Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Internet Rattles Communal Digvijay

Politics is probably one domain where non-performance can be rewarded with promotions. The distance between Bhopal, capital of MP, and Indore, the main commercial city of MP is just about 190Kms. In the ten years that he was CM of MP, Digivijay Singh, couldn’t get even a decent two-lane road between these two most important cities of MP built. This was a stage post-reforms when infrastructure had become a top priority in most parts of the country. The journey between the two cities then used to take anything from 6 to 7 hours. In neighbouring Gujarat you could cover the distance in 3 hours flat. I do not know the current status of that highway but the former CM of MP is now on the national stage for Congress charged with the task of invoking the fear of RSS and other Hindu organisations under the garb of ‘Saffron Terror’. Pushed out of the limelight by the Anna Hazare campaign DS finally comes with a blog equating corruption to Communalism. This time instead of rabble rousing in the TV media  he has written a post on the Times website: Communalism is as dangerous as corruption. This time the rant is against the Internet warriors or should I say, Internet Hindus. So let’s try and understand his latest rant (quotes in blue). (Thanks to @KittuKrithika who sent in the feed)

If you were expecting him to be discussing both corruption and communalism in his article then you’re going to be disappointed. The word corruption appears only twice in the whole post. Corruption appears once in the title and then again in a repetition of the title towards the end. Such is the deception of the whole piece. Understandable, because not once in many years has DS ever spoken about the rampant corruption in and by the party he belongs to.

The internet technology has now gathered momentum and now made the virtual world, at times more powerful and overpowering than the real one. Obviously, politicians in India so far used to the cut and thrust and real world politics in India also can't ignore the opinion manipulating possibilities of the tools of virtual media. Read carefully what he says – “manipulating possibilities”! Millions of people on the net are out to manipulate opinion? That many views and opinions are circulated on the net are not really his problem it appears. The problem is that there is now alternative media for millions who have found their voice which is usually never heard in the mainstream. There is a mild admission that politicians have probably not managed to manipulate this virtual media as they have been able to do with the paid and servantile mainstream media. If indeed any media holds “manipulating” potential as DS states then the politicians would be the first one to use it to great effect. Unfortunately, he has yet to come to terms with the greater independence of the net.

An empowered middle class enjoying the fruits of economic liberalization has become extremely politically conscious which I feel is quite a healthy sign . But this new found political articulation is sometimes ill-tempered and in several cases extremely partisan and crosses the limits of decent public discourse. There are many great writers on the net. Many are far superior to our regular mainstream journalists. Where ill-temper is concerned there is little chance anyone on earth can use language more foul than some of our politicians. And what is wrong with being partisan? As a Congress member DS is not exactly the greatest symbol of bi-partisan discourse, is he? In all fairness the ones on the internet are actually far more bi-partisan and if there are extreme and unfair views or campaigns the internet users criticise those heavily too. DS may not believe how well self-regulated internet is.

I say this from personal experience. As, I have lately been on the receiving end of the abusive hate mail whenever I have expressed my forthright views on Right Wing Terror. In such situations, the articulate middle class has its right to dissent against the views of politicians, but should be tolerant enough to listen to the views that they may not agree to without being abusive. Forthright views are quite different from malicious campaigns. Calling a protester a ‘thug’ or calling a chief minister ‘maut ka saudagar’ are not exactly forthright views presented in a civil manner. Come to think of it, our politicians have moved a privilege motion against Kiran Bedi and Om Puri for mimicking them and ridiculing them. Even if the duo’s acts were in bad taste they weren’t half as vulgar as the language or actions that politicians employ. Yet, they cannot stomach such minor ridicule.

I have always felt fanatic religious or ethnic fundamentalism is the root cause of global terror. Irrespective of the religion they may profess, the perpetrators of this ideology of fanatic fundamentalism breed hatred and appropriate a self -righteous authority to impose their beliefs on others and then unleash violence against the non-believers. History is full of such examples. This is like Moses talking. It is anybody’s guess which religious groups have sought to impose their beliefs on others through swords and terrorism.

India is a country of tolerance……We can't allow the idea of "Vasudev Kutumbhakam" so closely identified with our history and our culture to be snatched away by these rabid fanatic fundamentalists whether they are Muslims or Hindus. Simply amazing! This is the first time I’ve heard DS using a Hindu phrase to recollect our history. I'd have thought he would have invoked 'Osamaji'! It is simply a tragic realisation for us Indians that we have gone a step too far beyond tolerance. We have gone to the extreme of tolerating the intolerant. That is the cause of so much churning in our society. Imagine, which democracy will tolerate a party that has institutionalised corruption and managed to alienate the majority community for most of the last 65 years. Which democracy will tolerate a foreigner holding the power strings? Which democracy will have PMs being imposed on them rather than through elections?

I have faced the ire equally of both rabid fanatic Hindus and Muslims when I went to Azamgarh and when I went to Barak Valley in Assam. They are the faces of the same coin. They feed on each other in a mutually sustainable way. Some times when I see that within minutes of my statement, even in some remote corner of the country against right wing terror, there is a flood of abusive comments against me. I have doubts on their authenticity. Are they sponsored? Have the perpetrators of hate and terror been able to organize themselves through cells/ groups that run these ‘virtual campaigns' through assumed identities to brow beat any one into silence who dares to expose their acts of violence? Really sweetheart? If I were the TOI I would have asked DS to put up 10 mails/letters from Hindu and Muslim people to support this frivolous statement. If there are any mails it would largely be from Hindus who have been targeted over and over again through DS’s foul comments. When DS stepped up after the 13/7 Mumbai blast and indicated Saffron hand in the blasts cannot be ruled out despite the govt’s position not to speculate, what was the authenticity or reason for such statements? What is the authenticity that dead men had spoken to DS? Sometimes it’s better to ask silly questions to one self rather than throwing them out in the open to unknown commoners.

But I would urge upon all those who believe in universal brotherhood who believe in liberal modern secular India to react with the same zeal against these communal fascists who through wireless technology …..To me communalism is as dangerous as corruption. We don’t have to look too far as we have in our neighborhood the example of almost a failed state of Pakistan….Let us get together and not allow the fascist communal fanatics to capture the mind and thoughts of the people of this great country through the use of the 'virtual world '. First, corruption is within your house DS! And that would be easier to confront than any other problem. Second, the more often you use the term ‘communal fascists’ for some net users it betrays your thorough lack of understanding of the power of the net or wireless technology. The net has all kinds, including the likes of DS. There are communalists, fascists, Nazis, islamists, mujahideens and believe me, even Congress fanatics.

The internet is not the greatest threat to this country. The greatest threat is pretty much the current state of Congress which is thoroughly soaked in corruption, nepotism, and communalism (Remember wikileaks?) Maybe DS should also read the article ‘Communal games of secular Congress’. No wonder the internet has rattled the mainstream media and now it has rattled saffron baiter Digivijay Singh himself. I thought I’d never see this day. Celebrate!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Media Is Never With People...

Mass media biased towards Anna Hazare's cause say experts according to an article in DNA on Sunday, August 28. Bhaskar Rao of Centre for Media Studies adds in the same article: "By its very nature, television is a very biased medium. Whenever a big issue or a campaign like this crops up, news channels try to be on top of it. This is the trend that prevails everywhere," …But unfortunately in the Anna Hazare case, I think TV channels have overdone it…The main issue here is corruption, which is the elephant, but the media has given extensive publicity to "the elephant riders, which is Anna Hazare and his team". There was a lone voice of support for news television channels from noted journalist and Editor and Managing Director of Pioneer newspaper Chandan Mitra, who feels it was not the case.

Everything in the lines from DNA that I’ve quoted could be true. Except that the article misses certain points about the media. Let’s take Chandan Mitra. Apart from being the MD of The Pioneer, he is also BJP member of the RS. That’s double a privilege. The Pioneer is a journal that had many writers severely criticising the Anna movement. One even called it “spreading canards..” Truth is, the Anna campaign made an unwritten proposition to the media – ‘You are with us or against us’. Given that terrible choice there was only one way for the media to jump – the people way. TimesNow took the lead and the rest just had to follow. And follow they did with the best attempt to draft the worst camouflaged tarnishing of the campaign. They pulled out Mahesh Bhatt, Nandita Rao, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, Nandan Nilekani and many more that they could lay their hands on. All these worthies did their best to tarnish Anna’s campaign and hold the govt line that all this was against the constitution. Constitution! It’s a word you’d have heard more in the last ten days than ever before in the last 3 decades. Suddenly, constitution was the final line of defence for everyone against Anna’s campaign.

People may have some idea of the privileges of the media but let me give a few examples. Even the lowest level employee in a well-known media outlet extracts the greatest privileges from the system. For instance, you could glide through a curfew area if you flash your media house business card even if you are not a journalist or not have a permit. You can bargain the best discounts at hotels and many other shopping outlets. Your payments could get priority in government organisations if you’re from the media. Even a passport office gives you priority if you flash your media card. The parties of big media houses and their indulgences are something to behold. If you ever happen to attend one of them you would hardly believe these outlets actually serve the general public. So it’s only in a situation like the Anna movement that many media outlets had a compulsion to tilt in favour of common people. They had no choice. Otherwise, throughout the year they are more or less an extended PR department of the government. How do I know? I’ve been there and done that in my association with one of  the highest circulated journals in the country and probably the world. It is absolutely shameful!

The current media as we know it has come about since the reforms of 1991. Prior to that, and maybe even now, the biggest advertiser is not private enterprise but the government. The very survival of many media outlets depends on the govt. In such a situation can the media really be expected to be on the side of facts and truth? Despite all their claims those in the media who accept govt awards like the Padmas must seriously question their own conscience. I was witness to the terrible reporting of the Gujarat riots by star media celebs like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai. They are also the ones that whipped up the most emotions during Kandahar. They are now Padma Shri award winners. Both NDTV and CNN-IBN have awarded Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi sham awards like ‘Indian of the year’. Are you seriously expecting them to represent the people’s concerns?

On January 17, 1991 I was at home in London. It’s a historic day. I watched till late night the first Gulf war that broke out. Even the BBC that normally shut down broadcast then at midnight carried on airing reports till around 3am. In less than an hour CNN, an otherwise unknown cable channel, became an international household name. History hangs on tiny chances. In the current Anna campaign TimesNow grabbed that tiny chance to become the channel to grab the most eyeballs. If the other competitors followed,  it was out of sheer compulsion and not out of any sense of reporting factually. Thus NDTV, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today and even all the Hindi channels rushed to stand by the people. This time they were all also watching people on the social networks. So, in normal times a media that is a slave of the government had no choice but to be in the right books. Make no mistake, in the days and weeks to come, some of these channels will revert back to their normal position of standing for the govt. They will do everything to indulge in mud-slinging against the Anna Hazare team just as they tried to during the initial stage of the anti-corruption movement in April and June (Against Ramdev).

Ashutosh, the MD of IBN’s Hindi channel, has openly accused some English channel media celebs of being govt spokespersons. He mentions how some of them have acquired luxury flats and residences in a discussion conducted by Karan Thapar. Believable? Absolutely! Go and take a look at the kind of flats and bungalows that our media celebrities live in. You will not find that very different from Bollywood celebrities. Rahul Kanwal even tweets about rising interests bothering home buyers, but I really doubt it’s a problem that seriously confronts him.

Following the outbursts of Kiran Bedi and Om Puri, the Parliament has moved privilege motions against them. Hmmmm! PRIVILEGE is the key word. The media reports it but it fails in their job to defend the right of free speech of these individuals. That parliament has been endowed with such extraordinary powers is wrong. The media should be standing up for these two individuals despite their buffoonery. They will not. What they said and did may be excessive but they weren’t wrong. It’s the way people feel. What does it say about a journalist who cannot get near the people and feels comfortable in her studio when she can rush to Egypt or Libya? Barkha Dutt has learned one thing at least, that being crooked doesn’t pay! It equates with you with politicians who constantly take the people for granted.

Democracy is not a relationship between the rulers and the ruled. It’s a process between and among equals. The moment parliament thinks people are subordinate they go terribly wrong. People are not subordinates. They are the reason parliament exists. They are the reason constitution exists. They are the reason why media exists. The day our media realises that and learns to be honest our parliament will be honest. Till then, our media, more than our politicians, poses the greatest danger to our democracy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Sardesai In The Works

Rajdeep Sardesai has released his latest Friday (August 26) blog-buster ‘An open letter to Anna Hazare’. I have always maintained that there are two Rajdeeps, one on TV and one on his blog or print. The latter one usually surfaces from deep contemplation. I have promised that I’ll often be there to rehash Rajdeep. In this case let’s start with the last para of his latest post: “Post-script: I have framed a picture of our meeting earlier this week. The caption reads: "When zero met hero!". India is not Anna, nor is Anna India, but you are now an icon for millions. Please don't allow a personality cult to shadow your ultimate gift of common sense.” What usually amazes me is fake humility, more than fake journalism. But let’s give the benefit of doubt to Rajdeep. The zero meets hero would have suited Kapil Sibal a lot better. We will come back to his open letter a bit later in this post.

I agree, India is not Anna and Anna is not India. That is a stupid statement from a woman in a frenzy. Why don’t journalists ask the question: Is Manmohan Congress and is Congress Manmohan? So why is the constant claim of MMS being clean offered as a defence for a corrupt Congress? As the head of govt if this man can’t even take responsibility for what goes on under his leadership events such as the Anna protest will come about. MPs will be gheraoed. The media should have condemned MMS strongly over the Ramlila crackdown and demanded his resignation. They should have condemned the PM strongly over corruption and demanded his resignation. The media should have demanded the PM’s resignation over Anna’s arrest. They did not. If anarchy is about to visit India it is not the making of Anna Hazare. It is the making of the PM without a conscience, a corrupt govt that has lost touch with people and a media that has been a slave to powerful forces. The shamelessly slavish media wouldn’t even dare ask the Congress or the govt on the truth about Sonia Gandhi or her illness etc. If Rajdeep were an ordinary citizen and watched some of the news channels he would know the media could well be party to any anarchy that might come about. Inadvertently, Rajdeep himself owns up to some of the lies media peddles and absolute fixation with powerbrokers. Now let’s understand the notes in his latest blog in this context. (All quotes in blue)

You (Anna) have worked tirelessly for more than two decades in exposing corruption in Maharashtra but Ralegan Siddhi is a long way from Delhi which is perhaps why television channels hadn't featured your contribution prominently till now. An opinion poll we did just a month ago suggested that more people had heard of yoga guru Baba Ramdev than a tireless fakir-like crusader from a Western Maharashtra village.

Bravo! So I wonder if Rajdeep thinks India is Delhi and Delhi is India. This is one of the cruel truths about our media. Almost all of their reports, be it politics, education, schools, colleges, police are about Delhi and few more metros. Why Ramdev? If I had conducted a poll like CNN-IBN I can guarantee more people would have heard about Barkha Dutt than they would have about Anna Hazare. Are the reasons so hard for Rajdeep to see? That their poll samples are pathetic! Anna Hazare is not a TV hugging campaigner. Ramdev is on TV probably more than Rajdeep and many other media celebs put together. Shamefully and conveniently Rajdeep’s channel has consigned the rest of India to ‘Citizen Journalists’ to report on and proudly tom-toms it as a great innovation in journalism. CJ is a good idea, but that innovation doesn’t take away the fact that the media doesn’t give a damn about the rest of India, which is why the immense response that Anna Hazare has generated has come as a shocker for many media crooks. More importantly, the intellectuals who frequently appear on TV simply cannot digest the fact that a simpleton from Ralegaon Siddhi has brushed their nonsense away with his sincerity, courage and focused campaign.

You've even shown that the Marathas, a community that has failed to conquer Delhi since losing the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, can indeed take the national capital by storm. But in every battle there must come a time when you must call a halt. That time may well be approaching.

I’m not exactly a history expert but what has this got to do with Marathas? If the campaigner was from Indore would Rajdeep be invoking the history of Holkars? Or if he were from Mysore would he be citing the failures of Tipu Sultan? Or if he were a muslim would Rajdeep say that the Moghuls have once again conquered Delhi? This is how Rajdeep cites caste and community and divides the country as does the media in general. One particular channel turned the Anna campaign into the Ramlila crowds V Dalits & minorities. Such was the impact that Dalits and minorities carried out a rally in Delhi’s Connaught place area on Wednesday night causing a complete traffic mayhem. This is how our news media is dangerous for unity and the democracy of India. CNN-IBN’s  Lokmat group editor, the vicious Nikhil Wagle, has been consistently tweeting messages to incite religious divisions in the crowds at Ramlila and the public in general. That’s Rajdeep’s own backyard member.

Ram Lila is not Mumbai's Azad Maidan nor is it the village square in Ralegan Siddhi. This is not some battle to stop the local thug from shutting his liquor shop. Here, there are multiple agendas that require dexterous negotiation and not mere sloganeering. The sight of gangster Abu Salem's girlfriend Monica Bedi parading Mumbai's streets with an Anna cap should convince you of the dangers of reducing the fight against corruption to a well-choreographed prime time TV spectacle.

Fantastic! Who else to warn Anna Hazare and talk to him about ‘turf wars’ than Rajdeep? The idea is, go back to your village you village-idiot, places like Ramlila or Azad Maidan are not for you. These are for greater men and women who usually appear on CNN-IBN. The ones who believe have the right to set the multiple agendas. The NAC types who draft spurious bills to be presented in the parliament. The best part is about Monica Bedi. Hello? Who made Monica Bedi a media celebrity? Who are the ones who talk about Rahul Mahajan’s swayamwar as lead story? Have you forgotten all that Rajdeep? Monica Bedi has appeared for the protests voluntarily but it’s the media who promoted her on their channels. I am under no illusion if CNN-IBN had the chance to interview Ajmal Kasab they would be thrilled to devote an hour to him.

The frenzy being built up in the media by hyper-ventilating news channels and demagogic acolytes could easily transform a genuine people's movement into a lumpen expression of mob fury. It's a transformation that could end up destroying the hard-earned credibility of your struggle.

Imagine the extraordinarily malicious campaign that Rajdeep & Co. carried out on CNN-IBN against Ramdev during the first week of June. I could very easily say that media campaign emboldened the govt to become a lumpen expression of state fury. You never know what can happen with mobs, but so far the crowds at Ramlila and other places in the current agitation have been largely peaceful. It could well be that the goons floating around could well be plants of the movement's adversaries, just like media threw a spanner in the works of Ramdev. It is when the media has their own agenda that great concerns confront them – in this case another channel that has grabbed eyeballs. TimesNow maybe. Rajdeep even came up with his own 5-point strategy to end the current crisis. Is that the job of a news man? Someday, Rajdeep must wake up to the fact that the media actually throws a spanner in the works many times. Remember 26/11? In such a situation it’s a bad idea to throw a Sardesai in the works.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Media Mullahs

In an interesting oped titled ‘Messianism versus democracy’ in The Hindu this is what Prabhat Patnaik had to say: “Maulana Bhashani, a popular peasant leader in what is now Bangladesh, used to give marathon speeches that were interrupted when people went home for lunch or dinner, or even for a night's rest, and resumed when they re-assembled afterwards; and the speeches contained much information about everything

Here’s another excerpt from the article: “Messianism substitutes the collective subject, the people, by an individual subject, the messiah. The people may participate in large numbers, and with great enthusiasm and support, in the activities undertaken by the messiah… but they do so as spectators. The action is of the messiah; the people are only enthusiastic and partisan supporters and cheerleaders. If at all they ever undertake any action on the side, this is entirely at the messiah's bidding, its ethics, rationale and legitimacy never explained to them” Well, I don’t agree with quite a few parts in the article but this post is not to debate that. Patnaik probably has inadvertently described religious following itself. The para I quoted can be used for Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad, Moses or any other prophet you can think of. Imagine if prophets from centuries ago had 24X7 media in their time.

Till the time a messiah from the general public, as Patnaik sort of describes Anna Hazare, comes around the role is usually played by those hyper media celebrity anchors and hosts. Each one passionately intent on heaping some agenda on viewers and readers. Desperately agitated and tired with the twittering and twattering of people on the social networks criticising her, one prominent media cacofonix called them ‘Internet Hindus’! If Maulana Bhashani’s marathon speech is an indicator our media celebrity speakers would have to be called the ‘Media Mullahs’.

If Prabhat Patnaik does a casual count of the number of followers our Media Mullahs have on their twitter accounts he will find them outnumbering those out on the streets supporting Anna Hazare. Secondly, to those who dismiss the crowds as not representing all of India one must point out that if social scientologists like Yogendra Yadav can make conclusions for the nation on sample populations of 20000 then the population sample of Anna is far more superior and far more reliable where accuracy is concerned. But in the crowds in the media are also those whose criticism of Anna’s effort is based on sloganeering and not completely on facts. Is everything in Anna’s protest fair? Obviously not. You are unlikely to find any mass movement in history where you are likely to find every part being fair and logical. This is simply because the end objective of mass movements are their stated objectives and that is that. Sometimes even unstated objectives like the partition of India are achieved/conceded. We don't exactly hang our earlier messiah, Mahatma Gandhi, for that.

Some innocent tweets wondered why Barkha Dutt wouldn’t go to Ramlila maidan to cover the protests when she considered it so important to rush to Egypt and Libya. The reasons for her not doing so is pretty obvious to people who have followed her reporting over the years. But taking the cue the other media mullahs rushed to Ramlila. Rajdeep Sardesai went to meet Anna and even had a photo op. Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today is reporting live from Ramlila today. After his return from Ramlila, Mullah Sardesai’s pattern of discourse has substantially changed. You can expect a similar change in Mullah Kanwal’s approach. The media mullahs may also have to slowly admit that the battering they receive from Internet Hindus is not entirely unjust or misplaced.

What does it say about our media mullahs when they invite those who trash people or protests with absolutely no logic at all? Mahesh Bhatt calls the Anna movement Taliban. Does that make sense? Yet he figures prominently on NDTV and CNN-IBN. Nikhi Wagle of the CNN-IBN group also tweets of religious bias and questions secularism of the protests. Since when was secularism the agenda of the protests in any case? Since when was a religious tone or bias the agenda of the protests? But both Bhatt and Wagle would like to tweak facts brazenly to lend some insidious motive to the event. And where Arnab Goswami is concerned, he is already a convert and is doing a non-stop coverage of the event.

What Prabhat Patnaik misses is that when the protest eventually winds up the only messiahs left continuing the messianism will be our Media Mullahs. They may just have to alter their agendas a bit.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Don't They Ask Suzy?

The PM keeps repeating his statement ‘govt has no magic wand against corruption’. Well, why don’t they ask Suzy? Suzanne Arundhati Roy is a single-window system for all your problems. In a post titled India’s worst journalists I had stated: “She is India's only global journalist. Be it a politician, a minister, head of state, saints, print journals, tv channels, everyone relies on her to deliver considered and scientific opinion on everything. And she never fails. Be it literature, nuclear threats, dams, environment, maoists, naxalites, mining, rocket science, environmental problems on the moon and mars, saving martians from pollution. She knows everything!” But we will come back to Roy a bit later.

While there is a huge support for Anna’s anti-corruption movement there are also a good number who criticise him for undemocratic ways adopted by him. It’s hardly possible to have a mass movement without its critics. Some of them are quite fair in their criticism but some are extending the Manish Tiwari line of dialogue, with a bit more sophistry though.

Sample some excerpts from this one from C.P. Bhambhri in a piece called ‘Spreading Canards….’ From The Pioneer:

A democratic system of governance cannot survive or, for that matter, thrive if people are conditioned in believing that every ‘elected representative’ is corrupt and misuses his power to appropriate public resources………Historical evidence clearly shows that democracy can be subverted and sabotaged by anti-democratic military Generals or fascist and Nazis like Hitler of Germany or Mussolini of Italy or General Franco of Spain or near home General Ayub Khan of Pakistan if the ‘public mood’ turns against electoral process which is projected as villain of the piece because democracy is labeled as a breeding ground for corruption.

First of all, I am yet to hear anyone, I repeat anyone, even remotely saying that every elected politician is corrupt. No, not even Anna Hazare says that. If there is anger against politicians as a community it still doesn’t imply that all politicians are corrupt or misuse power. It is fair, though, to believe that a majority do misuse power in some way or the other. The ‘maoists and anarchists’ comment by Manish Tiwari is still fresh but here is someone just putting it differently with subtlety by invoking Mussolini, Franco, Hitler and Ayub Khan. So the canard is now flowing both ways. Democracy was never meant to be a breeding ground for corruption, Mr. Bhambri! Unchecked power and greed are breeding grounds for corruption. If those in the ruling class can’t find the conscience to fight corruption, people will have to defy parliament. We are still lucky that unlike the Mideast people haven’t pulled out guns and swords. So Bhambri’s imaginary threat to democracy is as much a canard that he accuses the protesters of spreading.

Anna Hazare is leading an anti-corruption movement that has a fascist overtone because even Parliament, which represents political diversity of India, is being commanded to accept the so-called Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna. Parliament is the pillar of Indian democracy and every Bill gets democratic approval or rejection on the floor of both the Houses of Parliament….The demand to ‘accept’ their Bill or ‘face’ public anger which is manipulated by undertaking emotive steps like ‘fast-unto-death’ is not justifiable……It is bizarre, to say the least, that Anna Hazare is adopting coercive methods to achieve his goal. He is challenging the constitutional and legal rights of elected representatives to perform their legitimate functions.

There is definitely truth in stating Anna Hazare is pushing Parliament a bit too far by forcing the JLP and imposing deadlines. As bargaining chips protesters throw up the weirdest demands. But really, he has only half the blame to share. If the govt itself constituted a joint team to draft the Lokpal bill, then the right thing to do would be to present a bill that is drafted through consensus. They could have taken longer to reach that consensus. Playing tricks on the civil group and presenting a unilaterally drafted bill is bound to force such agitations, especially after the extreme step of arresting Anna, lathi-charging protesters earlier and displaying extra-ordinary arrogance. Very few people in print or TV are actually discussing the merits of both bills or the many versions of bills that are floating but instead focused on which side will blink first. This is the Bhambri version of Anna’s fascist approach. Parliament and government deserve to be respected. But the moment the government becomes arrogant, extremely corrupt and intolerant, it is the duty of citizens not to tolerate the intolerant and corrupt. Throwing out a corrupt and intolerant government is not the same as throwing out democracy. We have seen state and central governments thrown out before on many different issues. All this ‘holiness’ about parliament can only go so far!

There are reports today that around 26 MLAs from Andhra have quit over the CBI raids on Jagan Reddy. Why is it that these raids are happening only now? Was the Congress totally unaware of the corrupt YSR Reddy government? This is hardly the behaviour of a government that people should tolerate. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed in a democracy. But it’s usually the government and politicians that cross those lines first. Helpless citizens keep watching endlessly. Someday, the protests were bound to get threatening. It is not people who started the Franco and Hitler trend. In this case it is the government that started it and will now have to pay the price for it.

That brings us back to sister Suzy. She says ‘I am not Anna’ in an article in The Hindu. Thank God for small mercies. Frankly, you wouldn’t mistake her or her ideology for Anna even if you met her under a nuclear mushroom glow. She calls the whole JLP draconian. In the whole rant against Anna Hazare and the JLP she does not provide one single clause in the JLP that she finds draconian. She does not challenge anything in the JLP. The entire exercise is to merely poke holes into the character of Anna. The strange part about such lunatics is that they believe that anyone who stands up and fights for a cause should also fight for causes that are dear to their critics. Where does such sick thinking come from? Only from sick minds like Arundhati! So here is the sample from her article which should tell you everything that Anna isn’t:

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer's agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn't seem to have a view about the Government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

Well, to be honest, not everyone is as bright as Suzy to be knowledgeable about every single problem that confronts us. I sometimes wonder why the PM doesn’t talk to her. Is there any problem on earth or the universe that Suzy can’t solve? Because he didn’t talk about Nandigram he shouldn’t talk about corruption! Because he didn’t talk about Posco he shouldn’t protest about corruption! Because he didn’t talk about Singur he shouldn’t talk about anything! If you observe carefully there is only a thin line dividing the Bhambris and the Suzies. If the PM cannot find a magic wand why don’t they talk to Suzy! Anna’s ‘emotional blackmail’, as some people call it, can always be matched by Suzy’s emotional nonsense!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Full Monty Of Tricks

On Thursday, August 18 NDTV’s  programme, the bullshit never stops, started off with a tagline question ‘India Interrupted?”. The second headline was if Anna Hazare has brought “Indian democracy to its knees” (quoted needlessly from an other media report). The subtle but sly mischief behind such headlines can usually be missed by viewers who may be focused on the discussions. There are many times TV channels try to push and peddle a statement posing it as a question to deliberately spread falsehood. For instance, if I were to make a statement: “Is Anna dying?” You cannot accuse me of lying but at the same time you can recognise the mischief I am trying to spread through what may appear to be an innocent question. The NDTV programme by Barkha Dutt also credited wrong captions to the Washington Post which was later corrected by their reporter, Simon Denyer, who was fortunately there as a panellist. So watch out for questions like, protest or blackmail?, Lokpal bill only solution?, ‘Anarchy or Democracy’. All of these are NDTV questions. You will find similar ones on other channels too. And the best title of all has to be – ‘Anna-tommy’ as a commenter on this blog points out to suggest he is being projected as a US stooge.

Simon Says: India’s democracy has not been brought down to its knees but maybe the Indian government has been brought to its knees. That is more truthful than the headline that NDTV chose to use as the starting point of the discussion. In fact, Simon went on to say that actually these protests reflect the vibrancy of Indian democracy. The real shame of our democracy happened when the govt wrongfully arrested Anna Hazare and others and imposed the most foolish of conditions for protests and fasts. If you look up the history of democracies, it is usually never the people who murder democracy. It is usually the governments or armies that murder democracy. Our armies have always been respectable, that leaves only one criminal. I would go one step further and suggest that when the government is repeatedly flouting the constitution, indulging in corruption, looting the nation then people must take up the responsibility of protesting and fighting back.

If a Congress member like Rashid Alvi states that the protests are a US conspiracy our media rushes to him for more sound bites. Unfortunately for the media there isn’t enough substance in Alvi’s crap which they could have built on and turned it into a larger discussion. In desperate times like these the govt should have put out their best and moderate spokespersons to ease tensions. Instead, who do they put out? Renuka Choudhary! She is a politician quite well known for intemperate outbursts. So naturally when someone asked her about Rahul Gandhi’s response to the protests she came up with something as lame as “he is not a parrot”. If I were Rahul Gandhi I would actually take statement as an insult to me rather than great defence. I think even someone like Satyavrat Chaturvedi is a lot more sensible and should have been speaking for the govt.

And why is the media so desperate to hear from Rahul Gandhi? If past record is any indication the man really doesn’t have a sensible view on anything and even if he speaks, he is neither eloquent nor articulate. In times of distress it is not kicking and screaming spokespersons like Renuka Choudhary who should be thrown at the media and people. The highest official must directly speak to the nation. Now, given that the PM himself is totally lost and those who were in charge caused more harm to the situation, it is a particularly bad pothole for the Congress. This is the situation that some media channels are somehow trying to retrieve for the party. Still, some saner voice from the Congress has to step up to the crease, show humility and try to ease the situation instead of appearing to be more provocative in defence. If you want to make a bad situation worse you will surely want the Renuka Choudharys to speak for you.

At a different level there are reports that the Congress is now trying to run a campaign to counter Anna Hazare’s protest through social networks. Here’s a piece from DNA about an SMS doing the rounds : “One SMS doing the round reads: “I am strongly against corruption but I am NOT Anna! I am NOT a dictator saying MY BILL OR NO BILL.’ I believe in the democratic process through Parliament. I do NOT belong to any opportunist political party who have selfish concern in not letting the Parliament function. I am proud India and would like to do my bit by being honest. YOU DECIDE WHETHER U WANT TO BE ANNA OR A PROUD INDIA! Forward this message and let your friends decide who they want to be. We are the ppl of 21st century and we can think.”

Has the Congress think tank totally lost it? This is not a battle on twitter or facebook! This is a battle on the grounds right at their doorstep. This is not a battle by nameless and faceless people. This is a battle by real people right in the heart of Delhi. If the reported SMS is true then the Congress is suffering from a serious poverty of brains. What does it say about the party when one of its staunchest supporters, Sanjay Jha, calls it all a comedy of errors? This is a guy who runs the ‘Hamara Congress’ page.

Protest or blackmail? Recently the Gujjars, agitating for reservations, blocked railway tracks for weeks. Trains had to be cancelled or diverted. The media reported it but not one channel had a discussion condemning that illegal agitation. That agitation was illegal since there are already High Court orders preventing the blockade and also the reservation demanded. Every protest that demands something and threatens an extreme action may also appear to be blackmail. But in the case of Anna Hazare’s protest he has not threatened the govt with blockades and bombs. He is simply willing to lay down his own life. There are people who have killed themselves over issues of reservations and even Telengana. It is some in the media who simply cannot stomach the fact that these protests have come about because of the stupidity of their own darling Congress. The question is why is the media so desperate to paint this as blackmail? Politicians in power have often proven to be anti-people, what spurs the media to behave similarly?

The worst of the lot has to be the ones who will ask you “why don’t you idiots vote”? Ever heard Suhel Seth ranting about that? Really! This is the funniest of arguments you will get. As if getting out and voting for someone once in 5 years is the eternal solution. In a post about Mumbai I had outlined why the Mumbaikar’s vote really doesn’t count as far as Mumbai itself is concerned. NDTV or CNN-IBN doesn’t need middle class audiences. Their segment is clearly those you would find in a bar or in a fashion show when the country is burning. Sometimes you will find them vacationing abroad while the nation burns. Do you think these channels give a damn about India? I seriously doubt. All that matters is whether they are able to rake in money. And even at that NDTV is doing badly. If their main priority is money you can make a guess whose side they would be on. And that is why Lewis Caroll visits Barkha Dutt’s head everytime there is an agitation by the lowly assholes. They are all mad, aren’t they? The only smart one is Alice! I am the only smart ass alive these channels would suggest. And then bring on the misleading headlines posed as questions. Unfortunately, the media team of Anna Hazare seem to be much smarter. How else can you explain a term like ‘jokepal’?

And the Congress has now started advertising about the Lokpal bill inviting suggestions from public. If they really cared about public opinion they wouldn’t have brought the silly Lokpal bill they made. That is like setting a thief to catch one! Are we done? No we are not, watch out for more misleading headlines, rotten statements and dirty tricks. The full monty is yet to come!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Forces Of Calumny

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. (Hamlet, 3.1.129) – Shakespeare.

NDTV and CNN-IBN simply couldn’t have expected events that unfolded. When a carefully cultivated line of thinking and campaign goes terribly wrong it leaves one wondering which way to jump. Throughout August 17 as the Anna Hazare stalemate continued NDTV could only think of calling it a ‘circus’. Barkha Dutt kept tweeting about Alice In Wonderland and how this is all mad. Her late evening programme sported the tag line ‘protest or blackmail’ and an hour prior, Nidhi Razdan started her Left, Right, Centre by once again calling the event a ‘circus’. I couldn’t help laughing at the irony. When Barkha Dutt rushed to Egypt and Libya she didn’t find those events to be circus or the world of Lewis Caroll.  To Rajdeep Sardesai’s CNN-IBN, of course, must go the credit of inaugurating mud-slinging season. When a prominent news channel like CNN-IBN undertakes brazen mud-slinging it starts emboldening the forces and faces of calumny. The three stooges that were the faces of Congress in the entire Anna Hazare episode pretty much reflect the combined faces of calumny spurred by some in the TV news media. Rajdeep and Yogendra Yadav would be delighted to know how their recent opinion polls confirm everything they are seeing on the ground now. Oh yeah, if elections were held today the UPA would be voted back to power! That's what they would have you believe. And, of course, their poll suggested that only 28% believe UPA is corrupt. Will the truth ever set these media dealers free?

Faces of Calumny
Things didn’t go wrong on August 16. They went wrong on the night of June 4 when a peaceful crowd was lathi-charged in the middle of the night. I had then written that ‘Chidambaram, Sibal and Soni were the ones to have hatched the Anna arrest. But the people already knew that by now. What is worse is having a PM who has more or less abdicated his responsibilities and received a severe pasting from opposition leader Arun Jaitley.

The Congress and many in the media have tried desperately to spin these events as ‘parliament v street legislators’. Even that has failed. If the intellectuals in the media haven’t realised yet that no matter what Anna or Baba or Bedi do, they simply cannot make a law, the ordinary people are under no illusion. The best they can do is fast, agitate and protest. After the murder of journalist J. Dey did the media not demand special protection laws? Did they not demand that crimes against journalists be made ‘non-bailable’ offences? Is that not demanding laws that they want? The laws that Anna Hazare demands may be different but it’s not different in principle. He just seems to have more determination and the will to die for it. Fact is, journalists were demanding special privileges whereas Anna is not demanding any special privileges. But, that’s OK, people demand all sorts of things.

The most striking feature of the debates on TV is that people like Mahesh Bhatt, Nandita Rao, Rahul Kanwal question the wisdom or intelligence of ordinary people. I’m not kidding, here’s a tweet from Rahul Kanwal:

Rahul Kanwal:
Quite certain protesters don't understand finer nuances of Anna's bill. Doesn't matter to them. They're livid with Govt over corruption.

Finer nuances? Alright, I can laugh but the media morons wouldn’t understand nuance if it kissed them in broad daylight. What they hide is that the crowds are just as angry with the media as they are with the politicians. I can safely vouch for the fact that there is not a single lawyer or constitutional expert who knows everything that they talk about. What they talk about is a common-sense stand that they take. These opinionated egos of media might be under the impression that every MP even reads every bill that is passed. Ordinary people just have a boiling point. They keep watching the crimes of those in power and when it reaches a crescendo they will come out and fight. They don’t need to read law books before coming out on the streets as some of our stupid media dealers seem to desire. And a man like Mahesh Bhatt believes without cameras the Anna Hazares would disappear. Without a camera it is the Barkha Dutts, Rajdeep Sardesais, Sagarika Ghoses, Rahul Kanwals, Arnab Goswamis who would have had to choose a different career and would be consigned to the bin of the thousands of unknown journalists. Bhatt’s statement is like an idiot cursing the very gift by which he earns his livelihood. Same goes for the media dealers who claim protests would die without the camera. This is the same belief that leads them to believe that they are indirectly the most powerful law-makers in the land. An offence they accuse the street protesters of.

Rahul Kanwal shouldn’t assume people on the streets are dumb. If he offered them a choice to listen to a moral sermon, between Anna Hazare and Barkha Dutt, I’m certain even Kanwal knows who they’d pick. And Hazare isn’t the cacofonix on TV screens every night. All said and done it is not Anna who has lost his sense of decency. The media should ask the PM if he has lost all sense of decency and let loose his ministers to take the actions they did. I doubt you need a constitution or law to tell you what common decency is. After all, the Ten Commandments didn't include rape or child-abuse. Common human decency helped us learn that.

In all this, conspicuous by their absence from the media are M/s. Hit and Run. Yeah, both Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi must have run out of silly statements. The media must be dearly missing the crumbs that this duo is used to throwing at them. Tarnishing RSS doesn’t seem to be paying anymore. In Gujarat,  Gandhi is a name used to refer to the corner-shop grocer. That’s because Gandhis are traditionally grocers. There is a reason why Gandhi cared to understand ordinary people. The Gandhi-grocer is the one who interacts with ordinary people almost every minute of his working day. That someone like Rahul walks around with the name of Gandhi may not be his fault, but there is a reason why he has a severe disconnect with the people as does the media. And the most stunning comment on the man came not from his detractors but his ally in UPA-I. It was Brinda Karat of CPM, who for the first time sarcastically used the term ‘prince charming’ in parliament to describe the white-wash that the Congress attempted to make in the bungling of the Hazare incident. The Congress and media attempt to credit Rahul Gandhi with diffusing the crisis failed miserably. We had one great Gandhi who is now in heaven. We don’t need fake Gandhis in our parliament.

The PM who stupidly talked about ‘skeletons’ before the current parliament session is now warning Anna Hazare of consequences. His lack of decency and miserable failure as PM is embarrassing for the whole nation. When he indirectly condones the sacking of the nation and then lets loose his forces of calumny the nation looks for leadership. In the absence of a leader they found one in Anna Hazare. In less than 12 hours they have made him a national, and probably international, hero. This is a time to be humble. If the PM cannot find his own conscience then a Janlokpal bill will not be the only thing that the protesters will demand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Official Indecency Act

I would have liked to quote an Indian MP, but I couldn’t find a speech that is close. But here are excerpts from a famous speech to the US Senate in 1950, called the Declaration of Conscience speech (in blue),  by the late American senator Margaret Chase Smith

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor.  Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal.  Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching—for us to weigh our consciences….on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges. I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.  I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

            The right to criticize;
            The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
            The right to protest;
            The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood… The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents.  Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America.  It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed.

There are those in our government and our media who follow an unwritten law. The Official Indecency Act. Chief among its practitioners are Congress spokesmen Manish Tiwari and Digvijay Singh. In the media you have the likes of Nandita Rao (CNN-IBN panelist) and again another Congressman V. Narayanaswamy. It does not take great intelligence to recognise these personalities as some of the most foul-mouthed people in the public domain. Yet the media delights again and again in putting them on your screens and in your drawing rooms. The filth that follows is unbelievable. The worst is character assassination, smearing and tarnishing of reputations and of course frequently calling others RSS agents and fascists, anarchists and Maoists.

Media doesn’t get to choose the spokespersons of the political parties. Yet they can choose who they invite on their panels. A Manish Tiwari maybe the Congress party’s choice. There is no need for the media to choose him on panels unless they deliberately enjoy the theatre of the foul-mouth. Same goes for those who invite the likes of Nandita Rao or Narayanaswamy.

In the current Anna Hazare stalemate, when asked if this was like the Emergency of 1975, Ram Jethmalani replied on CNN-IBN, that it is even worse. He explained that a court order had dethroned Indira Gandhi, there was a threat of her losing power, her government falling and therefore declared Emergency. But the current UPA is facing no such threat of any kind and yet chose to act in the most indecent and arrogant manner that any government in a democracy could. At the top of the pile is a Prime Minister who is simply lost and has proved to be the worst measure of lack of leadership.

So we had three stooges, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Ambika Soni eloquently explaining how the government was not involved in the Delhi police decision to impose sec.144 and bar Anna Hazare from holding his hunger-strike and then making a preventive arrest. The arrogance and audacity with which they mislead the nation and attempt to whitewash their wrongs had to be seen to be believed. And then you previously had those that called Hazare an anarchist, a fascist and much earlier Ramdev was called a ‘thug’. What have these crooks taken the people for?

This was backed up by foul-mouthed media experts like Nandita Rao who has problems with Anna Hazare dictating terms on the Lokpal bill. There are also others like Tavleen Singh and some more. Now the issue at hand is first not the Lokpal bill itself. The issue has now turned into deliberately and illegally arresting individuals and denying them their right to protest. And the piety with which the three stooges defended the 22 obscene conditions imposed on Anna Hazare for the protest can only be described as a mockery of our constitution and mockery of our democracy. These people who cite our constitution, law and order are usually the ones who frequently abuse it. Many should remember that Ambika Soni herself has the Emergency to credit for her rise to prominence.

The Digvijays and Tiwaris have really gone a step too far in calling the agitators fascists and communal and being funded by invisible right-wingers. Fingers were pointed at pictures of Bharat mata or chants of Vande Mataram as proof of anti-nationals and right-wingers being involved in the protests earlier. Seriously, pictures of Bharat mata or chanting Vande Mataram are symbols of anti-national right-wingers and fascists? This time the scandalous crime that the Congress has tried to perpetrate has failed. Their propaganda stooges in the media have failed. No matter how much spin they tried, the NDTVs and CNN-IBNs failed.

The concept that parliament is the supreme law making body is certainly not misplaced. But the law makers need to be guided by ordinary people and not vested interests. The rulers in a democracy cannot rule without the consent of those being ruled. The one vote every five years is not a blanket sanction to pass any and all laws. It is particularly NOT a sanction to indulge in corruption and loot the nation. When that happens, parliament surrenders its supremacy and ordinary people must intervene. When that happens people power will definitely prevail over parliamentary authority. People power will definitely prevail when governments do what they have not been authorised to do by an electoral mandate. Corruption is one of those. What vote or what constitution has authorised our government and our MPs to indulge in such unprecedented corruption?

Those who call Anna Hazare’s demands for the Janlokpal as street laws are simply foolish. In a democracy every individual or group has the right to demand a law or demand the removal of a law. It is for the government of the day to discuss, negotiate and arrive at sensible solutions. The behaviour of the current PM is all the more reason why he should be under the Lokpal, but that is an altogether different issue. He should have stepped up and said “I am the Boss, and I will talk to you”. He did not. The people will then need to show the government who the boss is. Why only PM, I want even the media brought under Lokpal. One can prove any day that our media is not only corrupt that it is also a frequent law-breaker. Anna Hazare and company have not held railways, roads, buses and airlines to ransom or held up normal life to ransom unlike many other agitations have. To deny them the right to protest with absurd conditions and then arresting them is the last resort of a frightened, fascist government. And the government must and always should fear the people and not the other way around.

To back up their indecent and foul-mouthed statements, the Congress has now backed it up with indecent and unconstitutional action. If peaceful protests are drowned then violent ones are likely to follow. This UPA is quite clearly the most corrupt and dangerous government this nation has ever had. The media should also learn a lesson now that all their propaganda will not help when people power takes over. They need to really play the role of the watch dog. Foul mouthed politicians and activists should not be allowed an excessive platform in the media. The official indecency Act must die.