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Silencing voices of scribes

Arati R Jerath |

Eminent journalist and editor of Rising Kashmir Shujat Bukhari was gunned down in the heart of Srinagar just as the central government was mulling whether or not to extend the ceasefire that was ordered during the month of Ramzan.

His cold blooded murder is both tragic and ironic because Bukhari was a supporter of the ceasefire initiative. In a telephonic conversation with this columnist just two days before he was shot dead, he said the ceasefire seemed to be yielding peace dividends. At least innocent civilians were no longer being killed, he said, and this was a huge relief for people in the Valley.

He also talked about the Track-2 efforts that were going on with Pakistan in the hope of resuming talks after the July general election in that country. Even Hurriyat leaders had cautiously welcomed opening a dialogue with New Delhi.

Shujat said he had heard that there were plans to hold the long overdue SAARC Summit, if all went well and the ceasefire was extended because of a change in the ground situation.

Although we don’t know the identity of his killers, it is obvious that forces opposed to peace in the Valley used Shujat to make a point. They didn’t want the ceasefire extended; nor do they want any kind of dialogue either with Pakistan or Hurriyat. They deliberately chose Shujat to send a warning to New Delhi. He was collateral damage in the battle between militants and the central government.

Last year Gauri Lankesh was killed by bullets of hate. This year, it’s Shujat. It seems to have become the new normal to silence journalistic voices that speak for common people.

Of men and mice

Contrary to claims of his most comfortable dharna ever, it seems Arvind Kejriwal is having trouble sleeping at Delhi’s Raj Niwas where he is on a protest sit-in. The problem appears to be mice. Believe it or not, the Delhi Lt Governor’s bungalow is infested with mice that are up to all kinds of mischief at night.

Apparently, Kejriwal has been complaining to his party colleagues that he is being kept awake because mice cheep and jump all over the room through the night. When some of his colleagues suggested that he click pictures and circulate them on social media, the protesting chief minister demurred, probably out of deference to location of his dharna. After all, it is the Raj Niwas. Kejriwal may be a maverick but it appears he knows when not to cross the line.

Will he quit?

With no end in sight to Kejriwal’s dharna at the Lt Governor’s residence, speculation is rife in Delhi’s political circles that the chief minister, who once called himself an anarchist, may be preparing to quit and go in for a mid-term poll.

The last time Kejriwal staged an unprecedented dharna, he resigned and the Delhi assembly was dissolved, paving the way for President’s Rule. That was in February 2014 after he had been chief minister for just 49 days with outside support from Congress.

The issue then was Delhi Police. The CM wanted some policemen sacked for roughing up AAP MLA Somnath Bharti in a controversial night raid on Nigerian students in Delhi’s Khirki village. Tempers ran high as Kejriwal decided to stage a protest on Parliament Street and blocked the entire area for several days.

With Republic Day approaching, the central government, then run by the Congress, requested Lt Governor Najib Jung to intervene and work out a compromise with the protesting CM. Kejriwal ended his dharna but a few days later, his government resigned on grounds that the Congress did not allow him to table the Lok Pal bill in the assembly.

There are eerie similarities between then and now. The issue this time is the IAS bureaucracy. And like last time, Kejriwal has boxed himself into a corner without an exit plan that would allow him to give up his dharna without losing face. Is resignation the only way out then?

Iftaar stakes

With two former presidents and one former vice president in attendance at Rahul Gandhi’s Iftaar, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had to be seated at high table number two instead of high table number one.

In fact, Rahul’s table was reserved for the three former constitutional heads, and four allies, Sitaram Yechury of the CPM, Kanimozhi of the DMK, Satish Mishra of the BSP and a representative of SP. When it became clear that SP had decided to skip the event, Dinesh Trivedi of the TMC was bumped up to the first table. Someone in the Congress belatedly realised that Mamata Banerjee could be a valuable ally in 2019 and her party representative had to be given due respect.

Manmohan Singh hosted smaller fry like JD(S)’s Danish Ali, RJD’s Manoj Jha and NCP’s DP Tripathi. For company, he had the leaders of the Congress from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Who’s the treasurer?

Why is the BJP hiding the name of its party treasurer? This startling information appeared in a story published on an English website. The story said that for some years now, the BJP has not declared the name of its treasurer to the Election Commission.

The BJP has not denied the story. But it’s gone to considerable lengths to explain the lacuna to journalists in off-the-record briefings. And the explanation is curious. It has refused to divulge the name of its treasurer but it’s delved into Congress history to quote examples of leaders who were party treasurer and union minister simultaneously. Sitaram Kesri, Morarji Desai and even Sardar Patel, to name a few examples that the BJP is giving.

Is this an indirect way of saying that union minister Piyush Goyal continues to be the treasurer? There are issues of conflict of interest here because Goyal is currently holding charge of the finance ministry. The BJP is caught in a dilemma.