Sunday, June 8, 2014

The existential contradiction


Today I came across 2 articles in the news. Their extreme 'oppositeness' struck me, as did the fact that one was a widely reported event, but the other was stuck away in the back pages. One talks about 2 people and the other about 3.5 million children. The first is the article which talks about a celebrity couple who recently spent an estimated $ 30 million on their wedding. One partner had spent $20 million on a previous wedding, with the marriage lasting a whole 72 days. The other article is one that quotes the aid agency Oxfam as estimating that 3.5 million children live in poverty in the UK alone. Which one would you likely click on if you saw them on your facebook stream?

The danger of our modern world is that with the luxury and facilities available to us, we are likely to forget that life has treated the majority of our race in a different way. A few facts which I gleaned from this site.
  1. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
    At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
  2. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.urce
  3. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”Source
  4. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  5. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.Source
  6. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
There are many more numbers and figures that I have found in different places. All of them tell me that the majority of the world is deprived of many of the things I consider essential. I do not need to look far away. I just need to walk down the road with my eyes and ears open. The people in need are everywhere. But in my air-conditioned car with windows up and in my closeted world which only the rich can access, I may never see them.

I wish the newly weds all happiness and blessings. However, I do pray that whatever they can do or give to ease the suffering of others they will do. And not waste their billions on things that have no lasting value. And I pray that I will do the same.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Into that heaven of freedom.....

As India prepares to welcome its new government, there is a sense of excitement in the air. The excellent campaign run by Mr. Narendra Modi has made most Indians believe that his coronation will be the start of a new era of prosperity and glory. The beauty of the campaign was that it appealed to both urban and rural India in different ways. The young, urban Indian middle class was so excited by the 'strong leader' image that Modi portrayed with the promise of untold economic growth and development that it blinded itself to the polarisation that Mr. Modi and the RSS stand for. After all, as many of my friends have attested, the 'hidden' party slogan was - if you are a Hindu, vote for Modi. And this slogan inpired the rural youth of our country, who having been misled into believing that they have been discriminated against for so long, rose in support of the Hindutva dream, forgetting that the progress that Mr. Modi has promised is meant not for them but for the already-rich in the cities. And of course, the beauty of transforming the election into a direct face-off between the dynamic and rhetoric-filled Modi and the bland and often-lost Rahul was a master stroke. Of course, it meant the complete sidelining of all other faces of the BJP, until Mr. Modi has become the supreme leader of the whole party, boding no voice against him. And finally, the media has been handled beautifully by the BJP spin doctors as the country was fed one side of the story for the most part of the last few years. It is only now, as we prepare to usher in Mr. Modi, that the media is beginning to talk about how the achievements of Mr. Manmohan Singh and his government have actually been substantial, not just in the upliftment of the majority of our population, but also in areas like economic growth!

Be that all as it may, India is going to have a new Prime Minister. And though my heart is heavy as I digest the fact that such an openly polarising figure will be our supreme leader, I still want to give him a chance. Maybe he will actually be the non-communal leader he has promised to be, although all his meetings with the RSS over the last few days are a little worrying. Maybe he will run the country with a free and fair hand bringing development to everyone, not just the Anbanis and Adanis. Maybe he will build a strong economy that will bring upliftment to the poor, although his record on this front in Gujarat has not been too good. Maybe I will still be allowed to express my opinions freely, without being attacked by his cronies, although the fact that my computer has crashed twice in the last 3 days scares me! (Interestingly in the article above, the only comments that agree with the article have been hidden!!). Maybe all the rabble-rousing hate-filled speeches of him and his cronies will be things of the past and religion will not become the reason to kill, rape and steal. Maybe we will continue to live in a country where I can call myself an equal citizen notwithstanding my religion, although the views Mr. Modi and the RSS have implanted in many people including some of my friends (India is for Hindus, others go to Pakistan!) is worrying. Maybe all my fears are misplaced and India will truly shine as a secular, socialist republic under the leadership of Mr. Modi.

On that note of hope, I wish Mr. Modi all the very best as he begins to govern this great nation. May God be with him and with all of us and have mercy on all our souls. I will probably retire into internet silence again after this and close with this beloved prayer of Rabindranath Tagore. May I be proved wrong and may that heaven of freedom become a reality.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is free speech under threat?

For the last few days, I have received a number of messages, mails and calls regarding the posts I have put up on the blog. All of them asked me to 'be careful'. This is not the first time this has happened. The last time was when I posted this article. The overwhelming concern was that I should not get into trouble with these posts. The other opinion was that I had a lot of guts to post this stuff.

This is rather strange considering that I live in a free country, where freedom of speech is one of my basic guaranteed rights. What is it about Mr. Modi that makes it 'dangerous' to write anything even mildly critical of him? That makes me afraid that my computer may suddenly crash. That makes my friends and family ask me to stop writing about him. That makes me 'brave' all of a sudden. And worst of all, that makes one of my friends tell me that India is for Hindus and I should go to Pakistan! Does the looming Modi era threaten what I thought was a fundamental right? A right to have and to freely share an opinion, right or wrong, and debate this opinion in a civilised fashion. What suddenly makes it dangerous to have a political opinion that is not shared by the majority of my countrymen?

As India prepares for Modi-raj, the writing is on the wall. It is time for dissenting voices to be stilled or else face the consequences of holding 'unacceptable' opinions. Of course, I am small fry and it is unlikely that Mr. Modi's cyber patrol will ever get to me. But respectable journalists and well-known figures have been facing the music for some time for holding 'unnacceptable' opinions. The editor of a respected magazine gets fired for expressing anti-Modi opinions. One of our modern-day Indian heroes Amartya Sen is pilloried for his anti-Modi stance and is asked to return his Bharat Ratna. Articles against Modi get taken down by internet portals the moment they start gaining popularity. A satire website on Modi is taken down in one day.The movie Fanaa gets banned because a prominent actor raises his voice in support of the farmers displaced by the Narmada dam. And of course, there is the rise of the 'majority' opinion on social networks that troll any article or tweet against their hero. The threats range from the 'mild' 'Go to Pakistan', to much more serious ones like rape and murder.

As India's educated 'elite' gravitates towards its financial saviour, the internet has now been taken over by Mr. Modi's supporters. They are more than happy to forgive any of his past sins, even if they amount to genocide. They have ready excuses for every one of his actions and semi-logical rebuttals of all the commissions and panels that have indicted him. They will always bow the Supreme Court decision, forgetting that this same court called him a 'modern-day Nero'. They will happily praise and propagate his 'Gujarat brand of development' forgetting that this was meant for the rich and has made little or no impact on the poor. Most worryingly, they will forget their own consciences in blindly following him as he leads them through their financial Red Sea and threaten any of their brothers and sisters who may not agree with them.

The wily Mr. Modi has succeeded in re-inventing himself as the only possible option our country has in this election. He has done this by converting the basic fabric of our electorate which is based on individual candidates and their credibility into an American-style Presidential election. He has done this by his amazing use of rhetoric which he uses with great skill to fool our population. He has done this by claiming that development in Gujarat has kept him in power for so long, when political pundits have long agreed that it is the 2002 riots and the absence of any sort of opposition that were the major factors in his long reign. He has done this by refraining from incendiary statements (though sometimes, he just can't help himself!) while deputing his cronies like Togadia and Giriraj (who when I last heard was still on the BJP roles as a candidate) to do it for him. He has done this by pretending to be a leader of all sections, although the truth found him out when he was caught refusing to wear a Muslim skull cap, while he has worn the head-dresses of so many other cultures and religions before and since. He has done it by terrorising the thinking population of India so much, that people will now think not twice, but ten times, before expressing an opinion against him.

So as I await the news of May 16th, I want to thank all of you who have written to me. I am aware of the risks involved, especially to my computer! (I have nothing much of worth saved on it and it is quite old, though losing it would surely be rough!!). But I have too much faith in my country and its people to believe that expressing an opinion in a non-violent forum like the internet can be anything but healthy. Granted it is the minority opinion. Please don't tell me the minority does not matter anymore! Granted it is targeted against one man and his party. But the moment that man set himself up to be the next Prime Minister of our country, he opens himself up to being the target of his subjects opinions. If he did not like it he should have taken responsibility for the poor administration that caused the lives of 2000 people in 2002 and resigned!

I find it difficult to imagine my beloved country in the hands of fascist leaders who will curtail my freedom of expression and tamper with the basic fabric of this country. But come May 16th, that may be my fate. So all I can do is to appeal to all my fellow citizens. Judge not this man and his governance in the coming years through the filter of your religion. For that filter will filter out the truth and replace it with passion and foolishness. Judge him and his governance by the facts. And if the freedom that we hold so inviolate is threatened, please do not sit by and watch. Do not consider whether I am a Hindu or a Muslim, whether I am pro or anti-Modi. Defend me. Defend your Muslim brother. Defend this country from those who would build a totalitarian state based on the majority religion. Please let the philosophy of Voltaire inspire you - I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Let no man, not even one so accomplished and popular as Mr. Modi take away that right. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is Modi sorry?

Mr. Narendra Modi, who is likely to be crowned our new Prime Minister come May 16th has many things going for him. He is a strong leader, he is a crowd puller, he knows how to use rhetoric to the best effect, he has managed to sideline all the other leaders of his own party and he runs on a plank of development that he claims to have overseen in the always prosperous state of Gujarat. This looks like a CV that any country would be happy to have in its Prime Minister. His biggest problem has been explaining the events that took place in his state in 2002. There is a fear even among his most ardent supporters that maybe Modi had more to do with the Gujarat riots than he or the BJP would care to admit.

Now if (and I hope this is not true, though the facts seem to speak otherwise) he did have something to do with the lack of police protection offered to the victims of those few bloody days, the question then is, is he sorry for them. The country has been waiting and hoping that he would lay those demons to rest at some point and take some responsibility for the events that took place on his watch. But he has remained silent on the issue. I ask myself, why? Would it not be easy to bring all the facts to light, publish the records of the meetings where he is alleged to have asked the police not to act and punish his own partymen, RSS colleagues and the errant policeman who were responsible for the violence. Even if he was completely innocent, should he not at least take some responsibility for the events that happened when he was in charge? By keeping silent he has deprived all of us who would like to look to him as a leader with some semblance of understanding of his acts of commission and omission. His silence suggests at least some element of guilt, I feel.

I have long struggled with this, but now I wonder, is it because he is sorry? Does he wish he had not been party to the deaths of 2000 souls? Political compulsions may force him to remain silent, but maybe in his heart of hearts he wishes he had acted differently. It seems like a pipe-dream, especially given the recent statements that have been coming from him and his party. But that's what I would like to take away from these videos. That is what I hope is true. May this country I love never again have to bear the weight of communal violence foisted on it by petty political machinations.

Watch this till the end.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The truth about Gujarat 2002

I came across a video yesterday that I thought I really needed to share. I have always wondered about how it was possible for Mr. Narendra Modi to be actually involved in the riots. After all, he was the Chief Minister! And if he was involved how did the courts give him a clean chit? Then I saw this video. A number of the chief culprits say that Mr. Modi had personally given them instructions to make the Muslims pay for Godhra. Moreover, the public prosecutor in charge of prosecuting those involved in the riots, explains in detail how he made the cases 'go away'. This is a mind-blowing video.

In addition I wanted to share a post that was sent to me from Facebook which explains how Mr. Modi was given a 'clean chit' by the SIT and Supreme Court.

Oh, and Narendra Modi didn't get a "clean chit" from the SIT about the Godhra massacre. Far from it.
It's strange how BJP lovers seem to parrot the line that "Modi got a clean chit". Here are the facts. Again, you can choose to interpret them as you wish. My sense is "clean chit" is not the phrase you'll use at the end of it.
I am borrowing here from "http://aconspiracyofsilence.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/the-real-sit-facts-vs-the-modi-fied-story/" and other sources. All of this is verifiable from numerous sources.
1. The reality is not a declaration of innocence - but the SIT let the case drop because of a ‘lack of prosecutorial evidence’. And in doing so it deliberately neglected to take into account numerous depositions against Modi.
2. BJP's own Cabinet Minister, Haren Pandya who disclosed that Modi ordered police officials to refrain from stopping the Hindu backlash, was mysteriously murdered mere months after his disclosure.
3. The SIT refused to take Pandya's statement into account post his death, despite a High Court judge (Justice Hosbet Suresh) and a Supreme Court judge (Justice PB Sawant) vouching for the veracity of his testimony.
4. Sworn statements and leads offered by several senior police officers such as Sanjiv Bhatt and RB Sreekumar testifying against Modi were also deliberately ignored.
5. The former DGP of Gujarat, Sreekumar has submitted actual recordings of Modi’s Principal Secretary and Advocate General instructing him to lie to the Nanavati Commission about the riots, and multiple affidavits affirming Modi’s role in instructing police officers to allow the riots to take place. (see here:http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main11.asp?filename=ts031205Take_your_time.asp)
6. Sanjiv Bhatt himself was present at the meeting where Modi told senior officers to ‘allow the Hindus to vent their anger.’
7. There is no dearth of "prosecutorial evidence" only perhaps of prosecutorial will. Two examples are the detailed evidence collected by the Concerned People’s Tribunal headed by Supreme Court Justices P B Sawant and V R Krishna Iyer that indicted Modi and also the 2007 Tehelka sting tapes, which documented confessions by Sangh Parivar activists such as Babu Bajrangi who was llater convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, and who detailed the massacre and Modi’s role in facilitating it.
8. I've already linked to the Tehelka sting tapes earlier - but here's one brief piece from Babu Bajrangi himself: "Narendrabhai kept me at Gujarat Bhavan at Mount Abu for four and- a-half months… After that, [I did] whatever Narendrabhai told me to"
9. The SIT claimed there was a lack of evidence. This was weirdly upheld by a low-level Magistrate Court in Gujarat where Magistrate Ganatra’s astounding logic was that things such as "genocide and ethnic cleansing don't have relevance to Gujarat because the terms are of foreign Latin and Greek origin." In other words, Gujaratis cannot commit genocide because genocide is derived from a Latin term! Wonder if Ganatra would use the same logic to absolve Ghaznavi of his massacre because, hey, "genocide and ethnic cleansing are Latin, not Arabic terms".
10. The Supreme Court itself referred to Modi and his government as ‘modern-day Neros.’ Nero, if you recall, played the fiddle while watching his citizens burn in Rome in a fire he instigated. Furthermore, the Supreme Court transferred some 2002 riot cases out of Gujarat because it did not believe that a fair trial could happen under the Modi government. And this is the fabled Gujarat governance model we should follow in the rest of India?
11. The Best Bakery case, part of the 2002 riots, had initially been tried in Gujarat courts. All the accused were acquitted after witnesses received death threats and/or bribes and suddenly turned hostile. The Supreme Court then ordered a re-trial of the case in Maharashtra, saying it had no confidence in the Modi government. The case, now free of Modi’s influence, now resulted in nine convictions as well as successful charges of perjury against hostile witnesses who were caught on tape admitting that they had been threatened by BJP officials into giving false testimony in court.
These are facts. Again, some you you may see this as a 'clean chit. I personally see it as a very dirty chit indeed.

Mr. Modi  and the BJP have said that 2002 was in the past and lets move on. Every time this is referred to, Mr. Modi clams up and his supporters roll their eyes. But it was a master-stroke from Modi. As one of the people in the video says, they have truly had 'peace' for the last 10 years. And the now clean, Mr. Development Modi has risen to be at the portals of 7, Race Course Road. I thought I should post this, lest we forget....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An apology - No offense meant!

I seem to have unwittingly stirred a hornets nest with my post on Mr. Narendra Modi. I must say, I meant no offense to anyone. I was just stating some facts. Mr. Modi himself himself has no problems being compared to Hitler I am sure. After all, Hitler is one of the heroes of the RSS, his parent body whose fascist roots and ideologies are soon going to be running this country. Moreover, I recently heard an interview where the head of one of the PR companies running Modi's campaign was asked by Barkha Dutt about this comparison of Modi to Hitler. This gentleman (whose name I forget) said that was a good thing - Hitler was a strong leader and hence invoked strong responses. India needs a strong leader like Modi and if a few people have strong responses against him, then so be it! So my comparing Mr. Modi to Hitler is, I guess, to be taken as a compliment! After all, the people of Germany overwhelmingly voted him into power. History may never forgive them, but maybe it will forgive us, as we welcome Mr. Modi with wide open arms.

I also wish to add that for the first time in the history of this blog, I have had to screen posts. I guess this is because this is the first time since the days of Emergency, when it is dangerous to express one's opinion. The hate and retribution that Modi's followers have promised to all the rest of us has made even strong proponents of free speech like Nandita Das wary (again, something I heard in an interview). Come May 16th, I would not like to be deported to Pakistan as has been threatened by many! Fortunately, no one has called me a 'kali Bengali' and threatened to kill my child as they did Ms. Das.

But I am sure Modi is a great man who can take the private opinions of some of his subjects publicly expressed, even if they are against him. After all, the gliteratti of our society, the money of the big businesses, the minds of the young IT generation and the nationalistic fervour of our majority community are behind him. (Just like they were behind Hitler!). I somehow feel that a lot more is there to be said about Mr. Modi, and I hope I am able to do so safely. For the time being let me close with a series of comments from the Facebook page of a friend of mine which encapsulate exactly why Modi would be so dangerous for this country. Remember, this is a well-educated, fine, upstanding member of society who I would never have expected to espouse these views. Mr. Modi has been so successful in his polarising politics that this gentleman (and possibly many others) have been brainwashed sufficiently enough to believe that India is for Hindus and if I don't like Modi, I need to go to Pakistan!! What is more, the anger and hate that Mr. Modi is able to drum up even in his most educated of supporters leads me to wonder if Gujarat 2002 may be a harbinger of things to come. Is this what we are heading for? May God have mercy on us.... I have edited out the names to protect privacy.

M shared NDTV's photo.
Warning: To all the Critics
No place in India for Narendra Modi critics, they will have to move to Pakistan: BJP leader http://bit.ly/1jig0Fn
Like ·  · 
  • SK Ohh..
  • Arpit Mathew Hope you are doing good. Regarding this post, don't you think it is a hugely divisive statement? Do you really think that as a critic of Modi I need to be sent to Pakistan?
    1 hr · Like
  • M Modi haters are anti nationalist
  • SK To be a true patriotic indian i need to support modi and to fear these morons
  • SK That's wat u mean here??
  • M  Answer this,Can u be anti Islamic in gulf?
  • M  India is for hindus

  • Arpit Mathew Good to know what you feel. It is always better to be open and frank rather than be pseudo-secularist. So now my question is what should I do - I am not a Hindu, but I love my country as much as you do and would willingly lay down my life for her. And as of now, the Constitution states that India is for everyone, not just Hindus. What is the next step?

The conversation has stopped, as of this posting.........

P.S. - If you have not heard this speech by the BJP candidate Mr. Giriraj (where he threatened to send all Modi critics to Pakistan), then you should. This is very similar to things that Mr. Modi himself was saying some years ago, but now he realises that the the development plank is a much safer one that will allow him to fulfil his agenda anyway - so, that's what we hear from him. But I will only be convinced when I hear an honest account of and apology for 2002. Sorry.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcoming Narendra Modi, India's very own Hitler


In 1889, a monster named Adolf Hitler was born. He was to be the future leader (and destroyer) of Germany. In 1950, a gentleman named Mr. Narendra Modi was born. It looks like he is going to be the future leader of India.

Hitler was an average to poor student. So was Mr. Modi.(1) Hitler showed interest in art and attempted to become a painter. Mr. Modi was keenly interested in theatre and debating.

Initially, Hitler was an active member of the church choir and even considered becoming a priest. Mr. Modi was an active RSpracharak for many years before he entered politics.

Hitler created a public image as a celibate man without a domestic life, dedicated entirely to his political mission and the nation (Wikipedia direct quote). So has Mr. Modi.

In reality, Hitler had a mistress who he married at the end of his life. In reality, Mr. Modi also has a wife who he conveniently forgot until he was reminded of her recently.

Hitler was a poor man who rose rapidly solely based on his ability to deliver vitriolic, rhetoric based speeches. Mr. Modi boasts of his tea-stall roots and specialises in vitriol and rhetoric which The Hindu kindly records every day in case we were to forget it.

Hitler accused all those around him of being corrupt while claiming to be honest. The vast wealth, power and property that he and the other Nazi leaders accumulated later proved these claims to be false. Modi also claims to be above corruption. But as I read somewhere, Modi has been successful in curbing corruption by being so ruthless that no corruption can happen without his knowledge and go-ahead.

Hitler's main plank was development and national pride to a nation tired of the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. Mr. Modi's main plank is development and communal pride to a community tired of giving widespread concessions to the minorities.

Hitler advised racial purification by any means. He then proceeded to do so at the cost of 6 million Jews. Mr. Modi no longer risks speaking his mind in public. However, his open hatred of Muslims has been well recorded (2) and his attempt at religious purification cost around 2000 lives in 2002 and displaced more than 100,000 (figures disputed).

I could go on and on, but will anyone hear? The number of respected people who have warned us against this man have gone unheard. From Amartya Sen to Atal Behari Vajpayee, Modi's detractors have been shouted down. And honest people on the internet face attack for speaking the truth about him (as happened to a friend of mine whose computer was hacked and taken apart). Dictator is not an innovative word to apply to Modi. Thousands more have used it all over the internet to no avail.

And as Gujarat is trumped up to be the model of development, it is conveniently forgotten that this development is only for the rich Adanis and Anbanis. The India State Hunger Index ranked Gujarat 5th worst with 23% of people under-nourished, 44.7% of children below 5 underweight, the state is ranked 21st in education and whose hunger situation is classified as 'alarming'. The whole plank of the Modi campaign is based on baseless rhetoric and the unavailability of a louder voice than his.

And lets not forget what he has done to his own leaders. From the ousting and ostracizing of his mentor, Keshubbhai Patel to the recent humiliation of LK Advani, Mr,. Modi has sidelined every single BJP leader until he is now the whole face of the party. His humiliating attitude to the so-called 'shehzade' is just an indication of the extreme arrogance that defines his persona. Mr. Modi, ala Hitler is playing like a skilled virtuoso on the consciousness of our nation. And he has lulled us into the belief that he is the only hope for our nation making us forget what he actually is at heart.

So Mr Modi, let me welcome you with a heavy heart to the gaddi of leadership of our country that has housed many great men and women. May you live up to the expectations that a nation places on you. May you truly repent of your sins and lead this nation to equality and freedom. Given your history, that seems unlikely. But then, I really hope that history does not repeat itself. And 6 million Jews and 2000 Gujaratis have not died in vain.

1. Jose, Vinod K. (1 March 2012). "The Emperor Uncrowned"The Caravan. pp. 2–4.
2. Brasted, Howard V. (2005). Lahoud, Nelly; Johns, A. H., eds. Islam in World Politics. Routledge. p. 119.ISBN 978-0415324113. "the successful anti-Muslim campaign run in Gujarat in December 2002 by its provincial chief minister Narendra Modi – a hardline Hindu nationalist preacher turned politician – has ominous implications."