MIDNIGHT: Reminiscent of the Emergency, Goa witnessed the midnight knock when police turned up to arrest Rohan Khaunte from his residence, allegedly for hoarding black money
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Shockingly, a sitting MLA Rohan Khaunte, who was still recently the minister for IT, was arrested for alleged assault of BJP leader Premanand Mahambre. Mahambre then illegally held a press conference on Goa Legislative Assembly premises to attack Opposition leaders including MLA Rohan Khaunte. Rohan was arrested despite Pratapsingh Rane, who was there when the alleged incident happened, denying there was any assault and there was no arrest warrant from the police or the court…
FORGET about aam aurat and aam aadmi. Forget about the claims that burqa-clad Muslim women at Shaheen Bagh were dancing in support of Modi. Forget about allegations that the Aam Aadmi Party who is feeding the protectors in Shaheen Bagh with biryani every day. Forget about Union Minister for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur asking his supporters to “goli maro…” those protesting against the Citizens Amendments Act (CAA).
We always believed that Goa was different. That the BJP culture of suppressing the minorities would not spread to Goa. Not because the BJP in Goa has any love for Muslims and Catholics. But because without the support of Muslims and Catholics the BJP cannot win any election in Goa. Of the original 13 MLAs who voted for the BJP in the 2017 elections seven belong to the minority community. Even of the 27 MLAs whose support the BJP is claiming after the defection of 10 Congress MLAs, the majority are Catholics. So we thought Goans were safe from Narendra Modigiri and Amit Shahgiri. Modi and Shah may not be present in Goa. But the RSS has its representative Satish Dhond who is the one pulling the strings to which puppet Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant dances.
Even in amchem Goa there have been stray incidents of saffron dadagiri. There have been cases of Goans being arrested for posting criticism on Narendra Modi on Facebook. There have been attacks on the Church for opposing the CAA. Ironically, it is not the chadiwalas who are attacking Archbishop Filipe Neri, who called for a boycott of the National Citizens Register and National Population Register. The Church has been playing a leading role in the protest against the CAA. The Archbishop has made it clear that he considers the CAA un- constitutional.
THIS is because for the first time Parliament has sought to discriminate against citizens of India on the grounds of religion. Under the CAA which is now an act of Parliament, citizens of every religion living in Pakistan and Afghanistan are now entitled to citizenship of India. It only exempts Muslims of those countries. This despite the fact that there are more Muslims who are citizens of India than any other Islamic country. Even more alarmingly, recently, Amit Shah in a reference to the CAA, omitted the names of Catholics — limiting himself to citizenship to Buddhists and Jains. No one ever thought that the midnight knock of the notorious Emergency declared by former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in 1975, could resurface in Goa in 2021.
Budget session was on at the Goa Assembly. Right from the beginning of the budget session the combined Opposition in the Legislative assembly had been particularly aggressive. Led by Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat the Opposition had exposed the lies of the Pramod Sawant government. In a reference to the Economic Survey and the CAG report it was pointed out that four departments had misappropriated funds allotted to them in the budget. Worst still the majority of the departments had not spent the bulk of the funds allotted to them in the last budget. The Opposition also pointed out that the delay in the completion of various projects was not due to any fault of the contractor. The contractors had to give an example abandoned work on the completion of South Goa District Hospital, because they had not been paid for work done so far. Similarly, the late Manohar Parrikar’s dream project, the Atal Sethu bridge, remains incomplete because the government does not have funds to pay for the Ponda and Panjim arms of the bridge. Without completion of the Ponda and Panjim arms the bridge is useless as the objective was to provide direct connection from Ponda highway to Panjim-Margao Highway without having to enter Panjim city.
The inauguration of the incomplete bridge was a scam to satisfy the ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who appeared dramatically on the bridge with food pipe attached to his nose. May be Parrikar was not informed that his dream project was yet to be complete.
AMONGST those who were most vocal in attacking the Pramod Sawant government was the Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte. Senior BJP leader Premanand Mahambre held a press conference illegally on the premises of the Legislative Assembly. The rule is that while the assembly is in session or even at any other time nobody other than a minister or MLA may hold a press conference in assembly premises. When Rohan Khaunte was walking out of the Legislative Assembly with veteran former chief minister, Pratapsingh Rane, Mahambre was so enraged that he called for a press conference on the premises attacking Rohan Khaunte and other Opposition leaders. There was according to senior most member of the Goa Assembly, the senior Rane, that there was an exchange of words between Rohan Khaunte and Mahambre. The BJP mafia headed by Satish Dhond, who is the organizing secretary of BJP and de facto chief minister, saw an opportunity here to silence the Opposition. Under instructions of the Chief Minister the police were ordered to arrest Rohan Khaunte for assaulting Mahambre.
Indeed, the police had already reached the assembly even before the session had concluded. They were told by the speaker that they could not come into the Legislative Assembly to arrest Rohan Khaunte while the house was in session. That’s how the police resorted to the midnight knock. The permission of the Speaker Rajesh Patnekar was necessary to arrest any member of the Legislative Assembly while the house is in progress. The speaker of course, being a loyal BJP member, promptly gave the police permission to arrest Rohan Khaunte.
SO late at night at around midnight the police arrested Rohan Khaunte. No arrest warrant was served. The law of the land very clearly states that nobody can be arrested without an arrest warrant being issued. But the BJP believes that it is above and beyond the law. More over the BJP controlled police did not confirm with Pratapsingh Rane whether there was any assault on Mahambre. They arrested Rohan Khaunte merely on the statement of Mahambre without any investigation or confirmation, so the claim of assault is true. This is the first time in the history of the Legislative Assembly of Goa that an MLA who was former minister for IT was arrested for the alleged assault of Mahambre who is not even a member of Legislative Assembly.
A shocked Rohan Khaunte was later released on bail by the magistrate on duty. For the information of readers here no individual citizen nor niz goenkar or even a migrant, can be arrested by the police without an arrest warrant. What is even more shocking is that there were no written instructions from the home minister or the IGP to arrest Rohan Khaunte. The police belatedly realized that merely the claim by Mahambre that Rohan Khaunte assaulted him would not be adequate to justify the arrest of Rohan Khaunte.
The government, particularly when the same party is in power both at the Center and the State, can always use the Income-Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate to harass any citizen under the Income-Tax Act and Foreign Exchange Act. While the Income-Tax Act can be invoked to arrest citizens on charge of tax evasion, the government can take the help of the Centre to use the Enforcement Directorate which is responsible for taking action against those who launder money.
Laundering money is not putting money in the washing machine. Any money the source of which you cannot account for can attract action by the Enforcement Directorate. Even if you have a grand marriage with an expenditure of a crore or more for your darling daughter the Enforcement Directorate can gate crash the function and ask you where you got the money for the jewelry that the bride is wearing.
So the police in the case of Rohan Khaunte to retrospectively justify the illegal arrest slapped charges of income-tax evasion against him. This was on the basis that they found a few lakhs in cash in his office. Anybody who has ready cash above
50,000 at home or in his office is a suspect for evading taxes. In digital India you are expected to bank any money over50,000. You are required to pay salaries and other expenses by cheque or your debit or credit card.
Rohan Khaunte is a businessman whose family have been agents for Ashok Leyland and he is also a builder. The family own a night club in Panaji. It is common knowledge when you pay blue collared labor you have to pay them in cash. It is a gear mechanic or a construction worker who has a bank account who gets payment for work done through a cheque.
Rohan Khaunte rightly argued that as a businessman he had retained the amount found in his office in cash to pay his daily rated employees. Rohan Khaunte even proved to the police and IT authorities that he had withdrawn the money from a bank to pay the 200 plus employees working for him. Indeed, in retrospect it was the demon of demonetization which affected the working class most severely because they deal in cash and do not trust banks. Perhaps rightly so considering how much money has been looted from our banks by big industrialists who closely associated with the top leaders of the BJP.
IRONICALLY, the fifth or sixth richest man in the country at least till recently, Anil Ambani, reportedly told a court in London that he was bankrupt and had zero assets. This was in connection with the demand of some Chinese banks for return of over Rs500 crore borrowed by his company Reliance Telecom. Not surprisingly the British judge refused to accept his claim that he had no money, considering his brother Mukesh Ambani was considered the richest man in India and the lavish lifestyle of Anil Ambani who has a fleet of cars, his own private jet aircraft and an expensive yacht.
Fortunately, for a change the combined Opposition in Goa stood up for Rohan Khaunte. The Opposition includes not only the Congress but also members of the Goa Forward (GF), MLAs of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), including Independent MLAs including Sudhin Dhavalikar, including the victim in this case who is Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte. Never in the last decade have we seen the Opposition led by the Congress coming together aggressively to defend an independent MLA. The combined Opposition led a delegation to Governor Satya Pal Malik who has assured action. This is the first time such a blatant act of misuse of power by the party in power has occurred in Goa.
Though ever since the BJP has come to power the Opposition, particularly the Congress has been a victim of the Income-Tax Authority and Enforcement Directorate. Heading the list are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the Associated Press case which owns the National Herald which was started by India’s first prime minister of India, Jawaharlala Nehru. The National Herald which has a lot of property was sold at a token price to the young India Trust which is controlled by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra, has been charged with illegal deals with the housing giant DFL which has a huge presence in Delhi and Haryana. DFL has been accused of cheating banks and customers to the extent of `20,000 crore. There are many cases pending against DFL for delaying or not delivering flats and villas, even though they have been fully paid for.
The other major victim of the Modi government is former Congress Finance Minister PC Chidambaram and his whole family. In fact, Chidambaram and his son were arrested and had to spend considerable time in jail. Unlike prisoners like Gopal Kaunda who owns Big Daddy casino and Laloo Prasad Yadav, PC Chidambaram was treated like a murderer and not permitted even home cooked food or any other privileges enjoyed by class one prisoners.
The latest weapon in the hands of the Modi government is sedition. Literally sedition means conspiring to over throw the government. Anybody who opposes the government such as student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar are charged under the Sedition Law. A law which is a hangover from British colonial rule and which was used to harass freedom fighters. You and me and even the Archbishop of Goa Filipe Neri can be arrested under the Sedition Law for opposing the CAA and asking people not to co-operate when the National Population survey begins in the first week of April.
It is shocking that an MLA should have been sought to be arrested from the Legislative Assembly when the budget session was on. We are convinced that it is at the instigation of Satish Dhond, RSS Pracharak who is the organizing secretary and de-facto CM, that Rohan Khaunte was arrested. It is heartening that both Rohan Khaunte and the Opposition refused to be intimidated and are standing up to the government. The 10 Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP whose cases have yet to be heard by the speaker may now be afraid, as they too may be arrested like Rohan Khaunte.