Blog on a break

Folks, I’ll be traveling around the Kozhikode/Kannur region today through Sunday; mostly to renew contacts with local people of all political persuasions I had lost touch with, and to make new contacts. The area is a tinderbox (has been for a long time) and I think developments there are important enough that it is necessary to stay informed, hence. Blog, therefore, on a break till I get back; will resume updates from Monday. Be well, all.

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The BJP distances itself

Yesterday I learned that the BJP has distanced itself from Sangeet Som’s remarks on the Taj Mahal. That is nice. Firm and decisive. Just like always.

Back in May 2015, a row erupted when Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi commented that those who want to eat beef should go to Pakistan or some Arab country. Kiren Rijiju, his Cabinet colleague, said no restrictions can be placed on what you eat.

Party president Amit Shah distanced the BJP from both views — which begs the question somewhat: What then is the BJP’s official position on beef if it is distanced equally from “can eat” and “cannot eat”? That it is okay to chew but not swallow, in emulation of Bill Clinton’s ‘I did not inhale’ formulation on smoking dope?

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Fighting corruption by embracing it

#1. The 1995 winter session of Parliament was among the least productive on record (constant disruptions resulted in only 36% of the total time being productive, according to Parliamentary records).

The constant stoppage of play was led by the BJP, which was protesting the continued presence in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet of Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, against whom charges of taking a bribe and favoring HTL in the awarding of cable supply contracts had begun to surface.

The BJP kept the pressure up — until, in 1997, he broke from the Congress and founded the Himachal Vikas Congress — at which point the BJP sought and obtained his support for the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh. Ram joined the government — and was persuaded to quit in March 1998 when charges were finally framed against him. The story of how he finally relented is a classic case study of realpolitik.

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WTFJH: The October 14 weekend edition

#1. It takes just one news story to meet, and exceed, the weekend’s whatthefuckery quotient:

Over two years after Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death on suspicion of consuming beef, the accused in the case, all of whom are out on bail, may soon secure jobs.

Moreover, the family of Ravin Sisodia, one of the murder accused who had died in jail of multiple organ failure, is soon likely to get Rs 8 lakh compensation.

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WTFJH: The October 13 edition

#1. Here is a news story:

On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.

Alimuddin was lynched on 29 June. Jaleel was the first person to alert the residents of Manua village, where he and Alimuddin lived, of the murder. According to the Jharkhand police, Alimuddin died after being beaten by the members of the Gau Raksha Dal—a local cow-protection group—and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The members of the extremist Hindu groups had attacked Alimuddin in the middle of Bazar Tand, a market in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his tempo.

And thus witnesses in cases involving the RSS, the BJP and its feeder groups keep dying. All purely coincidental.

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On Modi, the Mahabharata, and hubris

The man and the mask

Image courtesy Tehelka

(This is a mildly edited version of a BuzzFeed column published on October 11.)

“Just landed in Delhi,” a Bollywood starlet tweeted on May 26, 1914, “and even the air feels cleaner. #AccheDin”

The crowds that thronged Delhi to celebrate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in breathed that purified air through Modi masks that had, during the election cycle, been elevated to a fashion statement. And in response to Modi’s triumphant speech, they responded to his call of ‘Achche Din’ with chants of ‘aa gaye’ in a symphonic chorus of sycophantic adoration. 

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On parsing stories

One of the conversations on the sidelines of a recent interaction with college students in Chennai was about reporting, and how to filter out the noise and focus on the facts when reading a news story. You can demonstrate the point with almost any story from the mainstream press; here is a benign instance relating to the just completed Nanded municipal elections:

In a significant morale-booster ahead of the crucial assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress Thursday swept the municipal polls in Maharashtra’s Nanded, defeating the ruling BJP in a keenly contested battle. While the Congress has been in power in the civic body for nearly two decades now, and Nanded had remained loyal to the Congress even during the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the shot in the arm for the party came from the magnitude of Thursday’s win.

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