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Modis and Mallyas: How They Come and How They Go, We Don't Know

VVP Sharma @vvemuri

Updated: February 22, 2018, 3:10 PM IST
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Modis and Mallyas: How They Come and How They Go, We Don't Know
File photos of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
There’s something awfully wrong with India’s border management. Our security agencies seem unaware of the in-and-out movements of people of questionable characters. How they treat Indian-origin terrorists and foreigners who commit murders with kid gloves completes the picture.

Financial frauds, terrorists, murderers — chaps, who in any other country would have either received a death sentence for their crimes or would have remained in a 8x6 cell for their lives, seem to become invisible as they emplane or deplane at any of India’s airports.

The latest is the case of Jaspal Atwal. He was photographed in Mumbai the other day with Sophie Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They are in India this week.

In the 1980s, Atwal shot at a Punjab minister visiting Canada. The minister survived. Atwal was then with the International Sikh Youth Federation which the Canadian government had declared a terrorist organisation. He got a 30-year prison term. That’s not all. Atwal has had a chequered criminal history, including a connection with a car fraud ring.

The Canadian media went to town in 2012 when he was invited as a guest to the British Columbia state legislature. The government had no answer how the convict came to be sitting in the visitor’s gallery. Just as today, when the Canadian government is embarrassed to answer how an invite to a Mumbai event by the Trudeaus was issued to him. The photograph with Sophie was the icing on the cake. All this happens even as Justin Trudeau is coming to terms with the Indian government turning him a blind eye for his oscillating view on Khalistani terrorist groups in Canada.

But the question to be asked is not how and why Sophie got a photo taken with Atwal. The question is how did the convicted felon get a visa to enter India? Former Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists and sympathisers of terror groups figure right up there in the lists seemingly regularly updated by Indian security agencies. Yet we have this man happily arriving in India and gracing social events.

This is merely the latest. We have no confirmation whether the Indian security agencies knew about the “escape” of luminaries like Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya and now, Nirav Modi. There is a growing list of wanted Indians in London — the list compares with that of Russian mafia oligarchs who have made the UK their current home to escape punishment.

In all the three cases, the security agencies were berated by political parties in Parliament for their failure to notice the arrival of India’s most wanted at various airports with loads of luggage. All of them used their own passports to exit the country in haste.

Not noticing such arrivals and departures is one issue. The other is the desperation shown by the security agencies and/or the political establishment in India to extradite crooks and terrorists to the country and try them in Indian courts.

The desperation often ends up in counter-productive actions. Take the example of the two Italian marines who were arrested in India in 2012 for shooting two Indian fishermen. The actual case got lost in a diplomatic standoff between India and Italy. So much so, the Italians told the UN and the ICJ that India had detained the marines without even charging them. Italy’s brazen public relations blitzkrieg ended with the Indian government releasing the two marines. They went home.

As India watched mutely, Italy dragged the European Union into the row, got the EU to issue a warning to India about taking action against the marines, and in 2015 even deferred finalising the dates for an EU-India summit during the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Europe that April. The Congress government tied itself in knots trying to explain to Indian Parliament in 2012 and 2013 why it failed to handle the case more judiciously.

Worse happened in the Abu Salem case. The fellow was accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case in which 257 people were killed. Salem went to Portugal. It took India over a decade simply to get him to India; that too when an extradition treaty exists between the two countries. India, however, lost the diplomatic war with the Portuguese while extraditing him. Portugal does not have the death sentence and it insisted that since Salem was arrested on Portuguese soil, Indian courts could not hang him after they took him back home.

Portugal kept a close watch on the judicial proceedings that naturally ended giving Salem only a life term — the death penalty was not even theoretically considered. It is now learnt that the Portuguese government wants to send a delegation to the Navi Mumbai jail to see whether Salem, an inmate there, was having a comfortable time. Apparently, the Portuguese government has written to the Indian government informing it of its intention! No reaction yet from India’s side.

Basic research will dish out many other such cases. India has always been at the forefront of the international fight against terror and, in recent times, highbrow crime. Yet, it seems always to be at the receiving end when it comes to taking action against offenders, including those of Indian-origin, on Indian soil or even being aware of the escape plans of fraudsters. Strange?
First Published: February 22, 2018, 12:36 PM IST