Fire burn, and cauldron bubble
2018 is likely to be one long round of electioneering — besides the north-eastern states, assembly elections are due in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan where the BJP is incumbent, and in Karnataka that the BJP is trying to wrest from the ruling Congress party. And it is all shaping up into the sort of witches’ brew that Shakespeare provided the recipe for.
#1. The censor board, after consulting with its specially constituted panel, has decided to clear Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film — after the makers carry out 26 cuts. Oh, and change the name of the film from Padmavati to Padmavat.
Does it occur to you that as a nation, our collective “sensibility” is extremely fragile, and also extremely malleable? That these “sensibilities” are easily offended and as easily appeased? What is an ‘i’, more or less, among friends anyway?
Don’t imagine for a moment, though, that this is the last you are going to hear of a tiresome movie by a tiresomely pretentious film-maker — once the release date is set, now-dormant sensibilities in Rajasthan and elsewhere will be duly aroused again, and much ruckus will duly follow.
The Prime Minister is unhappy, and he has good reason to be. No one responds to my ‘good morning’ messages, he cribbed at a meeting of party lawmakers the other day.
That’s fair. It is not about sycophancy, or the social media analog of kids jumping up and going ‘good morning Miss’ when the teacher walks into the room. It is about common courtesy, about basic good behavior. And decency, good behavior, these are important, yes, in any civilized society, in any culture?
Right. Meanwhile, in Parliament, Mr Arun Jaitley made an important intervention:
On Wednesday, making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, leader of the house and finance minister Arun Jaitley said: “The PM in his speeches did not question, nor did he mean to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or former VP Hamid Ansari. Any such perception is erroneous. We hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.”
Any such perception that Modi was attacking both his predecessor and a former vice president of India was “erroneous”, Jaitley said.
#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.”
During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.
The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:
For the two weeks that I have been away, I lived a pre-internet life. I consumed “news”, such as it is, through the morning papers and ignored the internet; I avoided calls except for a couple of absolutely urgent ones; I left messages unresponded to; I refrained from obsessively checking my mailbox, and limited mail time to 15 minutes at the end of each day.
In this time I went for long walks; I met a couple of friends for long conversations over breakfast/lunch; I caught up with my wife who, too, had put her phone away for the duration; I learned to breathe again.
Then, yesterday, I reverted to type. I scrolled through the main Twitter timeline and my curated news links; paged through the few dozen news websites I’ve bookmarked in my ‘dailies’ file; checked messages and DMs as they came in, and I realized just how much the internet shrinks the time and the mind-space available for everything else.
#1. Here is a news story:
On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.
Alimuddin was lynched on 29 June. Jaleel was the first person to alert the residents of Manua village, where he and Alimuddin lived, of the murder. According to the Jharkhand police, Alimuddin died after being beaten by the members of the Gau Raksha Dal—a local cow-protection group—and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The members of the extremist Hindu groups had attacked Alimuddin in the middle of Bazar Tand, a market in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his tempo.
And thus witnesses in cases involving the RSS, the BJP and its feeder groups keep dying. All purely coincidental.