Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak with Sanjay Dutt in the lead role released on June 15, 1993. This was around two months after Dutt was first arrested on April 19, 1993, for his involvement in the Bombay bomb blasts which happened on March 12, 1993 (Bombay is now Mumbai). The story goes that Ghai had shot multiple ends for the movie, and after Dutt’s arrest he used the one which showed Ballu, the character played by Dutt, in a positive light.
That’s the thing with reel life, if the director does not like the end, he can change it. Real life should work a little differently, that’s what you and I might think. But it doesn’t always work like that. At least, not if you are Sanjay Dutt.
On March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court of India, convicted Dutt for illegal possession of arms and sentenced him to five years in prison. Between then and now a small cottage industry seems to have evolved which is trying to tell the world that Dutt is innocent and is trying to change the end of a long judicial process which has finally delivered some justice.
This cottage industry includes those working with him in the Hindi film industry. They cannot believe that Sanju Sir, as they like to call him, will have to go to jail. Rakhi Sawant, who is largely famous for what the Hindi film industry refers to as item numbers, has even volunteered to go to jail instead of Dutt. “If there is any provision in the law, then I’d like to request the court to send me to jail in place of Sanjay. Not because he is a big actor today, but because he has a family and kids at home to take care of,” she has remarked.
Support has also come in from Marakandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, who on other occasions has spoken out strongly against media’s obsession with celebrities. Katju is also a former judge of Supreme Court. He wants Sanjay Dutt to be pardoned.
He has offered various reasons for the same. In the last twenty years Dutt has suffered a lot. He had to take the permission of the Court for foreign shootings. He has two small children. And to top it Dutt has through his film revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of Gandhiji, the father of the nation. Justice Katju in his appeal to grant pardon to Dutt had also said that “his parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis worked for the good of society and the nation.”
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has jumped into the rescue Sanjay Dutt bandwagon as well. “Sanjay Dutt is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist. Sanjay Dutt, at a young age, in the atmosphere of that time, thought that perhaps the way Sunil Dutt had been raising his voice against communalism and favoured the minorities, then perhaps he could be attacked. So, as an obvious reaction of a kid to do something, if he has committed a mistake then I feel that he has undergone the punishment for it,” Singh said.
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, who normally goes cholbe na cholbe na against everything, has also come out in support of Dutt. “Today, I fondly remember Sunil Dutt ji. He used to come to my residence whenever he was in Calcutta. If he were alive, he would have no doubt made all efforts to see that Sanjay does not suffer any more. My heart echoes the same sentiments ,” the Trinamool Congress chief wrote on Facebook, getting nostalgic.
Let me demolish this arguments one by one. In 1993, Sanjay Dutt was 33, going on 34. He was no kid, as Digvijay Singh makes him out to be. On the other hand Ajmal Kasab, who was recently hanged to death, was actually a kid, when he carried out the gruesome act that he did.
In the last twenty years Dutt has suffered a lot, feels Katju. But so has everyone else who was accused in the Mumbai bomb blasts case. Yusuf Memon, one of the accused, who will serving a life sentence, is schizophrenic and the Supreme Court dismissed his plea seeking relief from his conviction and life sentence.
During the last twenty years Dutt managed to marry twice (Rhea Pillai and now Manyata earlier known as Dilnawaz Sheikh ). So much for him suffering. And as far as kids go, if people were pardoned because they had kids, nobody in India would ever go to jail.
The movies Katju is talking about are Munnabhai MBBS and Lageraho Munnabhai. Dutt did not make these movies, he just acted in them. The movies were the vision of director Rajkumar Hirani, who also co-wrote them. In fact, Dutt was not even supposed to play the role of Munnabhai in Munnabhai MBBS. The original choice was Shah Rukh Khan, who later declined due to a back injury. So Sanjay Dutt was simply lucky to have first landed and then played the role which made Gandhi fashionable again. And that is no reason to let him go.
Digivijay Singh in his statement seems to be justifying Sanjay Dutt possessing illegal weapons for self defence. What he forgets is that we are not talking about some desi katta or a revolver here. We are talking about AK-56 rifles. Its worth remembering that the year was 1993 and not 2013. “And AKs were not weapons you almost ever saw outside some militant districts in Punjab and Kashmir,” writes Shekhar Gupta in a column in The Indian Express.
And as far as the nostalgia of Mamata Banerjee goes there are people who might still feel nostalgic about the late Head Constable Ibrahim Kaskar of Mumbai police. As S Hussain Zaidi writes in Dongri to Dubai – Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia “In the predominantly Muslim stronghold of Dongri, Ibrahim’s baithak was the first place people went to if they had a problem. It was privy to everything-from people discussing their choking lavatory drain to the excitement of the elopement of lovers or cases of police harassment.” Kaskar’s son is Dawood Ibrahim. So should sons committing crimes be let go because their fathers happened to be nice men? Maybe Justice Katju and Mamata Banerjee can give us an answer to that.
In fact, it would be safe to say that Sanjay Dutt was very lucky not be convicted under the the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (or what we better know as TADA). Dutt was arrested in 1993, for acquiring three AK-56s rifles, nine magazines, 450 cartridges and over 20 hand grenades. One doesn’t need so many weapons and ammunitions for self defence. This despite the fact that Dutt already had three licensed weapons. And when was the last time you heard anyone keeping hand grenades at home for self protection?
Some of these weapons were later stored at the home of a woman called Zaibunissa Kazi. This included two of the three AK-56s rifles that Dutt had got. Kazi was convicted under TADA. Same was the case with Baba Mussa Chauhan and Samir Hingora, who delivered the consignment of arms to Dutt’s house. And so was Manzoor Ahmed, whose car was used to ferry the arms out of Dutt’s residence.
But the special TADA court did not convict Dutt under TADA. This is very ironical given that those who got the arms to Dutt’s house were convicted under TADA. So was the women in whose house the arms were placed, after they were moved from Dutt’s house. He had also admitted to being directly in touch with Anees Ibrahim, the main conspirator Dawood Ibrahim’s younger brother. Further, CBI did not challenge the TADA court’s decision which relieved Dutt of charges under TADA, in the Supreme Court.
In fact Satish Manishinde, Dutt’s lawyer later admitted in front of a spy camera in a sting operation carried out by Tehehlka that “The moment she (Zaibunissa Kazi) was convicted, I thought Sanjay too would be convicted under TADA .” No wonder Kazi’s daughter feels “I wish I was a celebrity or my mother was a celebrity or a sister of an MP. Even my mother would have got the kind of support Sanjay Dutt is getting. If it is on humanitarian grounds then why only Sanjay Dutt, why not Zaibunisa. Isn’t she a human? Isn’t she a citizen of this country?”
As a line from the song Yaaram written by Gulzar, from the still to be released Ek Thi Daayan goes “koi khabar aayi na pasand to end badal denge”. Everyone who is trying to appeal for a pardon for Sanjay Dutt is trying to change the end of a long judicial process which has finally delivered some justice.
To conclude, let me say this loudly and emphatically, if Sanjay Dutt is innocent, then I am Amitabh Bachchan.
The article also appeared with a different headline on www.firstpost.com on March 29,2013.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek. He can be reached at [email protected])
So the tables seem to have turned. The story has moved on from Robert Vadra to Nitin Gadkari. Veerapa Moily, the Union Corporate Affairs Minister, had been quick to jump to Vadra’s defence and had said “I have already verified these allegations and no wrongdoings have been found in any of the six Robert Vadra-owned companies.”
Now with allegations against Gadkari coming out thick and fast, Moily has jumped in at the same quick speed and ordered an inquiry against Gadkari. “I have told our ministry to make some discreet inquiry to find out what exactly is the matter… are there any violations of the Companies Act?” said Moily. He also added the ministry would probe it as the matter was in the public domain. “It is all coming in the newspapers,” he said.
What is interesting here is that Vadra’s dealings with DLF are also in the public domain and the news was all coming in the newspapers, as Moily put it in Gadkari’s context. That being the case shouldn’t Moily have ordered a “discreet inquiry” against Vadra as well?
Digivijay Singh, the chief muck raiser and one of the General Secretaries of the Congress party, has written a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Gadkari has also said he is open to a free and fair investigation. [He] being the national president of the BJP, it is in the fitness of things that his case is properly investigated and he gets a fair opportunity to prove his innocence and clear his name,” wrote Digvijay Singh in his letter to the Prime Minister. “A prime facie case does exist,” added Singh, and requested the Prime Minister to ask the Corporate Affairs Ministry to initiate an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office.
There are two things that come out of this statement. In the Congress’ world view of things Robert Vadra remains a private individual. Though he must be the only private individual in the country who is being defended by some of the top Congress leaders (you can read a more detailed argument on this here). But Gadkari is not a private individual and hence he needs to be investigated. The second point is that Digvijay Singh sees a prima facie case existing for an investigation in case of Gadkari. I agree. But it also exists in the case of the Vadra-DLF dealings. I am sure Diggi Raja would have a different view on that.
Before I get into some other points let us try and understand what the Gadkari case is all about. Gadkari calls himself a social entrepreneur. He was the Chairman of Purti Sugar Ltd till about fourteen months ago. “Purti Sugar Ltd. is a sort of cooperative that is owned by the farmers it was meant to benefit. It’s true that the list of shareholders is long, about 10,000 names, that carry the flavour of rural Maharashtra. But farmers (if they are, indeed, farmers) own only 10% of Purti. Mr Gadkari himself owns only 200 shares. The bulk of Purti is owned by just 18 companies. These companies invested about Rs 2-4 crore each, to form the bulk of Purti’s paid up capital of Rs 68 crore. This, essentially, was Purti’s start up money,” Sreenivasan Jain recently wrote in DNA. Purti Sugar is located at Khursapar (Bela) village near about 60 KM from Nagpur.
So far so good. What makes things interesting is the fact that some of the companies that invested in Purti Sugar were not found to be operating at their registered addresses. “When our reporters paid them a visit at their registered addresses, they (surprise, surprise) hit a dead end.Two of the firms — Swiftsol India and Earnwell Traders — are registered at a chawl in the Mumbai suburb of Malad, surprising for companies which have invested about Rs 4 crore in Purti. None of the residents at the given addresses had heard of Swiftsol or Earnwell. The same dead end at the addresses of Chariot Investrade, Regency Equifin, Leverage Fintrade, etc scattered across suburban Mumbai and Kolkata,” wrote Jain.
This is something that a report in The Times of India said as well. “According to records with the Registrar of Companies, five private limited companies with shareholdings in Purti Group—Nivita Trades, Swiftsol (India), Rigma Fintrade, Ashwami Sales and Marketing and Earnwell Trades—are registered in and supposedly operating from a room in Dube Chawl on Andheri-Kurla Road (seen at left). Four other shareholders—Jasika Mercantile, Leverage Fintrade, Regency Equifin and Chariot Investrade—are registered in an under-construction building meant to house slum-dwellers under the SRA scheme.”
What complicates matters further is the fact that Manohar Panse, who used to be Gadkari’s driver, was also a director in many of these companies. A couple of employees of Purti and even Gadkari’s accountant were directors in these firms.
It is well known that businesses tend to operate through a web of companies when they want to hide the real owner’s identity. Also it is easier to channelise ill gotten wealth through a maze of companies. Prima facie that is what seems to be happening in the case of Purti Sugar as well. So the accusation against Nitin Gadkari is pretty strong and hence an investigation is called for.
Robert Vadra was smart on this account. He also operates through several companies (Sky Light Hospitality, Sky Light Reality, Real Earth Estates, North India IT Parks, Blue Breeze Trading etc). But the ownership in each and every case can be easily traced back to him and his mother Maureen.
Getting back to Gadkari, one of the invetors in Purti was Ideal Road Builders(IRB). As Jain writes “Ideal Road Builders purchased shares worth Rs 1.85 crore in Purti in 2001, just over a year after Mr Gadkari demitted office as Maharashtra’s public works department minister. During his tenure, Ideal was awarded a number of contracts by the PWD department, which eventually led to it becoming one of Maharashtra’s leading toll road companies. DP Mhaiskar, founder of Ideal Road Builders, also bought shares worth about Rs 2 crore in Purti. Together, IRB and Mr Mhaiskar control about 8% of Purti Group… In 2010, Purti Group received a secure loan of Rs 165 crore from a company called Global Safety Vision, which has DP Mhaiskar as its director. With this one loan, Purti was able to repay all its outstanding debt.”
So the question being asked here is did Mhaiskar and IRB invest in Purti because Gadkari as the PWD minister awarded contracts to IRB? Gadkari was the PWD minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government that ruled Maharashtra in the mid and late nineties. Hence, a case for a quid pro quo seems to exist and can be established if a proper investigation is carried out.
In case of Robert Vadra and DLF, things were a little different. DLF gave Vadra an advance of Rs 50 crore against a piece of land of 3.5 acres that Vadra sold to DLF. This advance was paid in installments starting in the year 2008—2009(the period between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009). The advance stayed on the books of Vadra for a period of between three to four years. An advance is typically given short term. DLF explained this to be a normal commercial transaction but has been unable to tell us about other cases in which it carried out a similar transaction. The advance was essentially an interest free loan to Vadra. Other than this DLF gave Vadra’s companies other advances as well. It also gave an unsecured loan of Rs 5 crore to Real Earth Estates Private Ltd, a Vadra company.
Vadra used this money to go on a property and flat buying spree in Rajasthan and Haryana. (You can read about it here and here). But what is difficult to establish is how did DLF benefit from all this? Allegations are being made that the Congress government in Haryana went out of its way to favour DLF. Was this because DLF was being nice to Vadra? This business-politics nexus is not easy to establish as it is in the case of Gadkari and IRB.
Other than the government breathing down Gadkari’s neck, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which installed him as the president of the Bhartiya Janata Party seems to have asked him to come clean on all the allegations by the end of this month. Vadra on the other hand has the full support of his mother-in-law’s party.
At the heart of both the Vadra and Gadkari issues is the nexus between businessmen and politicians. The basic difference is that Vadra is Sonia Gandhi’s son in law and Gadkari is not. To conclude, the smartest thing that Vadra ever did was to marry Priyanka Gandhi. “Mere paas Saasu Ma Hai,” Vadra can say proudly. Gadkari meanwhile needs to consult a good astrologer and figure out when his stars will turn around.
The article originally appeared with a different headline on www.firstpost.com on October 24, 2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/why-sonias-son-in-law-is-better-off-than-rsss-favourite-son-501065.html
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected])