Rajdeep Sardesai, journalist and consulting editor at the India Today group, had written an open letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis a couple of days back, criticising his government's decision to impose a four-day meat ban in Mumbai during Jain's Paryushan festival.
"First, a beef ban, now a ban on meat: Why confuse good governance with food governance?... he decision, thus, was doomed from the start, and will only alienate the growing urban middle class that values individual freedoms," he had said in the letter published by Hindustan Times.
Talking about Fadnavis' connection with the RSS, he said: "the people of Maharashtra last year did not vote for the imposition of the cultural agenda of the RSS, including any forcible attempt to dictate what can be cooked in the kitchen in the name of Bharatiya sanskriti".
In the letter, Sardesai also brought up the sudden transfer of former Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria on 8 September. "That the transfer was done while Mr Maria was investigating the high-profile Sheena Bora murder case makes it even more suspicious," he wrote.
In the letter, Sardesai also spoke about Maharashtra government's circular, in which the police has been asked to arrest those who in either words, sign or representations incite people against the government.
"The third perplexing decision taken by your government is its recent circular on guidelines to be followed by the police while making arrests on sedition charges. The circular says 'words, signs or representations to be treated as seditious if they are against a person who is shown to be a representative of the government'," he had said.
"Does that mean that if I criticise a government minister I will be liable to be charged with sedition? Are we confusing legitimate anti-government criticism with anti-national activity?," he added.
Unlike many other open letters, Sardesai's did not go unanswered. Fadnavis got back with a reply, saying that Sardesai's "letter is an excellent example of how a section of the media, without having sound knowledge, bashes a government with an agenda".
Read the full text of Fadnavis' reply to Sardesai's open letter below:
Normally I don't reply to every open letter by 'senior' journalists but this time I thought if I didn't, the Goebbels law — speak what is untrue several times over and it becomes the truth — may prevail. Your letter is an excellent example of how a section of the media, without having sound knowledge, bashes a government with an agenda.
Let me bring some clarity to the first issue you have raised. My state government did not take the decision to ban meat. Not a single new order went from the government to any local body. The Congress government in 2004 took the decision to close a slaughter-house for two days in Paryushan Parva. It was conveyed to all municipal corporations then. Since then all municipal corporations including Mira-Bhaindar started implementing it. Additionally municipal corporations like Mumbai and Mira-Bhaindar adopted resolutions to ban it for additional days within their own powers, which in the case of Mumbai dates back to 1994. Surprisingly, none of you ever objected to it until we came to power. Obviously you were comfortable with the pseudo-secular image of the previous government, howsoever corrupt and non-performing it was.
In the case of Rakesh Maria, you seem to be confused. Your post-script says the Sheena Bora murder case should not have assumed the kind of importance it was accorded by the media. Then why did you choose to write on it, linking it with the transfer of the city police chief? A police chief is not an investigating officer but just a supervisory authority. I would like to tell you that the practice of promoting senior people, a few days in advance, is not new. Such decisions are taken keeping in mind the objective to let the new one who is going to take over understand the prevailing situation. The months of September and October are full of festivals, including the Ganesh Festival, Eid celebrations and Navratri.
If the government thought that instead of changing a police commissioner in the midst of festivities it was better to put a new person in place before the festive season started, what's so wrong about it? Although I believe that officers have no caste and religion the point could also have been raised as to why Maria was made commissioner of police, Mumbai, sidelining two senior and equally decorated officers like Ahmad Javed, a person from a minority community, and Vijay Kamble, a person from a backward community. However, I would say that the government at that point of time thought that Maria was better suited for the situation.
Your take on sedition can be termed a classic product of a biased mind. I want to ask you whether the state is expected to convey a decision given by the hon'ble high court to the police or not? Again, not a single decision has been taken by our government in this regard. In one of the cases in the high court, an affidavit was filed by the then Congress-led government and the court delivered a detailed judgment interpreting the scope and ambit of the applicability of sedition, and also directed to convey it to the police. The department made a faithful translation of the judgment in Marathi and conveyed it to all the police stations via an office circular. Every single item in the circular is just a translation of the judgment. Mr Sardesai, you may not want to go through such details to understand the issue just because you wish to pursue your leftist agenda vigorously and passionately.
It's apparent how much pain it causes you to mention a word about the water conservation initiative of our government — the flagship programme of Jalyukta Shivar Yojna — to make Maharashtra drought-free. It is a programme that has become most successful. The generous contributions by people — more than Rs 300 crore — have helped us to execute nearly 100,000 works in 6,000 villages within six months. The results are evident. Despite the scanty rainfall, the villages are boasting distributed water storages and increased water tables. It was lauded as a game changer by the 'Jalpurush' of India, Rajendra Singh, at the Stockholm Water Conference. This programme will provide moisture security to the farmers and assure crop sustainability by mitigating the effects of climate change.
It's really sad to see that people like you get disturbed by an imaginary situation that there won't be a piece of meat in your platter for two days when my annadata is taking extreme steps because he has no food to eat. That is why the state has decided to implement a food security scheme for six million farmers by giving them wheat at Rs 2 per kg and rice at Rs 3 per kg. The infamous legacy of farmer suicides, which we inherited from 15 years of bad governance, is a challenge that doesn't let me sleep. But the initiatives started by our government, I'm sure, will deliver results in due course.
Whether there is a ban on meat or not, a common man expects roti or rice in his plate. And I am more concerned about it than anything else. Mr Sardesai, the content of your letter can be part of your profession but the resolve in my reply is my mission and I will accomplish it. My mantra of life is 'perform or perish' and time alone would decide my destiny.
Yours sincerely and without malice.