Thursday, May 21, 2020

Indian politics: Reasons why rogue politicians, musclemen and goons get elected



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi  

In India, politicians are not to serve us or society. They are to rule.
    As people identify with a politician, the more thuggish he is, the more powerful he is seen as. and the followers too feel powerful with him. 
    'Apna neta aisa hai'. Psychological effect. It has several benefits for the leader. 
    As his image is that of a ruffian, short-tempered man or a don, not everybody would approach him to get works done or for overall betterment of constituency, improvement in services. No expectations. 'Raw power', the feel of it, is enough. That he represents us.

    'We elected him...our MP or MLA is a strongman..' The strength gets into followers. Symbiotic relationship of a unique kind. Further, if he belongs to your own community, caste, naturally you feel more powerful as well as content and a feeling of pride.

    Being civil, polite or trying to solve problems doesn't help because the grievances are plenty & it's impossible to solve them or even bring about a change in even a city. Rather, such a politician is seen as weak and misfit in politics. Be as crude, as hateful as you can (sic).

    READ: How 'identity, class interest' force us to vote for leader who endangers our future

    If you are a real thug and got image that anybody who dares mess with you, will have his business or career ruined, or slapped in public or get framed, then you're a true politician. Public gets things done by paying bribe. but real authority is a person who can break all rules

    Be a politician who is feared. Be a politician who is not answerable to anyone. Be a politician who is thuggish and whom no one can make fun of, and if someone does it, he is beaten by cadre. Then, people really respect you. Unfortunately.

    The unwritten rule is--don't be a politician who is there to listen to your grievances, who is like a common man, who is affected by deaths, calamities, people's pain. Someone who doesn't need to even bother if kids die in hospital, then, he is seen as someone really powerful, ruthless. Gets respect.

    Now, there are several reasons for it. Role of Indian newspapers, especially, Hindi and vernacular papers, in creating image of rogue politicians as 'real men' just like lionizing the rogue cops as 'Singham' is one of the reasons.

    The leaders-officials are not seen as just our representatives who are elected by us or those who serve us and citizens don't even dare to make a call to a leader above a councillor rank, forget talking to MLAs, MPs or even questioning them.

    On one hand, you may claim that democracy took root but people don't even feel that they are entitled to ask, question or grill the leaders. Sarkar or the government remains 'maai baap' and no one expects that the basic rights or needs could be fulfilled or that it's job of government to take care of the people.

    Besides, majoritarian tendencies in the society, the caste and class divide, the interests of the class that owns newspapers and wields tremendous power, even manages public perception, movements and opinion, is responsible.

    For more, read PART II

    Wednesday, May 20, 2020

    Lack of compassion in society, insensitivity and blaming the 'other' syndrome in India: Sufferings on the Streets during lock down for Coronavirus


    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

    *That's our society--teenaged girl took father on cycle from Delhi to Bihar--1200 kms. And we're not ashamed, we praise resilience of poor.

    *Its a superhuman act, no one would like to do it, but was forced to do it. Where was state? Passed through dozens of distts, no admin comes to help.

    *When poor who can't Tweet to officials, reach Rly stations or bus stands in extreme heat, stand for hours or walk with kids, TV shows footage & anchors yell--'is bheed ko dekhiye'.

    *Create perception that they'll spread infections. Lakhs who came from foreign were never blamed.
    *We won't even let our kid walk 1 km in this scorching heat, but can praise poor for dragging up to 1,000-1,200 kms.

    *This is our morality. This is our society. Find a word for this level of hypocrisy, anti-poor policies and that no one is ever held responsible Why there is such a lack of compassion in Indian society towards the plight of poor.

    In fact, the level of apathy in majority community, even when it comes to 'their own' poor! It is a 'vocal class'--upper and middle class that sets the agenda. But this 'vocal class'--opinion makers due to its hold over media, cares little for labourers, poor, the other.

    But if vocal class creates a problem, it still feels they are victims, will find someone to blame for any crisis. Sorry but this observation comes from a long and harsh experience. It stands always, until it is a 'Hindu Vs Muslim' thing.

    No one would be able to go home during  lockd own in the times of Coronavirus but students from Kota will be taken, of course. Air travellers will not be blamed for spreading Coronavirus but restrictions imposed on domestic helps who get the infection from employers!

    However, much later if labourers walk hundreds of miles, they are provided no facilities and even there will be debates over whether buses or trains should be run to take these labourers to other states!

    A 13-year-old girl who takes her father on cycle from Delhi to Bihar, is hailed for courage. But that's the story of failure of this civilization. The society, the administration, brought them to this stage. Those stranded in other countries will be brought because 'international image' matters.

    And, because rich 'deserve better'. However, poor will be made to suffer and then you get away, escape responsibility with just praise about their resilience. And, this always happens, it is not just during the lockdown.

    If there are incidents of rapes, instantly and shamelessly blame 'poor', if there is crime, blame own 'slum dwellers' those whose women come to your comes to work, Biharis, others. Muslims are 'other', so blaming them is understood.

    Air travellers brought Corona, govt failed-mismanaged, but no one blamed them. You blame Tablighis instead. It is understandable because Muslims are the permanent 'other'. But tomorrow you'll blame migrant labourers and all the poor who already suffered for months due to the virus brought from foreign countries.

    This has already begun. People saying how 'these labourers' going to villages will take virus with them. Shouldn't govt have dealt it in a better way. It didn't take seriously for 45 days, after first patient. There was poor screening at airports but the rich can't be blamed.

    You've power, dozens of channels, constant anti-Muslim rhetoric and will always find a way to blame Muslims. This will continue for many years, we know this too. But when this treatment is meted to 'your own'.

    Seeing the plight of poor on highways and the level of sufferings, even then you can't speak truth to power or try to be compassionate, what remains to be said. There is definitely a lot that is wrong with this society. 

    Monday, May 11, 2020

    Indian society and politics: How 'identity interest' overrides 'self-interest', force us to vote for those who endanger our future



    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

    This post was written after a discussion about former PM Manmohan Singh, who despite his simplicity, knowledge and efforts-policies to bring record number of Indian people out of poverty, is not celebrated as much and remains the 'other'.

    Going back to early 90s to explain how I learnt this aspect of Indian politics and societal behaviour--none of the other ministers in that region was doing exceptional or great work, then.

    But during discussion in a group, people would focus on one minister because he belonged to a minority community. It'd take someone to take stand, 'WTF, he is not doing bad, look at it, much better than others', to shut the rest up.

    Point is that majority in the society decides, and it judges 'other' very harshly. If person is 'apna' (own), then all is forgotten, even after his policies harmed us. He will be made 'devdoot', the narrative of his greatness would be established.

    'Atalji' could've transformed Lucknow but even if he didn't do it, despite representing constituency, it was fine. No one dared question or even say why he couldn't do it as much, even when he wasn't PM. Anyone else who worries or even works for you is still the 'other'.

    A minority won't get due credit. That's how it works, majoritarian tendencies in vernacular papers, channels plus social talk, propaganda, own biases lead to such narrative that people even oppose those who benefit, would not feel thankful. 'The other'.

    Man working for you becomes villain in your own eyes

    So the feeling of 'class interest', 'caste interest', 'religious bonding' or this feeling of 'own', overpowers everything else. The man working for you would become a villain in your eyes and the man who is not doing much, would be a hero. Aadmi 'apna' hona chahiye. You may lose supporting the goons and ruffians but what to do about feelings!

    So that early 90s experience helped me realise then only that people are not interested even in real work or own welfare. What they were upset basically was that why 'this man was made minister', because he was 'not our own', (an alpsankhyak, a minority). That's how it works. 'Not our own'.

    Just imagine how 'identity interest' is ahead of even 'own interest'. Complex process--approval or disapproval but it starts spontaneously, finding ways to criticise politician who is 'not own'. Similar to why we want our own caste or community man in politics, thought it won't help us

    But role of Hindi, regional papers in making people readily form strong opinions is most unique phenomenon. Wish I could someday write. It is more enigmatic than anything else in this democracy.

    And why should any politician one bother about law-and-order! For riots, politicians never go to jails in India, our judiciary is well known for letting these cases continue for decades. No jail terms, it's perfect system. Riots, killings ensure rewards.

    24 people were shot dead dead in UP only recently--there are atrocities, people who were part of movement against NRC, were targeted. Large sections of society felt it was the 'tough message' that was needed. 

    Wherever you'd go in North India, you would hear people praising the strong 'action'. In fact, in Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chouhan was often criticised by core right-wing, those allied to other Sangh bodies and also many BJP supporters just because he appeared 'soft' earlier.

    The moment a politician turns hardcore right-wing, suddenly, there are no more expectations to deliver on any other front--development, jobs or whatever. He can be in his third or fourth term but media won't even ask tough questions. He is not expected to do anything anymore. He's just arrived.

    Violence is just a 'tamasha' (sic) in this society, it doesn't really bother or upset masses. For politicians, it helps them achieve the status of a masculine big leader. Publicly everyone won't say it but message goes--'this leader can bring them on their knees'. That's reality.

    Either it is a communal riot or any other conflict, action is delayed. Army is never called timely because public posturing apart, leaders too come from the same society & many of them want to 'teach lesson to other community'--basically the same inherent violent streak in our society where riots, bloodbath is not an aberration.

    It was after the killings during Rath Yatra that LK Advani became 'the leader'. It was after 2002 that Modi conquered hearts of the majority. And earlier Shiv Sena supremo too got respect for this reason. So that's the tried and tested formula in our politics. Be as ruthless as possible. Count bodies, conquer hearts. 

    Photo: Social media

    Saturday, May 09, 2020

    The royal 'puncture-wala': Never judge a man by the size of his shop, his name or appearance


    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

    Today, let me tell you about an interesting 'puncture wala'. He runs the shop on road side.

    It fixes tyres (tires) and has air pump too. It is a decent sized shop, a couple of times I went past and saw him call his young assistant to check the tyre when a car or bike stopped at the place. Also noticed how he had lot of things in the shop

    Going to nearby general merchants' shop, I often saw him make elaborate arrangements before lunch & dinner. Doing things stylishly, towel on peg, proper chair to sit and eat, a big lunch box opened, never in a hurry, even an iron cot. Saw him sleep too on it in afternoons. Aish!

    Then, one fine day, I saw him at a meat shop. After he left, I asked the mutton seller, that wasn't he the guy who has that 'puncture shop'. 'Arrey, woh ... bhai, unka to bohat lamba chaudaa kaam hai'. Is it? Yeah, he sells mostly big flats and plots, deals in sale of property. Told me lot of things.

    The guy opened the shop long ago and it was a place to sit, the location was important, he deals in a lot of things. Then, one day, my friend had come from Odisha. The rear wheel had some issue & we had to go to his shop. The assistant hadn't come so he asked us to sit.

    As generally equipment is kept outside, nobody ventures in, but that day I could see the shop from inside. Everything one needs like in a small hostel room. An entire wall had 'tughras', something that was very interesting. Once again it tells how judging people because of the size of their office or shop, their vehicle or appearance or any such thing, can be so far from reality.

    Even in lockdown, vehicles ply. Policemen, doctors, bankers, transport and official vehicles continue to move, hence, 'puncture walas' are still most sought after. After the lockdown too, they don't need a push to restart business again, as long as vehicles are on the streets.

    Post-script:

    I also mentioned it because lot of people in India, especially, the right-wing folks consider the job of a 'puncture-wala' as less important and it is also a term they commonly use for 'Muslims', to suggest that most Muslims are less educated, poor.

    No work that earns you money to earn a bread is demeaning and it doesn't insult us. However, it shows their upbringing, their lack of real education and the contempt towards physical labour.

    Friday, April 24, 2020

    Media war against Muslims: How TV channels fuel Islamophobia that is affecting, endangering lives of Muslims in India


    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

    Imagine, it's the month of fasting that is all set to begin and the things Muslims are most worried about.

    '30 days, 3 lakh mosques, anything at even one place, real, exaggerated or cooked up and the madmen on TV can give a twist, almost hold each Muslim accountable for an incident in which a Muslim has been accused, and make every person in India, believe that it is 'they' who are responsible.

    World is not perfect, one or two mistakes bound to happen. But when there are dozens of attacks on doctors but one incident where a Muslim gets in conflict with health workers, is run 24/7 and shown as 'Muslims attack...', with a focus on religious identity while the others are either ignored or generalized with headlines like 'Villagers attack' or 'People attack' in brief in paper, what's the result?

    It seems that giving religious twist is the sole agenda now. If there is a case of minor girls' rape, the ticker merely says it but if a man killed an animal [real news] and he is Muslim, then his name is instantly flashed and its lead story, also in headline in print.

    It is sometimes deliberate, due to existing biases, growing indoctrination, because of newsroom composition (fewer Muslims) and also because of the prevailing trend. When dozen-odd channels scream nonstop, papers too carry it on front pages and put everyone of you responsible for someone's act, make you guilty, unlike other scenario when person alone responsible for his act

    It is this sort of coverage, this extreme bigotry and communalism that leads to persecution. One man has brush with law and is booked under NSA, others merely booked under bailable section 323 of IPC. And every such incident used to fuel Islamophobia even in the times of Coronavirus.

    This is the way the entire community is 'otherised', made a target of hate and social discrimination. In rural areas or small towns with fewer Muslim population it becomes even more difficult. There are 'boycott' calls on social media, Muslims vendors or sellers told to leave in different cities like Mumbai, Mahoba and Delhi, and even handcarts selling vegetables recently get Saffron flags attached for identification, and a lot more.

    The affects are devastating. Imagine, a young man, Dilshad, who had not even tested positive, but was ridiculed (just because he was associated with Tablighi Jamat), so much that he committed suicide. Financial dependence, emotional issues, not everyone can bear it. Case of Muslim Gujjars, people not buying milk..

    The recent incident of 35 Muslims belonging to six families converting to Hinduism, in Jind in Haryana, should be seen as a manifestation of this entire 'hate industry' that demonises Muslims, makes it difficult for small communities living in far-flung areas to survive.

    It is a complete industry that has been created, the infrastructure where even the mainstream TV channels and papers now playing role of Rwanda Radio, then imagine what the others do, those websites and the parties' IT cell.

    The strategy is to create such pressure, demonize so much, that the community is perpetually under psychological pressure, always defensive, even guilty for things you have no connection, and under scrutiny for any incident remotely connected to a Muslim.

    Sickness has reached a stage that even video of a vendor using a bottle to wash his hand, is given a twist and false claims are made that he was sprinkling urine (sic), and shared on social media, the community constantly bears the brunt of this demonizing campaign.

    A day or two later officers clear the air or fact-check websites debunk the video and reject the false claims, but by then the fake news reaches millions. And it keeps happening on a daily basis. You keep explaining but there is a limit to it.

    And, when this is consumed by viewers along side mainstream TV channels, newspapers' propaganda, it goes to a scale that is almost impossible to fight. It's time to understand the enormity of this fake news industry and its Islamophobia. Tackle it before it's too late.

    READ: World must Wake up, Indian media involved in Nazi-style propaganda against Muslims

    READ: Hate spread through TV channels: Is media's right-wing shift irreversible?

    Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    Idea of Justice, Equality and Opportunity: Seven illustrations that help children understand the world, power structure and society


    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi


    How to teach the 'idea of justice', to children.  How to make them understand realities of the world.

    And, make them learn the ills of 'system'--things like exploitation, oppression, need for diversity and equal opportunity, at a young age.

    This is what I learnt from these comics in my childhood. These writers were brilliant, they taught you all--equality, compassion, need for justice, without using tough terms in these comics.

    Just see these six-seven panels that I have selected from an old comic. In the story, that is pure fiction and entertainment, ideas of justice and equality were incorporated, and this goes on to the level that it inspires the reader.

    If you read properly, you will understand the story. The change that came up after freedom--everyone is an equal. There is liberty, talent has the opportunity to come forward, people share knowledge, are inclusive, want to give equal opportunities to all irrespective of their past, financial or social status.

    As power structure changes, the 'Old Order' and its proponents are unhappy.

    They talk about 'taxes', irked over funding of public education and health, that why 'poor and non-elite' get treated as equals.

    They're still powerful but feel 'insecure'. It happens in all societies.

    There is a rise in insecurity when the poor or a new class emerges. We see it around us, even in our times. This phenomenon is always there, a group that resents any change and prefers 'traditional system'.

    The 'Old Order' strikes back, wants a return to the past. 'Why should ordinary, common folk need education.

    See the lines, 'Our power had gone, our land gone....we elite lose and our land is being distributed to poor'.

    "If you get access to education, who will work for us, who will work on our fields".

    It wants to bring 'old order' again, the 'Golden era', the 'imagined past'. And, here comes they who want their share in the loot. They are 'allies' now because they sense the opportunity to once again wrest control over resources, lord over poor.

    Time for the loot!


    There is resistance. The 'Old Order' fails to capture power.

    Those who joined hands with the inclusive, just state, are pardoned.

    'They wanted to stop wheel of change'. Now that's small part.

    All these 6-7 panels would together form barely ONE page of the 30 page comic but more powerful than text books. No jargons like communism, socialism or talk of inclusive steps, diversity and equal opportunities, but this is understood.

    This is a Flash Gordon comic. It was published in the eighties.

    Though it was originally written in USA, they were published in India by a special arrangement with Indrajal Comics.

    The artwork was improved, the comics here were better as quality was enhanced, comics were colorized.

    This is just an example how certain writers tried to imbibe humane values. Personally, I am always fascinated by these writers.

    They belonged to certain societies that may have been capitalist but the stories had such characters that egged on the reader to take STAND, always.

    Stand against injustice, Stand against Oppression. And, stand against capitalist loot too. Quite interesting. Isn't it!

    Post-Script:

    Flash Gordon was originally drawn by Alex Raymond. Flash and his companion Dale Arden, along with scientist Dr Hans Zarkov fight the evil Ming, in Mongo. Prince Barin leads the revolution and the power is snatched from the elite, it is now in the hands of the common people.