August 09, 2007

Memory jog

Letter just dispatched to the Hindustan Times:
    Dear HT,

    How sad that Manohar Joshi seems to be losing his memory as the years pass. He tells HT that "he does not remember" referring to the Srikrishna Commission report as "anti-Hindu". ("The riots are a sad past best left buried", August 9 2007)

    Well, don't we all need a little bit of a memory jog now and then? Here are two for the once-Chief Minister of this state.

    On August 6 1998, UNI put out a report titled "Maharashtra rejects Srikrishna report as being 'biased against Hindus'". In it, we find these lines: "Tabling the report in the state legislative assembly this afternoon, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi said the report could not be accepted by the government as it was totally prejudiced against the Hindus and that it would lead to countrywide false propaganda against Hindus."

    On August 29 1998, UNI put out a report headlined "Srikrishna report not rejected outright: CM". In it, we find these lines: "Participating in a television programme, Joshi, however, repeated his charge that the report was "anti-Hindu" and it favours and supports Muslims. ... 'I have nothing against [Justice Srikrishna], but I do not accept his conclusions because they are not fair,' he said."

    Now what else don't you remember, Joshi-saheb?


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Anonymous said...

One of the important person whom the Srikrishna Commission, on the riots of Dec 92 and Jan 93, has relied on to make its judgement about the involvement of Balasaheb Thackeray and the Shiv Sena in the Jan 93 riots is Shri Yuvraj Mohite. He has been identified as a "senior reporter of the Marathi eveninger, "Mahanagar" edited by Nikhil Wagle, and an active social worker of Rashtra Seva Dal." (Para 9.1, page 172. All references are to Vol II to the report.)

Mahanagar's mission statement is to take on the Shiv Sena. It says that it does intellectually, but there are some who doubt that there is intellectual honesty in its efforts. Its writings have frequently provoked Shiv Sena, and there have been physical attacks on the office of the publication. These attacks have been projected by the publication to enable it to take the role of a martyr, amongst the so-called intellectuals. Shri Mohite has confirmed in both his affidavit and his witness statement, that Balasaheb refuses to even talk to a reporter of Mahanagar. Shri Mohite has, in his affidavit, made it clear that he does not empathise (to use a mild word) with either Balasaheb or the Shiv Sena. And the Commission has recognised this lack of empathy. This by itself does not disqualify Shri Mohite as a reliable witness. However, if there is a doubt on the veracity of what he has to say, and he is not able to substantiate his submissions through additional sources, then obviously, his word cannot be taken to be correct. If it is done, then obviously justice has not been served.

Shri Mohite came to be involved in this episode (Paras 9.3 to 9.5, pp 172-3) in the following manner:

On 8th January 1993 at about 1900 hours, Shri Mohite peeps into the office of the then Mayor of Mumbai, Shri Chandrakant Handore who seemed to be distressed about the riots. Shri Handore is a member of the Republican Party of India. The Congress party had an alliance with RPI in the municipal elections, and together were the ruling combination. The Mayor wants the Hindu political leaders and the Muslim leaders to sign a joint appeal to the people to exercise restrain and maintain peace, an idea welcomed by the Chief Minister. Since it is late, there is no staff around. Shri Mohite himself writes out a draft of the appeal in duplicate. The Mayor informs the media about his plan. The Mayor invites Shri Mohite to come along with him to get the leaders to sign. Shri Mohite agrees since it would make a good story. They are accompanied by the Mayor's Personal Assistant. They first go to the house of Shri Haji Mastan to obtain his signature. They then proceed to the residence of the Shiv Sena chief, Balasaheb Thackeray, where they arrive at 2130 hours.

While waiting to talk to Balasaheb and get his signature on the appeal, Shri Mohite says (Paras 9.6 to 9.11, pp 173-4) the following was supposed to have transpired at the residence of the former: Over the phone Balasaheb was "directing the Shiv Sainiks, Shakha Pramukhs that they give tit for tat and ensure that "not a single landya would survive to give oral evidence." He also said that the riots had "started from the bastis of "landyas" and that he would deal with them properly and put and end to their arrogance." Generally, Balasaheb was supposed to be giving telephonic instructions to attack the Muslims and even to kill them, if necessary. The Sena leaders who came in person were also given the same instructions. Balasaheb wanted the Mayor to convey to the Chief Minster to control the Muslim areas, confiscate their arms, dismiss Shri Javed Khan, a Muslim minister in the state cabinet, and transfer two police officers Shri A A Khan and Shri Mundkur On the phone Balasaheb told Shri Vijaysingh Mohite-Patil, a minister in the state government, that in "his view Shri Sharad Pawar was behind the riots and because of his encouragement the "landyas" had become bold." Balasaheb was annoyed because Shri Mastan had signed the appeal first. After reading the appeal, Balasaheb refused to sign it, and said that he would like to see what the Government does in trying to maintain the peace.

At Para 9.9, page 174, Shri Mohite said that he was at first openly taking down notes. But when a senior Sena leader asked what he was doing, he wrote the notes in a surreptitious manner. Shri Uddhav Thackeray, Balasaheb's son, also told him not to write down anything. As they left the residence of Balasaheb, the Mayor told him to forget what he had heard. However, Shri Mohite insisted that he would tell his editor the whole episode.

The subsequent events, mentioned in paras 9.12 and 9.13, pp 174-5, are as follows:

Jan 8, 93, 2315h The Mayor drops Shri Mohite near his newspaper office at Mahim. Jan 9, 93, 0200h The editor, Nikhil Wagle, comes to the office and Shri Mohite reports what happened. The editor says that the Chief Minister must be contacted and informed what happened. Shri Mohite contacts the Mayor, who is not ready to go to the Chief Minster.The editor phones the Minister of State for Home, Shri Babanrao Pachpute, to inform him what transpired at Balasaheb's residence. The minister informed him that he would take urgent steps in the matter. Jan 9, 93, 0900h Shri Mohite writes out his article so that the same could be printed in the newspaper. This was allegedly not done since it would vitiate the atmosphere further. Later this is called the first draft. (This is as per the witness statement of Shri Mohite. However, the Commission report (para 9.13 pg 175) says that it was prepared in the first week of Feb.) Begin Feb 93 Shri Mohite prepares a second and a longer draft of what transpired at the Balasaheb's residence on Jan 8, and is given for translation into English. (However, the Commission report (para 9.13 pg 175) says that both these events happened in the end of Feb.) April, 93 English translation was given to Shri Mohite, and the material was handed over to an advocate, Shri MP Vashi, for preparing an affidavit to be filed before the Commission. Shri Vashi takes an unduly long time and the date for filing and the date for doing so expires. Shri Mohite reminded Shri Vashi a number of times to get the affidavit ready. April 6, 93 An editorial appears in "Mahanagar" narrating what is supposed to have happened on January 8. The editorial says that the full details would be given at an appropriate time. April 7, 93 Mahanagar carries a news item that the Mayor has threatened Shri Mohite for disclosing the whole set of events that were supposed to have happened at Balasaheb's residence. October, 93 The affidavit is finally ready. Since the time for filing given by the Commission had been extended, the same is filed.. June 97 Shri Mohite is examined before the Commission.

In this episode, besides Balasaheb and Shri Mohite, a number of persons could have confirmed the events that are alleged have happened. It is indeed strange that the Commission has chosen not to verify with them the story propounded by Shri Mohite. For example, the then Mayor was not called to corroborate Shri Mohite's story. Given that the Mayor wa= s from a party which is politically opposed to the Shiv Sena, one would have thought that he would support Shri Mohite, even if the whole thing was fabricated. Since the Commission believes Shri Mohite's story, an additional corroboration would have further boosted the prime objective of the Commission of damning the Shiv Sena. Also, does the alleged conversation not show that Balasaheb is immature to speak the words in front of a political opponent? Shri Mohite has alleged that the Mayor had threatened him of dire consequences, when the editorial was written. The Commission has accepted the words of Shri Mohite without checking with the Mayor.

The following additional questions can be asked of Shri Mohite on his story: He says that he had to write the appeal in his own handwriting because there was no staff available at the Mayor's office. However, it is a normal practice that the Mayor's staff leave only when the Mayor has left. Assuming that the staff left because of the problems in the city. But there was the PA to the Mayor who was present, and he could have taken a dictation. The Mayor and he went to the house of Shri Haji Mastan first. Why him? It is well known that Shri Mastan was a leading smuggler during his time. However, Shri Mastan claimed that because of the call given by Jayprakash Narayan, he gave up the profession. Subsequently, he has involved himself in politics in trying to make an alliance between the dalits and the Muslims. If the media was informed about the plan to get the signatures on the peace memorandum, and it did not fructify, has someone wrote about it on Jan 9 or soon thereafter? Mahanagar also did not use the information to write a story the next day, or soon thereafter. Would it not be a sensational story to write about, particularly since the paper has identified Balasaheb and Shiv Sena as their sworn enemies? Purely on the principles of journalism, this would be a real scoop, and would have made a great headline the next day. The alleged reason that it might vitiate the atmosphere has not been the concern of Mahanagar in the past. At the time, many of the so-called secular newspapers had held Balasaheb guilty of the instigating the riots by Jan 93 itself, something that was done by the Commission after five years of study. Why could it not be confirmed with Shri Mohite-Patil whether Balasaheb phoned him on Jan 8 between 2200h and 2300h, and confirm what was supposed to have been said in the conversation? Given the antipathy of the Congress against Shiv Sena, surely Shri Mohite-Patil would want to support Shri Mohite in this case, particularly if it happens to be true.

The editor of Mahanagar is supposed to have spoken to the Minister of State for Home, Shri Babanrao Pachpute at 0200h on Jan 9. It is obvious that the editor gave the story tremendous amount of importance to contact a minister at such an hour. Why was no action taken against Balasaheb at the time? Or at least why was no propaganda made against Balasaheb? As it is there was a canard against Balasaheb not only in the English media but also by his political opponents. If the Sena leaders saw him taking down notes, surely they would have confiscated them, given the nature of the alleged conversation. As per the Commission, Shri Mohite makes an article on the basis of his notes a full month after the incident is supposed to have taken place. He first prepares a draft which is nine pages long, and then revises it, when it expands to twenty-two pages. Both these have been reproduced as exhibits, but neither are dated. However, there is an inconsistency here between the statement of Shri Mohite and the Commission. He says that he prepared the first draft on Jan 9, that is immediately after his alleged meeting with Balasaheb, and the second a month later. It takes two months to make a translation into English. It takes Shri M P Vashi six months to prepare an affidavit. Shri Vashi is politically active with the Janata Dal, and is ideologically opposed to the Sena. He has contested elections against the Shiv Sena, and was one of the important legal personality who had filed various election petitions against the Shiv Sena for allegedly using religion to obtain votes. He would have immediately realised the importance of the alleged story, and would make haste in filing an affidavit. He took a risk on banking on an extension. The editorial of Mahanagar on April 6 says that the full details of the episode would be given at the appropriate time. By then, Shri Mohite's story was written about two months prior. Shri Mohite also says that he did not press Shri Vashi on the affidavit since the date for submission had expired. This would have been the right time to give a detailed account, so that the event comes to the knowledge of the public. The Commission had already been formed, and it would be a good tactics to get someone else to bring to the notice of the Commission about the article, and it could have then be taken on record. It is indeed strange that Shri Mohite took a chance of not being able to get his word to the Commission.

There is a curious feature in Shri Mohite's second draft of his article, which was pointed out by the advocate for the Shiv Sena. He said that from the Mayor's office, they would have first gone to get the signature of Shri Ziyauddin Bukhari, an elected politician of the Maharashtra Muslim League. There is an addition here which refers to Shri Bukhari as one "who had been recently murdered." Shri Mohite had said that he had prepared the second draft in the beginning of February, and given to translation at the end of the month. In his witness statement, he said that after giving the draft for translation, he had not made any changes in it. Shri Bukhari was murdered on April 12, 1993. When confronted with the date of the murder, Shri Mohite changes his position and says that he did make some changes in the draft that was with the translator. The reason for the change, according to him, was to ensure that the detail is incorporated in the translation. By itself, this feature would make Shri Mohite an unreliable witness. Also, the so-called changes would explain the delay' in getting the translation and also filing of the affidavit. But, for the Commission it saw no reason for not accepting the testimony of this witness.' (Para 9.17, page 176.)

The manner in which the Commission has dealt with the submission of Shri Mohite is in line with the bias that it has exhibited all along. It has not inquired with any of the persons mentioned in Shri Mohite's story about its veracity. From a strategic point of view, such support would have helped the Commission to make its case strong. And it should not have had any fear of contradiction since it was convinced that Shri Mohite was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

At Para 9.16 page 175, the Commission says, "There is further corroboration of the probability of the truth of Shri Mohite's testimony in the documents produced by him." The documents were the two drafts that were written by Shri Mohite. Even a non-legal person can see the circularity of this argument. The Commission has accepted Shri Mohite's word also because an editorial was written in Mahanagar on April 6, 1993, nearly three months after the event is supposed to have happened. The report in the same paper on April 7 of an alleged threat by the Mayor to Shri Mohite seems to have clinched the matter for the Commission.

At Para 9.16, page 175, the Commission says, "The Editorial also said that the full details of the incident would be published in Mahanagar issue at the appropriate time." There is no mention whether the details were published. Given the nature of the story, surely it should have appeared at least along with the editorial. In any case, given the sins that Balasaheb was supposed to have committed, and the Mahanagar's prime reason for existence, a damning story is an opportunity which would not be missed.

In one of its comments, the Commission has said that "like a veteran General, (Balasaheb) commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organized attacks against Muslims." (Vol I, Chapter II, para 1.27.) If it has done so on the basis of Shri Mohite's story, it should have been subjected to greater scrutiny than what the Commission has done.

Legally, Shri Mohite's story would not stand in any court of law. Even from a logical point of view there are far too many holes in it, to make it appear credible. And given the fact of lack of empathy of Mahanagar for Shiv Sena in general and Balasaheb in particular, these large number of holes make the story doubly doubtful. On such flimsy basis, we see the Commission operating time and time again.


Anonymous said...

Anon 2:

I admit that I hold an opinion of Shri Thackeray that would be very similar I suspect to Dilip's. I would deselect myself from a jury if we had one and Shri Thackeray were on trial.

How to afford the likes of Shri Thackeray the full processes and protections of our legal system and yet bring his shri-self to book is one of the biggest challenges we face.

You did raise some valid points here. If true, these would offset some of the observations of the SKCR. But all this suggests is that further corroboration is needed from the likes of Shri Mayor, Shri PA, Shri Minister et al.

Re your questions:
1) it is possible that Shri Supremo imagines himself to be (or unfortunately, perhaps IS) so powerful that he could openly issue the kind of statements reported therein

2) the delay in publication by itself, a sensible move mid-riot, does not invalidate the report.

Lastly, it is possible that you may not need to involve references to cr*p to debate or discuss the SKCR.


Prasoon said...

Hitting replies - liked it :)
I hope the CM reads it when things like these get published..