Strategic Narcissism Leads India to Dead-End on Ukraine; UIDAI Hid Theft of Servers, Hard Disks From Data Silo
Coal scam in Gujarat, Asianet tries to sting minors in hijab case, Imran seeks TV debate with Modi, Amit Shah gets Machiavellian with Mayawati, and how colonial drain continues as free trade
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
February 23, 2022
Divya Bhaskar reports on a Gujarat scam of Rs 6,000 crore its reporters have uncovered ― over the past 14 years, over 60,000 tonnes of coal intended for small producers in the state was diverted by bureaucrats and mining companies to other states via dummy companies. Asked for its reaction, the Gujarat government said No comment’. Meanwhile in Mumbai, the Enforcement Directorate has arrested Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik in a money laundering case.
In six cases examined by The Guardian of deaths in custody and police shootings of suspects in UP, allegedly in self defence, from 2018 onwards, the people accused of carrying out and covering up the killings are the same: the UP Police under the rule of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his BJP government. The victims of these allegedly unlawful killings were all from the communities that Adityanath’s government, with its sectarian Hindu nationalist agenda, is accused of routinely targeting and oppressing: Muslims, who make up 20% of the state’s population and who have been subjected to lynchings, hate speech and hostile legislation, and Dalits.
The very police accused of the murders are often tasked to investigate them. Reports are often not lodged, evidence and CCTV footage routinely disappears, charges filed are watered down to “accidental death” and some cases just vanish. There have been more than 8,700 shootings by police in the state, including more than 3,000 incidents when allegedly escaping suspects were shot, causing more than 150 deaths. Encounters rarely have eyewitnesses, according to human rights organisations which examined many of the cases. No officer who fatally shot someone in UP in the past five years has faced disciplinary action. UP leads in the number of deaths in police custody.
The PM shook hands with a few Manipuris in BJP colours on the campaign trail ― a pleasant contrast to the paranoid 20 minutes on a Punjab flyover in January. But the response was nothing compared to the enthusiasm of BJP workers falling over each other to click selfies with Priyanka Gandhi as she campaigned on a busy road in UP.
Hard disks, memory cards, servers and other devices were stolen from the “high security” Aadhaar Data Centre in Hebbal more than a year ago but the UIDAI, already battling cases of data theft, did not file a complaint. However, a manager of HP Enterprises India, who supplied the devices, did. UIDAI denied the theft altogether. The incident has been kept under wraps with the police not providing a copy of the FIR even to an RTI request.
The Smart City Mission, the plan to develop 100 urban centres, isn’t meeting deadlines or fully utilising funds, but new projects are being added to the list. Business Standard’s analysis of the government’s digital dashboard on the Mission shows that of the 6,782 projects, only 51%, or 3,463, are complete in the 100 cities. The extended June 2023 timeline, too, looks difficult. Of the Rs 1.89 trillion budgeted for the Mission, cities had spent just a third till February 8, 2022.
The Indian Air Force today convened at Chandigarh a trial by General Court Martial of two senior officers for alleged lapses leading to an Mi-17 helicopter being shot down in friendly fire near Srinagar in February 2019, following the Balakot airstrike. It resulted in the death of six Air Force personnel, including two pilots, and a civilian, and the destruction of the helicopter.
A committee constituted by the Union Home Ministry in December, which was to submit a report in 45 days (by February 9) on withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Nagaland, according to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, is yet to do so. The panel was formed in the wake of growing civilian anger about a botched ambush in which 13 civilians were killed by special forces on December 4. Though Rio claimed on December 26 that the panel had a 45 days’ deadline, the Home Ministry’s order accessed by The Hindu says it is to make “suitable recommendations” within three months (by March 26).
The Supreme Court has deferred to Friday hearing a batch of pleas listed for today alleging the use of the Israeli spyware Pegasus for surveillance in India ― because the Solicitor General would be busy arguing a money laundering case in another court.
Actor Chetan Kumar has been arrested by Bengaluru Police, which took suo motu cognisance of his tweet of February 16 in which he questioned Justice Krishna Dixit of the High Court. He has been booked under Section 505(2) (Intent to incite a class or community to commit offence against another class or community) and Section 504 (Intentionally insulting, thereby giving provocation to any person to break public peace) of the Indian Penal Code. The charges and arrest are highly unusual: questioning a judge, at worst, leads to contempt of court charges, not police action.
Kannada channel Asianet Suvarna has tried to ‘sting’ the petitioners in the ongoing hijab case in the Karnataka High Court. After creating a narrative demonising these students, mostly minors, the Suvarna TV team went with hidden cameras to the homes of the girls. Claiming to be NGO workers, they talked to families and neighbours and presented innocuous exchanges as sinister plots. A Suvarna reporter and team visited petitioner Aliya Assadi’s grandmother, and turned hidden cameras on her grandmother and cousin. Speaking to TNM, Aliya says, “I live with my parents in a rented house and that is the address mentioned in my court petition. My grandmother’s address was given to my college when I joined.” The implication is that the college leaked the data, bringing on threat calls.”
For all its hype of conspiracy, the ‘investigation’ by Suvarna drew a blank. Mere spite can’t sustain a narrative, and the show ends with stock footage portraying the region as an idyll of religious harmony, and declares that an unnamed organisation is helping the girls fight the matter in Court.
VD Savarkar’s biographer Vikram Sampath faces fresh plagiarism charges. Prof Janaki Bakhle of Berkeley says that he has “used my words in four of the five pages of his essay (pp 37, 38, 39, and 40). In this five-page essay, entire sentences of mine appear without quotation marks, a footnote, or citation. Sampath has claimed that it was a transcript of a talk he gave, not a scholarly work. And yet, the essay includes 13 footnotes, which give the clear implication that it was prepared for publication.” The Delhi High Court last week stayed the circulation of a letter by three renowned academics to the Royal Historical Society, reporting a “pattern of plagiarism” in Sampath’s work.
Yesterday, anger among the youth over the Army recruitment ban boiled over in UP as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tried to campaign in business-as-usual mode.
India has put on hold its plan to acquire 30 Predator armed drones in a $3 billion deal from the US, on account of the prohibitive cost. The Hindustan Times reports that the Pentagon has been informed of the decision.
Perhaps shamed by taunts about its being AWOL in a campaign marked by murderous hate speech, the Election Commission of India has censured a BJP MLA and candidate who said that “beards would be yanked off and turned into small braids”, and that to stay in India, “Radhe Radhe must be chanted”. Its notice says that it “strongly condemns the impugned statement of Sh. Mayamkeshwar Sharan Singh”. Under Article 324 of the Constitution, it has prohibited him from holding public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and making media utterances for 24 hours.
China’s Foreign Ministry has informed the Indian embassy in Beijing that “they are cognizant of the welfare of all foreign students, including Indian students, and have also conveyed that they will work on their early return to China in a coordinated manner.” Over 23,000 Indian students studying in China have not returned there for nearly two years.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan yesterday proposed a TV debate with Narendra Modi to resolve differences. This was during an interview with Russian state-run television network RT on the eve of his two-day visit to Moscow, the first by a Pakistani PM in over 20 years. With the Ukraine issue escalating, Khan will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on major regional and international issues. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor thinks it’s a bad idea.
Premchand is back, as fiction turns into fact. His story of a farmer who loses his crops to stray animals when he falls asleep on a cold night played out a century later in UP with a terminal ending ― brothers Shivram and Tulsi died of cold while guarding their fields from stray cattle.
Stand-up comic from Gujarat Munawar Faruqui, who was famously detained for a month for a joke he did not crack, is turning the experience to advantage. He is participating in