Monthly Archives: NOVEMBER 2017
APOLOGY FALLOUT – THE FIGHT BACK
TRIBUNE TRUST REMOVES JUSTICE SODHI AS CHAIRMAN, EDITOR TELLS STAFF WE WILL FIGHT IT ALL THE WAY
Tribune, Harish Khare mull the next step to undo the damage
WILL APOLOGY PROVE RATHER DAMAGING FOR BIKRAM MAJITHIA?
In an explosive development triggered by The Tribune’s abject apology to Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia, The Tribune Trust has removed Justice SS Sodhi (retd) as its President, replaced him with Jammu & Kashmir governor N N Vohra, and seemed on the brink of withdrawing or nullifying the apology published on October 29.
The decision was taken by The Tribune Trust and conveyed to the newspaper’s staff on Tuesday. The Trust, which met on November 3, Friday, will meet again this month to take a final call on formal withdrawal of the apology or any other step it deems fit, top sources close to members of the Trust told Punjab Today.
The Tribune had come under heavy criticism after it published a shockingly abject apology on the front page in its October 29 edition, claiming it had verified the earlier allegations made against former minister Bikram Singh Majithia and had found him not involved in any drug trade.
While some top Congress leaders opposed to Captain Amarinder Singh, including former state party chief Pratap Singh Bajwa, had objected to the clean chit, The Tribune had also left its own journalists and the larger media community crestfallen.
Punjab Today, which had broken the inside story about sharp differences between editor-in-chief Harish Khare of The Tribune and Trust’s president SS Sodhi, had also reported that Khare had made it clear to his inner circle and members of the Trust that he was not on board on the matter of publication of apology and was made to carry it on the front page under duress.
Khare addressed his staff and colleagues on Tuesday, and made it clear that The Tribune will continue to report "without fear or favour” and exhorted them to go about their jobs in the most professional manner.
Known for a fiercely independent streak in his demeanour and writing, often reflected in his columns, Khare also privately invited suggestions from certain colleagues about how to undo the damage done to the reputation of The Tribune due to the publication of the apology, Punjab Today has learnt.
The decision was taken by The Tribune Trust and conveyed to the newspaper’s staff. The Trust met on November 3 and will meet again this month to take a final call on formal withdrawal of the apology to Majithia
In the October 29 "unconditional apology,” The Tribune had admitted that certain news stories that it carried "with prominent headlines suggesting involvement of Bikram Singh Majithia…with an illegal drug syndicate” were found to be completely false.
Bikram Singh Majithia had claimed it as a clean chit while detractors of Amarinder Singh, including 40 MLAs who had demanded action against Majithia in writing, were left high and dry. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had maintained a stoic silence on the issue. Incidentally, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been going hammer and tongs after Majithia, and the latest development in the media house is certain to give him a booster shot.
Clearly, the latest stance of The Tribune is neither good news for the Akali Dal nor for the Amarinder Singh government, political and media analysts said.
Critics of the apology move had been questioning why the Tribune did what it did, and how could it have verified all the facts and found Majithia completely innocent, as it claimed.
It came out in the Trust’s meeting that not all members of the Trust were on board on the issue of publication of the apology to Majithia.
As per Khare’s terms of employment, his tenure is to end mid-July but with the latest turn of events, The Tribune’s editor seems to be well on its way for another go at the job.
Apart from Vohra and Sodhi, other members of The Tribune Trust are former GOC-in-C, Western Command, Lt. Gen S. S. Mehta (retd); media industry professional with decades of experience in business management Naresh Mohan; and former UPSC chairman and former Manipur governor Gurbachan Jagat.
THE APOLOGY THAT TRIGGERED THE CRISIS - "On verification, it was found that Bikram Singh Majithia was not involved in any drug trade… The Tribune deeply regrets the damage caused to Majithia’s esteem and prestige, and the anguish caused to his family and well-wishers. An unconditional apology is offered by The Tribune for the same.”
Sources said The Tribune’s journalists, who had been demoralised since the publication of the apology, were in an upbeat mood at the latest twist in the tale, and want Khare and the Trust to escalate the matter to a logical conclusion.
Justice Sodhi (retd) is understood to continue as a member of the Trust, though the last word on it may be said only after the Trust’s next meeting this month.
Vohra in, and as for Sodhi, silence!
On the record, The Tribune did not refer to the controversy, choosing instead to publish a brief news item about Trust’s member Vohra being elevated to the position of president of The Tribune Trust, and altogether omitting to even mention the name of the outgoing president S S Sodhi.
In a rather cryptic message to the Tribune’s rank and file, Vohra was quoted as saying that "the Tribune Group of Newspapers must remain totally committed to the pursuit of highest journalistic values and to the promotion of sterling civic virtues and ethical standards.”
The fact that The Tribune did not even name the outgoing president Sodhi, sent clear signals to all interested quarters in polity and media as it was in sharp contrast to its earlier practice. When Sodhi had assumed the top job in April, 2012, the newspaper had not only thanked the then outgoing president R S Talwar publicly for services rendered but even announced that Talwar was the senior-most Trustee of The Tribune Trust, that he will remain a member of the Trust and that the institution, under his watch, "grew in strength, witnessed innovative changes and launched several new products which enabled it to consolidate its leadership position in the region.”
The Tribune's public announcement about NN Vohra taking over as president of the Trust did not even name SS Sodhi who has been a Trustee of The Tribune Trust since 2002, and its president since 2012.
It had also dwelt in detail upon Talwar's impressive career graph, recalling that he was "a distinguished and upright member of the IAS” and even adding that "throughout his distinguished service...he held the reputation of being an officer of unimpeachable integrity.”
Compared to that transition, the public announcement about Vohra taking over as president of the Trust did not even name Sodhi who has been a Trustee of The Tribune Trust since 2002, and its president since 2012. When he had assumed the top job, Sodhi was described as "a distinguished legal luminary, public servant, author and former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court,” apart from his many other achievements, including his stint as the Lok Pal of Punjab, finding mention in the announcement five years back.
Incidentally, Sodhi is also considered among the oldest residents of Chandigarh, a city where the power elite is adept at reading significance conveyed through such codes of powerspeak.
(An earlier version of this story had described the position as Chairman of The Tribune Trust. It is President of The Tribune Trust. - Ed)
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TRYING TO SPREAD COMMUNAL DISTURBANCES
ISI behind killing of RSS leaders and others in Punjab: Capt Amarinder
The Punjab government today said that the targeted killings being carried out in the state for more than a year now were part of a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI.
"Breakthrough in targeted killings with arrest of 4, conspiracy was hatched by #ISI on foreign soil to spread communal disturbances," Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted.
Amarinder said it was evident from the investigations that the targeted killings were aimed at fanning communal disturbances to further ISI’s anti-India game-plan since there were strong indications of the active involvement of Pakistani intelligence operatives based in Pak and foreign soil.
Referring to the killings of Amit Arora, Shiv Sena leader Durgadas Gupta, RSS leader Jagdish Gagneja, Sri Hindu Takht official Amit Sharma, Dera Sacha Sauda followers Satpal and Ramesh Kumar, Pastor Sultan Masih, and RSS leader Ravinder Gosain, the Punjab CM said,”Ludhiana, Khanna and Jalandhar targeted killing cases solved with their arrest. 1 of the 4 suspects was a gangster lodged in jail. They were using encrypted mobile software/apps for communication with handlers based in Pakistan, western countries; were trained abroad.”
He also congratulated Punjab Police for their excellent work in nabbing these men and solving the untraced cases.
According to DGP Punjab,''Four have been arrested, further interrogation is underway. ISI link, nexus between gangsters in providing weapons, exploitation of our innocent youth by radicalising them well established.''
Earlier last month, unidentified assailants shot dead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Ravinder Gosain in Punjab’s Ludhiana. Eyewitnesses told the police that Gosain was shot from close range by two motorcycle-borne assailants in Kailash Nagar area.
He was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Gosain was returning from an RSS shakha (daily training in the early morning) and was near his house when he was attacked.
Gosain’s killing was the fifth of a right-wing leader in Punjab in the last three years. Senior Punjab RSS leader Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd) was shot by unidentified motor-cycle borne youths in a busy area of Jalandhar city on August 6, 2016. His assailants continue to be at large.
Gagneja, Senior Vice President of the Punjab unit of RSS, was critically injured in the attack. He succumbed to his injuries a month later.
HC REFUSES TO STAY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST KHAIRA
SAD demands immediate resignation of Sukhpal Khaira
Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today said AAP leader Sukhpal Khaira did not have any locus standi to continue as leader of opposition with the high court refusing his plea to stay proceedings summoning him as an accused in an international drug racket case and that he should now tender his resignation immediately.
In a statement here, SAD MPs Naresh Gujral and Prem Singh Chandumajra said with today's developments in the high court it was clear that Sukhpal Khaira was an accused in a drug racket with Pakistani links. "Instead of giving him any relief despite repeated and persistent pleas by his council, the high court has asked him to appear in the Fazilka court as summoned on November 30. It has also facilitated his appearance in the court by directing that the non-bailable warrants issued against him should not be executed”, the MPs added.
The senior SAD leaders said propriety demanded that Khaira resign as leader of opposition immediately so that the august chair was not besmirched. They said since this was not likely as Khaira had already thrown all moral and ethical norms to the wind, it was incumbent on AAP Convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to fire him from the post and also expel him from the party without any further delay. "If Kejriwal does not take swift action against Khaira it will make it clear to Punjabis that the AAP Convenor himself is compromised and is hand in glove with Khaira”.
Gujral and Chandumajra said an attempt was being made by AAP to brazen it out and support Sukhpal Khaira. They said even AAP legislators were being pressurized to support Khaira and sign a statement in his favour. "This despite the fact that a large number of AAP leaders have already asked Khaira to resign saying the party cannot have double standards on the issue of drugs and that it could not tolerate this taint. Leaders are now being pressurized to amend their statements give a clean chit to Khaira”, the leaders added.
The Akali leaders said this was a testing time for AAP legislators. "You (AAP MLAs) have been repeatedly misused by the Delhi AAP team. You have been forced to brand Punjabis as ‘nashedi’ on the orders of Arvind Kejriwal and his gang. Punjab and its youth have suffered because of this. Now is the time for you to stand up for Punjab and its youth and condemn any move to support a leader who stands accused of being the king pin of an international drug racket in which the accused have been given stringent punishment of 20 years jail term".
The MPs also rubbished AAP attempts to mislead the people by projecting the mere stay of the non-bailable warrant against him as a relief. "Nothing has changed on the ground. Khaira still stands as an accused in the case. He has to appear in court as an accused on November 30. He will be subject to the judicial process which has summoned him after finding strong cogent evidence against him”.
NO SUCH MEETING SCHEDULED IN THE FIRST PLACE
Amarinder rubbishes reports of postponing meeting with Bajwa, other party MPs
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has denied deferment of any meeting with Congress MPs, including Partap Singh Bajwa, saying no such meeting was scheduled in the first place.
CM rubbished reports that he had postponed a meeting of MPs scheduled for Monday, thus depriving Bajwa a forum to air his so-called grievances.
There was no question of planning such a meeting on Monday as the Himachal Pradesh campaign programme for the day had already been finalised by the AICC, said Amarinder, dubbing the reports as speculative and baseless.
In a statement issued here, Captain said while party Members of Parliament, including Bajwa, were welcome to meet him any time, it was not his domain to convene any meeting to set their agenda ahead of parliamentary session. That was the prerogative of the party leaders, he added.
Categorically rejecting any suggestion to the contrary, he expressed surprise that such rumours were being spread and said he was clueless about the reason for the same. It was only from the media that he had read and heard about Bajwa’s so-called grievances, said Amarinder, adding that the MP himself had not once approached him with any complaint on any count.
It appeared, therefore, that the reports of Bajwa’s alleged grievances were unsubstantiated and, on the face of it, seemed to be the creation of media imagination, said the Chief Minister.
Every Congress member had the right to air his/her grievances in the party forum, and Bajwa was also free to take up any issue troubling him with the Congress leadership, he added. Captain Amarinder reiterated that he had no clue about the reasons for Bajwa’s perceived unhappiness with the state government, as had been reported by a section of the media.
In a large party like the Congress, one could not rule out some discontent on some issues here or there but the same could easily be resolved through intra-party dialogue and discussion, said Captain, and added that if any MP, MLA or worker had any reason to feel disgruntled, they should not hesitate to raise it within the party forum.