Posts Tagged ‘Sheela Bhatt’

When Shekhar Gupta met Dawood Ibrahim

30 March 2013

In his Saturday column in The Indian Express, editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta recounts his encounter with India’s most wanted man, the Bombay-born underworld don, Dawood Ibrahim, when he was at India Today:

“I had had one long, and partly on-record conversation on the phone with Dawood Ibrahim before the Bombay blasts, set up through my colleague [rediff.com editorial director] Sheela Bhatt, who edited the Gujarati edition of India Today and was a veteran on the underworld beat in Bombay.

“This was in 1992, just after Dr Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, was freeing up the economy and opening up imports, even of gold. I called Dawood (in Dubai) and asked if this had not harmed his smuggling business. He said what we called smuggling in India was a legitimate business activity in Dubai, so he was breaking no law.

“He also said he welcomed what “Manmohan ji” had done, except that somebody should have done that much earlier. He did not regret losing some business, he said, as “my country benefited from such reform.” He was at pains to underline his patriotism.

“Even in cricket, he said, he always supported and betted on India and was so distraught (he spoke in language more colourful than this, but unpublishable) that India had lost to the West Indies in the World Cup that morning — that is why we know that the conversation took place on March 10, 1992, when the West Indies walloped India by five wickets at Wellington.

“He said any time I wanted a more proper interview, I only had to let him know….

“He spoke to Sheela Bhatt again after the bombings (published alongside my story in India Today, April 15, 1993) and said he was being victimised by Bombay Police. He fulminated over how badly Muslims were targeted in the Bombay riots, how their women had been humiliated and children burnt, but denied any role in the serial bombings whatsoever. If the government set up an inquiry consisting of RAW and the CBI in Delhi, but excluding Bombay Police, he would even present himself before it. Of course, no such thing was to happen as his gang’s role in the conspiracy became clearer by the day.

I decided now to take him up on his earlier offer of a more “proper” interview, and called him. He said he couldn’t promise that “right now”. But after some cajoling, he agreed to see me if I came to Dubai, though only if I agreed to keep the meeting off the record unless he agreed to come on record.

“I did visit Dubai in the first week of April, 1993 and presented myself at his “workplace”, the 17-storey Pearl Building housing many airline offices in the buzzing Al Fahidi Street, a kind of subcontinental shopping paradise then.

“Dawood and his brother Anees were at their 12th floor office, decorated with gold-inlaid paintings of Ajmer Sharif and Quranic verses. It was just around noon, but I was struck by the fact that the morning’s Times of India (Bombay edition) lay on his table — the don stayed in touch with the latest!

“He was in the news then and, of course, all references to him and Dubai in a front-page story had been blackened out by Dubai censors.

“Dawood was not willing to give an interview now. Not even to acknowledge that he was in Dubai. “When we do the interview, bhai,” he said, “you won’t come to Dubai just like this.” He would call me back again, he said, and then “my car will go and receive you at the tarmac and bring you to me… you will be my guest… and my people will also take you shopping” etc, etc. But for now, he said, please do not even mention that you met me here, “as it creates problems for my hosts”.

“I persisted, nagged and talked around him as reporters usually do, and all he would concede was that I mention I visited his office, without quoting any conversations. And then, as I turned around to leave, making no secret of my dismay and even reluctance, he sensed something.

Ai bhai,” he said, as I turned around, hoping somehow that he had changed his mind.

Dekhna bhai, likhna nahin maine jo kaha (see, brother, do not report what I said)”, “dekho na, achcha nahin hoga (see, it won’t be nice)”.

It felt as if the temperature had suddenly dropped 30 degrees below zero, and yet I was sweating on the forehead. That memory isn’t selective, nor is it convenient. And it hasn’t faded even a bit after two full decades.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Read the full story: Lest we forget

‘Media doesn’t figure in society transformation’

29 May 2012

Sheela Bhatt, senior editorial director of rediff.com and India Abroad:

“Where do the media figure in this turbulent transformation of Indian society? The plain truth is: Nowhere.

“Making loud noises is not journalism. There are over three million cases pending in India’s 21 courts and 26.3 million cases in the lower courts and a quarter of a million undertrials in jails. Do we care?

“Even our worldview is getting skewed as most English-language newspapers have tie-ups with Western media sources. They reprint the Western perspective on world events. Still we say that the Indian media is ‘influential’!

“Take the issue of dynastic politics or the maladies of Indian democracy. The Indian media has not been effective in generating public opinion against them. In fact, it has shamefully indulged in ‘paid news’.

“Many controversial members of Parliament are columnists and television panelists.

“Corporate influence on the media is evident. On an average, newspapers give half a page of news coverage to parliamentary proceedings. In the name of reader interest much is omitted, while cricket, cinema and entertainment get prime attention.”

Read the full article: Sheela Bhatt on the Indian media

Entries invited for Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize

13 July 2011

PRESS RELEASE: The Shakti Bhatt foundation is inviting entries for the 2011 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize in memory of the late journalist and books editor.

Entries from first-time authors of Indian origin are welcome in the following genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography and narrative journalism), and drama.

The prize carries a cash award of Rs one lakh.

A two-member advisory board will shortlist six books published between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2011 for the prize. The shortlisted books will be sent to the 2011 panel of judges: graphic novelist and illustrator Sarnath Bannerjee, writer and blogger Jai Arjun Singh, and novelist Palash Mehrotra.

The deadline for publishers/authors to send their entries is 15 July 2011. The winner will be announced in the second half of November. The prize presentation will take place in December.

Three copies of the books may be sent to The Shakti Bhatt Foundation,  8B main road, 166/A Rajmahal Vilas Extension, Bangalore 560 080.  Email shaktibhattprize [at] gmail [dot] com for further details.

Also read: Mint deputy editor bags Shakti Bhatt prize

Mint deputy editor bags Shakti Bhatt book prize

7 December 2010

Samanth Subramanian, a deputy editor at the business daily Mint, has won the 2010 Shakti Bhatt First Book prize for his debut book, Following Fish.

There were six books in this year’s shortlist but the three-member jury found Subramanian’s pursuit of fish curry round coastal India “a delightful read, adventurous and unabashedly fun”.

“Subramanian brings us in close contact with people who charm and sometimes dismay, and each encounter seduces us with a new anecdote or a new dish. Comic, and picaresque, with many surprise nettings of wisdom, Following Fish is a sparkling debut by a talented writer,” said the judges.

In its third year, the Shakti Bhatt prize—named after the deceased daughter of the journalist and commentator Sheela Bhatt—is a cash award of Rs one lakh and a trophy. The award function will be held at the British Council, New Delhi, December 10 at 7.30 pm.

Photograph: courtesy Shakti Bhatt foundation

The 2010 Shakti Bhatt first-book prize

16 August 2010

PRESS RELEASE: In its third year, the Shakti Bhatt first-book prize is a cash award of Rs one lakh.

Entries in the following genres may be submitted: poetry, fiction (including graphic novels), creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography and narrative journalism) and drama.

A thee-member advisory board will shortlist six books published between 1 June 2009 and 30 June 2010. This year, the board includes journalist Anil Nair, IFA programme executive Sanjay Iyer and poet Jeet Thayil.

The shortlisted books will be sent to the 2010 panel of judges; they are playwright Mahesh Dattani, writer and surgeon Kalpana Swaminathan and novelist Ruchir Joshi. The winner will be announced in the second half of November and the prize will be presented in December.

Last year’s winner was Mridula Koshy for If It Is Sweet.

Authors from the subcontinent are eligible but books must be published in India. Publications must be in English or translated into English from an Indian language. Books that have been published elsewhere and have already won prizes are eligible, though less likely to win. Vanity press publications are ineligible. 

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation is a non-profit trust. It wishes to reward first-time authors of all ages. For further information, mail shaktibhattprize@gmail.com

Journalist Rahul Bedi pedals 40-50 km a day

18 December 2009

Sheela Bhatt of rediff.com reports that Delhi-based journalist Rahul Bedi, longtime defence correspondent of Jane’s Defence Weekly, and an occasional contributor to the The Daily Telegraph, London, and Irish Times,  Dublin, has abandoned his sport utility vehicle and now cycles all around town.

“I have taken to cycling since the last three to four years. In the last two years, I drove my car almost 300 to 400 km a month, but I cycle about 900 km a month. Sometimes I cycle more than 1,000 km a month. I cycle for work and also for pleasure. I surely cycle for 40 to 50 km for about five days a week.”

Photograph: courtesy rediff.com

View the video here: Pedalling 45 km a day

Read Rahul Bedi’s account here: ‘It’s practical’

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