Saeed Mohammad Yousuf, a member of the National Conference, was accused by two colleagues of corruption, the new hip crime. He admitted to accepting Rs 11 odd million to get the two legislative posts.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah thought it was serious enough and transferred the complaints to the state home minister. This was on September 29. The next day Yousuf died in a police hospital. Abdullah says the crime branch was examining the case.
This is real quick work. No doubt, taking money to get plum posts is a crime, but did those two get the positions promised? Would anyone really know if it had been kept within the party and Yousuf could have been thrown out? In comparison to what takes place in J&K, this is really a gamble and not at all unusual.
So, did Yousuf's kidneys/lungs/heart fail because he had accepted a bribe and admitted to it? Or was he killed because, as his family alleges, he knew too much about the Abdullahs since he was close to them?
Forget the bit about secrets. If he was indeed close to them, then Omar was perhaps trying to consolidate a cleaner than detergent image by showcasing a 'friend' as an example of his own honesty. Or, he felt betrayed. Or...
The leader of the main opposition the People's Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti, and activists staged a protest march. She demanded:
"To ensure a fair probe into the death of the National Conference worker, Omar Abdullah must step down. Otherwise the probe would be nothing more than an eyewash."
While there is no doubt that this is a political move, it is rare. Besides, think about the analogy from the other scams. Is not the Congress on the mat for the Rajas and Kanimozhis?
Resignations are often a way out, if it is forced upon 'loyal solidiers', something Yousuf might have done had he been given an opportunity. As CM, Abdullah has refused to quit. It is true that it might cause further problems, but it cannot get worse than it already is.
His response to Mehbooba Mufti's statement about an eyewash is tepid:
"How is it possible? The judge who will be inquiring the case will not be answerable to my government. Where does the question of influence arise? Moreover, it is in the best interest of me and my government that truth and only truth should come out. I will be deposing before the Commission and answer each and every query."
How independent is the judiciary? How many judgements have ever been passed against ruling governments? Omar may not exert influence, and he may well be clean, but the judiciary will try and play the establishment game. We do know that bribery cuts across the board and is not only a political evil.
I am afraid that the truth is, as always, relative. The truth here is a member if his party took money. He should have been slapped with a legal case, not a crime branch probe.
As regards deposing before a Commission, L K Advani has been doing so before the Liberhans Commission for years now; Narendra Modi deposed. They answered queries. So?
"People have lot of faith in the courts. So let us not make a mockery of the faith of millions of people."
In Jammu and Kashmir or in La-la land?
Omar said that by summoning Yousuf he had only performed his duty to ensure that the vicious cycle of corruption was put to an end.
Really? We never heard about this cycle earlier from him. Has he pulled up corruption in the army, the police, at places of worship, in hospitals, at universities? Why Yousuf?
Seeking to put a stop to "trial-by-media", the Chief Minister said "it is unfortunate that certain section of media nowadays pronounce people guilty without even waiting for a judicial process to begin, forget about waiting for its end."
This is true. But he can call a press conference; he can appear on television. Why does he do so? Does the judicial process end? What about celebrity cases that are covered by the media and get fast-tracked by the judiciary precisely because they become eyeball grabbing? Certain sections of the media demonised 'stone pelters'. What does one say about that?
Almost every TV channel has its favourites, and if you do not want the ball in your court, then also stay away from the game when it suits you. This applies to every politician, industrialist and celebrity.
It is perturbing that the CM is holding a high moral ground about the exchange of money:
"Should I turn a blind eye to these allegations? I called him (Yousuf) and he agreed that he had taken money from the two others. All I wanted him to return the money. I guess that was not a crime. And I had told him and two others that the case will be probed by the Crime Branch in any case. Here I am handing over bribe giver as well as bribe taker to police. What is wrong in this?"
If all he wanted was for Yousuf to return the money, then it would not have been such a complicated procedure. There are positions up for grabs without the exchange of funds. Why did Yousuf not deny it? Are those two so important that they can get an audience with the chief minister?
And Abdullah, who has decried passing of judgement by the media, has this to say:
The Chief Minister said that no one had "touched" Yousuf at his residence and "I believe that no one touched him during the custody as well as the preliminary post mortem report was clear that there were no injury marks on him and he had died because of massive heart attack."Now, now, where is the role of the judiciary that millions have faith in? What does a public pronouncement of "I believe" amount to? Why is he commenting on the post mortem report and whether Yousuf was "touched" or not? Is this not pre-judging a case when he has himself left it to the courts to bring out the truth?
As I said, the PDP will play politics. But it has earlier protested against other custodial deaths as well. However, it does not behove the CM to make churlish comments:
Omar dubbed PDP’s demand for his resignation to "empty vessels making lot of noise" and accused it of being an "obtrusive opposition rather than a healthy one."
"The allegations made by the party will be aptly replied by my lawyer as I have faith in the judicial system. In the past, some of the opposition leaders had to tender an apology after I sued them for defamation and I know for sure that this time also, history will repeat itself."
A healthy opposition, apparently, is a blind one. His attitude reeks if arrogance. They are demanding a probe into a custodial death and his resignation because he handed the man to the cops. Is this noise by empty vessels? We make such demands on ministers all the time because it is called accountability. Yousuf's family says he had no history of heart attack; Abdullah says it can happen. Of course, but again why is he not waiting for a judicial probe?
He seems to be concerned only about defamation and how his lawyers will sue the opposition parties and get an apology. Fine. If the opposition has gone beyond decency and acused him of the worst and his lawyers prove that, does it take away from the seriousness of the case itself?
We have a great martyr here. The man is honest and will take his own party man to task for accepting a bribe for something he was not even in a position to do. In fact, has anyone asked Abdullah what his equation with Yousuf was and whether he was in such a dandy position at all? Did Omar know the two bribe givers and where they got the funds from?
Of course, this is all for the judiciary's ears. Meanwhile, the CM can keep talking extra-judicially and be "sure" that he will get an apology. And all will be well with the washing machine...er...image.
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Published in Countercurrents
Updated October 8, about 5 pm)
How many interviews has Omar Abdullah given since his "faith in the judiciary" and "trial by media" comment?
Here is one such, with excerpts (read the report for his version of mimicry):
Omar said allegations against Syed Mohammed Yousuf were brought to his notice about two months ago but it slipped out of his mind to act on those allegations. "I am only human (and) with the entire pressure of handing a peaceful summer, the Amarnath Yatra, governance and a whole host of other things, it just slipped my mind,'' he told a TV channel.
Now, after listening to the guy who accused Yousuf, he says it is the opposition plot:
Omar hinted that Reshi could be working at PDP's behest. "Three independent and credible sources have told me about his contact with a high level PDP functionary." He also called Yousuf a "crook" and denied his close links to the Abdullahs. There was no evidence, he said, that Yousuf was roughed up. "He died 24 hours later. Look at the timeline. The stress killed him."
"I tendered my resignation (over allegation of involvement in a sex scandal) and was called immature,'' he said. "I am not losing any sleep over this. I have a job to do and I will continue to do that." He said would not apologize for how he handled the issue and would do the same thing again under similar circumstance.
It is good he can sleep well, unlike many Kashmiris. And his job includes seeing to it that custodial deaths are prevented.