New Delhi: Newsportal Tehelka.com's former journalist Aniruddha Bahal expressed happiness at the conviction of former BJP president Bangaru Laxman on Friday. Bahal was a part of the Tehelka.com team that carried out the sting operation in 2001. Recalling the sting operation by Tehelka in 2001, Bahal claimed that the people of the organisation were harassed after the sting operation.
Talking to CNN-IBN, Bahal said, "There was a judicial commission put on us, they investigated people who brought out this story. We were harassed."
The 'harassment', however, did not deter them, he said. "Mentally, we never allowed the harassment of the NDA government or their use of state agencies to harass us to get on us mentally," Bahal recalled.
Expressing satisfaction at the court ruling, Bahal said, " We are happy in the sense that the judicial process is taking cognisance of it and applying the judicial mind in the manner that they see fit."
Bangaru Laxman was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the 2001 Tehelka sting case. A Delhi court convicted Bangaru on Thursday and announced that the sentencing would take place on Saturday.
The court of special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge Kanwaljeet Arora sent Bangaru into judicial custody soon after convicting him. Bangaru broke down in the court after the verdict was announced.
Bangaru was caught on camera accepting money in a 2001 sting operation conducted by Tehelka.com. He was seen taking bribe from fake arms dealers for facilitating a fictitious defence deal case. The video CDs, which were released by the portal on March 13, 2001, had sparked a political storm following which Bangaru resigned as BJP chief.
Here is the transcript of the interview
Bhupendra Chaubey: Aniruddha , thanks for joining us. Now the verdict has been delivered and Bangaru Laxman official has pronounced guilty by the court. Do you think all the journalistic work you had done and the subsequent persecution, you had to suffer and endear is now, all the things of past? You are satisfied that the conclusions that you had worked for, has been accepted by the court?
Aniruddha Bahal:Well, we still have to go though the lot of judicial process, we cant really say it is, in the past. I mean we still have to go to sort of proceedings now and then. But mentally, we never allowed the harassment of the NDA government or the use of the state agency to harass us, to get to us mentally. Because we knew, we sort of sustain ourselves with sense of black humor, so in that sense it never really got to us. But we are happy that in the sense that judicial process is taking cognizance of it and applying the judicial mind in the manner that it seems fit.
Bhupendra Chaubey:This is the story Aniruddha which took place at the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001 when the NDA was in power. And as the images that we are now playing proves the fact that you all manage right to the top. The top of the BJP, a serving party at the power, a national president of that party caught on the hidden camera like this. Tell us how did you go about the story and how many people are involved? How long it take you to come to Bangaru Laxmans stage?
Aniruddha Bahal:Actually it was a long story, it started sometime in August or September of 2000 and we remain under covered till January 2001. And subsequently there is lot of production work as you can understand being in Television, lot of transcribing to be done and script to be writing. And obviously the production work itself of making it a documentary, which all integral processes to finally having a press conference on March 13 in New Delhi. It was a long process and its unfortunate now that mainstream media doesnt really invest so much time, money and talent in long term investigative stories which is a trend that you start doing actually.
Bhupendra Chaubey: Alright and what about the fact that when you all finally decided to come out in open, the BJP took a position that this was a case of entrapment. How difficult that stage for you and Tehelka at that point of time, when the accusation being made against was, that this is the case where you intentionally entrapped Bangaru Laxman?
Aniruddha Bahal: No actually they never had that charges against us, actually the entrapment charge was more or later of a few people and that is easily disapprove, because we had prior information of people wanting to do this and calling us for a preset amount. But having said that the whole set up at that time, the sort of governance at that time geared first of all within three or four days of story being aired, all kind of things from Income Tax , TD, CBI, one of our reporter was investigated and is still being investigated on trumped up coaching charge. So the whole gamut of things started doing again, sitting commission inquiry against us. The whole of the intent of the inquiry was to have a battle of attrition with the journalist who had in media platform and done the expose. The biggest thing was they even put the financial clause, they started investigating our investors at that point and went after them. And one of our investor had to be in jail for one or two months because of it. I mean they went after the whistle blowers.
Bhupendra Chaubey: Aniruddha, when you all decided to come out in the open and when you all decided to bring the step out in the public domain. Were you convinced that the investigation had reached right at the very top? Was that your ultimate objective or is the possibility perhaps you getting hold of and many more bureaucrats perhaps some one hire up within the NDA government also?
Aniruddha Bahal:You see thats the multi-faceted call. We didnt have the resources to go beyond that, if we had I am sure we could have advanced even further. And there was the treasurer of the Samta Party RK Jain, who was willing to take us to various people for sum of amount, the ministers for Rs 10 lakh and the MPs for Rs 5 Lakh and so on so and so for. So there was a sort of attempt at that time to take us to various people and actually people would be asking us for enormous sum. And obviously we never had those kinds of resources and we would be just figuring out how to do plain talks and plain talks can take you so far and limited amount of resources. We did had the feeling and we actually knew we could have gone much more if we had more resources.
Bhupendra Chaubey:Aniruddha, I am looking at the all the reactions I am getting here from Parliament, where both, the Congress is now gunning for the BJP, so far we have seen the BJP was gunning for the Congress on the Bofors scam. Are you convinced that the story you all did and subsequently there were cricket fixing scams that you un covered, you think all these really matters to the political class, ultimately?
Aniruddha Bahal:Well even though as a class, we journalist basically cynics or even though not cynics, if we joined the profession we are made cynics after few years of it. But we cant really cynicism should not play that much of role in mental makeup. Because if we become cynics then at the end we start believing that our story don't matter or what we do doesnt really influence the political class and the no reforms happens and nothing ever changes. Then that the slipper slop, you can't really walk down the slipper slop so you have to do stories. As long as I keep saying that as long as the journalist is strict by doing stuffs and by doing stories and his primary motivation is to do good story, then his heart is in the right place. And as long as that kick doesnt come to him for doing good story the he should leave the profession. As far as the political class is concern and how inflected they are.
Bhupendra Chaubey:Well that's the sad part Aniruddha. Thanks for joining us and sharing us your inputs in to a story where jury the defining point of sting journalism in India way back in 2001.