Raj ki aag or Aag ka raj? #Rajthakre

  • September 2, 2012 , Deccan  Chronicle
  •  By Javed Anand

Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995. It was among the first things the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition sarkar did on coming to power in Maharashtra.

You might think the news has yet to reach ’em posh people who still refer to their quarter of the metropolis as ‘South Bombay’. In fact, it’s SoBo now!

Bombay, remember, is the New York of the East: SoHo, SoBo. Folks at SoHo might be deeply embarrassed at this likening. But for SoBo, appearance is what matters, darling.

Why not SoMu? Don’t even go there! South here is not about geography, stupid. Dude, it’s all about attitude. The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena can have their Mumbai so long as they let SoBo residents keep up their pretences.

Could SoBo symbolise a cosmopolitan resistance to the chauvinism of the Senas? Banish the thought, the SoBoietis love their Thackerays. (Perhaps Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, too.) Call it the mutual attraction of the bold and the beautiful.

At five-star get-togethers during the 1990s, SoBo’s beautiful people never squirmed when Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray routinely referred to Indian Muslims as “green snakes”. What to do: Muslims need to be taught a lesson.

Mr Thackeray, incidentally, was the main accused in the Srikrishna Commission’s report on the anti-Muslim pogrom of 1992-93. Commission reports: who cares? (One of the honourable exceptions among the glitterati and the celebrati was Dev Anand who walked out of a meeting of Bollywood biggies at which Thackeray senior tried to spread the communal virus in the Hindi film industry.)

That was then. Now we have a new kid on the block. And isn’t he cute: Raj Thackeray! We are told that on August 21 the new ‘saviour’ took ‘a mature and restrained approach’, reinvented himself, performed ‘a political masterstroke’, ‘acquired a halo overnight’. How does a fire-breathing, violence-espousing, rabble-rouser turn into an instant ‘rockstar’? Well, you better believe it for SoBo Mouthpiece (Shobhaa De’s August 25 column, Raj ki aag: The new face of Thackeray) says so.

SoBoietis can do all the fawning and swooning they like. But the fact remains that shorn of all the rapturous adjectives and hyperboles, the picture that Raj Thackeray painted of himself and his MNS on August 21 was far from pretty. Except for the gullible, it was true-to-type, ominous and worse. In less than 24 hours, his sainiks were to bare their fangs again. But let me not run ahead of the story. Let what Raj Thackeray did and said that day speak for itself first.

The rally was ostensibly to demand punitive action against the then police commissioner Arup Patnaik’s allegedly abject failure to enforce rule of law during the August 11 rally at Azad Maidan organised by some Muslim organisations. Though police had only given permission for a meeting at Azad Maidan, in characteristic style, Raj Thackeray insisted on a five-km rally from Marine Drive to Azad Maidan in brazen defiance of the police order, thus creating a traffic chaos for several hours.

In short, break the law to protest the (earlier) breakdown of law. The “savior of Mumbai” presumably must be permitted a few indulgences.

At the Azad Maidan, Raj Thackeray hammered home three points.

First, he claimed it was Bangladeshi Muslims who resorted to violence on August 11. In a thought-provoking article he wrote in 2006, former editor and Shiv Sena-backed Rajya Sabha MP, had rightly observed that ‘pro-Pakistani Muslims’ and ‘Bangladeshi Muslims’ are but euphemisms while you target Indian Muslims as a whole. Why the euphemisms? To escape possible prosecution under the anti-hate speech provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

Second, Raj Thackeray took great care, reminding the police rank and file that they were Marathi manoos above all else and only incidentally upholders of the Indian Constitution and the rule of law. Nothing new here. This was exactly the tactic employed by Thackeray senior during the late ’80s and the early ’90s: stoking the parochial instincts of the cops, communalising them right under the nose of a benign state. The outcome of his noxious brainwash was the shameful partisan conduct of the Mumbai police during the 1992-93 carnage.

That the young Thackeray’s message immediately hit home was evident when a constable in uniform, Pramod Tawde, marched up to the dias, presented a flower to the new messiah and proceeded to address the media in gross violation of all rules.

Talk to top police officers and you’ll know how alarmed they are at this ominous turn of events. Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai (To tell you a secret, the police are with us)” was an oft-repeated chant of the murderous mobs in Gujarat in 2002. SoBoietis seemingly don’t lose much sleep over such mundane concerns.

Thirdly, at a tangent to his agenda for the day, Raj Thackeray ridiculed the dalits’ recent demand that instead of gifting it to the builder’s lobby, the Maharashtra government should reserve the defunct Indu Mills’ plot for a memorial to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Within hours, outraged dalits from several parts of Maharashtra were burning effigies of Raj Thackeray.

Twenty-four hours later, a bunch of MNS toughies led by their corporator Sandeep Deshpande mercilessly pummelled a small group of dalit men and women who protested against the ‘insult to Babasaheb’ near Raj Thackeray’s residence. Among the women victims of the MNS ire were Puja Badekar and Vijayta Bhonakar.

“They misbehaved with us in the same fashion that some Muslims misbehaved (sexual assault) with police women constables at Azad Maidan on August 11,” they told this writer. Despite a heavy bandobust the cops took their time in restraining the attackers. When the victim dalits tried lodging a criminal complaint at the Shivaji Park police station, they were threatened with a ‘rioting’ charge and driven away.

All this, of course, is not news for the media, much less for our beautiful people. SoBo thinks a film on the new saviour with the title Raj ki aag might be a great idea. I think Aag ka raj may be more appropriate.

The writer is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

Sri-Lanka Genocidal sex abuse of ex-LTTE female cadres #VAW

[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 August 2012, ]

The genocidal Sri Lanka military occupying the country of Eezham Tamils is routinely engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the former female members of the LTTE to see them pregnant by the Sinhala soldiers, in the model of former Yugoslavia, news sources citing a number of cases and medical professionals told TamilNet. While Radha D’Souza views the Tamil struggle “as one of the most significant movements since the end of the Vietnam War,” the former US Deputy Secretary of State and a current ICG trustee Richard Armitage in Oslo last year was harping on the unawareness of the world on the happenings in the island. The genocide is meant to be so by the architects, and the Akashi visit last week viewing ‘rehabilitated’ female cadres was another effort to keep the on-going genocide under the carpet, political observers in the island said.

Many former female cadres of the LTTE are repeatedly abused with determination to make them pregnant either in detention or by ‘summoning’ them after the so-called release.

When they refuse or not cooperate to the ‘summons’, their family members are harmed.

Confirming the kind of genocide-intended pregnancies of ex-LTTE cadres, a senior doctor in the North said that he didn’t know what to do about it.

A recent case that had come to him had an eight-month pregnancy. She is now handed over to the care of some nuns. “I don’t know what to do with most of the cases,” the doctor said.

“There is no international system to protect them in the island or provide refuge outside,” the doctor further said, whose statement was also confirmed by a gender-related social worker in the island.

Sexual abuses are committed at two stages on the ex-cadres, first in the internment camps and then after the so-called release, the feminist social worker said.

The details of 2000 to 3000 female cadres who were captured by the SL military are not yet known. Whether they are alive or still kept in secret camps is not found in any local or international records. The numbers of those who were captured and released do not tally. Colombo says there are only around 600 left in detention. What had happened to the remaining, asked the social worker.

The condition of senior female cadres is pathetic, the social worker said, citing reports of some released cadres. “Many have been seen in the detention camps, but we do not know what has happened to them,” the social worker said.

In the second stage, abuses take place after the so-called release of the cadres. ‘Summoning’ them for interrogation and repeatedly abusing them has become a routine and a past time in the SL military camps now. This happens widely in the SL bases and intelligence camps of Vavuniyaa and Jaffna, and in the camps of Vanni, the social worker told TamilNet.

In another recent incident in Jaffna, a young ex-cadre from Vanni wanted to hand over her 13-month old child to anyone who would take care of it. The child was a result of repeated abuse of the woman by the ‘interrogating’ military but she wanted the child to live.

Genocidal Colombo, elements clinging to it and their media, try to project the situation as a result of current social conditions and deviations among Eezham Tamils. But most of the cases are result of systematic and genocide-intended military abuses, observed the feminist social worker, agreeing with the doctor that there is no independent international mechanism operative in the island to protect the ex-cadres.

* * *
Commenting on the situation, TamilNet former war correspondent Mr. Lokeesan said that by the end of the war, young Sinhala soldiers of the genocidal military were given with pornographic material to induce them to commit sexual assault on the captured female LTTE cadres.

A Sinhala military cultivated in this way is what that is going to stay in the country of Eezham Tamils, and the results could be imagined, he further commented.

While China now builds permanent cantonments to the occupying Sinhala military, and India ‘trains’ the genocidal military in its bases, Mr. Akashi has come primarily to patch up relations between the West and Colombo, media reports from Colombo said.

The genocidal war is perhaps perpetuated by a system and not by individuals. But the world needs an international people’s tribunal to identify the ultimate elements of such a system to remedy it.

At least some individuals or institutions articulating for the system on the question of Eezham Tamils, such as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Robert Blake, Erik Solheim, Yasushi Akashi, Shiv Shankar Menon, his predecessor MK Narayanan and institutions such as the International Crisis Group (ICG), either coming forward or being made to answer to the world would immensely help the progress of human civilization, commented an academic in Jaffna.

The politicians and political activists who continue to deal with this system, and in the process pressurized to take up a patch-up course have to consider twice before deviating from the grassroot realities, political observers in the island and in the diaspora cautioned.

Meanwhile, those who whitewash the genocidal regime to the world with the hoodwink of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, do many times more harm to humanity than the fault they had found with the LTTE, social workers in the island said.

* * *
The following are further direct reports to TamilNet by a few among the affected who decided to talk:

“I don’t like to live here. I may be in peace if I go elsewhere. Otherwise there is no option other than committing suicide with my entire family,” says a tearful ex-LTTE female cadre. She has become a wreck by continued sexual abuse in the name of summons and interrogations by the occupying Sinhala military.

She was 6-months pregnant when she was released from the SLA internment camp, said her mother with a downcast face.

“We went to an illegal medical facility for abortion,” her mother was sorrowful about it.

The ex-LTTE female cadres have come to their worst point of predicament now.

The occupying Sinhala military that summoned them earlier in the name of ‘monitoring and interrogation’, now openly summons them for its sexual needs, comments a social worker of an organisation for the emancipation of women in the North and East.

Many don’t tell the truth about the sexual abuses. This may be due to the cultural stigma. So they keep the sufferings within their mind and sulk secretly. When the situation is perpetuated they are pushed to the end of committing suicide. Many try all possibilities to get out of the island, the feminist social worker said.

The situation is the same for the so-called released female cadres, whether in Jaffna, Vanni or in the East, conceded another human rights worker in the island.

* * *
A female ex-LTTE cadre, Pallavi (name changed), told TamilNet of her experience when ‘summoned’ to a local camp.

When ‘summoned,’ one has to first wait for hours in the camp, facing lewd comments coming from the Sinhala soldiers. Then, a low-rank officer would come for sexual assault in the name of ‘interrogation,’ followed by the higher officer, if he is in the ‘mood’. They behave totally in a sadistic way and it is very obvious that they get pleasure from our sufferings, Pallavi said.

Some of those ‘summoned’ to the local camps used to be sent to regional camps as well as bases in the towns. The story is the same everywhere.

The SL torture camp at Achchezhu in the Palaali base is a nightmare for former female cadres.

The Achchezhu torture camp is famous for the ‘disappearances’ of thousands of Tamil youth since 1996. People in Jaffna call the camp as the Slaughter House (I’raichchi-kadai). Sexual assault is a simple matter at this camp.

* * *
Another female ex-LTTE cadre came out with shocking facts on the experience of those who are taken to the Palaali base.

After being ‘summoned’ to the local camp and taken to regional and the Achchezhu camps, some are chosen to ‘meet’ the top officials at Palaali, the ex-cadre said.

When asked how it becomes possible to take them around without being seen by people, the ex-cadre said that they are taken in white vans or mini buses, sitting along with soldiers in civil dress, so that it would look as though they are passenger vehicles.

They have a large fleet of those white vans and such vehicles ply to and fro the base without any hindrances, she said.

Narrating her experience of meeting higher officers at Palaali, another ex-cadre said that after tiring her by interrogation for three hours, she was given with cool drink. The drink fainted her and she awoke to find that she had been sexually assaulted.

“I couldn’t do anything. I came alive out of that interrogation, crying,” she said.

“We could go absconding or go out of the country. In those cases they get hold of our family members. It could be my father, mother, brother or sister,” she further said.

To escape from sexual harassment another ex-cadre from Ki’linochchi used to hide in the houses of friends and relatives. On those occasions her father was assaulted by the SL military and was even hospitalized. Her brothers were threatened that they would be killed.

For the sake of the family, the ex-cadres accept the ‘summons’ and go back to the SL military camps. On returning to ‘interrogations’ we face sexual assault with more vengeance and sadism, the ex-cadre from Ki’linochchi told TamilNet.

* * *
A senior doctor in the Jaffna teaching hospital admitted treating a number of ex-cadres who had attempted committing suicide after ‘interrogation’ sexual assaults.

Some had been admitted to the hospital after swallowing blade pieces in the camps in their attempts to commit suicide. Some had attempted suicide by immolating themselves after returning from the SL military camps, the doctor said.

Poverty is attributed to the suicide of some of those who hanged themselves. But there could be other reasons, the doctor further said.

Vanni is the worst hit region. In Jaffna and in the other towns there are social activists for the consolation of the victims. But no one could raise a finger for what is happening in Vanni.

The SL military camps mushroomed at very short distances in Vanni aim for the exploitation of the ex-cadres. Going out from the region is the only escape to a former female cadre. The parents would tell the SL military that their daughter has eloped with someone.

The claim of ‘rehabilitation’ is a farce and the facility in Vavuniyaa is only a showcase, comments an ex-cadre from Vanni.

The fate of thousands of female cadres who were captured at the end of the war is not accounted yet; claim those who have managed to escape disappearance in the camps after the war.

Many of us are psychological wrecks after release from the internment camps of the SL military. Many do not go out, meet people or even speak to their family members. Many live only for the sake of their children, says another female cadre.

Her husband became mentally retarded by the war. Two of her kids were killed in the war. She lives for the sake of three more children remaining.

Some of them want at least to send their children out. But they have no means.

Meanwhile, in the cases of some, people who have personal animosities with them or with their families send malicious information, providing opportunities for the occupying military to harass them.

* * *

Subhodini Sivalingam

Subhodini Sivalingam
32-year old, Ms. Subhodini Sivalingam, who recently committed suicide at Polika’ndi in Jaffna, had sacrificed 15 years of her life to the freedom struggle.

She was partly paralysed after getting injured in a combat operation in 1999 and was serving in the medical service of the LTTE during the Vanni war.

Her suicide has been attributed to poverty. But informed circles come out with different facts. She had been continuously harassed, interrogated, sexually abused and threatened for her life by the occupying SL military.

Subhodini, who was also called Paadini, immolated herself in a closed room in the house she was living in at Polika’ndi in Vadamaraadchi, Jaffna.

Many ex female freedom fighters want to forget the sexual abuses of the genocidal military in the internment camps as a bad dream.

“But the occupying military has now made it a routine to harass us perpetually. How could we forget anything now,” asks a female cadre.

“I feel like fighting again. If I get a gun I would kill a particular lot before losing my life,” swore another woman fighter who survived a suicide attempt after sexual assaults and harassments in the SL military camps.

more here-http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=35510


Vibrant Gujarat- Unheard Voices #Narendramodi #Mustwatch

Bole Gujarat is using social media to project voice of the marginalised sections of Gujarat and also of the educated masses, who have failed to express their anguish and unrest.

Is everyone Indian (or Pakistani, for that matter)?- Imaginary Homelands- #mustread


Is everyone Indian (or Pakistani, for that matter)? Garga Chatterjee on the idea of equal citizenship in South Asia and the real codes that lie behind our patriotic parades, in Fridaytimes

Imaginary Homelands

Women construct a fence on the India-Pakistan border in Suchetgarh

August is the month of state-funded high patriotism in the subcontinent. In my childhood, “patriotic” films would be shown on the state television channel. This “patriotic” genre has continued and still produces many films. Recently, Bedobroto Pain has made a film on the valiant rebellion in Chittagong that was led in 1930 by ‘Masterda’ Shurjo Sen. The film is simply called ‘Chittagong’. A few years ago, there was another film on the same topic called ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey‘. The language in both films is Hindustani, excepting the utterances of some Firangi characters. And this set me thinking, even though August is not be the best month to think about such things…

Even as faceless groups, some “types” of citizens have nothing to prove about their ‘Indian-ness’ and are beyond suspicion

Chittagong now falls under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bangladesh and before that was under the jurisdiction of the government of pre-71 Pakistan. The Indian Union has never had jurisdiction over an inch of the soil on which large parts of the 1930 story is set. But, for a certain kind of audience that Bollywood caters to, this location and its people can be mangled partially to make it palatable and understandable to a Hindustani audience. The audience can also conceive, with some stretch of its imagination, of some place called ‘Chittagong’ where people speak Hindustani as they fight the British. Of course, Shurjo Sen and his compatriots largely spoke Bengali and Chittagonian, but that is immaterial. What is important is that Shurjo Sen and Chittagong can now be packaged, with some cinematographic flourishes, for a Hindustani audience.

Bollywood apparently has its finger on the pulse of the Indian nation

Not all things, however, are easily packaged. For example, to make a similar film in Hindustani about the life of Chawngbawia, a legendary hero of the Mizo people, or a romantic drama set in a Naga village with Naga characters, will be dismissed as absurd. From a linguistic point of view, Shurjo Sen talking to his comrades in Bollywood Hindustani is also absurd – but it can pass off, give or take a little awkwardness. The Naga or the Mizo does not. So there is a geography that the Hindustani audience and Bollywood has in mind, of what is theirs, what is partly like theirs and what is very unlike theirs. Of course it does not say that aloud – but the Hindustani audience’s conceptions need to be taken seriously. Bollywood apparently has its finger on the pulse of the Indian nation. In a significant sense, its target audience constitutes the nation. And Bollywood certainly doesn’t target everyone living under the jurisdiction of the Indian Union.

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Sunny Deol in Indian film Border
Sunny Deol in Indian film Border
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An enduring myth the nation-state serves the people within its borders is that of equal citizenship. The Union of India does it with some pomp and pride. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan does it after ceding some space to a particular creed. It is this idea of equal citizenship, of the poor and rich, of the tall and the short, of the one-legged and the one-eyed, of the prince and the pimp, that the nation-states is peddling when it claims that ‘We are all Indians’ or ‘We are all Pakistanis’. Equal citizenship is the foundational myth on which the castle of uniform nationality rests. And every copy of the constitution will tell you about equal citizenship. This formally flat legal terrain, like a blanket that covers all beings uniformly, with the edges forming the frontiers, is crucial. Those under the blanket need to be calm and believe in this uniformity.

Peoples pre-date nation-states and will outdate them too

Since we cannot snatch away the blanket, we have to resort to thought experiments to ascertain what phrases like ‘citizen of Indian Union’ or ‘citizen of Pakistan’ hide. I invite my readers to play a game. Let us start with the ‘citizen of India’. Rather than asking ‘Who is Indian’, we shall ask, ‘How likely is a citizen of the Indian Union to be anti-India or secessionist?’. Let me now throw out some candidates – a Mizo from Aizawl, a Hindu Rajput from Jaipur, someone from Himachal Pradesh, a Meitei from Imphal, a Bihari Brahmin from Patna, a Vanniyar Tamil from Chennai, a Hindu baniya from Baroda, a Brahmin from Kanauj, Uttar Pradesh. These should suffice. They are compounds of caste, creed and ethnicity. They refer to huge groups of people, not to any particular individual. Now rearrange this list from most likely to least likely to be anti-India or secessionist. I do not need your answer. But think about it. Ask the question ‘How likely is a citizen of the Indian Union to be anti-India or secessionist?’ to each of these descriptors. The scale generated by your answers, from the absurd to the probable, measures how much we still contest the idea of equal citizenship, even after 65 years of constant preaching. This really is an exercise in inversing the idea of citizenship to lay bare what lies beneath the velvet blanket of the nation-state. But more importantly, that this exercise can be done at all, tells us that some kinds of citizens of the Indian Union are deemed more or less ‘Indian’ than others, even as faceless groups. Even as faceless groups, some “types” of citizens have nothing to prove about their ‘Indian-ness’ and are beyond suspicion just by the accident of their birth. Others have to ‘prove’ it and are not above suspicion irrespective of life trajectories. This is what such a group ranking tells us. There are tacit grades of citizenship, tacit grades of loyalty, tacit grades of ‘Indian-ness’; the constitution reflects none of this.

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A Baloch rebel stands guard on a hill
A Baloch rebel stands guard on a hill
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The core nation does not have caricatures – it is the default

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan can also be involved in a game of being ‘Pakistani’ by asking ‘How likely is a citizen of Pakistan to be anti-Pakistan or secessionist?’ Here are my candidates: a Baloch from Dera Bugti, a Sindhi from Ratodero, a Seraiki from Dera Ghazi Khan, a Muslim Jat from Lahore, a 3rd generation Dakkani mohajir from Karachi, a Hindu from Tharparkar. Again, the specific order does not matter, but the broad agreement in the order gives away who constitutes the deep state, the core state, the first people, the troublesome people and the unwanted people.

Standing under the mehr-e-nimroz are the chosen people. The others jostle for space – in the umbra, penumbra and the antumbra – in the Indian Union, in Pakistan, in every unitary nation-state that cannot come to terms with the fact that peoples pre-date nation-states and will outdate them too. To keep up the pretense of uniform citizenship, nations use diverse mascots – as prime ministers, chief justices and what not. The question really is not who they are but are they legitimate representatives of diverse peoples? The mascots are hardly so and that gives away the game – and though they are held aloft during the game, they are not really players. If one listens to the real players on the field, the code in which they talk to each other, codes that are not to be found in the formal rulebook, then the unitary nature of the ‘team’ cracks. In spite of their irrelevance, the mascots are well-chosen. In an interview aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1996, journalist Andrew Marr asked Noam Chomsky during an exchange on Chomsky’s views on media distortion of truth, how could Chomsky know for sure that he, a journalist, was self-censoring. Chomsky replied, “I don’t say you’re self-censoring – I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying; but what I’m saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” And that is true for our “national” mascots in South Asia – they may come in different colours, shapes, sizes, tongues and faiths, but unless they shared and deferred to the implicit pecking order of the deep-state, they would not be sitting where they are sitting. Caged birds are no less colourful. For they can be Bengali, or Tamil, but when in the Highest office, they have to wear that unmistakable achkan.

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Surrounded by the ardali whose get-up is alien to Tamil Nadu and Bengal, it gives a hint of that code of propriety in the sanctum sanctorum, a code that is unmistakably Ganga-Jamni. But the Jamuna covers only a small part of the Union of India. And for Pakistan, the presidential high-couture has to be imported. The Republic of Hindi and the Republic of Urdu together rule the subcontinent. The late George Gilbert Swell in a sterling speech in the parliament of the Indian Union talked about his people, who were not part of any Hindu-Muslim bind but for whom beef was a food as good as any other. He talked about the cow-belt and the non-cow belt. He was saying this in a House that is run by a constitution that encourages the state to take necessary steps to single out cows for protection. Whose principles are these? Clearly not Swell’s or his people’s. All the eloquence about ‘unity in diversity’ notwithstanding, some of the diverse are necessarily silenced, and the list of the silenced is predictable. It is predictable due to the public knowledge of the ‘archetypal’ Indian, the same knowledge that helps one play the rank order game I introduced. This is why somebody’s local ideology has to be repackaged under the garb of some supposedly universal principle, so that the tacit definition of the archetype remains tacit. This tacit ‘Indian’ is at the heart of the nation-building project, the archetype to which all types must dissolve. One must never spell out the archetype – that is too discourteous and direct. The ‘traitor’ or the ‘potentially treacherous’ is also the ‘exotic’ and easily ‘the feminine sexual’ in the imagination of the core nation. For the core nation, except itself, everyone else has a box – Tamils wear dhotis, Malayalis wear lungis, Bengalis eat fish. The core nation does not have caricatures – it is the default. It is what male athletes wear on their head in the Olympic march-past.

The scale of absurdity that I floated earlier also leads us to foundational myths around which nation-states are formed. They go Bin Qasim-Khilji-Mughal-darkness-Muslim League-14th August or Vedas-Ashoka-Akbar-darkness-Congress-15th August. The gulf between arbitrariness and ‘historical inevitability’ is filled with sarkari textbooks and besarkari subtexts. Why is such concoction necessary? For whom? Who does it serve? The archives have keys for open doors, not for trapdoors. The peoples of the subcontinent have to find their own destinies, by freeing themselves of ‘national’ myths. They need to think about the unsettling possibilities of truth if it had a megaphone as loud and powerful as power.

Somewhere in this scale of Indian-ness or Pakistani-ness, is the sarkari potential of making tighter nations, and the bleak hope that some foster of unmaking them as they are. Intimately connected to this conception of the ‘Indian’ (or not) is the ‘idea of India’. Depending on who you are in the scale of imaginary troublesomeness, it can be a bloody idea or a bloody good idea.


Open letter to CM by Sanjiv Bhatt- The full text

Dear Narendra Modi,

You must have been apprised about the punishment meted out to your loyal lieutenants Dr. Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, as well as the misguided foot-soldiers of misconceived Hindutva, who have now been condemned to spend a life in prison. Was it perchance that you smartly distanced yourself from all these unfortunate people at an opportune moment? Have you spared a thought for the innocent family members of the accused who have been sentenced to a lifetime behind bars? It is believed that you were once a married man. At some point in your life, like all normal humans, you might have been touched by the magic of love, even thought of having children starting a family, perhaps! Have you even once thought about the plight of the wives and children of your onetime adulators who have been condemned for life?

Mr. Modi, have you ever looked at your actual image, stripped of the designer dresses that you are so enamored with? Have you ever looked at the reflection of the real face behind the mask? Have you ever introspected about your true-self concealed behind the meticulous imagery created by your media managers? Have you even once thought whether it is really worth it to sustain power, even if it requires sacrificing fellow human beings at the altar of expediency? Have you ever considered, even once, whether it is alright to facilitate or connive in the killing of another human being just because he does not conform to your beliefs? Is it really worthwhile to deceive your own self…. or, is it only a small price to pay for your political ambitions?

I hope and pray to God that you get the time, wisdom and opportunity to find honest and truthful answers to some of these questions during this lifetime.

God bless!

Sanjiv Bhatt

Sufi Balm for troubled times #Sundayreading


Jay N Jayaram

An urs, or commemoration of the death of a Sufi philosopher-poet-singer, began in Kasur/Qasur, in Pakistan on Friday, August 24, and someone posted a few lines on Facebook from a beautiful poem anyone – atheist or believer – can identify with.

Baba Bulleh Shah’s poem, Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun(text and youtube links below), has particular resonance in the context of a great deal of xenophobia and distrust of the other that we are witnessing in many parts of the world, and especially in India.

In my southern Indian city, Bangalore, rumours recently led to the exodus of thousands of people originally from Northeastern India. The rumours were blamed on another minority in the city, the Muslims, who then felt obliged to host extensive rounds of Iftar parties (breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan/Ramzan) and dinners, inviting people from Northeastern India living in Bangalore, so as to reassure them that neither posed any threat whatsoever to the other.

It was apposite that just as the city began to recover from that ignoble trauma, the urs for a humanistic saintly figure began in another part of the subcontinent, where too large numbers of Pakistani civil society activists were energetically denouncing attacks on minorities and outrageous allegations of blasphemy. The troubles in India itself had started because of exaggerated rumours and false pictures depicting the fate of the Rohingyaminority in Burma. And what is far worse, there have been clashes in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, pitting tribal people against presumed ‘outsiders’ from Bangladesh.

Who are outsiders and insiders among human beings who have been constantly migrating for thousands of years, whose DNAs can be traced back, according to overwhelming scientific evidence, to an African mother and whose languages, philosophies and religions are so interlinked? What earthly basis is there for this Auslaender raus (outsider out) thinking?

The poem by Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) contains many lines acutely relevant to the present times. This version is taken from the singer Rabbi Shergill’s websites.

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun (Bulla, to me I’m not known – also translated as Bulla, who knows who I am?)

Na maen momin vich maseet aan
Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Na maen moosa na pharaun.
Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun
Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharaoh
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Na maen andar ved kitaab aan,
Na vich bhangaan na sharaab aan
Na vich rindaan masat kharaab aan
Na vich jaagan na vich saun.
Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun.
Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s intoxicated craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun
Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Na maen arabi na lahori
Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Na hindu na turak peshawri
Na maen rehnda vich nadaun
Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun
Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk, nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun
Bulleh , ki jaana maen kaun
Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun
Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Bulleh! to me, I am not known

The legendary Mehdi Hasan sings it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMbqs2QbZZg

And Pakistan’s world-renowned Coke studio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOriUKHfnrs

Iqbal Bahoo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNDTc35g2GI

Sain Zahoor Ahmed looking every bit a Sufi recluse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd0Wbli39zA&feature=related

Imran Aziz Qawwal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSY9k2Soedk&feature=related

The great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has sadly been let down in this recordinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbRPnehCgnk

A version which has gotten massive hits is Rabbi Shergill’s:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTxZy32Fv_0

Baba Bulleh Shah’s supreme relevance to today’s India and the world is further brought out in these superb lines:

Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay

Jithay Saaray Annay

Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay

Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay

O’ Bulleh Shah let’s go there

Where everyone is blind

Where no one recognizes our caste (or race)

And where no one believes in us

Or in the words of that 20th century Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore,

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;…”

This day, 49 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr made his stirring I have a Dream speech which too contain similar sentiments: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” http://www.mlkonline.net/dream.html

Different continents and centuries, one dream.


Maharashtra sits on multiple irrigation acts, doesn’t bother to frame rules



Published: Saturday, Sep 1, 2012, 9:45 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra are more a routine than an exception. Everyone knows drought is to blame, but the state government, too, cannot shirk its responsibility.

While successive governments have created several irrigation acts, none bothered to frame rules. Absence of proper framework and foundation for water management precipitates drought conditions as irrigation projects suffer.

“If act is the soul, rules are the body,” Rajan Ksirsagar, a Communist Party of India (CPI) trade union leader, said. “It is impossible to implement an Act without rules. Strangely, governments have ignored this problem.”

The major irrigation acts are: Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 (MIA), five Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (one each for five Irrigation Development Corporations, enacted between 1996 and 1998), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005 (MWRRA).

Except MMISF, none of the others has any rules. MIA is the parent act because it is supposed to provide the state with a water management structure. “And implementing the other acts, IDC, MMISF, and MWRRA, depends on how MIA is implemented,” Pradeep Purandare, former associate professor, faculty of engineering, Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, said.

Thirty-six years have passed since MIA was passed. None of the governments to date has formed rules pertaining to the act.If there are no rules for any of the acts, what does the government follow? Ancient rules framed in the British era, mainly Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces & Berar [CP&B.]Rules are followed even today. These old rules are, expectedly, based on old acts like the Bombay Irrigation Act of 1879.

These old rules are incompatible with MIA since ground reality and water management practices have changed with time. In some cases, MIA has even repealed certain rules. l Turn to p3

An act is the intention of law describing the applicability, defining governing provisions, explaining fines and penalties and how it should be applied.

And rules are the prescribed methods and procedures in relation to any provision contained in the act. “Without any legally prescribed method, water management has become a big headache,” Purandare said.

It is well known that extensive areas in the Vidarbha belt and other areas are prone to drought. Since MIA has no rules, there is rampant water theft. Anybody can get away by stealing water because there is nothing “prescribed as per rules made under this act”. So, if someone is caught stealing, he/she cannot be prosecuted while farmers do not get any water.

What this means is MIA, a parent act, cannot be implemented. And this has a cascading effect on the other acts — IDC, MMISF & MWRRA. None can be implemented. “An unprecedented legal crisis would crop up if someone were to move court,” Purandare said.

The MWRRA Act has provisions to resolve disputes. But it is not in force because there are no rules pertaining to the act. “With no rules in place, guidelines to classify crime and punishment or how appeals should be processed are unclear,” Mandar V Sathe of the Resources and Livelihoods Group, Prayas,said.

Also, compensation to farmers in case of water scarcity is arbitrarily fixed because there isn’t any prescribed procedure for day to day functioning.

Ideally, if rules were in place then the quantity of water based on what crop is cultivated would be fixed. “Several instances have come to the fore, where farmers have lost out on compensation because there is no proper,” said CPI trade union leader Ksirsagar.

The absence of proper rules leads to confusion over responsibility and accountability. Canals maintenance is irregular because the powers and duties of a canal officer are not fixed. The MIA says a canal officer’s duties must be specified once rules are framed.


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