Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lt Col Prasad Purohit: Victim of circumstances or all-round conspiracy?

On 15 April 2015, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court said in its order after hearing a bail application of Lt Col Prasad Purohit, the Indian Army Officer, accused of being involved in a bomb blast in Malegaon: "Since the occurrence is of the year 2008 and nearly seven years have gone by, it is imperative that the Special Court commence the trial at the earliest and conclude the same expeditiously. We direct the Prosecuting Agency to ensure that the necessary evidence i.e. oral, documentary as well as other form of evidence placed before the Court to enable the Special Court to commence the trial early and conclude the same expeditiously. It is stated that no officer has been posted for the Special Court as on date. We, therefore, request the Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay to pass appropriate orders either for posting these cases before a learned Judge by way of special order or appoint a Presiding Officer exclusively for deciding these cases in order to ensure speedy trial. We also direct the Presiding Officer of the Special Court to dispose of the bail applications expeditiously, preferably within one month from the date of his/her assumption of Office as Special Judge. The Registry is directed to transmit the records forthwith."

Nearly a month has passed since then but why the Bombay High Court is yet to move on the 'request' made by the Supreme Court is anybody's guess. In fact, Purohit's wife made an application the very next day to the Bombay High Court to post a Special Judge and hear the matter immediately.

But why blame the Bombay High Court alone. For seven years, Purohit's strong-willed but soft-spoken wife Aparna has gone from pillar to post to get a fair trial for her husband, still a serving Lt. Col in the Indian Army. She has however failed to get any hearing, leave alone justice. 

For nearly seven years he has been in jail as an under-trial  under the stringent MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act) for the alleged crime of having masterminded the Malegaon bomb blasts on 29 September 2008. The investigation of these blasts was initially handled by the Maharashtra ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad). However, despite the NIA (National Investigation Agency) taking over the Malegaon blast case for investigation in April 2011, it is yet to file a charge sheet against Purohit.

The entire episode--like many other cases in this country--reeks of timidity, criminal negligence, apathy and above all indifference on part of almost everyone involved in law enforcement and criminal justice system (read a detailed account of the Purohit case here: (

It also shows up the Indian Army--which prides itself on speedy justice--in poor light since its successive leadership from the time of his arrest had failed to give justice to a fellow officer. Indeed, it's a matter of shame that a rogue, over-ambitious Military Intelligence Officer was allowed to take law into his own hands and victimise Col Purohit (for details of the case and the circumstances under which Purohit was arrested and tortured inhumanly read this: ( 

Meanwhile simultaneously there was a Court of Inquiry held by the Army against Col. Purohit. Over 50 officers and men were called upon as witness. All of them came out in support of the accused officer ( Perhaps surprised, the authorities never proceeded further in the case.

There is more. For nearly three years from 2012, each time the Supreme Court gave a date for hearing Purohit's bail plea, the case got postponed several times and appeal for bail was pending in the apex court for more than 18 months. It was not until 15 April this year that the case was heard. The order was passed that the trial be heard expeditiously and the matter disposed of within a month. As of 10 May, there is no indication if a Judge will be nominated to hear the case. Please note that actor Salman Khan's bail application was listed in the same High Court in next to no time.

Having been arrested and kept in jail for seven years, Col Purohit will have to face the law and go through the process to get justice to prove himself innocent but when the wheels of justice grind oh ever so slowly, one begins to wonder if he is just a victim of circumstances or of a larger conspiracy. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An overview of the Defence Ministry in April







Monday, May 4, 2015

Tyranny of distance or sheer indifference? Why we under report North-east India?

The killing of 8 security personnel -- seven Assam Rifles soldiers and one jawan of a Territorial Army unit -- in Nagaland's Mon district on Sunday morning made it to India's television screens almost 12 hours after it occurred, once again demonstrating the low priority one of India's most important regions occupies in the mind space of our so-called 'national media.'
As someone who has worked as a journalist both in the North-East and in Delhi (more in the North-East than in Delhi, of course), the feeling of being neglected is familiar. But in previous decades there was at least a valid excuse of poor communication and connectivity in not giving importance to the events and happenings in the North-East. News travelled slowly in those days and the full picture of an encounter or an ambush usually emerged only 24 hours later.
In today's day and age there is no such fig leaf available. Telephone and mobile connectivity to the seven states of the North-East is as good or bad as other parts of the country. So what explains the absence of North-East news -- good, bad or ugly -- in the metropolitan media?
Television ratings? Sure.
Lack of information on the region that is far removed from the cities? Definitely.
But more than anything else, it is the lack of the 'sexy' news quotient in the events that happen in the region that prevents decision-makers (or managers) in news organisations from giving any substantial space to news from the North-East.
Imagine if eight soldiers had been killed in Kashmir. Or in Chhattisgarh. Television news would have gone over the top, breathless reporting would have given us running commentary on how the security personnel were caught napping, how SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) were not followed and how daring the attack was by the militants/terrorists.
The next day's newspapers would have had map graphics pinpointing the location, box items listing out previous instances of such ambushes. In short, the killing would have made big headlines.
By contrast, Sunday's ambush in Mon (where's that?) district got only perfunctory mention. I doubt if there will be any follow up on how and why it happened. Nearly 24 hours after it occurred, in Delhi we are not aware if the ambush was one-off or is part of a larger game plan?
The details -- that initially a water bowser of the Assam Rifles was attacked, the driver and co-driver were killed, followed by an ambush of the Quick Reaction Team (QRT) which went looking for the water bowser led to more killings -- have largely gone unreported.
We do not know for instance that the group believed to be responsible for the attack -- the NSCN(K) or the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Khaplang group -- is no longer in a ceasefire mode with the Government of India.
News managers in Delhi will, of course, cite the usual excuses: 'Oh it happened in a remote part of the region'; 'No one is interested in what's happening in those areas'; and the oft-cited one; 'the tyranny of distance prevents us from focussing on the region.' I have heard them often enough in the past three decades. But these reasons are no longer valid.
There is no dearth of stringers (part-time reporters) from these states any more. The North-East has a vibrant media presence and there are enough well-informed and responsible journalists in the region to give accurate and timely inputs. But all that is of no use if those in charge of putting out news have zero interest in the region.
The sad truth is our news managers know much more about Houston and Boston than Kohima and Kokrajhar. Most of them will have the latest information about the elections in the UK, but will be clueless on the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and its application in the region.
Worse still, many worthies will travel to the US and Europe to report on Prime Minister Modi's foreign sojourns but will cite the difficulties of logistics when asked why they don't cover Modi's forays into Arunachal Pradesh, a state China lays claim to.
If such big events in the North-East are under-reported, why should anyone expect the killing of seven or eight poor security personnel to get any substantial coverage? As someone who owes a large part of his career to the North-East, the least I could have done is to raise the issue again irrespective of the outcome.