In a highly explosive interview to veteran journalist Karan Thapar which was published in the web portal The Wire on 16 April last, Satyapal Malik, the former Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) governor, painted a fatal image of the PM Modi, his close aides and the BJP government. Citing instances of the ‘‘incompetence’’ and failure of the Indian government, Malik delved into the details of the Pulwama tragedy and the state of corruption in the Modi regime. After a brief tenure of just 14 months as Jammu and Kashmir governor, Malik was transferred to Goa in November 2019 as governor following his differerence with the central government on the issues of abrogation of article 370, abolition of statehood of J & K and Pulwama killing of 40 army jawans, raised corruption charges against the then BJP government of the state. Visibly upset with his allegations, he was again shifted to Meghalaya as governor in August 2020. But from there also, Malik made statements critical of the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ movement, criticized bigoted remarks and dog-whistling against Muslims by BJP ministers at the Centre and in the states. In the latest interview also, he reiterated the same points once again with enough pungency. Alongside, he also criticized the BJP government’s order of income tax raid on BBC after that reputed broadcasting house had produced a two-part documentary named ‘‘India—the Modi Question’’ based on anti-minority pogrom in Gujarat during 2002 when present BJP PM Modi was the state chief minister and subsequent events of communal killing and hatred in Modi-ruled India. He also added that the PM has suffered serious damage because of the Adani scandal and accused the government of appointing ‘third rate people’ as governors.
As is known to all, anybody, from the eminent intellectual to the student to the common man who dares questioning any of the policies, measures or steps of the Modi are branded anti-national, arrested, thrown in jail, languish there for unlimited period and even annihilated. Even common men are tortured and murdered by cow vigilantes, powerful upper caste people kill downtrodden lower caste people with immunity, communal hatred is spewed to beat up minority people and kill them in orchestrated carnage. At least, the investigating agencies or police immediately pounce upon him or her for airing ‘‘anti-national anti-patriotic views’’. ‘‘King can do no wrong’’—such is the governing syllable of the ruling BJP. However, so far Malik has not been made to feel the brunt of institutional intimidation. And most significantly, like Adani episode and allegations about misuse of Pegasus software, PM Modi has responded to the crisis with his chosen weapon-observing code of silence. Only after a long spell of silence, Union home minister Amit Shah responded on 22nd April last by asking why Malik’s conscience had awakened only after his term as governor ended? So, what? Does it prove that his allegations are unfounded? Secondly, this is also not factual that malik did not raise these points earlier. As early as a day after the terrorist attack at Pulwama where 40 CRPF troops were killed, Malik had told correspondent of the Indian Express in an interview that the attack was partly the result of an intelligence failure, especially due to the fact that security forces could not detect the loading and movement of the explosive-laden vehicle. The corruption allegations he reiterated in his interview to Karan Thapar were also made by him earlier while he was Governor of Meghalaya. In October 2021. Malik referred to the bribery in a public speech at Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, and his remarks were widely reported by media including PTI. In an interview to Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today TV on October 26, 2021, Malik spoke of how there was corruption in every matter the BJP-led government in Goa had handled and added that he told the PM about this but nothing was done. Instead, he said, I was removed as governor. In January 2022, Satyapal Malik told a gathering in Dadri, Haryana that Prime Minister Narendra Modi came across as ‘‘arrogant’’ when he met him to discuss the farmers’ stir and that he ended up having an argument with the latter. Again, he, during his tenure as Meghalaya governor told ‘The Wire’ in an interview aired on 15 September 2022, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a megalomaniac, which ‘‘jo ek bimari hai’’ (which is a disease) .
Obvious question is, who is on the wrong side? Satyapal Malik by his sensational revelations or the PM who is displaying a disdainful attitude towards all the serious allegations that Malik, a BJP insider and former vice-president of the party as also handpicked by Modi government to preside over Jammu and Kashmir while it was grappling with fateful events, has lavelled against him and his government? Neither silence nor demonstrative apathy, it has to be borne in mind, can be a sign of denial. Rather such an approach raises apprehension that, to quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark. That one may smile and smile and be a villain.’’
Satyapal’s allegations about mishandling of
Let us see what are the points raised by Satyapal Malik. First is about Pulwama massacre. A Scorpio bearing 300 kg RDX entered a high security zone, rammed into the CRPF convoy and exploded on 14 February 2019 killing 40 CRPF personnel on spot. Recounting the evening of that fateful day, Malik said that he could not contact the PM who was then shooting for a documentary on jungle safari in the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand where all communication links, for reasons unknown, were cut off. It is after one hour of the massacre that the PM contacted him from outside the park. ‘‘I told it to the PM (on the) same evening. This is our fault. Had we given aircraft then this would not have happened.’’ Malik also pointed out that ‘‘It was 100 per cent an intelligence failure.’’ The car (that rammed into the convoy) loaded with an estimated 300kg of explosives had moved around villages in the area for 10-12 days before the bombing and was undetected, let alone being hauled up. But the PM told him, ‘Tum abhi chup raho….’ (You keep your mouth shut now). I had already said this to a couple of channels. He said, ‘Yeh sab mat bolo, yeh koi aur cheez hai. Hame bolne do….’ (Do not discuss about such things. These are something different. Let us only speak on these.) National security adviser Ajit Doval also told me, ‘‘Yeh sab mat boliye. Aap chup rahiye (Don’t say all this. Stay quiet) …. Mujhe lag gaya tha ki ab yeh sara onus Pakistan ke taraf jana hai toh ‘chup rahiye’ (I realized that the onus was being shifted to Pakistan, so ‘stay quiet’),’’ Malik added. Then Malik broached the issue of abrogation of article 370 in J & K. He held that he had not been told in advance about the Modi government’s plan to strip the state of its special status, but he knew it was coming since it had been on the agenda and had been talked about. Pertinent to recall that he even told news agency ANI on 3 August 2019 that ‘‘Only rumour-mongering is going on … till today I have no inclination, no information, I have talked to everybody in Delhi, and nobody has given me any hint that they will do this or that. Somebody says there will be trifurcation. Somebody says Article 35, Article 370. Nobody has discussed these things with me either Prime Minister or Home Minister.’’ ‘‘Just a day before (the abrogation of special status under Article 370), I got a call from the home minister who said he was sending me a letter which I should get passed by the committee and send before 11am the next day,’’ Malik claimed in the latest interview. He also hastened to add that had he been consulted, he would have advised against downgrading Jammu and Kashmir to a Union Territory, Malik said. He said he guessed this had been done because the Centre wanted the police under its control, fearing a revolt. ‘‘When I told the chief secretary about the letter (from the home minister), he said… they will barge into police stations, snatch arms, the police will revolt…. I said, ‘Don’t worry, I have worked for six months. I am confident that even a dog won’t bark’…’’ mentioned Malik. Reminding BJP of its promises, Malik said that the government must restore the statehood status of Jammu and Kashmir and hold free and fair elections, which the region has been denied historically. Malik also mentioned that he has been warned by Modi to never speak on matters pertaining to Kashmir. The Pulwama tragedy, Malik says, was used by the ‘‘politicians’’ for electoral gains during elections.
Malik’s allegation about
Then he went on making another fiery comment: ‘‘I can safely say that the PM does not hate corruption very much,’’ According to him, when he was J & K Governor, he had received two files, one pertaining to ‘‘Ambani’’ and the other an ‘‘RSS functionary’’. ‘‘One of the secretaries told me that these are shady deals, but he can get Rs 150 crore each. I told him that I had come to Jammu and Kashmir with five kurta-pajamas and would leave with that only,…I alerted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who told me that there should be no compromise on corruption,’’ Malik added. ‘‘There had been allegations of malpractices in awarding contract of J&K Government Employees Health Care Insurance Scheme to Reliance General Insurance Company Ltd and awarding of contract with respect to civil works of Kiru Hydroelectric Power project to a private firm. Reports in these matters were sought from Finance Department and Anti-Corruption Bureau. On consideration of these reports, the competent authority in the J&K government has decided to refer these cases to CBI for investigation,’’ administration’s letter to the CBI read. The agency had registered the cases in April regarding purported irregularities in two projects in Jammu and Kashmir when Malik was the Governor there. Incidentally, in the case of Reliance, the CBI FIR has said that the allegations as mentioned by the administration ‘‘prima facie disclose that unknown officials of Finance Department of Govt. of J&K by abusing their official position in conspiracy and connivance with Trinity Reinsurance Brokers Ltd, Reliance General Insurance Company Ltd. and other unknown public servants and private persons have committed the offences of criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct to cause pecuniary advantage to themselves and caused wrongful loss to the state exchequer during the period 2017 and 2018 and thereby in this manner cheated the government of J&K.’’ An enquiry by the administration found that the government had hired Trinity as a broker for finalizing group health insurance for J&K government employees. However, the tender process initiated by Trinity saw only one bidder, Reliance. An investigation report submitted by J&K Anti-Corruption Bureau also observed that ‘‘…the subject verification so conducted in this bureau with regard to Health Care Insurance Scheme of government employees stands closed as no irregularity was found in the matter.’’ The firm accused in the case was Patel Engineering Ltd. An FIR in the case was registered in Jammu. A separate FIR registered in Srinagar named Anil Ambani’s Reliance General Insurance Company and Trinity Reinsurance Brokers Ltd as accused. Malik explained in his interview that he was opposed to the said insurance scheme because ‘‘all government employees had to pay Rs 8,500 a year for the scheme. Retired officers had to give more than Rs 20,000. And on top of that, the hospitals that had been listed in the scheme were bad hospitals. None of the hospitals were of national repute. I realized that the hospitals were bad and then good treatment would not be meted out even after taking large amounts. So, I said in Delhi, under CGHS, we don’t have to pay anything, so why would they pay here?’’
Recalling another instance during his tenure as Goa governor, Malik said he had personally complained to PM Modi about low-level corruption. When he was in Kashmir, he came to know that everyone was asked to contact one Jitendra Singh at PM’s office (PMO). He informed that to home minister Amit Shah. In spite of that, Jitendra still continues to be in PMO. The PM personally called him three days later saying that Malik was wrong with his information. Upon learning about Modi’s sources, Malik said, ‘‘I told him (Modi), this man himself is taking money sitting at a Chief Minister’s home. Ultimately a week later, I was transferred. Then how do I believe that the Prime Minister cares about corruption?’’ ‘‘In Goa, even small kids will tell you how the (then) Goan Chief Minister is,’’ he says referring to the corrupt state governments under the BJP. Malik added that he was rushed out of Goa on a private ‘raddi’ (scrap) plane within nine months of him serving as the governor because of his growing popularity and sentiments.
After Malik’s revelations, kin of jawans killed in Pulwama terror attack are also demanding probe. Going a step further, Malik observed that the Adani-Hindenburg scandal may prove the Modi government’s Achilles heel if the Opposition unites for the next Lok Sabha polls. Adani-Hindenburg scandal is an election issue) and if the Modi government don’t improve, Adani (scandal) will finish them off, remarked Malik.
In a YouTube interview, Malik had said that when the CBI asked him about these things, he said, ‘‘These are the people of the Prime Minister.’’ Clarifying that with Karan Thapar, he said he meant ‘‘all these people …close to him. One is Ambani, second Ram Madhav and the third was Hasib Drabu—every time I met the PM, he would ask if I had met Drabu’’, the Finance Minister in Mufti Mehbooba’s People’s Democratic Party—BJP coalition government, then in power in J& K and a wheeler-dealer.
Anti-Muslim stand of PM and BJP
Malik has also been extremely critical of the PM, his bandwagon of ministers, and the BJP’s treatment of Muslims. As per his words, PM Modi doesn’t stop ministers and even chief ministers who publicly taunt Muslims. They call them ‘‘Babar ki aulad, abba jaan and Go to Pakistan.’’ Modi himself has said ‘‘kapde se pahchan lo’’ and ‘‘kabristan aur shamshan ghat’’. Is it right for the Prime Minister of India to speak this way and let his ministers speak this way about Indian citizens who are Muslims, he asked. ‘‘They are mistaken in thinking India can survive by excluding the Muslims of this country. Their trust should be won over,’’ he said adding that any government is wrong in its attempt to alienate any section of people.
In January last year at a function in Dadri in Haryana, Malik spoke about a meeting with the Prime Minister during the farmers’ agitation. He said: ‘‘Meri panch minute main ladai ho gayi unse … who bahut ghamand main the’’. (I had a quarrel with him within 5 minutes of talk …he is too much proud of himself) (Indian Express, 3 January 2022. when he met Amit Shah ‘‘When I met Prime Minister Modi on the farmers’ issue, I fought with him within 5 minutes. He was very arrogant. When I said that 500 farmers have died, he asked ‘Did they die for me?’. I said that yes, you are king because of them. He told me to meet Amit Shah,’’ said Malik. When he met Amit Shah, he was told of Modi that ‘‘iski akal maar rakhi hai logon ne’’ (people are not allowing him to do anything good. (Indian Express, 4 January 2022)
Recollecting another incident, Malik told Karan Thapar in the interview that the appointment list of the president is not a matter of the office. ‘‘The president’s appointment list is approved by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).’’ When asked by Thapar if this is an insult to the highest nominal head of the country, Malik shrugs saying, ‘‘Nothing is impossible here.’’
Why not a single allegation of Malik
is challenged by PM or BJP?
Clearly, the BJP and its spin masters may find it difficult to dodge the missiles hurled at the PM by Malik. The veracity of his claims is not the point here. Malik is the proverbial ‘insider’: this is probably the most damaging account from someone who has been a part of the Establishment to poke holes into PM Modi’s carefully curated image. This lends additional seriousness to the episode. Again, the issues that Malik has raked up—the Pulwama attack, corruption and so on – have been central to PM Modi’s claim of delivering a template of governance that is clean and fearless. In fact, Modi’s tactical use of the Pulwama tragedy was instrumental in the BJP’s superlative electoral performance in 2019.
Hence, now, when next Lok Sabha election is drawing near, is it that many uncomfortable truths hiding with in the BJP need to be kept secret lest those should spell danger to it? For with exposure, people will know the naked truth about the misdeeds, corruption, highhandedness and under-cover activities of the ruling party that is serving the ruling monopolists with utmost devotion and holding everyone opposed to it as ‘corrupt’ and ‘anti-national’.
Hence the question we posed at the beginning remains live-who is on the wrong side, Satyapal Malik or PM Modi? People of the country has every right to know this.
(Source: ANI, 03-08-19, Outlook 06-01-22, Indian Express 19-09-22, New Indian Express-21-10-21, news18, 14-04-23, The Telegraph 15-04-23, 18-04-23. The Wire 16-04-23, 18-04-23, 23-04-23, ABP 16-04-23, 19-04-23)