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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has become one of the most reviewed books since and even before its publication in June 2017. The antici...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Modi and his apologists

Those Indians, who never stop fawning at anything their beloved leader Narendra Modi does, can hardly be in a state, for the lack of reasoning, to understand that creating a park or making a highway does not make a leader. It would be too much to ask them if they ever bothered to see a parallel between Modi and a European dictator.  He, besides, building autobahns also presided over the holocaust that eliminated over six million Jews.  In 2002, Modi presided over a holocaust of his own in Gujrat and the passage of time can in no way dilute or lessen those deliberate acts of omission and commission. It is sheer travesty to see that he instead of facing law for his crimes against humanity should be poised to win another term as a Chief Minister in Gujrat. Notwithstanding, endorsements from those phony industrialists, whose morals are never spoilt by anything other than money making, Modi will never be remembered for anything other than an abettor of the worst communal violence that resulted not only in killing of thousands of Muslims but sending rest to the ghettos.  He presided over and directly abetted in causing the worst communal mayhem in Gujrat. Conviction of Maya Kodnani, a close ally and a minister in his government hardly leaves any doubt about involvement of Modi himself in crimes committed during those riots. It is not only the crimes per se but a thuggish manner that he and acolytes went after people who implicated him in those horrendous acts. He may run away for now and he may have his apologists in abundance, but in all probability at the end he will never escape from the sins of letting humans burnt alive. They never escape and Modi and his ilk will also not. Neither did Milošević, Karadžić and Mladić.      

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Squandered Presidency

Obama, on one of his summer holidays, took with him a copy of Lou Canon’s book ‘President Reagan: The role of a life time’. He might have done himself a favor, if instead he had spent some time reading a biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America. Lyndon Johnson became President following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dulles, Texas on November 23, 1963. The motorcade driving John F. Kennedy through that fateful trip included Lyndon Johnson who, as throughout his tenure as Vice-President, had been relegated into a rented vehicle far behind the President. A fellow Texan senator Yarborough refused share ride with Johnson. Lyndon Johnson obviously was at the lowest ebb of his career. Texas, though being his home state he was losing influence there, and Kennedy didn’t have much incentive to keep him on ticket in Presidential election in fall of 1964.

Those shots from Oswald’s gun irreversibly changed the course of history, which placed at that difficult time Johnson at the helm: Right from the time when Lyndon Johnson lay buried on the floor his vehicle under a hefty secret service agent through the burial of assassinated President, he assumed and displayed a leadership to bring sweeping changes in the society that few could have predicted. Lyndon Johnson went on to get through, in the course of twelve months into his presidency, a recalcitrant congress dominated by southern Democrats legislations including a broad civil rights bill that ended racial segregation. The civil rights bill, though, had been sent to the Congress by Kennedy administration, only to be stalled irretrievably in the senate. It was only through the deftness; grit, leadership and brinksmanship Lyndon Johnson not only got the legislation through, but also later in his presidency went on to get voting rights bill passed that for the first time empowered blacks with power to vote throughout the country.

Obama through his campaign during primaries against Hillary Clinton in 2008 displayed a disdain for the record of Bill Clinton’s presidency and instead imagined him becoming a transforming President like Reagan. The only trouble with that vision is, though almost a heresy, that narrative of Reagan presidency being transformative is nothing more than a fictitious fairy tale; as a matter of fact that to some measures was a sham. Reagan’s role in his presidency was not much beyond being an actor on a large stage and prosperity attributed to those years turned out to be the poisonous chalice. The manner Obama squandered his presidency, and if that brings Romney to White house, would be nothing less than a Greek tragedy both modern and mythical.
-Rajiv Kumar
Note: The information about Lyndon Johnson is from the book "The years of Lyndon Johnson: The passage of power" by Robert A. Caro

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bloated Ignorants

They admire Narender Modi, who not only abetted and presided over worst communal riots in India; he also turned out to be an idiot. But they can't help themselves seeing in him a saviour. Every time a Muslim does something admirable they start seeing conspiracy; they see conspiracy in everything, I guess, even in their own existence. That is how they chose to interpret Aamir Khan's media show. They support dubious people with their blatantly illogical reasons. They find virtues in one of the most dubious Indian army men, V.K. Singh, who now it turns out was running an illegal intelligence unit. They are even against Obama; they don't know why. They feed each other with their ignorance. They are communally bent Indians with their bloated ignorant intellects. 
-Rajiv Kumar

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Genesis and the causes

It is tempting to trace the genesis and the cause(s) of the unfolding scenario of all round loss of institutional credibility in India, which is now striking at the very root of the democracy itself. It didn’t happen overnight; it has been wreaked by misplaced hubris, complacency and most importantly by deception and dishonesty. Corruption at every level has been one of the key demeaning and debasing factors in the affairs of the country and its people. In contrast to common perception the corruption per se is not cause of the prevailing decadence, rather it is product of oblivion and duplicity practiced by all those who mattered in any form, over the years on issues that required deep understandings and diligence for attaining lasting solutions. Instead of solutions, powers to be in Indian hierarchy chose to misuse rather abuse apparatus of the state including armed forces for quelling dissent through repressive measures and in the process unleashing its own reign of terror in certain parts of the country. Nothing can exemplify this phenomenon better that India’s handling of Kashmir through grant of unlimited powers to armed forces.

Kashmir problem has its origin in constitutional deception perpetrated by successive Indian governments and clumsy handling of the place and its people. That ineptness of Indian government and its every single department led to more than two decade long violence that affected anybody or everybody connected with Kashmir.  In its single one-point of agenda of keeping Kashmir within Indian state, the Indian government through its armed forces unleashed its own reign of terror. The total subjugation of the population was attained through blanket immunity to the forces. To say that excesses were committed would be a colossal understatement. There is a long catalog of all sorts of killings, fake encounters and persons disappeared without traces; if that were not enough there is always heaping of scornful humiliations on the population in Kashmir. Members of armed forces are exempt from any sort of prosecution under an act in place since 1990s. Even transition to unarmed struggle in Kashmir failed to induce any change in tactic or thinking on the part of Indian government and its armed forces in Kashmir. A slightest hint of a discussion about the modification AFSPA by any civilian authority in the country has always been met with violently vocal response from military and its commanders. The absence of any attempt by civilian authorities to reign in its military officials from public airing of their views has not only been conspicuous but now it would seem to have started to have its affect on the very democratic roots of the system. Those who dismiss the whole issue of a single General creating an unprecedented ruckus probably underestimate fragility of democracy, a system that is already under siege. But then deception always invites wrathful retribution.

Over past one year another assault on the very foundations of Indian democracy has come from vested interests with their disparate agenda joined together in the garb of fight against corruption. The bizarre team consisted of individuals with limited understanding of complex issues and strong ties with saffron forces looking for a power grab. The fight against corruption, as they understand, might have succeeded in catching fancy of gullible urbane middle-classes, who in their materialistic trance would never understand the vested interests driving that organization of individuals with dubious intentions. As Arundhati Roy put it, with their accountant’s understanding of corruption the constituency of that organization and clownish individuals does not run beyond Jantar Mantar. Nevertheless, their antics do have potential to bring democratic institutions in disrepute and that they did. They might be limited by their grasp of the issues but they do seem to have accomplices within the government, who for them leak incomplete audit reports at appropriate junctions. It might be a right place to remind about the observation of Liberhans Commission about the infiltration by right wing ideologues and their sympathizers at every level of government.

The ultimate blame, nevertheless, lies with the government not for not creating a so-called body to remove corruption as dimwits think, but rather pursuing hollow and unjust policies. It failed in Kashmir. It failed to impress supremacy of civilian authority in a democracy to its army officials. It pandered to the vested corporate interests at the cost of tribal population. It failed to bring succor to the farmers, who continue take their lives. It decorated officials involved in crimes. Not a single voice condemned the crime perpetrated on Soni Suri. If the system falls under its weight, will it be still a surprise?
-Rajiv Kumar

Saturday, April 7, 2012

No heroes but only villains

A few days back a story appeared in an Indian newspaper about unauthorized movement of troops towards Indian capital of Delhi on the very day when Indian army chief moved the highest court against the government on the never-ending saga of his date of birth. The report in the said newspaper was vehemently denied by the government and rubbished by the general; the newspaper stood by its story. In the mirthful disorderliness of Indian state of affairs, it is highly unlikely that truth will make its way to the public domain.

Nevertheless, something was afoot somewhere in the government; even prime minister was woken up in the wee hours of that January morning (http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2012/04/04/three-cheers-for-home-ministry/). To attribute, a spate of incidences in rapid succession to sheer chance would require suspension of disbelief. There was a one-off report of mobile listening devices placed near central government offices again in conjunction with the developments relating to date of birth of the General. When even that failed to arouse outrage, the General went public with the revelation of him being enticed with a huge sum at an earlier date and the alleged culprit being a high ranked army officer.

If that didn’t get any murky, the deed was completed by leak of a letter written by the General to Prime Minister with details of sordid unpreparedness of the army. On the face of it General was as outraged by the alleged leak as the ministries. The General did reveal of his being forewarned about planted stories; a section of Indian press revealed the source of story about troop movement being a minister in the government. One can genuinely ask, can it get any more bizarre than it have already? The answer would be an unequivocal yes, because the whole establishment has fallen into an abyss, which is bottomless. The ending will have no heroes but only villains. 
-Rajiv Kumar

Monday, March 26, 2012

One-man train wreck

If any one person could embody the phrase one-man train wreck, the distinction would belong to none other than India’s top General V. K. Singh. The egress of grace from persona of persons in public sphere has long been accepted as fait accompli. But, it is the antics of the General that even surpass those who habitually inhabit nadir. General as per his own admission accepted a date birth to get appointed to the top job only to renege disgracefully and put both army and government in an unparalleled embarrassment and drag those institutions through Supreme Court. Even though the court advised him to accept decision and retire gracefully, he chose to interpret that as not a final closure. One had hoped, now it would seem in vain, nothing happened till his date of retirement. It would seem, in a latest bizarre saga, that the General was offered bribe, he chose to stay at first quiet and blurt out now and throw everybody off the balance. The only caveat is that the General has hardly any credibility left and it would be just waste of time to ask ‘why now’.  

If it were a matter of a single General gone berserk the entire thing could be shrugged off. The truth is that it represents a much deeper malaise that can only be gauged by the fact that the past appointees to top posts in army would be decorated individuals in contrast to future appointees who are either tainted with fake encounters or embroiled in scandals. It is not a hypothetical nightmare scenario but rather an undeniable reality with designate army chief as a poignant illustration. And when army officers in contravention to the accepted norms of a democratic set-up are allowed to over ride civilian authority in the matter of policy, the day of ruing cannot be far behind. At any moment when civilian political authorities would even pretend to be looking at the draconian acts that provide blanket impunity to the doings of armed forced, the generals would let out a loud howl in unison against any dilution to their power to kill and terrorize civilian population.

The precedence of civilian authority over armed forces should have been long made clear and General V. K. Singh dismissed at the very first instance of dissension. But then that requires high moral authority. President Harry Truman didn’t have any compunction in dismissing Douglas MacArthur, one of the most decorated Generals in American history and getting in the process pilloried by Republicans. Historically, Truman is placed highly for that momentous and courageous judgment.
-Rajiv Kumar

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ignorant arrogance and land of ignoramus

A few days back Delhi police once again indulged in an oft-repeated gimmick and it declared to have uncovered a plot by ‘dreaded terrorists’ who were going to once again blow up Delhi and after that terrorists involved were planning to board a bus to reach Kashmir to blow that place. The plot thickened further when police in Delhi declared to have found a letter of recommendation written by Syed Ali Shah Geelani in favor of one of the terrorists involved, recommending a Pakistani visa. The implication spread by the authorities is meant to read that finally a smoking gun linking Syed Ali Shah Geelani to a terrorist plot is found. Only one has be a complete dunce not to remember the number of such dud plots uncovered by Indian security forces. And even before charges against Geelani had been pronounced, one person seemed to have declared Geelani already guilty and was seen to be foaming while demanding explanation from Geelani. Arnab Goswami while hosting what was purported to be a TV discussion, assumed the role of an inquisitor.

The uncouthness of Arnab Goswami, his misdemeanor bordering on vulgarity and in conjunction with his inherent ignorance, makes one wonder if he is even aware about the geographic location of Kashmir, leave aside the history of the place. The vulgarity of Arnab Goswami was interspersed by midget like Manish Tiwari’s proclamation of peaceful participations in elections in Kashmir that are being vitiated by Geelani. The only thing that comes to mind is that ‘idiots don’t get it’. How could these people be so shut from the reality? The only regretful thing was that Syed Ali Shah Geelani had to put with utter and diabolical nonsense of Arnab Goswami and while doing so Geelani neither lost his calm and more importantly nor his brief.

One starts wondering at people like Goswami, their origin; and one starts genuinely asking where in the hell do such people get their power to behave with an ignorant arrogance everyday? Where do such people get their mandate for spreading their ignorance and lies? Arnab Goswamy is not the only one of his ilk in the land of ignoramus. When last autumn the moment poor Omar Abdullah raised the issue of AFSPA, the femme fatale of NDTV, Barkha Dutt, went on hosting a reality show featuring Indian army generals who ranted against any dilution of the act so that security forces unabatedly continue their crimes against civilian population. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inseparable part sans electricity

In the past few days there has been a buzz of snow falling in Kashmir and temperatures reaching below freezing point. One imagines a spectacle of white clad serene valley with icicles hanging from the roofs and children making funny snowmen or hurling snow-balls. And if it were the first snow fall of the season a ritual congratulatory exchanges would be in vogue, which I think is part of an avoidance mechanism for the impending invidious miseries that without doubt and exception befall the denizens of that forsaken valley; when the fairy-tale land transforms into dungeon of misery. Eternal condemnation in the form of total disappearance of electricity from cities, towns and village is mandatory for all souls to endure. Like a horror dream the scenario repeats itself through eternity, through years, through decades, through, centuries (not an exaggeration). From my experience of the place, miserable and condemned little folk of the valley cannot even cling to a dream of an improvement with passage of the decades and centuries. The electricity ever since its first traverse through power lines in the valley assumed a retrograde morph with assured worsening of the situation every single successive year and decade. No matter what authorities promise and notwithstanding the big names like Salal and Uri hydel project the people of the valley will be forced endure cold-wintery darkness in total desolation. They have an option to protest but they shall do only at their own peril. There are enough security forces to rain bullets no matter whether the protest is against non-existent power supply or against Indian rule itself. When Indian nationalists gush about Kashmir being inseparable part of India they mean it sans electricity.   

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When news used to be news

Amartya Sen in an op-ed in The Hindu newspaper while praising the Indian press for its vigor and vibrancy, pointed out its shortcomings that he attributed to what he called ‘lack of internal discipline’ and ‘relation between media and society’. The real problem, if it still qualifies to be problem, stems from transition of news media organizations from honest reporters of news to self-anointed news creators and opinion makers.

Editorials, in the days of scrupulous propriety journalism, would remain cornered in opinion pages and news columns would contain stories in real-time with honest reporting based on witnessed accounts.  Even electronic media, television and radio (much before computers were in vogue and internet would be confined in some nihilistic format to science fiction), prior to internal emergency that Mrs. Indira Gandhi declared in 1975, remained source of news in its most unadulterated form with opinions confined to separate commentaries that followed news-bulletins. Nevertheless, Radio and TV in those days used to be under virtual government control that became almost comic during infamous internal emergency. During emergency, the news prior to broadcast would be vetted by prime minister’s office.
The plight of so called electronic media of that era is summed in a passage in Salman Rushdie’s novel ‘Shalimar the clown’ that reads “All-India Radio sent a radio reporter to stand uncertainty outside the sage-green apartment building at Type-I Number-22 Southeast Hira Bagh, holding out his microphone as if it were a begging bowl. Doordarshan, in those days the only television channel, sent a cameraman and a sound recordist. The text of what they were permitted to say in commentary would no doubt be handed down later from Prime Minister’s office, so there was no need to send a journalist”.

But then newspapers were at a completely different and elevated pedestal; most of those national newspapers zealously withstood assault on their independence with total dignity and uprightness. Rather than to succumb to the diktats of information and broadcasting ministry the editors of the time chose to go to print with empty column spaces. Those tactics rather than serving the uncanny emergency regime embarrassed it no uncertain manner. That was the high noon of Indian print journalism, very different from whatever one is forced to observe, in the high-tech age, in the name of mainstream journalism that has been overtaken and overpowered by jingoist zeal of turning every single news story into a sensation tinged with rabid ultra-nationalism.

The disappearance of boundaries between print and electronic media that followed liberalization and parallel technological marathon also saw blurring of boundaries between reporting and creation of news. News reporters instead of being reporters also assumed the mantle makers of public opinions. And for that purpose slanting of news without any compunctions, became a norm and adherence to truth peripheral.

The government control gave way to vice like grasp by partisan and vested interests with very different and at times dangerous agenda. Expansion from limited outlets to an unending number of channels extending beyond horizons resulted in mediocrity filling the places and consequent decline of understanding of the issues. The latter served those vested interests to the point of perfection.

The entire phenomenon far from being indigenous is rather imported from places where it had been put to use to the point that military operations were timed to start wars, and drop bombs to char innocents, to coincide with prime-time live telecasts. The entire issue is much more than lack of discipline; one misses the days when news used to just news.

But entire this diatribe does not at any time mean that there are not any more honest and upright individuals in the profession. I know individuals who with their impeccable work have kept issues not only alive but done much more to alleviate suffering in the places long shunned and condemned by mainstream media. At the very root of the entire issue is the overtake of the system by narrow partisan and vested interests, who survive through the times to fleece truth for their petty ends.
-Rajiv Kumar