WTF Just Happened: September 22 edition

Subramanian Swamy plays canary in the coal-mine in a recent interview,  where he said that the economy was heading for a “tailspin” and that the signs have been evident since May of last year when he first warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the possibility.

It is not a new message; economists have been warning of this possibility for over a year now, before demonetization, first, and then the hasty introduction of GST, struck further blows at the economy. Those warnings were deflected as coming from ‘anti-nationals’ and the ‘Lutyens media’ — criticisms that can hardly be leveled at Swamy, which is why it pays to listen to the interview in its entirety.

‘Tailspin’ is the leitmotif of an alarming number of stories/analysis in the media. A detailed Livemint analysis of the state of the economy has ‘tailspin’ right up there in the headline; the same paper details a UN Conference on Trade and Development report that warns of ‘serious downturn risks’. A recent State Bank of India report categorically refutes BJP president Amit Shah’s spin that the slowdown is for ‘technical reasons’. The Economic Times warns of a looming pension crisis; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has downgraded its forecast for the fiscal ’18.

Swamy makes the point that a series of planned remedial measures is urgently required if the trend is not to become irreversible. A series of news items from recent times indicates why:

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So hey, let’s talk about Kerala

Last night (Sunday, September 10) produced a remarkable display of histrionics by Arnab Goswami of Republic TV. In what was billed as a debate on whether the left or the right was more intolerant, Arnab focused his considerable energies on the ongoing cycle of political killings in Kerala. He referred to recent attacks that had led to the death of RSS workers, and segued into an attack on the “liberals”. Where was Sagarika (Ghose), where was Barkha (Dutt), where was Rana (Ayyub), he demanded.

He banged the table as he brought his peroration to a close. “Where were the Not In My Name people?”, he thundered as he flicked back an errant lock of hair.

It was an awe-inspiring performance that I watched with all the morbid fascination of a spectator at a train wreck.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is not given to such infantile histrionics. Speaking recently to the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, the minister was calm and reasonable as he condemned the killing and segued smoothly into an attack on “liberals”.

“Why is it that all my liberal friends who speak so eloquently and so strongly against the killing of a journalist, perfectly so entitled to, or even maoists and naxalites, maintain a conspicuous silence when so many RSS workers are killed in Karnataka or BJP workers in Kerala?” the minister asked.

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Deaths, foretold

News, now:

Two Muslim men herding eight buffaloes on their way to a local Friday market were bashed up and hanged to death from a tree by unknown assailants at Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from here, in the wee hours on Friday. The buffaloes were freed by the men and locals claimed the assailants were Hindu radicals.

The deceased Muhammad Majloom, 35, was a relative of Azad Khan alias Ibrahim who is around 15-years-old. The two had their hands tied together behind and their mouth was closed with a cloth. “The sight suggested that the two of them were subjected to extreme levels of brutality. It means that the assailants were moved by extreme hatred,” a police officer said.

In Jhabbar village of Balumath the sight of the hanging men engaged in cattle trade, sparked protests by locals. The protests turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when locals pelted stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it does not take communal turn.

This is what happens when you inflame passions for your own narrow political ends. When you indulge in the politics of cheap populism. When you play the “religious sentiment” card to disguise the fact that you have nothing of substance to hang your politics, your appeal, on.

This is what happens when you let the genie out of the bottle. People die.

Arrested over a rumour

Remember this news story I had linked to earlier in the day?:

Meanwhile, a tried and tested pattern manifests again. At a private university in Mewar, Rajasthan, “rumours are floated” that a few Kashmiri students are cooking and eating beef. A scuffle results. Assorted — and unnamed — “Hindu religious groups” arrive at the venue and raise slogans. Thankfully, the police manage to defuse this particular manufactured crisis.

It now turns out the four students involved — who were beaten up when the rumour first surfaced — have been arrested.

Police rushed to the site and arrested four students under Section 151 of CrPC (arrest to prevent commission of cognisable offences) on Tuesday.

Say what? They were arrested to prevent the commission of cognisable offences? Which would be what, exactly?The Station House Officer of the concerned police station says:

The Station House Officer of the concerned police station says:

“We also collected the sample of the meat, which prima facie does not appear to be beef. However, the samples have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for testing and the report is awaited.” he said.

Someone starts a rumour. The police says prima facie, there is no truth to the allegation. And it is the victims of the rumour who are arrested, not the ones who spread it and created a situation that led to actual violence and the possibility of more?

We’ve been banging on about whether there is tolerance in this country. “Where is the intolerance? Show me the intolerance!”, the apologists for the lunatic fringe keep yelling from every available podium.

The hell with that — it is time to reframe the question. And to ask:

Is there due process in this country?