An open letter to Shri Manna Dey- Call for endorsements


Dear Manna da,                                                                                                          

Last week brought us shock by the West Bengal Police’s brutal assault on a peaceful demonstration of students in Kolkata, killing a young activist, Sudipto Gupta, and inflicting serious injuries to many students. While the victim was battling for his life, the Chief Minister, who is also in charge of the police department, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, was active in the Indian Premier League (IPL) opening ceremony extravaganza. With stains of blood in her hand, within a day, she came down to Bangalore to “honour” you!

Our question before you, Manna da, is as follows.

Do you really need this “honour” from her, who has blood in her hands? Did you not check her record before you gave your approval to this “honour”?

Is it not a tragic irony that while you are a musical genius, the boy’s father, an unknown violinist, is also a musician? While the bereaved father plays the tune of mourning, can you – Manna da, accept this “honour” from a person, who publicly label the brutal custodial death of a student a ‘petty matter’ – who is the cause of it?

You have enthralled us with your unforgettable Puchho na kaisey mayne rayen beetayee..? Can you ask the same question to Sudipto’s father and sister, as to how, they spent the dark night of April 2, 2013 and thereafter?

Manna da, your voice became ours, when you sang Manbo na e bondhoney, manbo na e shrinkhaley (We shall not accept these chains that shackle us). That still is our aspiration. We are sure that you too have not strayed away from that.

This reminds us of an episode in the life of Bhagat Singh. An admirer of of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh was shocked when Lajpat Rai joined the communal organization, The Hindu Mahasabha. In agony, the young freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh , wrote a letter of protest to his leader, quoting from Robert Browning’s poem, The Lost Leader, which was Browning’s condemnation of Wordsworth’s betrayal of the cause of “liberty, equality and fraternity”. The poem begins with the words, Just for a handful of silver he left us. It pains us to believe that you could have accepted this “honour” from Ms. Banerjee “just for a handful of silver.”

And, it would always give us pain, to say about you,

We, who had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,

Lived in his mild and magnificent eye…..

…..He alone breaks from the van and the free-men,

He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

It would, hence be a great sorrow for us to say,

 

Blot out his name then, record one lost soul more,

One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,

One more devil’s triumph and sorrow for angels,

One wrong more to man, one more insult to God.

We are sure that what has happened is a cynical ploy by a discredited political agency to purchase credibility, by making you a victim of it. We, in no way would like to allow your name to be linked with them. For it was your voice which described them as,

Anna ditey narey bubhukkhu janataye,

Kantha rodh karey lathi raifele.

(Those who do not give food to the hungry mouths but throttle their voice with batons and rifles.)

But Manna da, we do not believe in infallibility of humans, even of the greatest of the great. We want you in our midst and thus request you to return this “one gift”. As Rabindra Nath Tagore had said, while returning the knighthood to the British crown in the wake of the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, “The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation.”

Please, do consider whether the time has come for you too, to “give voice to the protest of millions of my countrymen, surprised into dumb anguish of terror.”

Do not be shackled, Manna da, by this “honour”, which heaps insult on you.

Manbo na e bondhone,  manbo na e shrinkhale

Mukto manusher swadhinata adhikar, kharba korey jara ghrinnyo koushaley…

(We shall not accept these chains that shackle us

We will unshackle from those, whose shameful machinations trample upon the right to liberty of free human beings.)

With reverential honour to you from the depth of our hearts.

Sd/-

Subhankar Chakraborty,

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human rights activist, Mumbai

 

(If you agree pl sign in the comment section, name, org/profession, city

BCCI: Billionaires Control Cricket in India- P Sainath


None emerged from the IPL which has in fact had a bad impact on the skills of youngsters who might have made fine Test cricketers.

The ‘bring-us-their-heads’ humiliation in store for the Fab Four only hijacks the debate from what IPL is doing to Indian cricket.

Scoring 30s and 40s (even 20s) at a quick clip is pretty okay in the Indian Premier League. That’s what our guys in Australia are still doing. Consider that in the IPL you might earn two million dollars throwing your bat around for 30s and an occasional flaky 50. Or for bowling four overs a few times in a 90-day season. It’s hard to strive for your best when there is so much incentive to do your worst. The same body, the BCCI, presides over both private (IPL) and national cricket. It enables huge moneys to be made by one. And strangles the golden goose that is the other. The problem is not that our ‘boys’ have been playing too much cricket. It’s that they haven’t been playing cricket. They’ve been playing IPL T20, where focus, concentration, technique and staying power count for little. And it’s showing.

Too much IPL

Is this a bad bunch of players out there? Wounded pride leads to that easy conclusion. In truth, Indian cricket — crazy as this might seem just now — has ridden for long on its finest batting line-up ever. We may never again see players of the greatness, quality and achievement of a Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman or Sehwag. You might still see late brilliance in the test that remains. But I wouldn’t bet on it. There’s been too much playing to advertising-driven, media-orchestrated euphoria with the IPL. You belt sixes over shortened boundaries, swank in and out in perhaps 30 balls — get lionised for it, and swagger all the way to the bank. Some players have done IPL seasons but skipped going to the West Indies just before difficult tours. Others when ‘tired’ took their ‘break’ from playing for the country. They played in the IPL, though, injuries and all. England and Australia were disasters waiting to happen. It’s because you have great players that these have taken some time to unfold.

However talented, it’s also about who you’re playing for. Are you playing for your country, for those countless millions of fans who follow the fortunes of the national team, who make cricket the game it is in India? Or are you playing for Vijay Mallya, Mukesh Ambani et al. This is a far more important question than a media self-servingly in love with the IPL will allow. We served up India’s brightest and best to private team owners. Indian cricket paid the price. Most of those who slaughtered us in England and Australia did not play in the IPL. Some took a conscious, and wise, decision to avoid it. Acclimatisation is not just about the weather and pitches. It’s also about switching back mentally to the real game. And being clear on the source of your motivation.

‘Club over country’

We have every right to be shocked by the Indian team‘s showing. We have none at all to be surprised. Every step, every road led here. Remember the ‘club over country’ debate when players skipped national-side tours but played the IPL? That debate missed the fact that there are no ‘clubs.’ Not in plural anyway. The IPL related ‘clubs’ do not exist as mass-based physical entities in the way their models elsewhere do. It’s not about allegiance to ‘club over country.’ Dressing it that way lends the tragedy a veneer of moral dilemma: do we play for those hordes supposedly backing our clubs, or for the countless millions of fans backing the national side?

The only ‘club’ here is the Club of state-subsidised billionaires. (See: The Hindu, April 17, 2010 http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article399250.ece). The allegiance of the cricketing establishment, and thereby the players (and most of the media) is to this club. The BCCI today stands for Billionaires Control Cricket in India. Your top cricketing icons are reduced to assets in the balance sheets of corporates. The “bring-us-their-heads” humiliation that is in store for the team will actually hijack the debate from why things went wrong. The rants will be all about the players and their appalling performance. Maybe even a few yowls at the selectors. But little about how IPL has savaged Indian cricket and harmed the game around the world. The Laxman now being torn apart for performance has a stunning average in Australia and is surely one of the greatest batsmen ever. So are a couple of the others. It’s not as if they haven’t played and done well in Australia before. Is it just age?

Just weeks ago, the pundits said this was our best chance ever to beat Australia in Australia. Our best team possible. Did the best team ever age in weeks? What happened?

IPL happened. And happened long before the disaster tours. A team full of players carrying injuries playing 90 days of sub-standard club-level cricket happened. That prepares you only for more sub-standard stuff, year after year, not cricket at the highest levels. They continue playing there with injuries because the BCCI-IPL has brought big bucks to the privately-owned side of the sport, not to the domestic game.

It is the domestic game that has been the feeder for Indian cricket. All our greats came through the Ranji grind. Some through the under-19. None emerged from the IPL which has in fact had a bad impact on the skills of youngsters who might have made fine test cricketers. Today, the feeder line is to the IPL. The Australians have a robust domestic circuit and a healthy gene pool. We are killing ours with neglect. Think of it: the BCCI could have boosted the domestic game. It has the money to do so, but not the motivation. The cash coming out of IPL goes to private pockets. That’s more difficult to achieve with domestic cricket. The hyper-commercialisation of the game means it is today a mess of money, agents, lobbyists, corporates, endorsements, advertisers. Cricket is a by-product. (There are also times when selectors find it hard to drop some players because of their ‘brand value’ in this system).

Far-reaching impact

The impact goes beyond India. IPL affected the game everywhere in quality, schedules and priorities. A Malinga, perhaps the greatest Sri Lankan quick ever, quits test cricket to focus on it. For some nations, this worked out better over time. Several Australian and English IPL players are retirees. And in Australia’s case, even the still-playing veterans skip the IPL to focus on national duty. In India, our very best are in there, deep. Now, out there in test cricket, it shows.

As one of India’s more loved ex-cricketers is said to have told his friends off-record: the IPL-T20 is far from demanding and easy to play. Fielding? The ball might come your way five times in a match. And you have to bowl four overs max. And it’s all over in four hours. The ODIs are far more demanding and, of course, five-day tests are the supreme challenge.

A few former greats — no enemies of Indian cricket — have worried about IPL’s impact. They include Ian Botham and Arjuna Ranatunga. In India, some of the greatest of our greats, have not just refrained from criticism but vociferously defended IPL on countless television programmes. The co-opting power of the BCCI-IPL money machine is wondrous. Now and then, a little conflict-of-interest blip appears. Like commentators being paid crores by the BCCI — who are then unlikely to criticise its golden child. It is equally unlikely that media fed with crores of ad revenue will speak up either. Any other institution seeing half the scams and conflict of interest that the BCCI-IPL has, would long ago have drawn sharp media scrutiny. But whatever emerges does so when the IT or ED departments get active, not the media. There are also too many journalists co-opted into the IPL network, unable to look at it critically.

And there is no way serving players will criticise it (or anything the BCCI does if they value their careers). Not while it’s positioned as the Kamadhenu of Cricket. That status was and is a choice the BCCI has consciously made. It controls the game in the country. With its money power, it lords over it at the global level too, in a manner that earns us the mistrust of other nations. It isn’t just that BCCI chooses to privilege one format of the game over another. There could be, as some argue, a place for all three. BCCI chose to privilege the private over the public. We pay the price.

Here’s the problem: when the shouting is done and the players heads have rolled, things won’t get better. The system and gene pool of Indian cricket have been, are being radically altered for the worse. We need to think about how to revive the domestic game, rescue cricket from the billionaires club and restore it to the public domain.

P.Sainath, The Hindu, Jan 17th 2012 

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