(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).
Sanjay Raut. Wait, wait. This isn’t a voice which you are hearing from behind Kangana Ranaut’s skirt. This man can fill up your nostrils all on his own. He is always in your face like the ones who knock at your car panels on red lights. Ranaut is only the latest excuse.
Raut is a leashed presence at the feet, a prototype all leaders keep only to be released in time. Some act suave, like Pavan Varma and Derek O’ Brien and some are cast in his inimitable mould such as Azam Khan and Sanjay Singh, if you may. Congress has too many which this piece is too short to do justice to. So, Randeep Surjewalas and Navjot Sidhus and Digvijay Singhs could relax.
There was a time when Sanjay Raut wanted to bar Muslims from voting in elections. He came around to stand with them on anti-CAA plank, chumming up to Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. This change was overnight. It swung with equations of his Shiv Sena vis-à-vis BJP. He once bloated on the upcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial site on the Arabian Sea. He is now drawing daggers at Rani Lakshmi Bai, i.e Kangana Ranaut in a filmi avatar.
So who is the real Sanjay Raut? Nobody. He is just a muckracker in the journalistic tradition of our times. He edits his party’s paper, Saamana, and takes credit for writing a biopic on Balasaheb and would be mistaken as erudite by somebody living in North Pole. Well, after all he has been an “elder” in Rajya Sabha for three terms now. But his calling card, as you would’ve guessed by now, is baring his teeth when his masters want him to.
So, it’s with him now on Kangana Ranaut. It was good he affixed “ladki” with his “haramkhor” adjective. Or somebody would’ve thought he was in a self-appraisal mode. I mean thrice a national award winner, four times of Filmfare, all by the age of 30, doesn’t quite fit the definition of a “haramkhor.”
As you would’ve guessed, the gender-warriors in our newspapers have ducked into their gutters. All your Shobhaa Dees, Mahua Moitras, Priyanka Gandhis, Brinda Karats who bristle at slights on the fairer sex are silent. And we are talking of no ordinary woman here. It’s a prized actress who is picking up the cudgels against the patriarchal Bollywood. Who wants to clean up the filmi stable of drugs and Dubai mafia. Who wants to offer a tomorrow of safety and respect and dignity to a newcomer who is arriving at VT station from Asansol. Who doesn’t want them to meet the fate of a Sushant Singh Rajput. That their young eyes with dreams aren’t closed forever. A woman who is risking her life, lighting a matchstick on her own career, who if she was to venture into Mumbai today would have an idea how a PoK must feel like.
But not a word from our pen-pushers. Not a clap for the triumph of talent over entitlement. She is not a “Shero” to Barkha Dutt. Nor she is a Safoora Zargar who gets a cry of outrage from Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint. A Sagarika Ghose brings out international law in defence of Safoora. A Rajdeep Sardesai tears his heart out on a pregnant woman in jail. Somebody calls Ishrat Jahan a daughter of our own land. Never mind one is charged with inciting riots and the other with a plot to assassinate a chief minister.
Our Bollywood bimbos now can’t find the placard in support of their gender. Against one of their own who they can’t match in range in this lifetime. Why bother if there are couches perfumed for their hinterland preys, ringed by leering louts? That youngsters are no better than playthings for those who happen to be their dads?
All of them—these starlets, muckraking journalists, political clowns—are toxics in our life. They don’t allow us to smell a rose; inhale a breeze, whistle a tune. Once in a while, somebody stands up risking everything one has. And she is “haramkhor” to them.
Aren’t we sick, folks?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
All of us would agree that public transport should’ve been allowed to let migrants reach home. Done and dusted in the first week of Lockdown 1.0 itself. Free food and community centres are not homes.
Then came mischief. One fine day, we had thousands of migrants at a bus station in Delhi. Somebody had promised them transport home. This whisper also worked in Mumbai. Thousands poured into Bandra station. Somebody was trying to get them on streets. An educated guess is it was politics. As we would presently see, any political upheavals can’t be caused without people-on- streets.
It’s now Priyanka Gandhi on the move. Her bleeding heart has arranged a thousand buses for migrants for Uttar Pradesh. She has chosen buses over trains. Never mind UP is successfully requisitioning tens of trains by the hour. Half of all Shramik Trains, 301 out of 642, have headed to Yogi’s state. She won’t tell, and our media won’t ask, if she has allergy to Indian Railways. She is surely not living up to her surname who once discovered India on trains and ended up as Mahatma.
So let’s agree on the basics: One, State made a mistake in denying migrants a window to escape. Two, somebody wants human misery on streets. This agenda was bound to soar on the headwind of people’s trauma. This was one reality which was wired to favour fiction.
We got to know of fictions on a regular basis though our media don’t give enough credit to its readers for intelligence. This usually happens when you are unchecked. NDTV was caught arranging migrants through a staged performance. They were shamed enough to delete the video but its men were soon up to another mischief. So, a report has Priyanka’s buses lined up, only the image actually is of Yogi’s buses for Kumbh Mela last year. One recalls a fake report in The Hindu of migrants being extra charged. Indian Express isn’t leaving a single migrant on a single highway who could add to its’ misery editions. India Today group meanwhile is selling migrants photos for thousands of bucks.
These are the kind of times when Western media wakes up to India. Washington Post has run dozens of photographs on Indian migrants; New York Times likewise; The Guardian wasn’t quite British in overplaying it as India’s greatest exodus since the Partition. Quite interestingly, the newspaper in a matter of 24 hours, was praising the United States and Australia for enforcing a complete lockdown on its people; no escaping the measure. It had drooled on UK lockdown as a “necessary hardship.’
All this doesn’t blind us to migrants’ nightmare. People have lost lives on roads, trucks and railway lines. Centre hadn’t seen it coming. Nobody had, truth to tell. Smiling idiots who pass off as experts were moving between one media house to another, predicting catastrophe for at least 40 million Indians. The end was near.
This is the thing about images. Young kids are psychologically scarred by Corona Virus. Possibly in lakhs. But they don’t make up images. Indifferent couples, in 24×7 proximity, hate each other more than ever. We possibly have lakhs of divorces sowed. Again, there are no images. Young entrepreneurs are ruined. Again, no images. Corona has been a pandemic which in real gritty world, outside our Netflixes and home-bakeries, has been nothing short of death to millions. Again, no images.
The political beasts know this truth from ages. In modern world, it’s the most important tool of imperialism. These days they don’t send out armies, well not everywhere. They strangulate you by propaganda. A government, howsoever loved, is pulled down through steps in these orders: (a) Bring people on streets; (b) Show police as murderers; (c ) police freezes; becomes spectators; (d ) anarchy on streets morphs into violent mobs; (e ) Pressure groups—UN, EU, Media, Human Rights Groups, NGOs—pounce on its prey. Its’ “sleeping cells” they have fattened all these years in the home country—opposition and corrupt media—are the proverbial fifth column. Judiciary succumbs. Before long, the popular leader is pulled down. Those who know the truth of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and “Arab Springs” –and a pro-democracy fake in Hong Kong—would agree.
Narendra Modi is in this unfortunate situation. He is popular and nationalist – two traits which financial sharks don’t allow to exist. It hurts free trade and their agenda of endless profits. They hold the presidents and the prime ministers of the world by their little finger. Men like Modi, or Putin, Xi or Kim, who put nation first, are caricatured and shown as savages unworthy to be in office. First the world opinion is won over by propaganda. It paves their road for intervention in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.” The suffering nation would face financial sanctions; or worse military action.
This is Modi’s fate for next four years. People-on-streets is an agenda which has been set in motion. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was the first roll of the dice. Migrants is another. They would keep recurring, in the guise of one or other, to bring anarchy on streets. Every day, every month, every year. This much I know for sure. What’s Modi’s response we would know. India can’t desert its man in this hour.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
On the two sides of political divide, India’s Right and Left-Liberals, only a handful enjoy a persona such as P. Chidambaram. He is an elite among elitists, second only to Gandhis, and his gravitas in public appearances suggests of a man bred in arrogance. He isn’t of a light-banter type, back-slapping his friends. Never a dhoti and a khadi shirt has been worn with a swagger which could put rockstar in shade.
Chidambaram wears a smile which he could patent. It’s a benign, patronizing smile, never warm, only a favour which he is bestowing to his audience. When he speaks, there is this cocked eyebrow judging you on your incompetence. He is that Pope of politics who is used to reverence from his audience.
In a sense, it’s a classic cloak borrowed off from the Nehru-Gandhis: A benevolent knight, God’s chosen one for his people, who must have his cake while the masses must revel in the crumbs. A blue-blooded Congressman never questions the scions; and never lets down the coterie and sycophants who must do his bidding.
The morning after Tihar got arguably its most famous occupant, Lutyens Media who breed and multiply like mosquito do in sewers and gutters, were busy treating the moment as a victory of sorts. Hindustan Times lettered “Chidambaram, Karti get relief from arrest”; Times of India made much of Supreme Court disapproving of High Court judge quoting Enforcement Directorate (ED) note; The Hindu didn’t forget to mention Chidambaram and son got anticipatory bail in Aircel-Maxis money laundering case; and Indian Express, the daddy of them all, front-paged “Judge-slams-agencies”.
I mean a heavyweight-like-few-others is in notorious Tihar jail. Chidambaram is a thread which could showcase the entire gamut of alleged corruption in the decade (2004-2014) of UPA rule, reveal the arteries and veins which gutted body India, arguably institutionalized corruption; sterilized bureaucracy and defanged investigating agencies. It has a far bigger implication for the present and the future then a mere judicial custody. Yet our Lutyens Media has just taken a note of his arrest: There are no sermons, no digging up the dirt, no editorial – nothing.
The servile TV channels for once were not too keen on TRPs. None of them stationed their cameras in front of Tihar Jail for images which could have lasted them a week. No helicopters like they did once as Sanjay Dutt was being whisked to the Yerwada jail. These were the very channels who were aghast when CBI men were jumping the fence of Chidambaram’s residence. Yet the TV grabs of the year were not shot, nor archived for posterity. As if they wanted to erase people’s memory, sanitize history.
I scanned the timeline of Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose etc on twitter and found nothing this morning. JUST NOTHING. The one of Barkha Dutt though was outrageous. She may have changed media affiliations faster than actors change clothes in a song sequence but her crooked logic is unimpaired.
Ms Dutt is aghast as to why Congress is not taking to the streets on the matter of P. Chidambaram! Could you believe it! Ms Dutt is asking Congress to mobilize public opinion and come out in support of its two stalwarts (the other one being DK Shivakumar). She would rather have the party alienate the people than dump the allegedly corrupt. She is exhorting Congress to defend the two infamous. She views DK Shivakumar as a fire-fighter for Congress; and can’t get over the fact that the Party has done no better than depute its legal luminaries or arrange just a press conference for P. Chidambaram. She is asking Sonia and Rahul to sit outside PC’s residence and court arrest alongside him. She is asking if Priyanka Gandhi could accompany Robert Vadra, why not here? Barkha sure is a queen of the bizarre.
It is no different to how Lutyens Media treated the Sunanda Pushkar murder (yes, murder now that it has been established she was poisoned). There was no journalism of courage, no intense gaze which could penetrate the layers of deception. Or how they treated the Sonia-Rahul bail in National Herald case, AgustaWestland and many other scams: just in passing. It’s different from the anniversary they run on an Akhlaq and a Pehlu Khan; a Gauri Lankesh or an Asifa Bano.
There is no escaping the fact that a few luminaries and media houses are part of this “eco-system.” This eco-system is willing to ignore corruption, blood stains, violence, seditious conduct and harm to this country as long as it serves their agenda. Their sense of democracy and secularism has a skewed prism. Never lose an opportunity to hang them out to dry.