You recently hosted Mr Harsh Mander and you mention how he "resigned" from the IAS over the Gujarat incident.
Now read the real story below and judge for yourself what he really is.
I am a Christian deeply concerned about the situation of minorities in this country and deeply anguished over Gujarat. But I oppose people like Mander who I believe are doing more harm to minorities in this country -- all for his narrow personal ends.
The lie that Mander "resigned" from the IAS was deliberately spread by him to project himself as a hero. You judge for yourself.
Binu S. Thomas
AN OPEN LETTER TO ARUNA ROY, BELA BHATIA, JEAN DREZE, NIKHIL DEY AND PRASHANT BHUSHAN
17th May 2003
This is a response to your opinion piece "Harsh Treatment" published in the Hindu
(http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2003/05/10/stories/2003051001221300.htm) on 10th May 2003.
It was interesting even amusing to read your defence of Harsh Mander. As dear friends of his, you of course are entitled to do just that. But one would have hoped that worthies like you who lay so much stock on the right to information would have some regard for the truth. You speak of a "relentless e-mail campaign" against Mr Mander. Well what do you expect when Mr Mander repeatedly lies to project himself as a champion of secularism and human rights in order to cover himself with ill gotten glory? Consider his published statements below.
"My resignation was an emotional one." Harsh Mander in The Week April 21, 2002 - see
"Yes, I did resign on moral grounds. " Harsh Mander in The Hindu, August 12, 2002. -- see http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2002/08/12/stories/2002081201280300.htm
"First technically, it is not a resignation from the civil service but a premature retirement." Harsh Mander in interview carried on http://www.drishtipat.org/activists/harsh.html (Drishtipat is a Bangladeshi Human Rights Organisation) in December 2002.
If this isn't lying, then tell me what is?
Mr Mander deliberately lied to the media about having "resigned" from the IAS and in the process cynically exploited a national tragedy that was Gujarat to cover himself with glory. Why did he do that? Well Mr Mander was on leave from the IAS on a Rs 2 lakhs per month job with the British NGO ActionAid in India (which brought him in to cover up a corruption scandal involving its former director) and had on an earlier occasion been recalled by the government.to rejoin the service . "I have been informed by the Government of India that it has decided to reduce my deputation to ActionAid from four years to one year," he wrote to Actionaid India staff in March 2000. But he decided to appeal against the order stating " It may also be useful for the influencing agenda of AAI for me to lead it while being at the same time a serving IAS officer." The lobbying was successful and Mander was able to keep his IAS post warm but not for too long.
He had to choose between service to the country (IAS) and money (ActionAid) and he found in the Gujarat tragedy in 2002 the perfect timing to choose the latter and leave the IAS on a high moral note. He clearly wanted to have his cake and eat it too.
The media would have ignored his fake emotional outpouring on Gujarat had he told the truth that he had taken premature retirement from the IAS (in order to keep his highly paid job
with ActionAid) and the Rs 10 lakhs or so in early retirement benefits it added to his bank balance. Instead he chose to tell and retell the lie about his "resignation" (meaning he sacrifices his benefits from the government) to project himself as a martyr for secularism and rake in lakhs of rupees in the form of awards (M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award, Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award, etc) and international speaking tours.
It was only the "relentless e-mails" that forced Mr Mander to change his story some nine months later as he finally did with the drishtipat interview. When asked to explain the change in his resignation story, Mr Mander routinely tells journalists, as he did in Bangalore a few months ago, that "it is a personal matter."
Hasn't Mr Mander committed a massive fraud on the people of this country? And you folks want to cover up for him, eh! Well you may succeed in running away from the truth for a while, but you
cannot hide from it as Mr Mander has discovered.
You speak so eloquently about how Mr Mander was transferred 20 times during 18 years of service in the IAS. Having seen first hand Mr Mander's pathetic administrative abilities as country director of ActionAid India, I fully sympathise with the government. What else could they do other than transfer him? Had Mr Mander been in the private sector he would have been sacked
for sheer incompetence. It doesn't take genius to see that much of Mr Mander's activism is a cover for his shockingly poor administrative abilities.
But Mr Mander has retained some of the finest traditions of the civil service in this country. In summer when it gets too hot, he heads for cooler climes abroad. For the second year in a row he has spent the worst of Delhi's summer on a month long international speaking tour
(http://www.miindia.com/apps/calendar/events.asp?date=5/13/2003) of Europe and America accompanied by his family. And just in case he returns before the worst of the summer is over, he has ensured his comfort by moving the ActionAid office to a posh fully airconditioned mansion in New Delhi's up market South Extension. So much for his spartan lifestyle and humble ways and the myth about his concern for the poor and the downtrodden..
As for the NCPRI, members of which you are along with Mr Mander, can you deny it has received financial support from ActionAid? Would you deny that Mr Shekhar Singh, the NCPRI office bearer is a childhood friend of Mr Mander's having grown up in the Andamans together and that the NCPRI financially benefits immensely from this connection? And what has the NCPRI, which shouts about the public's right to information, done on the burning issue of ensuring more transparency and public accountability of the finances of the NGO sector (http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/may12/edst.asp) starting with details of its own funding?
If safeguarding the democratic right to dissent is your concern, you need to also recognise the democratic right to publicise the truth. In the light of the hard evidence presented about Mander being a self-seeking, two-timing, publicity-mongering liar you'll need to ask hard questions about him and not let friendship blind you to facts even when they stare you in the face.
Binu S. Thomas