Monday, December 31, 2012

The death and funeral of the gangrape victim...

On the night of 26th December, in a series of tweets, NDTV's group editor tweets information she received from "sources" about an impending Cabinet decision. 

Even before an official announcement was made, it was leaked that the girl will be shifted to Singapore. Very little further information was flowing. Many questions remained unanswered, and since this happened in the middle of the night, the morning newspapers simply gave out information regarding the move to Singapore. 

On the evening of December 27th, NDTV even enlightened us with "How the plan to fly 'Amanat' to Singapore took shape". We were told that there were a "series of well-coordinated moves". NDTV also tells us that the government wanted to move the girl to a country with "liberal organ transplant laws". Read the article to find out more on the "series of well-coordinated moves".

On the morning of 28th December, The Hindu had this front page story

The story goes on to tell us that the doctors were only asked "were only asked if the patient was fit to be airlifted — not if the move was medically advisable."

The debate raged on - why exactly was the girl shifted to Singapore. Some said that the government feared more law and order problems if she were to die in Delhi. Some believed that the government actually meant good and sent her to a country with "liberal organ transplant laws". Some believed it was inhuman on the part of the this government to have sent her to Singapore at this stage. None knew who accompanied the girl to the Singapore hospital. 

Unfortunately, the girls condition started detoriating ever since she made it to the Singapore hospital. And on the morning of 29th December, she passed away. 

Her body was bought to Delhi in the early hours of 30th December (3:30 am according to this report). This report also tells us that the body was taken to the crematorium by 6 am in the morning. And by 7:30, the funeral was completed. Multiple reports have also mentioned as to how the police rushed the family into completing the funeral as soon as possible, fearing law and order problems. 

Imagine this folks. You lose your child to a ghastly crime. Someone is breathing down your neck to hasten the funeral. Just imagine how you would feel. That's exactly what this UPA government did. Many loved ones must have missed seeing her for one last time. At 3:30 the body came to India and at 6:00 it was at the crematorium - so imagine the rush with which the last rites would have been conducted. 

Custom says that funeral can happen only after sunrise - yet it is being reported that the family was pressurized into completing it earlier. Thankfully, the family stood their ground. 

So many questions still remain unanswered:
  1. Did the doctors first approach the government, seeking to move her to Singapore? If not, what exactly prompted the cabinet to discuss the possibility of moving her to Singapore, under such conditions?
  2. If NDTV report is to be believed, the Home Minister wanted to move her to a country with "liberal organ transplant laws". How different are the laws different from India? Why don't we have "liberal organ transplant laws?"
  3. Was the family consulted about this move, or were they coerced into this move? Who spoke to the family regarding this move? Doctors or government officials?
  4. Who accompanied the girl to Singapore? Was anyone from the family not allowed to go, even if they wished to? 
  5. Was the arrival of the body at 3:30 am in the night pre-planned? Who in the family okayed this move?
  6. Were the family members given enough time to grieve at the body?
  7. Why was the funeral rushed through? Why was the already traumatized family of the girl put through further trauma? 
  8. Despite knowing that the Hindu custom does not allow for funeral before sun rise, who pushed the family into completing it before sunrise? Police? If so, whose orders were they following?
  9. Some reports indicate the fiance of the girl, who fought with the goons was not able to attend the funeral. Is this true?
  10. This report says - " The electronic media was not present as Broadcast Editors' Association had asked news channels to refrain from covering the funeral." Was this a voluntary decision or was it prompted by the government (it's possible - read this order on the 23rd Dec) ? 

I believe it is utterly inhuman on the part of this UPA government to have resorted to such tactics. The "law and order" situation arose because of their mishandling (Part-1 and Part-2 of this mishandling have been documented). - and to rub their inefficiency into traumatizing the family further is incomprehensible. But then, what better can we expect from such a government? 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The political response to the mass protests - Part-2

In the first part, we discussed about the sequence of events and the lazy responses of the powers that be, to the ever developing crisis over the past few days. This part will talk exclusively about the top 3 people incharge of the country. 

1. Prime Minister's address to the nation.

One of the most fundamental things when a speech is written (at any level... from debate competitions in schools to the level of Prime Minister of India) is to start with a "Hello all" (or an equivalent phrase) and end with a "Thank You" (or an equivalent phrase). The audience will therefore know when the speech started and when it ended. 

In the early 90's, I was fascinated as to how Mr. Shanti Swarup of DD news (telugu) mugged up the entire news and is reading without looking at a paper (something he used to do before). It was then explained to me that they are reading from a prompter. Since then, a prompter has become a daily part of news reading. Leaders addressing the state/nation on TV have also started using this "technology". 

With this background, let's come to what happened on December 24th, 2012. (Part-1 explains what happened till the 23rd)

The press advisor to the Prime Minister, Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, tweets this

"Prime Minister to address the nation in a few minutes."

There were news reports since morning that the PM will address the nation that day, mostly at ~12pm. This tweet was sent at ~9:40 am. We were then told that the address would be at 10 am. 

Once the address started, I was surprised to see the Prime Minister of India reading from a piece of paper and not from the prompter. I was surprised as to why no prompter was provided to the Prime Minister. The speech began on a rhetorical note, and after about a minute, the PM stops and after a couple of seconds - asks the cameraman -"Theek"? 

The country watched as the Prime Minister mechanically read out a speech, looked towards the cameraman and said "Theek"? It spoke volumes about the intention behind speaking in the first place! There was considerable justified outrage against this goof-up. What was the action taken? 5 DD employees were suspended! ANI News telecasted this clip, because DD employees were late it seems! And because they were late, they were suspsended! 

Many questions started going through my mind -

  • Why did the speech end so abruptly? Why was there no "Thank you" or a "Jai Hind" at the end of the speech? How is the cameraman supposed to know the speech has ended?
  • I got a doubt and looked at previous speeches of this Prime Minister. In his lengthy address to the nation on September 21st, he ends with a Jai Hind. A randomly picked "statement to the media" , he ends with a Thank You. 
  • So why was this speech written in such a hasty manner? What was the crying hurry to go on air at 10am?
  • I first thought this was a live address, and there is no point in blaming the ANI cameraman. But reading this article on firstpost, I realised that this was recorded earlier and then aired. 
  • Which makes it even more embarrasing! Why did the highly paid press advisor to the Prime Minister not vet this clip before it was aired? Who approved the airing of the clip? Why is the highly paid press advisor not being questioned about this lapse?
  • Some questions that were going through my mind were posed in this Firstpost article too - why should 5 hapless employees be suspended for something that was massively goofed up by the highly paid press advisor to the PM? 
  • If this was not a goof up by the highly paid press advisor, why is he not coming clean on it?
Here's the link to the official video that was tweeted by the PM's office. Notice how at the end of the address, the PM looks towards the cameraman. Here's the link to the text of the speech - see how hastily it is written. The speech sums up the intention of this establishment - casual to the core. 

2. The Home Minister's interviews to multiple TV channels. 

The time management skills of the government was so superb that at the exact same time that the Prime Minister's address was being aired, the Home Minister was busy giving interviews to various news channels! First, I don't understand why a person as busy as the Home Minister of India should given exclusive interviews? Why can't he just call for a press conference (like he did earlier) and get done with it? 

Anyways, here's the first interview he gave. This one was to Rajdeep Sardesai - Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN. This was a very hard hitting interview. Rajdeep asks the Home Minister why they did not deem it fit to go out there and assuage the crowds? What followed was shocking beyond belief. 

The Home Minister of country says that he can't go and meet anyone and everyone who protests like this. He says that tomorrow Maoists will come and protest - "should we go and meet them?". He doesn't stop there - "If tomorrow 100 adivasis are killed in Gadchiroli, should the government go to them?

Note the choice of words - "should the government go to them?"! Baffling, shocking etc are all very small words to describe this low-level thinking process. Ofcourse the government has to go any place, where people are killed ! This man is incharge of the security of this country, and this is how callously he thinks. But since this callous thinking is not the "main issue", we are to simply forget about his utterances and move on. 

In the same interview he says that the protestors should have withdrawn after Sonia Gandhi spoke to them. He says all the action (meaning good points) that was taken by the UPA was after Sonia Gandhi telephoned him. He does not commit anything on the violence on Saturday and Sunday - he justifies what happened and says that an enquiry will be held. He abruptly ends the interview because of some hard hitting questions by Rajdeep. 

Next up - NDTV. He repeats this same stuff, but the interviewer, Barkha Dutt is less shocked about this. After that, I stopped viewing any further interviews! Later in the day we are told that:

Sh.Shinde: Govt has taken firm action on all demands of the protesters. Appeals them to return home.

Firm action = setting up of a committee to come up with recommendations for stricter laws; deciding to fast track this particular rape case to ensure speedy justice etc. Not a single word on the violence on both Saturday and Sunday. It's almost as if nothing happened on both the days. 

3. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA. 

All we know is that:
  •  she met some "protestors" and promised that action will be taken. 
  • she demanded speedy justice. 
  • she telephoned the Home Minister to take "action". He followed her orders (he himself said so, in not so many words)
  • she wrote to the Chief Minister of Delhi "demanding" action. 
Such has been the political response to the mass protests that rocked the capital city of the country, right under their nose. Imagine the callousness if this happened at a place far away from them. Be scared, very scared that we are being led by these people. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Political response to the mass protests - Part-1

The last few days have been very stressing on the country. The last few days have also exposed the depths of ineptness (yet again) to which the UPA government can plunge to. Not wanting to be left far behind, sections of the "national" media competed with the UPA too! In a three part blog series, I wish to detail out the happenings over the past 10 days and discuss the political and media response to these events. 

From 17th December to 21st December 

On the night of December 17th, two friends (a boy and a girl) boarded a bus in Delhi at about 9:30 in the night. There were 6 people in the bus - these 6 people assaulted the boy; raped the girl and also assaulted her brutally. So bad was the girl assaulted that her intestines had to be removed, and she is still very critical and is fighting for life. The boy is recovering slowly and is able to walk around. All the 6 accused have been arrested, and produced in the court. They have agreed to having committed this crime. Infact, one of them has reportedly asked the judge to give him the death penalty! 

Since this happened in the heart of the capital city of India, the ugly incident set off a huge uproar - allegations flew left and right - the police were blamed for not stopping a bus with tinted glasses; for not patrolling enough; for not being serious enough about security to women etc. There were widespread demands that rapists should get the death penalty and nothing less. Fellow blogger at RealityCheckIndia superbly captures this entire death penalty for rape issue here. There is no further need to elaborate on that topic in this blog now. 

Violence on Saturday, December 21. 

Quite naturally, the outrage over this ghastly crime was to spill onto the street. Only this time, "street" became India Gate. On Saturday, December 21st, a leaderless crowd started gathering at India Gate, demanding "justice". "Justice" included tougher laws (like death penalty), fast track courts etc. The number of people turning up was just increasing by the minute. 

According to this report in The Hindu - "As the crowd swelled, it began moving up on Rajpath towards Rashtrapati Bhavan." And because "Raisina Hill" is a very high security zone, the police had to use water cannons and tear gas shells. 

NDTV reporters on twitter and on TV that day were continuously harping on "lumpen" elements in the crowd that have resorted to violence and they have hijacked this entire movement. They were continuously telling us that certain political groups have infiltrated the crowd and are now trying to politicize the event. 

So what exactly happened? Here's the depressing answer - we do not know. 

Who are those "lumpen elements"? Do we have even a single video which shows that these elements first provoked the police? If there was no provocation, why was such force used? Water canons, tear gas shells, lathi charges - all these were hurled towards peaceful protestors. Was this done only to prevent them from marching towards the high security area of Raisina Hill? When thousands of people are marching towards the power center of the country, why did no elected representative think it fit to come and talk to the crowd? Even assuming that "lumpen elements" in the crowd did provoke and instigate the police into such dreadful action - are our police not trained to differentiate between the "lumpen elements" and the rest? Why go about hitting anyone and everyone in the path? 

We need to know the answers to these questions, because it is this violence on Saturday that paved way for more on Sunday. 

Later, in the night (midnight infact), reports started pouring in that Sonia Gandhi "stepped out" of her house to meet "protestors" outside her house. Apparently, this same set of people also met the minister "incharge of internal security", Mr. RPN Singh (picture below). Assurances were apparently given that their "demands" will be definetely looked into. 

Some say they are NSUI activists, some say they were part of a sub group. So, who exactly were these "protestors"?  Here's the depressing answer - we do not know. 

Violence on Sunday, December 23rd. 

Now since Raisina Hill was off-bounds, the protesters were back at India Gate on Sunday, 23rd of December. They were back, because they were clueless on assurances. They were back because they now want to protest against Saturday's violence too. The police asked them to move to Jantar Mantar since there is no permission to protest at India Gate. The violence that ensued during the day was very reprehensible. 

In today's editorial, The Hindu says this:

"The police was ordered by the Union Home Ministry to clear the India Gate area of all protesters —evidently because of its desire to host Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, at Hyderabad House. "

In it's front page report on Monday morning, The Hindu had to say this: 

"Despite pleas by peaceful protesters, hooligans and political elements, including members of the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena that had assaulted Aam Aadmi leader Prashant Bhushan, battled policemen, damaged vehicles and set ablaze wooden lawn seats." 

That report itself goes on to explain that the assault by the police started well before "hooligans and political elements" battled policemen. Why was "Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena" singled out? Guess what - the police have registered cases against people who are supposedly members of the "Aam Aadmi Party" - so who do we believe now?

Why is there so much contradiction then? If the police were "ordered", were they also told on how to "clear the India Gate"? Who in the Home Ministry gave these orders? Incase you folks are not able to visualize how peaceful protestors got hit - there are many video available. Sample this one. A slide show of pics is also available here. Pictures clearly show who were throwing stones etc. Now, do you get the intensity of the violence that happened on Sunday? 

Also remember folks, it is the violence on Saturday that led to the violence on Sunday - that is the key point. There is a very very concerted effort to isolate the violence on Sunday with the one on Saturday. Even the Home Minister says that there will be an inquiry into the "India gate crackdown" - nothing about Raisina Hill !

So who precipitated the entire situation? Again - we do not know! 

So, who exactly is incharge? 

The Chief Minister of Delhi came on TV and said that the police is not under her control - so she cannot do anything. She started getting emotional and even said that she does not have the courage to face the victim. She was apparently hurt that Delhi was being labelled as the "rape capital" but she also says there is truth to it. The rape capital! 

She kept reminding us that the Lt. Governor of Delhi controls the police directly. Meanwhile, PTI puts up a report that the Union Home minister of state, who is "incharge of internal security" did a surprise inspection of Delhi buses. So the police reports to the Lt. Governor, who reports to the MoS Home, who reports to the Home Minister of the country, who reports to the Prime Minister of the country (constitutionally). 

The Lt. Governor was in the US, while all this was happening. He returned only on Monday, December 24th. MoS, Home, Mr. RPN Singh met "protestors" and promised to take a look at their demands. He was non-committal on who ordered the charge on the protestors. He even apologized to those who were physically hurt. 

The Home Minister of the country first held a press conference. On Monday morning, he spoke to multiple TV channels. A separate blog post is needed to analyse what he spoke. Till such time, here's an interview that you can watch and decide for yourself. 

The Prime Minister asked the Home Minister to take appropriate "action". The Home Minister says he took action because Sonia Gandhi telephoned him and said so. 

The chairperson of the ruling UPA coalition, Smt. Sonia Gandhi writes to the  CM "demanding" that action be taken and the CM laments that she has no power to do anything. Why then is Sonia Gandhi writing to the CM? How has the main issue of rape manifested into so many issues of multiple dimensions?Who exactly was incharge of this whole fiasco? 

We do not know!  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Death of constable Subhash Tomar...

Too many things to blog about, over the past few days. But first, the need to document the media's coverage on the death of policeman, Mr. Subhash Tomar needs to take precedence. 

On the 23rd of December, Barkha Dutt tweeted this (thanks to mediacrooks for the image): 

Note the words very carefully - "...died as some people in the crowd turned violent"

Sometime later, the tweet was merely deleted. No clarification was forthcoming - the tweet just disappeared! Why? 

Here's the reason: 

That's right - moments after "reports" came in that he died, "reports" came in that he was critical. Rajdeep (and others) found it prudent to clarify. Barkha merely deleted it - no clarification was forthcoming. For someone who likes lecturing people on the need for "nuance" and clarity, it is appalling that she thought it fit not to clarify and merely delete. 

The debate picked up momentum saying, it is because of this violence that he is critical; that he receieved serious injuries as he was "beaten up". 

Unfortunately, Mr. Subhash Tomar expired on the 25th of December. 

Sample this NDTV report first: 

".... who had suffered serious injuries" . In the second para, they write: 

It was initially reported that he had suffered a heart attack after being injured. But top police officials later denied these reports and alleged that Mr Tomar was beaten up by hooligans among the protesters.

Initially reported? By whom? NDTV? Is there even a single report on NDTV where it was "reported" that Mr. Subhash Tomar had a heart attack? None. 

Fellow tweeter (cmmanoj) sent over this link in IE, where it is mentioned that the version of the doctors and the police are very different. No such story on NDTV. 

They don't stop here. They have a 36 minute discussion on this: 

Note the text below the video. "...badly assaulted by protestors". The first question that the anchor Vishnu Som poses is this- "Twitter is abuzz with rumours that Mr. Tomar died of a heart attack and not an assault. Can you confirm this?". He poses this question to the ACP of Delhi, and she says they have proof of him being attacked. After getting another reconfirmation, Mr. Vishnu moves on to some leader of AAP and demands to know "what on earth was Arvind Kejriwal" doing there. 

Do they mean to suggest that Mr. Kejriwal incited the unruly elements? If so, is there any proof? If so, why is  it not being shown? If not, how come such wild allegations are being made left and right?

Now, let's take a look at these "rumours" on twitter. First on 24th December, we were told that the Doctors at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital told that Mr. Subash Tomar suffered an heart attach and there were no external injuries. But then these were "rumours" only on twitter, that none of the main stream media guys bothered to confirm. 

Then came this picture

This picture shows Mr. Tomar lying on the ground. Three people, including one girl who is bandaged on her head are trying to help him. But then the picture is not clear. We do not know for sure if it is Mr. Tomar in the picture. So the "rumours" still stay. 

Next came this

Everyone can see very clearly - there is no sign of "serious injuries". No sign of being "badly assaulted". No chance of this being a "rumour" - A "rumour" that the main stream media did not bother to confirm. 

The boy who is seen helping Mr. Tomar came out last evening and refuted the claim of Delhi Police. In his own words, here.

He has made some damaging revelations - that he was the one who took him to the hospital; that the policemen just left him. He also mentioned about the brave girl, who despite being bandaged, has helped him and then rejoined the protests. 

This news was out last night - it remains to be seen how NDTV reacts to this news and issues clarifications. A tweet has been sent to the head of the ethics committee of NDTV. This particular blog piece is "work in progress" - if NDTV comes with detailed clarifications today, the same will be updated here. 

More blogs to follow on the violence, the political response, the media coverage etc... 

PS: Pretty much every news outlet mentioned that Mr. Tomar was "seriously injured". None have clarified so far. But to the extent that I have followed, none have been as brazen about this as NDTV was... hence the concentration on NDTV...

Update 1 (a few hours after the above blog piece was written): 

1. A video clipping of protestors helping Mr. Tomar, is now available. So even if you assume the pictures are morphed - here's the video

2. Few folks have even commented below saying IBN Live is now tweeting that the doctor confirmed that Mr. Tomar died of heart attack. 

3. When I mentioned the brazen behaviour of NDTV before, I did not see what was coming. Their group editor, Barkha Dutt has this to say

"If Cops version on Tomar's tragic death false it must be reported. If charges framed falsely- that too. But pls lets keep it above politics"

Keep it above politics?? Just what is political about this? This government is shamelessly trying to exploit the death of a policeman, but those who bring out the truth are playing "politics"? The abyss into which NDTV can continue to plunge seems to be unending. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Media creates their own headlines..

The following piece was written for Niti Central. Reposting it here for reference :) 

Mr. R.P.Singh , former DG in CAG, came out of nowhere on Friday and said that the 2G loss calculation according to him was a mere Rs. 37,000 crore and not Rs. 1,76,000 crores. He also "revealed" that the chairman of the Public Accounts Commitee (PAC), Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi (of the BJP) influenced the final report by CAG - "revelations" that were enough for the TV media folks to go into a frenzy! 

Shortly after these "revelations", there was another news flash. "BJP stands exposed, says Sonia Gandhi". 

Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-IBN interviewed Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi on these allegations and more. At 9:16 in this video interview  he asked Dr. Joshi:

"The Congress president has said that the tables have been turned and the BJP is being exposed"

Dr. Joshi replies. At 9:40 he says:

"Whosoever advised her to make that statement, I can only sympathize with them". 

Now let's get to "whosoever advised her". 

Next day, in this front page report of The Hindu, I read this (emphasis mine): 

Sonia Gandhi, responding to a question whether the BJP had been “exposed” by the former auditor’s revelations, said “Yes, absolutely I think so.”

Responding to a question whether the BJP has been "exposed"  - which means that she was posed a leading question by one of the journalists there! The advise came from a section of the media itself! 

A non-leading question would mean something like this: 

Q: Madam, what is your reaction to R.P.Singh's allegation that Mr. Murali Manohar Joshi has influenced the CAG report on 2G scam?
A: The tables have been turned and the BJP is being exposed.

Let's now sample some news reports that were out on the previous day. 

So now there is more confusion - was she also asked whether the row has backfired on the Opposition? 

NDTV video and some text accompanying it: 

After a meeting of the Congress core group today, Sonia Gandhi remarked that she thought the BJP has been "exposed". 

Exposed in double quotes and single quotes! 

No one on TV said that it was the reporters that asked the leading question. Only after reading this full PTI report that The Hindu has published, did I come to know of such a question being asked. Looks like some reports did pick up this PTI line at a later point of time.

Why is the headline so different than what actually transpired? Is there a video available of this rare moment of Sonia Gandhi speaking to the press? What were the other questions asked? Was she willing to face all of them? Did she walk away after merely commenting on the "exposed BJP"? 

Most importantly, why does that reporter (or reporters) think that the BJP has been "exposed"? How intelligent of the media to ask a leading question and then give the impression that those were Sonia Gandhi's words - and then tell the people that the Congress is fighting back? These are all questions that are lingering in the mind right now - questions for which answers might not be available at all!