Post-truth or the phenomenon of political agents using blatant lies, half-truth, selective information to mislead voters is the norm nowadays. One cannot remember when was the last time a naked brutal truth was told in public sphere either by the media or accepted by government. The Modi government is in the habit of denying all uncomfortable truth whether reported by national, international media or civil society. To support its denial fake data, theories, headlines are manufactured by BJP IT cells and spread by right wing trolls and this practice have become so pervasive that we don’t even have the energy to respond to all of them. The volume is so large that a whole new industry of fact checkers have come up every media organization has a new dedicated branch/team/job profile for fact checkers. There are no objective truth anymore. On every political issue there are my truth vs. your truth. On every debate right wing will manufacture a certain kind of lie that would create confusion and people would find it difficult to know which side is telling the truth.

But when the government does it, and uses central agencies to peddle its lies, that’s when I write this column on tracking post-truth in India.

Sameer Wankhede and Aryan Khan Drug case.  

On the issue of Aryan Khan’s arrest in drug case, one of the most stunning headlines flashed yesterday (November 5, 2021) across TV and Twitter at around 7.11 pm,

“Aryan Khan Case Officer Sameer Wankhede Removed From Drugs-On-Cruise Probe.”

It was perhaps this year’s greatest moment of vindication for liberals and the biggest shocking headline for the right wing anti-Bollywood camp. Nawab Malik Tweeted at around 7.22 pm, “Sameer Wankhede removed from 5 cases including the Aryan Khan case. There are 26 cases in all that need to be probed. This is just the beginning… a lot more has to be done to clean this system and we will do it.”

But within moments at around 7.29 pm news agency ANI flashed a statement from Sameer Wankhede saying, “I’ve not been removed from investigation. It was my writ petition in court that the matter be probed by a central agency. So Aryan case and Sameer Khan case are being probed by Delhi NCB’s SIT. It’s a coordination between NCB teams of Delhi and Mumbai.”

But Wankhede’s writ petition had no such claim. In his petition he asked Bombay High Court to transfer the investigation against him for extortion and corruption from Mumbai Police to CBI or NIA. This petition was in fact rejected by HC. His petition has no connection with the latest decision. Wankhede is blatantly lying to save himself from the humiliation of being kicked out of his own cases. (A copy of the petition or parts of it was shared by Nawab Malik, Journalist Faizan Khan, Indian Express and several other media houses and Twitter handles. There is not an iota of truth in what Whankhede is claiming about his petition, whole world can read it and verify.)

The Truth

The truth therefore is that Wankhede is no longer the lead investigator in the 6 cases including Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan’s case. He would no longer be calling the shots. Sanjay Kumar Singh, a 1996-batch Odisha cadre Indian Police Service officer, currently the Deputy Director General (Operations) of the Narcotics Control Bureau will take over the six cases.

The ugly truth is that NCB Delhi’s special team will now investigate Sameer Wankhede, NCB Mumbai chief, who has been benched. I would say, he is de facto arrested.

But he is trying to give it a spin, a post-truth spin. Not just him, even NCB’s official statement gave a twist to the truth. In a statement they said, “No officer have been REMOVED from their present role”. Of course, Wankhede is still the Mumbai NCB Chief, he is not removed from that post. But the cases under him are removed. Funnily, he wanted cases on him to be removed.

Detailed facts and timeline of the case:

The opposition, which is the secular-liberal camp, have been saying it for years that the cases against Bollywood celebs like Rhea Chakraborty and now Aryan Khan are all bogus. Bollywood stars are easy target so Sameer Wankhede is going after them to grab headlines pretending himself to be some filmy hero. He is playing to the right wing gallery which is out to destroy Bollywood–one of the key factors that makes Mumbai the financial capital. The ultimate goal is shift film centre to Noida. To add to it, soon after Aryan’s arrest NCP’s Nawab Malik started making damning allegations of corruption, extortion, identity forgery etc against Sameer Wankhede the lead investigator, the chief of Mumbai NCB who has some kind of obsession to go after Bollywood celebs. Nawab Malilk’s allegations have been backed by a large number of evidence, sworn affidavit submitted before court all of which led to the Mumbai police start a preliminary inquiry against Sameer Wankhede and NCB too announced it would launch vigilance probe against him over bribery charges. This was around 27-28th October. Meanwhile, a scared Wankhede approached Bombay High Court seeking interim protection against arrest by Mumbai police. He also petitioned the court that Mumbai police should not be allowed to form a four-member team to investigate him. Both his please were rejected by High Court. The other witness who confessed that he knows about extortion is already in court custody.

So much has happened in the case, the evidence are so obvious that any person of ordinary prudence would believe Wankhede is guilty of the charges. It is natural then that after a week’s deliberations NCB has decided to take away the six cases that were being investigated by him. The entire NCB Mumbai has now come under probe since the head itself is plausibly corrupt.

NCB Deputy Director General (Operations) S K Singh said in a statement yesterday, “A Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising officers from Operations Branch of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Headquarters (Delhi) has been constituted by the Director General, NCB to take over a total of 06 cases from NCB Mumbai Zonal Unit which have national and international ramifications, in order to conduct deeper investigation to find out forward and backward linkages.”

Read Indian Express report here: Its Mumbai unit under fire, NCB puts Aryan case under Delhi SIT.