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CK Raulji who? Top NGO leader feigns ignorance of MLA who called Bilkis rapists sanskari

By Rajiv Shah* 

In a shocking instance, a former Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) academic, and currently one of the topmost civil society leaders and political scientists, claiming to seek democratic reforms within the established system of governance, has feigned ignorance about CK Raulji, the controversial BJP MLA who won from Godhra constituency with a margin of over 35,000 in the just-concluded Gujarat state assembly elections.
Answering a question from Counterview at an online media conference whether the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in its just-released report, “Analysis of Criminal Background, Financial, Educational and Other Details of Winning Candidates” in the state assembly polls, also covers Raulji-type MLAs, the academic-turned-civil society leader, Jagdeep Chhokar, turned around his colleagues to find out who this “Raul” was, whether he had fought elections. Chhokar is a founding member of ADR.
When told that he had indeed fought and won the polls, Chhokar further sought details of whether Raulji had been analysed. When Counterview specifically asked him whether he knew that Raulji had favoured the release of Bilkis Bano case rapists and murderers and had even stated that Brahmins do not rape, Chhokar shot back, “Such a matter is beyond our scope of analysis. We don’t have the capacity to analyse such things. If you are not satisfied with this answer, it is your option.”
Raulji, ironically, has been in the news ever since August 15, 2022 following the release of 11 life-term convicts involved in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her seven relatives during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He was part of the Godhra Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) that granted remission to the 11 convicts in August and was at the centre of controversy when he referred to the released convicts as “Brahmins with good sanskar”. The remission is said to have been granted following a nod from the Union home ministry.
Ironically, Chhokar, in a plea in September 2022 to the CBI director asking him to challenge the release of the 11 convicts, had said, “The Government of Gujarat set up an advisory committee to give recommendations on the application for remission. The committee consisted of 5 persons belonging to the BJP (two being MLAs and three being 'social workers' who were also members of the BJP) and 5 government officials (who would obviously not have been expected to go against the wishes of the government).”
The plea does not name two BJP MLAs, who included Raolji. ADR report does not have him name in the winning candidates’ list of the Gujarat state assembly who have “declared criminal cases” against themselves. In names Jignesh Mevani, top Dalit leader, now with the Congress, who won from Vadgam, stating he has 10 criminal cases gainst them, nine of them of "serious IPC" type. An ADR spokesperson bracketed him BJP's Jetha Bharwad, who won from Shehra, the only one having the charge of rape against him.
Jagdeep Chhokar, Bilkis Bano
The “scope” of ADR report, according to the “disclaimer” at the very fag-end, is confined to analysing the information in the self-declared affidavits ahead of the assembly elections uploaded in the Election Commission website, all of which is in public domain. It says, “No unverified information from any other source is used”, claiming, the information is “only aimed at highlighting the growing criminality in politics...”
Introducing contents of the ADR report to the media, Maj Gen Anil Verma, who heads the civil society group, said, this time, the BJP’s 22 per cent of the 156 winning candidates have criminal cases against them, as against 26% of those who won during the last assembly polls in 2017. Similarly, he added, this time 16% BJP’s winning candidates had serious criminal cases against them, as against 18% in 2017. He insisted, “This suggests a good trend.”
This is not for the first time that the ADR – a foreign funds recipient NGO – has refused to indulge in analysing tricky issues, stating they are outside the scope of the “authentic” official data.
Answering a query on why issues related with religion, caste, Constitution, etc. find no mention in in its study, “Performance Report of Members of Legislative Assembly Gujarat”, released in March 2022, and whether these are not considered part of performance or democratic reforms, Chhokar had said, any analysis of these issues was bound be “subjective”.
“We do not analyse subjective data. While there is scope for discussion on these issues, opinions are bound to differ. Hence, we confine ourselves to objective data”, he had asserted, justifying the use of government data alone while taking up issues in order to analyse MLAs’ “performance”.
Pankti Jog, who coordinates with ADR in Gujarat had said that a major reason why caste, religion and Constitution-related issues, important as they were, could not be touched upon was, “We do not have enough resources to gather data on the ground level.” Verma had added, “Elsewhere, we have analysed hate speech as an issue.”
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*Editor, Counterview

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