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Exclusive: Ex-AAP Member Sunil Lal asks RMF to revoke 2006 Magsaysay Award for Kejriwal, Here is Why!

Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honor and is widely regarded as the region's equivalent of the Nobel Prize

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Mr. Arvind Kejriwal (extreme right) with the RMF Award in 2006. Image source: www.rmaf.org.ph
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Ex-Aam Admi Party (AAP) member and an activist for Jan LokPal Movement, Sunil Lal wrote a letter to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation (RMF) in Philippines, out of utter resentment and disappointment to revoke Magsaysay Award for Mr Kejriwal. In an exclusive Interview with sub-editor Deepannita Das of the NewsGram Team, Sunil opens his heart out on politics, leadership and the corruption surrounding the AAP party and what provoked him to write a six-page letter to the board of trustees  of RMF against Mr Kejriwal-

  • You were a former member of AAP and an Activist of Jan LokPal Movement. Is there any particular reason that you are not associated anymore with the AAP party?

Sunil Lal:AAP was founded on certain parameters that aimed to change the face of ongoing politics in the state in a positive manner. Back then, Kejriwal was head of Parivartan citizen’s movement in Delhi and was selected for Ramon Magsaysay Award for his dedication and contribution to India’s right-to-information (RTI) movement as well as empowering the common citizens of the nation to counter and fight corruption.

However, he is acting totally against all what he stood for at the time when he was considered for this prestigious Award. That is when I decided to quit the party. I feel it is a grave error of judgment by which a wrong man was selected for the Magsaysay Award.

  • In your letter, you have cited news reports, which state that there was fault with Kejriwal. Did you face the obstacles while being associated with the party or the change came afterwards?

Lal: By creating AAP, I feel that Mr Kejriwal has divided the volunteers of Jan LokPal Movement into two. The notion that Arvind Kejriwal ran a transparent and clean government was exposed, when Anil Galgali, an RTI activist filed an RTI seeking details from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Delhi government, regarding the expenses incurred on the government advertisement. Instead of sharing the details, the Delhi government replied that the information was not available as it has not been compiled and asked the information seeker to personally visit their office and check the files for themselves.

Sunil Lal with Anna Hazare. Photo courtesy: Datta Awari
Sunil Lal with Anna Hazare. Photo courtesy: Datta Awari
  • To narrow it down, did the RTI Activists make queries about the AAP Government’s advertising expenses in particular or did it get rejected in a similar and indirect manner?

Lal: On completion of one year, Government of Delhi published Ads in all media platforms- in print as well as in electronic media, to mark their achievements. So, news papers, online portals as well as TV channels were flooded with ads and out of sheer curiosity, Mr Shailendra Pratap Singh filed an RTI asking the funding details of AAP’s extravagant ads in particular.

  • Can you just specify the type of questions asked to the AAP Government in Delhi, which they failed to reply to?

Lal: There were five questions in total that was asked by Mr Shailendra Pratap Singh while he filed RTI-

  • How many mediums were used to spread AAP government’s work in Delhi? Please provide name of agencies/companies of the categories- Lists of Newspapers, TV channels, Radio/FM channels, Other modes if any
  • In how many states did the Delhi govt. gave their achievement ads after the completion of 1 year? Please provide a list.
  • What was the total amount spent by Delhi government on these ads
  • For how many consecutive days the ads were given to above mentioned mediums?
  • Did Delhi government give contract to any agency to carry out these advertisements, please provide the name & details of the agency name?

To the surprise and shock, none was answered by the AAP Government in Delhi. Rather it  came up with a very vague reason for not sharing the details.

Sunil Lal with Dr Kiran Bedi and with the Faculty & the Directors of Nirma University as a Volunteer heading the for the Anna's Janlokpal Movement. Image source: www.iacbranding.org
Sunil Lal with Dr Kiran Bedi and with the Faculty & the Directors of Nirma University as a Volunteer heading the for the Anna’s Janlokpal Movement.
  • There were debates regarding tax department of Kejriwal’s Government. Do you want to share your thoughts regarding this?

Lal: Before joining the AAP party, Kejriwal was a tax officer himself who felt accountable against the existing corruption in the society and pledged to change that and vowed to fight the corruption in the tax department during his period in service.

But soon after, it was seen that his VAT Department was charged with corruption and was caught red handed for accepting bribe. Instead of fixing the problem, he was mum about it, when could set up a commission of experts to handle the issue of corruption in his department.

Sunil Lal, former AAP member and Team Leader at India Against Corruption
Sunil Lal, former AAP member and Team Leader at India Against Corruption

Talking further, Sunil feels that the (self proclaimed) Champion of anti-corruption, Mr Kejriwal has failed to keep his promise towards his people. The idea of a clean system, fair judgement and corruption free state was just an illusion for people who believed in him.

“Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.”

In the letter written to RMF to revoke Magsaysay Award given to Kejriwal in 2006, Sunil says, “I am afraid, one of the recipients of your reputed Award is proving your choice to be wrong as today he is acting totally against all what he stood for at the time he was considered to be qualified for the Award.”

 –by Deepannita Das, sub-editor at NewsGram. The author can be reached at deepannitadas8@gmail.com

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  • AJ Krish

    Such claims against Mr Kejriwal raise serious doubts on the credibility of the party and what it stands for.If these accusations are true, the public has been fooled yet again into believing that their desire for a corruption-free was possible.

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)