WTFJH: The October 14 weekend edition

#1. It takes just one news story to meet, and exceed, the weekend’s whatthefuckery quotient:

Over two years after Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death on suspicion of consuming beef, the accused in the case, all of whom are out on bail, may soon secure jobs.

Moreover, the family of Ravin Sisodia, one of the murder accused who had died in jail of multiple organ failure, is soon likely to get Rs 8 lakh compensation.

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WTFJH: The October 13 edition

#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.

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WTFJH: Links

#1. In a four-day span starting October 7, 69 children have died in BRD Hospital, Gorakhpur — the scene of the headline-making tragedy of last month. Adityanath’s political hubris is what immediately springs to mind but frankly, that is not where the focus should be. The hospital was a disaster zone a month ago. Sometimes things fall through the cracks; disasters happen. The question is, does no one learn? Surely, when you are confronted with tragedy on such a scale, your priority would be to work flat out to ensure against an encore? If it was caused by a systemic breakdown (bills not cleared in time, oxygen supplies therefore interrupted), that is easily fixed by streamlining processes and by prioritizing. If encephalitis is rampant and the existing staff are unable to check it, surely a sensitive, empathetic government would bring in experts from AIIMS and elsewhere to review existing procedures, train the doctors in a proper response? Surely that is what governance is all about — attending to the details?

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WTF Just Happened: The news in briefs

 

#1. Unlike Gajendra Chauhan, you cannot question Anupam Kher’s curriculum vitae and fitness to chair the FTII — which, you will remember, is where the sequence of universities in turmoil began. Whether Kher’s overt support for the ruling dispensation, as was the case with the likes of Sambit Patra, Shazia Ilmi and others, played a hand in his landing the role is a matter of conjecture. Related, a student looks back at Chauhan’s reign of error.

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The News in Briefs: October 2

#1. In Agra, members of the VHP and the RSS, armed with guns, pistols and swords fired in the air near a temple in the Agra Fort region to “celebrate Dussehra”. The police have registered a case. The weapons, the firing, the communal slogans, all add up to calculated intimidation. And all the while, the RSS claims that it is the victim, not the perpetrator, of violence against its members.

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WTFJH: The BHU edition

Back in 1998, in course of covering the national elections of that year, I ended up in Baramati. The object was to find out why Sharad Pawar has such a hold on that constituency that he does not even campaign, and yet in every single election anyone who opposes him loses his deposit.

Pawar is known to reach Baramati late night on the penultimate day of campaigning. On the last day, he drives to a few select areas where he holds public meetings; just before campaigning officially ends, he holds a large meeting in Baramati town.

I spent three days traveling around Baramati, talking to people, trying to find out the reasons behind his political success. And very early in the morning of the last day, I went to Pawar’s home hoping to get time to ask him a couple of questions. Talk of early birds and worms — he had just finished breakfast and was about to drive to his first meeting; he told me to get in the car, and to travel with him through the day, and ask whatever I liked.

The entire transcript would fill a decent-sized book — Pawar was in a loquacious mood that day. The interview that was finally published is sizeable enough and covers a wide area of politics.

Among the many themes he spoke to that day one, in particular, has resonated a lot in recent times as serial unrests roiled educational institutions ranging from the FTII to JNU, Delhi University, AMU, Hyderabad, and most recently Benaras Hindu University. Here is that portion, in full:

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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.