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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.

 

Arnab’s arrest: And why it must concern us beyond BJP-Congress, Right-Left binaries

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A case is filed on two deaths/suicides. The complaint is that the two deceased were driven to take the extreme step because some THREE didn’t pay up. After a while police gives up. Admits in court there is not enough evidence to incriminate the THREE. The case is closed.

A year later the case is reopened in May 2020 at state government’s behest. On November 4, 2020, that ONE is arrested. Manhandled and with policemen toting AK-47s in tow. A measure you and I would recommend for a dreaded terrorist.

But Arnab Goswami is no terrorist. He could be one in the TV news industry or for certain forces. He could have been an asset for the ruling dispensation in the Centre. You and I could be on one side or the other. But none of us would deny he is a media celebrity. Possibly the biggest name on our media firmament. It sends signals, right or wrong, across the country. It affects India’s millions and millions of citizens. If not now, then pretty soon.

I am for law to take its course. I am not here to argue Maharashtra government reopening the case. I am not too worried about Mumbai Police too. Arrests are made in India, there are courts who on the basis of evidence take a call. I am not worried too about missing Arnab Goswami in my evenings. I hardly watch him. But I have the option to go for remote. As everyone has. You want to watch him, watch him. You want to shut him out, do it.

I am not going hysterical on either of these two lines of arguments:

One says it’s a revenge for raking up Palghar, dogging the drugs-Bollywood connection, and pursuing the Sushant Singh Rajput case with relentless vigour. After months, Arnab didn’t let up on these themes. He also took Sonia’s original name with certain contempt which upset the Queen Dowager no end up. What more proof do we need against the fascist nature of present Maharashtra government when it beats up ex-soldiers, locks up ordinary citizens for social media posts and make a crane comfortable within the drawing room of a nationally acclaimed actress? And don’t we have multiple sting operations which reveal that “Arnab-would-have-no-option-but-to-commit-suicide”, such would be the ferocity from the state government? That you get Arnab and you take heat off Bollywood and Sushant Rajput?

The other side is driven to despair at Goswami not letting up on Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bollywood and Kangana Ranaut. They feel such attacks are motivated. That it’s Centre which is working overtime to sink the rather unholy alliance between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. They argue what’s so big about Arnab when journalists are being hauled up all around the country, including in a few BJP states.

You and I could differ. Hindus and Muslims could differ. Political parties could differ. Ideologies could differ. But there is something we must not differ. And that’s about the nature of our Republic. We won’t be a democracy if media is under a siege. There is no gain showing me International Press Index which shows India very poor in freedom of press. That India is turning fascist. If it was so, NDTV’s alleged financial scams would’ve been taken to logical conclusions. The Telegraph won’t be so openly abusive. If people were under fetters, there won’t be open threats to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and more than just on their lives. Vilest language on social media goes unpunished.

A free media though doesn’t mean unfettered media. If Arnab is arrested or some journalist in Uttar Pradesh is, there are redressal mechanisms. One or the other would be shown up wrong. Law would take it’s call. But if you manhandle a media celebrity and bring in armed men toting Ak-47, this is more than justice pursued. This is criminal intimidation. The is State trying to send the message across: to media and to people. That even though we derive our power from you, our naked force is meant to terrify you. That if this could happen to arguably one of the 10 biggest names in the country, you could be the next.

There is no gainsaying that Mumbai Police has acted on its own accord. It’s answerable to State government who, by now, ought to have taken a public stand on the matter. I scanned the twitter-lines of Uddhav Thackeray (office), Sharad Pawar, Congress (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi. Blank. Shashi Tharoor? Blank. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra? Blank. Mamata, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ashok Gehlot? Blank. looked up for Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai. Bland. I could promise you they would be the next. And then you would go to town on the “fascism” of Modi government. And then you would be teased on your silence on Arnab Goswami. Be principled or drop the pretence.

In a jungle, might rules. Humanity was no better than jungle. But it was centuries ago. Since then, Magna Carta happened, Napoleon happened, Tocqueville happened, Voltaire happened. We all agreed to the way a society functioned. A cobbled-up state government today wants to tell us we were wrong. That a Genghis Khan or a Taimur still lives. No sir, they no longer do. Before long, your fate would be decided as its done every five years. You are too weak to fetter a billion voices. India would assert and show you your place.

Stolen Elections in US: This is your best moment to know the strings which control you

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Trump has sought legal interventions in Wisconsin and Michigan. By Wednesday noon, Indian Standard Time, I saw him comfortably winning these states. Only few votes remained to be counted. But I found it strange that voting had been halted in these two as well as in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

By late evening, Joe Biden was leading Wisconsin. He had a lead of a fraction of a percentage point. In Michigan, Trump’s lead had been reduced to a similar margin, soon to emerge as lost. As I compared my notes, around 140,000 of new votes in Wisconsin and Michigan had all gone to Biden. ALL. Not a single one to Trump. How is that possible?

It also didn’t make sense that Michigan would vote for Biden. I mean they have probably suffered most with their manufacturing jobs going to Asia. I am sure these facts would make you seek justice as Trump is doing now. Trump tweets about the “disappearing” lead. Twitter hides it.

I now wish to take your mind to days when Trump had contracted Coronavirus. The election fever was at full pitch. CNN rushed to inform us that Trump was so ill, he had to be put in emergency. Then we saw, Trump walking out of the hospital next day. He was back in the White House. He was not so ill after all.

I subscribe to New York Times. As I do Washington Post and a host of other media outlets in the United States. Nobody who reads US newspapers has had one single good word to find on Trump. He was roiled for 230,000 pandemic deaths. That more than 10 million were infected. That economy was wretched. Pollsters declared it was no contest. Now we find Trump in the game. We have a choice to call media either biased or rigged. I prefer later.

Look at my logic. How many Americans know that their government don’t control Dollars? It’s by Federal Reserve which is a private cartel. That the only currency US government owns is coin it mints. That only 3 percent of all US currency is real: The rest is a hoax created by crafty bankers on their computer screens. They create money just by wave of a hand. No US government dare go against them. If these Bankers could expand the supply of money, they could contract it as well. And when that happens, and millions are out of job, and civil unrest begins, you are kicked out of White House.

If the US is bound to these moneybags, it would be childish to believe that media isn’t. Sometimes it becomes public like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has done with Washington Post. Mostly it’s a labyrinth you could never work out. There are layers and layers of deception created by this cartel of world’s most powerful bankers. Henry Ford had opined that if people do come to know it all, there would be a revolution next morning.

There was a third party in the US political spectrum till the end of the 19th century. It used to seek financial reform. Populist Party, Greenback Labour Party, Antimonopolist Party etc. William Jennings Bryan, who was a Populist candidate for President in 1896 and 1900 was the last one to seriously challenge the Bankers. Kennedy did try in the 60s but then paid with his life. Since then no ripple on the surface. The control is total.

The advent of Communist at the dawn of the 20th century only refined the tools. Vladimir Lenin took power in 1917 on a raft of offers—land to peasants, bread in starving cities of Russia, peace to Russia’s soldiers from World War I. Every one was dispensed with in subsequent years.

Now Communists are a vanishing tribe in terms of political clout. But our media and academia is in their grips. If it was Soviet Union earlier, it’s Chinese Communist Party today. All your Harvards and Oxfords are in their thrall. It’s an outcome of decades of investment. Everyone looks after their interests. Media has its own mercantile logic.

Indian media too couldn’t escape. First from Anglo-Saxons and then from Communists after Independence in cahoots with the ruling Congress. Rulers did their politics, Judiciary its check and balances. Army was a manpower to go to Europe and fight White Man’s wars before 1947. Our media sprang from Kolkata Marwaris—all your Times of India, Indian Express and Hindustan Times et all—who needed to secure their sugar, cotton, rubber, oil, copper, opium and found doing government’s calling through propaganda was a quid pro quo best pursued.

With such intrinsic interests of the Powers, is it any wonder that Indian media would never speak for Indian interests and the US media won’t speak for US interests? We would be fooled on “Freedom of Express”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Gender Justice” and other euphemisms when its propagandists don’t mean a word of it. The idea is to keep the society in perpetual conflict. That was what Lenin sought. That’s what Communists have done ever since. They survive only when the traditional culture is dead. And we, the common people, are collateral damage in this quest for control.

Now that people are waking up to Left propaganda—see how Trump is storming despite every false projection. The Communists are now hanging on to coattails of Islamist forces. Their media and academia are quick to dub you “Islamophobist” if you invite an open discussion. As they did with anti-Semitism. But then that some other day, some other time.

Who’s afraid of Islam? A question Muslims could no longer ignore

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s not just France. It’s all over Europe. States might not have said it as openly as Emmanuel Macron of an “Islamist danger” but the rise of Islamophobia in the Old World is relentless. If you think sitting in Delhi or Mumbai keeps you a world away, it’s a dangerous delusion.

Let’s first speak in defence of Islam. Twenty years ago, West waged a “War on Terror”. Muslims could never rest in peace thereafter. My book “How United States Shot Humanity” details their tragedy. We don’t have to go to Crusades. Just two decades back is enough. Innocents died in far greater number than the dreaded; families in millions were uprooted; defenceless and homeless they headed for Europe; some could make it, many didn’t. Lives destroyed forever.

And this was not just foreign lands. At home the West set about putting their citizens under surveillance—Muslims far more than others. In Britain, for example, you are more likely to be searched and questioned if you are a Muslim. The air became thick with suspicion.

It struck a chord with Algerians and Pakistanis and Moroccans and Chechan Muslims who had made Europe their home after the Second World War. The Old World had been torn apart by the Big War. It needed rebuilding. Finances came from the United States. Labour from former colonies, many of whom were Muslims. Now they couldn’t see their fellow co-religionists ruined. Much before, thousands had headed from Europe to make cause with Islamic State (IS) in Middle East.

Societies in Europe were alarmed, they became wary of Muslim neighbourhood, discrimination began and the retaliation followed. Right wingers thought they had enemy next door; the feeling was reciprocated by the Next Door. One thing led to another.

The defenders of Islam thus claim their practitioners are being victimized. When State calls it “War on Terror” all Muslims, and not just Radicals, are put on notice. Innocents, living their normal lives, their kids in schools, their men and women in offices, began breathing toxic air. Hotheads take matter in own hands. The stereotype of Terrorism-Is-Islam is reinforced. When veils or Hijabs are banned in public, it’s seen as an attack.

The other side of the divide: Islamophobia

Those who have Islamophobia, have a different take. They can’t understand how could an author (Salman Rushdie) be hounded for years for what he wrote or why people are beheaded for cartoons. “Freedom of Expression” is the founding tenet of modern Western civilization. The State protects it. Its Constitution guarantees it. Are we to believe than that there is a parallel society, a society within society, which follows different tenets and the world knows it as Sharia Law? That they would follow what allegedly is written in their Holy Book and claim lives, walking over the Law of Land.

It doesn’t go with the idea of multiculturism which the West wanted to showcase to humanity. How could “freedom of expression under house arrest,” be acceptable?

For instance, it’s pointed out many Muslims have not tried to learn French in France; that they don’t send their kids to public schools, opting for “madarsas” instead; there is demand for separate swimming pools for their girls; and that’s how “separatism” is injected from the very beginning.

When Macron warns that “the problem is an ideology, which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic,” it shouldn’t lead to condemnation by Erdogans, Imrans and Mahatirs of Islamic world. It doesn’t help. Certainly not your present and future generations who would be drenched in dripping blood. Instead, Macron’s words should lead to real. Just dismissing it as “Islamophobia”—as do “anti-Semitism”—is dangerous and self-defeating. Inclusiveness could only happen if both sides begin looking within.

Even if Islamophobia is decried, there is little doubt it has gained enormous currency in last two decades. You could ignore it but the elephant is in the room. France has 6 million Muslims, more than anyone else in Europe, so we could understand why right-wingers like Marine le Pen have such a persuasive influence. But others are no better. Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the Sweden Democrats for example now hold the narrative.

Half of Germany feels there is a “fundamental contradiction between Islam and German culture. In Italy, the figures is 53%. In Finland a staggering 62%. Political parties have flourished on Islamophobia. Street demonstrations against Islam are everyday.

They call it “Counter-Jihad” ideology. Islamophobia networks have spawned all over. They offer some irrefutable logic: If Islam is not repressive, how do we term its treatment of women. How are we supposed to react to Chopping Squares. How are we to comprehend rulings where evidence, cross-examination and witnesses are dispensable.

Good Muslims would suffer, and I have said it many times, till they don’t oppose the Bad Muslims. Till they tell them that we have all the freedom to practice our religion at home and we are not bothered about others. We won’t take law into hands nor approve if radicals override the established laws. It’s not enough that 99% are good if they are handmaiden to the remaining 1%.  The future of Islam is in their own hands. Sense of persecution won’t help. Sense of responsibility would.

 

I await Pompeo not just for India but for what the two have to say on Taiwan

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be erroneous on the part of United States and India to show intent by way of meeting between their foreign and defence ministers—due in New Delhi on Tuesday—and lack purpose in ignoring the Sarajevo moment in the room.

In 1914, the first World War broke out after an Austrian prince and his wife were assassinated by a local Bosnian group in Sarajevo and it was the beginning of the new World Order. Another such moment awaits us if China, wholly unpredictable and raging mad, were to invade Taiwan.

Taiwan is small, an island, within the breath of Beijing, blocked and bullied all these years by the Mainland. It has stood alone in Covid-19 pandemic and if you thought it was the world which has made her recover, it’s the other way around. Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to Europe which earned it the gratitude of Brussels. Yet the niceties are not enough. There has to be a resolve and an open one on the part of the World to let Taipei know: We Care.

So it’s all very well for the arriving US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk of “regional security in Indo-Pacific” but he needs to shout Taiwan within the earshot of China. And so does India. Taiwan is everybody’s business. For their own good if Taiwan’s democracy, technology, a thriving economy and a role-model-to-follow-on-healthcare is not enough. For all we know, Taiwan could be the first stop of China to test the world’s resolve and we all can’t be talking in circles.

Our leaders need to highlight how military sorties of Beijing are at an unprecedented level in Taiwan Strait. It’s in the same South China Sea which falls in Indo-Pacific and which China wants to make all of its own—and which has drawn world’s biggest democracies together. In 2020, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made 49 military aircraft sorties violating the Taiwanese space. It’s the highest ever. It’s defence minister told parliament that the Chinese military “conducted 1,710 aircraft sorties and 1,029 military vessel sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.”

Truth to tell though, it’s India more than the United States which needs to brush up its Taiwan game. More than media or a zealous nationalist, it’s the Indian State which needs to come out in open as Beijing does for Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of daily drill. The United States indeed had caught our eye as their health secretary and under-secretary of state for economic growth have visited Taipei in recent months. It’s the first since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1979. It was a signature transitional moment in Taiwan’s brutalized history. It has been made sweeter now that the United States has committed an arms package of almost $2 billion to Taiwan, with a promise to up it to $5 billion in coming days. The military package includes missiles, sensors and artillery.

The Modi government shouldn’t worry of the consequences of coming out in open for Taiwan. It could conduct a popular poll if that is the fire which would propel our rocket of commitment. The United States, for example, has just done that. The US Congress always was in support of Taiwan. But now the US citizens are showing a remarkable preference to come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing was to invade it.

Two studies have caught my attention. One was by Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) which has shown 41 percent o Americans backing US intervention on behalf of Taiwan. It might not sound much but given the tepid response of US citizens since the study began conducting its poll in 1992, it’s remarkable. The other one by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is even more remarkable: It shows up a support of 6.69 out of 10 for Taiwan which is more than even what Australia (6.38) could muster. Japan (6.88) and South Korea (6.92) were favoured ahead of Taiwan only in decimals.

People clearing their throats for Taiwan was one thing. The other influential nodes made no less buzz. The Thought-Leaders supported Taiwan’s military cause by a whopping 7.93 out of 10. Human Rights Experts too gave an overwhelming (57%) response in Taiwan’s favour.

So buoyed as we are at the possibility of inking the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US and S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh beaming for the Indian audience, this is as good a moment as any to pop out Taiwan in public domain. It would be a pity of China was to test us out on Taiwan and we would show our preoccupation in Ladakh to excuse ourselves from the entanglement.

The world has enough blood on its hand in pampering the wolf and ignoring the lamb. Taiwan must be returned to the global fold with forgiveness on lips.

 

Is Covid-19 letting up out of deference to our Festivals? Or the worst is over?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I sought out Deepak last morning. I hadn’t met him for long, at least since my daughters still used to hold my hand and walk into his teaching institute nearby. Always above the board, energetic enough to be suitable for a protein ad, and good enough in maths for Rahul Gandhi to figure out how he messes up his numbers on public platforms.

Let’s leave aside why we met. Important for you folks is his Covid-19 experience which he contracted almost to the day when we responded to Modiji’s call to sound pots and ring bells. Every inch of his bones creaked, fever raged like a tropical storm and he thinks it was pandemic. “I didn’t know where to go, the tale of expenses was scary and here I was, in my one-BHK flat, with my wife, kids and old parents. I couldn’t separate myself from them, couldn’t afford treatment and left myself—and my family–in the hands of Gods.”

Well the Gods looked after him and his family. He is fine now but still complains of nagging pain in his ankles. He feels he avoided death not because he submitted himself to good hands but only because some die and some don’t to this scourge of our times.

Now we hear that Covid-19 is in retreat in India. But it is resurging in US and Europe. Ireland has reimposed a complete lockdown; Czech Republic, Spain and France have opted for similar measures; Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland are some of the worst hit. The United States is beginning to hit a lakh each and so it is with France. But India smiled on Tuesday with only 36,601 cases recorded the previous day. We might still touch 10 million by December but recovery rate is above 90%.

It’s the lowest in last 101 days, since July 17 that is. In September, we too were touching a lakh positive each. Now even Maharashtra is reporting its lowest in last five months. Asia’s biggest slums in its belly are beginning to chirp. Its another matter that Thackerays have now moved from one villain to Arnab Goswami and Kangana Ranaut but we would glean on it some other day.

Why Covid-19 is dipping in India? Before you scoff at India’s testing numbers, let me tell you its one million Tests a day done across India on an average for the last few weeks. Yet numbers are dipping. Hospitals which were overflowing with Covid-19 patients are beginning to have freer beds, oxygen cylinders and ventilators. The laudable healthcare workers are even shooting videos of their dancing footwork and have one Hrithik Roshan swooning. Nurses are without PPT cover and gossiping. Intern doctors are again longing for those night shifts when the male-female ratio in whites is abnormally skewed.

Would it last? Our prime minister won’t like us to entertain such a devilish thought. He knows he hasn’t allowed Covid-19 to get out of hand—the proof is that even Rahul Gandhi has let go an issue which he could’ve harped upon for nine months. But Modiji is worried for festivals are upon us, congregations would happen on a Tablighi Jamaat scale (well almost), fairs would abound and shops would overflow. None of them could be restrained, for it’s a moment of cheer and some well-needed finances would come the way of shopkeepers and businessmen. But festivals would also onset winter, which is playtime for viruses in colder weather. Modiji has even got an official body to warn Indians that 50 per cent of them could be infected by February 2021.

I suspect there won’t be an upsurge. For the “herd syndrome” has already taken over us. There are 10s of millions of Deepaks in this country who haven’t reported the Virus to public. They have either survived—like Deepak—or died. None have come in the official count. If around a crore are to be infected soon, there are at least 20-30 crores Positive who haven’t submitted themselves to scrutiny.

It’s just not my suspicion. You might have ignored the news of a few weeks ago that one-third of Delhi already has antigen bodies. Half of Mumbai’s worst slums were declared to have been in grips of Covid-19. Away from news, this is the truth of Covid-19 in India. That the pandemic probably has run its course.

India’s numbers are not dropping because they have hit upon a wonder drug, or because our admirable healthcare staff have acquired a midas touch (well, from inside PPT that is), or Modiji has done any surgical strike on the Virus. It’s only because you and me, or most of us, have already had our brush with the pandemic.  And that this is a perfect moment when you could say: Ignorance is Bliss.