PMO cites a cut-off year of 2014 for recordkeeping on Modi
Question: In which jail was Narendra Modi lodged when he was imprisoned while fighting for the cause of Bangladesh?
PMO: ...It may be noted that this office maintains official records of Shri Narendra Modi since he assumed the Office of the Prime Minister of India in 2014.
The Prime Minister’s Office has cited a cut-off year of 2014 for recordkeeping on Modi to remain silent on a Right to Information question on the Prime Minister’s statement made in Dhaka during the middle of the Bengal elections that “in support of Bangladesh’s independence, I was also arrested and jailed” nearly half a century ago.
However, in spite of the PMO’s claim about maintaining official records on Modi only since he took charge in 2014, its website reveals specific information dating back to the 1950s that “he grew up in a poor but loving family ‘without a spare rupee’”.
Rajesh Chirimar, a Salt Lake resident and member of the board of administrators of the Trinamul Congress-run Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, had filed an RTI application on March 26 over Modi’s claim earlier that day in the neighbouring country that he had been arrested and jailed for participating in a movement seeking the liberation of Bangladesh.
Chirimar filed an application with the PMO under the RTI Act, posing three questions: From which date to which date Modi was in jail, on what charges he was imprisoned and which jail he was lodged in.
The reply, bearing the RTI file number RTI/2850/2021-PMR/ A-90, reached Chirimar by email earlier this week.
Signed by Parveen Kumar, undersecretary and central public information officer in the PMO, it said: “While the information as available on records may be accessed on the PMO website www.pmindia.gov.in, under the hyperlink ‘PM’s Speeches’, it may be noted that this office maintains official records of Shri Narendra Modi since he assumed the Office of the Prime Minister of India in 2014.”
The English translation of the speech on the PMO website quotes Modi as saying on March 26: “My brothers and sisters from Bangladesh, I would like to remind the young generation here with great pride, of one more thing. Joining the freedom struggle for the independence of Bangladesh was one of the first times that I took part in any movement. I must have been 20-22 years old when I and many of my colleagues took part in the Satyagraha for the freedom of the people of Bangladesh.
“In support of Bangladesh’s independence, I was also arrested and jailed.”
The occasion was the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s Independence and the birth centenary of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka. Modi had delivered his speech in the presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Chirimar is disappointed that his query has drawn a blank.
“Whether the PMO should have checked or whether the Prime Minister himself should have been more categorical is a different issue, but the country must know why the Prime Minister went to jail and what his contribution to the Bangladesh freedom movement is. Personal actions don’t come under the RTI. But as a citizen, I have only this method of seeking information. I can’t go and ask the Prime Minister,” he said.
Asked to comment on social media posts that did the rounds soon after, quoting contemporary newspaper reports that a Jana Sangh satyagraha led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken place in Delhi in support of Bangladesh in 1971, Chirimar said such sources were not evidence.
“That’s why I approached the appropriate authority. I never said I was disputing the claim that he took part in such an agitation or that he was jailed. I just wanted to know the details as I was barely a year old at the time and his role is not cited in history. When India was supporting the cause of Bangladesh, I was curious to find out on what charges he could have been jailed and by whom,” Chirimar said.
He thinks approaching the central appellate authority would be futile as it is likely to forward the query to the PMO. “If the PMO says there are no records, the matter reaches a dead end there.”