Zameen Se Bandi(gi) : The Tale of Love. A protestor’s note

Bhu Adhigrahan Nahi, Bhu Adhikar Chahiye (No Land Acquisition, We want Land Rights) echoed the Parliament Street when almost 20 thousand people gathered in the capital on 24th February to protest the Land Ordinance which the Modi government had hurriedly passed on 30th December 2014. The protestor’s logic was simple – when the people of the country (those poor, ailing, not middle classes, mostly rural, already forced on the margins) have repeatedly said no to an aggressive and pan-national development logic in to take shape in their backyards, it was idiotic for the new government to believe that it could do away with clauses of social impact assessment and requiring consent required for acquiring land for development projects without attracting their ire. They are all reassembling, even more strongly on May 5th, again in Delhi, to reassert their opposition to the ordinance, and take forward the campaign for land rights. Meanwhile, ordinance-burning campaigns and resistance across the country has increased, inviting many illegal arrests, police firing and atrocities on the protesting people from an impatient government.

20000 people assembled in Delhi on 24th Feb to demand the withdrawal of the Land Ordinance. The media mostly dubbed it as the Anna Movement, but he mostly sat there as the guest. It was social movements and other ‘ordinary’ people who led the protests

 

What followed early in 2015, were opposition parties joining farmer unions, trade unions and social movements across the country to multiply the opposition. The Congress party defended its version of the 2013 Act – while the ruling party maintains that it will solve the ‘critical, even emergency issue’ of the need of land, much needed for setting up industries. Their logic is simple too – development is directly proportional to acquiring more land as industries need land, and the land hence must be acquired at all costs. No longer can the development of the country be allowed to halt, claims everyone in the ruling coalition at the behest of the PMO, some ministers very unconvinced with the argument themselves.
The unleashing of a singular belief in the trajectory of growth and development is a gory dream we gulp down with a tinge of nationalism. While the presented logic usually removes realities of people who do not benefit from this development idea, any other need is considered going back centuries of civilized world order.

burning ordinance
We burnt copies of the ordinance in Delhi, in solidarity with protests across the country, against draconian, and non-consultative legisaltions

 

Read  Usha Ramanathan’s analysis on the land ordinance  here.

As a citizen of the country, is it a crime to call out fellow citizens and point out failures to move towards pro-people policies, even when loud thumping by the new government dismisses all opposition from individuals and groups as a ‘political ploy’ or just a bunch of ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-growth’ people, shouting hoarse over everything they want to do to take the country ahead?

The magnificently publicized ‘Make in India’, Smart Cities and Industrial Corridors are the avenues where all the supposedly acquired land is to go (even when millions of hectares of land lie unutilised or in SEZs or in government land banks, or simply under the capture of forest departments). While the Indian government’s logic regards huge corporate industrialization as the only saviour of the country and the economy – its methods and ways are extremely questionable, if not only the intent. Even the Supreme Court raised question of the re-promulgation of the land ordinance on 3rd April 2015, giving the government 4 more weeks to reply on the charges of using Emergency Powers under Article 123 of the Indian Constitution.

(Left) The extent of the proposed Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) (Right) Women affected by the mega project wearing topis for scrapping the project.
(Left) The extent of the proposed Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC)
(Right) Women affected by the mega project wearing topis for scrapping the project.

What is the emergency then? One side may again argue that development is the need of the hour, we need land for development and more industries is equal to more jobs. This logic too, is simple; yet powerfully captures aspirations of a class who has seen the dream they were shown magnificently. Over hundreds of hours of work of PR agencies and shouting leaders – to imagine what nation do they want! How many peasants, farmers, workers, adivasis and dalits even come close to represent their views when their lands, lives and livelihoods are so vigorously debated, and becomes a cause for upheaval in the national and international arena, specially for a government which does not bother too much to care too much about protests. It sees them as an anomaly, an abnormality of sorts – led by anti-national and anti-development brigades.

The criminalisation of dissent and portraying everyone who differs with a single-point agenda of the government is a dangerous trend, especially when no justifications are given in the Parliament or outside, to the demands and concerns raised by the judiciary, activists, farmer and trade unions, journalists, academicians and the intelligentsia. It is simply my way or the highway – perhaps democracy is too much an impediment for the Modi government – who gave a call for Minimum Government and Maximum Governance as the motto of the popularly elected government.
The BJP has found itself in a peculiar position here. On one side, the parent organisation and ideological guru – the RSS has its own agendas en-route to the formation of a Hindu Rashtra. The government has also not done much to differ from the ideologies, except playing down idiotic remarks made by their ministers and MPs against religious minorities, conversions, ghar wapsi, taking away of rights – civil and political. [You know, all to save the nation from the menace that are non-(upper caste)Hindu. Very Good Maths. A+]

hey-hindus-vhp-wants-you-have-more-babies-save-nation-15006152

HEY HINDUS, THE VHP WANTS YOU TO HAVE MORE BABIES TO SAVE THE NATION!

But will saying out anything against this would not earn people the tag of pseudo-secular, a dreaded term used by Internet trolls to dismiss all opposition to the stupid ways and objectives? Is this how the 21st century for India will go, in the hands of ever increasing power hungry people? Will ordinary citizens not understand the pain with which the people on the margins are saying no to the efforts of the Dream Man India has stumbled upon? Is the government the only source of making laws and force ways of life – will people never be consulted, their needs never given priority? Are some people more equal than others, indeed?

The loosely used ‘anti-national’ phrase does not bring a smile to people who work day and night to protect the environment, read, discuss and put forward legal opinions all advocate the need for pro-people, and not pro-corporate agendas. Perhaps it does not bring a smile on the donors of thousands of crores to political parties – hence this aggressive campaign. But to hear that from the government, even the PMs mouth only encourages them further, for they must have struck some wrong chords. Why will the PM and the entire executive work overtime to declare a bunch of people as wrong and working on falsely driven agendas? They actually must be making some serious damage.

modi

Avoid 5-star activism : Modi (No Can Do, Baby Doll, Ummah!)

The question of land and acquisition is the story of the farmer, and the landless, the dalit and the adivasi. It is the story of the woman who works day and night in the family, to keep the stove burning. It is the story of millions of people still waiting for getting their constitutional rights recognised – to preserve what is left to preserve, and to build howsoever much they can. The government can only destroy the environment, not create. It is for the local people who have held on which gives us the air to breath, to produce food which we eat and to preserve rain cycles as much as they can.

What governments do is license it out to others to destroy it, dig more mines, build thermal and nuclear power plants, divert rivers to industries – destroying and displacing communities in the process, sanction the conversion of farmland to produce smoking chimneys. Indiscriminate consumption in the name of progress is the progress of only a few, not the many – and certainly not of all. It takes away all that we need to hold dear, and hands it over – sometimes through legislation, and mostly through brute force.

 

50,000 people assembled in Jashpur, Chhattisgarh against forced land acquisition, and for demand of constitutionally recognised rights over natural resources.

Economic policies today no longer take the conditions of citizens into account. It builds a rhetoric that is backed by all that is powerful – all the wings of state power, the dominant castes and classes, and inter(national) institutional of the first world jumping to finance projects in the third world. Not many spare a thought in the middle of all this for the farmer suicides, for the landless women depending on a 300-rupee pension, for the huge threats to environment and the living reality of climate change. These are mere roadblocks in the discourse of independent nation-building. Nothing must stop marching armies of the nation even when it has to take on its citizens – to build, build and build.

Build on lives?

Then build some more. And a little more after that.

P.S. – Relax, I am not being paid by foreign agents who want to destroy any development activity in the country. I am speaking what I have felt, witnessed and imagine my nation to be – to believe in the people of the country. I claim my active citizenship, my right to dissent and to imagine a future free from the violence of the state. And not put all my trust only in a bunch of people who would want us to believe that it is okay to build houses over the bodies of dead people.  I won’t live in such houses or eat that food.

It would haunt my soul, forever.

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The personal is indeed political: Sharing stories, connecting the dots

 

India Elections 2014 is under the watch of everyone. There would rarely be a soul in this country today which would be unaware of ongoing elections in the country – and most of them also have strong opinions, preferences, choices and biases in this process. The towns and cities have the television, the newspapers, the huge hoardings and the ads from every form of transmitting medium. The villages have the flags, the middlemen and the saheb’s agents (of the people who own and control the land, as they called un-fondly) who influence voters. It is the election season, after all. After a few more weeks all of this will die down and people will resume their lives, having realised that not everything and all of the ‘change’ they were expecting to actually happen, eventually transpired.

They will then start finding out things, one at a time, of what will be wrong with the government of the time; a new scandal will somewhere spring up, the era of breaking news will resume to its old habit of exaggerated sensationalisation, the prime time media trials will entertain the politically committed janta who wants to keep in touch with what is happening in the country after returning from their offices. The others not fortunate enough to have offices will continue to struggle to make ends meet. The onion, or the oil or the salt or the potato will once a year make headlines. A few killings and rapes will get the attention of the media, the police, the politicians, the NGOs, and the concerned drawing rooms of the country. Many of them in other parts of the country will never be reported, and never be acted or reacted upon. Young boys and girls will continue to be killed and raped and in the meantime; some of them will be branded as maoists and some as terrorists because identifying their real killers would put many of our esteemed leaders (of the bureaucracy, administration, judiciary, sacred democratic law-making institutions, political goons, mining giants, industrialists – and all those who run the country) under the scanner. The real culprits of inciting violence against innocent people will continue to roam free, and continue to treat justice with contempt and manipulation.

Some people will care, while most will not. All of this will not change. Not unless a few things are done.

This is not a hopeless and cynical account/rant. I say this situation will not change because we have still not started asking the right questions. We have traded too many things off; respect and dignity is one of them.

Society is a reflection of the politics and vice versa. Irrespective of the electoral results, we have all already lost. We have grown impatient and intolerant, we have lost our claimed ‘common culture’ of respect of various cultures, religion, diversity of opinion, and of democracy. Expressing opinions has never before faced the scathing attacks that it faces today. Chai stalls a few decades back could see the best of friends arguing voraciously with their difference of opinions over politics of the country – today it is all occupied with stern supporters who do not stand with their leaders, rather they follow/worship them. We no longer shake hands at the end of a heated debate, we throw eggs and stones at people who disagree with us. We stoop to the levels of bringing out the most intimate details of personal lives to prove a point – of being the better because the other is worst. Is that really a justification?

Where have we reached in society? Towards progress and growth! But we have resorted to name calling rather than agreeing to the fact that there can be diversity of opinion – and although we might not necessarily agree to people, it is always human to lend an ear – see what it is that makes them believe so. We have sadly compromised on that core principle and value, and we have forced others, both young and old, to believe what we believe. We will no longer have parents and children in the family belonging to the opposite spectrum of political beliefs – we might like to believe that the choice is still there, but is it really?

I will share something to make you feel closer to what I am attempting to do. I was encouraged to truly choose; and I made choices to stand up for values that I believe in. I can today sense the feeling of pride I see in people who have seen me transform from someone who could not differentiate right from wrong, or could not take a stand. All I have done is attempted to say out loud what a lot of us have been thinking. It has taken innumerable emotions – courage, anger, rage, hatred and love to name a few to do it. It was never easy. And it came with the realisation that once you have felt all this, there is really no going back.

I grew up witnessing all forms of violence against women. I could not act then for I was too young to interpret its meaning when I first witnessed it. Gradually it became an accepted part of the psyche – it became normal, if not acceptable. It grew on, influencing many more people in the family, both men and women who built justifications around it, and deemed it normal. It was something everyone saw, but nobody did anything to really see it. Somehow it was always the woman who was to be blamed – when they forgot to add salt in the food, when the children made too much noise, when families went through financial instability, when they were not available to fulfill sexual devouring, every single time. And it was of course wrong when they wanted to get out of failed marriages, or try raising a voice, or harm the dignity and reputation of the family in any way. Such dignified behaviour indeed!

It is spine-chilling to think and write of it today. It is uncomfortable, but it needs to be said. All of us have grown up seeing this somewhere or the other, it is merely about recognising the various forms of it.  Today I will take a stand against violence of all forms and push all women as well as men in my family to recognise violence the way I can see it now. I do not care if I am called names or it brings me in any of kind of conflict with anyone – because I know it is right thing to do. I cannot wait for the world to change its attitudes towards wrong, so that it is becomes easier to fight.

It is the same emotion which makes me stand up against the practice of caste, and not dismiss it as non-existent. I will continue to protest if you compare dirt and filth with caste names, or refuse to marry, dine, or respect people from other castes. I will point out casteist behaviour if you claim higher intellectual status because you were born in a particular caste, or if you refuse to see what facts and figures have shown. It is the same position of power which allows you to blame the poor for being poor as it reflects in blaming the woman for not speaking up. This blaming is happening because the ones who can much more easily speak up and do something about it have long back given away their ability and the will to speak up – and act.

We are running away from the responsibilities of making better societies, of living in fear-less families, and of having the comfort to think, discuss and make better choices for the world we live in, politics and governments being one of them.

It is time we realise that we indeed have taken away the space to disagree with mutual respect, both online and offline. It is time to give ourselves better choices, and not choose to do the wrong because there is no right. True, we shall continue to enjoy our freedom to elect governments and people in power, as we deem fit. But it is equally important to take stands and fight battles which are worth fighting for. Let us make better societies, and not expect solutions unless we are ready to fight when will essentially have to – friends, family, society and the world.

At the end of the day, we choose our own battles. It is just important to know which side are you really on.

 


 

And to my dear friends who feel it is a lot to do, here is some faith.

 

As the legend John Lennon famously says during Imagine

“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live us one”

 

 

A few things Mr. Modi could bring with him – Isn’t it time we chose wisely?

Before you dismiss it like probably you do to everything else, or nod in agreement similarly with other things, process it for a moment.

To the ardent fan and the follower, or to the moderate who today sees no other alternative, there probably is a need for all of us to sit down and talk.

No, not about the same things.

I know for a fact that you are bored of  hearing the same things over and over again. Although that does not take away any bit about the authenticity of those arguments or the convictions of people who have written or spoken these things, there is probably a side of the story which has now emerged which needs your attention – your active attention, if you may look up from your smart-phone for a bit.

So your wish came true, and all what a lot of other people (including yours truly) had been already saying (fearing) came to be true as well – that your favourite political party now has an angry, stern and undeterred face in your Mr. Modi as the PM candidate of the BJP. I remember all of your status messages to each other and in random groups – celebrating the occasion. And likewise, I also saw the anger in stern anti-Modi groups of people. I saw the television media – unsure of how exactly to respond – but finding more and more ways to sell things, using adjectives which do not usually find mention unless you are trying to oversell a bad product.

Image(http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/delhi-modified-modify-delhi-narendra-modi-modi-delhi-rally-japanese-park-vikas-rally/1/312294.html)

If you are reading this, then you also saw and read those. I do not really need to illustrate it here.

For the ones who believe that it is now time for the Hindus to stand up and dictate everyone around; if you think this is a license to kill and loot at will; if you think this will boost foreign investment which in turn will boost everything in the country or you think that it is now time to do away with democracy, because it is just too much hassle – we need to talk. (And yes! as the rhetoric phrase suggests, it is indeed time for trouble)

Because this is not about the same things, as I promised, it is about the other things – all based on assumption, or projections, as I would like to call these.

I made a list of this from the knowledge of reading minds and writings from a lot of people over the last few years. It may only be appended, not removed, in my humble opinion.

So what is this actually about, if not about the Gujarat model of development, or the charisma of the leader, or 2002, or the rise of communalism, or the effective bureaucratic functioning of the state of Gujarat, of administrative clearances to industries doled out sooner, to forming bigger SEZs, low social indicators, poor reports by national and international agencies on development and human rights, ridicules faced by the leader, of his humble origins, the shrewd overthrow of established leaders and the opportune characters, of the hijack of issues of ‘development’, of the pre-existing vibrant economy of Gujarat, the general apathy of middle-classes, the ghettoization, of intolerance, the building of reactionary politics and more reactionary societies?

It is none of this – and somewhere all of this. It is a call to think maybe a tiny bit more before we take sides. It is a call to think from where we are not – and to be responsible citizens, and be responsible human beings.

Image
(http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/narendra-modi-srcc-delhi-protest-idINDEE9150CH20130206)

Did we all not grow up with the idea that most politicians divide the country for votes, that vested interests run ugly nexus of powerful people who run states and corporations? It seems today many are ready to turn a blind eye to all of it. It is not that all of that we learnt from chai-corners or drawing room discussions was all wrong, it at-least reflected the anger and frustrations of the people living off on the streets and in the homes. From a class of people which  has been branded always as blaming politics for even their vehicles not giving enough mileage, this is sea-change. Everything is fair now, everything is right, because it is war, right?

Image
(http://www.firstpost.com/photos/photos-narendra-modi-woos-audience-at-bjp-delhi-rally-1140635.html)

Economic policies lie at the intersections of majority of conflicts in the country. Do you really think putting out fire with fire is a good idea? Do you think that the majority of conflicts in the country which derive their existence somewhere due to aggressive capitalist expansion, can be solved by more and more of capitalist expansion? Is it not exactly the Modi model of development – if there even exists one!

When the critiques for global capital systems are made, it is usually not its dismissal in the entirety but also a way to understand the resonance it creates among people who are not ‘you’, people who are somewhere also there because you are ‘somewhere’. All these are perspectives, and are living realities for a lot of people. When most of you have claimed to be wanting to do good to society, (I till date have not figured out what exactly is that supposed to mean!) take care to think of wanting to look at all the aspects before you put a blanket on the definitions of development, growth, struggle, culture, and all of that.

Nationalist and citizenship are evolving concepts. To straight-jacket it into only what you believe, and it gets accepted because someone tells you that is how it is, to serve their own vested political and socio-religious interests is violent political behaviour – and from both sides. Probably this will sting, but not everyone believes in ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, or ‘Ram Rajya’, or crying ‘Allah-hu-Akbar’. This cannot determine their patriotism, because many do get anything from this patriotism, and because you cannot build patriots at gunpoint. Is that really so important to hold your head high in false pride – just because it serves some alter-ego for some people, while the others die.
Image
(http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/04/10/capitalism)

You have claimed all this while to be focused on ‘development’. Because the rest are not issues of development, is it? Only pockets can develop, is it?

Think a bit; because all humans are meant to think. Think something else other than planning your weekend getaways, of where to get booze on the next dry day, or about which malls have the biggest sale offers – because that is exactly the grand way to not let people think.  There are a lot of things to think about. And no, it is not somebody else’s responsibility to do that. If it is, then you will have to keep your mouth shut forever and let anything happen – which you believe has to change, right? Isn’t that the slogan which you chant – Change?

So before the project of fitting dreams in people’s eyes even ventures out, think. I will not suggest what to do with your vote – because personally I do not think much will matter who sits at the helm of political power in the country. But I will not make problematic political choices, however insignificant I think they really are, because I believe in the democratic principles of freedom of speech and expression, and of right to life and liberty – and I will not trade warranties over my own right for the absolving for someone else’s. Maybe it is time you do too, or maybe not – it is your choice after all.

You can choose how to die, and kill, or choose how to live.

The rise of the collective consciousness : Hang those Bastards!

The history of the modern world, as well as those of the medieval and ancient world is full of wars. Wars which were told to be fought for the protection of the countries, to defend it against aggressors. Ever since humans started living in established settlements, and started calling it ‘civilisations’, wars were always fought. The batons differed – it was religion at times, crusades and holy wars, to those aimed at establishing a land of pure race, the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany and the rest of Europe and today of the Arabs in Palestine. An undercurrent economic motive always laid siege, but it was mostly unspoken at times. Dalits and Adivasis and other regional minorities were massacred, violated and exploited in the name of preserving caste purity and implementing God’s orders. Self-thinking women were sometimes declared witches, brutally raped, murdered and their wombs crushed in genocides all over the world, sometimes for using them to teach the other people ‘a lesson’, or at most times to simply resist their standing-up for themselves, and against years of exploitation. This blatant violence has also translated in the modern urban world to those who do not fit in the binaries of the man and the woman – not befitting their cosy worlds.

The desire to form and maintain a homogeneous society, I believe, is stronger than that of maintaining status-quo. All the wars have aimed at forming this society, and in the process ‘systematically eliminate’ all those who stand opposed to it, or do not fit in this homogeneity. The rise of the Hindu Rashtra is not so different from this war – its a cultural war of caste and religious normativity, and although it does not explicitly announce ‘war’ on the others, the idea of superiority breathes at its core. It can only be through this capture of the minds, where one is unable to move beyond this imagined and superfluous greatness which is accorded to them, that makes them able to demarcate non-fitting people as ‘second-class citizens’. Once this is established, anything – rape, loot, murder, genocides, angry reactions, arson, prejudices, everything can be justified – it only takes an appeal to this assumed superiority, and the rest is taken care by itself.

There will be people to exploit this feeling and this vulnerability, who will come and go, and the collective consciousness of the people will be left asking for more. The vehemence with which societal attitudes have let go of basic humanity, to protect itself against uncertain and unknown enemies – those we are pretty sure will bomb our houses and our markets, if even given a chance. We can now let the others guard us at all times. We can allow them to watch our homes, our lives, our letters and our faces, lest we die in its absence. All instances of violence have had a history, a backlash, a greed or an instinct. Except the serial killers romanticised in the early eras of cinema, all instances of violence stem from these.

Today the need for cultural assimilation by this same pioneers of the Hindu Rashtra is more of a rhetoric to protect one’s culture and identity, and in the process appropriate everything else that others have – even their lives. Not that Islamic Fundamentalism does not exist, it very much exists, and on the same axes as the appeal to serve their own interests – and to its wrongful extension to the rest of the Muslims, as such the case with Hindus. But to misappropriate history to show militarised religious hatreds as justifiable actions, and show it only as ‘a reaction or a response’ is one of the core and most coveted ways in which religious hatred, and religious fundamentalism is extended. And it is done in a way where it can never be externally visible, unless one can move beyond this idea of thrusted superiority or forced inferiority, in other words to actually implement what all of these people claim to follow – ‘humanism’.

The collective consciousness has today been made the subject of justice. How is it that abhorring killings satisfy the emotion of public safety? How is it that killing all those who are not ‘us’ makes us feel more secure? What it is this collective consciousness indeed? Is it mob fury? Is it the lust for blood, for violence, for open agony to satisfy a deep sense of hatred; or is it some divine sense of righteousness which guides the minds of all good citizens? Whatever it is, why has it been allowed to take over all forms of ‘other consciousness’? Are people, who speak so much of individual choice, afraid to listen to their own ones, and rely on the collective – to put the blame to an abstract population, unable to be traced to their own. Why have we all become murderers then, even though we never pull the trigger? Why do we want to hang every one of these bastards, and still want to have a sleepful night. It abhors me, and it frightens me, but it makes me stronger.

“I shall not be hanged, I shall not be hanged”, I murmur in my sleep.

Modi (not) for PM : Battling a lost cause?

In the past one year the call for Mr. Modi to become the Prime Minister and rid the country of bad governance, making it developed, has grown – and it has multiplied exponentially. People share pictures and messages comparing him and Rahul Gandhi, asking to choose development over family legacy, a family which has held on to power since decades and has ruined the country, they argue. I would agree with the latter. However, I do not see the point of this discussion. It is not an either-or situation – and nobody knows what is the lesser devil here.

Now, lets talk some ground realities. What we self-claimed intellectual classes feel about it is a minority opinion; and going by the history of this country – any minority opinion needs to struggle to death before it can even be acknowledged. Insidious propaganda is not the only thing which goes on today. Everywhere, you might have across someone who makes your blood boil by extending his/her warm support for a man you despise so much. Someone somewhere would like, comment or share something about it, and with recent privacy settings on your Facebook account, you get a glimpse of it. Sometimes you argue, sometimes you let it slide. You grin, make a mental note of the person, and gear up to have an argument someday in the future; or sometimes you just hurl abuses in your mind.

Sometimes you would have met people, friends or acquaintances, and eventually this topic would come up. Everyone seems to wanting to mirror their concerns and worries about the future of this country – it is the common obsession for the sensitive middle classes ever since the Delhi gangrape incident of December. You would not have realised when the conversation would have shifted from asking for death penalty for rapists to that of seeking support for Mr. Modi. Sometimes, you would declare that you do not agree to any of it, and no quantum of arguments would be able to convince either side. Both parties would end up citing individual choice – you would facepalm yourself, and they would laugh at your naivety and you idealism, and your humanism, and everything else that you seem to represent. You would go back to sleep thinking of newer arguments or perhaps a better way to articulate them – to convince those who did not agree, just when someone would share another photo, and it would be the same thing all over again.

So, what is the basis of these arguments. You could easily call them right-wing fundamentalists (most of them are indeed!) and move over to the next person, only to witness a somewhat sophisticated and subtle mirroring of the same thing, this time from someone you know to be quite ambivalent in their aspects of life. These men or women always treat their house-help with respect, they call their parents everyday, they do not ill-treat women travelling in buses. They even do not throw waste on the road. They do not ask the caste of people who serve their food in restaurants. In short, They are the ‘good people’. Now this set of good people agree all you have to say against Mr. Modi. But they also agree to everything that is spoken in his support. This is the most blatant (ab)use of individual choice – being apolitical or liberal openly. They are openly against ‘dirty, divisive and communal politics’. They flamboyantly treat ‘all religions equally’ and they have ‘never discriminated against any caste’. The good people will vote for Mr. Modi when the time comes – and you will be stuck with your little protest. They will move forward and make sure that continuous growth in the country is ensured – you can take your little cynicism and shove it somewhere else.

However, all the good people and the media tell us that the youth of today is discontent – and they are angry. There are scams in tune of thousands of crores out in the open and people responsible for them are never punished. The women are not safe anywhere, the economy is falling and there is rising unemployment. There is no water in the taps, petrol prices are also rising. The present government is inefficient, corrupt and indifferent to the concerns of the citizenry; it is bound to lose. It only seems fitting to put someone in charge who is said to have overcome all of this where he has worked for the past ten years. I would disagree with none of it.

There are proven reports of autocratic workings of Mr. Modi in Gujarat. Political analysts have traced his rise to power as a direct result of his shrewd and opportunist character. His resistance to democratic and regulatory institutions are out in the open for anyone who wants to see it. Bureaucracy in the state of Gujarat pays homage to him in person. Eye-witnesses compare the pomp and show of his public appearances for any public function as to any feudal landlord. I am somehow reminded of Julius Caesar. We probably did not learn enough from Shakespeare. He warned us of giving power to an authoritarian to restore democracy. But what does Shakespeare know! Notwithstanding what the courts and investigating agencies have done with Mr. Modi about the 2002 riots, the last thing his involvement can be termed is a ‘mistake’. There is a large sentiment which might not hold him responsible for it – as they believe the courts cannot be wrong – and agree to give him a chance, for the country has run out of options. Rome has indeed found his new hero.

Let us now crown him and see – does he give power, affluence and democracy back to the people or does he take them away and turn it into a dictatorship. If this was the glorious Rome, and I was fed up of constant wars – even I might choose a Hitler, a Caesar or a Modi to put things back in order. Nobody questioned the effectiveness of the Caesars or Hitlers of the world, they are very effective in what they do – and that is the biggest problem. But history is taught for a lesson – to not make the same mistakes again. And no number of good people can convince me to make this mistake. I shall not trade any kind of skewed growth and ill-development for democracy. I shall not give up my rights to speak freely for the promise of a distant and imaginary land. And I shall not accept hopelessness and fanaticism to rule the psyche of this county.

Why can’t the ghosts of 2002 be buried soon enough

I do not really watch much TV. I prefer reading over listening to reports of how we are lucky that aliens did not attack us yesterday. If they (the TV channels) had their way, they would even say that it was their correspondent who saved the world. However, YouTube allowed me to see a news debate following Mr. Modi’s speech at the prestigious Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) recently. I was startled to notice that the panel representing the youth consisted of a young entrepreneur from Bangalore, a suit-clad student from SRCC, and a girl who had openly questioned, and subsequently upset a CM currently in power. There were obviously the riots of 2002 which were to be discussed, that is quite inescapable. Surprisingly, there was not one student from the Muslim community. Perhaps all muslim students are only thought to be associated with terrorist organisations, and do not deserve a place when the supposed young population is to assemble and discuss their issues? When coming to the question of the tainted figure of Mr. Modi, our representatives of the youth in the debate asked us to move on, and bury the past. They asked us to look at the Gujarat model of development – trust me my friend, we have never stopped looking.

There was a huge protest amidst the arrival of Mr. Modi at SRCC. The protesting youth was then beaten up, attacked and molested by the police and the hooligans from youth parties, ready to counter-attack them with slogans of anti-patriotism. So, if you do not believe in the idea of ‘Hindutva’, you have automatically reserved a place for yourself in the train to Pakistan – for you no longer belong here. I saw media clips of protesters breaking barricades and trying to attack the convoy of Mr. Modi – at least that’s what the headlines said. It added that all the people in the protest are mainly from the communist parties, so even if that were true, they perhaps had not much legitimacy in their protests. Thanks to online blogs and social networking sites, I could find out exactly what happened from eye-witness accounts of people whose stories were not good enough for these TV channels. Unless all of them were apparently maoists or had links with terrorist organisations in Pakistan, they seemed quite believable.

I earlier had seen the video of Mr. Modi’s speech (if the youth from the debate are to be believed, was extremely impressive, considering he did not speak from a piece of paper). There was nothing much in it, except he spoke like one of those self-help books – saying he saw the glass more than half full – also comprising of air and glass. How does this help development discourses, I am not sure. How does this address existing conflicts in the country, I am still unsure – except that it is a language used by management pundits when they speak about maximization of resources. Had India been a multi-billion corporate, I would have been impressed with the idea. But contrary to the expectations of a lot of people – it is still a country with living people – with lives, cultures, and traditions. How do I sit in awe over such generic management mantras and treat such people as worthy of being statesmen able to handle the complexities of running a county – I am again unsure.

The debate on the news channel moved from a range of issues. Aspects of ‘development’ were brought out. Poor human development indices of Gujarat were shown. The girl seemed to agree and said that you cannot ignore human rights of minority communities and need to look at ‘development for whom and at what cost’ . The rest of youth shook their head in disappointment, they said all states have problems, but if you go and see Gujarat, muslims are more happy than ever. They now have their own colony with all modern amenities, and they have a strong society of their own. Thankfully we had someone enlightened enough in the panel to point out that it was a ghetto outside the main city he was referring to – and it brought a strange sense of hope to my friend’s face, who was watching the debate along with me. Perhaps we are a different kind of youth – who fail to fit in the news channel’s definitions of a young India. Perhaps people who study society, economics, politics and development are not good enough to discuss these as the issues of the youth. Perhaps there is a need for people like us to go through a rigorous training for accepting mainstream ideas to qualify as the youth in the county. Perhaps we need to learn to clap at every speech made by Mr. Modi to become the youth.

Everytime there is talk of the 2002 genocide in Gujarat, which keeps surfacing again and again ever since Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions have been openly highlighted, there is an increasingly impatient audience who does not fail to remind anyone and everyone talking about Gujarat that even if you do not accept the pogrom of 2002 as a ‘response’ to Godhra – justice has yet not been done for the 1984 anti-sikh riots, or the mass exodus of Kashmiri pundits in 1990 cannot be forgotten. Hence, to continuously harp on the Gujarat riots is not correct. We have to move ahead. True, neither 1984 nor 1990 can be forgotten! And it is not in the best interest to let the guilty go unpunished as well. And we truly have to move on. But you cannot move on when wounds are still fresh. You cannot adore perpetrators for what they have done, that is not called moving on. And you cannot collect a bunch of wide-eyed people, running after the latest cars and gadgets as their sole motive in life, as representative of the youth in this country. I refuse to be a part of such a ‘rising youth’. And the youth needs today needs to see more clearly the complexities of the society before they claim themselves to be the rightful heirs of the land.

The politics of being apolitical

 

People say there is nothing as being apolitical, everyone has their own politics. Then one day when you realise that being political takes away so much comfort from your own self that even being a human being starts getting difficult. When the ideological positions you take is in itself so problematic that the middle class dream of the ‘rocking arm-chair in the garden’ … just shatters away.

When you start taking positions in life you had hitherto not taken makes you a deviant, makes you a non-believer, and for most of the people, even a hypocrite. I ask one and all who accuse me when I do something like that, “Why the hell did you not accuse me when I had no standpoint, when I could just listen and not act, when I made no effort to change myself or my environment?” You did that because it was all too comforting, comforting for you and comforting for me.

Dreams are universal, but aren’t homogenous. Isnt it my natural right to dream for myself? When that dream involves changing your own hypocritical attitude towards me and my positions, isnt it right for me to scream from the top of my voice that you need to change that cynical attitude. When I believe in something, I made a conscious and informed decision for my own self. I need no preaching and moral guidelines on the same lines against which my basic and firm standpoint is. When you choose to stay silent and pretend to be so moral, I do not call you ‘apolitical’ and make a ruckus about it, but why do I need to face opposition from all the hypocrites in the world for something I believe in for my own personal self, for when I start turning from a so-called ‘apolitical arena’ to a ‘political’ one, in which my actions speak for my own individual politics.

I have been hearing from several years that when people start talking about you, it means you have done something great. I do not want to be great. I just want to hold on to belief-systems which I find most suitable for myself. There is a lot of individual complexities in it already, which nurtures and nourishes such belief-systems, to make me a better human in my own eyes. I do not owe an explanation to anyone ‘political or apolitical’ to be political about it, to police it or give their humane and liberal ideas on survival of the material world over the ideal world. Survival for me is not merely based on material but to attain a state where things have their own positions – material only being one of them.

So, this goes to anyone and everyone who think they can be apolitical in the traditional sense and escape from the chasm of your own complexities in life – this doesnt work anymore! So, before you start making others silent observers in the larger scheme of things, look within and then speak, can you keep your mouth shut when your individuality is being challenged by your individual self – day in and day out. If you still can, then you need not open your mouth and dare speak again- for you have lost all you ever had earned in life, the basic thing you so preach – humanity!!

 

I am personally apologetic to anyone who might have felt offended from my views, I didnt write to offend you per se- but then, by the virtue of you feeling offended, you just made my point stronger.