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Stopping The Gas Wars

Reliance Industries sues Gas Wars’ authors, demands the book be “destroyed”. The media and lovers of freedom of speech remain silent. Why?

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“How is it that this book was allowed to be published and not pulped in the first place?” Forsooth, this question posed by former petroleum secretary, TNR Rao at the launch of journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s book, Gas Wars – Crony Capitalism and Ambanis, has turned out to be prophetic. A day after the book was formally launched at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre on April 15, 2014, Reliance Industries Ltd sent a legal notice to Guha Thakurta and the book’s co-authors, Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri. The legal notice sent by law firm Khaitan and Co LLP begins with a disclaimer that Reliance has “highest regards for constitutional rights including Freedom of Speech”.

Despite this proclaimed love of freedom of speech,RIL wants all existing copies – hard copy and online versions – of the book which it refers to as a “pamphlet” to be destroyed and any further publication, distribution or circulation to be stopped. RIL also wants all the publicity material about the book to be destroyed and has demanded an “unconditional public apology…in the form and manner acceptable” to RIL for “having published and disseminated false and grossly defamatory material” against Reliance.

Apart from the authors of the book, the notice has been sent to Authors Upfront and FEEl Books Private Ltd, the e-book publisher and distributors of the book, Flipkart and Amazon.in for “acting as electronic distributors” of the book. Deepshikha Shankar of Foundation for Media Professionals has also been sent a notice for forwarding an e-invite for the launch of the book.

In a statement shared with Newslaundry, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta made the following points in response to the legal notice.

1. The book, GAS WARS has been more than fair in providing versions of events, circumstances and controversies based on research made from various public documents, opinions of individuals available in the public domain, including media reports etc.

2. The authors, being journalists, are exercising their right to free expression enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

3. This communication is being made without prejudice to the author’s rights and privileges as per law. The notice is being reviewed by our legal experts and an appropriate response will be provided.

As for Deepshikha Shankar being sent the notice Guha Thakurta says, “It is not just sad but ridiculous. She forwarded the mail not as a representative of the Foundation for Media Professionals but in her personal capacity. She has an extensive mailing list and I requested her to forward the invitations. She merely forwarded the electronic e-mail”. When we contacted her and asked if she had pre-empted a situation like this she refused to comment. Manish Purohit of Authors Upfront told Newslaundry, “The right to withdraw the book solely lies with the author who is also the publisher of the book. Freedom of expression is our fundamental right. Our lawyer is perusing the notice, an appropriate response would be given in due course as per the legal process”.

We also spoke to the RIL spokesperson, Tushar Pania, who confirmed that a legal notice has been sent but refrained from answering any other questions.

Despite the brazenness with which RIL has named all and sundry related with the book however tenuous their connection may be, the media has been quite slow in picking up the story. First, hardly anyone covered the main event. While the major news channels gave the event a miss, a section of the print media published the story only after RIL sent the legal notice to the authors.

The book launch took place on April 15, 2014. The Times of India published an article headlined – Reliance serves legal notice on ‘Gas War’ authors – on April 17, 2014. Mint published an article with the same headline on its website in the evening on the same day. Subsequently, The Hindu published an article with the basic facts. Only The Telegraph reported the story on April 15, before RIL had sent the notice. On the online platform, Moneylife has been reporting on the book and related issues even before the release of the book. Outlook published extracts of the book before the book launch event.

Except for a few journalists such as Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor of Moneylife.in and former editor of Hindu, Siddhartha Varadarajan, media professionals have desisted from making any comments on either the content of this book or the notice from RIL. The enthusiasm shown by the media in criticising Dinanath Batra and Penguin’s decision to pulp Wendy Doniger’s book is missing in this case.

It is quite odd that the media should turn away from reporting on this book. Pre-empting the argument that book launches aren’t of prime import in the news world, we can’t ignore the fact that the media quite extensively reported on both Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister and P C Parakh’s Crusader or Conspirator? These are books of national import which discuss the Manmohan Singh regime and are quite critical of the Prime Minister. Similarly, Guha Thakurta’s book also raises question on the PM’s integrity saying, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been accused of changing ministerial portfolios at the behest of the Reliance group”.

Guha Thakurta says, “I would have been happier if there was more media coverage of the launch event. But I am not surprised given the fact that large sections of the media in India seem reluctant to put out information or highlight views that are not complimentary towards Reliance Industries Ltd, which is India’s biggest corporate entity in the private sector, which happens to be headed by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man”.

Ironically, Guha Thakurta’s book chronicles all such reports by media organizations which have repeatedly published reports on RIL and its hold over gas reserves. Sucheta Dalal, while speaking at the book launch, pointed out a pattern in the reports that appear in the book. Terming the pattern as “hit and run journalism” Dalal said that news stories against Reliance are never followed up. Reflecting the same sentiment, Siddhartha Varadarajan too spoke about how during his stint with TOI, he faced problems in publishing a three-part series on Reliance and Panna Mukta oil field.

This is not the first instance of the Ambanis not being pleased by an unpleasant word being spoken or written against them. In 1998, Hamish McDonald’s book on Dhirubhai Ambani – The Polyester Prince was not sold in India. It is now available in India for the last couple of years with a new name and some missing chapters. In 2012, legal notices were served to news channels which telecast Arvind Kejriwal’s press conference in which he made allegations against Reliance. It would be safe to say that RIL does not like dissent.

Yet, thanks to RIL’s legal notice, the book might soon be selling like hot samosas going by the buzz it’s making online.

book sales up1 book sales up book sales 2

gas wars 1 gasw wars 2

It seems RIL might have just helped Guha Thakurta’s cause. Stemming criticism in the digital age isn’t as easy in 2014 as it was in 1998.

 

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  • impersonator

    All good and okay. Banning book is free publicity. But hwo does these books help? Why dont these “illuminaries” don’t go with their findings to court or competition commission with their findings like people like subramaniam swamy do and Arun Shourie does? Do they guts to do this or play just shoot and scoot? Why blame RIL again and again when you just can’t go to a simple court? Everybody has right to speech like everybody has right to file defamation. Dont try to put one over other.
    Now dont say supreme court is also “mili hui hai”.

    • Patience is the key

      Things take time.
      kaash movie ki tarah sab 2-3 ghante me khatam ho jata . Happy ending !! huh! Aisa nai hota

      Swamy and Shourie have political patronage
      BUT many other events have occured in courts too . There is a pending trial in supreme court, the FIR by delhi govt.

      Providing information to public is first and most important step, subsequent steps will occur.

    • Dadu

      So, the next time a journo highlights something wrong, you’d say why not just go to a court instead of airing it on TV ? Then what’s the whole point of journalism ?

  • Debendra

    Appreciate. The media has now become a complete slave. The situation is worse than emergency when most media houses and journalists crawled when asked to bend. I have lost trust on media which picks up trivialities and is poor on substance. It is easy to understand why the electronic media has given a royal miss to a book that carries conviction and speaks volumes about the nature of our political economy-something that the book talks eloquently. Having said this, I feel proud to have people like Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, his co-authors, Sucheta Dalal, Prasant Bhushan and you Ms. Somi. Hats off to you all.

    • Arun Nambiar

      I second that!

    • Yonilicker

      Indian Media has been licking Ambani balls for ages. What is new?

  • Vinay Pratap

    Because that is ‘freedom to legal remedy” in case of frivolous charges which are unsubstantiated and vindictive.

  • Vinay Pratap

    Because that is ‘right to legal remedy” in case of frivolous charges which are unsubstantiated and vindictive.

  • kamleshkumarbaghel

    Well, Crony Capitalism has creeped into the system and hurting the common man.

    Everything has a limit and this has to come out anyway.

    Reliance mastered to maneuver the system by using IIM’s and CA’s and of course used money to buy the politicians, bureaucrats & PSU’s.

    What is there hidden?

    We as the citizen, individually or collectively, have right to correct the system.

    Reliance has the problem that they do not have experts to deal with Public, so, they are using Lawyers & Law.

    When the Private sector becomes Too Too Large, then, it is like a Monster because they have ineterest in only Profit & not in Humans. This is Greed which is negative energy and need to be dissipated by the positive energy which need to be generated by Humans (common man).

  • Vivekanand1979

    ALL IS WELL IN DEMOCRACY

  • Praful

    This is shame that freedom of expression is being suppressed by Reliance… If Reliance has an issue with the content of the book, it can publish its own version. But will people trust Reliance?
    Generally if you try to suppress anything, it becomes viral in this internet age.

  • VivekAn4

    I have heard Madhu trehan saying it’s tough to do a story like this in some I.interview she had with someone here. NL, a book review is due me thinks.

  • Krishna

    This is the first time that I saw an NL article in Google News main page. Congrats on that not so minor achievement!!

    • Yonilicker

      You are Krishna. You can make anything possible! Why fool us!

  • sanjay

    Ambani is king of India, if someone tries to raise voice against, gets slap. This nexus of corporates, media and political Dalals is really dangerous. Hope people will press right voting button or they should be ready to suffer for another 5 years.

    • Yonilicker

      Modi is an agent of Ambani. Period.

      • raj

        did you learn this from kejriwañ

    • A helpless Indian

      It is highly unlikely that a vote can make a difference. We live in the illusion, that the elections are fair and honest, and peoples representatives get elected. But in reality, it is decided beforehand how things will play out, who will the next PM et all.. People get paid to vote, and the guys with a bigger bankroll will win… The fact that no mainstream media will even cover this kind of anti-reliance book goes on to show the unholy nexus which exists behind the scenes.

      I am not against Reliance in any way, but the fact that no international oil company wants to operate in India in a big way shows the kind of hurdles they face.

      We, the informed people should just laugh at our poor state of affairs and resign ourselves to accepting that “THIS IS HOW IT IS IN INDIA”, stay with it, or leave it. :)

      • Rohan Kaul

        I live in Gujarat, and they are so proud of the fact that Ambanis are Gujaratis. For them Reliance is like Ghar Ki Company.

        In one of the debates (given the political astuteness of people here it’s a rarity) I brought to point the same thing, that don’t you see it’s odd that in a country like India the major players Conocco Phillips, Exxon, Mobil and many others are missing. If it is so free market economics what is stopping them.

        Amazing response that I got, you are a typical Indian, jealous of his success that you are pulling his leg. I received a barrage of similar bizzare, ludicrous, inane and stupefying responses which were just emotional rhetoric’s none had conviction or context of facts and statistics.

        Dare I say, my stay of over two decades in Gujarat I can tell you for sure, Gujarati’s are one of the most morally bankrupt people especially when it comes to money or personal gain. They have little regard for law, rules or civic sense when it comes to personal gain. They are good people in many fronts, but unfortunately have no moral compass.

        • Kaushik

          My friend, this goes back to the policy of FDI in India. Several restrictions. Thats why companies like reliance can get monopoly, I agree with you competition will adjust the prices to the actual market demand, but in Oil and Gas industry the risks are high and rewards higher. More than the congress it is the leftist who oppose FDI in everything. coming to AAP they have the same ideology as leftists, PB and AK they all think alike, AK even mentioned of giving the gas wells to ONGC, PB advocates Govt taking over all utilities Electricity,Water etc. etc. Is a govt. monopoly good for the market and consumer? this arrangement will take us back to the 80’s.
          ONGC does not have the capacity, resources and technology to match Reliance and/or any international Oil Major. In the event AAP has the power to influence Gas prices, they will not raise prices and will get into a legal battle, which means no production and importantly, to meet country’s demand more Import. We will end up paying between 10-14 dollars/unit, AAP will not pass on the prices to consumers, which means subsidies and adding more to country’s fiscal deficit. This way we end up in more debt and remain poor, so we are dependent on western countries for aid and be like Bangladesh??

          Govt. tenders should be such that more players are brought in and market dictates prices. AAP has always a good connect with people by raising the right issues, but they mislead people as their solutions are sadly counter-productive. They will paint a picture to defend it, but ideologically they stand with the left and that is not the way the country should be heading.

  • rainmaker

    Gas Wars! A book on the nation’s farts!

  • Yonilicker

    Narendar Modi is an agent of Ambanis. Period.

    • kurian

      he may not even have that status in front of Ambani’s

    • Subodh

      Which is why the news channels that Ambani owns – CNNIBN & IBN7 – helped create AAP (Rajdeep’s confession that he encouraged Kejriwal to start Tahrir Square type movement to get media coverage on his channel), provided a candidate for AAP (Ashutosh) and are virulently anti-Modi/BJP (tweets of Sagarika)?

      • Raj Sharma

        They why would AAP expose Amabani and why all media channels will ban AAP for about 10 months before delhi elections? Ask Modi why he is not speaking a word against Ambani.

        • Subodh

          I’m only showing the flaw of pussybeggar’s logic. Just as ambani ownership of IBN doesn’t stop pro-AAP coverage, Modi not obliging Kejru by ranting against Ambani doesn’t prove that he is employed by Ambani. The world of Big business is complex and I don’t claim to understand it fully and can only hazard a guess and my guess is that Ambani is more comfortable with Congress govt as it allows him to regularly raise gas prices. Perhaps Mukeshbhai is vary of Modi’s uncorruptable image and doesn’t trust him. (FYI, BJP has protested gas price hike and questioned Rangarajan’s formula – http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/gas-pricing-issue-needs-to-be-looked-at-by-new-govt-jaitley-114032600028_1.html).

          AAP’s anti-ambani stand is just theatrics to embarrass Modi and project him as a crony capitalist. They haven’t provided a single evidence of Modi favoring Reliance in Gujarat and their claims about Modi-Adani nexus has been proved to be lies (Kartikeya Tanna has provided documentary evidence that proves that land at Re.1 was provided by Vaghela’s govt which was at that time supported by Congress).

          As far as media’s love-hate relation with AAP is concerned, only they can answer it.

          • vin

            You conveniently switch between BJP and Modi…BJP questions gas price but we will have a Modi sarkar….we do understand all that and a hard core bhakth’s ways of defending!

          • Subodh

            Were you born yesterday? BJP’s slogan during 1999 elections was ‘Ab ki baari, Atal Bihari’ But after govt formation, it was called NDA govt and also Vajpayee govt. Your IQ level is that of Rahul Gandhi. Go eat a toffee and play with balloons.

    • Akshat

      In the history of Reliance, only two people had the guts to take them to court. (rather than hit and run politics of AK and his gang)
      1) Arun Shourie (editor of Indian Express)
      2) S. Gurumurthy (played by Madhavan in Guru)
      If Modi is an agent of Ambani, then why these two are the prime backers of Modi campaign. That much currency has not been minted in the world, that can buy these two people of absolute integrity.

      • Aparna Premkumar

        And Arvind Kejriwal did not file an FIR against Ambani while he was Delhi CM? Also, Arun Shorie has gone on record to say that he was replaced in as lead speaker in a budget debate over fears that he would oppose a proposal that may have benefited Ambani. The person replacing him was Venkaiah Naidu, who is still a big part of the BJP. So even by Shourie own admission, BJP is a corrupt party that dances to Ambani’s tune

      • phaedrus0

        Hope Arun Shourie gets a place in Modi’s cabinet.

  • yogesh

    like gas wars i also want original polyster prince to be republished without any editting

  • Kaushik Shah

    Why ban book and freedom of speech ? Just because contents of book are disturbing ?

    • kurian

      why surprised? i think it happens everyday now

  • Rain Cloud

    Bravo. @newslaundry. Was aware of book launch through @suchetadalal “s tweet but did not know of legal notice by Reliance. Now I do thanks to @newslaundry. Keep up the good work.

  • kurian

    Ambani’s living on top of 27 story building have literally lost all connection with ground reality. I am sure their next logical step will be to build a 40 ft high statue of Ambani and proclaim that all patriotic Indians should worship it 7 times a day.

  • pksen

    Ambanis are afraid of a mere book!? they must have a lot to hide.

  • Johnnie Walker

    Where is Modi chamcha … SkyWalker ?? Where are u skywalker … Pls create the link between kejriwal and Reliance …

    • Dr Dobbs

      Why are you searching from SkyWalker ?

  • Bharat

    NewsLaundry congrats on getting on google news main page…. with respect to the book I would like to inform my fellow readers that despite the title and the sensationalism, the book is very poorly written. Paragraphs are repeated, spelling mistakes abundant and grammar missing. The book is very very technical and boring to read. If it were not for the topic and Reliance Legal notice I would not have bothered purchasing it also.

    • Formulake

      That sounds like the national dailies. I wonder how they’ve survived without legal notices and pulping threats all these years especially considering all the lies they’ve spread for the last, God knows how many, decades.

  • Akshat

    Ambani is only a symptom. The problem is that our governance is not policy driven with too many discretioanry powers. Modi has rightly diagnosed this problem and it is to be seen that how does he makes India into a policy driven state.
    I feel that free market capitalism can end corruption. At least 2G and Coalgate are two scams which wouldn’t have taken place had India adapted more right wing economic measures. (auction system for example)
    The other important thing for which Obama and Kejriwal need to be thanked is the idea of running political campaigns from small money donations.

    • Souvick Choudhury

      I tink you’ve replaced a direct fact based diagnosis of the problem (that Ambani basically runs the govt) with a nebulous problem that can never be conclusively solved (poor governance) and then projected NaMo as the savior.

  • DelhisCORRUPTBIASEDNL

    I’ll add some balance to this reporting, i know NL you’re biased as you have one AAPTARD in you but really?
    youtube/v=uOrpn3zIs5c

  • Dr Dobbs

    “The enthusiasm shown by the media in criticising Dinanath Batra and Penguin’s decision to pulp Wendy Doniger’s book is missing in this case”.

    –> Well, Wendy’s book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” was a pungent composition of lies and deliberate errors. For the MSM, any Hindu bashing content with stylish verbal gymnastics is high quality literature. Publishing regret and conducting debates on pulping of Wendy’s book is essential for MSM to advertise their core (2 cent) liberal attitude and reaffirm their secular credentials for the minorities in pluralistic India.

    However, the issue with this Gas book does not come with such perks. Hence no enthusiasm.

  • Dr Dobbs

    This article just implies that there is a nexus between media and RIL and hence none are talking about it. That is OK. But the article does not vindicate AK49’s masturbation with lies. Then why some APPtards are coming out of their burrows ?

  • alice201

    A Bi-lingual journal published by Loukik prokash and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies:

    Loukik,
    a bi-annual bi-lingual journal of folklore and cultural studies started
    its journey in 2007 with an objective of creating a space for
    publication of results of works based on systematic and methodologically
    sound exploration in folklore and cultural studies in the vernacular as
    well as in English. Since long we have been sensing a need for a well
    –formatted journal in Bengali. Many of the European and Asian countries
    have high standard academic journal in their own languages. If it is
    possible there , why it will be an insurmountable task for us. We notice
    that pithy discourses are still not rare in Bengali. But we concede
    that our means is limited. With these constraints we hope to carry
    forward our much cherished objectives.

    visit http://loukikprokash.wix.com/index for details.

  • nirbhay nagle

    every link shown by modi fans dont work i don’t know why?

  • nirbhay nagle

    and second think when book is taking about gas why this safroon party is following it,i thk book writer will also have leagal notice served by modi fans.are modi ko kyu chatni lag rahi he!!!dal me kuch kala he ya puri dal hi kali he!ril ke gas pe pakaye hui!!!!

  • EKALABYA TALUKDAR

    AFTER “EAST INDIA COMPANY” NOW CAME INDIAN EAST INDIA COMPANY IN A DIFFERENT NAME TO SUCH INDIA

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