Field in Shiv-

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asagar. “Should I opt for a political movement, should I go for peace talks, whatever you tell me, I will do that. But I’m in favour of a peace process. Long live ULFA.” The proposed talks will not only decide if ULFA will shun violence but it might also see Rajkhowa and other top leaders of the banned outfit, who are now out on bail, join mainstream politics. There are also indications that, perhaps for the first time in the past 30 years, ULFA could possibly split. Earlier, members have quit the outfit or



surrendered but by and large, ULFA has remained intact. There have been ideological differences between Rajkhowa and ULFA commanderin-chief Paresh Barua, who has been reportedly shuttling between China and Myanmar. But now it seems Rajkhowa wants a political solution rather than a military one. This comes at a time when Assam is getting ready for Assembly polls in a couple of months. For the ruling Congress, Rajkhowa’s release will not only boost the government’s image but also divert attention from issues like corruption and illegal immigration from Bangladesh that have left the Tarun Gogoi government on a sticky wicket. Perhaps, New Delhi has learnt a few lessons from the botched peace process in Nagaland with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). The peace parleys have been going on for 13 long years. As a result, status quo has prevailed and a lasting solution remains elusive. Now, the Congress does not want to repeat the same mistakes. New Delhi is counting on ULFA’s top leadership to join mainstream politics. Rumour has it that the ruling Congress might even go in for a pre-poll tie-up with a political outfit backed by ULFA leaders. Interlocutor PC Haldar and Union Home Secretary GK Pillai are reportedly acting as ‘floor managers’ to ensure that alliance. Away from the political permutations and combinations, Rajkhowa’s release meant the end of a long wait for 98-yearold Damayanti Rajkonwari. “When will he come? Where is he now? Meeting him is the only wish I have left,” his frail mother had earlier remarked in a choked voice. Finally, she got to hug her beloved son. Holding his mother’s hands, Rajkhowa sounded emotional: “I cannot describe my happiness in reuniting with my family, my mother. But I have a big responsibility.” Rajkhowa’s father Umakanta Rajkhowar, who died in 2003 at the age of 103, was a freedom fighter and an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Rajkhowa’s journey home was euphoric. Many underground ULFA cadres accompanied him, chanting slogans and carrying the ULFA flag, an act not permitted by law as the outfit is banned. “We are eager for peace talks but for that an honourable atmosphere has to be created. I want to make one thing clear:

 Hero’s welcome Rajkhowa arrives at Sivasagar

governments want to keep Barua out of the peace process at least till the elections are over because he is a hardliner. This is not the first time that Rajkhowa is talking peace. After the successful military operations against ULFA in the early 1990s, many activists had surrendered. In 1992, top leaders such as Rajkhowa, Chetia and vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi were flown to New Delhi. They had assured the Central government of bringing Barua along for talks. However, the process failed because Barua was not convinced. The crackdown by Bangladesh against ULFA made life difficult for the outfit’s political leaders and has given Delhi a fresh chance to broker peace. ULFA has lost two major trans-border sanctuaries — Bhutan and Bangladesh. Myanmar is the only shelter left. Thus an isolated Barua is lying low, keenly watching the development but he definitely has the power to regroup.

S Young admirer A girl waves the banned ULFA flag

‘The Assam-India conflict cannot get a meaningful solution from military action,’ admits Rajkhowa

BUMPY road lies ahead for Rajkhowa and the government because ULFA has lost its popular support among the Assamese people. “Rajkhowa will have to answer why ULFA killed innocent schoolkids on Independence Day in 2003 in Dhemaji,” says an angry villager in Sivasagar, on the condition of anonymity. Earlier, ULFA ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain had said that New Delhi has to come clean on the whereabouts of leaders such as Robin Neog, Asantha Bagh Phukan, Bening Rabha and Robin Handique who went ‘missing’ since the Operation All-Clear in 2003 in Bhutan. “As ULFA chairman, I had always pushed for a political solution but some people have always sabotaged the process due to vested interests,” reveals Rajkhowa. “We are sincere and I know that I have taken up a big responsibility. If the talks fail, the people of Assam will decide what should be the next step.” While Rajkhowa has made it clear that the people of Assam are the main stakeholders in the peace process, New Delhi must remember the fate of the 1975 Shillong Accord, which failed to settle the vexed Naga problem. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. If the peace process fails again this time, ULFA will certainly strike back, as Rajkhowa perhaps knows better than anybody.


there are no ideological differences within the ULFA on peace talks,” says Rajkhowa. But the big question is: can he walk the talk? In ULFA, it has always been Barua who has called the shots. While Rajkhowa has given indications that he is ready to begin talks without pre-conditions, Barua has always maintained that the core issue of Assam’s sovereignty has to be on the agenda for any meaningful negotiations. “Our general secretary Anup Chetia should be extradited from a Bangladeshi jail to India if the peace process has to be taken forward. Other jailed leaders have to be freed as well. Only then we can meet the people, take their opinion and explain our point of view,” says Rajkhowa. Interestingly, Rajkhowa remains silent on Barua’s participation in the talks. “We need to hold the executive council meeting to decide about the talks,” he says. “The media has to understand that ULFA has not given up on its ideology. We have not forgotten the sacrifices of our cadres but Assam-India conflict cannot get a meaningful solution from military action.” Perhaps, both the Central and Assam

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THE FATHER, THE SONSIN-LAW AND THE UNHOLY PROPERTIES JEEMON JACOB & VK SHASHIKUMAR scoop documents to establish property amassed by former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan’s son-in-law, PV Sreenijan, a practising lawyer who recently resigned from the Kerala Congress


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HEN KG Balakrishnan was appointed Chief Justice of India in 2007, it was a great moment for a man of humble origins. But VR Krishna Iyer, former judge of the Supreme Court and national icon, now says, “I used to say that an era had begun when KG Balakrishnan became the first Dalit Chief Justice. Now, I don’t feel that way.” Post retirement, Balakrishnan became head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in June last year. Ever since, a rising crescendo of allegations of corruption have been heard, fuelled by the fact that his younger brother KG Bhaskaran and his two daughters and sons-in-law all acquired vast properties during his tenure as Chief Justice. TEHELKA has accessed documents that show that between 2007 and 2010, son-inlaw Puliyanaveettil Vasu Sreenijan purchased property worth 1.85 crore. The current real estate value of these properties is in excess of 25 crore. This is a truly amazing story of wealth creation by a man who, while contesting elections from Kerala’s reserved Njarackkal Assembly constituency as a Congress candidate in 2006, had declared a bank balance of 25,000 apart from 24 g of gold. Sreenijan is married to Balakrishnan’s elder daughter KB Sony, whom he met in college. He traces his background to a humble and hard-working family: his father was a factory worker in Premier Tyres, Kalamassery, and a Congress party worker. His classmates remember him as an introvert who had a muted, almost latent, ambition to become a powerful politician. From campus politics he moved to the Youth Congress and took active part in its programmes and activities. Sreenijan became a practising lawyer in the Kerala High Court. When Balakrishnan started his three-year tenure as Chief Justice, Sreenijan started making huge investments in real estate and tourism. This sudden acquisition of wealth is currently being probed by the vigilance department after a probe was ordered by Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. TEHELKA repeatedly tried to establish contact with Sreenijan for his version via SMS and phone, but all calls went unanswered. After his marriage with Sony, Sreenijan’s political career also leapfrogged. He



A FAMILY PRACTICE KB Sony, Daughter Flat No 34/2557 at Travancore Residency Towers, Edapally North, Ernakulam BOUGHT 12 February 2007 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 6 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 35 lakh CURRENT MARKET PRICE 60 lakh PROPERTY

1,336 sq  fih floor flat in Mather Square, Old Station Road, Ernakulam BOUGHT 13 March 2007 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 6.6 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 35 lakh CURRENT MARKET PRICE 70 lakh PROPERTY

Sreenijan, Son-in-law 5 plots totalling 277.52 cent (title deed No 4679/2008) in Kadukui village in Thrissur district BOUGHT 13 November 2008 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 14 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 2.77 crore CURRENT MARKET PRICE 10 crore PROPERTY

12 cent plot on Deshabhimani Road, Kaloor, Ernakulam town. BOUGHT 5 June 2009 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 30 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 1.5 crore CURRENT MARKET PRICE 2 crore PROPERTY

Sreemathy V, Sreenijan’s mother 3.5 cents plot (Deed No 12883/2010) BOUGHT 6 October 2010 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 15 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 70 lakh PROPERTY

MJ Benny, Son-in-law Plots totaling 96.5 cent on National Highway, Marad BOUGHT Between 19 March 2008 and 26 March 2010 PURCHASE PRICE SHOWN 81.5 lakh MARKET VALUATION THEN 4 crore CURRENT MARKET PRICE 10 crore PROPERTY

was appointed state vice-president of the Youth Congress. Though Congress leaders like MA Kuttappan (also a former minister) challenged Sreenijan’s rise, such protests were short-lived. He lost the 2006 elections but his wife purchased a flat and car parking space in Travancore Residency Towers for 6 lakh in 2007.

similar to Sreenijan’s. Between 19 March 2008 and 26 March 2010, he purchased 98.5 cents of land through five title deeds for 81.5 lakh. This is prime land along the National Highway in Marad, Ernakulam district. A cursory comparison of land rates during this period shows that the property was undervalued. When Benny purchased the property it was around 4 lakh per cent and at current ITHIN A month, Sony again purchased another flat in Mather rates would be 10 lakh per cent. Yet BenSquare. The cost of the flat mentioned in ny showed his yearly income as 5 lakh and 5.5 lakh during the assessment years the title deed is only 1.49 lakh, but the market price of flats in the vicinity was 2008-09 and 2009-10. Just five land deals made Benny a millionaire in two years. about 66 lakh at that time. Rani also embarked on an investment Today, Kerala Youth Congress leaders who were angry about Sreenijan’s politi- spree, purchasing 10.5 acres in Athiramcal rise are gunning for him. “We demand puzha with her relatives, including a CBI inquiry to find out how Sreenijan Abhilash T Chandran in 2007. Chandran acquired so much property and assets is the son of Thangappan, one of Balakrwithin the last three years,” said M Liju, ishnan’s six brothers. Then there’s KG Bhaskaran, younger former Youth Congress state president. On brother of the former CJI, who 5 January, Sreenijan tendered his resignation as Youth Conis in the spotlight for possessgress vice-president. ing property beyond his known In November 2008, Sreenisources of income. A senior jan purchased a river-front government pleader practising property of 277.52 cents in in the Kerala High Court, Kadukutti village in Thrissur Bhaskaran reportedly purdistrict where he is now rechased 50 acres of land in portedly constructing a resort. Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. In the According to the title deed, he light of allegations of having purchased the land from illegally amassed property he Mohammed Iqbal Mather for was asked to go on leave from 14 lakh. Villagers who prefer to 4 January by Kerala’s Advocate remain anonymous say the General CP Sudhakara Prasad. N Legal riches? market price was 1 lakh per Bhaskaran, a former member of Sreenijan’s wealth has cent. If that is the case he has the CPM, contested Assembly multiplied since 2007 allegedly shelled out 2.77 elections as a party candidate crore. And building the resort from Vaikom in 1977. could put him back by more than 10 crore. Bhaskaran was a regular visitor to the In 2009, Sreenijan purchased another Supreme Court during his elder brother’s property on Deshabhimani Road in tenure as the CJI. He is also reportedly close Ernakulam for 30 lakh. Later, a property to Justice Paul Daniel Dinakaran (currently of 3.5 cents of land was purchased in his Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court and mother’s name (Sreemathy Vasu) adjacent former Chief Justice of Karnataka High to his plot. Court) against whom serious allegations But it is not only Sreenijan who became have been levelled of land grab in Tamil rich during Balakrishnan’s tenure as CJI. Nadu. No wonder, the Kerala Vigilance The second son-in-law, advocate MJ Benny, too, became wealthier after his Department is now probing all the assets marriage to Rani, Balakrishnan’s younger acquired by Balakrishnan’s family. Especially as the patriarch has not faded into daughter. Born to a working-class Christian the sunset and is now heading a body couple in Nettur, Ernakulam, Benny tasked with bringing justice to those whose married Rani in 2006. Benny and Rani, human rights have been violated. both lawyers, fell in love in the court. Benny’s assets piled up in a manner,


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IN THEWORDSOF AZE Swami Aseemanand’s chilling confession is the first legal evidence of RSS pracharaks’ involvement in the Samjhauta Express and 2006 Malegaon blasts. ASHISH KHETAN scoops the 42-page document that reveals a frightening story of hate and deliberate mayhem H YD ER AB AD

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N 18 DECEMBER 2010, a team of CBI sleuths escorted an elderly Bengali man Naba Kumar Sarkar, 59 — popularly known as Swami Aseemanand — from Tihar jail to the Tis Hazari court in Delhi, where he was produced before metropolitan magistrate Deepak Dabas. Aseemanand is the key accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast that killed nine people. This was his second court appearance in a span of little over 48 hours. On 16 December, Aseemanand had requested the magistrate to record his confession about his involvement in a string of terror attacks. He stated that he was making the confession without any fear, force, coercion or inducement. In accordance with the law, the magistrate asked Aseemanand to reflect over his decision and sent him to judicial custody for two days — away from any police interference or influence. On 18 December, Aseemanand returned, resolute. The magistrate asked everybody except his stenographer to leave his chamber. “I know I can be sentenced to the death penalty but I still want to make the confession,” Aseemanand said. Over the next five hours, in an unprecedented move, Aseemanand laid bare an explosive story about the involvement of a few Hindutva leaders, including himself, in planning and executing a series of gruesome terror attacks. Over the past few years, several pieces of the Hindutva terror puzzle have slowly been falling into place — each piece corroborating and validating what has gone before. First, the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Dayanand Pandey, Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and others in 2008. The seizure of 37 audio tapes from Pandey’s laptop that featured all these people discussing their terror activities. And most recently, the Rajasthan ATS’ chargesheet on the 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast. Aseemanand’s confession, however, is likely to prove one of the most crucial pieces for investigative agencies. Unlike police interrogation reports or confessions, under clause 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), confessions before a magistrate are considered legally admissible evidence. Aseemanand’s statement, therefore, is extremely crucial and will have serious ramifications. For years, since the first horrific blasts in Mumbai in 1992, there has been an au-

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HINDUTVA’S DEADLY PLATOON The men who allegedly vowed to match Islamist terror with Hindutva terror: bomb for bomb

tomatic and damaging perception amongst most Indians that there is a Muslim hand behind every terror blast. To some degree, this bias was shared by the police and intelligence agencies. Every time there was a blast, under intense pressure from both media and government to show results, instead of going in for painstaking and meticulous investigations to catch the real culprits, the security agencies would routinely round up Muslim boys linked with radical organisations and declare them to be terror masterminds. A frenzied media would swallow the story whole. Though a dangerous cocktail of anger, despair and frustration grew within the Muslim community, few Indians — except members of civil society and media organisations like TEHELKA — dared to take stands and question the status quo. The arrest of Sadhvi Pragya and Lt Col Purohit dented this perception slightly, but they were mostly written off as a small and lunatic fringe. Now, Aseemanand’s confession tears much deeper through this prejudice. According to him, it was not Muslim boys but a team of RSS pracharaks who exploded bombs in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007. Apart from the tragic loss of innocent lives in these blasts, what makes this admission doubly disturbing is that, in keeping with their habitual practice, scores


INDRESH KUMAR, a member of the RSS Central Commiee. Three accused, Swami Aseemanad, Lokesh Sharma and Shivam Dhakad, and one witness, Bharat Riteshwar, have stated before the CBI that Indresh had mentored and financed the RSS pracharaks behind Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid terror strikes.

‘I know I can be sentenced with the death penalty but I still want to make this confession,’ Swami Aseemanand told the magistrate of Muslim boys were wrongly picked up by the Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra Police, in collusion with sections of the Intelligence Bureau, and tortured and jailed for these blasts — accentuating the shrill paranoia about a vast and homegrown Islamist terror network. Many of these boys were acquitted after years in jail; some are still languishing inside, their youth and future destroyed, their families reduced to penury. (See story on page 40). In a curious twist, however, in one of those inexplicable human experiences that no one can account for, according to Aseemanand, it was an encounter with one of these jailed Muslim boys that triggered a momentous emotional transformation in him, forcing him to confront his conscience and make amends. This is what Aseemanand told the judge: “Sir, when I was lodged in Chanchalguda district jail in Hyderabad, one of my co-inmates was

SWAMI ASEEMANAND, the head of the RSS-affiliated Van Vasi Kalyan Ashram, Shabri Dham in Dangs, Gujarat. He has confessed to playing the role of an ideologue to the terrorists. Besides presiding over terror meetings held in Dangs and Valsad in Gujarat, he also selected Malgeaon, Ajmer Sharif and Hyderabad as terror targets.

Kaleem. During my interaction with Kaleem I learnt that he was previously arrested in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case and he had to spend about oneand-a-half years in prison. During my stay in jail, Kaleem helped me a lot and used to serve me by bringing water, food, etc for me. I was very moved by Kaleem’s good conduct and my conscience asked me to do prayschit (penance) by making a confessional statement so that real culprits can be punished and no innocent has to suffer.” At this point, the magistrate asked his stenographer to leave so the confession could continue without restraint. In a signed statement written in Hindi that runs into 42 pages — and which is in TEHELKA’s possession — Aseemanand then proceeded to unravel the inner workings of the Hindutva terror network. According to him, it was not just a rump group like the ultra-right wing organisation Abhinav Bharat that engineered blasts but, shockingly, RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar who allegedly handpicked and financed some RSS pracharaks to carry out terror attacks. “Indreshji met me at Shabri Dham (Aseemanand’s ashram in the Dangs district of Gujarat) sometime in 2005,” Aseemanand told the magistrate. “He was ac-

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SUNIL JOSHI, a former RSS pracharak of Mhow district. He was expelled from the RSS aer being accused in the murder of two Congress activists in Madhya Pradesh in 2006. Along with a few RSS pracharaks and Hindu radicals from Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu and Jharkhand, he formed an inter-state terror infrastructure.

SANDEEP DANGE, a senior RSS pracharak from Shajapur district near Indore. Along with Joshi and Ramchandra Kalsangra, he was a key figure in the longrunning conspiracy to bomb Muslim places of worship and Muslim neigbourhoods. He is currently absconding.

RAM CHANDRA KALSANGRA ALIAS RAMJI, an RSS pracharak from Madhya Pradesh. He carried out terror strikes in different places between December 2002 and 29 September 2008 (when bombs went off simultaneously in Malegaon and Modasa. He has been absconding since October 2008.

SHIVAM DHAKHAD, an RSS activist and associate of accused Joshi and Ramji Kalsangra. Along with other RSS pracharaks, he allegedly took training in bomb-making in 2005. He also did a reconnaissance of Aligarh Muslim University and residence of Justice UC Banerjee (chairman of the Godhra commission) for terror strikes.

companied by many top RSS functionaries. He told me that exploding bombs was not my job and instead told me to focus on the tribal welfare work assigned to me by the RSS. He said he had deputed Sunil Joshi for this job (terror attacks) and he would extend Joshi whatever help was required.” Aseemanand further narrated how Indresh financed Joshi for his terror activities and provided him men to plant bombs. Aseemanand also confessed to his own role in the terror plots and how he had motivated a bunch of RSS pracharaks and other Hindu radicals to carry out terror strikes at Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer. (TEHELKA tried contacting Indresh several times for his side of the story. He said he would call back but didn’t.) While evidence of the involvement of RSS pracharaks in the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts has been growing with every new arrest, Aseemanand’s confession is the first direct evidence of the involvement of Hindutva extremists in the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the Samjhauta Express blast. The evidence — both, direct and indirect — pieced together by the CBI shows that the broad terror conspiracy to target Muslims and their places of reliW Tell-all evidence? gious worship was A photocopy of Swami hatched around 2001. Aseemanand’s Three RSS pracharaks 42-page confession before the magistrate from Madhya Pradesh —

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LT COL SHRIKANT PUROHIT, a founding member of terror outfit Abhinav Bharat. He was posted with the military intelligence unit at Nashik. He allegedly tried to dra in other army officers in his terror outfit. He is accused of supplying RDX for the 2008 Malegaon blasts.

DEVENDRA GUPTA, the RSS vibhag pracharak of Muzaffarnagar, Bihar. He provided logistics to Joshi, Kalsangra and Dange for terror strikes. He also harboured Kalsangra and Dange in RSS offices while they were on the run.

‘Since Hindus throng the Ajmer Sharif Dargah we thought a bomb blast in Ajmer would deter Hindus from going there,’ the Swami said Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange — were apparently at the core of this conspiracy. As the three became more audacious in their terror ambitions they started inducting like-minded Hindutva radicals from other states, mainly Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. While the new entrants were mostly from the RSS, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, some members of fringe saffron groups like Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram also joined the fray. However, Joshi, Kalsangra and Dange took the precaution of not sharing too many details with members outside the core group. Joshi strictly followed the doctrine of division of work on a ‘need-toknow’ basis, with each member knowing only his part of the job. Aseemanand, who ran a Vanvasi Kalyan


LOKESH SHARMA, an RSS worker and close associate of Joshi, Dange and Kalsangra. He purchased the two Nokia handsets that were used to trigger the bombs at Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif.

Ashram in Dang, first came in contact with Sunil Joshi in 2003 but it was only in March 2006 that he became actively involved in the terror plot. It was the spirited investigation into the 2008 Malegaon blast by Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare that first blew the lid off this broad Hindutva terror conspiracy. Karkare arrested 11 Hindutva radicals, including Lt Col Purohit, who was attached with the military intelligence unit at Nashik; Dayanand Pandey, a self-styled religious guru who ran an ashram named Sharda Peeth in Jammu and Sadhvi Pragya, an ABVP leader turned into an ascetic, for their role in the 2008 Malegaon blast. But Karkare’s sudden and ironic killing at the hands of Islamist jihadis in the Mumbai 26/11 attack derailed the saffron terror investigation. The Maharashtra ATS under its new chief KP Raghuvanshi failed to arrest Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange and instead passed them off as minor players in the chargesheet. The investigation picked up pace again in May 2010 with the arrest of two RSS pracharaks — Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma — by the Rajasthan ATS which was probing the Ajmer blast case. Gupta was the RSS Vibagh Pracharak of Muzaffarnagar, Bihar. He provided logistical support to Joshi, Kalsangra and Dange and harboured the latter two in RSS offices while they were on the run from agencies.

BHARAT RATESWAR ALIAS BHARATBHAI, the head of Sri Vivekananda Kendra Sansthan in Valsad district, Gujarat. As a close associate of Aseemanand, he participated in several terror meetings held at his residence and also at Shabri Dham ashram. He also travelled with Joshi to Jharkhand and Uar Pradesh providing logistics for the blasts.

Lokesh Sharma was a RSS worker close to Joshi. He purchased the two Nokia phones that were used to trigger bombs at Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif. It is Sharma’s interrogation that revealed for the first time that RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar was a key figure in the terror conspiracy. The joint investigation of the Rajasthan ATS and CBI, in fact, went on to reveal that, except Pragya Singh Thakur, all those who were arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in 2008 were actually fringe players while the core group comprising Indresh Kumar, Kalsangra and Dange allegedly held the key to the full terror plot. In June 2010, the CBI examined a witness named Bharat Riteshwar, a resident of district Valsad in Gujarat and a close associate of Swami Aseemanand. Riteshwar told the CBI that Sunil Joshi was a protégé of Indresh and had his approval and logistical support for carrying out terror attacks. On 19 November 2010 the CBI cracked down on a hideout in Haridwar and arrested Swami Aseemanand, who had been a fugitive for over two years since Sadhvi Pragya’s arrest in October 2008. His arrest unlocked many more pieces.


ABA KUMAR — alias Swami Aseemanand — was originally from Kamaarpukar village in Hooghly district in West Bengal — the birthplace of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. In 1971, after complet-

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YOGI ADITYANATH, BJP MP from Gorakhpur. He was contacted by Aseemanand to provide funds for terrorist activities. Joshi held a hush-hush meeting with him at his Gorakhpur residence in 2006, at the time when the conspiracy to carry out multiple blasts was underway. According to Aseemanand, he didn’t give much support. But he continues to be under suspicion.

DR ASHOK VARSHNAY, RSS prant pracharak of Kanpur. He sheltered key terror accused and RSS pracharak Devendra Gupta at Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Vishwa Mangal Gau Gram Yatra in Sitapur, Uar Pradesh, while Gupta was on the run. Varshnay has told investigators that he had shielded Gupta at the behest of Indresh Kumar.

ing his BSc (honours) from Hooghly, Naba Kumar went to Bardman district to pursue a master’s degree in science. Though he was involved with RSS activities from school, it was during his post-graduation years that Naba Kumar became an active RSS member. In 1977, he started working full-time with the RSS-run Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Purulia and Bankura districts. In 1981, his guru Swami Parmanand rechristened him as Swami Aseemanand. From 1988 to 1993, he served with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram at Andaman and Nicobar islands. Between 1993 and 1997, he toured across India to deliver sermons on Hindu religion among the tribals. In 1997, he settled down in the Dangs district in Gujarat and started a tribal welfare organisation called Shabri Dham. Aseemanand was known in the area for his rabid anti-minority speeches and his relentless campaign against Christian missionaries. Aseemanand is seen as being close to the RSS leadership. In the past, leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, former RSS chief KS Sudarshan and current chief Mohan Bhagwat have attended religious functions organised by him at Shabri Dham. While Aseemanand was known for his vitriolic anti-minority positions, according to his confession, it was the heinous massacre of Hindu devotees at Akshard-

RAJESH MISHRA, an RSS activist and owner of a foundry in Pithampura, near Mhow. He gave 15 cast iron shells in 2001 to Joshi, who used them during failed bomb blasts at Ijtema (a Muslim gathering) in Bhopal in 2002. He was also a co-accused along with Joshi in the murder of local Congress workers.

ham temple by Islamist suicide bombers in 2002 that was the first real kindle for their retaliatory terror attacks. “The Muslim terrorists started attacking Hindu temples in 2002,” Aseemanand said. “This caused great concern and anger in me. I used to share my concerns about the growing menace of Islamic terrorism with Bharat Riteshwar of Valsad.” In 2003, Aseemanand came in contact with Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh Thakur. He would often discuss Islamist terrorism with them as well. Finally, according to him, it was the terror attack on Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi in March 2006 which was the real flashpoint for them. “In March 2006, Pragya Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Bharat Riteshwar and I decided to give a befitting reply to the Sankatmochan blasts,” Aseemanand told the magistrate. Aseemanand gave 25,000 to Joshi to arrange the necessary logistics for the

The massacre of Hindu devotees at the Akshardham temple by Islamist bombers in 2002 was the first real kindle for the retaliatory attacks

SUDHAKAR DHAR DWIVEDI ALIAS DAYANAND PANDEY, he ran an ashram named Shardapeeth in Jammu. He played the role of an ideologue to those involved in the 2008 Malegaon blasts. He was in the habit of recording the meetings he would have with Abhinav Bharat members on his laptop.

blasts. He also sent Joshi and Riteshwar to Gorakhpur to seek assistance from firebrand BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. In April 2006, Joshi apparently held a hush-hush meeting with the Adityanath, infamous for his rabid anti-Muslim speeches. But Aseemanand says, “Joshi came back and told me that Adityanath was not of much help.” However, this did not deter Aseemanand. He went ahead with his plans. In June 2006, Aseemanand, Riteshwar, Sadhvi Pragya and Joshi again met at Riteshwar’s house in Valsad. It proved to be a chilling one, with far-reaching consequences. Joshi, for the first time, brought four associates with him — Dange, Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Ashok alias Amit. “I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye, (I told everyone we should answer bombs with bombs),” says Aseemanand. “At that meeting I realised Joshi and his group were already doing something on the subject,” he adds. “After the combined meeting,” Aseemanand says, “Joshi, Pragya, Riteshwar and I huddled together for a separate meeting. I suggested that 80 percent of the people of Malegaon were Muslims and we should explode the first bomb in Malegaon itself. I also said that during the Partition, the Nizam of Hyderabad had wanted to go with Pakistan so Hyderabad was also a fair target. Then I said that since Hindus also throng the Ajmer Sharif Dargah in large

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numbers we should also explode a bomb in Ajmer which would deter the Hindus from going there. I also suggested the Aligarh Muslim University as a terror target.” According to Aseemanand everybody agreed to target these places. “In the meeting,” Aseemanand continues, “Joshi suggested that it was basically Pakistanis who travel on the Samjhauta Express train that runs between India and Pakistan and therefore we should attack the train as well. Joshi took the responsibility of targeting Samjhauta himself and said that the chemicals required for the blasts would be arranged by Dange.” Aseemanand’s confession goes on in grave detail. “Joshi said three teams would be constituted to execute the blasts. One team would arrange finance and logistics. The second team would arrange for the explosives. And the third team would plant the bombs. He also said that the members of one team should not know members from the other two teams. So even if one gets arrested the others would remain safe,” Aseemanand told the magistrate. Hate and anger had slipped off the edge into mayhem.


N 8 SEPTEMBER 2006, at about 1.30 pm, four bombs exploded in the communally tense town of Malegaon in Maharashtra. Besides being a Friday, the Muslim festival Shab-e-barat was being observed. Three bombs went off in the compound of the Hamidiya Masjid and Bada Kabrastan. A fourth bomb exploded at Mushawart Chowk. Out of three bombs, one was placed at the entrance gate of Hamidiya Masjid and Bada Kabrastan, the second on a bicycle parked in the parking lot situated inside the compound and the third was hung on the wall of the power supply room situated in front of Vaju Khana, inside the compound. The fourth bomb went off in the

Swami says, ‘Joshi told me to keep a tab on the papers as some good news was in the offing. Soon after, news of the Mecca Masjid blast appeared’ 36

ABDUL KALEEM, 21 The Muslim boy who triggered an unlikely conversion in jail Kaleem, a cell phone seller, was arrested and tortured in 2007 for a blast at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad. He spent a year-and-half in jail before being acquied. Soon aer, he was back in jail on another charge, when he met Swami Aseemanand. The Swami was struck by the boy’s kindness. When he heard that Kaleem was blamed for a blast that he and his comrades had done, he was profoundly affected and decided to confess as an act of penance.

crowded junction of Mushawart Chowk, which was placed on a bicycle, near an electric pole. The attack was meticulously planned; the bombs exploded in quick succession. Thirty one Muslims were killed; over 312 were injured. In a suspiciously swift investigation, the Maharashtra ATS arraigned nine Malegaon Muslims within 90 days. Eight of these were members of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the outlawed radical Muslim outfit. Another three Malegaon Muslims were shown absconding. Stringent provisions of the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) were invoked. On 21 December 2006, the same day that the ATS filed the chargesheet against the nine Malegaon Muslims, the Maharashtra government asked the CBI to take over the probe. In effect, the CBI was presented with a fait accompli: the case had already been so-called solved and the accused had been chargesheeted. A year ago, the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet but failed to produce any material evidence. For over four years, these nine Malegaon Muslims have been languishing in prison. Aseemanand’s con-

fession now seems proof that the boys were innocent and had been arrested merely to deflect criticism and create a false sense of security among Indian citizens that the blast cases were being “solved”. The real mastermind, according to Aseemanand, was Sunil Joshi. And it was Aseemanand himself who had persuaded Joshi to explode bombs in Malegaon. This is what he told the magistrate. “Joshi came to see me at Shabri Dham on Diwali in 2006. The Malegaon blasts had already happened. Sunil told me the blasts were carried out by our men. I said the newspaper reports had mentioned that Muslims were behind the blasts and a few Muslims had also been arrested. Sunil assured me the blasts were carried out by him but he refused to reveal the identity of our men who had executed the blasts.” ON 18 February 2007, on the eve of the then Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri’s visit to India to carry forward the peace dialogue, two powerful bombs went off around midnight in two coaches of the cross-border Samjhauta Express, running between Delhi and Lahore. The train had reached Diwana near Panipat, 80 km north

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of Delhi. The coaches turned into an inferno. The third bomb placed in another coach failed to detonate. Sixty eight people were killed. Dozens were injured. The peace dialogue received a big setback. Investigation revealed that three suitcases filled with detonators, timers, iron pipes containing explosives and bottles filled with petrol and kerosene had been smuggled into the three coaches. The needle of suspicion veered immediately to Pakistani extremists. Depending upon which investigating agency you were speaking to, Pakistan-based terror outfits mainly Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) were blamed for the blasts. Even the US State Department called the terror attack a joint operation of the LeT and HUJI. The Haryana Police tracked down some of the material used in the blasts as being procured from a market in Indore but the trail soon went cold. In November 2008, the Maharashtra ATS told a court in Nashik that Lt Col Purohit had procured 60 kg of RDX from Jammu & Kashmir in 2006 and a part of it was suspected to have been used in the Samjhauta Express blasts. But the ATS subsequently failed to back its claims with any evidence and was forced to retract. The Haryana cops travelled to Mumbai and interrogated Purohit and other Malegaon accused but could not find any evidence that could link them to the Samjhauta blasts. In July 2010, the Samjhauta blast probe was handed over to the National Investigating Agency (NIA). Though it still leaves some questions and loose ends, Aseemanand’s confession now joins many other dots in relation to the Samjhauta Express. “In February 2007,” Aseemanand told the magistrate, “Riteshwar and Joshi came on a motorbike to a Lord Shiva temple in a place called Balpur. As we had fixed this place for our meeting, I was already there, waiting for the two. Joshi told me in the next two days there would be a piece of good news and I should keep a tab on the newspapers. After the meeting I came back to Shabri Dham and Joshi and Riteshwar went their way. After a couple of days I went to meet Riteshwar at his Valsad residence. Joshi and Pragya were already present there. The Samjhauta Express blasts had happened. I asked Joshi how he was present there while Samjhauta had already happened in Haryana. Joshi replied that the blasts were done by his men.”

“In the same meeting,” Aseemanand continues, “Joshi took 40,000 from me to carry out the blasts in Hyderabad. A few months later, Joshi telephoned me and told me to keep a tab on the newspapers as some good news was in the offing. In a few days the news of the Mecca Masjid blast appeared in the papers. After 7-8 days, Joshi came to Shabri Dham and brought a Telegu newspaper with him. It had a picture of the blast. I told Joshi that in the papers it had appeared that some Muslim boys had been rounded up for the blast. But Joshi replied it was done by our people.”


IKE IN the case of the 2006 Malegaon blast, 17 May 2007 was a Friday. At 1.30 pm, as over 4,000 Muslims assembled to offer their Friday prayers at the iconic Mecca Masjid, situated near the Charminar in the old city of Hyderabad, a bomb went off near the Wazu Khana (fountain) meant for doing wazu (ablution before prayers) inside the mosque. Another IED contained in a blue rexine bag was found hanging near the door-way at the northern end of the mosque. Miraculously, this bomb had not exploded. With no substantive clue emerging from the blast investigation, in a cynical move, the Hyderabad police launched a mop-up operation against local Muslim boys, who were associated with Ahle Hadess, the doggedly fundamentalist sect among Sunni Muslims. Friends and family members of some known local Muslim extremists like Shahid Bilal, who had fled to Pakistan, were also rounded up. In a span of two weeks, over three dozen boys from Malakpet and Saidabaad were picked up and tortured. However, when the police failed to link them to the Mecca Masjid case, they registered three separate bogus cases and implicated the detainees in these cases. (See story on page 40) On 9 June 2007, the CBI took over the investigation into the Mecca Masjid case. A few months later, on 11 October 2007, during the month of Ramzan, at 6.15 pm, as Muslim devotees had begun their iftaar at Ajmer Sharif dargah, a powerful bomb went off near a tree in the compound, killing three people and injuring over a dozen. Investigators found one more unexploded IED at the site. According to Aseemanand, this blast had been executed by Muslim boys provided by Indresh Kumar. “A couple of days

after the Ajmer blast Joshi came to see me. He was accompanied by two men named Raj and Mehul who had also visited Shabri Dham on previous occasions. Joshi claimed his men had perpetrated the blast and he was also present at Ajmer Dargah at the time of the blast. He said that Indresh had provided him two Muslim boys to plant the bomb. I told Joshi that if the Muslim boys get caught, Indresh would get exposed. I also told Joshi that Indresh might get him killed and told him to stay at Shabri Dham. Joshi then told me that Raj and Mehul were wanted in the Baroda Best Bakery case (12 Muslims were killed by rioters in Best Bakery in Gujarat 2002). I told Joshi not to keep Raj and Mehul at the ashram as it would not be safe for them to stay in Gujarat. Joshi, along with the two men, left for Dewas the next day,” said Aseemanand.

‘I told my comrades that since the Nizam had wanted to opt for Pakistan during Partition, Hyderabad was also a fair target for us,’ the Swami said Barely two months later, on December 29, 2007, in a sudden twist, Aseemanand’s fears came true. Sunil Joshi was mysteriously murdered outside his house in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. His family claimed he had been murdered by his own organisation. After her arrest, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur also suggested this. But the Madhya Pradesh Police failed to solve the case and filed a closure report in the court. At the end of December 2010 though, acting on fresh leads, the Madhya Pradesh police finally accepted that Joshi had been murdered by his own friends in the RSS. They charged Mayank, Harshad Solanki, Mehul and Mohan from Gujarat, Anand Raj Katare from Indore and Vasudev Parmar from Dewas with Joshi’s murder. While Mehul and Mohan are still on the run, Solanki was brought before the Dewas court where he confessed to the murder. However, even these arrests don’t join

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all the dots. The police claim internal rivalry as the motive for the murder. The CBI, though, believes the real motive behind Joshi’s murder was to silence him. Joshi knew too much about the terror conspiracy and his masters were perhaps wary that they might get exposed. Sunil Joshi’s murder leaves many unanswered questions. If he was one of the key figures in the terror conspiracy, as many of those arrested testify that he was, why would his comrades want to bump him off? If he was a protégé of Indresh Kumar, acting on his orders and with his sanction, why would his mentor want him dead? What could have created a rift or fallout between all of them? The murder suggests a murky and inexplicable factionalism within the sinister grouping. With Joshi dead and much of Aseemanand’s confession based on things Joshi

Given the growing evidence about the involvement of RSS pracharaks in a series of terror blasts, how will the RSS leadership respond? had told him about the blasts, it might seem that Aseemanand’s confession runs thin in certain portions and is, therefore, of uneven consequence. But Joshi was not the only piece in the puzzle. Aseemanand’s confession is powerful because it implicates himself at every juncture and points to a network of Hindutva pracharaks, who not only participated in the terror plots but were moved around and sheltered by sections of the organisation while they were on the run. Investigators believe that the arrests of Kalsangra and Dange would provide the missing pieces of the puzzle. Joshi’s death didn’t mean the end of the horrific blasts — at least from the ultraHindutva side. The terror infrastructure he had created along with a few other RSS men continued to function. ASEEMANAND CONFESSED coming into con-

tact with the shadowy saffron terror out-


fit Abhinav Bharat in January 2007. Col Purohit was one of the founder members of the outfit. Aseemanand has confessed to proposing more terror strikes in a meeting of Abhinav Bharat held at Bhopal in April 2008. Sadhvi Pragya, Bharat Riteshwar, Col Purohit and Dayanand Pandey were also present in the meeting. “I participated in many Abhinav Bharat meetings and proposed to carry out more terror strikes,” Aseemanand told the magistrate. On 29 September 2008, horror struck again. During Islam’s holy month of Ramzan, an IED went off at Bhikku Chowk, a Muslim neighbourhood in Malegaon. The bomb was concealed in a motorcycle parked in front of a locked office of SIMI. Given the paranoia that had grown around Islamist terror, it had become an accepted maxim that members of SIMI were behind every blast. No proof was ever required. Placing a bomb in front of their office, therefore, was an act of deadly symbolism for the Hindutva outfits. A similar bomb blast was triggered almost simultaneously hundreds of miles away in a small town called Modasa in Gujarat. Like in Malegaon, the blast took place in a Muslim colony named Sukka Bazaar, outside a mosque when special Ramzan prayers were being offered. Like in Malegaon, the bomb was again concealed in a motorcycle. The two blasts were separated by a gap of five minutes. The Malgeaon blast killed seven Muslims, including a three-year old boy. The Modasa blast resulted in the death of a 15year-old boy. Several others were injured. It is a measure of the deep-seated bias that had crept into the Indian justice system that even when deadly blasts went off in the midst of Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques, Muslim boys were still automatically blamed for them. It was beyond anyone’s imagination that Hindutva groups could be behind the inhuman acts. But as Aseemanand says, “Sometime in October 2008, Dange phoned me and said he wanted to come to Shabri Dham and stay there for a few days. I told him that since I was setting out for Nadiad (Gujarat), it would not be a good idea for him to stay there in my absence. Then Dange requested me to pick him up from a place called Vyara and drop him to Baroda which was on the way to Nadiad. I picked up Dange from Vyara bus stop in my Santro car. He was accompanied by Ramji Kalsangra.

Both were carrying two or three bags stuffed with some heavy objects. They told me they were coming from Maharashtra. I dropped them at Rajpipla junction at Baroda. I later realised that it was just a day after the Malegaon blast,” said Aseemanand, before concluding his statement. His confession further corroborates the evidence put together by Karkare. After the Maharashtra ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blast, Aseemanand went absconding. He was finally arrested by the CBI from Haridwar on 19 November 2010.


HE EMERGENCE of Hindutva terror does not leach away the horror of Islamist terror attacks on places like the Akshardham temple, Sankatmochan mandir and German Bakery in Pune, amongst others. But Aseemanand’s confession will raise many uncomfortable questions for the RSS. It is no one’s case that the actions of a few tars an entire organisation. But there are urgent questions the RSS needs to confront within itself. And anNEXT swer to the nation. A STORY OF UNFAIR Many of these terror MUSLIM ARRESTS blasts display a high deP40 gree of sophistication in the planning and devices used, with RDX and complex bomb designs being deployed in several of them. Given that most of the foot-soldiers accused for these blasts are of very humble backgrounds, is it possible that they could execute these blasts without support and sanction from the top? Given the strictly hierarchical and disciplined nature of the organisation, is it possible that they were acting without the knowledge of their superiors? Most crucially, given the gathering evidence about the involvement of several RSS pracharaks and other affiliates in this series of terror blasts, how will the RSS leadership respond? If it is true that some members of their organisation have turned rogue, will they seek the most stringent punishment for them? The Hindutva worldview may be politically opposed to minority rights, but will it go far enough to watch some of its members drag the country further down the suicidal course of competitive terrorism between Islamist and Hindutva extremists? Or will it opt for the saner option of a cleansing within.

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FUNDAMENTALIST A murder suspect and rabid zealot, RSS man Sunil Joshi could easily have been checked earlier by the police

tingly provided him bomb-making material during his early days as a terrorist. Mishra ran a foundry in Pithampura near Mhow. In 2001, Joshi apparently requested him to manufacture 15 customised pipes with grooves on the inside and a hole in the centre for some important RSS work. In April 2002, Joshi and Dange exploded two low intensity bombs close to the Kade Hanuman Mandir and the Swarg Mandir in Mhow. One person suffered minor injuries; no one died. In December 2002, over half a dozen live pipe bombs were recovered from an ijtema, a large religious gathering of Muslims, held near the Bhopal Railway Station. Mishra paled when he saw pictures of the bombs on TV because they looked exactly like what he had provided Joshi. He called Joshi

Joshi and Dange had tried to bomb temples in Mhow several times to implicate local Muslims UNIL JOSHI, the man at the centre of the Hindutva terror conspiracy, was 45 when he was mysteriously murdered outside his home in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh in 2007. By then, he had already le a rabidly violent footprint. Shockingly, much of this could have been prevented if the Madhya Pradesh police had acted in time and done its job well. Joshi came from a very poor family and was educated at a RSS-run Saraswati Shishu Mandir. In 1999, he became RSS Zilla Pracharak of Mhow district, where he earned a reputation for being an acrid fundamentalist. In RSS circles, he was called Guruji. In 2000, Joshi and two other RSS activists Sandeep Dange and


Ramchandra Kalsangra became close friends. Dange was the RSS Zilla Pracharak in Shajapur district; Kalsangra was a RSS pracharak from Indore. The association would prove to be deadly. While Swami Aseemanand’s confession places Joshi at the centre of a series of major terror blasts from 2006 onwards, it seems Joshi’s criminal ambitions far predated that. In a depraved move, Dange and he had already made several crude aempts to bomb temples in Mhow to implicate local Muslims and trigger Hindu-Muslim riots. This emerged in September last year, when the CBI tracked down Rajesh Mishra, another RSS activist from Mhow and a close friend of Joshi’s, who had unwit-

but in a panic but was told not to worry. In August 2003, aer a quarrel with Pyare Singh Ninama, a Congress tribal leader, Joshi and Dange murdered Ninama and his son Dinesh. The family named Joshi, Rajesh Mishra and seven others as suspects in their FIR. Mishra was arrested, but though Joshi had le a trail of evidences behind him, the police failed to apprehend him. However, he was formally expelled by the RSS. When Mishra was arrested, he told the police that Joshi was behind the blasts at the two temples, as well as the aempted strike at the Muslim gathering. The police booked Mishra for the temple blasts, but did not name Joshi in the cases. He was

allowed a free run from the law. This enabled Joshi to carry out the later terror strikes that would kill dozens of men, women and children. In February 2010, a CBI team went to Dewas police station and took possession of a diary and hand drawings that had been recovered from Joshi’s pocket by the local police when he was found murdered. The CBI learnt that Joshi’s mobile phone, gun, and several personal belongings had been taken away by RSS leaders from Joshi’s house immediately aer his murder. The local cops also told the CBI that they had been under immense pressure not to investigate Joshi’s murder too keenly. The CBI found the numbers of two senior RSS leaders in Joshi’s phone book: Indresh Kumar and RSS spokesperson, Ram Madhav. Indresh’s number had been listed as an “Emergency number”. Swami Asimanand’s cell number was similarly listed. Besides this, other numbers in the diary included the RSS Headquarters in Jhandewalan, New Delhi, and numbers for firebrand BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. The hand-drawn sketch proved to be of a bomb circuit. A Mumbai address wrien beside the diagram led to a mass manufacturer of electrical circuits but the manufacturer failed to identify Joshi when shown his picture. Though Joshi had been formally expelled by the RSS, the CBI managed to procure his call records between June and December 2007. An analysis of the calls made and received during that time showed that Joshi had remained in close touch with several senior RSS functionaries even aer his expulsion. Given all this, Joshi may have taken many answers with him to his pyre, but the murky footprint he le behind has le enough troubling questions.

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An angry hall of fall guys. And unfair arrests

Aasif Khan

Abdul Sattar

The SIMI member was arrested on 14 November 2006 and is now in Arthur Road Jail

HUJI-member-turnedpolice mole. Mecca Masjid arrests based on his ‘confession’

Ibrahim Junaid

Maqsood Ahmed

Charged for conspiring to murder BJP MLA Indrasena Reddy. But was aquied in the end

Allegedly tried to recruit boys and send them to Pakistan for terror training

M Abdul Raheem

M Yasir

Charged for conspiring to murder BJP MLA Indrasena Reddy. But was aquied in the end

A former SIMI member, his father was a known radical who had been booked under POTA


Raees Ahmed

A SIMI member who was arrested on 30 October 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

Was arrested on 5 November 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

A dangerous prejudice had slipped into the Indian criminal justice system: if there was a blast, a Muslim was behind it. For this, these 32 Muslims had to pay for blasts done by Hindutva extremists. ASHISH KHETAN reports


N A twist of fate worthy of the literary greats, a chance encounter a month ago between a Muslim boy and a hardline Hindu triggered a change of heart that seems to have unravelled a massive terror conspiracy. In 2007, Abdul Kaleem, 18, was picked up from his house by the Hyderabad Police in connection with a bomb blast in Mecca Masjid in which nine people had died. Kaleem pleaded his innocence but no one would listen. It was crime enough that Kaleem was a Muslim and the younger brother of Abdul Khaja, who had gone over to Pakistan years earlier and intelligence agencies had inputs that Khaja was working for the ISI. Kaleem’s second brother Abdul Khaddar was at the time employed in the Middle East and Khaja was listed as absconding. At the time, Kaleem was in the business of selling cell phones and SIM cards while pursuing a course for a medical lab technician. Two bombs had been planted at Mecca Masjid. While the first had exploded, miraculously, the second had not. Since a mobile and a SIM card were also found in the unexploded device, in a leap of faith, the police were now absolutely sure that Kaleem was behind the blast. The facts did not matter, the association was enough. Along with dozens of Muslim boys, Kaleem was tortured and kept in prison for 18 months before he was acquitted. However, in the interim, his brother Khaja was caught in Sri Lanka by RAW and sent to jail in Hyderabad. In October 2010, the police accused Kaleem of supplying a phone to his brother and arrested him again. This is when Swami Aseemanand met Kaleem. The unsuspecting boy was kind to the Swami and the two got talking. When the Swami found out that Kaleem had been jailed and tortured for a crime that, in fact, the Swami and his comrades had committed, apparently it had a profound impact on him. Moved by a desire for penance, he sought a confession before a magistrate. The Swami’s confession (See story on page 30) has brought back into focus the entrenched prejudice against Muslims in the


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Abdul Wassey

Abrar Ahmed

Salman Farsi

Arshad Khan

Farog Anwar

Gulam Siddiqi

He had planted a crude bomb in a hotel run by a Hindu and had done time in a juvenile home

A SIMI member, now in Arthur Road Jail, but is undergoing treatment at present

A SIMI member, he was arrested on 6 November 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

Was from the same neighbourhood as Shahid Bilal. Had no known terror links

A SIMI member, he was arrested on 6 November 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

Was an undertrail for allegedly conspiring to carry out aack on a temple in Hyderabad

Md. Abdul Qadri

Md. Baleequddin

Abdul Majeed

Abdul Kareem

Abdul Wajeed

Md. Shakeel

Former SIMI member who ran a phone booth. He had no criminal record

The police sais he had links with radical SIMI leader Safdar Nagori

Was the brother of Shahid Bilal. Had no past criminal record

Was a former SIMI member and had no past criminal record

A former SIMI member, he had no criminal record besides aending SIMI meetings

Was employed as driver of Mehboob Ali, a known Muslim radical in Hyderabad

Md. Mustafa Ali

Md. Naseeruddin

Md. Rayeesuddin

Zahid Abdul

Moutasim Billah

Munavar Ahmed

He was a friend of Shahid Bilal. Had no criminal background

He had no criminal record nor was he associated with SIMI

Was charged with conspiring to murder MLA Indrasena Reddy but was acquied

A SIMI member, he was arrested on 22 November 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

Former SIMI member. Had links with the radical faction led by Safdar Nagori

29-year-old student and a resident of Malegaon

Riyaz Ahmed

Shabir Ahmed

Shaik Md. Fareed

Md. Ali Alam

Syed Khader

Abdul Kaleem

Resident of Malegaon

A SIMI member who was arrested on 2 November 2006. Now in Arthur Road Jail

A former SIMI member but had no criminal record

A SIMI member who was arrested on 14 November 2006. Now in Thane Jail

Brother of Abdul Khala who had escaped to Pakistan and ‘joined’ a terror network

Was arrested in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast, in jail for 18 months

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criminal justice system. In a time of tragedy and terror, everybody justifiably wants answers, culprits, punishment. The challenge then is not to reach for the quick route, the easy demonisations. Sadly, the Indian State does not always meet this challenge well. Over the last decade — particularly between the years 2004 and 2009, as the country was struck by frequent and terrifying terror blasts, dozens of innocent Muslims have found themselves automatically and falsely accused of terrorism. In the struggle for a just and safe society, it is crucial to find real perpetrators and correct answers; crucial to cleave doggedly to the idea of fair play and rule of law; crucial not to fall prey to overblown and false psychoses. But a dangerous prejudice had crept into the psyche of a section of our investigating agencies. There was an instant assumption: behind every terror blast there must be a Muslim hand. Trapped in that hysteria, it no longer mattered whether this assumption was true, or even whether the correct Muslims were arrested. What mattered was that someone should be blamed for it — and blamed quickly. It is a measure of the cynical carelessness with which these Muslim youth have been arrested, that until Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s fiercely dogged investigation into the Malegaon blast of 2008 exposed the tip of the Hindutva terror network, even bomb blasts in Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques were casually ascribed to Muslims. What makes this additionally shocking is that, often, these arrests were carried out not just in states run by the BJP, which is seen to be hostile to Muslims, but in states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, that are led by either a Congress government or a Congress alliance. Clearly, Muslims had no real political champion. Swami Aseemanand’s confession has now proved that the arrest of 32 Muslim men for the Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts were utterly misplaced. Some of them may have been radicals, some may have had ambiguous histories, but they were not behind the terror blasts. This is the disturbing story of what the security agencies did to them. And the shoddy work that passes for investigation. ON 26 DECEMBER 2007, the then CBI Joint Director Arun Kumar, who was supervis-


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N Cycle of terror Dozens of Muslim boys were arrested and tortured aer the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts

The Maharashtra ATS took over the probe. But it ignored the first rule of investigation: if you want to find the criminal, first find the motive ing the investigation into the Mecca Masjid Blast case, was thrilled to receive a letter from the Hyderabad Joint Commissioner of Police (administration), Harish Gupta. Gupta’s two-page letter was annexed with confessions and CDs of narco-analysis tests. It claimed to have solved the Mecca Masjid case and listed as many as 25 accused, of which 19 were Muslims from Hyderabad and six were Bangladeshi Muslims. Gupta said out of the 19 local accused, 11 had already been arrested. He further claimed that two of them had confessed to their role in the Mecca Masjid bombing during police interrogation and also in the narco-analysis tests. Kumar swiftly dispatched a team to Hyderabad to tie up the loose ends and charge-sheet the accused listed by Gupta. One might wonder why the Hyderabad Police was investigating the Mecca Masjid case when the CBI had already taken over the probe on 9 June 2007. The fact is, two separate cases had been registered in relation to the Mecca Masjid terror attack. One

case pertained to the bomb that had exploded; the second to the bomb that had not and which formed the only material evidence at the time. While transferring the case of the exploded bomb to the CBI, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh kept the case of the unexploded bomb with the local police. This case — crime No. 107/2007 — was registered at Hussaini Alam Police Station and was subsequently transferred to the Central Crime Station, where it was investigated under Gupta’s supervision. So the only material and scientific evidence — the unexploded device with an intact Nokia phone and SIM card that eventually led the CBI and the Rajasthan ATS to RSS pracharaks — was not initially given to the CBI. Instead, the Hyderabad Police unleashed a manhunt for the accused. As always, it was the usual suspects — in this case, the followers of the Ahle Hadees sect — that the police went after. An Ahle Hadees member, Abdul Sattar, 24, had been a police mole for some time. He was linked to the LeT and had been to Pakistan for terror training. But at the time of the Mecca Masjid bombing, he was working as a police informant. Sattar gave the police a list of possible suspects. Over the next few weeks, three dozen Muslim boys were detained and tortured. Abdul Kaleem was one of those boys. Right through this time, the CBI pleaded with the Andhra Pradesh government to transfer the case of the unexploded bomb to it. The Hyderabad Police knew



that sooner or later the case would be handed over to the CBI, so they registered three new and separate cases related to terror conspiracies: 1. Crime No 198/2007 registered at Gopalpuram police station — Conspiracy to provide support to the jihadi movement in India and start mobilising Muslim youth for training and subversive activities 2. Crime No 100/2007 registered with the Special Investigations Team — Conspiracy to cause destruction and communal disturbances by causing blasts in Hyderabad and other places in India 3. Crime No 75/2007 registered with the Special Investigations Team — Conspiracy to facilitate terrorist activities by obtaining cell phone connections on false names and communication to this effect Over three dozen boys, including Kaleem, were booked in these cases. Sattar, the police mole, was also booked since he feared that he might be targeted by the local Muslims if he was allowed to walk free. The jail was the safest place for him. The police took many of these boys, including Kaleem, for narco-analysis tests. But they failed to get any material evidence that could link any of them to the Mecca Masjid case. Despite this, they refused to let the boys go. The only ‘evidence’ they had was police confessions — which is infamously associated with torture and coercion. They wanted the CBI to book the accused for the case on the basis of this. In December 2007, when the CBI team went to Hyderabad to act on this request, they found the confessions were bogus. Interrogating the suspects in Hyderabad jail, the CBI sleuths came back convinced that though a few of them were radicals, they were not behind the Mecca Masjid blasts. Much to the chagrin of the local police, the CBI refused to chargesheet these boys. Later, all the three cases registered by the Hyderabad Police resulted in acquittals for the boys. Knowing that it stood on thin ground, the police did not appeal against the acquittals to the higher court. In January 2008, the Andhra Pradesh government finally transferred the case of the unexploded device to the CBI. The boys may have been acquitted, but the reality is such arrests often make pariahs of the most ordinary and harmless citizen. Set aside the mental and physical corrosion of the years in jail, it becomes diffi-

cult to find jobs or even get houses on rent. So two questions linger: why did the police show such undue doggedness in pursuing boys they had no substantive leads on? And who will restore the cracked pieces of the boys’ lives to them?


N 8 SEPTEMBER 2006, four powerful bombs tore through the communally sensitive town of Malegaon in Maharashtra, killing 37 Muslims and injuring hundreds. Three bombs had been planted inside the premises of the Hamidiya Masjid, the biggest mosque in Malegaon, and the fourth in a crowded market place named Mushawart Chowk, in the town’s Muslim locality. It was a Friday and the occasion of the Muslim festival Shab-e-Barat. Clearly, Muslims were the target of the bombers. Since October 2005, bomb blasts in mainland India were fast becoming a regular feature, starting with the Delhi Diwali blasts, followed by the Varanasi and Mumbai train blasts. But the Malegaon blast was different. In the earlier cases, Hindus and their temples had been targeted. In Malegaon, it was Muslims and their mosque. There had only been three occasiona before when crude bombs had gone off near mosques in central Maharashtra: at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani in November 2003; at the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna in August 2004; and at the Meraj-ulUloom Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district in August 2004. These cases had been solved when an RSS member and a Bajrang Dal activist were killed while preparing bombs in a house in Nanded. But instead of going to the root of the conspiracy, the Maharashtra ATS had arrested a few lower level functionaries of the Bajrang Dal and chargesheeted them for the Nanded, Jalna and Parbhani blasts. The case was quickly forgotten. In the 2006 Malegaon blast case too, the Maharashtra ATS again took over the probe. But it ignored the first and golden rule of criminal investigation: if you want to find the criminal, first find the motive. The Maharashtra ATS did come up with a motive, but it was an extremely weak and dubious one. According to them, some local Malegaon Muslims, mainly members of the outlawed SIMI, had exploded the bombs and killed fellow Muslims to trigger Hindu-Muslim riots. Nine Muslims from Malegaon were arrested; another three were shown absconding. Nobody be-

The boys may have been acquitted, but the reality is such arrests often make pariahs of the most ordinary and harmless citizen lieved the ATS’ theory. When pressure from the Muslims for a fair investigation grew, the Congress-NCP government handed over the probe to the CBI. But all chances of a fair probe were nixed when the Maharashtra ATS filed their chargesheet on the same day that the state government wrote to the CBI to take over the probe. Since September 2006, all nine of these Malegaon Muslims have been languishing in the jail. Now, exposing the police’s almost criminally cavalier approach to terror investigations, Aseemanand has told the Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas that a few RSS pracharaks led by Sunil Joshi had carried out the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Aseemanand also asserts strongly that it was he who had picked Malegaon as a potential terror target because of its large Muslim population. The CBI has also found a cell number mentioned under the head ‘sardar’ in Sunil Joshi’s phone book. Probing this further, the CBI has found that this number belonged to Himanshu Phanse, the RSS activist who had died while making the bombs and was the key conspirator behind the Jalna and Parbhani blasts. Shivam Dhakad, another RSS activist from Dewas and a close associate of Joshi and Dange, was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police a few months ago in a murder case. He has apparently told the CBI that Joshi had cried like a child when he heard the news of Phanse’s death. While these may only count as strong leads, the glaring question Swami Aseemanand’s confession has raised is, if investigative agencies can have no presumed credibility, who can ordinary Indians turn to? And if the agencies have mostly been catching the wrong men in their hurry for accolades and political brownie points, who will nab the real culprits?

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BACK IN THE LINE OF FIRE How did the income tax authorities establish the kickbacks money trail in the 1,400 crore Bofors case? RAMAN KIRPAL finds out


HE SURPRISE floating of the Bofors balloon this time cannot be blamed on any politically motivated investigating agency. It is simply a result of due diligence done by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal tracking the money trail. “Indian income tax is leviable on all types of income, including legal and illegal income, whether recipients are Indian or foreign resident. In these facts, all the connected entities are clearly amenable to Indian tax jurisdiction for their respective income,” the tribunal says in its assessment. The tribunal was not interested in finding out if Ottavio Quattrocchi and the late WN Chadha acted as middlemen in the deal. Also, it wasn’t concerned whether the duo clinched the 1,400 crore deal for Bofors. Criminal conduct, or otherwise, is no concern of the tribunal: it finds that money was paid to the duo and wants its pound of flesh. The assessment goes 23 years back in time, but the Income Tax authorities initiated proceedings only in the 1990s after the CBI probe. Chadha died in 2001, but his son Harsh Chadha disputed the claim. Thus the case went in appeal to the tribunal in 2005. After five years, the tribunal gave its verdict, adding fuel to the Opposition parties’ fire against the UPA government on the CWG and 2G spectrum scams. The verdict comes at a juncture when the CBI is pressing hard to close the case on


Quattrocchi. “We have spent 250 crore on the Bofors probe and we tried to extradite Quattrocchi five times but we failed. So close the case without going into its merit,” the CBI argues. The Opposition parties were quick to remind the Congress that Sonia Gandhi is protecting Quattrocchi, because he is close to the Gandhi family. The Union law minister is dusting off the old Bofors files to see if the money trail is established as the tribunal claims. The tribunal says clearly in its order that the money trail exists. It observes that Chadha represented Swedish company Bofors for many years. Till 1984, he worked as an agent to get defence deals for Bofors in India and got 2 percent as commission for every deal. But India changed its policy in 1984 and declared that agents were not to be allowed in defence purchases. In March 1986, Bofors gave a written declaration that Chadha is no more its agent. However, Bofors retained Chadha’s local firm Anatronic General Corporation for administrative services, such as hotel bookings, transportation, forwarding of letters, etc. Bofors was among the four companies shortlisted for the gun deal in 1986. IT authorities did not conduct any firsthand investigation: they collected evidence from the CBI, Joint Parliamentary Committee and report of the Swedish National Audit Bureau (SNAB) and established that the kickbacks were given in the Bofors deal. The trail went as follows:

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 Blast from the past The tax tribunal has documented how Bofors kickbacks ended up in the bank accounts of Oavio Quarocchi (above le) and WN Chadha (right)

A letter by a Swedish friend clinched the case. It reveals Chadha received a well-earned fee in the Bofors deal


2 May 1986: The Indian government pays 296 crore as advance to Bofors 3 September 1986: Bofors remits $7.3 million to AE Services’ Zurich bank account, opened just a fortnight ago. This amount works out to exactly 3 percent of the advance paid by the Indian government to Bofors 16 September 1986: AE Services moved $7 million to M/s Colbar Investments Ltd Inc, Panama. On 29 September, $12,390 was transferred to the same account. Almost the same amount, $7.3 million with interest, was transferred on a number of occasions to other companies, including M/s Wetelsen Overseas, SA, International Investments Company in Ansbacher (CI) Ltd. Investigations abroad prove that Quattrocchi and his wife Maria controlled all these accounts. For the Colbar Investments Ltd bank account, Quattrocchi had given his address in India as Colony East, New Delhi/India, which is non-existent Bofors paid money to Svenska Inc in Panama. According to the agreement, Bofors would pay 3.2 percent of the total value of the ex-works value to Svenska. Out of this, 2.24 percent was to be paid when the advance payment had been received by Bofors. The remaining 0.96 percent of the ex-works was to be paid with subsequent payments received by Bofors. Bofors transferred a total of 52.60 crore to Svenska between 24 April 1986 and 30 March 1987. This amount is exactly 3.2 percent of total value of the ex-works. Subsequently, Svenska transferred a large chunk of this amount to Chadha’s Swiss account.

Chadha had given power of attorney in favour of his wife Kanta and son Harsh. It also emerged that Svenska had authorised Chadha to open and operate bank accounts of any type, with the fullest rights and powers to substitute anyone else’s name in place of his own. Thus, the tax tribunal concludes that Bofors can’t be believed when it says that Chadha was not a representative but only a booking agent. The SNAB report quoting Bofors President PO Morberg, stated that the principal beneficiary in M/s Svenska Inc is an Indian, who has been as agent for Bofors for 10-15 years. “In the entire record, except the name of Mr Chadha, the name of no other Indian occurs and the SNAB report refers only to the old Indian agent of Bofors,” the tribunal says. Besides, Bofors never denies making payments to Svenska and AE Services. It only says they are not middlemen or agents and the payment represents winding up cost and it does not represent kickbacks or commission. Even Harsh never denied that his father holds a Swiss account. “While the commission of Anatronic was reduced following the declaration of the Government of India that there will be no middlemen in the deal, the commission of Svenska was raised. The commission so paid to Svenska reached the assessee (Chadha) through the bank account,” the IT authorities contend. A letter, congratulating Chadha for the role he played in getting the deal, clinched the matter. The letter written by Sven Rhambergan, his Swedish friend, on 7 July 1986 reads: “Thank you for the beautiful sterling silver… I am very pleased that you were involved in the Bofors billion business; not only considering your wellearned fee but also proving that Anatronic can do business, which some people — not me, of course — doubted some years ago.” It reveals Chadha received a wellearned and congratulatory fee in this deal. Moreover, Chadha, Quattrocchi and the Hinduja brothers had opposed the Letter Rogatory proceedings before the Swiss courts. “Now, if Chadha had no link with Svenska and his Swiss bank accounts, there was no need for him to have challenged these proceedings costing a fortune in Switzerland,” the tribunal says, sewing up its arguments in the case.

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20102011 BEFORE After MIDNIGHT Midnight Three reluctant revellers remember the precise moment when the New Year rolled in



THE START OF 2011 WAS A REMINDER THAT I MUST BOW DOWN TO THE INDIAN PALATE SERVER “Chef, Table 57 is calling you!” ME “Who is it?” SERVER “That bearded gentleman who comes with the gourmet club. He says the chef will create something for me, off the menu.” ME “Fine, give me five, I’ll be there.” So I head to the table, as always in my jeans and Tshirt, unsure why I have been summoned. For the record, I’m not a great one to be hovering around during dinner service. Stunning as the restaurant I run is, my comfort zone is amid the white incandescent lighting and clanging of pans in the kitchen. The odd person who knows me and who I know, I do chat to, but PR clearly skipped my culinary genes. I’m greeted by a large table of mostly elderly, mostly unfamiliar people with “Happy New Year” and introduced as a “celebrity chef”. “Masterchef” buzzes around the table; from a huddle of women, I hear, “eligible bachelor, three restaurants”. One of the women is a member of one of Bengaluru’s gourmetonly clubs and has been a frequent victim of my experimentations. Seated next to her is an old



Sikh gentleman who booms out his request with an absolutely straight face: “Son, I hear you run one of the best continental restaurants here, make me a good lobster thermidor.” My heart is about to skip a beat when the delicate salwar kameez-clad lady seated opposite him, says, “And I would like a nice boneless chicken stroganoff.” By now, the heart has skipped a beat, and I’ve broken out in a sweat, mumbling and fumbling sincere apologies at not having either of those dishes on the menu. (I’m too embarrassed to admit I barely know how to make them.) “But Bunny, you said it’s continental, yaar,” I hear someone say. I’m about to launch into one of my sermons on bastardised versions of archaic and outmoded western cuisine, but check myself in time. Instead, I suggest options from the menu. It works, but only to an extent. One person at the table tells me brusquely that subtlety in food is not his thing, so “pile on the spices and chilli”. I head back into the kitchen and tell the sous chef to “Indianise it” (read: spice it up more than the recipe demands). The plates all come

back clean, save one where the chicken tagine was too “Indian” for the gentleman’s taste buds. It’s a battle that every chef worth his salt in this country fights daily. The start of 2011 was a rude reminder that notwithstanding the pathbreaking decade that preceded it — especially in terms of restaurant concepts and ideas — one will still need to bow down to what we call the Indian palate. I can at best speculate if replacing parsley with coriander will do the trick, but conjecture is all it is. Jalapeno and chilli flakes are still the king of condiments in most ‘continental’ kitchens with butter, cream and cheese a close second; if you’re running a restaurant without pasta and pizza, you’re brave. If you feel that a tasting portion of an outstanding dessert is ample, you’re simply misguided. Evolution, more than anything else, takes its own sweet time. What I do foresee — and the only reason that I stick on in the business — is that tastes will continue to grow, if ever so marginally, along with appreciation of the fact that the fruitiness of olive oil and the earthiness of sea salt will make a perfectly fresh fish as outstanding as the chillies and masalas did in the yesteryear. Clearly, each day is not like this one, and I often bask in the glory of having successfully peddled our wares without a single modification on good nights, but such nights are rare indeed and I anxiously await many of those for this coming year. Here’s to hope, and to hope for hope. Bon appétit. Chandra is Executive Chef of Olive Beach, Bengaluru, and Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai




New Year doesn’t seem to have happened. It’s an odd state of affairs because it wasn’t always like this. Of all the festival days, New Year’s is the one that I remember from my childhood for being special, my favourite — and not just for the carnivalesque spectacle of drunk uncles and the ritual of the Saturday Night Live soundtrack. I remember it always as a freshness in the air, and the trembling as, year by year, the world revealed its taboos to me: a gentle early morning light on something hidden. Then I got older, became an atheist; one by one, all the other festival days, freighted with embarrassment and obligation, fell away. Only New Year’s, that apparently secular feast, was still left to be charged with superstition and longing. I say longing, and certainly this was almost painful-




ly sexual for the years and years of being single, or nearly single, or soon to be single, wondering if it would ever improve. On New Year’s eve, you threw yourself among strangers, joined crowds, scanned them restlessly for the one who would come, yearned for a kiss, not just at any time but at the exact auspicious second that would prove that things could change. By daylight, this would wear off and you’d know the longing beneath the longing: to start from zero, make yourself over, obliterate the past, and, later, increasingly, to — in Lydia Davis’ words — “see yourself as nothing” or at least “to be a little less”. This wasn’t just me; it was


the desire of billions for the new, the blank. Throughout the 1990s, it was an obsessive collective counting up to the zero, an apocalyptic fantasy, and, moreover, it seemed certain that as we approached, all of humanity was poised to step to that same delirious count, one planet under the Gregorian — and then something else happened, multiple calendars refreshed themselves, days of turning and reinvention proliferated, the old ones mixed and matched with those newly invented by the State or by corporate business bureaus to encourage citizenship or shopping. Time was stretched or sped up, chopped up, dissipated until not even days were left, not



regard 31 December as a day of reflection. For me, it’s just another day. If you look at the big picture, it’s just one day less left to live. This New Year’s eve, I was sitting in my hotel room in Chennai, eating a hearty meal of garlic chicken and chicken spring rolls after playing in a concert at my mentor TV Gopalkrishanan sir’s (TVG) festival. I had another concert in Bengaluru the next day and slept off even before midnight.


even hours, or anything else, until time itself moved pure, unseen and uncounted, wide, languorous, apparently still. Where was even the nostalgia for starting anew there? Or that’s how it sort of seems to me, I admit. The turn of the year felt hollow. “‘English’ New Year’s is not important to anyone in India anymore,” my mother insists. “And anyway, it only ever made a difference to the upper-class.” She could be right, although I’m remembering crowds of boys on a beach, years ago, me among them. What we had all longed for that night was much more than just another party. Then it is perhaps only me, I think, something to do with age.

“Older men… differ on that day from their juniors,” says Proust, by the second volume of In Search of Lost Time, “not because people have ceased to give them presents, but because they themselves have ceased to believe in the New Year.” The thought is oddly comforting. I think of my baby daughter, her black tophead of hair, tight and knotty from the womb, which was the first thing I ever saw of her six months ago. For me, the New Year has somehow gone missing; for her, the world itself is too new for a New Year to matter; in that limbo, we meet.

New Year has never forced me to look back and think about my achievements and failures. How can a day make a difference? I reflect if I give a bad concert, because then I have to put my act together. I reflect when I listen to a great singer, because I’m stunned by their talent. A good book, a great film or an interesting conversation also help me think, but not a Day, like New Year or a birthday or whatever. It’s been my habit since I was young. I have slept through New Year’s eves for 25 years now! Even my family never celebrated the coming of the New Year. It could also do with the fact that I don’t like being amidst a crowd. I do not like coming to Chennai during the music season, but couldn’t refuse TVG, who was the one to urge me to sing in public, giving a definite direction to my life. As far as resolutions go, I think they can be made every

day. I have made many that I have kept and many that I have broken. Instead of just New Year’s, I sit down every night and take stock of my day. Even though 31 December is not a big day in my book, I once heard a story that warmed my heart. I am very fond of tennis, and my favourite player is Iranian Mansour Bahrami, who plays with John McEnroe and the likes in the senior circuits these days. He escaped from Iran to pursue tennis, and started his career at 30! One 31st December night, he was travelling through Paris, and was stuck in traffic. Next to him, there was a woman driver stuck as well. So he told the lady at midnight, that since it was New Year’s, he’d kiss her. She agreed. They kept in touch and then eventually got married. If every New Year’s was like that, then it truly would be worth it.

Narayanan’s first book of poems was Universal Beach. He is co-editor of the online magazine Almost Island

Varma is a Carnatic classical musician



N THE world of Hin-


dustani music, the new word for the esraj is Shubhayu Sen Mazumdar. He has revived the bowed instrument that had otherwise assumed an accompanying role with Rabindra sangeet. Thirty-one-year-old Shubhayu, too, came into prominence within his first few concerts in Kolkata as an accompanist. It was clear that, both in terms of his skill and musical imagination, he was leagues ahead of the esraj players who were regulars on the accompaniment circuit. Perched on a lucrative career as an accompanist with hun-

dreds of Rabindra sangeet professionals vying for him, Shubhayu, who hails from a tradition of solo esraj players from Shantiniketan, chose a different path. “I had a problem with the players who were happy to remain accompanists. I wanted to establish myself as a soloist and dispel

the notion that the esraj is fit only for accompaniment,” he says, adding, “Even in Delhi, Punjab and Pakistan, it is only used for accompaniment.” The esraj was one of Tagore’s favourite instruments. As a result, it has been a full-fledged subject of study at the Vishwa Bharati Univer-


Pandit Esraj A young esraj player promises to make the long forgotten instrument more relevant to Hindustani music by going solo, says ARUNABHA DEB

• All strings aached Shubhayu Sen Mazumdar plays the esraj

sity. Its first major solo exponent was the late Pandit Ashesh Bandopadhyay; his disciple Pandit Ranadhir Roy had pioneered a movement to popularise the esraj as a solo instrument. Roy’s disciple Buddhadeb Das (Shubhayu’s guru) is known to be quiet and introverted; he keeps himself largely to his teaching in Shantiniketan. But in Shubhayu, this gharana has finally found someone to accomplish what Roy had started. A man of few words, Shubhayu is articulate only when he talks about music. Seemingly disinterested in publicity, he is stubborn in the musical choices he makes,

especially in deciding who to accompany (which he continues to do selectively). “I play with artistes who understand my worth and allow me the space to accompany in the manner that I find best,” he says. It is ironic that Rabindra sangeet singers are suddenly taken more seriously if Shubhayu accompanies them. HAVING PERFORMED at major festivals in Kolkata, Shubhayu has also made “conscious efforts to join fusion projects because I want a greater number of people to get familiar with the sound of the esraj”. He is aware that listeners tend to draw parallels between the esraj and the sarangi (the former is believed to be a combination of the sitar and the sarangi). Shubhayu has, therefore, opted for a baaj that is more intrinsic to his instrument. “The sarangi is fretless. You can achieve impossible speed on it. But the frets on the esraj allow us to play the dir-dir and other bol patterns that are normally associated with the sarod and the sitar. We are also able to play a nuanced and sustained jhala,” he says. The result is that his playing style includes elements of tantrakari and is not as gayaki-reliant as renditions on bowed instruments often tend to be. His first solo CD will be released next month by Orion Entertainment. Listeners familiar with Bandopadhyay and Roy will be relieved that the tradition is still alive; the rest will experience a sound long forgotten in Hindustani music. What perhaps will cut across generations is Shubhayu’s enviable mastery over one of the most plaintive Indian instruments.





WHERE COMPUTERS GO TO DIE A locality in East Delhi is the largest electronic scrap market in the country. Photojournalist Garima Jain travels through the bylanes of Seelampur into a surreal, post-apocalyptic world





HE TRUCKS are coming in honking and rattling with old computers, kids are playing gali cricket with computer monitors as wickets, women are boiling pots full of computer parts, children sitting on piles of keyboards are watching a Bollywood film. The streets are filled with entangled wires, destroyed computers, keyboards and cell phones. A scene from a futuristic dystopia? This is the hidden place where people wake up every morning to sort through the electronic trash of the world. Approximately 15 km from the centre of Delhi lies a small settlement called Seelampur, reputedly the largest electronics dismantling-recycling-selling market in the country. Residents work every day to extract gold and copper from circuit boards. Some extract metals independently, some work with big traders — most earn about 200 per day. E-waste also includes televisions, DVD players and washing machines — most have toxic substances like lead, cadmium and mercury. This detritus of the e-age is growing rapidly given the fast rate of obsolescence of electronic equipment. Companies cunningly plan newer products for bigger profits. But what happens to the discarded stuff? The US says putting them in landfills is expensive and chemical seepage into the ground is an environmental hazard. A cheaper alternative is to ship the stuff to developing regions like India, China and Africa where environmental laws are lax and labour is cheap. Toxics Link, a Delhibased NGO, estimates that India generates about 4 lakh tonnes of electronic waste annually and illegally imports 50,000 tonnes from the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, among others. Ninety percent of e-waste is recycled in the informal sector, in the bylanes of cities and towns. Walk the streets here through dark passages, then down steps leading to godowns full of dismantled circuit boards strewn around. Computer parts sit stacked in haphazard mountain heaps. Go closer and you see little hands and feet rifling through the scrap piles. They are ripping the keyboards apart, hunting for precious metal slivers. These teens work 10 hours a day in these underground vaults. Praveen, 15, says, “Why should we go to school when we can make up to 200 every day by segregating copper from plastic using screwdrivers?” Most trucks arrive at night from all corners of the country, with a majority from Mumbai’s seaport. Says Ala Dia, a tempo driver, “Transport companies earn 5 per kg. Each truck can ferry about 10 tonnes of waste in one trip.” Dia transports 30 to 40 tonnes of motherboards from Seelampur to Moradabad daily, where copper is salvaged from printed circuit boards with a brew of nitric acid, a toxic chemical that releases copper as well as cancer-causing lead and mercury.


Electronic scrap dealer Rizwan, 20, parrots Seelampur’s party line when he says, “We only segregate the waste here. Then it is transported to jungles near Lucknow to be burnt so that the metal can be extracted. The smoke is hazardous so we don’t do it here.” But look around in Seelampur and you see heaps of motherboards burning steadily. RESHMA, MOTHER OF TWO , segregates the copper from

the dust. “My kids are naked ghosts in this pile of trash,” she says. She’s been doing this for the past 12 years. She came to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh 30 years ago. She earns 60 per day; her family’s house rent is 2,000 a month. She says she has no other work options even as the cost of living rises. Attero Recycling is the only company licensed to import e-waste into India. Centre for Science and Environment investigations revealed Attero reselling e-waste instead of recycling it. When asked about these findings, Dr Saroj, director, Ministry of Environment and Forests, refused to recognise that imported waste is being resold; she claims only Indian-origin e-waste is getting “refurbished” and denies knowledge of Seelampur’s activities, pointing to the Central Pollution Control Board as the monitoring body. Vinod Babu, senior environment engineer at the Central Pollution Control Board, says, “We believe there is no burning of motherboards in Seelampur.” He later adds absurdly, “It is happening in Moradabad. We have not done our investigations there, you know. It’s a very hostile area for government officials. We are aware of the hazardous illegal activities in the unorganised e-waste sector, but we haven’t prosecuted anyone because that’s the responsibility of the state pollution board.” And thus the buck passes to hover in mid-air. Masterji, an electronic scrap specialist in Seelampur, is desperate for more work and asks if we can help him get business with Nokia’s “huge warehouse” for scrap that is sold for recycling. “The telephone exchange in Varanasi also has huge amounts of electronic scrap,” he smiles. “I’d like to get the tender for it.”

‘My kids are naked ghosts in this pile of trash,’ says Reshma, a scrap worker and mother of two



Burning Issue N Nirmala burns plastic and douses metals in acid mixtures in order to extract valuable metals like copper and gold, leaving behind pollutants and toxins. She coughs and says, “Get us out of this trash, please find us a decent job.”

Room With A View W Seelampur is full of sights such as these — dismantled and strewn circuit boards. Computer parts sit stacked in haphazard heaps.



The Wasteland N Like the men in this photo, Reshma says her hands are deeply blistered from handling copper all day. While cooking she can’t hold a hot roti as it hurts. Her eyesight is weak now. “If one was trying to put a thread through a needle all day, the eyesight would go bad. Isn’t it similar to sorting this copper for 12 years?” she asks.

Future Imperfect E Praveen, 15, is one of hundreds of children working in Seelampur hoping for quick redemption. Much of Seelampur’s juvenile workforce is younger than Praveen.




Remains of the Day W Rizwan (receding in the background) is a young electronic scrap dealer. “I oen regret that I don’t know how to operate a computer,” he says. “Aer my 10 + 2, I joined my dad’s scrap business. Now I only want to get married, not study further. I am educating my younger brother and planning to put him through college.” He has ensured that the younger brother does not come near Seelampur.

Monitor This N A Seelampur trader on the phone. Business is conducted on the street as there is lile space to spare here.






Bangalore” is how Keith Richards recalls his first gig in India, where the Rolling Stones wrung out a cloudburst. That was April 2003 and those were mango showers. But for such libertine insouciance with facts, the memoir of the world’s most “elegantly wasted rock star” is a balloon of penetrating insight, smirky namedropping, bitter bitching and bourbon-laced warmth, punctured with several needles. At the Stones’ next show in Mumbai, I was not yet a fan. Keith Richards, older than my dad, with skull-ring, kohlsmeared eyes and eerie T-rex grin, did me in. Life reaffirms how Richards ogled at Mick Jagger’s Chuck Berry records on a train, how they traipsed

London bars seeking out the blues, and how they were a crack song-writing duo for decades before Jagger made it “very difficult to be his friend.” How they shoplifted to afford drummer Charlie Watts. And how they played “American music to English people” before discovering that white Americans had not heard the blues. “The Stones’ greatest contribution was to turn American people back on to their own music,” he says. Life reads like an earnest, frank and unexpectedly lucid fireside chat, all easy selfdeprecation and name-calling. Richards’ heart-to-heart guitar talk — open tuning and drone notes — is music even to the tone-deaf. There are bizarre encounters with his heroes — Muddy Waters whitewashing a studio ceiling, Ike Turner begging to learn chords. And merciless

swipes at celebrities – JeanLuc Godard (“somebody slipped him some acid and he went into that phony year of ideological overdrive”) and the “old gasbag” Allen Ginsberg (“who sat around playing a concertina badly and making om sounds, pretending he was oblivious to his socialite surroundings”). And women — from Linda Keith who is “Ruby Tuesday” to the heroin-besotted mother of his kids, Anita Pallenberg. Life unspools the sleaze and machinations of the music trade, the toil to produce a signature sound, studying the stage acts of the masters. It is abundant with praise for bitpart actors — managers, touring musicians and groupies — and the global web of “topranking legal gunslingers” who have ensured that the Stones are not in a penal colony breaking boulders.

Life, for Keith Richards, has been about playing in his band for nearly half a century despite personal feuds . But what drove him to hit the dope so hard? “They don’t call it heroin for nothing,” he muses like one smitten, though he’s been admittedly clean for 30 years. “It’s a seductress.” His grasp of guitar patois competes with encyclopaedic junkie wisdom. Speedballs, smack, coke, tuinals, secunals, nembutals, freebasing, maintenance doses — the sheer vocabulary is sobering. He’d use drugs “like gears” but disclaims that “this is not a recommendation”. Written off in 1973 at the top of a list of rock stars most likely to die, Keith Richards lived to tell the tale. No wonder it’s called Life. Venugopal is a Bengalurubased journalist who writes on Indian rock music

LIFE Keith Richards Orion 564 pp; 995

I Guess I’ll Die, Another Day Keith Richards’ juicy memoir spills the gory details of his musical quest and drug-filled decades, says Bijoy Venugopal





HE LIST of great

father’s own precincts. Baba’s first Indo-Anglians dislibrary-salon, with its long baycovered, given hope windows, was on the ground floor and published by next to the garden. He quietly my father P Lal placed an antique marble bird(1929-2010) is imbath in his peaceful garden, mense – Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, which was filled each day with Shashi Deshpande, Raja Rao and fresh birdseed and water so that hundreds of others. Many went on birdsong could be heard in the to seek pelf and international globackground to all salons — the ry. Some also remembered to exWW logo is known as ‘Birdbook’. press their indebtedness to the The PM Indira Gandhi held a publishing group my father foundsalon for Baba at her Delhi house ed — the Writers Workshop (WW). one evening in the 1970s, where he wore his classic black Nehru I remember the original idyll jacket with a gold medallion. where it all began: a simple garIndiraji had invited Dr Karan den ensconced within halcyon Singh, Padmaja Naidu, Usha rose bushes in Lake Gardens, CalBhagat and other close friends to cutta in the 1960s, where my fafelicitate my father over high tea. ther’s historic movement estabP Lal rendered into English lished Indo-Anglian literature as a the first-ever and only shloka-bysignificant literary genre and quishloka complete transcreation of etly became an international pubthe Mahabharata. (‘Transcreation’ lishing phenomenon. His vision was his own coinage, and is now changed the face of our urban litincluded in the Oxford English erature by pushing India’s postDictionary.) I became WW’s first Independence publishing towards genuine cosmopolitanism and soliterary illustrator and in-house phistication. He had no interest in designer, illustrating, among publicity or money and kept busy some fine fiction and poetry, the looking after every detail of his Mahabharata Family Tree that idealistic enterprise himself. was the frontispiece to the P Lal revolutionised Indian publishing condensed version of the MahabWW’s design concept in pubwith the Writers Workshop. His daughter harata published by Vikas Publishing is an aspect of art as well — SRIMATI LAL remembers the late lishers. WW was viewed with envy WW’s design imprint threw off a gentleman and his fierce legacy burdensome and outdated coloand awe by conventional and nial legacy in publishing. Baba commercial ‘mainstream publishlovingly designed each book in an ing’ cartels. WW books were inimitably Indian style, hand-binding it in jewel-hued handradically elegant marvels of truly Indian content and design. loom sari cloth, embossing it with his beautiful calligraphy Yet no country or culture was ever omitted from the WW within the peace of his own library — without any commerlists, which include practically every international genre of cial backing or mercantile marketing. Well-heeled Delhi & literature as well as transcreation. Bombay socialites would place excited orders for “50 books One of P Lal’s most powerful prose works is Lessons: in blue and gold to match my sofa please, and 50 more in Testament of a Survivor — an amazing memoir of his nearivory and pink to match my cushions!” This didn’t underdeath experience in 1980 at the Toronto Harbourfront Litermine WW books’ pathbreaking content, though! ary Festival. Baffling advanced doctors and surgeons by his sheer will-power and stamina, Baba miraculously survived Aside from the Indo-Anglians, the salons in my father’s this terrifying, unexpected near-fatal illness after two comlibrary every Sunday would include guests like Pearl S Buck, plicated surgeries, to return and continue his work in India Allen Ginsberg, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass, Dr for 20 more fruitful, courageous and peaceful years. Karan Singh, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, FN Souza and many He was awarded the Padma Shri and the Jawaharlal others who made their pilgrimage to WW’s remarkable Nehru Fellowship, but may it also be remembered that he haven. I remember returning home one afternoon from gave up wearing western clothing in his 20s – he always school to see a genial, bearded tall white man cooking wore only pure white Indian kurtas with open sandals and machher jhol (fish curry) merrily in our kitchen. “This is the was hence initially denied entry into Indian colonial clubs — Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg,” Baba quietly informed me. On not that he cared! P Lal was a literary renaissance man who another evening, Pearl Buck, seated gracefully on the tersingle-handedly spearheaded the entire movement of Indirace of our home, read from her work over Bengali chai and an Writing in English. I salute him as a literary hero. pakoras. WW held no Page-3 parties — it operated from my

I Remember An Idyll




master takes















Anjolie Ela Menon is one of the finest Indian artists. She is inspiring in the sense that she works with various forms — like sculpture, installations and drawings. But she is really good at painting, especially with oil and watercolours. Menon also has a special way of portraying the world around her, which makes her productions expressive. I also like Vishwajeet Naik’s works. He deals with photography and painting in a specific style, focussing on flora and fauna. Personally, I enjoy his photographic work more. His perceptions of nature are strong, and the story-lines he writes to describe them add colour to his works. Verma is a Delhi-based artist

I enjoyed eating out at The China Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant at the Hya Regency in New Delhi. Their peking duck is mouth-watering, but one has to order them way in advance since the preparation takes a long time. The ambience is pleasant and the good service only adds to the joys of dining here. I also love a small restaurant in old Delhi called Moinuddin. The place is named aer a chef who is believed to have developed the recipe for a special kebab. The restaurant has been around for about 40 years, and they are famous for their excellent kebabs, which is served with green chutney and onions. Rekhi is the owner of Fu, a Chinese restaurant in Delhi

I enjoyed reading Pai Smith’s Just Kids. It is a memoir of her life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which reminded me of why friendship arcs over any love affair. Smith portrays the New York artistic circle of the seventies and describes the fantastic relationship she had with Mapplethorpe. The novel is beautifully wrien, flaring with memory, anguished and hopeful. My all-time favourite book is Toni Morrison’s Beloved — about former slaves trying to reconstruct their lives, but being haunted by a revenant named Beloved. The book speaks boldly of love, and is remarkable for its singular vision and ghostly light. Shanghvi is a Mumbai-based writer

My all-time favourite film is Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. The story is purely thrilling. It is about the investigations led by news reporters on the death of Kane, a wealthy man living alone. I loved every shot of the film. I admire Shyam Benegal as a filmmaker. He can be considered the father of the Indian parallel cinema. He has made numerous films that have truly depicted the harsh realities of Indian society. I particularly enjoyed watching Samar, a film that criticises the caste system, focussing on Bundelkhand. The story was moving, thanks to its engagement with the issue and had touching characters. Kumar is a Delhi-based filmmaker

‘The book is remarkable for its singular vision and ghostly light’ N Magical twist An artwork by Anjolie Ela Menon



N Moolah Maers A still from Citizen Kane





music I really love the Canadian punk band Propagandhi, especially their album Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes. Their music with metal influences is special, as well as their lyrics, which are subtly intelligent and tainted with anarchist ideas. Drive-By Truckers, a band from Alabama, US, is also one of my favourites. They make an excellent mix between southern American country music, rock and blues. They also tell stories through their songs. Their guitarists have different styles, but each manage to stand out. Guinard is the bassist of the Delhibased band The Ska Vengers

S Croon kings American band Drive-by Truckers

gulliver’s blunders


HERE ARE TWO KINDS of bad movies — innocuously bad and infuriatingly bad. Rob Letterman’s adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is an emblematic example of the latter. Not least of all because it takes a complex masterpiece and turns it into a crass bathroom-humour slacker comedy. Offering nothing but a one-man show starring Jack Black in a basketball tee stomping around little people, the film could easily have been called Black’s Travels. Except, even Black has been to more exciting places in his career. Fans of the star from the time he made promises with the instant classic School of Rock, need to brace up. This reduction of Black has him baring his beer belly and butt crack and making faces in the name of acting. Its flimsy packaging as a visual spectacle doesn’t hold. The shots and special effects are predictable and listless where they are not plain clumsy. Swift’s original tale is superiorly crafted with words. It unfolds as an exciting adventure, vividly imagined, but is also richly satirical and philosophical. In the allegorical voyages, Swift contemplates forms of government and nature of man to try and explain war. He also makes jibes at the genre of travel writing of the times. Ironically, one can imagine if he were around today, he’d have satirised the attitude this movie wears. FILM » GULLIVER’S TRAVELS Planned as a big grosser to capitalise DIRECTOR » ROB LETTERMAN on the ‘holiday season’ with star power STARRING » JACK BLACK, EMILY BLUNT, and cheap gimmicks, this is a loser-getsJASON SEGEL out-of-league-girl-and-job-he-badlyRATING » wants story. A fantasy, sure, not the kind Swift imagined but quintessentially American. Black’s Gulliver wins over Lilliput by JACK BLACK BARES being a friendly, vulgar giant and engages HIS BEER BELLY its working population to build a superAND BUTT CRACK sized replica of his American life replete with representations of the pop culture he AND MAKES FACES cannot live without. If the film was trying IN THE NAME to take a shot at what America is, here it is OF ACTING lost by its own typically American failure — understanding other civilisations only through the limited perspective of its own culture and appointing itself the saviour of ‘inferior exotic’ people world over. In this fantasy, Gulliver fights a robot in the climax and wins. In reality, Swift’s cautionary poetry fought against Hollywood’s studio androids and lost — the minute Apple’s first product was placed garishly in the frame. In this fantasy, Black fools the Lilliputian General into believing that lame-ass means generous and courageous at heart. In reality, we know it is American slang for pathetic. This film is also an emblematic example of that.





get thee Did you secretly love Katrina Kaif in Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti because she reminded you of all the improbably sprightly and ‘forward’ heroines of Old Bollywood? Now you have a chance to look forward to more of Kaif-in-Jha. The filmmaker’s forthcoming movie Satsang is, we hear, a ‘searing’ exposé (our favourite kind of exposé) of religious organisations and their money-making rackets. Goodbye to Kaif’s political white and say hello to spiritual saffron. What will remain the same, we’re told, is Kaif’s all-natural, no-make-up look, which will occupy many million column inches and pixels. Katrina Kaif in another Prakash Jha movie

SUNBURNT Sometimes you feel vaguely sorry for those who have to grow into adulthood in the cock-eyed public gaze. Here is Prateik Babbar on the verge of his first big movie. He went to the Sunburn Festival, strolled around in a lungi with surma-ed eyes. In a fit of energy, which we will not aribute to anything, he even tried to climb a stage while a performance was on. The friendly neighbourhood media, of course, decided to gush imagining with aunty-fondness that this was all him pursuing his rockstar dream and the clothes some manner of goth-gone-native.

off-white glow WHO’S AFRAID OF THE SUN NOW?

So Abhay Deol said he’d never endorse a fairness cream. We were like yaay but in a muted way. But when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan threatens to sue a magazine for whitening her skin in a photo, we need to sit up and ask, ‘What’s up, sister?’ It’s unfair to Abhay but that’s how the Indie-film cookie crumbles. Her spokesperson is quoted thus, “She believed these things don’t happen anymore. Not in this day when women are recognised for their merit, not for their skin colour.” Yes, now that Bachchan no longer models for a fairness soap as she once did comfortably.


PERFECT FIT Salman Khan might have to retire from the Most Way Out Personality on Twier position. He has competition from a very surprising quarter. Uday Chopra has gone from posting rather charming pictures of birds (albeit referring to them as chicks) to a new manner of exhibitionism. He has (this really is the Kalyug) somehow hooked up his running shoes to Twier. Now, every time the musclebound creature runs, an update pops up for the masochistic world to enjoy. “Ran 9.64 km on 3/1/2011 at 10:51 am” was the shoe’s most recent quote.

Was out during the solar eclipse. Mom is gonna kill me’ MINISSHA LAMBA (In a tweet that you should not stare at)



‘Girls can be very distracting’






How did you deal with the transition that came following your move from Nirpura village in Baghpat, Uar Pradesh, to Delhi University? The attention from girls made me feel a little uncomfortable. I couldn’t understand how this had never happened before and who I had suddenly become. So who would you discuss girl trouble with? I haven’t had any girls in my life. (Laughs) Okay, what I mean is I haven’t had the time to really get in to a relationship. My focus has been to fulfill my family’s expectations and girls can be very distracting! But I would certainly go up to attractive girls and talk to them. What was the first instance when you felt your father’s moral compass may not be enough? The compass is never about specific situations, is it? It’s about the idea behind situations. In the entertainment industry, people do anything to get noticed. Recently, on the 26/11 anniversary lots of people gave quotes to the media about what they felt, etc — what is that but gaining mileage out of a tragedy? I could do the same but I don’t think of it as a PR exercise. In Bigg Boss 3, you threw food into the swimming pool to teach your fellow contestants a ‘lesson’. Was this consistent with what your father taught you? I shouldn’t have done that. My intention was to make everyone — including myself — suffer so that we could have a fair fight. They kept telling me that I was a nobody and they were celebrities. I wanted them to feel what it felt like to be ordinary. How much does it maer that people should recognise you? It doesn’t bother me yet, but I think it might someday. Sometimes the pressure in this industry can crush you. If you’re having a bad day, you’re about to miss a flight and a family catches you and wants a photo with every member, how do you refuse? And if you do, people will simply say, “Is mein itna attitude kyun hai?” So you are stuck. NISHITA JHA

Art is where the heart is. For its third edition, the Indian Art Summit will bring together galleries from all over the world for a collaborative exhibition. Besides a collection of contemporary and modern art, the Summit will also have a sculpture park and a video lounge, promoting original artistic projects. From 21 to 23 January at Hall No 18, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Out of words? Witness the finest authors come together to celebrate literature, films and music at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival. An escape from the mundane is sure to provide you with the creative shot in the arm you need. From 14 to 16 January. Simple forms. The who’s who of the contemporary art world are holding a group exhibition called Form & Phenomenon. Even if topics such as forms treated with minimalist approaches and their confrontation with materiality leave you confused, the collection of original works will definitely inspire. On till 30 January at BMP Building in Mumbai.


Image Tracking. Ever found a picture of a cutie on your desktop and had no clue where it came from? If yes, then TinEye may do the needful. You can find out how an image is used, check its different versions available — even in high resolution — on the Internet. Submit the image from your desktop or an URL and let the image search engine be your wingman.





‘Manish lived with a love for life that most of us give up on by adulthood’ SONA JAIN is 35. She is a writer, director and producer of films. Her most recent film was For Real

ON 4 DECEMBER 2010, I lost a friend. His name was Manish Acharya. He was an independent filmmaker, a gentleman and the funniest guy in any room. He was also husband to one of the country’s finest young artists, son to a devastated father and dad to two. I met Manish 12 years ago on orientation day at New York University (NYU) where we both attended the graduate film program. Before coming to film, Manish had lived a whole lifetime as a high-profile technology whiz-kid in the US. Having created sufficient financial security for his family, he arrived at NYU to follow his dream of becoming a storyteller. The grad film department at NYU is small, less than 90 students at a time. Film school buddies (like war



buddies) become family quickly and for life. To call the course physically, emotionally and creatively challenging would be an understatement. Manish was an indivisible part of my film school experience. I remember meandering script sessions in the park, lengthy discussions in film-strewn edit suites, reluctant laughter when we inevitably came face-to-face with our glaring ineptitude as experimenting filmmakers and the gradual but dramatic unearthing of our unique cinematic voices. I remember crewing with Manish on more shoots than I care to count; hauling trolley tracks through two feet of snow and up five flights of stairs, disco dancing at a university dive and recently meeting to mourn the death of a dear professor who taught us. Manish and his wife, Dhruvi, moved back to India before I did. By then they had a son, Malhar, and another, Aman, was on his way. I visited Mumbai once during that time. It was funny meeting Manish in Mumbai but he clearly belonged there. He told me of the film he planned to shoot soon: Loins of Punjab Presents. Manish made the movie independently. He co-wrote the script, raised the finances, directed, produced, starred in and marketed the film. Mid-way through the shoot he discovered that key crew members had run his budget dry. Manish continued the shoot calmly, managed senior actors with aplomb, did not let a single cinematic shot suffer and at wrap went scampering for money. No one on his crew knew what was going on behind the scenes or the pressures under which he was working. Manish pulled it off single-handedly, with grace, intelligence and courage. The Friday that Loins of Punjab Presents released, it got a clear verdict: critics and audiences loved it. Manish was recognised as an auteur and Loins took on a cult status of sorts. At the time of his death, Manish had four films in the making, some with big stars, some backed by big studios. All were to kick off in 2011. There are so many things that need to be celebrated about Manish Acharya. That he turned vegetarian to marry the girl of his dreams, whom he met at a wedding. That he was very proud of her talent and achievements. That he was the most hands-on dad I have ever met and loved his sons with crazy King-Kong-like protective passion. That he lost and gained half his body weight twice in the last decade. That he really could pull some mean disco moves. That folks just gravitated towards him at parties. I called him the Pied Piper of film festivals. Even though he was effortlessly funny and a man famous for his wit, his one-liners were never mean-spirited. For all the responsibilities he shouldered, Manish lived with a sense of freedom and a love for life that most of us give up on by the time we hit adulthood. His last tweet to me was advice that I should head to Beirut for a vacation. I will. And from there I will write him a letter saying goodbye. Because, for now, it is hard to accept that Manish Acharya is no more.



Tehelka magazine

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