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The man behind the mask

The man behind the mask

Author: A Surya Prakash
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 21, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/170874/The-man-behind-the-mask.html

As he comes to the end of his term as Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh has decided to serve up a daily dose of vitriol in order to convince the people of India that he is not a weak Prime Minister. But, not everybody is taken in by his strident denunciations and what many regard as his unrighteous indignation. How will history judge him, specially when it evaluates him through the prism of constitutionality and the rule of law? Let us seek answers through the stories of four men - Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Mr Navin Chawla - and guess what future generations would make of his prime ministership.

The Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the anti-Sikh pogrom unleashed by the Congress following the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, has provided gory details of the large-scale massacre of members of a small religious minority by this party's goons. The report says that in all 2,732 Sikhs were killed in those riots - 2,146 in Delhi and 586 in some other towns in north India. Thousands of others were grievously injured. Congress supporters roamed the streets and torched every known Sikh establishment including factories, businesses, homes and motor vehicles. But, how did the 'secular' Congress, which was at that time presided over by the 'secular' Rajiv Gandhi, respond in the face of this barbaric assault on the Sikh community?

The Nanavati Commission says that in Delhi, just 587 First Information Reports were filed in police stations in respect of these incidents. Of them, 241 cases were filed as 'untraced' by the police and 253 cases ended in acquittals. The police obtained convictions in just 25 of the 587 cases!

After Justice Nanavati submitted his report in February, 2005, the UPA Government headed by Mr Singh presented the mandatory 'Action Taken' Report to Parliament. In reality, it was a report on inaction and the irony is that it was presented by a Government headed by India's first minority Prime Minister, and one who happened to be a Sikh. For example, when the commission said, "There is credible evidence against Shri Jagdish Tytler to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising the attacks on Sikhs", Mr Singh's Government desperately clung to the words "very probably" and said no person can be prosecuted simply on the basis of 'probability'.

Similarly, in respect of Sajjan Kumar, the commission concluded that "there is credible material" against him and that witnesses had accused him of inciting people to kill Sikhs and loot and destroy their properties. Yet, Mr Singh silently watched as his party nominated Sajjan Kumar as a candidate for the ongoing Lok Sabha election.

The Congress announced the party's tickets to Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar on March 22. The Prime Minister remained a passive spectator and even pretended that he was unaware of the clean chit that the Central Bureau of Investigation had given Tytler. Mr Singh's shocking acquiescence to something so dreadful and unjust provoked a Sikh journalist to take the law into his hands. Eventually, this journalist's 'soleful' riposte bestirred the soulless Congress and forced it to cancel their tickets. Yet, Mr Singh wants us to believe that he is a sensitive man; that he is a 'secular' man; and that he is not a weak Prime Minister!

Let us now turn to Ottavio Quattrocchi, Ms Sonia Gandhi's Italian friend who got a commission of $ 7.3 million when we bought field guns from Bofors for our Army. The money first came to Quattrocchi's Swiss Bank account and when non-Congress Governments began dredging up the truth, it was transferred to bank accounts in London. The National Democratic Alliance Government headed by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved the UK authorities and ensured that those accounts were frozen. Mr Singh quietly unlocked Quattrocchi's London bank accounts and ensured the Italian knocked off the commission.

His Government also dragged its feet on Quattrocchi's extradition after the latter's arrest in Argentina. It even hid information about Quattrocchi's bail from the Supreme Court. The CBI claimed that it had not been informed about it by the Foreign Office. So, while in Jagdish Tytler's case Mr Singh claims that the CBI never told him that it was giving the man a clean chit, in the Quattrocchi Case, the CBI said it was kept in the dark by the Foreign Office.

However, Mr Singh would like us to believe that he is an honourable man; that the country's defence establishment is safe in his hands; that under him, the rule of law prevails at all time; and he is only concerned about the 'aam admi' and not about 10 Janpath's 'khaas admi'!

The third example is that of Mr Navin Chawla, the Secretary to the Lt Governor of Delhi during the dreaded Emergency in 1975-77. Mr Chawla displayed fascist tendencies when he ordered the Superintendent of Tihar Jail to "bake" Mrs Indira Gandhi's political opponents in cells with asbestos roofs. The Shah Commission of Inquiry, which examined the systematic assault on democracy during the Emergency, said Mr Chawla had behaved in an "authoritarian and callous" manner. It indicted him and two other officers and said, "They grossly misused their position and abused their powers in cynical disregard of the welfare of citizens and in the process rendered themselves unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others." In its concluding remarks on the conduct of Mr Chawla and other officers, the commission said, "...tyrants sprouted at all levels overnight - tyrants whose claim to authority was largely based on their proximity to power...."

However, this very person, who was declared "unfit to hold any public office" and who was virtually described a tyrant by Justice Shah, was appointed as Election Commissioner by Mr Singh in 2005. Mr Chawla assumes the charge of Chief Election Commissioner this week. Please note: Mr Singh is an honourable man; he is a man of character; and our democracy and our Constitution is safe in his hands!

So, how will history remember Mr Singh? As an honourable, 'secular' man as his shrill declamations would have us believe or as a Prime Minister who lacked the moral fibre to stand up for the Sikh community, of which he was himself a member? As a man who enforced the rule of law or as one who ducked responsibility to help the Italian friend of his mentor? Finally, will history remember him as a man who had deep respect for constitutional and democratic values or as one who sacrificed these values at the altar of political survival and admitted an unfit person to the sanctum sanctorum of democracy - the Election Commission ? Let us leave it to history.


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