Reading list

#1. A million mutinies are about to erupt now, says Swarajya. And concludes its exhaustive catalog of flashpoints — all valid, and worth a read – with some advice for the prime minister. The coda:

By the end of his term, Modi will learn that the fiscal deficit or jihadi terror are not his worst nightmares. Indian society is in churn, and this needs leadership of the highest order at every level. Modi needs to ride this wave, not try to duck it. Or else he could become a mere footnote in history – like his predecessor.

#2. From Haryana, this report. Which again confirms something that is sick and ugly about contemporary society — to wit, that you can wrap yourself up in a flag, or a cause, or both, and indulge your most perverse desires to your heart’s content. And, corollary, that in such situations the police will side more often with the perpetrators than with the victims:

Sources said commuters going towards the National Capital Region (NCR) were attacked by 30-odd goons. Their vehicles set afire, most ran for shelter. Some women could not flee. They were pulled out, stripped and raped. Terrified, they lay still in the fields till they were found by their menfolk who came looking for them. Shocked, residents of Hassanpur and Kurad rushed to bring clothes and blankets for the victims.

“Three women were taken to Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba and united with their families in the presence of senior police officers. They appeared lifeless. District officials who arrived there, instead of investigating the matter, persuaded the families to take the women home. Many were provided transport,” said an eyewitness, who did not want to be identified.

For more on this mindset, consider Vikram Chauhan’s response to the police when questioned about his acts of violence:

#3. At a time when journalism is not exactly covering itself in glory, Shalini Singh speaks out:

This malaise has been blamed on the corporatisation of media, cross ownership of media, market dominance, paid news, private treaties and so on. The fundamental reason, however, is a human one – the willingness of vast masses of people to submit to their darkest selves, a condition in which ugly self interest and monetary advancement becomes an absolute and unbending master.

#4. Former JNU VC YK Alagh writes about life on campus:

A visiting Japanese scholar from Nagoya University had described the hostels in JNU as some of the most democratic societies anywhere. Every evening, out-of-the-box thinkers and leaders were invited to speak on problems and issues of the day: LK Advani on Opposition perspectives, comrade Vinod Mishra of the CPI (ML), and leaders, thinkers and alumni alike. The session would end only after ‘all the problems are solved’, which meant that the last question had to be answered before the meeting dispersed.

#5. Deeptiman Tiwary, in the Indian Express, examines the symbiotic relationship between the RSS and the ABVP, the student group that has in recent times been creating flashpoints in various universities. Inter alia, this bit:

“We will continue to agitate against anti-national activities on campus. Our next stop will be Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. It is an even bigger hub of Maoists than the JNU,” a senior ABVP leader said.

#6. A brief profile of Gyandev Ahuja, the condom-counting BJP legislator with a checkered past. News reports suggest that party president Amit Shah has summoned him to the presence. That might mean something. Or not. The last time Shah “summoned” foul-mouthed party people to give them a talking to, those at the receiving end seemed singularly unimpressed. That’s the problem — once you empower a lout, you can’t put him back in the bottle just because it suits you. Anyway — here’s Ahuja:

When interviewed by the BBC some time ago, he had boasted of his expertise on gau mata. A sample of his lessons: California is entirely electrified by cow dung fuel or bio-gas, cow milk contains traces of gold; and foreign experts say killing cows in India will “lead to volcanoes, earthquakes and drought”.

#7. Back to what passes for journalism these days, and a Dainik Jagran journalist calls for the rape of Kanhaiya and others in jail, then denies he said it, then defends the thought, then…

Speak on phone from Agra, Dikshit first said, “Have you read the post? Read it carefully?” Then claimed that he never wrote it. “Someone shared it on my wall but I have removed it.

Asked if he agreed with its contents, he said that lawyers beating up ‘anti-national’ elements in court may be illegal but it is justified given the anguish they have caused. On rape, however, he said he did not agree with the post.

Dikshit seems to have removed the post after it went viral on the internet, picked up with websites like Truth of Gujarat and Media Vigil.

#8. Dileep Simeon’s impassioned plea  for “a non-violent mass awakening”:

The situation will worsen, because the private army that controls the government is bent upon revising the foundational statutes of the Indian Republic. It also adheres to an ideology that justifies violence in the name of patriotism. Violent attacks, disruptions and dire threats by Hindutva-oriented vigilantes and legislators are occurring on a daily basis across India. The ruling party has shown itself to be no different from the Maoists whom it routinely condemns. But whereas the Maoists have proven incapable of capturing state power, the Hindutva ideologues believe they have done so. Let us see if the Indian public will endorse this belief.

This is serious enough to bear repeating: the Government of India is enabling, condoning and encouraging vigilante violence and hooliganism. Controlled mobs now operate under state protection.

#9. Meanwhile, to underline how strong the government is, the Gujarat BJP approaches Hardik Patel with a “compromise formula”:

After the meeting, Radadia said the government may withdraw cases registered against Patel leaders, including the sedition charge against Patel and others, if the deal is struck. The BJP MP also held meetings with Patel leaders in Surat in an attempt to iron out differences between the community and the state government, reported PTI.

So there you go. Compromise with Jats who loot, burn, kill, rape. Compromise with the Patels who threaten to cut into your constituency. Compromise with the PDP which had, and vociferously continues to, question the hanging of Afzal Guru. Talks with Pakistan even though Pampore followed Pathankot in short order. But a few students who may have been present when slogans were shouted? No compromise, no way, no sir.

#10. Nitin Pai argues that the left and right need to find middle ground.

The way to manage these tensions is not to give up one for the other, as the left and the right wing demand of us, but to insist on both. Individual liberty is mere theory unless the state protects it and makes it real. We saw this at the Patiala House courts where journalists were beaten up as the police refused to intervene. Nationalism without liberalism is a monster. We saw this when lawyers and a local Delhi politician brazenly resorted to violence in the name of nationalism.

More later. PS: To those who mailed (and to the persistent six who mailed, messaged, DM-ed AND WhatsApp-ed) asking whether I had “left Twitter” — not really. I have chosen, merely, to limit the time I spend there to scanning timelines, catching up with reading material, etc.

#11. As controversies pile one on another and the national fabric unravels, Subir Roy asks: Is Modi Sarkar fully in control?

Take the case of the Invest in India Week, which ended last Thursday at which the prime minister said “we will not resort to retrospective taxation” and for emphasis added, “I repeat this commitment.” Then on the penultimate day of the event Vodafone announced that it had received a renewed tax demand for Rs 14,200 crore, failure to pay which could lead to seizure of property.

This prompted Vodafone to remind observers it had happened “in a week when Prime Minister Modi is promoting a tax friendly environment for foreign investors – this seems a complete disconnect between the government and the tax department.” The letter to Vodafone, which went out on February 4, and the prime minister’s speech were probably being drafted at around the same time.

PS: To those who asked whether I have left Twitter, well, no, not really. I merely chose to limit my time there — and to use it only to scan timelines, find interesting reading material.

Twitter these days feels like a war zone. People appear to be in constant ambush, waiting for you to give them some opportunity to yell abuse. Consider this — I posted, on my blog, a few clips from a Frontline piece about the RSS gameplan, written by someone who today flies the RSS flag. A friend spots it and tweets it out. The first, immediate, response is this:

Debate, discussion, argument, even eventual disagreement — all of that is fine. But I am honestly tired of folks who, in the grand tradition of ‘Polly wants a peanut’, keep mouthing the same meaningless phrases over and over.

I can’t stop idiots being idiots. But I can at the very least not imbibe their venom. So I’ll stay put on this blog for the time being, where I can develop a thought in my own time, my way, and put it out there for you to read, to respond, or not. If you want to talk, you know where to find me.