Friday, 14 October 2011

Three cheers for our spooks!

Yesterday, the Delhi Police on a specific intelligence input managed to detect a car outside Ambala Cantonment Railway station with over 5kgs of RDX explosives along with detonator devices and thus managed to avert a terrorist strike. According to the Police, these attacks were to be carried out by Sikh separatist group known as Babbar Khalsa. It goes without saying that the explosive material was supplied by Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and coordinated by anti India group Lashkar-e-Tayeba. I think that our intelligence agencies did a great job in preventing a terror strike very close to Diwali and the consequences would have been terrible had these bombs exploded in a crowded festival market. The media and the public very rightly goes hammer and tongs against our much maligned intelligence agencies whenever there is a successful terrorist attack. The problems in our intelligence gathering apparatus have been discussed threadbare for decades now; therefore any successful prevention of a terrorist attack should be generously applauded. The vigil has to continue since various other terrorist modules are still active and they would be itching to strike in the festive season. Therefore everyone needs to be alert especially in crowded places.

Whenever there is a terror strike or a foiled terror strike in India, the finger invariably points towards Pakistan. Therefore on prime time TV we find anchors discussing the terror issue with guests from both India and Pakistan. These discussions on TV have over the years become totally predictable and the viewer can actually very easily guess as to what both sides are going to say. In fact some of the experts, who regularly appear on the shows, repeat their same statements each time, without fail. The Pakistani experts modus operandi is to condemn terror and tell anyone caring to listen that Pakistan is a bigger victim of terror than India. Our own experts repeat that Pakistan suffers from its own home grown Jihadis while India is a victim of Pakistan sponsored terror. The debate starts to heat up with in minutes and accusations fly thick and fast from both sides. Both sides stick to their stated positions and at times the debate turns in to a full fledged slanging match. The debate dies down in the entire din and confusion and the anchor finally winds up the show. The farcical debate starts all over again whenever there is another terror strike. The trust deficit between India and Pakistan is so terribly wide that there is hardly any chance to find a common ground to work upon. Some very prominent Pakistani analysts take a reasonable position on terror when they write in their local newspapers but when they appear on an Indian TV show, they start defending the same terror acts which they vehemently criticize back home. It is incredible to see that the Pakistani analysts turn a reasonable debate in to some sort of a competition where conceding a point to the opposition would be tantamount to forfeiting of national pride. What inflated egos! There is little wonder that India and Pakistan have not solved a single important issue for the last six decades. If mere discussions are a matter of victory and defeat, then problems can never be solved. The current generation of Pakistani military and civilian elite has experienced the 1971 military defeat to India and they have not been able overcome that humiliation. It would require an absolute miracle to solve the pending issues between us. Till then these fireworks would continue.

Before concluding I must again congratulate our intelligence agencies for doing a good job in preventing the terror attack. The praise should be whole heartedly showered where it is rightfully due and let us hope and pray that we have a safe, peaceful and pollution free Diwali. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Narendra Modi's "Skull Cap" problem.

Narendra Modi concluded his “Sadhbhavna” fast yesterday. The event was well organized and was attended by various BJP allies and members from all religious communities. It seemed to be an attempt on the part of Narendra Modi to improve his public image after the recent refusal of Supreme Court to prosecute him for the 2002 riots. As it always happens with Narendra Modi, the controversies just don’t stay away from him. Every single move made by Narendra Modi is minutely observed and any chink in his armor is thoroughly exploited. One such incident, which in the case of any other mere mortal would have been summarily dismissed, was simply blown out of proportion in the case of Narendra Modi.

On the face of it, the incident seems pretty innocuous to say the least. On the last day of his fast, a Muslim cleric from Gujarat, came to meet Modi. Like many other guests before him, this cleric tried to greet Modi with some traditional stuff he had brought with him. The cleric put a shawl around Narendra Modi and then pulled out a traditional Islamic skull cap from his pocket. The cleric obviously wanted to put that cap on Modi’s head but one could clearly see Modi saying something to the cleric and he did not wear that cap. The cleric went away after the felicitation but the ever prying eyes of the TV cameras didn’t miss it. Almost every channel highlighted the incident. But a couple of channels even went a step further. They got some self-styled secularist experts in their studios and after much dissection they unanimously declared that by not wearing an Islamic skull cap, Modi has once again proved his communal leanings. The incident left me wondering as to how someone can be communal if he refuses to adopt symbols of other religions? Is it mandatory to adopt religious symbols of different faiths to prove your secular credentials? This incident raises a couple of very interesting points.

Firstly, what if Narendra Modi had tried to wrap a shawl or tried to put a cap with pictures of Hindu Gods or some Vedic inscriptions, on the Muslim cleric? Would the Muslim cleric have accepted that? Just imagine the kind of ferocious response that would have come from the anti Modi brigade. Any such attempt on the part of Modi would have been termed as violation of minority rights and an attempt to force Hindu symbols on the Muslims.

Secondly, why is that it’s only the Hindus who have to adopt symbols of other religions to prove their secular credentials? Why should Narendra Modi, a devout Hindu, be denied his fundamental right to refuse to adopt Islamic religious symbols? Just as a Muslim does not become communal if he refuses to sing “Vande Mataram”, similarly Narendra Modi does not become communal for refusing to wear the Islamic skull cap. The minorities have the fundamental right to practice their religion, which includes the rejection of symbols of other religions then for God’s sake, why can’t the majority Hindu community have the same right?

I firmly believe that Narendra Modi was well within his rights to refuse to wear the Islamic skull cap. His religious beliefs may prohibit him from wearing certain religious symbols but that doesn’t make him communal. Since Hindus have always been inherently secular for thousands of years, it is always routinely expected from them to adopt symbols of other religions. Any rare refusal, as in the case of Narendra Modi, is projected as a “Glaring Omission”. Hindus, like other communities in India, have a right to pick, choose and reject religious symbols and exercise of this fundamental right can not make them communal.   

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Double standards for Narendra Modi?

The dynamic CM of Gujarat Mr.Narendra Modi has got a breather from the Supreme Court. The court has refrained from passing any order on a petition seeking his prosecution for the 2002 riots, while asking the trial court to decide on the case on the basis of the report by Special Investigation Team (SIT). Mr.Modi has been accused of instigating riots against Muslims in the aftermath of the tragic burning of a coach of Sabarmati Express in Feb 2002. He has also been universally blamed for inaction when the rioting was taking place and allowing the murderers to have a free run. Is Narendra Modi truly a mass murderer? Or is he a victim of negative propaganda? What happened in 2002 in Gujarat was really unprecedented? I will try to examine these questions by presenting two separate scenarios.

First Scenario. On 27th February, 2002, Muslims mobs burnt a compartment of ill fated Sabarmati Express, which was returning from Ayodhya with Hindu pilgrims. 58 Hindu pilgrims, mostly women and children were killed in the tragedy. Quite obviously the anger among the Hindu community was running high and retaliation against the Muslims was unleashed with full force. In the resultant violence, around 800 Muslims and 250 Hindus were killed besides the damage to private properties and religious places. Narendra Modi since then has been accused of being complicit in the riots since he allowed the angry Hindus to release their fury on the hapless Muslims. Others have gone to the extent of even calling Gujarat riots a pogrom or even genocide of Muslims. Any unbiased assessment of 2002 riots will reveal that Narendra Modi was, at the very least, guilty of not taking strong action against the rioters. Although he cannot be successfully accused of genocide of Muslims since 250 plus Hindus were also killed in the violence. Narendra Modi did try to control the situation since 93 Muslims and 77 Hindus were killed in police firings. But it was all too late and the damage to his reputation was already done. 

Second Scenario. On 31st October 1984, the then PM of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation to the Indian army's operation to flush out Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple shrine. Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother as the PM of India. Quite obviously the anger among the Hindus was running high and revenge for the killing of Indira Gandhi was planned. Prominent Delhi Congress leaders like H.K.L.Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler etc organised mobs and orchestrated the massacre of innocent Sikhs all over Delhi. For full three days the anti Sikh violence continued and the Delhi Police did not effectively intervene. After the massacre of around 3000 Sikhs, the violence was brought under control. Here it is pertinent to mention that the Delhi Police reports to the Home Minister of India, who in turn reports to the Prime Minister of India. Rajiv Gandhi, who was the PM when the anti Sikh violence was perpetrated, should have directly intervened to stop the massacre since it was happening under his very nose in the capital of India. Rajiv Gandhi chose to look the other way and his deliberate inaction was a clear proof of his own complicity in the massacre of the Sikhs. Moreover he rather inhumanly justified the killing of Sikhs when he made the following statement on 19th November, 1984 at Boat Club rally," Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”  

After going through the chain of events of both 2002 Gujarat and 1984 Delhi riots, the following startling conclusions can be drawn;

Firstly, there is a striking similarity in the both the events where the people in power allowed the murderous mobs to unleash violence with full assurance that the police will not effectively interfere in the bloody mayhem.

Secondly in the case of Gujarat, there was retaliation from the attacked Muslim community since many Hindus were also killed; therefore it is wrong to conclude that it was genocide of Muslims. On the other hand in Delhi, the attacked Sikhs did not retaliate and no Hindu was killed in the violence; therefore it is right to conclude that it was genocide of Sikhs.

Thirdly, the Gujarat riots happened under the constant gaze of 24/7 news channels which beamed horrific live images of the violence. Quite obviously the people asked as to why CM Narendra Modi was not controlling the situation. His inaction led to the conclusion that he was a mass murderer. While in the case of anti Sikh violence there was a solo government controlled TV channel "Doordarshan" which obviously blacked out everything and Rajiv Gandhi never suffered any adverse publicity. Rajiv's inaction was never highlighted and he simply got scot-free for a much serious criminal complicity.

Fourthly, Gujarat riot cases were actively pursued by various NGO's  putting Narendra Modi under relentless pressure while the Sikhs were not so lucky as the media and NGO's did not put effective pressure on Congress government. 

It's absolutely clear that Narendra Modi tried to replicate in Gujarat in 2002 what Rajiv Gandhi and his cronies did in Delhi in 1984. If Narendra Modi is a mass murderer; so is Rajiv Gandhi since both of them allowed mobs to kill innocent people and restrained the police from taking any action. Since members of both communities were killed in Gujarat, therefore the violence can be classified as riots but Delhi violence was a Congress sponsored pogrom since only the Sikhs were killed. Narendra Modi is labelled as a mass murderer for Gujarat riots while on the other hand Rajiv Gandhi is not even accused of being communal in spite of a much greater offence. Narendra Modi is an international pariah while Rajiv Gandhi was conferred with India's highest civilian award "Bharat Ratna"       

Finally my view is that even the gravest provocation can never justify the mass killings of innocent human beings. It's barbaric to punish innocents for the crimes perpetrated by other people. Both Narendra Modi and Rajiv Gandhi along with numerous other politicians had blood of innocent human beings on their hands. The anti Sikh pogrom went unpunished and this emboldened others to dispense mob justice on hapless people. There is no doubt that the media had been biased in reporting various riot cases and clear double standards were adopted. Yes, in my view Narendra Modi is guilty of not following the "Raj Dharma" as advised to him by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the Gujarat riots. Rajiv Gandhi and others are also guilty of the same offence. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

It's business as usual!

Terror has struck again and this time it’s the turn of Delhi to face the trauma. This latest attack comes less than two months after the July Mumbai bombings. The nature of terror remains the same and only the scene of the crime changes. By looking at the TV footages, you rather numbly see the same images of innocents having to go through a bloody ordeal. The citizens of India are just helplessly left to fend for themselves over and over again. The post blast script is so terribly predictable that you can easily guess the reactions of our politicians and the total lack of any new anti terror initiative is what makes me angry.

The 26/11 Mumbai attacks were unprecedented and quite logically the people concluded that it will act as the game changer as far as India-Pakistan relations were concerned. Our politicians as usual made the right noises and since it was so conclusively proved that there was a Pakistani hand in the attacks, the world put tremendous pressure on Pakistan to come clean. Since we were the victims of Pakistan sponsored attacks, we were supposed to apply the pressure relentlessly till something concrete was achieved. But we loosened our grip as a result of a combination of American pressure and benevolence of our Prime Minister who declared that we share a common destiny with Pakistan. We started talking to Pakistan again while our enemy number one, Lashkar-e-Tayebas’s chief Hafiz Saeed, was roaming freely in Pakistan. When we should have gone for the jugular, we actually let Pakistan off the hook! The result was that the terrorist attacks started again and this time none of those attacks were traced to Pakistan. The amazing fact is that none of the post 26/11 attacks have been solved by the investigating agencies. The Pune blast at the German bakery, the July Mumbai bombings, blast in Bangalore outside the cricket stadium, blast at a ghat in Varanasi etc are all unsolved. All these blasts were masterminded in Pakistan but were never traced because of the “Karachi Project” of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). This Karachi Project envisages that the terror attacks in India would be carried out by Indian citizens themselves and Pakistan would escape the blame. The terror outfit named Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for various attacks and Pakistan claimed that the disgruntled Indian Muslims were carrying out the attacks. Moreover since the PM had initiated the dialogue process with Pakistan, it was imperative that no finger pointing be done towards Pakistan lest the talks may fail. Therefore people were getting killed and it was business as usual for our government vis a vis Pakistan.

Yesterday’s Delhi attack has been claimed by Pakistan based terror outfit HuJI. Although the veracity of the claim is being verified but none the less it will be very difficult for the government to remain soft on Pakistan anymore. There also has been a concerted effort on the part of the present government to politicize the terror attacks. It is widely believed that the government is not actively pursuing the local terror modules for fear of antagonizing the minority vote bank. There has also been an effort to project the alleged threat from the right wing Hindu terrorists even when there has not been a single conviction of so called Saffron terrorists in a court of law. The utterances of some Congress leaders clearly point to the fact that the party is playing cheap politics on terror. Wikileaks had some time back revealed Rahul Gandhi telling US Ambassador that Hindu terror was a greater threat to India than Jihadi terror! Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has been spewing venom on RSS, repeatedly blaming it for terror activities. This dangerous vote bank politics on the colour of terror has only strengthened the hands of the enemies of our nation.

There is absolutely no doubt that the terrorists are having enough time to plan and execute attacks. They seem to be under no pressure from the security agencies. Terrorists who are vigorously pursued would never have the time to plan anything. Osama bin Laden was a classic case in point. The Americans put so much pressure on Osama that after 9/11, he was just trying to somehow survive and he was in no position to plan another attack. On the other hand we have tons of evidence against Pakistan but instead of taking hard measures we are actually talking everything but terror with them. I must before concluding make it very clear that I am not a war monger. Adopting hard measures could include suspending of dialogue process, suspending various cultural exchanges including people to people contact and if needed breaking diplomatic relations. We must have clear anti terror goals and relentlessly pursue our national interests. Since nothing of that has happened in the past, little wonder that Pakistanis call us a “Buzdil Kaum”.  

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Battle lines are drawn.

Anna is recuperating; catching his breath and so is the Indian nation. The last couple of weeks have been momentous in the history of independent India. The dust has settled on the historic Ramlila grounds after the tenacious non violent battle between Anna and the government which has resulted in an uneasy ceasefire. There have been various historical places associated with legendary battles in our great country. Kurukshetra in the times of Mahabharata was the scene of an epic battle led by the Lord himself, Panipat had seen three decisive battles in the medieval times, Haldighati had been a witness to the dogged valour of Sisodia King Maharana Pratap and believe me you can go on and on. But all those battles of yesteryears saw some of the most terrible bloodshed but Anna Hazare staged a bloodless victory over the mighty Indian state at the battleground of Ramlila maidan. People are still dissecting the Anna phenomenon but I dare say it would be extremely difficult to put the entire movement in true perspective.

The last fortnight has been full of tumultuous agony and ecstasy. The script changed almost every hour in the last few days of the movement. The media coverage was unprecedented and the tension was visible in almost every household. After the arrest fiasco of Anna Hazare, government allowed him to protest at the Ramlila grounds. In the initial few days the government waited and pretended to ignore Anna Hazare. The crowds at the venue were increasing by the day and protests in support of Anna were taking place all over the country. Anna’s deteriorating health coupled with swelling crowds had the government visible shaken after the first week. With their backs firmly to the wall, the government opened negotiations with team Anna. It was very clear from the negotiations that both sides had to climb down from their stated positions for an amicable settlement. But the government had to bow down and concede much more to Anna Hazare. Team Anna in its approach was clearly more cohesive than the government. The continuous flip-flops from the government indicated a divided house. It was widely believed that the hardliners like Kapil Sibal and P.Chidambaram were totally against any truce with team Anna. The duo had earlier successfully managed to break the protest of Baba Ramdev in a violent night time raid and therefore they believed that same could be done with Anna Hazare. The government’s main problem was that it didn’t want to bow down to the civil society on the question of supremacy of the Parliament in the law making process, since they believed it could set a wrong precedent. The government had to undertake some delicate maneuvering so as to make sure that supremacy of the Parliament in law making was maintained. But the problem was that precious time was wasted by the government initially and in the last couple of days of Anna’s fasting, there was absolute panic in the government ranks. Traces of panic were also visible among the team Anna members as every passing hour was jeopardizing the life of the 74 year old man. Neither the government nor team Anna wanted to face the ignominy of having to shoulder the blame for any untoward incident happening to the health of Anna Hazare. Therefore a compromise was desperately needed and it was widely expected that the Parliament would pass a resolution accepting the three main demands of Anna Hazare, in principle.

The focus now shifted to Parliament. But a day before that Kiran Bedi did her famous “Ghungat Act” on the podium at Ramlila grounds. She mocked the Politicians as having many faces and speaking in many tongues. The act was an instant hit with the people but deep down one could sense the terrible anguish of Kiran Bedi. She had actually witnessed the constant backing out of the government from its commitments given to team Anna and her frustration was totally shared by the people. Veteran actor Om Puri added more fuel to the raging fire by launching a diatribe against the Parliamentarians and he called them “Ganwar” and “Anpadh”. Quite obviously that didn’t go down too well with a section of people and of course the Parliamentarians were absolutely livid. But the brighter side of our Parliamentarians was revealed when the debate on Anna Hazare’s proposals was initiated. Sushma Swaraj opened the debate and quite masterfully put the entire sequence of events in the right perspective. She accused Rahul Gandhi of launching a needless tirade against Anna hazare thus undoing the good work done by the Prime Minister to reach a consensus on the previous day. She even took a dig at the Lok Sabha Speaker for allowing Rahul Gandhi to give a “Sermon” in the Parliament the day before. Most importantly, she skillfully clarified her party’s stance on the demands of Anna Hazare thus clearing the confusing haze surrounding the political class. She managed to strike an amicable chord with the masses and was universally applauded for her speech. Some other speeches were also good thus sending the message that not all Parliamentarians are “Ganwar”. After a couple of more twists in the sordid drama, the Parliament unanimously accepted the three demands of Anna Hazare and the message was conveyed in writing to him. There was jubilation all over the country and finally Anna broke his fast on the 28th.

The movement of Anna Hazare brought out the pent up anger of the masses and the political class was at the receiving end of some rather nasty attacks, which of course they richly deserved. The mishandling of the whole movement by the government clearly indicated that they were almost totally disconnected with the masses. The Ministers seemed to be living in their Ivory Towers from where they were running some sort of a dictatorship. They not only grossly underestimated the public anger but also went to the extent of calling it an international conspiracy against India. Every powerful person in the Congress party ended up with an egg on his face. The PM, who was lauded for his statesman like speech in the Parliament, had initially justified the arrest of Anna Hazare and called his movement a threat to the nation. Thereafter he was saluting the same Anna Hazare. What a climb down! Rahul Gandhi, surrounded by his young cronies, unilaterally intervened in the Parliament with the blessings of an overly generous Speaker Meera Kumar and vouched for a constitutional body to tackle corruption. Afterwards, while talking to reporters, he rather snootily declared that his idea was a "Game Changer", which further enraged the public. P.Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal were universally acclaimed as the villains, who consistently took a hard-line, which was totally incoherent with the prevailing popular sentiment in support of Anna Hazare. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari had to publicly regret his statements calling Anna Hazare corrupt from head to toe. The government as a whole had to climb down from its dubious argument that the Parliament was supreme and hence it can by pass the people’s will to protect the sanctity of the institutions. The irony was not lost on the people since the sanctity of the same Parliament was routinely violated by the same politicians to achieve their own selfish ends. The middle class took the centre stage on the Indian political scene and it unleashed its hidden powers. The middle class has always been somehow ignored by the politicians since they don’t count very much as a voting block. Middle class generally remains indifferent to political processes and it is revealed in their low voting turn out in elections. Politicians had always known that it is the rural India which makes or breaks the elections.  Politicians financed elections from the rich people, managed the poor voters with that money and totally ignored the urban middle class. This arrangement never politically hurt them and that is what brought a combination of complacency and sheer arrogance. One thing the politicians bitterly realized was that the middle class had the power of media on its side and that the internet can be used to devastating effect against them.

In all fairness, we must not forget that politicians are extremely smart in managing their vote banks. When push comes to a shove, these politicians can switch tracks quite swiftly. They always try not to be on the wrong side of the popular public mood which was generously visible in the way they climbed down. Good politicians will try to bring necessary reforms in the system and more devious among them will device newer ways to manipulate the same system. The battle as Anna Hazare himself said is only half won. The Lok Pal bill is no where near the stage of becoming a law. The politicians can still play dirty tricks but in all likelihood it will be difficult under constant public scrutiny. Anna Hazare is already talking about new challenges ahead. Electoral reforms, including transparency in electoral funding, right to recall, the right to reject and barring criminals from entering the Parliament are on the agenda. Believe me; all the three points would require another movement since it is a direct challenge to the “Kursi” of our politicians. A strong public opinion has to be gradually developed to put pressure on the politicians to undertake electoral funding and electoral decriminalization reforms before the 2014 general elections. A long and turbulent journey lies ahead but with Anna Hazare on our side, “We the People” shall win our right to live in a more transparent and corruption free India.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gandhian methods in motion.

For an average Indian, the acquaintance with Mahatma Gandhi is a daily occurrence; thanks to his pictures on the promissory currency notes issued by the Reserve Bank of India. But beyond this symbolism, not many people actually care to know the persona of Gandhi. Every child has read that this man almost single handedly drove the British out of India. We have seen Gandhi as a frail; almost tottering old man walking with a stick, in all those B&W archival video footages but we some how were never convinced that he could rattle the almighty British Empire. Yes, the historians have exaggerated a wee bit since the contribution of the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was also significant. But even then Gandhi stood out from the motley crowd of freedom fighters and the reason was his concept of “Satyagraha” with the weapons of truth and non-violence. I personally was never convinced that Gandhi’s methods were as effective as it was projected, especially against an absolute colonial power. But believe me I was forced to eat the humble pie, (I am very proud of it) when I actually saw the Gandhian methods in motion, courtesy Anna Hazare. I will tell you why.

I don’t need to elaborate on the background of Anna Hazare’s movement since it goes without saying that people are aware of it. We need to look at the chronology of events of 16th & 17th of August 2011. Anna had declared that he will undertake his fast from the 16th. The police arrived at Anna’s residence in East Delhi and picked him up at 7:30 in the morning. The manner in which the police detained him is surely reserved for hardcore criminals or terrorists who are a threat to the society. Anna was moved around the Delhi roads to dodge the media and was subsequently taken to a police Officers mess. From there on he was shifted to Tihar Jail. All this while the Home Minister P.Chidambaram feigned ignorance about Anna’s whereabouts when the whole world knows that Delhi Police takes direct orders from him. After the spontaneous protests all over India against Anna’s detention, the government lost its nerve and decided to release Anna in the evening. The Congress party sycophants credited this decision to the intervention of Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi. But the government was in for a pretty prickly surprise; Anna refused to leave the jail till his condition of unrestricted indefinite fast was met. This was the revelation of Gandhian methods in practice. Anna steadfastly refused to move and this led to mass gatherings of people outside the jail and at other places. Just imagine! Any person in the world would not stay a minute in the jail after his release orders but here is a man who says very politely that I will leave jail on my own terms and the powerful government is negotiating those terms with him. Would you believe it? Any mere mortal would have been thrown in and thrown out of the jail in no time but Anna had employed the Gandhian weapon of Satyagraha to amazing effect. All those of us who had read about Satyagraha, had the privilege to see it in actual practice and I was simply bowled over. I could not believe the peaceful reaction of the people on the streets especially after their beloved Anna was treated like an ordinary criminal.

The ill advised government, instead of catching the pulse of the people, rather foolishly kept defending its draconian actions and made an absolute mockery of itself. The PM in his speech had the temerity to hint that Anna’s movement was to destabilize India’s growth story and some international vested interests were behind it. Our PM, who had not much of credibility, has now totally lost all grace. With a day and a half of terrible bungling and continuous flip-flops, the government finally surrendered to the Gandhian methods of Anna Hazare. The news coming on this 18th morning is that Anna is allowed to fast unconditionally for 14 days and there is no restriction on the extension of the fast if Anna so wishes. Just imagine that a 74 year old man who till yesterday was a threat to law and order, is now free to assemble as many people as he wants in the heart of Delhi and continue his protest till the time he deems fit. What an absolute victory without a single stone being thrown and without a single curse being uttered! My salutations to the youth of our great country who responded to the clarion call of Anna Hazare and came to peacefully support him. The legacy of Gandhi is very much alive and his method of non violent protest is relevant even today. It’s high time we rediscover the Mahatma of yesteryear and support his able pupil of modern times; the irrepressible Anna Hazare. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Keep the faith.

Democracy has always been the jewel in the crown of India. Almost every country which got independence after the Second World War, could not sustain the uninterrupted democratic process. India was the only shining exception where Parliamentary democracy thrived and the military always remained subservient to the elected civilian government. An independent judiciary along with an independent Election Commission made India a complete working democracy.

An integral part of democracy are the politicians whom the people elect to govern themselves. The people of India have always expressed extreme emotions towards political leaders, ranging from eulogizing dynasties to being terribly cynical of self serving Netas. Due to various instances of misrule by our politicians, there has been expression of outrage and enormous anger by the people. But the things have gone so bad in the last few years that the people routinely treat our elected leaders with utter contempt and disdain. The respect which our political class somehow maintained in spite of terrible governance record has now been almost totally eroded. The main reason for this scorn is the corruption among our political class and the almost open loot of the public money.

As we are aware that for more than four decades of our independent existence, socialism was the economic system we had adopted. Socialism included state control of almost every part of the economy ostensibly to help the poor masses. In a closed; state controlled economy, hardly any wealth was generated and India remained a country with more than three quarters of the population in appalling poverty. The infrastructure was creaky and even basic amenities like clean drinking water and proper housing; even in cities was a luxury. Consumers had to buy whatever the government offered since the right to pick and choose commodities was non existent. The lack of wealth creation due to skewed economic policies resulted in neglect of even critical areas like defence, education and health care. Somehow we believed our leaders that India is an agriculture oriented economy and that western capitalist models were not fit for us. We as a nation excelled in almost nothing and with no economic progress in sight, the people were busy in religious, linguistic, casteist, sectarian and other similar divisive issues. But all that changed dramatically in early 1990’s when our economy was in dire straits and government had no money to pay its bills. Therefore, rather reluctantly we had to undertake economic reforms and the economy was opened up. The result was that enormous amount of wealth was generated and poverty figures were almost halved in the last twenty years. The face of the nation changed and then came the biggest byproduct of economic boom; “Corruption of monumental proportions”.

India has witnessed corruption scandals with alarming regularity in the last few years. The morals of the people in power eroded rapidly along with a rapidly growing economy. The present UPA government led by eminent economist Dr.Manmohan Singh has crossed all limits of moral propriety. Dr.Manmohan Singh has been awfully ineffective in tackling corruption among his ministers. The combined worth of present scams is around 2,50,000 crores. The worst part is that various revelations in the media have established the fact that Dr.Singh was very much aware of the wrongdoings of his ministers but he somehow chose to remain mum and looked the other way. PM ignored the nefarious activities of his former telecom minister A.Raja, since he had to keep his ally, DMK happy. The result was that A.Raja looted the exchequer in broad light and PM did not act till the media pressurized and Supreme Court intervened. Thankfully, Raja and his corporate cronies are in jail. But what about the corruption of Dr.Singh’s own party ministers? He surely had no coalition compulsions so why he didn’t act against the likes of Suresh Kalmadi and waited for media and apex court to intervene? Now here is another paradox. Dr.Manmohan Singh is the PM but is not the President of the Congress party, which of course is Sonia Gandhi. To make matters worse, Sonia Gandhi is also the UPA chairperson and the head of powerful National Advisory Council. Therefore it is amply clear that the real power is in the hands of Sonia Gandhi and her coterie and that Dr.Singh is just a figure head. So what's happening is that Sonia Gandhi has all the powers but Dr.Singh has all the responsibility! With such a power set up, little wonder that even the Congress ministers and MP’s choose to by pass the PM and this in turn has further encouraged  corruption.  

By bringing in a weak Lok Pal bill, the government has literally added insult to injury. The arrogance of power among the senior Congress ministers is palpable. They are mocking the people who are questioning them as if to tell them that you can’t touch us before 2014 when the next general elections are due. The failure of ineffective Dr.Singh and all powerful Sonia Gandhi, to tackle corruption has led to this mass anger against the political class which in turn is not a healthy sign for our democracy. I think people should keep faith in democratic procedures and with the help of a vigilant media along with an independent judiciary, corrupt politicians and their cronies should be pressurized relentlessly till they are brought to justice. We have a very long fight on our hands and we should remember that the will of the people is Supreme in a democracy.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Crown is slipping.

Team India's second successive defeat in England has left the fans in utter disbelief. We all know that winning and losing is a part and parcel of the game but the manner in which the Indian team has capitulated, is simply disgusting. The team just seemed to lack the stomach to give a fight to the English. There is no doubt that Team India is plagued by injuries to key players like Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir and of course Virender Sehwag is recuperating from shoulder surgery. But even without these players, the Indian team is a formidable unit and there was no acceptable reason to be pushed over by the Poms so easily. So what went wrong?

For starters, I think the team is looking listless and jaded. Indian cricket team always has played more international cricket than any other nation for more than a decade now. The BCCI has always been accused of making money even at the expense of fitness of players and the quality of cricket being played. If that was not enough, IPL came in with a bang. No doubt the IPL brought fantastic money to the players and also helped in nurturing new talent. But the problem is that around 50 days of IPL were squeezed in to the already cramped international schedule of Indian cricketers and that too in the peak of scorching Indian summer. Most of the players who were carrying niggles had their injuries aggravated but the lure of big money kept them going. IPL was over and then so many of the players excused themselves to either take much needed rest or to nurse their injuries. Therefore the full team was not available for the West Indies tour. Nonetheless the team did win in West Indies. But the signs of fatigue were clearly visible even in West Indies when in the last test, Dhoni decided not to press for a probable victory citing the risk of losing the match. But against the powerful and fresh England team, India was terribly exposed.

The club vs country debate will start again. Should the players in need of rest and who are recovering from injuries, keep playing for their clubs at the expense of their availability to play for India? The star Indian players are already very rich therefore should they still give priority to the club over the country? Don't the players realize that their brand value is due to their success while playing for India? If the players can opt out of playing for India citing injuries or to take rest, then why can't they give the same reason for not playing IPL? I am not against IPL but the BCCI and the players need to rationalize their priorities and always keep the country above everything else.

Technically, we can still retain our number one test ranking since two more matches are to be played. But more than the rankings, the fans would like to see some fighting spirit from the team. Indian team in any case was not going to hold on to the number one spot for a long time since the gap between the top three teams was marginal, but the fans would not like to behold the sight of the team getting dethroned in utter disgrace. 

Friday, 29 July 2011

Rebuttal to Mr.Ejaz Haider.

This blog is a reply to the article published by Express Tribune news paper from Pakistan. The article had the following address Therefore this post should be read in the light of the above mentioned article.

Mr.Ejaz Haider, this concluding part of your rebuttal of Shashi Tharoor’s article, seems straight out of the anti India manual of the Pakistan army since you seem to have toed their version hook, line and sinker. Shashi Tharoor surely has set the proverbial cat among the “GHQ’s Pigeons”. This article should have been more suitably titled “Right from the Generals mouth” Before anyone lynches me for my transgression; I will point out why I think so.

Firstly, Mr.Ejaz opines that Indians are very good at hiding their underbelly and project a goody picture of their country abroad. Sir, could you tell any country which doesn’t do that? How many times have the Americans, Europeans and even your good friend Chinese have come to Pakistan and projected their own under belly? You are lamenting the fact that Pakistanis don’t project a positive image of their country abroad. But seriously, since almost all of Pakistan is now a huge “Under Belly”, what positive can Pakistanis project to the world? First enlighten your own citizens about the virtues of being a Pakistani and then only they can project any thing positive abroad.

Secondly, you are accusing India of not agreeing to “Force Rationalization” by citing the Chinese threat. Respectfully Sir, We Indians have been humbled by the Chinese in 1962 and we still have Chinese claiming our state of Arunachal Pradesh, besides having deployed nuclear tipped missiles in Tibet, directed against India. Is China then not a threat to us? Could we ever forget the nuclear and missile proliferation which the Chinese undertook to help you make the nuclear weapons and delivery systems? Was that an act of Chinese friendship towards India? India is seriously looking at a possible two front war in future and our military has to maintain a minimum deterrence vis a vis China.

Thirdly, you are stating that 1947 was an indigenous uprising. This is sheer ISI propaganda. Kashmir was an independent state from August to October 1947 till Pakistani intruders and army regulars forcibly tried to capture it. Indian troops had no presence in Kashmir till the Maharaja came to us for help. Rest as they say is history and I need not elaborate further for want of space. India is seriously trying to check the human rights violations in Kashmir but Mr.Haider would you please enlighten us as to what role the “Shining Stars” from your “Jihadi Galaxy”, have played in the violence in Kashmir?

Fourthly, you are admitting that 1965 war was a mistake on Pakistan’s part but ironically you also justifying the Pakistani action since it was to reclaim your own territory. Please make up your mind Sir and then only a rebuttal would be effective from my side. You have totally failed to mention, which most Pakistanis would be unaware of regarding the territory holdings of both the sides after the cease fire. India gained 1,840 square kilometers of Pakistani territory: 640 square kilometers in so called Azad Kashmir, 460 square kilometers of the Sialkot sector; 380 square kilometers far to the south of Sindh; and most critical, 360 square kilometers on the Lahore front. Pakistan took 540 square kilometers of Indian territory: 490 square kilometers in the Chhamb sector and 50 square kilometers around Khem Karan. Pakistanis can verify these figures and rationally think as to who had better territory holdings post the war.

Fifthly, you are saying that India attacked Pakistan in 1971 and true to the official version of the Pakistan army; you have totally ignored the circumstances leading to the war. In short, Bengalis were tormented, India had a problem of lakhs of refugees, Mrs.Gandhi visiting every power in the world requesting to rein in the delinquent Pakistani army and left with no option India had to step in. If the world powers had intervened, like they did against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Col.Gaddafi in Libya, perhaps Bangladesh would still have been a part of Pakistan. As far as Siachen is concerned, it was a vaguely demarcated area and if Indians had not captured it, Pakistanis would have been occupying it.

Lastly, you are accusing India of being a revisionist power and that Pakistan is checking India’s hegemonic designs in South Asia. This is a statement without backed by any evidence. Shashi Tharoor very rightly said that as to what Pakistan actually has that India would like to possess? If India had any revisionist and hegemonic designs it would surely have annexed East Pakistan in to that mythical “Akhand Bharat”. Mr.Haider should better realize that in trying to counter India’s so called hegemonic designs, Pakistan has become a failed state sustaining a large military disproportionate to its economic strengths. If this scenario continues, instead of becoming a West Bangladesh, Pakistan would surely become West Punjab, West Sindhu Desh, West Baluchistan and a West KP, all independent entities. 


Support Anna Hazare

To say that corruption is endemic in India would be a gigantic under statement. Besides the various plans to tackle this epidemic, the formation of a Lok Pal body seems to be the most effective. As we are aware that social activist Anna Hazare sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to force the government to act decisively on the appointment of a Lok Pal. Anna Hazare's fast, which garnered huge public support, forced the government to act on his demands. After various rounds of meetings between team Anna and the government, no consensus was arrived at and it created some degree of acrimony. The basic of point of difference was that the government opined that Anna's Lok Pal draft would appoint a body of people who will be omnipotent thus undermining the authority and functioning of the government and the parliament while on the other hand team Anna declared government's draft as an attempt to appoint a toothless Lok Pal. The government, after much deliberations, has come up with a draft of the Lok Pal bill which it intends to present in the upcoming monsoon session of the Parliament. As expected, team Anna has out-rightly rejected the government's draft calling it a cruel joke on the nation.

Prima facie it seems that team Anna is right in slamming the government's draft. There are various aspects of the draft but I will touch on a few important points. Not only the PM and the judiciary are out of the purview of Lok Pal but more importantly all the government servants are also set free. I think the decision to keep the government employees out of the ambit of Lok Pal is totally unacceptable. Almost each one of us has had a first hand experience of the corruption among the various babus. Right from getting an electricity connection to even getting a death certificate, nothing can be done without greasing the palms. The whole bureaucracy is so designed that corruption can thrive unabated. Everyone has his share of the booty therefore no one ever complains. Honest officers end up getting frequently transferred or they are left with no option but to quit. The existing anti corruption laws have been woefully inadequate to check the problem since almost everyone has a vested interest in keeping the corruption pot boiling. For common people like us, a strong Lok Pal, having investigative jurisdiction over government employees would have come as a huge relief. But the government by keeping the bureaucracy out of purview of the Lok Pal has clearly indicated that it just doesn't have the moral courage to stem the rot.

Anna Hazare has declared that he will restart his fast from the 16th of August and I think all right thinking Indians should support him in whatever way possible. Systematic corruption has not only caused huge losses to the exchequer but also has severely dented the international image of India. Today the corruption figures run in to thousands of crores and can we really afford it when we have a third of our population going hungry? The anger among the people is brewing and the government in it's arrogance feels that they can do a Ramdev on Anna Hazare and fizzle out his campaign. I think if people present a united front then the government can be forced to act. Such blatant attempt by the government to protect the corrupt and dismiss the people's voice with utter disdain should be resisted at all costs.  

Thursday, 28 July 2011

India-Pakistan Talks

The arrival of the young and impressive Pakistan foreign minister has created a lot of public interest in India. The media has certainly gone overboard talking about Ms.Hina Rabbani's designer clothes, swanky goggles and an expensive handbag. Her good looks have caught such great attention that the veteran criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani while attending an official dinner, remarked that he came to meet Ms.Rabbani after seeing her photograph in the papers. In spite of all the non professional attention Ms.Rabbani received, she actually surprised everyone with her deft handling of ticklish India-Pakistan issues and her controlled demeanor was outstanding considering her young age. The atmospherics which get a tad boring and at times even jingoistic in India-Pakistan talks, were surprisingly pleasant. The good thing about the present meeting of foreign ministers was that it was kept low profile and contentious issues were not hyped to score brownie points. The Indian side is still grappling with the surprise of Pakistan not talking Kashmir openly although Ms.Rabbani's meeting with the Kashmiri separatists didn't go down well with the Indian side. The closed door protest by India did actually work but still no provocative mention of Kashmir by Pakistan has surprised many analysts.

The pertinent question here is as to why Pakistan was a little subdued on Kashmir? Was it a deliberate ploy on their part to make the talks successful since Kashmir tends to vitiate the atmosphere rather swiftly? Or is it that there is more than what meets the eye? My take is that Pakistan in no way is going to soft pedal the Kashmir issue since it is related to its very existence and more over Kashmir has always been India's jugular vein. We need to understand that Pakistan army has its hands full when it comes to tackling jihadis in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Nearly a third of the Pakistan army is engaged in tackling jihadis in these lawless, rugged but strikingly beautiful terrains. The world knows the bitterness which has come in the US-Pakistan relationship, post Osama Bin Laden raid in the garrison town of Abbotabad. The souring of relationship has resulted in US withholding military aid to Pakistan which has further compounded the tensions. The gist of the whole story is that Pakistan army, which is the de facto ruler of Pakistan, can not afford any confrontation or raising of hostilities on its eastern border with India. With a collapsing economy, Pakistan just does not have the wherewithal to fight on two fronts. Therefore the Kashmir faucet is turned off for the time being. The net result is that a record 7.5 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir till date. Compare this with the terrible stone throwing incidents in Kashmir valley last year killing and injuring many people. A lot of that violence was triggered by the ISI through its Indian Kashmiri cronies. With not much help coming from across the border, the Indian separatists are lying low in sharp contrast to their venom spewing marches in the valley last year. Ironically, anarchy in Pakistan has brought some much needed peace in the Kashmir valley. Peace is more because of Pakistan's preoccupation  and not because of the CM Omar Abdullah becoming a better administrator overnight. But the fault lines in Kashmir still remain and the triggering factors have very low combustible points. Complacency is the last thing Kashmir can afford and the administrators should use the peaceful time to strengthen the bond with the common Kashmiri so that any future conflagration can be managed effectively. Let us see how long the India-Pakistan bonhomie will last.