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When Journalism leads to murder- Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Murdered Panama Papers journalist’s son attacks Malta’s ‘crooks’

Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed because she ‘stood between rule of law and those who sought to violate it’, says son Matthew

The son of the murdered Maltese investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia has described finding parts of his mother’s body around the blazing car in which she died and attacked the island as a “mafia state” run by “crooks”.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is also an investigative reporter, wrote in a moving and at times graphic Facebook post.

“But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”

Dutch forensic experts and a team from the FBI were due to arrive in Malta to help police in the EU’s smallest state investigate the killing of Caruana Galizia, who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption on the island.

A woman holds a lantern with a picture of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a protest demanding justice.
 A woman holds a lantern with a picture of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a protest demanding justice. Photograph: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images

She died on Monday afternoon when her Peugeot was destroyed by an explosive device so powerful it blew the car into a nearby field. “I saw a small explosion coming from the car and I panicked,” said one witness, Frans Sant, who was driving in the opposite direction.

“A few seconds later, around three to four seconds, there was another, larger explosion. The car continued coming down the hill, skidding at high speed, full of fire. The car missed me by around 10 feet. I tried to help but the fire was too much and the car ended up in the field,” he said.

Several hundred people demonstrated outside the main law courts in the island’s fortress capital, Valletta, on Tuesday afternoon to demand justice for the 53-year-old journalist, described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” whose blogs were as fiercely critical of the island’s politicians as they were of its organised crime gangs.

“The state did not defend Daphne,” said Andrew Borg-Cardona, a prominent lawyer who works with the journalist’s husband. Michael Briguglio, a leading member of the island’s Green party, said: “This is a political murder because it clearly has a political context and the state did not protect a journalist who was in danger.”

The European commission said it was horrified by the murder. Asked if it would open a procedure to check if Malta was meeting the EU’s rule of law standards, a spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said an “outrageous act has happened and what matters now is that justice will be brought. This is what we need to see.” 

Matthew Caruana Galizia said he would never forget “running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it”.

One of the policemen said: “Sorry, there is nothing we can do,” he wrote. “I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realised they were right, it was hopeless. ‘Who is in the car?’ they asked me. ‘My mother is in the car. She is dead. She is dead because of your incompetence.’”

Caruana Galizia ran a hugely popular blog relentlessly highlighting cases of alleged high-level corruption among politicians across Malta’s party lines. “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote in a post published barely half an hour before the bomb exploded.

The scene of the car bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.
 The scene of the car bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Police said the journalist had just left her home and was on a road near the village of Bidnija in northern Malta when the bomb detonated. Local media said she had reported receiving threats two weeks ago, although police officials denied receiving any complaint.

Caruana Galizia’s most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

Muscat denounced the journalist’s killing on Monday, calling it a “barbaric attack on press freedom”. Muscat, who sued the journalist and won a snap election in June called as a vote of confidence to counter her allegations, said he would “not rest until I see justice done in this case”.

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 ‘Her life was not for nothing’ – Vigil held for Panama Papers journalist killed by car bomb – video

While Caruana Galizia’s targets were mainly the ruling Labour party and its supporters, she had more recently turned her fire on Malta’s opposition whose leader, Adrian Delia, on Tuesday called on the prime minister to resign and the police chief and attorney general to be sacked.

“The political blame for her death lies squarely in [Muscat’s] lap and he should shoulder responsibility for it,” Delia said. “Everything in this country has a price now, but … You can be sure that someone will have to pay for this death.”

Caruana Galizia’s targets ranged from allegedly corrupt politicians to banks facilitating money laundering and the links between Malta’s online gaming industry and the mafia. Her recent work had focused particularly on revelations from the Panama Papers, a huge cache of leaked documents from the leading offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Candles are lit at a vigil to protest against Caruana Galizia’s death.
 Candles are lit at a vigil to protest against Caruana Galizia’s death. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Matthew Caruana Galizia said in his Facebook post that his mother’s killing was “no ordinary murder and it was not tragic. Tragic is someone being run over by a bus. When there is blood and fire all around you, that’s war. We are a people at war against the state and organised crime, which have become indistinguishable.”

He criticised “that clown of a prime minister”, making statements to parliament “about a journalist he spent over a decade demonising and harassing”, and highlighted a Facebook post by a police sergeant who shortly after the murder wrote: “Everyone gets what they deserve, cow dung! Feeling happy :)”

Caruana Galizia concluded: “Yes, this is where we are: a mafia state … where you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms, only for the people who are supposed to have protected you to instead be celebrating it.”

He said a “culture of impunity” had been allowed to flourish on the island after the prime minister “filled his office with crooks, then the police with crooks and imbeciles, then the courts with crooks and incompetents.

“If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate – and my brothers and I would still have a mother.”

After an application by the dead journalist’s family, the investigating magistrate, Consuelo Scerri Herrera – who had come under criticism from Caruana Galizia in her blog and subsequently sued her – withdrew from the case on Tuesday.

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Twitter campaign #MeToo: Breaking the culture of silence? #Vaw

by- Debjanee Ganguly


The social media is flooding with metoo (me too) hashtags. Sexual assault survivors are using this hashtag to call out on the cancer-like spread of sexual crime in our society. This is a consequence of the disclosure of Hollywood’s larger than life (nay, God?) figure Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predatoriness . More and more actresses have publicly stated their harassment at the hands of Weinstien. There was call for all women to tweet if they have faced sexual harassment, with the hashtag me too. The response has been overwhelming to say the least.

Social media is a tiny cross section of the people that face these crimes every day. This voicing of harassment is breaking the internet. Can you imagine how deep the rot is in reality? But this did not happen overnight.

Between victims of sexual assault, and the vile assaulter, lies a dense fog of the silent witnesses of assault that block out these accounts of harassment from daylight almost completely. The crucial channel of communication of one’s terrifying experience gets cut off by those who laugh it off or tell the person to take it in their stride or just pretend they saw/heard nothing. There are multiple cases where men and women think it is more important to keep up the bro-code rather than do the right thing. This bro-code is possibly more shattering than the assault itself. Or an assault within the family circle is hushed up for sake of honour of the family. Sometimes assaults are silenced because witnesses find it easier to carry on as if nothing happened, specially if it involves powerful god-men/women or politicians. It is these ‘reasons’ that make for the prevalent culture of rape and everyday sexism. It is this deafening silence that needs to be broken if we are serious about challenging patriarchy.

Silence acts like the catalyst. The silence of the survivor is not because they wish it away. Silence is imposed on them through fear and the normalization of such instances. Their silence is because they did not have enough support around them to be heard.

The silence of the witnesses actually perpetuates patriarchy. Their complicit-ness is in their silence. Their silence has echoes of abuses they have been passively responsible for by not speaking up. It is this silence that needs shattering.

If we are done with putting the burden of doing something about the rot onto the ‘victims’, we may move on to this lot of passive enablers of abuse. Not being an abuser, it is easy to support this vocal group of survivors who speak up in #metoo. But ask yourself, are you a passive enabler or have you ever been one? Own up to it. Your silence has as much a role to play in the turning of the wheel sexual abuse for over centuries. If the juggernaut has to stop in its tracks, the spade has to be called a spade. For a starter maybe one can begin with an ikeptshut hashtag. #ikeptshut. Let’s see how well that trends. It probably won’t. It is easier to ask the assaulter to stop dead on its tracks (on the internet in a generalized hashtag maybe). An empty threat. Responsibility for the prevalent sexist culture must lie even with those who choose to look away.

But hey, I did not do anything to own up.

In this terribly powerful and patriarchal world, keeping silent also is a privilege and you become a passive enabler of crime. Owning up to this privilege is the least one can do. By owning up we may begin unpacking the casual sexism around us, rape culture in religious gatherings, the idea of honour or izzat that is so very important to Indian families especially and question bro-codes of sexist conduct. Breaking the silence of mute spectators is imperative to break the chain of patriarchy that enables Harvey Weinsteins and Ram Rahims to flourish.

Debjanee is a research scholar at the Centre for Political Studies in JNU.


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Jay Amit Shah Attempts to Gag The Wire #FOE

Press statement issued by The Wire

The Wire received in the afternoon of today, i.e. October 16, 2017, a set of documents in an envelope sent under the name of Milan S. Bhatt, Advocate, Ahmedabad.

There is no covering letter and the entire set appears to be of photocopies. Among these are the following

  1. Special Civil Suit No.442/2017 filed by Jay Amit Shah in the Court of the Fourth Additional Senior Civil Judge Ahmedabad Rural (Mirzapur) Ahmedabad .
  2. Application praying for an interim injunction pending the hearing and final disposal of the suit.
  3. Text purporting to be Order Below Exhibit 5 SPCS No.442/2017 dated October 12, 2017, of  B.K. Dasondi, 4th Addl Senior Civil Judge, Ahmedabad Rural (Mirzapur), Ahmedabad, which reads verbatim as follows:

    Pending hearing and final disposal of the interim Injunction, defendants are restrained by order ad-interim injunction from using and publishing or printing in any electronic, print, digital or any other media, or broadcast,telecast, print and publish in any manner including by way of interview, holding Tv talks, debate and debates, news items, programs in any language on the basis of the article published in ‘THE WIRE ‘ (dated 8/10/2010) either directly or indirectly on the subject matter with respect to the plaintiff in any manner whatsoever.

    Order below Exhibit 5, issued by Fourth Additional Senior Civil Judge Ahmedabad Rural (Mirzapur) Ahmedabad

    The order is signed illegibly and faintly in some script appearing to be Devnagari-like.

The Wire was neither served notice nor given an opportunity to be heard before this ex-parte injunction was sought and granted.

It will be evident to anyone reading the Special Civil Suit that no single factual error has been substantively shown or pleaded against The Wire. No case of untruth has been made out against The Wire. Indeed, the plaint acknowledges that the full text of the lawyer’s exchange with The Wire was available on the website on the date of filing the suit, which is shown as October 12, 2017. Incidentally October 12, 2017 is also the date of the text of Order. The time of filing the suit or of the passing of “Order below Exhibit 5” is not available with The Wire.

It goes without saying that this attempt to gag The Wire will not go unchallenged.

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India Needs a Central Authority to Deal with Arnab Goswamis and Republic TVs

Image result for arnab goswami republic tv

It is really very disturbing and disconcerting that an irresponsible, hate-mongering and anti-people TV channel can do whatever they want and go scot free without having to answer any statutory body in the country. India does need a central authority to turn to when the citizens’ and journalists’ rights are trampled upon by any of the news channels, non-news channels, radio stations and other media outfits in the country.

The abhorrent, abrasive and abusive Arnab Goswami, his now estranged cohort, Shwetha Kothari, and their Chennai reporter Sanjeev telecasted a so-called “sting operation” on me at 2 pm on June 20, 2017 in their Republic TV and alleged that our struggle against the Koodankulm nuclear power project was funded by the Catholic Church with foreign donations. I took part in the very same panel discussion on Republic TV and pooh-poohed the accusation.

As I was taking part in their discussion from Kumbakonam town (in Tamil Nadu) where I was attending an agitation, Republic TV reporter Sanjeev and three other men were harassing my parents aged 85 and 82 respectively, my wife and school-going son at my home in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu. Even after my family told him that I was out of town, they were loitering about my house for hours together, talking to people and shopkeepers around my home and defaming me and my family.

Arnab Goswami and another anchor of Republic TV, were talking non-stop about me and defaming me on their TV channel for three days. All this caused me and my family so much mental agony and suffering. This kind of vindictive and vituperative attitude and behaviour of Arnab Goswami and his team is unacceptable in a decent democratic society. As a result of Arnab Goswami’s slanderous campaign against me, my family and I still fear for our safety and security.

When I complained to the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Mr. Ashish Sinha, the Secretary General, wrote to me on June 23, 2017 that the BCCC had been constituted to address only complaints relating to the content of programmes aired on IBF member Non-News Channels. And therefore, he regretted that the BCCC was not able to consider my complaint.

I complained to the Press Council of India but Mr. S. K. Maggon, Under Secretary, forwarded my letter to the News Broadcasters Association on July 13, 2017. I also complained to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) as it was the body that looked into the content of news channels.

Incidentally, Ms. Annie Joseph of NBSA wrote to me on June 28, 2017 that the Republic TV was not a member of NBA and hence they could not take action on my complaint. She asked me to write to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and also forwarded my complaint to the Joint Secretary (BC II) of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on July 21, 2017.

I too sent my complaint to the Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) along with a copy to the Director of the Ministry of I&B on June 30, 2017. However, I have not received even an acknowledgement from the Ministry of I&B officials until today.

It is indeed a strange fact that there is no appropriate central agency in India that oversees all the various broadcasters, telecasters and other online and offline media outfits that violate the ordinary Indian citizens’ and journalists’ rights, privileges, dignity and safety.

[email protected]

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Have you been nudged?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Richard Thaler has won a Nobel prize for his research into ‘nudge’ theory

Think the Nobel prize for economics has nothing to do with you? In some years that may well be true.

But this year’s award has gone to Richard Thaler who, in his book Nudge, was one of the first to outline how tiny prompts can alter our behaviour.

The Nobel judges are clearly keen on the discipline, since they awarded fellow behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman the Economics prize in 2002.

Since when “nudge theory” has been applied to a wide range of problems.

Here are a few ways you may have been nudged yourself.

Fly in my bowl

toilet bowl with fly etched on

Image copyright Getty creative

In probably the most well-known example, spillage around the toilet, an age old problem for at least half of the human race, was cut by 80% using an ingeniously simple intervention.

First introduced at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam back in 1999, the idea was simple: etch the image of a fly in the urinal and men cannot help but take aim, saving on clean-up costs as well as alleviating unpleasantness.

The painted porcelain was one of Prof Thaler’s early favourite examples of tweaking the environment in a way that makes us change how we behave.

Taxing issues

When David Cameron became prime minister in 2010, one of his pet projects was the “Nudge Unit” or to give it its official title: the Behaviourial Insights Team.

It set about encouraging better behaviour amongst UK citizens in a range of ways from letting you know that other people had filled in their tax returns (so you should do yours now) to offering a more personal approach at the job centre.

But the most eye-catching, for those on the receiving end, was what you were sent if you failed to pay your car tax.

A big heading shouted: “Pay your tax or lose your Ford Fiesta” (or whatever car you owned) accompanied by a photograph of the untaxed car. The focused approach paid off.

A more positive tone was taken with the wealthy failing to pay their taxes. They received letters explaining how their taxes would help improve local services, and pointing out what would disappear without funding. These tweaks saw £210m in overdue tax paid into the Treasury.


Baby Face 

Babies painted on shop shutter

Woolwich in south-east London had a problem with anti-social behaviour. During the riots in 2011 several shop fronts were smashed in.

The following year advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, embracing the new science of behavioural economics, offered an innovative strategy.

Knowing that even the toughest heart is melted by the sight of a infant, they spent a night with graffiti artists painting pictures of local babies’ faces onto the shutters protecting the shop windows.

The move was credited with helping to reduce anti-social behaviour by 18% in Woolwich.

In the past, people who want to donate their vital organs in the event of their death have usually been asked to “opt in” by putting their name on a register. Thanks in part to behavioural economics, there’s a growing trend to adopt policies that presume consent and ask objectors to “opt out”.

Though the results are inconclusive it’s clear we’ve embraced the concept – that we need to design the system in a way that helps us to “do the right thing” rather than rely on individuals’ consciences.

Likewise, we all know we need to save for our retirement, but it can be hard to summon the will-power.

The “save more tomorrow” approach pioneered in the United States saw employees automatically signed up to pay into a pension, but starting with very small contributions to avoid loss-aversion that could make them baulk. Only later do payments rise.

All if all this makes you feel as though the policymakers and marketers are only out to manipulate us, well at least thanks to Prof Thaler we now understand what they’re up to a little better.

retired couple walk on a beach

Image copyright Getty creative

Opting out

In the past, people who want to donate their vital organs in the event of their death have usually been asked to “opt in” by putting their name on a register. Thanks in part to behavioural economics, there’s a growing trend to adopt policies that presume consent and ask objectors to “opt out”.

Though the results are inconclusive it’s clear we’ve embraced the concept – that we need to design the system in a way that helps us to “do the right thing” rather than rely on individuals’ consciences.

Likewise, we all know we need to save for our retirement, but it can be hard to summon the will-power.

The “save more tomorrow” approach pioneered in the United States saw employees automatically signed up to pay into a pension, but starting with very small contributions to avoid loss-aversion that could make them baulk. Only later do payments rise.

All if all this makes you feel as though the policymakers and marketers are only out to manipulate us, well at least thanks to Prof Thaler we now understand what they’re up to a little better.


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Why does Indian PM Narendra Modi follow trolls on Twitter?

Narendra ModiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Award-winning Indian actor Prakash Raj recently joined the long list of people asking why Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows trolls on Twitter.

The actor said he was upset when he saw some people rejoicing on social media after the recent murder of his friend, journalist Gauri Lankesh.

He added that he was even more upset to find out that some of these abusive trolls were being followed by Mr Modi.

“Some people who are followed by our prime minister on Twitter are so brutal, and we have a PM who has closed his eyes to it,” Raj said, adding that he was “disturbed, hurt… afraid of the silence of my prime minister”.

The backlash from the trolls was swift, they immediately dubbed him “anti-Modi” and he was criticised for his comment.

The Indian prime minister is among the most popular global leaders on Twitter, with more than 35 million followers. He is a prolific tweeter and most of his tweets are about his official work, government policies, or issues close to his heart like the clean India campaign.

The clever social media strategy of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is regarded as one of the main factors behind the party’s sweeping win in the 2014 elections.

However, there has been criticism that he is selective and non-inclusive in his tweets.

Actor Prakash RajImage copyrightSUHAIMI ABDULLAH
Image captionAward-winning actor Prakash Raj recently asked why PM Narendra Modi followed trolls on Twitter

For instance, his silence after a Muslim man was lynched by cow vigilantes in April for transporting cattle in Rajasthan was questioned by many – and a week after the incident, many ridiculed him for tweeting grief over an attack in Stockholm.

But for months now, critics have been wondering whether a more important question is not what the prime minister is tweeting, but what he is reading?

Or, more precisely, who he is reading?

“A huge majority of the 1,845 people that Mr Modi follows are politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, but a significant number of them are people who denigrate critics and political opponents in most horrendous language,” Pratik Sinha of Alt News, a website set up to fight fake news in India, told the BBC.

“Most of them are BJP ground workers for whom a follow from the prime minister is a badge of honour, a recognition of their work,” Mr Sinha said, adding that, “most are crass misogynists who use the worst possible language.”

Take for example some of the tweets after Gauri Lankesh was shot dead – this Hindi tweet from Nikhil Dadhich, a Surat-based businessman who is followed by PM Modi, roughly translates as: “A bitch died a dog’s death and all of her litter is crying in the same voice.” Mr Dadhich’s offending post was deleted after the uproar and is no longer available on his timeline.

The Hindi tweet translates as: Image copyrightTWITTER

Then there was this from Ashish Mishra, also followed by the PM, who commented “Jaisi karni vaisi bharni [As you sow, so shall you reap]” while re-tweeting a newspaper announcement of Ms Lankesh’s murder:

Their vicious responses came in for much criticism and so did the fact that Mr Modi followed these – and other, similar – accounts.

Some angry Indians even began a #BlockNarendraModi campaign and although it did not get the wide support the prime minister’s critics had hoped for, it did create a buzz in India.

After several people tweeted that they had blocked Mr Modi’s personal account, the head of the BJP’s IT cell Amit Malviya issued a statement saying “PM following someone is not a character certificate” for that person.

BJP IT cell statementImage copyrightTWITTER

Pratik Sinha of Alt News says Mr Malviya is not entirely honest in his assertion that the prime minister’s account has never blocked or unfollowed anyone and that Mr Modi did unfollow a former supporter, Dr Jwala Gurunath, after she accused a BJP spokesperson of unethical behaviour.

While writing this article, I called Mr Malviya to ask him some questions about the prime minister’s Twitter account, but he refused to answer. “I have issued a statement and I have nothing more to add to it,” he told me.

The prime minister is a busy man who has a million things to do, and Mr Sinha says it is unlikely that he spends a lot of time on Twitter or even operates his own account.

But, according to reports, Mr Modi reaches for his iPad within minutes of waking up and spends some time looking at his social media feed, and critics say considering the vitriol unleashed by some of his supporters, his silence is troubling.

It has been over a month since Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her home. No-one has been arrested by the police. And no-one has been unfollowed by the prime minister.

“I’ve also been asking why can’t Mr Modi unfollow these people. But I realise that it’s part of their political strategy,” Mr Sinha says.

“These people are not really trolls. They are much more important than that, they are the party’s foot soldiers on Twitter,” he adds.

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India – Why Dalits aren’t afraid to breach caste silos now

The moustache protests underline the confidence of a generation raring to question hierarchial traditions

A protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, against the atrocities on Dalits in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
A protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, against the atrocities on Dalits in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.(Sushil Kumar/HT File Photo)

Who is Dalit?

The answer, in the not-so-distant-past, was predictable: A starving farmer from the rural hinterlands of India conveniently removed from intelligentsia of urban India – a comfortable construction that kept any discussion of caste away from the living rooms of 21st century India.

Not anymore. Buoyed by constitutional protections, enterprise and affirmative action, the community now occupies spaces hitherto “reserved” for dominant castes and transforming what it means to be Dalit: No longer a mute sufferer of caste oppression to be rescued but confident individuals raring to claim their legitimate rights and unwilling to tolerate bias.

The recent protests against a rash of attacks on Dalits in Gujarat for sporting a moustacheshowcases this resilient spirit. Dalit men from across India mobilised on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook to post selfies of themselves with moustaches to signal their defiance.

Though one of the attacks is now under doubt and might be fake, the underlying point made by the protesters is unequivocal – that a new generation of Dalits won’t be sated in a discourse of caste that views them as passive sufferers.

A result of this assertion has been an expansion of the conversation on caste, from basic subsistence to web access, gender, political power and higher education – and growing resistance in situating caste in the body of the Dalit body, instead seeing that bias as shaping our lives, economies and social structures.

The moustache protests, for example, broke out of the traditional mould of dharnas and rallies and took over a medium that is often crowded by voices from dominant castes. The twirling moustaches and facial hair also underlined the significant but little-understood ways in which caste governs gender, and how any conversation on masculinity is incomplete without probing how endogamy and caste inspire masculine behaviour — the oft-used synonyms of Jat, Khsatriya or Rajput to signify virility is a clue to this relationship. In Gujarat, the dominant castes’ objection was linked to a struggle for power and how visible masculinity was punished to deny that.

Caste is about power. The new wave of Dalit protests understand this well and therefore targets the bastions of power: Academia, political representation and culture. From the protests sweeping universities demanding a more equitable culture that goes beyond mere admission to Bhim Army’s muscular response to subtle and overt ways of caste governance in western Uttar Pradesh, a new generation of Dalits are taking off from the eighties groundwork of their Dalit panther ancestors

This is a transformative moment because such movements are on their way to expelling the possibility of dominant caste bastions and their markers — English-speaking, university-educated, foreign-travelled individuals from “good” families — and effecting an expansion of the caste conversation.

So if you asked the question, Who is a Dalit, today, the answer could be as varied as India: The Dalit could be the daughter of a bureaucrat, the topper of the country’s toughest examination, a social media expert, a village headman or a political commentator.

A vast majority of them are still poor and lack basic amenities but impoverishment, soiled clothes and broken English are no longer the only reference points to talk about caste. They’re no longer the labourer who dies 15 minutes into a movie, they’re Newton.


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#SundayReading -Kundan Shah- The Making of a Classic- Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

Kundan Shah: The making of a classic

Kundan Shah, who died of a heart attack in Mumbai yesterday morning at the age of 70, made 10 films in a career spanning three decades. But his life and work was almost entirely defined by one film, the 1983 cult favourite Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, considered by many to be the greatest Hindi comedy of all time. No filmmaker has since come close to achieving the perfect mix of burlesque, camp, irony, satire, and slapstick achieved by Shah and his bunch of young and relatively inexperienced cast of actors and technicians. In this rerun of a piece published a decade ago in Man’s World magazine, Jerry Pinto puts together an oral history of the making of the film that nearly never got made.

In 1983, a film was made by a young director, straight out of the Film and Television Institute of India (hereinafter the Institute). It was not a funny film in the ordinary sense of the word. We had had many funny films. Some of them were pure slapstick, some started as comic and then went on to become tragic, some were physical comedy, some were lifts. But there had been nothing like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro before this.

Come to think of it, there’s been nothing like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro after it.

The story? It begins with two photographers, and get a load off those two names, Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir Mishra (Ravi Baswani) who set up a photo studio. They don’t have any clients but they have faith in themselves and in their anthem, ‘Hum honge kaamyaab ek din’. Then one day, Shobha Singh (Bhakti Barve) the editor of Khabardaar, an investigative magazine, walks into their shop-front with an assignment. She wants to uncover the corruption of a builder Tarneja (Pankaj Kapur) who has been bribing Commissioner D’Mello (Satish Shah) to get his tenders passed. Tarneja is the kind of builder who does not mind mixing concrete with sand. He does not mind if people die. He only minds if they smell.

In the course of pursuing Tarneja for photographic evidence, they happen on a murder in progress. This is a bow to Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow Up (1966), so the park in which they discover the body is called Antonioni Park. It’s about as clever a way of acknowledging a reference as any. The script seems to have been like a huge vacuum-cleaner scooping up everything that came along, from the borrowed suits in which the two photographers inaugurate their store to contemporary references such as the bridge collapse that starts off the climax, which acknowledged the collapse of a bridge at Byculla in central Mumbai, a bridge that fell before it had been completed. And when it is almost done, you can see the film’s socialist heart in the moment when at a press conference with Tarneja, a reporter asks a question that is almost a speech. There are lines in the film that acquired cult status, as did the film. When D’Mello comes back from a study tour of America, he notes how advanced that country is. “Wahaan peene ka paani alagh, gutter ka paani alagh,” (There drinking water flows separately from sewage) he says and everyone nods, suitably impressed. And there is a demented sequence in which he is told that Americans get half their thrills from eating and half from throwing away some food. The ‘thoda khao, thoda pheko’ sequence is a comment on the waste-makers of America and a nice piece of slapstick since Sudhir is hanging around outside the window and wants some of the cake that Vinod is guzzling— how I am enjoying writing this — with Commissioner D’Mello. But the set piece — and what everyone remembers most vividly — is the chase with D’Mello’s body and the ensuing commotion in the disruption of a mythological play.


Kundan Shah, Director, Story writer

I have never been close to comedy in my life. At my Gujarati school in Aden, we were shown some Chaplin films but if I had to spend my money and buy a film ticket it would have been for an action film or a drama. But I read indiscriminately, anything I could lay my hands on. I read what might be called pulp and when I came to college in Mumbai and met a senior who was well-known for his reading, I began to borrow the classics from him. But I read those as pulp as well. I read Dostoyevsky and Balzac like they were novels by James Hadley Chase. I did not see any difference. They were all telling stories, gripping human stories. Those were the influences with which I went into the Institute.

I wrote my first dialogue, which was supposed to be a very important moment, a seminal moment, something that would decide, they say, what kind of filmmaker you would make and it failed miserably. So I sat down to analyse why I had failed. And the day I failed that dialogue test, I began preparing for my diploma film. For one and a half year, I worked on it until I was ready to look at what I had done. And I discovered that what I had written was a comedy. Bonga, my diploma film, helped me find myself. I believe every director makes a single film, makes it again and again. Guru Dutt made a film about a tortured poet in Pyaasa, a tortured film director in Kaagaz ke Phool, a tortured woman in Saahib Bibi aur Ghulam. And I think I made Bonga again and again. Bonga was not about corruption; it was about life. The story is irrelevant. I believe the less the story, the better the film. As part of the course, we were also supposed to write the script of a feature film. It was not compulsory but I decided to do it anyway. All these play an important part in the making of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

At that time, I was writing a film based on One Wonderful Sunday by Akira Kurosawa. I hadn’t seen the film but I had heard about it. It was supposed to be about a Sunday that a young couple who are also broke spend together. So I thought I’d do my own spin on it. My wife was out of town and I was visited by a friend who had come from Hyderabad. He was part of a collective of Institute students who had gone there, determined to make films cheap, make the right kind of films as a collective effort. They did make some films but the community was collapsing and two of them, an editor and a director, were left behind. They had gone into business as industrial photographers and the editor was better at photography so he was ordering the director around, making him hold the reflector. He told me all these stories in the night he was here, and we laughed endlessly. He told me how they used their studio to try and patao girls…

The next morning I woke up and I began writing the script with this basic idea in mind. I threw out most of his stories. I just kept the basic outline. At that time, the Film Finance Corporation announced a script competition so I put in the script that I had written at the Institute because it was ready. That won the third prize, after Massey Sahib and Godaam and part of the deal was that prize winning scripts would be financed by NFDC. Now I had no intention of making that film so I told them I would need to make it in 35mm. They said I couldn’t have that kind of money, only enough for 16mm. So I said I would give them another script and I began to write Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro furiously. They said that it would have to go through the committee again but I was willing to take my chances rather than make a film I didn’t want to. And the script committee approved the script and I had the money and I was ready to go.

Sudhir Mishra, screenplay writer, also played an uncredited reporter

The film would never have been made if NFDC had not produced it. It was a time of independence for NFDC. There were people like Shyam Benegal and Aravindan on the board and they passed a whole bunch of projects that would have frightened the babus. In the early 1980s, no Indian producer would have touched the project. They would not have been able to conceive of it, they would not have been able to translate that script in their heads into a film.

KS: I wrote the film with a certain kind of anger. I had been the secretary of my building and the water pipe and the sewage pipe ran side by side. There was a leak in the sewage pipe which was gushing out in a stream. I tried to get the cement necessary for the repairs but that was the time cement was controlled.

“We are drinking sewage water,” I told the man in charge of cement. “So is everyone in Bombay,” he said. And that was how the ‘gutter ka paani alagh’ lines got written.


KS: Casting took some time. Naseer was fixed. He knew me and he had agreed to do my film. He was shooting in Pune when he called me to meet him. I thought he wanted to back out but instead he said, “I will give you 45 days. I’m willing to play whatever role you want me to.” I had seen Ravi Baswani in Sai Paranjpe’s Chashme Buddoor and I knew I wanted him. Vijay Tendulkar told me when he saw the film, “He’s the key. He’s holding it together.”

SM: Casting the role of Shobha Singh gave Kundan nightmares. Most of the women in parallel cinema refused it. Even Bhakti Barwe who eventually did the role, refused to dub for it. So Anita Kanwar dubbed her voice eventually.

KS: Casting Shobha was the difficult part. Deepti agreed but she was busy. I went to see Bhakti Barve in Hands Up, a Marathi play. There was a moment in it where she’s taking vengeance on someone, and she has to turn to the villain and laugh, turn away from him and cry, turn back and laugh…and I knew I had my actor. I knew she didn’t have comic potential. I knew she had problems. She was asthmatic and how many times could I tell these guys to stop smoking? And then she didn’t want to dub, I think because she was a stage performer and was afraid of messing up. But Anita Kanwar was a godsend.


Pankaj Kapoor, played Tarneja

I remember going for story sessions with Kundan, to try and get a hold on my character. Inevitably, he would end up doing accounts, so that wasn’t much help. But then he was working on a budget that would make a shoestring look sumptuous and I understood, we all understood, that he was committed to making the film and to getting it finished. But that meant we didn’t get much of a chance to discuss my character in great depth. For instance, I was 27 at the time and was supposed to play a 45 year old. On the morning of the shoot, it was discovered that I did not have a costume so Renu and I rushed to a store nearby and bought me a silk kurta and a pair of spectacles to age me.

Ravi Baswani, played Vinod Chopra

There are any number of little details that go into the making of comedy. In Chashme Buddoor, for instance, I suggested to Sai that my character should have a lighter that never lights. “Who will notice?” she said. “I don’t care if no one notices,” I said. “I will know my character better. He’s the kind of guy whose lighter never lights.” Later, it became useful because there was a moment when he looks for a match and finds the insecticide and jumps to the conclusion that Farooque’s character is going to commit suicide. In Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro too, there were little things like that. In the last sequence, I run in chased by Dushasan. Then Dushasan chases me back. Then I run in wearing his costume. Then he runs in wearing a kachcha. Then I run in carrying my sword with Dushasan’s kachcha on its tip. In the madness of that scene, you might not even see it, but for me, it’s an additional little moment. Before working with any director, at that time, I tried to do my homework. I knew that Sai Paranjpe for instance needs her handbag if she needs to think. I knew that Prahlad Kakkar screams a lot. I went to story sessions just to see what Kundan would be like. And I went and saw his diploma film, Bonga to get into his mind. I discovered that he was a director who would need actors who could translate his ideas for him. I also found that he shouted a lot. Not that he meant anything by it but he shouted. Our sound engineer told me that the maximum wastage of footage was on Kundan saying, “Cut-cut-cut-cut-cut-cut-cut.” So where does one cut?

Vanraj Bhatia, music director

I was the default music director for the whole of the parallel cinema industry. It was a mistake I made and I regret it. I suppose I got typecast. They were all supposed to take me along with them once they hit the big time but none of them did. And the ones who did, like Vinod Chopra, forgot. I believed in them, these Institute guys who would come over, tell me their stories and drink my bar dry. I believed in their dreams and I did everything I could to help them along. I remember when they shot the scenes in the lift outside the building under construction, it was somewhere in the vicinity. So they all trooped over and asked for tea. I told them I could not give them all tea and that I had had my lunch and drove them out again.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was a comedy, I was told. That was fine. Music for comedy can be dreadful if it is used in the way it is used in cartoon films. But Kundan told me that he did not expect me to do any Mickey Mousing for the film. But then there were these endless scenes like the coffin scene where I was expected to compose an endless melody to go with it. He did not want any songs, he said. They all said that in those days. If they had songs, they were in the background. They were very foolish. They were wannabes who were full of half-digested Bresson and Goddard and since their New Wave gods did not use songs, how could they?

RB: Naseer and I had worked together. We sat down to talk about what we were going to do. I told him, “All these guys are going to do something because this is their big shot. Let’s not do anything. Let’s play it straight.” He agreed. That didn’t mean we didn’t think things through or respond to the moment, but we played it straight and I think it worked.


Naseeruddin Shah, played Vinod Chopra

The shoot was the worst I have ever had, the worst. There was no money for anything. It was April and May when we were shooting and it was hot as hell. And throughout there was always the feeling that this film was not going to get made, but also the feeling that we had to do something to get it done.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Production Controller, also plays Dushasan

I ended up playing Dushasan in the Mahabharat scene at the end because it was that kind of film. I wanted to pay the actor Rs 500. He wanted Rs 1000. I couldn’t afford him, so I did the role myself. Being production controller was a mad job. Once, I remember asking Kundan Shah what time I should ask the buses to come to take the crew from the Madh Island shoot where we were doing the ‘kuch khao, kuch pheko’ scene. He said he was starting at seven am and would be done by five. I decided to give him a buffer and add five hours. I called the buses by ten. Do you know when we knocked off?10 am the next morning. At one point, I remember seeing Kundan with his eye fixed on the viewfinder in the camera. He stayed there a very long time. So I went up and shook him and found he had fallen asleep on the camera!

NS: I had just got married around that time. I remember telling Ratna [his wife] that I would be late. I wasn’t late that night, oh no, I came home the next night. And that was only because Ratna got really worried and called NFDC. They told her we were shooting at their guest house and she turned up there with food. I think she had a picture of the entire cast and crew as sleeping beauties. Something had gone wrong with the magazine and it had been taken out to repair and everyone fell asleep almost where they were standing.

SM: I think most of the actors didn’t have faith in the film. They had all been trained in Mr Benegal’s kind of cinema. But they were also helping Kundan whom they knew in different ways, and whom they liked despite the fact that he carried a briefcase and an umbrella instead of wearing the kurta and carrying the jhola of a radical. All the actors were sceptical of the film at some level but there wasn’t much else they could do. In 1982, what was there?

NS: I didn’t believe the film would work. I thought we were making the stupidest film ever. I remember once I told Kundan, ‘You’re thinking in animation!’

SM: I think the film might have been much much better if the actors had been willing to trust in comedy. The film is the worse for the actors not understanding the grace of nonsense. Comedy of this kind is a gentle lament. Their idea of comedy was Moliere as performed in the National School of Drama in Delhi. This lack of understanding meant that they kept trying to get out of the nonsense and return to their realist framework. In a comedy, you should never step out of the mode in which you are. I think if the actors had allowed it, Kundan would have made a much better film. Though I think Satish Shah understood it.

RB: I went on the sets and Kundan was banging his head on the wall. He didn’t want to shoot the telephone sequence. “How will anyone accept that two people are talking to each other on two extensions of the same telephone in the same room?” he asked. I said, “Don’t worry, this is comedy. They will accept it.”

SM: The shoot was chaotic. I remember the sequence at Madh Island which was shot at a stretch for four days without a break. Naseer would go away and fall asleep and come back for his shot. And the food was ghastly. There was roti daal and aalu baingan for breakfast and there was roti, daal and baingan aalu for lunch. And since Kundan was Gujarati, there was sugar in the daal!

RB: When we were executing the sequence with Satish Shah as the corpse, I gave him my personal guarantee that we would not let him fall so he could go limp. In that sequence, the in-joke was that the expression on the corpse changed from one moment to the other. He was looking down when we’re up among the lights, he’s looking up when we enter the auditorium, he’s coy as Draupadi and so on. You don’t get it the first time but you may on the second viewing and that will add to the pleasure of it. And even if you don’t know you’re making a legend—and we didn’t know it—you have to assume that any film you do should make people want to come back the second time.

PK: On another location visit, Renu (Saluja) and he and I went off to see a building under construction. There was a lift, a small one, about four feet by two feet. No, it wasn’t a lift, it was a glorified bucket. Up we went in it and since it had one side open to the air and the sea and the sky, I froze. But not Kundan. “We will shoot in this,” he announced. Now, I knew the scene was one which had Neena Gupta, Satish Shah, me, my assistant and it would have to have the cameraman and the focus puller and perhaps Kundan himself all in it. Luckily when we returned to terra firma, I noticed a much larger lift and pointed it out.

On the day of the shoot, we all got into the lift, almost everyone on the set seemed eager for a ride. I kept saying, “No, maybe there are too many people” but the owner had assured Kundan that he took building material up by the tonne so we all got in. And we began to rise…until we came to about the sixth floor. Then we stopped. Kundan leant out and kept shouting to the lift operator. “Take us up,” he would shout and the lift operator would look left. “Or take us down,” he would shout and the lift operator would look right. Finally, he shouted, “Take us close to the building.” The lift operator did so and then I tried to tell everyone to get off slowly, not to panic, but there was a stampede. That meant as people jumped off, the rest of us who were inside the lift would swing out into the air. It was the grace of all the gods that no one got hurt. Later, the lift operator told us that the chain had begun to fray and moving us up or down would have caused it to break. But no one seemed to be bothered about this. When scary things happened on this shoot, people just ignored them. I have never worked with a team so hell-bent on getting the job done.


NS: Do you know that Anupam Kher acted in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro? He was playing a character called Disco Killer. He was supposed to be a gunman who had been hired to bump us off but a gunman who kept on missing. His entire track was eliminated. I don’t know how Renu Saluja did it, but she did it. There was enough to make another hour or so of film.

SM: Renu Saluja’s role in making the film what it is cannot be underestimated. First of all, she took a three and a half hour film and cut it down. Kundan and Renu practically rescripted the film in the editing room. I know this for a fact, it was one of her favourite films. I sat through the editing and I enjoyed it immensely. It was like going to some kind of master class. If you look at the last sequence, that famous Mahabharata sequence, that’s her work, it’s a rhythm that she gives to the whole of it, the way in which she keeps the whole thing moving while never calling attention to the editing. It was a magnificent feat because it meant that for the first time an editor was achieving that rare and mystical thing: comic timing. It was only when we saw the first cut, that the actors realised what they had done. They had worked on a legend. They absolutely loved the film from then on.


SM: It was very badly released. I remember going to Baadal cinema in Mahim, and finding that there wasn’t even a hoarding outside the cinema to announce that it was playing inside.

KS: It was very badly released. That’s NFDC. But without them the film would never have been made. No one would have understood the script. No one would have taken the chance. But it has found its audience. It finds them still.


RB: What a let-down Bhakti was. Speak no evil of the dead and all that but she was terrible. And what a boon it was that she didn’t want to do the dubbing or wasn’t interested enough or whatever. I don’t care. Anita Kanwar reinvented the character entirely with her voice. That’s the only thing that works for me in Bhakti’s performance.

PK: Frankly speaking, I wasn’t very satisfied with that performance. I know it worked but it was a little too stylised. I was supposed to be playing the role Om (Puri) eventually played. But I don’t regret it because it was a wonderful time. There was such passion and such purity, such commitment to the cause of cinema, such a wonderful feeling. I thought I would not experience that again until I did Maqbool with Vishal Bhardwaj and once again, I felt I was back making cinema.

NS: For someone who spent the entire shooting schedule despairing of the kind of film we were making, I was proved wrong. I would never have guessed that generations of young people would still be watching it 20 years later…

KS: I believe that every director has a curtain in front of him, between his thoughts and the film he thinks he is going to make and the film he does make. The film he does make is a shadow play. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is a shadow of the film I wanted to make. And all the rest have been shadows of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

SM: There are people who ask me ‘When are you going to make another Hazaaron Khwaahishein Aisi?’ and I feel like saying, ‘Never’. Because I made Hazaaron Khwaahishein Aisi. There isn’t another one hiding in me. If Kundan never made another Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, it was because there wasn’t another one in him.

RB: I should have died after that film. I might have become the James Dean of India, a legend. Kya actor tha, they would have said, just two films and then he died…. But that didn’t happen. Anyway, jaane bhi do, yaaron

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Arrows at Mr D and Mr D – Sinha returns Mahabharata fire

Puneet Issar as Duryodhana (left) and Vinod Kapoor as Dushasana in the 1988 TV serial

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unwittingly or otherwise upgraded an economic feud to epic proportions, prompting his tormentor Yashwant Sinha to grab the quiver with glee and shoot armour-piercing arrows at two “infamous” brothers.

Yesterday, Modi had referred to Shalya, the Mahabharata character who had sided with the Kauravas although he was uncle to the Pandava twins and demoralised Karna, while berating the economic doomsayers. “Shalyavritti (Shalya’s habit of demoralising people) exists even today…. They spread pessimism and get a good night’s sleep only after they spread gloom…,” Modi said.

He did not identify the modern-day ” Shalyavritti” practitioners but the consensus was that one of the targets was Sinha, who had expressed concern at the economic “mess” during Dussehra week.

Today, Sinha returned the compliment. “The Mahabharata is the flavour of the discourse these days. Characters from the Mahabharata have suddenly appeared. Somebody talked of Shalya yesterday. Shalya was the (maternal) uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva, the youngest Pandava brothers. Duryodhana played a trick on him. Duryodhana misguided him by throwing a feast,” he told a book launch.

Having warmed up, the former finance minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government delivered the knockout punch. “There are a large number of interesting characters in the Mahabharata. Of the 100 Kaurava brothers, you only remember Duryodhana and Dushasana. Nobody remembers (any) third brother. Only two became infamous.”

As the audience applauded, Sinha asked: “Do I need to say anything more?”

Ripples of laughter followed, making it clear that no one needed any clues to the identity of the two, whom Sinha had not named.

Yashwant Sinha and Arvind Kejriwal at the book release in New Delhi on Thursday.
Picture by Prem Singh

A third figure (again unnamed but no prizes for guessing who) too received the treatment – which must hurt more because the book the BJP veteran was launching had been written by Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

Amid lusty cheering, Sinha continued: “Some people believe I have reached the ripe old age of 80 and am still looking for a job. The phrase used was – ‘job applicant at 80’. I come from a part of the country that produced Babu Kunwar Singh. He was a freedom fighter in 1857 and when he joined that war, he was 80. There may be a bar on joining government service at 80 but no bar on fighting for freedom.”

After Sinha skewered the Modi government’s economic policies in a newspaper article, finance minister Arun Jaitley had described the veteran as a “job applicant at 80”.

Asked about the charge that he had rebelled because the Centre had not entertained his application for the job of Brics bank chairman, Sinha said: “I was never a candidate. I have been the finance minister of India; they could have talked about the post of UN secretary-general, World Bank chairman…. Brics bank, this tut-punjia (rag-tag) job?”

Laughter eddied around.

The BJP condemned Sinha with full force. “While claiming to be a ‘know-all’ economist, Sinha is conveniently glossing over his own disastrous performance as finance minister when he pledged India‘s gold overseas,” BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said. “He has turned an unabashed apologist for the corrupt, inflationary, anti-poor and disastrous economic governance of the UPA.”

Sinha suggested that there was a ploy to turn the economic debate into a family brawl on the very next day he wrote an article criticising some of the policies of the Narendra Modi government.

The former finance minister was referring to an article by his son Jayant Sinha, a minister in the Modi government, in another newspaper on how well the economy was doing.

“They thought I will get embroiled in the family brawl. Then they brought up this BRICS charge, that didn’t work either. Had it worked, somebody would not have spoken for over an hour yesterday,” Sinha said in response to a question.

The Prime Minister had yesterday given a long speech on the state of the economy, using the opportunity to hit back at his critics.

Asked about the diverse opinions aired by the father and the son, the elder Sinha said: “I am assured of one thing – there is no Agra Fort in which I can be locked up.” That was an allusion to Mughal-era conspiracies to drive a wedge between father and son – emperor Aurangzeb had confined his father Shah Jahan in the Agra Fort.

What if the BJP threw him out of the party? “That will be the best day of life,” Sinha replied but then put the answer in perspective. “I have not done anything to deserve punishment. This is as much my party as anybody else’s. I have given my blood and toil. I have worked with the tallest leaders…. Vajpayee and Advani. This is a passing phase. Values are more important than personalities. I will not allow personalities to affect my values.”

Asked what he would do if the Prime Minister invited him for a cup of tea, he said: “My gurus have told me – ‘don’t answer hypothetical questions’.”

Sinha had started his speech extolling the virtue of debate in a democracy and the value of personal relations despite political differences. He said his first leader Chandra Shekhar (former Prime Minister) trained him like this.

Sinha also criticised Modi and Amit Shah, without naming either, for the agenda of “Congress-mukt Bharat“.

“Nobody earlier talked of this mukt, that mukt. All is part of democracy. Democracy is not about numbers. It is about debate and consensus-making. Take everybody along. Dar and democracy don’t go together. If there is an atmosphere of fear, we have to get out of it.”

He added: “We all have to strive to maintain the greatest traditions of democracy established by our forefathers. There is so much talk about Stand up India, Start-up India, Sit-down India…. All we need is to stand up against the attempt to create fear and face it with courage.”

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who also attended the event, had said the government had created an atmosphere of fear among traders, political rivals and ordinary citizens. “Everybody feels he is under surveillance, their phones are being tapped, there will be income-tax raid, ED-CBI will come knocking. No government in the past created such an atmosphere. They have sent out lakhs of tax notices. Traders spend their time worrying about the raid raj.”

Describing demonetisation as the biggest scandal of the country, the Delhi chief minister said: “I talk to people and they are scared…. Job losses are pushing up crime. Society has been divided on religious lines. How can you manage peace and harmony in these circumstances?”

BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao later said Sinha had found in the Congress a new ally to seek his next job. “It remains to be seen what a jobless Rahul Gandhi can offer to an ever-job-seeking Sinha. Far from his ludicrous claims of being the Bhishma, Sinha is acting as the Shishupal of the Mahabharata…. He must be ashamed that he is in the company of those engaged in shaming India, spreading doom and not falsely claim to be a protector against cheerharan (disrobing).”

But Sinha had said at the event: “Legacy issues are not unusual; every government inherits some problems. But 40 months down the line, you cannot hide behind legacy issues. The UPA is history, people have punished them. This government will be scrutinised for its own performance.”

Tewari, the author of the book of essays on a range of subjects – Tidings of Troubled Times – echoed the sentiments expressed by Sinha and Kejriwal. “This battle is not merely political; this is a fight for the soul of India. And hubris destroys any party, any individual,” Tewari said

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Australian Journalists Questioned by Gujarat Cops, Film “Digging Into Adani” Creates Waves

NEW DELHI: Four Corners, Australia’s leading investigative journalism program has been exposing “scandals, triggering inquiries, firing debate and confronting taboos” since 1961. This time around it chose to investigate Indian industrialist Gautam Adani as he has been in Australian news for several months now with his mega mining project, facing strong protests from local groups. Despite this he bagged the contract, with Four Corners journalists travelling to India for an expose that has been aired on October 2. The video link is at the end of this report for those who are interested in viewing it, filmed by Four Corners as it says “to serve the public interest.”

Four Corners reporter Stephen Long said that he had been in Mundra, in Adani’s home state in Gujarat for less than 24 hours when the police turned up at the crew’s hotel. He said that their main concern was to safeguard the interviews and footage they had filmed on the story they were investigating. Long said, “We were questioned on and off for about five hours, the senior policeman kept on going outside and talking to someone on his mobile, and whenever he’d return the questioning, the hostility, would ramp up.”

“It was obvious they knew why we were there but everybody was avoiding the ‘A’ word: Adani.”, he added.

“They’d told us that if we stayed there’d be officers from three Indian intelligence agencies coming to see us the next day, plus we’d have an entourage of crime squad detectives and local police wherever we went,” Long said on camera while introducing the film. The journalists left India and in their subsequent story telecast in Australia on October 2, share concerns whether Australia should be supporting Adani’s controversial mine in Queensland.

This is the text that Four Corners put out:

“Why would the crime branch want to see us?” Stephen Long, reporter

When Four Corners travelled to India to investigate the activities of the giant Adani group, they soon discovered the power of the company.

While attempting to film and gather information about Adani’s operations, the Four Corners team had their cameras shut down, their footage deleted and were questioned for hours by police.

The team were left in no doubt that their investigations into the Indian company triggered the police action.

For months, Four Corners has been digging into the business practices of the Adani Group. This is the corporate colossus that plans to build Australia’s biggest mine site.

“I do know about Adani and that means thousands of jobs for regional Queenslanders …” Annastacia Palaszczuk, Qld Premier

The polarising debate around the proposed mine site in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is often pitted as a simplistic jobs versus greenies argument.

But there are influential figures in India who warn that Australians need to know much more about the Adani Group.

“You know, the Australian politicians are obviously not properly briefed by their offices.” Former senior energy official

On Monday Four Corners examines the troubled corporate history of the Adani group in India revealing the findings of government investigations into financial and environment crimes.

“The report found not accidental violations, the report found deliberate violations, wilful violations.” Former Government Minister

The program analyses the Adani Group’s opaque financial operations and investigates the ramifications for their Australian operations.

“What this tells you is that here is a business group that will not stop at anything to maximise its profits.”Economist

This investigation examines whether, in the rush to secure jobs and shore up the mining industry, Australian politicians have failed to properly scrutinise the company that’s now hoping to receive a taxpayer funded loan of up to $1 billion for its project.

“I think the Australian Government ought to do environmental due diligence, which it seems not to have done. It certainly has to do financial due diligence. Both due diligences are required, both for the financial side and from the environmental side.” Indian politician

The film is fast being picked up by organisations and the media across the globe.This is what Greenpeace reported, for The Citizen readers to get a sense of how this investigation is playing out across the globe:

“An expose aired last night by the ABC’s Four Corners program revealed a shadowy network of companies and trusts behind Adani’s Australian assets, which offer the Indian firm “multiple ways” to reduce their tax in Australia, experts say.

Adani Australia has previously boasted its Carmichael mine could boost Australia’s tax coffers by up to $22 billion over the life of the project.

However, Adani’s Australian assets are seemingly owned by companies domiciled in notorious tax havens such as the Cayman and British Virgin Islands, which provide a means to minimise tax paid in Australia.

The investigation also revealed that the man behind a British Virgin Islands company variously described as ARFT Holding Ltd, AFRT Holding Ltd, and Atulya Resources Family Trust, which appears to be the ultimate owner of Adani’s Australian assets, has been accused of money laundering.

Vinod Adani, the older brother of Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani, has been investigated by Indian authorities with ex-Adani Group employees and Adani companies for allegedly executing a “planned conspiracy of siphoning off foreign exchange abroad … and Trade Based Money Laundering”.

Adani has requested a $1 billion loan, currently under consideration, from the publicly funded Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

“The Four Corners revelations prove that Adani is a company which cannot be trusted with a taxpayer loan, or to build the world’s biggest export coal mine on the Great Barrier Reef coastline,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate and Energy Campaigner Nikola Casule said.

“Now more than ever, it’s time for the government to rule out any public money for Adani and say no to the proposed $1 billion NAIF loan for Adani’s rail line connecting the proposed Carmichael mine and Abbot Point coal port.”

“Its secrecy, apparent use of tax havens and alleged money laundering provide the Australian government with all the evidence it needs to rule out even one cent of public money going to Adani’s rail line.”

This is what Adani group stated in its response:

Dear Mr Long,

The team from ABC Television while visiting Mundra did not adhere to the journalistic codes of conduct and fairness. While you had earlier expressed your desire to visit Mundra, without further discussion or intimation you and your team landed in Mundra and started filming the sensitive areas without proper permissions and any kind of intimation to the company officials. To our mind it is both unfair and unethical apart from a serious security breach at the industrial site locations in border area.

The Adani Group is one of India’s leading business houses with a core vision of nation building. The group has created a portfolio of businesses aligned with the national priorities of infrastructure development, food security, energy security and clean energy. Each of our businesses is integrated to the core of the country, touching millions of lives and generating direct and indirect employment for thousands of families.

We at Adani Group follow every principle of law that governs operations of company like us in India. To therefor suggest through a documentary, which in its essence have been made surreptitiously and without any legal sanction, is indicative of the fact that the purpose of the documentary is malafide and riddled with the singular agenda of national shaming. For reputable organisation like ABC Television to indulge in this form of ethical violation is truly sad.

On the issues mentioned in your last email, please find our response below. We request you to use the same verbatim, without tweaking its context.

Issue 1 – The reference that has been made to the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Retired Justice Santosh Hegde

Pursuant to the report by Justice Hegde and reports of CEC the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order directing CBI to investigate the allegations over illegal export of Iron Ore from Belekeri Port. After the detailed investigation CBI came to the conclusion that Adani Enterprises Limited and its officials had never violated any State and/or Central laws of India. Accordingly, CBI filed closer report and the same was accepted by the designated CBI court at Bangalore.

With regard to another allegation of “Illegal gratification to public officials”, Karnataka Lokayukta formed Special Investigation Team. Adani Enterprises Limited submitted all the data to SIT as required. However after the detailed investigation, SIT found that no case is made out against AEL & others. Accordingly, closer report was filed and the same was accepted by the court.

To summarise, our activities at Belerkeri Port have been conducted within the framework of Law. The Adani Group is absolute and religiously Law abiding organization and respect Law of the land.

Issue 2 – The ruling of HC of Gujarat about developments in the Mundra SEZ without valid environment clearances

The Gujarat High Court in its order passed in January 2014, ordered that 12 units operating in Mundra SEZ cannot operate till Mundra SEZ is granted the Environmental Clearance (EC). The said order was challenged before the Supreme Court of India and the Supreme Court stayed the order of Gujarat High Court and permitted 12 units to continue with their operational activities. The matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

There is no restriction for units to set up their facilities and operate in SEZ with their appropriate clearance, till SEZ is granted the EC. Even the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) and Pollution Control Boards have granted clearances to units even irrespective whether the SEZ was having the EC or not. Therefore, it was not a case of development of Mundra SEZ without valid EC, as such practice has been followed in all SEZs across India. In any case, Mundra SEZ is also granted Environmental and CRZ clearance by MoEF on 15.7.2014.

Issue 3 – Sunita Narain on environment violation in Mundra

The Sunita Naraian Committee submitted its report in 2013 and it was India’s largest business daily The Economic Times which in July 2014 revealed the manner in which the committee was appointed. In any case, the committee’s findings were just that – recommendations. Neither they were absolute; nor were they binding or implementable because of the malafide agenda driven nature of those findings.

Based on the Report, MoEF issued a show cause notice in September, 2013 which has been disposed of on 18.9.2015. The final order is not challenged since. Therefore, Report cannot be cited to defame the Adani Group. Further, the Gujarat High Court dismissed the public interest litigation in April, 2015 concerning this issue and the Supreme Court of India also did not entertain appeal against the order of Gujarat High Court.

Issue 4 – National Green Tribunals decision on Hazira Port

The order that NGT has passed has been challenged before the Supreme Court of India. NGT failed to appreciate the facts and no reasons are given which supports the order. NGT observed that the company damaged mangrove whereas, in February 2007, MoEF itself substituted the condition based on NEERI report and permitted development in that area. The company came into picture only in November, 2010. Likewise, all the findings of NGT in its decision are wrong and contrary to the facts placed before it. In any case, the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and is sub-judice and it is unfair and unethical for responsible media to jump to any conclusion and report a story till the matter is finally decided.

Issue 5 – As for the really trite charge of money laundering

On August 22, the adjudicating authority of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has passed orders striking all proceedings launched by the DRI against Adani Group for alleged money laundering. This can be only be challenged at the higher appellate authorities and that too by governmental authorities. Since no challenge as of now has been made, there is not only complete acquittal but in fact a validation of what we at Adani Group has always been saying.

Adani Group adhere to the laws of the land in which we operate – be it India or any other of the 50 geographies we work in. To suggest that we are non-compliant, deviant or unethical will once again attract defamation and severe legal action. As an organisation with more than 11,000 employees spread across the world, stakeholders and vertical businesses ranging from agriculture to port to logistics, we cannot be held to either ransom or blackmail by media organisations that indulge into sensationalism without any basis and contrary to facts.

For any media organisation to jump the gun and believe that we have indulged in any malafide is in itself is illogical because we shall have to wait for the Supreme Court of India to pass its judgement. Some of the issues have even attained finality which cannot be blatantly ignored and no damage can be inflicted on Adani Group on the basis of vexatious allegations.

Please note that any manipulation of this message by way of twisting the facts will compel us to undertake legal recourse. We request you to use our response in totality to avoid any misinterpretations.

Thanks & Regards,

Mitul Thakkar

Associate General Manager Corporate Communications Adani Enterprises Limited

(Interestingly, the Adani’s have not slapped a legal notice on Four Corners limiting the response so far to the above rejoinder)

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