Tamil Nadu

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

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All those who stand with you, matter

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

 

Would Indian Express not mind a communal flare-up?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

On a day when every mainstream national daily has lauded the message of “peace and brotherhood” in the Shoba Yatra at Hauz Qazi to douse communal animosity, Indian Express has chosen to flare it up.

Times of India clapped the “peaceful procession”; Hindustan Times extolled Muslims in reinstalling temple idols and even The Hindu put “communal harmony on show” in its headline. But you read Indian Express and it seems they were at a different event than the one being covered.

Beginning with its headline – “On day 3 BJP MPs visit, VHP leader says: Can turn Hauz Qazi, Ballimaran into Ayodhya” – to its content, Indian Express has insinuated “saffron terror” in the form of massive Hindu turnout and speeches by a couple of insignificant entities. Still undone, they inserted a completely unrelated mention with these words: “The issue also figured on the latest cover of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, with the headline #Temple Vandalism Perils of Minoritarianism.”

Every reader who has read Indian Express today (July 10, 2019) would carry the impression of Saffron intimidation.  A reader would fear impending communal riots in an area where Hindus and Muslims have lived cheek-by-jowl for generations.  A reader would interpret the presence of 3 BJP MPs as a tacit acquiescence by the party leadership.

And what could be the consequences? Hindus and Muslims gulping this poison within them, and not just in Hauz Qazi. A temple vandalized here; a mosque desecrated there, riots erupting; lives lost, police and security overcome by mobs, government in limbo and the unrest in India bringing in sharks from Western shores at the smell of blood in the pool.

Is this what Indian Express wants? Don’t they know that its 10 days to the horrible event and Hindus haven’t even picked up a stone? Aren’t they mindful that sensible Muslims of Hauz Qazi are coming out in droves to ensure no communal rupture erupts in the vicinity? Can’t they lend an ear to the temple priest who says “Today’s event (Shobha Yatra) was organized to stand up against such people (who desecrate a religious place.) We want to cohabit with all other communities.”

To be sure, newspapers seek different angle to make themselves distinct. Someone might choose to highlight Rahul Gandhi and his biggest win in 2019 polls from Wayanad, Kerala while others might find his ousting from family bastion Amethi, UP bigger news. Someone might droll over BJP’s remarkable Lok Sabha show in Karnataka; others might dwell on how Tamil Nadu and Kerala have shut the door on them in South.

But today’s Indian Express is not an interpretation. It’s insinuation. An insinuation, which could trigger something far more sinister. Which could affect our generation, our next generation, the unity of this country, the future of India. Another Partition; another horror; another vivisection.

This issue of vandalized temple is high on the mind of millions of Indians. What next? How would it play out? Am I in a safe neighbourhood? What do I do about my daughter who returns from college to our deserted lane late in the evening? Or my son who is back only when the dusk falls on the fields in Moradabad?

Those who want an “akhand bharat” (United India) want Hindus and Muslims to live in peace and amity. Those who want  a “dismembered India” want Hindus and Muslims to tear themselves apart. Today, I see Indian Express standing with the latter. It would be difficult for them to convince me that their report wasn’t projecting the fear of fundamentalist Hindus—when the rest of mainstream media has lauded the restraint of Hindus.

Am I overreacting to a “small incident” in a “small lane” at the backdrop of a “minor incident”?  Didn’t World War I begin only because a prince (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) was assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo; that a stray protest in Tunisia could herald “Arab Spring”; that Soviet Union would come apart only because Ronald Reagan, a continent apart, had made arms race too prohibitive; that a “Euromaidan movement” could bring down a Ukrainian government; that  American revolution could begin because the elites had refused to pay taxes?

Its time Indian Express opens itself to scrutiny. The governments and the press bodies would have their own reasons to shrink from hauling them up. But they owe an answer to Indians and their country. Come out and debate this issue with me in an open forum. When the country’s future depends on Hindu-Muslim relations, Indian Express can’t seek warmth in the glow of, god forbid, torched homes and burning pyres.

For god’s sake, stop this my Twinkle and your Asifa nonsense

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Some crimes shake the conscience of the nation: Like the one of Twinkle in Aligarh. Or Asifa in Kathua, Jammu.

Millions of Indians mourn such tragedies. But those vocal, be it on print, web or TV, view it from religious prisms:  The divide is between Muslims-unsafe vs. Hindus- wronged. Politicians and media profit, not the nation.

The question today is: Can India afford to be divided along the communal lines? If it comes to pass, who should be held responsible? Could India as a nation then survive?

We have a prototype answer to all these questions. India was divided along the communal lines in 1947; Those who created divisions, in this case British, were responsible;  India lost its’ eastern and western limbs in its quest for survival.

Do we want a repeat of it in the near future?  If not, how this slide need be stopped? Should another round of Partition, at the cost of millions killed, raped and displaced, must happen again?

It all begins from those who set the narrative. British did it in decades leading to the independence: Assembly elections were held along the communal lines: Muslim candidate for Muslim constituency. Then began the chorus: what would happen to minority Muslims once we leave the Indian shores.  Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were thus armed to severe India of its limbs. The resultant tragedy of Partition has few parallels in human history.

India has survived another Partition thus far. But the same narrative is reappearing:  Muslims are insecure; their culture, language and religion is in danger; majority Hindus would be the oppressors.

If it were the British who fed this narrative in pre-independence era, its media and break-India forces which is fanning the fire in our times. As oppressor Hindus was the theme before the Partition, so is the theme in our times.

Occasionally, the likes of Sadhvi Pragya and Giriraj Singh play into the hands of such forces. At times, “saffron terror” is cooked up like it nearly did in the tragic 26/11 in Mumbai. Lynchings become part of leitmotif to stoke fears of oppressive Hindu majority.

Celebrities and cinestars jump in to serve their eternal desire of being in news.  Writers and scientists sign petitions in orchestrated campaigns. Data, like Lokniti-CSDN, survey how many Muslims and Christians have voted for BJP;  Castes are divided into sub-castes and further sub-castes as Mayawatis, Akhilesh Yadavs and Lallu Prasads feed themselves fat on its harvests. Important magnets, like Western media and prized economists, all are part of the ecosystem which want India to go up in flames.

Hindus and Muslims do have different language and culture. But both are Indians. And a majority do see themselves as Indians. The minority are Asaduddin Owaisi who incites with the call of Karbala or Niranjan Jyoti who divides with “ramzada” vs “haramzada” quip. Hang them out to dry. As you do with the despicable dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies who are at the beck and call of divisive forces (read casteist, Left and dynastic parties); and foreign-funded NGOs

Let this be a checklist for Muslims:

  • We have always been made to feel insecure even as more people greet us on Eid than those who abuse us; (b) That there is no word as “minority” in Indian constitution, all are Indians; (c) That if “secularism” means denying a Muslim destitute woman (Shah Bano) her rights and reversing the judgment of Supreme Court, then such secularism must be exposed; (d) That if Hindu consolidation has happened around emotive Ram Temple issue, it was stoked by Congress and not BJP/RSS; (e) That for every Akhlaq, Pehlu and Junaid, there are tens and dozens of Hindu victims at the hands of Muslims which go unreported; (f) That if BJP doesn’t opt for a Muslim candidate, it doesn’t matter as long as the elected representative is fair to everyone in his constituency:  be it roads, electricity, toilets, gas, health, education, all is available to Muslims as it is to Hindus; (g) That if Muslims are economically backward, it’s not because of Hindus but perhaps the reason lies in lack of scientific temper in Madarsa education; and less than fair freedom to women.

Let this be a checklist for Hindus:

  • Indian constitution doesn’t favour Muslims; it allows them to run their institutions THEMSELVES not by the government; (b) If Muslims are subsidized for Haj, so are Hindu pilgrims provided for in magical Kumbh melas; (c) True, Indian history is distorted and neither Congress nor Left intellectuals have been fair to Hindus but it’s no excuse to substitute that anger against a common Muslim; (d) True, a dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies only report crimes against Muslims, often hoax, but they have been left thoroughly exposed in the last five years; their credibility in tatters thanks to a vigorous social media;  (e) Congress and Left, two parties who stoked fears in Muslims and Dalits, are today the outcasts of Indian political system; (f) That Hindu consolidation must not happen at the cost of Muslim alienation: that we don’t want new nations in Bengal or Kerala or Tamil Nadu and its’ attendant costs; (g) That for every Zakir Naik and Burhan Wani, there is also a Muslim boatman who gives up his life but saves tourists from drowning in Jhelum in Srinagar.

We have a choice to make if want to be Hindus or Muslims or Indians. We ought to ask ourselves if we don’t mind another Partition and its horrific cost. We ought to boycott a Naseeruddin Shah or a Kamal Haasan; A Javed Akhtar or a Shabana Azmi; A Swara Bhaskar or a Prakash Raj who are selective in their outrage. The same ought to happen to a Niranjan Jyoti or Asaduddin Owaisi.  We ought to outcast a Shekhar Gupta or a Rajdeep Sardesai; a Sagarika Ghose or a Barkha Dutt if the only crime they see is against Muslims; We need to stop an Indian Express or The Hindu from entering into our drawing rooms if all they can see is crime against a Dalit or a Muslim.

These are small forces. Pygmies in front of a nation of 1.30 billion. Should these handful be allowed to decide if we stay together or apart? Would you blame them if tens and thousands of us are butchered and raped in Partition 2.0?

Muslims need be confident this is their India too. Before you blame others, you must ask if your education and matter of equality to women etc need a relook.  As Maulana Azad once addressed them:  You can’t be drowned and defeated by anyone else but yourself.  Don’t hide behind the cloak of “minority” and “secularism”.  Don’t seek privileges; you are no different than any other Indian. Rely on self. Those who speak for your safety and stoke your fears, couldn’t care less for you.

 

 

Lord Rama was not a fictional character

Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar died this week—May 13—in 1950. One of India’s greatest archaeologist, Bhandarkar unearthed the entire city of Nagari in Chittorgarh district in 1915-1916. But we remember him as a man who told us that Ramayana and Mahabharata are not all fiction. Myths abound but to term the epics as make-believe would be an utter folly, according to Bhandarkar.

Three lectures of Bhandarkar In Calcutta University in 1918 were later published as a book “Lectures on the Ancient History of India.” Much is known about the Mauryan and Gupta empires but anything further back is wrapped up in a mystery. Bhandarkar’s lectures focussed on the history of India from 650 BC to 325 BC and is a seminal book on India’s past. It provides fascinating details about the life, culture and society of that forgotten era.

Bhandarkar was able to shed light on the mystery of ancient India. His lectures were path-breaking in that he showed that Ancient India was far more advanced in relation to the rest of the world. The great educationalist, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee termed him as the “pathfinder in trackless regions of the boundless field of Indian antiquarian research.”

Bhandarkar, during his illustrious career, pinned down an important fact—that Lord Rama was not fictional. In Ramayana, Lord Rama is said to belong to Ikshvaku clan and Bhandarkar was able to quote three sources on its authenticity. Inscriptions from the third century told him about the reign of King Madhariputra Sri Virapurushadatta of the Ikshvaku family. The Buddhist texts tell us that Buddha too had belonged to Ikshvaku clan. And then there is Ramayana of course.

Bhandarkar was also able to establish the veracity of Brahim sage, Agstya. The sage has been mentioned in the Ramayana as among the first to have crossed the Vindhya mountains. It was this sage who is admitted by all Tamil grammarians as the founder of the Tamil Language. Bhandarkar also points that in Robert Caldwell’s “Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian family of languages”, there is a mention of a hill where Agastya retired after setting up the Tamil language. The hill called Gastier (Agastya’s Hill) can still be found in the Tinnevelly district of Tamil Nadu.

In Mahabharata, and its important appendix, Hamivamsa, there is mention of a Kshatriya clan Bhoja. This clan, Bhandarkar proved, was also mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthashastra, a great work on statecraft, which preceded Niccolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, by a good 1600 years.

The City of Ayodhya as mentioned in the epic, including Ashok Vatika in Sri Lanka and Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh (where Jatayu was greatly injured by Ravana while trying to save Sita) have all been authenticated.

The NASA Shuttle released images of a mysterious ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka as mentioned in the Ramayana. It has confirmed half submerged path of rocks between Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, through the Mannar islands and up to Northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. The evidence suggests that the bridge was manmade and the timeline of Ramayana matches the one of the bridge. Medicinal herbs in Sri Lanka, the finding of footsteps of Hanuman, have surfaced.

Bhandarkar had little doubt that Ramayana and Mahabharata acquired a mythical proportion over centuries. “However it would be a mistake to suppose that legends teach us nothing historical,” stated Bhandarkar who lived all of 74 years.