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The Kathua case and the sinister symbolism

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It’s a season of kitschy symbolism in Bollywood with celebrities after celebrities, including Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Gul Panag, Vishal Dadlani, Badshah, and Radhika Apte, among others, posting their pictures with placards that says “I am ashamed”, and demanding justice for an 8-year old girl who was “Gangraped, Murdered in Devisthaan Temple, Kathua”. The wordings, style, tonality and content of the placards being the same through all the celebrities.

The trend is not limited to the Bollywood alone; most of the celebrities from different walks of life have been pronouncing the arrested people as ‘rapists’ and the temple as the ‘scene of crime’. Adding the prefix “alleged” or using the word “suspect” has gone out of fashion in the new secular consciousness.

The purpose of the above act of the Bollywood celebrities is noble and the symbolism isn’t lost on anyone. Yet, the choice of words and the absence of sensibilities are appalling. It betrays not only a lack of research on the subject but also a fanatic avidity to pass judgment on blinkered notions. This is bigotry of another kind where a hearsay verdict is to be hurriedly delivered on the basis of one-sided accounts. No counter-view is to be entertained even for the sake of balance, let alone for the sake of justice. Like media, sensationalism is what Bollywood always looks for.

It’s important to find out who’s behind this orchestrated campaign that passes judgment on a place of worship even without a trial, and defames it without any consideration of the basic principles of natural justice?

Let’s try to understand the complex social-demographical reality of Kathua, which goes to explain the contextuality of the episode and its fallout.

Kathua – or for that matter, whole of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba etc – has become an unfortunate battleground of a desperate social and demographic strife where constant grabbing (and also, purchasing) of forest lands by the Gujjar-Bakkarwal settlers and the PDP government’s alleged support to it, has created a deep suspicion in the minds of the majority Hindu communities who believe that the PDP government is trying to change the demographic character of the Hindu dominated Jammu, as the settlers are all Muslims.

This, together with thousands of Rohingyas settling in Jammu regions with covert support of J&K government, is a thorn in the flesh of the psyche of the local people. The active connivance of the local government is apparent from the fact that most of the Rohingya settlers today have Adhar cards and ration cards in their names and even some of them have been issued the Permanent Resident Certificate or PRC, as per a reportage by Swati Goel Sharma in Swarajyamag.com. We all know that it is impossible to have a PRC issued for any of us! The report further revealed that Rohingyas have set up a bustling market, known as ‘Burmi’ Bazar, with shops better organized than those of the locals in the Bhatindi town. One of the settlers has purchased a palatial house costing Rs 2 crores on the outskirts of Bhatindi! It can’t be possible without active connivance of the government.

So, close on the heels of Rohingya settlement all across Jammu regions, the Gujjar-Bakherwal settlement has come up as a big issue, which is tormenting the local Hindus. These nomads, constituting 11% of the state’s population, are all Muslims, but they have been given the status of ST. Though the Bakkerwal community is largely peaceful, the Rohingyas are perennial troublemakers, who remain indulged in various crimes. One day a group of Rohingyas publically slaughtered a pregnant cow and butchered the calf also outside their settlement near Sunjwan military camp area leading to anger among the locals. So, communal tensions are rising because of these settlers.

In such situation, it is widely believed that the much talked about project of ‘Islamisation’ of the Jammu region has taken off and such events as this are parts of such plans. Terrorists like Jakir Musa and Lashkar operatives have already vowed to obliterate the “Cow worshipping Hindus” from Jammu as they same have already been driven away from the valley.

Further, the Rohingyas are believed to have close ties with ISI. ‘Al muhammed al arakaani’, a terrorist gunned down by army in the south Kashmir, was a Rohingya from Rakhyne in Burma. No one knows how many of them are having direct linkages with the ISI. It’s a well-known fact that ISI is constantly evolving ideas to create disturbances for the Hindus in the area. The Rohingyas have once again come up under scanner for their role in providing support to the militants in the recent attack on army camp in Sunjwan, where 5 soldiers were martyred. 

In the given scenario, the apprehension of ISI playing on this communal tension in the region by hatching a plot to get the girl killed involving the Rohingyas and planting it on a temple to defame the Hindus, needs to be ruled out. The Rohingya are a handy tool to be used for such acts. Various reports have appeared in the media that tells of the presence of Rohingya in the Rasana village area, where the girl was killed.

The circumstantial evidences of the murder create suspicion in the J&K government’s chargesheet, which has been prepared by a SIT drawing police officials with dubious records. Using a temple for such a heinous act, and that too by an old man in mid-sixties, and that again for 7 days – all create ample suspicions. The locals say that the ‘Devisthaan’ is a small prayerhall with doors from three sides which can be opened through multiple keys available with many people, apart from the owner and hence it is pretty impossible to keep somebody locked and sedated for 7 days in the Devisthaan; it has been further argued that the temple was regularly being visited by the devotees all throughout the period due to the festival of makarsankranti at the time of the alleged incident.

None of us, including the Bollywood celebrities, know what’s the reality. Then what’s the hurry to jump the gun and to declare some body a culprit and drag a temple in the act even without a trial? Hasn’t the Bollywood erred in pronouncing the Devisthaan to be a scene of crime even without an investigation? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to be patient in passing a verdict until the matter was investigated in a free, fair and impartial manner?

Even more atrocious is the attempt to portray the local Kathua demonstrators as rape apologists. They’re not. They’re equally horrified by the crime. They’re saying the same thing that the celebrities are saying – hold a fair investigation, a fair trial and give harshest possible punishment to the culprits, and for that, a CBI enquiry is needed to find out who the culprits really are! This is indeed required because the J&K police, like the state police elsewhere, is known for its pliability, inefficiency and corruption and for its biases against Hindus, as is obvious by their series of actions, including helping Rohingya in settling down in Jammu regions.

There are many facts that raise suspicion about the incident. Recovery of the body from a distant cattle shed instead of the temple, presence of mud in the tuft of the girl’s hair and recovery of just one strand of hair (the whole temple theory rests on this single strand of hair) in the temple despite eight days of the claimed torture, are some of the facts that point to a deeper conspiracy.

The SIT constituted by the Mehbooba government has itself come under the cloud of suspicion as one of the policeman in the SIT, Irfan Wani, had himself been charged of rape and murder of a Hindu girl, though later he was acquitted. So, the J&K police chargesheet implicating a 65 year old man and his son, his nephew and 4 other policemen even though the body was never seen by anyone in the temple, is a cause of doubt. It appears that the government is trying to shield someone by implicating some others. Incidentally, Sanjhi Ram, the main accused and the owner of the Devisthaan, has been at the forefront of anti-Rohingya settlement drive and had been warning people against selling their lands to Muslim settlers. Hence, It smacks of a larger conspiracy.

Even chances maybe that the persons arrested are the real culprits. But isn’t it wise to give them a fair chance before hanging?

We know how state police conducts investigations and invent ‘criminals’ – remember, Ryan International case of Gurgaon, how the bus driver was declared accused and how people were baying for his blood. However, a CBI inquiry proved him innocent. Thus, baying for the blood of the accused ones on the basis of the local police chargesheet, is nothing but a blunder in view of various counter evidences being floated.

Had it been such an open-and-shut case, the whole Kathua, including it’s Bar Association, wouldn’t have been up in arms, though in no way this intends to condone the unlawful stance of the Kathua Bar Association and their shameful act of preventing the supposedly ‘biased’ SIT from filing the chargesheet; they must be punished appropriately for that. But it tells there is something more than meets the eye.

The Hindu Ekta Manch, which consists of locals of the area cutting across the party lines, wasn’t shielding the accused persons, rather they intended to highlight the larger conspiracy, of which this incident was a small part. That’s why everyone is asking a CBI enquiry. Let CBI take over the case, that’s why they’re agitating. To pacify the same sentiments, the two BJP ministers, Chander Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh Choudhary joined the agitation and demanded the same thing – a CBI inquiry. However, both got their heads rolled for supporting the locals for a CBI inquiry in the matter.

The SIT has been accused of unleashing a rein of terror since the day they took over the case from the local police. They made indiscriminate arrests of locals and subjected them to various forms of torture. People of Rasana village have never had such a harrowing experience ever in the past and are terrified. Many have left their village fearing even more trouble.

These people are peaceful communities that hold their temples and their Hinduness very precious. But, already their sense of pride in their religion is under attack by ‘secularist’ Huns all across the nation. Their affinity to their temples and their Hinduness is now an object of ridicule. What else can please ISI more?

The ISI has long been working on a doctrine – ‘Islamize Jammu and the whole of J&K will walk into Pakistan without a war! What else can be a better way to Islamize Jammu than to create a narrative for Hindu-shaming and denigrating their temples? The majority community must be painted as rape apologists in the mainstream media and the civil society and the demonstrators must be declared ‘Pseudo Hindu nationalists’! We’ve started enacting the script, with Bollywood providing the glorious lead.

The ISI idea is working. Maybe, for the first time this nation is seeing a media phenomenon where a minor rape victim is being openly reported by her name, Asifa. For the Bollywood and media, it’s the ‘Asifa rape case’. The script intends to flout the victim’s religion in order to bring out the contrast between her religion and her subsequent rape and murder inside a temple! Read the pattern.

Thus, asking for a CBI investigation by the Kathua demonstrators is nowhere an atrocious demand. It’s rather the most appropriate act in the given circumstance. Maybe, for the first time, I have ever seen anyone asking for a CBI inquiry and being castigated for it! If Unnao rape case can be handed over to the CBI, why Kathua case can’t go to the CBI, especially when so many doubts have been raised on the composition and intention of the SIT?

Hence, for the Bollywood celebrities, the symbolism wouldn’t have lost if they hadn’t passed judgment on the ‘Devisthaan’ that demeaned it and, instead, had asked for a CBI inquiry to clear the air once for all.

I’m an Indian and I want justice for Asifa through a CBI enquiry. What about you?

@ThoughtPourri2018

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The Freelancers of chaos

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Ignorance is bliss, but when we pawn our collective ignorance, with blissful nonchalance, to the hands of few malevolent opinion-makers, we write our own doom, writes Krishna Kumar

The New Year couldn’t have begun on a note worse than what we came across on the very first day of 2018. As the rest of the nation was indulging in a food and dance binge wishing even strangers with the cheers of “Happy New Year”, villagers from Koregaon Bhima, Pabal, and Shikrapur in Pune district of Maharashtra were pelting stones to hit the skulls of those with whom they might be living in harmony since generations. As the maelstrom subsided, one person had died and 25 vehicles were torched in clashes that broke out between villagers on 1st January over a celebration of a 200-yrs old “victory” of Mahars over Peshwa Bajirao II’s Army on January 1, 1818.

The ripples of the incident travelled far and wide across Maharashtra with many incidence of violence in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Mumbai on 3rd January in a day-long state-wide shutdown called by various Dalit parties on Wednesday. The question is what led to the violence?

It all started with Koregaon-Bhima, a small village in Pune district, where many members of Dalit communities gathered on January 1st on the dawn of the new year to commemorate the 200th anniversary celebrations of a small Anglo-Maratha War fought on January 1, 1818, which some traditions claim that the British won. However, the war, otherwise fit for the footnotes of history, is important because it is flaunted as the victory of the ‘Mahars’ over the upper caste Marathas. Hence, the incident fits perfectly in the zigsaw of ‘Dalits vs Upper Castes’ narrative and finds instant takers by some opinion leaders.

A careful digging of history on this war may take you to the Poona District Gazetteer, which was compiled by an ICS officer James Campbell as part of the Bombay Presidency Gazetteers. The Gazetteer, mentions that as a part of the Third Anglo-Maratha War, a battle had taken place at the village of Koregaon, 16 miles northeast of Pune, where 834 British troops faced 28,000 Marathas on January 1, 1818. It would be interesting to delve a little deeper into it in order to debunk the various insinuations originating around it.

As per the official record, the British troop comprised of the second battalion of the first regiment Bombay Native Infantry of 500 soldiers led by Captain Francis Staunton who was assisted by 300 auxiliary horsemen and two six-pounder guns manned by 24 European and 4 Native Madras artillerymen. The troops marched from Sirur for Poona at 8 pm on December 31, 1817 and reached the Bhima River next morning to face the Peshwa’s army of 25,000 Maratha horses. However, Peshwa Bajirav-II remained stationed few miles away with his troops and sent three small infantry units comprising 300-600 men each from the Arabs, Gosavis and native fighters, which under the support of the cannon and rocket fires, crossed the river from three sides and besieged the British troops in Koregaon village cutting off their food and water supplies.” Devastated by hunger and thirst, the British thought of surrendering but held on to their position.

However, “as night fell”, the Gazette mentions, “the attack lightened and they (the British) got water.” By 9 PM the firing ceased and the Marathas left, fearing the rumor of arrival of a larger troop of General Smith, while Capt Staunton marched back to Sirur the next morning with his army, carrying his near-death experience. The British record mentions that out of 834 British soldiers, 275 were killed, while the Maratha casualty was around 500 to 600. The above account is also mentioned by James Grant Duff in his book, ‘History of Marathas.

The East India Company, however, strongly praised the bravery of its soldiers and erected an obelisk in 1822 at Koregaon to serve as a ‘victory tower’ for one of the “proudest triumphs of the British Army” in India.

The Gazetteer doesn’t mention a Maratha defeat, nor does it mention a British Victory. Secondly, the Gazetteer doesn’t mention the caste composition of the British army. Some later descriptions mention that the British army consisted mainly of Mahars, although historical accounts revealed by Vasant Moon (Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writing and Speeches Ed. 2003) that the British army under Capt Staunton consisted of native Parwaris, Marathas, Rajputs, Muslims and Jews, apart from Mahars. The inscription on the Koregaon obliske mentions the names of the 49 dead Indian soldiers of the British army and as per V. Longer in his History of the Mahar Regiment (1981), 22 were Mahars or Parwaris, 16 were Marathas, 8 were Rajputs, two were Muslims, and one or two were probably Indian Jews.

So, let’s summarize our lessons. First, no matter what the tradition says, it’s a historical fact that neither side achieved a decisive victory in the battle. Second, The British army of 834 didn’t face a Maratha army of 30,000, as it’s nesciently floated, rather just 1200-1500 mercenaries, mostly Arabs and Gusavis of Bengal, invaded the British armyshielded behind the mud walls erected around the Koregaon village whereas the remaining army of Peshwa Bajirao-II remained stationed at the other side of the Bheema river looking for marching to Poona to invade the British garrison. Third, it was not a battle between the Mahars at one side and the Marathas at the other, as both armies were a strategic potpourri of castes, races, religions and nationalities. Whereas the Marathas formed a part of the British army, some Mahars also fought from the Maratha side, as the latter had historically been a part of the Maratha armies. Just to quote R.K. Kshirsagar (Dalit Movement of India and Its Leaders: 1857-1956), Mahar warriors and leaders always played prominent roles during Shivaji, Rajaram and various Peshwa rulers. He mentions that Nagnak Mahar was prominent in the reign of Rajaram so was Shivnak Mahar, who was gifted the village of Kalambi by Rajaram, Rainak Mahar fought Raigarh and Shidnak Mahar saved the life of Peshwa general Parshuram Patwardhan during the Battle of Kharda in 1795. Fourth, the memorial at Koregaon has got nothing to do with the glorification of the Mahars and has got least to do with the claimed “victory” of Mahars over the Marathas.

Hence, the “Them Vs Us” narrative at Bhima-Koregaon is nothing but a mischievous spin-off of the Dalit identity movements of the first half of the 20th century, when Dalit leaders, especially Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, started visiting the Victory Tower of Koregaon from 1927 and propounded the theory in 1941 that the Mahars defeated the Marathas in the battle of Bhima-Koregaon. Thus, he appropriated a symbol of pure British legacy as a Mahar symbol and used the Victory Tower to give muscle and credence to his own brand of identity politics. The same brand of identity politics, i.e. demonization of the Brahmins and the Upper Castes and presenting themselves as a victim of Brahmin atrocities, has been sequestrated by the contemporary Dalit leaders and leftist academicians who succeeded in marketing it well on global forum.

Ignorance is bliss, but when we pawn our collective ignorance to the hands of the malevolent opinion-makers, we write our own doom.

The narrative of atrocities has never been put to a rigorous academic scrutiny, which would reveal that caste atrocity is coterminous with caste hierarchy where any caste higher in hierarchy than the others tends to oppress and exploit the latter. Even Mahars considered fellow Dalits, like Mang and Bhangis as inferior and polluted and didn’t accept food from them till late. Further, as far the exploitation goes, they didn’t allow a Mang caste groom to ride a horse during the Peshwa period and forced them to ride oxen during marriages. Several studies point that many Dalit castes are rivals and communal tensions among them are frequent. A study by Prem K. Shinde found more than 900 Dalit sub-castes throughout India, with internal divisions, who compete among themselves for higher status and, claiming relative higher gotra status, refuse to dine and intermarry with lower gotras. Although the Khateek (butchers) are generally viewed as a higher caste than Bhangis, the latter refuse to offer cleaning services to Khateeks, believing that their profession renders them unclean. They also consider the Balai, Dhobi, Dholi and Mogya as unclean and do not associate with them. A Dalit Sikh claims a superior status over the Hindu Raigars, Chamars and Ravidasis and refuses to intermarry with them. Sociologists like M.N. Srinivas have showed that atrocities on Dalits are often more committed by the intermediate castes, like Vanniyar in the South and the land-owning Yadavas in the north. However, a “Brahman Vs Dalit” narrative sells well in the west that ensures flow of huge money from western Churches, donors and Foundations.

Jignesh Mewani, Prakash Ambedkar, Kanhaiya Kumar and Chandrashekhar (Bheem Army), apart from many others, are some of the few claimants of that coveted narrative and it’s resultant benefits. Thus, with competing enthusiasm, such Dalit leaders have blamed the RSS for the violence against Dalits in Bhima-Koregaon. Rahul Gandhi has also remarked that RSS’s vision is to keep Dalits on the bottom of society.

The “Brahman Vs Dalit” narrative is not complete unless the fountainhead of Hindu unity and consciousness – the RSS – is dragged into the debate and run down as an anti-Dalit and Pro-poor outfit. That’s why there has been a conscious, deliberate and persistent attempt by the leftist and Dalit ideologues to denigrate the RSS and, through selective research and sponsored publications, besmirch its pro-Dalit credentials.

Although this write-up is not about RSS or its activities to quote research, it’s pertinent to mention that no organization has done as much for the upliftment of the Dalits and eradication of the caste-system in rural India as the RSS has done, and volumes of research and publication is available to support how the top leadership from Golwarkar to Deoras to Mohan Bhagavat, have not only maintained Dalit upliftment as an official policy but ensured that it translates into ground action. Rather, defragmentation of Hindus and ending all forms of caste discrimination in the hinterlands of India has been fundamental to the RSS ideological core, i.e. Hindu unity. However, partially due to inability of the RSS to effectively dispel the canard by positive campaigning about its actions on the ground level and partly also because of the historical suppression of Pro-RSS research and publications in the left-dominated academia, the “anti-Dalit RSS” narrative has become the mainstream intellectual discourse, which is as mindlessly consumed by the people as the fast-food delicacy.

This doesn’t absolve ‘Shivjagar Pratisthan’ President Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and ‘Hindu Janjagruti Samiti’ President Milind Ekbote from their culpability in inciting the villagers around Bhima-Koregaon to attack on the people participating in the January 1st commemoration. The state government must deal the Hindu Ekta Manch goons with iron hands and RSS must intervene to reign in the two leaders, who are undoing many things that the RSS has been doing. Although much detail is not available on the exact sequence of action in Koregaon violence, but the acts of the followers of Sambhaji Bhide and Govind Ekbote are surprising as none of the two leaders have displayed any anti-Dalit approach in the past. Rather, many Dalits form the core of their respective outfits. Yet, the onus is on the state government to unravel the plot and punish the wrongdoers.

However, various media reports points to the dubious role of Jignesh and Umar Khalid who made provocative speeches suggesting an open rebellion against the democratic process with call to hit the streets. Such anti-democratic provocations appear to be the part of a larger conspiracy to defame and destabilize the elected governments and to create division among Hindus so that those surviving on identity politics could take advantage of it in 2019. The seeds of this divide-India conspiracy is being sprinkled since long, but the same sprouted during the Gujarat election and, with active incubation provided by the Congress, is fast taking roots all across India.

There appears to be a well-orchestrated attempt to spread disharmony and create disaffection in society using few local freelancers of chaos like Jignesh Mewani, Hardik Patel, Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled, some of who have already showed their intent with slogans like “Bharat ki Barbaadi tak jung rahegi, jung rahegi”. The ‘jung’ has begun and the “Gujarat model” of the Congress is spreading its reach. Now, the onus is on the government to unravel the conspiracy and expose these merchants of disintegration.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri2018

Five Take-aways from the Gujarat Victory

 

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After a fiercely contested election campaign for over 2 months now, the cat is finally out of the bag and both the states, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, have emphatically gone to the saffron way in the election results that finally poured in on 18th morning. The result puts a lid over all speculations of an impending negative verdict on PM Modi’s big-ticket economic reforms.

 

This election was important, as the BJP was not only fighting for retaining its sway in Gujarat by winning its 6th term into office but was also defending a hugely-challenged narrative of Gujarat model, which seemed to have suffered a major dent under a resurgent Congress led by an aggressive and super combative Rahul Gandhi. No doubt, this election has seen a resurgent Rahul Gandhi, who not only led the moribund Congress organization from the front but also managed to put up a rainbow of coalition that thrived on the years of anti-incumbency and put up a semblance of strong fight. However, the fact is that his attempt to divide the Hindu monolith along the various caste fault-lines and to exploit the parochial interests haven’t paid.

Following are the five important take-aways of today’s Gujarat election results:

First, Modi is still the king of electoral politics and the numero uno vote magnet of the party. Gujarat has voted BJP 6th time in power in the name of Modi only. It was a fact that after the exit of Modi from the state politics, the governance had become far too slower in delivering results and many of its policies were not reaching to the ground. Vijay Rupani looked far less a charmer and wasn’t exactly the man needed to tame the anti-incumbency sentiments. On top of it, the heat generated around Demonetization and GST was rubbing off badly on the BJP. For the Congress, it was a now or never moment as with a firm coalition under its belt, it looked eager and full of appetite. Still, BJP walked away with the victory trophy, wholly and solely because of Modi and his reigning magic. The case is much like a football match where the Congress was given to hit a penalty kick, yet it failed to score a goal.

Second, now all opposition charges around the negative effects of Demonetization and GST must be put to rest. Elections after elections, the electorate have given their mandate in favour of the BJP, the last being the landslide victory in UP early this year. Now, with the resounding victories of the party in the Gujarat and Himachal elections, all such negative narratives must be put to the rest. This becomes more pronounced especially when all the 12 seats of Surat areas, which is the hub of the traders’ class and is dominated by the disgruntled Patidar communities, have been retained by the BJP. It proves that the narrative of mass resentment built by the Congress against the BJP’s economic policies were not valid.

Third, despite all things said to the contrary, vikas still resonates with the people which is apparent in the results where the voters have rejected a highly divisive identity politics initiated by Rahul Gandhi, who had cobbled up a regressive casteist coalition and riding the wave of Patidar dissidence, hoped to take on the development plank of the BJP. However, the voters gave the message that, to them, development is far more a lucrative path than divisive agenda of the Congress.

Fourth, the election results give the Congress an opportunity to pause and reflect over their future election strategies. The Congress began its election campaign in Gujarat on a narrative of lies. It hit the campaign with the slogan ‘vikas gando thayo che’ (development has gone mad) and tried to fool the masses with things that were obviously the opposite. Yes, of course, there have been pockets of resentments in the state where the development has failed to make a connect with the ones who needed it. Yet, dismissing the developments of one of the highly developed states altogether and creating a narrative of negativities seems to have backfired on the Congress, which needs to do a rethink before creating an agenda of negativities for future electoral campaigns. Lies have weaker legs that can’t take one farther and convert in votes.

Lastly, these election results must put to rest all controversies around the EVMs and impartiality of the election Commission as the course of the counting since morning has seen huge swinging of fortunes in favour of both BJP and Congress at different points of time giving a perfect rollercoaster effect. It hasn’t been a lopsided win, and with the Congress getting its own moments of celebrations at times, the results have never been a smooth sail for the BJP since the counting began. Also, the huge leads taken by the Congress over the BJP in the areas of Saurashtra, where the former was expected to do better, reflects the reality. Hence, it’s hoped that the EVM controversy has walked to its full length and shall be given a decent burial.

Krishnakuamr@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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

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

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