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.

A Divine Right to Stupidity

Time and experience has forced me to consider the possibility that God might exist.

The level of human stupidity witnessed since the beginning of this millennium has to be by (intelligent) design. Nature just could not have come up with this accidentally.

Tarek Fateh  is that kind of stupid, at a divinely ordained level. Japanese Encephalitis and Fateh – they have to be God’s revenge against man. God seems to do this kind of thing once in a while. I have no idea why.

I don’t say he’s stupid because he disses Islam. Many people do that and some of them, I deeply respect. There are many who diss Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and religion in general. Some of those I deeply respect too. I even admire them and as an atheist, am happy to join in the chorus once in a while.

Tarek Fateh is a special kind of stupid though. He elevates a personal tirade to an ideological one and lays claim to virtues he possesses neither personally nor ideologically.

He’s a man who gets around. A Pakistan born Canadian writer he was recently in India dissing, what else — everything including Indian Muslims.

Guess who he loves though? Sri Sri  and his Clout of Living.

Sri Sri is a corporate spiritual guru with seemingly unlimited wealth, deep political connections with the Hindu Right, and a knack of always burying all controversies.

They are constantly lauding each other on twitter.



Apparently Yoga and Politics Do Mix

Really? Practitioners of Yoga make better politicians?

Like a whole bunch of new age militant atheists, guess what Fateh continuously and consistently ignores? The militarization of other faiths. Right wing Hinduism right here in India and Buddhist violence against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

To many like Fateh, Islam IS the only faith. Which is an irony itself.

Now you see what I mean by the Divine Right to Stupidity? He obviously gets it from his intimate relationship with Islam.

I do believe in everyone’s Fundamental Right to Stupidity though. It is a natural corollary to the Fundamental Right to Life.

In his latest escapade, Fateh was in India recently suggesting that India is better off as  federation of smaller countries.

It’s actually an old idea. It’s not even an alien idea. Tamilians and others in the South have thought so for a long time. The North East of India has fought for decades for their own identity. And well, everyone knows Kashmir’s problems with India.

There was nothing “Islamic” or anti-Islamic about Tarek Fateh’s suggestion on a divided India. And nothing new.

So it took even more Divine Stupidity than Fateh’s for someone to assume that his statement had anything to do with religion. And then even more DS to pass a fatwa for murder on Fateh for trying to divide India on religious grounds. (Read 10 Lakh Reward for beheading Tarek Fateh)

There is just so much divinity going around, I’m positively swimming in it.

Thing is, Fateh and Faisan-e-Madina are both provocateurs of the same kind. They are sharks who swim in troubled waters, in troubled times, to see how much they can eat for the day.

Fateh is a professional trouble maker. FeM is a professional bait catcher. They dance to each other’s tunes and play a public symphony of hate, that has little to do with the issues.

The issues, though, are real: Federal India;  Hate; A deeply disrupted and divided polity; religious Violence. Distractions like Tarek Fateh and JeM need to be put in their rightful place – the dustbin.

However, since we seem to have acknowledged some sort of divine rights, let us arrogate to ourselves another divine right — The Divine Right to Ignore Them. (DRIT)

In a world full of noise, it seems we will be needing as much Drit as Grit.


Labels and Lost Worlds

And there it is. Death by Government. (Army Whistle Blower Jawan Found Dead)

But there is no outrage. No media. No protest marches. Just a forgotten headline. Because there is no political gain to be found here.

Unless he gets a caste, a religion or a class, no one will care.

It is a tragic irony of our times that Rohit Vemula died wanting to be something more than his caste. More than a label.

Yet, in a replay of Aaj Ka Arjun, his death has been hijacked for the very label he sought to overcome.

That’s is all we recognize now — labels.

An individual human being’s life — that has no label, no meaning.

He used to walk a dog. He was at the scene of a sting. He was a whistle blower.

We don’t understand such men. So we don’t care about them.

Which category do such people fall into?

Which box do we tick, so we can start feeling sympathy or empathy for him?

He was a soldier. So does he fall into the nationalistic bloc? Er no — because he was a whistle blower.

He was killed by the government and a poor man, so does he fall into the Azaadi block? Er no…….he was a soldier after all. Who know what atrocities he committed?

A nation that must tick a label to start thinking of a human being, as a human being? There are labels for such countries.

Lost Worlds.


The Flag. Again. It’s a Matter of Principle — But Which One?

Okay, so here’s the thing with the flag-as-bath-rug issue. It’s not. Here’s why.

Personally, I wouldn’t use the Indian flag as a bath rug. Not comfortable doing it.

I wouldn’t mind using the American flag or the Canadian flag. Or the British flag to wipe my dirty feet on. They’re just cool colours on a rug for me. See?

National Flag patterns are routinely sold as rugs, underwear, probably even on condoms and all sorts of sordid things, all over the world. Indian retailers do it too.

Some people can get emotional about it. I get it. We are all emotional these days about one thing or another. But do we really want to make an international incident over it?



Amazon sells flags of all countries as bath rugs. Amazon Canada  sells Candian flags as bath rugs. Amazon Global sells a whole bunch of flags, including American, British, Irish, Jamaican, Mexican and British flags as bath rugs. No one else seems to have a problem.

Apparently, Indians do. At least, the Indian government does. If the the government of the world’s largest democracy wished to exercise it’s sovereign power over an e-retailer, all it really needed to do was to have the Department of Commerce send an e-mail, asking Amazon India to stop selling said offensive product.

The thing absolutely NOT TO DO was, send a flashy twitter storm warning from the External Affairs ministry, claiming sovereign insult, which comes more in the form of an OR ELSE.

This was not an affair between two independent states, taking international postures. As far as the e-tailer was concerned, it was a simple ‘faulty product’ affair. It should have been handled as such.

Aesthetics is not the thing  

What does it mean for Indians though — this whole flag fracas? An earlier public showdown about the flag had social media running for this picture collage of Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. In it, he’s wiping his face with a tricolour. The head of the government, seemingly, PUBLICLY comfortable with the flag as a face- rug.

Mr Modi wiping his face
Mr Modi wiping his face

Now, it will need more than a tweet to make a case on how the tri-colour is okay as a face-rug, but not okay as a bath rug.

One understands the aesthetics of it of course. But policy needs more than aesthetics. It needs an underlying principle.

And the principle is far from clear.

For instance, if it is okay to wipe one’s face with the flag, as show in the picture, is it okay to wipe one’s nose with it too? Can we shove it into the ear and clear a little wax maybe? Wipe some goo out of the eyes? Our we clear, which orifices are allowed, for instance?

Or even if all of us are allowed to use the tricolour for minor cleansing? Is it that the tri-colour, like demonetised notes, are reserved for the political class? Is it that only Mr Modi and Congress Bigwigs might use it and the hoi polloi may not?

flag clothes
flag clothes

This is not to trivialise the issue. A lot of people get a little emotional about the flag. Even those who don’t share the BJP’s brand of uber patriotism, do care about such things. The flag matters at very many levels and so do these questions, however trivial they might seem.

People are getting mobbed and jailed for things like disrespecting the flag and not standing  up for the anthem. There is actual physical violence in jail time involved now.

The Flag Code

There is an argument to be made for Mr Modi’s use of the face rug. It doesn’t have the Ashoka Chakra and as such is not the flag. That’s the argument for the Congress flag too.

But hey, here’s the thing: without the Ashoka Chakra, it becomes a vertical Irish Flag. And if the Irish were as excitable as the Indians, they could object.

The Irish Flag
The Irish Flag

Read about it here

In fact, any reading of a history of flags shows why most countries have chosen to adopt three colours for their flags. Depending on their unique histories, every country also ascribes its own symbolism to each colour.

So the question is, how far are we willing to flex the jingoism muscle? The simple schoolyard bully answer is — as far as we can.

That was not the gravitas one expected though, from Ms Sushma Swaraj’s office. An External Affairs Ministry’s twitter war on a retailer — that is more the style of the Mahesh Sharmas of this government.

It is occasionally good to be reminded though, that it is about the party not the people. Of a governing philosophy not a person.  Ms Swaraj was merely following the dictates of her conscience. It merely looks statesman like, when seen in comparison.


Calling the Fringe. And All Men

There is an interesting discourse, or lack of it, that has emerged post the Bangalore mass-molestation incident and Abu Azmi’s comment.

Let me deal with the first one first.


1. This is about women and Feminism. It is not.

Here’s an idea folks. Exchange the words
  1. “molestation” for “attacks” &
  2. “women” for “men”

This  news item would then read:

Bengaluru moved into 2017 with horrific incidents of attacks marring its New Year’s eve celebrations. According to a Bangalore Mirror report, the city’s most bustling areas of MG Road and Brigade road saw thousands of hoodlums mobbing the revellers, attacking and abusing the men in the streets on Saturday night”
Even though 1,500 policemen were positioned in the area, unruly goons on bikes, cars and on foot, far outnumbered them. The policemen largely remained a spectator and intervened only intermittently as the hoodlums continued their chase.
Some men, according to the report, had to abandon their vehicles and belongings and run for help.
Significantly, police said there has been no official cases of attacks and beatings  were registered with them, despite several eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence.
The police admitted to helping out men in distress who reached out to them, but denied getting any calls complaining of attacks.
But some of the police personnel on duty narrated stories of chasing away hoodlums trying to take advantage of revellers.
The traffic plans for the day also did not work either. According to The New Indian Express, city traffic police booked around 400 cases of drunk driving, even as there were complaints that traffic cops were lenient with motorists, many of them under the influence of alcohol, rode bikes recklessly.

Mr Abu Azmi’s remarks  here  could then read:
Samajwadi Party Mumbai unit chief Abu Azmi courted controversy on Tuesday as he suggested that the reason behind the mass attacks on men in Bengaluru during new year’s eve celebrations was because of them ‘straying away’ from Indian culture.
“In these modern times, the more men party, the more fashionable, modern and educated they are considered. And this is increasing in the country. This is a blot on our culture,” NDTV quoted him as saying.
Speaking to news agency ANI later, Azmi said, “In this modern age, the more a man roams the streets at night with his friends, the more modern he is considered. If my brother or son is roaming around on December 31 with random friends after midnight, I don’t think that’s right.”
Further admitting that he was expecting to receive flak for the comments he said, “If there’s petrol near fire, it will burn. If there is sugar, ants will come. A lot of people will be angry with me for saying this, but that’s alright because this is the truth.”

Both news items are taken from The Indian Express, a newspaper known for some integrity in straight forward reporting.
They have been simply edited for the two words mentioned above. Men for women. Attacks for Molestation. And in one case, contextual change for  “Party” for nudity. And “roaming around at night” for stuff…


So this isn’t about women.
It isn’t even just about *sexual molestation*.
Molestation is wrong. Period. (Pun not intended).
It is about the ability of any man or woman to walk down the street without a gun in your hand.

If  the report had merely said :

Thousands of hoodlums attack New Year’s Eve revellers in  Bangalore

— now that  would have been news.

Oh Brother, would that have been news. 

This isn’t feminist news. This is humanist news.  Get your head around it. 
Now, some Americans may not understand this because they love their gun culture. Their view is everyone should be out carrying their own guns, protecting their own self.
A lot of us don’t share that view. We KNOW that in this day and age, it’s the fringe that goes for the gun. Not the moderate.
Some middle class men may not understand this. But that’s okay. You only have to wait till this happens to you. If that sounds vengeful, I’ll apologise for it later. Right now, I’m not feeling very kindly. 
Because rampaging mobs don’t recognise gender, religion, caste or class. When you chose to empower one rampaging mob —  even if tacitly by your silence — you empower every one of them.
Which brings me to the second discourse

2. That this is about Abu Azmi the Muslim.  It is not.

The first vigilante mobs in Mangalore were from the Sri Ram Sena and the Bajrang Dal from the Hindutva brigade. They started as far back as 2009 by attacking girls coming out of a Mangalore Pub


Then they started  invading girls’ guest houses with video cameras and started beating them up.
Come 2017 — The ‘Muslim Voice’ — if you want to call it that — has joined the chant.
On Twitter, Modi followers are now talking of Abu Azmi for being a retrograde Islamist. 
The circle has come back upon itself. The irony is lost on everyone. More fools them.
Fact is, culture vultures from both fringes share the same agenda.
Fact is, the so called liberal media, is still so scared of putting it’s foot in any orifice at all, that it puts it’s foot, mind or any part of it’s anatomy down in no place at all. There is no line it will draw.

Well, I draw the line. It’s small and insignificant and probably of no value in the big scheme of things. But if one lived life on the basis of an ROI, one would live no life at all. 

This was the Hindutva agenda all along. To make the fringe the mainstream. And so, it is NOW mainstream.
So called rationalists, moderates, liberals, right media, left media — no one will touch this story with a barge pole in fear of hurting someone’s sentiments.
Well, sentiments be damned.
The state, such as it is, has one job to do above all. Provide security. It bloody well do that one job well. 
Abu Azmi, idiot that he is, knows not what he has done. Hindutva-wadis will welcome him with open arms.
Sarita Rani

An Open letter to Ant Azmi

“If there is sugar, ants will come.” says Abu Azmi


Mr Azmi,

I would have started the letter with “Dear Mr Azmi,” but you might have misunderstood the “dear” to be of a more personal nature. I couldn’t have that.

I might have reminded you that the meaning of your first name Abu — also means ‘Father’.  But then I’m not sure who I’m speaking to. A man or an insect. And one never knows what goes on in an insect’s mind.

It has always seemed peculiar to me that dress codes, long, short, veiled, unveiled, or none — have always been compared to ” The West” in a certain kind of gender discourse. And yet, in another kind of gender discourse, we are told “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

Ugliness too, l should imagine, if logic is allowed to impinge on poetry at all.

So tell me Mr Azmi….. is Mister an appropriate address for an ant by the way…..? What does how I dress, have anything to do with geography? I concede, it might have something to do with Direct to Home satellite dishes, which transmit a really wide array of fashion lines to my Indian culture-approved vastu-proof house.

And why this obsession with the West anyway?

These dresses, or un-dresses as you like to call them, could have come from east of the 84th meridian too you know. Like New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, the Aleutian Islands… take your pick.

But I overdo I see. It might be too much to expect a mind and body of your little reach, to think so far as the Aleutian islands.

I must say, in as plain words as even you can understand, Ant Azmi – that you are a blot on my culture. Indeed, on culture as such. If culture were to be considered at all to mean a society’s excellence in arts, letters, manners and  scholarly pursuits. 

There is an innocence in these millennials that you are not capable of understanding. Your hexapodal anatomy gives you absolutely no capacity to understand this. With that innocence also comes a unique and deadly stupidity.

They were indeed stupid to believe that they could prance around on roads with other boys and girls and not expect to be pawed, molested and de-clothed.

I hope they retain that stupidity forever.

They were stupid indeed, to believe that this is a benevolent world. That human beings are not to be automatically feared, loathed and hated.

I lost that kind of stupidity a long time ago. But I hope the millennials  never, ever, lose theirs.

Some of these young boys and girls may yet grow up to be men and women. They may yet build a world in which policemen do their jobs, molesters get picked up for being dip-shits and ants like you are dead of diabetes.

I hope they will retain their magnanimity of spirit when they understand you for what you are.

But you Ant Azmi, for you, ugliness is indeed in the eye of the beholder. You are not yet of the breed of men. You never will be. You would do yourself and the world a kindness if you went to prey among your own kind.


Sarita Rani

Women ‘straying away’ from Indian culture reason for Bengaluru mass molestation, says Abu Azmi




Stand Up & Be Counted


Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced parliament yesterday. It’s not so much that he faced it, as he graced it. Like Kings and Monarchs do.

He came, he sat. He listened for exactly an hour and left.

He had promised to stay for all the 24 Parliamentarians speeches, and to respond to their questions. He didn’t.

Mr Modi is in the habit of breaking promises. He disdains questions. In fact, he detests people who ask questions.

After all, we all saw him walk out of an interview on  prime time, live, national television in 2012.

Aware of Mr Modi’s dislike for interaction with peers of any kind, Indian parliamentarians tried to efface themselves as best they could, while still managing to stand and speak.

Former Finance Minister and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called demonetisation: “organised loot and legalised plunder.” Dr Singh is a scholar and a technocrat. He spoke harsh words softly. That’s his style. A style Modi is not bred to recognise.

The Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien brought fact and figures to the table.

  • 1 out of 5000 people have a credit card
  • 5 out of a 1000 people have debit cards
  • 90% of them use it only to withdraw money
  • 4 out of 5 villages don’t have a bank
  • We have a GDP of Rs 45,000 crore a day
  • 59%  of it is (Rs 27000 crore) is household financial expenditure
  • 87% of that (Rs 24,000 crore) is cash

“So my question is, if it’s 24,000 crore cash and it’s been 15 days … we’ve lost Rs 3,75,000 crore — and challenge my figure — of GDP in the last 15 days.” Derek O Brien said.

“This is not about an ATM inconvenience.”

Mr Modi was unmoved. Mr Modi is often unmoved when not thinking of himself.

O’Brien offered a specific solution. “Why don’t we allow old and new 500 notes to work in parallel for the time being?” he asked.

He pleaded for a solution. Any solution.

Mr Modi chose not to return to parliament at all, after lunch.

21 Parliamentarians left to speak on that day, were left unheard. They represent the people of India. At the very least, they represent Indian voters.

They were elected to Parliament so their voices could be heard, asserted with pride, not humility. They were meant to make – every- vote- count.

Yesterday, 16 united opposition parties were left unheard. At least 70% of Indian voters who did not vote for Mr Modi, were left unheard.

Through the Looking Glass

Instead, not long after parliament was adjourned abruptly, we heard a series of contrary and conflicting bits of newer measures.

On November 9, a cabinet minister had said of the cash crunch, in the style of Marie Antoinette : “Let them use cards.”

On November 24: hearing of long queues at banks and people dying of stress, Mr Modi seems to have decided in the style of the Red Queen : “Off with the queues.”

Over the Counter Swap of Notes Ends Now

Use of Old notes at Petrol Pumps, Hospitals, Ends Tonight

PM Calls for Cabinet Meet Tonight Amid Opposition Attack Over Notes Ban

A couple of hours later, came :

Where You Can Use Old 500 Rupee Notes after Midnight Tonight

Perhaps a minister begged. Slipped in an order to sign. We will never know. All of these measure end on December 24.

None of these neat 10 steps however, address the simple fact that replacement currency is simply not in place. Simple Mathematics and Logic, it seems, are of no account here. Both reason and empathy, are officially dead in official India.

And then today morning came yet another announcement. Exchange will happen, but only at (far fewer) RBI counters.

Exchange of Old Notes to Continue at RBI Counters

If this were merely a farce, one would poke fun at it.

But this is fantasy. This is so far down cloud-cuckoo land that it is difficult to describe. To any sane mind, Mr Modi has gone too far down this path himself. And he’s  inviting us to follow.

In Derek O’Brien’s words, this is  “Lulu land.”

Law May be Blind, Justice is Not

To stay on this side of the mirror, one must respond to such a notification. And the simple truth is that there are so few RBI counters that this announcement means less than nothing. Everyone knows it. Modi has to know everyone knows it. Even his supporters by now know everyone knows it.

And yet, this is how the world works, when a lawyer handles finance, instead of an economist.

Much has been written on the possible illegality of this kind of demonetisation. It gets tested in court today. Though faced with such a fait accompli, it is not clear how the supreme court will, or can, act.

The authoritarianism of such an act, however, is now beyond doubt.

Whatever conflicting ideas of India we may have, we like to believe India is an Independent nation.

That means we are a free and working democracy.

A limping and flawed democracy, yes. But a democracy nevertheless.

That means that however flawed our representatives may be, from whichever side of the spectrum they come from, when they stand up in parliament for our sake, they deserve to be heard. They deserve to be listened to .

Because Indian voters deserve to be heard.

But when 552 members of parliament cannot get themselves to agree decently, on behalf of 1.25 billion Indians, it is perhaps time to let them go.

These 552 parliamentarians may survive on government given plastic cards. Most Indians can’t. Not now. Perhaps not ever.

This Monday the opposition has called for a protest. Opposition calls for protest bandh

As a first step, all Indian citizens should join in.

Participatory democracy does not end by voting once in five years. Sometimes it needs more. We should join not because we belong to one party or another. But because we belong to a parliamentary democracy. We should give parliamentarians a chance to show that they are capable of working as a worthy opposition.

It is not enough that we share, argue, debate and pass snarky comments on Facebook, twitter and whatsapp. It’s great. But not enough. Because the thing is, if we can afford to be on Social Media – chances are we will survive the next year.

What we may not truly survive, is the part we did, or did not play at this time.

Ultimately, democracy is about standing up to be counted. Not sitting down to be liked.


Sarita Rani

Demonetisation: Opposition calls for countrywide protest on November 28



Occupy America

In 2012, fictional American newsman, Will McAvoy, inspired self-respecting journalists worldwide from his chair at The Newsroom when he called out the Tea Party for what it was – the American Taliban.

To quote:

A need to control women’s bodies.

Severe xenophobia.

Tribal mentality.

Intolerance of dissent.

Pathological hatred of the U.S. government.

They can call themselves the Tea Party. They can call themselves conservatives. And they can even call themselves Republicans, though Republicans certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are – The American Taliban.


(source Rational Wiki)

If this sounds eerily familiar, it should.

Four years on, the Republican Party is comatose, if not dead. And the American media is calling the Trump takeover of the GOP, the Alt-Right, or Alternate Right.

But that’s just a newly minted word meant to avoid saying what needs to be said: The Tea Party, or the American Taliban, is now running Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign.

With the  appointment of Steve Bannon as CEO of Trump’s campaign, the Republican Party has been officially occupied.

The Ultimate Corporate Takeover

But no one is talking about McAvoy or the occupation, because there are no television reporters like McAvoy left anywhere.

This leaves the non-reading public to believe that inland occupation is a hippie, left-liberal habit that requires striking images of the vast unwashed camping in tents outside government buildings.

But there are other kinds of Occupation.

One man comes out of the shadows pledging loyalty to no idea and no belief, except the art of deal making.

He then reveals an abominable sense of hatred for everything he does not consider Male, Homo-Saxon

As an accidental businessman, repeated failure and proven fraud, he still manages to convince people he knows how the world economy works. More importantly, he convinces people, he knows how world politics works.

In the space of one year, he dethrones every senior leader of the Grand Old Party and pushes them into the shadows. Today, he is the hottest ticket on American television.

All conversation is now about what he says. Whether for or against the transpacific pipeline, immigration, security, email hacking to relations with blacks, Mexicans, Russia and NATO.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called Occupation Incorporated. Or Citizens Disunited.

The Promise

We in India recognise this kind of occupation better than the Americans. A similar lack of insight allowed the Indian Taliban (the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to take over power in India in 2014.

It’s front face was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi.

Reporters and editors have called the Trump campaign and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 election, a democratic process.

They would be wise to remember that Hitler was voted to power in 1935

Democracies do have a history of voting fascists into power and then saying, “sorry, we didn’t know what we were doing.”

When a nation is encouraged to let out an unrestrained primeval scream and call it free speech, it is the job of the media to point out that we cannot and shitler2hould not, scream ourselves into fascism.

However fun that party sounds at the moment.

When the drinking ends, it’s going to be one hell of a hangover. For those who’ve drunk off the potion and those who stayed sober.

As the U.S. slowly recedes into a primeval past, it should look toward India as a shining example of medieval politics of the RSS kind. Trump’s 2016 campaign is an exact replica of the Mode 2014 campaign.

Modi shouted Bharat Mata Ki jai (long live Mother India). Trump says let’s Make America Great Again

Both hearken to a past they never specify. As great as what? Nehru’s India? Jefferson’s America? Not likely. They both refer to a deeper, darker past that is left unsaid.

Modi promised development as the new national mantra. Trump promises to convert the art of the best deal for America, into a new national anthem.

Modi swore to turn India from a soft power to a hard power that stands its own ground in the world.

Trump promises to make neighbours pay for boundary walls, NATO allies for their dues; and the Middle East for its dalliance with fundamentalism.

The Delivery

Two years on, Indians have come to see the shadow war that Modi was fighting and the shadow gains that did not come our way.

But the past he really hinted at, has come to be.

Vigilante groups have sprouted all over the country. They beat up and lynch minorities, lower castes, suspected beef eaters, people who won’t shout Bharat Mata Ki jai and rationalists.

All dissenters, Muslims, liberals and anyone perceived as non-Hindu or anti-Modi have been branded IINO or Indians in Name Only. American RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) will understand this. modi 2

Crony capitalism was an ailment under the Congress government. Under the BJP, it is the institutional definition of economic governance.

Development indices have plunged but all major banks continue to loan obscene amounts to big corporate defaulters. Government data has become so unreliable that ‘data integrity’ is a thing now.

International relations were to be based on a mixture of soft and hard power.

But India hacks away at its own face in Kashmir while blaming Pakistan for being the mosquito that sat on its nose. Any early gains on Indo-Pak relations are long lost.

Ties with Bangladesh are on edge because of the refugee question. China is barring India’s entry into the nuclear suppliers group and long-standing trade deals with Nepal have been overturned.

The country  has become a pariah in its own neighbourhood and two years on, it has neither soft power, nor hard power.

As for democratic institutions, Modi despises the media, has sidelined the judiciary, barely acknowledges the legislature and has poisoned mainstream discourse. As the executive head, he has delivered on less than a fifth of his promises.

In a clash between rhetoric and reality, reality is winning.

The Brotherhood of the Hawks

If Americans vote in Trump, that is the future that likely awaits them.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, it shouldn’t. They are a natural fit and “would enjoy each other,” Trump’s close friend, Newt Gingrich said this July, while talking to the Republican Hindu Coalition that he helped build.

Donald Trump and Narendra Modi are hawks of the same feather in more ways than one. They both:

  • Thrive on high octane nationalism which is really just a hatred of any minority
  • Display an overt machismo that is just a perverse need to control women
  • Overcompensate with an exorbitant glorification of men in arms
  • Are hostile to the media and judiciary
  • Have an easygoing relationship with facts

Is there a silver lining? Early September polls show that Hillary Clinton might win the Electoral College votes by a substantial margin, but the popular vote is still equally divided.

Yet, however it ends this November, the conversation has already changed in the U.S as it has in India. Antisemitismracism and white supremacy are back again.

A new era of American politics has already dawned. Goodbye Uncle Sam. Hello Uncle Trump.


Shortlink Occupy America

Feature image from the Flickr Photostream of DonkeyHotey

Hitler Image from the Flickr Photostream of teacherstevenson



Ab ki baar, No Jamaadar

One of Narendra Modi’s slogans in his 2014  prime-ministerial campaign was “Swachh Bharat” – A Clean India

It was something everyone could get behind. Everyone, did get behind.

India’s municipal filth is legendary. Cows on the roads. People pissing on the side, neighbourhood open drains, V.S. Naipaul wrote an entire book about it.

A nice, clean, green India would really be a gift, even to the most cynical Modi-haters.

But… something felt sneaky and suspicious. Like wool being pulled over our eyes. Part of it was the obvious cosmetic do-over this implied. Like pushing things under the carpet, so the real dirt wouldn’t be visible.

But you know what they say about conspiracy theories. They’re either nuts or just plain brilliant.

Yet. It didn’t seem likely that Mr Modi and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh), would invest so much effort, time, marketing muscle and  money in a campaign without a social engineering agenda behind it.

Something itched.

Two years, Vemula’s suicide and many cow lynchings later, I remembered the question I forgot to ask.

Who would make India swachch? Who would do the cleaning?

Dalits of course.

In the RSS’ world view, the varna or caste system has to be reinforced. The immutability of the four castes and their role in society is at the core of the Sangh’s ideology.
We Brahmins and upper castes don’t hire out our services for cleaning toilets, sweeping public roads, leave alone shredding carcasses. No matter how poor, uneducated or dire our life is.

We would be okay with mechanized scavenging. But manual scavenging? Not a chance.

So what better way to do it than to make a virtue out of a necessity?

Indeed, what better way to include dalits in their own scavenging process than to cloak it in modern day “development” terms and sell it with a photo-shopped image of Mr Modi allegedly sweeping his own room?

It was the perfect combination of The Rational and The Emotional. A hearts and minds campaign that was so hugely successful that entire Google communities grew around it. CNN News 18 did a 2-year, agency-run tribute on how well it was doing.

The keystone 2014 campaign slogan on which India voted and delivered Narendra Modi was  — “Ab ki bar Modi Sarkar.” (This time, Modi’s Government)

At the time, overdosing on Swachh-Bharat and Modi Sarkar from all quarters I had told a friend snarkily that the next election campaign slogan might as well be “ab ki baar  Jamadar” 

Jamadar means a street cleaner of sorts. A faintly pejorative word obviously, since higher castes often don’t do these jobs.

Perhaps I was wrong.

This independence day thousands of Dalits in Una took an oath to boycott manual scavenging and disposal of animal carcasses.

Una in Gujarat is already saying “Ab ki baar no jamadar,” three years ahead of elections.

Having been accosted and beaten up while transporting cows, they threw cow skeletons in government offices and told the government last month — “your cows, your problem.”

A fitting response, methinks, for a regime that wants to have its cow and clean it too.

Will this last? Or like the Patel uprising earlier, fizzle into nothingness?

It’s too soon to tell. Revolt is in the Indian blood. Revolution isn’t. But you push a man or a few good men too far, and who knows that they will do.

Here’s the video on the : The Dalit Oath

Via Pratik Sinha


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