Shashi Tharoor on nationalism

In the ongoing JNU lecture series, the latest is Shashi Tharoor. Here is his speech:

And before Tharoor, Kanhaiya Kumar spoke as the opening act:


Announcing: Gyandromeda

So here goes: Ramesh Srivats, a few beers, and cricket.

This one was opportunistic, impromptu, experimental. Next week on, we’ll do this right – and make it a lot more fun.

If you have questions you want us to answer on the next show, gets us.

And do sign up at — we have tons of real cool stuff coming up there in the coming weeks.



The news — and views — in briefs

#1. Read M Rajshekhar on the lucrative trade in Rajya Sabha seats:

According to the former Congress MP, the legislative arithmetic in these states creates a market for buying and selling Rajya Sabha seats. A third big party that has some seats but not enough to nominate its own members to the Rajya Sabha can capitalise on its numbers. This is likely, he says, if the small party has been out of power for long – and is cash-strapped.

#2. Boring, but very important: The BJP national executive that met in Delhi over the weekend passed a resolution that is worth reading in full, and remembering as the year ahead unfolds.

#4. Speaking at the executive meet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his partymen to avoid controversies. The reported statement seems along the lines of the established right wing narrative — that there is a vast left-wing machinery lying in wait for any excuse to play ambush politics. This neatly shifts the narrative from the acts themselves, to the motives of those who question various acts — but let that lie. I’m hoping Modi’s partymen were listening — and will respect his views. We could do with a lessening of the political temperature in this country.

#4. For Holi week, a brief history of bhang.

#5. The best thing to have come out of the JNU fracas is the teach-in program featuring academics and others speaking on nationalism and related subjects (Several of which have been posted on this blog earlier). Here, the announcement for the next series (Follow Stand With JNU for updates):


Disaster, foretold

The news:

A water vessel carrying 1,235 tonnes of coals has sunk in the Sundarbans’ Shela River after its bottom was ruptured.

So? So, this: it piles tragedy on tragedy in a fragile, precious ecosystem. For those interested:
In late 2014, photo-journalist Arati Kumar-Rao had pointed to the unhindered shipping in this protected site, and predicted disaster. In early 2015, she went back to the Sunderbans and filed a series of reports on a disaster that unfolded exactly as she had predicted. Read:
The story of a hazardous clean up, and a stunning cover up.
The story of a UN “study” that saw precisely what it was supposed to see: no evil.
Five months later the government — having learnt nothing from the disaster — decided to let ships ply along the Sela again.
There is much more of Arati Kumar-Rao’s coverage, which received wide international notice at the time, here: (Scroll down to the section titled Estuaries: The Endangered Sunderbans).
Update: 12.30 PM: Shipping along the Sela has been banned again. So the playbook is still in use: Ban as soon as disaster strikes, wait for the fuss to die down, then quietly revoke the ban and carry on as usual.


Due process: the sequel

In Madhya Pradesh, two young men were jailed for “hurting the sentiments of the Hindus” — to wit, sharing a morphed image of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. (Elsewhere, others manufacture and share morphed images and it is not they but the subjects of the faked videos that get arrested — but never mind that now).

Here’s the sequel: having arrested them under the provisions of a law the Supreme Court had struck down as “unconstitutional” a year ago, the police now have no idea what to do with them. (Emphasis mine)

“We don’t know how to proceed because we came to know later that the Section 66(A) was struck down by the SC. We have sent the case details to the district prosecution office,’’ in-charge of Kotwali Police Station Satish Singh Chouhan told The Indian Express Sunday.

We arrested him because local RSS cadres were angry about his post and came in large number to register a case,’’ said Chouhan.

That is what usually happens when the law bends to interest groups. You are supposed to arrest people if there is grounds to believe they broke the law — not because someone is pissed and flexes muscles.

But do they learn? Not a hope in hell. From the same report:

While the Sheopur police are still clueless, their counterparts in Anuppur have booked another Muslim youth under the same section of the IT Act for his Facebook comment against the RSS chief.

Update, via a friend on Facebook: Girish Shahane on why police in India are focussed more on maintaining order rather than upholding the law is worth your time.

That cost includes official backing given to conservative community leaders, and a tolerance for groups that break the law, stopping trains and blocking roads in protest, for instance. This tolerance nudges groups that might have preferred less intrusive forms of demonstration toward civil disobedience, for only the threat of the mob gains the attention and respect of the authorities.

Match fixing

This is just flat out funny — a cricket match between the UP CM’s XI and an IAS XI showcases everything that is wrong with government and its relationship with the bureaucracy. Watch the video — the expression on the face of the bureaucrat who bowls the CM is alone worth the price of admission.