If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 28 May 2017

They’ve done it again!


A government is supposed to solve problems, but the present one in Delhi creates problems when there’s none. Regularly!

After NOTE-BANDI, it’s CATTLE-TRADE-BANDI!

In one fell swoop two days ago, the Government of India has destroyed the livelihood of millions of ordinary Indians by virtually banning camel- and cattle-trade.

How many Indians work in tanneries and related fields? How many Indian lives depend on the legal business in buffalo and camel meat? Experts will certainly calculate the figures, but very roughly, even if half a percent of our population depends on these until-yesterday legal activities, the number would be a staggering 65 lakhs or 6.5 million.

Most of these people are poor, they know no other trade. The government doesn’t even seem to bother to offer them an alternative occupation, which in any case, it can't. So, the ban consigns these mostly-poor people to slow starvation deaths. Also, from the sociological point of view a vast majority of them are Muslims and Dalits, two most vulnerable sections of our society. (Dwivedis, Dasguptas, or Nambudris don't skin dead animals, do they?) And all this in the name of cows, one of the least sentient creatures around us.
Cartoon is by Keshav in the Hindu
If you permit me a short digression, three to four million Bengalis were killed in the Great Bengal Famine of the 1940s – engineered directly by the poster boy of the British right wing, Winston Churchill. Unlike Hitler, who killed six million Jews, Churchill didn’t need bullets and gas to kill millions. And the lesson from this gory chapter of history is: you can murder millions without using machine guns. I have reasons to believe something similar is going to happen in India unless this insane order is reversed.

Is it a bloody joke to play with the lives of such a huge multitude of already-struggling citizens, without a public debate, without taking the parliament into confidence, by a mere executive order? As if it was something like banning plastic packets?

Have Indians seen a more destructive ruler in the Indian capital since Robert Clive who stole shiploads of gold and silver from Bengal and turned the most prosperous place on earth into barren fields of dying people in just a few years?

If you are an Indian, whether you call your country Bharat Mata or not, please stand up and protest. We must get this ban reversed.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Saturday, 27 May 2017

To our eternal shame ...


Every Indian should hang their head in shame after reading this.
Farooq Ahmed Dar, a 26-year-old shawl maker from Kashmir was tied to the front of an army jeep by one Major Gogoi of the Indian Army, and paraded him through several Kashmiri villages a few days ago. And a video of the incident went viral on the Internet. Army claims he is a "stone pelter", but Dar, his family and neighbours say he is not, he never was. Scroll.in reports after meeting him:
"This is how Dar said his day proceeded. After he cast his vote in Chil, 33 km from Srinagar, he said that he got on to his motor cycle to attend a condolence meeting at his sister’s house in Gampora village, 20 kms away. His brother Hilal followed him on another motorcycle.
"A few kilometres before their destination, at Utligam village, Dar said he was stopped by an army patrol.
The patrol consisting of at least 17 personnel was led by a major, Dar said. The security men surrounded him and pulled him off his motorcycle. After looking at his identity card, they questioned him about why he was so far from his home. They then began to beat him up and accused him of being a stone pelter. But, said Dar, there were no visible disturbances in the area when the stopped him.
“They thrashed me for 20 minutes,” Dar said, adding that after the beating, they attempted to push him into a stream.
"The soldiers then tied him to a vehicle and paraded him “through 10-20 villages” with a piece of paper attached to his chest declaring that he was a stone pelter, Dar said. He said he did not have a clear recollection of events that transpired when he was tied up. “I was not in my senses,” he said."
Farooq Ahmed Dar's account is bound to be true. Because had he been a stone pelter, the army wouldn't have allowed him to go home on the same day. More importantly, Dar was among the 7% voters in his area who had cast his vote defying a ban and threat of death issued by terrorists. Besides the e-paper I have quoted, he facts have been brought out by several front-line newspapers, including the Indian Express and Hindustan Times.


If Kashmir is boiling today, it's to a large extent because of army and police officers like Gogoi, who have tortured innocent Kashmiris without bothering to think about the long-term consequences of their action. And there are a lot of Indians to glad-hand officers like Gogoi who display tremendous disdain not only to Kashmiri Muslims, but also to the laws of the land.
Please put yourself in Farooq Ahmed Dar's shoes for a minute. You belong to a small minority of Kasmiri Muslims who still have faith in India, you're among the 7% of people who've voted. And on the same day you are picked up by an insane army officer from the road, beaten up, get a judgment "stone pelter" stuck on your chest, and you are strapped to the bonnet of a jeep and paraded through villages like an animal.
Even if I accepted, for the sake of argument that Dar is indeed a stone pelter, which Indian law allowed him to be treated in such an inhuman manner? And what about that nearly-forgotten word "human rights"? Does Geneva Convention allow an army to treat even a captured enemy soldier like that?
And the tragedy is: Farooq Ahmed Dar is a law abiding Indian citizen.
Finally, to our eternal shame, the chief of the Indian Army has commended the Major for this grossly illegal and immoral act.
Terrorists try to break up our democracy from outside. When protectors of the law break laws themselves, the corrode the system from within. They are two sides of the same blob of shit.
Kolkata / 26 May 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Grandpa calling?



When I was born, both my grandpas had been dead.

I have no idea how my dad’s dad looked, because he died long ago sometime in the nineteenth century, long after photography was invented (1827, Mr Google tells me), but long before “Daguerretype” came to India’s hoi polloi.

But I can see my mother’s dad if I close my eyes. Let me tell you why.

My mother had a framed five-by-seven black-and-white photo of her father. It showed an elderly man in his mid-sixties smiling pleasantly at you. So the picture would have been taken when granddad was my age.

And mother always placed the frame at a vantage point where she could see her old man as she got up from sleep. So, around sixty years ago, I learned how my grandpa had looked and thereafter, I saw Late Tara Bhushan Pal, a reasonably successful small-town lawyer and an amateur carpenter, almost every day for nearly fifty years until my ma passed away, and the framed picture lost its pride of place in our home.

That is how people are forgotten. That is how our world ends, slowly, almost imperceptibly. I don’t think the name Tara Bhushan crosses my mind even once in a year now. But I believe he was one of the better specimens of humans in his time. His wife died young, at the age of 37, but Tara Bhushan didn't marry again, which was quite unusual in his time and place. I am inclined to believe it showed devotion to a dead wife, but the view might be debated. What is beyond debate is the fact that he brought up his seven children single-handed on top of his legal practice. And from the stories I heard from ma, he was exceedingly affectionate towards his offspring.

Whenever I got angry, whenever I was rude, my mom reflected – obviously with a tinge of deep sadness – that her son hadn’t inherited the even temper of her father.

Tara Bhushan died with the reputation of never ever having lost his cool. And I am inclined to believe that the reputation was not unfounded when I think of Arindam and Monica, my cousins who too carry 25% of Tara Bhushan’s genes…. Both are pretty much unflappable.

This morning, as I got up and stood before the bathroom mirror with a toothbrush in hand, I was shocked.

Grandpa Tara Bhushan was looking at me benignly from behind the mirror.

Genes! ... What tricks they play!

Kolkata / 20 May 2017

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dismantling democracy

It takes years or decades to create something, but just days, if not hours to dismantle it. It is true for buildings and bridges. And it is true for democracies.
Indian democracy has been built by people who led the freedom struggle, and while we are rightly unhappy with many aspects of how our country functions, the greatness of the Indian democracy becomes clear when we compare ourselves with the other countries that achieved freedom after the Second World War. Look at our neighbours: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka … every one of them has gone through tremendous civil strife and seen mass killings and instability from time to time. It is true for Nepal too, to a lesser extent. And of these countries, Pakistan and Burma aren’t democracies by any stretch of imagination. We would shudder to think of living in either of them. Comparatively, we have had a stable democracy, barring a two-year aberration during the hated Emergency regime of 1975-77.
Any government with commitment to liberal democracy should try to protect and strengthen the institutions of democracy. The much maligned UPA regime (2004-14) – despite the thieves and thugs in their ranks – did exactly that when they introduced the Right to Information Act or the RTI Act in 2005.
It offers every citizen the right to seek and obtain information on government activities. Naturally, the Act has been a deterrent against corruption. A politician or bureaucrat trying to bend rules for personal benefits stand to be exposed in the future, thanks to this Act.
Many people have tried to catch politicians and babus for their wrongdoings, but it hasn’t been easy. There have been 400 physical attacks against RTI activists and as many as 65 of them have been murdered in the last 11 years. Maharashtra tops the list with 19 murders. The latest victim too is from the state. Suhas Haldankar was the latest RTI activist to be killed on 9 April by hitting him repeatedly with concrete blocks.
A protest against Suhas Haldankar’s killing in Kharalwadi area of Pune. (Express Photo by Rajesh Stephan)
It is essential that laws are strengthened to protect people like Suhas Haldankar. However, Narendra Modi led BJP government is doing exactly the opposite. Let me explain.
The government is trying to modify Rule 12 of the Act to “permit the Central Information Commission to allow appeals to abate on the death of the appellant or for their withdrawal.” The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a human rights group, demands that the Rule 12, instead of being diluted, “must be dropped without any delay.”
To put it simply, the changes that the government is trying to introduce is this: If an RTI activist is killed, people who might be affected by the information the former was trying to discover, may appeal to close the chapter.
Therefore, if the change happens, a corrupt politician or bureaucrat will have a strong incentive to murder the activist who is trying to unearth the former’s wrongdoings.
How wonderful of the government! While a civilized system should demand that whistle-blowers (people who are trying to fight corruption) be given protection, our present government is doing exactly the opposite.
“This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man who gave his life for us. But the bigger question is: How many of us realise that the Indian Democracy is being dismantled bit by bit by the present ruling dispensation?
You can read the entire story here. But let me warn you: In my opinion, it is a rather badly written article. In fact, that is the reason I tried to make rewrite it and make it shorter.