Sunday, July 27, 2008

After Ahmedabad blasts: What India needs to do?

It's clear now that India is one of the worst victims of terrorism. Two major cities have been targeted in consecutive days--I don't remember this happening in any other country ever except Iraq or Afghanistan.

When 17 explosions occur in 70 minutes, it is clear that Indian government, intelligence agencies, the State government of Gujarat and the local police and intelligence have all proved to be a colossal failure. It's childish to blame any party or either the centre or state. Everybody has failed.

Even a layman can think how much of groundwork would have been done by the terrorists in engineering so many blasts in just a day. Huge money and manpower must have been used. The police were simply caught napping, even when a day ago Bangalore had been hit by similar serial blasts. Would these real culprits be caught! Have they ever been! Do you believe that such a big network would be busted?

Equally foolish is the assertion that POTA would have stopped it. When we don't catch the real culprits, what's the use of any law. After the blasts, its usual to see mass roudings-up in which dozens of poor people of slums are caught, forced to make confessional statements and some are brought to books.

Do we remember when was the last time the real culprits were caught. Have we ever felt that this particular case has been solved and justice has been done. From Hyderabad to Mumbai Train Bombings or anyother such terror attack in India, the story is similar after every blast.

Jingoists get into anger and claim we are a Soft state. So what a hard state is? What we need to do? The truth is that we are not a soft state, we are an INEFFICIENT STATE with one of the most inefficient police force and intelligence agencies. The need of the hour is a drastic overhaul of Indian police system, as the harsh truth is that Indian policeman is perfect in everything except investigation.

People who say India is a soft state don't understand a bit about society and security. They are the ones who would love to get a passport made through bribe to a policeman or any similar law-breaking activity that damages the system.

We have one of the most inefficient police forces in the world. Right from the beat constable, (BTW do you know who is your beat cop and have you ever met him or has he ever said a Hi to you) who is all the time busy in getting 'hafta' from vendors, extort money from bootleggers, satorias, thieves etc, to the top officers whose aim is always a good posting and keeping the politicians in good humour.

And they are even lacking in skills to do the most basic 'Scene of crime investigation'. Yes they know which person can be detained for a week and who can be let off on just a phone call from a minister's house.

The Indian cop is busy in security of political masters, the VIP visits and tackling dharnas and demonstrations. He is never made to learn investigation, leave alone the kind of training and bent of mind required from the policeman in a country that is now fighting terrorism.

The cop is just a babu, dressed in khaki, who is interested in making money, as he is the worst paid government employee who hardly gets a day's off. (The cops don't get weekly offs, like most of us do). The crimes in India are solved by default or due to major slips of criminals, not because of cops' intelligence or tact.

Despite media glare, a high-profile case like Arushi murder case was botched up. Do we seriously expect this police force to track the terrorists! BJP claims that POTA can deter terrorism. Really!

Why don't the BJP ruled governments implement the Police Reforms despite Supreme Court's direction, so that the cops don't have to handle the issue of VIP security and can focus on investigations.

We all know what kind of police force we have in our country. Politicians have done their best to damage it. They use cops to take care of their works, legal or illegal, and love to have them around, to flaunt their status (just like landlords).

Whatever. The situation is critical. India needs a really drastic overhaul of our policing system. But it won't happen. Politicians don't want police to be independent (and efficient). Neither the Congress, nor the BJP. Transfers have to be done by politicians.

A couple of days later, everybody will forget and things will unfortunately be the same. Alas!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Of political opportunism and Indo-US Nuclear deal

Shahid Siddiqui, who till the other day, was defending Samajwadi Party, in TV debates, suddenly switched sides and joined Mayawati.

Call it opportunism but this is politics. Coming from Shahid Siddiqui, it shouldn't be a bit of surprise. Siddiqui, the editor of the fiery Nai Dunia Urdu weekly, was always more a politician, less a journalist.

Not many remember that in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition when Muslims were angry with Congress and Arjun Singh had left the party, the same Shahid Siddiqui was the head of the Propaganda and Publicity Cell of the Congress. It was unimaginable but not many knew it even then and he continued befooling everybody, right from his readers to the electorate.

That's why he wouldn't have given a thought to it once how readers of Nai Dunia will digest it all of a sudden. After all, the paper that was pro-Samajwadi Party for almost a decade, will now have to take a different position.

In the last issue, when the paper had published a poll that 70% Indian Muslims were against the deal, most of us were surprised. Whatever may be the mood of the Indian Muslims, I was certain that it was a desktop poll. Khair.

He owns a newspaper that has a fair circulation but is on the decline due to the editor's interest in politics rather than paper. He needs a Rajya Sabha seat, which Mayawati may have promised her.

In the past, many Muslim leaders from Arif Mohammad Khan to Akbar Ahmad Dumpy and Rashid Alvi to poet Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad, joined the BSP. But none could stay there for long.

Just like SP that centres around Mulayam Singh Yadav's personality, BSP is also one-woman show. But Behenji hardly gives the space, which even second rung leaders in other parties get.

Siddiqui now says that Mayawati's Dalit vote is transferable. He says that for a Muslim candidate of BSP, the Dalits enthusiastically vote while the Yadavas don't vote for the Muslim candidate of SP.

It is true to only some extent. But the reality is that Yadavas constitute barely 7% of UP's population while Dalits are now 21%. Muslims account for 19% and most of them went with SP or the winning Muslim candidate. The fact is that Siddiqui succeeded in making a noise though he doesn't even have a vote (he is a Rajya Sabha member).
Meanwhile, SP has its own set of problems. It arose out of anti-Congressism but its core constituency are Muslims and thus can't align with BJP. When it thwarted Congress' bid to form government at centre, it was alleged that Mulayam had a secret deal with BJP.

Even with nearly 40 MPs, the party has failed to wield any influence on national politics. However, Mulayam should have realised that when they failed to get any mileage during the first four years of this government, they should have taken the lead in opposing it.

Now if the government falls, Mulayam Singh will get nothing. In case it survives, Amar Singh and Anil Ambani will be the chief beneficiaries. Whatever, it's unfortunate for Indian politics that opportunism has become order of the day and horse-trading is on.

Ajit Singh has got the Lucknow airport named after his father, but now needs more, perhaps the Food Ministery. Devegowda and his son, Chautala, Omar Abdullah, Shibu Soren and every other guy with a vote in Lok Sabha, is being sought after.

And this drama will go on for another two days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Roadroller, King among vehicles: Nobody dares mess with Road roller on Indian roads

Nobody dares to mess up with Ram Sanehi on the roads.

He doesn't move fast but still he rules over the road. The rash drivers are also cautious when they see him.

They just don't take the risk of trying to overtake him unless he allows them to do so.

After all, can anybody who has a sane mind dare challenge the mighty road roller?

Even those who don't care much about getting dents on their cars from the tempos and loading autos that have sharp edges jutting out of them, get careful.

The sight of the huge road roller moving on the big metal wheels, can humble even the man in Mercedez or any new SUV.

The road roller doesn't move fast. It has its own speed. It barely exceeds 20 kmph. But those owning the most expensive automobiles lose confidence on a narrow road with a road-roller ahead of them. 

And this gives the driver, Ram Sanehi, a kick, the sort of high.

He doesn't earn much but has the satisfaction that he can drive at his own pace.

He stands no chance of being the victim of accident or road rage on Indian roads.

The traffic keeps getting nasty day by day. People are more carefree, impatient and reckless.

Yet  nobody behind him is honking or daring to graze past him. He calls it 'Sadak ka Raja'.

The Road Roller that moves graciously like an elephant is a good option for Indian roads, if you like solitude and don't need to hurry.

Given the scary figure of accidents on Indian roads. Think of it.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

An Advertisement in Urdu

This advertisement that shows a small boy wearing a skull cap, caught my eye, naturally.

It feels nice to see our language (or script) in places we don't expect. Doesn't this happens to most of us?

It is rare to find any corporate group advertisement in Urdu, anywhere. Even in cities where Urdu speakers comprise 25-50% of populace, hoardings in Urdu are rare.

One reason is that Urdu-speaking population in India is scattered, not concentrated in a particular state and the Urdu speakers (euphemism for Muslims) were never considered a 'big market'.

That's why the 'Kaise ho' written on the top, struck a chord. If creating impact is one of the aims of advertising, the surely such ad succeeds in reaching its target.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Muslims favouring Hindu stand on Amarnath Shrine Board issue

On the left is a photograph of Muslims in Delhi protesting the J&K government's decision to take back the transferred land from the Shrine Board.

The placards have messages like 'Gilani hosh mein aao' and messages urging the government to return the land to the Board.

The news didn't appear anywhere else. At least, I couldn't find it. In other cities of North India also many Muslims came out on their own and expressed their solidarity with Hindus of Jammu and Kashmir.

Even in Jammu, the Muslim Federation criticized the government for reversing the decision. The point is that the issue arose out of the Kashmiri distrust of New Delhi because of the past 'betrayals' and may be Governor's excessive zeal, turned it into an issue.

It was a Kashmiri leadership Vs Governor dispute that acquired a Kashmir Vs Jammu Colour and later turned into a Hindu Vs Muslim battle. (Read my earlier post.) How easy it is to divide us!

Not just protesting Muslims on the streets of Srinagar, but every Muslim of this country was seen as an 'enemy'. The BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal again raised the pitch, and the same old statements about 'appeasement' were heard everywhere.

In the cacophony, the sane voices are lost. The news about Muslims in the valley taking care of stranded Hindu pilgrims or that of Hindus in riot-hit areas of Indore taking care of Muslims, are simply forgotten.

Unfortunately the photographs and images we see on TV and newspapers are only that of aggressive Hindu protestors of Jammu and the hordes of Muslims in Srinagar. How can VHP dare say that they will stop Muslims from going to Ajmer Sharif.

It was such a pathetic statement, which I don't believe any practising Hindu can make. And this organisation claims to speak on behalf of Hindus. As an outsider I don't understand the politics of Kashmir.

But personally I feel that if Hindus feel hurt, then the land should be given to them. There may be Muslims and Hindus, who have every right to feel for and against this. It is a democratic nation.

The aim of the post (and especially the photo) is that things can't be generalised. Elections are nearer. BJP leaders openly say that they have got an issue for the election and still we don't understand. How long will this keep happening?

It is disgusting to see Hindus and Muslims shown are shown as pitted against each other, which is absolutely false. Just like Hurriyat or any Kashmiri group alone is not representative of entire Muslim population and the opinion of Indian Muslims, how can Bajrang Dal, VHP or any other organisation hijack the voice entire Hindu community?

[The photo by Mr Biplab Mukherjee appeared in the Asian Age.]

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Indore riot: How State governments can stop and 'allow' a communal riot

Scene of a riot in Indore
For two days Indore burnt and the government officials said that they were not prepared for this.

Didn't they know Indore has become one of the most communally volatile cities in India in recent years.

Every few months* there is a communal clash, because of the free hand given to hooligans by the administration.

Barely a fortnight back the event to celebrate the coronation of Shivaji had seen the preparedness of VHP and Bajrang Dal.

Even kids had fired with guns amid chants of Har Har Mahadev. Though open display of arms and firing is banned. Ye kis baat ki taiyyari thi? But no action was taken. No cases were registered against organisers of the events or the elders in whose presence this happened.

During the nationwide bandh, the activists knew that nobody would stop them. They knew even after violence, no cases would be registered against them and no action taken. As a result, six lives were lost in a riot. Now entire Indore is living under curfew.

Again the dead were mostly poor--Hindu and Muslim. With a compensation of Rs 1 lakh, can the loss of a breadwinner for a family be compensated?

Riots don't occur in India. They are allowed to happen. Else, can anybody explain why there are no riots when Prime Ministers, Presidents and other VVIPs are on a visit to a place.

Or when there is an occasion governments don't want any trouble. The troublemakers are always known to police.

When there are orders from the top, they are arrested as precautionary measure and when it is felt needed, else they are used like in this riot. Officials act at the behest of politicians because they don't want to be transferred or lose plum postings. 

And when the directive comes from the top, 'Ab kaafi zyaada ho gaya, rok do', then suddenly more police companies are brought and situation gets 'peaceful'. The Assembly elections are nearer in MP. When leaders feel they may lose the election, a communal riot is the best remedy.

 There will be polarization and again all issues will go backburner. Those who seemed losing, will win again, courtesy a few funeral pyres and qabrs.

Indore riot has once again proved that. Any Hindu-Muslim riot can be stopped and the violence checked, if police-administration-government have the necessarily will to do it.

[*For a period, Indore had become a haven for communal forces. Fortunately, the situation changed in later years.]

[A few years later when there was judgment on Ayodhya's Ram temple-Babri Masjid complex dispute, there was no violence across the length and breadth of the country despite apprehensions. The reason was that no government wanted the blame, particularly, BJP-ruled states, and hence not even a single stone pelting incident occurred.]

[Image courtesy Times Now. Read report in Time of India and watch the video here]

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Indian Muslims' stand on Nuclear deal: No pan-Islamic concern, national interest first

First the Communists said it. And now Mayawati also gives the same impression, as if Muslims are opposed to the Nuclear deal. Other parties have also in the past, tried to manufacture this myth.

The fact is that a majority of Muslims, just like the tens of millions of ordinary Indian citizens, don't understand an iota of Nuclear deal. But they would definitely back their government and would support whatever is best for this nation.

The reality is that Muslims are as ignorant about it as the rest. Except the 'self-styled intelligentsia' not many are able to go through the merits and demerits of such a comlex issue. And debates make it even more confusing.

But, we as citizens of this nation, hope that our leaders would do the best as far security India's interests are conernes. And that's it. One Mr MK Pandhe of CPI (M) gave this statement that the deal would cost Congress its Muslim support.

What a joke! Muslims hardly have enough time out of their daily lives and earning their livelihood, that they care to think of an issue like Nuclear deal. If, at all, Indian Muslims had a pan-Islamic concern apart from Arabia, then it was Palestine that was close to Muslim hearts.

I have deliberately not written 'is'. But did you hear ordinary Muslim ever raise a voice when Indian government cosied up to Israel in all ways including military exercises.

Howsoever irresponsible our politicians may be, we have elected them and we expect them to get the best deal for our country. And we hope they will come to a unanimous decision in the best interets of this nation. This is what they have been elected for and sent in the parliament.

And this is what most of us feel. Please don't try to imagine things. Ask us, if in doubt!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Amarnath Yatra & Kashmir: Communalizing the Composite Culture

After a long time when things were fast returning to normal in Kashmir, the controversy over the land granted to Amarnath Shrine Board, ignited passions in the state.

It's tough to write on Kashmir especially when you are far away from the place. But it's quite easy to see how non-issues become issues and how things get communalised in our country.

One may feel surprised at the scale of protests against the land transfer in the Valley. Naturally, a temporary settlement for the pilgrims can't alter the demography of Kashmir. Yes I also felt the same initially.

But Kashmiris have never trusted Delhi ever since the days of Sheikh Abdullah whose government was dismissed and he was sent to jail where he was kept behind bars for over a decade. And there is a history of 'betrayals' thereafter with the dismissal of elected governments and all other issues we are aware of.

The Kashmiri anger, however misplaced it may be or it may seem, stems out of their suspicion of New Delhi, but is unfortunately viewed as a conflict between Hindus and Muslims, which it is certainly not.

In a country where lawlessness has become a norm (just recall the images of Gujjars on rampage in Rajasthan recently), the Kashmiri anger can also be seen with the same prism, rather than looking at it from a communal angle.

Personally, I would like the Board to get the land. And that there should be all possible facilities for the pilgrims who brave tough conditions to reach the shrine. And most of us feel the same but not by letting the 'separatists' and 'saffronites' take adantage of the existing crisis which both want to exacerbate.

But it's so easy to communalize things. And it's not so simple either: The yatra was initially of a fortnight but Retd General GK Sinha, during his stint as Governor took a confrontational stand and forced the state government to extend it.

As Indian Express writes, 'The Governor pushed his own ideas'. His Principal Secretary Arun Kumar directly wrote to Forest Secretary Sonali Kumar, who was his wife, and manged to get 4,000 kanals of forestland transferred to the Shrine Board. The suspicion was raised then also and the order was struck down then.

But a few months back, Sinha again sought forestland for setting up an independent development authority and though government didn't agree the land was handed over to shrine board. So there was a backdrop. For decades the land was used for the same purpose and why was the need for sudden transfer of it?

Now, the separatists sensed an opportunity. Hurriyat that had become irrelevant also got an issue. Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and their sister organisations were quick to add fuel to fire.

Alas, we have not just inherited the British policy of divide and rule, we have mastered it to perfection. With polls drawing nearer, every party had a stake except Congress that had botched it up.

The BJP just loved it. 'Afzal and Amarnath', they will be our main issues in the election, declared the party leaders, unabashedly. With LK Advani, the old warhorse with a a record of communal and divisive politics, at the helm, it wasn't unexpected.

And with protests intensifying in the valley, the Hindutva hardliners who have no concern with the state, either with Kashmiri Pundits or Muslims, declared that 'food and other supplies to valley will be cut', without realising that this will cause a further backlash. And this is what the hardliners in Kashmir would like to hear from their counterparts in the Sangh Parivar, so as to alienate the Kashmiri Muslims. Pravin Togadia also jumps the gun.

By pitting Hindus against Muslims, Jammu against Valley and Kashmir against Rest of India, they are doing great disservice to the nation. It is either the Kashmiri Pundit who has suffered in exile or the local Muslims who lost lives in the violence all these years. It has taken a long time for Kashmir to come out of blood and gore.

And it's no war. It's an issue that can be resolved but raising rhetoric to this level is simply unjustifiable. It's the duty of government to provide the best possible facilities to the pilgrims. But the BJP gets an opportunity to buttress its charges of appeasement by comparing the Yatra with Haj.

I too would like to hear saner, secular and more moderate Muslim voices emerging from Kashmir. But then the Saffron organisations also need to tone down their feverish jingoistic pitch.

In a hard-hitting editorial on Monday, Indian Express writes: However, short-sighted as the local political leadership has been, the central responsibility rests with the outgoing governor, S.K. Sinha, and those who sent him to Kashmir in the first place after he had amply proved in Assam that he was capable of making sensitive situations worse through irresponsible and ill-informed public assertions as well as partisan political interference...

As far as Haj is concerned, you can read my post written on this blog when I had welcomed the court order that had asked government to stop the subsidy. The BJP should end its hypocrisy. It should have taken a decision when it was in the power at the centre on the issue. At least, this time it should do away with it, if it gets to form the government.

Today people may mock at Kashmiriyat and claim that it never existed but they can't erase the fact that the Amarnath shrine was discovered by a Muslim and the Yatra symbolised the bond between both communities. And in the violence, it is always the Kashmiri Hindu and Muslim who has been the loser, not an outsider.

No wonder, the protests and politics of hate eclipsed the stories of ordinary Muslims taking care of stranded pilgrims and holding makeshift kitchens for them. See the report in Daily India and an Indian Express report.

Meanwhile, read Praveen Swami's article 'Piety, paranoia and Kashmir's politics of hate' published on The Hindu's editorial page.