Of Cabbages and Kings

August 19, 2009

Javed on Jaswant and Jinnah

Jaswant Singh explained that Jinnah had two fears of Gandhi’s style of mass politics. First, ‘if mass movement was introduced into India than the minorities in India could be threatened and we could have Hindu-Muslim riots as a consequence.’ Second, ‘this would result in bringing religion into Indian politics and he (Jinnah) didn’t want that.’

Jaswant Singh pointed out that Jinnah’s fears were shared by Annie Besant and added that events had shown that both were correct.

An excellent piece by Javed Naqvi. Read the whole thing here.


May 23, 2009

Giving thanks

Filed under: Random musing — Tags: , — Chinmayi @ 11:22 pm

Sometimes,  some beautiful times, one gives cynicism a rest and enjoys the beauty of democracy and the resilience of people, however deprived. I am in awe of the Indian masses. I know that this election was not won over facebook campaigns or fancy speeches in English. I also know that a lot of it had to do with which party was more cohesive. But I have learned that elections are not always won through hate speech (even if it seems to work in Gujarat, Karnataka and certain parts of U.P.). I have also learned that the joy of an financial package that helps the people is that regardless of how many politicians refer to it as vote-bank politics and how many money-grubbing capitalists call it populism, the people respond and vote for more. And hey, if vote bank politics means better lives for the poorest of the poor, I am all for it. 

This year, we have a promising party in charge. Not a perfect party but a secular party, and a party that acknowledges and talks of the large and invisible group below the poverty line. This time, they are in charge and out of reach of the highwaymen coalition partners that each try to force them in a different direction. This time, a man worthy of the title is still prime minister. And if not entirely pleased to return to a fundamentalist party run state, I will be delighted to return to an intelligently run country and I hope that reading the newspapers will stop being depressing for a little while.

May 15, 2009

Election run-up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 12:58 am

Two days to go and I wonder who it will be. Most people say that it doesn’t make a difference and that one politician is worse than the other. I disagree. To my mind there is a vast difference between a party that functions on an acknowledgedly Nazi-style strategy and one that doesn’t.

Yes, the Congress has been accused of burying gigantic scams, but the BJP has been accused of burying genocide. The Congress has , decades ago, fanned the anti-Sikh riots, declared the infamous long stretch of Emergency rule and gone on terrifying forced sterilisation binges. But the momentum of those events does not drive the party anymore, and the particular fears and ideology that drove them is long gone.

The Sangh Parivar on the other hand, has created the infamous Mangalore Pub incident, and the related attacks on women in Bangalore, in its first stint running Karnataka. Members of the BJP are key suspects in terrorist bomb plots (calculated to instigate communal violence). Nuns are still raped and murdered in the North-East, and the party continues firmly in its Hindu fundamentalist ways

So do I think I want a Prime Minister who “led the Ayodhya movement, the biggest mass movement in India since Independence, and initiated a powerful debate on cultural nationalism and the true meaning of secularism” *,  without any regard for the fact that this ‘mass movement’ consisted of an enormous mob of hooligans that stormed a place which had little to do with them and broke the Babri Masjid, sacred both for its religious and historical significance?  Do I think that a party that, in the name of security, announces that it will re-instate repressive laws which will take away most of our constitutional rights, and comes up with the utterly ludicrous idea of requiring everybody to have a ‘national identity card’ in a country where most people don’t have access to food, birth certificates, permanent addresses, bank balances or ration cards, is the same as a party that suppresses scams? I am afraid not.

Sadly, I am not in the country and was not able to vote this year. Other NRIs seem to be making a great big fuss about it. I won’t pretend to be pleased about not being able to vote, but I do think that it is a little self-absorbed to throw tantrums about fancy postal ballots when we know perfectly well that there are many more people within the country deprive of their right to vote than there are outside. Honestly, if one of us really really wanted to vote, there nothing stopping us from hopping on a plane back home to do it, as we do without a thought when our friends get married or our grand parents fall ill. If a migrant labourer wants to vote, odds are that she’s going to find it literally impossible. And perhaps it is just speculation but I imagine that the entire community of migrant labourers might need political power more than the hordes of NRIs scattered around the earth.

*from the BJP manifesto

March 24, 2009

The woman who fights back

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:04 am

Politicians rarely move me. But a woman my age who marches for something she believes, endures what many might see as debilitating humiliation, refuses the jobs and money offered in compensation and runs instead for elected office so that she can push for the policy changes she believes in, is a woman that I admire from the bottom of my heart. 

I hope that Laxmi Orang wins – it might mean that one corner of the world will be a slightly better place.

December 30, 2008

The wretched silliness that is politics

Filed under: Across the Universe, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:54 am

As most of the world may have noticed, instead of working together at controlling the terrorism that clearly affects them both, India and Pakistan are squabbling away: allegations, denials, name-calling, grandiose demands, arresting eachothers’ citizens, concentration of armies on the borders, veiled and direct threats…the works.

The most interesting perspective that I have seen so far on what appears to be mystifyingly childish behaviour on part of both countries is Kuldip Nayar’s in ‘As things get messier’:

“Like Bhutto, Zardari assumed that he had all power. But he found that this was not so when the government first declared it would send the ISI chief to Delhi after having acceded to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s request in the wake of the Mumbai blasts and then was not able to do so. What should he have done? Admitted his helplessness in public? No ruler does. He could have resigned but Pakistan does not have a tradition of doing so. Knowing all this, Mukherjee should have refrained from asking who rules in Pakistan. This has further exposed the Zardari government. But then New Delhi’s problem is that it is under a lot of pressure to act after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. Yet, India might have strengthened Zardari if it had not posed the question that Mukherjee did… Zardari’s embarrassment is understandable. It is apparent that he came to know about the attack on Mumbai only after it had taken place.”

And there we are…with what appears to be an upcoming war on our hands, with the media in each country convincing everybody that the other country is an utterly unreasonable and dangerous security threat, more murdering as though the death-toll of the past few years has not been quite enough and (as I suspect is usual) it is all so that a few politicians can save face.

December 9, 2008

India and Pakistan

Filed under: Random musing — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 2:45 am

are good neighbours here in London. S., the Pakistani next door, is full of marvellous stories. She will play beautiful Urdu poetry set to music for me well after midnight and make buckets of delicious biryani for her friends fairly regularly. If she refuses to wear sleeveless clothes or so much as sniff alchohol, she is full of jokes about how easy it is for a Pakistani woman to get a scholarship thanks to the patronising attitude of the West and she is mocking of the hypocrisy of a country where the people who ban alchohol are known to have the best collection of it.

When Mumbai was attacked, we talked about it in the kitchen – S was sympathetic while I was anxious, and I was indignant on her behalf when she told me of someone who had suggested that she should bear some of the responsibility for the incident. Characteristically, she grinned and said that even if the violence did come out of Pakistan, it was very unlikely that the political leader had any control over it. 

S. invited me for her Eid feast today. We played some table tennis and suddenly realised that the pairs across the table from eachother had inadvertantly formed into Indians versus Pakistanis. And the laughter of the evening is something that I will always remember.  A mock war was carried out – with the Pakistanis accusing Indians of targeting their soft corners and their women, and the Indian accusing the Pakistanis of infiltration. Every platitude ever offered by either country’s government was hurled across the table to be incinerated in the laughter. And I caught myself hoping that the world will never change so much that it no longer holds any place for such a table tennis match.

December 2, 2008

Barkha Dutt Entertainments

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:25 pm

otherwise titled ‘We the People’ claims to be a talk show. The hostess has a careful selection of people calibrated to attract the very maximum of the wrong kind of attention – politicians, television personalities, “page 3” people…all what are known as ‘big names’ along with a sprinkling of victims and supposed experts/ intellectuals meant to provide some amount of legitimacy. Many of her invitees tend not to know anything at all about the subjects on which they hold forth. Those that seem like they are headed towards saying something remotely coherent never actually get there since Barkha Dutt invariably cuts them off. 

I usually find her show very entertaining, and pray as I watch it that nobody actually takes the tripe she spews to be any more than tripe. The latest show however degenerated into stupidity that was incredible even by Barkha Dutt standards, and which was particularly obnoxious given her blatant attempt to cash in on a major tragedy. I do not expect anyone to watch the whole thing (although if you do, you will be treated to Simi Garewal’s enthusiastic suggestion that the solution to the crisis is to carpet bomb the LTTE, and to be as scary as the USA was post 9/11, and another gentleman who insisted that we are ‘gonna’ stop paying taxes and that is the solution) but if you move over to the last bit, you will find it concludes with Simi Garewal insisting that the problem with the country was that if you stuck your head out of the back of the Four Seasons, you would see Pakistani flags flying on the slums behind. The audience, to its great credit, erupted. There’s School Ma’rm Barkha Dutt wagging her finger at all the naughty children and tells them that she is ashamed of them, instead of directing her admonitions to her ill-informed incendiery guest. The show closes with Barkha Dutt asking dramatically for observation of silence to show case her tom-toming conjured passion for the issue, and then going on to ruin any gravity that the silence may have had, by refusing to let her audience frame what the silence is for. [see the video]

September 18, 2008

Media: the elitist watchdog?

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 8:29 pm

24 hour news channels are the next big thing in India. They might have been a little more interesting if they attempted to report all that there was to report in a day (surely in a country where several rapes and several murders are committed in a day, not to mention all the bribing there is plenty of material to fill a day’s programme) instead of running the same ten minutes of commentary on the same issue again and again and again.

When Aarushi Talwar was found murdered in her room at her upmarket urban residence, the media broadcast little other news for about two months. A google search with just the term ‘Aarushi’ results in a long catalogue of newspaper reports about her

Another child, known only as ‘the deaf and dumb girl’ was raped by policemen a little over a month back. We have heard practically nothing about it.

There are over 15,000 (reported) incidents of rape in a year and around six thousand (reported) dowry deaths in this country. But most of these are brushed aside very quickly especially if the victim is a dis-empowered person. Sometimes the powerful lend their voices to the powerless and someone like Mathura becomes a little more visible. But for a large part, most of the victims that should share the media attention devoted to Aarushi are ignored and left to fend for their powerless selves.

September 13, 2008

Terrorism 101

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 7:20 am

Amateur terrorists have little to fear in India. There may be plenty of tricks that they know nothing about but law enforcement agencies and the media will spare no efforts in helping them all they need to be trained professionals. 

Take the recent bomb blats in India. It has occurred to the Indian Intelligence bureau that the blasts, and all future terrorism might become very easy to pull off if the perpatrators take to using chinese mobile phone (which are apparently impossible to identify and track since they do not have IMEI numbers). Now most people might be selfish and keep that kind of information to themselves until they had figured out how to get around the problem. But not us Indians. We like to keep our terrorists well aware of all the new tools that are available to them. So we make the information public, and just to ensure that the updates do not escape their notice, we broadcast all of this repeatedly on national television. Now there’s generosity for you.

August 21, 2008

Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, somebody who has done a lot more for the country than most people, is now a victim of the ridiculous charade that passes off as justice in India. He has been in prison for over a year now. Read about him over here. If you are moved, you could sign the petition to free him.

Imprisonment of people that speak out against the government is becoming unsettlingly frequent. There was Professor Geelani a few years back, Binayak Sen last year and Ajay TG this year. And these are merely the high profile cases that find their way into the media.

So many of us, the Indian middle class, feel so complacent and secure sitting on our plush couches watching fluffy shows like Big Boss on our flat screen televisions and driving to expensive restaurants in our glittering cars. Once in a while, we see newsreports of bombs and terrorists which disturb us a little. Like frightened children swallowing a fairy story to rationalise surroundings that we don’t understand, we accept draconian laws trustingly and have touching faith in the police who we believe will use all this power we give it to shoot all the bad guys and make the roads safe for our new cars.

In the meantime, the people who can see what is really going on and who speak out against it are slowly being erased – the mild form of this removal is that they are ignored and the extreme form of their disappearance is that they are arrested – and we have no idea that this is going on.

Ours is a country where each of us has the freedom of speech and expression, and the right to ask questions when we can see that rule of law is not observed. By ignoring our right and allowing ourselves to be lulled into complacence, we are creating a frightening country for ourselves to live in. And by our indifference we are allowing the few heroes who champion our cause to be annihilated.

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