Monday, September 06, 2010

Techniques Of Recording And Reading Tapes

As the reverberations from latest Maoist audiotape scandal continue to head in all directions, this much is clear. Krishna Bahadur Mahara is having such a hard time denying that it was his voice that we all heard that he has not bothered pursuing that line of defense.
From his contention, it seems the contents of those two conversations were an amalgamation of disparate statements he might have made in different contexts. Once the answers were conveniently compiled, saboteurs easily crafted their questions.
Outlandish perhaps, but Mahara’s assertion is not implausible. The pauses, cadences, ambient noise and gratuitous whispers together with the muffled quality of the second recording raise new questions. The purported Chinese accent could very well belong to anyone sharing a linguistic legacy with the Middle Kingdom.
The first few questions could easily have come from a news reporter, a doctoral student, or a purely personal acquaintance intent on finding out what really ails the world’s newest republic.
The price tag Mahara purportedly quoted could have meant something else, like, say, his estimation of how much the Indians were paying the 50 MPs to stay away from voting for the Maoists. How are we to be sure the “help” the “friend” was offering was the Rs.500 million referred to? Maybe the “friend” had a Sun Tzu-like exhortation for the Maoists that would create uncertainties for rivals through the application of direct and indirect non-financial maneuvers.
Indeed, the haggling over the venue of a meeting between Mahara and the “friend” over the two conversations raises problems. Saying Hong Kong had a large Nepalese community that could spark all manner of speculation, Mahara wants Chengdu. But the interlocutor is reluctant, saying he does not want any impression of government complicity. Singapore is another potential destination for Mahara, but the interlocutor seems to suggest somewhere more accessible without a special permit. In the end, Hong Kong or Singapore emerge as possible venues.
Here, too, the interlocutor might be talking about a “friend” seeking to write an authorized biography of Mahara. How could a man active in Nepali Congress student politics during the referendum period emerge as a leading Maoist? B.P. Koirala sought to veer closer to the palace to ward off what he saw was a growing Indian-Soviet nexus in South Asia. Did that revolt Mahara and goad him toward a radical nationalism that no political force had espoused? Maybe someone from a leading think tank in Beijing was anxious to probe that dimension of China’s regional developments in the past to extrapolate lessons for its peaceful and harmonious rise?
Then there is the question of how the tape was recorded. Mahara insists that Nepal Telecom, his service provider, does not have the technology to do so. Did the U.S. National Security Agency listen in on a series of conversations as part of its job of monitoring terrorism chatter and forward those bits and pieces to India’s Research and Analysis Wing as part of counterterrorism collaboration? Were there willing accomplices within the Maoists, sore over the way Pushpa Kamal Dahal succeeded in keep losing the prime ministerial election for the simple intention of keeping any other rival emerging from the party? If so, were those Nepalese voices heard in between apparently directing which segments to play up?
Of course, Maila Baje concedes the tapes could be what they are. In that case, it only goes on to prove that the Maoists, as their critics contend, have a far way to go to becoming a civilian party. In a place where even walls have ears, you just don’t put money where your mouth is, especially not when you don’t know who the person on the other end really may be.