Monday, January 12, 2015

Your Religion Reflects your identity ... Power & Politics/The Sundary Standard/January 11, 2015

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Your Religion Reflects Your Identity, But Your Action Connects You With Your Name


An injured person being transported after attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris


The defining dilemma these days regarding identity is “What’s in a name?” In these tortuous times of identity crises, one’s appellation establishes one’s credentials. So, when I say, “My name is Prabhu and I am not a Communalist,” it means that it is my name and not my actions that denote my acceptability and credibility in society. Like many Indians, I am proud to be a nationalist Hindu. But I take much more pride in being a Bharatiya, which doesn’t differentiate between religions, cultures and faiths. For me, Hinduism is not a religion. It defines how we live in peace and tolerance. It pains everyone, including me, when one has to invoke his first or last name to prove his commitment to human values and liberty. It is also equally agonising that this nomenclature nightmare started when Muslims started being blamed by Islamaphobes for rising terror incidents worldwide. To convince people that not all Muslims are jihadists or terrorists, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan even acted as the hero in a film, the theme of which was “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”. It was shot in the horrific background of the 9/11 attacks. Since then, Indian liberals and propagandists have been celebrating only Muslim names in various fields to establish the nationalistic commitments of Indian Muslims, which is hardly in doubt in the minds of most number of Indians. This moniker manipulation marked the beginning of the identity wars between various communities with their fringe organisations taking advantage of the divisive din. Though all Ahmads and Abdullahs are not supporters of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, the impression being created by secularism-mongers is that most Prabhus, Rams, Deen Dayals and Krishna Kumars are communal and conspiring to annihilate the minorities. For the past few months, a competitive chorus is on, using proper nouns to divide India rather than to unite it. The discourse is not aimed at the consolidated idea of a united and inclusive Bharat, but to keep reminding people of their distinctive religious identities by emphasising on their family background. Why can’t those who exploit religion to prove their secular credentials use the hashtags #IamaBharatiya and #I stand for unity? It is tragic that in the name of modern thinking and fake ideological neutrality, some of us are bandying about minority names to defend the indefensible that is terrorism.

Unfortunately, the dance of terror in Paris has once again revived the practice of using names for cultural and religious taxonomy. For the past four days, millions of people worldwide have been tweeting #I am Charlie” and  #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), which have become slogans of solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Two terrorist brothers attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine—which had satirised Islam—and murdered 12, including 10 journalists whose only fault was critical and perhaps excessive satirical adventurism. Now for the French, and other Western countries, the name of an individual appears to be the only effective way to identify a possible terrorist threat. Sadly, it took the Paris carnage to wake up the West once more, which faces a lethal threat to its existence and culture. Forgetting the famous adage that ‘thou shalt reap what thou shall sow’, the West is primarily responsible for overtly and covertly funding non-governmental organisations working in the Third World for ameliorating the conditions of the poor and oppressed. For Europe’s neo-liberal altruists, championing human rights and saving the poor guarantees a ticket to heaven, flying first class. Hardly do they realise that financial magnanimity will also lead to the rise of communal hatred and encourage divisive tendencies, the way it is happening in India. Over one lakh Indian NGOs receive about `4,000 crore annually from Europe, the UK and US in the name of protecting human rights. Some of them have even aggressively defended people with suspected terrorist links. It is due to massive Western support and native chest-thumping by professional human rights activists that terror groups in Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and India as well as in other parts of the world got the space and time to consolidate themselves and eventually become a threat to the very people who financed and promoted them for the sake of their own narrow political or ideological proclivities.

It is quite telling that France is now Europe’s terror capital. According to figures released by various websites on the 152 terrorist attacks in the EU last year, about 65 happened in France alone. The research organisation, Muslim Statistics, claims that over 66 per cent of Muslims in France and 80 per cent in the UK support the idea of an Islamic State. It also reveals that Sweden spends over 10 million kroner to finance Muslim immigration and the UK parts with 840 million pounds of taxpayers’ money per year on Muslim prisoners who constitute 14 per cent of Britain’s prisoner population—who incidentally are converting many prisoners into radical Islam, which has become an added source of worry for law enforcement agencies. Research scholar Tim Sadandoji wrote in his blog that “looking at all the people killed in terrorist attacks in Europe and North America during the last 10 years, 97 per cent was committed by Muslim terrorists, or 4,703 of the 4,873 killed”. While none of the Western countries have released a comprehensive list of jihadi attacks on their soil, over 5,000 people are estimated to have been killed so far in America, Russia and Europe during the past 12 years. If one includes the pogroms in West Asia and Africa, the victims of the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the number stands at 18,000 people. Out of each 100 killed, 90 died in bloody encounters between a Hafiz and Bin Laden and not between an Antony and Abdullah, or a Prabhu vs Hezbollah. Even in Paris, it was none other than Said Kouachi, a devout Muslim, who shot the 40-year-old French Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabat in cold blood. One of the rampaging monsters said killing the journalists of Charlie Hebdo was taking revenge for insulting their Prophet. When the screams had died, and the smell of cordite was blown away in the chilly January wind, what was left scrawled in the blood and gore was just a name. It was Chérif and he turned out to be a terrorist. It’s all in the name, stupid.

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ideological Compatibility ....... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 04, 2015

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Ideological Compatibility Among Ministerial Troika Strengthens Modi-fied Pak Policy

According to the great 6th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, “Invincibility lies in the defence, the possibility of victory in the attack.” Now in 21st century India, for the first time since Independence, a strong defence and offence strategy is in place. This was evident on Friday when the Indian Coast Guard intercepted a Pakistani boat laden with explosives and terrorists whose ostensible purpose was to repeat the 26/11 attacks. The pre-emptive action was the outcome of a properly coordinated strategy prepared by the ministries of Home, Defence and External Affairs with the PMO fully in the loop on one of the most successful operations against India’s enemies.

Undoubtedly, the number of Pakistani incursions, LoC violations and terrorist infiltration has risen during the past six months, but the Modi government has decided to pay Pakistan back in the same coin, be it forceful retaliation to enemy fire or blowing up a terrorist boat. The wait and watch approach to Pakistan has been thrown into the dungheap. If comments made by the stakeholders of India’s security are indications, it is obvious that the PM has chosen to follow bullets-for-bullets tactics towards Pakistan.

The change in perception and strategy is not by accident. It is embedded in the composition of Modi’s Cabinet and the restructured security establishment. Earlier, various ministers and officials were able to impose their personal preferences when it came to dealing with Pak-led terrorism. There was little ideological connectivity between those who ran the ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs. Modi has ensured that the Big Three—Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar—complement, instead of confronting each other on national security. Not only are they die-hard Hindutva followers, but also none of them have been part of any kind of pro-Pak backroom diplomacy or belong to the peacenik club. No power player in any Western capital could ever have dreamt that an IIT-ian from a tiny state like Goa would be chosen to lead India’s gargantuan defence ministry. Swaraj and Rajnath are ‘fortunate’ victims of the class apartheid enforced by the Indian elite. Defence agents, international lobbyists and hawkers of Hawks jets, fighter planes, submarines and other defence equipment had thought it was below their dignity to include them on their mailing lists. Hence, the exclusivity of the three tigers has become India’s virtue.

The champions of dialogue and commerce with Pakistan would never have imagined the triumvirate occupying three of the five powerful corner rooms in South and North Blocks, where security strategies are evolved. Rajnath, Parrikar and Swaraj have acquired a reputation of a troika on a track, which means to destroy those hostile to India. They are working not for fame in Washington, London, New York, Mumbai or Lutyens’ Delhi but to make Pakistan an international pariah who breeds and feeds jihadists. Their mission is smooth, because the PM himself and NSA Ajit Doval have given them total support in their endeavour.

Defence analysts expect that ideological compatibility of the key players of Indian defence strategy will be able to restore some sanity to the Pak Army and its political leadership. Now, through Track-II brigade, they will not be able to infiltrate directly or indirectly Modi’s new fortress-like framework. Rajnath, Swaraj, Parrikar and Doval have minds of their own and directly report and discuss every issue with the PM. They have blighted the chances of many retired defence officials, superannuated diplomats, journalists and corporate leaders by making them irrelevant, and thus unemployable by any Janus-faced international agency or NGO, which encourages the arms race while propagating dialogue. Most of them were collecting commercial and strategic information during interactions with ministers and senior civil servants in previous regimes. All such informal espionage has stopped for the time being, since there are no conflicts of opinion either in the BJP’s political forums or the government hierarchy.

Modi, it seems, has learnt lessons from the past and has avoided choosing opportunists who pursued their own agendas without staying true to self-professed ideology. With promise of strong action against Pakistan during election rallies, Modi was deviating from the thinking of even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose political DNA made him evade confrontation in dealing with Pakistan. Kargil was forced on him. Vajpayee’s magnanimity was mistaken as weakness. During NDA I, there were differences between home minister L K Advani, foreign minister Jaswant Singh, defence minister George Fernandes and NSA Brijesh Mishra on Pakistan policy. Advani was overruled many times when he suggested strong action against the country whenever its terror plots were unearthed. The pro-US Mishra was always in favour of indulging Pakistan. Despite strong division within the Cabinet, Jaswant bartered with terrorists and accompanied them to Afghanistan to bring back a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in December 1999.

During the UPA’s rule, from PM Manmohan Singh to defence minister A K Antony, not one leader favoured an eye-for-an-eye approach towards Pakistan. Home minister Shivraj Patil, Antony and foreign ministers like S M Krishna, Natwar Singh and Salman Khurshid followed the diktat from the PMO or NSA Shiv Shankar Menon. The regime was habitually receptive to guidance from the US. Starting from 1950, none of the over three dozen defence, external affairs and home ministers had ever spoken—until now—in one voice on a decisive Pakistan policy. From Nehru to Manmohan, it was the acceptability among the classes and not the masses that dictated India’s response to its belligerent neighbour. All our leaders were influenced by non-state players of India or Pakistan while taking the final call. Modi has so far resisted all external pressures, which have tried to influence his strategic and diplomatic initiatives. The Modi-fied command and response mechanism has sent a clear message. The PM is convinced that any “strategy without tactics is the shortest route to victory”. Sun Tzu would agree.

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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Verdict 2014 in Jammu & Kashmir ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 28, 2014

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Verdict 2014 in Jammu and Kashmir a Vote for Inclusive Growth Model and a Genuinely Secular State

The art of interpretation, at times, is a jumbled jigsaw when applied to fractured electoral verdicts. Last week, when Jammu and Kashmir got a hung Assembly, India’s semi-psephologists preened on their perches, hawking inane interpretations. Most of them declared it a divided verdict between J&K. Undoubtedly, Jammu voted for the BJP, while the Valley and Ladakh batted for the Mufti-led PDP, Congress and National Conference (NC). But don’t voters of different regions in states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh vote for different parties? Isn’t it a fact that Vidarbha and the rest of Maharashtra have been choosing opposing parties in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections? But no neo-liberal columnist or self-anointed social scientist has pronounced such outcomes as divisive.

When it comes to J&K, faux-pundits come out in droves to debase and distort the verdict, conveniently forgetting that it is also a state with three different regions, which vote according to their respective priorities. Jammu had been denying the BJP a majority for the past six decades. The party has never won more than a dozen seats until now. The remaining 22 seats went to the ‘secular’ or regional parties. Even during the 2002 and 2008 Assembly elections, Kashmir voted for regional parties and Jammu primarily for the Congress. But then it wasn’t christened a divided verdict. Because for most Westernised Indians, Kashmir’s democratic process ends at the Valley. For them, only those who win there should form the government and lead it, even if they haven’t captured the majority of votes in the entire state. They assert that the party that seizes the most votes shouldn’t be a part of the ruling dispensation and those which got patchwork verdicts should forge a grand alliance to keep it out. This is not only a dangerous interpretation, but also poses an ominous threat to the principle of democracy.

For the first time, Verdict 2014 in J&K cannot be termed fractured. Around five million residents of J&K voted for an inclusive growth model and a genuinely secular state. In political terms, it is a decisive mandate in favour of restoring its secular character, which was amputated after the mass exodus of persecuted Kashmiri Pundits. Look at the statistics. The BJP won 25 seats with 23 per cent of the votes polled, followed by the PDP, which garnered 28 seats with 22.7 per cent votes. The NC, which ruled the state with the Congress for six years, polled 20.8 per cent votes and bagged just 15 seats as against 28 in 2008. The Congress came fourth, with just 12 seats and a vote share of 18 per cent. The people of J&K used their ballots to defeat the bullets from across the border. The record voter turnout symbolises their faith in India and its instruments of impartial governance.

The message is clear. The country’s most beautiful state can no longer be governed by the perverse ideology of the past. If it has to survive as a unified entity, Jammu has to be an integral part of the government. It is also clear that the special status granted to J&K under Article 370 cannot be used exclusively for the residents of only one part of the state. In addition, the distortions introduced in Article 370, which denies full citizenship to all its residents, have to be corrected. Though PM Narendra Modi removed Article 370 from the party’s election manifesto, his charm and warmth could not melt the heart of the frozen Valley. The party could not win a single seat in either the Valley or Ladakh. Of the 34 BJP candidates who contested from the Valley, 33 lost their deposits. The BJP’s Muslim candidates, however, won in Jammu.

Now, the state needs to move towards full integration with the rest of India. With the development agenda and a stable government, the legislature is expected to remove all the rules and laws that discriminate between one Kashmiri and the other. Since the BJP seems to have given up on annulling Article 370, the state politicians must restore full political empowerment to those who have been denied their right to participate in the Assembly elections, even though they can choose their Lok Sabha candidate. To begin with, the Modi government must undo the damage done in May 1954 by the Nehru government, which clandestinely amended Article 368 to introduce Article 35A which was enforced only in J&K. It was perhaps for the first time that a constitutional amendment was passed through a presidential order and not by Parliament. Article 35A enables the J&K Constituent Assembly to deny citizenship rights to refugees from West Pakistan as well as to other Indians, barring permanent residents of the state. Armed with absolute powers, the Constituent Assembly adopted Section 6, which states that no person who crossed over to the state after May 1944 would be eligible for citizenship. Hence, over two lakh residents psychologically exist in no man’s land.
But what happened in 1990 was much worse. A pogrom was unleashed to change the Valley’s demographic character. Over four lakh Pundits were ejected from their homes to become refugees in their own country and around 300 were slaughtered. Even after 26 years since Holocaust Day, no serious attempt has been made to restore them to their homes. Most surprisingly, those who stage protests over the killings of members of other communities have never sought an enquiry into the worst case of human displacement after Partition. Even a panel appointed by the UPA government, headed by a senior journalist, to suggest a framework to resolve Kashmir’s issues ignored the plight of exiled Kashmiri Pundits. The transition from Kashmiriyat to haiwaniyat (demonisation) during the past 25 years has provided permanent careers to foreign-funded intellectuals. But the mandate of 2014 is a good omen for the state to return to the philosophy of insaniyat (humanity) propounded by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is a litmus test for Modi, Abdullah and Mufti to follow the Vajpayee doctrine or push the state into a vortex of anarchy, turning it into a playground of blood-thirsty terrorists.

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Battle for Bengal .... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/December 21, 2014

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The Battle for Bengal will be Between Neo-Marxist CM and Right-wing Leftist PM



The spotlight has always shone on West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. Hers is the Janus face of confrontation, which sees hardly any difference between a ruler and an opponent. Last week, she was in New Delhi to add fuel to the Opposition’s fire against the Modi government. Ostensibly, she came to call on President Pranab Mukherjee, who was recuperating after a minor angioplasty. But she spent the next 40 hours trying to neutralise the most vicious campaign ever unleashed against her and her government by the BJP and Left. As a loner negotiating the labyrinthine world of conspiracy-infested politics, West Bengal’s small and frail-looking first female CM looked distressed. Under attack for her inept handling of terror activities in her state and the involvement of key aides in the Saradha scam, Banerjee chose offence as her best defence. Though all other non-NDA CMs have chosen a wait-and-watch policy on the PM, Didi is the most vocal critic of the style and substance of the seven-month-old Modi-led dispensation.

In West Bengal, the conflict is between Banerjee and the rest. And this twin formation is precisely what she has been aiming for. By forcing the Left to be perceived as a comrade of the saffron party and Congress, she is trying to project herself as the sole victim of a class coalition, whose only objective is to topple a simple, lower middle class woman. For the past three years, she has been lording over West Bengal, which among India’s states is the sixth largest economy with an annual GSDP of over $1.20 billion. Though she is yet to deliver any results credible with her slogan ‘Ma, Mati, Manush’, Banerjee is dependent on political engineering to achieve her objectives. Ironically, she sees her own Marxist model as most effective to retain power. For 35 years, the Left government never accomplished economic reform. When they started flirting with corporates, they lost the elections. Now, Banerjee, in her neo-Marxist version, has charted a mission, which will make both Marxism and leftover Marxists irrelevant. Her propaganda espouses the cause of minorities, labour, farmers and Dalits.

Confident of winning her war solo, Banerjee’s struggle against the Centre has acquired an ideological veneer. Predictably, she has attacked the CBI for defaming and destabilising her government. But her political tone reflects her resolve to decimate the Left in Bengal and convert the political tussle as one between the Sangh Parivar and her. She has been the only genuine rival of the Marxists in her state, after decades. While the state Congress was perceived as B-team of the Marxist government, Didi was ploughing a lonely furrow from her humble abode in Kolkata, where she still spends most of her time. Not only had she dislodged the Left government in 2012, but also crushed the Communists in 2014 by winning a record 33 Lok Sabha seats.

But now, her fresh battle is not against her traditional enemy, the Left, which still controls the second largest chunk of votes in Bengal. The BJP, under its President Amit Shah, is on the prowl and has made terror and bad governance its main artillery to weaken the feisty CM’s besieged citadel. The Marxists are still not in a position to decide which issue they should adopt—terror or the minorities. Banerjee has decided to back the Muslims while letting the investigative agencies do their job of tackling terrorists.

For the past few months, Didi and Trinamool Congress (TMC) have chosen to use violence and muscle power to counter the aggressive posturing of her opponents. For political survival, she is mimicking the tactics used by the Congress and Communists during the early 70s to 2012. For almost three decades, political pogroms were used as the only effective strategy to win an election. The liberals in the state charged the Communist regime of resorting to force to eliminate foes. In an article in the Left-leaning magazine Mainstream, it was noted that “to come to a reliable figure of murders between 1997 and 2009, we have taken the annual average of 2,284 to come to a total figure of 27,408. Thus, between 1977 and 2009, the total number of murders was 28,000+27,408=55,408. It means a yearly average of 1,787, a monthly average of 149 and a daily average of five. In other words, in every four hours and 50 minutes, one person was being killed for political reasons in West Bengal. The CPI(M) can claim credit that instead of a murder an hour, they could limit it to four hour and 50 minutes per murder. What an achievement”.

According to an issue of the Economic and Political Weekly in 1997, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had stated in the Assembly that between 1977 (when they came to power) and 1996, 28,000 political murders were committed. This sotto voce statement does not convey the enormity of CPI(M)’s crimes. It meant on an average, 125.7 murders happened in a month. The daily rate of murder was four, which means one every six hours for 19 years. Could any member of the Opposition feel safe in such a “haven of peace”? Thirty-eight years later, the same question on the safety of the people is being raised by both the CPI(M) and BJP. In private, all parties have realised that only violence can establish political supremacy in West Bengal. The Marxists claim that over 160 CPI(M) and Left Front leaders have been murdered between May 2011 and June 2014. The BJP has gone a step further. Its state president Rahul Sinha has written to the Election Commission that the TMC should be declared a terrorist party.

As the countdown for the 2016 state elections begins, Banerjee has captured the middle space vacated by the Congress. She has also eaten into the minority and labour class base of the Marxists by adopting their own techniques. The BJP’s rise is a bubbling broth of both good and bad news for Banerjee. Since the Modi-Shah team has chosen the state as the next fort to conquer, she expects a major polarisation to happen, which would marginalise the Congress. With 25 per cent minority votes and over 40 per cent BPL families in the state, the little lady habitually clad in a cheap cotton sari projects herself as the only symbol that can stop Modi’s war machine from capturing the east. West Bengal is headed for a conclusive confrontation between the neo-Marxist CM and India’s right-wing Leftist PM.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Right-wing Leftist Modi ....... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/December 14, 2014

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Right-wing Leftist Modi Set to Make Marx, Markets Irrelevant in Creating New India