Monday, April 11, 2011

Reflections, before I issued the exclusive to PTI, on my name being dragged into the Hassan Ali case

In India, one seems to be always faced with interesting dilemmas.

The latest one concerns the problem that my name is being dragged, through radio, TV, newspapers and the internet, into the Hassan Ali case as if I am significant in this context.

When that sort of things happens, I guess one has only three options:
- speak/ write to each of the media channels to ask them to desist from involving one's name in the matter and hope they agree (unlikely that anything will come from such an approach, but it is one possibility)

- hope that the matter will cease to be of interest to the media

- make a public statement (but who is interested, and how can one ensure that the whole statement is printed and not some odd phrase taken out of context?)

Well, as I had written off the first possibility, and want a quiet life, I had hoped that the second would happen. But it has not happened, and my name keeps cropping up in the media. At parties and in relatives’ and friends’ homes, and even via phone calls and emails, I am getting asked about the matter, even when people can’t recollect who the main case concerns!

So here are the facts, the full facts and nothing but the facts, as I recollect them.

Switzerland is a small country and Zurich is a small city (population some 300,000) in which foreigners form a small fringe. Every Indian knows almost every Indian, one way or another – at least by name. Thus it was that one Philip Anandaraj introduced himself to me at the Rietberg Museum some years ago during their annual event, where we were both with our families – as many other Indians were, because the Rietberg Museum has the oldest event – a sort of mela - at which Indians (and those interested in India) gather.

Some time later, he rang me and wanted to come and see me with someone he knew who was in a certain difficulty with which I could help. I agreed.

Anandaraj introduced the man as a descendant of the Hyderabad royal family, said that the man had family property which was in dispute within the family, as a result of which he needed money, and that his personal account, which had nothing to do with the dispute and was with UBS, had been frozen because of the family dispute and could I help put the facts of the matter to the relevant authorities.

I live a busy life and did not have the time to check whether the Hyderabad royal family has any living descendants and if so whether this man was indeed one of them, what the disputes were, why his account was frozen, whether it might possibly be reopened and if so on what grounds, and so on.

So I explained that I was in a different department, and had nothing to do with such matters but, as I always try to help fellow-Indians, asked them to put their side of the matter in a letter to me, which I would pass on to the people concerned.

Shortly thereafter, a letter did arrive, and I did pass it on to the department concerned.

Mr Anandaraj rang me a few days later to ask if there was any news, and I told him that I had done my part, and that it was up to the authorities concerned to respond, and nothing further to do with me.

However, as I ran into the person to whom I had sent the letter at an evening occasion soon after sending it to him, I asked him whether he had received the latter (I had not had an acknowledgment of it from him) and he said he would check. The next morning, I received word through a colleague (who apparently does not recollect the matter now!), that I was “naïve” to have received and passed on the letter, that I should keep away from the matter, and that they would deal with it.

No one likes being called "naive" but I had certainly had no intention of being involved further, and I had already fulfilled what I had undertaken to Mr Anandaraj.

UBS did issue a public statement saying that the man had no account in UBS.

Some time later, I heard that Mr Anandaraj had left Switzerland for reasons to do with the bankruptcy of one of his businesses (no idea then or now whether that was true, though he certainly wasn’t seen or heard from by me again).

Still later, I learned that he had been arrested in India in connection with involvement in something, but I did not know him well enough, and whatever it was had nothing to do with me, and I was too busy anyway to find out the details.

Now I am told that a notarised copy of the letter sent to me by his contact (whoever he was and whatever the matter) was kept by him, has been discovered by the police and is considered a key piece of evidence.

Why would someone want to keep a notarized copy of a letter he or she writes to someone to ask for their help? I have no idea.

In any case, you cannot prevent any human being from writing to you about anything, whether they notarise the letter or not.

And if you receive such a letter as I did, you have only the following choices, as far as I can see:
- ignore the letter,
- reply to the letter saying basically “Sorry but I can’t help you” or, more rudely, "Don't bother me",
- pass on the letter to the right people.

Is it “wise” to ignore such letters? Would it have been "wiser" to write back saying basically "Don't bother me"? Perhaps.

Was I naïve to have passed on the letter to the right authorities in the company? Maybe.

But, as everyone who has anything to do with me knows, I have always been the sort of person who would rather be naïve and do my bit to help a fellow Indian abroad, specially if I can do so without too much effort on my part.

My stand on all the ethical matters involved is available to anyone who cares to investigate it, through my writings, public statements and indeed my work - which have all been in the public eye, in one way or another, ever since I was a teenager.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

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