The Swamis Throw in With Modi

November 03, 2017:  Former  Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi finally returned to Akshardham temple in his bid to raise votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming assembly elections in the state.

In a speech of extraordinary significance, he paid glorious tributes to the temple, the Swaminarayan Sect,  its Pradhan Pramukh, himself, his role in the Ekta Yatra which he had actually organized for then party president Dr Murali Manohar Joshi from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir (KK to K).

The significance lies not so much in the speech but the venue.

It signals the Sect’s open allegiance to Modi and the possible affect it might have on the voting by Gujarati Patels and therefore on the fortunes of the Congress.

Why is the Swaminarayan Sect important to these election?

Traditionally, the sect has always kept its distance from politics. It has been ideologically opposed to Dayanand Saraswati’s Arya Samaj — the fountainhead of the Brahmanical Sangh movement in Gujarat. It’s major followers include the politically powerful Patels like former BJP Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, not the greatest fan of the current prime minister or dispensation.

Post-independence,  growing affluence drove some of these Patels  towards towns and cities looking for education and jobs. They weren’t available. This was pre-liberalization and most jobs and education was government owned.

At the time, the Congress was busy building the KHAM coalition and it’s own Mandal base with reservations. Affluent Patels like Keshubhai and his ilk turned towards the Jan Sangh in the late ’70s and early ’80s. They were the rebels of the time. This was then known as the Nav Nirman movement and signaled the first broad basing of the Sangh.

It didn’t take long for that movement to turn communal with the Sangh at the heart of it. 1985 anti-reservation stirs took a communal turn and the BJP was soon in power with Keshubhai at the helm. In Gujarat, this gave people like Narendra Modi a chance to power. In Uttar Pradesh it meant the growth of people like Kalyan Singh. Meanwhile, poorer Patels in Gujarat, who now call themselves the Patidars or small landholders — kept waiting for their turn at the table.  Hardik Patel represents that group.

Successive Mandal and socialist groups, or even the Liberalization movement of Dr Manmohan Singh, however have had no interest in land rights or agriculture.

In fact, the Modi government has taken specific steps under the Land Reform (sic) act, to make it easy for governments to take land away from rural owners without consent.

This has hurt farmers, including the Sangh’s own Bhartiya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (BKMS), Patidars and immigrant Punjabi farmers. Rajasthan farmers recently dug themselves into holes , demanding the government recognize their right to own their land.

The Patidar movement under Hardik Patel had begun with a demand for land rights but soon turned into one for reservations. In the last week, schisms seem to have appeared within the Patidars too. Hardik Patel’s earlier organization, the  Patidar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (PASS), or (Patidar Reservation Struggle Committee)  has spoken independently with Amit Shah and according to one report, has pledged its allegiance to the BJP.

Mr Modi’s welcome to Akshardham indicates that the Swaminarayan Sect has given him their nod of approval. This consolidates the non-Dalit, non-OBC Patels among the Hindus. At least, a blessing was asked and given.

The chief Pradhan of Swaminarayan sect had shunned Mr Modi even in the aftermath of the Akshardham attack in 2002 when he was at the peak of his popularity among Hindu Gujaratis. Blood was spilt in the very premises from where Modi addressed the political meeting on Thursday. Gujaratis will not miss the significance. So this is huge for Modi. The Question is why?

What really happened at Akshardham?

For those who don’t remember much about the Akshardham case,  here is a rundown of the facts.

  • The Akshardham Temple was built in 1992, a year remembered for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya
  • The temple is most remembered in Gujarat  for the Akshardham Blasts on September 24th 2002, the year of it’s tenth anniversary.
  • 2002 is also most remembered in India  for the Gujarat Riots of February 2002.
  • 37 people died and 81 were injured in the Akshardham Attack which lasted 16 hours.
  • The NSG was flown in the same day from Delhi to contain the “terror attacks” as it was being called then. It took about 99 highly trained men , five hours from midnight to 6.45 am the next day to corner the attackers.
  • The attackers turned out to be two men. Why they hung out for 16 hours was never revealed.
  • They were found dead, drenched with blood and dust and riddled with bullets. But with a pristine, clean note in Urdu was found on the body of one of them.  The SC wrote it off as nonsense.  Then DGP K. Chakravarti claimed they were Pakistani terrorists, but how he deduced that, was never clearly explained.
  • Finally, the Supreme Court acquitted all the 6 accused. It passing strict strictures against then Home Minister of Gujarat, Mr Narendra Modi and the investigative agencies. It also released four convicts  , who in turn filed a case for compensation, which the SC refused, worrying about the precedent it might set on wrongful incarceration cases.

Bottom line — the real attackers who killed 37 people and injured 81 at Akshardham temple, have still not been caught.

Events after Akshardham

Rumors have been rife of course. Then Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry told Indian Express that Narendra Modi had prior information about the Akshardham Attack.  To quote: “Asked if he was suggesting that Modi had a role in the attacks, he said, “I suspect [it]. He must be knowing it.””

Daily Bhaskar reported ” the Akshardham Temple is located yards away from CM Narendra Modi’s residence and police failed to detect the people who had come to kill him?” In fact, Modi was scheduled to start the fourth leg of his 2002 Miyan Musharraf Gaurav Yatra  that very Saturday from Ambaji, and had to postpone it in view of those attacks.

Rumors are however just rumors.  They may have as little familial relation to fact as did BJP’s rumor mongering that the Akshardham attack was the work of Muslim terrorists.

That September though, Narendra Modi went to meet the head of the temple. He wanted to speak at the prayer meeting after the event. According to reports of the time, he was roundly rebuffed by the Pramukh Swami Narayan Swaroop Das.  The Sect quietly buried the dead, purified the temple and refused to make a political event out of the tragedy.

According to a one report of the time Modi  was told:   “Whatever has happened at Akshardham has happened. Whoever has done it, we don’t want to blame anyone. There is no need to drag any names into this now. And I think you should also stop referring to the ISI and `Miya Musharraf’ and make efforts to maintain peace.”

Modi’s road show resumed on October 5 2002, and he has since made it a point to conduct a Gaurav Yatra before every election . 

In April last year Brahmaviharidas, a witness to the blasts and its aftermath, wrote a book called Swaminarayan Hinduism published by Oxford University India . He confirms the story in his book and speaks to the Pramukh’s determined opposition to politicizing the event. In the excerpt carried in Scroll he wrote:

“In the prayer assembly on 29 September on the open lawns of Akshardham, which was attended by religious, political, social, and community leaders along with over 25,000 people, there were no speeches or slogans – only bhajans and prayers. Only religious leaders were on the platform. No aggression. No protest. No communal bitterness.”

November 2nd brings politics to the temple doors. The Sect has openly thrown its robes in with Modi. No one yet knows why.  But Thursday’s speech may well be the event that will be remembered as the day that marked the Congress loss at Gujarat.

With inputs from Sanjana Reddy/Hyderabad

Eom.

Picture credit: Screen Grab from Quint broadcast on Facebook, November 2, 2017

Eating The Pen

There are policemen, who in the line of duty, end up at a point where they can no longer handle the conflict between their conscience and their job. Torn between choices they shouldn’t have to make, they sometimes eat their gun.

The department has no place for such men, yet recognizes their value. So they get a parade and a 21 gun salute.  It’s easier to honor them in death than in life.

But what does a journalist or writer do when faced with a similar unconscionable choice? He eats his pen.

But in the eating of a pen, there is no blood, no bang, no dead body. No one parades silence. No one salutes it. What is a small silo of silence in a world of cacophony?

Yet, they are both first responders. The cop and the journo.

Not all the dead bodies they see are transmitted via satellite to LCD screens on designer TV stands, with a side dish of potato chips. Yet, those bodies have names, stories, maybe even a street number. If nothing else, a notation in a field diary that no decent cop or journo will ever throw away. The detritus of someone else’s life, becomes part of their’s.

Their stench is real. It creeps in through the nostrils to some place in the cerebral cortex, and it never goes away. It resurfaces at odd times, even years later. From a gutter. From rotten food. From a badly cleaned toilet, a butcher shop. A reminder of someone who was once a man, woman or child.

The odd angle of a fallen corpse is forever imprinted on the iris. Clothes askew, the body in undignified surrender. Why do the violent dead always fall that way?

The blood they step into isn’t filtered through CMYK colors. It sticks to their shoes and their souls and must be washed by hand in their own bathrooms, back home.

 

Dunk-ed & Irk-ed !

Dunkirk 1940

Imagine you’re invited to see a movie about a man who was murdered.

“It’s a murder mystery,” you tell yourself and walk in. But you never see or hear about this man. The camera always pans away from the corpse, and instead of focusing on the body, it keeps filming around him.

What you see is that some people liked this man, some didn’t. Kinda. Some apparently tried to save him, some didn’t care. Close relatives lived to fight another day, but none of the living are particularly passionate about anything. The movie ends and everyone gets up to leave.

“Huh”, you say to yourself. “What was that about?” And, “What the hell, who died?  What’s the mystery? And who’s the bloody murderer?

Someone shushes you and says, “but the man’s not important at all. Don’t you know? It’s a slice of life thing! It’s so deep, I’m getting a headache.

That’s Dunkirk for you. Yes that Dunkirk of Christopher Nolan fame.

So far, the only thing I can agree on, is the headache.

Briefly, my problem with ‘Dunkirk’, Nolan’s Historical fiction that’s busting all charts is — It’s not history, it’s not storytelling and it’s not Dunkirk.

For the purposes of brevity, I should end here.

But a reviewer who insists on presenting a  contrapunto to popular opinion, also has the tiresome job of showing why other reviewers are wrong.

The Organizing Purpose of a Story

Why is it not history? For one, history requires historical depth and context. Making a historical movie without historical depth, is exactly like making a biographical movie without any personal depth or context.

What does a historical movie without history mean? What is it trying to say?

Pretty much anything you want it to say. Then again, nothing at all – which is the same thing.

Every rave review of ‘Dunkirk’ – indeed of all such ‘postmodern’ cinema – tends to find “his own meaning” in the movie. Or tries to “search” for the film maker’s meaning.

Why?

Whatever the means by which anyone wants to tell a tale, a clear story must be told, not searched, fathomed, gleaned or investigated. That is the purpose of storytelling.

One may like or dislike a story, even love or hate it, but to be uncertain on what the story is after a few billion dollars spent, several months of making, thousands of cast, and 106 minutes of watching and listening – that is perfidy.

Dunkirk apologists have suggested readers “brush up” on their history before going to the movie. Or “make space” for Nolan’s unique style of story-telling that twists and compresses time.

I’ve been a Christopher Nolan fan. I think the first two movies of the Batman trilogy are absolutely gee-whiz awesome. Dark Knight will forever remain among my Top 10 movies. Inception is not my favorite, but I admire the craft in that movie immensely. I also nurse more than a passing interest in WWII, so I’m not exactly walking into the theater with a ball of wool for brains.

Yet in spite of this shared history that I am required to have with the film and film-maker, the movie fails to lift.  Because Nolan fails to provide me with a sense of history.

The much touted and spoken of IMAX doesn’t begin to depict the scale of 400,000 men, 900 boats and ships of various sizes in the sea, over 50,000 dead, loss of 200 allied ships and over 4000 sorties. There are innumerable WWII stories that pick a single slice of life that are not necessarily about scale.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas shows the viewer almost nothing about the war, but WWII is it’s central organizing purpose.

The Imitation Game has not a single war scene, yet it qualifies better in the annals of WWII historical fiction because breaking the ENIGMA code is the central organizing purpose of the men in that story. I can name a score and more of such  movies and ‘Dunkirk’ wouldn’t count among them.

In contrast — this movie contributes nothing to a common understanding of WWII in terms of historical depth or scale.  Or even a single man’s depth of feeling in times of war.

Everything Matters Or Nothing Does

Why Dunkirk 1940? If this was, ultimately, also a mystery movie, why locate it in Dunkirk 1940?

And having located it there, why not reveal anything about it? Why was the evacuation required? What was the blitzkrieg? Who created the need for the evacuation? How did it come to pass that suddenly 400,000 men were stranded on a small beach? Where did these men come from?

We get nothing about this context. Nada. Exactly zero.

How are we to judge the stories of men on the beach that day, leave alone a movie, if we are to know nothing about their purpose and circumstance?

Really, how? The only clue that Nolan provides is Hans Zimmer’s cue music in the background.

“Hang on”, you might say. “Isn’t there a story?” Reviewers are taking of the whole, “land, sea and air” POVs (point of views) and protagonists who represent those point of views.

The simple answer — no.

What was the Central Conflict?

In the little context the movie provides, it posits the British against the French in ridiculous shorthand.

In one scene inside a small, beached Dutch trawler, a French soldier is heckled by British soldiers as a “Frog.” In yet another scene, British servicemen get priority evacuation over the French, who are dissed for abandoning their front lines to the Germans too easily.

For those even slightly familiar with WWII history, this miserly reference is ridiculously out of context.

The German blitz, their panzer divisions tearing through France is an astounding story. Movies in the 40s did a better job of getting that right. Anglo-French relations during the time and later, off Algiers, are far too complex for this strange two scene treatment. The roles of Churchill on the British end and Marshal Philippe Petain on the French end, are not to be so flippantly dismissed. For better and worse.

But Nolan not only snatches events completely out of context, he is deliberately selective in excluding some things.

One can’t hear British soldiers being called “Tommy” so the word “frog” sticks. More importantly, and this has been pointed out before, no German insignia, name or solider is ever shown.

The one time the WWII pejorative for a German soldier is used – Kraut, Jerry or Hun – it is visibly bleeped out.

Why So Selective Mr Nolan?

In fact, the attempt to create artificial conflict between the British and the French (because all other conflict was ditched), is astonishingly lazy story telling. A little over 100,000 French soldiers were eventually rescued from Dunkirk. But from the movie you’d think that all “the frogs” had been ditched or abandoned.

If the intent was to pitch the Anglo-French conflict, why not locate it during the Attack on Mers-el-Kebir off the coast of French Algeria, when the British actually bombarded the French Navy a month later on July 3, 1940 ?

But it seems the film-maker didn’t have the gumption to do that either. It is one of the sorest and lowest points between the allies in WWII history. It is also known as Churchill’s darkest hour.  It would have been a tough story to tell in tough times.

So what was it? Did Nolan the filmmaker give way to Nolan the film -peddler? He could easily have located his mystery off Algiers. But how would he have then sold the story of civilians “rescuing” men in uniforms. Narrated faux history and faux heroism in a day and age that understands nothing genuine.

Simple Eyesores

That said, there is a pact between film-makers and film-viewers that we try and see the film as best we can, from the maker’s point of view. This pact has been stretched to the limit in recent years, but one must try, the above objections notwithstanding.

Without arguing the trivia goofs in a movie that insists on details, a few objections remain.

  1. There were over 300,000 men on that beach. Despite the liberal use of cardboard cutouts, it was disappointing to just not get that sense of scale.
  2. Nolan failed to recruit me in the conspiracy of silence he wished to create despite my understanding his POV shifts. The background score seemed like a lift from Harmonica;s theme out of Once Upon a Time in the West and I just couldn’t get that screeching out of my mind.
  3. If this was supposed to be Dunkirk, with 400,000 on one beach, 100s of boats on the other, and Stukas in the air — I just wasn’t hearing the kind of noise I needed to hear.  The noise was all wrong.
  4. It was the middle of a war zone. That beach should have been pockmarked with shelling. Not pristine and touristy as it was. If a beach lay about is what children are led to believe war is about – then god help us all.

One is required to indulge in a level of suspension of disbelief when watching a movie.  Yet one is never required to suspend intelligence.  If Nolan’s Dunkirk ever got shown in schools as a “history lesson,” the assault on history education is difficult to imagine.

In a world of post-thisism and post-thatism I refuse to assign another “post” to this new form of context-stripped, non-story telling.

Dunkirk, is a modern interpretation of an ancient tale by a historically and temporally-challenged film maker, in the way Little Mermaid is a Walt Disney fantasy. It has no relation to reality and one shouldn’t expect more from it.

Style as Liberal Porn

So far, the objections to Dunkirk have been mostly around the content and manner of storytelling. As a reviewer, I must say something about Mr Nolan’s style in this movie, such as it is.

Here’s my advice to Christopher Nolan’s friends and well wishers – before he ever again tries his hand at another war film, please dispatch him to a war zone.

One with real dead bodies of men who died in real battle. With real blood.

Anyone who’s seen men fall dead with gunshot wounds on a road, leave alone a sandy beach: they know dead bodies don’t fall elegantly, clothes neatly in place, hands and legs at natural angles. Ready to get up and run for their next shot.

At the very least, watch Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers on how to shoot a beach-head war movie. Maybe Private Ryan.

Something happens to a man when the life-force goes out of him. The body falls at odd angles you would not imagine possible in life. Clothes betray his dignity as a bullet pierces his body. They bunch and rise and displace themselves oddly, so that the living may look down upon him in pity and automatically move to cover him.

Death has its own stench. It mixes with the blood and the soil on which it falls. Having smelt it once, you can never forget it. Having seen it once, you never lose that imprint from your mind.

But Nolan has never seen it. That much is plain as day. His film is a blaring announcement of his complete and utter innocence on the subject matter of his project. He has not the capacity to imagine death, leave alone offer the imagination to his viewers. Rehashed aerial stock photos from war archives will not do.

In a film about war and death, it is not necessary to glorify death. For there are some wars that no one wins. But it is supremely important to understand death.

Nolan’s stylized death is an affront to life. And to those who put it on the line for one reason or another.

Yet, that stylized telling around the tale, instead the telling of the tale, is exactly what this movie is being praised for. I find the antiseptic cleanliness of Nolan’s war as detestable as the casual gore of Quentin Tarantino. Both show equal disrespect to life.

If a film-maker is afraid of showing what a bullet wound looks like, he should stick to making kiddy movies. But if he chooses to make a war movie, he darn well make it believable. War is not a safe space. An artist, at the very least a filmmaker, should have the decency to recognize that.

The Word betrays 

There is little exposition in the movie, so what little dialogue is there, is much spoken about. The reference to “home” and the reference to Churchill’s speech how “evacuation is not victory and yet…” These are both true and valid.

But the dialogue that no one’s talked of so far and the one that struck me most, was in the little beached trawler that comes to France as part of the rescue effort.

As Tommy stops his mate from killing a Frenchman to save his own life, the mate says bitterly: “Survival is not fair. its fate and greed and fear, pushed through the bowels of a man.”

It’s the second longest exposition in the movie, probably the longest original dialogue in the film. And it captures the spirit of this century perfectly.

Yet, most men that week, Dunkirk May-June of 1940– both in uniform and out of it – may not easily recognize that quality of survival. Many were scared. Almost all were changed. But greed as we know it today was not a word they would have recognized in that context. They might have been better men than us.

And hopefully, better men and women than us will come again. But it won’t be because this kind of mean-spirited and cowardly art is what we offered them.

SR

Note

If you crave a better understanding of Dunkirk, please see some of the following videos

Dunkirk – May 1940 in a Nutshell

Facts about the Evacuation of Dunkirk

Battle of Dunkirk

The Other Side of Dunkirk

 

 

An Open Letter to Sanjay Dixit

In the three years of this regime — and one uses the word deliberately — never has so much venom been spilt in bits and bytes.

Mr Sanjay Dixit responds to the Open Letter by former Bureaucrats, with a flurry of personal attacks. Or what he thinks are personal attacks. Little realizing that he condemns himself more in the process than those he wishes to slander.

He calls them the Award Wapsi crowd; berates them for losing their shirts over two lynchings (yes you read that right) ; launches into much what-aboutery with regards to the emergency, 1984 and other instances; then delivers his final insult by calling them the “intellectual elite.”

One has often wondered what people who hate the Intellectual Elite, would prefer to be guided by — The “Unintellectual Common?”

If yes – – then the BJP, the Saffron Brotherhood and India has got it’s wish. It IS being guided by the Unintellectual Common today. A tea seller, a soap opera star, a maker of horror movies – – these are the kinds of men and women in power. Frankly, with rare exceptions, for the last few decades these are the kinds of people who have always been in power.

The only difference between previous dispensations and this regime is that political power did not seek Intellectual approval. That the Sangh seeks intellectual approval should have been a good thing. Except that in the absence of such approval, it’s response is to snuff out intellectual dissent.

Which brings us to the only real gripe of Mr Dixit, worth addressing. The dominance of The Left in the humanities discourse in India.

He is right on that count. The Left has largely dominated Indian Academia – it is an undeniable fact. But what Mr Dixit counter-offers is not great scholarship from the Non-Left.

His own expressive flair suggests he is quite capable of being a scholar himself. He is alarmingly articulate and despite his apparent derision for the Intellectual Elite, one wonders where he situates himself.

He is described in  Swarajya Marg  as IAS 1986 batch in the rank of Principal Secretary to Govt of Rajasthan. Posted as Commissioner of Enquiries. He tweets  @Sanjay_Dixit

With 19 articles to his credit in that magazine alone, it seems Mr Dixit himself must be cast in the role of the elite he despises.

Yet, his counter to Marx is not Thomas Paine, Aristotle or even Jefferson and Voltaire. His counter to Marx is Modi.

The irony, is, both are “dictatorships of the proletariat.”

Just, different proletariats.

In the long term, both are just power grabbing structures and  “Dictatorships of the Power Elite.”

Given his current status in the Power Elite and his obvious intellectual capacity, surely Mr Dixit is aware of the inherent contradictions of his position.

What his ire and anger seem to suggest though, is the coming of a great purge. Not so different from great purges of the former Soviet Union.

He would love to close down all allegedly Leftist universities, shut down all Leftist scholars and speakers and get rid of all newspapermen he thinks are Islamist or left leaning. Siddharth Vardarajan and The Wire come in for a special mention.

Well, not on our watch sir, not on our watch.

To Tum Naye Bharat Ho? 

In Hindi @

To tum naye bharat ho?
Bhakton ke masiha,
Bazaareeon ki chahat ho?

Na maryada na sharm,
Na itihas ka ehsaas
Tughlaq ke bande,
Theek to hai hosh-o-hawas?

Chappan ka seena
Aur chappan ki akl
Suiton ki dukaan,
Par wahi purani shakl?

Mukhota to badl,
Na badla ‘gar insaan
Kuch nayi ada to bata,
Kuch aur kar pareshaan

Seene mein dil to hamara bhi hai
Chappan na sahi
Ek behosh junoon hamara bhi hai
Be-pak hi sahi

Khud chal ke na jayenge
Kabristan hum
Khench ke le jana hoga
Is murde ko hum-sitam

Ghar, bastiyon, insanon
Ko jalane walon
Ye soch ke to dekho
Murdaghaton par watan nahin

Vidhur, vidhvaen bana karte hain.

–Sarita Rani

 

Dedicated to:

— Drought stricken farmers
— Laborers, white & blue collar workers, losing their jobs every day

— Chattisgarh women being raped and molested every day
— Soldiers dying in internal battlefields, reviled as oppressors not heroes

— Muslims being singled out on the basis of their religion; women and others, on the basis of their sexuality, color, caste or creed

Picture credits

Narendra Modi Official/Flickr

IndiaSpend Team/Flickr

Quote source Indian Express

तो तुम नए भारत हो ?

In English

तो तुम नए भारत हो ?
भक्तों के मसीहा ,
बाजारियों की चाहत हो ?

ना मर्यादा ना शर्म,
नी इतिहास का एहसास ।
तुग़लक़ के बन्दे,
ठीक तो है, होश-ओ-हवास ?

छप्पन का सीना,
और छप्पन की अक्ल,
सूटों की दुकान
पर वही पुरानी शक्ल ?

मुखौटा तो बदल
न बदला गर इंसान,
कुछ नयी अदा तो बता,
कुछ और कर परेशान ।

सीने में दिल तो हमारा भी है
छप्पन न सही,
इक बेहोश जुनून हमारा भी है
बे-पाक ही सही ।

खु़द चल के न जायेंगे
कब्रिस्तान हम,
खेंच के ले जाना होगा
इस मुर्दे को हम-सितम ।

घर, बस्तियों, इंसानों को जलाने वाले
ये सोच के तो देख,
मुर्दाघाटों पर वतन नहीं

विधवाएं बना करती हैं  ।।

सरिता हैदर-आबादी

Dedicated to:

— Drought stricken farmers
— Laborers, white & blue collar workers, losing their jobs every day

— Chattisgarh women being raped and molested every day
— Soldiers dying in internal battlefields, reviled as oppressors not heroes

— Muslims being singled out on the basis of their religion; women and others, on the basis of their sexuality, color, caste or creed

 

Picture credits

Narendra Modi Official/Flickr

IndiaSpend Team/Flickr

Quote source Indian Express

Knock-Knock, No One There

FOR THOSE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS, HERE’S A WARNING – IT WILL LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THE U.P. ASSEMBLY AND DELHI MCD POLLS. THE BJP WILL SWEEP IT.

One heard the argument first in the preparation to U.P. elections after demonetization. It sounded something like this: “The BJP has to lose. They’ve ruined the economy. People have been standing in lines. They will vote them out.  Thousands of jobs have been lost. There will be payback — you just wait and see. ”

What people wrapped in their own bubbles refused to see was in the pictures they themselves were sharing every day — people were standing in lines.

Instead of rioting or breaking down bank and party offices, people dutifully stood in lines month after month, hoping… begging to be handed out their own money.

No opposition politician or intellectual drove by in his car, either of the left, center or right, throwing out wads of cash from his car window. No one came to fight with bank staff to make sure every one got their due and cash wasn’t siphoned off to VIPs. No Rahul Gandhi or Kejriwal barged into the Prime Minister’s or went on a hunger strike to ask Why?

But many believed the great democratic process would have its revenge and the BJP would be thrown out of power in U.P.  But it wasn’t, was it? It even came to power in Goa and Manipur.

Political pundits who had to eat their words came up with  schadenfreude — or the pleasure comparatively poor people might have got, in seeing comparatively rich people suffer.  Gautam Benegal in the august tradition of all lazy liberals gave his yatha praja, tatha raja verdict. Senior journalists who should have known better, swallowed his lazy translation of Alexis de Tocqueville quote: “people get the government we deserve,” as an original and profound thought.

And then Delhi MCD happened. Some explanations will appear, no doubt. Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India already has one, of sorts.  Yadav may well call for opposition unity. Benegal might well find more fellow travelers.

The BJP will still win the 2019 electoral results. Here’s why.
 

1. They have the men, they have the might, they have the money too

More, they have the mood on their side. And sheer brilliance.

Performance, facts, data — these have ceased to matter. Those who think the Sangh is stupid and call this “the Jumla Sarkar,” have got the most important communication principle wrong.

I’m told Stanford has repackaged it as moral psychology. But when people of my generation were educating ourselves, in Aristotlean times, “Jumla” used to be called Rhetoric.

The Sangh is a master of rhetoric.

It knows how to create the exact rhetoric, at different levels of information consumers.

That’s why it seems to contradict itself. But it really isn’t. It’s merely a communication strategy. They always have the message right on point for whoever they want to connect with. Sometimes this message spills over to other consumers and creates confusion.

The MNC consumers get the swadeshi message, and the “integral humanism” consumers get the “rape dead Muslim women,” message.

But the Sangh is aware of the spillover and has a management strategy in place. It uses key spokesmen, at key points, to manage the costs. Sambit Patra and Shaina NC for daily briefings. Kanchan Gupta or more involved conversations. Makarand Paranjpe for academia, Swarajyamag for intellectuals.

The riff-raff are too many to count. Zee News , whose strategy is evolving brilliantly on a daily basis; Rajat Sharma, ; newspapers they’re buying or bullying by the dozens in all languages; Shiv Sena and it’s communication factory and so on. .

Yet, when the costs become too high — as with Smriti Irani — the Sangh doesn’t hesitate to ruthlessly cut the cord.

They are playing the long con. It is not stupidity. It is brilliance.

2. The Opposition has none of it

No opposition party has the men, the might, the money, the mood or even a tenth of the brilliance the Sangh has.

At the time of our greatest peril, there is a tendency to be most nostalgic. But nostalgia can sometimes be a friend. Sometimes, it can be an enemy of the future.

This time, Nostalgia is the enemy. 

Nehru is dead. So is Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. They are the past. The Congress party itself was born in the throes of the Freedom Struggle. It is over a 100 years old.

This struggle needs a newer, more youthful leadership. People with fire in their belly, hungry and angry. People who refuse to compromise.

The Congress isn’t that party anymore. It hasn’t been that party for a few decades. There is not a single Congress worker who will march unless he’s paid to. There is no compromise that the Congress won’t make. There is no party that a Congressman will not defect to.

The Congress is the party that made BJP possible; that makes BJP possible every single election. I have friends who are die-hard Congress fans. But if ever there was a time for bitter truths, this is it. Surely, some things matter more than loyalty to a party?

The Congress is dead in the water. Let’s write its obituary and get on with it.

3. The non-Congress Opposition. Well, what about them?

AAP? It lost Delhi Municipal. Kejriwal threatened a “movement” if he lost. And made his first major compromise with a ‘graceful defeat.’ It will be first of many major compromises he will make.

Second Rule of Fight Club — Don’t make threats you don’t follow up on.

Then there’s the little matter of AAP’s non existence in most of India.

Local opposition parties? Either they’re lining up to tie-up with the BJP; or they’re all fighting with each other. U.P. and Bengal are eminent examples. Delhi is too, by the way. Read the non-EVM reason that Yogendra Yadav gave for Kejriwal’s loss.

If you’re looking for a viable, existing, political opposition to the BJP in 2019; Knock Knock — there’s no one there.

4. EVMs – How many parties does it take to vote for the BJP?

Doesn’t matter, they all lead to the BJP button anyway. Yep. There are EVM jokes now. It’s a thing.

I love technology, always have, always will. I normally believe that the solution to the ills of technology is more technology. But on this, I am that loony – the one who believes that some things that are best analog or brick and mortar.

MONEY and VOTES are two of those things, I firmly believe, should stay physical. There is evidence and more that EVMs are giving out false votes. Yet, we are always given an explanation we believe, because we want to. 

We buy silly arguments like “only some are”; But they came “from U.P. and didn’t get enough time to rest (purge, puke?)”; But “they were not provided by the EC!”

The worst yesterday: “Tamper-able doesn’t mean they were tampered with!!!”

The meme forgets to mention that they were apparently designed so that one cannot prove they were tampered with. (n alleged security feature so stupid, it beggars belief.

But we are ready to buy any argument that doesn’t force us to make hard choices.

POSTSCRIPT

So what are the hard choices?

The first hard choice is to let go of the imagination of hope.

To let go, is not to despair, but to stop pretending.

Reality begins where pretensions stop.

And it is only when we face reality, that we can begin to imagine action at all.

The Sangh is here to stay. It is not going away in 2019. Its followers will be raiding our homes, our shops, our kids, wives and daughters. It is killing people on the roads, in broad daylight. No party or leader has stopped them. No one will stop them in the future.

No one’s coming to help us. It is going to get worse, not better.

Now what are you prepared to do to save yourselves?

EOM.

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Image Credits The Daily English Show

Killing Us Softly With Our Hands

Osmania University to Start its Centenary Celebrations in Hyderabad with mass fingerprinting of students, as Preemptive Crime Measure. Will the High Court act in a timely fashion?

Post-war Polish writer Stanislaw Jerzy said: “Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art.”

If so, Osmania University that turns 100 this year, is a work of dystopian and holocaust art. It belongs in the museums of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, where hand-prints of condemned Jews mark the stone walls of Gas Showers.

Only this time, the condemned are not men. But an idea. More powerful than all the men and women combined, because it makes living possible. The prints are not marked on walls but in digital readouts. This time, it is possibly scarier because the passing of the idea may leave nothing behind but empty space.

For the first time in India, on Wednesday April 26th, the University, with the active cooperation of local police authorities and the state government, plans to use mass fingerprinting of students as a measure of preemptive policingan idea so bizarre that one must shudder at the mere thought of it. It up-ends the fundamental concept of justice that says, “innocent until proven guilty” and says instead: “guilty until proven innocent.”

Yet, according to a report by The Hindu  on April 19th,  (read here), this move to link student fingerprints with their Aadhar cards came as a consequence of reports that student activists might protest against some state government policies. Or lack thereof.

At least one of those policies included Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s promise to provide jobs to university students.

First he  Promised 50 lakh jobs , then he pared that down to One Lakh Jobs . And now it’s down to 50,000 jobs , hopefully by next year.

Unsurprisingly, he’s unpopular.

Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t entered university grounds in the last three years due to fear of protests.

The very grounds from where he started the Telangana agitation, that great peoples’ movement that led to the separate state, that  led to his becoming the chief minister, that led to the promises, that led to the loss of face, that led to the ….

IN BED WITH THE WRONG GUYS

According to Legislative Assembly members, the now unpopular KCR has lately been reaching out to his friends on the right – the BJP. His two key allies are believed to be BJP leaders Bandaru Dattrareya (he of the HCU fame) and Indrasena Reddy.

These three had rousted university students as “outside politicians” during the Telangana agitations in 2011. (Read Osmania University Under Police Seige )

All three at that time had used the University to launch their Telangana careers. All three are now using the university to squelch all further political activity.  The BJP now wants to further the Aadhar agenda and KCR wants to stay in power, with the BJP’s help if necessary.

THE COMPROMISE

On the very day that the first Hindu report was filed, a quick compromise was apparently reached between what were described as “leaders of O.U. student groups” and the TRS. The intent was specifically to avoid media attention. It succeeded.

Read:  Unemployed Group Leader Agrees Not to Create Trouble

Manavata Roy, head of the Telangana unemployed JAC is quoted as saying, “We don’t want a negative image to be portrayed in the national media and we will not take up any protests during the three-day celebrations,” starting on April 26.

Why this man,  who is constantly in the news for criticizing KCR over the jobs issue, caved, is not clear.

A number of other things are also extremely unclear.

  • What happens to students who don’t have an Aadhar Card? Do they get banned from attending the centenary celebrations of their own university?
  • What happens if their fingerprints don’t match?
  • What happens if students refuse to be fingerprinted?
  • Will the police forcibly collect rest of their data — like name and address? Do they go on a watch-list of troublemakers? 
  • If this is about law and order issues – why are only students being singled out? Is student political activity now a banned activity?
  • All of today’s VIP politicians are yesterday’s student activists. Is the gate closing on new politicians?

Not only are these grave questions, these are from on all accounts, hidden questions. Most real students were apparently unaware of them till recently. Still are.

An O.U. Student found out late Sunday that he was being barred entry to his own University celebrations unless he was willing to be fingerprinted.

He has filed a writ in the High Court today, which will only be heard Wednesday, if he’s lucky.

One can only hope that the Court, in its wisdom, will give specific orders and not a post-facto homily or a further date. The future of  policing, independence and politics in India, may well rest in his hands.

EOM.

Feature Picture Credit : Imgur

Shortlink Killing Us Softly With Our Hands

The Moral (& Legal ) Case for Private Self Defense

It is the first duty of man to help himself. The right of self-defense must be fostered in the citizens of every free country. The right is recognized in every system of law and its extent varies in inverse ratio to the capacity of the state to protect life and property of the citizens.

With the government now backing vigilante Anti-Romeo squads in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, citizens are left with no choice but to take care of their own security. The Indian legal system also recognizes its citizens’ legal right to protect themselves.

One of the peculiarities of the anti-Romeo squads is the seeming lack of a G.O. to back it. Which government policy has allowed these squads, private and official to flourish? Where is the memo? What is the G.O. number? Who has this authority and how has it been designated? Which piece of official paper proves it?

It is very likely that no piece of paper exists to prove it. That this is how the wink and nod bureaucracy works. There is paper to prove, however, that your rights exist. Use them.

First off, the disclaimer.

This writer is not a lawyer. This is not legal advice, but an introduction to the principles of political philosophy, law and the relevant bare acts of the Indian Penal Code (IPC 1860) that define the principle of  Private Defense

The most important thing to know first, is that Private Defense laws exist. 

It is a national shame that we don’t know our own laws. It is a national shame that we don’t have activist lawyers who will educate us, stand up for us and tell us our rights. 

It’s a national shame that The Honorable Opposition won’t fight for our rights.

It doesn’t matter which opposition it is. Whether it is the Congress under the BJP or the BJP under the Congress or the TDP or the TMC.

In an elected democratic system, the right to self-defense is typically handed over to The State as duty to protect.

Even in a functioning democracy, it is not always possible for the police to be everywhere, all the time. So citizens help the state by retaining the right to self defense with themselves in a limited capacity. Even the British Raj understood this and kept provisions of law under IPC Sections 99 to 106 for the Right To Self Defense.

But imagine a non-functional state. Or worse, or dystopian state that actively connives with thugs to attack you and your property. 

Imagine a democratic system in which The Opposition is silent, and men in uniform just stand by and video record vigilante groups beating up citizens on the road, merely for the crime of walking together.

In such a society it is clear that :

(a) The Opposition is no longer a party. The only Opposition is The People.

(b) The State has tacitly declared that it has given up its duty to protect. The formal pronouncements of some policemen being suspended are just that — a formality.

In such a scenario, self defense not only becomes the only road to take, it become an immutable moral principle. Each of us not only has a right, but a moral responsibility to take care of ourselves. And the ones we love. 

This is not a new principle or a new discovery. It is age old.

In the law books that our courts once upheld and still might, there is a legal right to private defense.

In plain English, these are the rules:

If no policemen are nearby, you have a right to physically defend yourself with any means necessary. If you perceive any physical  threat to yourself, your loved ones or your property (not just the threat of death)– but grievous bodily harm, rape, and assault of any kind – you can protect yourself.

The only caveats are:

  1. The person is not a government official acting in his capacity as a government official. This requires that he show his identity. And subsequently show the Government order (G.O.) under which he is acting.
  2. That the person is not deputed by a government official and has written orders by relevant government official.
  3. You have to prove that you did not inflict more harm than was necessary to protect yourself.

Here are the laws that delineate your right to private self defense. In states where vigilantism is becoming a major problem, take these and go talk to a lawyer:

IPC Section 96

Things Done in Private Defense

Nothing is an offence that is done in the exercise of the right of private defense

IPC Section 97

Right of Private Defense of the Body and of Property

Every person has a right, subject to section 99, to defend:

  • First – His own body, and the body of any other person, against any offense affecting the human body
  • Second – The property, whether movable or immovable, of himself or of any other person, which is an offence falling under the definition of theft, robbery, mischief, or criminal trespass; or which is an attempt to commit (the above)

IPC Section 99

Acts Against Which there is No Right of Private Defense

 

There is no right of private defense against an act which does not reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, if done, or attempted to be done, by a public servant acting in good faith under colour of his office, though that act, may not be strictly justifiable by law.

There is no right of private defense against an act which does not, reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, if done, or attempted to be done, by the direction of a public servant acting in good faith under colour of his office, though that direction may not be strictly justifiable by law

There is no right of private defense in cases in which there is time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities.

Extent to which the right may be exercised-

The right of private defense in no case extends to the inflicting. of more harm than it is necessary to inflict for the purpose of defense.

Explanation 1- A person is not deprived of the right of private defense against an act done, or attempted to be done, by a public servant, as such, unless he knows or has reason to believe, that the person doing the act is such public servant.

Explanation 2- A person is not deprived of the right of private defense against an act done, or attempted to be done, by the direction of a public servant, unless he knows, or has reason to believe, that the person doing the act is acting by such direction, or unless such person states the authority under which he acts, or if he has authority in writing, unless he produces such authority, if demanded.

IPC Section 102

Commencement and Continuance of the Right of Private Defense of the Body

The right of private defense of the body commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the body arises from an attempt or threat to commit the offence though the offence may not have been committed; and it continues as long as such apprehension of danger to the body continues


Good Luck. 

EOM

Sarita 

Representative Picture Credit Radka Hlisnikovska