WTF Just Happened: November 10

#1. Pune University just announced that gold medals will be given only to those students who are completely vegetarian. How do you even comment? What do you say?

#2. In Kerala, an RSS worker inadvertently blew up the roof of his home — one of those innocent accidents that happen when you are trying to make bombs, presumably for purely peaceful purposes. Remember this post?

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WTF Just Happened: Sept 25

“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day,’” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know”

The Financial Times lit up British PM Theresa May in a scorching editorial. Inter alia:

It is a well-established rhetorical technique that, presented with a sticking point in the present, you shift your focus to the future. So again and again, Mrs May spoke not of how agreement would be reached, but of aspiring to agreement: “I hope . . . we want . . . it is our ambition . . . ” Jam tomorrow, then — but what jam!

It sums up government rhetoric to perfection. And it reminded me of some of Modi’s stump speeches during the 2014 election. For instance, during the recent controversies surrounding the Rohingaya refugees, a section of the media has been banging the drum for getting rid of all refugees. I trawled through my clippings file and found this speech in Darjeeling, where Modi spoke of how Bangladeshi refugees are the children of ‘Mother India’, and it is a national responsibility to care for them. It is a speech the noise machines on TV, who now clamor for all of them to be deported, appear to have forgotten — an amnesia shared by the government of the day. I was also struck by this trope, frequently used during that election campaign:

“I have come to make a special request to the people of West Bengal today. My brothers and sisters of West Bengal, you have chosen rulers for 60 years. Now, give a chance to a servant once. You have given 60 years to the Congress, try giving me 60 months,” he said.

That goalpost has now decisively shifted. India’s 100 most backward districts will be developed by 2022. 33 percent of IIT students will be women by 2022. Work culture and tax administration will improve by 2022. Child malnutrition will be eliminated by 2022. Farmers’ income will double by 2022. (That is to say, the Center says it will double by then; it also says it is up to the states to make their own plans to achieve this).

India will achieve a 10 percent cut in oil imports by 2022. Every citizen will have his/her own home by 2022. (Getting reliable figures on any government scheme is a frustrating exercise, but judging by the little evidence available, it isn’t going too swimmingly. In Rajasthan, for instance, 4.73 lakh homes needed to be built over the last two years to achieve the larger target. A grand total of 5974 homes have been actually built. Other states, same story.)

Every house will have electricity by 2022. The bullet train will fly India into a new era in 2022.  The Naxal menace in Chattisgarh will be ended by 2022 (that is Raman Singh borrowing from big brother’s playbook). There will be a ‘New India’ by 2022 (This last, by the way, was resolved at the BJP national executive today).

So, jam yesterday, when we knew the secrets of plastic surgery, and Durga was the Union defense minister and Laxmi held the portfolio Arun Jaitley now adorns, and we had aeroplanes that even flew from one planet to another, and pushpaka vimanas flew thick and fast…

And jam tomorrow, when a new India will come into being at the stroke of the midnight hour on the 75 anniversary of Independence. But no jam today…

In other news, the BHU protests have snowballed, in predictable ways. As inevitably happens when there is a problem in one of our universities, several worthies have started the victim-shaming process. Vide BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who says the protest over molestation is a “Naxalite movement“. Or a Yashwant Deshmukh, BHU alum, who is saddened by the “negative coverage“. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, who is reported to be ‘unhappy’, spoke to the UP chief minister. Lo, an FIR has been registered, for arson, against 1000 students.

See why I have ‘WTF’ right there in the headline?

In passing, remember Farooq Ahmed Dar? The chief of a gang of Kashmiri goons who pelted stones at our armed forces? And was then tied to the front of an army jeep as a human shield, to the delight of some of our more battle-hardened TV anchors? And how the army officer responsible was commended by the government? Well, guess what? He wasn’t.

Also, remember Narayan Rane? Who recently quit the Congress party because, in his own words, the party had not given him the promised chief ministership? (I’d mentioned him in the Sept 22 edition). He will meet Amit Shah in Delhi today. (I wonder which chief ministership he will be promised, leading to a ‘momentous’ announcement?)

PS: The blog is on a break from now till Wednesday, while I attend to some stuff offline. Be well, all.

 

 

 

WTF just happened: Sept 24

Three days into this WTFJH series that I started as a means to find/reclaim my voice, and I find that the feedback alone has been worth it.

I’ve been getting mails suggesting what I should write about (and also what I should not); mails asking what prompted me to return to blogging at a time when the trend is to move away from the format, and – this is by far the majority – what have I to say, what am I prepared to disclose, about my own biases.

Taking these in order: first, why emails? This will work much better, for both of us, if the conversation surrounding my posts is appended to the posts themselves. I’ve not asked for sign-ins before you comment; I have placed no bar on your commenting anonymously, so there really is no reason to flood my mailbox rather than speak your piece right here. Or am I missing something?

Two: re the question of whether I will write about this or that. This is a work in progress and I am still trying to work out a system, a rhythm, that suits me. I don’t intend to write about every single thing that happens – I am an individual, not a news site, and I don’t have the resources for such blanket coverage. My focus for now (remember “work in progress”?) is to connect up the dots; to examine an issue that catches my eye and see if it is part of a larger pattern – in other words, to go beyond capturing the headlines du jour. (So yeah, you will find one incident highlighted and elaborated upon and other incidents, bearing at least a superficial similarity, ignored.) Continue reading

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.

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?

Meanwhile, our brave jawans in Siachen…

A news report:

A retired officer of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander C K Sharma — a prominent face in the campaign for One Rank One Pension Scheme — has been arrested for alleged financial irregularities in connection with an organisation for veterans and their widows.

In a Facebook post, his daughter Nisha Sharma said: “My father Wing Commander CK Sharma (Retd) has been very active in OROP fight… 5 police men just half hour ago barged into parents house, threw his phone away and physically picked him and carried him away (sic).”

Additionally:

 

On the rule of law and due process

Found on Twitter (an occasional series):

A law student, with sound logic and common-sense, on rule of law and related issues.

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