Friday, February 20, 2009

Get set for the 16th Lok Sabha polls

Most religions thrive on miracles. In India, it is a miracle that Indian democracy itself thrives on miracles; rather perhaps it is a miracle that Indian democracy survives and thrives despite the political system and politicians. As the nation gears up for the Lok Sabha elections, you don’t need to be a pundit to realise that the polity and voters are hopelessly fragmented. The next Lok Sabha will be peppered with regional and local parties with 5 or 10 or 15 seats dictating terms and blackmailing their way to pelf and plunder in a fractious and incoherent coalition government. Ever wonder why India gets unstable coalitions in times of grave economic crisis? It was a joke led by the late Charan Singh in 1979 when OPEC dealt the second Oil Shock. It was the sham led by the late V. P. Singh in 1990-91 when the Indian economy virtually collapsed. It was the farce led by Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral in 1996-97 when East Asia faced a meltdown. Who will lead the next farce? Here is my choice of probable candidates:
  • Chand Mohammed aka Chander Mohan: He will fulfil two crucial criteria: unity between Hindus and Muslims and the importance of dynasty in Indian politics. Besides, like Manmohan Singh, he can’t even hope to get elected!
  • Raj Thackeray: No one else can revitalise democracy the way he can. Imagine goons of MNS chasing MPs from Bihar and UP through the Central Hall of Parliament.
  • Mani Kumar Subba: This gentleman too will fulfil two crucial criteria: India is open to outsiders and democracy is a gamble. This man is allegedly a citizen of Nepal on the run; so at least he will ‘run’ a government. More importantly, he will use his famous lotteries to allocate portfolios to coalition partners.
  • Pramod Mutalik: If democracy can be fun, this will be the ultimate thing. Imagine a debate between this staunch defender of Hindu culture and the redoubtable Renuka Choudhry. TV News channels need only do live telecast of Lok Sabha proceedings to get record TRPs.
  • Pinarayi Vijayan: He will achieve what no Prime Minister in modern India has ever been able to achieve. This committed Marxist will issue a decree that will completely ban commissions from foreign companies for winning contracts (Of course, the ‘cause’ will be exempt).
  • Ajit Singh: This gentleman represents the ultimate fantasy of Indian democracy: the innate ability to tie up with any party and individual, and change the tie-up in a few days. Why, he can even tie-up with the Chinese Communist Party if that can ensure he will be Prime Minister for 14 hours.
  • Ramalinga Raju: These troubled times for the Indian economy need a financial whiz. Who better than the esteemed Raju? He can actually make trade and fiscal deficits, inflation, rising unemployment and farmer’s suicides disappear. Just imagine him presenting the next Union Budget!
Some readers might have read the headline and wondered if there is a typographical error in it. You see, the next Lok Sabha elections will be the 15th. But rest assured, the miracle that is Indian democracy will ensure that it will only be a year or so before we start voting in the 16th Lok Sabha elections!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time to snap all ties with Pakistan

The whole damn thing – like as always in the past – is fast descending into a farce and a bloody masquerade. Close to three months have passed since the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai and we now get ‘credible’ reports from investigators in Pakistan that those who planned the brutal attack were not from Pakistan. By the time you read this, the Pakistani Foreign Minister or Interior Minister would have almost certainly officially informed India of the same. Indian citizens and the Establishment would be outraged at the duplicity and perfidy of Pakistan. But then, in a response that is typically Indian, the Mumbai carnage would be a fading memory and the media would be more preoccupied with the love story of Chand and Fiza. There will be some chest thumping because the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will announce that Pakistan needs to do much more to curb terrorism. Bleeding hearts will keep up their rant that Pakistan is as much a victim of terrorism as India. More bleeding hearts will preach that only ‘people to people’ interaction will lead to lasting solutions. And of course, there will be those disposed towards misplaced bellicosity who will keep insisting that only sustained attacks on training camps based in Pakistan will teach ‘them’ a lesson. But eventually, one more bomb blast will kill and maim dozens or hundreds in another Indian city and the whole cycle of accusations and denials will resume; only to end again in a farce.

I completely agree with level headed and sober analysts that launching a military offensive against Pakistan will not necessarily result in an end to cross border terrorism. That could have been a risk worth taking if the Indian military had the power and punch to decisively knock out and decisively defeat the Pakistani military in a short and swift conflict. The unpalatable reality is: the Indian military doesn’t have that kind of punch. In any case, the powers that be know that the Big Boys will force India to go for a quick ceasefire and a stalemate. Pakistan will again make promises to stop encouraging jehadi attacks against India. It will again break that promise with impunity. So, is India to sit impotently and not be able to do anything about it?

I strongly suggest that we simply cut off all ties and relations with Pakistan. I don’t mean just the recall of the diplomats; I mean the complete works. No people to people contacts, no cultural exchange programmes; no cricket matches either in India or Pakistan or even in another country. No Indian artistes in Pakistan and vice-versa. All embassies, consulates and the likes must be shut down and there should be a complete and unequivocal ban of travel between the two countries. This will anger the bleeding hearts sure. But the least that India and Indian citizens can do is to express how utterly disgusted they are by the brazen duplicity of Pakistan that it is no longer interested in any relations with that country. I know, the terror attacks will probably still continue. But for heaven’s sake, rather improve internal security than have anything to do with a State that is bent upon destroying India.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Are indians so blind as to praise a movie that insults hinduism and india? sutanu guru examines

Dear ‘Secular’ Indian,

Imagination, pride and a sense of legacy and heritage are the bed rocks of a civilisation. Replace that with voyeurism, self-loathing and destructive denial and you land up with a wounded civilisation. And what else is India but a wounded civilisation? And what else is Hinduism but the oldest religion of the world that secular Indians born often as Hindus are bent upon trampling, denigrating and destroying?

I know why you are going ga ga over "Slumdog Millionaire". Since most of you are familiar with Hindi, I am sure it should have been titled ‘Jhopadpatti ka Crorepati Kutta’. Why should that offend you? After all, the movie supposedly very movingly portrays reality, isn’t it? But I am sure you are gloating not just because Danny Boyle has successfully peddled poverty, grime, squalor and hopelessness that surround much of India. You are gloating because the movie is a brilliant assault on the very idea of India; the India that you so passionately hate and denounce at every available forum. You have so freely, indiscriminately and hysterically bandied about powerful words like Genocide, Mass Murder, State Terror, Fascism, Talibanization, Discrimination, Barbarism and Feudalism while talking about India and Hinduism that sometimes even agnostic Hindus like me start wondering if you may be right after all.

But having read "Q&A", the book by diplomat Vikas Swarup and seen the movie, I must protest at the desecration of India and the denigration of Hinduism. What bothers me more is that the movie is targeted primarily at a western audience, most of which has a fairly vague idea of what is happening in India. Through powerful cinematic images, sound and a forcible imposition of context when none exist, Danny Boyle will almost certainly convince the western audience that the worst perceptions they had about India are indeed true. And how brilliantly insidious and clever Danny Boyle and his team have been at the job!

Let's start with the more gratuitous assaults on the idea of India. The host of the Kutta show Anil Kapoor asks the hero a question whose answer is Satyamev Jayate. If you have seen the film, you will know that the hero Jamal Malik has a phenomenal memory and is very inventive and innovative, a street survivor, if you like. Jamal has also studied in a slum school as a child, where the standard of education is so high that the teacher asks students to memorise the names of the three leading characters of the famous book "The Three Musketeers". And yet, in that very school, Jamal is apparently not taught that Satyamev Jayate is the national motto of India. When the cop (Irrfan Khan), who is interrogating and torturing Jamal, expresses surprise at his ignorance, Jamal counters by asking the cop if he knows the latest rate of Bhel Puri on Juhu beach. Can you imagine an American kid who has gone to school and says he has no clue about what ‘In God We trust’ means? And what has Satyamev Jayate got to do with the price of Bhel Puri on Juhu beach? Clearly, Mr ( And Ms) Secular Indian, you are delighted with the question and the answer because, it so cleverly shows that the national motto of India is a hollow slogan. That’s what you firmly believe anyway.

I suppose you can call that cinematic or ‘artistic’ freedom. But, what comes after the insidious assault on Satyamev Jayate is truly shocking and outrageous. And I am astonished how serious objections have not been raised. Anil Kapoor - shame on his desperation to do a Hollywood movie that even perverts his own faith-asks Jamal a question about what Lord Ram holds in his right hand. The movie then cleverly shifts from the studio to scenes where mobs of Hindus descend from a train, chanting “Kill the Muslims,” and indulge in an orgy of murder even as Jamal and his elder brother run away along with a waif who is subsequently unveiled as Laitka. Twice during this dance of hatred, death and destruction, viewers get a close view of Lord Ram - rather a boy dressed as Lord Ram who stares malevolently at Jamal, his stance conveying violence and his eyes spewing hatred. Now, I have since numerous portraits, ‘photos’, illustrations and sketches of Lord Ram since childhood. Never, ever have I come across a pictorial version that shows the deity as a vengeful God with fearsome eyes. In fact, this Lord Ram looks more like Lord Shiva on the verge of performing the Tandava. From where did Danny Boyle and his team pick up this portrait of Ram? Would he have shown images of a vengeful and hate filled Jesus Christ when racist whites are slaughtering American Indians or black slaves? And what is his clever juxtaposition of images saying??

That Lord Ram is vengeful. That in Boyle’s India, Hindus habitually kill Muslims. That such is the nature of Hinduism. I request Anil Kapoor to look again at this image of Lord Ram and ask himself honestly if this is ‘realistic’. Does his conscience allow him to watch the image again and not feel ashamed that he is part of this denigration of Lord Ram? I have no such expectations from fellow ‘Secular’ Indians since they think Ram is associated only with the loony Hindutva types. Now, comes the even more sinister part. After Hindus have butchered Muslims ( including Jamal’s mother), a group of alleged do gooders pick up Jamal, Salim and Latika. The good guys turn out be monsters who maim, blind, cripple and otherwise exploit poor children so that they can earn a ‘higher rate of return’ while begging on the streets of Bombay. Nobody in India will have any problems with that since that is the reality. But what disturbs non-secular and agnostic Hindus like me is the manner in which the song “Darshan do Bhagwan…” is repeatedly drilled into the ears and minds of viewers even as the gang leaders prepare to blind yet another child. The song is associated intimately with devotion towards Lord Krishna. And what the images and sounds keep conveying after artificially putting a false and misleading portrait of Ram when Hindus are killing Muslims - is how Hindus maim and blind children by invoking Lord Krishna - yet another sacred deity of Hinduism. I have heard some fellow seculars say that since the question involved Surdas who was blind, it was ‘artistic’ freedom used by Danny Boyle to portray the grim reality of Indian slums. But all Indians must ask themselves another honest question: how many street beggars – blind or not – sing Darshan do Bhagwan? Aren’t Bollywood songs more the stereotype? Then why deliberately inject yet another symbol of devout Hinduism while portraying barbarism and savagery?

That’s not all. Once the kids land up in Agra, there is more India bashing. Jamal becomes an impromptu guide and tells a ‘white’ couple that the Taj Mahal was actually a five star hotel along with a swimming pool that was left unfinished because the builder died. When the white couple says that it is not written in the guide books, Jamal promptly says that the guide books have been written by “bloody Indian beggars”. During the Taj Mahal drama, Danny Boyle even has an American slip, a $ 100 bill to Jamal because he was beaten up by an Indian driver. Now, most whites who slip dollar bills to kids in Bombay are paedophiles of the worst type, exploiting the poverty and helplessness of poor slum children to satiate their perverted sexual appetites. Many have been caught; only to be let off because of our corrupt system. If Danny Boyle was so keen on showing reality, he could have shown a couple of ‘white’ paedophiles? As for secular Indians, who gives a damn about pedophiles when they have to chase more important and dollar fetching concepts like Genocide and State terrorism?

The most cruel and disgusting cut comes around this time in the movie. All along, the viewer has been exposed to brutality, death, torture and worse with images and sounds of Hinduism jumping glaringly out of the screen. Suddenly, in Agra, we are shown the rendition of an Opera with western classical music where Jamal looks ‘peacefully’ in love, an adult and vibrantly smiling Latika suddenly pops up on the screen and the viewer is given a few minutes of love, compassion and hope. The background music and visuals are of course the kind mostly whites in Europe and America indulge in. Sure, it is artistic freedom.

But therein lies the rub. Danny Boyle and his Indian team mates surely have every right to ‘interpret’ a book in their own way. But how have they done it? I urge readers to go through the book "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup and come to their own conclusions. In the book, the hero is an orphan called Ram Mohhamed Thomas. In the movie, he becomes a Muslim Jamal Malik who loses his mother to marauding Hindus. In the book, the hero is brought up by a Hindu priest who teaches him English. In the movie, the teacher only beats him. In the book, Salim is Ram’s best friend. In the movie, Salim, but naturally, is Jamal’s elder brother. In the book, a lawyer-cum-human rights activist rescues Ram Mohhamed Thomas from the police and does what the cop Irrfan Khan does in the movie - listen to the amazing life and tales of the orphan. In the book, the host of the show starts with the Amitabh Bachchan question. Ditto in the movie. Every other question in the movie is different from those in the books. In fact, the book has the host asking the orphan what was inscribed in the cross of Jesus! By Jesus, artistic freedom changes it into a bow and arrow held by a vengeful fearsome Lord Ram! Could the hero have been a victim of Bombay bomb blasts? Many Muslim children in India have lost their fathers to bomb blasts. Could the audition have carried a hymn or a gospel instead of a devout Hindu song? But that’s not what Danny Boyle wanted and so the ‘secular’ Indian is celebrating.

This is not new. Mahatma Gandhi had called "Mother India" by Katherine Mayo a gutter inspectors report. Movies like "Salaam Bombay" and "City of Joy", not to speak of hundreds of books and documentaries, have portrayed the worst of India and won international accolades. In fact, there are ‘secular’ authors who revel in denigrating all that is Indian and Hindu because it fetches them more dollars. I wish they-and the Indian cast members of Slumdog plus the other secular Indians who are applauding them - had the basic honesty to admit two things: First, they really don’t like the idea of India; and second, even if they felt secretly ashamed at selling their motherland as a whore, they couldn’t help resist the lure of the dollars. But then what can you do but feel helplessly outraged when you examine "Slumdog" in the right perspective and realise it is one of the more innovative assaults on the Idea of India? I will conclude by invoking just two champions of the secular brigade to highlight what I mean. One is Arundhati Roy, the Goddess of Secession who is convinced that the 26/11 carnage in Bombay was a result of FASCISM in India. The other is Prakash Karat, whose fellow comrades still insist that China was the real victim of the 1962 war.

As far as you are concerned, nothing that people like me will say or write will influence you. In fact, for you, I am already a Khaki Chaddi.

I only wish we had smarter protectors of India and Hinduism than just the Khaki Chaddis!

With Remorse and Outrage

Yours Cynically and Inimically

A Helpless Indian


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Are judges above the law?

It would have been quite humorous, were it not so pernicious and dangerous. The latest fracas between the Right to Information Commissioner and the Supreme Court is a classic example of how desperately the judicial system in India needs a complete revamp and overhaul. This is what famous lawyer and constitutional expert Fali Nariman has to say about the unwillingness of Supreme Court judges to reveal their assets under the RTI Act: “For judges of the highest court to litigate as to whether or not they should disclose their assets is as bad as judges going to the court on whether it was lawful for income tax to be deducted from the salaries they get! We have good judges, but we need more judicial wisdom." And look at the ‘Supreme’ irony of the whole matter.
Recently, the Central Information Commission passed an order that required judges of the Supreme Court to declare their assets. Rather than gladly agreeing to set an example for everyone else in India, the Supreme Court appealed to a High Court against the order. In other words, it is akin to the Managing Director of a company appealing to a General Manager of his own company against an order passed by an independent board of the company! The High Court promptly stays the Information Commission order and asks Fali Nariman to appear as a ‘friend of the court’ in the case. To his credit, Nariman has politely declined. And urged the judges to lead by example.

Here is another tale from Indian judiciary that is hilarious. The Central Bureau of Investigation is pursuing the notorious Sister Abhaya murder case in Kerala. A High Court judge, Justice K. Hema effectively stays the CBI investigations. A few days later, a fellow judge of the same High Court, Justice R. Basant, asks CBI to continue investigations and says he will personally monitor the case. Then, a furious Justice Hema passes another order a few days later stating that no other judge of Kerala High Court can ‘clarify’ her order and only the Supreme Court can do so!

Then again, honourable judges of the Punjab & Haryana High Court are at each other’s throats over the Rs.15 lakh cash scam. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says it is better that Justice Nirmal Yadav is transferred as there are allegations that Rs.15 lakh in cash meant for her were by mistake delivered to the residence of fellow judge Justice Nirmaljit Kaur. Justice Yadav formally complains to the Chief Justice that actually there was a Supreme Court judge behind all this and he was present in the residence of Justice Kaur when the cash was delivered.

Meanwhile, investigations are going on against about 42 judges who are alleged to be beneficiaries of the PF scam that was uncovered in Ghaziabad. Though there has been a lot of talk of action against judges, nothing concrete has been done. And of course, it has been months since the Chief Justice of Supreme Court wrote to the Prime Minister recommending that Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court be impeached. Nothing has been done yet. What conclusions can Indian citizens draw if Supreme Court judges are not willing to reveal their assets?