Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the Media and Poll Coverage...

There seems to be some disconnect between the perception by the media professionals and the reality insofar as the reportage on elections are concerned. That the media, in many instances, has gone wrong in their reading of poll outcome is a fact. And it is a different matter that they do not care to express any regrets after it emerges that they called it wrong.

I am raising this now in the context of the media reportage on the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir. I do not see, in any of the reports, the extent to which the outcome of the polls in these state assembly elections being determined by the massive rise in the prices of essential commodities. The reports, for some reason, restrict the concerns to the appeal by personalities from various parties or to concerns such as the ATS investigations into the Malegaon blasts and the impact of the call for election boycott by the Naxalites in Chattisgarh or the All Party Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir.

Well. A simple explanation to this tendency among the media professionals would be that they possess a sense of clarity and are convinced that the elections, which happen to be the most important aspect of political democracy, cannot be allowed to be fought on mundane issues of day to day concern and hence it is imperative to enlarge the scope and the concern to ideological concerns. This will make those belonging to sects that bask under meaningless debates and engage themselves in debates for the sake of it happy.

The point is that the media professional, physically located invariably in the national capital, is by and large immunized from the reality that marks the various other parts of the country. In other words, the culture of contract employment and the mobility that has come to mark the employment opportunities in the media industry in recent years – you do not find a reporter stuck in one newspaper for a lifetime any longer – has meant this alienation from the reality. And the rise in prices of essential commodities is not considered an election issue to the reporter because his wage levels are such that he is not seriously affected by the issue.

Hence, the reporter, begins to look for issues that dominate the discourse in the context of an election. He is, then led to think and believe that the people of Madhya Pradesh, having voted the Congress and the BJP repeatedly in the past few years, will throw up a surprise this time. He or she, then begins to look for the third alternative and finds it in the BSP! Well. The sociology in some parts of Madhya Pradesh that border Uttar Pradesh is such that the BSP has emerged a force there. The same is true of parts of Chattisgarh. And this was visible as early as in 1993 itself. But then, the BSP’s presence as a force is restricted to a part of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and not across the States as it is in Uttar Pradesh.

The media professional, somehow, refuses to see this aspect and lands up with reports that the BSP’s march to power at the Centre can be seen in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh now! In Rajasthan, similarly, there are small parts where the BSP may strike a decent percentage of votes thanks to Mayawati’s overtures to the Gujjar community. The media professional does not point to this and simply perceives that Mayawati is not just a regional leader now and is expanding her base into the other States and can hence be counted as another contender to the Prime Minister’s job.

The irony of this disconnect between the harsh reality and the perceived reality is most pronounced in Delhi. In the run-up to the assembly elections, the media’s focus is on the campaign trail of Rahul Gandhi, V.K.Malhotra and Mayawati. The voters in Delhi, we are expected to presume will be guided by the charm of one of these leaders rather than the price of onion, potato and Thur Daal! Well. Let it be recalled and recorded here that the BJP lost elections in Delhi in 1998 because Sushma Swaraj, as Chief Minister, failed to contain the price of onion in the capital city. It may be remembered, in this context, that Delhi happened to be one of BJP’s citadels historically.

The point is that when the media professional gets detached and disconnected from the harsh reality so much, his relevance as a pointman in the democratic scheme is lost. And when the media thus loses its moorings and relevance, it makes bad news in the real sense of the term.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Terrorism ...

We all will recall all that we read, in less than a couple of months ago, about the police action in one of New Delhi’s neighbourhood and adjacent to the Jamia Milia Islamia University. Two men were killed in the police action. A police officer too lost his life in the gun fight. We also recall the BJP leaders, from L.K.Advani to the one lowest in the party’s hierarchy shouting from the rooftop that the nation must show zero tolerance on terror.

I also recall a ``discussion’’ held by one of those funded organisations in Chennai exclusively devoted to ``terrorism’’ where my loud voice that terrorism as such cannot be restricted to acts of violence attributed to the members from the Muslim community alone, drowned in the cacophony of Teflon patriots whose only aim was to legitimize the enactment of a law akin to TADA and POTA. The ``discussion’’ as I then realised was meant to be a monologue by pro-establishment zealots to whom democracy and rights make sense only when it involves their own self preservation.

Most of those present in that hall, that day, were retired officers from the army, retired bureaucrats and retired police officers. There were a few retired professors too and a couple of senior journalists. And the participants included Mr. Sukumaran Nambiar of the BJP. I do not know, to this day, as to why I was invited to present my views in that seminar because the organiser of that event knew that much that I was not one of their lots. Be that as it may. I made my observations there, got over with it and told myself not to accept an invitation from this ``friend’’ who organised the ``discussion’’ anytime after that. Let me also clarify that this ``frind’’ too has not bothered to invte me for another such programme.

Well. I only wish that my friend decides to hold a similar discussion anytime now and invite the same set of people who were present on the earlier occasion to discuss the same issue now. And in that event, I will certainly attend the discussion and even make a presentation there. I will insist that all those retired army officers, retired police officers and such others who are regulars in that circle to reflect on Pragnya Singh Thakur, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit and the several others who, as it is now unraveling, are in no way different from those whom the Indian state defines as terrorists.

The only difference being that these blood-hounds do not belong to the Muslim community and hence the BJP chief Rajnath Singh, the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Uttaranchal Chief Minister B.C.Khanduri are shouing from the rooftop that there is something cynical about the investigation. The BJP leaders are also shouting that the arrest, investigation and interrogation of Lt. Colonel Purohit would have an adverse impact on the morale of the armed forces. They are now beginning to see that terrorism is not a value free category. And they are no longer adamant that we should show zero tolerance on terrorism.

As much as I say this, I should make one thing clear: That I do not hold violence as a means to set things right. The lesson we learn from history is that violence breeds further violence and the outcome of any violent campaign is that it furthers conflicts and does not resolve differences.

I am aware of the existence of a breed of political activists who do not want resolution of conflictual relationships between people whether it be on class, caste, religious or ethnic lines. The Praghnya Singh Thakur-Lt. Col. Purohit clan or such terror groups that plant bombs in public parks, cinema halls or places of worship belong to that breed of political activists. There are some others who believe in the annihilation of class enemies. They may be placed in a different category. But then, the outcome of any one of the actions by any of these breed of political activists is that it legitimizes terrorist means to be adopted by the police and the other agencies of the state.

As soon as bombs blast in any one of the cities or small towns, the police draws a list of suspects. In the times we live, such lists are invariably made up of Muslim youth. They are all picked up and detained for interrogation. And it turns out, after a few months, that most of those were innocent. The interrogation, meanwhile, leaves the hapless men who were detained into physical and mental wrecks because the police use all kinds of violent means during the interrogation. Anyone who has been through such detention will know that. In Hyderabad, for instance, it has now unraveled that more than 100 young men were detained on mere suspicion and tortured only to be released later and left to struggle to eke out a living.

It is in this context that we will now have to learn lessons from the reports on the Pragnya Singh Thakur-Lt. Col. Purohit nexus. The first lesson is that the myth that the Muslims are known to be behind every terror attack is a myth. Lesson No. 2 is that the investigations, in such cases must be carried out without political interference and any political leader who takes sides with such persons must be seen with suspicion by the society too. In this case, it is imperative that the BJP leaders are asked to explain why they speak the way they do in case of the saffron sanyasin.

And the most important lesson we must now draw is that those holding positions in the executive must be gagged from speaking out when there is an investigation into a terrorist and his or her actions. It is indeed unfortunate that two Chief Ministers Modi and Khanduri have gone around holding a brief for the Praghnya-Purohit nexus even while the state agencies are investigating the crime and their anti-national activities.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

An Essay by a School Student... found it interesting


In the last few months there was a lot of sound and fury on India’s civilian nuclear deal with the US. The debate was so intense that our union government was brought on the brink of collapse. Opposition to the deal from the left parties reduced the government to a minority and the government survived only because it found a new ally in the Samajwadi party. But in all these debates, however, did not throw much light on the details of the deal and the issues involved.
To me, a student of class eleven, I have my own reservations on the way the debate went on within and outside Parliament. I also have my own reservations against the deal.

Power Requirement

“Power requirement” is the main reason that people are giving in support of the nuclear deal. In Chennai we have 90 minutes of power-cut everyday; in many parts of Karnataka the power shutdown is for 7 hours; and in rural India many places go without night life because there is no electricity there. It is argued that the Indo-US deal and the setting up of several nuclear power stations thereafter will solve all these issues. But we must know one fact that nuclear energy will contribute less than 10% of India’s electricity and even that can be achieved only in 2020. And hence, the argument that the nuclear deal will bring an end to the power shortage that we now face is without basis.

Friendly relationship with the US?

The uni-polar world that we now live in is different from the Cold War days (when the world was bi-polar), when India had the Soviet Union to protect its strategic interest. As for example, recall the sequence of events in December 1971. During the Indo-Pak war, for the liberation of Bangladesh, the US was prepared to help Pakistan by moving their Seventh Fleet, then stationed at Diego Garcia an island in the Indian Ocean, towards the Indian shores. It was the Soviet Union who helped us by making counter moves. India then had a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union.

But then the world today has changed. The Soviet Union does not exist and the US is the only power according to those who support the deal. But then we must realize that China is emerging as a power not only in the military sense but also in the economic sense. And it is likely that the next cold war, if it happens, could be between the US and China. We must remember that in 1962, China not only attacked us but also captured large part of our land in the North East. It makes better sense to be friendly with China, our own neighbour, rather than having US as a friend afar.

India joining the Big League?

Some argue that the nuclear deal will bring an end to “nuclear apartheid” which will enable the Indian atomic energy industry to do for the Indian economy what Indian information technology has done for the country’s export. In fact Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this much in his speech in Parliament. But, we will simply end up importing the machinery and the enriched fuel rather than going for a sustainable model in the power sector and hence remain dependant on the US for ever.

Is Nuclear Energy Green and Safe?

I would like to start with recalling what happened in Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. The accident at the nuclear power plant killed many, maimed many and its adverse impact on the future generation is still unknown.

Another aspect is about the disposal of nuclear waste which no one knows and has thought about until now. The truth is that we do not have technology, today, to dispose the waste. As one research study source by M.V Ramana and Surendra Gadekar says“ in the case of India’s smallest full-scale reprocessing facility at Trombay (Maharashtra), decontamination generated about 300 tones of solid waste: about 60,000 litres of medium-level liquid wastes; and about 13 million litres of low level liquid effluents. This waste can any day lead to radiation which will be harmful for humanity. For these reasons, we can never call nuclear energy green and safe.


With all these, do we have to celebrate the nuclear deal? We, the generation next have the right to ask this question because future belongs to us. Yes, we must agree that our power requirement is a concern. But we have other ways; to harness wind, hydel and solar. And more important than this is to conserve energy! One 88888 movement is not enough. We need more! Recall what Mahatma Gandhi had to say: “mother earth has plenty for our needs but not for our greed”.


Prisoners of Nuclear Dream by M.V.Ramana and C. Ram Manohar Reddy (edited)
Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia by Stephen Philip Cohen (edited)
“Onward to lose of Autonomy”, Editorial, Economic and Political Weekly, July 26, 2008
I would fail in my duty if I would not mention my parents with whom I had long discussions about the issue.

Here is a poem... I did not write it... But found it interesting

Oh god!!!!!!!
If at all u r there!
Tell me why,
I am me?
Is it because, I was the chosen one
As said in d bible?
Or is it because I had committed any sin?

Tell me why,
I am like a light house?
With no one to play with,
And no one to care.
Is it because, I never dance
To d tune they play?
Or is it because, I am what I am?

Tell me why,
I am so stupid?
Trusting and helping everyone,
Though I know I am
Gonna end up like Caesar………..
And then everyone would say,
“Poor fellow, he was very good”

And even now
I feel so stupid,
As I am asking all these
To someone who/which
Is not scientifically proven!!!
And the only thing I think I can trust is
Me, me and only me.