Category Archives: Government

The Impossibility of Satire

The first impulse that one has after coming out of a court hearing is to create a satire that accurately captures the slightly bizarre and terrifying vision of judges that one has had a chance to experience. But can caricature really live up to its responsibility of laughing truth to power? John Beger has said that “Graphic caricature is dead because life has outstripped it. Or more accurately, because satire is only possible when a moral reserve still exists, and those reserves have been used up. We are too used to being appalled by ourselves to be able to react to the idea of caricature”. So instead of imposing an impossible goal for satire, let us allow the court speak for themselves. Continue reading The Impossibility of Satire

Gujarat Fake Encounters: The Spin Doctoring has Begun

The Gujarat Fake Encounter Story is rapidly being scripted along the familiar lines of the ‘Corrupt Policeman-Corrupt Politician-Underworld Links’ nexus. While this may be true, (and I do not doubt that Narendra Modi, who holds the ‘Home’ portfolio in Gujarat, must not be entirely un-involved in this matter) it would be unfortunate if the Gujarat ‘fake encounter killings’ , like ‘fake encounter’ stories in Kashmir, Delhi or elsewhere are now spun into ‘systemic aberrations’. Rather, they should be seen as evidence of how the system actually works, and how efficient it is.

Continue reading Gujarat Fake Encounters: The Spin Doctoring has Begun

From Informal to Illegal

The fight for city space, today, has gone far beyond the Master Plan. On the traffic signals of South Delhi, the Master Plan 2021 now rivals Paulo Coehlo in sales. Planning and the fight for urban space has, it seems, becomes everyone’s debate. On the surface, this is a fight about planning and order, about drawing the lines between formal/informal, legal/illegal, and public/private to prevent the “anarchy” that may result without planning.

Yet how do we understand “informality” and “illegality” in a city like Delhi? According to the Tejender Khanna Committee, appointed by the government and led by Delhi’s ex- Lt Governor, nearly 70% of the city lives in a state of semi-legality, mostly due to the DDA’s consistent failure to meet its own land acquisition and housing development targets over the last twenty years. Sainik Farms and the slums of Yamuna Pushta are, therefore, just as “informal” as each other, albeit in different ways. Yet the consequences of their informality are vastly different. Within the courts, the Master Plans and in public opinion, it is only the slum dwellers and the urban poor that have become “encroachers,” and the homes that they have lived in for decades “temporary” and “illegal.” In the context of poverty, it seems, informality very easily slides into illegality. Continue reading From Informal to Illegal

Celebrating difference in Southasia

Choles Ritchil, an activist and a leader of the Garo people living in the Modhupur Upozila under Tangail District in Bangladesh was found dead last month. Over the last three years, he had been leading a protest against the establishment of an Eco park in the forests around his village by the department of Forest. He was allegedly tortured brutally by the officers of the local army camp before dying.

Garos are a part of a large tribal minority, along with other hill people, known as pahadis, who are part of present-day Bangladesh, along side the large minority of Hindus. Bangladesh, as we know, was formerly East Pakistan and seceded from it after India fought a war against Pakistan in 1971. Its founder leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had said in his founding speech, “From today, you are all Bengalis.” Not all Bengalis are equal. Continue reading Celebrating difference in Southasia

SAARC: Need for a Paradigm Shift

As the 14th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit draws nearer, and the host, the Indian Government, begins to step up its preparations, it seems a good time to raise certain issues and questions, designed to draw lessons for the next stage of regional institution building. Where are we? What issues, practices and policy changes can be proposed to improve the quality of regional policy making and implementation? What can civil society organisations and citizens do to contribute effectively to this process? How can SAARC be made more open and transparent to South Asian citizens? What are some of the best practices that have contributed to an effective intra-state coordination, consultation with non-state actors and public accountability? The vision of SAARC today should be that of a South Asia that is integrated, prosperous and peaceful; a South Asia driven by its own citizens; an anti-colonial, democratic and dynamic force in the global arena; and human and peoples’ rights the cornerstone of its political programmes.

Wars and killings in the name of nations; violence, often on a massive scale; boundaries and borders creating major elements of conflicts between the nation states; trans-border crime, narco-terrorism, illegal and informal transactions; illegal migration and large-scale refugee infiltration; trade and transit barriers and trade imbalances — we can find all this and much more in serious proportions in these times of SAARC. However, they are not the core of our assessment, as nobody had believed that these issues could be resolved in two decades or so. The core is that even though some significant spaces have been opened up for greater and more sustained regional cooperation and some beginning has been made, the overall mood is not optimistic, and the prospects of a people-driven SAARC remain largely unfulfilled. Lack of vision, initiative and will, inadequate institutional capacity, and inappropriate policies and procedures have totally negated any thought and practice that SAARC should build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among our people in South Asia. There is hardly any civil society participation in its policy development processes, and it is taken as a closed, non-transparent, non-serious affair in the region.

Continue reading SAARC: Need for a Paradigm Shift

The Narrative of Corruption

Good governance, accountability, transparency, efficiency
Good governance, accountability, transparency, efficiency
Good governance, accountability, transparency, efficiency

Good governance, accountability, transparency, efficiency – the mantra of new urban management as you all know. Standing from the pulpits of the city with who I share an ambiguous relationship, estrange yet intimate, I now deliver one more narrative of corruption.

Friends, Romans and countrymen, a few months ago I started meeting up with some technicians, some politicians, some actors in local politics, some financiers, some lumpen proletariat and some of the lumpen bourgeoise. Conversations and teas revealed that corruption is more ambiguous than the transparency of good governance and the accountability of transparency – that corruption is an important pawn in the new chess of urban management and that corruption has facets, some evident, some hidden and some yet to be revealed. Who plays the corruption card, directs the game (and the direction). Continue reading The Narrative of Corruption

13 Questions for December 13

It is shortly going to be five years to December 13, 2001 when the Indian parliament in New Delhi was attacked by a group of men who entered the precincts of the Parliament in an Ambassador Car. In the past five years, we have seen the ups and downs of a convoluted trial. The forging of evidence, the acquital of SAR Geelani (one of the accused) and in recent days a mounting sense of disquiet around the circumstances in which Mohammad Afzal Guru has been handed a death sentence.

Many questions remain unresolved. Here is a list of 13 Questions for December 13, excerpted from the introduction by Arundhati Roy to the forthcoming Penguin India publication – ‘December 13 – A Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament’.

The book is an anthology of essays and texts on December 13 by – A G Noorani, Arundhati Roy, Ashok Mitra, Indira Jaising, Jawed Naqvi, Mihir Srivastava, Nandita Haksar, Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Praful Bidwai, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Sonia Jabbar, Syed Bismillah Geelani and Tripta Wahi

13 Questions for December 13 (by Arundhati Roy – from the Introduction to ’13 December – A Reader’, Penguin India, New Delhi, December 2006)

Question 1: For months before the Attack on Parliament, both the government and the police had been saying that Parliament could be attacked. On 12 December 2001, at an informal meeting the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee warned of an imminent attack on Parliament. On 13 December Parliament was attacked. Given that there was an ‘improved security drill’, how did a car bomb packed with explosives enter the parliament complex? Continue reading 13 Questions for December 13