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“Farce of Farmers”: No Indian could be neutral at this hour; which side are you on?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Let there be no doubt that it’s not about farmers. Think of all the reasons you could and I would demolish it clinically.

MSP? “Farmers” are worried that Minimum Support Price is not guaranteed. That private players would manipulate them in future. Now when the prime minister Narendra Modi has assured MSP in the Parliament; and the Centre needs free foodgrains for 80-crore citizens, there is no way “farmers” wouldn’t get the MSP.

Unconvinced? Let’s look at the figures.The agitation is about wheat and paddy, right? Now between Punjab (69%) and Haryana (25%), some 94 percent of all wheat and paddy is procured. It’s only going up. In 2019, the wheat bought was 34.1 million tonnes. This year it’s already 38.9 million tonnes. In 2019, the Centre had bought 26.6 million tonnes of paddy. This year, it’s 31.6 million.

So, if the agitation is only about wheat and paddy, and MSP on it, what’s the problem here?

APMC? The “fear” that mandis would be bypassed. Really? Does the Farm Acts say so? Is allowing farmers to sell anywhere they want under APMC is doing away with APMC? How is more freedom spun into less freedom narrative? Who else dominates APMC but rich farmers, powerful traders and entrenched politicians?

Unconvinced? Let’s pour over statistics released only this September. Punjab has 31 percent Scheduled Caste population. Yet only 22 Dalits received aid under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna. Why? Because this set doesn’t own much of land. The land is owned by rich farmers. In Punjab, only 3.5% of private farm land belong to Dalits. As against, Punjab has the richest of all farmers in India—classified as owning more than 10 hectares of land among all non-mountainous states of India. While the national average is 0.57% of total land in the hands of the rich, in Punjab it scales up to 5.28%.

There is no third argument in this farce. You would ask me if this is so why thousands of farmers have gathered at the gate of Delhi and choked the entrance to the Capital? All I know is that this mob is made up of all kinds: Rich-elite farmers, the people-towing trucks which the politicians are so adept at harnessing. When you have tell-tale evidence of Khalistanis popping up their banners; Popular Front of India (PFI) shouting their support; Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal opening his “langar” for them; Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh not picking up phone of his counterpart from Haryana, you know this is anything but farmers.

So, if this is not about farmers what is this all about? This is about controlling India. About usurping the power. To be the handmaidens of those who are upset at the national narrative of last six years. Those who are frustrated that neither voters nor judiciary is being swayed by their propaganda. The last resort of these losers is to unleash anarchy on the street. To keep drumming Bad Police whenever the cops push back. Police freezes, judiciary is dumbstruck—so what option Centre really has?

The Centre has called the farmers for a 3 p.m meeting on Tuesday. If it takes place, it would fail. It should. Centre has more than Punjab to worry about. It can’t guarantee MSP. It can’t handover a template in the hands of anarchists. If you guarantee MSP, you are dissuading private players from improving the agriculture sector which is in shambles. It needs big investment in tech, seeds, water-capacity. Do you think state governments like Punjab could do so? A state government which even can’t solve the stubble-burning problem? Which levies 8.6 percent tax on farm proceeds so it could offer free electricity and free water? Is it concerned that chemicals in water are now producing Cancer Villages of Punjab?

Let me make another prediction. You would have “farmers” rally in support around India, hogging your newspapers in coming days. At least in Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra etc who would also pass resolutions in assembly that they wouldn’t implement Farm Acts 2020. Brussels and Washington would be deeply concerned.

Somehow the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia or Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) would seek “Azaadi” for the farmers. Our Swara Bhaskars and filmi set of Bhatts and Akhtars and Kashyaps would join voices. Our Asaduddin Owaisi would be worrying about India’s democracy in front of cameras. “Award Waapsi” has already begun.

That’s why I say this is not about farmers.

Now let’s look at the other side. What options the Modi government really has to stop this recurrence of anarchy? It has seen anti-CAA protests and now this Farmers’ Stir which has been whipped up on misinformation, propaganda and the agenda to destabilize India. All in one year. Many more would occur.

Where does Modi government go from here?

Farmers’ stir: Analysing the situation from two sides of the barricades; Who’s wrong?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Farmers on foot, tractors, trucks have marched from Punjab towards Haryana and Delhi. Along the way, they have faced barricades, police resistance which morphed into tear gas, water canons and arguably some baton wielding. It’s not a pretty picture and the typical hubris of Modi government is painted in our newspapers. The stand off has refused to die down two months after the three Farmers’ Acts were passed by the Parliament in September.

Emotions are running high. So I would cut out the flourish and engage the readers in the simplest of language possible.

So, let’s first work out what the farmers want and what the Centre is loathe to give it to them. The essence of these Farm Acts is that (a) it’s now One Nation, One Agriculture market; (b) that farmers could engage with private players; and (c) No need to hoard the grains.

ONE NATION ONE AGRICULTRE MARKET: It implies that a farmer could sell his produce anywhere in the country. So, if I am a Punjab farmer, and couldn’t look beyond the mandis of the state (read Agriculture Produce Market Committee—APMC) thus far, I could now scan the neighbouring states of Himachal, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh and get the best price on my produce;

FARMERS COULD ENGAGE WITH PRIVATE PLAYERS: Farmers in Punjab are hampered on water and technological issues. The water tables of the state are so depleted that there are “Cancer Villages in Punjab” due to all the chemicals and pesticides. The simplest example on technological issue is the stubble-burning which makes Delhi a gas chamber and which the farmers’ can’t attend to because of the cost involved. Now farmers could engage private players for redemption on these fronts, including seeds.

NO STOCKPILING: The Centre says we have enough food. Farmers’ don’t need to stockpile but for exceptional circumstances. The State government wants to have it say. It’s not a major point in the present confrontation.

xxx

Once these three Farm bills were moved, Shiromani Akali Dal walked out of the alliance with the BJP. The Punjab state government of Congress, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, moved a resolution which was passed by the state assembly to override these Farm Acts of the Centre. Yet, the agitation has refused to die down because the President of India hasn’t given his assent to the state assembly’s resolution.

The arguments from the other side, backed by the Punjab state government and passed by the assembly, are these:

(a)    The State government could notify the fee on any private or electronic transaction. So if you go to Punjab, as a private, player, the state government could actually levy tax on you (So whither Ease of Doing Business?)

(b)    Instead of a few hundred mandis, the whole Punjab state would thus become a mandi over which the writ of the state government would run large;

(c)     The Punjab state government says that the procurement of wheat and paddy should happen only on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). If it is bought for less, the state would have the right to punish the private player. The State say we are doing so to protect the future of farmers: What happens if the Centre changes its mind and does away the MSP for wheat and paddy?

It’s the MSP which is the stickiest of all points. The contention that private players in future could hold the farmers at their mercy is unfounded. As of last year, the total procurement by private players in the State was a mere 0.58 per cent. Further, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, some 80 crores of the 150-crore population are being given free foodgrains. The Centre would always need to procure foodgrains. The incitement to farmers that their future would be held to ransom is fallacious.

Sure, the MSP is not just important for the farmers. It’s also important for the Punjab state government. It taxes farmers to the tune of 8.5 per cent. Last year, the Punjab state government made 3600 crore revenue out of this exercise. This money, they claim, they spend on the welfare of farmers which includes free electricity and free water.

Naturally, MSP suits both farmers and the Punjab state government. Farmers get free subsidies. The State government affords it through taxation, most of which comes from the revenue that the Centre gives by procuring the foodgrains.

The Centre is loathe to guarantee MSP. One, there is little logic as outlined since the government would always need foodgrains. Two, as said, private players are miniscule in this game. Besides, wheat and paddy are not the only produce from Punjab. There is a flourishing dairy industry too. All could benefit if the market is allowed to take its own course.

Arguing in favour of farmers for “free” subsidies is the same if I go to my bank tomorrow and say I can’t pay my loan back because it pinches my pocket. That’s no argument. You can’t run a nation on this premise. Further private players, as said, could provide solution to a lot of lingering farm issues in this country. If the threat of a punitive State action is around, nobody would come forward. The farm situation would only worsen. E-commerce players like Grofers and Big Basket, a win-win for all, would suffer.

Now look at it from another perspective. This issue seems only to concern Punjab. The farmers in the rest of the country have no issue with these three Farm Acts. Wheat and Paddy and that too of Punjab farmers isn’t the entire India and its produce. Could a state hold to ransom which is good for farmers and sectors all across?

Now let’s delve on the political aspect of it. Captain Amarinder Singh and Congress know that the election is only a year and a half away in 2022. This is the right time to make a capital investment. Shrimoni Akali Dal too want to recover its lost ground. It’s BJP, who would fight all 117 seats alone. Who stands to lose the most? One should give BJP credit for persisting in face of such adverse poll logic.

There is also this question of middlemen. It’s not an inconsiderable number in Punjab: At the last count it was 36,000. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) gave them Rs 1,600 crores at 2.5 percent commission last year. They stand to lose the most if the monopoly of mandis (APMC) is done with. They also flourish under the political patronage. Both won’t like the new measures to kick in.

 

Pattanaik is quick to seize on the “Suitable Boy” kiss: But Khajuraho analogy doesn’t fit

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Devdutt Pattanaik has again pulled a fast one. His twitter timeline has an image of a sculpture, most likely from Khajuraho, where a kiss is being performed. He followed it with another one such image. He taunts “Hindutva” and he mocks saffron warriors including True Indology.

Pattanaik has done so in response to the Netflix serial “The Suitable Boy” being in crosshairs for showing a kiss inside a temple. His import is Hindu Dharma has always been nonchalant about such activities, that sex was a part of life and openly exhibited in public view. That the Hindu dharma today is hostage to Hindutva extremists. And that the right-wing Hindu governments is fuelling it. He kills the other bird with one stone in dragging saffron warriors and True Indology. Who’s the boss here now?

The misinformation is deliberate. It hides that temples like Khajuraho were built when Buddhism was the flavour. When Hindu dharma was in retreat. So, a show had to be put on devdasis and apsaras. Shringara too which was one of the Navrasas. Such images were put on exteriors of temples so visitors don’t lose sight of their roots. People still kept their padukas outside the temple. Inside was still sacred. Pious and devotional thoughts were still encouraged. Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata still ran around the four corners.

Temples of past must be seen in their contexts. Cities came around temples and not the other way round. Temples were where artisans, writers, sculptors, poets could earn their living. The donation from the Kings and Rich kept the tradition, the folklore, the civilization alive. Music were performed. Debates happened. People gathered. The heritage received a fresh coat. Temples were more than just Gods.

But they were not Lodhi gardens or venue of sex escapades. They were still essentially abode of Gods. A place where a pure mind and a pure body could meet divinity. You were encouraged to wash yourself clean. Yogis did tapasayas, people took vows, sought forgiveness from the residents of heavens.  A Menaka was seen a temptation to break the sadhana of a Vishwamitra.

So it’s facile on Pattanaik’s part to spin a story which could show Hindutva as no different from Crusaders or Jihadis. Hindutva was a word coined by Veer Savarkar. He was an atheist and used it to define all who lived in India. This was to counter the assertion of Muslim fundamentalists of his times. “Hindutva” was a pamphlet published in 1923 when the Khilafat movement was at its peak and had gripped Mahatma Gandhi. Hindutva to him implied Hinduness of its people. It didn’t have religious connotations. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also doesn’t use it in a theological sense.

Men like Pattanaik and Shashi Tharoor know how to please their masters. The narrative that India is in grip of religious extremism and Narendra Modi’s BJP is fuelling it. That Hindutva is the raging fire which would burn up Muslim homes, rape its women and leave its children destitute. That ultimately it would break up India in dozens.

The stance on “Suitable Boy”, if anything has come late. Netflix has been begging for censure for some years now. It surely is good business for Netflix to stoke controversy and there is no better way than to show Hindu extremism. Everyone watches the show, money keeps raining and those who promote Netflix—Left-Liberal moneybags of course—have their hands full with bounty.

Pattanaiks surely help in confusing Hindus. To sow division in ranks. To earn one more invitation to Indian consulate in Canada (never mind he would never praise Modi government for this show of Liberalism). One more pre-order of a million on next book.

So folks, no kissing in temple for me. No overlooking the agenda. No public relations exercise from Hindus. We would scream and we would exhort for that’s the only way we could throw off the weight of centuries. To strain every sinew of ours, to exert every vocal cord at our command. If we look bad, too bad.

 

What does China really gain by fighting its neighbours? A lot it seems

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

No country has more land or maritime borders than China has. It has 14 neighbours around its’ 22,000 km land borders. In South China Sea, there are six (Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia). And if you thought it had good relations with at least one, even Russia and North Korea could disappoint you. (You could click here and know all why China is so prickly).

It doesn’t add up.

President Xi Jinping once said there’s “no gene for invasion in the Chinese people’s blood.” But then you have its media organs emitting more fire in a day than a Dragon would in its’ lifetime.

It doesn’t add up.

China claims its military preparedness—the monsters it showcases in its military parades—is defensive in nature. Its embedded media in foreign journals, its implanted professors in your OpEds all harangue how the peaceful rise of a nation—which shares its wealth with all comers, be it Africa, Latin America or Europe—is being resented by a fading superpower in the United States. That China is beefing up just in case the United States tries out its hand before the balance shifts irrevocably. But what threat China has from Myanmar, Bhutan, Singapore or Brunei? I mean Nepal?

It doesn’t add up.

As I fiddle with my scrapbook, I find President Xi uttering: “A far-off relative is not as good as a close neighbour.” Really? Then why lay trap for them as housewives do for nibbling rats on the kitchen floors. You want your Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to reach Ushuaia, the end of the world, and yet you want trouble on its very first mile. The only harmony you have is with your “far-off relatives” in Africa and Latin America.

It doesn’t add up.

The funny thing is China hasn’t added an inch to its territory for all this muscle-flexing. I mean ignore Rahul Gandhi for a moment who believes China is already inside our drawing rooms. Or Aksai Chin whose every stone and pebble is worth in gold for the Beijing. But at least for a decade, the only capture China has managed is headlines. It would appear China doesn’t want peace but it doesn’t want war either. Who exactly is sitting inside the Foreign office building of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

CCP is different; Chinese people are different

My theory is, to begin with, we must not confuse China with Chinese people. Before Communists took over, China had a civilisation. It had its own tradition, culture and rituals. Now to the outside world, all they have is factory labours whose backs have inclined forward an extra millimetre even as I write this. It’s not a happy society where voices are shackled and your family numbers, your working hours and daily wages are dictated by the Big Brother.

How do you make sure that it remains that way without a challenge to your authority? Well, one of course is the way of Tiananmen Square. The other is to constantly remind them that the decades of Colonial slavery is returning. That West again has a barrel pointing its nozzle towards the peaceful China. That we must make sacrifices—Ah, that essential Communist ideology of eternal struggle—for the glory of the motherland.

Secondly, Beijing has seen the benefits of flexing muscle with its neighbours. Most cower. Like Myanmar who has admitted that they are afraid of China. That if the big neighbour was to shutdown projects, it would strengthen the embedded Communist insurgents who owe their existence to Beijing. Nepal wonders why China is on its tail when it did its bidding against India? That what does Beijing really mean when it constructs 11 buildings inside their territory and then leave them unoccupied? To what end?

Well, the end is to have a still more strangulating effect on the world which already owes hundreds of trillion dollars to Beijing. To make the poor neighbours at its borders to keep prostrating. Very few react the way Modi’s India did. That move has backfired. If the intention was to weaken Modi internally, and its stooges to take over New Delhi, the recent poll wins convey a different outcome. But this exception doesn’t bend the rule of holding neighbours by throat.

When everyone is talking about how to defend the Diaoyu Islands, how to crack whip on the Philippines, how to fix the upstart Vietnam, how to pull India’s ears which is nurturing the Quad and stood up to in Doklam, the society falls in line. What appears a belligerent Beijing to the outside world is projected as besieged Beijing to its people. A handful of people who control the destiny of a billion and a half citizens are probably doing it for selves and not for the future of the motherland. What if China burns and the humanity is doomed.

 

 

 

Indian Express is specious on “Gupkar Gang” and Kargil analogy. Here’s why!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is being specious in showing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as double-tongued in calling its rivals as “Gupkar Gang” and yet being ally with National Conference (NC) in Kargil, Ladakh.

There is an editorial too in the newspaper in delicious English which to writers is orgasmic. Let’s first get a few basics out of the way in case you are joining this match in slog overs.

Jammu and Kashmir ceased being a state on August 5, 2019. Regional satraps, Abdullahs (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) went into house arrest. All are released now. All want the erstwhile special status for Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, restored. Farooq Abdullah is publicly asking China–the gravest threat as an entity—if it could help.

Meanwhile, the Centre pushed the political process in motion through elections. It began small, at the district level. The one of LAHDC (Leh)—Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council—was held last month. BJP secured a majority. The one in LAHDC (Kargil) is some three years away. In the present Kargil body, elected in 2018, National Conference heads an alliance of 26 elected members. Three of them are from the BJP.

Now the District Development Council (DDC) elections in the other Union Territory, Jammu and Kashmir, are due from November 28 in eight phases. All the regional satraps of the region have joined hands. They did so under the Gupkar Declaration which was an understanding amongst them to restore the special status of J and K. But afraid of missing the bus, they have buried their differences and to hell with J and K’s autonomy. They can’t let DDC elections go. Congress is a part of it, the alliance—People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) having fielded three Congress candidates in the list for first three phases so far.

That has led to Union home minister Amit Shah calling them a “Gupkar Gang.” And that it’s anti-national. And that Congress must specify if they stand with the forces who want Article 370 and Article 35A restored. And now this alliance is blowing back the hot air through the nozzles of tweets and co-opted media such as Indian Express.

So first spot the difference papered over by Indian Express. One, NC and BJP were never in pre-poll alliance in Kargil like Gupkar-Congress is in Jammu and Kashmir. Two, Kargil is not wanting the restoration of Article 370 and 35A as is being done in Jammu and Kashmir. Three, NC in Jammu and Kashmir is as different from one in Kargil as chalk is from cheese. As an analogy refer to Punjab: Captain Amarinder Singh is a Congress chief minister but practically independent. If it wasn’t so the Gandhis wouldn’t have left Navjot Singh Sidhu at his tail.

But Kargil is still in a lower pecking order of Indian Express. The newspaper’s lead today is that Centre is afraid and has practically put the Alliance’s candidate under house arrest. How would they campaign? Meanwhile, the newspaper alleges that the representatives of BJP and its allies are roaming free with a police escort in tow. These are serious charges and one would wait a few hours before I could share its nuances with you.

On a broader point though BJP can’t be afraid. Even if they lose DDC elections, it won’t change things on the ground. It would only cost them talking shop. Article 370 and 35A would remain a thing of the past. And Gupkaris, please stop doing this charade of special status for your beloved J and K. You are now queuing up to join the new J and K. Admit that the sham of “J and K of past” is just a façade to reclaim your dynasty. Arguably to hand it over to Pakistan–and Chin–by default. Your hapless citizens, all this while, have only been a tool to yield dividends.

All it would do is to afford Abudllahs and Mehbooa a toehold over the ground slipping under their feet. They would have a semblance of power and it would help keep sheep under the flock, whatever is left. It would keep them in the news. In editorials of the likes of Indian Express. But they have been marginalized. Glory is a thing of the past. Its shadow—like of Roshni land scam—is lengthening.

If anything, Farooq Abdullah should be grateful he hasn’t been brought under a sedition charge for openly calling for China when India has an existential issue with the giant neighbour. India is bleeding men and money. You can’t have someone open the front doors and usher the enemy in.

 

As prepaid media doubles down on RCEP, they of course won’t listen to Jaishankar

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I have long been suspicious of edits which are passionately pushed in the best of English. Much like that bank clerk who is pushing a scheme when you enter the branch. Those pesky calls for your car insurance, those greetings on WhatsApp from land sharks who have the best view in town just for you. The best of them are those who sell their cause to you as if it was your own.

So it is with RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). I have been noticing in Times of India and Indian Express—Left-Liberals of varying shades—how India’s policy-makers are being lampooned for not signing on. I looked at Mint where economists snack. No different.

The readers are told that India itself flagged off the race nine years ago and has now stopped just short of the finishing line. That how dumb of Modi’s India to cite custom duties on manufacturing when it could benefit from the emerging global supply chain in the times of Coronavirus. That its fears on agriculture and dairy sectors are unfounded since those have been factored in for next 20 years.

And then look at India’s manners. The RCEP nations in a separate document are almost begging us to join the bloc. That China has pledged to import $22 trillion of goods and services over the next decade for its 1.4 billion people. Imagine the market it would offer us. Even China’s “enemies” like Japan and Australia are part of the deal.  Is India so dumb it can’t see that RCEP is 30 per cent of global economy and a world population of 2.2 billion people? It is also implicit that India would stay out of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is sure to be revived by the US president-elect Joe Biden. Is this “Atmanirbhar Bharat”?

Economists call it protectionism. World is “free and fair”. India is insular. All Modi seeks is win in elections on the turbo-engine of “self-reliant nationalism.” And to hell with how our beloved PV Narasimha Rao and the John Stuart Mill by his side, called Manmohan Singh, took us out of choppy waters of 90s.

Why India is being so stupid? Because it has found out that all those free trades were no help all these years. And how it could be when your manufacturing base is so abysmal? How did those imports help our employment? And how we are supposed to compete when our hands are tied, legs shackled by the mantra of “free trade” even as somebody like China could abnormally subsidize its products and industries?

How come these grave economists never mention that 66 per cent of India’s GDP results from the services sector and the RCEP is heavily loaded against it in favour of merchandizing trade? What significant stuff are we supposed to sell? Are we wrong to assume that it’s a “trojan horse” set up by a Chinese club called RCEP? And that all it would bring is increased import bill and a few million more added to our unemployed?

I would let somebody as erudite as our foreign minister S Jaishankar hold the stage at this moment. Over to him:

“Those calling for increased openness and efficiency are not presenting the full picture (sic). That it’s equally a world of non-tariff barriers of subsidies and state capitalism (reference to China).

“In the name of openness, we allowed subsidized products and unfair advantages from abroad to prevail. And all this while this was justified by the mantra of an open and globalized economy.

“It was quite extraordinary that an economy as attractive as India was allowed the framework to be set by others.

“Past agreements resulted in de-industrialization of some sectors…the choice (for us) was to double down on an approach whose damaging consequences were apparent or to have the courage to think through the problem for ourselves. We chose the latter.

“It will decide if we become an industrial power with what we decide today.

“It is far from turning our back to the world. In fact, it is to enter the global arena with cards to play—not just to provide a market for others.”

Messrs economists, any rejoinder? Silence. Any thoughts why those nations calling for “free and fair trade”, having fattened themselves on protectionism are denying the same diet to India? That others probably want India as a counterweight to China? Silence.

So anyone for Atmanirbhar Bharat? Hands down.

 

 

The State can’t enforce firecrackers ban on Deepawali. Period

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Firecrackers were burst with vengeance not just in Delhi NCR last night. The story is true everywhere. People have drawn a line in the sand against State, judiciary or National Green Tribunal (NGT) throttling their beliefs. If it involves a jail of six months, so be it.

The rulers believed banning crackers was for the good of people only. India could hardly breathe in winter. That the season of Coronavirus could take you over the edge. Decrees were declared. Orders were announced. Gazettes were notified. The word got to everyone through that sublime monstrosity of our newspapers.

No effect.

The trouble is State and its organs speak a lot but listen little. They have oil poured in their ears. The voices of people don’t reach. Or maybe they have no answer why air pollution is bad but cutting trees for Christmas isn’t for the environment. Why do we have ban only till November 30 when firecrackers are also burst during Xmas and New Year too? Is December any less polluted than November in India?

People are talking. All the time. If Rulers don’t listen, they appear prejudiced which is lethal in a deeply religious society like ours. Why wasting water is bad in Holi but drinking the one mixed with the entrails and blood of a goat sacrificed in Eid through its water distribution artery isn’t. There is a Supreme Court ruling how many millileters of water can be poured over the Shiv Lingam in Ujjain Mahakaal temple. Or why chanting mantras could bring about an avalanche in mountains but not the blaring of Azaan from mosques. Or why Rakhi and Karva Chauth is patriarchal but not so the abysmal treatment of Muslim women in our society.

Do you think I am getting into a religious binary? Ignoring the damage which firecrackers evidently inflict on our air? A toxicity which doesn’t discriminate a Hindu from a Muslim?

So let’s play this game too. What has State done in all these years to the farmers’ stubble burning if I may ask? What answer it has to the oil-based solvent type exterior and interior paints which fill our air? How credible are the pollution certificates on our cars which is a joke on how its’ managed and unquestioned after expiry? My friend Veeresh Malik calls it a dystopian state from George Orwell’s book where you find the rope that fits the nearest neck but you.

As I write this, firecrackers are bursting around every minute. It must be true around you too. But the State is deaf. It’s losing its moral high ground. The state appears prejudiced and timid on religious scales. Prejudiced are instanced above. Timid is to ignore that sacrificing goats or cutting trees for Eid or Christmas which is being disapproved these days even in Islamic and Christian countries. Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia are even-handed: They do it with Muslim practices and so with Jewish Kosher. No ritual slaughter.

The State is also shown as powerless. You don’t even enough Khaki to enforce it who, unconvinced for all you know, might be turning their backs to such blatant defiance. Those who try are left bloodied by people.

If the State can’t appear even-handed. It could at least summon common sense.  Fix hours for firecrackers. Promote green bursts. Don’t make it appear as if your criminalizing a whole civilization. If you are defied now, you would be defied again and again. You can’t fetter a billion voices. Worse, India would be in flames.

Stop.

 

 

 

Where does Modi go from this Bihar high? Is this bugle of triumph also one of warning?

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a reason for prime minister Narendra Modi to have an extra cup of tea which he loves so much in the morning. There are breakthroughs in Telangana and Manipur; a reaffirmation in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh; and Madhya Pradesh sealed for years to come. And then there is Bihar.

And he could afford to smell roses too in his garden now that the foul air of Covid-19, migrants trek, China-at-gate, economic tsunami, engineered anti-CAA etc harnessed by the devil siblings of Opposition and prepaid media has blown back on their faces. Even Hathras didn’t work.

This morning though the tea won’t be the same for regional satraps of Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu who have an assembly election to defend in next few months. A couple of them are allies who suspect they would be soon out of breath in keeping pace with such a driven partner. They don’t have to speak to Uddhav Thackeray or Nitish Kumar. They know it in heart.

It brings us to two existential questions in India’s political landscape: Are BJP and allies actually enemies sleeping in the same bed?

The basic premise of this puzzle of course is whether the two need each other. BJP didn’t concede to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and I am sure there must be second thoughts within if it was judicious. Hindu vote is divided in any case, if not stupid. Why fragment it further? It has allowed the Pawars and Gandhis a stroll in the power corridors. Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) was better to be without since it was cohabiting with farmer mafia while BJP is committed to rid India of weeds on the ground.

Politics is vision. But it’s also about staying in the present. BJP need to be both pragmatic and principled with allies. Only a fool can’t see that the Rest are coming together en masse: It doesn’t matter if they were enemies (BSP-SP; NCP-Congress, JD (S)-Congress, PDP-NC) only till recently. They are sinking and would hold on to any straw. They would get wiser—if not by 2017 UP then surely by 2020 Bihar–that caste piper isn’t quite belting out the chartbusters. They would band aid the pockmarks of corruption. They would woo the masses which so far were not even worthy of their contempt. They would rely less on media and friends-in-courtrooms now that it no longer is cutting the ice.

They of course are on the pitch of anarchy for some time. To their minds, they have already dispensed with umpires, third umpires and DRS etc. It has helped them in paralyzing the Centre, bound as it is by its Constitutional vows. What voters can’t deliver, villains might.

All those who stand with you, matter

It ought to be BJP’s goal to be in power, state after state. It can’t do without allies. It would have to allay their reasonable fears. Like it can’t afford to let go both Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. BJP might have a vision for India and its friends might suffer from cataract but then who said it’s an ideal world. You need every that voice, every that whiff, every that ray which could brighten your cause. Most have baser instincts, shallow interests, malleable emotions. But even those who just stand with you, matter.

So instead of a mere blinkered vision, BJP needs to look around and greet those who could say hello in return. It must account for inadequacies of others. It’s too straight-jacket and regimented with its friends. It can’t be that BJP is afraid of criticisms. If it was so, Yogi Adityanath wouldn’t have become CM of Uttar Pradesh; Article 370 would still have been a thorn, CAA-NRC would have gone into files by now. But BJP only harps on development. It doesn’t on discourse. They need to cultivate allies; they need to empower voices rooting for them to do good to Mother India.

It’s a seminal moment in India’s history. In millenniums. BJP can’t let it go only because its rulebook is cast in stone. It has to take every single voice along. And it has to stamp the hood of serpent into ground. It would be a Prithviraj Chauhan if it lets go the moment against Muhammad Ghori.  It would be a mistake to think that chorus is not contributing to the melody. Keep them in the background but keep them on the dais. Rise to their defence even if it’s unsavoury to your style. Men like Arnab Goswami, for instance, need you now. Niceties could wait.

So take your time as you finish your tea, Mr Modi. But open your gates a little wider, your drawing room a little more spacious, and summon extra chairs in the garden. There are more hues in the painting than just winning elections on the plank of bettering masses. There are independent voices, perhaps too stray and too disparate to matter to you or BJP. But they are helping the wider discourse. It would matter to you and India in longer run. Embrace them as you go forward.

 

 

 

If Arnab was to die tomorrow, how would it reflect on BJP? A fall-out it can’t escape

(A reprint from NewsBred).

Arnab said he feared for his life. If indeed he is put to rest, how much would we all be responsible?

The decision on bail plea on Monday is one thing. Arnab would be seeking 200 bails in coming days. He would probably visit Taloja Jail every fortnight if he survives this one. Have we already given up on him?

Let’s look at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Despite all the misgivings about it as a Hindu nationalist party, it actually is Right-to-Centre. I approve of this position too: It takes all to make up a society. To keep the country running. One at the cost of other is never an option. It’s a fool’s dream.

But the BJP can’t say it to millions of its supporters. It would rather be seen as a Hindu nationalist party even as it pursues an all-inclusive approach, Its on moment such as Arnab’s when the penny is dropped.

What could BJP do? Surely, it knows what Congress, Left and others would’ve done in its place. There would be lakhs and lakhs marching out to Mantralaya. Candle-light vigils on India Gate. Possibly some cars smashed, police stations burnt. A la Shaheen Bagh sit-ins. That’s how rogues circumvent police and judiciary. To strike terror in the heart of rivals. But BJP would rather have police and judiciary take its course.

Such moments as Arnab’s though have fall-outs. Most Hindus support BJP for they have felts cheated all these years on two counts: One, governance. Two, getting the wrong end of the stick by way of bias and prejudice. Men like me boil over at our history books, the narrative in prepaid media and academia, how our new exploiters were only colonialists in new garb.

Narendra Modi coming to power in 2014 was a decisive moment in independent India. Atal Bihari Vajpayee never had those kind of numbers. Hindus outpoured. Most did on social media. Men like me took to a more organized form of a website. We all wanted to fix everything we thought was wrong in our country.

BJP to our mind was a natural vehicle to Promised Land. An average Hindu wasn’t bound by Constitutional morality, the niceties of governance, the din which foreign forces are always drumming in your ears.

This was the first disconnect. We expected something from BJP which it had not promised in the first place. Maybe Arnab too is guilty of high hopes. That as we are rooting for BJP, the latter would root for us too. Discarding the Constitutional norms. It is a delusion of our own creation.

Truth is one thing. How it’s perceived is a different matter altogether. BJP would not be wrong in sensing that quite a few of its die-hards supporters today are disenchanted. Probably Arnab is too. Losing such invaluable voices is one thing. Giving a roadmap to India-breakers is another. If Arnab is picked in Mumbai, I could be chained in Delhi tomorrow. Some other voice could be in Rajasthan or Punjab or Kerala or Bengal.

It could all have a domino effect. It’s all right to say that you are following your Raj Dharma. But it’s also a moment to remember how Karna or Bali were dealt with in the fight of Right vs Wrong. Or for that matter Dronacharya and Bhishma. What’s left of your Dharma if the Nation itself slides back into the hands of those we are trying to extricate it from? What if you are hostage to your vows as Arjuna was when Gopikas were picked up by Bheels?

If indeed Arnab was to die tomorrow is a dreadful prospect. In one stroke, most Hindu voices we hear today would fall silent. It would be a template for Forces we are up against. They would know how to overwhelm us. They won’t have to be in power in other states. Like Vibhor Anand, you could be picked from Delhi itself. One senses they completely want to overwhelm the system–The Executive, Legislative and Judiciary—by unleashing anarchy while our institutional pillars are chained by their oath to Constitution.

This is a country where a Kasab lives on for years. Where Nirbhaya’s killers survive on and on. And then we have this TV anchor, admittedly loud, who is being dealt with brazenly: AK-47 toting cops, the excuse of a mobile phone to shift to a dreaded jail etc. It’s a grim prospect, an image of a brutal State which judiciary and executive could do nothing to redeem.

BJP would have to play this game. All those killings in Bengal had struck a wrong note in millions of Hindus all these years. But they were faceless and unknown to most. But Arnab is different. It could have a cascading effect. At one level, BJP’s strident supporters would pull their feet back. Would watch every word they say, every action they plan, every message they forward. At another level, the disenchantment with BJP would grow.

It would not be good for the party, for the nation and certainly not for a billion Hindus.

 

 

Who’s afraid of Joe Biden? Certainly not Modi’s India for the ace they have up sleeve

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had endorsed Donald Trump’s re-election on a public platform: “Ek bar phir, Trump Sarkar.” How do you think Joe Biden would pay back if he does indeed make the inaugural speech in January, 2021?

Biden would probably be good to India on the trade front. Trump puts “America First.” Biden is from the globalist stable, so the tariff walls might actually get lowered. No more vile words on motorcycles. No longer finger-wagging if oil is sought from Iran; or arms from Russia. Our steel and rubber producers would be happy at reduced barriers. So, it could be for young Indians seeking H-1B work visas. And now that Biden has said he would restore Paris climate accord the first thing, India could hope for funds in renewables which, in the first place, had led it to join the accord in October, 2016.

Our newspapers would be happy too which is not the same thing as wellbeing of India. They pine for news which float in from US Congress and Senate and its’ religious committees and its human rights bodies against the Modi government. Now it would come thick and fast. Biden has already disapproved of CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC). Kamala Harris indeed reminded “the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world” on dilution of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamists in our fold, our Opposition and Pakistan—how they sound as if speaking from the same book—would love it.

Modi-Shah worried? You have a thing coming

Still, the Modi-Shah duo need not worry. All they need is better ear plugs to keep the noise out. Biden-Harris are obliged to their masters in Liberal-Left caucus which detest nationalist governments. They use Islamist forces—and the tool of “Islamophobia”—to bring such “Nation First” forces to their knees. The mode is to rupture the society from within. So even if our “Azaadi” gang would be encouraged at Biden’s election, they could do little if Modi-Shah care two hoots about the cacophony. Get on with your CAA and NRC—or your Uniform Civil Code now that both House of Parliament are secured—and to hell with these anarchists.

(As an aside, watch for the moment when it happens. It would unfold as I tell you now: Modi-Shah in pursuit of their commitment, the anarchists occupying our Shaheen Baghs and JNUs, Mamatas and Sonias up in arms, Western media ecstatic and US Congress-Senate blaring out the Islamist propaganda. But mark out their hypocrisy for Muslim cause as terror and war would again be unleashed in Middle East and the terrible plight of Muslim brothers and sisters won’t bring even a reproach from these hypocrites.)

If the Modi-Shah duo are in good space, they have to thank China for it. The United States just can’t drop its eye from China and as long as this hawkish position is retained, possibly for coming decades, be sure that it won’t happen without India. It’s a bargaining chip Modi-Shah won’t be shy to use against Biden.

And what about the world? The Islamist and Left dictators in Africa and Latin America would be pleased with Biden in White House. Not so Great Britain since Biden is not as much “Brexit guy” as Trump is. Nor would be the besieged Muslims in Middle East who could expect tanks to roll on as the war-mongers are returning in force. Nor would be the GIs who could be spending next few years in deserts and among deserted. Talibans of Afghanistan would have Plan B in case the peace process is derailed. Russia would suffer from trepidations on more sanctions.

Iran could be pleased for the peace deal might be back on the table. China would prefer Biden any day to Trump. Banters would return in place of poisoned tongues; the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) gang would be up for loot. Europe would be pleased too—that is Western Europe—who were asked to look after self in NATO and aids by the Trump administration.

It would be a poisoned chalice for Biden though.  If it was 60 million for Trump in 2016, it’s already 70 million minus US citizens by his side, besides the illegal votes which might have been floated in in mail-boxes. Unsteady would be the crown on Biden’s head. He and his team—likely nasty—would’ve to curb its enthusiasm for Wars and Loots; Pakistan and China.

As for India, a Democrat in White House in 2020 is far better than it would’ve been in 2016. Just four years ago, we were still rooting for “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai.” Now we can do business.