Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Quattrocchi has threatened filing libel charges .... Please Go Ahead and Do It Uncle!!!!!!

News about Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi being freed by the local court in Argentina was only expected. The CBI, after all, could not have presented a foolproof case before the judge. This is not to say that Quattrocchi is innocent in the Bofors payoff case. He was a recipient of the payoff by the Swedish gun manufacturer and the money was put into his coded accounts in the Swiss Banks because the gun manufacturer was convinced about his ability to swing the deal. The gun manufacturer was convinced of that because they knew about his proximity with Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India.It is also a fact that the coded accounts into which money was put into belonged to AE Services through a Panama based shell company called Colbar Investments. Quattrocchi and his wife Maria were registered owners of Colbar Investments and it is also a fact that the money parked into the Coded accounts in the Swiss Bank were siphoned out to find its way into a London Bank. Quattrocchi flew out of India in the night of July 29, 1993 only after the Swiss Courts confirmed his name to be one of the litigants pleading against disclosure of the names of the holders of the coded accounts into which Bofors had paid huge sums between December 1986 and March 1987. And the CBI got possession of the details of these accounts in the Swiss Banks in 1997.The then CBI Chief, Joginder Singh, went to Geneva and obtained all the documents pertaining to the illegal payments to convince, one and all, that middlemen were involved in the Bofors deal and that Quattrocchi, Win Chadha and the Hinduja brothers were all acting as middlemen in that deal. The fact is that involvement of such middlemen was not allowed in the contract and hence it was a clear case of cheating and fraud.The CBI was convinced of all that then and hence issued a Red Corner notice, served through the Interpol seeking Quattrocchi's arrest anywhere in the world. The March 17, 2007 arrest of this fugitive who is also an old friend of Sonia Gandhi and her family was done on the basis of this notice. The CBI, however, seemed to think differently in 2007. The reason is not far to seek. It would have been a surprise if the investigating agency had thought the same way as it did in 1997. The Congress party was not in power at that time and Quattrocchi's friend, Sonia Gandhi, was not known to wield any influence in the corridors of power in New Delhi at that time.This short recap of the Bofors story and the Quattrocchi connection is in order only to convince the citizens of this country that all the charges against the Italian businessman are well founded and are now known to some of us only because the CBI investigation, at various stages when the Congress party was not in power, unraveled these facts. The Bofors investigation was on track between December 1989 and November 1990 (when V.P.Singh was Prime Minister) and then between May 1996 and November 1998 (when Deve Gowda and Gujral were Prime Ministers). And the investigation was based on documents obtained and published by N.Ram and Arun Shourie, the two crusading journalists of recent times.Well. It will be wishful thinking to expect any further progress towards justice in the case and Quattrocchi's prosecution in the near future. This is true at least until May 2009. The Congress party will continue to remain in power until then and Sonia Gandhi will remain the most influential leader. And even if things change after May 2009, it is unlikely that the leaders of that new regime will be interested in pursuing this case further. There is, after all, a consensus among the political leaders on the inevitability of corruption and striking deals!There is, however, a streak of light at the end of the tunnel. And that is Quattrocchi's threat now that he will sue some politicians and others in India for hounding him all these years. It will be great if the Italian fugitive does that. For, it will then be possible, for those whom he sues to defend their own role and unravel the truth in the courts. In other words, truth is a valid defense in cases of defamation. And it is possible that the defenders in this context will not have to depend on the government's lawyers.Let us welcome Quattrocchi to go ahead with his threat. And then we can establish that the charges against him; that he is a wheeler dealer who played around in the corridors of power in New Delhi with impunity, subverting the law of the land and that he is a cheat; will all be established. Please carry out your threat Mr.Quattrocchi.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Kerala calls for another phase of reforms movement...

G.Sudhakaran, Kerala’s Minister for temple administration, has spoken aloud about a legislation that will entitle believers in Hindu Gods to enter shrines irrespective of their religion by birth. The Minister’s observation came in response to a refrain by the Guruvayoor temple’s high priest that the rules do not permit entry of non-Hindus into the temple and that the Government alone can change the rules.

The provocation for this came from two recent incidents. One involving singer K.J.Yesudas; he had been wanting, for several years now, to worship Lord Krishna from inside the temple for several years now and a request to this effect was forwarded to the temple administration, by Mr. Sudhakaran. The high priest, however, rejected the request once again. The other incident was the conduct of purification rites (puniyaham) in the temple on the day after Ravikrishna worshipped at the temple.

Ravikrishna, according to the priests, should not have entered the sanctum sanctorum because his mother happens to be a Christian. Ravikrishna, incidentally, happens to be the son of Union Minister Vayalar Ravi. And he was there in the Guruvayoor temple to initiate his infant son into the habit of eating. It is a popular belief in Kerala as well as among a section of the Tamil speaking people that infants initiated into eating rice at the Guruvayoor temple will grow up healthy. Ravikrishna, incidentally, believed in this and hence took his infant son to this temple.

Interestingly, Ravikrishna’s marriage was conducted in Guruvayoor a few years ago and the temple priests had conducted similar rites to purify the precincts, at that time also. The newly wed couple had been to the temple seeking the Lord’s blessing and the priests, after allowing the visit, conducted a cleansing ceremony; they explained that Ravikrishna was born to a Christian mother and even if he was not baptized, he remained a non-Hindu.

The issue, despite being an instance of an important legacy of modern Kerala was sought to be negated, did not provoke a reaction and a campaign against the custom based rule of treating a section of human beings un-clean. The Marxists in Kerala did not react the same way Sudhakaran reacted now and left Vayalar Ravi to deal with it as if it was his private affair. Ravi’s own ``leader,’’ K.Karunakaran, to whom a monthly visit to the Guruvayoor shrine is as important as it is for a believing Christian to attend the mass on Christmas eve, did not speak a word against the odious act of the priests.

That a section of the Marxists have reacted differently this time is surprising. The fact is that Minister Sudhakaran was provoked by the decision by the Guruvayoor priest to deny entry to Yesudas (and not as much by the incident involving Ravikrishna) is a different story. But then, theat is now immaterial. The important thing now is whether the Kerala unit of the CPI(M), caught in a cleft, will find time and use for an agenda of this kind? And here is a challenge because Sudhakaran’s suggestion that the law could be amended has also provoked a section of the ``believers’’ to raise the spectre of the Hindu faith being in danger.

A brief recall of the struggle that pushed the priests of the Guruvayoor temple and their apologists to accept changes will be in order in this context. As late as until 1938, when the then Madras Government headed by C.Rajagopalachari passed a law, members of the Ezhava community (now classified as OBCs) as well as the Scheduled Castes were banned from entering the Guruvayoor temple. This was the case not only in Guruvayoor but in all temples across the Malabar and Cochin. In Travancore, where the historic Vaikom satyagraha led by Periyar E.V.Ramasami Naicker and conducted by the Travancore State Congress since March 1924, the custom-based rule preventing Backward Castes and Scheduled Castes entering the temple was rendered illegal by a proclamation by the Maharaja of Travancore in November 1936.

The point then is that proclaimed believers in the Hindu faith like Rajaji and the Maharaja of Travancore did not have problems in changing the law to ensure that all believers, irrespective of their caste, could enter temples and worship the God, at Vaikom and Guruvayoor as well as in all temples across Kerala. It is also a fact that the Maharaja’s proclamation as well as Rajaji’s legislative intervention were the outcome of a long and concerted campaign in the form of satyagrahas, people’s marches and discussions in the public domain organised and carried out by important leaders of such political formations as the Congress, the Congress Socialist and the Communist Party.

The fact is that communist-non-believers like A.K.Gopalan and P.Krishna Pillai collaborated with Congress leader K.Kelappan in carrying out this campaign and they all showed the courage to take on forces of reaction and status quo. This lent a distinct dimension to the freedom struggle in Kerala too. In other words, the changes in the custom-based law to ensure that caste based discrimination insofar as entry into temples, were only the logical culmination of a campaign among the people; and not merely an administrative decision by rulers.

This indeed is a fact that Sudhakaran, his party as well as the Congress in Kerala must realize at this stage. It is appropriate to state another matter of fact in this context. The Guruvayoor temple has another rule. And that prohibits even the members of the Nair community, who see themselves as upper caste, are not allowed to ring the temple bell. That is because the custom-based law and the Namboodiris who implement such laws, consider the Nairs as unclean to some extent even if not to the same extent as the Ezhavas and the Scheduled Castes.
It will make a lot of sense if all these and many more odious practices that prevail in temples (including discrimination against women in certain shrines) are taken up changes sought. In doing so, it will make sense to launch a public debate and carry out campaigns on the streets rather than mere legislative changes. Sudhakaran’s idea of changing the law is laudable and his party too will find a sense of purpose by launching a popular campaign for such changes rather than wasting all the time and energy on internecine squabbles.