This is what I was really worried about. Apparently, the snooping on the girl in Gujarat was not a lone case. Firstpost.in reports that as many as 93000 illegal mobile phone tappings took place in just six months in Gujarat between Dec 2012 and May 2013. Phone tappings may be a less severe form of surveillance than physical snooping itself, but surely there is a worrisome story here.
Firstpost.in adds “reports now say phone tapping has been rampant in Gujarat, with a DGP discovering this year that as many as 93,000 mobile phones’ call data records had been obtained without his knowledge since December 2012”. The web publisher further reports “A report in The Hindustan Times says agencies such as the Gujarat Police, the IB, the Anti-Terror Squad and the Crime Branch are all routinely conduct illegal surveillance, either for investigations or at the instance of their political bosses. The extent of snooping is so pervasive that Gujarat’s director general of police Amitabh Pathak (now deceased) was shocked to learn in May that his own police officials had obtained call detail records of as many as 93,000 mobile phone numbers without his knowledge since December 2012”.
Referring to the same report, Firstpost.in writes further “The report also quotes from an affidavit filed by former IPS officer RB Sreekumar before the Justice Nanavati Commission probing the 2002 riots case in which he states that he was asked to rap the phones of BJP leader Haren Pandya and Congress leader Shankersingh Vaghela”.
Firstpost.in then refers to a report in the TOI “This report in the Times of India published in 2005 quotes BJP MLA Gordhan Zadaphia complaining about the Modi government engaging in illegal tapping of phones of MLAs and MPs. The report also said intelligence officers believed that official taps on phones was time-consuming and required several levels of permissions. It becomes more fruitful in this scenario to take the service provider into confidence and come to an “unofficial arrangement, the report said”.
What is clear from all this is that the stalking case was not an isolated one. Abuse of the power to tap is rampant. Abuse of the state police machinery is rampant. What is the power used for? In part, to get political leverage. Apart from Haren Pandya and Shankersingh Vaghela, Keshubhai Patel was also reportedly as complaining about being snooped upon. Any surprises that Modi has been besting his political rivals one after another over the years? We now know why. He had access to confidential information about his rivals. “Ipsa scientia potestas est” (‘knowledge itself is power’) is one of the most powerful weapons in politics.
What is perhaps even more stinking than the stalking, snooping and phone tapping scam itself is the way the BJP has been mounting its defence of Modi and Shah. The defence speaks more about the mindset of the BJP supporters. Madhu Kishwar (who supports Modi almost 100% of the times, even though she is a journalist and expected to be unbiased) tweeted ““56 yr old officer under watch of government 4 criminal misdeeds misuses posn to sexually exploit woman yng enf to be grd dtr, parents shd say fine?”. What is she saying? That the girl has no rights of her own? They can be usurped by her father, as if he “possesses” her? Meenakshi Lekhi, spokesperson of the BJP, has made inane accusations about the Congress asking how the tapes got out. Arre, forget how the tapes got out. The point is why what happened, happened.
And where is the “protected” girl (the victim really) in all this? Why is she not coming out and saying what she has to say? Why is her father fronting for her all this time? What is she afraid of? Did the girl really know what was going on? Did she know that even the phones of her family members were being tapped? Did she know that there were cops put on the flight that she took when she traveled out of Ahmedabad? Did she know that cops were monitoring her interactions with friends, including men? All of this looks extremely unlikely.
The real truth is that this snooping episode, along with many others – the 2002 riots, the numerous illegal fake encounters, the murder of Haren Pandya after he turned a government baiter, the tampering with the judicial process forcing the SC to move cases out of the state, the harassment of bureaucrats who don’t toe the line, the failure to appoint (or strategy not to appoint) a Lok Ayukta for more than a decade and later amend the law itself using brute legislative majority to wrest power of the appointment process, the absence of an adequate number of RTI commissioners – all points to Gujarat having become a classic police state over Modi’s tenure. If this is part of Modi’s “Gujarat model”, I don’t want any part of it….