(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.
(A reprint from NewsBred).
I had just picked up my morning tea in balcony when my elder daughter tapped me on shoulder. “Would BJP stop at anything? Gender, patriarchy, misogyny—what do they have against women?”
She was drawing my attention to an Indian Express news where Nirmala Sitharaman, our present finance and past defence minister, had raked up a recent brutal murder in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. A six-year-old girl child of a Bihar Dalit migrant labourer has been raped, killed and her half-burnt body was discovered this week.
My daughter wasn’t amused that Sitharaman had chosen the gruesome murder to make some political points, like “Doesn’t it shake the conscience of the brother and sister pair (Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi) who rushed to every other chosen site…as if they were going (Hathras) for a picnic…But why not in Hoshiarpur? Why not if it (the crime takes place) is Rajasthan?…the pretentious Congress is nowhere…A woman heads their party.”
I wasn’t sure the bit in Sitharaman’s words which had offended my daughter till she drew my attention to another story in Indian Express. The “rejoinder” from Gandhi scion and the chief minister of the Punjab state, Capt Amarinder Singh: “Unlike in UP,” we are not “denying” the rape or “blocking the course of justice.” Amarinder was more lyrical: He found BJP doing a “political puffery.”
Well, that might be true. With first phase of Bihar elections due in a matter of hours, parties are jostling for political points. But leave aside politics, my girl, if it is gender, patriarchy and misogyny could we please look at Congress more closely please.
Till last year Congress had a high-profile spokesperson. Priyanka Chaturvedi commanded attention on media of all kind: Print, digital, social media etc. But she quit in disgust in 2019. She felt “hurt and self-dignity” compromised when her offenders, within Congress itself, were reinstated after being suspended briefly. “I put in 10 years (for Congress)…they ignored a woman..(I had put up) at a great personal cost, self-dignity…If I don’t (quit), it would let all those women down who want to join politics, raise voice.”
More recently Khushboo Sundar, a high-profile Congress spokesperson in South, quit Congress. She said she had given up her personal life to work for Congress in last six years but she has no option but to quit as she was being “pushed and suppressed.”
Let’s say, these incidents were ambitions couched in sexist pretence, I ventured to my daughter. Let’s also not make much of Rahul Gandhi’s “Come, Rape in India” remark in the Parliament which had led to a massive uproar. Mr Gandhi thought he was being witty when he said “Come, Make in India” is more like come “Rape in India.” The fellow women Members of Parliaments were outraged for they found Mr Gandhi being cavalier about a crime which leaves a victim with two options: Suicide or a living dead.
But let’s not deny that it was the kind of remark which should make gender-activists see red. A newspaper like Indian Express ought to have initiated a debate on the mindset of India’s wannabe Prime Minister. It’s no excuse that he is still a bachelor. He has women in family, his grandma was India’s iron lady. Rape can’t be a matter of wit.
If she wants she could give this another instance a miss, I proffered by daughter. Mr Gandhi was all pompous when he had said in Parliament last year that the prime minister had “got a woman (Nirmala Sitharaman) to defend him (Modi),” on Rafale deal. It surely smacked of patriarchy. A woman who is a model to millions in this country—try to see how Nirmala makes such earnest effort to speak Hindi, good one at that—can’t be ridiculed as if it wasn’t the Parliament but some Duryodhana’s sabha.
But no apology. No reprimand from their mother Sonia who has been at the “helm” longer than even Indira. No outrange or OpEd in Indian Express or The Hindu. And if I could ask you my daughter how do you think they ought to have reacted to “haram-khor” jibe in their own coalition-run State to a young lady who has achieved more than arguably anyone in Bollywood? Did the Gandhis mind the threat to Kangana dare she descend in Mumbai ever or when a crane made itself comfortable in her Bandra room?
It was not the BJP but the Dalit supremo Mayawati herself who was angry beyond words at how the murder and rape of a Dalit girl in Alwar was “hushed up” by the Ashok Gehlot Congress government, as there are a string of other rapes which are occurring in Rajasthan even as Gandhis lost their shirt on Hathras. And when your former chief minister (Kamal Nath) mentions a sitting woman minister (Imarti Devi) an “item” should a perfunctory disapproval by Rahul be enough to cover the silence of Sonia and Priyanka? Has there been any consequence on Kamal Nath? Has Indian Express sought out Randeep Surjewala for his reaction?
I won’t go into what happened to the “Nirbhaya Fund” of a 1,000 crore which was set up by Congress in the aftermath of the terrible incident on Delhi streets. It remains under-utilized even by the BJP states. But the larger point is Gandhis indeed are convenient on women. Debating points, highlighted by predisposed newspapers is no shield.
So, when you raise banners against gender-bias, patriarchy and misogyny my child, I told my daughter, do keep a memory log. And could I have another fresh morning tea please now?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Is that what India has come to?
Most Indians are battling this conundrum.
This perceived breakdown, internal, is largely at two levels: (a) harmony between Hindus-Muslims; (b) Centre and state relations.
Both are interlinked. A power seemingly in perpetuity loses an election. And another. Both by a landslide. The winners are identified with majority. The losers with minority. The turfs have exchanged hands. It’s an existential moment for losers; like those countless in history where Czars and Caliphs came to rest in tomes and tombs.
Losers now rally their forces. It joins hands with those it was in fight with all these years. All the parts must matter in sum. It doesn’t. Those who made a meal out of caste politics in India’s heartland are uprooted; those who swore by Maratha identity sound like a hag’s croon; elsewhere in volatile Bengal, the monster-slayer Didi stomps ground, flashes eyes and fingers, yet barely keeps her head above the surging water.
The Winners are surer after second win. They know they have come to stay. They won on planks of development and incorruptibility. On keeping India First. So out goes Jammu and Kashmir and its armour of special status. Minority wakes up to post-Shah Bano world in Triple Talaq Act; Ram Janmabhoomi arrived at an opportune time; and then the long-standing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is approved by India’s chosen representatives.
So Losers can’t win people’s confidence. The judiciary too doesn’t fall to their mechanisms. Prepaid media is doing its best but little is changing on the ground. Their Samaritans in movies, culture, academics have little traction. The echo-chamber in West is drowning in its own noise.
Anarchy thus is the last resort. It’s always two-faced: One is led by the system. The other by the people. As I mentioned at the start: Break it down at (a) people; and (b) governance level.
Anarchy at the people’s level is your anti-CAA protests, Hathras, Farms Bills, Reservation stirs etc, etc. Anarchy at the governance level is passing resolutions against the Central Acts in your State’s assemblies; refusing CBI a peek into your vice-dens; protecting your favourite police officers even against the judiciary’s strictures; and ridiculing Governors every alternate day.
Uddhav’s Maharashtra is taking it to the next level. Mamata’s police was bad on cartoons on their leader (Uddhav’s too as ex-navy officer Madan Sharma would testify); it would land on doors at different States; a journalist here and there; but Uddhav’s is booking the entire Republic TV network—claimed 1000 of them ! Kangana Ranaut was just a teaser it would seem. What next?
Some fundamental issues are stake in India. How far could this anarchy be allowed? The ruling BJP apparently has two choices. Let the masses know who are their enemies. It would teach them a lesson in due course. The other option is to exercise the power that the Constitution empowers it with: Dismiss state governments. The long rope which BJP has extended to Mamata Banerjee in the last six years conveys they would rather not do it and leave it in people’s hands.
BJP also knows what is noise and what’s substance. The noise is the ant-Farm Acts stir in Punjab led by its Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. It could pass assembly resolutions but nothing would come out of it. The Punjab government is saddled with enormous debts and in the era of GST, you can’t trot your own horse when the whip is with someone else. You need Centre at every stage: Disasters and finances are one thing; telecommunications and security is another. More so in a border State.
It doesn’t mean that BJP ought to be at peace with anarchy. Mandate comes with responsibility. Anti-CAA protests led to Delhi Riots. They didn’t see Shaheen Bagh become what it did in the end. It made even Supreme Court helpless. The State must never be seen soft. India can’t afford it. All societies run on larger good. Those sloganeering “freedom”, “democracy” and “Constitution” don’t mean a bit of it. This chimera must yield to rule of law. Or it would persist in our lifetimes; and in our children’s. To horrific consequences if a malleable power was to come to Centre.
(Meanwhile, don’t fret on the welfare of Republic TV. Nothing would come out of it. Indians don’t like or even see somebody being browbeaten. More so by Powers. Brazenly. Mumbai Police has taken a bigger bite than it could chew. So, enjoy the drama but don’t miss your routine. The Karma would catch up with Mumbai Police and the rulers in Maharashtra).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
(This is the second part of “If India Burns”, a grim picture of coming days, a forewarning for all of our stakeholders: Majority, minority, government, judiciary etc. No less us, the ordinary citizens. I am excluding media for apparently it couldn’t care less. The first part could be read here).
This glimmer of hope which I mentioned in the first piece has been offered by JP Nadda, Bharatiya Janata Party president, who has announced in Bengal that Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has only been given a pause due to Covid-19 and that it would be implemented once it’s over.
Let’s admit, for or against, we all were traumatized for months by anti-CAA protests. I doubt if any one of us, in any part of the country, wasn’t held up by protestors on streets at least once. Even Supreme Court came down to public relations. No solution seemed feasible. Until Coronavirus intervened.
Now Nadda has thrown a challenge: Government isn’t backing down. Maybe, the Centre feels it won’t be taken by surprise. Maybe it feels it now knows how to deal with trouble-makers. Or with their chorus party of European Union, US Congress and the UN. “Urban Naxals” are facing the heat in our Courts; Khalids and Zargars face years in jail; Yogi Adityanath has worked out how to name and shame etc, etc.
But does the Centre know enough of how the “trouble” would respond? Have they got, as they say in cricket or in war, all their bases covered? Have they kept a watch on how protests have shaped in Hong Kong and Bangkok, not to say in the United States during BlackLivesMatter anarchy?
In Hong Kong and Bangkok, these are leaderless protests. No forewarning like you got in JNU, Jamia or Shaheen Bagh. A flashmob gathers and before the anti-riot police could bring in their water cannons, they are holding fort somewhere else, a fluid crowd as it were. “Be Water-like” is the guiding principle. Authorities could never be on top of their game.
So these days, they communicate in close offline chat. If it’s WhatsApp in India, it’s Telegram in our South Asian neighbourhood. You get detailed messages on how to pack and where to assemble. There is now goggles, umbrella, masks, sun-creams, water bottles and of course helmet in your backpack. Youngsters in their “rebel” age are enthused to be part of a converging, swarming mob of youth. They get overcome with emotions. To hell with the cause. The hide-and-seek with the police has its own thrills and a sense of accomplishment. Your friends are going, what are you waiting for?
Leaderless yes but it’s not to say that this ProtestNext generation is devoid of symbols. A “Milk Tea Alliance” has sprung up in our neighbourhood of Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its aim is to spark protest across Asia: Like they did with “Arab Springs” in MENA (Middle East North Africa). Topple governments, cause anarchy and bring the region to its knees as Middle East presently is.
Milk Tea Alliance is around Thailand’s orange-hued tea; the less sugary Hong Kong version of the drink and Taiwan’s boba tea. The plan is to garner youth, swamp societies, create mayhem.
They have created their own characters too: animated ones like Milk Tea Girls which are emblazoned on T-Shirts of various colours and sizes. Youths who are not part of this fluid mob nevertheless wear it to show solidarity. Suddenly 100s becomes 1000s and that into tens of thousands. It’s on top of everyone’s head.
Then there is this three-finger salute (see image above). This has been co-opted from Thailand’s Hunger Game movie series. This gesture is for people, by people, from people who are facing injustice that the “protestors are in sync” with them. That they are all speaking for each other.
The drawn face-off first time in India would be different this time. The showdown is inevitable, more so since Modi government wouldn’t backdown what the Parliament has authorized and the Constitution demands. India’s protestors, while they vouch for democracy, sanctity of Constitution and supremacy of judiciary, would junk it in every action they do. So would our discredited politicians and prepaid media. It could be CAA one-day, farm bills next day and a Hathras next.
It would take some effort from the Modi government to be on top of its game: Nigh impossible in states like Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan and Punjab where law and order is in the hands of Opposition: Much like in the United States where largest violence and loot during the BlackLivesMatter protests happened in states controlled by Democrats. BJP won’t junk CAA, an assertion of its raj-dharma, but it would need to think on its feet: Its police, cyber cell, intelligence and enforcement agencies need be bigger in numbers, resources and resolve. That alone would douse the fire if India Burns which seems inevitable.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
You must not have heard of Samuel Paty. Well, he was the 47-year-old high school teacher who was beheaded in Paris for showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in classroom on Sunday.
You must not have also known that France is on streets thereafter. Tens of thousands are streaming out on the roads of Paris, Lyon and Marseille (see image above) and its interior minister Gerald Darmanin is vowing to remove “the enemy within.”
Who is there to tell you that France has since conducted dozens of raids, cracked down on aid groups and is moving legislation to expel en masse foreigners of Muslim identity?
It’s a seminal moment in France’s history after Second World War, indeed of Europe, as the Old World, at least for the last two decades, has grappled with the growing Islamism within its ruptured society. France has now lifted the baton—and others would soon. We could all then write editorials on the rise of Right Wing.
Lest you see this as a problem away from home, and can’t see a corollary to the Tanishq ad, you need to pay attention. An advertisement is pulled down for millions of netizens protest on Love-Jihad. Newspapers are aghast. Artistes and advertisers are up in arms. It’s viewed as tyranny of right-wing trolls.
There are no questions if Love-Jihad is for real. That Hindu girls, marrying under Muslim Personal Law, have to convert to Islam. (And it could only happen in Mosque by an Imam). And that Islam considers it an apostasy—punishable by death—if you hide idols of your other “gods” under your closet. And dare the girl resist for under Muslim personal law, she would lose all her rights of property and inheritance.
But such debates never take place. Our newspapers look the other way. No OpEds. No those academicians and activists bristling with outrage. The same as it has happened to Samuel Paty. The same as it happened to Kamlesh Tiwari last year. Or in Bangalore riots more recently. There is an elephant in the room and we are looking away.
Newspapers, who file an RTI for a penny not gone to the account of a UP farmer, don’t probe. They delude themselves that anger of the masses would blow away if they ignore. That’s why be it Tanishq ad or Kamlesh Tiwari or Bangalore riots, there’s no internal debate. The wound festers till it eats away your internals.
That’s what happened in France. Charlie Hebdo in 2015 had shaken them. Samuel Paty has now taken them over the edge. Another Kamlesh Tiwari and this could well be our own fate. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. We could all then blame our newspapers for indifference, our governments for timidity and our judiciary for begging to Shaheen Bagh. Be it Hindus or Muslims, we both are ignoring the approaching steps of doom which would leave no one standing.
Good Indian Muslims, and that’s the majority, are captive to a handful. They must raise themselves and ask for Uniform Civil Code (UCC). They must insist that in India, there could be only two marriage codes: Hindu Marriage Act or Special Marriage Act. Muslim Personal Law can’t be its own island. They must not fall for those images and videos of good Muslims which emerge in our media after an excess by their brethren. Like it did in Paris after Samuel Paty (see image below). These are shams and are meant to dress up the deeper rot which is eating up the vitals. Good Muslims don’t need Imams and Mullahs between them and their own Quran. Good Muslims can’t put rights above their duty.
Paris bears a likeness to Hindus. Like sporadic clouds in the sky which give way to cloudburst one fine day, sweeping the life below to drains of death, there are unconnected events which are leading towards a Hindu Collective. Some are unhappy that State controls their temples but not mosques. Some have a grouse that their schools are inhibited but not madarsas. Some cry foul that their religious travels are not subsidized and there is no aid for the marriage of their daughters. Then they prevail on Chhapaak. Then Sadak-2 is sunk even before it sees light. Then Tanishq Ad goes out of circulation. All these are rumblings of a cloudburst.
All this while our media barks up the wrong tree. Trolls and Andbhakts are the villains. The underlying malaise is ignored. A question goes abegging what happens if this power reflected on social media was to translate into our streets. What happens if an Indian Samuel Paty is followed by lakhs on streets, a severe government crackdown and indictment by their leader on “Islamist separatism” (Emmanuel Macron) and call by the equally popular (Marine Le Pen) for “a strategy of reconquest” and that “Islamism is a bellicose ideology whose means of conquest is terrorism.”
Who helps India when it burns? You and I can’t run up to media which chooses Hathras but ignores Lucknow; supports Tanishq Ad but doesn’t delve on Love-Jihad. An opposition run by foggies and discredited which lies through teeth and from both sides of mouth; a Centre which is hemmed in on every step it takes: from Aadhaar to GST to Triple Talaq to Farm Bills. A judiciary which is bound to cave in under the weight of PILs sooner than later.
We all are being swallowed by the inexorable flow of events. We could all be saved by a resolve, a glimmer of which I read this morning
(To be continued)
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Uddhav Thackeray has lost the plot badly. I mean Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar have nothing to lose—their fiefdom would survive only till they are alive. But Uddhav had many advantages which we could count as (a) Balasaheb who had nurtured a regional identity; (b) Hindu plank which is only now peaking and; (c) and BJP’s hand-holding which could have morphed their rogues into those adorable kids who knock our doors for social cause and not to knock us out (Ask Madan Sharma, if you must).
So, here we have a man who by his own admission left the groovy train of BJP because he wanted to be the chief minister. That was the first transgression against the mandate of his own people who had BJP as first choice. The second overstep was joining hands with those who were arch enemies of his own dad, his own legacy and not people’s preferred choices. Then Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Kangana Ranaut, Madan Sharma (again) and Arnab Goswami reminded us of a cave man on street you ask you sister to keep eyes closed to lest he bumps in and asks for a fig leaf.
I mean who looks the other way when your khaki guys are boarding trains to nab a man in Hooghly only because someone has made a threatening call to your spokesperson who himself doesn’t suffer a flushed face in “haramkhor-ing” others? Who throws journalists in a cell only because they were loitering outside your gates? Who declares Mumbai out-of-bounds for a celebrated actress whose national recognition vis-à-vis acknowledgment in media is the biggest giveaway on caucus that manipulates the success and failure of our films? Who brings bulldozers into drawing rooms? (Well, okay office). Who allows broken bones for cartoons and still not called out for an Indian version of Charlie Hebdo? Who calls celebrated journalists into interrogation rooms only because he addressed the Dowager Queen by her original name? And you move Maharashtra assembly for a privilege motion against the man?
And this brings us to the latest saga of Thackeray’s Maharashtra which is akin to those Seasons of Netflix which abuse Hindu deities (in form of canines and monkeys) and ridicule its holy men (beef-eating Pujaris) in the name of artistic licence. So here we have a Police Commissioner holding a press conference which is an unveiled attack on a television phenomenon of our times with a script which a policeman even with Alzheimer could write as a second nature.
So, a complaint is made, a guy is caught, names are taken, arrests are made, complainants hail the model police and a noose is tossed on a raging bull of an anchor who is breaking all your China shops—from Palghar to Rajput to Bollywood to drug mafia to Hathras—only because there is so many cupboards and so many skeletons which it would be improper to leave unattended. It’s as kiddish and Kalidasa-like (before the latter learnt not to cut the very branch on which he was perched) that you wonder if Congress-NCP are doing a hit-job on Shiv Sena on behalf of BJP. It’s like those suicides which Jihadis do only because they read in a dusty old book that its surest way to be in Jannat and enjoy 72 virgins (Why the figure of 72? Well some other day).
How this all would end? In a whimper though it’s a silly to stick neck out against a subject whose self-destructive streak by now is legendary. I mean all they have done is to only empower Arnab Goswami. A Kangana Ranaut which was fading from memory; a Rajput which viewers were getting tired with; our Deepikas and Saras and Shraddhas had come and gone and why, even Rhea is out of cell. But now there is a new fire and Arnab would harness it to the hilt.
The dye is cast. Arnab is daring them to arrest him. He says if called for interrogation he would walk to the police station and walk back (at least two-hours of primetime TV on his network which would break records of Sholay). He is baiting them for the lolly which they could serve him on a plate. You put him behind bars and all the hell breaks loose. You let him go and those two owners arrested as a collateral damage would go for your throat. You make a sheepish retreat and all your macho posturing would conjure image of a damsel who had gotten into the bed with high hopes.
I mean who needs enemies when you yourself are doing the job so spectacularly?