Monday, February 29, 2016

Commentary: With 'protectors' like these......

What happened in JNU, and subsequently outside, will continue to be a matter of heated debate for days to come. And of course there are and will be multiple versions of the ‘events’ that happened, in the true Rashomon style. 

One such version has following takes on the ‘events’. 

There are two kinds of riots – ‘actual’ riots and ‘technical’ riots. If there is arson and people’s heads are broken, then it is ‘actual’ riot. ‘Technical’ riot not defined, but implied that the perceived intention can make any activity ‘technical’ riot. 

There was no assault on Kanhaiya Kumar. Let him claim otherwise. 

If journalists are beaten up, but they can continue to cover an event, then it is not a serious matter. And if a journalist is unable to continue coverage of the event, then you keep mum, because “the matter is under the Honourable Supreme Court of India’s jurisdiction”. And then take the conversation to how the discussion on Patiala Court incident is shifting the focus from the main event, the JNU case. 

What happened in JNU was a ‘grave’ case. If the students had performed and unlawful assembly and broken each other head, it would have been an ordinary case. 

Crime detection rates for 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15 are 53%, 48%, 29% and 27% respectively. Don’t worry at all, because “That means things have stabilized”. In the ‘stabilized’ scheme of things, in the ‘detected’ cases, the recovery percentage is 4 to 5 percent. Moral? “Better go in for some better security measures at your homes, surveillance systems. Kindly go in for insurance”. 

The cause for concern is, all this is uttered by the Police Commissioner of Delhi, in a detailed interview.

Be horrified and petrified, while you still have the chance. You might be ‘stabilized’ soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Meg Whitman for Hillary?

As the USA Presidential Nomination process enters into the end-game, it is a surprise announcement by HPE CEO considering that she is a stalwart Republican Tech Titan (along with Cisco boss Chambers, VC Perkins and others). It is a bold move because she knows very well that her opposition to Trump will not help any non-Trump viable alternative - Rubio or Cruz - at such a late stage. The die is cast for Clinton-Trump contest in Nov 2016. This only means Meg Whitman is essentially coming out in support of Hillary. She is following the footsteps of another prominent NeoCon – Robert Kagan.

These are tumultous days for American Politics with far reaching consequences nationally as well as globally. Destruction of Republican Establishment is the political earthquake. It was badly needed given that Republican Party consistently failed to deliver for White Lower Class despite dependent on their votes. The mechanism had been obstruct Obama, fuel the anger of White American Voters needing help from Government and translate that anger into electoral victories while 'keep sleeping in bed' with Rich Renter Class of Republican coalition by giving them their cherished tax cuts. This process is not sustainable and had to break. Politics in Democracy is supposed to unblock suppression of people's true needs. With Trump as the flag barer of Republican Party who has shattered the Republican Establishment, the dam is broken. That is how Democracy works and it is working in USA. 

There will be ample time for us to evaluate Trump and Clinton candidacies in months to come. But task on hand has been to resolve the inherent contradiction in the Republican Party Politics. We seem to be at the end of that. Desperation from Republican Elites - that is just the vindication. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Women’s lib – Indian version

In this era of liberalization, globalization, privatization, urbanization, and all suchlike ‘ization’s, talking about women’s lib seems to be anachronistic. Women started heading nations way back in 1960, when a ‘third-world’ country, Sri Lanka, elected Sirimao Bandaranaike as Prime Minister. And then it became a slowly emerging trend.
Some countries were still lagging behind. Apart from the usual suspects (poverty stricken, illiterate third world countries in Asia and Africa), some ‘developed’ countries stand out in the laggard list.
Switzerland didn’t offer voting rights to women till 1971. And in some provinces, it took 1991 for Swiss women to get voting rights at the local level. So far, USA has vehemently and successfully protected the President’s (and Vice-President’s) chair from half (50.5% to be precise) of its population.
Why dig all this out now? The answer is, to discern a disturbing trend in India. Ever since Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister, women are considered to be have ‘arrived’ in politics. It is quite enticing a notion, and it allows us to do nothing on the ground.
Let’s talk present. Consider the following cases.
Rajendra Pachauri, faced charges of sexual assault and harassment while heading TERI (The Energy Research Institute). The complainant had to resign, as Pachauri continued to reign supreme in the institute. The FIR is still in the process of filing. In the meanwhile, the institute honored him further by appointing him Executive Vice Chairman. The governing council must have been made up of some very regressive people who have no link with the present, right? Take a look and don’t show your surprise.
What saved Pachauri? He has no known links with RSS. So all the ‘progressive intellectuals’, who are deeply disturbed by anything RSS, have been happily ignoring the proceedings. Had there been an iota of doubt about his linkage with RSS, everyone from Brinda Karat to Amartya Sen would have jumped in gleefully.
Take another case. A Tanzanian girl was assaulted and molested in Bangalore. Yes, right in the middle of Silicon Valley of India. It left the Ministry of External Affairs rather red-faced, but not for long. The minister declared that she is pained by the attack, the African community in Bangalore protested, and that’s it. The news is stale and rapidly self-asphyxiating its way to death. The issue would have been alive had Karnataka been under BJP rule.
Now let’s go to the suicide by Rohith Vemula. Much has been and is being written about it. And will continue to be written of course – the caste angle has come into it. There was some heated debate about whether he was SC or OBC, without much conclusion. Pause for a moment, and let’s trace the story of his mother. That will explain how Rohith can be looked at as SC or OBC, as per convenience. It will also show the gross apathy of everyone towards his mother; how she was forced to fend for herself and her children, for nobody– neither her in-laws nor her ‘parents’ – cared for her. Rohith will probably become a mascot of anti-BJP forces. But will that change anything for his mother? Fat chance.
And that brings us to present day situation. Indian politicians are known to be completely insensitive to women.
Let it be Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose utterances should have caused an outrage and forced him to retire. But now, these utterances are close to two years old. And he still continues to be in the mainstream politics. Don’t be surprised if he allies with Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi.
Or let it be Sharad Yadav, a satellite basking in the win of ‘maha-gathbandhan’ in Bihar. Sharad Yadav’s opposition to Women’s Reservation Bill is well documented.
For both the Yadavs, the only thing that saves them is their anti-RSS posture. Sharad Yadav joined the anti-RSS group wily-nilly, but let that be. A shield is a shield.
What is the status of the Women’s Reservation Bill? If you really care, you should worry about your sanity.
BJP was never even claiming to be a liberal party, especially as far as women’s rights were considered. But the other parties are also in the same league. So, let it be a suicide, a molestation or work-place harassment. The common thread running through these incidents is atrocious attitude towards women.
Let the headlines be hogged by ‘sedition’ or ‘make in India’ or ‘anything else’. The underlying male chauvinistic current will not change.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A strong government with weak knees  

Ratnakar Tripathy

The NDA regime at the centre with its 336 seats in the lower house out of which 282 were won by the BJP alone may seem a strong government by definition. One wishes life and politics were as simple as that! By now there is enough evidence to suspect that the BJP and its leadership suffer from the classic bully syndrome – they threaten and harass those who appear relatively helpless while their knees go jelly in the face of the vocal and the determined. Whether in Hyderabad or JNU, the central government has shown tremendous zeal in muzzling dissent, even taking recourse to doctored videos and forged evidence from the media against the student leaders. The disproportionately strong response is now followed by a perverse demand from the Delhi police chief Bassi that the absconding students must come forward and prove their innocence. One would expect that in a democracy, things ought to be the other way and the police must produce due evidence that proves forensically sound. What is most confusing about such behaviour is whether it is more undemocratic or simply exceptionally inept in the context of the Indian democracy. A young friend of mine who teaches in a Delhi college recently insisted in a conversation that the BJP brand of authoritarianism has foolishness built into it and that you cannot separate one from the other. I had little to offer by way of refutation even though one would like to presume a high level of cunning in an authoritarian bully.

And when does the bully go weak-kneed?  When the Jats of Haryana decided to choke the arteries of the state as well as the central government, our home minister ran to make negotiations that will have very loud and very prolonged repercussions in other states in the coming days. The state government is now committed to following the dictates of the Jat mobs that are in no mood to listen to reason at this point. Our PM Modi who likes to project an image of raw masculinity has been outdone by the arsonists in Haryana who were often smart enough to place their women and children in front of their tidal processions. On the same day when the Indian army had to intervene to retrieve the crucial water supplies to Delhi, the capital from the mobs, I sat listening to the chief executive lecturing students at the annual convocation in BHU, Varanasi on the significance of education. I have in the past had the wicked pleasure of listening to him talk about the importance of innovation among the entrepreneurs, the importance of food among farmers and the importance of jobs among the unemployed. I am now waiting for him to pontificate on the importance of fruits in a jam factory! Such is the sublime ineptitude we are dealing with! Recently the PM even tried to wear the mantle of a victim of disgruntled NGOs and the opposition who are unable to accept a tea-seller as the nation’s leader, an appeal to pathos that increasingly sounds hollow and melodramatically unreal.

The government’s antics on campuses has ended up with consequences unforeseen – the BJP student wing feels increasingly free to indulge in violence, the moribund left has found a new constituency and relevance among the youth, the oppressed Dalits and liberal elements are more determined than ever in their opposition to the BJP and its government. On the other hand, the attempt of the BJP government in Haryana to provoke and humiliate the Jat community has backfired and may soon find echoes among the Patels in Gujarat. The solution used by the government thus far is to use the bazooka of sedition and branding of individuals and groups as ‘anti-national’. At this rate the Indian demography may throw up the strangest anomaly possible – as a country chiefly of ‘anti-nationals’. We are anyway a country where people have an almost aesthetic preference for dissent and where agreements and uniformity are seen as exceptional compromises made for limited though essential practical purposes. Words like ‘diversity’ and Amartya Sen’s favourite qualifier ‘argumentative’ are actually euphemisms for a society heavily and chronically biased in the favour of quarrelsomeness that requires kid gloves and soothing words, not strong arm tactics.    


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The JNU incident

In Delhi, Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have an almost peaceful co-existence. JNU is considered a hotbed of leftist ‘intellectuals’, a haven for ‘liberals’ and all that. Comparatively, DU is more sedate, more mainstream.
BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has been successful off and on in DU student body elections. But it had very rarely managed to breach JNU student body elections. About five months ago, ABVP managed to make inroads in JNU. So it was imperative that they will try to flex their muscles and make their presence felt, whichever way possible. And looking at the lumpen elements that seem to be ruling the roost in BJP, ‘whichever way’ had an ominous ring to it.
The leftist ‘intellectuals’ also played into the BJP’s hands by organizing (or allowing someone to organize; the reports come in both flavors) a program on the death anniversary of Afzal Guru. In an unholy hurry, Afzal Guru was secretly hanged by the previous UPA government for petty political gains. The gains were nil, not even petty. But the djinn had come out of the bottle.
What happened at JNU? Full three years after his death, Afzal’s death was roused up again in the form of a program to pay ‘homage’ to him, branding him a ‘martyr’. And the whole world (or so it appears) suddenly started letting everybody know how s/he felt.
The legal case is yet to be built. The police arrested a student leader and slapped sedition charges. The ‘sedition charge’ part got the intellectuals’ goat. And they started protesting shrilly.
More than one-and-a-half years into government, BJP has nothing to show on the development front, the basis on which they asked for and populace gave votes. So any such diversion (let it be ‘award returning’ or ‘beef ban’) is most welcome by the party.
But now, it has become too putrid to ignore. Political posturing and calling names is routine. The ‘progressive’ will call the BJP ‘communalist’ and ‘casteist’, while calling themselves ‘secular’. BJP will call them ‘pseudo-secular’ and ‘anti-national’. All this is so routine that it is boring.
But the lawlessness that was unleashed on Monday, right in the middle of the national capital, is certainly worth deploring strongly. And when the heinous performance is repeated, it needs even stronger condemnation.
Before selling pipe dreams of ‘Make In India’, the Prime Minister has a more pressing duty – to ensure that the rule of the law upholds, at least where the government is located. And when the home minister makes a callous statement, it is time to send him home, his home, with no retirement benefits.
Will the Prime Minister stand up and prove that he is awake?