What is the Truth, Mr. Prime Minister?
Monday, 24 November , 2008, 14:38
Arvind Lavakare may be 71, but the fire in his belly burns stronger than in
many people half his age. The economics post-graduate worked with the
Reserve Bank of India and several private and public sector companies before
retiring in 1997. His first love, however, remains sports. An accredited
cricket umpire in Mumbai, he has reported and commented on cricket matches
for newspapers, Doordarshan and AIR. Lavakare has also been regularly
writing on politics since 1997, and published a monograph, The Truth About
Article 370, in 2005.
Malegaon has become a maze --- a maze wherein it's become impossible at this
stage to differentiate between what is true and what is fictitious about the
bomb blasts in that town in Maharashtra on September 29 this year.
Over the last few weeks, the state's Anti-terror Squad has probably created
a record of sorts for the India police with almost one startling public
revelation a day, only to have egg on its face soon enough.
At the moment of writing this, it seems as if the Maharashtra ATS has not
only been out of its depth on the matter but out of its head as well. Sad to
say, even our daily media, supposed to be the fourth pillar of democracy,
has been sucked in by sheer sensationalism into that mindless whirlpool.
In the beginning one had accepted the possibility, however remote, of a
sadhvi being one of those who had a hand in the Malegaon blast. The first
news had said that it was her motorbike that was used to plant the bomb. But
it soon enough transpired that she had sold the two-wheeler four years ago
to a man named Sunil Joshi and signed the relevant papers for transferring
its ownership. Even then the ATS kept pointing at the sadhvi with a finger
of guilt, publicly disclosing that it had a transcript of her several phone
calls expressing her apprehension over the sale of her two-wheeler. One
still thought it possible that the sadhvi had something to hide, especially
when the chief district judge in Nashik (a city in Maharashtra) granted the
ATS demand for remanding her to police custody.
The shocking truth came when Mahesh Jethmalani, an eminent crime lawyer,
came on Times Now television and told viewers that the police remand
applications against the sadhvi had absolutely no evidence against her. When
asked about the telephone transcripts which the Maharashtra ATS had publicly
spoken about, the lawyer smiled and said that there was absolutely no
mention of any telephone conversation in the remand applications.
An aside in the above TV news item was the TV anchor's perverse persistence
on knowing why Jethmalani had chosen to represent the sadhvi. The latter's
reply was polite, saying that the accused's family had approached him; he
would have been justified in telling the anchor that why he took the
sadhvi's brief was not his business and beyond the subject of the question
being debated. The little incident showed up how our media looks with dark
suspicion even on something that doesn't concern it.
Jethmalani's disclosure on the utter lack of evidence against the sadhvi
opened up a can of worms regarding the Maharashtra ATS investigations" in
the Malegaon blasts of 2008.
See, for instance, the ATS giving the sadhvi two forensic tests ---
psychological profiling and polygraph (lie-detector) --- even without
elementary evidence of guilt. And, as it later transpired from the sadhvi's
affidavit on oath, the 38-year-old woman was detained by the police from
October 10 but was formally arrested only on October 24 --- a shocking
illegality on the face of it. A queer associated event was that Sunil Joshi,
(the alleged buyer of the sadhvi's ), had reportedly been shot dead by two
men exactly 10 months before the Malegaon blast, but Joshi's cell phone,
taken away by one of his murderers who were later apprehended, has not been
traced as yet. "Off the record, officials said that there had been pressure
'right from the top' to go slow in the matter" reported The Indian Express
in its Mumbai edition of November 21. "Pressure from the top" to avoid
checking on the phone of someone who had purchased the guilty bike from the
allegedly guilty sadhvi? Strange, very very strange.
See, again, the ATS revelation that Lt.Colonel Purohit, whom it suspects of
being a "mastermind" behind the Malegaon blast, was also behind the
Samjhauta Express blast of February 2007. That bomb blast tragedy had not
showed up any trace of RDX --- 60 kgs of which Purohit is alleged to have
stolen from Army Stores and part of which he supposedly used in the Malegaon
blast as well as for the train tragedy. That the ATS was quick to deny this
allegation is one proof of its bumbling ways.
Now consider the ATS allegation that Purohit had stolen 60 kgs of RDX. Now
that quantity is just too big to be hidden in the records of Army Stores or
Ordnance factories --- unless it was the ATS belief that there's no such
thing as security and record keeping in those two military units. And 60
kgs!! Do you know that that quantity is "enough to blow up Parliament,
Rashtrapati Bhawan, South and North Blocks and still have ammunition to
spare." (Ashok Malik, an ex-Assistant Editor of The Indian Express, in The
Pioneer, November 20.) The Maharashtra ATS must be a nut to think that an
army colonel would be so stupid to steal what he didn't need.
Y.P.Singh, a retired senior police officer of Mumbai, was at a loss on TV to
explain away the Maharashtra ATS public allegations without any hard
evidence in support. He thought one reason for the ATS attitude was
"overzealousness." He did not specify the cause of that "overzealousness" or
what other reason could have prompted the ATS to be as blindfolded as it has
been found to be.
There are more such twists and turns to the ATS tales revealed so far. Its
hypothesis so far has been utterly child-like: "spit and scoot" as someone
so devastatingly put it. Apparently under some pressure to nail certain
non-Qoranic elements of our society as "terrorists", the ATS has found the
simplest possible way of leaking its "discoveries" to the media. And the
media, 24x7 and all others, have lapped up the muck without any cross
questioning. Today's media men and women, it seems, don't believe in wearing
thinking caps but only in "Breaking News".
It's a great national shame, therefore, that L.K.Advani's expression of
outrage at the facts expressed in the sadhvi's affidavit on oath has
prompted the Congress --- and the English media therefore --- to pass the
judgment that Advani and his BJP are "politicising terrorism" and "thwarting
the ATS investigations".
Indeed, the Congress is apparently happy with the unending, unsupported
allegations which the Maharashtra ATS has been levying. Why else would the
Congress proclaim that the investigations of the ATS in a state ruled by it
prove that the party is not soft on terror as alleged by the BJP ever so
often? Clearly, the Congress has just not understood the cause of Advani's
outrage at the facts in thesadhvi's affidavit. Nor, sadly, has our 24x7
The Prime Minister was gracious enough to heed Advani's expression of
outrage and to send the National Security Adviser to brief him on the
matter. Unfortunately, the PM himself had not apparently read the sadhvi's
affidavit! Wasn't it the same PM who had last year confessed his inability
to sleep over the plight of an alleged terrorist held in custody in far away
Australia? Do the arrested person's book of faith result in different
emotions in our PM?
Do tell us the truth of the entire ATS on Malegaon, Mr. Prime Minister? Is
it an investigation or an inquisition? Do tell us. Please.