Ceding Political Space

I was reading an article by Mr. Salman Anees Soz. Mr. Soz is son of Mr. Saifuddin Soz, a congress member of Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir and minister of water resources in UPA I. In his article, Mr. Salman Soz had lamented if BJP wins power in 2019, there will be demise of multiparty democracy in India. There will be one party rule. Constitution of India will be changed. India will become a Hindu rashtra, instead of current secular state.

Fears of Mr. Soz that BJP is likely to win 2019 general election is probably correct. Mr. Modi enjoys unprecedented popularity. He is considered hardworking and honest. Repeated campaigns have been made to potray Mr. Modi to be a dictatorial person, a communal leader, a follower of facist ideology. Many have attacked inability of Mr. Modi to fulfil his campaign promise. Still, popularity of Mr. Modi has not been dented.  It is possible that Modi lead BJP is doing some work at ground level. Without which so many victories would not have been possible. Though  a lot can happen in remaining two years, it is still a safe guess that Mr Modi may lead BJP to another electoral victory.

With majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and a chosen president at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, BJP may be in a position to get constitution amended and get many controversial laws passed. Hindu Rashtra may be part of one such agenda. Though BJP has officially distanced itself from a conclave organised in Goa towards creation of a Hindu Rashtra by 2023, BJP chief minister of UP has no problem with the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. Already, chief ministers of BJP ruled states have decided to meet to discuss Hindu Rashtra in a conclave in Goa. What will be consequences of such a state on minority population, specially muslim minority population, is anybody’s guess. As a harbinger of Hindu Rashtra, nation wide ban on cow slaughter law is being brought forward. Activity of cow protector vigilante groups has increased all over the country. People can lose life for storing, carrying and eating beef. Certain segment of Indian citizens are being targeted as cow killer and beef eaters.

Even if dire predictions of Mr. Soz becomes a reality, most likely it will become, I would have no doubt in my mind whom to blame for such a predicament. It will not be elected BJP lead NDA government but Mr. Soz’s party that is Congress lead UPA? india had given at least 50 years to congress party. Nation went bankrupt during their rule. Scam after scam had surfaced during congress rule. So much so common public have become desensitized to the extent that no one now considers anything less than 100 crore rupees to be a loot. Congress party has become dynastic. Leave aside supreme leader of his party, Mr. Soz himself thrives on family legacy.  Same is true for many of his esteemed colleagues, who form the inner coterie of his supreme leader. Party has no compunction joining hands with utterly corrupt and dynastic leaders from all across the country. Yet leaders like Mr. Soz cry of loss of democratic principles in india! If anything, Mr. Soz should look in the mirror first thing in the morning, and ask question “are we responsible for ceding political space to BJP by being dynastic, nepotist and corrupt?” He may find his answer.


Politics of Lynching

Two lynching incidents have occupied media space recently. One being lynching of a deputy superintendent of police in Srinagar. The other being murder of a young boy for being muslim.

Police man was killed right outside a mosque at the time to evening prayer. Killed outside abode of god at the time of his prayer! Sounds horrible, but it happened. Perpetrators this time were his fellow believers. Many theories are floating around to explain the incident, which include,

  • the officer was a police man
  •  police officer was there in the mosque to assassinate Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
  • police officer’s life was taken to avenge death of ISIS terrorist Zakir Musa.
  • Most sinister theory doing the round is DSP was killed because he was suspected to be a Kashmiri Pandit.

A few days later, a muslim boy was killed on a train. Incidence happened hardly 100 km away from New Delhi. Boy was out shopping, with his brother, for Eid. On his way back he was attacked. Some said dispute was over sharing a seat. The dispute spilled over and assumed communal dimension. Boy’s skull cap was thrown on the ground. His beard was pulled. He was taunted for being a muslim. Eventually he was killed. It can be argued that the incidence was more criminal than communal. It cannot be disputed that an innocent life was lost.

Of late the incidence of violence against muslim citizens is on the rise. It started with lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq on charges of storing and eating beef. Then Pehlu Khan was killed on the suspicion of being a cattle smuggler. There have been many more such instances all over India, some are reported others are not reported. Many explanations have come up to explain such tragic incidence:

  • such incidence used to happen earlier also. They are now being reported more often.
  •  such reporting is related to anti Modi and anti BJP bias of left leaning main stream media.
  • killing of Hindu Indians go unreported in media in opposition ruled states like Kerala, West Bengal etc.
  • no heart bleeds when Kashmiri pandits are thrown out of their home in Kashmir valley as part of ethnic cleansing.
  • More cynical would suggest spurt in report of minority killing has increased to defame India and to derail Modi – Trump meeting in the USA.
  •  Lynching death of DSP of Srinagar Mohammad Ayub Pandith will also find proud place in the armamentarium of arguments.

There are others, who argue that

  •  incidences, like killing of young Junaid, are direct result of propagation of pro Hindu ideology of ruling dispensation.
  • several groups, that would otherwise remain in the fringe, have become emboldened.
  • some are attacking people who are in the business of cattle trading. Some are targeting people for eating beef.
  • Killing of young boy Junaid will often be cited from now on to beat right wing politics and politicians. It would be argued that relentless discourse on Hindu persecution and muslim patronage have made average Hindus insecure.

May be there is truth to support each and all arguments. Whatever may be the theory behind the twin tragedies, it cannot be denied that two lives have been lost. The departed souls are of muslim Indians. The tragedy happened in the holy month of Ramadan just a few days before Eid. In our all encompassing hatred we forget the family members who are struck by the catasthrope. Think of helpless father, grieving mother, bereaved wife and orphaned children. A mother who lost her son just before Eid to senseless violence. Only a person devoid of any human emotion, will not have moist eyes and a heavy heart.

Can governments at the centre and state absolve themselves? There has not been one word of condemnation from our leadership. No body had tried to visit the bereaved family and share their grief. Our leaders can express grief at the loss of life in distant lands. What about tragedies at home? Does these not count? A leader who proclaims a smallest accident under his leadership, disturbs him. Why so much silence when young lives are snuffed out? God give our leaders some heart.

NDTV, CBI Raid and Press Freedom


Is Indian media under pressure to toe government line? This was a question that came up recently, when CBI raided premises of promoters of NDTV. This incidence followed another event, where a spokesperson of ruling party was ejected from a live TV debate. Are these incidences related? Does this indicate that an undercurrent of tension existed between certain TV channel and ruling party, which culminated in CBI raid or vice versa?

The TV channel under discussion is NDTV and its promoters Dr. Prannoy Roy and Mrs. Radhika Roy. NDTV had covered exhaustively Gujarat riot of 2002. The then NDTV reporters Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt had telecast live from different districts of Gujarat. Narendra Modi was then chief minister of Gujarat. Many had accused Modi of complicity in Guajarat riots. Though, Mr. Modi had given his version of investigating agencies, though courts have given a clean chit to Mr. Modi, the blot on Mr. Modi remains in the minds of people who do not like his politics.

During congress lead UPA rule, from 2003 to 2014, Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai and Ms. Barkah Dutt were awarded Padmashree. May be recognition was for journalistic excellence, but doubt remains if the award was infact a reward against a political adversary. This suspicion of association of NDTV,  its senior journalists and congress party is further strengthened when a conversation between a corporate lobbyist Ms. Nira Radia and Ms. Barkha Dutt emerged in public domain. It emerged that Ms. Barkha Dutt had agreed to convey congress ministers a request from an alliance partner about a specific ministry. Later on the same ministry got embroiled in a multi crore rupee scam, (one lakh seventy six thousand crore rupee, to be exact). Such incidence and associaitons may indicate that NDTV and its journalists were favorably inclinded towards ruling congress dispensation of the time. This NDTV becomes by association a congress channel. In an article published in Caravan Magazine, further suggest that during UPA rule, NDTV had raised hundreds of million dollars from abroad by floating shell companies. Nothing illegal about the act, except NDTV management refused to disclose who contributed towards this fund. This may raise suspicion if ill gotten wealth acquired through scam during UPA rule had found its way back to India through NDTV. Thus the accusation against the channel becomes one of money laundering.

Many journalists had protested against CBI raid on NDTV promoters. Explanation that NDTV was not raided, but its corporate office was raided for financial irregularity, did not cut ice. Critics have pointed out that apparently freedom of press indicated freedom of NDTV promoters to do things at their will. Because more serious infringements on journalists where a journalist was shot dead or a journalist was burnt alive, violence against journalists in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, or interference with functioning of a prominent TV channel in Andhra Pradesh did not find any mention in the press club demonstration. Such acts of omission indicate that noise against press freedom is a noised created by selected but important people. Such noise may not have any direct link to ground reality of press functioning in India.Given the insinuation of possible association with political ideology and political dispensation, should NDTV really cry foul on freedom of press?

  1. Journalists Under Attack in Many Parts of the Country. Why Was Huge Press Club Turnout Only for “Our Prannoy”: https://t.co/kEfoxRkZVm
  2. Against fraud or against freedom Mr. Roy: https://t.co/tMr421DhAN
  3. New Indian Express Journalist Attacked, Cameras Destroyed as CPM Hartal Turns Violent in Kerala : https://t.co/N3VifDuROw

A Judge, A Belief and A Debate

It was a hot summer morning. Justice Mehta woke up at the break of dawn. A long habit of many years. One by one, he completed his morning rituals, – exercise, bath and drinking of go mutra (cows urine), before sitting down for his morning meditation. Today, his mind was not focussed. He felt a tinge of depression. After nearly two decades in the high court, today he will retire. What has he to show for? Who knows him? He will retire as one of many annonymous and faceless judges. He made up his mind to make one last attempt to change all that.

Honorable Justice Mehta dispensed off his final case on a government operated go – shala (cow shelter). He recommended life imprisonment for anyone convicted of cow slaughter. Later, in the post retirement party, Honorable justice gave interviews to TV channels and news paper reporters. He discussed basis for his pronouncement. He narrated therapeutic virtues of go mutra. He claimed drinking cow’s urine daily may cure cancer. While on the topic of piety and cow, he declared peacock to be pure because it abstains from procreation. A peahen gets impregnated swallowing tears of a peacock. Absurd as it may sound, retired judge had hit bulls eye. He had become famous by the end of the eveining. His interview was telecast all over India. Every TV channel had broadcasted interview of the  judge, in his ill fitting, poorly tailored suit baring open his prejudice, his faith and his mindset. Editorials were written on appropriateness of discussing a judgement in public. His interview was circulated widely over social media. Opposition had go a handle to beat the government with.

While the flummoxed nation was busy reading up on reproductive biology of peacocks, a rulin party spokesperson was invited to a live debate. The channel and anchor professed honest and bold journalism and preferred asking direct questions to government. Behind the back, channel was accused of harboring pro opposition bias. Accordingly, a thirty minute slot was stacked up with five anti government voices and one person defending government position. Nevertheless, government spokie was confident that he could deflect any attention from judges comment. He could always claim judge had nothing to do with his party or government. He could also blame appointment system of judges for elevating a judge like justice Mehta. A system that governmetn is not able to change because of independence enjoyed by judicial system.

Anchor had a different idea. She threw a curve ball by aksing “how will party strategy in Indian North East be affected due to ban on cattle slaughter”. Obviously, taken unaware the spokesperson muttered “do not worry about my party. We shall do fine.” Not satishfied with the response, anchored turned towards opposition politicians and critics. Politicians jumped in and lambasted the governmetn for running an agenda that is  “cow centric, anti minority, anti dalit and anti poor“. “Government”, they claimed, “was becoming like a dictator and trying to interfere with what people eat. Development, job creation, economic revival agendas of govenrnment have gone for a toss. In stead, cow protection, vegetarianism and creation of a Hindu Rashtra has become the central theme.”

After repeated request to be given a chance to rebutt, government spokie lost his patience and accused the channel of running an anti government agenda. Viewers were stunned at the altercation that followed. Spokie was asked to apologise or leave. Social media was abuzz with people writing for and against the event. A few days later, residence, at several locations, of promoters of the channel were raided by CBI. Many linked affront to government spokie with CBI raid. While knowledgeable people argued that a government spokesperson was not important enough to invite a CBI raid. Yet, one cannot ignore the possibility that something must be happening under the radar, Something, that both anchor and spokie were aware of? Was that the basis for animosity that surfaced?

Bigger question remains, should a judge discuss his pronouncement and make his belief as the basis of his judgement? Secondly, a channel sincere about debating an issue, should give equal opportunity to both for and against view points. Finally, can an invited gues to be allowed to leave, no matter how offensive? It seems cow war has invaded TV studio.

Arundhati Roy, The Conscience Keeper of India

Recently, Ms. Arundhati Roy was in news. Not only for publishing her new book, “Ministry of Utmost Happiness”, but also for the suggestion of film actor and BJP MP Paresh Rawal, that Indian army should tie Ms. Arundhati Roy in front of their jeep when they move through areas full of stone pelting protestors. Distasteful as the comment was, it was surprising why people would be so angry with Ms. Arundhati Roy!

Arundhati Roy is a brilliant writer on her own right. Her language touches her readers. Politically, Ms. Roy is sympathetic to ultra left ideology. As an an original and selfless thinker, comparable to Prof. Noam Chomsky of MIT,  she presents herself as the conscience keeper of Indian nation. Many of her talk are available YouTube. One may find them deeply disturbing. In her many interviews and interactions with foreign audience and press, Ms. Roy may be seen almost pleading to create a public opinion against India. She urges Western nations not to do business with Indian state.

Ms. Roy does not believe in state boundaries. She believes in individual and/or community freedom. By extension, if a community does not want to be part of a map, they should have freedom to leave the union. Taking this argument forward, Ms. Roy advocates freedom for Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tribal dominated areas of central India – Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana etc.

India was divided along religious lines in 1947. One predominantly Hindu part stayed as India. Two muslim majority segments went to Pakistan. This was not our creation. Our forefathers had agreed to this solution. If we go by Ms. Roy’s advocacy, India will be further divided into at least five or more parts. Is this acceptable to us? Do we have any say in this vivisection? If we go by this logic, then even muslim dominated areas of Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Hyderabad may ask for separate nation because they cannot get along with majority Hindu population. Is such a formula sustainable? At some point we must close past baggage and move on.

Thoughts of Ms. Roy are very noble.  But can statecraft be run by being absolutely noble and selfless? A leader of a country must bring interest of the country first, then he should think about rest of the world. This principle had been followed since ancient times. Running a country entails that leader of the nation must take everyone along, where each constituents make some compromise, as the nation moves on.

It is also ironical that Ms. Roy is pleading with those people who had colonised and plundered rest of the worlds wealth for more that three hundred years. People who find no hesitation in supporting dictators, as long as their business interests remain untouched, Ms. Roy is pleading with the very people to stop doing business with India? This is both tragical in intent and comical in outcome.

In her zeal to bad mouth Indian institutions, Ms. Roy praises armed forces of Pakistan. She claims, Pakistan army never kills her own people. Ms. Roy probably forgot what happened in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, what is happening in Baluchistan, in FATA, in Sindh provinces of Pakistan.

I think, Ms. Roy does not provide any alternative to current system. She is a perennial rebel. Once a cause is settled, she will search for another cause. It is for sure, her ultra left ideology sounds good in seminal, conferences and drawing rooms. But on ground it does not work.