All posts by Shivam Vij

Shivam Vij is a writer and journalist based in New Delhi.

Let’s be fair to Tarun Tejpal. Let us listen to his side of the story

A number of people are saying that Tarun Tejpal has been held guilty and convicted by a media trial. They are saying that the media and public have both chosen to not hear “the other side of the story”.

That claim, put simply, is incorrect. From day one of the story, “the other side” was heard. We read Tejpal’s emails and those of his lieutenant Shoma Choudhary. We heard Choudhury speak and defend herself endlessly on TV. On news channels, in print and on the web, we’ve heard a long list of luminaries defend Tejpal: Sanjoy Roy, Alyque Padamsee, Namita Devidayal, Dilip Tahil, Rahul Singh, Prem Shankar Jha, Roger Cohen, Anusha Rizvi, Manisha Sethi, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Charu Nivedita, BG Verghese, Bina Ramani, Nirupama Sekhri, Madhu Trehan, Rahul Da Cunha and then some. Latest additions to the list are Seema Mustafa, Manu Joseph and Anurag Kashyap.

All of these people tell us the other side of the story, which is incoherent and constantly changing. Let’s be fair to them. Let’s listen to what Tarun Tejpal has to say. Continue reading Let’s be fair to Tarun Tejpal. Let us listen to his side of the story

Racist villagers versus hapless Africans and other simplistic binaries

The residents of Khirki are angry. They say they have been misrepresented, their grievances are not being given a patient hearing because the rest of us are doing politics over them. Nobody even wants to hear that they could have a case, that the story could be about more than just skin colour. Kafila and Times Now alike will tell you they are a bad, racist, evil lynch mob who deserve to be disenfranchised.

Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? Forget the debates about the Aam Aadmi Party. As their elected representative, Somnath Bharti with all his vigilante zeal was doing what representative democracy makes representatives do. The people were making their voice heard through their elected representative. But we don’t want to hear their voice. If we did, we’d realise what the area needs is dialogue and understanding. All the problems with Africans and others in a 14th century ‘urban village’ next to 21st century shopping malls need a conversation that won’t come if we don’t want to appreciate the complexity of a social situation. By refusing to do so, we are being as unhelpful as the vigilantism of Somnath Bharti.

But at least we are thinking about Khirki. As for Sagarpur, where on earth is that?

These last few days, you have been fed one-sided angst by a media eager to help Narendra Modi overcome the pro-AAP mood, by pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power and they can do proper full-time chest-beating over fascism, by big industry already unhappy to see the AAP government move against Walmart. Is there a bigger picture?

Beating AAP with the Kashmir stick

When Prashant Bhushan first made his remarks supporting a referendum in Kashmir to decide whether Kashmir will stay in India, a hooligan had gone to his office and slapped him. The Aam Aadmi Party made it clear that these were Bhushan’s personal views and were not endorsed by the AAP, but the stick was too good to ignore. At a loss of words to see the rise of the AAP, somewhat dimming the euphoria over the rising fortunes of Narendra Modi, the BJP has gone on and on over Bhushan’s views on Kashmir. Even when the AAP was proving its majority on the floor of the house, the leader of the opposition, Harsh Vardhan, made Prashant Bhushan’s personal views out be somewhat of a national security threat to India. Just saying that a people should be allowed to decide their fate is anti-national because we know that making such an allowance would bring results we’d rather not see. Continue reading Beating AAP with the Kashmir stick

We are all Anwar Congo


In 1965-66, Indonesia killed one million people it suspected were ‘communists’. Others who became victims of this cleansing were ethnic Chinese. An American filmmaker, Joshua Oppenheimer, goes to Indonesia and bumps into a man, Anwar Congo, who himself killed a thousand people. He and his friends, who were part of the extermination of real or imagined communists, happily boast about what they did and describe it in detail. Oppenheimer tells them that they should make a feature film reenacting what happened. Oppenheimer then makes a documentary about these people making a film about what they did.

The Act of Killing released last year but the world is still talking about it. When you watch it, you can scarcely believe what you see. Anwar Congo shows us how he perfected a method of killing that would produce the least blood. He wraps a steel wire around the victim’s neck, ties the wire to a pole and pulls it from the other end. He then watches how the video looks on television and says he shouldn’t be smiling, his face should look cruel, he shouldn’t be wearing white pants. He’d never wear clothes like that while doing the killings. Continue reading We are all Anwar Congo

Arvind Kejriwal, master-blaster

Arvind Kejriwal is the new Sachin Tendulkar. You throw him the most difficult googly and he sweeps it to add runs for his century. In 2011, he started a national anti-corruption movement with the specific aim of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal. The movement’s public face and leader was Anna Hazare, a respected social leader, who like Gandhi, believes in fasting for politics. The critics said Anna is just a puppet and it’s Kejriwal’s movement, and that such sophistry showed Kejriwal (who takes oath as chief minister of Delhi tomorrow) had sinister motives.

Kejriwal’s critics said that fasting unto death was a blackmail strategy not suited to a democracy. Kejriwal can’t have a Lokpal just because he wants it. His popular support is just media hype. If he really wants a Lokpal, why doesn’t he form a political party and contest elections?

Kejriwal’s critics said he was supported by the RSS and the BJP, that he is a BJP stooge, that the Lokpal movement was a right-wing conspiracy to remove pristine, super-secular, people-loving, chosen-by-god Congress party from power. Continue reading Arvind Kejriwal, master-blaster

Sex and the courtroom

A politician is exposed using State surveillance to allegedly woo his love interest. An editor tells a reporter his daughter’s age that the easiest way for her to keep her job would be to have sex with him. A godman and his son are both arrested for sexual assault and rape. A riot in Muzaffarnagar over false rumours of inter-religious ‘eve teasing’ left 48 dead and 15,000 homeless. The debate on rape, consent, gender relations sparked by December 16, 2012 continued throughout 2013. And by the end of it the Indian Supreme Court decided that the Indian Constitution’s letter and spirit were not being violated by criminalising consenting adults for having sex, in case the sex happened to be anything other than peno-vaginal.

India 2013 is like a pubescent 13 year old realising there’s something about the body that the mind needs to grapple with. There’s something about power, pleasure, social mores, class, law and so on, that comes together in the body and negotiates its way through bodily desire. There’s a sexual churning out there, and it’s not as titillating as the annual sex surveys news magazines do, nor is it as literary and profound as the language an incarcerated editor wields. Continue reading Sex and the courtroom

Why AAP is the new Congress

There is nothing novel about new parties upsetting the two-party binary. We have seen that happen through the process of Mandalisation in many states. But all those new parties have come up in the name of one or more identities caste, community, region. The BJP is the Brahmin-Bania party of Hindu nationalism. The BSP is the party of the Dalits, the JD(U) of the Kurmis, the BJD of Odisha. Many of these parties don’t have ambitions to rival the Congress or the BJP on the national stage.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is an exception in that its central ideology is good governance. This helps it escape identity politics. At the same time, the AAP embraces identity politics like everyone else does: its symbol, the broom, was from day one targeted at the Valmikis. Be it Muslims or Dalits or Brahmins, the AAP quietly takes note of identity politics and gives lip service, even as the party as a whole does not identify itself with any one community. The only other party which handles identity politics this way is the Congress. Continue reading Why AAP is the new Congress

Delhi Magistrate orders FIR against woman for anti-Modi posts: Kavita Krishnan


The footsteps of fascism can be heard – this time in the hallowed hallways of the national capital’s courts. A woman who filed an FIR against a man physically threatening her for her anti-Modi Facebook posts, found to her dismay that the Metropolitan Magistrate in the Tis Hazari courts let off the man accused of threatening her safety, while ordering an FIR against her instead! The media’s coverage of this outrageous incident has been, till now, biased and factually misleading.

Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, a journalist and a Ph.D. Fellow in JNU, received several threats by emails from one Pankaj Kumar Dwivedi, which warned her of ‘consequences’ and even demanded she meet the man so that he could ‘cleanse’ her of her ‘filth.’ Continue reading Delhi Magistrate orders FIR against woman for anti-Modi posts: Kavita Krishnan

Jurrat – 10 to 16 December 2013, Delhi

Majma and Swaang are organizing JURRAT – A week long campaign on violence against women, from Dec 10-16.


About Jurrat

On 16th December 2013 one year would have passed since the shameful, horrific and brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi. And yet this whole year, city after city and village after village has screamed ‘Rape’ ‘Gang Rape’ in the months after the much publicized and condemned Delhi-gang rape. Continue reading Jurrat – 10 to 16 December 2013, Delhi

Presenting the Perpetrator as Victim

Meet Tarun Tejpal’s spin doctors


Unlike Justice (Retd.) Ashok Kumar Ganguly, Tarun Tejpal’s defenders cannot cry innocence given that Tejpal has confessed to his crime, albeit disputing the degree of it. He has even confessed having told his colleague that suffering the sexual assault was the “easiest way of keeping your job”. Even his two decades old comrade Shoma Choudhury is unable to defend him beyond saying that he has his versions. Nobody buys Tejpal’s ludicrous retractions.

This put Tejpal’s friends, fellow molesters and self-defeating secularists in a bind. Many of his friends have chosen silence, which is understandable. It is only human to recuse oneself from the difficult choice between principle and friendship. Though some like Arundhati Roy and Sankarshan Thakur have admirably chosen principle over personal association. But those who wanted to come out and actually defend Tejpal were at a loss for words. How do they defend a crime whose perpetrator has confessed to it? So they came up with a few sly defences which pretend to be nuances. Some like BG Verghese are writing as though they were ghostwriting Shoma Choudhury’s defence.

So let us lacerate these defences one by one.

‘Trial by media, lynch mob’

Continue reading Presenting the Perpetrator as Victim

Sehwan in Monochrome: Farid Alvie

Guest post by FARID ALVIE

It could be other things. (It certainly was other things.) But it could quite as easily be its incomparable food and music that has drawn kings, foreign army generals, enlightened mystics and famous globe-trotters to ancient Sehwan. Standing on the west bank of the mighty Indus, Sehwan – or Siwasitan as Ibn Batuta describes it in his travel accounts – is most famous for being the place chosen by Hazrat Laal Shahbaz Qalandar to settle in in the 13th century. The shrine of the great sufi saint draws hundreds of thousands of people to its doors from all across Pakistan every year. The bazaar around the shrine plays host to a panoply of tongues and customs; the courtyard of the mazaar offering hospitality to visitors from out of town. The impressive gold dome of the shrine is the center from which all activity – cultural, social, religious, political – appears to emanate. Like many of Sindh’s other ancient towns, Sehwan is steeped in a history that continues to breathe.

Through the bazaar:

Inside Bodla Saeen’s shrine: Continue reading Sehwan in Monochrome: Farid Alvie

Commonwealth giving Sri Lanka carte blanche for human rights abuses: Amnesty International

This release was put out by AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL on 27 September 2013

Sri Lanka’s disturbing human rights record means it should be barred from hosting a key Commonwealth summit in November or chairing the organization, Amnesty International said ahead of a key meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers today.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group – made up of foreign ministers and Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who gather to address violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values, including human rights – is meeting in New York today.

“Today’s meeting is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to show some real leadership on human rights. The organization has been shamefully silent so far about Sri Lanka’s human rights crisis– including the persistent lack of justice for past crimes and ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and other activists,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia- Pacific Director. Continue reading Commonwealth giving Sri Lanka carte blanche for human rights abuses: Amnesty International

PUCL statement on the police raid at Prof GN Saibaba’s residence

24th September, 2013

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemns the illegal raid and search of the residence Professor GN Saibaba of Delhi University on 12th September, 2013. Professor Saibaba is a differently abled person and is wheel chair bound. Ironically, over 50 police persons and intelligence officers raided his house! Prof Saibaba and his entire family including his minor daughter and the driver were all locked in different rooms, during the three-and-half-hour search. It is believed that the raid is pre-cursor to the imminent arrest of Prof Saibaba.


Continue reading PUCL statement on the police raid at Prof GN Saibaba’s residence

In the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli

This report was prepared by a group of citizens (whose names are given at the end), and released on 20 September 2013.


A human tragedy unfolds, as the State watches, In the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli Districts

A Preliminary Citizens’ Report
September 20, 2013

A. On September 17-18, 2013, an 11 member team consisting of both independent activists as well as activists affiliated with 5 organizations based in Lucknow, Chitrakoot, Muzaffarnagar and Delhi visited relief camps in two affected districts of Muzaffarnagar (3 Relief Camps – Madrasa camp at Bassi Kalan, Madrasa camp at Tawli and camp at Haji Aala’s house, Shahpur) and Shamli (3 Relief Camps – Madrasa camp on Panipat Road in Kairana, Malakpur camp in Kairana, and the Idgah camp in Kandhla). In Shamli District the team also met with senior members of the district administration – the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police.

B. This was not conceived of as a fact-finding visit, but was a recce visit to determine the human needs on the ground in the relief camps, and to see how we might plan to help survivors in initiating procedures towards criminal justice (lodging of FIRs and complaints), accessing compensation for death, injury, destruction of property, planning rehabilitation, and also to confirm unverified news reports of sexual violence against women. Continue reading In the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli

In Delhi’s defence

Reuters photo
Reuters photo

By SHIVAM VIJ: The census counts ’urban agglomerations’, and the Census of India says that Mumbai is India’s largest urban agglomeration. This includes Mumbai’s suburbs. In counting Delhi, the suburbs are not added because They are separated by state boundaries. If you were to add suburbs of the ’National Capital Region’, Delhi’s population would be not 16 million but over 22 million, making it the world’s largest urban agglomeration after Tokyo. This bustling urban centre is made of its people. Today’s Delhi cannot be stereotyped as just the seat of power. There is more to Delhi than the endless roundabouts of Lutyens’ capital.

Delhi’s core – the Partition refugee Punjabi – is not xenophobic like the Marathi ’manoos’ of Mumbai. In fact Delhi today is what Bombay once was, India’s foremost cosmopolitan metropolis. It is the city of choice for people from across India to migrate to with dreams of riches.

A lot has been written about “the Delhi gang-rape”. 16 December 2012 started a conversation that doesn’t seem to end. This conversation has largely been about rape, not about Delhi.
Continue reading In Delhi’s defence

‘Marriage for men is like puberty for women’: Nandini Krishnan

nandini-krishnan-hitched-400x400-imadmuhyuygmg2xeThis is an extract from Hitched: The Modern Indian Woman and Arranged Marriage by NANDINI KRISHNAN

Saurabh laughs that he had the advantage of knowing what the process of spouse-hunting involves. A year before he went through the drill, his sister did.


However rosy the courting period may be, once you’re married, you get a rude wake-up call when you’re living in the same space. ‘Living with a strange person takes adapting. You could be in love for a few years and then get married, but even that doesn’t prepare you for sharing your personal space with another person. Of the other gender. Who has a different set of bodily smells, and opinions on the way your clothes smell.’

He has an interesting comparison for what men go through after marriage. ‘Remember when you, as a girl, got up close and personal with menstruation. That’s what most guys go through in the first month of marriage, unless they’ve been in a live-in relationship before. The first month is very chaotic because you’re experiencing another gender’s physicality and emotions.

Curiosity and disgust go hand in hand. Men see that their wives menstruate. Women begin to appreciate that belching and farting are natural human processes, but somehow they never manage to complete this process of appreciation.’ Continue reading ‘Marriage for men is like puberty for women’: Nandini Krishnan

When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah

This is an excerpt from the introduction to the anthology Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir, edited by FAHAD SHAH

Once militancy took root in the Valley, it continued unabated, with a few exceptions in the years to come. The sentiment of the resistance movement prevailed across Jammu and Kashmir. At one point in time, blasts and encounters occurred almost every day. The first few years of the 1990s were the most brutal in the history of the conflicted Valley. After the 1996 assembly elections, when people were forced to vote at gunpoint, the National Conference Party and counter-insurgent groups ruled the state. People lived with trauma and threat – treating the injured, mourning for the dead and searching for those who had disappeared.

This was the story for more than a decade. A shift in the nature of resistance has been seen in the past few years; the generation that was born during the start of the war has been able to glean the nuances of the homeland’s political situation. Most of the youngsters from this generation, born between the late 80s and early 90s, choose stones over guns. Continue reading When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah

Grappling with media: The Hoot Reader

the-hoot-reader-media-practice-in-twenty-first-century-india-400x400-imadhbtch8jfgfjwThis is an excerpt from the introduction to The Hoot Reader: Media Practice in Twenty-First Century India edited by SUBARNO CHATTARJI and SEVANTI NINAN. The Reader commemorates a decade of, still the only media-watch platform of its kind in India.

The notion of media power has come to loom large in India over the last decade, and has led to inevitable scrutiny of those who wield it. The men and women chasing stories become stories themselves when their first take is scrutinized to present a second take, to judge if that first draft of history was a job well done, or whether it was lazily or unethically constructed. Media criticism had been dormant in India over decades of journalistic practice, but its advent and subsequent blossoming are celebrated in this volume. Because, to report how the media covers India, is to report on the complexity and promise of India itself.

The decade of 2001–11 was when coalition politics took firm hold, terrorism began to rival militancy in attention commanded, naxalism spread, digital communication expanded, and the media became a noisy beast that grabbed more mind space than before. The North-East became less of a blank spot and Kashmir remained a media Mecca. Through it all, the old challenges remained as the media stories here bear witness—hunger did not disappear, women in flooded areas looked for secluded spaces to defecate in, caste prejudices thwarted aspiration, and so on. As subjects sexy and dreary competed for space, many stories also went untold. Continue reading Grappling with media: The Hoot Reader

To the German ambassador in India, a letter from Kashmir

This letter was faxed from Srinagar on 26 August 2013 to the German embassy in New Delhi and the Bavarian State Opera. List of signatories given at the end.

Ambassador Michael Steiner,
German Embassy,
New Delhi, India.

Subject:  URGENT Protest Letter to German Embassy on scheduled Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir on 7 September 2013

On 22 August 2013, a press release was issued by the German Embassy that Zubin Mehta would be conducting an orchestra on 7 September 2013 at Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

The press release quoted you as stating that the concert was for the people of Jammu and Kashmir by way of a cultural tribute. The press release also reads that the concert was intended to give a message of hope and encouragement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concert, said to be a part of a “broader engagement” is being organized by the German Embassy and supported by the “competent authorities both at Central as well as at Union State level”. The costs of the concert are covered by “benevolent sponsors mainly from the business world in India and Germany, as well as “Incredible India‟ and the German Foreign Office”. Continue reading To the German ambassador in India, a letter from Kashmir

Communalisation in the name of Security and Sovereignt: JKCCS

As Kishtwar continues to be under curfew, this public statement put out on 15 August 2013 by the Srinagar-based JAMMU AND KASHMIR COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY is pertinent.
On 29 July 2013, Village Defence Committee [VDC] members were alleged to have killed 16 year old Shamim Ahmed Lone, resident of Noutaas, Thatri, Doda. Further, a few days prior to the murder of Shamim Ahmed, a 16 year old girl, resident of Kuntwara, Kishtwar, was kidnapped and raped by persons backed and protected by the VDC. According to newspaper reports from last over a month at many places in Doda-Kistwar region masked men have terrorized people. Over the last week, several places in the Jammu region, particularly Kishtwar, have been subjected to violence at the hands of VDC members, supported by Hindu communal groups, which resulted into loss of three lives, numerous injuries and loss of public property. The unabated support and encouragement to VDCs by Government of India, has ensured deepening communal strife. Continue reading Communalisation in the name of Security and Sovereignt: JKCCS