The curious Ways of Indian Democracy,from India Gate to the Slum Habitat
It has taken a horrific tragedy and a precious young life to stir the conscience of a nation. Or so one would like to believe! Reality may not still cater to our wishes. Our grand old civilization is also a culture of billion brutalities on its women and countless other victims. One can only hope that it changes for the better, even if a little, after what it has witnessed through the last fifteen days of the last year. Greater probability, however, is for such hopes to be belied yet again. It may take a lot more to lift the weight of an age-old way of life. After all, one would not have expected that rapes and molestations would be reported from across the country, and even from Delhi itself, right in the middle of anger, sorrow and protests that seemed to engulf the country. One would expect that the rapists and the criminals would lie low for a while till the situation returns to normal. Least of all would have one expected that women would be harassed, and one or two would even be molested, during those very protests that were taking place at the India Gate and Jantar Mantar. Continue reading Run with Gender, Hunt with Class: Prachee Sinha→
For all the chest thumping and tomtoming about the Samajwadi Party’s emphatic victory – winning 224 seats out of 403 in the UP Assembly elections – a true reflection of the mandate is to be seen in the individual vote shares of the four main (“effective”) parties in the elections (the Bahujan Samaj Party – Bhartiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party, and the Congress – in alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal). Data from the Election Commission of India website shows the following in terms of vote shares:
Less than a month before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the wedding of a top Uttar Pradesh bureaucrat’s daughter at the Taj Hotel in Lucknow presented senior journalists invited from Delhi with an opportunity to interact with the state’s leading bureaucrats—who are, in Chief Minister Mayawati’s reign, more important than politicians. For a select few celebrity editors, there was even a rare durbar with Mayawati herself, who carefully arrived after the governor had left, presented flowers to the newly married, and proceeded to a barricaded enclosure to meet India’s opinionmakers. I don’t know what the conversation was like, but I saw the journalists’ lips move more than hers.
After the meeting was over, I asked one celebrity TV anchor what he thought the election results were going to look like. He said the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was very strong, and predicted she could win 50 of the 80 seats the party was contesting. The Delhi media’s awe of Mayawati was at a historic peak; they had taken her prime ministerial ambitions seriously. I told this studio journalist that the buzz in Lucknow was that the Congress could spring a surprise. “No chance,” he said. “They don’t have any organisation. Azharuddin is my friend and he called me to say he needs my help. Even a celebrity like Azharuddin is going to lose!” Read More…
आज बाईस मई की सुबह जब ऑफिस या काम पर जाने की चिंता से बेफिक्र हम सोते रहेंगे, उसी समय नॉर्थ-ईस्ट और कश्मीर की जनता जो सुबह देखेगी, वह कानून के नाम पर बर्बरता की 53 वीं सालगिरह होगी. जी हाँ, मैं आर्म्ड फोर्सेस स्पेशल पावर्स एक्ट (अफ्स्पा) की बात कर रहा हूँ. कानून के नाम पर, ला-कनूनियत नाफ़िज़ करने का घिनौना हथियार. जिसके खाते में अगर कुछ लिखा है, तो सिर्फ ला-क़नूनियत और बरबरियत की न खत्म होने वाली दास्तानें.
बाईस मई 1958 को नागा लोगों को ‘नियंत्रित’ करने के लिए ये कानून अमल में लाया गया. नागा जनता के पुरजोर विरोध के बावजूद, अपनी आदत के मुताबिक भारतीय संसद ने 18 अगस्त 1958 को इस कानून पर अपनी मुहर लगा दी. पहले- पहल ये कानून सिर्फ नागा जनता को ‘नियंत्रित’ करने के लिए बना और कहा गया कि जल्द ही हटा लिया जायेगा. पर ऐसा कभी हुआ नहीं. बल्कि धीरे-धीरे ये ‘कानून’ पूर्वोत्तर के 7 राज्यों से निकलता हुआ कश्मीर की घाटी तक पहुँच गया. आख़िरकार, कानून के हाथ लम्बे होते हैं. वैसे भी, अगर भेड़िये को एक बार खून का स्वाद मिल जाये तो फिर उसे कौन रोक सकता है और खासतौर पर खून ‘विदेशी’ या अलग नस्ल का हो. इस पूरे मामले में भी कुछ ऐसा ही दिखता है. Continue reading अफ्स्पा: एक काले कानून की आधी सदी: महताब आलम→
Any political decision on Kashmir — especially when the ball is in the Congress’s court — cannot afford to ignore the sentiments of lakhs of troops stationed here because, at least for now, they appear to be a more permanent fixture than any party, even the National Conference (NC). [Full text]
And Siddharth Varadarajan asks the right question:
But if these motives propelled the ISI to either mount or at best turn a blind eye to the Mumbai plot, why did the same agency — which essentially manages Rawalpindi’s links with militant groups active in Jammu and Kashmir — not seek to disrupt the assembly elections? [Here]
In the summer of 2008, something impossible happened. To a number of Indians, Kashmir was no longer an atoot ung, an inseparable part of the Indian body politic. That image of Kashmir treacherously manufactured by the Indian state through lies, deceit and the media, was wearing down.
The atoot ung no longer seemed atoot to many voices in India and against all odds the people of Kashmir were changing many hearts and minds in India. The loss of soldiers does not worry India as much as the change in its public opinion on Kashmir. This had to be undone, and undone fast before it spread its tentacles. The evil image of Kashmiris had to emphasized and the non-violentprotests discredited. What better than an election to do the task?
The Indian media has been expressing surprise about the high voter turnouts in the Kashmir elections. The expression of surprise sounds genuine. I am not sure how genuine it is. Is patriotism coming in the way of truth? How can we not see what a Wall Street Journal reporter can?
In the village of Samboora, residents said that Indian Army troops went from house to house on Saturday morning, rounding up families and taking them to a polling station. As a reporter drove into the village Saturday afternoon, an army vehicle with several soldiers stopped by the walled compound of Ghulam Mohammad, pulling the 59-year-old retiree onto the road. Seeing a foreign reporter, the soldiers jumped into their vehicle and quickly drove off. “They asked me why I’m not voting, and I said that’s because I don’t like any of the candidates,” Mr. Mohammad said moments later. “They said, if I don’t vote, I’ll be sorry later.” [Must Read]
In April last year, Avinash Dutt and I had interviewed the political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot. We walked around Lodhi Gardens, tape recorder in hand, and I ended up transcribing more than five thousand words that night. Tehelka had published a shorter, edited version. Here’s the full thing.
I was reminded of this interview after encountering the argument here that there should be, and is, a Dalit-Brahmin alliance against the already much-demonised OBCs. I thought that this way of seeing the BSP’s victory in the Uttar Pradesh elections was not only incorrect, but also seemed to be in need of the argument that Jaffrelot makes in this interview: that seeing caste as a ‘system’ is outmoded, at least as far as electoral politics is concerned.
1- Shivam: Which is more important for the average Indian, religion or caste?