Wednesday, February 26, 2014

World’s Largest Mobocracy!

Recent happenings in various state legislatures and the parliament narrate a different story

The slogan most bandied about throughout the world by the Indian Government has been that “India is the World’s Largest Democracy”. A democratic country of more than a billion people. In common parlance there is a very well-known definition of democracy. It is the government of the people, by the people and for the people! The main pillar on which the democratic set up is supposed to rest is the people. Equality for all is another important pillar. All are equal in a democratic set up. The most important aspect of democracy recently highlighted by Mohan Guruswamy in his article, “Democracy is Dead, Long Live Democracy!” in the online newspaper, the Citizen, is restraint. According to him, “The democratic way of life depends most upon one human quality – restraint. From restraint flows the spirit of accommodation, which leads to the path of reconciliation. Democracy is the only political system that seeks to reconcile diverse aspirations and demands to maximize their fulfilment”.
However, the democracy in India seems to be going in the reverse gear. It is assuming a mob mentality. In American English a “Mob” is a gang of criminals and gangsters are also called the mobsters. Indian democracy judged by recent happenings is turning into a mob rule or what may be called a “Mobocracy”! The indiscipline among peoples’ representatives initially started from some state legislatures. There were instances of scuffles, throwing of chairs, pulling out of mikes and many unruly incidents. The very basis of democracy, the “restraint” was given a go by. Then there were incidents of moral turpitude when some legislators were caught watching adult movies inside the House. Debates in such houses are supposed to be decent exchanges of views and civilised discussions on various topics. However, these became slanging matches and the houses were turned into fish markets. In addition, it was also revealed that many of the peoples’ representatives were facing criminal charges. In that sense, they could be called the representatives of the “Mobs”!
Finally, this degradation of the representative houses of the people reached the ultimate and the top most house, the parliament. Not only was there a continuous brawl preventing holding of any worthwhile business but there were scuffles and clashes worse than those seen on the streets. Members walking into the well of the house and raising slogans and tearing various bills had become a routine. However, the climax was the use of pepper spray, brandishing of knives and strip-tease by some members during the passing of Telengana bill. Parliaments in civilised countries are famous for lively debates and enlightening discussions. In fact, the British Parliament, called the mother of all Parliaments is what the original Parliamentarians in India wanted their house to be like. They could never imagine that the house created by them will turn into a “Mob” house!  Mohan Guruswamy in his article has mentioned this in these words: “The great leaders who founded our democracy, men like Jawaharlal Nehru, BR Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Maulana Azad would not recognize what is happening in the Lok Sabha these days. The house hardly meets. Good and qualified people no longer want to be part of a leadership that has made loot its prime purpose and does not care for political niceties and social courtesies anymore”.
One sometimes wonders whether the British model of the parliament or even the main democratic set up is suitable for India. Democracy’s prime requirement is election of representatives by the people periodically through general elections. In India these elections have become a big business sponsored by corporates and managed by criminals and hoodlums. In many parts of India votes are purchased. Money and muscle power play a big role in these elections especially in rural India. Corporates also control the media which caters to rich only. According to Guruswamy, “Even worse is the limited focus of the national media, particularly the English print media and television on the concerns of a small and self-centred elite that propounds the so-called market reforms and the so-called liberalization only to help itself even more”. Arundhity Roy has called India, “An Upper Caste Hindu Corporate Republic!”
The general masses in rural India are swayed by the personalities as the personality cult has been promoted by almost all political parties. The personality cult combined with nepotism has revived the ancient system of kings and queens ruling India. Indira Rani, Jaylalitha, Mayawati, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Akilesh Yadav and so on are presented as political stalwarts but basically they have come into politics because of their family connections. Having been ruled by Kings and Queens for centuries, it is difficult for the Indian public to come out of the personality cult. Rulers continue to come from the select dynasties generation after generation!
There had been one positive aspect of Indian democracy and that was the setting up of some upright institutions which could guard a democratic polity. These included the Highest Judiciary, the Election Commission, and the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, even these have now been infiltrated and prejudiced. Judgements have been passed in accordance with the “collective” conscience of the society.
In view of these stark realities it is debatable whether India can still claim to be the “Largest Democracy in the World!” As Mohan Guruswamy says, “Democracy is Dead, Long Live Democracy!”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Murky Mainstream!

A minister being investigated for moral turpitude starkly reflects on the status of the politicians forming part of the so called “Mainstream”!

Nature has bestowed Kashmir with many rivers and streams. The smaller streams flow into some major rivers. All of the Kashmir’s Rivers flow into the Arabian Sea after traversing the sub-continent. None of the Rivers or streams crossing Kashmir flow into the Indian Ocean. All over the sub-continent the rivers flow from North to South. The pro-India political parties in Kashmir are erroneously called the “Mainstream Political Parties”. It is alleged to be the main discourse and as such has been given the name of “Mainstream”. It is an imaginary stream as all the natural ones flow somewhere else. The name has apparently been given to emphasise the fact that the general thinking of Kashmiris is towards India with its capital at Delhi. As the natural flow of all rivers and streams is towards some other destination, the artificial stream called the “Mainstream” had to be carved out towards a particular destination. It is but natural that an artificially carved stream carries mud along and becomes murky. However, in spite of the best efforts the “Mainstream” has not been able to make people flow towards the intended destination and has had rather a back flow of mud and filth all these years dirtying everything in the way as also spreading the mud and filth all over the valley.
Right from 1947, the Kashmir’s true Rivers have been carrying all along their course the blood of martyrs. People have given their blood to attain their aspirations of a free Kashmir where they could stand with self-respect and dignity. On the other hand the so called “Mainstream” has been a two way channel for muck and dirt of all kinds. The recent episode involving molesting of a lady doctor by a Congress Minister of Omar Abdullah Government seems to have lifted the lid from the filth and muck the mainstream has been carrying all these years. Many newspapers ran the headlines, the “Rouges Gallery”; the “Hall of Shame” and so on listing the ministers who had been indicted during last five years for various offences involving both material and moral corruption. Interestingly, the two major political parties have been throwing muck and filth on each other even though both have been swimming in the same stream! Incidentally, the said minister after remaining in hiding which is impossible for such a well-guarded person without the connivance of the authorities surrendered to Police and secured bail to attend the legislative assembly. A columnist friend remarked that AFSPA may be extended soon to cover the nefarious activities of Kashmir’s ministers!
However, this exposure represents only tip of the iceberg if one starts listing the moral and material corruption which the members of the so called “Mainstream” have indulged in last half a century or so. The frequency of these crimes has dramatically increased in the last decade. The vessel must be proverbially getting filled up with muck and filth and may soon tip over! The tipping over may throw out the scum but the muck will remain down below unless the vessel fully breaks up!
In fact, the murky “Mainstream” started flowing in 1947 itself when it dirtied the very stalwart of Kashmiri aspirations. However, the real filth started flowing after 1953 when the main hurdle in its flow was cleared. To swim in the stream one had to be devoid of any ideology and conscience, and had to be dishonest, a shameless liar, materially and morally corrupt. Scores of politicians swimming in the stream have been changing their swim suits mid-stream umpteen times! Tragically, the people with ideology, honesty, integrity and conscience have no place in the present set up. Such people either get liquidated or incarcerated or disappear without a trace.
What has the stream brought into Kashmir all these years? Ostensibly material progress and development but inherently, corruption, both material and moral. Dishonesty and greed. Destruction of environment. Oppression of all types. Razor wire, pepper spray and pellet guns. Total dependence on outside for everything. A total slave culture. Kashmiris have been turned into slaves and serfs in every respect. A Kashmiri has been made to lose his sense of dignity and self-respect. Kashmir of today reminds one of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Animal Farm!
Any stream which gets thickened with muck and filth has always a back flow. There is a saying that chickens come home to roost! This is exactly what has happened due to the flowing back of the “Murky Mainstream”. Scuffles, Knives and Pepper Spray in Parliament. Rapes and gang rapes every other day. Scams in every government organisation including those involved in “National Security”! Moral turpitude by supposedly most respectable citizens including top judges and journalists. Muck and filth spreading all over the society. Some people feel that one has to enter the “Murky” stream to clean the filth from inside. Some say that one has to dirty hands to clean a filth covered vessel. However, in reality a murky stream cannot be cleaned. There is only one way to put an end to this muck and filth and that is to completely dry up the stream. Nature sometimes lets the murky streams get so much filled up that these stop flowing and automatically dry up! Let us hope the nature takes care of our own “Murky Mainstream” also!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tying the tiller!

If the land to the tiller was supposed to be a revolutionary step, the present one is tying the tiller to an administrative maze worse than the one he faced in the feudal set up!

Just before the elections there is a big hullaballoo about what is supposed to be the most far reaching step to help the rural population in getting things done at their door step. Supposedly a far reaching administrative revamp throughout the state. A number of analysis and commentaries have been made on the subject by the most informative and learned experts. On the face of it, there can be no two opinions that it is an election gimmick. After having failed to deliver on the earlier promises of power, water, and roads, they needed something to sell to the people regardless of the nature of the goodies being offered or their long term consequences. As pointed out by some columnists this step of creating new administrative units strikes at the root of the earlier step of empowering people through “Panchayat Raj”. It is virtually handing over the Panchayats to the extended bureaucracy at the village level itself. Instead of the locally elected Panchs running the show, it will be the extended arm of the state bureaucracy which will control the Panchayats even at the village level. As someone has said, it would be “Patwari Raj” instead of the “Panchayat Raj”!
 It has now become a routine to announce one after the other “revolutionary” measure to deflect people from their main narrative. Everyone knows that there is a prime narrative in Kashmir concerning its basic status. However, none of the stake holders is serious enough to address this basic problem. All are in one or the other way going along with the status quo. Unfortunately, some of the stake holders go to any length to divert people from their main narrative by inventing one or the other problem and then keeping them busy in solving the same. In fact, the earlier much publicised and hailed revolutionary step of the “land to the tiller” which was even hailed by the revolutionaries in Russia at that time got diluted due to the circumstances following its enactment. The subsequent events also struck at the main narrative at that particular point of time in Kashmir’s history. After centuries of subjugation the Kashmiris had risen to overthrow the yolk of slavery of the outside oppressors. The unusual circumstances of the partition of the sub-continent entangled their movement in the mutual mistrust and enmity of the two communities living in the undivided India, which in the case of Kashmir had been at total peace with each other for generations. Instead of getting liberated from the clutches of the external feudalism and regaining their lost sovereignty, they landed themselves in a vicious cycle of violence and corruption. Sheikh Abdullah’s revolutionary measure of giving the land to the tiller did restore the dignity of a Kashmiri to some extent as he became the owner instead of a serf. But then the land as well as the tiller got enslaved once again by a bigger and more powerful overlord! What use is land to a person if he does not have the basic security of his life?
 At present a Kashmiri has the land which he can till. He has a house and he has many other material possessions and privileges. But then he has no guarantee of his life, self-respect and dignity. He is at the mercy of a uniformed soldier who can even use him for target practice. In the present day Kashmir, a Kashmiri can be killed in a fake encounter, his women can be raped, and his dwellings destroyed as collateral damage and the perpetrators can go scot free! If this has been the ultimate consequence of the land to the tiller, then where would the present tying of the tiller lead to? While discussing the economic aspects of these administrative measures some experts have opined that it would lead to further dependence of the state for dole from the centre as the state is virtually bankrupt and cannot even pay the salaries of its existing employees. It is an irony that the person whose grandfather had taken the revolutionary step of restoring a Kashmiri the possession of his land after centuries of subjugation by his unparalleled measure of the “land to the tiller”, is now tying that very tiller by the strands of an administrative cobweb of a spider sitting cosily at Delhi! They say everything and everyone in the world has a nemesis. Has the fate created Omar to be the nemesis of the Abdullah dynasty? Time alone will tell!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Retaining Kashmir

The recent attack on AAP leader with the media going berserk on a simple remark regarding lessening of military foot prints in Kashmir vividly exposes the colonial mind set of certain sections of Indians. Over the years these rabidly communal Hindutva elements in India have been projecting Kashmir as something on which the very survival of India as a country depends. It has to be retained in India at all costs. The entire “National Interest” depends upon its retention as part of India regardless of the fact that it may be an unwilling part! Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India which is considered to have become part of the country in very complicated circumstances of 1947, the partition year of the sub-continent. One need not recount all these events which have been recorded not only in dozens of books but are on the record of the world peace watch dog body, the United Nations Security Council itself. Howsoever hard one may try to conceal the facts; no one can deny that there is a dispute in Kashmir. This problem has been languishing for over 65 years or so. It has resulted in a number of wars and a proxy war continues in spite of the best efforts to maintain the peace. Unfortunately for Kashmiris it is an unending match between two neighbours mistrusting each other in which they are being used as a football.
The major chunk of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir has been under Indian control since 1947. However, the majority of the people at present are totally alienated from the mainland. This alienation is not only because the people want their aspirations for total and absolute freedom to be fulfilled but also because of the failure of the Indian government as well as the bulk of the Indian population to make Kashmiris feel at home in India. Almost all the political leaders as well as people in general talk of Kashmir being an integral part of India, the crown of India but hardly any one mentions Kashmiris. Over the years Kashmir has become a symbol of all anti-Pak attacks or rather a stick for bashing Pakistan. It is generally given out to Indian public that all Kashmiris are Pakistani spies or militants. On one hand all the time there is so much negative media hype about Kashmiris that everyone starts believing that Kashmiris especially Kashmiri Muslims are trouble makers for India. On the other hand, the Government media paints a picture that everything is honky dory in Kashmir and it is only few Pakistani infiltrators which are creating trouble.
For all practical purposes the chauvinists in India have forced the Government to turn Kashmir into a colony. It is claimed by many including some top journalists as the most militarised area of the world. The estimates of troops, paramilitary and other security and intelligence agencies vary from half a million to over seven hundred thousand. Not only is the place teeming with troops and paramilitary but these people have legal coverage to commit any heinous act they like against the local population including cold blooded murder and rape. Even the highest court in the country favours them rather than the local population. The “collective conscience” of India will remain satisfied only when Kashmir is retained as an “Integral Part” regardless of the wishes, aspirations and consequences to the people of Kashmir. To keep Kashmiris in eternal bondage is in India’s “National Interest”!
Till some years back a similar obsession existed on the other side. They considered Kashmir and not Kashmiris their jugular vein. After having fought three wars, losing half of their country and turning their budding youth into suicide bombers, they seem to have lost interest and have virtually decided to leave Kashmiris to their fate. Seeing Pakistan losing interest in their resolve of staking everything to get Kashmir, the Indians have over a period of time stiffened their attitude. In earlier times, the Indians were in two minds and would consider Kashmir an undependable possession. However, now they appear to be basing the very survival of their country on holding Kashmir at all costs.  But this hue and cry is only superficial and directed at somewhere else. The saner element still considers Kashmir to be a mill stone in India’s neck! Some years back when Kashmiris were on the boil one Thakur, supposedly an ideologue of the RSS had suggested dis-investing Kashmir. He had worked out that by letting Kashmir go, the Indians would not only save a huge amount of security related expenses but would get billions of dollars of foreign investment from NRIs who are at present hesitant because of “Kashmir Problem” which may end everything in smoke!
Kashmir cannot be retained by India unless Kashmiris are made to feel at home both in Kashmir itself and in other parts of India. Kashmiris have aspirations which need to be fulfilled. They have lost generations to attain those aspirations. The new generation which was born and brought up in the raging fire of the turmoil of nineties is extremely alienated. Their urge cannot be suppressed by acts committed in Pathribal and Machail. The Army and the Paramilitary with the cover of AFSPA or even with some more new black legislation will not be able to contain it. The cauldron is simmering and may boil over without any warning. The colossal corrupt political and administrative set up may once again collapse under its own weight leaving Indians nothing to hold on to as happened in early nineties.
The fundamental requirement at least to assuage the hurt feelings of Kashmiris is to recognise the existence of the basic political problem and address it unconditionally involving all stake holders. Retention of Article 370 or grant of full autonomy is not going to address the basic problem. These would again be firefighting measures. The least the Indian Government could do to show its goodwill would be to revoke AFSPA, withdraw Army and Paramilitary from civilian areas, release all political prisoners and remove restrictions on the fundamental right of the freedom of expression. This could generate atmosphere for a dialogue to find a practicable solution. Trying to retain Kashmir in “National Interest” through the present rabidly communal approach instead of integrating it may disintegrate India itself!