indian express

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.

 

 

What is it that the Gandhis have against women: A father-daughter present their own villains

(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?

 

 

I mean what’s your problem with “free” vaccine? Taking apart the charges, one by one

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All hell has broken loose. For the BJP is promising free vaccination to Biharis ahead of the assembly elections. All muck-rakers usually in such situations are found in Indian Express. The order is set too: Randeep Surjewala. Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Farooq Abdullah, AAP come in that order. Mamata and Owaisi are catered day next just to keep the heat going. And yes, there is an editorial too. It’s a set matrix, a procedural norm, a codebook as it were. All comrades, be in red or covered in garb of Liberals, know the drill.

Man, when would I be serious.  It’s such a grave matter for people of India are being discriminated against. Didn’t the BJP say that it would cater to health-workers, co-morbid patients first? Who would fault a Mamata, Thackeray or Gehlot if they were to tell their people that you are paying the price of living in a non-BJP State? Where is equality and transparency in vaccine distribution? All this just for an election?

Let’s take the issue of “free” first. The process would be that Centre would buy the vaccine from the manufacturers and pass it on to the States on a subsidized rate. It’s for the States to offer “free” or “charge” its citizens. After all Health is a state subject. They could opt-in free-polio; they could stop Ayushman Bharat, as did Mamata’s Bengal. Bihar would give vaccine free. So would Tamil Nadu. And no other State would dare do otherwise. Who gains in these freebies? People of India.

And Bihar, by your own logic, should be the “first among equals”. I mean you shed bucketful of tears on the plight of migrants heading for Madhubani, Supauli etc .  You moved heavens if they bought train tickets for home. Your reporters and cameraman were virtually on India’s streets. Now the poor would get vaccine “free” and you have a problem. You call Bihar the poorest state in India; acknowledge that poor are the first to be guarded against the pandemic menace for they would lead to community spread. Yet you have a problem when something “free” is slipped inside their shacks.

Now what happens to health-workers and co-morbid patients? Those in the eye of Covid-19 menace? They would still be priority. Where has the manifesto said that Biharis would be given the priority. It would only be free. Not first. Why are you throwing wool over my eyes?

Now let’s look at the logistics and “science” part of it about which Express has given us a lecture in its editorial. The newspaper is pompous which it usually is in such moments. It finds BJP desperate and cavalier to science; not compassionate enough. I could imagine the editor in his glass chamber, hammering his keyboard, sipping a coffee or puffing out his cigar, and wondering when would India have a Pulitzer Prize of its own. I mean how long could one swoon over Ramnath Goenka awards, home awards as it were.

Man, once again I am off to cheap thrills—on a matter as serious as Covid-19 vaccine is and the BJP which is a power monster. I mean don’t BJP know like the Express does that Covid-19 vaccines would need to be stored at temperatures lower than those of MMR and other traditional vaccines such as BCG?

(You won’t know MMR and BCG. I didn’t too. Till Google informed me that MMR is “measles, mumps and rubella” vaccine and BCG is “Bacille Calmette-Guerin” vaccine for tuberculosis.)

Further, Express scares me that resources would need to be mobilized. That one is not sure if it would involve private sector and in what capacity. And that these issues are inextricable from those of equity and transparency (big words). It closes out with an appeal for required “discussion”–and a judgment passed that BJP’s move is “bad science, bad politics—and plain wrong.”

I don’t know how offering vaccine “free” to Biharis is “bad science.” It certainly is not “bad politics” for it would matter to poor.

And now that you find it “wrong”, I presume you mean BJP is bending rules to prevail in assembly elections, never mind the Election Commission finds it perfectly legitimate as it is a “policy” announcement. By “wrong” I guess you mean “ethical deviation” just for “power”—a charge which finds echo with the Opposition.

So, don’t you remember that free vaccination, free diagnostics and free medicines were promised by the Congress in 2019 elections? Why, they did the same in 2014 too  (That’s Anand Ranganathan informing us last night). You wouldn’t have questioned Congress then, nor did our Abdullahs and Yechurys and Rajas. But then selective memory is a wonderful quality: You could avoid questioning Congress on its duplicity.

Make up your mind on India’s poor, folks. I know migrants on foot trouble you, Hathras has you outraged. But don’t grudge them when a manifesto could save them from death. When it’s all-inclusive in Bihar: Everyone gets it; Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, SCs, STs, OBCs—everyone. Or say that you don’t like the idea of India aspiring to be a Welfare State.

 

When was the last you saw yourself in mirror, Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Once in a while it’s fun to see an intellectual knackered down in the ivory tower of his own. So, it was with Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express today where he has been cornered by BJP’s general secretary Bhupendra Yadav.

Yadav, you see, has had problem with a Mehta column in the same pages which was titled “Railroading the Bills” and thus leaves nothing to imagination. Mehta had emptied his chamber of bullets which, usually with intellectuals, is a slow striptease for their masters and never really about the subject they are writing. Mehta has an audience in the West, in its academic and media circles, and it was for their consumption. Who cares if BJP heard it or not?

Bad luck for Mehta, this time Yadav did. So, Yadav first distils the essence of Mehta’s article and then proceeds to ask if tearing the rules book, breaking the mic, standing on table, screwing up the social distancing norm, was okay with the intellectual. If it was okay with the intellectual that the safety of marshals was tested and that neither the erring MPs nor their parties have had any regret to show for their conduct. And if that’s okay with the intellectual that such precedents of hooliganism are set in the Parliament of world’s largest democracy since he had completely side-stepped the issue.

Not that Yadav let Mehta go on his intellectual pretensions. So, he set about dismantling the intellectual point by point.

  • You say “Question Hour” was suspended. But the “Right to Question” wasn’t suspended. Curtailed sessions often opt so. Why, even state assemblies in Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal—incidentally all ruled by Opposition—have also suspended the Question Hour. Any word for them, Mr intellectual?;
  • You say the Select Committee was avoided. But you don’t recall that amendment to refer the Bill to the Select Committee had been moved—and could have arrived at some conclusion had not the hostile members surrounded the Deputy Chairman of the House and snatched papers from him;
  • You say the “division” of votes were not allowed. But for a division to be allowed, the House has to be in order. And, by the way Mr Intellectual, who disrupted the order? Who walked out? Who ought to have been asked this question?

Mehta has said enough in last few years to leave no-one in doubt that he hates Narendra Modi and the conservative government in power. Before 2019 general elections, he had said: “The last five years have been a mutilation of the Indian soul” or “They stand for everything that is un-Indian.” Never mind, a common Indian has a completely different opinion to Mr intellectual.

But then Essential India is not what intellectuals such as Mehta and Arundhati Roy worry about. Often, they give a Western literary motif to their viewpoint which makes no sense to an average Indian. They are inaccessible to Indians as the latter are to them.

So, when Delhi gathered around 700 academics a couple of years ago, with the idea of creating an ecosystem of Indic knowledge tradition, it didn’t endear itself to Mehta, all because it had been organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). So, who would lead the revival of Indic tradition if not RSS? Have you asked the JNU, with all their state funding of taxpayers’ money, why they don’t have an Indian philosophy centre? And what about your own Ashoka University where you were a vice-chancellor until recently, Mr intellectual?

This was the man who viewed Ram Mandir as “dangerous” or “unnecessary”. He viewed it as act of terrorism since it was after a mosque had been razed down. This was the man who called for “street action” after Islamists and Leftists and Liberals weren’t able to get their way past India’s legislature or executive and the judiciary wanted to play by the rulebook. (Some wonder he escaped the Sedition charge!).

The government had followed the rulebook in both Houses of Parliament to make the Triple Talaq bill a reality. It had played by the rulebook in enacting a new profile of Jammu and Kashmir, doing away with the stain of seven decades of “temporary” special status. It also waited patiently, trusting in India’s judiciary and the Constitution, to end the legal wrangle of decades on Ram Janmabhoomi. It also presented its case impeccably to have the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) cleared by the Parliament.

Anyone who didn’t agree had the option of knocking the doors of Supreme Court. You surely expect such a conduct from Liberals who profess in centrality of the Constitution and the tenets of democracy. But then these Liberals are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So, if the temporary status of Jammu and Kashmir is done away with after seven decades, it’s a problem. If a verdict in favour of Ram Temple, after Hindus of successive generations have exhibited exemplary patience, it’s a problem for the resident of the ivory tower.

So they didn’t agree by the rulebook, just as the Opposition hasn’t done on the Farm Bills. They gave a call for hooliganism, just as Opposition has now done on Farm Bills. All the pretence on swearing by the Constitution, Parliament, Judiciary, Democracy is what it is—a pretence. They deserve nothing but contempt.

 

Bengaluru burns and a Muslim names his son “Krishna” on Janmashtami: What’s the connection?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The news from Bengaluru is disturbing. A facebook post on the Prophet Muhammad enraged a mob of Muslims; they went on a rampage; hundreds of vehicles were burnt; dozens of policemen injured; houses put to torch; people killed. Alongside are stories of how Muslims formed a human chain to protect a Hindu temple from being vandalized; how a Muslim father named his son as “Krishna” as he was born on Krishna Janmashtami.

Bear with me for a couple of minutes as I build the background for you to connect the dots. In the hope that you would become a careful consumer of news and not one who just swallows any vomit by our newspapers.

I not only consume but also create news so know where my objectivity ends and bias begins. It’s true for most. We won’t disagree too that Muslims by and large don’t favour BJP. Or that your Sikh cousins—intermarriages are common, my mom was a Sikhni—would greet you on Holi and Deepawali but try telling them that Sikhs have emerged from the Hindus. Or that Sikhs are required to this day to register their marriage as Hindus.

I also notice a practice which if you are not careful enough would pass you by. Whenever Muslims as a religious minority do something which alarms the nation, by causing riots, killing civilians or soldiers, stories would start doing rounds in newspapers about how a few Muslims are reaching out to Hindus and shielding them from arsonists, how a few Muslims are upholding the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb, how a few were exemplary citizens before the state turned them into monsters.

Barkha Dutt made sure that the nation never forgets Burhan Wani was the son of a school teacher even if he happened to be the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen; that another top Hizbul commander Riaz Naikoo was a math teacher; and so on and so on. Who would forget the Indian Express headline: “And they hanged Yakub Memon”? It’s a classic news report which should be a matter of eternal shame for the newspaper. Please read it.

If somebody was reading the story today, he wouldn’t have a clue what Memon did for which he was hanged. There is no mention at all of why the State deemed Memon to have done a crime grave enough to be hanged. NO MENTION AT ALL. All you have is a poignant report of a man preparing for his final moment; fresh white kurta pyjama, letters exchanged in English with his family etc. Oh, I must tell you Memon had been found guilty in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts which had left 257 killed.

Why do you think this happens? Why the innocent killing of civilians, threat to national security, incalculable damage to assets fades into the background and the image of an innocent, lovable kid in the neighbourhood, one whose only affair was with books and academics, is kept in your face? Why no sooner Pulwama happens, which leaves 46 of our soldiers martyred, you find stories in our newspapers that Kashmiri students all over the country are being beaten in hostels, in streets, and that they are fleeing and railways stations are filling up? Why a sympathetic narrative is spun alongside a grave crime?

On matters of Kashmir Valley or Punjab insurgency, it’s simply to cast in stone the image of a carefree youngster who was alienated enough by the Indian state to turn into a terrorist. Remember, movie “Maachis”? The chief protagonist only loafs around with his friends when police frames them and puts them on the run, seeking revenge against the system.

Now let’s return to today. Let’s look closely at the Muslim man who has named his “Krishna” on Janmashtami. Aziz Khan belongs to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. India Abroad News Service (IANS) informs us that “the doctor Praveen Jadia asked for the baby’s name to be filled in for the form. I immediately named our boy as Krishna, as the day was Janmashtami.

“Although the doctors and other family members objected to it, but I told them that a father has the right to give any name to his child.”

The IANS further adds: Khan’s mother Yaniki had suggested another name “Kafir” but Aziz did not change it.

What say folks. Teary-eyed. Angry at right-wingers poking fingers at innocent, harried Indian muslims? The violence still on in Bengaluru already faded in your memory? The anger you felt at Muslims taking their reverence to their Prophet to murderous levels already diluted?

So let me disappoint you readers.  This story is a dozen years old. This happened in 2008. Why this story is doing rounds now after 12 years? it’s commendable but what relevance it has to the present situation which would only polarize society, feed the islamist elements and is bad for all of us? Try googling this story and you would see every newspaper, magazine, website swooning over the exemplary Muslim.

That’s why I say folks connect dots. When your respected Tauji forwards a WhatsApp image moved by his proclivity for Narendra Modi or his undying faith in the Gandhi clan, THINK. When your aunt in Pondicherry has just forwarded a map which shows Chinese incursion in the Galwan Valley, PAUSE. I guess now there are more economists in our homes than we had ever suspected. Or the very next day, these economists are ready with their nuanced view on India’s latest defence purchase.  If you, reader, are an evolved consumer of news, it would foil their sinister designs. India only breaks up when its citizens don’t connect what they consume as news.

 

India’s police and the manufacturing of a storm

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We don’t trust our police. Most would say they are brutal and corrupt.  There is nothing new here. You talk to your parents and grandma. It would be no different.

So when a father and son were allegedly beaten to death by cops in Tamil Nadu last week, the outrage was instant. It would’ve passed too if our newspapers hadn’t kept it in our face. Indian Express, for instance, is reserving its Front Page to the story for last five days. Be sure, it would be no different in coming days.

This jells with the present mood. None of us have forgotten Jamia and JNU. George Floyd and BlackLivesMatter are ongoing. Hong Kong is still on boil. Who knows, an immolation here, a custodial death there, shattered stores, burning buildings, graffiti and youths hoisted unsteadily on shoulders could transform it into something completely else. Anarchists, you see, have had enough of this “pause” induced by the Wuhan Virus pandemic. Tragedy in Tamil Nadu is the perfect “Wrecking Ball.”

Police would again make headlines. They would be told to uphold law yet not step on to the Liberty of citizens. It’s a delicate balance asked: Criminals after all don’t own up over a coffee. Batons alone are no answer to violent protests. Next stage is damning images in media. Police freezes; protests grow. Mobsters join the fun. Peaceful protests are now violent riots. Suddenly EU Parliament, UN Human Rights and US State of Department are interested. And you would forget it all began with the police.

Police is the face of democracy. This is the first line of its defence which anarchists target. There are enough funds in their coffers, and multiple evidence to suggest, that it works. All you need is your men in street protesting and a bought media to keep stoking the embers.

This media would bring you stories about a school teacher, math enthusiast, “sheros”, yoga fanatic, brave widow, grandma-on-wheelchair who are risking self so that democracy lives.  Months-old kids dead, who could only suckle, are “martyrs.” Volunteers, worthless otherwise, have front page pics. Running kitchens in sit-ins is always community-driven. Never mind, their newspaperwala hasn’t been paid for months.  Your media would never question their funds. Wad of millions, we must believe, have been gathered overnight by the unyielding spirit of India.

This never fails. It didn’t fail in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen where rulers were forced to cede power and we the fools celebrated it as Arab Springs. Or in the “Maidan” coup in Ukraine. Or in countless Latin American countries. Or in Eastern Europe. Or in Africa. Anarchy, you see, pays. And a democracy is a sitting duck. More so when a society is as diverse, divided and politically infested as India is.  A largely young nation who bristle in their youthful innocence are just playthings in the palm of India-breakers.

Mature democracies know the peril. Thus, you have police in the United States which is quasi-military. They even have private police for informal action not subjected to judicial review. They have been treating anarchists as terrorists for over a century. French believe that society must get precedence over the individual in order to fence the democracy.  Judiciary acts likewise. Citizens are told the limits of Liberty.  Police have powers denied to citizens.

India is different. It has only 125 police officers for every lakh of citizens; one of the lowest police-people ratios in the world. Vacancies are not filled because states don’t have the money to spare salaries what to say of pensions. Police stations are in shambles. Do they have the men and money for tech crimes which work without boundaries or distance? Or to snoop without being accused of breaching the privacy?

There is little doubt police needs to mend itself. But it needs be done at a local level.  Turning it into a national outrage, with media as tool of anarchists, is handing India on a platter to its enemies. We all have to make a choice: Between individual and society. For the larger good, we need to empower and not weaken the government.

Modi government has never needed tougher laws more than now. It must not be afraid of being called “fascists” or “nazis.” We have enemies out there who want to Balkanize India. We need to empower and not weaken the police. On it hinges the fate of our democracy. As Abraham Lincoln famously said: A government must not be too strong or too weak for its people.

 

First Patanjali, now ICMR: Why Indian Express is in a rush to discredit them?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is breathless. It has two Front Page stories today on a Corona-Vaccine claim by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), made a few hours ago.

ICMR, in its Thursday letter, had claimed that it has partnered Bharat Biotech in developing an indigenous Corona Vaccine—Covaxin–which it plans to introduce for masses after Phase I and Phase II human trials by August 15. It has asked the 12 selected hospitals to make haste in view of “public health emergency.”

The headline of the first Indian Express story: “Vaccine by August 15: Scientists say ICMR claim absurd and risky” suggests that ICMR claim is “absurd.” That this apparently is backed by “scientists.”

In this long, long story, I couldn’t find one instance/quote which claimed that the Covaxin claim by the ICMR is “absurd.” As for “scientists” Express has mentioned in the headline, there is only one “scientist” who figures in the text. He is some Shaheed Jameel of Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance. Shaheed too hasn’t stuck his neck out that the ICMR claim is “absurd.” All he has said that the August 15 deadline is “ridiculous.”

So two things in the story work against the Indian Express’ projection in the headline: One, the Covaxin claim is “absurd”; Two, it’s just a scientist, and not scientists, as revealed in the text.

The national newspaper is also livid that only six of the 12 selected hospitals have received approval by the institutional ethics committee. It also claims that these six hospitals, are relatively “lesser-known.” So, probably ICMR, the apex body in India, one of the oldest and largest research institutions in the world, should’ve consulted Indian Express. The newspaper also can’t wait before the other six hospitals receive the approval.

The second Front Page story is headlined: “Some hospitals selected for clinical trials caution against ‘impossible’ timeline.” Take time out to read the story, folks. Against “impossible” of two voices, there are several more who have said they would do their best. Some have said “they would try their best to comply (with ICMR)”; Others “This is an emergency situation and we can’t lose people”; Still others, “He has been getting calls from people wanting to be part o the trial:” Still others, “It was possible to generate some data on 100 or more subjects by August 15.” Several hospitals, as per Indian Express itself, “are now reaching out to health workers, posting messages on WhatsApp groups and making phone calls for healthy volunteers.”

The crux of Indian Express outrage is that ICMR is putting a deadline of August 15, 2020 for the launch of Covaxin when human trials of all three phases aren’t feasible within this timeframe. It puts ICMR in the dock. The only problem is: Indian Express hasn’t sought a clarification from the ICMR itself. It hasn’t mentioned that it sought out ICMR for its reaction and they said “no comment.”

The truth is ICMR has been quick to clarify. Times of India have mentioned “officials who have said the healthy ministry had asked ICMR about the letter and was informed that the objective was to speed up the processes relating to vaccine development rather than set any deadlines. ICMR officials told Times of India: “We need the vaccine at the earliest and that was what ICMR wanted to convey…no deadline was being set.”

Now let me take readers to another incident. When Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali claimed that it had made a breakthrough in an immunity medicine for Corona Virus pandemic, the censorious Indian Express, again within hours, had written an editorial on June 26, 2020.  It claimed that the company had “discredited” Ayurveda and it’s one of “litany of Patanjali unethical practices.” Now Patanjali’s Coronil is about to hit the market. The medicine was for “management” and not a “cure” in itself but undue confusion and doubts were created to malign them, as Baba Ramdev was to say later. The unputdownable Baba also said that the “drug mafia and multi-national companies were not able to accept the work being done by Patanjali Yogpeeth.” As per Baba Ramdev: “The drug mafia, MNCs and anti-national forces want me in jail.”

I am not saying that Indian Express is hand-in-gloves with the drug mafia. I am also not suggesting that Indian Express is an anti-national force. All I am saying is that the cardinal rules of journalism are being flouted by the “Journalism of Courage.” All it needed to do was to dial up ICMR and seek their views which were easily available.

That’s minimum you need to do when you have plans for two front-page stories against one of the leading medical institutions of the world. Similarly, with Patanjali’s Coronil approval now, the newspaper needed to acknowledge its mistake-in-haste to its readers. After all, at stake is a solution to a deadly pandemic, thousands of endangered human lives, and even the immediate future of India. Indian Express could have been more responsible—and restrained—in their diatribe. It could have done better.

 

A muscular India gives its army a “free hand” to knock sense in China

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.

If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.

India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.

China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.

Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.

Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”

This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.

China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China

India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.

There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.

There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.

Next time you quote them on Dalits, put them to this neutrality test

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is little gain-saying that Dalits have not suffered in India. They have been raped, murdered, discriminated against, distanced from wells and temples and that’s largely because upper-castes kept up the social barriers against them. The same utensils or glasses for both were out of question.

Thus you can’t quarrel with an Arundhati Roy (minorities-Dalits-living-in-fear); Shekhar Gupta (Dalits must suffer as they have over the millenniums and keep mouth shut); Rajdeep Sardesai (Access is not for Dalits); Barkha Dutt (the plight of Dalit women) or Sagarika Ghose (Upper-castes were bigger oppressors than the British) for they can back their claim with evidence. You also can’t pick a quarrel with the BBC (Dalit killed for eating in front of upper-castes); New York Times (Dalits scalped); Washington Post (Lower caste chamar slur); or The London Times (Dalits and discrimination on horse-riding) for highlighting the divide. You also can’t fault with politicians like Sonia Gandhi (horrified on Dalit atrocities); Rahul Gandhi (Dalits are beaten and crushed); Priyanka Gandhi (Dalits insult can’t be tolerated); Mamata Banerjee (Organized crime against Dalits); Akhilesh Yadav (Dalits suppressed); Arvind Kejriwal (BJP has insulted Dalits); Asaduddin Owaisi (I ask Dalits to stop suffering)  or Pinaryi Vijayan (Anti-Dalit politics by BJP) for they arguably are worried about the society. The angst of Dalit leaders like Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar and Chandrashekhar Azad could also be understood. They are pained at the wrongs against their brothers and sisters.  I may be missing the instances of Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, The Wire, The Scroll, The Quint, The Print, The Squint, The Caravan, The Huffington Post etc but you get the drift.

Now let me narrate a couple of instances of this week. Both instances occurred in Uttar Pradesh. In Jaunpur, houses of Dalit families were set ablaze by Muslims in Batheti village on Tuesday. According to police, the clashes erupted after two groups of Dalits and Muslim boys fought over cattle grazing.  The village head tried to intervene but to no effect. Muslim boys returned with a bigger force, stones were pelted and these Muslims indulged in arson and set fire to Dalit huts.

The second incident happened in Azamgarh on Friday. Sixteen Muslim youths attacked a group of Dalit men under Maharajganj police station. Twelve Dalit men were seriously injured. It occurred after Dalits objected to Muslim boys harassing some girls. One 22-year-old Sudhir was slashed with a sharp-edged weapon. Eleven others were badly beaten with sticks and stones.

A rabid Muslim, anti-Hindu or anti-BJP person would claim that this is a manufactured narrative. That this Muslim violence wasn’t because of caste-divide, never mind a few upper-caste violent acts against Dalits could similarly be over petty matters. Or they could ramble on what do you expect in a state of Yogi Adityanath. Or that these innocent Muslims have been framed by partisan police. Or that the state government has got another stick to beat the innocent, hapless Muslims with. That Hindu elements might have spread rumours for Dalits to confront Muslims and in consequence suffered physical and material losses. Or that this piece by me is a whataboutery to hide what regularly happens against Dalits by upper-caste Hindus. You could also cite the recent US State Department Report to shame present India. You could work out a few more excuses I might have missed out.

Let’s say I don’t contest such an argument. Let’s for a moment concede them the point. That these two specific incidents of Muslims against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh defy credulity. That Muslims can never beat Dalits.

But the thrust of this piece is above this narrow binary. It is addressed to millions of Indians in this country, who are more than a Hindu or a Muslim, more than a BJP or a Congress, more than an Indian Express/The Hindu or a Republic TV which represent the two opposite sides of the spectrum. These Indians who hold the future of India in their neutrality.

And the thrust is: Have you heard a Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, the Gandhis, Yadavs, Mamatas, Owaisis, Kejriwals and Vijayans say a word in condemnation against these two horrific incidents against Dalits? Or even from Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar or Chandrashekhar Azad, the latter who often threatens to fast-unto-death in the cause of his Dalit community? Or Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who wipe the tears of Dalits and photo-op with lunch on the same plate? The Wire, The Scroll, The Print, The Quint, Caravan or Huffington Post outraged? And if not, next time you quote them would you be honest and accept that these illustrious could be prejudiced and don’t mind the ill of our beloved country? Or that you are prepared to sacrifice your next generation as long as you score a point on a Facebook debate?

If these icons in media and politics fail this neutrality test, would you confess that they could be biased. That they are not neutral. That they could be propagandists.  That they could be dangerous for society. For unity of India. Maybe paid for by forces which want India broken. For “Jewel of India” which is still lusted for by foreign cabals. Those who thought India would break up in pieces and are distressed that it has survived 70-odd years and practices the best of democratic traditions?

I don’t suggest you believe me. It doesn’t matter if I find currency with your or not.  All I suggest is that next time you read these sources, pause. PAUSE AND REFLECT. Notice if you see any bias or prejudice. Hold them under microscope and see if you still find them neutral. If they fail the test, don’t quote them next time. Make them honest; and not clink glasses on your back for having once against fooled you.