09052019-edop-01.qxd 5/8/2019 9:50 PM Page 1 c m y b THE TRIBUNE OPED CHANDIGARH | THURSDAY | 9 MAY 2019 09 Polls come & go, but ’84 riots issue simmers RASHEED KIDWAI SENIOR JOURNALIST & AUTHOR R AHUL and Priyanka Gandhi should have considered accepting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s challenge to contest the coming Lok Sabha poll in Punjab, Delhi and Bhopal in the context of Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy, but the last date for filing nomination, April 29, is over. Though, even if they had, the rationale of a mandate settling any wrong is a flawed argument in a civilised and democratic society. Punjab, Delhi and Bhopal have witnessed many Assembly and parliamentary polls since 1984. Punjab has seen Congress rule from 1992-97, 2002-07 and 2017 till date. Delhi has had 15 long years under Sheila Dikshit when the Congress’ political leadership was in the hands of Rajiv’s widow, Sonia Gandhi. Modi’s jibe against Rajiv Gandhi, holding him responsible for the release of Union Carbide Corporation chairman Warren Anderson who had come to Bhopal on December 7, 1984, four days after the lethal gas leak from the Union Carbide factory that killed thousands of people, is somewhat misplaced. Anderson died in September 2014 at the age of 93 in the US, never having had to appear before any Indian court in any case relating to the Bhopal gas tragedy. In June 2010, a Bhopal court had convicted seven persons in connection with the case, but it did not name Anderson in its verdict, describing him as an ‘absconder’. In his autobiography, A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time, Arjun Singh, who was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh when the Union Carbide chief was arrested at the Bhopal airport and let off within hours, pointed a finger at PV Narasimha Rao, who was then Union Home Minister. Arjun Singh wrote: “I would like to make it clear that at no point of time did Rajiv talk to me about this matter (Anderson’s release) or intercede on Anderson’s behalf. I came to know later that Union Home Secretary RD Pradhan, upon the instructions of Union Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao, had telephoned Brahma Swaroop (MP’s chief secretary then) to ensure Anderson’s release.” Rahul seems cagey about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots because it is a highly emotive and sensitive issue. While interacting with UK-based parliamentarians and local leaders on August 24, 2018, he had remarked, “I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don't agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy.” Rahul had admitted to Arnab Goswami in a televised interview that some Congressmen were involved in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Here is a recap of that question-answer session: Arnab: Were Congressmen involved? Rahul: Did innocent people die? Absolutely. Arnab: Were Congressmen involved? Rahul: Some Congressmen were probably involved. Arnab: Has justice been delivered EMOTIVE: Rahul Gandhi is cagey about the anti-Sikh riots as it is a sensitive issue. PTI Punjab, Delhi and Bhopal have witnessed many Assembly and parliamentary polls since 1984. But politicians have remained cagey over the decades on the issue of justice related to the two main events of that year: the anti-Sikh riots and the Bhopal gas tragedy. to them? Rahul: There is a legal process through which they have gone through. Arnab: You admit some Congressmen were probably involved. Rahul: Some Congressmen have been punished for it. Perhaps, due to political and electoral compulsions, Rahul fell short of saying certain things that Dr Manmohan Singh had articulated during his 1999 South Delhi Lok Sabha poll campaign. Singh had lost to BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra. During the campaign, Manmohan had sought to implicate the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Speaking at the Press Club of India on September 2, 1999, Manmohan had termed the 1984 riots as “a black spot and the saddest event”. He had, however, clarified that the Congress as an organisation had no role in it. Manmohan then went on to say that the FIRs lodged at different police stations in Delhi proved that several RSS men were involved in the riots. Manmohan subsequently clarified that he had not held the RSS solely responsible for the 1984 riots. On December 13, 1999, Manmohan said, “My statement was twisted for electoral gains. I had said that if there were individuals associated with the Congress and other organisations, including the RSS, who had taken part in the riots, they should be punished.” As Prime Minister, when Manmohan rose in the Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2005, to tender an unqualified apology over the 1984 Sikh killings, the RSS reference was missing. Instead, he said that he was not standing on any ‘false prestige’ and bowed his head in shame. A somewhat emotional Manmohan also recalled how he had accompanied Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Harmandar Sahib in 1999 and remarked, “We together prayed to give us strength and show us the way that such things never again take place in our country,” and added, “…as human beings, we have the willpower and we have the ability to write a better future for all of us.” Rahul Gandhi is battling a defamation case filed by the RSS relating to his claim that the organisation was behind the killing of Mahatma Gandhi. Privately, a section of influential Congressmen feels that Rahul seems influenced by liberals and Left intellectuals on such sensitive matters as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, else he could have showcased Manish Tewari and Ajay Maken as victims of the Punjab insurgency. Tewari’s father, Dr VN Tewari, a professor and author of over 40 books, was gunned down by militants in Chandigarh in 1984, while Maken’s brother Lalit, parliamentarian and son-in-law of former President Shankar Dayal Sharma, was murdered in Delhi on July 31, 1985. While there is a huge difference between State-sponsored violence and individual acts of terrorism, the wanton killings of Professor Tewari, Lalit Maken and several others had left a deep impact. There is also a narrative of over 30,000 killings of innocent lives during the long years of insurgency in Punjab which does not form part of any political narrative. Modi’s party colleague in the 1980s, Madan Lal Khurana, had developed a habit of sorts of plastering Delhi walls with posters and slogans, “Hum lashen ginte ginte thak gaye” (we are tired of counting corpses) each time there was a massacre in Punjab or parts of Haryana. In my book Ballot — Ten Episodes that have shaped India’s Democracy, it is mentioned that the RSS was supporting the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s efforts to tame separatism in Punjab during the early 1980s. An article authored by veteran RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh, ‘Moments of soul searching’ published in Hindi magazine Pratipaksh on November 25, 1984, had ended with a call to bless and cooperate with Rajiv Gandhi when the General Election was less than a month away (on page 31, Deshmukh described Indira as, “…Indira Gandhi ultimately did secure a permanent place at the doorstep of history as a great martyr. With her dynamism born out of her fearlessness and dexterity, she was able to take the country forward like a colossus for over a decade…she alone had the ability to run the decadent political system of our corrupt and divided society…”) Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi ready to contest these facts? The ‘crime’ of investigative journalism H SHELLEY WALIA EMERITUS PROFESSOR, DEPT OF ENGLISH AND CULTURAL STUDIES, PANJAB UNIVERSITY Any punishment to Assange by Britain or the US will discourage whistleblowers from divulging serious lapses of the State. The defence of critical thinking and freedom of the press would thereby stand watered down. The truth that Assange revealed to the world should never have been concealed. UGE demonstrations outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 5, a few days before Julian Assange was expelled from asylum and arrested by the British police evidently indicate that his detention by the British Government is unlawful, inflammatory and offensive to the world of journalism. Rafael Correa, previous President of Ecuador, had granted asylum to Assange to rescue him from extradition to the US where he could have faced death sentence. But Lenin Moreno, the current head of state, took it away on the charge of ‘repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols’. The moot point here is whether Assange is guilty of publishing classified documents on American conduct in Syria, Venezuela and Chagos Island, its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the eye-opening video capturing the cold-blooded massacre of 12 civilians by American soldiers in Baghdad. And, whether his detention in the Belmarsh maximum-security prison, reserved for extremely dangerous criminals, is well deserved in a country that stridently proclaims its unimpeachable liberal and democratic traditions. Though Sweden dropped investigations against Assange in 2012 and President Obama refused to ask for his extradition on the ground that it might set the wrong precedent of undemocratic control of investigative journalism, Trump has relentlessly gone hammer and tongs after Assange. It is a common practice that information about specific MOOT POINT: Is Assange guilty of publishing documents classified by America? REUTERS culpable acts of the State is often used by the press, thereby making the traditional news media like the Guardian, New York Times or Washington Post as guilty of circulating incriminatory news, such as WikiLeaks. It would be unwarranted to distinguish one from the other. The hostility which is read into the WikiLeaks case is apparently not applied uniformly to the conventional media. “Reporting on leaked materials, including reporting on classified information, is an essential role of American journalism,” as argued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This is done customarily by journalists, keeping in view public interest and, therefore, a standard practice of journalism. Any punishment to Assange by Britain or the US consequently will discourage whistleblowers from divulging serious quick crossword su do ku ACROSS 1 Whatever the consequences (2,3,5) 8 Unsuitable (5) 9 A cut of beef (7) 10 Orange-yellow colour (7) 11 Sudden stagger (5) 12 Swarming destructive insect (6) 14 Refuge (6) 17 Avoid facing up to (5) 19 Rowers (7) 21 Laugh exultantly (7) 22 Great pain (5) 23 Without charge (3,7) YESTERDAY’S SOLUTION Across: 1 Aspect, 4 Damper, 9 Bluster, 10 Bluff, 11 Sober, 12 Artemis, 13 Dire straits, 18 Enforce, 20 Tiger, 22 Scrap, 23 Conform, 24 Shower, 25 Campus. Down: 1 Ambush, 2 Plumb, 3 Coterie, 5 Ambit, 6 Plummet, 7 Refuse, 8 Break the ice, 14 Inferno, 15 Antenna, 16 Census, 17 Aramis, 19 Rupee, 21 Group. lapses of the State. The defence of critical thinking and freedom of the press would thereby stand watered down. Which brings me to the point of divergence in the views on the extradition of Assange to the US on the basis of a noncrime that is investigative in nature and for which he is being charged with conspiracy to access a computer without authorisation to obtain classified information that in all likelihood could be used against the interests of the nation. As per information provided by Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks provided 90,000 ‘war-related significant activity reports’ about Afghanistan, 4,00,000 about Iraq, 800 Guantánamo detainee ‘assessment briefs’ and 2,50,000 US State Department cables, all of which were published in 2010 and 2011. The indictment of Assange in the US contends that he facilitated Manning to crack a password to make it harder to discover Manning as the source of the confidential information. Interestingly, no further charges under the Espionage Act have been be brought by the US as that would carry a death penalty which would, in turn, prevent Assange’s extradition from Britain, owing to the envisaged severity of the punishment. The ball now is in the British court which is in a position to impede the extradition on the grounds of torture or other degrading inhuman treatment or, alternatively, let Assange fall into the US entrapment. Evidently, there are serious possibilities of violation of human rights under the Republican dispensation, going by the handling of Manning who was kept in solitary confinement along with the unbecoming everyday body inspection in a state of undress. Political motives behind the request for extradition make the whole case null and void, making Britain’s role in handing over Assange to the US outrageous and in contravention of human rights. The ‘extraterritorial reach’ of the US must be prevented from undermining the autonomy of the individual or a government that comes in the way of global American interests. Such actions, states Chomsky in a recent interview, are clearly intended to silence a journalist who was relying on information that people in power would hate the multitudes to get a whiff of, underscoring how Assange’s prosecution is similar to the incarceration of Lulu in Brazil or Antonio Gramsci in Italy under Mussolini’s regime with the DOWN 2 Vehicles using a road (7) 3 Subsequently (5) 4 Gaming establishment (6) 5 What remains over (7) 6 Search thoroughly (5) 7 Among the prizewinners (2,3,5) 8 Inability to pay debts (10) 13 Endure great heat (7) 15 To ridicule (7) 16 Regain consciousness (4,2) 18 Haughtily reserved (5) 20 Extend (5) aim of restraining dissidence of any nature. Gramsci’s prosecutor emphatically declared, “We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can't let it speak.” “Libertarian ideal of radical transparency” that explicitly underscores the ethical code of sincere journalism, is therefore, swept under the carpet. Human rights and the savage rule of law clash and in a stroke the very sanctity of legal asylum sanctioned by the United Nations covenant signed by the ‘democracies’ of the West, reveals the unacceptable elements of the state machinery. The picture of Assange being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by burly British cops shamed and angered the fair and the just. And all, owing to a ‘crime’ in journalism when many state officials guilty of military transgressions against human rights, of butchery or of torturing the innocent and the untried go scot-free. Exposure of lies or genocide is no reason for bestowing state honour when it goes against the state policy. The truth that Assange revealed to the world should never have been concealed. Declares Assange, “People have a right to know and a right to question and challenge power. That’s true democracy.” How then is his Wikileaks an unlawful publication when the drive is to scrutinise the state mechanism? Journalists like Assange need to be acknowledged as empowering agencies jolting the public out of its compliant stupor, as icons of impetus to not back down or be silenced, but to speak truth to power if only to prevent an irreparable damage to the inviolability of honest reporting. calendar forecast MAY 9, 2019, THURSDAY 6 5 SUNSET: SUNRISE: Vikrami Samvat 2076 Shaka Samvat 1941 ■ Vaisakh Shaka 19 ■ Vaisakh Parvishte 26 ■ Hijari 1440 ■ Shukla Paksh Tithi 5, up to 11:27 pm ■ Dhriti Yoga up to 7:00 pm ■ Ardra Nakshatra up to 3:17 pm ■ Moon in Gemini sign ■ Adhyaguru Shrishankrachary Jayanti ■ THURSDAY FRIDAY 19:06 HRS 05:31 HRS ■ 7 2 3 7 3 9 2 9 5 6 4 1 Sunny Partly Cloudy Cloudy 4 Amritsar Bathinda Jalandhar Ludhiana 1 5 9 1 8 6 4 3 2 7 8 8 2 4 3 7 6 1 7 2 5 3 9 6 4 5 8 9 1 3 6 9 8 7 1 4 5 2 5 4 3 1 9 8 7 2 6 2 1 7 9 3 4 6 8 5 4 7 1 6 2 5 8 9 3 9 6 2 3 4 7 1 5 8 5 8 9 7 1 6 2 3 4 3 6 5 HARD c m y b 8 41 43 40 41 21 22 20 22 42 42 43 25 22 25 HARYANA 6 5 MIN 21 25 PUNJAB YESTERDAY’S SOLUTION 1 Rainy CITY MAX Chandigarh 41 New Delhi 42 Bhiwani Hisar Sirsa HIMACHAL PRADESH Dharamsala 29 Manali 23 Shimla 26 16 08 17 JAMMU & KASHMIR Jammu Leh Srinagar 40 17 27 25 03 09 39 27 21 17 UTTARAKHAND Dehradun Mussoorie TEMPERATURE IN OC Foggy
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