Kerala, redux

The calls from Kerala where I have family, and friends on various sides of the political spectrum, were jocular; much amusement was apparently occasioned by the BJP’s ‘Janraksha Yatra’. Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath were particularly ripe targets for that peculiarly Mallu brand of humor, whose chief characteristic is savage cynicism.

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55 dead. 515 injured.

For a little over two hours, I’ve been watching/reading the news out of the Las Vegas Strip, where one lone gunman created mayhem in a matter of minutes. Consider those numbers: One shooter. 55 dead. 515 injured.

Many of those injured are believed to be critical, so that toll can only go up. But even where it stands at present, the shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort on the strip is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

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WTF Just Happened: Sept 23

#1. March 28: PM Narendra Modi outlines seven-point scheme to double farmers’ income. Yesterday in New Delhi: Modi asks cooperatives to get into new business streams to double farmers’ income. By 2022. Varanasi, today: Modi says his government is trying to double farmers’ income by 2022.

Back in 64 BC, the orator par excellence Marcus Tullius Cicero was contesting for the post of consul of Rome. His brother Quintus, a Senator, wrote a primer on how to fight elections, titled How To Win An Election. It is an interesting read — the recommendations of then continue to figure in the playbook of today. One such tip, which should be familiar to anyone who has followed any election, anywhere, runs:

Promise everything to everybody.

Back in 2014, Modi in course of his election campaign told farmers that the minimum support price formula would be rewritten — “the entire cost of production, plus 50%”. This was in line with the MS Swamination Commission’s recommendations made during the UPA regime.

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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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What The Fuck Just Happened?: 21/09 edition

I was supposed to be in Kerala this week — partly for personal reasons, partly to meet with some local journalists and grassroots politicians from both sides of the divide to gain some sense of what is going on in my home state. Torrential rains and a landslide blocking NH17 along the Thamarasherry stretch of the Ghat road caused a postponement, but news from there continues to stream through my email box. Like, so:

#1. Students Federation of India goons attack policemen attempting to prevent them from clashing with a rival group. Nine suspects have been booked in the case, under Section 332, causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. (more stringent clauses, relating to assault, attempt to murder etc would be a more effective statement).

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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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Media Matters: Culpable Homicide edition

Briefly: In January, conservative website The Daily Caller published a video of people being run over by cars. Mike Raust, whose byline went with the video, said in the accompanying text:

Here’s a compilation of liberal protesters getting pushed out of the way by cars and trucks. Study the technique; it may prove useful in the next four years.

Fox Nation, the aggregator site of Fox News, then republished the video and caption, giving it greater amplification and traction.

Earlier this month, in the wake of Charlottesville where civil rights lawyer Heather Heyer was killed when a fascist deliberately ran over a group of protestors, Slate rediscovered that video clip, which continued to reside on both Daily Caller and Fox, and called those outlets out.

The Daily Caller and Fox have since taken the clip down. Not because they thought at the time that the clip was inappropriate, that it was an incitement. Not because they were chastened by Charlottesville, where a murderer used the technique they had urged the right wing to “study”. But because they were caught out, called out in public.

Keep this in mind, the next time you hear intemperate TV anchors demonize some person or group. There are dangerously unstable people out there who will take their cues from these rants. And someone will die. And the journalist, the anchor, the website will have killed that person, as surely as if they were at the wheel of that car, or held the knife, or wielded the sword or gun or rope.

(As I’ve said before, I will between instalments of the Media Matters deep dive use this blog as a scratch-pad to collect incidents, thoughts that I can connect up later in the series. This is one such.)