Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander also condemn attempts to malign civil society members of joint panel on Lokpal Bill

Civil society groups and organisations on Tuesday condemned attempts to malign co-chairman of the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee Shanti Bhushan and its member Prashant Bhushan.

Expressing “full solidarity,” the organisations said they would oppose all efforts to sideline the central issue of establishing a strong and effective mechanism to tackle endemic corruption in the country.

Describing Mr. Shanti Bhushan as “a tireless defender of civil liberties and the rule of law,” and Mr. Prashant Bhushan as “one of the most courageous and effective anti-corruption crusaders in the country,” social activists and members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander, along with several others, said they “stood with them in their battle for a cleaner and more accountable governance and for the strengthening of democratic institutions.”

‘Disgraceful'

In a statement issued under the banner of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), Ms. Roy and Mr. Mander said: “It is particularly disgraceful that they [the Bhushans] are being pilloried and attacked without being given an opportunity to properly defend themselves and without the so-called evidence against them being subjected to even the most basic scrutiny.”

The signatories to the statement include Anjali Bhardwaj, Shekhar Singh, Jagdeep Chokker, Maja Daruwala, Nikhil Dey, Venkatesh Nayak, Vinay Mahajan, V. Suresh, D. Nagasaila and Shailesh Gandhi.

In another statement, the Jan Sangharsh Morcha, a forum of people's organisations in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, said the anonymous circulation in the media of a fraudulent CD maligning Mr. Shanti Bhushan established the level of panic that had spread among corrupt elements in the corporate and political classes at the prospect of a Lokpal Bill. “The allegations made against those who have been fighting corruption in the political establishment and the judiciary are a well thought-out conspiracy,” they said.

“Mr. Prashant Bhushan had been fighting for the Narmada dam-displaced people, the rights of the poor and the tribals. However, the vested interests are alarmed at the recent legal battle against corruption in high places fought by Mr. Prashant Bhushan in the 2G Spectrum case.”

Condemning the attacks on the Bhushans, the Morcha declared that it would intensify its struggle against corruption. The signatories to the statement include Chittaroopa Palit of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Anurag Modi of the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Sunil of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Madhuri of the Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Rajkumar Sinha of the Bargi Bandh Visthapit and Prabhavit Sangh and Gautam Bandopadhyaya of the Nadi-Ghati Morcha, Rajkumar of the Baghelkhand Adivasi Mukti Morcha and Abdul Jabbar of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan.

Yet another statement by concerned citizens and organisations said the recent fast by Anna Hazare against corruption evoked a broad and meaningful debate on the issue, but the event got marred by political wrangling of a low order. “It is too much of a coincidence that a CD maligning Mr. Shanti Bhushan has suddenly surfaced on the eve of the meeting of the joint drafting committee.”

Urging investigative agencies to bring out the truth in the matter, they said: “We believe the government of the day needs to understand that its own credibility is grievously at stake.”

Among those who signed the statement are documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, Anil Sadgopal of the All-India Forum for Right to Education, Madhuresh Kumar of the National Alliance of People's Movement, environmental activist Dunu Roy, Kalpana Mehta of Saheli, columnists Badri Raina, Jyoti Punwani, Prof. Emeritus, Punjab University Motilal Raina, Pranay Krishna of the Jan Sanskriti Manch, Sandeep of the All-India Students Association, Sukla Sen of the Committee for Communal Amity and Mahtab Alam, civil rights activist.