Friday, May 29, 2020

Minneapolis Murder: George Floyd's death again shows racial bigotry, deep biases in police that lead to atrocities

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Once again a black life is lost to police brutality.

This happened in Minneapolis in America, yet another case of killing that is clearly due to racial discrimination.

George Floyd's murder shows that how section of police personnel, continue to use excessive force against citizens belonging to the marginalized communities and remain hostile towards them.

Biases, attitudes in society, racial bigotry lead to such killings. The same disease that ails police and authorities across countries--victims are targeted because of hate towards the race or community. 

Dominant groups create narrative that dehumanizes weaker section & targets-mistreats them. Law same on paper but applied differently. Violence is unfortunate but officers must face action.

We hope that there would be stern action against the guilty. It happens in India, where we see Muslims facing attacks, getting lynched and framed in cases. The lower castes, the poor also suffer and face violence.

In a recent incident, a lawyer was beaten and later policemen claimed that mistook him and beat him as they felt he was a Muslim. It happens in several other countries too. We stand with the victims and we must speak for the oppressed across the world, irrespective of their race or faith.

There is need for better representation for people of colour in USA, just like better representation of Muslims is needed in Indian police. Heart goes out to the family of the victim. We want Justice for George Floyd. In Solidarity From India. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

EXPLAINING Politics: Reasons why rogue politicians, musclemen and goons are liked and get elected in India

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi 

It's a reality that in our country, politicians are not supposed to serve us or society. Rather, they are expected to wield power and rule.
    1. 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' [My leader is strong] is a feeling, a Psychological effect. It has several benefits for the leader as well as workers and supporters. 

    'We elected him...our MP or MLA is a strongman..' This sentiment of strength gets deep into the followers. It empowers them. That's a symbiotic relationship of a unique kind. Further, if he belongs to one's own community, caste, naturally he feels more powerful as well as content and gets a feeling of pride. 
    2. That your own guy reigns in the region, it makes people believe that now they and their clan, caste or community dominates. Actually, the person feels strong, the sense of satisfaction and strength that comes along with a boost to his morale.
    As the leader's image is that of a ruffian, short-tempered man or a bully, not everybody would dare approach easily or talk to him for overall betterment of constituency, improvement in services. Only people will go in form of delegations. 
    No expectations. 'Raw power', the feel of it, is enough. That he represents us, is sufficient.

    3. Being humble, polite or trying to solve problems doesn't help because the grievances are plenty & it's impossible to solve them or 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

    4. If a politician is thuggish or a local strongman and has got an image that anybody who dares mess with him, will have his business or career ruined or thrashed or get framed, then that leader is seen as a real strong politician. 
    5. As far as works are concerned, public can gets things done by paying bribe.  But what draws them to personality is the sense of a leader being 'different'. Real authority is a person who is not ordinary, who can break all rules, take on anybody and after hearing his name, others may get intimidated or at least don't take it lightly. A guy who can get away with lawlessness and save his own henchmen!

    6. Should the aim be to become a politician who is feared? Or one who is not answerable to anybody! Fact is that the definition in practical terms is that one has to be a politician who is thuggish and whom no one can make fun of, and if someone does it, he gets beaten by cadre? Then, people really respect the neta. 

    7. 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 or resign if kids die in hospital, but be brazen and unfazed by controversies, then, he is seen as someone really powerful, ruthless. Gets respect.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. On one hand, you may claim that democracy took root in the country but people don't even feel that they are entitled to ask, question the leaders or demand something. Government remains 'maai baap' and no one expects that the basic rights or needs could be fulfilled or that it's job of authorities 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, are responsible for the situation.

    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 'own interest', force us to vote for those who endanger our future

    Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

    This post was written after a recent discussion regarding former PM Manmohan Singh, who despite his simplicity, knowledge and efforts-policies to bring record number of Indian citizens out of poverty, is not given due credit and remains the 'other'.

    Going back to early 1990s 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, accusing him of being a 'non-performer' 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 if his policies harm us. He will be turned into a '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 and was member of parliament from the city.

    Anyone else who worries or even works for you is still the 'other'. The 'other' 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.


    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.