Just as India embarks on celebrations to mark 70 years of freedom, a stark and sobering reality reared its head in the form of deaths of over sixty sick children in a state run hospital in the largest state in the union. Those children were from poor of poorest families who couldn't afford expensive treatments in private hospitals. As per the news reports, even in the state run hospital the poor parents had to buy medicines and bandages on their own. With their meagre means those parents did everything asked, only to see their children die in their very helpless presence. The reason, oxygen ran out. Probably those living in opulency will find it hard to fathom and will go around their business on the backs of underaged vulnerable helps, whose families occasionally are condigned to die for the lack of oxygen. And that Modi wouldn't lose his breath while thumping and shouting hoax from the Red Fort built by Mughals. But at this juncture being crepuscular works in his favor, otherwise he would be horrified to see the impending doom of his making.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has become one of the most reviewed books since and even before its publication in June 2017. The anticipatory mêlée had a sort of cultish tinge akin to that witnessed in the last decade of the last century before release of Harry Potter books or later in this century when Steve Jobs had his gadgets visit the humanity to change the trajectory of the homo sapiens in the manner of cognitive, agricultural and industrial revolutions. Every single human trajectory has been uniquely uneven leaving unfilled interstitial spaces for those unable to keep the pace for eclectic reasons to fall through only to be forgotten by rest of the humanity. They might be forgotten but the unforgotten also called underprivileged hardly stop living; as a matter of fact they in their own way live their exhilarating lives by creating the ministry of utmost happiness where living and non-living; person and nonpersons share whatever there is to share and critical to their survival support one another stoically unknown in the ‘real’ world.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is an amalgamation of tales with arching labyrinths of contemporary tumultuous events where heroes are the people whose existence in society is acknowledged only when utterly essential. Protagonist of one of the main stories in the book is a transgender, born as Aftab who later rechristens herself as Anjum, weaves her existence in a house aptly called Khwabgah, the house of dreams but not before his/her mother having exhausted her supplications at the mausoleum of Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed. Historically, Sarmad, an Armenian Jewish mystic described by Audrey Truschke in her book on Aurangzeb as an irreverent who had prophesized that Dara Shukoh would take throne; Aurangzeb had him executed in 1661. Slowly and tortuously, Aftab realizes his non-status and starts looking for signs for the life that would have meaning for him; although, it might be said, it was not due to dearth of love for him.
The house of dream with history dating back to Mughals turns out to be a quintessential place not only inhabited by queer and transgender but any perceptional misfit finds there a shelter. But Anjum’s life takes a turn after she survives the visit to Gujarat during the pogroms against Muslims unleashed under and provoked by the state administration with, as in Roy’s words,
- “the then chief minister of Gujarat appeared on TV in a saffron Kurta with a slash of vermilion on his forehead, and with cold, dead eyes ordered the burnt bodies of Hindu pilgrims be brought to Ahmedabad, the capital of the state, where they were put on display for the general public to pay their respect”.
Anjum survives only for being a transgender as the killers, on a Muslim killing spree, did not want to court a bad luck by killing a transgender. As Arundhati Roy tells
- “nothing scared those murderers more than prospect of a bad luck. After all, it was to ward off bad luck that fingers that gripped the slashing swords and flashing daggers were studded with lucky stones embedded in thick gold rings. It was to ward off the bad luck that the wrists wielding iron rods that bludgeoned people to death were festooned with red puja threads lovingly tied by adoring mothers. Having taken all these precautions, what would be the point of willfully courting bad luck?”
Anjum fresh from the trauma leaves Khwabgah and makes a home with dead in a cemetery that eventually becomes shelter for the intentionally and deliberately forgotten. That is where her new companion, originally a low-caste boy, Dayachand, who later calls himself Saddam Hussein, tells Anjum the story of orchestrated cow-based lynching of his father. That reflects foreboding of the lynching season to descend on India with cow as a pretext to target the most vulnerable Muslims. In time, the dwelling in the cemetery, called Jannat (Heaven) Guest House becomes a converging point ultimately joined by another protagonist in the book, the indomitable Tillotama. It is through Tillotama, Tillo in short, that Arundhati brings the Indian devilry through inhumane occupation of Kashmir to the fore. Tillo’s story brings to the world, not that there was left anything unknown, the treachery of Indian occupation of Kashmir and the heinousness that state resorts in suppression of the aspirations of freedom. It brings in graphical details the mechanical and bureaucratic apparatus that the state had built to maintain an aura of Indian control over state, it only lacked the wherewithal to create an Orwellian state to affect hearts and minds of Kashmiris. That shortcoming was not for the lack of trying. The brutal killing of Jalil Andrabi, a human rights lawyer and firing at the funeral procession of Maulvi Farooq, though fictionalized are truthful representation of true events. More than any of those events, the book conveys an unambiguous defiance of Kashmiris in the face of tortures and deaths; graveyards as a matter of fact became symbols of resistance and resilience.
The panorama created by Arundhati Roy traverses across a vast canvas brings in an irrepressible hues of characters caricaturing almost everyone in Indian politics be it lisping Vajpayee, trapped rabbit Manmohan Singh or Kejriwal with unsingular look or that manipulated anti-corruption crusader, the Farex baby faced Anna Hazare. But the book lightens up the most where the story focuses on the unacknowledged people fallen through the cracks, who are essential for opulent lives as long as they remain invisible. It’s the description of things they do to lighten the oppressiveness of their lives like graphic sacrifice of a water buffalo for Eid that makes the book what it is and Arundhati Roy who she is; through her prose one can peek into her soul. The irony is that it might be that those people are as vulnerable as their opulent counterparts given the political turn of events. The then chief minister of Gujarat, with cold dead eyes, is now presiding the entire country with unparalleled power and with quirk of events coupled with personal greed of unscrupulous politicians, his party is also saddled in power in Kashmir. Not that any of this matters, Kashmiris have long resolved to not be swayed by politicians of any color in Delhi or their local facilitators in the valley for their ultimate goal to breath free air of the pristine valley free of gun-wielding agents and schemers and to not allow them to traduce anymore than they have already.
At the end one would wish Tillo and her three companions instead of going to a school for architects had been studying law or international relations given the trails their individual and shared lives traverse in the book. For Anjum, her accomplices and collaborators I wouldn’t change a thing.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Towards the end of his presidency, Lyndon B Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America, had been reduced to a figure of universal scorn and derision. His escalation of the Vietnam War to a point from which it became impossible to extricate the US ended up in becoming one of the defining human tragedies of twentieth century. This was war fought on the basis of pretexts that did not actually exist. The slur “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” which became an anthem of sorts for protestors eventually compelled him to forgo running for a second term in office in 1968. Those protesting against the war, those who eventually forced Lyndon Johnson to leave the political arena were Americans who were overcome with images of atrocities and the rising count of civilian deaths in a mindless war.
The Vietnam War was far from an exception. Even after its end, we might still be able to catalog scenes of wanton brutality and killings from around the world into several heavy volumes, each prefaced by notes indexing the vileness of the human species, which remains the only one to conjure schemes of the annihilation of its own kind for reasons that have no justification or sanction in the natural world. No life form kills for the sake of the shape of a map in an atlas. Nationalism routinely makes humans go to war for such reasons.
Some of these same false premises that have been used to rationalize killing elsewhere in the world have also been in use for far too long to perpetuate brutality and subjugation in Kashmir. For years Indians have been indoctrinated with an image of their country on a map that has no bearing on reality. The shape of the state of Jammu & Kashmir on Indian maps lies at the heart of this fiction. Be it an average fruit seller or an industrialist or a mentally and morally bankrupt bureaucrat or a duplicitous politician – this image has made Indians of all manner and description treat Kashmir as their backyard. This is what lies at the core of the intransigence of the Indian establishment when it comes to Kashmir, and it is this very intransigence that is hurtling the populace of Kashmir towards a precipice, accompanied by an increased wave of repression. The Indian state is straddling a moral abyss. Incidentally, this situation exposes the hollowness of even that section of Indian society that takes prides in calling itself ‘progressive’.
In recent days, in the face of rising discontent, we have witnessed the voicing of Indian demands for even more stern actions by the armed forces in Kashmir than have been already employed. One wonders what could be sterner than the blinding of people, including under-aged children through indiscriminate and unprecedented use of pellet guns. It is as if Kashmir becomes an exception to the perception of how any form of state power should be used to deal with a recalcitrant population. Stone pelters elsewhere in the territories policed by the Indian state are not met with bullets and pellets, but in Kashmir, they inevitably are. What is it that makes many ‘progressive’ Indians (who refurbish their credentials by being so vocal against the actions of the rabidly right wing government of Narendra Modi) fall silent when it comes to Kashmir, atrocities in Kashmir, or even the outstanding issue of the legal status of the territory. Is that ingrained, unquestioned map of India, with Kashmir as its crown that forces even ‘progressives’ to become alter egos of the activists of hardcore rightwing parties?
The situation in Kashmir remains what it has been for more than two decades and a half, littered with instances of Indian mendacity and deliberate sabotage of any move towards real peace that reflects the aspirations of the population. The majority of Kashmiris themselves, despite having gone through the upheavals of a violent insurgency and state terror in the 1980s and 1990s remain unchanged in their demands and aspirations. Their aspirations for freedom and peace have remained constant through the transition from an armed insurrection to a virtually unarmed mass struggle.
What has also remained unchanged is the violent vehemence of the Indian establishment’s response to these aspirations. Until the current Modi regime decided to publicly take a hard line on Kashmir, many Indian politicians (in and out of power) professed a desire to ‘engage’ with the people of Kashmir. These public pronouncements never altered the realities on the ground, which instead of moving forward, only worsened with time. An over-reliance on an electoral process already discredited by force and fraud led to a wilful neglect of the basic nature of the disputed status of the relationship between Kashmir and the Indian Union. This only led to further deterioration of an already dire situation. Amidst all the noise and kerfuffle that emanated from India vis-a-vis Kashmir, what fell through the cracks of the sparse and frugal mental apparatuses of the Indian establishment (and of even its ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ factions) was the fact of the dehumanizing siege that the entire population of the Kashmir valley had been subjected to since the beginning of the uprising in the late 80s, or even before. Now, with the Modi regime all but declaring war on the people of Kashmir, the crisis has reached unimaginable proportions. How did things get so bad? Those who call themselves ‘progressive’ in India and yet retain a fondness for the Indian master narrative on Kashmir cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for the situation having become what it is today.
Leaving aside for a moment the well documented cases of extra-judicial assassinations, rapes, enforced disappearances and torture for more than two decades, one needs only take into consideration the minute by minute humiliations that people in Kashmir have had to endure at the hand of security personnel at checkpoints, while being frisked, at ‘identity’ parades, in the course of random ‘spot’ checks, house-to-house searches, curfews and a heap of senseless harassment that constitute the daily grind. If you face this reality squarely, then the fact that an entire people are rising ought to come as no surprise.
Take, for instance, the recent parading by the Indian Army of a young man, a voter, called Farooq Ahmad Dar, as a ‘human shield’ with a paper warning tied to his chest and bound to the front bumper of a jeep while he was driven through nine villages was hardly the isolated incident it is being made out to be. The image of this incident, which hit the world media, has become emblematic of the India-Kashmir relationship. While this image did evoke genuine outrage in some sections in India, it is also true that it was celebrated and justified, and became the catalyst of demands for ‘even more stringent actions’. These demands did not come from the Hindutva fringe alone. They were also voiced by some ‘liberals’ who had otherwise been outraged at the lynching of Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan by Hindutva vigilantes. Its as if things change the moment one invokes Kashmir.
What is that evokes such reactions against the population in Kashmir even amongst some liberals? Is that imaginary map of greater India so chiseled into their brains that the thought of any tinkering leads to complete irrationality? Perhaps that is where some introspective reading of history, not only of Kashmir but of the entire world, can help sometimes to dispel in-built prejudices.
The exact circumstances of the accession of Kashmir to India remain shadowy. The accession, for what it was worth, was contingent on a plebiscite that India has never allowed to be held. One leader after another of the Kashmiri people were bought, or thrown into prison, or were thrown into prison and then bought. Every kind of leadership, both Indian and Kashmiri, played its part in suppressing the aspirations of the the population of Kashmir. There grew to be an unbridgeable chasm between what was professed and what was practiced in Kashmir. The mantra of Kashmir being an ‘integral part’ of the Indian Union revealed a fixation that cared for the occupation of land, never for a concern with the people who happened to be on that land. The people of Kashmir never became anything other than colonial subjects for India, just as Indians had been for the British. And like Britain, India also always found local collaborators, especially to help it indulge in meaningless electoral exercises.These ‘polls’ which India touted in place of the absent plebiscite, got so discredited over time with force and fraud that the last exercise of elections attracted only seven percent of the electorate and ended in a toll of eight deaths.
Lyndon B. Johnson ended his presidency completely discredited by the fiasco of Vietnam, but he is still considered among the greatest presidents the United States has ever had. After assuming the presidency in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson went on to achieve something that had eluded every American presidents after Abraham Lincoln’s abolition of slavery. The Johnson presidency saw the successful passage of the civil rights bill that undid racial segregation and allowed backs to vote throughout the country. Despite everything, these facts remain unmatched and stellar accomplishments. Ironically, immediately after the passage of voting rights acts there were widespread riots by African-Americans in different cities. Johnson, who could understand the irony, famously said, “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re so surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”
Can the problem of Kashmir ever be solved? It can, only if India evolves a leadership with a Only if Johnsonian grit and the altruistic determination to acknowledge that the problem exists in the first place. No solution will ever come from someone like Modi, given his avid hatred of Muslims in general. One just has to play those recordings from the time of Gujarat riots of 2002 when Modi taunted the hapless Gujarati victims of the macabre killings that took place under his watch to understand why Modi simply cannot be expected to take the initiative towards peace in Kashmir. Rather than working towards a solution, the doomed coalition between Modi’s party, the BJP and the local family business of the Mufti clan under the garb of the Peoples Democratic Party has made things even worse. It has made the ever existing chasm between Kashmir and India wider than ever and it has sullied India’s image more than ever, at home and abroad. Things are so bad, that it is difficult to imagine them getting worse.
Paradoxically, this recognition may also hasten the complete rupture between Kashmir and India. Perhaps the moment is ripe for an Indian LBJ, who takes heed of the need to be sensitive to the question of civil rights, and, instead of perpetuation a needless war, ends it. Can the Indian Liberals find such an LBJ, or will history snatch Kashmir away from them without the grace of a dignified departure?
Rajiv Kumar is a Professor at the University of Heidelberg, Germany
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Lyndon Johnson, towards the end of his presidency had been reduced to a figure of universal scorn and derision for escalating the Vietnam War to the point of no extrication and which became a defining human tragedy of twentieth century. It was war fought on pretexts that did not exist. The slur “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” became an anthem of protestors that forced him to forgo running for his second term in 1968. Those protesting against the war and those who eventually forced Lyndon Johnson from the office were Americans who had overcome with images of atrocities and wanton civilian deaths in that mindless war. The Vietnam War was far from an exception and since its end scenes of wanton brutality and mindless killings world over can be catalogued into heavy volumes with preface filled with introduction to vileness of human species, only one to scheme annihilation of its own for artificial creations that have no sanction in the natural world.
Those deliberate false premises have gone far too long in perpetuating the brutality and subjugation in Kashmir. Those treacherous assumptions careened into perception have Indians demanding even sterner actions than the Indian security forces have not already employed. One wonders what could be sterner than the blinding of people including under-aged children through indiscriminate and unprecedented use of pellet guns. For years Indians have been ingrained with an image of a country on a map that an average fruit seller or an industrialist or a mentally and morally bankrupt bureaucrat or a duplicitous politician have all come to treat as their backyard. Ironically, Kashmir due to the very intransigence of the Indian establishment might be once again fast hurtling towards or in many ways it is already at a precipice with the local population under an ever-increased repression. In the process, India finds itself, straddling a moral abyss, which in the process exposes the hollowness of a section of the society that prides in calling itself progressive. The progressives in India refurbish their credentials by being vocal against rabidly rightwing government of Narendra Modi; curiously on the issue of Kashmir and atrocities of Indian forces in Kashmir or for that matter on any discussion about the outstanding legal status of the state, that ingrained Indian maps forces those very progressives to become alter egos of hardcore rightwing parties.
The situation in Kashmir remains what it has been for more than two decades and a half, glittered with Indian mendacity and deliberate sabotages. The place, forced through a violent insurgency in late 1980s through 1990s, remains axiomatically unchanged in it demands and aspirations even after transition from an armed insurrection to an unarmed struggle. What else has remained unchanged is the response of Indian establishment and its violent vehemence. Even when the politicians in power, until the present Modi dispensation in Delhi, professed deliberations to deal with the reality of Kashmir, the things on the ground instead of moving forward only worsened over the time. Over reliance and misplaced faith on discredited electoral process without addressing the fundamental disputed status of Kashmir vis-a-vis Indian Union further deteriorated an already dire situation. Amidst all kerfuffle, one basic matter that falls through the wide crevices of sparse minds of Indian establishment and so-called progressives, concerns the dehumanizing siege under which the entire population of Kashmir has been held since the start of the uprising or even before.
Parading of Farooq Ahmad Dar, bound to front bumper of a jeep, by army through nine villages with a piece of paper tied to his chest, warning others of a similar fate was hardly an isolated incident except the widespread circulation of that image in world media. Without taking into consideration the documented egregiously criminal cases of murders, rapes and forced disappearance over two-decades, any people would rise in rebellion against everyday humiliations that people have had to endure at the hand of security personnel through identity checkpoints, frisking, identity parades and senseless harassments. That image of hapless Farooq Ahmad Dar did evoke genuine outrage in some sections in India, but largely, there was glee and expounding of justifications and demand for even stringent actions against dilettante population mostly by liberals who otherwise had been outraged at the lynching of Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan by vigilantes of Hinduvta.
What is that evokes such reactions against population in Kashmir amongst liberals? Is that imaginary map of greater India so chiseled in brains that thought of any tinkering leads to complete irrationality? Perhaps that is where some introspective reading of history, not only of Kashmir but entire world, sometimes can help to dispel in built prejudices. The circumstances of the accession of Kashmir with India were not only dubious but it was done with a contingency of a plebiscite that India had willed never to follow through and one leader after another played dubious roles in suppressing the aspirations of population in Kashmir. There was always an unbridgeable chasm between professing and practice; the integral part mantra was always meant for, then as now, for land, the people never became anything more than colonial subjects for India as Indians had been for the British. And as did Britain, India always found local collaborators to indulge in meaningless electoral process, which over the time got so discredited that a recent poll attracted 7 percent voters and 8 deaths.
Lyndon Johnson ended his presidency completely discredited with Vietnam fiasco but he is still considered among the greatest presidents the United States. After assuming presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson went on to achieve something that eluded all American presidents since Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. Johnson’s achievements of civil and voting right act that abolished racial segregation and allowed backs to vote throughout the country remain unmatched stellar accomplishments. Ironically, immediately after the passage of voting rights acts there were widespread riots by blacks in different cities. Johnson could understand the irony as he famously said, “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re so surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”
Will Kashmir be ever solved? Only if there were leaders with Johnson like grit and altruistic determination to acknowledge the problem in the first place. No solution will come from Modi, given his avid hatred of Muslims in general. To clear doubts on that issue one just has to play those recordings from the time of Gujarat riots of 2002 when he was profuse in taunting hapless victims of gory macabre under his watch. In reality, the doomed coalition between his party and local familial enterprise of Muftis under the garb of Peoples Democratic Party has made that ever existing chasm even wider than ever and sullied Indian image more than ever, at home and abroad. Paradoxically, that may also hasten the complete rupture between Kashmir and India.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Clueless liberals in India seem to be utterly flabbergasted these day in the aftermath of incarnation of a god man cum common thug as chief minister of the largest Indian state and developments thereafter. Curiously, what exactly shocks them now? Wasn't that shocking, when Maqbool Fida Husain was forced into exile by the same forces without being anywhere near power? An amiable decrepit dunce used to argue with me endlessly in defense of those crooks.
And how many still remember that incidence when Prashant Bhushan, an advocate was pulped in his own office by the ruffians belonging to one of the Hinduvta outfit? Curiously, a crew from Times Now was at hand to film humiliation of Prashant Bhushan and the thug leading the assault was recently elevated in Delhi hierarchy of BJP. At the time of that incident, Prashant Bhushan was part of that Anna Hazare circus against corruption and still not a single charge was ever filed against the assailant.
And what about an incident in Meerut, a few years back when police went berserk to beat couples sitting in a park mercilessly in full view of TV cameras? Did liberals pursue any of those cases?
And biggest of all frauds that has been perpetrated in India happened already in 1949, when officials of Hindu Mahasabha had an idol surreptitiously placed in Babri Masjid, which was followed by a deep collusion between local administration and the state government to present that as a fait accompli. The communal forces being aware of limited intellects and attention spans of liberals utilize that to hilt to forward their agenda. Elevation of Modi at the center stage and now Yogi in the state represents only the culmination of the process they long started. Modi could become prime minister after presiding over genocides; compared to him Yogi is only initiating. Who knows what larger disaster he presides over?
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Keeping in with tradition of that vile organization, Lal Advani came into politics via RSS, a rabid organization famous for celebrating murder of Gandhi. Advani remained part of Jan Sangh, a forerunner of current BJP in various capacities. When that organization joined Janata Party and won the elections in 1977 in the aftermath of internal emergency, Advani became minister for information and broadcasting. While that Janata experiment lasted two years, the Jan Sangh constituent of Advani did lasting damage through facilitation of infiltration by communal elements into every strata of government. Following its reincarnation as BJP after break up of Janata Party, Advani assumed mantle of leadership following its rout in the first election after assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Advani as a leader of BJP turned out to be a vintage communalist and unleashed hitherto unseen bigotry. He cynically turned a dormant issue of disputed Babri Masjid into a communal frenzy that left thousands dead in its trail. For the sake of historical accuracy, that structure was never a temple; an idol was placed in the mosque through surreptitious machinations involving Hindu Mahasabha, local bureaucrats and state government of Uttar Pradesh. None of that mattered to Advani, who in a single quest of narrow political gains vitiated the entire country. Even the congress government of Rajiv Gandhi did not lack behind in utilizing the communal polarization. Serial broadcast of Hindu epics on national television in 1980s played no less part in communalization of the country from one end to another.
When Advani’s march of rabid communalism in 1989 was interrupted in Bihar, BJP brought down the national government. In the meanwhile, electorally, the communal antics of Advani had started paying dividend. It would be still be some time before BJP would come power at the center; in the interim he presided over one of the most shameful episode that befell India. In December 1991, Lal Advani over saw the total demolition of Babri Masjid. It was not just destruction of that national monument rather the entire communal fabric of the country came apart on that day of national disgrace in which Advani played the foremost part. The irony remains that every single vile act brought BJP ever-increasing share of votes; Advani’s politics of cynicism had turned entire country into rabid and cynical. That was ground created by Advani that bred the rise of ultra-communalists and opportunists like Modi. Once BJP came to power, Advani assumed portfolio of home minister charged with internal security. His tenure as minister would always be remembered for the hijacking fiasco in which that government shamelessly handed over three terrorists in exchange for the hostages. Advani shamelessly feigned ignorance about the transpirations of hijacking saga in his memoirs despite being the minister in-charge of the internal security at the time. Everything else, however, pales in comparison to his reckless defense of Modi, which makes Advani equally accomplice in the mayhem that was carried out in Gujarat. And in many ways the current state of hyper communalism can be traced back to the cynical politics authored by Lal Advani. All Modi has done is to prove himself to be the true protégé of Advani.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Generally, a year within a universal context would chronicle nothing on a cosmic clock, but for the dominant creatures traipsing the planet have repeatedly proven adept, ever since the cognitive revolution, at effecting despair and chaos even in nothingness. From the time when Homo sapiens diverged from their less cognitive cousins, they subjugated and destroyed every ecological system they visited upon and wreaked havoc on every other species and their own race; even bringing their own existence to near extinction innumerable times from the onset agricultural of societies through the age of artificial intelligence. The species remains inherently blighted with a knack of bringing itself close to despair every time its members profess to remember a near escape from the last near extinction. The year 2016 began with world poised with confidence and connectivity unlike ever before and despite ever present problems the humanity never looked depraved. Nevertheless, there existed parts in the world, that emitted cautionary signals; those paled in the larger context that never looked so hunky dory. The year couldn’t have started on a better note than the news about the detection of gravitational waves. That awe inspiring moment came on February 11, 2016. The world came to know about detection of gravitational waves that originated from the merger of two black holes, about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, about 1.3 billion years ago. That’s the time it took for those waves to lunge the planet earth. The event that was detected had happened even before sapiens had come into existence. The gravitational waves predicted in Einstein’s theory of general relativity were actually detected on September 14, 2015 at 5.51 (EST) and were announced only after peer review, an established scientific practice.
The merger of the two supermassive black holes that was revealed on the earth more than a billion years after it happened show cased the apogee of human advancement that would leave an illusory visitor from another universe baffled. That would also give an imprint of a trouble free civilization bereft of woes. That could have been too if the species had conquered its own checkered propensities to self-destruction. Three months prior to the momentous detection of gravitation waves that brought in a new epoch, an ominous announcement came from an unctuous self-described billionaire about his shot at to succeed Barack Obama as the US president. Donald Trump, something of a brash playboy given to diabolical hyperbole, had spent most of his immediate past years in a dodged and disingenuous effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama through so called birther theory. That Luciferian insinuation could attract unchallenged traction signaled troubled times ahead for those plagued with perception. Instead, the proclamation of his candidacy was met with an all-round derision and night-show hosts in a long time actually earned their wages at the cost of Donald Trump. They mocked him for everything from his the color of his hair to his comically grandiloquent and woefully inadequate vocabulary. Experts divined his longevity in the campaign from two weeks to six month before he would fold his tent and went back to his business. They are still mocking him but with a perceptible nervousness as he with his worsened but intact uncouthness has become the most powerful person on this planet. How did humanity come to such a pass?
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Past several days people have been comparing the current situation of intolerance in India to those dark days of internal emergency of 1975. The truth is that there happens to be a fundamental difference between the two situations separated by over 40 years. The internal emergency by Indira Gandhi on June 26, 1975 was managed and fueled by vast bureaucratic machinery and all those excesses committed during that era, despite being driven by Sanjay Gandhi and his cahoots had bureaucratic zeal and imprimatur. The popular support didn't exist and was confined to the workers paid from the coffers of the Congress party that had been reduced virtually as a fiefdom of the family. The population was less polarized and united in its opposition to the mere idea of emergency and the entire thing crumbled once that emergency unraveled.
The current situation represents a much more serious threat than the emergency of 1975 posed at any time. This in no way means that emergency and its aftermath did not do a lasting damage. But the current situation is being played out of fascist playbook. The government does not have to declare emergency because they have co-opted a vast section of society that has been brainwashed through jingoistic nationalism mixed with religious extremism. The coming to power of Modi just represented a culmination of a movement that rabid Hinduvta elements had started and Modi becoming Prime Minister merely represented a take over of the central government by those forces. And this regime does not depend entirely on bureaucracy to carry out its nefarious plans because it has its large vigilante class ready to do the dirty work. And those vigilantes have managed to infiltrate every strata of society be it media, academic, business or government. I doubt if those storm troopers of Modi will allow next elections and if elections are held they will allow anybody else to win.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
In the movie version of All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward played by Robert Redford is seen to ask Harry Rosenfeld, the editor in-charge of local news at the Washington Post, who was Charles Colson. Harry Rosenfeld turned around asked Bob Woodward to sit down and said, “I am glad you asked me that question. The reason is because if you had asked Simons or Bradlee, they would have said: “We will have to fire this schmuck at once because he is so dumb”.” Howard Simons and Ben Bradlee were, at the time when the Watergate Scandal had just broken out, managing editor and executive editors, respectively. On June 17, 1972, five men were caught breaking into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Building in Washington DC and editors at the Washington Post assigned Bob Woodward, a novice reporter at the newspaper, to cover arraignment of those burglars in a local court. That marked the beginning of investigative journalism by Bob Woodward and his equally bumbling colleague, Carl Bernstein into something started as a small time break in and turned out to be a big time labyrinthine criminal enterprise being run from the Nixon White House that ultimately led to resignation of Richard Nixon as the 37th President of United States of America. That was the first president ever to resign from the office. For Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the line between success and failure was utterly thin and mostly invisible and they badly stumbled at times. One particular moment when they prematurely named Bob Haldeman, the chief of staff for Richard Nixon and faced ire of indomitable Ben Bradlee, could have ended not only the entire investigation but their careers in journalism as well. But the editors, Ben Bradlee, in particular stood with them when everyone else doubted the foundations of entire story. Though, the Watergate investigation was much more complex involved many investigators and prosecutors but it started with dodged grit of two novice reporters who just had arrived and dug into murky world of Nixon White House through diligence and most importantly their editors never let them down.
A young reporter from Tehelka, Rana Ayyub donned the persona of a US based film maker, Maithali Tyagi to get story from those very people who played central and dubious part in one the worst communal riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002 and also into several incidences where several individuals were conveniently eliminated from the scene by local police and investigating agencies in highly contentious circumstances. Where Rana Ayyub were to run into a wall during her earlier stint in the state, Maithali Tyagi gained confidence of the people thick into incidences that would not have been divulged unless they felt secure to unburden themselves. Though, it may be mentioned that it had been through Rana Ayyub’s earlier investigations on stage-managed killings that led to the arrest of Amit Shah a right hand man of Modi and the home minister in the state at that time. It marked a first in the country’s history that an in office minister in charge of law and order had been arrested for criminal instigations. The range of politicians to bureaucrats Maithali Tyagi could gain access marks the who’s who of Gujarat from its worst period in history. Without reproducing the actual transcripts from the book here, most of the facts given were already known through previous sources that included many investigations that all ultimately ran into eventual ground; nevertheless, a few very disconcerting new features do emerge in Gujarat Files. One of the fig leaves behind which most of the unscrupulous people in power and media took shelter had that courts never found Modi guilty for any of the crimes that were committed in Gujarat. That is where Maithali Tyagi brings the fact home that the reasons no investigation or court could find Modi guilty for all those zillions of crimes he committed in Gujarat comes down to his nefarious modus operandi. That modus operandi is lucidly detailed in Gujarat Files. Modi operated on verbal orders directly over the heads of conscientious officers and there was never any meeting where he had said anything of the sort. The bureaucratic make over by forces of Hinduvta provided a fertile ground for Modi and his henchmen to operate. One of his main henchmen, Amit Shah who currently for all purposes happens to be the second only to Modi in power and clout, had absolutely no qualms in physical elimination of the persons he deemed obstruction to their power or path. Another revelation that has been alluded to by one of the reviewers pertains to a caste-based exploitation. There clearly emerges a pattern of selective use of officials belonging to lower castes for nefarious deeds and leaving them in lurch when caught by machinery of law.
Reading Gujarat Files gives an eerie feeling; the people who ran a viciously criminal racket in the state are now running the entire country. It manifests labyrinthine failures in the society and those manifestations are still strong. It doesn't bode well. To implicate him required full support to the kind of diligence by Rana Ayyub, which unfortunately simply wasn't there. Lesser mortals at high places in media, bureaucracy and judiciary folded and capitulated. Not that makes Modi any less criminal; he ran an unambiguous criminal enterprise with relish of a mafia overlord. Should one dwell into the past of Modi, none of that would come as surprise. Modi had his teeth cut in Rashtriya Seva Sangh (RSS); an organization modeled on fascist organizations in Europe and later became closer to another rabid Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) than he was with his parent organization BJP. The riots of 2002 in Gujarat were instigated and conducted by people associated with VHP when Modi was firmly in saddle. Modi had become chief minister after ousting his predecessor Keshu Bhai Patel through intrigue and chicanery. William Dalrymple in a long article in the New Statesman, when Modi took over as prime minister after a thumping electoral victory, described trepidation of Vinod Mehta when the latter saw Modi first time. As per Dalrymple, Vinod Mehta described Modi as a bad news when latter had gone to see him prior to his becoming chief minister with some evidence against his predecessor from his own party.
After having read Gujarat Files, I felt cynical for the reason the gang that indulged in gross criminality has ended up in ruling the country and people are still going around with business as usual. There is a deep bleakness lurking on the horizon. If they succeed with their nefariousness in UP, things could get ugly. The idealism that pushed back Indira Gandhi in those worst days of emergency simply doesn't exist anymore. Bringing justice to the victims of Gujarat and to justice those who perpetrated those crimes would require diligence of kind that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein indulged in unearthing the conspiracy of Watergate scandal. But then they had editors who stood with them and there were enough upright people to prosecute the perpetrators. Both Shoma Chaudhury and Tarun Tejpal, editors of Rana Ayyub washed their hands by saying story had holes and that was the reason that web site did not run that story. What did those as editors do to fulfill those gaps when it must have been clear that by diligently pursuing the story they could nail the mail culprit? They could have moved judiciary; they could have used right to information (RTI) to get into details. Just issuing the statements of denial does not absolve them of their deliberate negligence and submissiveness in front of juggernaut of bigotry.