#1. In Uttar Pradesh, the always-innovative Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — who, last month, came up with the Kamadhenu model to kickstart the state’s economy — has solved the problem of backlog in the state courts. His government will soon withdraw nearly 20,000 cases against politicians.
The move is aimed at reducing the pendency of cases. Yogi said that the police usually registers petty cases against people’s representatives staging dharna or protesting on some issue. “These cases should be closed.”
Sounds reasonable on the face of it — until you consider that Section 107, under which these cases are filed, relates to breach of peace and public tranquility, and to actions that can occasion such breaches. Keep an eye on this to see exactly which cases, against which politicians, are summarily dismissed — the list, if the government chooses to make it public, will be illuminative.
Meanwhile in Assam, this:
A day after the Gauhati High Court on Thursday quashed the detention order against anti-corruption campaigner Akhil Gogoi, a team of the Goalpara Police arrived in Dibrugarh to re-arrest him. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader has been lodged in Dibrugarh Jail since his arrest on charges of sedition in September.
Gogoi – a vocal critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Assam government – is currently in detention under the National Security Act. He was scheduled to be released on Saturday as per the Gauhati High Court order, which was issued on Friday afternoon. He has been leading an agitation against the way the government has been handling the farming crisis in Assam. He has also been fighting against the dams being built, the land mafia and corruption in public life.
So what is he being rearrested for? A case relating to “the defacement of a college”, apparently. Read the story — it is as good an example as any of the way our institutions are being systematically debased, subverted to serve the ends of the political masters.
#2. The next major state election will be in Karnataka; this post from earlier in the week had touched on some of the emerging issues. Here is more: UP CM Yogi Adityanath ramped up the BJP campaign when, in a speech in Hubbali, he asked voters to chose between the worshippers of Hanuman and those of Tipu Sultan.
My friend Amit Varma is fond of quoting Andrew Breitbart, who said that politics lives downstream of culture — the point being, to win the politics of a place, you first have to understand and win the culture. Adityanath, here, displays his cluelessness of the state’s ethos: Tipu Sultan is not an issue that is likely to gain any traction as a poll issue. Note, for instance, that less than a fortnight before Adityanath’s speech, state BJP MLAs were participating in Tipu Jayanti celebrations.
More to the point, keep this — and the earlier examples — in mind as the poll campaign heats up. Because sooner than later, you will hear the BJP brass, beginning with Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, say two things: 1. That the BJP agenda is development and 2. That it is the Opposition, particularly the Congress, that has vitiated the atmosphere by dragging in communalism. This is the peculiar genius of the BJP, that it is able to speak out of both sides of its mouth at once; to play instigator and victim simultaneously, without being called out on its bait and switch.
#3. From the world of gods and godmen, this:
A team of senior officials in Delhi, including Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal, last evening, rescued as many as 40 girls from an ashram in the national capital’s Rohini area, news agency ANI reported today.
The Rohini ashram is run by a self-styled godman called Virendra Dev Dikshit, a ‘baba’ believed to be obsessed with the idea of having 16,000 women with him.
Why 16,000? Because, according to some beliefs, that is the number of wives that lord Krishna had.
See what happens when you take myth literally? Or at least, profess for your own ends to believe that myth is actually history?
#4. Speaking of, the Central Board of Film Censors has invited the royal family of Mewar to be part of a panel that will help determine whether Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is kosher. What comment could you possibly make? (One person on Twitter remarked that at this rate, a group of physicists should be roped in to help certify the next Rohit Shetty film). But then again, why be surprised? As constitutional lawyer Gautam Bhatia points out, it wasn’t all that long ago that a high court appointed a panel of lawyers to vet the Akshay Kumar-starrer Jolly LLB2. This is what happens when our institutions bend before every interest group with a “hurt sentiment” and a few stones to express their hurt with.
#5. Parliament is in session, sort of. And as always, there are little gems that slip under the radar. As for instance, this: Responding to a question on the nature and extent of ISIS penetration in India and the steps taken to counter the threat, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir in a written response said:
As per available information, very few individuals have come to the notice of the Central and State Security Agencies who have joined the ISIS (Um — while reading that line, please note the minister is not suggesting that very few central and state agencies have joined the ISIS.) However, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and State Security Agencies registered cases against ISIS cadres/sympathizers and arrested 103 accused in these cases (Uttar Pradesh 17, Maharashtra 16, Telengana 16, Kerala 14, Karnataka 8, Madhya Pradesh 6, Tamil Nadu 5, West Bengal 5, Uttarakhand 4, Rajasthan 4, Gujarat 4, Bihar 2, Delhi 1, Jammu and Kashmir 1.
Which factoid jumps out at you? That UP tops the list and not Kerala, as the Central government would have you believe, or that J&K contributes just one to the kitty? (When I pointed this out on Twitter, a kind gentleman schooled me by drawing my attention to the ‘fact’ that the population of UP is far greater than that of Kerala. That is how I learnt that there is a quota system to this based on population.
Also from the ongoing Parliament session, I came across this statement by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Cyclone Ockhi. The Indian Meterological Department had earlier claimed that the state government had ignored Central government had earlier said that Kerala had ignored its warnings of the imminence of the cyclone. Rajnath Singh, now, says this:
Responding to questions raised by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor about why an advance warning could not be issued to Kerala, which faced the highest collateral damage, Singh said, “Because this was a rare cyclone, therefore, its information could not be given in advance…The doppler radars were operational in Kochi and Trivandrum and they issued a warning about the cyclone on November 30.”
Yes, well, the cyclone hit the Kerala coast on November 30 — not much point issuing a warning on that day, when any native could tell what the weather was just by looking out the window.
Here’s the thing that jumps out at you about that discussion, though:
Responding to demands from the opposition benches that the government declare Cyclone Ockhi a national calamity and provide relief and rehabilitation accordingly, Singh told Lok Sabha on Friday that Ockhi, even though it was “rare” and “serious”, could not be declared a “national calamity” due to the laid-down protocol. He further affirmed that the government is treating it as a disaster of a severe nature.
Really? This is what we do in Parliament during a discussion on a natural calamity that caused widespread death and devastation — split semantic hairs?
#6. In a mildly amusing development, the Maharashtra government is considering providing “freedom fighter” status to all those jailed during the Emergency. Which, as someone pointed out on Twitter, is just about the only way the RSS/BJP combine can get some “freedom fighters” in its ranks. (In passing, I along with about two dozen other students of Malabar Christian College was jailed for some 48 hours for creating an anti-Congress ruckus in course of the college elections of that year. I wonder if I will qualify, and if yes, what benefits will accrue — a flat in Adarsh, maybe?)
#7. This happened in Ghaziabad, in connection with a wedding:
They had met five years ago. The boy, a Muslim, is 30, an MBA who lives in Noida. The girl, a Hindu, is 28, a doctor of psychology. Both work in MNCs. On Friday morning, the two got married at a Ghaziabad court under the Special Marriage Act. On Friday, a reception was planned at the girl’s house. But right-wing fanatics had other ideas.
By 12 noon, right-wing activists, led by BJP Ghaziabad city president Ajay Sharma, descended on the reception venue at Raj Nagar, calling this a “love jihad”. He was joined by Bajrang Dal, Hindu Raksha Dal and Dharam Jagran Manch men. For over five hours they created a ruckus, leading to a police lathicharge.
The story points out that the families of the couple have known each other for years; the marriage was with the full consent of both parties (and took place, note, in a court). And yet, apparently, the couple and their families missed out on one crucial element (emphasis mine):
BJP’s Ajay Sharma alleged that the families had not taken “permission” to hold the marriage and it was a case of forced conversion. He said he did not know much about the families. Bajrang Dal Meerut province convenor Balraj Dungar said this was “a case of love jihad”. “We will not tolerate this at any cost. We will see how long they hide behind the police,” he said.
With no apologies for the language, who the fuck is Ajay Sharma when he is at home, and why does anyone need his “permission” to lead their lives as they please? More to the point, why is he, and his colleagues in arms, not in jail? But I forget — this is UP, where as I pointed out earlier, the CM eases the load on courts by erasing, with one stroke of the pen, 20,000 cases relating to creating public disturbances.
Even in the evening, the area was tense, with scores of policemen, including SP (City) Akash Tomar and SHOs from several police stations, standing guard outside the house.
#8. The narratives pushed by our two leading English channels on the day after the 2G verdict is instructive: One was focussed on the rehabilitation of the beleaguered Vinod Rai (note the inclusive hashtag #IndiaBacks…); the other shifted the narrative to the next ‘scam’.
So what actually happened with Robert Vadra? The Enforcement Directorate has arrested two people, supposedly linked to Vadra, in connection with a land scam. That is your ‘Unmissable Super PrimeTime’.
What merits notice? This story, quoting the original Vadra whistleblower Ashok Khemka:
While speaking to Times Now’s Vishal Monga, Senior Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Ashok Khemka said that the state government had “done nothing” in the matter till now.
When Khemka was told about local BJP politicians claiming that a CBI case had been filed in the case, the whistleblower replied, “The BJP is spreading falsehoods”.
“They took a long time, at least six to seven months, to constitute the Dhingra commission. They constituted the commission after my report was submitted as reply to the charge-sheet. That report has been buried,” Khemka further said.
In fact, an official from the Chief Minister’s Office in Haryana also confirmed to Times Now that there had been no development in the Vadra case as all matters related to the Vadra land deal were in “cold storage”.
How many more examples do we need to realize that “corruption” is merely a handy trope to be pulled out for electioneering purposes, and that no one irrespective of political affiliation is really serious in pursuing any of the charges so frequently thrown around?
Okay, enough gloom. ‘Tis the season to be merry, or so the not-particularly-tuneful carollers assured me late last night. (Note that unlike in Madhya Pradesh, no carollers were harmed in this blogpost, their atonal efforts notwithstanding).
So, be merry. Enjoy the festivities, the holidays. I’ll spare you further outpourings of angst, at least until Monday.
Merry Christmas, all.