Sunday, July 31, 2016

The wavering voices of governance in Kashmir

by Ratnakar Tripathy

Mahbooba Mufti 
The last few days have seen the PDP-BJP alliance government in Kashmir and the centre talk in different voices on the future course of action in the coming days. This is worrisome as the unrest in Kashmir continues unabated with curfews in most parts of the state with the death toll mounting to nearly fifty according to latest reports. The number of injured, many of them permanently or seriously, as targets of pellet guns now runs into thousands earning lasting disenchantment with the Indian state among a large populace. When the CM of the state did decide to suggest a mellower course to the centre, it was done in the most convoluted manner possible raising another series of controversies. According to her the Indian security forces were not aware that the person killed in the encounter on 8th July was Burhan Wani, whose life may have been spared had the forces known who their target is.

Wani, who achieved enormous popularity during his brief tenure in Hizbul Mujahideen has now acquired a much greater halo in his death as the size of the crowds attending his funeral would indicate. Mahbuba’s motive in making this strange claim was to assure the Kashmiris that she continues to steer the path of dialogue with the insurgent youth.  Even the deputy CM Nirmal Singh from the BJP at some point seemed to suggest the same before retracting his statement.  In fact the CM Mufti made statements that giving a clear indication of the double bind she is in – she said  everyone should "feel the pain" of the future generation with reference to the deaths in the valley. These lofty sentiments however do not ring true and the Kashmiris made that amply clear through the protests against her which indicate plunging popularity levels from which she may not recover for a long time. The problem is Kashmir is bigger than an individual’s or even a party’s dilemmas, a consideration that doesn’t stop Omar Abdullah from jeering his political enemies through a series of tweets  slamming deputy chief minister and BJP leader Nirmal Singh for calling the encounter killing an accident. Mahbooba makes an easy target of course as ‘there was a time when In fact, Mehbooba would refer to militants as “our boys in the jungles” and advocated “goli se nahin boli se (not with bullets but dialogue)” as the way forward. She would speak out against “State-sponsored terror”. So the state in Kashmir seems to suffer from a mood disorder alternating between a Rambo like approach to caressing words, neither of which make sense any longer in the light of the situation on the ground in Kashmir.

The Congress party on the other hand is undergoing similar vacillations – recently Chidambaram in an interview to Karan Thapar on India Today TV blamed both the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir governments for the current unrest in the Valley. He also said “We look at Kashmir as an issue of land, but it's a problem of people instead. Let the people of Kashmir frame their laws within the ambit of the Constitution. We have to assure that we will respect identity, history, culture, religion.” The obvious question to ask here is why the same insights were not available to Chidambaram when his government was in power. His statement was anyway promptly contradicted by leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad who said "We urge all leaders [of the Congress party] to stick to the party line on Kashmir." Clearly therefore whether one agrees or not with the entire gamut of views of the state, the central government and the Congress, they all share cone common feature – incoherence and indecisiveness. The fact remains that even if there was some hope for restoration of normalcy in Kashmir after Wani’s death, rampant use of the pellet guns have ensured that the problem will fester for a long time to come. The difference this time round may be and that does not seem so obvious at this stage is that a whole generation of Kashmiris will not relate to India as their own – Wani may be the symbol but it is the pellet guns that are the substantive reason for such disillusionment.

Friday, July 29, 2016

2016 American Election - Continued Commentary

With Democratic Convention over, here are few thoughts:

- Hillary's speech was not bad, but bit formulaic[1]. I guess with the political thrust of projecting 'steadiness, no surprise commander-in-chief' kind of approach over 'who knows what Donald will say next'; Democrats will buy this slightly rote rendition of an acceptance speech anytime. May be for a reason there were neither rhetorical nor idea-wise much 'innovation' in her speech.  Of course, not that the other side had been particularly overflowing with any kind of innovation in political rhetoric. But comparing to Donald's speech at RNC is to set a way too low bar for anyone, definitely for Hillary who has been in politics so long and fiercely competitive at that.

- The heart of Hillary case is what she built upon foundations of Obama's speech yesterday: that 'you don't make things or change things alone in this country' and Hillary with Democratic Party are the only unifying forces in the current election to take forward our 'ever perfecting union' collectively. May not be sexiest of the message, but at it's core it is factual and fundamentally a correct political response given the violent, divisive politics Donald Trump is advocating.

- Apart from hitting the right core of 'self-governance', there were many 'red meat' formations in Hillary's speech which she articulated effectively: like background checks for gun purchase, having right pride and respect in America's military strength and that she gets it that for many Americans Economy needs to deliver more. By emphasizing 'don't boo, but vote'; Democratic leadership is getting the importance of voter turnout. So we will see how all that 'red meat' will propel the army of Dem votes.[2]

- The impression Hillary's speech left on me was: her strength in delivering a strong political speech at a crunch time and with stamina. Her delivery had the force. Essentially her act clearly demonstrated that when it comes to 'fighting in the arena', the lady is full of mental and physical strength.


[1] - You get glossy self introduction, then some part 'red meat' for the base, an olive branch here and there for 'so-called undecided voters', then demolition of the opponent, followed by a call to better senses of Americans and finally old style pure nationalism in remaining part; all in a single speech.

[2] - Polling for Hillary is on upside both in battleground states and red states. Seems like she will get at least some bounce out of this convention possibly bringing back her lead in national polls.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Commentary: Why a bad Salman Khan is a good box office idea

Let us admit it – we do not expect our movie idols to be good people in real life. With the recent acquittal of Salman Khan in two cases against him for poaching Chinkaras near Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the High court has decided that the evidence for pinning down the guilty is much too thin. Rather similarly On 28 September 2002, Khan was arrested for rash and negligent driving after his car ran into a bakery in Mumbai; one person who was sleeping on the pavement outside the bakery died and three others were injured in the mishap. This created a furor all over the nation but once again Kahn received an acquittal.  Khan faces yet another case where he is accused of killing an endangered Blackbuck in Rajasthan and the decision on the case is yet to come. Impressive record by all means even for a real life baddie! The filmy villains in Hindi movies are of course often depicted as men with wholesale targets of murder and mayhem.

Being Human: Salman style
As the comments section in the present news report will reveal, public opinion is heavily against Salman if we take into account the English reading populace. Clearly, those people who give his movies the coveted super hit status have no qualms in going back to the box office year after year despite the moral outrages committed by the star.  It may even be claimed that the enhanced badness of Salman Khan adds to his image a few more layers of filmy aura. After all we live in an age where goodness is considered as uninteresting and rather cloying however welcome it might be. Badness on the other hand promises the unfolding of an interesting tale and live drama. Which is why in recent times, the Indian media has seen its news programmes turn into near fiction, even as the multiplex genre of cinema shows a tendency to draw closer to the real.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 American Election - Continued Commentary

Knowing my interest in American Politics, co-workers asked whether I was going to listen to Trump RNC speech. I did not muster myself that courage as well as I was not ready to waste my time regardless of how 'watershed moment' it has been for the Republican Party. Na, Donald Trump does not even deserve this much attention from ordinary Americans and looks I did not miss much

But granted, my commentary about Trump speech is not first hand. Hence, I will restrict myself to the minimum. Donald Trump's main argument is:
- things are 'bad' in America and
- Americans need to trust him that he will fix it.[1]

Literally, any Tom Dicky Harry can make that argument. Why bother, especially when his argument about 'decay in America' hardly matches to reality? What things in his resume should convince Americans that he will 'fix things'? His Billions - we don't even know whether he is 'that accomplished' in business and whether his billions are made in any legitimate and clean ways. His insults - that is a lousy way of evaluating anyone. It is like 'vote me' because I can utter more nasty words than anyone! Leave aside whether Donald can be 'nasty' in actions at all. Doubts are already getting raised that he is the agent of 'Putin'; an extraordinarily grave risk to America and to the world. Or is it then his slate of policy prescriptions? Any average American can see through that Donald does not have any policy prescriptions which would make sense. In all probability because, he does not even want to consider Americans can be 'thinking people'! He assumes and treats all Americans as 'dumb' and mere supplicant, craving for his iron fist rule!!

These are potent political weapons for Hillary to fight Donald - 'fifth column' nature of Donald's love to Putin and his arrogance to treat Americans as demented population. And now, she will have Tim Kaine at her service to 'stay' on the message. That is a right VP choice for Hillary Clinton. Not only will Tim Kaine help to nudge the balance in a purple state like Virginia; who knows America even will see the name of Tim Kaine in her politics for next 16 years! Boring? But 'boring is good'; that delivers governance and progress. Reality TV shows like of Donald Trump do not make lives of common Americans any better. As they say in Silicon Valley - that is all 'vaporware'.....


[1] - Yes, things need to change, but neither does that mean we should 'blow up' things nor it would mean Americans should hand over keys of Oval Office to someone like Donald Trump who does not have any track record or who does not even bother to spell out what policies he would enact to solve our real problems.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dalit protests against attacks on community in Gujarat turn violent

by Ratnakar Tripathy

The past few days have seen violent protests by Dalits across the Saurashtra region in Gujarat and the state government just seems to be waking up to them. The trigger behind the incident is the recent spurt in the vigilante culture that has spread over large parts of the country with little discouragement from the state governments and the centre. It is almost as if the governments expect all the trouble to blow over in the manner of a dust storm, after which the damage may see some kind of repair. It all started in the town of Una, Gujarat several days ago when a group of four Dalits were severely beaten up by a group of people for handling a dead cow. The attackers alleged that the cow had been slaughtered by the Dalit boys who claimed that they were just skinning an animal already dead. The evidence in the shape of a video has been circulating on the social media platforms for the past few days. The incident as is often hoped by our governments would have indeed simmered down but the humiliated Dalit youth decided to commit suicide by way of protest. On Tuesday, three youths attempted to kill themselves by consuming poison at their residential society in Batwa town in Junagadh district, and seven Dalit youths attempted suicide at Gondal and Jamkandorna in Rajkot district on Monday to protest the assault. In fact one of them has already lost his life, angering Dalits across several towns in the region and sending them on rampage. The wave of suicide attempts clearly indicates the frustration levels among the Dalit communities. This frustration and anger is based on the lived reality of Dalit lives in India of 2016.

While the general vigilante climate has indeed been lately promoted by the BJP governments at the centre and the states, and beef has become one of the touchiest issues in today’s India, it is very telling that the targets of such attacks have been either very poor Dalits or Muslims. This only shows that the everyday idea of common justice and compassion has taken a beating and hard-headed ideological dogmatism is now taking over India. Whether it is a passing phase or an enduring transformation of an otherwise tolerant society in its own anarchic way, only time will tell. But to make a target out of the weakest is an ominous sign for any society.

From all accounts it seems that the Dalits of today not only face continued oppression in their daily lives but are being cornered and pushed against a wall through recurrent provocations. This is hardly likely to suppress their voices and we may expect fresh waves of the Dalit self-assertion as the only means of retaliation in a democracy. Within hours of news about the violent Dalit agitations in Junagadh, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Amreli districts a broad range of politicians have promised to descend on Gujarat and offer their leadership to the local agitators – this includes Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and also Mayawati who raised the matter in the parliament on the very first day of the monsoon session.  With a broad range of political parties eager to make a cause of Dalit oppression, the present government is only inviting a series of confrontational situations in the state. the Saurashtra incidents are a reminder of the Patel agitations last year around the same time and indeed the young Patel leader Hardik has already expressed solidarity with the Dalits.

Finally, on Tuesday, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed to the people of Gujarat and particularly the Dalit community members to maintain peace, whatever such appeals amount to.  But the state government has ordered a CID (crime) probe and 16 persons have already been arrested according to a statement issued by the state government. The Chief Minister will be visiting the victims and their family members in Una on Wednesday confirming a stock pattern of agitations and disturbances all over the country, the pattern being ‘don’t react before it is too late’ and ‘only take actions without consequence’. As a result of the incidents, the political loss to the BJP locally and elsewhere will indeed be quite serious despite its attempts to win over the Dalits in the UP elections of 2017 and its new-found affection for Baba Sahib Ambedkar. But the worrying part is what the country may lose by way of common fellow feeling among its diverse citizenry.  
As almost a sequel to the Gujarat incidents yesterday the BSP leader Mayawati raised raises strong objections to a BJP leader from UP comparing her to a prostitute in a most matter of fact fashion. The uproar shook the parliament, and because of the fear of losing votes in the forthcoming elections in UP in 2017, The party expelled him almost immediately. The damage has been done already however and this ugly episode will echo for a long time in the numerous public speeches and canvassing for the assembly election in UP. The last week has been full of news about Dalits who have responded energetically to all the attacks against them. The media too can no longer afford to ignore them as it always did in the past. 

Note: you can watch the abusive statement by the BJP leader Dayashankar Singh from UP here

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Payback Time for Roger Ailes

Megyn Kelly is talking about 'stalking and sexual advances' by Roger Ailes which go back 10 years or more. It all started by the brave lady Gretchen Carlson who came out with a lawsuit against Roger Ailes for his improper advances with sexual intentions.

Very rarely we have a person who has single-handedly worsened American Politics to this extent. Roger Ailes built the Fox News catering to salacious part, always going for sensational with a peculiar hatred of Obama. The racial undertones of Fox are difficult to hide, its hate of Barack Obama plain and simple to watch. In addition, spinning 'any news' to paint Liberals bad; no stone is turned down in that endeavor. In the process if gullible Americans are fed upon the 'opium' of Glenn Beck type conspiracy world with scant regard to evidence (case in point - coverage about Global Warming on Fox) or correct policy (how many times Fox claimed for impeding recession due to Federal deficit?) - all is good in the name of business.

That is the thing with Conservatives - fanning fears of Americans, supplying them with outright lies and constant stream of insinuation in the name of journalism; all are acceptable so long as it makes money. That is Roger Ailes. With these lawsuits and Murdoch Family dropping him like a stone - it is the real payback time for Roger Ailes.

No one knows how Fox and Conservative Punditry would be shaped after his departure from Fox. But with Trump triumphant in GOP field; prognosis is not good - there is simply too much money to be left on the table by not 'fooling Americans' via Media. Chances are that Fox will continue it's Animal Farm style broadcasting even after departure of Roger Ailes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Commentary: Why Blaming Pakistan for Kashmir Problem is a Policy Dud

It must be admitted categorically that any understanding of the Kashmir tangle can only begin once it is admitted that it is not a Made in Pakistan problem despite our neighbour’s constant efforts to foment trouble in the valley and at the borders. But making that simple admission seems like a tall order these days. Despite the media gag in the Valley, the social networks are busy circulating images, videos and news about the wounds caused by the supposedly non-lethal pellets among people of all ages. These images are unlikely to disappear in a hurry. The anger among the public after Burhan Wani’s killing by the Indian forces is now sustained by these random bullets that have been blinding scores of men, women and children in the Valley, leaving permanent scars and promising to push Kashmir towards yet unseen levels of disenchantment and anger.   

This article summarizes only part of the furor felt across the country giving an account of the common sentiments shared by the various opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha. But once again our Home Minister Rajnath Singh is found parroting the good old cliches on Kashmir -  in response to all the agonizing among the parliamentarians like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Karan Singh, all our Home Minister could offer by way of consolation and insight was that the Kashmir agitation is ‘sponsored by Pakistan’. A continuation of such rhetoric and the poverty of understanding reflected in it will ensure that Kashmir problem will get more and more complicated in the days to come.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

BJP pays heavily for toppling game in Arunachal

by Ratnakar Tripathy

The Arunachal Pradesh  Official Seal
In what will be seen as a landmark judgement the Supreme Court has declared the decision of the Arunachal Pradesh governor to impose president’s rule in the state on 26th January this year as ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, restoring the Congress government of  Nabam Tuki back in power. According to legal experts the decision is outstandingly unequivocal in all its implications. Earlier this year the BJP took advantage of the rift within the Congress in Arunachal and forcibly moulded the chaos in its favour, in the process disregarding all constitutional norms. The Arunachal governor dismissed the government of Tuki and brought in Kalikho Pul’s government instead, a process to be reversed now under directions from the supreme legal authority of the country.  

The pathetic plight of BJP may be appreciated further in the light of the scheduled launching of the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati on the 14th July, its chief slogan being ‘Congress Mukt Northeast’. The irony is Pul, the CM of Arunachal till date but now a former is to attend the meet along with three other CMs Sarbananda Sonowal of Assam, T R Zeliang of Nagaland and Pawan Chamling of Sikkim as well as the BJP chiefs of the eight north-eastern states. Just as the BJP made a move to consolidate its recent gains in the North East, it seems to slipping away from a position of control. The supposedly triumphal celebration will now see the entire group licking its wounds even as more and more salt is rubbed into it in the coming days. Despite the reversal the current CM Pul said yesterday “(Our) government will remain. That will be decided on the floor of the Assembly. Government runs only with the numbers. There is no threat to our government”. Even party national secretary Shrikant Sharma responded to the judgement at a press conference stating "This is a very strange order and that is why it is being studied. The person who has the majority, who is running the government presently is being asked to be in the opposition". The BJP is unlikely to give up the fight easily and may ask the Supreme Court for a review. Tuki in the meantime would make use of the flux to invite the defected Congress MLAs back into the fold. Rahul Gandhi in the meantime found his voice for once and tweeted his sarcastic reaction to the Arunachal verdict saying gleefully – ‘Thank you Supreme Court for explaining to the Prime Minister what democracy is. #ArunachalPradesh.

The remarkable thing about the entire episode is the explicitness of the court’s instruction to the governors for all time to come. For example, the governor’s counsel was told by the bench rather categorically that ‘“the Governor is not the conscience-keeper of the Legislative Assembly” and that he had to stay away from the business of the Assembly besides steering clear of “political horse-trading”. Another example from the 331-page judgment – the happenings in Arunachal Pradesh leading to State emergency were described by the bench as a “thrashing given to the Constitution and a spanking to governance.” All this has clearly brought disgrace to a governor who acted blatantly in a partisan manner and tried to impose the will of the centre on the state. Indeed, this verdict must be counted as a landmark in the history of the Indian democracy. Despite the quasi-authoritarian drift of the Indian democracy in recent times, the major thrust of the system is still forcefully in the favour of increasing democratization of the federal system. If a similar development in Uttarakhand two months ago was a precedent, Arunachal may be seen as a confirmation of the court’s vigilance in pushing the straying elements in the political system back on track with great determination. As in Uttarakhand so in Arunachal, the decks have been cleared for the orderly and constitutionally sound conduct of democratic procedures and norms.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Theresa May - Britain's Hope

(Source - UK Government)
"The Conservative Party, like Silicon Valley, believes in failing fast." 

That is what impressed me most: how Tories under promised - Cameron said it will be September when UK will get the new PM and how they over delivered - the queen appoints her second UK female PM today.

It all reminds me Baron Heseltine, the giant killer who slain down towering Thatcher when Tories determined that she was past her shelf date or how John Major thundered "time to put up or shut up". That is British Conservative Party - always knows how to identify the winning horse quickly.[1]

Paul Krugman thinks American Republican Party as the classical example of a political force which exclusively represents interests of its class - renter or capital owner class in America.[2] I think if he would look at the history of British Tories, he will realize that the better example is UK Tories. British Tories realize that the most potent enemy of Capitalist Class is 'uncertainty'. Hence the decisive urgency in getting the new standard barer when the old warrior has fallen down. Meanwhile with Donald Trump getting coronated next week, American Conservatives continue their recent tradition of not picking the winnable horse. 

It seems though that apart from protecting the Capitalist class - in any case the family duty for a British Conservative - Theresa May intends to draw heavily on her Anglican upbringing in tending poor folks of Great Britain. That is refreshing and nice. She will be essentially drawing on her pastoral upbringing as like her powerful neighbor Angela Merkel from Germany.

May be after all the world will be healed at least little bit when it is ruled by women - Hillary, Merkel, Theresa May, Janet Yellen and potentially woman chief to replace UN Secretary Ban. But then the ending like Dilma Rousseff is not far away for each of these woman leaders. In the end, gender identity in itself would not solve the complex problems of the world. In UK's case, the ending of her new woman leader Theresa May also depends on how she handles and treats another prominent woman leader - Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Early signs are that Theresa May will be the adult in the room. In itself, that is a good start given the mayhem caused by Tory Boys.


[1] - Given the mess of opposition Labor Party, there is a tactical advantage in getting your house in order first; making Tories better prepared for a general election which May decide to call when the Brexit terms are clear. 

[2] - In Krugman's words: "To put it bluntly, the modern Republican Party is in essence a machine designed to deliver high after-tax incomes to the 1 percent."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Commentary: Kashmir imbroglio once again

After six days of curfew and appeals for peace from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti, Kashmir shows no signs of cooling down to normalcy. Far from it, there is a likelihood that the disturbances caused by the recent killing of Burhan Wani by the Indian security forces will continue to draw more and more supporters towards irreconcilable political position, namely secession. The killing of Burhan Wani was seen as a major trophy by the Indian government till his figure turned into a unifying symbol for the disenchanted youth of the valley in a matter of a few days after his death. The tough stance of the centre may backfire again and again if it continues with its policy of intimidation.

Burhan Wani according to several reports has come to symbolize a new phase in the Kashmir insurgency when the young militants are avoiding Pakistani patronage and trying to tread an independent path. Wani was also an exception in that he was active on the social media, openly revealing his identity rather than taking the cloak and dagger approach.

Kashmir is too badly entangled an issue for any specific article or news report to unravel. But this article gives the reader a simple factual account of the kind of injuries the Kashmiris have to bear even as bystanders these days.  The account is by no means comprehensive and only presents a slice of events from a few days but it surely makes it clear as to what kind of dangers the Kashmiris are facing on a daily basis and how insensitive the Indian state has become in its blind determination to execute a tough-headed approach, possibly all the way till we come face to face with unprecedented situations.  What those situations may be only time will tell. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Commentary: A Case for ACA by One Barack Obama JD

I guess we are getting glimpses of Barack Obama's post-presidency occupation - research and publishing scientific papers in academic journals. He publishes his most technical argument for ACA in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Of course, no one is thinking that this will change minds of Republicans who oppose ACA since we are dealing here with a mindset of medieval Roman Catholic Church which put Galileo to inquisition. Vatican took over 4 centuries to apologize to Galileo, I guess so far as Republican Party turning around ACA; we might be talking similar timescale provided Donald Trump does not burn down the GOP House in 2016.

Political case for the paper seems to be motivating Bernie Sanders voters. Bernie promised 'public option', Hillary is indicating that she will come around on that policy prescription too; hence it is logical that Obama lays down the case for 'public option' as the next phase of continued health care reforms

With House expected to stay with Paul Ryan, there is very little chance of any positive enhancements to ACA. Best course will be for Hillary to hold the fort. Only when Democratic Base comes out in droves, there are chances that Hillary may get the mandate needed to undertaken any substantive reforms. For the infamously lethargic Democratic Base to turn out in 2016 if it means a sitting president finds time to organize a scientific paper for an academic publication, it is all worth trying.

Friday, July 08, 2016

American Irresponsibility - Blame Obama

In the wake of a week from hell in the life of America, many folks on Right are still not getting it and simply blaming President Obama in a knee jerk reaction. 

Exhibit 1 Hyperbola: 

" had governors and mayors and the president — whether it was President Johnson or President Nixon, Republican or Democrat — condemning violence against the police and urging support for the police.Today that's markedly absent." 

-- William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations 


"I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events, and that we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas ... Let's be clear: There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement." 

Exhibit 2 Hyperbola: 

"All those protesters last night, they ran the other way expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them,...What hypocrites!...I understand the First Amendment, I understand freedom of speech, and I defend it...It is in our Constitution, it is in our soul, but you can’t go out on social media and mainstream media and everywhere else and say that the police are racist, that the police are hateful, the police are killers.” 

-- Dan Patrick, Texas Lieutenant Governor 


Republicans would not mind unbridled support for the Second Amendment, then why does he want restrictions on the First Amendment? Besides. Texas Lieutenant Governor faults demonstrators in seeking shelter from snipers. What were they supposed to do then? Run in the direction of snipers and get killed along those police officers? What happened to the famous gun law support among conservatives - that someone in the crowd with a gun will take down the shooter? I would say what a hypocrite Texas Lieutenant Governor himself is. 

Exhibit 3 Hyperbola: 

"Mr. Obama’s attempt at balance might have more resonance if once he said Black Lives Matter’s view of American justice is wrong."

-- Review and Outlook, Wall Street Journal 


Why? Why is Black Lives Matter's view of American justice wrong when routinely black men are killed by white cops with no prosecution and accountability for those cops? 

What is happening here is many on Right are simply resorting to a simple way out from where we Americans find ourselves: blame President Obama. That is totally pathetic, wrong and something which for sure will not solve problems America is facing. No wonder, it is going to be harder for President Obama to unite America while root causes are simply pushed under the carpet.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Race Wounds of America

(This post has been updated.)

As if killing of two black men was not sufficient, we have killing of at least 4 officers in Dallas and many more injured[1]by snipers when people gathered to protest police killing of black men. Race powered atrocities by police in many parts of America are not abating despite heightened media coverage of 'black lives matter'.  Retorting 'all lives matter' is not the solution for some of the deeply entrenched problems afflicting America today:
- unchecked power wielded by local police against black men in particular[2];
- broken criminal justice system which results in higher incarceration with much less scope to absorb ex-convicts; 
- America's gun culture making availability of guns as easy as like buying water or milk in a grocery shop; and
- Trump style Republican politics which overtly encourages racism.

Unless state lever leadership in most states of USA actively pushes peace efforts and criminal system reforms; there is a real danger that America gets engulfed in a ugly race ignited conflict; occasionally exploding with gun fights. 

It is too much to expect from Donald Trump any sanity in asking Americans to calm down. Danger is he would even further inflame the already tense situation. Because of that, at the national level it becomes a duty of Hillary Clinton to keep pushing this discourse to a more saner discussion about how to heal America's racial wounds. It will be lot better if she argues for a concrete set of proposals to improve America's Criminal System, to avoid brutal killings by local police, encourage methods and practices at local policing level which are less lethal and accountable and help bring sanity to America's gun culture. This is especially important since realistically Republican Congress would not do anything to solve America's burning problems. It will fall on Hillary Clinton to help America rally around ways and means to overcome violent racial divide.
[1] - Number of Dallas officers died has increased to 5 and it might further increase too. Let me be very clear here - I do not condone this violence against police force in any sense. As Black Lives Matter says, they do not advocate any murder; they advocate peaceful ways to achieve justice. These snipers must be hunted down and prosecuted and police force must be accorded all saftey that is available (which should not mean shooting at first choice at innocent people; there will have to be a balance and accountability on both sides).
[2] - Why is that American police not use non-lethal means like Tasers and other ways to enforce order instead of directly shooting black and minority folks? I suspect again it is the 'gun culture' and the bias of local justice system to favor police and law enforcement people in all cases. Only when police who shoot citizens without provocation are prosecuted successfully, their departments and cities are rendered bankrupt by hefty law suits brought for these injustices; will we see some change in America's law enforcement machinery. Otherwise the mendacity and reluctance to change will continue to cost lives of many, many Americans without any reason or justice.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Messages Behind Who Goes and Who Stays in Cabinet Reshuffle

by Ratnakar Tripathy

There are probably two mutually compatible ways to decipher the great enigma of the recent cabinet reshuffle by PM Narendra Modi and the announcements on portfolio allotments on the night of 6th July. One may of course look for signs of long-term policy shifts in the key decisions on portfolios against the backdrop of the forthcoming assembly elections in 2017. A simpler and somewhat gossipy but nevertheless substantial approach is to determine who has been elevated or rewarded and who has been punished. The biggest loser in the current round arguably is Smriti Irani who saw a spectacular rise in 2014 probably in appreciation of her pugnacious style of doing politics. Even her critics will admit that she is a great fighter with unlimited stamina over major or minor, wrong or right issues and stances without much discrimination. No wonder she was chosen to take on the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Kumar Vishwas of AAP in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.

The trouble is PM Modi and the BJP president Amit Shah both are currently in a placatory mood, using the rhetoric of reassurance towards a broad range of constituencies including Dalits, OBCs and Muslims. Some of the current mellowness has to do with the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections where the BJP sees Mayawati’s BSP as the chief adversary and will do anything to wean away Dalit votes from her. But the new tone may be seen as part of a constantly evolving rhetoric of Modi-Shah duo whose main concern seems to be what to say and how to say it without changing anything much on the ground. It seems then that Irani was punished for the same traits that brought her centre stage a couple of years ago. There has not been a day since 2014 when Irani has not been in the news for her non-stop controversial remarks and actions, which by now may make a long rota of follies. She has been constantly under attack and has given it back in good measure to all who attack her. But such belligerence seemed completely out of whack in the case of the University of Hyderabad agitations over Rohit Vemula’s suicide. A series of developments on a number of campuses in Delhi, Allahabad and Hyderabad not to mention other major and minor campuses have eroded the image of the BJP in the eyes of the youth as well as the Dalits. The need of the hour from BJP’s viewpoint is to woo these segments back. Irani known for the utterly angelic smile that accompanies her ruthless stridency is hardly a person fit for the role of courtship. She has not been in sync with the Modi style of kind words accompanied by scorching action, letting her words hurt the voter unnecessarily and repeatedly.

Javadekar and Venkiah Naidu on the other hand would seem to be the greatest winners of the day. Javadekar proved to be a pliable and meek minister who worked in full consonance with the PMO, unlike Irani who has been in the attrition mode with the PMO for some time according to several reports. He has made himself unpopular among environment groups by rapidly issuing the ministry’s consent to scores of industries without taking into account the core environment issues. Some Environment Minister! Similarly, Venkiah Naidu who has received the charge of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has proven a great support with his daily bytes on the TV and the press providing a ceaseless source of spin on the Modi government’s policies, and a frequent lambaster of the opposition leaders on a wide range of matters. Naidu indeed is the talking machine of the BJP government known for his ability to being ready with a statement on anything you may name.

That out of the nineteen ministers inducted six including Ramdas Athawale from Maharashtra are Dalits clearly sends out a message to Uttar Pradesh. These ministers are likely to canvass for BJP in UP in 2017 by way of fulfilling the role affixed for them. Mayawati may find in them an irksome but unavoidable target. All this puts a big question mark over the real administrative significance of the big move that may be just a well-punctuated drama to reassure the impatient citizen and the diminishing body of Modi supporters. Indeed in a rare interview given before the reshuffle PM Modi’s response to a question about the difference between his regime and the predecessor UPA’s was quite illustrative – Modi claimed rather elaborately that he has succeeded in lifting the pall of gloom that hung before the nation. While a good and effective leader is surely expected to motivate and inspire a weary citizenry, a government cannot confine itself to the role of a mood enhancer and continue for long to enjoy the goodwill of the voter.      


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Commentary: Making sense of the Cabinet Expansion at the Centre

The biggest news of the day and the week in India is the cabinet reshuffle and expansion by the PM Narendra Modi. But to go beyond saying this is to enter the area of disagreement and debate as very likely a number of commentators may claim that the sense of great significance attached to the event has little basis. In the coming days there will be a number of readings of the event and the educated follower of news will get a chance to make up her own mind about it. How do you make up your mind however transitorily on an issue like this? You perhaps look more closely at why the PM felt a need for the change at precisely this moment, namely try to catch a glimpse of the PM’s own likely reading of his political and administrative predicament. All this becomes relevant in the context of the forthcoming assembly elections that are central to the strategies of all the political parties involved including the BJP, not to mention the elections at the centre in 2019. Second, you look at the profiles of characters and names you may not have heard of despite being a journalist. BJP is indeed struggling hard to give its anonymous faces a name and a reputation, hoping they will build up a decent track record in the coming days. On the basis of all this you try and determine for yourself the central message emanating from the change of tack at the centre. 

While this news report may not provide you with a sharp analysis of the event, it does place in front of you the basic facts, most importantly the brief bios of all those who have joined the cabinet at the centre. This is important as several knee jerk reports today carry hastily derived conclusions and readings. It is in brief a useful piece to read as you launch your deeper investigations into the new developments in Delhi and the stirrings within the NDA as well as the BJP-RSS family.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

UK: Cleaning the Mess of Naughty British Boys

(Source - Wikipedia)
I was suspecting that Boris Johnson would not take the bet of 10 Downing Street occupancy, that much was clear when people started to 'see through' the Johnson act. He still could not resist himself and wanted to seek that office but then his partner in crime Michael Gove stabbed him in the back. Michael Gove may wear fancy glasses and may comb his hair well; but all that designer look of an erudite statesman does not hide the hideous lust for power and total lack of morality in lying to public at large, all for his some petty personal gains. That much is clear to the whole world - frat boys adolescent politics of these privileged Tory politicians - Messers Cameron, Johnson and Gove - has pulled a prank on British People, Europeans and the world at large. These irresponsible rascals don't know what they were doing with zero ability to clean the mess which they have created.[1] One hopes that an adult occupant of 10 Downing Street will clean this mess.

Question is what are the choices for a British PM to clean this mess. It is hard to see any capable Tory Politician saying this to the nation

"We got an ill advised referendum, we heard people's voices, but we Britishers are effectively divided. This means we ought to take care of substantive British population who wants us to consider Remain choice seriously. Besides, it is the question of retaining integrity of UK when Scottish People, Northern Ireland and Londoners seriously want us to remain in EU. Given the situation, all of us will have to accept sacrifices and it will be my intention to drive this compromise first among ourselves before we engage with EU". 

Britain needs a leader who will emphatically, judiciously and with credibility put these facts on the table:
- Brexit is simply not in the national interest of UK, both economically and politically;
- Leave supporters sold 'snake oil and lies' in the campaign;
- Immigration from other EU states to UK for jobs as well as immigration due to uncontrolled external EU borders are real concerns; but neither it impacts those we voted Leave nor leaving EU is the answer for that.[2] It is a Europe wide problem which best can be addressed by being a member of EU.

The second best choice for UK will be to convert itself into a much looser federation[3] of England, Wales, Norther Ireland and Scotland and then working out an arrangement with EU where Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to be part of EU while England and Wales come out.[4] There is a geography which is at the advantage for UK. There is a well defined border between Scotland and England whereas Northern Ireland can easily continue it's current 'no border' relationship with the Republic of Ireland which is already in EU. UK can introduce 'Residency' concept which can divide her citizens into two camps - EU residents of UK and UK residents of England and Wales. The point is if UK political class has a will, it can work out an arrangement which will fulfill different aspirations of her own people. If one considers various numbers, such a division of UK is sustainable. Scotland and Northern Ireland can start using Euro while England and Wales will be out of EU. That way England and Wales will be able to control the immigration as they deem fit and continue to use British Pound.

Such an arrangement may become necessary as initial signs are that Nicola Sturgeon will not be able to get a direct access to EU for Scotland. In the short term, the only path for Scotland to become EU member is to secede from UK by another Scottish Independence Referendum followed by a prolonged wait. One is talking here easily 3 to 7 years wait. During that period viability of an independent Scottish nation is essentially non-existent because of the lower oil prices and dwindling oil output from Northern Oil Fields. All in all the prognosis for an independent Scotland is not good, nor is there an easy route to get admitted to EU. Unless Scotland works through Westminster, EU aspirations of Scots are unlikely to materialize soon.[5]

The option of a looser, federated UK has an advantage of retaining outward integrity of the British Nation. UK will continue to participate in UNSC, NATO and in all other international gatherings as a single nation since Defense and Foreign Policy (san EU membership) will be still handled by London for Scotland and Northern Ireland. EU states would also find a merit in this arrangement since new member induction in EU needs unanimous consent by all members. In such an arrangement, UK chair in EU is simply inherited by EU resident states of UK who are all following rules of EU as is. Essentially, British PM will attend EU meetings as the custodian of Scotland and Northern Ireland interests in EU. If for England and Wales, a Norwegian arrangement is sought; British PM can simultaneously represent those interests as well. In other words UK will not have to get out of EU, just that England and Wales will be out of EU stopping Immigration to those areas as well as those areas will not participate in the common EU market. Once such an arrangement is worked out, in reality what will happen is Companies in England will simply set up EU compliant shops in Scotland and via those outlets would continue to trade with EU.

For any such approache to succeed, EU will need to be flexible. There is every incentive for EU to be creative since the problem of resentment against immigrants is not just an UK issue but many other EU members are facing this pressure too. As such EU does need to find a mechanism to channel demands of Europeans in this regard. All other EU hating speeches by UK politicians or grumblings by cranky English people against endless bureocracy of Brussels; that is not the root cause. Such a criticism has a point and for sure EU does need to become efficient, less heavy handed, less bureaucratic; all for her own good. But heart of the problem is 'immigration'. Because London has been recovering so fast after 2008-2009 recession compared to other European states; England got tremendous migration for jobs. Add to the backdrop of uncontrolled borders of EU which allowed many Muslims immigrants from Middle East and Africa. EU needs to tackle immigration from outside of EU as well as pressure points created by internal labor mobility. That is where EU needs an action. By having a flexible approach with UK constituent states while EU retaining it's rule based regime as is; EU would have made its positive contribution to the problem of Brexit too. Time is for thinking 'out of box and creatively' to retain what EU has achieved so far, to avoid further fissures and new braking points, to consolidate gains made so far and to progress from this difficult juncture in which Europe and UK find themselves.

[1] - Normally, the chaos and utter failure of leadership within the ruling conservative party would open up a solid opportunity to the parliamentary opposition, in this case the British Labor party. But Jeremy Corbyn is determined to wipe out the Labor party with his refusal to relinquish his disastrous leadership so far. He is an ideologue, essentially a communist in disguise. None of his extreme policy preferences are likely to unite and move forward Britain given that British nation is deeply divided on multiple axis. If Labor party is unable to remove Corbyn, it is difficult to see how it can continue to exist. This is the existential crisis for the Labor party. The only saving grace may be most Tory MPs do not want to face voters soon. Not sure to what an extent Liberal Democrats will be able to fill in the vacuum now that Labor is on a ruinous path. 

[2] - Stephen Bush has good insights to offer in this regard. 

[3] - Some version of such a proposal is already floated.

[4] - Gibraltar and any other scattered UK territories can decide whether to be part of EU or not; though most are likely to choose Remain side.

[5] - Few of Nicola Sturgeon's conservative opposition members are arguing along this line too.