by Venky Vembu Feb 18, 2013
Even in a country of 1.2 billion opinionated people with, arguably, 1.5 billion opinions on every subject under the sun, Justice Markandey Katju stands out for the acute angles of his views. But unlike most others, Katju has a bully pulpit from which to pontificate, given his standing as a former Judge of the Supreme Court and as Chairman of the Press Council of India. And he makes full use of that platform to hold forth on hot-button topics that make it to the public domain and gain resonance there.
Some of these topics may be far afield from the ambit of the quasi-judicial office he holds currently, but Katju has not been inhibited by anything so limiting as a sense of propriety. Yet, even in the broad canvas that he chooses for himself, his silences are about as eloquent as his motormouth outpourings.
Katju’s latest exertion comes in the form of an “extra-judicial” sentencing of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in an op-ed column he wrote in The Hindu (here), for the riots of 2002. In that hyper-polemical commentary, Katju invokes the de rigueur citation of Nazi Germany in the context of Gujarat under Modi and goes on to issue what amounts to a public appeal to Indians to not allow Modi to become Prime Minister.
Markandey Katju has crossed the line of propriety. Reuters
In getting there, however, Katju crafts not a case worthy of his keen judicial mind; instead, he says, he isn’t excessively concerned about judicial pronouncements on Modi’s guilt (or lack thereof), because “he doesn’t buy it”. On the one hand, he says, he doesn’t want to comment on our judiciary. But in the same sentence, he goes on to say: “It is… said that (Modi) has not been found guilty by any court of law…, but I certainly do not buy the story that Mr. Modi had no hand in the events of 2002.”
Modi, points out Katju, was Gujarat Chief Minister at the time “when horrible events happened on such a large scale. Can it be believed that he had no hand in them? At least I find this impossible to believe.”
In other words, Super Judge Markandey Katju cannot be bothered with the due process of law and the findings of established courts of law – because, of course, his instincts tell him that Modi is guilty, and that is all that counts. And to think that in other circumstances, a man so swayed by such blatant personal and political biases may have been sitting in judgement on the Gujarat 2002 riots…
No one can contest Katju’s right to hold hyperpartisan views, or even to articulate them in his capacity as a private citizen. But when a former Judge of the Supreme Court who currently heads a quasi-judicial body, issues a public and partisan appeal to citizens of India on a subject that does not relate to his current office, it reeks of the politicisation of public office.
It was this that BJP leader Arun Jaitely was drawing attention to in his smackdown (here) of Katju’s column. Jaitley asked: “Should not a former judge who currently occupies a quasi-judicial office as Chairman of the Press Council of India, either quit before actively participating in politics or be sacked? Retired judges must remember that the rental for occupying a Lutyen’s bungalow post-retirdment has to be political neutrality, no political participation.”
Katju has defended himself against the criticism that he does not target Congress Chief Ministers (and presumably cites this as proof that he is not partisan) but he has failed to address the larger question about the impropriety of men holding public office taking a hyperpartisan line in their public utterances before they demit office.
After all, this is the same grounds on which the Congress, which has been exposed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General reports on mega-scandals, targets the current CAG, Vinod Rai: that his public articulations appear partisan, and that he is preparing for a political career. (Ironically, in that case, the BJP defends the CAG, which goes to show that there is selective amnesia – or extreme cynicism – on both sides of the political divide.)
The tragedy of it is that Katju’s criticism of Modi, even if it is well-intentioned, feeds the suspicion that he is lending himself as an instrument of what BJP leader Ram Jethmalani calls (here) the “Congress agenda” for the “political assassination of Narendra Modi, and banishing him from India’s political firmament forever, using the unfortunate post-Godhra riots as a handle.”
Jethmalani, who bats for Modi to be made the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, claims that Congress thinktanks have been working over time to “draw up a… strategy of slander, false accusation, governmental and non-governmental disinformation, Goebellesian lies, aimed at converting falsehood into belief among the general population, opinion leaders and influential intellectuals.”
The lies, he adds, “were to be simple and crisp; they were to be repeated ad nauseum to embed them firmly as truth in the public mind, the media and internationally.”
And in that endeavour, as this column points out, whoever lends himself as an accomplice in the political baiting of Modi has been rewarded – with civilian honours and much more – by the UPA government.
As this article (on a Gujarati website that also bats for Modi) points out, instances of former Supreme Court judges being rewarded post-retirement for their partisan views on Gujarat under Modi abound. Some of them are egregious instances of breach of propriety, even potential illegality.
It is into that pit that Katju has landed himself with his partisan, extra-judicial, facts-be-damned comments on Modi, which relate to a domain far removed from his current responsibility as Press Council chairman. In this case, he has no one to blame but himself for this fall.
(Katju’s duties as Chairman PCI absolutely do NOT mandate him to write op-ed columns or blogs in sundry newspapers or websites and try to become a “journalist” himself! What is especially shocking is that Katju is airing his opinions on Gujarat 2002, a case which has already been heard (for several years) by a bench of judges (Katju wasn’t even one of them) of the highest court of law in the land, the Supreme Court of India, and who have completely exonerated Modi of any charges whatsoever. It is sad to see that a retired judge (I am not commenting how good a judge or lawyer he was) has so little respect for the judicial and legal system of India.)
Katju is being criticized, not because he criticized Modi, but because he lied and is shamelessly biased in his article in the Hindu. “2,000 Muslims” did not die in the rioting as he claimed. The actual death toll is 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. Like a typical pseudo-secularist, Katju claimed to have sympathy for the “thousands of Muslims” dead, yet more than doubled the number of Muslim dead and conveniently ignored the Hindu dead altogether. Not once does he mention any “horrible crimes committed” against Hindus in Gujarat, least of all being the Godhra train arson, which he does not even mention by name. There is nothing more reprehensible than shedding crocodile tears for victims of injustice and using their cause to score political points, as Katju has shamelessly done. People who care about riot victims do not fabricate or ignore suffering.
Moreover, his blatant comparisons between Hitler and Modi are slanderous and disingenuous to say the least, not to mention painfully ironic. It is in fact the Congress Party that suspended the Indian Constitution on spurious grounds, declared a state of emergency, banned political opposition and jailed political opponents, detained, tortured, and murdered political dissidents, forcibly sterilized people, and then tried to cover it up by destroying all copies of the damning Shah Commission Report. These are all things Hitler did, while Modi did no such thing. In fact, he did everything he could to stop the rioting, and has allowed himself to be subjected to over a decade of scrutiny and libel, which has produced little of substance against him. Despite this, Katju sees Modi as culpable while actually accepting employment under the Congress government.
Moreover, Katju’s comparison between the Gujarat riots and Kristallnacht is simply absurd. The Jews did not invade Germany and rule over it, vandalize churches, rape women, loot anything, or massacre anyone. They have no history of rioting against non-Jewish Germans, and they did not partition Germany and exterminate the non-Jews of that new state, as Indian Muslims did. Indeed, if anyone in India is comparable to Germany’s Jews, it is the Parsis, a peace-loving, well educated, and productive minority in India who, like the German Jews, fled to India fleeing religious persecution and contributed immensely to their new home. And if anyone is comparable to the Nazis, it is the Muslim barbarians who attacked them in rioting in the 1800s.
More disgustingly, Katju actually has the temerity to say that “there is still a mystery over what happened at Godhra.” This is despite the fact that Indian courts have already charged, tried, and convicted those responsible for the cold-blooded arson of 59 innocent men, women, and children. In contrast, Modi has not even been charged with anything, let along tried and prosecuted. Yet, Katju insists that he must be guilty, merely because he finds it “impossible to believe” that the Gujarat riots were spontaneous. Perhaps there is no need for anything so cumbersome as “evidence” or a trial; just have “Detective Katju” take the case, and convict people based on what he finds “impossible to believe.” Indeed, if the 2002 Gujarat riots must have been carried out with the help of the government, then which riots were not carried out in a similar manner? Why isn’t Katju comparing Rajiv Gandhi or Tarun Gogoi with Hitler for their “complicity” in the 1984 Delhi and 2012 Assam rioting respectively, which can no doubt be established in a similarly spurious manner based on Katju’s no doubt infallible hunches? Indeed, if it is “impossible to believe” that the Gujarat riots were spontaneous, then why is there any “mystery” regarding the Godhra train burning in Katju’s mind? Surely, by Katju’s own logic this too was a “horrible crime” and hence must have been carried out with the support of Modi’s Congress party enemies?
Katju also says other stupid things that make him worthy of censure, like the silly idea that “India is a nation of immigrants.” If people who immigrated to India thousands of years before recorded history are “immigrants” then which nation is *not* a nation of immigrants? Everyone’s ancestors from migrated somewhere. Katju’s ridiculous notion renders the term “immigrant” meaningless, because it makes all countries nations of immigrants, and leaves no “indigenous” populations anywhere. It means that Indians are no more native to India than the colonialists who occupied it. He also complains about British “distortions” of Indian history to “create enmity” between Hindus and Muslims, a typical secular negationist statement that blatantly ignores the long and bloody history of persecution against Hindus by Muslim fanatics long before the British arrived. Moreover, he ironically subscribes to actual British distortions of Indian history, like the Aryan Invasion Theory, a piece of racist colonialist propaganda rooted in the debunked garbage that was “racial science.”
Katju’s lionization of Akbar and Nehru in the article is typical, as the latter was not the “pluralistic” ruler he is made out to be, nor was Nehru the secularist that Katju sees him as. According to the Ain i Akbari of Abdul Fazal Allami, the vizier of Akbar “the Great”, this “tolerant” king actually forced Hindus to wear patches to identify themselves as second class citizens, much as the Christians did with Jews, especially in Nazi Germany. Yet it is Modi, not Akbar that Katju compares with Hitler! This “great” king also made towers of skulls of the heads of his dead Hindu enemies after the Second Battle of Panipat, and desecrated the body of his opponent, King Hemuchandra Vikramaditya, another convenient aspect of Islamic history that Katju whitewashes as part of his attempt to “prove” a British conspiracy to make Hindus and Muslims enemies.
Predictably, Nehru, Katju’s other idol, whitewashed Islamic history in India himself, going so far as to deny the jihadist motivations behind Mahmuhd of Ghazni’s invasion and looting in India, despite the latter’s own admission of it, and actually *praising* Islamic vandalism in India as restoring “vitality” to “decadent and morbid” Hindu architecture. Unsurprisingly, Nehru began the minority-appeasement policies that masquerade as “secularism” in India today, whether it was his maligning Rajendra Prasad for attending the Somnath Temple restoration while hypocritically using state funds to restore Delhi mosques, or presiding over a “secular” country with religious personal laws, or praising Muslim League secessionists and murderers as “patriots” and allowing them to stay in post-partition India.
Like many of Modi’s critics, Katju wraps up his sordid excuse for an article by launching a rather predictable attack on Modi’s development of Gujarat, criticizing the rates of malnutrition in the state. His blog contains a lengthier version of the article, where he sneers at Modi, asking if the hungry children in Gujarat will eat the roads, and factories he has built. Perhaps the good justice is unaware that the parents of these hungry children work on and help build these roads and factories, to earn money so that their children can have something to eat. Unlike his counterparts in other states, Modi does not hand poor people free food in exchange for votes, but provides them with jobs and infrastructure so that they truly become self reliant. Yes, Gujarat is not perfect and is still improving, especially since Modi has launched schemes to combat malnutrition. But what is particularly galling about Katju’s article is that in his own blog he refers to the need for India to become an “industrialized” and “powerful” country. Yet when it comes to Modi, he immediately shifts gears and lambasts him for “giving concessions to big industrial houses and offering them cheap land and cheap electricity” completely ignoring the fact that such measures contribute to the very “industrialization” he praises elsewhere, and secures Gujarat jobs and investment. Indeed, it is particularly hypocritical for Katju to shed crocodile tears for Gujarat’s poor on one hand, and then pompously denounce 90% of India (much of which is poor) as “idiots” and “communal” especially when his own statements are full of lies, bias, and politically correct fiction.
And here it comes again:
Arun Jaitley is one of the most articulate voices of the BJP. He is forceful in his views, yes, but he is also always affable and relaxed, and not really given to using strong language against anybody, whatever be the issue or provocation. However, this time, Jaitley has really taken Markandey Katju to the cleaners, given him a sound and comprehensive thrashing, and essentially wiped the floor with Katju’s face. And am I glad that someone finally put this pompous ass (“one man Khap panchayat”) Katju in his place and taught him a lesson he is not likely to forget in a hurry!
First, some family background about Markandey Katju. The Katjus are a famous Allahabad-based Kashmiri Pandit family with close ties (through clan relationships) with the other, more famous, Kashmiri Pandit family from Allahabad — the Nehrus. When the latter family, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, usurped political power in post-independence India, through their absolute control over the Congress party, close associate Kailashnath Katju (Markandey Katju’s grandfather) also became a Congress politician and Nehru loyalist-cum-crony. He was first made the Governor of Orissa and West Bengal. Then he became minister in Nehru’s cabinet holding various top ministries like Law, Home and Defense. Subsequently, he was (twice) made CM of Madhya Pradesh. Meanwhile, as the Nehru dynasty (and now the Nehru-Maino dynasty) continued to remain India’s political masters, the sons, nephews, grandsons and grandnephews of the loyal Katju family continued to receive patronage from the Durbar Establishment, and were serially rewarded with bureaucratic and civil service positions. Kailashnath Katju’s son (Markandey Katju’s father) Shivnath Katju was also appointed judge to the Allahabad HC, as also his brother Brahmanath Katju, and later Markandey Katju himself. Cousin Vivek Katju rose through the ranks of the IFS, was appointed ambassador to various countries like Burma, Afghanistan and Thailand, and retired as Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs. Such cases only go on to demonstrate the depth to which the tentacles of the Congress party and Nehru dynasty have entrenched themselves in all aspects of Indian society — from politicians to civil servants and bureaucracy, from armed forces to intellectuals and intelligentsia, and from historians to journalists and mainstream media.
Anyway, the addiction of possessing a bungalow in New Delhi’s famed and posh LBZ (Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone, the holiest of holy postal address in Indian politics) has been known to be the moral downfall of a great many people, and so seems to be the case with the Katjus (who are co-opted as the loyal bureaucrat-cum-courtiers of the Nehru dynasty Durbar). Immediately after retirement (may be aided by his track record of judgments), Markandey Katju was awarded with a sine cure quasi-judicial position (that lets him retain all official privileges, bungalow, car, etc) as the Chairman of the Press Council of India. Sadly, Katju has been anything but successful in his stint at the PCI, and on his watch, the Indian print media has hit all-time lows on all fronts such as paid news, bias and prejudice, unethical journalism, and subservience to the govt. Katju, meanwhile, has been more of a pseudo-journalist and political commentator himself, instead of a watchdog over the media or the I&B ministry, as the PCI should ideally be. Like a modern day Pharaoh (or, like I said, a “one man Khap panchayat”), he has been airing his opinions and pronouncing judgments on pretty much anything and everything under the sun, from national policies to economics, from astronomy to Kashmir, from linguistics to religious philosophy, from Kate Middleton to NASA, from current affairs issues to breast enhancement surgeries. Sorry, but becoming a columnist himself is definitely not the job of the PCI, and this kind of pompous megalomania (tinged with outright political bias) certainly does not suit a former judge of the SC.
This time our self-proclaimed genius and expert-on-all-matters (i.e. FRAUD) Markandey Katju decided to air his opinions on Narendra Modi and Gujarat. But of course, you see, EVERYBODY, from folk dancers to pseudo-activists, and from Delhi Durbar pseudo-intellectuals to Bollywood celebs, is an expert on Modi and Gujarat 2002, right? It is ONLY the poor Supreme Court of India that is NOT an expert on Gujarat 2002, evidently, considering the “inexcusable mistake” they made in exonerating “evil Hindoo fascist bigot terrorist mass-murderer” Modi of all charges of wrongdoing, right? LOL! Katju’s rant predictably also contained the usual (nowadays mandatory in all Modi-baiting articles) Congress-sponsored propaganda discrediting Gujarat’s economic miracle as “myth”. So now, with his post-retirement appointment as Chairman PCI coming to an end, looks like Markandey Katju is looking for another sine cure posting, this time possibly a bigger prize like an RS seat or a governorship (such as the one his grandfather had once secured for himself). And hence the usual dance of sycophancy and pleasing the dynasty Durbar, by slandering the Queen’s enemy number one, Narendra Modi. But this time, Arun Jaitley rallied around and delivered to Katju an EPIC hammering of the kind that only he could deliver!
Venky Vembu has mentioned and linked some brilliant articles above: Do read Jaitley’s article. Also the two Desh Gujarat articles that show how not just columnists and journalists, but even the sitting judiciary seems to be actively “baiting” Modi (and the Gujarat govt) in their effort to suck up to the centre Congress/UPA govt and the Nehru dynasty Durbar, so as to land plush post-retirement sine cure positions. But for the best analysis of the politics behind the emergence of “shoulders” like Katju over which the Congress will fire salvos for the next one year, read the Ram Jethmalani Sunday Guardian article that has been shared above.