Monday, August 31, 2015

History Repeats Itself as Individeuals..... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 30, 2015

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History Repeats Itself as Individuals Vie to Replace Another Individual, Not Ideology

(From left) Hardik Patel, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar
(From left) Hardik Patel, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar

A fourth-century Sanskrit text on statecraft says the enemy of an enemy is a friend. Hence, they make strange political bedfellows. On the face of it, 22-year-old Hardik Patel, Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar have little in common. Each of them come from different socio-economic backgrounds. The neo-Mandalite Patel and the other two are educationally and culturally non-compatible. But they are peas in a pod in style and substance. All three are byproducts of agitational politics, be it fighting against corruption or caste discrimination. They are unambiguously ambitious and intrinsically individualistic in their political philosophy. They also share the same mission: to bring down Narendra Modi.
‘Quota warrior’ Patel rose like a self-propelled nemesis to strike at the very roots of Gujarat model of governance, which had catapulted Modi as India’s PM. It was Modi who demolished Nitish’s dream of becoming an alternative PM candidate of the secularistas. Kejriwal’s promoters are fully convinced that he possesses the necessary qualities to lead the nation. The troika’s rise and magnetic might is not only diverting attention from the well-publicised decisions of the NDA government but also indicates the erosion of popular support of the local BJP leadership in various states.
Patel stands head and shoulders above the other two. Rarely before in global politics has a 22-year-old rookie brought a state like Gujarat to its knees, grabbed headlines and national mindspace. A novice with hardly any financial or political support, Patel was just an ordinary hanger-on at various political rallies, including AAP’s, till recently. He and Kejriwal are around the same height, but to scale new heights, he has chosen the AAP chief as his role model in organising choreographed protests—1.4.million supporters and over 80 rallies across Gujarat. His audience don white caps with ‘Hun Patidar Chu (I am a Patidar)’ inscribed on them. He is called Hardik Kejriwal by some and the New Modi by his cohorts. In less than six months, not only could he force the Gujarat government to place half the state under curfew, but also mobilised millions to demand reservations in jobs and educational institutions for a community which is vastly rich and powerful. The irony is that, reportedly, the commerce graduate scored less than 50 per cent marks from Ahmedabad’s Sahajanand College. But he is an astute political student. His protest meets, TV appearances and communication style bear an eerie similarity with Modi’s. Ostensibly Patel is agitating for reservation. But his real intention is to fill the political space vacated by Modi in Gujarat. He hasn’t attacked the PM. Not yet. But his speeches are meant to threaten Modi and the saffron party—saying if his demands are not met, he will not “allow the lotus to bloom” in Gujarat and defeat it in the 2017 Assembly elections. As long as Modi was CM, no political organisation or individual could collect more than 10,000 people to champion any cause. But Patel has understood the weakness of the BJP’s current state leadership and has decided to imperil it by playing the new Patel. The paradox is he has managed to raise popular animosity against a state government led by a Patel CM. This poses a challenge to NaMo. Patel and his community would try derail the PM’s bid for a second term in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by forcing Modi’s party to lose in his own state. NaMo has understood the negative impact of Patel’s agitation on his image. So, he decided to appeal directly to the people through a short televised statement. It would be anathema to Modi if the BJP lost in Gujarat when he holds the highest political office in India.
As Patel attempts to minimise the authority of India’s maximum leader in Gujarat, both Kejriwal and Nitish have forged a coalition of convenience to achieve the same objective in Bihar. Nitish is a child of the JP revolution. Though AAP doesn’t have any significant presence or a credible face in Bihar, Delhi’s CM chose to join the Lalu-Nitish combo with the objective of manufacturing a non-BJP and non-Congress platform. Kejriwal may not be a caste commander, but he is still one of the most iconic leaders on the national scene. Many young, educated youth still see in him a guerrilla combating a corrupt political system. As he continues to adopt an aam aadmi lifestyle—Kejriwal hasn’t changed his simple shirt-and-trousers attire, nor does he travel with a caravan of armed escorts, and talks to anybody and everybody—he enjoys more credibility than Nitish among a certain vocal section of the electorate. Kejriwal has a major axe to grind against NaMo who defeated him decisively in the Varanasi Lok Sabha election. On the social media, Modi and Kejriwal are among the top favourites. While Modi with 14.6 million Twitter followers leads, Kejriwal is the most popular non-BJP and non-Congress personality with 5.40 million followers. Other prominent BJP ministers trail far behind. Both Modi and Kejriwal have an army of dedicated bhakts who troll each other almost on a minute-to-minute basis. By plunging into the Battle for Bihar, Kejriwal stands to gain more than Nitish. He has been targeting the PM directly for the decisions taken by Union ministers. A win would dent Modi’s authority and enable Kejriwal to strike a much better bargain to join the league of national leaders.
Nitish harbours similar ambitions. It is for the first time that he would be leading an electoral engagement without the BJP as his ally. He challenged Modi by walking out of the BJP-JD(U) coalition in July 2013. Now he desires to prove that he can defeat Mighty Modi. For this, he has shown the expediency to be backed by his sworn enemies from the past.
So, is it just a coincidence that both Kejriwal and Nitish are confabulating on all issues? Kejriwal has shown so much faith in the Bihar police that he requested Nitish to send a few of his police officers to manage the anti-corruption unit of the Delhi government. The two have been sharing even non-political platforms. Even in the past, many political satraps have joined hands to defeat powerful figures such as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. But it is for the first time that homegrown leaders are blowing trumpets, not to provide an unalloyed alternative political model but only to make the Modi model irrelevant. History repeats itself as some individuals engage in combat just to replace another individual instead of an ideology.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on witter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Sattvic effect 7 RCR has.... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard / August 23, 2015

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The Sattvic Effect 7 RCR Has on Its Occupants When it Comes to Pak Must be Dispelled



Location, location, location. On the face of it, the very idea sounds ridiculous when it concerns PMs. But in a country where vastu, astrology and mythology determine the lifestyles and businesses of the majority, the numerology of 7 Race Course Road (RCR), the PM’s official residence, assumes an almost astral significance. Indo-Pak dialogue watchers now wonder if there is something arcane in the air of Race Course, which affects the thinking of its occupant regarding dialogue with Pakistan.
Spread over more than 12 acres of impeccably landscaped greenery, the RCR complex has become famous for exercising a sattvic effect on the personality of the premier. It becomes more pronounced while dealing with a hostile and untrustworthy neighbour like Pakistan. Today, India’s nationalist PM Narendra Modi, who rode to power by promising to teach terror-sponsor Pakistan an unforgettable lesson, is being perceived as a docile dove. During his campaign in 2014, he was spewing fire and brimstone. But soon after winning the Lok Sabha elections, he became the first PM to invite his Pakistani counterpart to his swearing-in ceremony. His tactical charm offensive with Pakistan didn’t end there. He walked the few extra miles by courting Nawaz Sharif at various international forums. But ever since he moved into 7 RCR, Modi hasn’t uttered a single hostile word against Pakistan or warned it of reprisal despite a record number of cross-border incursions. The Congress even attacked him for expressing sympathy for the Bangkok blast victims, while keeping schtum on the daily killings of Indian jawans and civilians along the LoC. Those who know the PM will not believe for a moment that he has abandoned his nationalistic moorings. So, is his government’s decision to engage—instead of isolating Pakistan as a terror-bitten pariah—influenced by some planetary effects on RCR?
Modi, however, is not the first Indian PM who has changed the approach of dealing with our treacherous 1947 offshoot. Some Indian soothsayers and vastu experts joke that the softness of Indian PMs for Pakistan started soon after Race Course became the PM’s official residence. Rajiv Gandhi was the first one to move into RCR. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first premier, who lived in a sprawling bungalow on Teen Murti Road, may have lost the 1962 war, but he had followed a militarily aggressive policy against China and also wrested Goa from the Portuguese. Lal Bahadur Shastri, whose address was 10 Janpath, treated Pakistan as India’s biggest enemy and routed its army and almost captured Lahore in 1965. During Indira Gandhi’s 15-year stay at 1 Safdarjung Road, her policy was to treat Pakistan as a tremendous threat. Since it was a close US ally, she took a confrontationist attitude towards America too. Both Indira and Shastri did not hesitate to engage Pakistan in full-fledged wars.
But once Rajiv moved into RCR, the government’s attitude towards Pakistan changed. He went out of his way to wave the olive branch. He got along famously with Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto, who became a frequent flyer to New Delhi. During the five years of his rule, Pakistan almost wrangled for itself the status of a Most Favoured Nation. The emotional distance between Lahore and Delhi was sort of bridged with a plethora of highfalutin cultural galas and lavish dinner parties in both cities. Rajiv didn’t know that his government’s excessive obsession with bettering relations with Pakistan had provided the ISI a golden opportunity to infiltrate J&K. By the time he was overthrown by voters, Pakistan had already created a powerful base in the Valley to destabilise India. Mars, the planet of aggression, seems to have moved away from the firmament over 7 RCR. The natural aggressive instinct of a Prime Minister to counter a hostile neighbour has been pacified. P V Narasimha Rao, after moving into 7 RCR, became a strong proponent of dialogue with Pakistan. His old friend Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who lived on Safdarjung Road, was always pushing for a confrontation with a terror-toxic Pakistan. It was Rao, who, in fact, consolidated Track II diplomacy to lay the ground rules for cross-border chitchat. But the planets changed when Vajpayee shifted his numerological pin code to RCR in 1998. And he fell in love with idea of a friendly Pakistan. He hopped onto a bus to Lahore in February 1999, but got Kargil in return gift. Later Vajpayee invited Gen. Pervez Musharraf to a summit in Agra. But the stars changed during his second innings, and the pacific atmosphere of Race Course prompted him to speak in peacenik patois. Did Vajpayee and his team fall under some Pak sorcerer’s spell and forget their earlier Pakistan doctrine? His successor Manmohan Singh (MaMo) was a dove, which simply dove into the peace pool at RCR. He was one of the most vocal and active votaries of Indo-Pak dialogue. So obsessed was he with striking a detente deal that at one stage, he was even toying with the idea of converting the LoC into an international border.
If MaMo was a dove, NaMo was supposed to be a hawk. Have the enchanted environs of RCR changed the way every Indian PM perceives Pakistan? Has the diplomatic necromancy of RCR acquired control over PM’s mind, since the place functions more like the PM’s office than his residence? South Block, which is still called the PMO, has become just an outhouse where a couple of bureaucrats hold random meetings and keep records. It also houses the external affairs ministry, which used to give important inputs to the PM’s diplomatic formulations. For the past 25 years, none of our PMs have spent more than a few hours a week at South Block. Rao even got a special lift installed, but one he never used. After Modi moved into 7 RCR and access became severely limited, he now gets to hear only the views of those who enjoy unrestricted entry. 7 RCR’s imperial aloofness from rest of the establishment has made it India’s most powerful parcel of premium political real estate. Modi has spent barely 15 months living there. Perhaps, the stars may change the prevailing Pak-bewitched mood and turbo-boost Modi’s mission and commitment to causes that define him as a no-nonsense nationalist. Then the contrarian and conflicting diplomatic gamma rays emanating from within the boundaries of 7 RCR may finally be dispelled by the influence of mangal in the PM’s house.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow  me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, August 17, 2015

PM's Success Lies in ....... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 16, 2015

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PM's Success Lies in Not Allowing Current Political Tussle to Become NaMo vs Gandhis

Senior BJP leader LK Advani, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, and other MPs during a protest march last week

Senior BJP leader LK Advani, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, and other MPs during a protest march last week


“Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right.” 
H L Mencken (1880-1956)
In a vibrant democracy, a ruling party is one which knows how to rule. And an effective Opposition is one, which knows how to rue. The events of the last few months have proved that neither has got its act together. In numerical terms, it has been a battle between unequals. The 310-member NDA is pitted against the 55-member UPA in the Lok Sabha. At the end of a four-week cacophonic competition, both declared victory by not letting the House transact business on their terms. The Indian Parliament has ceased to be a forum for conducting any meaningful legislative business. The abominable antics of the last session reinforced the public perception that India would have to live with the stark reality that a prominent pillar of democracy was crumbling under the unwieldy weight of whimsies of the very people who are expected to ensure that it functions. But what is perplexing is the demoralised state of the ruling party, led by one of the most popular and powerful PMs the country has ever had. It is perhaps for the first time since Independence that over a dozen ministers of the ruling party hit the streets, protesting against the undemocratic attitude of the 44-member Congress in the Lower House. And this is the ruling party, which has not even undertaken a 500-metre Save Democracy Marathon from Parliament to Vijay Chowk. This pathos-painted procession was led by none other than LK Advani, a veteran of many skirmishes against dictatorial tendencies exhibited by many administrations, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh along with colleagues such as Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari. The BJP leadership also decided to dispatch one Union minister each along with four MPs to all the 44 constituencies, which has sent Congress candidates to the Lok Sabha. The mandate of this tactical team was to expose the enemy’s negative approach towards development. It is another matter that the majority of the Congress MPs are from states where the BJP counts for little. But when the party in power chooses to become the Opposition, it raises serious questions over the growing irrelevance of our democratic institutions.
PM Narendra Modi has set the tone for all future confrontations with the Congress. He told the BJP Parliamentary Party, “The Congress wants to save the family while the BJP wants to save the country.” Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was quick to retort: “I am here to defend the freedom of the people of the country... I am here to defend the country from Narendra Modi.” It is evident that once again that the battle lines are being drawn, keeping the Gandhi Parivar in mind. Modi’s call was almost a rebuttal of what the Congress had declared  in 1971. When PM Indira Gandhi became the target of a united Opposition, her party coined a battering ram of a slogan, “Woh kehte hain Indira hatao aur hum kehte hain Garibi Hatao (they say Remove Indira, while we say Remove Poverty).

Marches and demonstrations are an integral part of expressing dissent in a democracy. But it is mostly the Opposition that resorts to these tactics. During the past 68 years, it is mainly the non-Congress parties, which have adopted such methods whenever they failed to corner the ruling Congress on the floor of the House. The Congress returned the favour when the NDA was in power from 1998 to 2004. But when it was ruling the country, never have Congress ministers and leaders ever taken out a protest march against the Opposition.
What was unique about the NDA march was its decision to paint the Congress as the most demonic danger to democratic institutions such as the Parliament. Only 15 months ago, the country had rejected the Congress by denying it even the status of a legitimate opposition party in the House. It was blitzkrieged in the majority of mainline states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat. The electorate did not take either of its leaders Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi seriously. Former PM Manmohan Singh could not even gather more than 1,000 people for any of his rallies. More than a year later, not only have the mother and son team picked up the courage to roaringly rush into the well of the House but also to dictate the proceedings of Parliament by forging a synthetic unity among non-BJP opposition parties. For the Gandhis, their personal supremacy is far more important than anything else.
The NDA leadership, it seems, has failed to gauge the damaging capacity of this formidable phalanx. With a credible record of performance on many fronts, the PM and his squad could have gone for their jugular and silenced critics by presenting solid evidence of his government’s performance. Modi’s second Independence Day speech listed several of the government’s significant achievements. Understandably, it is difficult to deal with a party like the Congress, which is solely determined to stall any legislation brought by the BJP. Nevertheless, the NDA’s floor managers, BJP’s spinmeisters and master strategists could not devise any media strategy or political grand plan to divide the Opposition and force the Congress to the negotiating table. It did make some concessions at the fag-end of the session, but the Congress, which scented victory, foiled every attempt to allow Parliament to function. As British PM Clement Attlee, who was in power when India gained Independence, remarked, “Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.” The challenge before Modi is to ensure that both sides adhere to these twin tenets of democracy. The Congress is fighting to survive. The Modi-led government must thrive on the delivery of promises it made during the 2014 elections. Protest marches cannot be a substitute for good governance. Modi’s success lies in not allowing the current political power game to once again become a ‘NaMo vs the Gandhis’ issue. After all, that is how he swept India off its feet in 2014.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, August 10, 2015

New Age Freedom Fighters'....... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ August 09, 2015

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New Age Freedom Fighters' Offensive on Porn Ban Will Widen Vertical Social Rift



Famous English novelist J G Ballard, whose vision for mankind’s future was apocalyptic, said about porn, “A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.” Even after 68 years of Independence, India is torn by conflict over the extinction of traditional values and Ill-liberal avant-garde irresponsibility. There are many privileged Indians opposing what they argue is an encroachment on their fundamental rights. But they don’t seem concerned about the six rights provided under Articles 14 to 32 of the Constitution—Right to Equality, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights, Right to Property, and Right to Constitutional Remedies. But the chatterati became inflamed with self-righteous anger against the government move to deny them free access to explicit pornography driven by commerce. Last week, the Department of Information Technology advised Internet companies to shut down 857 websites that gave unadulterated access to foreign porn. But it ignored ‘Made in India’ porn. Since a section of the government comprises the urban elite that is afraid of losing its perch in the drawing rooms of New Delhi and Mumbai, the government took a U-turn within 72 hours and restricted its embargo to child porn sites. If Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a committed RSS swayamsevak, was in hurtling hurry to impose the ban, he beat an equally hasty retreat, singed by the heat generated by the marketers of the $97-billion global porn industry.
American theologian Spencer M Kimball, in The Miracle of Forgiveness, writing on pornography, asked, “Who is to blame? The filth peddler, of course, but even more than this vulgar entertainer, the filth consumer, the public. So long as men are corrupt and revel in sewer filth, entertainers will sell them what they want.” Natch, the male-dominated tirade against porn ban prevented public platforms, ranging from the print media to websites, from opposing the sub-erotic medium as if they were being deprived of their basic means for survival. Surprisingly, the protesters appear to be well-educated, reasonably rich and well-connected with the liberal world in which inhibitions are more conspicuous by their visibility. Yet, the tone and emotional outburst reflect their desire for more of sex in any form—however filthy. Even some foreign-educated political leaders called the move a dictatorial act by the Centre. Hence, it wasn’t surprising that the foreign media led the offensive against the ban. It is another reason that all foreign porn-manufacturing companies were hauling in the moolah from the gargantuan Indian smut market. For the government and committed conservatives, denying unlimited access to sleaze was well justified. Studies by numerous marketing and other agencies have revealed that over 30 per cent of office time is used by employees to trawl the Net for porn films. About 20 per cent of schoolchildren are secret voyeurs of sex sites. Even law-enforcing agencies feel the proliferation of skin flicks on the Internet is one of the causes for sexual crimes. Even in the US, many high-powered leaders, including President Obama, have been discussing restrictions on Internet porn. China has already banned over 150 such sites.
In India, the discourse against the ban acquired political and ethical dimensions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s detractors portrayed porn censorship as a move to curb the freedom of expression and access to information. They even went to the extent of pointing to the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho and Ajanta as being part of Indian culture. They conveniently ignored that the centuries-old carvings represent the artistic genius of ancient times and not the sleaze effect of pornographic sites on the sexually semi-educated freedom fighters for free sex and gay rights.
What causes concern is the choice of causes Indian Ill-liberals pick up. For them, a ban on a book, a small cut in any film, or protests against demeaning the images of Indian deities is more important than human rights violations. Hardly do they pick up a cause with similar vigour as they do when it comes to their individual and social preferences. No citizen should be denied practising his or her faith as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else’s sensitivities. But justifying the unbridled dissemination of pornography as just another creative lingo is insulting acceptable civil behaviour. Very few Ill-liberals have run a sustained campaign against the violation of more important rights like equal opportunity in public sector jobs. Even after nearly seven decades, why are the top echelons of bureaucracy still dominated by members of rich and powerful families? Just two clans belonging to a particular caste boasted over 20 IAS officers at a particular point in time. These new age ‘freedom fighters’ rarely engage in furious debates, championing the fundamental rights of those discriminated against in every sphere of life daily. The Right to Education, introduced by the UPA regime, remains on paper while many poor children are denied quality education. But none of the votaries of ‘free access to pornography’ have taken up cudgels on behalf of these children, fearing their entry would ‘pollute’ the exclusive character of the institutions they studied in. Even recently, many habitually strident Ill-liberals went into hiding when the case of a senior college teacher sexually harassing a student became public. The selective offensive against imagined assaults on the fundamental rights of Indians is leading to a vertical social divide all over again. With a vice-like grip over the edifices of communications and decision-making, an over-liberated elite that enjoys luxurious lifestyles is dictating the contours of our culture. Strangely, now, the Indian is being given the chance to choose between ensuring a genuine freedom of expression, life and employment, and becoming scopophiliacs of commercial sexploitation.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, August 3, 2015

Opposition to Capital Punishment .... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard / August 02, 2015

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Opposition to Capital Punishment Should Not be a Matter of Opportunism

 


Conviction has become a matter of convenience for India’s rising numbers of Argumentative Ill-liberals. They invoke ideologically tenuous tenets whenever it is expedient. For the past few weeks in the bombastic build-up to Yakub Memon’s execution, myriad ersatz ideologues awoke from their self-serving stupor to proclaim their opposition to the death penalty. Indeed, some of them do have a credible record as campaigners against capital punishment. But there are many opportunists who sensed a bright opportunity to lure the limelight in the competitive world of opinion operators by joining the chorus. Last week’s decibel-driven debate on whether the gallows are a necessary deliverer for justice or not was seen by many as an attempt to prevent the hanging of Memon who was, by his own admission, associated with the macabre murders of over 250 innocents, including numerous Muslims. Even an erudite and articulate intellectual-turned politician like Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wasn’t gauging the sensitivity of the somber occasion when he tweeted, “Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too.” Coming as it did from a scholar like Tharoor, his social media post invited the ire of what the Ill-liberals call ‘Bhakts’. Terming the implementation of a verdict delivered and endorsed by the Supreme Court as state-sponsored killing, Tharoor denigrated the credibility of the Indian judicial system, which spent a record number of days, months and years deliberating the issue of hanging a man who had savaged the soul of India. Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Dipak Misra did stellar service to the judiciary by sitting late till dawn to hear the same arguments on Memon’s clemency petition all over again only to let the world know that the Indian judicial process may be slow sometimes, but is impeccably unimpeachable in its verdicts.
Tharoor’s wasn’t the lone litany in narrative of lament. Numerous heroes and zeroes from Bollywood and politics voiced the same concerns. But a genuine question that deserves merit is about the timing of their rant against the death penalty. Why do the Ill-Liberals froth at the mouth when an Afzal Guru or a Yakub Memon is hanged for their unpardonable crimes against the country and its unity? Why did they not raise their voices when hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Pandits were either killed or exiled from their homeland by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists? Why were they silent when the diabolically depraved 39-year-old Dhananjoy Chatterjee was sent to the gallows for raping and killing a minor girl? Chatterjee was hanged at sunrise at the Alipore Central Jail in Kolkata where he had spent the last 13 years in solitary confinement. The 84-year-old hangman Nata Mullick, assisted by his 21-year-old grandson, Prabhat, carried out the execution. It is ironical that the CPI(M), which took the lead in screaming bloody murder against Memon’s hanging was also the most vociferous supporter of Chatterjee being sent to the scaffold. Then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Left partner RSP had gone to the extent of asking the President to reject Chatterjee’s mercy petition. To prevent Memon’s hanging, however, they went knocking on all doors. Naturally, their sworn foe TMC opposed this ardor. But both came on the same page to protest sending Memon to the gibbet. When Afzal Guru was to be hanged for his role in the 2001 Parliament attacks, the professional pardonists argued fiercely that they were not supporting him, but were instead antagonistic towards the very principle of capital punishment. If this is the case, why aren’t the Ill-Liberals moving the legislatures to delete it from the statuette book? How many states ruled by the Left or supported by Ill-Liberals have adopted resolutions on this matter? How many of them have disrupted Parliament for saving the several convicts who are likely to meet their maker in the near future? There has never been either consistency or willingness on their part to take their cause to its logical end. Is it because their desires convert into action only when the name and religion of a convict facing the noose suits their agenda? Records of parliamentary proceedings proves that death penalty hasn’t been a favourite subject of rhetoric for those who are now straining their vocal chords on TV and writing caustic columns. It was shocking to see opinion-makers, including some in the media, discussing the merit of Memon’s punishment rather than the damage he caused to communal harmony of his own community. A few over-enthusiastic columnists crossed the line by even questioning the wisdom of a national icon like Pranab Mukherjee, forgetting the fact that the President, whether a vegetarian or not, is bound by the government’s final decision.
Memon was also used by Ill-Liberals as a viral weapon to polarise Indian society. As the Bihar elections draw near, most political parties and their maniacal megaphones are looking for an opportunity to garner sectarian support. For them, a serious observation and fear expressed by a governor is seized upon as a chance to politicise a ominous issue. Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy’s tweet caused a huge uproar among Ill-liberal contrarians. He had typed, “Intelligence shd keep a tab on all (expt relatives & close friends) who assembled bfr Yakub Memon’s corpse. Many are potential terrorists.” A few minutes later, he tweeted again, “Governors ought to be concerned abt security of state. Intelligence keeping tab on Yakub’s mourners is preventing terror. Better than cure.” Predictably he was targeted left, right and centre by the Left and their camp followers. Perhaps they conveniently forgot that every Governor sends a fortnightly report to the President about myriad issues, including law and order. Roy, however, had the last laugh when a report on Memon’s burial published in the Indian Express, which was seen as the apocalyptic future that lies in store for India. In a jointly written story by three astute, hard-working reporters namely Kavitha Iyer, Tabassum Barnagarwala and Aamir Khan, one of the mourners Tariq Sheikh told them, “Blast victims are calling it justice. But look at the Bada Kabristan, and tell me if this looks like closure, or the start of something.” Some may claim Sheikh has proved the governor right while others may call it the disquiet of a wounded community. The assassins of humanity cannot be allowed to live to be resurrected as archangels of death. Getting them to suffer the same fate they brought to others is the real test of conviction in the code of justice.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, July 27, 2015

Judiciary above Suspicion..............Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ July 26, 2015

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Judiciary Above Suspicion in Pronouncing Justice, Irrespective of Blood Colour of Criminals

Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon

Yakub Memon is not a religion. It’s a proper noun like other names, such as Kehar Singh who was hanged for the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and Renuka Shinde and sister Seema Gavit who are on death row for murdering five children. All of them belong to different faiths and communities. But they share one thing in common. All have committed the rarest of rare crimes and were sentenced to go to the gallows. Yet, some ill-liberals have chosen to splash communal paint on the verdicts as if some names are above the law while the owners of some others must face the noose if they have taken the lives of others. Unfortunately, such insensitive remarks are being raised by a couple of minority community leaders who forget that it is the Indian judiciary that has always corrected illegal distortions in its own system. Ever since the Supreme Court rejected Memon’s clemency petitions, the knives are out to destroy its credibility. Shamelessly spraying criminal justice with communal hues, a few self-appointed leaders belonging to India’s peace-loving Muslim community are questioning the independence of the judiciary. They choose to forget that it has taken over 22 years for the prosecuting agencies to get justice for the 257 innocents who were massacred in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Starting from the trial court all the way to the apex court, Memon, helped by his advocates and ill-liberal accomplices, was given enough fair opportunities to prove his innocence. It is only in India that the judiciary and the executive take such time-consuming and vigorous scrutiny of each and every piece of evidence at multiple levels. Many times, the prosecution and the judiciary have been at the receiving end of vituperative vocabulary for unnecessarily delaying the delivery of criminal justice. It is quite possible that a section of the judiciary may have erred in some cases, but their intent has never been malicious or prejudiced.
Now, the Indian judiciary is being accused of a communal bias. It is stupendously shocking to note the rising tendency among conscience-peddlers to attack or support court verdicts selectively. Obstreperous social activists are sitting in judgment to decide the merit of judicial verdicts. Judges are expected to deliver sentences to suit the convictions of these amoral advocates of expedience, and not by the law book. If a verdict is against their political ideology or personal preferences they take to the streets, condemning it as unsound and illogical. For them, Yakub’s death sentence is not a correct interpretation of evidence. They conveniently forget that for one Yakub Memon, there are more than a hundred Pulaham Rama Raos, Kattar Singhs, Gurdeep Singhs, Babbanna Patils and Mukul Behari Lals who have been hanged during the past 70 years. Why don’t the liberal lamenters find fault with the judiciary for singling out Hindus for capital punishment? Of the 700-odd criminals hanged since Independence, not more than 65 are Muslims. In a majority-minority state like Jammu and Kashmir, not a single Muslim has ever been hanged. This doesn’t mean the local judiciary has spared criminals with any particular religious tag. In fact, it has considered each case on its merit and not by the name of the accused. For the past few months, even heinous crimes like rapes have acquired political and religious pigmentation. While rape and abduction cases in states like West Bengal are either ignored or underplayed by the ill-liberals, the spotlight is directed on the ones occurring in states run by NDA governments. From their commentaries on social media, it can be gleaned that the colour of Yakub’s blood is different from that of Sharma, Yadav, Reddy, Jacob, Singh and Tomar.
It is only the Indian judiciary, which keeps India’s inclusive character intact. The increase in opinionated attacks on the justice system is aimed at maiming the secular character of our Constitution. In the past, the judiciary has faced criticism for catering to class interests, but has rarely been accused of a communal bias. The idea behind questioning verdicts against terrorists like Yakub, Afzal Guru and Kasab smacks of a conspiracy to divide not only political parties but also the judiciary along communal lines. The latter has usually chosen the path of leniency or mild censure instead of taking penal action against even those who have made personal accusations against the integrity of senior judges. But, what is most dangerous for a vibrant and tolerant democracy like India is the rising agitational anarchy in the name of secularism which aims to deliberately link judicial pronouncements with vote banks.
It is usual for leaders of various political parties to take up cudgels on behalf of criminals belonging to a particular community in order to mobilise votes. Illogical arguments are bandied to condemn judicial decisions. For example, Yakub’s supporters are saying that while he is likely to be hanged, those behind other riots have been spared, or are treated with kid gloves. Some of the Memonites have even gone to ridiculous lengths to debate whether Yakub was actually arrested or whether he surrendered himself—as if this differentiation would atone for the loss of human lives.
It is only in India that freedom of expression is turned into an excuse to diminish the credibility of institutions. Since the Indian judiciary has stood the test of difficult times and stood steadfast with total independence, it acts as the only check on anarchist and undemocratic forces. It has judiciously applied the best standards of scrutiny on every criminal, irrespective of whether he or she was a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or from any other religion. Many a time, the judiciary has faced threats to its independence from the executive and the political establishment. Now, a formidable coalition of ill-liberals, communalists, internationalists and atheists are trying to intimidate it. Since there is no section in any law book that provides a palette of different colours for blood, the Indian judiciary is being pressured to pick one and deliver justice going by the colour of the blood of a criminal or a terrorist. Fortunately, in the Indian judiciary, justice is not blind.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla