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Expose or skulduggery?

Expose or skulduggery?

Author: A. T. Thiruvengadam
Publication: The Hindu
Date: April 3, 2001

AN ANCHOR of a TV network while discussing the Tehelka episode said ``we have become the laughing-stock of the world''. The demand of the opposition parties, especially the Congress, for the resignation of the government and not for a thorough probe to find out the truth is making us a ``greater laughing-stock'' of the world.

It appears the Congress is not interested in truth and will try to grab only power. Of course, nothing better can be expected from a party whose leaders were often accused of corruption, abuse of power and some of whom are still facing charges in various courts. The party's electoral alliance in Tamil Nadu and its support of Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar are nothing but its utter disregard for truth and probity. Of course the party's leaders have said ``corruption is a global phenomenon'' and ``corruption is an individual affair'' and will not apply this to other parties - especially those in power.

This `Tehelka' was the outfit which utilised the services of Manoj Prabhakar to malign the icons of Indian cricket. The public outcry and the CBI investigation drew wide media coverage, exposure to an obscure organisation and some cricket characters were technically assassinated. But in the fever and frenzy, the perpetrators escaped scrutiny. It is a classic textbook exercise of a ``destabilisation operation'' to obtain public credibility and status for the organisation by such startling exposures, so that the subsequent ones are more successful and achieve the purpose. It is not known if the CBI in its enquiries tried to find out the motives, purposes, professional qualifications of this company and its members.

According to details published in print and telecast by electronic media, some operatives of the company, posing as ``business executives'' of a non-existing company, approached some politicians (of course of the ruling combine) and bureaucrats, offered to explore and arrange for investment if they were helped to get purchase orders for their ware.

They also offered to pay donations to the party fund. From the above it is clear specific individuals were targeted, sought after, made to believe that they were in touch with ``business people'' and were offered inducements and invited to accept money for transactions which the perpetrators never intended to accomplish.

In short, it was a machination to entrap a few people to commit misdemeanour by enticing with inducements and allurements. The judiciary of the country and the world over has decried this trap as `illegitimate' and the perpetrators to be treated as accomplices in the crime. The Supreme Court has observed that ``the very best of men have moments of weakness and temptation, and even the worst, times when they repent of an evil thought... it behoves society and the state to protect them... not to place further temptation''. The Supreme Court further said that it would express the same hope as Chief Justice Lord Goddard of England who said ``I hope the day is far distant when it will become a common practice in this country for police officers to be told to commit an offence themselves for getting evidence against some one: if they do commit an offence they ought also to be convicted''.

A dangerous portent

Thus we find ``Tehelka'' has indulged in organising a trap to malign a few political leaders who might or might not have been avaricious or simply naive. The same could happen to any politician from Ms. Sonia Gandhi to Mr. E. K. Nayanar. It is naive to believe the professing of altruism and public good. ``What was in it for the company and its masters'' was the one the CBI failed to identify in the match-fixing controversy. The premier investigating agency followed the `arrow' and killed the targets, without finding the `archer' and his motives. Hence a thorough probe by the House is required to ferret out the truth. A dangerous portent is the involvement of the members of the Armed Forces, which scrupulously avoided getting involved in political machinations and skulduggery. By enticing them into this ``illegitimate'' entrapment the bold backbone of the country's security is made spineless. Once it is destroyed it cannot be replaced.

The political elite, instead of trying to score points and assist in destabilisation, should have a complete discussion, if necessary, by summoning the ``dramatis personae'' with all recorded tapes, to the bar of the House and seek the truth. Then comes retribution where it is due. Otherwise, they will be failing in their duty to enlighten the public.

Manufactured scoop

Invidious comparisons are made between this and the exposure by Mr. Arun Shourie. The Bofors expose is also there. But neither Mr Shourie nor Ms Chitra Subramaniam were participants in the murky affair. It was a journalist scoop of the transaction already done. But what `Tehelka'' has done is to manufacture a scoop. There is a gulf of difference between a genuine scoop and a manufactured one in which the perpetrator has acted as agent provocateur.

Fund collection for party purposes is one of the blemishes of democracy. No country in the world is free from it; what becomes sinister is the quid pro quo. In this transaction, the quid pro quo is only a mirage, because no deal was struck and there was no intention on the part of anyone. The operation was limited and tailor made for political purposes at a time when elections are round the corner. For whose ``benefit'' should be found out. The leaders owe it to the electorate to find the answer to the query and bring out the truth so that the already battered and bruised Indian does not become a ``laughing-stock'' of the world.

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