From a successful TV anchor to a political activist: Shazia Ilmi in conversation with Madhu Kishwar (Translated in English)

Following is the translated interview of Shazia Ilmi, a reputed journalist turned politician, by Prof. Madhu Kishwar, renowned social activist, academician and founder of Manushi. The interview gives an insight into the journey of Shazia from the field of journalism to the expedient world of politics. The interview is in two parts, the first part traces her transition as a journalist to being part of the India Against Corruption movement which metamorphosed into the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and eventually leaving the AAP. The second part of the interview focuses on her decision to join the BJP as a Muslim and her role and experiences in the party. 

The following is the translation of the first part of the interview with Shazia Ilmi. In the following translation of the interview Shazia Ilmi is referred to as SI and Prof. Madhu Kishwar as MK

MK: My Namaskar (greetings) to the viewers of Manushi. Today we will be meeting with Shazia Ilmi, who is a very dear and old friend of mine. Shazia Ilmi needs no introduction, she is seen often on TV airing her views very frankly. But today our conversation is going to be quite different from the run-of-the-mill debates on TV channels. Shazia started her career as a journalist after finishing her degree in the Department of Mass Communications  from Jamia Millia Islamia which in these days has been in news for the wrong reasons. But, those days the Department of Mass Communications (of Jamia) was indeed believed to be a very prestigious department. That was in 1994.

SI: Yes.

MK: She topped her department after that she has worked for various TV channels and with Star News as a debut anchor she has worked for about 7-8 years. Is that right?

SI: That’s right.

MK: And then in 2011, her life took a  new turn when she renounced her career as a journalist for the India Against Corruption movement which was being run in the name of Anna Hazare.  However, the real leader behind it was Arvind Kejriwal who managed everything and just used Anna Hazare’s name. So, Shazia joined the movement in 2011 and became so much involved in it that when Arvind Kejriwal immobilized and ended the movement to start a new party, the Aam Aadmi Party, Shazia also became a prime leader in that party. In 2013, she also fought the Delhi Assembly election as an Aam Aadmi Party candidate and lost by merely 2080 votes. Her electoral presence became very controversial due to a sting operation which caused her a lot of damage. Then Shazia will tell us today about what forced her to leave the Aam Aadmi Party in just about one, one and a half years thereafter she sat at home peacefully for nine months and later out of the blue she joined the BJP. Leaving the Aam Aadmi Party and joining the BJP was indeed a shocker to the Aam Aadmi Party as well as Shazia’s own community.

SI: That’s correct.

MK: Because everyone is aware of the extent to which the Muslim community shuns the BJP. So, we will  also discuss that journey today.

SI: Absolutely.

MK: And in 2017, Shazia was appointed by the BJP as the Vice-President of  Delhi BJP. Now I begin my conversation with the transition from her journalistic career to the Aam Aadmi Party or the India Against Corruption where she survived under the authoritative orchestrations of Arvind Kejriwal. Shazia, what got into you to make the transition because as a journalist and a reputed anchor, politicians were chasing you? You were sought after by the leaders and now you have to chase your own party leaders. So, what made you do that?

SI: You see, after a lot of struggle, because I hail from a Sunni middle class family from Kanpur, Chamanganj locality which is a type of Muslim ghetto from where I came and studied. There due to my father’s erudition the Ilmi title, about which you have asked me earlier, was conferred on my father by the Darul Uloom Deoband. My father was the kind of Maulana who was a very progressive nationalist and has been an editor of Siyasat Jadid which is one of the oldest Urdu newspapers (of Uttar Pradesh) which is still being published and circulated. So, I have been born and brought up in this background. Whatever money my father had he used to spend it on our school fees. So, I used to wear my elder sister’s uniform by hemming it and altering it to fit my size. That’s how I have grown up. So, to think that I would ever…

MK: I would later discuss with you about your father’s connection with Deoband as there are many wrong perceptions or call it right perceptions about Deoband’s present day image which does not prepare oneself to the idea that Shazia Ilmi could be its product.

SI: Certainly, but in every place there are some people who leave their mark. They are iconoclastic and defy the stereotypes.

MK: Even your father?

SI: Father was also like that. My father as rule insisted that it was necessary for children to learn English and Hindi. My brothers were sent to Doon school and we (sisters) were sent to St.Mary’s Convent which in itself was a big matter. And there was a big uproar that how can the girls go out wearing skirts to school, but my father asserted that it was needed. There also my father set an example for others to emulate and I am his daughter. He is not alive now, but for me and my world he is the only person who is most alive even today. So, when I joined the Mass Communications course and passed out from Jamia it was a very big thing. I was quite young for my MA degree and I had to skip a year. I said that if you do not give me admission due to underage, then I would be married off. 

MK: Was this going to happen?

SI: Yes, it was going to happen. Therefore, I posited that I would get trapped and please do this favour for me. At that time Kidwai sir was the incharge and he agreed. I had seventh rank in the general quota. My name was seventh in the general quota. I got an opportunity to express my  distinct opinion, despite the place I hailed from and their mentality. As it has been ingrained in our minds that Muslim youths or any person would conform to think in a particular manner only, it gave me an opportunity to tell that we are not a homogenous block of people and not every Muslim is similar or every Hindu is similar or every Jat is similar or every Syyed is similar or every Pathan is similar or every Pasmanda Muslim is similar. So, this medium provided a grand and glorious way for my quest to create my individual stamp, my journey and self-exploration. Even in Jamia, you would not believe it, I used to hear about many issues from my father as my father had worked a lot when there were curfews and communal riots in Kanpur but in my house I have never ever heard any hatred for the RSS. But in Jamia Mass Comm first and second year we were literally taught that if there is any biggest evil in this country it is the RSS. And I had not heard much, I knew that Hindu-Muslim disturbances keep occuring and the conditions of Muslims have not changed for the better. I was certainly aware that be it any government the situation never changes whether it is ND Tiwari or some other.

MK: No, then why is there a negative stereotyping of Muslim community? I would say that it is a very highly upwardly mobile community.

SI: No, no. There was also stereotyping of Hindus and RSS.

MK: Yes. That is right.

SI: It started from the time the Ramayan TV serial began to be aired. You would not believe it that we were writing all thesis only on the Ramayana.

MK: Trashing it?

SI: Yes, trashing it while in my house my own mother used to watch Ramayan every Sunday when it was aired. In fact it was watched in every house. So, I cannot understand the reason for this hatred. I could not understand the issue on both the sides.

MK: So, the indoctrination was there in Jamia Mass Comm from the beginning?  

SI: Absolutely. I was young and I felt it was cool –  there was a whole system of Marxism, dialectic materialism, thesis antithesis and crusade against Hindutva and majoritarianism. And you know that there were discussions of the Rath Yatra all around, it was a very volatile condition for the country. But, I used to keep thinking that this does not have any effect  on my personal life. Anyway, I passed out from Jamia. Plenty of good  avenues were opening up, new sectors and  new TV channels were starting and I was in the right place at the right time. And I had never imagined that from a background where my mother in Kanpur wears burqa, where we used to go out with our eyes cast down, we used to cover our heads with dupatta, whenever we came from the station and the vehicle or rickshaw reaches Chamanganj the dupatta used to come over the head automatically like a reflex action. So, I had never envisaged that I would ever be on TV, people would hear my opinions and I would be able to express myself. From that time my rebellion began and I rebelled at every place. So, at Jamia also the leftists had their whole structure in place and I could perceive  that one kind of ism was being taught and imposed on us. I would like to find my own enemies. And why am I being told repeatedly that there is one enemy of Muslims and liberal Hindus; who is that enemy? They are the Sanghis. 

MK: But how can you be a liberal if you have this kind of hatred for a whole community? How does having so much repugnance for the majority community become liberal?

SI: Actually, I am sure about what I am saying, which I have seen in the Anna Hazare movement, seen in Nirbhaya, seen constantly everyday, seen hunting for news, seen while speaking as an anchor daily that people are divided and if you consider yourself liberal you are actually very illiberal.

MK: This is a fascist mindset. How did they let you top if you really do not have regimented views? 

SI: This was not part of the rest of our syllabus. We had film production, TV production, AV etc. We also had graphics and many other subjects. So, we had these discussions separately in the campus and all teachers were not involved. There were two to four people who indulged only in this brainwashing and had a single agenda. Yes, it had no connection with our syllabus.  We were taught how to use celluloid, 16 mm cinema. But they would only promote the same kind of  propaganda cinema. Arundhati Roy has taught me script writing. She has been my script writing teacher and MS Sathyu used to come. We have also seen Garam Hawa.

MK: She has written her own life script very muffishly. 

SI: Absolutely, and I am not at all proud of the fact that she has taught me script writing. Although her English is very good, her tone and tenor is also very good, but with respect to  her works’ content and their truthfulness it is all fiction. 

MK: She does know the distinction between truth and lies.

SI: She is a good fiction writer.

MK: No. You see, only one  fiction book turned out to be good. After that any of the books written by her had no presence and went into oblivion. So, now tell me first…

SI: I became an anchor, I have done reporting for many years. I have also interviewed Madhu Di earlier,  but Madhu Di does not remember. Anyway, I do understand.

MK: In which TV channel were you then?

SI: I was in Zee then. There was a program called “The Woman” on Zee, Jaya Jaitley ji was its anchor and we featured great pioneering women leaders in it and you were one among them. It was a very good and well received program. I also used to read Manushi and one of your very good articles influenced me a lot. It was on arranged marriages and love marriages. You may not remember it but I do.

MK: No. I do remember it. 

SI: Its underlying truth, because we generally think love marriages are based on love alone. But in reality, love marriages are based on selecting a person from the same caste, same class with due consideration and thought.

MK: No. I call it self-arranged versus family arranged. One can call it a love marriage when the marriage is fulfilled with love for years together. What is this, you want to get into bed with somebody and you feel attracted or you manipulate to catch someone because he is a rich father’s son; vice versa. 

SI: Absolutely, then you fall in love.

MK: That is an enacted farce.

SI: They fall in love considering the family status, their cars, their club membership etc. Then they have a love marriage!

MK: And very soon they fall out of love.

SI: So, I have had many varied influences in my life. Then I started anchoring. I felt that it was difficult for me to be completely aligned with a particular ‘ism’. It was like getting shut in a box, because I was shut in a box earlier. I hope you are understanding me. Since I had broken out of a box by breaking its lock from inside it, I did not want to get closed in another box. So, I believed that every issue should be analysed according to its merit, taking into due consideration  all the conditions and any issue has not one or two but multiple facets. But, truth has only one version; it does not have two versions. So, I believed that it was very necessary to be objective. But I observed in Zee and later when I came to Star News, where I was a debut anchor and those days were good. I had spent a considerable period of time in the newsroom, I did several big stories and I felt the same here, that people are divided in two groups mentally and you have to be either on the side of the left or the right.

MK: Shazia, it’s not just left versus right. I had written many years back about this fixed notion of for versus against in every issue. Where does this binary stem from? Like in our schools and colleges we follow Oxford, Cambridge style debate style. You have debates For or Against the motion. This is such a crude way to handle any issue. I can recall that I was 18 years old when I became the President of the Debating Society of Miranda House. As a Secretary I was forced to work under this notion of For versus Against. But as soon as I became the President, the first thing I did was to call it a Discussion Forum and not a Debating Society and said that we should have the freedom to explore the various nuances of every issue. At 18 years if there was any public act of dismantling fixed notions then it began from here. Right from those days I felt it was very ugly, that when you are asked to speak “For” the motion, to validate it you get away making absurd arguments as long as you speak in the right accent and you are articulate. And if you speak “Against” then there is the same mindless debate.

SI: You see, there is no scope for originality in this format. You may have a third or a fourth point of view.

MK: Shades of grey. Truth does not come in one block like a brick or a glass it comes in multiple shades and you have to deal with all the shades.

SI: It’s a cubist approach dimensionless, let’s be cubist about it. Let’s not have a point of view.

MK: No, no. It is necessary to have a point of view.

SI: No, let’s not judge everything.

MK: Not a frozen point of view. Without any precondition.

SI: And be ready to be changed. Be ready to be transformed. Be ready to, you know, allow yourself to let other facts come in to inform you. You can’t get stuck. I can see today people are stuck in an ideological warp and are not able to get out of it. A long time ago they studied Karl Marx and are still clinging on to it.

MK: And that’s why I call myself a factarian.

SI: “What do we want? Freedom”, “Freedom from capitalism”, “Freedom from feudalism” etc have been continuing for the past 30 years.

MK: This is sloganeering.

SI: This is relentlessly continuing, people are not able to come out of it and it is considered very fashionable.

MK: But how was it in Star TV?

SI: In Star TV as an anchor we did many things in a novel manner. When we presented issues, I felt that we should make use of my own experience of being a woman, hailing from Kanpur and  belonging to a particular society. Two – three landmark issues occurred. There was a girl, she had been a Miss Jammu and got involved in a very big sex scam. It was being shown repeatedly on TV, there were only two big channels those days.

MK: She committed suicide?

SI: She did not commit suicide. It was a sex scam, I would not like to name her, and she was referred to by her name by the TV channels. So, the channels were showing that it is was a sex scam, taking the girl’s name and also criticising it. This was being telecast the whole night. So, we thought we should approach it from a different perspective. We said that the girl is being named repeatedly, but who are the men who made her porn video? Who distributed it? Who saw these videos? So, in our coverage we shifted the focus of the entire conversation from the girl to the men who exploited her. The second matter was a rape case in Mukand Nursing Home (Shanti Mukand Hospital, Delhi) in which a wardboy raped a nurse.

MK: A book was written on it?

SI: Bitter Chocolate was written based on Pinky (Pinky Virani) this case was from Delhi. The wardboy was imprisoned and on the day of this case hearing a very young friend of mine was covering the matter in court while I was the anchor in the studio. She told me, Shazia, a very strange thing has happened, the accused appearing before the Judge has told that, I am ready to marry this girl. This was very widely written about and the Judge deliberated and considered this (“offer”). No one speaks against the Court or Judges. Our reporter was at the court. I as an anchor said it is a very strange situation, if the Judge had a daughter had she been raped and blinded would he agree to the marriage proposal? And the crime would be pardoned? Is a woman’s dignity only physical and it has been snatched from her and she would get it back merely because she would be married off to her perpetrator? We asked such deep and introspective questions. We thought differently, others also commented, but we were reprimanded. Still we tried to cover such issues from a different point of view.

MK: So, how did the desire to get into politics infect you?

SI: In the last three years of UPA 2 period, as an anchor daily most of my time was consumed by exposés and unravelling of a plethora of scams. The sheer number of cases of corruption made me feel, what are we doing? I feel that all other issues are discussed about, but there is a  perception created that Muslims should only speak about communalism and nothing else. Why should not I express my opinion on governance issues? Why cannot I speak out against corruption? Why should not I talk about Muslims being used as a captive votebank? I found this very idiotic that Muslims i.e. we as a community are being used perpetually as political slaves. This political slavery that we will remain committed to the secular parties, we have to hate the BJP and whichever party abuses the BJP we will go along with them.

MK: So, this distorted interpretation of secularism: abuse the BJP and you are deemed secular even if you are a goonda, ruffian, rapist or even a mass murderer. Congress party is filled with mass murderers.

SI: Be it serious criminal charges or huge corruption or human rights problems it affects ordinary people. When big medical scams occur, many medical officers are killed. Due to the illegal mining mafia many innocent people have lost their lives. When government resources, which is taxpayer’s money, are illegally auctioned it is the ordinary people who suffer due to this loot of public money. And ordinary people consist of both Hindus and Muslims.

MK: Shazia, I asked you earlier also, How and why did you get infected by this desire to join politics? Because, on one side you were covering many scams (as a journalist). You were yourself telling that regularly many scams were tumbling out across all parties. So, the reaction of common people is to keep away as there is only dirt in politics. Why did you think of jumping into it? 

SI: You see, those days there was a nascent movement underway and there were very small reports from Jantar Mantar when Anna Hazare began the agitation for the first time from there. I felt very restless in the news world as the Congress would place its arguments and the opposition would give counter arguments and life would go on. I was dissatisfied about just being a commentator, wearing good clothes, earning a lot of money and doing the same work daily. I felt anxious and an urge to do something. I had also started my spiritual journey and became well involved in it. I sensed an emptiness in my life. Many people advised me that you are being foolish because despite being a prestigious filmmaker, executive producer and anchor you want to leave everything and join a small movement in which you are nothing but a small soldier. And the future of the movement itself was not known whether it would ever become big. So, in those times I left a very well established profile and thought I will get an opportunity to do something as I knew Arvind and Prashanth from RTI days,

MK: But you called it Anna Hazare movement. You would agree that, as I have observed it very closely, Anna Hazare was only brought in as a face, a puppet let’s face it. That movement got a mass base, we know it very well, it was due to Shri Shri of Art of Living and Baba Ramdev. I am saying this because first of all Arvind persuaded Shri Shri. In their first press conference they did not even mention Anna Hazare’s name. And their volunteers were manning all the counters. Arvind had touched Baba Ramdev’s feet and pleaded with him to be a part of the movement. So when Baba Ramdev became a part  of the movement, he brought in mass support for the movement.

SI: And later Baba Ramdev was insulted and removed from the movement.

MK: We will deal with that later. Secondly, they also brought in a lot of money to support the movement. And thirdly,  Arvind very cunningly refused to allow Shri Shri come on the stage. He literally conspired with the Congress to break the huge agitation by Baba Ramdev in Ramlila Maidan. Together with the Congress he got them lathi charged, Baba Ramdev could have died that day. And from the very first day they started disparaging the RSS. They didn’t want to own up (RSS did not want to own up their presence in the movement). So this was the real face and due to Shri Shri, Times of India had placed the Times Now channel 24×7 in the Ramlila Maidan. Since the Times Now was there, all other channels also came and Ramlila Maidan became a picnic spot. Everybody was going there in the evening holding their children up on their shoulders may be to appear on TV live for two minutes. 

SI: And Congress jailed Anna Hazare.

MK: They never jailed Arvind. They jailed Anna Hazare and he was also sidelined. In any case, he was a mindless person, he was not even very bright.

SI: He is a very simple person.

MK: He is simple, but he was under a false impression that the movement was his. So, he also made a mockery of himself when he sat for a fast in Mumbai.

SI: No, that was Arvind’s plan.

MK: Wasn’t it so? That he (Anna) should die somehow.

SI: I will tell you, it happened just in front of me, rather Medha Patkar even turned away my hands at that time. I cannot forget this matter. Anna was in a very bad state, a joint session of the Parliament was convened and they (government) had even agreed  on the matter (Lokpal Bill). But we were constantly changing the goal posts. I can tell you about all the details regarding Class IV employees. We said that this was quite enough as the Parliament went on its knees and Ann’s health was in a very bad state. Many of Anna’s associates had come from Maharashtra, they were very worried and angry. And I was getting very worried and anxious. Two to three of us adjured them repeatedly that Anna would not survive, his health is very precarious. Then Arvind and Medha Patkar caught my hand, she said, “Be quiet, it is a matter of one or two days more.”  We insisted that Anna will go, we will lose him. We told Arvind that it was getting very dangerous.

MK: He would have been happy. Arvind would have been happy.

SI: It was going to the brink. Anna also somewhat started realising. You know that we had a lot of internal problems after that. So, even then when slogans of “Vande Mataram” was raised and the Indian flag was waved from the podium, which even I did, a lot was written about me in this regard as I was the only Muslim there. During the Anna Hazare movement when there were discussions on corruption and people who helped Arvind in press coverage and stories written in the media, no one did anything about what was written about me. You would not believe it, people like Teesta Setalvad used to dissuade me saying, you are a Muslim, “Why are you not speaking on communalism? Why do you speak about corruption?” I told her it is my wish and all of you are speaking on communalism in the country, let me speak on corruption. Corruption is a monstrous evil and the party which has ruled this country continuously is responsible for this. It has looted the common people.

MK: No. Teesta Setalvad’s politics has always been centred on widening the gap between Hindus and Muslims.

SI:  Why should I speak about Godhra all my life? Why should I not speak about education? And no, I should not talk about the Maliana-Hashimpura massacre, I should neither speak about the Nellie massacre where Congress was in power. Nor should I speak about the Sikh riots, I should only speak about the Gujarat riots. Look at the selectivism here.

MK: One second Shazia, they do not want to speak about Gujarat riots with honesty. There are two issues here: If you have the guts speak about Godhra riots for the next 20 years. Talk about Godhra be honest about the fact that Congress had a prime role in Gujarat riots by instigating the riots and in getting the train burnt.

SI: I am talking about the kind of narrative they want to portray, I am not even talking about their account of Godhra riots. If they had analysed it properly many facts would have come to the fore and it would have shown that the maximum numbers of convictions in any riot have happened only in Gujarat. Also, the fact that a maximum number of ministers and MLAs have been jailed and even top level leaders have been jailed. If riot cases have been reopened repeatedly it is only in Gujarat.

MK: Many innocents have been jailed in Gujarat riots, let’s not forget that. Many innocents have been framed by making many false accusations. Like the case of Maya Kodnani is 100% fabricated. She was going to get the death penalty and it would not have rankled Teesta’s conscience even a wee bit.

SI: What did Teesta do with Zaheera Sheikh? Now we are getting to know about Ishrat Jahan’s story. Let me tell you, even as an anchor when Ishrat Jahan’s story came to me, I know I am a Muslim and a Maulana’s daughter but as an anchor my duty is to tell the truth and understand the issue as I am also intelligent. Neither am I foolish nor can the world fool me. I thought that Ishrat Jahan was a girl and she went in the night with four men and that too history sheeters. I could not quite understand why she would go, I could not at all believe their story as I also possess some brains. Because even if I align myself ideologically fully with someone I will also use my brains. I never could digest the story, I had nothing to do with the BJP then. So, I am not one among them. Anyway, even in the Anna Hazare movement many disparaging remarks were made, like this is RSS’s handiwork. I said if the RSS or the Jamiat want to do something good for the country, desire to get rid of corruption or enact a Lokpal, they are all welcome to contribute. The real hatred was foisted by these people as in my background there was no hatred neither in my parents’ house nor in my husband’s house. Rather, my eldest sister is married to Arif Mohammad Khan. I am the youngest in my house. I was studying at St. Mary’s Convent in class Xth, when the Shah Bano case was decided (by the Supreme Court in 1985). Due to my father’s newspaper and our relationship with Arif sir, you would not believe the kind of threats, attempts to kidnap us and burn our house were made by the Muslims. 

MK: Let me give a background for this. Arif Mohammad Khan, the present Governor of Kerala, was in the Congress party when the Shah Bano case came before the Parliament. The Supreme Court had passed a judgement in favour of Shah Bano and she was awarded a paltry maintenance and the Congress party overturned the Supreme Court’s judgement.

SI: A 72-year old elderly woman was awarded 350 Rupees per month as maintenance.

MK: No, not 350, it was 150 Rupees per month.  

SI: For awarding 150 Rupees per month as maintenance to a divorced 72-year old woman you declared that Islam is under threat. The Muslim Personal Law Board highjacked the whole agenda before Rajiv Gandhi and the manner in which Rajiv Gandhi reversed this judgement resulted in  monumental betrayal.

MK: There was one person who stood up, that was Arif Mohammad Khan who said that I had supported the judgement of the Shah Bano case in the Parliament. So, I would not go back to the Parliament as they enacted a law neutralising the judgement. Saying this he resigned from the Congress party.

SI: And I think he was just 32 years old then.

MK: That’s right, he was 32 years old and he was a Minister. So, he resigned and you are his relative because your sister is married to him.

SI: We have seen how he was continuously hounded and how he was attacked by the Muslims. My father and mother were harassed and I was targeted by other Muslim girls of my class in college. I kept pondering that it was only just, that an old woman with four grown up children gets at least some money after being abandoned by her husband. She was denied the little money she was granted to live her life with some dignity. I can neither understand this kind of Islam nor can I understand the Islam they are interpreting. So, even though I was very young I knew that I can never support the Congress. At 12 years age I realised that their deed was against justice, women, Quran Sharif and Islam. And this party cannot be fit for decent people. 

MK: The Muslims of UP know how Congress has engineered many riots.

SI: Absolutely, riots kept occurring all the time and I hail from UP. Although in my house no one supported the Anna Hazare movement, I walked alone independently and Arif sir himself has remained out of power.

MK: He perhaps did not support the Anna movement. Arif saab, is a shrewd person, He understood that they are seasonal frogs and very big opportunists. What was your experience in the Aam Aadmi Party? Why did you leave the party so early?

SI: I think there is a thin line between idealism and stupidity. I feel not only have I been extremely stupid but also Arvind Kejriwal is the biggest conman of this century. The belief, commitment and determination with which I plunged into it thinking that I am embarking on doing some very good work for the country, I am quite ashamed with myself about my own stupidity for my blind faith in  Arvind Kejriwal. Madhu Di, you would not understand because I was in the inner circle, I used to tie Rakhi to Arvind. You do not know the kind of things I know. I do not have a habit of divulging out confidential inside information, even as a journalist I did not do it. You have no idea what a great jolt it was for me, this person is in reality just the opposite of what he claims to be.

MK: Give an example.

SI: Like the way they forged an alliance with the Congress. They had a secret understanding with the Congress.

MK: And they took money from the Congress.

SI: Absolutely, they did take.

MK: The night Sandeep Dikshit personally gave them 2.5 crores in a bag, the same day this information came out.

SI: Look at the idiocy of the Congress party, they thought that if they coax Arvind; because they also raise the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and  speak against the Congress they will become the B-team of the Congress. So Congress gave them money, as a strategy planted people there. Their main election strategists have come from the Congress. One of the strategist’s name is Pankaj, he has come from the Congress. I remember Pankaj, I cannot remember the other name. Anyway, what actually happened was Congress got wiped out and they have taken its place. So, till they wanted to defeat Sheila Dikshit and establish themselves in Delhi, they strongly criticised the UPA2, disparaged Sheila Dikshit, Sonia Gandhi, Salman Khurshid. They denounced every Minister of the UPA and they did not make any reference to Batla House encounter; now they keep talking about it. Anyway, Amanatullah is your MLA so you would be aware.

MK: He is not my MLA . He is the MLA of this constituency. I would like to keep away from him. (Tauba Tauba)

SI: He is from your constituency, so it is your good fortune! So, I have noticed how Arvind  played with issues. When he needed the support of Muslims, I went to Lucknow and brought people from Firangi Mahal and Nadwa. So, he knew how to manoeuvre people. When he had to address the Muslims he would refer to Yedyurappa. When he had to address people here he would refer to some others. So, Arvind was very smart. He would play that game very well. He just utilized Lokpal, he did not have any intrinsic interest in Lokpal nor did he want to curb corruption. The most corrupt people have congregated in his party from all other parties which is very apparent to all. And the Chief Secretary he chose was accused of corruption that too in the   CommonWealth scams.

MK: He encashed the CommonWealth scams the most against Sheila Dikshit. Sheila Dikshit was the best Chief Minister despite corruption cases against her. There are no two opinions about the fact that if somebody has given a new face Delhi it is Sheila Dikshit although she was linked to many corruption scams. But many others were also involved in those scams.

SI: Arif sir used to advise that, you people should desist from making statements like ‘ If Shiela comes again then rapes will continue unabated’ and be careful about language of discourse. Political opponents should be also shown some courtesy and do not shoot and scoot. But I did not pay any heed, I argued and fought with all of them and plunged into this.

MK: I remember when you were new to the party you had invited me over to your place for dinner. That night we perhaps spoke for over three to four hours. The gist of all the conversation we had was you kept insisting to me that, ‘Madhu Di, they are indulging in many wrongs. You please try to convince Arvind and why do not we please together try to make him understand’. I was struck by your naivety.  I told you who am I to advise him? Perhaps he may not even listen to his father. If he has any masters then it is the Ford Foundation. His masters are  major players in  global networking. You see, he was just not operating on the strength of support base in India. It is very clear now that his support base from the beginning was the Ford Foundation and the way the Ford Foundation illegally supported him as an Income Tax officer, and also provided him with lots of funds.

SI: During the Anna movement a lot of money poured in, Anna Hazare ji also used to ask where is the money going? We ourselves used to collect so much funds, we also received countless amounts of funds. Let me tell you one thing, Arvind Kejriwal was in great demand for campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party, so I used to go to collect funds for the party. I went to England and also to Dubai, they used to send someone along with me to collect funds.  A lot of cunningness was employed to collect funds, I used to give my speech, the money could not be collected directly from them as they were UK citizens, so a device was set up whereby they would transfer funds to some people in India through Western Union.

MK: Hawala?

SI: No not Hawala, Western Union.

MK: Hawala because it is not sent to anyone’s bank accounts.

SI: No, No. Money was directly transferred to people in India through Western Union  and then those people in India would transfer it to the party. Then the Party would show that all the funds were collected only from India. Just look at the chicanery deployed, I became aware of these deceptions gradually. Then they formally aligned with the Congress and formed a government. The credibility of the party was totally lost as we started out fighting against the Congress. And then when the Lok Sabha elections drew near Modi ji became the villain. Till then, the Congress was bad and corruption was an evil for Arvind. He now started speaking on communalism, Lokpal was disregarded and the whole focus and pivot shifted radically.

MK: He was against the VIP culture. He had declared earlier, I would not take any government bungalow etc., but see now, perhaps he has the biggest bungalow in Delhi. But I want to make an important point on Aam Aadmi Party and India Against Corruption. One facet is Arvind’s cunningness, but behind this is the deviousness of  some foreign powers and I am saying this because there was a big hand of the Ford Foundation behind this. As when the Ford Foundation procured the Magsaysay Award for him do you know the citation, which is displayed on their website, what does it cite as the amazing work done by Arvind to deserve this Magsaysay award? Do you know that?

SI: No.

MK: The citation is only able to mention that the only glorious work done by  Arvind Kejriwal was to file 2000 RTI applications on behalf of people. They took crores of rupees, went around some slums and on behalf of  people filed RTI applications. What were the results of the  RTI applications filed, what benefits did it accrue? Merely filing 2000 RTI applications when you have a whole army of workers, volunteers, be it staff funded by Ford Foundation and many others, what is the great achievement in this? But wwith many of your views nor do I agree with many of Prashant’s views. The party was divided in camps. What did it result in? Prashant and Yogendra Yadav were literally booted out. Islam Bhai, Ramzan Bhai were literally beaten up by the bouncers and thrown out of the party.

MK: I would like to hear some more details about this.

SI: So, I was among one of the first people to leave the party. I was told many things, people were sent to my home to cajole me to come back and there was also a public outcry. But, I firmly said I do not want to continue with the party. For nine months I sat peacefully away from public life. I told myself, my dear sad heart, listen to me don’t stay where there is no peace…

MK: There are no two opinions that you were the first one to leave and then you never turned back. But, more importantly, you remember we had some phone conversations. When you were abusing the BJP and Modi I phoned you and advised you, Shazia you are my very dear friend I am warning you that this person is going to be the Prime Minister whether you like it or not that’s why control your language when you speak against him. 

SI: No, no. If we consider our whole phase from 2011 to 2014 we were continuously fighting against the UPA. Arvind opposed Modi only when he entered the fray and decided to run for the Lok Sabha elections. Before that we were fighting the UPA and Sheila Dikshit.

MK: I know that I am very well aware of that.

SI: So, it was only one month, when we spoke about BJP. But I did not go to Gujarat along with Arvind, they all went to Gujarat with Ashutosh but I refused to go. But the slogan ‘Modi for PM and Arvind for CM’ came from Arvind and me. Because, I still believed that Modi would have been (sic) better. My fight has been with the Congress and I knew that many people from the RSS have helped us – be it cooking a lot of food, managing the kitchen or giving us money during the movement. I was grateful to the Sangh for its contribution and I was also making many friends with the RSS people. And when I was attacked fiercely for saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”, I automatically started getting very annoyed. You can read my articles in The Indian Express. 

MK: Yes, I am aware.

SI: So, it was hardly a phase of one month or so with regard to Modi ji and that too when I was campaigning for Arvind. Because V.K. Singh was with us earlier, i.e. with Anna Hazare, later he fought from Ghaziabad and Kiran Bedi also left us. So,  everything changed you see.

MK: The sting operation that happened against you, there still remains a lot of misunderstandings regarding that.

SI: No, there’s no misunderstanding. 

MK: People like me have it, I am your very dear friend and a well wisher, it is still not very clear to me.

SI: If you Google it would become clear, there is one Aruranjan Jha he did the sting operation.

MK: I will give a background of the sting operation. During the 2013 elections in which Shazia was contesting for the MLA seat from RK Puram. That time there was a sting operation where Shazia is seen  talking to a group of Muslims and …

SI: No, no. That was a different sting. That was during the Lok Sabha elections – that was in Mumbai. It was not for my elections. I was campaigning and addressing the Muslims. It wasn’t a sting, someone made a video and put it on the net. The Muslims had come, they were saying that they had been voting for the Congress. I reasoned with them saying that you people have become very communal, become secular and vote for your benefactor. Arvind is a Hindu. I had also explained saying, only a person who works for you is your true benefactor, why are you a political slave of the Congress? So, it was against the Congress and I was campaigning for Arvind’s candidate who was contesting from Mumbai, the lady who was a banker and died recently. She was a nice lady, very articulate I cannot recall her name. So, this was different from the RK Puram election sting, which was related to money. So, in this video I was sarcastically telling that why are you in this secular-communal rut. Because it has lost its meaning. I said become communal, think about what is profitable for you, why are you a political slave of the Congress? Because the Muslims of Mumbai did not want to try out the Aam Aadmi Party. A lot of Muslim leaders had come for the meeting and it was during iftaar, they had brought some things and I had covered my head as all of them were reading the Namaz. So, when the video was released I explained my position, it was not for my election, the person contesting the election was a Hindu and Arvind Kejriwal is also a Hindu.

MK: No, he is neither a Hindu nor a Muslim. He has neither religion nor honesty.

SI: No, I just said that the person who works for you belongs to you.

MK: Okay. What is this RK Puram sting operation about? It caused you a lot of damage.

SI: I had to desist from campaigning for four days and this was Arvind’s mischief. You wouldn’t believe it, it was a sting against six to seven people. I was in it, Kumar Vishwas was also in it. They had tampered with the frames, they interchanged the “Yes”s and the “No”s which changed the very meaning of the conversation. I said at once, this a totally false allegation as whoever has knowledge of film production, will know how the frames have been tampered. If I ask you, do you believe in good journalism? You will say, absolutely. Then if I ask you, how much money did you make? You will say, nothing. But, if I interchange your answers in editing, then the frames are different and it can be easily detected in the ambient sound. So, it was very evident that there was no basis for the allegations. I knew the lady who shot this. So they removed those portions and did this mischief against six to seven candidates. I used to appear on TV and I boldly told that the sting was totally false and doctored; you can see very clearly this is  a frame trick, this is made by production. I am from Jamia, my work is to make films, to produce it and edit it. So, I said that this is totally rubbish, the sting has no substance neither against me nor any of the others. But at that time Arvind sent a word through Vibhav, who is his man Friday, now he has also become a key figure, a big politician and has become very rich now. Vibhav told me to step down, I felt very bad. You see I was so foolish, he said for the sake of the party you need to step down.

MK: Step down means?

SI: It meant you sit down.

MK: Withdraw your candidature?

SI: I said okay. I also phoned them. I was on air. Yogendra Yadav was also on air, he might have wondered why is Shazia speaking in this manner. I told him that I have been informed to take the back seat and sit down quietly for three to four days, I will do it and the truth will come out. Yogendra Yadav petitioned the Election Commision. The Election Commission asked for the unedited footage, as the election was in the offing. The unedited footage was then released. and in the footage the portion where I said, ‘ See, I would not lie, whatever money you give has to be paid by cheque and that too give it in favour of RK Puram AAP’. So, this was a very redeeming feature in the whole episode. But I lost four of my active days of campaigning. On the last day of the campaign, as you are well aware that in adherence to the model code of conduct there can be no campaigning in the last two days before the election, I asked Arvind whether he would be coming for the campaign. Arvind told me he would not be able to come for the campaign as he was not feeling well. Just nearby, in the Delhi Cantonment area from where Commando Surinder Singh was contesting, Arvind went there for campaigning while Surinder’s people told me that Arvind would not be coming. As they started feeling Shazia was becoming famous, they tried to constantly undercut me. When I would go to complain to Arvind against the party members in RK Puram who were very insolent and made distasteful communal statements in full public view in front of the media, before I could even reach out to Arvind, they would be already sitting there with Sunjay Singh and Manish Sisodiya. You cannot even fathom, they are so cunning and clever that you can have all the other parties on one side and Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodiya on the other. They are so sly and shrewd that they leave all the others far behind be it Lalu (Lalu Prasad Yadav) or Akhilesh (Akhilesh Yadav).

SI: Yogendra Yadav is no less cunning. How did they grow apart? What was the cause for the animosity? Firstly, I feel that just like Arvind has a false impression that he is Prime Ministerial material, he is born to become the Prime Minister. He was ready at Varanasi, buzzing around like a mosquito thinking he would defeat Modi. Similarly, Yogender Yadav also has a delusion that he is also a Prime Ministerial material and that someone or the other would crown him. This could be one of the reasons…

SI: Madhu Di, don’t you feel that they have been despicably thrown out of the party; even after they were humiliated and kicked out they still have not mustered enough courage to open their mouths. They have been literally thrashed, people have been instructed to write against them that they used to snoop in the party. Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav are very well aware about these facts but they chose to not breathe a word against Arvind in public. Therefore my respect for them has decreased, rather I have lost it completely.         

MK: What was the main concern? Was it because they were becoming prominent?

SI: They were becoming prominent and they wanted to run the party in their own way. Arvind has completely different goals neither is he a leftist nor a rightist. 

MK: When Arvind came to meet Yogendra Yadav for the first time at CSDS, I remember the occasion very clearly as my room was adjacent to his. Yogendra Yadav himself told me, Madhu Di, he is coming, you also sit along with me. So, I was witness to that first tete-a-tete.

SI: Interaction?

MK: Yes, first interaction and Arvind was trying to woo Yogender Yadav, mainly also because he was good at election surveys. So, he used him. Initially Yogendra Yadav was used for conducting election surveys.

SI: Absolutely, different Committees were made because all of you were questioning us that while we are speaking on corruption, what about your policies on other issues. Yogendra Yadav worked very hard on these matters. 

MK: Being an intellectual and academic he knows to read and write. Arvind may not be able to even write letters.

SI: The way Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were ambushed and decimated.

MK: Why did it happen?

SI: They can bear insults, a perfidious man, but they detest the BJP so much that they do not mind even getting bashed up. The same Arvind literally said, distribute the tickets to Muslims, anyway we are not going to win. Arvind used to say, Muslims just want Modi to be abused, they will give votes on their own. This came in a sting operation of his phone conversation. I have heard this twenty times, what do the Muslims want? Just abuse Modi.

MK: But the Aam Aadmi Party has been very generous to the mafia, I would like to term it  the Islamic mafia. The party has been captured by such nefarious elements, no one can tell whether they are using Arvind or is Arvind using them. This became very apparent during the CAA matter.

SI: Yes. But, right after he won the elections, he gave the assent to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar, that is politics of convenience. Now Arvind is busy trying to be friendly, he is praising Modi ji. His spokespersons are very foxy and duplicitous. They are like chameleons.

MK: We heard that the fight with Yogendra Yadav was because Yogendra egged on Arvind to place his candidates to contest elections from all over India. Whereas Arvind was not ready for it. Yogendra felt that they would emerge as the single largest party.

SI:This was one of the reasons. This episode happened just in front of my eyes as I was in EC.

MK: EC means?

SI: We had a small body which was an inner team termed the Executive Committee. I was a part of this Executive Committee, it had very few members. Yogendra Yadav also pointed out  that there needs to be a defined criteria for selecting the members in the PAC (Political Affairs Committee). A system was developed, papers were also made delineating the manifesto of the Committee making great claims that AAP believes in this, AAP believes in that. But none of it was implemented. Yogendra Yadav had even declared that people would be welcome to come  and give their credentials and we will provide an opportunity to ordinary people to be part of the decision making body.

MK: Mohalla Sabha.

SI: There will be Mohalla Sabhas and people will draw lots and whosoever’s name is drawn is selected. Arvind Kejriwal said that the Executive Committee would consist of people who we choose. These concepts are just for speaking, they do not walk the talk. Ordinary people, trusting them got 5000 to 50,000 signatures with aadhar cards  in the hope of being an important member of the party or getting its ticket for contesting elections, but to no avail.

MK: Let’s explain, there was this talk about an attempt to kindle grassroot democracy. It envisaged that any electoral candidate of the party or member of the prime Committee of the party or anyone who is desirous of seeking the party ticket for corporation or MLA elections will have to be elected by the party members of that constituency and the party will give the ticket to that individual. But, in reality like the other parties, tickets were bought and sold in this party too. 

SI: Do you know Ashok ji, Ashok Aggarwal? He was also part of  AAP. He duly followed the due procedure and brought 5000 signatures from that particular constituency. But, Ashutosh said, I left journalism to join the party because I was offered Chandni Chowk constituency, now why has this person come to seek the ticket? Ashok Aggarwal ji got infuriated that if ticket distribution is fixed, then why do you spread false notions (about grassroot democracy)? I was witness to the whole commotion. People were in expectation of getting party tickets. There was no functioning Committee, Arvind Kejriwal sitting in an air conditioned room with his coterie sat and determined who should be allotted tickets. Doesn’t an ordinary person have a right to contest elections, or the right to get a ticket? What do you preach and what do you practice? Then you brought in Ashish Khaitan claiming things should be done in a certain way. With regard to Muslims you say, give them tickets as we are anyway not going to win, they will be content with this gesture. There was too much guile and craftiness employed. Your question was, how did all this end? 

MK: What caused the estrangement?

SI: Divisions were created due to unrestrained groupism. They wanted to run the party according to their system. But Kejriwal had a dictatorial attitude, either you are with me or you get out. His disposition was very despotic, if you do not like it you are free to leave. Manish Sisodiya handles all the financial transactions and is his old lieutenant. He distributes the salaries in all the NGOs run by them. Arvind does not touch money. So, it is quite evident that Manish is Arvind’s confidant, so he would have his say and his loyalists in the party. Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan brought in their  people into the party. Look at the old members of the party, where they are placed in the party structure. Only people who are from the NGOs, Parivartan and Kabir, have thrived in this party. 

MK: Name them.

SI: Ashwati Muralidharan, Vibhav, Swati Maliwal, Feroze.

MK: Swati Maliwal has become Chairperson of DCW ( Delhi Commission for Women) .

SI: She was a part of this NGO, that is what I am indicating that only those who hailed from the NGOs have reached the position of power in the party.

MK: No, Yogendra Yadav brought in many people. He wanted to bring in Medha Patkar and many others like her. He was under the misconception that these people can create mass movement.

SI: He wanted to bring in Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh kind of people but it ended up with the Kapil muni case (Kapil Sibbal – Swami Agnivesh sting case). That was done by Arvind Kejriwal.

MK: Sting?

SI: Yes. He got the sting done.

MK: But, Agnivesh is a very sly and crafty person.

SI: No, but only a sly person can cancel out another sly person.

MK: So he has chopped out all the others. What happened with Yogendra Yadav?

SI: There is no near and dear one who has not been cheated by me. Madhu Di, I used to see that shop daily whenever I travelled by rickshaw, I can still see that shop in my mind whenever I see Kejriwal.

MK: So, one reason was Yogendra Yadav wanted to bring in his people to the party.

SI: He wanted to broad base the party. But, Kejriwal wanted to run it unilaterally. For example, in the Delhi elections on what basis were we stating that electricity bills would be reduced to half? This was a fundamental question.

MK: In fact, today my electricity bills have increased at least by five times.

SI: So is mine.

MK: There is so much cheating going on. Earlier we could at least complain.

SI: Even water bills are much higher now.

MK: Yes. Earlier, whenever we complained they used to come to check the meter. If there was anything wrong with the electricity meter we could get it changed. Now, there is simply no answerability.

SI: Congress had a votebank politics policy. Arvind has understood that he just needs to create a votebank and not bother about other issues. He can go and do whatever he likes. So, he has caught on to the idea of giving things free to the poor. Money is anyway ours, the taxpayers, so it doesn’t make any difference. Subsidizing is the easiest thing to do.

MK: No, when you give things free it can be siphoned off.

SI: Absolutely. Did they not claim that they would file cases against Electricity Companies.

MK: The Electricity Companies are being pampered instead.

SI: And this subsidy money actually goes to the companies. They claimed it would be audited by the CAG but there is no audit. So, when asked for the rationality behind this decision to include in the manifesto, he says, it will work just put it now. So, this attitude kept continuing. Yogendra and Prashant were noticing all this, they also had some problems with respect to some issues. This resulted in some clashes between them. Arvind Kejriwal just knows how to use others. He used the RSS people, Shri Shri, Baba Ramdev. He has used all of us one by one. He is an expert at using people, be it Santosh Hegde or Kiran Bedi he used them all and is still using people. This is his beauty and speciality. 

MK: So, why were they humiliated so badly and removed? And why did the others remain silent?

SI: Because by then Arvind was in total control of the party and Arvind has always controlled money in the party through his own people.

MK: No. But Arvind could have given Yogendra Yadav the responsibility to keep conducting election surveys. He is also very devious. He could be very useful in beguiling people in which he is quite accomplished.  

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