THOUGHT POURRI

Smell of Change…

Anatomy of the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’

Each time you watched Rahul Gandhi take to the stage during his Gujarat election campaigns and explain before a waiting crowd that the GST is nothing but ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, you must have wondered what’s wrong with the man. Whether he’s really a dumb, fit enough for his famous sobriquet ‘Pappu’? You must have squirmed in disgust as to how a responsible politician can mislead the masses. Simultaneously, you must have got curious to know which school Rahul Gandhi got his economics lessons from.

However, let me tell you he’s perfectly all right and that he’s got his lessons from the best school of a politician – the dusty by-lanes of Indian politics.

Politics is all about reaching out to the masses and making an everlasting connect with them; it’s a bonding made stronger with deft communication, apt vocabulary and noisy rhetoric. The greater your ability to connect with the rank and file of the profanum vulgus, the better is your chances in politics. Add a bit of theatrics and voila! You’ve got what it takes.

After 17 or so defeats in successive elections, Rahul Gandhi now seems to have learnt the ropes. Many political observers and analysts believe that Rahul has found his tongue. He’s discovered the art of communication, at least to the best of his limitations. ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ serves the best example.

GST brought with it two ‘miseries’ to the common people; the first, disruption in normal economic activities of the small traders and second, complexities. Close on the heels of demonetization, GST brought another commotion in the life of the common man, especially small traders and businessmen. They’ve their experiences to believe GST is bad but the government has its data to prove it’s good. In the scenario, a clever politician knows that theoretically speaking, GST can’t be opposed. It can be defeated only through canards and polemics.

A polemic of lies and derision is the best anecdote to constructive ideas.

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‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ invented that polemic of lies which the disgruntled aam aadmi was looking for and Rahul Gandhi made the most of it. The masses were exhilarated at the description. Each time Gandhi twisted the microphone and uttered the phrase ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, the crowd went berserk in jubilation and he listened to the catcalls of the jeering audience with a conceited smirk. He knew he had given expression to the anger of the millions. He didn’t know himself what it exactly meant. He need not, either. His job was done.

No amount of pedantic discourse or academic description can destroy the effects of a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ narrative. Today, no one remembers what Arun Jaitley said to counter the Gabbar Singh jibe, though he said all those academically correct things. Yet, people only remember what Rahul said. And that’s the art of making a connect. 

A good many people are disenchanted in some way or other and a section of media has worked overtime to prove that the government policies are anti-people. Mainstreaming the cash economy and forcing people to live in transparent glasshouses has its own challenges.

The political wisdom says a politician must use the situation to the best of his abilities. Hence, the Congress has exploited the disenchantment of the masses to the best of its ability and fed on the ignorance of the people. Gandhi knows that the aam aadmi, like him, has no appetite for facts or analysis nor it believes in lengthy explanations. The common man needs off-the-shelf concepts, and few catchphrases, to describe his pent up emotions. The ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, fits the bill precisely. In this political campaign, the government hit the hustings with facts, figures and analysis and it lost audience. The Congress hit the campaign with polemic and lies and it struck an instant chord with the masses. The media, always hungry for the catchphrases, multiplied the effect.

In the post-truth politics, what matters more is perception and catchphrases do wonderful jobs in shaping perception. It may be a lie or bullshit is another matter. Politics, anyway, is never about teaching the truth. Nor it’s about accountability. Misleading the masses is intelligent so long it fetches votes. And, Gandhi needs votes. 

So, you thought ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is a sheer bullshit. But then you thought of university economics. For politics, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is an intelligent theorem. It fetches votes. As I said earlier, economics is the best means to harness politics. Hence, no wonder if the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ catchphrase enables the Congress and its new chief recover some of the lost grounds in Gujarat.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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Demonetization and Post-truth politics

 

“Somewhere ages and ages hence,

Two roads diverged in a wood, 

and I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference”

Robert Frost, by his above couplets, tried to assure the world that a road, not taken by anyone, might make all the difference when taken by someone. The key lies in being different, and of course, bold. Demonetization is one such road never taken by anywhere else in the world though on the first anniversary of Demonetization, we can see it has certainly made a lot of difference.

Has it? Well, beware! You’re in the era of post-truth.

Post-truth politics – a phenomenon where public opinions are mobilized on the basis of emotional appeals rather than hard facts and where factual rebuttals find no takers – has played its full inning during the historic act of demonetization in India. In today’s world, truth is like a desperate man – mauled, distraught and down to his knees – pleading before one and all to be heard, believed and sympathized. But, it’s lie – smarter, trickier and satanic – that rules the roost. No facts, no stats, no data is of help to the truth. Ravished from the reality, the fact has been engineered, cloned and mutated into suave set of arguments, ready to take on the truth.

In modern world, it’s ‘truth’ versus the ‘mutant truth’; there’s nothing in between called a ‘lie’, which eventually is a dirty word. Riding on the brawny wave of the Internet, the ‘mutant’ truth goes far and wide to convince the world that truth is nothing but a humungous lie. Reality is complicated.

Demonetization is one such reality, which is complicated by the conundrum of the post-truth politics. With ‘mutants’ flying thick and fast, you’ll never come to know what is ‘real’. So, does taking the road less travelled-by make a difference?

The economists, the political class, the intellectuals and the aam aadmi, all remained sharply divided over the need, efficacy and outcome of demonetization over the past one year since it was announced on November 8th last year. Even global economists remained sharply divided with some hailing the decision as historic while others running it down as a “despotic act causing misery to the people”.

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So, from delight to disaster, from relief to pain, from hope to misery, from probity to loot, demonetization has bore the brunt of arguments laden with pride, prejudices, optimism and opprobrium. However, most of the analysis coming out from the experts suffered from the post-truth phenomenon where truth remained a victim of perception and where prejudices became a means to mobilize public opinion. 

However, this article is not about what are the advantages or disadvantages of demonetization. You’ve heard enough of it and, maybe, have grown wary of it. This article is about action performed in the face of difficult choices, about decisions in a dead-end situation and about showing courage in face of daunting challenges. Corruption and black economy need a long-term solution and the nation voted the BJP for this task. The BJP did something to this end. It definitely was a painful action but who says surgeries are not painful?

In Demonetization, the government risked immense dangers – people’s anger, unpopularity, criticism, economic collapse, mass discontent, political upheavals, street protests and so on. Modi risked his political future. He, like his predecessors, had a safer option – give up this bizarre idea and, instead, set off few cosmetic actions that would satisfy many constituencies. But, he embarked upon what was the toughest one. He tried, fought odds and didn’t blink, no matter how it meandered.

All throughout this, the opposition did what it was best at – spreading misinformation and canards. It ran down demonetization as a monumental failure before setting off a massive disinformation campaign, exploiting emotions. It left no stone unturned to disconnect the masses with facts and realities.

Interestingly, no one from the opposition camp had any clue on the alternatives. If Demonetization were bad, what would be a better idea to combat corruption and the black economy? Silence! Running down a great idea is easier but suggesting alternatives that couldn’t be faulted by others is difficult. So, the opposition chose what was easier.

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character” – Margaret Chase Smith, the US politician had aptly said and Modi stood to this test in best of his moral character.

Modi pulled it off not only by the courage of his conviction alone but also by his determination and a sincere desire to do something for the country. Providence had given him a chance and he made the most of it. Criticism doesn’t matter so long you’re driven by the idea of collective good of society. Modi did what Bhagvat Geeta taught him – perform your honest duties without attaching to its effects and that’s the meaning of a true yogi, which he eventually comes up to be:

“Yoga-sthah kuru karmani

Sangam tyaktava Dhananjaya

Siddhi asiddhyoh samo bhutva

Samatvam yoga uchhayte”

                                                           (Bhagvat Geeta 2.48)

(Perform your duties equipoised, O Arjun, abandoning all attachment to success and failures. Such equanimity of mind is known as yoga) 

Only a yogic determination could have pulled off such a brilliant coup against the menace of black money and corruption. As Shakespeare rued in his Dark lady Sonnets, “in the old age, black was not counted fair, or if it were, it bore no beauty’s name”, so it happened in post-Demonetization era also: Black looked no longer beautiful.

The road less travelled-by shall make the difference if you’re willing to apply elements of patience in your expectations. And yes, you’d be required to shed some of that ugly flab of your balky prejudices.

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Well, for a moment, let’s assume Demonetization failed. Let’s gloss over all the benefits it threw to the society. So what even if it failed? It still stands out as an honest attempt by a committed government to do something against the biggest scourge facing our nation and society; it was an act of moral courage taken up with unparalleled conviction for bringing collective betterment. Those never fail who fail in a good cause.

It’s time to see through the ‘mutant truth’. Demonetization was a moment to stand up and be counted and Modi made the most of it. To the extent he failed, isn’t it better to do something and fail than to do nothing and keep cribbing about?

The verdict is yours.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

Does singing the national anthem mean wearing patriotism on your sleeves?

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To begin with, let’s be straight. If patriotism brews within your heart, it will gush out. It will show up in your looks, body-language, mannerism and responses. No matter whether it’s a school or a cinema, a place doesn’t change the equation. However, if you haven’t got what it takes, you’ll look out for curious excuses. It’s oxymoronic to have patriotism in your heart and not to rise for the national anthem, isn’t it?

At present, the intellectual landscape in India is rife with many such excuses over why one shouldn’t rise and sing national anthem. But, before we come to this, let’s look into the controversy. The basis of the controversy is the recent observation of the Supreme Court indicating its willingness to change it’s November 2016 order that directed all cinema halls to play national anthem before start of the show. It brings forth two opposite viewpoints around the question, ‘whether getting up and singing the national anthem should be mandatory in cinema halls or wherever it’s played?’ You listen to a loud ‘yes’ and a loud ‘no’. People are sharply divided along the line, with arguments in favour and against locking horns with each other fiercely.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court was hearing on a petition of Cinema Association against the 2016 order this Monday when Justice Chandrachud started demolishing the idea of standing in cinema halls for national anthem – “Why do people have to wear their patriotism on their sleeves…People go to a movie theatre for undiluted entertainment. Society needs that entertainment”.

Justice Chandrachud took the matter a bit farther – “In a movie theatre, people may be in shorts etc. So some one may say people are wearing shorts and showing disrespect to national anthem. Where do we then draw the line on moral policing?”

National symbols need moral policing for ensuring respect! A judge says so!!

Of course, India is not a totalitarian state where all the activities of individual’s life should be directed towards the glorification of the state, yet the judge failed to appreciate that in a land of staggering diversity like India, certain threads are required to keep us bonded. It’s important to protect, preserve and promote such threads.

Shelving the idea of repealing the order altogether, the court asked to the government, and rightly so, to legislate on the matter instead of expecting judiciary to intervene on such executive issues each time. However, standing up to the reputation of “judicial legislation”, the court hinted at doing away with the coercive element from its last year order by changing the word “shall” with “may”. Hence, if the bench goes to have its way, then, instead of mandatory, it will become optional for the cinema owners to play the national anthem before start of the movie.

The national anthem used to be played in cinema halls across India after the 1962 war but after 1975 the practice gradually faded away. However, it was Maharashtra to revive the practice again in 2002 following the efforts of one Narendra Verma of the Nationalist Congress Party, who pursued the Maharashtra government to order cinema halls to do it again. Later, Chhattisgarh also adopted this practice.

Globally, playing the national anthem before movies was prevalent in western countries especially in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Those brought up in UK during the 50s and 60s, recall that the first thing they always saw in cinemas was the national anthem, “God save the Queen.”

The question of singing national anthem is enveloped in the larger debate of freedom of individual versus the intrusive nature of state. Let me phrase the debate precisely – can a modern, progressive state intrude upon an individual’s right to choice through coercive powers? Or more precisely, can the state force a particular notion of patriotism on its subjects and direct them to respect the national symbols as per its whims?

Actually, the argument is existential for many. It’s a part of the larger debate that runs in the society through the broader divide of liberalism versus conservatism. Whether India would promote the progressive values of liberty, freedom and choice or would she eventually drift to totalitarianism? A decisive resolution of this question would settle many subsequent debates.

No nation can survive if it couldn’t enforce certain basic minimum obligations on its citizens. We call it ‘Fundamental Duties’ in our constitution. Respect for one’s national symbols and expecting all citizens to commit to it, is one such fundamental duty, which no citizen can escape. It’s necessary for instilling in the psyche of the society a sense of unity, camaraderie and belongingness.

Now, let’s come to those curious excuses. It was bemusing to see people celebrating the order. Celebrating that they no longer needed to sing Jan Gana mana.

‘Is standing up and singing the national anthem is the only way to prove one’s patriotism?’ – many growled on social media.

Well, not the only way, but it’s the most emphatic way. To show your patriotism, you need to commit yourself to many other cherished values of the nation such as, cleaning and ensuring cleanliness of the surroundings, integrity and honesty in public life, respecting public properties, following traffic rules, standing for weaker and disadvantaged sections, respecting and protecting the honour of women in society, desisting from sectarian feelings of cast, sect, regions and many more. Now, count within, how many of these do you carry with you to compensate for seeking exemption from singing the national anthem. Hmmm…hardly any! You see, singing the national anthem is easiest among the above list to learn patriotism. Proceeding to other values becomes easier.

Being a patriot is not easy. You’ve to commit a lot, sacrifice a lot. It’s not like being a consumerist-hedonist-metrosexual egoist whom no body cares. But, the society cares for the patriot in the same way the patriot cares for society.

Moreover, respecting the national symbols is a constitutional act. The fundamental duty under Article 51A(a) mandates that It shall be the duty of every citizens of India to abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

The next man asks  – ‘WTF this unity? Aren’t we already united?’

No sir. You aren’t. Your unity is shaky and hollow and stands tattered over years of cumulative suspicion and distrust fostered by competing ideologies of identities. But, these national symbols cut through the identities and bring us closer.

Many people viewed that forcing something down somebody’s throat even if he or she didn’t like it is unjust. They believe one must act as per one’s feelings and if someone doesn’t feel to sing the anthem from within, the state shouldn’t force.

Why! the state must force it! Patriotism is not born with us. It’s learnt. If you failed to cultivate respect for national symbols in your formative days doesn’t mean you’ll amble around disrespecting it. You need to learn it now.

Now, come to the Justice Chandrachud’s argument. “People go to a movie theatre for undiluted entertainment. Society needs that entertainment” – he argued.

Of course, Society needs it. Go and have your undiluted entertainment. But, before that, spare a fleeting 52 seconds to foster a sense of unity with those who are slogging it out in the glaciers, ravines and deserts away from their homes and families to keep India together and to give you the moments of your ‘undiluted entertainment’. Just 52 seconds, me lord, even before that entertainment actually begins. After you pass the test of this 52 seconds torture, your entertainment will begin and remain undiluted till the end. Shake your buttocks or roll over the floor laughing without dilution. After all, you’re blessed with 2 legs and a shoulder to carry the burden of uniting with the pride of India. What is missing is a little spirit. kindle it.

Secondly, the learned judge asks – ‘do we have to wear our patriotism on our sleeves?’

Among a population which takes pride in wearing its arrogance, prejudices, bigotry, egoism and hubris on its sleeves, what harm is there in wearing the lesser evil, patriotism? When a judge talks like a man-in-the-street, he mostly plays to the gallery instead of serving justice.

Moreover, We shouldn’t miss the larger symbolism of the act. Standing up and singing the song inspires, motivates and teaches others to respect it. Those who detest the idea of standing up for singing the national anthem must have been in the company of someone doing the same, in their childhood days. Orientations are shaped; negatives orientations are shaped more easily. That’s why we must watch our behavior because we’re influencing someone watching us, especially those credulous children. Set a positive example for them. Don’t play a spoiler in their lives.

Yes, when it comes to playing the anthem in cinema halls, it’s prone to misuse. At times, zealots jump to do moral policing by harassing those who carry reservations on it. In a horrible show of ‘patriotism’ in Goa this year, a couple assaulted a writer and an award-winning disability rights activist, Salil Chaturvedi, from behind who didn’t stand up for the national anthem. The couple didn’t realize that he was disabled. There have been few other cases of such violence in cinema halls. 

Now, it’s up to the state how to take proper safeguards against misuse of such provisions. Education and sensitization play the key role in making people behave as citizens. There is no point in respecting the national symbols when you’re jumping to take law in your hands. A rowdy can’t be a patriot because he’s dangerous for the society. Such instances lend credence to the fact that the nation is heading towards fascism. Hence, the government must criminalise any act of intimidation or physical violence to enforce patriotic behaviour or else we’ll be losing credibility of being a liberal democracy and society.

In the existing circumstances, the best way out of the debate is to wait for the Supreme Court to make it optional for the cinema owners to play or not to play the national anthem before start of the movies. However, even if it doesn’t happen there’s no harm in getting up, tucking away your drink under the seat and holding those half-munched popcorns in your mouth, for 52 seconds and singing aloud – “Jan Gana Mana…” before a ruffling tricolor on the screen. Mind, the child besides you is watching.

Krishnakumar@ThoughtPourri 2017

SLAPPed by Jay Shah, why not “The Wire” is letting the event play itself out in the court?  

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(Pic Courtesy ajantanews.com)

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. By analogy, caesar’s son must as well be above suspicion and so should be Jay Shah, the son of Amit Shah, who is now the chief of the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party.

The 100-Cr criminal defamation suit filed by Jay Amit Shah against “The Wire” and its correspondent is a move to rise above that suspicion.

The recent controversy around the business activities of Jay Shah and the alleged “golden touch” that he brought to his business since 2014 when his father became the BJP chief, comes as a real shot in the arm of a huge lobby consisting of players, long baying for the blood of Narendra Modi. The lobby sniffing madly for anything incriminating against the Modi camp, suddenly got a luscious trail of wrongdoings dished on a platter when the online news portal, “The Wire” published a report titled, “The golden touch of Jay Amit Shah”.

The report, apparently done with serious research and data-mining, concluded to impute that Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, manipulated his circumstances to acquire unexplained wealth since elevation of his father as president of the BJP in 2014. The opening lines of the article conveyed its bottomline:

“The turnover of a company owned by Jay Amitbhai Shah, son of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah, increased 16,000 times over in the year following the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister and the elevation of his father to the post of party president”. The intention to implicate Amit Shah, whose rise coincided with the rise of his son’s fortunes and to ensnare even Modi in the mess was the real slant that raised the heckles of the Modi camp.

To impute the complicity of Modi in the scandal was the real take-away of the opening lines and the imputation found instant takers on both sides of the fence. The “Twimmandos” (a portmanteau of Twitter Commandos) took to their twitter guns to fire instant salvoes on the swelling Huns on the other side.

However, the real bemusing sight was to find Piyush Goyal, the Railway Minister in Modi’s cabinet, holding a press conference to defend a private individual, Jay Shah. Maybe, the Government was aware that the real targets were Amit Shah and Modi and sooner the lie is debunked the better it’s for Gujrat elections, where the Shah-Modi magic would wane should the image of the duo stands blemished. Thus, the Additional Solicitor General was given a hasty permission to defend Jay Shah in the courts. Both these decisions were compared with the reaction of Congress ministers’ during the Vadra land deal expose. The similarity was chilling. Was the Modi government cutting off its nose to spite the face? Even Arnab struggled to elicit an answer from Piyush Goyal.

Despite, similarity in reactions between the two governments, the difference between the Vadra case and the Jay Shah case can’t be overlooked. While the transactions and dealings involving Robert Vadra and DLF was a hush hush affair with scant facts available in the public domain, the Jay Shah case, by its own admission of “The Wire” and reiterated by the BJP brass, all records are in the public domain with details appearing in the filings with the Registrar of the Companies (ROC). It’s all a matter of interpretation and analysis that is the bone of contention between Shah and The Wire. 

The Congress Party, which was long ambling in the wilderness of irrelevance, suddenly got an unexpected opening to tear into Modi. Kapil Sibal rose from his hibernation to address the media and jumped down to the Modi’s throat – “He (the Prime Minister) spoke against crony capitalism. But we know he will remain silent now because the case involves Amit Shah’s son. We also know who the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate will investigate and not investigate.” Sibal has still not got over the bitterness of humiliation that he’d to suffer following his “Zero Loss” doctrine and now he found a chance to return some of it to its biggest benefactors, the BJP and Modi.

The fires were being returned with equal potency as the Modi camp dug in the past of some prominent Wire players.

However, “The Wire” which has a reputation to twist its stories to give a negative slant to everything around Narendra Modi and his government, wasn’t taken kindly by many. It was subjected to a cruel reality check.

What was missing in the din was a merit-based discussion on the facts and analysis presented by “The Wire” and to fill in the role, an article came in “Opindia.com”, an online newsportal which claims to “curate contents from various sources” and points out factual errors and analysis in various journalistic works.

The Opindia article shredded Rohini Singh’s “golden touch” argument into pieces and exposed many loopholes in the report written by her. Picking facts from the same source (return filed with the Registrar of Companies), the Opindia article suggested that “The Wire” picked certain facts suitable to its story while left many other important ones with the motive to give her story a sensational slant so that her damnation that Shah, Jr. had made a windfall gain of 16000 times, may appear credible. The Opindia revealed:

“One of the crux of the (Wire’s) article is that the turnover jumped 16000 times, hence Mr Jay Amit Shah has the “golden touch”. But would a man with the “golden touch” incur a loss of Rs 1,48,00,551 (Rs 1.48 crores)? Yes, as per the same Registrar of Companies (RoC) filings, which Singh quoted so much, this company with Rs 80.50 cr revenues, had Rs 81.99 cr as expenses, and incurred a loss of Rs 1.48 crores as soon as Modi came into power. Of course, revealing such information would puncture the entire narrative that Jay Amit Shah’s business was successful just as Modi came into power. Hence, this small piece was hidden by (Rohini) Singh (sic).”

What initially appeared as a work of serious research was instantly reduced to a piece of malafide story done by cherry picking of facts to suit to a particular narrative. Rajdeep Sardesai, in one of the best balancing act of his journalistic acrobatics, took to twitter to graciously share this article from Opindia.

Now that Jay Shah has filed a Rs. 100 crore defamatory suit over, what it claims to be a “false, derogatory and defamatory imputation”, there is a furor over the move with many putting it in the category of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public participation (SLAPP), where high net worth individuals with deep pockets file defamation suits claiming huge amount of money as damage with the intension to drag the defendant in long litigations and to discourage them or others from pursuing the matter. “The Wire” and many others claim it’s a clear case of SLAPP suit. Well, as happened in the cases of ‘Rajasthan Patrika’ and the news portal ‘Moneylife’ (of Sucheta Dalal), the courts also look into the merit of the allegation whether a lawsuit falls in the category of SLAPP and if yes, it may dismiss the same.

However, the reaction of the mainstream media to The Wire’s report was measured with many choosing to tread the path with caution. Rana Ayyub writing in the Huffingtonpost lamented, “There was an eerie silence on news channels, some focused on karva chauth, others on Muslim appeasement, the rest on pressing issues such as the Hrithik Roshan-Kangana Ranaut spat.” Taking the lawsuit as an intimidation, she was fulminating – “In an ideal world this intimidation should have led to an outrage in the media. Silence by intimidation being the last on the charter of a journalistic organization.” 

Newslaundary, too, lamented that most media houses remained confined to covering Piyush Goyal’s press conference and that’s all. 

The reason was simple. The issue in question is a highly complex legal matter where the writer had cobbled together a conclusion, joining tricky dots and alluding innuendoes that bordered upon a libellous imputation. The rest of them were wiser. They didn’t want to get caught in the act of barking up the wrong tree.

In a matter of legal complications, pick your way wisely or else you may end up being a party. Hence, no one was willing to become a party to a suit, which may drag on for years draining the defendants financially and emotionally without solutions. More so when the counsel of Jay Shah had unequivocally issued a caveat, even before publication of The Wire’s report, to Rohini Singh or to any other media organization, to not broadcast any potentially defamatory comments about his client.

Still, The Wire chose to stick to its guns and published the report. So, one is led to believe it must have solid evidences to back its claim. So, The Wire shouldn’t make a hue and cry over the 100-Cr defamation suit.

After the report was published, the caveat became even wider – “If anyone else republishes/re-broadcasts the imputations made in the said article, whether directly or indirectly, such person or entity will also be guilty of the very same criminal and/or civil liability.”

There’s a report that NDTV too had published a similar story on its site suggesting some 4000% increase in loan advances to Jay Shah, though the same was pulled in a haste, obviously because of the legal complexities surrounding such insinuations, especially when you lack crucial evidences.

Many in the media tried to take the caveat as an open threat.

However, those who take it as a threat show a complete lack of legal literacy about the Indian jurisprudence surrounding the concept of defamation, which is more popular in west than in India.

The option of defamation is available to all individuals whose reputation, in their opinion, has been violated by certain other individuals, organizations or publications. Higher the reputation, bigger the need to be exonerated. If there is a likelihood of defamation, the individual, through his counsel, reserves the right to warn any one to desist from the perceived act of transgressing his reputation. Such caveats are normal. However, a section of media, took it as a threat.

In India, Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 says that defamation can happen “by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, to make or publish any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation, of such person”.

Defamation suit can be filed under either criminal or civil law. Jay Shah, in this case has filed a criminal defamation against the writer and publishers of “The Wire”, meaning they’re confident of proving the ‘actual malice’ that will ensure criminal punishment under the law. A civil suit doesn’t provide for punishment; it simply asks the defendant to pay the plaintiff the claimed money should the latter wins the suit.

After the defamation suit, The Wire and its supporters are looking rattled.

It tried hard to enlarge the ambit of Jay Shah’s defamation suit by giving it a broader perspective through the suggestion that it’s a general onslaught on media’s freedom and on it’s ability to express itself in a free and unbridled manner.

The Wire made a passionate appeal to broaden the implication of the defamation filed against it by quoting the Sullivan case (New York Times Co. Vs Sullivan, 1960), where the New York Times won a case of defamation in Supreme Court filed by L.B. Sullivan, the Montgomery public safety commissioner, who had claimed that a report published by the newspaper tarnished the image of police department by publishing incorrect and erroneous facts of atrocities during the Civil Rights Movement in the Southern US. The jury had unanimously ruled in favour of the NYT, saying that media must be vested with sufficient freedom and liberty in the matter of reporting the conducts of public officials and minor errors in reporting events shouldn’t come in the way of conveying the larger message of truth. The judgment has become the bedrock of media freedom in many parts of the world.

As per my opinion, the Sullivan case, widely quoted in Indian jurisprudence also, is, however, not relevant in the Jay Shah defamation case, as the said judgment was made in connection with reporting the conducts of public officials and hence the same journalistic liberty and freedom is not available in the matter of reporting issues against private individuals, like Jay Shah. Secondly, the Sullivan case had set a ‘malice standard’, in which the plaintiff was burdened with the responsibility to prove that a media report carries ample malice with definite intention to tarnish his or her image. As Jay shah has filed a criminal defamation, he’ll have to prove that malice standard in order to win the suit.

M.K. Venu, one of the founding editors of The Wire, in an internal video interview with Arfa Khanum Sherwani released by the “The Wire” in episode 4 of “Hum bhi Bharat”, was frothing at the mouth at the criminal defamation suit, saying he’s no money but has a battery of lawyers to fight the case. So, what’s the problem, Mr Venu? Let the law take its course.

Well, in the same way as a publishing house carries the right to publish an investigative story, the persons affected by such a story carry the right to challenge it under the law of the land. Then, why to fulminate at the constitutional right of an individual? Rather, “The Wire” Should be happy that it got an opportunity on platter to nail the presumed lie of Jay Shah, by bringing all the facts, circumstances and documents available with it before the court in support of its report. It has got golden time to connect the missing dots and to complete the jigsaw of conspiracy for all to see. 

Let “The Wire” debunk the claim of Jay Shah or his attorneys using its battery of lawyers, including crusaders like Prashant Bhushan, who has already lapped up the matter with gusto. Why “The Wire” is jittery? Does it feel it needed more materials to build a sustainable case? Maybe, yes.

Let the matter play itself out in the court.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri 2017

 

Happy New Year

 

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Times come and go, leaving behind footprints of memories and experiences; each passing moment leaves a trail from which arises promises of newer times laced with hopes and opportunities of a better future. As 2016 bowed out and 2017 stepped in to take charge of our destinies, we naturally have reasons to be eager to look into what promises the year holds for us, or to find out what possibilities we may fit in.

To a great many of people, a change of a year is nothing more than change of a date, or a change of calendars on the wall; their life situations, their daily struggles, their desperate fight for humble needs, their continuing urge for betterment, their maddening rush for job, career, growth, professional upliftment and children’s prospects, their anxiety of falling behind in life and their fear of failures, defeats, losses, setbacks – all remain the same.

Yet, people wait for New Year. Why? Well, they do because each new thing comes with new possibilities; the ‘new’ entails freshness, evolution, betterment, reformation, improvement, optimism and hope; the new entails positivity, dynamism, energy and action. It connotes evolution of ideas and their consolidation; it denotes cumulative impact of processes that are born with unquiet minds and restive imaginations. Hence, we welcome the ‘new’, which, in short, entails ‘change’. Change is always laden with optimism and hope, which keeps us moving despite failures, fears, anxieties and those infelicitous kicks in the teeth.  

With a new year, we look forward to all these positivity to grace our path – we want this dynamism, energy, betterment and freshness to enrich our ways; we wish our days high on optimism and hope, and bless all our near ones with the same wish.

The year 2016 saw many big initiatives being taken in India that carry potentials not only to revolutionize the nation but also to change our collective existence as citizens. That way, the outgoing year 2016 shall stand out as a watershed period in the great divide of time. Demonetization of high value currency notes, drive to bring in digital economy through cashless transactions and digital payments, introduction of an indirect tax revolution in form of GST are among one of those initiatives that is sure to change the way we live as Indians. But, on top of these, I believe the most important take-away from 2016, that is going to create the maximum impact on our lives, is the message that we, as a citizen, need to mend our ethical fabric and tattered values . The battle to fight black money has now entered the domain of ethics and morality.

In its gigantic fight against black money, this government has taken the battle right into the backyard of citizens where they’re required to subject themselves to a disquieting self-introspection in order to find out whether they carry their own culpability in perpetuating the scourge of black money. Fighting the menace of corruption isn’t a responsibility of the government alone; the citizens need to chip in with their scripted roles.

To me, the biggest take away from 2016 is the government’s passionate appeal to the collective conscience of the nation to rise up to the occasion, and to offer our individual senses of greed, cunningness, dishonesty and malfeasance as oblation and libation in the sacrificial fire of nation-building.

I hope, this call to our inner self doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Once our collective conscience is set right we might evolve as citizens of characters and march ahead with the common goal on mission to make India a great nation. The government knows that more than strong laws and statutory rules, what we need more now are stronger conscience and moral values. Well, to be honest, we don’t know what the effort would finally end up in and how the things would shape from here. Yet, I’ve strong conviction that we’re all set to begin the task of repairing the soul of the nation.

It is this hope and optimism that I carry forward in 2017. Thus, I’ve reasons to welcome the New Year with a joyous fervor and zeal.

 Happy New Year!

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Guys and gals! Pack up those Armani and business suits for the yellow dhotis, now it’s your time to do ‘Chhath puja’

Donald Rumsfeld, The then US defense secretary had famously said in 2002: “There are known knowns – things we know we know; there are known unknowns – things we know we don’t know; and finally, there are unknown unknowns – things we don’t know we don’t know”. The Chhath Puja is one such ‘unknown unknowns’ many of us in our modern generations don’t know what we don’t know about it. However, what we need to know now is that the festival is something we must start observing if we didn’t do it till now – forget all boundaries of ethnicity, region, caste, creed, sect and faith, because it’s a festival for the essence and existence of your own life. Hence, pick your pen and tick the check box of Chhath among all the must-do things in your life.

 

There is something unknown about Chhath that connects each of its devotees to it in a mysterious way; maybe its in the flickering lights of diyas lining the dusky riverside, or in the morning dews caressing your souls while you walk down the sacred ghats, or in the stillness of the chilly morning that calm your senses with its compelling sacredness, or in the rainbow of colours that brightens the landscape through a holy mix of the humans with nature, or maybe in the mystical melodies of Sharda Sinha, whose songs, over the years, have become synonymous with the holy occasion, a sort of its mellifluous alter ego.

 

Whatever may connect the devotees with the event, the fact is that Chhath is not only the most environment-friendly festival of India but is also the most scientific one. The scientific dimensions of this festivals are not properly studied and explored, though enough materials are available that throw light on the festival’s mysticism and help to de-mystify its rigorous rituals.

 

I went through the major festivals of India, whether it is Holi, Diwali, Eid, Bakrid, Christmas, Nauroz or Baishakhi and came round to the conclusion that though all these festivals are organized around the concept of devotion, purity and rituals meant for peace and inner joy through community celebrations, none of them contain methods for a natural healing process of the body, mind and the soul in the way Chhath does. That’s what makes Chhath not only a different festival but a must-do thing for everyone.

 

Apparently what emerges just as a worship of the Sun god and his wife Usha, who is the leitmotif in chhath songs, the reality is that Chhath is traditionally organized around a scientific mechanism focusing on complete rejuvenation of the body, mind and soul through its meticulously planned rituals and processes. It not only activates the hidden energies of the mind and the body but also helps in detoxifying our existence by breaking the toxins accumulated in bodies over years of our chaotic living.

 

Sun is the source of all energies on the earth. Even the food that we eat, as a primary source of our energy, is also produced by the energy of the sun. Sunray is also considered to have natural healing properties that not only provides vital nutrients for life but also heals many diseases. Thus, the festival, which is regarded as worship for the health, prosperity and all-round wellness, is basically organized around the ideas of going back to the nature for drawing the original energy that sustains all forms of life and for rejuvenating the self. Once the self is rejuvenated through detoxification of the body and the mind, then wealth, happiness prosperity and well-beings follow in immeasurable bounties.

 

Among one of our various fallacies, is the belief that scientific facts are only those facts that fall in the realm of the known knowledge. As suggested above, there are many ‘unknown unknowns’, which might still fall within the ambit of the scientific rules. Chath is one such ‘unknowns’ which, though mystic to us, had been fully understood by the wise men of our ancient society and they devised the rituals blending the pranic and yogic philosophies accordingly.

 

The yogic philosophy believes that the human body is a very sophisticated energy conducting channel that receives electric energies of specific wave-lengths from the sun and radiates this ‘bio-electricity’ down the body to energies few specific energy centres, called ‘chakras’ which energizes the body-mind complex. This process is described by experts as ‘Conscious Photoenergization Process’, which is nothing but a conscious cosmic solar energy inhalation technique. Hence, Chhath can be understood as a set of algorithms for a conscious cosmic solar energy inhalation technique, which can be further enhanced under specific circumstances. The rituals of Chhath is nothing else but preparing oneself to those specific circumstance.

 

Observing Chath, which elaborates a sequence of flow of bio-electricity to turn our bodies into powerhouses of energies, can be understood through the following scientific processes:

  1. Cleanliness: It creates the right surroundings for a spiritual experience of the mind that sets the mood for the process of photoenerziation.

  1. Fasting: It leads to purification of thoughts by eliminating the toxicity born of food, leading to enhanced concentration in the vratis for the process (Remember the old injunction, “Ahaar shuddhau, satt shuddhi…” purity of food purifies existence)

  1. Use of environmental-friendly materials for Puja: It again purifies the ambience by eliminating the chances of physical toxicity born as a result of use of non-biodegradable materials.

  1. Carrying the Puja materials to Ghats by self: It’s a process of self-mortification through which the vratis develop humility and self-effacement by completely surrendering one’s egos and pride for the devotion. It helps the vratis in directing their physical powers to the cause.

  1. Water-immersion: Immersing and standing in the navel-deep water prevents the leak of energy and helps the pranic (psychic) energy move upwards the sushumna, the central nadi (psychic channel) of the living bodies.

  1. Retinal action: Retina is a subtle photoelectric material that is known to emit energy when subjected to lights. By looking at the setting and the rising sun of certain wavelengths while standing in the water, the vratis’s retina emits subtle energies that flow through the nerves attached to the brain and these bundles of photo-bio-electricity activate the pineal glands attached to the brain which is situated in close proximity of two other glands – pituitary and hypothalamus – which together forms the Triveni of glands. This flow of photo energy among the Triveni glands stabilizes and ensures uniform distribution of the pranic energy, giving the vratis a sense of peace and stability, leading to accumulation of high creative energy in them.

  1. Cosmic powerhouse: This flow of energy along the Triveni glands and its further radiation down the line polarizes the spine of the vratis whose body transform into a cosmic powerhouse of energy. It purifies and rejuvenates the gross (i.e. the 5 physical elements of earth, fire, water, air and sky) and the subtle (i.e. intelligence, mind and false-ego) energies that transforms the vrati’s body and mind into a powerhouse of vigour, immunity and mental strength.

The above photoenergization process, through the conscious inhalation of cosmic energy, had been mastered by our ancient sages who practiced this process in deep jungles and mountains, creating and storing huge bundles of energy that helped them survive in the wilderness without food. After all, what we require for survival is energy, not food, which is a source of toxicity in the body.

 

The Imperial Medical College, London had declared in 1922 that solar energy is the ideal food for the mankind. But, the technique of its intake was not elaborated. Even Maharshi Yoganada in his book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ mentioned several yogis who survived many days without food and through interviews came to know that the secret behind was the solar energies whose intake they had mastered through undisclosed techniques. Chhath is one such technique.

 

Therefore, Chhath is nothing but a process of conscious cosmic energy inhalation technique under specific circumstances (rituals) that helps in achieving the goal of rejuvenation and detoxification of body and mind in a quick and better manner. Since, performed twice a year, this is advisable even for those who practice constant yoga and pranayams techniques. Chhath will enhance the benefits many times.

 

The bottomline is, go for your work-outs and sweat it out but you wouldn’t get the benefits as you’d, if you perform the Chhath puja. So, folks! Pack up your Armani and Oxfords, and you cool ladies! Slip your business suits in the cupboards for few days and put on the yellow dhotis for a 36-hour rejuvenation plan that would detoxify you body and mind like anything. All you need is a bit of grit and determination. Do it and you’ll feel good. Karke dekho, achha lagta hai. Don’t think it’s for those Biharis or the Poorvanchalis. It’s for YOU.

Do you have what it takes to be a vrati?

 

 (some of the facts have been sourced from wikipedia and weallnepali.com  Pictures have been used from different sources)                                                      

                                                          KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

No Sky Is Going To Fall If Raghu Ram Rajan exits RBI

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Our first perception of right and wrong”, argued Adam Smith once, “can’t be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feelings.” This can’t be more true than it is in the case of Raghu Ram Rajan, whose decision to leave the Reserve Bank of India at completion of his term on September 4, 2016, has created shockwaves all across. The media, the intelligentsia and the socialites are falling over one another in making out a case that Rajan’s imminent exit, or “Rexit”, as it is called, would be the end of everything good in the Indian economy. And worse, they claim it reflects shoddily on the way the present central government functions.

Mr Rajan certainly deserves a big hand for the outstanding works he’s done and for his achievements during these three years at the central bank since 2013. He reined in the rampaging inflation and tamed it to a cheery level of 3.8%, checked the runaway rupee and stabilized it, gave license to two universal banks and opened 11 payment banks, adopted Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the key indicator of the inflation replacing the deceptive WPI, helped an unprecedented build-up of forex reserves that now touches US$ 360 billions and kicked off a herculean drive to cleanse the banking sector of their bad loans which is now cumulatively touching Rs. 4 lakh crore. Thumps up to what he’s done because none of these is a mean task. But does this give the R3 a smooth ticket to sail through his second inning in the central bank? No. And, that’s why I find many of the reactions of the media and the intelligentsia over-the-top.

Well, it’s much to do with Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan serious disagreements with the Modi Government over the macro-economic policies. He’s voiced his opinion in unequivocal terms that Modi Government’s flagship program ‘Make in India’ is not going to take the country anywhere.

In June 2015, he took to the forum of Bharat Ram Memorial lecture and created ripples by saying that India’s export-led growth strategy through the ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Modi Govt wouldn’t succeed because of a global economic slow-down. See what he said:

There is a danger when we discuss “Make in India” it means a focus on manufacturing, and an attempt to follow the export-led growth path that China followed. Slow-growing industrial countries will be much less likely to be able to absorb a substantial additional amount of imports in the foreseeable future…the world as a whole is unlikely to be able to accommodate another export-led China.”

Rajan’s solution is that the Make in India campaign should focus more on ‘Make for India’ type strategies. He suggested, “We are more dependent on the global economy than we think. That it is growing more slowly and is more inward-looking, means we have to look to regional and domestic demand for our growth to make in India primarily for India.”

Further, he believes that instead of focussing on labour-intensive industries, the Govt should create an opportunity for all sectors of economy to grow. “Instead of subsidizing inputs to specific industries because they are deemed important or labour-intensive, a strategy that has not really paid off for us over the years, let us figure out the public goods each sector needs, and strive to provide them,” he added.

Dr. Rajan is an economist, a top-notch one, having the reputation of foreseeing the 2007-08 sub-prime crisis and the subsequent global economic melt-down. Like all heroes, Rajan, too, must walk with his halo stuck firmly behind him. But, he’s not infallible. He walks on his own feet of clay.

Rajan has consistently failed to satisfy the question as to how a labour-dependent nation like India, with existing labour count to the tune of 480 millions, is going to solve the employment questions for the millions of labour pouring each year into the market with little or scant skills? PM Modi came to power in 2014 on the promises of jobs to 100 million youths. How that promise is going to be kept?

The Make in India program, together with National Skill Development Mission that aims to train 400 millions of youth into various low and middle level employable skills by 2022, is central to the promise of the Modi Government to give employment to the youth. The idea is centered around making India a global manufacturing hub on the strength of a huge labour pool and few strong traditional occupations, such as leather industry.

“Make in India has the potential to emerge as a force multiplier to provide the emerging workforce with new livelihood opportunities.” Says Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII.

A labour-surplus nation, historically and empirically, flourishes through a sound manufacturing-based economy than a service sector-based economy as of US, of which Rajan is a big proponent. The majority of Indian workforce, comprising mainly of a low-skilled rural population, just out of agriculture with low or negligent skills, would take decades to fit into the US-styled service economies’ schemas.

Thus, it goes without saying that the Make in India campaign needs an unflinching and unqualified support from various agencies, especially from Government ones, and hence a person, sitting at such a crucial position as the head of the country’s central bank, with his explicit and unequivocal scepticism over this ambitious program, would as well be a huge stumbling block as it would be an embarrassment to the government.

Secondly, Rajan’s claim that the globally slowing economy wouldn’t be able to absorb India’s manufacturing exports, is also not supported by empirical data. Another celebrated economist, Dr. Arvind Panagaria nails him on this count:

There is a common fallacy that exports can expand rapidly only in a rapidly growing world economy. Factually, from 1995 to 2013, when the Chinese exports grew by leaps and bounds, the OECD countries together grew only 1.4 per cent annually.”

Panagaria’s explanation for the success of Indian manufacturing exports is credible.

Conceptually, slow global growth can hinder export expansion only if several countries are expanding export of the same goods at the same time. This, however, is almost never the case. Historically, only a handful of the developing countries, at most, have simultaneously taken the path of growth led by the export of labour-intensive products. In the 1960s and 1970s, these were South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Then, as wages in these four East Asian tigers rose, China replaced them in the 1980s.”

As we can see, Rajan’s pessimism is unwarranted and doesn’t carry sound merits.

Thirdly, Dr Rajan’s emphasis on maintaining a high-interest rate regime with the sole objective of inflation-control is also damaging in the long run for the small and medium scale industries. This is one count on which he has drawn maximum flak from Dr. Subramanian Swami, his biggest critique. In a recent tweet Dr. Swami quoted an IMF report on India where a high-interest regime has been deprecated as being harmful.

IMF India Report No.16/75 says on page 34 “An upward shift in domestic interest rates continues to be a key risk for Indian corporates”, tweeted Dr. Swami.

Thus, Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan is not infallible. Despite all the hypes around his good works, we must never be oblivious of the imminent pitfalls lurking in his plausible decisions.

Well, all through this difference of approach between the Modi Government and the Governor of the RBI in steering the future course of Indian economy, I find myself aligned with Modi for the simple reason that the people of India have chosen him on his promises of better days where there would be abundant job and employment opportunities for the youth of India. Now, Modi has to fulfil this promise and for the same he must be given a free hand to choose his men and means.

Why I thought of writing this is because I found many of such articles and opinions published over the past weeks bemusing and over-the-top. Most of these lamenting men and women knew as much about economy as Alia Bhatt probably did about the rocket science. Shobha De was upset because Rajan was the only man who had brought sex into the Sensex by his boyish appeal. Many in the intelligentsia, nursing deep wounds against the present dispensation, had suddenly found a big stick in Rajan to beat Modi and his men with.

Rajan has not been sacked, removed or terminated though the media, all through this week-long jeremiads and chest-thumping, wants us to believe otherwise. There, of course, was a campaign in some quarters of the BJP, led by the feisty and indomitable, Subramanian Swami, who just wanted him not to be considered for the second term. And, like ever, he was not without reasons. After all, he himself is a Harvard-educated economist, not a “luddite” (Rajan knows well what it means). But, the intelligentsia made out a case as if he was hounded out from his job.

Hold no grudges, Mr Rajan; you’ve played your part in the welfare of the nation. But, now your time is up. Here, we’ve democracy and we must be pragmatic enough to allow the PM we’ve chosen to have the freedom to choose his team. It is necessary to let him choose his team so that if at all he fails, he may not hide behind the convenient argument in the hustings of the 2019 that he failed because of a certain Raghu Ram Rajan in the RBI who had all the innovative ideas to frustrate his turnaround plans.

Therefore, no sky is going to fall if Raghu Ram Rajan exits RBI. India story is replete with many outstanding men and women who keep surprising the nation with their unexplored talents. The RBI is poised to contribute a historic role in shaping the nation that emerges from here. The next governor, surely, would fit the bill.

 Krishna Kumar@THoughtPourri2016

“A hybrid narrative which seems like a movie…” – Kalyan Panja in his blog, Booktica, on the book “DEMOCRACY 2.0 – The Algorithm of Change”

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A blog about fantasy books, science fiction, reviews, biographies, for readers, publishers and emerging authors from the world of books and more

Democracy 2.0 by Krishna Kumar has a hybrid narrative which seems like a movie about the fight for social rights that evolves into a classical love story which adds a touch of sentimental drama to the book and emphasize that the society is equal for all and even the law should do likewise.


Aditya, An IAS topper, Siddhanta, a Harvard drop-out and Devanjali, a media professional, who are courageous, spontaneous, honest and firm on their ideas with due sensitivity and a well-earned intelligence, traverse their diverse lives to come in concert to outline a covert alliance that attracts some of the top minds of India, who collectively sketch a new age pressure group for revolution.

The group catches the imagination of the urban middle class and the rural India equally and snowballs into a huge upheaval that demolishes the different stereotypes of Indian polity, media and the social order prior to culminating into a new version of egalitarianism that meets the ambition of a contemporary India.

The narrative does have some tear-jerking moments and remains linear and attentive to the various points of view of the society which digs deeper that wants to tell a lot about everything, enriching the book with facets that keeps the reader glued to the pages, to create an urge to get involved with our society.

While the story is interesting and touches the heart, the book remains quite traditional, inspiring and compelling, that although sometimes may seem a bit romanticized, is well described both the characters and their state of mind. It reads like an excellent adventure novel, but the plus is that the content makes it much more interesting. It’s so simple and above all free from rhetoric and puts you in the middle of the Indian drama better than any television report or documentary.

This book is enjoyable, well-made, exciting, where you can be able to identify with the turn of events because they assume that it is the result of real life and is a book that draws, surprises, excites and does include certain hidden truths which is highly recommended not only to the youth of today but also to all those who sadly hold important positions.

A book well written, based on a life content tense, dangerous and very timely it is a minimalist book to understand the events of today’s Indian democracy. There are no explicit judgments, subjective judgments or theories, but only facts from which everyone can draw their own conclusions.

A good book, well written, the narrative is imbued with content with the descriptive ability, fresh but intense that stirs emotions with considerable punch to the stomach, with a clear and youthful prose with the reading is very fast, and the topic is interesting that is definitely recommended in a wonderful book that manages simultaneously to narrate events of significance and the feeling of the protagonists.

It’s a book that will keep you awake and send you the adrenaline rush with the descriptions of the landscape and the environment were such that it will seem to you as in a movie all this in a precise and engagingly written book to be read all in one breath.

Find Democracy 2.0 at Amazon.in http://www.amazon.in/Democracy-2-0-1-Krishna-Kumar/dp/9383562862/

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

 

Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula: Two names, one mission

Since past many days our collective consciousness has been dominated by 2 names – Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula. The two names, coming from two different academia, have become the new synecdoche of anti-establishmentarianism in India and have emerged as the focal point of opposition against the Right-Wing government in the centre. The two names evoke two different stories, yet they come from the same book, preaching 2 gospels: (a) the government in centre is out to muzzle any and all voices of dissension against it and (b) it is anti-Dalit. If the charges stick, the mission is over.

It’s a part of a larger mission designed through finer craftsmanship over a long period of time entailing long sequence of events with one single agenda in mind – to destroy the idea of India. This write up tries to unravel and establish the conspiracy theory, which is playing itself out through the active involvement of few disturbed minds spread across the intelligentsia, academia, mass media, art, cinema, literature and politics. Through a systematic, subtle and sustained efforts these minds have tried to foment, create and brand such an image for India where it is seen out of synch with progressive, democratic and liberal values. Let’s see how. The question leads us to understand and analyze these two names that have become the new anti-establishment posterboys.

Rohith Vemula-whose suicide has been called “institutional murder” by Sitaram Yechuri and on whose death 129 academicians from around the world wrote an open letter to the VC of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) to express their “shock and agony” over what they called “the most recent case of caste discrimination in Indian higher education” – is a classical case of obfuscation of facts and orchestration of malicious intentions. Till the time Rohith chose to commit suicide, he was just another student leader trying to make his ambitious mark in the arena of student politics at the HCU campus where he was enrolled for his Ph.D course. The marquee act of this aggressive student leader, who had switched allegiance from the Marxist Students’ Federation of India (SFI) to the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), was to hold a demonstration in August 2015 in the HCU campus with 4 other students to protest against the hanging of Yaqub Memon, where they offered a namaz-e-janaza followed by the chant “Yaqub tere khoon se inquilab ayega”.

This act, alongwith a series of other ones, led to rising tension between the ABVP and the ASA culminating into an assault, though denied by the ASA, on the ABVP president Susheel Kumar in his hostel room by a group of ASA men led by Rohith which led to the alleged hospitalization of the former. The university expelled the 5 ASA students from their hostel rooms including Rohith, whose monthly stipend of Rupees 25000 was stopped since July due to some obscure reasons. All these 5 students were suspended in September. The ASA alleged that the University had acted upon the complaint of the local BJP MP and central minister, Bandaru Dattatrey, who had written to the Union HRD minister against the activities of the ASA which was, in turn, forwarded by the HRD minister Smriti Irani to the V-C of the HCU.

These students, whose suspension was re-confirmed on 3rd January, 2016 through proctorial enquiry, had set up a tent in the campus and started relay-hunger protest during which Rohith Vemula committed suicide on the night of 17th January, 2016 in mysterious circumstances leaving behind a philosophical suicide note. His death sparked huge protest in the campus which grew rapidly and spread all across India with the protesters accusing the ABVP, Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD minister Smriti Irani of driving Rohith Vemula to suicide. However, the larger issue raised was that the central government led by the PM Modi was anti-Dalit. Under tremendous pressure of the protesters, a FIR was filed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Bandaru Dattatreya, the central minister and BJP MP from Secunderabad; Ramachandra Rao (BJP MLC); and Appa Rao Podile (University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor).

Kanhaiya Kumar, the first to become the president of JNUSU from the AISF in Sept 2015, had been just another face in the crowd of student politics till 9th February, when the diminutive Begusarai boy alongwith few other students, such as Umar khalid, allegedly raised slogans against India and demanded Azadi for Kashmir at a campus event meant to oppose what they called, “The judicial murder of Afzal Guru”. The sequence of events that followed left such bruised psyches across the nation that the government was forced to raid the campus and arrest Kanhaiya Kumar, who had, till then, gained recognition in JNU circles with his cutting oratorial skills. Further, the sentiments grew stronger and a clamour rose in the nation to close the very institution of JNU itself, with the hashtag #ShutDownJNU trending on the Twitter madly across the country prompted by the impression that the University, subsidized heavily through the tax-payer’s money, had become the den of seditious and secessionist activists. However, the JNU, long being the bastion of the left, rose in support of Kumar with the left-leaning groups of students and faculty rallying heavily behind him against his arrest that was regarded, in the words of the JNU professor Surajit Sarkar, an attempt to “terrorize the students into submission”.

Soon, Kanhaiya Kumar became the new figure of polarization in a highly charged society with the proponents hailing him as the new ‘Red Star’ of politics while the opponents branding him a “traitor” who needed to be “hanged”. The conditional bail after a fortnight in custody, completed the script in the emergence of the phenomenon called Kanhaiya Kumar, as he came back to his den on March 3rd to do the act he was best at – oratory. He rose to the occasion and took his oratory to the level of demagoguery by delivering a sharp upper cut to none other than Narendra Modi. He had been told that the camera lenses of the national media would be trained at him and hence he needed to calibrate his discourse to suit to a national audience. He did the same. The rest was done by the media that lapped up the gains and declared that a young star was born with promises to take the moribund Left politics to a new height. Today, Kanhaiya Kumar has become the new hate-object for the Indian nationalists and simultaneously the new messiah for the Indian Left, getting his daily shares of brickbats and accolades.

As said earlier, Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula are two stories with one running mission underneath that binds them strongly with one another and makes them inseparable; the mission is to brand the Modi-led national government as ‘Anti-Dalit’ and ‘intolerant to any opposition in the country’. This mission not only gives their cause a bigger dimension but also connects Kumar and Vemula with all the left-leaning intellectuals, politicians, artists, journalist and mediapersons spread around the nation and beyond in fulfilling the defined mission. Even without facts being tested or investigations completed, the anti-Dalit cry and call to support Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar became an instant movement countrywide. The left brigade had swung to action. A global scholar community comprising of 129 scholars representing various US and European Universities wrote an open letter immediately to the V-C of HCU denouncing, what they alleged, “institutionalized discrimination” leading to the death of Rohithh Vemula and even without a formal investigation, they proclaimed their judgement as follow:

Rohith now joins a long list of victims of prejudice at premier institutions in the country, where pervasive discrimination drives so many Dalit students to depression and suicide, when not simply forcing them to quietly drop out…Measures must be implemented to ensure that such students are supported and allowed to thrive when they enter what is all too often the hostile, casteist environment of higher education in India.” (sic)

The conspiracy angle

It was interesting to find who these 129 people were. Most of them, barring a few names, are Indian-origin men and women with interest in South Asian Studies, especially those related to Dalits, castes and religious issues. A deeper analysis of these names – such as Rupa Vishwanathan, Srirupa Roy (both from the University of Goettingen, Germany), Dwipayan Sen (Amherst College, USA), David Mosse (University of London) or Raka Ray (University of California, Berkley) – done through the books, papers and articles they publish would betray their strong left orientation with Sub-altern approaches and they show a deep bias against the right wing ideologies. For example, Raka Ray in her chapter, ‘A slap from the Hindu Nation’ in a book ‘Violence in Indian democracy’ edited by Amrita Basu and Srirupa Roy (Seagull India Press) wonders on the victory of Narendra Modi in 2002 elections after the Gujrat riots “despite”, she writes, “his involvement in the orchestration of the massacre of Muslims in Gujrat”. Her blatant accusation of ‘involvement’ shows her deep bias to a person who has been absolved from any such charge from the highest court of the land. The fanaticism and anathema of these intellectuals towards targeted individuals drive them away from having any faith in the India’s judicial system even at the highest level. These academicians passed a pre-conceived judgement on the whole matter of the HCU on the basis of the one-sided story totally disregarding the ABA escapades in the campus or Vemula’s Aggressive anti-Hindu stances and also the facts and circumstances presented by the ABVP and N. Susheel Kumar, whose body bruises and subsequent surgery was conveniently overlooked. Clearly, the left-intellectuals were working as per a defined agenda.

Further, a deliberate attempt was started by a section of media, mainly by The Indian Express, The Hindu, The NDTV and the ABP News to project the case of Vemula’s suicide as “caste discrimination” which is weird and untenable as N.Susheel Kumar, with whom he was in conflict, is himself an OBC student, not a high caste one who are normally accused of inflicting oppression against the Dalits. To the contrary, the conflict between Vemula and Susheel Kumar was nothing but an ideological struggle to establish hegemony between the ASA and ABVP where the latter seriously challenged the anti-national orientations of the former on the campus.

Similarly, a concerted attempt was made to prove that Vemula committed suicide under pressure of Dattatreya etc and police was forced to file a case of abatement to suicide under SC/ST Act turning a blind eye to the contents of his suicide note where he hasn’t blamed anyone for his suicide rather he’d sounded amazingly calm and philosophical throughout the text complaining of “a growing gap between my soul and my body” and showed no acrimony towards any person or situation. He writes:

No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself. No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act. This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone…” (sic)

Can anything be more clear? But, this was completely and conveniently ignored as it didn’t suit the politics of it’s benefactors.

Sadly, any incident involving a Dalit in India is depicted through a straightjacket of stereotypes where the person looses all other traits or flaws in him and is judged by one single identity – Dalit. This straightjacketing syndrome, applicable also to the minorities, is not only unfortunate for the person who might be yearning to break free from the identity, but also dangerous for the state as it prevents the governments from taking punitive measures in an independent manner in cases of delinquent behaviors involving Dalits, as happened in the case of action taken by HCU in suspending Rohith Vemula. The proctorial enquiry leading to his suspension might have been free and fair but the decision was straightjacketed by the experts with the stereotype of caste-discrimination. I don’t know whether Rohith was guilty or whether he was a victim of discrimination or not – only the court will say that – but the stereotyping zealots wouldn’t allow me to wait till then. They’ll pronounce judgement handsdown.

However, the whole Rohith case is built up on slippery wicket as a slew of evidences, including the local intelligence report, his parents’ affidavit with Guntur Revenue department, IB report, his father’s interview and many other things prove that he was born to a Vaddera family (OBC) in Gurazala mandal in Guntur although he managed to obtain the SC certificate. However, the Left brigade would fight teeth and nail to negate this, as the whole case so diligently built by them, would collapse if the contrary is proved.

Similarly, the same Left brigade sprang to its feet to defend Kanhaiya kumar, storming the street with the allegation that the government is muzzling the freedom of speech and is out to quash all opposition. The government, just back to its feet after successfully fighting off a crippling, sustained campaign against the so called ‘growing intolerence’ in the nation, was in no mood to back down and flexed its muscle. This infuriated the Left camp and the members took to their respective battlefronts – in campuses, in streets, in newsrooms, in courtrooms, in cinemas, in literatures and in the parliament.

The battle of hegemony: A fight to finish

With the battlelines drawn, and with the government buoyed by a supportive majority opinion reflecting through the social media, the war has become a proverbial fight to finish. It’s a battle where everyone has taken sides, including the media and the journalists who have started wearing their colours on their sleeves. While Arnab Goswami, Sudheer Chaudhary and Rohit Sardana raised the battle cry of Nationalism from the TV studio, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Ravish Kumar rushed to the ground zero to train the comrades how to shoot from the mouth. The nervousness to take edge in this existential war was so obvious that Barkha Dutt had cancelled all her engagements to reach Kanhaiya Kumar, as soon he was released on 3rd March, and reportedly gave him a hour-long closed door tutorial on things to speak in his first speech after release. She had ensured to fire her own guns from the firm shoulders of Kanhaiya Kumar. The shot was indeed fired and travelled wide in splinters.

Now, the question arises why the Left is so desperate with these two names? The answer is simple: these names are their only hope in their battle for survival. After fizzling out of the carefully-orchestrated intolerance movement last year, these two names have the potential to keep the government vulnerable. Hence, the Left would employ all the means under their command to glorify these two names to carry the battle as far as they can.

In the final analysis, these two names have to play important roles in the battle of hegemony between the Leftist and the Rightist ideologies where the Rightist forces appear to have taken edge by making heavy inroads into the earstwhile Leftist bastions. Now, the University campuses across the country are the new bastions that the Rightist forces are desperate to conquer.

It is important for the Rightist ideology to flourish and prosper in the University campuses because in order to defeat the Left, they need to cut off their ‘intellectual’ supply line that goes through those prominent Universities. The Left has always remained hooked to identity politics – caste, Dalits, majdoor, Kisaan, women, minority – and, despite all theoretical talks to the contrary, has tried to preserve societies divided on the fault-lines of identities. Hence, the Left’s idea of India is structured around idea of divisions. On the contrary, the Rightist ideology has always believed in Holism where all such fault-lines of society created and preserved around such identities have to vanish.

The Right-Wing’s idea of Nationalism is built around an India where Hindus would be one monolithic community that won’t be hegemonic but brotherly, as it has historically been in the past, to accommodate different ethnicities in order to evolve – what the JNU’s Doubting Thomoses may not like to hear from them – Multi-ethnic Nationalism. That’s something Modi described about India during his victory speech in 2014 as ‘A beautiful garland of different flowers’. However, in order to achieve that the Hindus need to evolve and to re-invent themselves in multiple ways to dissolve those internal fault-lines of caste, untouchability, gender-inequality etc so that one single holistic, monolithic, ethnic identity for the community could be created. And that’s what the Right-Wing strategists are aiming at. This precisely is the reason why the Left wing is so worried and so hell-bent on de-stabilizing the Right-wingers because it knows that once that consolidation happens, it will be finished. Divide and Rule has always paid, hasn’t it?

Then, should the Right Wing ideology win in India?

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

An open rejoinder to Barkha Dutt to her open letter to the Prime Minister Modi.

 

Dear Ms Barkha Dutt,

I’m writing rejoinder to your letter to the PM Modi because like so many of my fellow citizens, to quote you, I’m both angry and anguished, and also because I know that the PM Modi hardly joins issues with anyone but the common citizens of India. Ah, now don’t scowl in the pretension that the common citizens of India have no voice or opinion; they do have both, and better than even the media people, which is evident in the success of our democracy over the decades. The richness and tonality of these voices and opinions have added muscle, strength and vibrance to our democracy.

Let’s begin with two things: First, none of the missives from the likes of yours can be ignored; it gives the people a kind of scale to fathom the low to which you can sink in your professional dishonesty. Second, it’s good that you’re well aware of what you are; you needn’t harp on about your special identities – “Presstitute”, “sickular” etc which you’ve acquired so diligently by your splendid idiocies. We all know about them and, post-Nira Radia event, would better like to supplement them with some even more juicier ones. So, good that you prefer to move around in your true skin; it’s a real fun to deal with a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

Gujarat, the leitmotif of your barbs against the BJP in general and Modi in particular, was sure to figure in this missive, but, unwarranted, it came at the very outset. It was Gujarat, definitely, that defined your ideological self in the world of Indian media and ensured you a hallowed position in the much cultivated and glorified left-wing space in the emerging world of 24×7 TV journalism. But again, that was the first brush of the people of India with something, what your friend, competitor and senior, Rajdeep Sardesai coined later, “the Supari Journalism” – sort of a contract to finish somebody off through crossing all lines of ethics in media and journalism. Okay, good. That’s entirely your pleasure and prerogative. But, this really stupefies to find somebody resorting to what may be called “Spin Journalism” where facts are slanted and presented in such a way as to give a positive spin on someone’s reputation, no matter whether the person is a Maoist or a secessionist or a terrorist. It’s atrocious, preposterous and criminal. It’s nothing but a delinquent act, as iniquitous and shady as anything else can get. It’s a crooked effort to propagandize black into white, or worse, to induce people into believing that black is beautiful, in situations where in reality it is not.

The ‘Spin Journalism’ has some pre-requisites – quintessentially in binaries – the first and foremost being that you must have wily intentions, yet have lofty principles to cloak them; you must have ability to say nasty things, yet have immense argumentative skills to make them sound genial; you must have the insolence of a traitor in your words; yet have the confidence of a patriot in your arguments; you may have patronization from enemies, yet you may walk with the confidence of a patriot – that makes a Spin Journalist. And that, Ms Barkha Dutt, defines who you are. The things you say – veneered in principles, civility and idealism – may not essentially come from your heart, but from the minds of a Maoist, a secessionist or a traitor to which you, through your uncanny erudition, spin into palatable ideologies. The voice of your inner-self, now it appears, is the voice of the dangerous elements who seem to be nothing but your extended self. You call it ideological posturing, you call it intellectual scrutiny, you call it anti-establishmentarianism, you call it left-wing activism; call it whatever, though in reality, it’s nothing but helping those who carry nefarious intentions against the idea of India. Such support, coming from a decorated journalist like you, is a huge tower of strength to those anti-national forces. No, I’m not saying you’re one of the anti-nationals; I’m saying you breed them.

Such critical reductionism is necessary to reach at the core of the existence of humbugs like you so that the gullible ones, running into millions, may unseat you from the exalted throne they’ve seated you in.

Taking the idea of your binary existence forward, I find that your vainglorious romanticism, bragged annoyingly, around the defence forces of the nation is nothing but a camouflage to conceal your unholy intentions. Each time you need to speak something on behalf of those anti-national voices, you plan a border excursions to army zones and, wandering among them, gather enough brawny points to offset any potential challenge to your patriotism as you speak for them. Dear Ms Dutt, believe me you’ll be doing more favours to the army and the defence forces by refuging to hold a brief for the anti-national and secessionist forces than by reporting on them from their mountainous trenches. They would certainly welcome a person not creating and sustaining enemies within while they’re battling against them at the frontiers. Madam, I wouldn’t be surprised if during your next jaunt to the rugged war zones you find a less welcome, if not hostile, men in uniform. Disciplined, as they always are, they may not give you jeers and catcalls, but certainly you’ll not miss those angry stares and threads of reds in their eyes.

Hence, your maudlin patriotism, as you proudly condescend, stands in weak defence to your contrasting designs. Yes ma’am, to counter you, it’s entirely possible to deeply respect the military and to be an ethical thug betraying the nation.

Let’s come to JNU. Now, after this reductionist analysis of the person you’re, it’s not surprising to find you deeply anguished over “multiple manipulations”, “doctored videos” and “police excesses” in JNU campus. Let’s talk straight. First, the police action wasn’t in “excess”, rather it was necessary and minimum. The police needed to raid the campus; it wasn’t a pickpocketing incident or a gambling match at Sabarmati dhaba that needed to be settled by the in-house mechanism. It was an act that smacked of anti-nationalism and secessionism, something that carries wider ramifications for this nation battling the menace of terrorism since long. Second, whether the video was doctored or not, a Barkha Dutt is no one to pre-judge that. There are agencies, with proper procedure and professional accomplishment, to do the job. Let, there be a thorough analysis; let the law take its own course. Till the time, the police remand is necessary. The law-enforcing agencies, despite strong circumstantial evidences and despite grave ramifications of the incident, have no right to anticipate an act of anti-national criminality, but the honourable Barkha Dutt has the right to anticipate their innocence, and hence the right to cry foul. Preposterous, again.

No nation, howsomuch banana texture it may have, can afford to turn it’s eyes away from potential anti-national activities. If it does, it does it on its own peril. Moreover, today’s India isn’t a banana republic. It can’t and shouldn’t take a chance. Third, there wasn’t “manipulations” in government’s action. The accused students needed to be investigated. Rather, the likes of Ms Dutt made all sorts of manipulations to stop that from happening. The students haven’t been thrown to the wolves; rather, they’ve been subjected to the law of the land. Your appeal to the PM to drop the charges against Kanhaiya Kumar, concede the “mistakes” and “apologize” presumably to the sections of the people you represent, is as much mischievous and stunning as it is laughable. Mr. Prime Minister, I know you aren’t going to do any of it.

Ms Barkha Dutt, India is a nation that rightfully takes pride in the vibrance and strength of its constitutional institutions; judiciary being one of them – the most shining, perhaps; it takes harshest of positions when it comes to defend the fundamental rights of individuals from the excesses of the state. But, you seem to have lost faith in the efficacy of the judicial system of India, madam. If not, why this clamour to release the accused even without a formal investigation? ‘Insaniyat’, you say. But, you can’t afford to apply the principle of ‘insaniyat’ to a University that is becoming a breeding ground for proud secessionists. Is this the kind of non-conformism or youthful rebellion that you find natural among the youth and wish to concede? Enough has happened in the past. But, the nation hasn’t selected this government to prolong the past. I sound jingoist? You got me wrong. I’m a nationalist.

Yes, what’s wrong is wrong. The mob justice, led by the lawyers brigade is a deplorable act and the government certainly is to take the blame for it. It has got enough flak for that and it needs to pull its socks up to deal with circumstances like them with better responsibility and accountability in the future. Mr. prime Minister, hope you’re listening and like Ms Smriti Irani, take all supplications coming your way very seriously. The government needn’t give an opportunity to Ms Barkha Dutt to add two wrongs to make a right, anymore.

I don’t wish to bring any quotes here to bolster what freedom of expression, nationalism or sedition means, yet since you’ve quoted Gurudev Ravindranath, I’d also like to wind this up by dropping one of his small quotes:

“facts are many but the truth is one.”

Let that truth come out through the route it really should – the courts of India. It should come neither through the government’s press briefings nor through the wisdom of Barkha Dutt. Let the truth come out. Even if the accused are declared innocent in the ensuing trial, the government need not be worried. It must feel content, like many among the citizens, that it acted upon a potentially damaging information. And, it acted fast. All secessionism must be nipped in the bud.

Dear Barkha Dutt; let me tell you here that I’ve ever admired you as a compere and would like to quote one particular live show where I was present in the audience – your interview of Oprah Winfrey at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012; your introduction of Oprah to the audience was a fabulous poetry of eloquence, diction and oratory that was nothing but a knock-out speech. In the audience, I saw, everyone was mesmerised, and no less was Ophra herself, who at the end of the introduction asked you where was the teleprompter. Everyone clapped in awe, I, the loudest. But, today I believe you’ve belied many of us; you’ve belied a hope.

Protecting the nation is a shared responsibility. It can’t only be left to the government. The media, the academia, the civil society and the intellectuals – all need to play a role in it. However, many among these four seem to have taken a shared responsibility to destroy the nation, instead. You appear to be one among them, Ms Dutt. If yes, we’re pitted on the opposite sides and are ready to fight it out. Put your gloves on.

And, I appeal to my armymen not to join the battle here. You keep guarding the frontiers. We’ll take care of all the enemies within.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2016

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