Saturday, January 11, 2014

A stalking State of Affairs
The Lives of Others!

-Sheeba Aslam Fehmi

“In 1984 East Germany, Stasi officer Hauptmann Wiesler is assigned to spy on playwright Georg Dreyman. Wiesler and his team bug the apartment, set up surveillance equipment in an attic and begin reporting Dreyman's activities. Wiesler soon learns the real reason behind the surveillance: Minister of Culture Bruno Hempf covets Dreyman's girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria Sieland, and is trying to eliminate his rival Dreyman. While Grubitz (Wiesler's boss) sees an opportunity for advancement in his career, Wiesler (an idealist) is horrified. Through his surveillance, he knows Dreyman and Sieland are in love”...
Now cut-paste the events unrolling since 15th Nov. 2013 India, in the plot here. Fortunately, the woman Mansi Soni aka ‘Madhuri’ has not thrown herself before a speeding vehicle like Sieland did in the movie, but the crumbling down of the nasty and vengeful State apparatus is thrown before a full public view in the state of Gujarat.
It is an unsettling eerie feeling... while trying to file a ‘desk-story’ on India’s highest profiled ‘Stalking crime case’, as a private person it sends shudders down the spine, as I go through the details of the stalking and snooping of a young woman by three highly professional agencies of the government AND an independent, more stringent surveillance system of the Chief Minister himself.
A minute to minute tracking, surveillance, stalking, phone tapping and embed police personnel with the girl, carried out by the CID Intelligence, Crime Branch and Anti-Terrorist Squad of Gujarat State amounted to just ‘giving protection to a young woman’, on the basis of her father Pranlal Soni’s request to an ‘old family friend Narendra Modi the Chief Minister’. But when you ask where the ‘request letter of the father’ is, where the threat assessment report is, where the official orders to the three professional agencies to carry out this surveillance is, where the final report of the two month long operation is? The answer is a loud mum!
The ‘Ahmadabad Mirror’ reports about the real reason that started-off a trail of more than two months long stalking, snooping and spying by three agencies of the State as-  A missed call to a cell phone, its number ending with the digits ******3400, purportedly led to the illegal surveillance of a young woman architect.
News portals Cobra Post and Gulail that burst the story claimed on Friday that the surveillance was ordered in 2009 by Narendra Modi’s close aide and the-then Gujarat minister of state for home, Amit Shah.

Though his identity remains undisclosed, the 24/7 surveillance was allegedly carried out at the behest of a certain “Saheb.” Inquiries by this newspaper reveal that eight Gujarat cops were involved in the surveillance that lasted sixty-two days.
At the centre of this op was IPS officer G L Singhal who was then Amit Shah’s confidant, but who has since fallen out with him. Both men, accused in different cases, are at present out on bail.
While Amit Shah is an accused in the Sohrabuddin killing, Singhal is an accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing though the CBI failed to charge him within the stipulated 90 days.
Despite his proximity to Shah in those days, IPS officer Singhal, who led the surveillance on the young woman, kept a set of recording of his conversations with Amit Shah.
In June this year he submitted 267 clips of these conversations detailing the progress of the tailing op to the CBI to verify his charges against Shah. Aseries of interviews with sources close to the development revealed that the woman in question first met “Saheb” in 2005 when she designed a hill garden as part of government effort to rebuild quake-ravaged Bhuj.
She was introduced to him by thethen district collector Pradeep Sharma who has since emerged as a key figure in this affair. Impressed by her work, “Saheb” complimented her and called her again after he had returned to his office in another city.
Within a few weeks professional admiration led to a deepening bond. “Saheb” gave the architect his personal cell number (ending with ******3400) on which she could access him any time. At the height of their acquaintance she and “Saheb” allegedly spoke to one another eighteen times a day.

The woman shared the story of her proximity to “Saheb” with her friend and Bhuj district collector Pradeep Sharma who had introduced her to “Saheb” in the first place. She also allegedly showed him some of the text messages that she had received from “Saheb’s” private number.
Sharma reportedly saved this number. Eventually problems cropped up in her and “Saheb’s” relationship on account of his alleged possessiveness and his insistence on maintaining a public stance that she was like his daughter.
Pradeep Sharma came to know of this and one day in 2009 he audaciously called “Saheb’s” private number that he had secretly saved. The call went unanswered but “Saheb’s” suspicions were roused. Who was this person who had his personal number? He asked for call details and found it was Sharma.
That missed call was to irrevocably alter “Saheb’s” equation with the young woman. Sharma’s number was kept under observation leading to the revelation that Sharma and the young woman were in regular touch with one another.
According to sources, this was when Amit Shah allegedly ordered the illegal surveillance on the architect. “Saheb,” it seems, wanted to know everything about her. Where she went, what she said, what she did, and most importantly, whom she met, claims the Cobra Post-Gulail investigation.
Singhal led this operation. As mentioned earlier, he kept copies of audio recording of his conversations with the home minister. This June, he submitted some of those audio clips to the Central Bureau of Investigation and they have been included as part of the CBI’s panchnaama in the Ishrat Jahan case.

Pradeep Sharma was soon paying the price for his indiscretion. The government of Gujarat filed four criminal complaints against him. He was suspended and later jailed. The 62-day surveillance ended after the woman agreed to get married and leave Gujarat.
On Friday the woman’s father said that it was he who had asked the chief minister of Gujarat, an old family friend, to take care of his daughter who had come to Ahmedabad from Bangalore and had to commute at odd hours owing to his wife’s hospitalization in those days.
His daughter’s relationship with the CM, he said, was like that of father and daughter. For his part Amit Shah refused to respond to calls and text messages and Singhal, when we got through to him, refused to comment on the matter saying it was under investigation.

Father says no to probe
The father of the young woman in the midst of the snooping row wrote to the NCW and the Gujarat State Commission for Women stating that his request to Modi to keep an eye on his daughter was done with her knowledge."It is an earnest wish of my daughter that no further probe (in the snooping issue) is necessary as being politically demanded," he said in his letter.

"My daughter is an architect and an educated person. She is married and deeply perturbed by the intrusion upon her personal life and privacy. To ensure her anonymity, she has requested me to write this letter to the honourable NCW," he said.
Row intensifies
The heat from the snooping scandal intensified with suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma requesting the Supreme Court to take note of it.
He said this was necessary as audio tapes related to the scandal uploaded on news websites contained evidence that the Modi government tried to frame him in "frivolous" cases.
Sharma, a 1984 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer is facing five criminal cases in connection with alleged irregularities in the allotment of land to private firms in Kutch in 2008. He last served as Bhavnagar Municipal commissioner.
In 2011, he moved the SC demanding a CBI probe into all cases against him, claiming that he was being targeted by the Modi government.
On Tuesday, Sharma's counsel Prashant Bhushan told a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam that Sharma wanted to file an additional application in support of his claim that the Gujarat government tried to frame him. An important development had taken place since the last hearing, Bhushan said, referring to the snooping scandal.
The bench asked Sharma to file a formal application after the Gujarat government counsel took objection to an oral statement being made in court. The court fixed December 3 to hear the matter again.
Bhushan told reporters later that his written plea to be filed by the end of this week would demand a CBI probe into the illegal snooping. Sharma had also claimed that he was being targeted by the chief minister in a January 2011 letter to the chief secretary of Gujarat.
"I believe that the motivation behind and the execution of the arrest are consisting (sic) with confirming the fears of Shri Narendra Modi that I may be in possession of incriminating evidence against the chief minister. My arrest was a manifestation of Modi's personal and political agenda," Sharma said in the letter.
The IAS officer has also accused the Modi government of targeting him because his younger brother Kuldip Sharma, a senior IPS officer in Gujarat, had 'unmasked' Modi's alleged misdeeds after the post-Godhra riots.
"In order to cause prejudice to Kuldip Sharma, the petitioner (Pradeep Sharma) has been victimised by chief minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah," his petition in the SC states.”

The Defence forwarded by the BJP in the stalking-snooping case is so weak that even a kid can see through the false claims of giving ‘protection’ to the target here. Please check these websites:  or
Amit Shah: Singhal, did you check ?
G.L. Singhal: Sir our men have reached there. No movement reported as yet.
Amit Shah: Check whether they are there or not?
G.L. Singhal: Actually we also tried to lay a trap at night pretending to be calling from a travel agency and asked whether a guest called Nancy D’Souza is staying in that room ? But they confirmed that no one with that name is staying with them but they told that someone called —– is staying in that room. But that girl is so clever that when she was returning from the airport someone gave her a missed call then she called back on that number and started asking who has called.
The concocted alibi that Mansi Soni was being given protection falls flat due to the fact that the whole video is full of indignant, disrespectful and menacing comments about the character and intentions (see boxes of excerpts from the conversation) of the so-called niece of the CM and the one who is to be protected on the ‘friendly’ behest of her father Pranlal Soni who claims that the family knew CM Modi for more than two decades.
But the question is can the father prove his old relationship with Narendra Modi? Because Pradeep Sharma says he introduced the girl to Modi. The taped conversation is an irrefutable proof that Praveen Sharma was victimised. 'Put him away for more time than Vanzara'. Therefore one can sort of assume that Pradeep Sharma is true about the introduction - his words now being given more credence in light of his confirmed victimisation. The Supreme Court is seized of this aspect and has allowed a plea by Prashant Bhushan for admitting fresh evidence in the Pradeep Sharma case.
The father Pranlal Soni , a key figure who came in to rescue Modi, has requested National Commission for Women not to start any action since it was he only who requested this kind of severe snooping for his daughter’. The point is that NCW must take strong note of a father who is snooping into the private life of his adult daughter.
It is to be noted that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is a married man. Therefore his extra-marital alliances should be of general concern, but this is much more than that. He is a husband who ran away from his marital obligations and abandoned his wife for all these years. His new personal liaison is awarded projects in the name of beautification of the state. He keeps the personal affair under the duress but uses State machinery to snoop and make her life hell. He fooled the public on his amorous liaison since he was 65 and she was 32! More years separated them than she had lived on the planet hence the compulsion to carry on ‘father-daughter’ facade before the masses. The sponsoring party BJP must realise that a man of such character and integrity, who creates havoc in the lives of others cannot be the Prime Minister of a country of 1.2 billion citizens.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What is reassuring about today’s Congress-I!

--Sheeba Aslam Fehmi

There may be numerous complaints against Congress led UPA-I&II, regarding the issues of economy, policy implementation, governance, inflation etc. but one fact that is reassuring for the minorities of India is that none of it is targeted against minorities in particular. The anomalies are secular and creed-blind. Compare it with the Gujarat since Feb 2002 to this date- targeted killings, maiming, lynching, arson, loot, gang rapes, witch-hunting through state police/intelligence, arrests, fake encounters, fake terrorist attacks, fake intelligence reports indicting Muslims, continuity of refugee camps in the absence of compensation,  no resettlement of the displaced, non-compliance of Muslim specific schemes of Central government in response to the Sachar Committee findings; all this happening exclusively to the wretched Muslim minority in Gujarat since the ascendance of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.
Narendra Modi claims of highest (?) rate of growth and good governance in Gujarat during his tenure, at the same time he evades the questions of Muslim victims of 2002 pogrom. His message is simple and loud that ‘yes the Gujarat model of growth and development sans the equity and justice to the minorities is the way to enforce and consolidate his Hindutwa base’. He has almost succeeded in making us believe that the Hindu majority of this multicultural country rejoices the partisan governance, complete absence of justice and  unfair treatment meted out to its minorities, but for the numerous game-spoilers like IPS Sanjeev Bhat, Advocate Mukul Sinha, Activist Teesta Setalvad, Danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, Journalist Ashish Khetan, Editors Shoma Chaudhury-Anirudh Bahal and numerous others who have been there as the safeguards to the rampant persecution of Muslims in the state of Gujarat and who were able to play their conscientious role because the Sonia Gandhi led UPA was there at the center.
As a North Indian-UP walla Muslim I have been brought up on the regular dose of anti-Congress-ism of my Communist parents. The tumultuous and uneasy days of Babri Masjid controversy in the late 80’s and the gory aftermath during RSS sympathiser PM Narasimha Rao’s (satirically regarded as BJP’s first PM of India) tenure primed the anti-Congress sentiment in almost every Muslim household of  India. The hatred towards PM Rao’s act of giving sufficient time to build a Temple at the demolition site is still fresh in the memories of Indian Muslims. However, the Congress High command Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s ascent to the helm has been a healing effect due to her non-partisan politics. The national politics of Congress-I is far more secular in its approach during the leadership of Sonia Gandhi since 1998. For me, alike many other educated, concerned and secular Indians this fact trumps all other larger and lofty concerns of political economy, capitalism and working class revolution, for the time being.