Aao Thoda Sa Rumani Ho Jai

Aao thoda sa rumani ho jai
Thoda pyaar, thoda balaatkar ho jai

Arre khichti kyun ho mujhse 
kapde hi phade hain, dil to nahi
Tum hi nikli thi sadak par
saj sanwar kar, mai to nahi

Na lajja, na sharm, na dunia ka dar
Kya soch ke chali thi, yun befikar ?
Sikhana tha hamen free speech ka matlab ?
Pehle seekh to le darling, free love ka sabab

Buniyad hai ye meri, haq me mila hai
Baap Dada se suna tha, khu’ me pala hai
Ram ka beta hoon, duryodhan ki santan
Taimur ka taalib aur gengis ka suleiman

Kya pada kya likha, maine nahi dekha
Maa ne kaha hai, bas lakshman ki rekha
Gale me daal, ye motiyon ki lagaam
Purdah ya hijab, tu meri ghulam

Muh khol ke to dekh, kuch bol ke to dekh
Sadak par aa ke to dekh, dil laga ke to dekh

Mai khada hoon yahi ……

Aao thoda sa rumani ho jai
Thoda pyaar, thoda balaatkar ho jai


–For the girls at Delhi University and elsewhere, who are speaking up nonetheless. #HappyWomensDay

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.


The fallacies of the January Electoral Judgement – Part 1

Where fundamental rights are a post hoc reference, instead of the benchmark against which laws have to be measured before they pass — jurisprudence will eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

That is what happened this January 2nd in the Supreme Court’s constitutional bench judgement on corrupt electoral practices  in the case of Abhiram Singh V/s C.D.Commachen

Both majority and minority opinions completely sidelined fundamental issues and the original context of the case. So did subsequent commentators on the subject.

The Wire called it the new Kesavananda Bharati moment. The Scroll called it deceptive, or “not what it seems,” in as much as it might have rendered Ambedkar guilty of corrupt practices. Some called it “two views of democracy.”

One description was particularly apt: appealing in the name of religion is a corrupt practice.

That would have been a great revelation had it not been for the fact that Indian democracy has been founded on the basis of appealing in the name of religion, caste, community, region and language. And it continues to run on that basis.

Gandhi appealed in the name of religion. Peaceably of course, but he did. Ambedkar appealed in the name of caste. For the rightful improvement of the Dalits’ unbearable agony — but he did. He agitated for and with Nehru’s help, ensured the division of this country into linguistic states — that’s appealing in the name of language.

The Akali Dal, the Telugu Desam, the Jharkand Mukti Morcha, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Dravida Parties, the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen –by definition, these are all communal parties. Exactly like the Shiv Sena and the Hindu majoritarian Bharatiya Janata Party.

So what was the decisive revelation and judgement about? What did it hope to actually achieve?

Just as in the Anthem Judgement , the honourable bench took no time to figure out how its judgement could, or would ever, be enforceable.

For decades now, law making and adjudication have been reduced to political posturing from both sides of the aisle. With no concern toward the actually ability to implement or enforce anything. 

Commentators have only muddled the issue by refusing to provide context of any kind. Or worse, by taking partisan positions.

This author hopes to provide context: legal, factual and historical, so that a reader may make up his own mind.

Historical amnesia is arguably, a  country’s greatest sin. It allows us to forget the context and content of our times. More importantly, it allows us, to not only repeat history, but to compound our mistakes with abandon.

To understand the judgment in the case of Abhiram Singh V/s C.D.Commachen  (available here  and here) , one has to understand the case itself and retrace its origins.


It is late 1989. India has just been introduced to the word Shilanyas. A saffron tide sweeps the country. In an article titled Communalism: Dangerous dimensions India Today quotes Ashok Singhal’s interview, “You will soon see within this country a vertical divide within each political party – those who accept Hindu nationalism and those who don’t.”

Embed from Getty Images

Pujas are being held to consecrate brick in all villages with populations above 2000.  to culminate on November 9, 1989 at Ayodhya. Tens of thousands of people head towards the town despite bans, curfews, police bandobast, fiery speeches and riots.

There are riots in U.P., Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan that year.  Even hitherto untouched towns like Kota, Badaun, Sasaram (Bihar) and Mhow are effected

A total of 336 are killed between January and September.

This is the year India is introduced to The VHP, an organisation of holy men and sants that was yet a guerrilla force of social movements. It appeared to liaise between the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After November 9, 1989. India Today’s Pankaj Pachauri describes the Shilanyas thus in his story Communal Time Bomb :

A mere hole in the ground, 7-ft long, 7-ft wide and 7-ft deep, may become the graveyard of communal harmony.

Shekhar Gupta in his story Communal Card says:

 “It was an unusual victory celebration. As thousands streamed into the sanctum sanctorum of the curiously-shaped shrine, their heads bowed in reverence and eyes glazed by extreme religious fervour, the slogans they shouted were not just to extol the gods.

It doesn’t look like this was going to stop at Ayodhya either. Shekhar Gupta says:

Take for instance, the favourite one: “Yeh to kewal jhanki hai, Kashi, Mathura baaki hai” (This is just the beginning, we still have to sort out Kashi and Mathura). And “Tel laga ke Dabur ka, naam mita do Babur ka“(Rub Dabur oil, wipe out Babur’s name).

Here’s another slogan from the  story quoted above:

Jis Hindu ka khoon na khaule, khoon nahin vo pani hai; Janmabhoomi ke kaam na aye, vo bekaar jawanee hai (That Hindu whose blood does not boil has water in his veins, youth that does not serve Ram Janmabhoomi is youth lived in vain).

In the 1989 general assembly polls a month later, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) grows from 2 MPs in the Lok Sabha to 85 MPs. Mission Accomplished.

In the 9th Lok Sabha, the Congress loses power to the National Front – an unusual grouping of the socialist Janata Dal, the BJP on the extreme right and the CPI(M) on the left.

The Assembly Elections and 1990

It’s 3 months later, March 1990.

The BJP- Shiv Sena alliance wins 98 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections against the Congress’ 141 and the Janata Dal’s 24. Alarm bells begin to ring.

The 9th Lok Sabha has introduced historically extreme elements and gets off to an inauspicious start. As India Today’s David Devadas, notes at the time:

 “The unprecedented array of religious zealots in the House is likely to keep the Speaker constantly on edge.”

Devadas adds, rather prophetically:

And if the heat and dust of the last House was generated largely by sensational newspaper revelations, the members of this one are likely to throw up fundamental issues that could strain the sinews of the Constitution itself.”

Made insecure by Vice President Devi Lal’s hugely successful Kisan Rally, then prime minister V.P. Singh decides to strain those sinews further. On August 7th he announces the implementation of the The Mandal Commission Report that would increase reservations in all jobs to above 50%.

In the extremely limited job market of the pre-liberalisation era, the student community burst into anger. India Today echoes popular sentiment, calling it Dividing to Rule.

It was a decision that will live forever in infamy and become the benchmark of the descent of Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh from leader to demagogue,

writes Inderjit Bhardwar in India Today.

Kids throughout the country started setting themselves on fire in protest, but Singh remained adamant.

Determined to rally the Other Backward Castes (OBC) vote, as an antidote to BJP’s upper caste Hindu base, he stood firm:

I wish to make it clear,”  he says,  “that should a situation arise in which I have to choose between a cause that I believe in so intensely, and my chair, I will not hesitate for an instant to choose the former.”

Not to be left behind, then BJP President L.K. Advani, ups the ante.

Known as The Saffron Seer,  he retaliates with announcing a rath yatra that would begin from Somnath and end at Ayodhya on October 30th where it would start building a Ram temple.

Advani’s air conditioned van comes to be known as The Chariot of Fire  as it leaves hundreds dead in its wake. ( Read, Anger and Anguish, Over 200 dead in Hyderabad) .

1990 ends with the chariot being stopped by Mulayam Singh Yadav at Samistapur and  the fall of the V.P.Singh government. A year later, Rajiv Gandhi would be dead and two years later, Babri Majid would fall.

The December Petition

As 1990 ends, someone in the Congress finally wakes up to ‘The Hindutva Problem.’ There are other petitions pending too and being heard. But this one will make it to the constitution bench.

Of all the gin joints in all the worlds….they say.

Was it about Commachen or was it that Abhiram Singh was the BJP Bombay Unit vice president? No one knows. But Commanchen slipped in an election petition (No 11. Of 1991) on the last possible date saying Singh and the BJP had sought votes on religious grounds.

In a December 24th Judgement, the Bombay high court, upholds Commachen’s plea saying:

prima facie, it does appear that the leaders have appealed for votes for the Hindu candidates of the two parties on the basis of their religion and community. Prima facie, it does appear that the leaders did attempt to create enmity and hatred between different classes of citizen on the grounds of community and religion.”

It adds:

 “it is clear from the voluminous material on record that the campaign was on the basis of appealing for votes on the basis of 1st Respondent’s community and religion, i.e., the Hindu community and religion and that there was an attempt to create enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens on the basis of religion, community and caste particularly between the Hindus and Muslims.

It is important to note that

(a) the judge made a record of the voluminous amounts of evidence

(b) the judged noted that Abhiram Singh had asked for votes by “creating enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens on the grounds of community and religion.” (hate speech)

(c) the judge made no difference between Hinduism and Hindutva and saw no reason to do so.

In subsequent judgements there is no mention of the evidence. In fact, in the appeal to this decision, Justice Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court while kicking the decision upstairs to a 5-Judge bench, remarks that the original judge should have put the evidence on record.

Yet, these voluminous materials included newspaper reports from the time, police jottings and tape recordings at public meetings. While the exact court submissions are not available to the public anymore thanks to the slow digitisation; some of the interviews and speeches given at the time are still available online. Read

This Will Remain Saffron Hindustan – Bal Thackeray

There Will be Bloodshed — K.C. Sudershan

A YouTube video channel that keeps a record of speeches by Shiv Sena chief the late Balasaheb Thackeray, still has this speech up from August of 1989. It comes with English subtitles. Here’s a sample:

Pointing to the Father of the Indian Constitution  B.R.Ambedkar’s Book Riddles in Hinduism, he says:

It insults our religion. We won’t be tolerant. Tolerance is over, burnt. If anyone stands against Hinduism, we’ll burn them to ashes.”

What kind of men are these that don’t care for their own blood or lineage? That is why my blood, and the blood of all Hindus, boils. Make me Prime Minister for a day, just one day. In one day, I’ll solve the problem of Punjab and Kashmir. In one day. It’s easy. Wherever you’ve come from, make sure all your relatives and friends case their vote. We won’t rest until we’ve ensured this victory.”

Slogan Shouter in the Background – Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai (Say with pride, “We are Hindus)

Crowd repeats after him.

Slogan shouter repeats – Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai

Crowd repeats after him, this time louder.

If peace and security cannot be guaranteed, I’ll arm every Shiv Sena man with a sten-gun. I’ll get them where I can, and won’t rest till I face the enemy. And If the country and Hindutva (caption says Hinduism) were to be destroyed, no one except men like you would come to the rescue.

So Hindutva (sub title says Hinduism) is creating men.“

(Thackeray continued to remain boldly frank about his later activities as he publicly boasted in a program called Aap Ki Adalat run by journalist Rajat Sharma of ITV. Watch here.) Watch from 7m28 seconds

In fact, a whole lot of the evidence was also presented in an ongoing petition in the court of Justice J.S.Verma who put it on record.

The Old Hindutva Judgement and Justice Verma

Meanwhile, Justice J.S.Verma of the Supreme Court was already listening to an appeal against Bombay High Court Justice Variava’s decision to set aside Manohar Joshi’s election in petition (No 24 of 1990). Ram Jethmalani was the advocate on Record for the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

In the Manohar Joshi v/s Nitin Bhaurao Patil judgement, among other things, Justice Verma admitted the following into record  as Justice Variava’s observations:

“Para 17

(a) To handle the Congress-I hoodlums the Shiv Sainiks may take law in their hands and use firearms if necessary (Thackeray).

(b) To save `Hindutva’ vote for BJP-sena Nominees (Pramod Mahajan, BJP- MP).

(d) …..If in Maharashtra the flame of Hinduism is extinguished, then anti-national Muslims will be powerful and they will convert Hindustan into Pakistan. If the flame of Hindutva will grow then in that flame the anti- national Muslims will be reduced to ashes (Pramod Mahajan).

(f) Rajiv Gandhi speaking on Hindutva is like a prostitute lecturing on fidelity. The country is again heading for partition. It is, therefore, necessary that in these circumstances and to keep the flame of Hindutva aline, the alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena should be elected (Mahajan).

  1. The petitioner states that the proceedings of the said meeting were tape-recorded and taken down in shorthand by the police authorities. The petitioner craves leave to refer to and rely upon the said tape-recorded speeches and the speeches taken down in shorthand by the police authorities.”

“30. ……… the respondent himself in his capacity as a candidate from the said constituency as well as a leader of the said alliance made appeals which offends the provisions of the said Act, For e.g. in the meeting held on 24.2.1990 at Shivaji Park, the respondent stated the first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra . ….. Some of the meetings were reported in newspapers. The petitioner states that such meetings were held at Khaddke Building, Dadar on 21.2.1990, Prabhadevi on 16.2.1990, at Kumbharwada on 18.2.1990, and Khed Galli on 19.2.1990.

  1. In fact the speakers went on to say that on the respondent being elected and on the said alliance establishing a Hindu Government, we will give jobs to all Hindus.

The petitioner craves leave to refer to and rely upon the election diaries maintained by the local police stations, the speeches recorded by the Special Branch-I on audio cassettes, video cassettes and the speeches recorded in Marathi shorthand. The petitioner also craves leave to refer to and rely upon the press reports of the said meetings.

  1. The petitioner states that in addition to holding public meetings, the said alliance had also taken out video cassettes and audio cassettes. The video cassettes were titled “Challenge & Appeal “Shiv Sena” and the other called “Ajinkya“.

Not only the other religions are ridiculed but the followers thereof are termed as “traitors” and “betrayers”. Under the guise of protecting Hindu religion/Hindutva the said cassettes attach other religions and whips up lowered instincts and animosities.

The concept of secular democracy is totally eliminated.

The petitioner also craves leave to refer to and rely upon the said video cassettes as and when produced.”

Justice Verma, while admitting all of this on record, however took three positions.

  1. The free speech position for third party workers: Third parties (that is various party workers) who hire vehicles, say things on behalf of for the candidate and pay for posters, pandals etc., are exercising their free speech when they do so. So Joshi’s election cannot be put aside on the basis of what others did.
  2. The consent position of candidate viz senior party leaders: Justice Verma held that the candidate was not in a position to give consent to senior party leaders mentioned above (like Thackeray, Mahajan and etc) when they came to give speeches for his election. To quote : Whenever the requirement is of consent, it must be free consent given by the giver of the consent, of his own volition. Ordinarily, it also implies a subservient role of the person to whom consent is given and the authority of the giver of the consent to control the actions of the agent. It is difficult to ascribe to an acknowledged leader of the party a role subservient to the candidate set up by that party inasmuch as the candidate is ordinarily in no position to control the actions of his leader.”

[This was clearly fallacious reasoning. Ashok Desai, the petitioner’s attorney had argued on record, that Joshi, when choosing to be a member of either party, had accepted the ideology of the said party which was laid out by the leaders and as such, consent was implicit. ]

  1. The Hindutva position: “It cannot be held that in the abstract the mere word “Hindutva” by itself invariably must mean Hindu religion. (Also already indicated in the connected matters – Civil Appeal No. 2835 of 1989 – Bal Thackeray vs Prabhakar K. Kunte & Ors. – with Civil Appeal NO. 2836 of 1989)

YET, J.S. Verma said, one valid charge remained from Para 30:  that “the respondent stated the first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra”

He however dismissed this charge on the basis of lack of evidence since all witnesses, he said,  were official witnesses.  That was 1995.

In 1996, his brother in silk, Justice Ramaswamy in his judgement on the Abhiram Singh case just decided to kick it upstairs saying:  “Thus, without expressing any opinion on these questions, we are of the view that the entire case requires to be heard and decided by a large Bench of five Judges since the decision thereon upon the purity of election process and requires to be decided authoritatively.”

All about ‘him’

This apparently authoritative decision came by a 4:3 division and three different opinions on January 2, 2017. A full 27 years later. The seven honourable judges of a constitution bench chose to address the substantive question of  semantics. Yes, semantics.

Section 123(3), pared down to its essentials and stripped of legalese says:

the appeal by a candidate… to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion…”  is a corrupt electoral practice.

The substantive question they argued about was – whose religion did the term his religion refer to in the act? Does it refer to the candidates’ religion or the voters?

This matter had actually already been decided in the  Ramesh Yashwant Prabhoo case. In fact, a whole lot more had been decided by Justice Jagdish Saran Varma in that case, that no one had bothered to visit, including  Justices Ramaswamy and J.S.Varma.

Since a constitution bench is allowed to revisit these questions, they did, and took different views.

Justice Madan Lokur writing for himself and Justice Nagreswar Rao agreed his religion meant candidates’ religion, but took the approach of ‘purposive and social context adjudication.’ That is, law interpretation must adjust to lack of proper framing by the original framers and to changing times.

Justice Bobde agreed with Justice Lokur and took the position that courts should reject “strict construction” of the “language of the law” when it is obviously in violation of the plain intention of the legislature.

Justice Thakhur agreed with Justice Chokar but went further. Drawing from Justice Jeevan Reddy’s argument in the S.R.Bommi V/s Union of India case, he argued that in preserving the basic structure, “the constitution requires the state to be secular in thought and action.” Most importantly, “the same requirement attaches to political parties as well.”

Justice Thakur’s position was stated thus: “Extending the  above  principle  further one  can  say  that  if  two constructions  of  a  statute  were  possible,   one   that   promotes   the constitutional objective ought to be preferred over the other that does  not do so.”

Extending which argument, standing for election would validly be a statutory right, not a fundamental right.

Justice Chandrachud, writing for the dissent,  took the position that revoking someone’s rights as a candidate or banning someone from the electoral role was a substantive penalization. And therefore, standard of proof should be higher and no liberties should be taken in interpreting a law that imposes such a high penalty.

As such, the word “his” must semantically, just refer to the candidates’ religion.

[In a side note, it is interesting that the standard of proof in criminal defamation cases is actually lower, the chilling effect on freedom of speech higher,  but no one has yet sought to refer that matter to a constitution bench]

Free Speech, Hate Speech, Threat to Life and Basic Structure of the Constitution

If three decades of Judicial thought went into that judgement, may god save us all.

No one is the wiser about the issues at stake here. The waters are muddier than before. And given the wide array of commentary on the judgement, it has been anything but authoritative.

In this context, let’s examine what is NOT at stake here.

1. Is this about Hinduism and Hindutva?

The answer is resoundingly – NO. It isn’t. Article 123(3) and 123(3A) are clear. In as much as they talk of religion at all, they talk of all religions. The various diversions into Hinduism and Hindutva by various benches; the attempt to define one, either or both as “ways of life,” were completely irrelevant to the entire discussion. The attempt by petitioners, respondents and judges to make them sound similar or dissimilar was completely out of context and plainly disingenuous. Copious amounts of evidence has been put on record, showing candidates speaking of religion. What that religion was called was entirely immaterial to the matter at hand.

Especially since the section itself includes a wide phrase called “community” – any community that can prove to be divisive.

2. Is it about whose religion is being spoken of? Was the “his” important?

Again– No. Indian parliamentarians are notorious for their lack of reverence for the English language. This is an empirical, historical and ongoing fact. Not only is English their non-native language, they are hardly subject matter experts in either linguistics or semantics. To base the outcome of the very nature of a democracy, on the ignorance of a clerk’s knowledge of pronouns, is intemperate in the least, farcical if one must be moderate. Justice Thakur is right when he says that if one interpretation leads towards a constitutional outcome and another toward an unconstitutional one – the constitutional road is the obvious one to take.

3. Was it ever an issue of consent of the candidate?

No. This is about elections, not rape. Silence does mean consent. Indeed it is more than silence. When a candidate chooses to stand from a political party with a manifesto, common propaganda material and common public leaders with public pronouncements, he is voluntarily and avowedly stating he believes in that party’s cause. Consent does not have to be proven, it is manifest in his choice of party.

4. Was it ever an issue of insufficient proof?

No. The proof was always available. It continues to be available to this day (see links in story) Shiv Sena speeches and its own propaganda material stated in as many words that it promised a Hindu Rashtra. They did not deny it court and it is, indeed, part of court record in some cases. For advocates and respondents to demand “a higher level of proof” is ludicrous, to say the least.

So what is at stake. What are the honest issues that have been addressed in election petitions over the years, but never really been fully confronted by a full constitutional bench for a decisive, definitive answer:

5. So was the election petition pointless and wrong?

No. There was a point to the Election Petition. In fact, it should probably have been filed earlier, against all Shiv Sena and BJP candidates,  and also under different sections of the law like IPC Sections 153 and 153(A) . In fact, one has to revisit the entire basis on which some political parties appeal to the electorate.

The key questions

The Key questions that a constitution bench should have addressed and put to rest where the following:

  1. Does Section 123(A) violate freedom of expression?
  2. Is standing for elections a fundamental right or a statutory right?
  3. If Section 123 (A) is fully implemented, what does it really mean for other political parties?
  4. Can you really ban hate speech?
  5. How fundamental are our fundamental rights?

These have been addressed by various benches at various times, but never been fully put to rest. In the next instalment, this writer hopes to address some aspects of these.


Sarita Rani

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





What a glorious failure of imagination this has been.  What a glorious victory of the brute and the bold. When little men with lots of power have looked at the world, said:  “I want this or that,” and proceeded to devour, demolish, degrade and despoil what they desired, with nary a discourse.

Desire. What years of growing desire these have been. It has been sold to us as a virtue in itself.

At best, to desire is to work hard to attain your desires. To work hard, is to be a good citizen. Indeed, a good, moral and righteous human being above all.

The more you desire, the more righteous you are – billboards tell us this every two meters on our way to work and school.

But what should be one’s object of desire? It matters, does it not?

Is the proper object of our desire, aiming to understand the works of a Hugo, a Zola, a Premchand? Or is it sufficient that our desire stop at a Mercedez Benz?

A Mercedes of course. Of what practical use is fiction, except to pass the time?

Should we aim to grasp Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Aristotle’s Poetics, and  Ambedkar’s Annhilation? Or is owning an iPhone enough?

The iPhone by far. We are already free, aren’t we? Of what use is Common Sense in a free millennium? And if Annhilation is available free, is it worth anything?

After all, isn’t price a measure of value?  Isn’t how much you earn a measure of how much you’re worth? Isn’t that Capitalism 101?

At worst, desire is lust. Not passion, no. For passion requires a continuing commitment to values, at a time when the idea of value itself has been redefined.

Passion requires an ability to act against the tide, at a time when we feel safer in numbers.

Passion requires the mind, while desire will make do with the groin.

Billboard journalism has not learnt to distinguish between a degree and an education; between education and knowledge; between wealth and prosperity, power and authority or even, money and value.

Those who’ve sold us desire between soap operas and prime-time news, have forgotten the meaning of value.

The fact is, money is only as valuable as the things it buys. And it’s time to ask – what is money buying us today?

Choice. These have been the decades of choice. From four soaps to 20. From one school to five schools. From two doctors in two hospitals to 5 doctors in 15 hospitals.

We doctor shop, teacher shop, school shop, husband shop. We can idea shop on Facebook. Kya achcha idea hai sir ji. Today one idea, tomorrow, another. These are good choices to have. Even great choices. Freedom requires the freedom to choose.

And if we can choose from 140 varieties of cheese, does it truly matter that beef is branded sacred and untouchable?  If we can choose from 110 television channels and soap operas, does it matter that free speech is banned?

And if one billion people can roam the streets free, does it matter that a few thousand are branded seditionists, separatists and unfits?

With this great benediction of individual autarkies upon us, does it really matter that some get left out?

Questions. These have been the years of questions.

Development or Freedom? Security or Privacy? Education Or Right to Dissent? A peaceful, homogeneous society or Freedom of Conscience?

These are not trivial questions. They face us today as they faced the constitution makers 60 years ago.

But every generation or so, these questions must be asked and answered. Not in hidden rhetoric and mis-targeted animosities. But straight out.

  • You may have 5 star-rated refrigerators and online clothes shopping. But some people will disappear in the night, never to return. Where is Najeeb?
  • Neighboring countries won’t come marching onto your streets. But you might hear a knock on your neighbor’s door one night. He will never been seen again. Prisoners may disappear from prisons, people from their homes. But no one may ask how.
  • Your kids may go to college, but you may not question us about what they learn, how we treat them, or if some students kills themselves or each other. They must carry on. Education for millions must proceed unhampered.
  • You may be showered with government largess. But your money may be declared illegal any day. Your savings may be replaced. Or not. But you must stay calm. Dissent is manufactured. So is aakrosh (angst). What people manufacture is unreal. Only the government is real.

In fact, the only real thing is Calm and Peace .

Peace. These have been the decades of peace. Islands of violence have not bothered us.

Gujarat 2002. Muzaffarabad. Una. Chattisgarh. Manipur. Hyderbad Central University. Orissa. JNU. 60,000 farmer suicides.

We are each, a continent unto ourselves, vying to be a nation united. These islands are pinpricks, irritatingly floating into our consciousness, easily dismissed. They interfere with our idea of ourselves and must be discarded from the larger narrative.

We barter our individual consciences, piece by piece, for the greater good.

The greater good.  But hasn’t it always been about the greater good? The needs of the many over the few? Of the majority over the minority? Of the many over the one.

We’ve heard that for centuries now, not just years.

On the right, the Utilitarians have told us “the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of right and wrong.”

On the left, we’ve heard: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

We’ve never been told: Who is to measure this happiness? Who shall be the judge of it? The Judge of us? Who shall measure, how much of our ability we are to sacrifice for an un-measurable greater good? Whose need are we to sacrifice for? How much are we to sacrifice? For how long?

Would we rather pay for the education of a bright young kid next door? Or a bureaucrat’s salary? For a park in the local community, or A15s? For Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations, or a political party’s election coffers?

As worlds became freer, these were supposed to be our choices to make.

Yet, today, these choices hardly seem to exist. These questions are forbidden. Irrelevant. Unasked.

Perhaps even, forgotten.

One of the most telling remarks in the recent demonetization episode was, Narendra Modi surrogates saying:  the communists should be happy with the move. Modi had fulfilled Marx’s dream of a cashless society. A few days later they went further: Finance Minster Arun Jaitley likened the move to Mao’s cultural revolution. Gold is now rationed. Married women get 500 grams, unmarried-250 gms, men – 100 gms.

New Age, right wing apparatchiks are now to monitor gold; gram for gram, marriage for marriage.

The left and the right have merged. Marx, Mao and Modi look all alike. A dream turned into reality, looks too much like a nightmare.

Nightmares. These have been the years of nightmares. Burnings, lynching, constitutional anarchies. The supreme court passes a judgment legislating compulsory patriotism. In response to an appeal,  the court mandated that all cinema theatres must compulsorily play the national anthem before all screenings. “Time has come for people to realize that the national anthem is a symbol of CONSTITUTIONAL PATRIOTISM…” These are the exact words of a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra.

Yet, when another appeal was immediately filed, asking that the anthem also be played in the court, a bench declined to hear the plea. Seeming to say:“Let’s not stretch it too far.”

Constitutional patriotism it seems, must stop at the door of the protectors of the constitution.

The nightmares have only just begun. But the choice now is to decide whether to remain asleep, or wake up and embrace daylight.

The comfort of nightmares is, that you can pretend you are not an actor in the play, just a spectator. However bad the nightmares are, we can safely say: but what can we do?

The problem with daylight is we have participate in our own lives, however little that part might be. It might just be to wake up, breathe the air, shake our fist at the those who sold us rotten dreams, and tackle the day, one day at a time.

Or it might be more.

Both Thomas Jefferson and B.R. Ambedkar believed that subsequent generations are not required to bear the burdens of their predecessors’ choices. That every few generations at least, a people are required to ask some fundamental questions, answer them, and make their own choices. Perhaps even, make their own mistakes. The burden of history can start afresh. The idea of India was once defined for us in 1947.

Perhaps it is time to redefine it now.


Sarita Rani

The Illegality of the Supreme Court’s National Anthem Order

Gautam Bhatia’s on The Supreme Court’s Anthem Order


  1. Secondly, if Supreme Court judgments and orders were to constitute “law” under Article 13, then every such judgment or order would be subject to a further fundamental rights challenge
  2. Writing about the Habeas Corpus judgment, H.M. Seervai wrote that “ordinary men and women would understand Satan saying ‘Evil be thou my good,’ but they were bewildered and perplexed to be told by four learned judges of the Supreme Court, that in substance, the founding fathers had written into the Emergency provisions of our Constitution ‘Lawlessness be thou our law.’” If Mr. Seervai was alive today, I wonder what he would think of judicial orders that do not even seem to consider whether there is a legal basis for what they seek to accomplish.

Source: The Illegality of the Supreme Court’s National Anthem Order