Earlier today there was a hearing at the Tis Hazari court in Delhi, where Judge Kamini Lau sat on a petition reviewing the conditions under which Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad had been given bail on January 15. Below, a clip from the proceedings:
The above is a sample; the hearing itself, as reflected in live updates by the LiveLaw Twitter account (here is the full thread), is surreal. Basically, the police had no grounds to arrest him; the state has no case to make against him; but despite that, the police, the state, want him kept in jail (the PP was making a plea for revoking the bail, remember) or at the least, kept out of Delhi and not allowed to engage in any political activity there for the duration of the polls.
Think about that for a moment. About a state that incarcerates a citizen without due cause, simply because it does not suit the ruling dispensation to have a hugely followed leader taking part in an election campaign. As Judge Law points out during the hearing, the only thing Azad did that the police can prove is that he arrived at a public meeting and held up a copy of the Constitution.
Judge Lau has relaxed the original bail conditions, and permitted Azad to visit, to stay in, Delhi whenever he wants and for whatever purpose; the only proviso being that the DCP is kept informed. And sadly, that is the one silver lining in the dark clouds overhead — it is all downhill from here.
Another day, another BJP bigot. “You are deshdrohis,” says BJP’s Karnataka MLA Renukacharya. “You sit in mosques and issue fatwas. You don’t pray but collect weapons inside mosques. Is this why you need mosques?”
Read that in tandem with the news that mosques in the Hassan area of Karnataka have been receiving threatening letters questioning their loyalty and asking them to convert to Hinduism.
Idiots being idiots, right? No point getting fussed? A few days earlier, Karnataka BJP MLA Arvind Limbavalli tweeted a video of shantytowns in North Bengaluru that, he claimed, harboured thousands of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Just another example of the nonsense that, thanks to social media, BJP lawmakers and their amplifiers spread in order to keep the base happy. Only, there are consequences. On January 20, the BBMP razed the settlements to the ground, leaving thousands homeless.
“Bangladeshis have set up sheds next to Mantri Espa Apartment in Kariyammana Agrahara and other places in Bellandur ward. They have converted these areas into slums. This office received oral complaints that this has vitiated the environment. There is a need to evacuate the residents of the sheds. To ensure no untoward incident takes place, we are requesting police protection,” the assistant executive engineer of Marathahalli Subdivision wrote to the police inspector of Marathahalli station.”
Read that carefully. An assistant executive engineer — which is about as low as you can get on the hierarchical chart — writes to the police. He asserts that Bangladeshis have set up sheds. He asserts that the residents need to be evacuated. And all this is on the basis of oral complaints — of which, of course, there is no record.
The BBMP Commissioner B H Anil Kumar had no clue; on being made aware of the damage — after the demolition was complete — he says the demolition was unauthorised, and action will be taken against the engineer responsible.
What action? Suspension? Dismissal? How does any of that make up for the sufferings of the people who, already eking out a living on the extreme edge of poverty, have had their shelters, their belongings, destroyed? And while on that, who will question the role of the police? What action will anyone take against the MLA whose allegation started all this?
Because, see, it appears that I can give an “oral complaint” to a junior engineer in a municipal corporation that residents, say you for example, adjoining my land are illegal, and you will find your dwelling razed while you watch. Can’t happen to us, right? Because we are privileged; we live in housing societies…? Says who? What guarantee does anyone have any more?
And to add a sorry coda to a sordid story: Those evicted are Indian citizens with proper identification, and have nothing to do with Bangladesh.
Which brings us to Uttar Pradesh and its police force. Which, having arrested over 1000 protestors in the wake of the ongoing anti-CAA protests, is now struggling to make those arrests stand up in court. Across UP, while granting bail to some of those arrested, judges have said the photos the police submitted in evidence show no evidence of culpability, that the police have not been able to produce the videos they claimed they had.
And now the same police, which is unable to justify charges filed against protestors earlier, have charged the women, who have mounted a Shaheen Bagh-style protest at Lucknow’s Ghanta Ghar, with – wait for it – rioting. (A story on the protest itself, here)
I don’t get why it is not possible to file cases against the police on the grounds of wrongful arrest (and defamation of character, come to think of it. You call me a rioter, then go into court and say oops, and that is it — there are no consequences? No recompense for those people who were put in jail on false charges — and even now, are merely out on bail, with their cases yet to be finally decided?
Still sticking with UP, Scroll’s ace reporter Supriya Sharma (who you really should be following) has a story on the ‘friends of UP Police’ – which is the Ajay Singh Bisht-ruled state’s backdoor entry for thugs into the police ranks.
Basically, you join the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the thuggish private army founded by Bisht back in 2002 and which, since then, has earned itself an unsavoury reputation even by UP standards for general mayhem. This in turn gets you accreditation as a ‘police mitr’. And this allows you to beat up peaceful protestors under the guise of helping the police.
Thuggery is, today, the shortest and most direct route to political prominence. Bisht rode the muscle of the HYV to power; now we hear that Tejinder Bagga, who once openly admitted to assaulting a senior Supreme Court lawyer in his chambers, has been given a ticket to contest the Delhi elections. Modi likes him – but then he would, wouldn’t he?
To round off this look at false cases, remember JNU? Where, in response to state-backed violence by ABVP thugs and outsiders on January 5, the police filed cases against JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh and others for vandalism on January 1?
What vandalism? An RTI inquiry reveals there was none. It also shows that the Vice Chancellor, and the police, have lied about a whole lot of things.
Enough bad news, now for some worse news: The International Monetary Fund, which had earlier revised India’s growth rate to 4.8%, has revised downwards its estimate of global growth, and said “the growth markdown largely reflects a downward revision to India’s projection, where domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in the nonbank financial sector and a decline in credit growth.”
Which is to say, the IMF has said India’s economic slowdown is so bad, it is dragging the rest of the world down with it. (In a face, meet palm outcome, Modi cheerleaders on social media are arguing that this shows India’s importance in the world.)
It’s worth noting – and mentioning, since “What does IMF know?” is the tenor of the pushback – that the IMF makes its projections based on data it receives from the governments themselves. In other words, it is GoI data that is showing the Indian economy in such a parlous state as to drag down the world economy with it.
Apropos, there’s a budget coming up. And India’s best option, given the intensifying economic slowdown, is to quit worrying about the fiscal deficit and focus on pushing growth. Only, it can’t – because the GoI has been cooking the books; its real fiscal deficit is much higher than its projections, and it really has little or no room to push the envelope on stimulus at the expense of deficit. Nikita Kwatra of Livemint lays out the problem:.
As India’s economic slowdown has intensified, so has the debate on whether the government should stick to fiscal consolidation or run a higher deficit to push growth in the upcoming budget, due on 1 February.
However, data on revenue available so far suggests that the government has very little fiscal space for any significant growth stimulus. If the government’s off-budget liabilities (or withheld payments) are taken into account, the central government’s real fiscal deficit could end up being as high as 5.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year, a Mint analysis of public accounts suggests.
Elsewhere, the World Economic Forum has placed India at a low 76th, out of 82 countries, on its Social Mobility Index.
Measuring countries across five key dimensions distributed over 10 pillars health; education (access, quality and equity); technology; work (opportunities, wages, conditions); and protections and institutions (social protection and inclusive institutions) shows that fair wages, social protection and lifelong learning are the biggest drags on social mobility globally.
Basically, you need upward social mobility to ensure continuing economic growth. And judged by that yardstick, India ranks, you know…
The Indian Railways announced that various items of Keralite cuisine would be taken off the menu on long-distance trains running through the state, and would be replaced with various north Indian foods. None of the replacement food items are popular with Malayalis; the only foreseeable outcome of the move would have been that travellers would buy their preferred food outside and carry it onto the train with them — thus depriving the Railways in that sector of revenues it would otherwise earn. And then, last evening, the IRCTC announced that the food items would be restored.
In context of all that is going on, this might seem like a little enough thing; just a Mallu fussing because he can’t have his pazham pori and porotta. But think about it for a moment: there is a whole bloated bureaucracy out there making up these stupid rules, and printing them up and distributing them, and then in the face of the inevitable outcry walking the original decision back, reverting to the status quo ante, printing that up, distributing…
What was that Modi promise of 2014 again? “Less government, more governance”? Here it is, in action.
Now for some odds and ends:
- In response to an RTI request, the Ministry of Home Affairs says it has no information about any “tukde tukde gang”. And yet the Home Minister of the country alleges that aforesaid “gang” is responsible for violence in Delhi and should be “punished”; that the Congress is leading this gang; that Arvind Kejriwal is shielding this “gang”; that somehow Akhilesh Yadav is responsible… The Home Minister of the country. Who swore an oath on the Constitution to protect the Constitution and to abide by the rule of law. Who is directly responsible for internal peace and security. Gaslighting in the name of a fictitious “gang” and calling for “punishment” — in other words, both justifying and enabling the violence unleashed by police in various parts of the country. How do you sink lower than this?
- The Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, has come out in support of the ‘deradicalisation camps’ mooted earlier by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in course of his Raisina Dialogues speech. The trial balloon Rawat floated is now starting to really soar.
- Former Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar points out that India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy – a pillar of Narendra Modi’s foreign policy – is crumbling, in context of recent anti-CAA statements by both Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh.
- Jakob Lidenthal, the German exchange student who was expelled from the country for taking part in one of the early anti-CAA protests, talks at length on his interactions with Indian authorities, and his view on the injustice of it all.
- In Bangalore, the Azadi slogan has been transcreated in Kannada, and sounds just as compelling as the Hindi version. Listen.
- Farah Farooqi, writing for Caravan magazine, places the Shaheen Bagh protests in context of the locality. Worth reading to get a sense of the place, and the people, and to understand the source of the power that has enabled them, in defiance of the state, to keep this protest going for well over a month now.
On the last day of February 1976 P Rajan, a student of what was then Regional Engineering College, Calicut, was participating in an inter-collegiate cultural festival. That year, REC won second prize in the drama competition, which traditionally brings the three-day event to a close; we — the Malabar Christian College group of which I was a part — won the first prize.
We celebrated hard, that night. And in the early hours of March 1, we hitched a ride on the REC college bus, which dropped us off in front of our college. Rajan and the rest of the REC boys continued on to their college — and he had barely entered his hostel room when police picked him up, on the suspicion that he was complicit in a Naxal attack on a police station.
He was tortured by the police; he died under the prolonged torture; his body has never been recovered. His father, Eechara Warrier, went from pillar to post to receive news of his son; the story of that search was turned into a national award-winning movie by cinematographer/director Shaji Karun. (You can see the movie in full here).
The news that Rajan had been killed was what turned me — and hundreds of young students like me — into hardcore, driven political activists who worked unremittingly towards the single goal of ending Congress rule. In North India, the anti-Congress movement had big-name leaders: Jayaprakash Narayan was the totem; the likes of AB Vajpayee, LK Advani, George Fernandes etc were the stars who drew crowds in their thousands and around whom the anti-Congress sentiment coalesced.
Kerala did not have any such big names, we did not have star politicians to pull the resistance together. But we had the students — the story of Rajan, which spread out from Calicut to the rest of the state, was the fuel that kept the fires of resistance burning white-hot; students who went door to door campaigning, and turned the crowds out when the political stars from up North came visiting…
Ningal enne Communist aaki — You Made me a Communist — is a movie written and directed by Thoppil Bhasi, based on his play of the same name, and it shows how the quotidian injustices of agrarian life turns a regular guy into a violent, hardcore communist. Ningal enne political aaki, you made me political, would be the name for a story on a generation, my generation, of young Keralite students who walked out of their classrooms and out onto the streets.
I was reminded of all this while reading Annie Zaidi’s lovely, topical essay on how she first developed political inclinations. You should read it.
And, if you feel up to it, head to the comments section and tell me this: What, if any, was the trigger that first turned you political?