India improves ranking in Global Gender Gap report of World Economic Forum

India has jumped to 87th position (out of 144 countries) in year 2016 from the 114th position (out of 142 countries) it had in year 2014 in global ranking of countries on an index that measures gender gap. This index is released by the World Economic Forum as part of its yearly Global Gender Gap report.

The report studies and analyses various indicators that capture how women are faring vis a vis men in various fields of life. It specifically focuses on economic participation (equal employment opportunity, wage parity), educational participation (literacy, enrolments for studies), health and survival (life expectancy, sex ratio), and political empowerment.

India has especially improved on the educational participation and political empowerment since the change in regime at the center.

The latest report recognizes the efforts made by India in this by noting that the country could fully close its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps. So it appears that the ‘Beti Padhao’ campaign is working.

While the report lauds India for making key investments in women’s education, it cautions that nothing special has been done to remove barriers to women’s participation in the workforce. Due to this, India is not seeing returns on investments in terms of development of one half of her human capital.

The report says that India, among a few other counties, has “an educated but untapped talent pool and would have much to gain from women’s greater participation in the workforce”.

Other area of improvement and concern is the gender gap in health and survival sub-index. The report puts India, Armenia and China as the lowest-ranked countries. So it appears that “Beti Bachao” has to be primary focus of the government going forward.

But overall, India has shown improvement in ranking, which has always been below 100 since 2007, by securing 87th position this year.

In the same report, Pakistan is rated second worst in terms of gender gap by being ranked on the 143rd position.

Uttar Pradesh assembly elections: the story so far…

Uttar Pradesh is the biggest state in India in terms of population where a whopping 404 assembly seats are up for grabs when it goes for polls next year. The stakes are high, some are fighting to strengthen their position, some aim for greater national relevance, and some hope for survival.

Primarily, there are four key players – BJP, SP, BSP and Congress – and everyone is getting into election mode.

A lot has been happening of late, and those who are not news junkies would have found it cumbersome to keep track. So this article is a summary of what has happened so far in build up to the assembly elections:

Bhartiya Janta Party:

First the BJP. Its alliance won a record 73 seats out of 80 in the state during the Lok Sabha elections, and to maintain that lead is a herculean task. For the party, the challenge can be called similar to what it faced in Bihar assembly elections, where it failed to maintain the lead it had witnessed during the general elections.

In absence of a declared Chief Ministerial candidate yet, PM Modi remains the star campaigner. He chose to attend Ramlila event on Dusshera in the state and earlier this week he addressed a rally where he talked about issues like development and triple talaq.

Party has not yet raked up Ram Temple at Ayodhya issue openly and is sticking to its stand that courts should decide it, but issues like construction of a Ram Museum have been in news.

The state unit of BJP has been able to attract rival leaders of other parties in its fold. Swami Prasad Maurya of the BSP and Rita Bahuguna Joshi of the Congress are notable names, and analysts believe that their admission into BJP was a signal that the party was looking to make inroads into the dalit support base of BSP and the Brahmin voters of Congress, with the party being reasonably confident of getting non-Yadav OBC votes.

However, the issue of CM candidate remains elusive – something many analysts believed had hurt the party in Bihar. There are reports of factionalism too with many leaders trying to prop themselves up as the candidate. Varun Gandhi too was reported to be in this race, but the recent controversy surrounding his alleged blackmail has hurt his chances.

Indian National Congress:

Coming to the Congress, the party is hoping that some Mahagathbandhan like Bihar may happen where it can ride the bandwagon and declare victory over BJP, especially over Narendra Modi.

There have been conflicting reports of Prashant Kishor actively leading the elections strategy. Apparently he had proposed that the party reached out to Brahmins – once their traditional vote bank, and which is why Sheila Dixit was projected as the Chief Ministerial candidate – but later he reportedly got upset that his strategies are not being implemented by the party.

Rahul Gandhi is leading the campaign and it’s the farmers, not Brahmins, who currently appear to be the group that the party is reaching out to. There have been Kisan Yatras and Khat Sabhas, which have made news with farmers fighting for khats (wooden cots).

Apart from the farmers, Congress is wooing OBCs too as it promised within a quota for the Most Backward Castes within the OBC.

The party appears to have put confidence in Rahul and his leadership, claiming that there was some conspiracy by the Modi government to keep him away from campaigning.

In a latest development, Priyanka Vadra attended a poll strategy session of the party, which has sparked hopes in a section of a workers and media that the party could pull off a good performance.

Bahujan Samaj Party:

BSP, led by Mayawati, is aiming to retain its Dalit support base and add Muslims to it. The party had first made a huge issue of a BJP leader using abusive terms for Mayawati. BJP had to expel the leader, but the BSP ended up with self goal as their workers used equally abusive terms for the BJP leader’s wife and daughter. As a result, the BSP lost the moral high ground and any associated political advantage.

Now the party’s focus appears to be reaching out to Muslims and trying for the often talked about Dalit-Muslim vote bank. Be it by reciting quranic verses in rallies or conducting rallies targeted solely at Muslims, BSP is not keeping it subtle – which is a hallmark of Mayawati.

In a way, BSP is replacing its earlier strategy of Dalit-Brahmin combine with Dalit-Muslim combine. Then, a Brahmin face Satish Chandra Mishra was projected as second in command after Mayawati, now it is the Muslim face Naseemuddin Siddiqui.

The party has opposed Modi’s comment on triple talaq and is hoping that Muslims, who are supposed to vote for SP, will now support BSP. And after the bitter family feud in SP – which we will talk about later in this article – it is speculated that the Muslims might actually tilt in BSP’s favor.

Although the party had failed to win even a single seat in the state during the general elections, it will surely register an impact in the coming assembly elections.

Samajwadi Party:

Finally the SP, which has been making most of the news lately. The thing going on in the party is like quantum mechanics – many have heard about it but no one understands it. It’s almost a desi Game Of Thrones going on, though thankfully sans the violence.

Apparently all is not well between father (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and son (Akhilesh Yadav) with the family divided into two camps. As we write this article, neither truce nor further escalation has happened in this family feud.

It all started with Akhilesh removing Chief secretary Deepak Singhal who was considered closed to Shivpal Yadav, and then sacking Shivpal and three more from the state cabinet. Mulayam then countered it with removing Akhilesh and making Shivpal party’s state chief. All this was followed by a day full of drama which is well described here.

Amar Singh is being blamed by many in media and by people like Azam Khan as the outsider who broke the family unity, while there are theories of it being a result of Mulayam’s second wife plotting against Akhilesh to procure a better position for her son.

There is also another conspiracy theory that this entire family feud could be stage managed to play good cop-bad cop strategy where Akhilesh comes out as the good guy who is willing to take on even his father. This can’t be ruled out as many journalists started praising Akhilesh Yadav on his stand on “corruption” even though the entire fight was about control of the party.

Whatever be the real reason, truth is that Uttar Pradesh is now in full election mode and the coming days will see more and more political drama with more twists and turns. Stay tuned.

Why India is disappointed with the Ease of Doing Business rankings

The past one or two years have seen India rise rapidly in various rankings:

India was the fastest riser, moving up 16 spots to 39th rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index

India’s rank improved by 9 ranks in Transparency International’s International Corruption Perceptions Index.

India’s rank on the Global Innovation Index improved to 66th position, up from the 2015 rank of being number 81, after five years of continuous slide in its ranking.

India improved its ranking in the World Bank Group’s bi-annual “Logistics Performance Index 2016”, jumping from 54th in 2014 to 35th in 2016.

In November 2015, we had carried a separate report which documented India’s rise in over 7 different ranks worldwide. After seeing its Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rank slip from a high of 116 in 2007, to a low of 142 (134 as per revised methodology) in 2014, for the one year ended June 2015, India saw its rank improve to 130 (revised to 131) in 2015.

Going by the commitment and the efforts shown towards economic reforms, it was expected that India would show similar, if not much better progress this year too in the EODB ranks. In fact, India had even started a state-wise ranking system within India to make states more competitive.

But the release of the latest report by the World Bank shows that India managed to move just 1 place upward. The Government of India expressed its disappointment at this meager improvement, and listed out various reforms which they felt were ignored by the World Bank, which led to a poor improvement in the rank.  The common threads among some of these reforms were these:

1. The reform is still a work-in-progress which has not been fully implemented yet (for example, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, GST, etc.)

2. The reform has been implemented, but not been used by a substantial number of users, hence not considered by the World Bank (e.g. Introduction of online single window systems, Introduction and streamlining of INC-29 for company incorporation ,etc.)

3. The reform has been done, but the World Bank has not accepted the documentation (e.g. Elimination of the requirement of a company seal while applying for government registrations, Online registration for ESIC and EPFO registration, etc.)

Another factor which could affect India’s rank is the fact that the ranks are based on absolute scores, called Distance to Frontier, an absolute score that measures the gap between a country and the global best practice. So even though India may show a good improvement in the absolute score, its rank may not show commensurate increase if the other countries too put on a good score.

Absolute DTF scores
Absolute DTF scores

As the scores show, since 2014, India has been showing constant improvement in scores year on year, yet the ranks have not improved as much one would have expected.

Further, the studies conducted by the World Bank for this ranking system, are done only in Mumbai in Delhi. To that extent, this rank is essentially of EODB in Mumbai and Delhi rather than India. A quick look at the state-wise ranks of EODB show that if the surveyors had dipped the thermometer in say Andhra Pradesh or Telangana or Gujarat, instead of Delhi and Mumbai, the ranks could have been different:

DIPP Statewise Implementation Scorecard
DIPP Statewise Implementation Scorecard

The EODB rankings also provide granular data, sector-wise, and from this it is clear that India’s improvement this year, has been largely on the back of reforms in the Power sector, which showed a huge jump, as compared to others:

Granular break-up
Granular break-up

The Government’s response also mentions some of the reforms which should impact next year’s rankings. The prime game-changer among them is the ambitious GST. Although the Government feels this will impact the rankings next year, it seems highly unlikely since GST’s earliest implementation date is April 2017, just 2 months before the June 1st cut-off observed by World Bank for their findings. We may again see a scenario like this year, where a reform may have been brought in, but the World Bank doesn’t consider it.

Overall, the signs are encouraging, but also underscore the need to work at an even more frenetic pace. The difficulty of implementing country-wide reforms over a federal country like India can be highlighted by all the troubles faced by GST to become a reality, and the Government must tread this path for many such pan-India reforms.

Poster boys of Congress: some awesome posters created by Allahabad party workers

Congress election poster
The duo hinted that they were not sycophant like Digvijay Singh, who gave dishonest feedback.

Indian politics is quite colourful with banners and posters being the brushes that bring the colour to the political canvas. Poster wars between political parties are as crucial and advertisement wars between commercial brands. Haseeb Ahmad and Shreesh Chandra Dubey are two such warriors for Congress.

Both of them are party workers from Allahabad, who earlier held posts in the organization. They have made news more than once with their creative posters, and we bring to you their story and some of their awesome posters.

They attracted eyeballs and attentions ahead of the 2014 general elections when they thought Priyanka Gandhi would be a better candidate to lead the party. They came up with a poster that almost trolled Congress’ official slogan “Main Nahin, Hum” that was created to project Rahul Gandhi as mass leader:

Congress election poster
The poster hinted that UPA-3 was difficult under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

Things became a bit too hot to handle for Congress when they came up with another poster in support of Priyanka Gandhi, this time commenting on Sonia Gandhi’s health:

Congress election poster
The poster that was not at all liked by the Congress high command.

Since even the media doesn’t comment on Sonia Gandhi’s health, both of these were suspended from Congress party for the above poster. But this didn’t deter them and they continued with their posters in support of Priyanka:

Congress election poster
The duo hinted that they were not sycophants like Digvijay Singh, who gave dishonest feedback.

With Congress losing the general elections, the duo continued hammering their demand and suggestion that Priyanka should now lead the party at least in Uttar Pradesh. Their past sin was forgiven in the meantime and they were inducted back in the party:

Congress election poster
Haseeb and Shreesh appear to be fan of Bollywood too. Agnipath.

With Amit Shah’s strategy credited for BJP’s spectacular win in Uttar Pradesh during the general elections, the duo claimed that only way to checkmate Shah’s strategy was… of course, Priyanka Gandhi leading the party:

Congress election poster
Both of them know who is the real threat to the party.

But with the party or Priyanka in no mood to heed to their demands, the duo appeared to have given up. They finally came up with a poster that praised Rahul Gandhi too, but Priyanka was there on the poster as well:

Congress election poster
Rahul Gandhi comes back on posters, and without being trolled.

However, their faith in Rahul Gandhi was short-lived as Congress lost another round of state assembly elections early this year. Both of them came up with posters that trolled Rahul Gandhi for the defeat:

Congress posters
The set of posters released after 2016 assembly elections defeat. Rahul Gandhi was again targeted and chorus for Priyanka was back.

Both were stripped off their posts for trolling Rahul Gandhi. They went back to their demand of getting Priyanka Gandhi to lead the party. However, this time they didn’t troll Rahul Gandhi:

Congress election poster
Both of them were back and declared that Indira was back.

With their demands of Priyanka at helm not looking to be met anytime soon again, both of them finally decided to praise Rahul Gandhi as disciplined Congress workers. They declared Rahul Gandhi a “yugpurush” and an avatar of Arjun (we don’t think they were trolling Rahul Gandhi):

Congress election poster
Sudden love and respect for Rahul Gandhi and his abilities was seen.

Their new found love and respect for Rahul Gandhi was seen again, when they used the “surgical strikes” moment to paint Rahul Gandhi as Brahmin superhero (Pandit Rahul Gandhi) all ready to take on Amit Shah. Looks like they are no longer dependent on Priyanka Gandhi to take on Shah:

Congress election poster
While Congress central leadership was clueless how to counter ‘surgical strikes’ fame of BJP, the duo found a way.

And in the latest poster, this love for Gandhi family has gone a step further. Now even Varun Gandhi of BJP finds a place in the poster:

Congress election poster
Sign of this to come? After all the duo were right about Rahul Gandhi’s inability to form UPA-3 government.

These posters don’t constitute the entire portfolio of Haseeb Ahmad and Shreesh Chandra Dubey, and we at OpIndia.com seriously suggest that they should host a website where they showcase all their posters.

Let’s see what their next poster will have. Will Priyanka be back?

Devendra Fadnavis: Party or Broker? Decoding Maha CM’s move in ADHM ‘deal’

Social media, newspaper op-eds and TV debates are abuzz with the ‘intervention’ of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in resolving the dispute between Karan Johar and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in relation to the release of the move Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM).

MNS had threatened the owners of multiplexes that if they exhibited ADHM, they may face disruption and forcible blocking of the movie because it has Pakistani actors. Other than MNS, some single screen owners themselves had decided to boycott the release in wake of anti-Pakistan feelings running high in the country after Uri attack.

With the opposition growing, Bollywood talking heads quickly conflated boycott with ban, misrepresenting the boycott as government intervention, and immediately took the battle to the only destination they recognize lately – PM Modi’s doorstep.

The matter went through familiar twists and turns adequately documented in “The Intolerance Playbook in Modi’s India” which was written before the Bihar election in November 2015. Given that Maharashtra was at the frontline of this controversy, CM Fadnavis had to act in some way to bring the issue to a logical closure. Last week, Fadnavis met the MNS chief Raj Thackrey and Karan Johar to put an end to this controversy.

After this meeting, MNS ‘cleared’ the movie release with three key demands accepted by Johar – no future association of Pakistani artists, a tribute to the soldiers before the movie plays, and a donation of Rupees 5 crore towards Army welfare by every producer who has cast Pakistani artists in any movie yet to be released.

The Maharashtra CM came in for heavy criticism for “brokering” such a settlement, though he claims he had opposed the MNS demand of donation of 5 cr, which was quickly agreed upon by the producers.

His intervention has been dubbed as a poor precedent, breakdown of good governance, and a blot on the position of a Chief Minister.

While all this is debated and more, the most important reason for Fadnavis’ intervention is being missed out on. His actions – whether or not befitting a Chief Minister – were completely political, and he has managed to strengthen his party ship in a big way after this ‘settlement’.

How? The answer lies in the Maharashtra state assembly election of 2014. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has about 42% of the seats in the assembly. It is supported by Shiv Sena (SS), which is still smarting from the loss of designation as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Maharashtra. The other option for the BJP is to take outside support from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to keep the government stable. But BJP, and specifically Fadnavis, vociferously campaigned against NCP in 2014 on the way to power. So that’s an avoidable option. Therefore BJP would like to keep SS, but also have the upper hand.

BJP however cannot have the administrative upper hand, because it does not control any large municipal body in Maharashtra outside Nagpur. All these corporations are with SS, NCP, and Congress or in one case, MNS.

Retaining these municipal bodies is critical for each of those four parties – after all politics needs money and money is derived from power. All the moves with respect to AHDM were actually staged by every party not so much in an ideological way, but to position themselves ahead of the local body elections.

The new round of local body elections start November end and will culminate with the larger corporations Mumbai (BMC), Thane (TMC), Pune (PMC) and Pimpri-Chinchwad (PCMC) going to polls in February.

Ideally, Fadnavis would want to control BMC with the support of SS and PMC independently. He would also want to be a clear second in TMC (likely to be retained by SS) and PCMC (likely to be retained by NCP). This game of thrones needs a certain style of voting division. That’s where MNS comes into play – its voter base has significant overlap with that of SS and in some cases the BJP itself.

Fadnavis’ intervention has given a new lease of life to MNS in Maharashtra, and it may ride the ‘victory against Johar’ wave to cut some votes in these elections specifically in Greater Mumbai and Pune Metro regions.

This political action gains more prominence because for the initial rounds of polls for smaller local bodies, SS has decided to contest independently of the BJP. This announcement was made by the SS Chief Uddhav Thackrey just a few days ago.

BJP has a reasonably strong urban vote base in Maharashtra but it is not a strong party in semi-urban and rural areas. With that handicap, it is quite likely that the party does not fare too well in these smaller local bodies, which tend to be dominated by local strongmen, often aligned with either SS or NCP.

So it became doubly critical for Fadnavis to control the 4 February elections. The only way he could convince SS to have an alliance would have been to show them that BJP had a credible alternative (an MNS alliance) or could prop up a bogey (MNS contesting all seats against SS).

The meeting with Raj Thackrey and Karan Johan achieved that amply. Irrespective of the optics of the settlement conditions, ADHM will now release sans violence. SS will have to find another way to put pressure on the BJP to let them be the senior partner in February polls. And Fadnavis will go into these negotiations from a position of strength.

Was the CM intervention bad optics? Was this bad governance? A CM exceeding his brief? Debates will continue to take place and most people, including many vocal BJP supporters on the social media, believe that Fadnavis erred.

But Fadnavis appears to be betting on the fact that the voters don’t take editorial commentaries too seriously and may well see the compromise as a ‘reasonable one’. He may have lost the morality perception of social media influencers, but gained in a huge way in his political standing. In his equations with SS, it is Advantage Fadnavis for now.

Some Twitter celebrities asked if Fadnavis was the party or the broker to the MNS – Johar settlement. He was neither. Instead he made a move to be the Baazigar – kuchh haar ke jeetne wale ko… Voters will complete the dialog one way or the other in February 2017.

3 retweets by Kejriwal within a day that made a fool out of himself

Arvind Kejriwal is known to be an active Twitter user, like all his supporters are. He often makes news through his tweets and uses it as an important tool for his political campaigning. Only yesterday he made news when he got into a Twitter fight with Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh as part of Punjab assembly elections campaign.

Popular opinion was that Captain won the Twitter fight. Thought that may not change the ground reality where AAP is expected to throw a tough challenge to both Badal and Captain, this “defeat” surely got the AAP supremo a little upset; this reflected in his choice of retweets that virtually boomeranged on himself.

To divert attention from this Twitter defeat, Kejriwal re-tweeted some other messages attacking the union government and Prime Minister Modi. However, those retweets ended up pointing fingers at Kejriwal himself.

The first of these retweets, while he was in the middle of fight with Captain, was a retweet of an AAP-leaning humour-parody account titled “History of India”. It attacked Modi for not acting against UPA corruption after coming to power.

Arvind Kejriwal retweets
Assumption is that public won’t question Arvind Kejriwal ever?

Discounting the fact that most of the corruption cases are sub-judice and the government can’t be expected to influence judiciary (and when government went after cases like National Herald or corruption in Delhi secretariat that went back to Sheila Dixit regime, Arvind Kejriwal too had joined chorus of political vendetta), the irony was lost on Kejriwal himself who claimed to have 370 pages proof against Sheila Dixit.

Perhaps he was sure that the humour-parody account won’t point out this irony, so he re-tweeted happily.

The second of these ironical retweets came up after he gave up on Twitter fight with Captain. It was a retweet of news blog Janta Ka Reporter, better acknowledged as a mouthpiece of Aam Aadmi Party. It questioned why media didn’t discuss snoopgate, which was related to “private life” of Narendra Modi.

Kejriwal retweets
No one in media discusses private life of Arvind Kejriwal. And is it about private lives of Varun and Sandeep, or misuse of public posts?

Perhaps Kejriwal forgot that media did discuss snoopgate, and it was even an election issue before the 2014 general elections. However, this tweet exposes the irony that “Aaloogate” was never discussed by any media. In case you’re wondering, Aaloogate refers to claims of a journalist and former aide of Arvind Kejriwal, who accused him of having extra-marital affairs with a girl 16 years younger to him.

All leading media organisations and journalists have kept mum on this, and now Kejriwal wonders why private life of Narendra Modi is not discussed.

And the final retweet, completing hat-trick of irony, came up when Kejriwal re-tweeted Congress leader Salman Khurshid claiming rising intolerance in the country while citing examples of isolated and fabricated incidents.

Kejriwal retweets
Achchhe din for sure as Mr. Khurshid, who had dared Kejriwal to visit his constituency and go back safely, is now being retweeted by Kejriwal.

This retweet came within a day after Arvind Kejriwal had asked Captain Amarinder Singh as to why BJP folks were supporting the Congress leader in the twitter fight. It is true that many BJP supporters were indeed supporting Captain by re-tweeting his tweets.

But by his own logic, why is he now re-tweeting a Congress leader? Sab mile huye hain ji?

Troll CM Kejriwal finally meets his match on Twitter, runs away from Debate challenge

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal officially does not have any portfolio allotted to him, although he is the Chief Minister of Delhi. The common joke was that he had been handed the Twitter ministry, on which his job was trolling opponents. Earlier this year we saw how Kejriwal had tried to troll Modi, but social media trolled him instead. Kejriwal tries to troll many political leaders, but rarely do they pay any attention to him. But this time it was different.

It all started with Capt Amrinder Singh of the Congress, tweeting this:

To this, Troll CM Kejriwal had this reply:

Most politicians back-off at this stage, since the adage goes that wrestling with a pig will make you dirty, and the pig happy. But Captain was in the mood for a “dangal”. He promptly questioned Kejriwal on his tall claims of jailing many people if he came to power:

A severely embarrassed Kejriwal sidestepped this question altogether, but he had to have the last word, hence diverted the topic to something else:

But Captain was not about to give up:

And with this next tweet, he challenged Kejriwal for an open debate:

And Kejriwal accepted the challenge! But with conditions!! He didn’t accept the debate challenge for himself, but on behalf of four of his party members. He claimed that any of the four would come to debate with Captain!

And that was the full toss Captain was waiting for:

No sooner did this happen, Twitter exploded and exposed Kejriwal’s dual standards. In his pre-CM days, Kejriwal would keep challenging opponents to debates and claim victory when they refused to come:

Finally Kejriwal replied, but by that time the damage was done:

Even after this tweet, people reminded him of his multiple logical fallacies:

And even as this was unravelling, the Indian Express came to Kejriwal’s rescue to spin the episode as “Kejriwal accepts challenge”:

(Tweets updated till time of posting)

Update: Captain has hit back:

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Man goes to Madarsa to understand Muslim viewpoint, is accused of interference

Dehradun based Alok Bhatt decided to take an extra step and learn about common Indian Muslim’s views on issues like triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code (UCC), but little did he know that he will find himself in middle of a controversy and unknown calls following this rather admirable effort.

Alok, who is an active Twitter user, visited a local Madarsa on Saturday and talked to a few children studying there and other men accompanying those children or managing affairs of the Madarsa. Later, he shared his experience in shape of a series of tweets.

In his tweets, Alok praised the hafiz (caretaker) of Madarsa for being welcoming and talked to a few students about their studies, career plans, etc. Later he talked to a couple of men about their views on ongoing debate over triple talaq and UCC.

One of the men, Alok spoke to, opened up and told him about his sister who was divorced by her husband and she was left to fend for herself. He accepted that it was unfair on his sister, but claimed that triple talaq was part of the Holy Quran, as was told to him by a Maulavi the previous day.

Alok was given some pamphlets, which were distributed in the Madarsa for the women in local community to fill up. Muslim women were supposed to sign these pamphlets and declare that they were “fully satisfied” with rulings of Islamic Shariah, particularly about marriage, inheritance, and divorce, and that they “fully support” the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (which has vowed to retain the triple talaq practice).

Pamphlet to support personal laws
A sample pamphlet that Alok saw in the Madarsa (a higher resolution variant can be seen by clicking here).

It should be noted that the Law Commission has asked people to send their views on UCC and other related issues, and it appears that Madarsas are being used to create this public “support” in sync with views of the AIMPLB. This “wave of support” will later be conveyed to the Law Commission, declaring that Muslim women in India are happy with the status quo.

But are they really happy? When Alok probed the man further and asked for his views on triple talaq given what his sister had to undergo, the man got emotional, and said – what can we do? we are poor – and went inside.

Alok later shared his experience on Twitter and made a case about importance of understanding Indian Muslims by having a dialogue with them as a commoner – a conclusion anyone can hardly disagree with.

However, phone calls started coming in the following day after his series of tweets were shared by many. People claiming to speak on behalf of Muslim organizations told him that he shouldn’t have visited the Madarsa and talked about issues like talaq to young children (even though he talked to them only about studies).

There was a call that virtually accused him of trying to “interfere” in religious matters and of “misinterpreting” Islam. Perhaps this accusation flew from the fact that Alok had asked one Maulavi about proof of triple talaq being present in Quran – an argument many Muslim scholars too have made (that triple talaq is nowhere mentioned in the Quran).

These phone calls didn’t stop and Alok found himself in the middle of a controversy that he never intended to trigger. His tweets had suddenly become “controversial”. He even tweeted “I will NOT delete the tweets” last night, but found the pressure from certain quarters a bit too much.

“My entire intention was to reach out, but I was being accused of interfering,” Alok said when OpIndia.com got in touch with him, “As tone of calls changed, I realized that perhaps it is better that I don’t talk about this. I don’t want to get into some legal trouble, being accused of blasphemy or creating enmities between communities when my intentions were just the opposite. What better proof of my clear intention than the fact that I left my telephone number with the Madarsa teacher?”

As a result, on Monday morning, Alok deactivated his Twitter account.

He still can’t believe that he had to face this after such an honest dialogue without any ill will or bias.

“It was so poignant, humbling, and yet so troubling experience when I heard the story of someone’s sister,” Alok told OpIndia.com on phone, “But I didn’t know that I will have to face calls from unknown people asking me to explain my visit and intentions.”

Alok told OpIndia.com that he will wait for the “controversy” to die down and then will decide whether to be back on Twitter.

And while Alok decides not to tweet or say anything on the matter, those pamphlets are being signed by Muslim women, who perhaps don’t even know what they are signing on, telling the Law Commission that they don’t need any change.

For someone bullied for his art, Karan Johar is not doing justice to this YouTuber

Karan Johar can lay claim for being one of the most harassed movie makers in India, for having his Freedom of Expression throttled at multiple stages. His movies like My Name Is Khan, Wake Up Sid and most recently Ae Dil Hai Mushkil faced troubles from goons for various reasons. Even when he was involved in the AIB Roast, various issues were raised for his insensitive jokes. Given this, you would think Johar would probably empathise with artistes who get bullied into submission under various garbs. But think again.

Meet Jaby Koay. He is based out of California in the United States of America, and is a filmmaker who reacts to movies and trailers and shoots some of his own work. He also does trailer-reactions to Indian movies by the dozens and has a substantial fan following, earning him requests from Indians to do more Indian movies. And this is probably because he does a good job, and is not the usual condescending American.

Recently, Koay had been getting fan requests to do the trailer of ‘Dear Zindagi”, the upcoming movie starring Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt. But he just wouldn’t do a trailer reaction for the movie. This obviously had his fans a bit bothered and hence, Jaby decided to make a fresh video, explaining why he didn’t do Dear Zindagi:

Jaby explains that few months back, when he did the trailer reaction to Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM), he got his first “copyright strike” from the team of ADHM. He explains that a “copyright claim” is where companies say someone is using their material hence they will demand a piece of his revenues. On the other hand, a “copyright strike” is much more serious and when a youtuber gets three such strikes, his channel gets shut down. And from here on he explains that ever since he got that notice, he is scared, and hence has avoided any movie which has any remote connection with Dharma Productions, and which is why he will not touch Dear Zindagi, which is also co-produced by Dharma Productions. He even tweeted about this when he got the notice, asking for help:

So here is an American youtuber, who does hundreds of movie trailer reviews across the world, and he manages to get threatened into avoiding all of Karan Johar’s movies, because a source of income for him is at stake. Why? just because he used ADHM’s movie trailer.

In his video he expresses his surprise and bewilderment as to what he did to deserve this notice. Hence he asks his fans to politely ask Dharma Productions, to allow him to do Dear Zindagi’s trailer reaction. His reaction is pretty understandable since he has done this for hundreds of movies, yet he gets a notice only for ADHM!

While Jaby was clueless, some Ajay Devgn fans were prompt to suggest that this had something to with Jaby’s positive reaction to Shivaay’s trailer. So is this what a victim of “censorship” Karan Johar does to other artistes? We hope Dharma Productions don’t sue us for using their movie’s poster!

Bihar students blast media for focusing only on caste in school beating case

MUZAFFARPUR: A few days back a video of some students of Kendriya Vidyalaya Gannipur mercilessly beating up a fellow student had gone viral. NDTV carried an article by the victim student where he claimed that he was beaten up as he was a Dalit and because he was getting good grades.

The incident made national news with Union HRD Minister Prakash Javdekar taking cognizance of the situation and promising action against those responsible and helping the victim. As a result, around twenty teachers of that school were transferred and the principal was suspended by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (managing body of the chain of schools).

The school saw visits by many politicians including senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who claimed that Dalits were not safe in Bihar. Local administration too swung into action and a case under the SC/ST act was filed, making arrest of the principal a possibility.

Now these developments have sent other students and their parents into state of panic. With exams around the corner, they fear that the mass transfer of teachers and suspension of the principal could adversely affect their future. Already classes have been suspended in the school ever since the case got nationwide attention.

Some students have now come out in support of the principal and are blaming politicians and media for the current situation. A video showing some angry girls from the school has gone viral where these girls can be heard condemning the violence against the student, but finding it troublesome that only caste was made the focus by the media and then by the politicians.

One girl in the beginning of the video claims that she herself is a Dalit but didn’t face any discrimination in the school, while another girl, angrily, asks media to stop focusing entirely on caste:

Those accused of beating up the student have been arrested and sent to remand homes as they were juveniles. Reports suggest that these juvenile offenders had a history of indulging in such violence in the school. Even their father is an accused in a murder case and currently lodged in jail.

This surely puts the school administration in question as to why these guys were not taken to task earlier if they had a history of such acts. Did the teachers fear retribution or were they being irresponsible? However, it also suggests that caste could not be the only reason for the criminal behavior by these goons.

Nonetheless, the case exposes many flaws in our education system – how schools are not safe from bullies, how outsider and political intervention can upset normal functioning of schools, and how media and politicians should be extra careful when dealing with issues that can impact young lives.

The curious case of Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta’s joint venture

The Print founders Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta
Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta

In the beginning of this year, senior journalist Shekhar Gupta of the coup story fame and controversial journalist Barkha Dutt of Radia tapes fame announced launch of The Print – a news media startup. They tweeted almost the same thing while making the announcement:

There was much excitement – mostly from Mr. Gupta and Ms. Dutt themselves and their fans – about this new venture that was another in a series of news media startups that followed ventures like leftist propaganda blog Scroll, its not-for-profit clone The Wire, AAP mouthpiece Janta Ka Reporter, and Patrika group’s Catch News that was led by Shoma Chaudhary of Tarun Tejpal fame.

In individual capacities, both Mr. Gupta and Ms. Dutt had taken interesting professional decisions before this announcement was made public. Mr. Gupta had “restructured” his relationship with India Today group, which he had joined after quitting The Indian Express, in a way that allowed him to form his own venture, while Barkha Dutt had done the same with respect to NDTV.

With their announcements coming on heels of such career decisions, it was assumed that The Print was their joint-venture. However, company records told a different story. Shekhar Gupta had formed a company called Mediascape where Barkha Dutt was not publicly listed as a director even six months after the announcement, while Shekhar Gupta was not listed as a director in a company formed by Barkha Dutt.

OpIndia.com checked the public records of all the companies where either Shekhar Gupta or Barkha Dutt were listed as directors, and found that none of these companies had both of them listed together as directors. The only place where both of them were listed together as co-founders was the bio or tweets of Twitter account of The Print.

However, the bio of The Print on Twitter was changed in July this year, and Barkha Dutt’s name was removed as co-founder.

This happened at a time when Barkha Dutt was involved in yet another controversy where Pakistan based terrorist Hafiz Sayeed had praised her for “doing good work in Kashmir”. She was also involved in a war of words with Arnab Goswami at the same time, lobbying with fellow journalists to attack Arnab.

People online wondered if this was the reason Barkha Dutt’s name was removed. Was Shekhar Gupta trying to disassociate himself from Barkha Dutt after she was praised by a terrorist?

Once such questions were asked by many on the social media, Barkha Dutt’s name was added back as co-founder within a day by The Print:

As always, these two media personalities, who love to ask questions to others, chose to ignore the questions about why Barkha Dutt’s name was removed in first place.

Now around 10 weeks later, Barkha Dutt’s name has gone missing from The Print’s bio on Twitter again. We noticed it after The Print actively started promoting its flagship event Off The Cuff with industrialist Mukesh Ambani.

In the invite for the Off The Cuff event with Mukesh Ambani, Barkha’s name as a co-host was missing, though her company “Barkha Dutt Live Media” was mentioned as being in alliance along with 5 other brands.

Not only Barkha Dutt’s name was missing, but Barkha herself was missing from the event, as confirmed by herself:

Also notable is the fact that while The Print and Shekhar Gupta have been advertising the interview with Mukesh Ambani almost non-stop on Twitter, Barkha Dutt hasn’t sent out a single tweet, except the one above, about it, let alone advertising it (at the time of writing this report, which is five days after the event got over).

Maybe because Mukesh Ambani said he likes to watch Arnab Goswami at prime time?

Or maybe because Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt have parted ways and are no longer partners in The Print? If so, what caused this rift? Did Barkha leave voluntarily or was she asked to leave due to continuous controversies surrounding her?

We got in touch with The Print both on Twitter as well as through email on Tuesday and waited for their response for 4 days. We sent reminders too, but we received no response. We will update this report if we receive a response.

In absence of any response, we conclude three things:

  1. For some reason, The Print doesn’t want to disclose who owns the brand legally.
  2. Removal of Barkha Dutt’s name as co-founder, twice since inception, indicates that something is not working between Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt.
  3. Our celebrity journalists love to ask questions, but hate to answer them.

Varun Gandhi’s alleged Honey-trap, Karma and the UP elections

The year is 1978. Jagjivan Ram, the then Defence Minister in the Janata Party government, was a powerful opponent of Indira Gandhi, whose party had just lost the elections. It was said that Ram even had a chance of becoming the first ever Dalit Prime Minister.

On the other side we had Maneka Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Indira, and the editor of a magazine named “Surya”. In a case of political vendetta, explicit pictures of Jagjivan Ram’s son Suresh Ram, in a compromising position with a 21-year-old Delhi University student, were splashed across the centrespread of the magazine.

Cut to the present, Maneka Gandhi must be praying to the heavens hoping that there is no Surya Magazine in present times.

Maneka’s son Varun Gandhi is at the centre of a controversy over allegations that he had leaked defence secrets to controversial arms dealer Abhishek Verma. It has been alleged that Verma “blackmailed” Gandhi, who was a member of the defence consultative committee, into sharing sensitive information on crucial military deals.

US-based C Edmonds Allen, an international arms dealer and lawyer, whose earlier complaints had led to investigation of arms dealer Abhishek Verma, has written to the PMO that Varun Gandhi has been “honey trapped and compromised” by Verma. Allen’s letter is said to be accompanied by a compact disc containing hundreds of intimate photos of Gandhi, collected since 2002.

Varun on his part has squarely denied the claims, for lack of any evidence, and has threatened a law-suit for defamation. He claims to have met Abhishek Verma only during his post-graduation days in 2002, and not after that.

Through a public letter to citizens, Varun has further claimed that he “never attended a single meeting of the Defence Consultative Committee” and thus he neither sought nor possessed any information or knowledge of any sensitive information. He also denies meeting Allen ever, and claims that the letter could be a publicity stunt by Allen. He doesn’t mention the pictures or the issue of being honey-trapped in the letter, but calls the claim of him being blackmailed as ludicrous.

As far as the pictures are concerned, they are indeed highly explicit, and we can’t publish them. Allen has claimed that these pictures were authentic and not digitally or otherwise tampered. They do appear authentic, but this should be left to forensic experts, which is why we are not publishing them.

However, we can talk about it for sure. In the pictures accessed by OpIndia.com, Varun Gandhi looks inebriated, to say the least, and in compromising position with a female. In some pictures, his eyes even seem closed. This is crucial since the pictures seem to have been clicked by a third person, using a high resolution camera. Remember, these pictures are from more than 10 years ago, when selfies weren’t a thing nor were sex-tapes to be released online.

So from the photos, some questions arise: Was Gandhi heavily under the influence of some drugs or intoxicants? Does this explain why his eyes seem closed? Does this also explain why he “allowed” a third person to click pictures of him in compromising positions? Was he indeed a victim of blackmailing but chose not to go to police about it?

Whatever the case maybe, Varun is in a soup. What makes matters worse for him is that even BJP has instructed its spokespersons not to defend him. They have either kept mum or have said they wouldn’t like to compromise with national security.

With the Uttar Pradesh elections coming up, this episode can act as a blessing in disguise for BJP. Varun Gandhi has been pushing the BJP to annoint him as the CM candidate of UP. Just a few days before BJP’s national executive meeting in Allahabad in June this year, massive hoardings came up urging BJP to press for Varun as the CM candidate. The posters had Varun’s face juxtaposed with those of Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

Varun’s mother Maneka Gandhi too has been engaged in some war-fare with BJP. In a move to back her son for UP CM’s post, Maneka tried is alleged to have moved some pawns to defame Smriti Irani, the other contender in the UP CM race. Coupled with the fact that Maneka tried to team up with an abusive journalist known to do hit-jobs on RSS and BJP, she and her son were losing popular support among core BJP supporters.

How will BJP play this episode is yet to be seen. Will they play the silent game and let things move as per the media narrative? Or will they go for the jugular and severe ties with the other Gandhi parivar? Will we see a situation where a Gandhi searching for another political party, may end up joining a party, desperately searching another Gandhi?

Is someone at JNU planning Rohith Vemula part 2?

Najeeb Ahmad, an MSc student at JNU reportedly got into a scuffle with some fellow students in his hostel room and went missing since October 15. JNUSU and his family members have since blamed ABVP for his “abduction”. JNUSU, continuing with its revolutionary ways, then proceeded to confine the Vice Chancellor of JNU to his admin block as part of their protests.

What everyone in the media and the left wanted to portray as a open and shut case of ABVP assaulting Najeeb Ahmad and the latter disappearing, has now been called out thanks to ex-JNU student and columnist Abhinav Prakash. The alternative narrative came to light when Abhinav Prakash visited the campus to find out more about the affair.

No involvement of ABVP in the Najeeb Ahmad episode

Abhinav’s findings show that ABVP was nowhere in the picture. It was Najeeb who first assaulted three fellow hostel mates, who were campaigning for the hostel election for the post of mess secretary. It is alleged that Najeeb got infuriated when he saw one of the students wearing ‘sacred thread’ and there was no provocation from the campaigning students.

The accusation that Najeeb slapped a student without provocation is corroborated by copies of the minutes of the meeting held between the warden and the students, on the night of the event:

Minutes of the meeting
Minutes of the meeting

The minutes clearly show that Najeeb accepted that he slapped the people who came to his room, without provocation. He made this confession in front of his room-mate Quasim and the hostel President Alimuddin, amongst others including the senior warden.

Two of those assaulted by Najeeb were Dalits, but the hostel warden, himself a Dalit, allegedly prevented the use of Prevention of Atrocities against SC/ST act against Najeeb. Najeeb was then asked to vacate his hostel room by the warden. Najeeb admitted his fault and agreed to leave the hostel within a week, and that should have been the end of the story.

There were also reports of Najeeb exhibiting strange behaviour and his roommate Quasim (one of the signatories in the above minutes of the meeting) even asking for a change of room as he feared Najeeb and his behaviour.

Irked by the warden’s stand and the fact that Najeeb had to accept his mistake, the left started putting pressure on hostel president Alimuddin to get the earlier resolution changed. When the president didn’t oblige, some of these students started whipping up communal sentiments by accusing Alimuddin of betraying the ‘Qaum’ (community).

Then Najeeb suddenly disappeared. And the incidents of that night were given a new twist. Students belonging to the left organisations started claiming that Najeeb was virtually “lynched by a mob” that night. Questions remain that if such a serious violence against Najeeb did happen, why did the minutes, signed by the President of JNUSU who belongs to one such organisation, not mention that? Was Najeeb taken so some hospital? Why was no FIR filed? These questions remain unanswered.

Despite circumstantial evidences not backing them, the new narrative was built by these left leaning student organisations, ably assisted by the mainstream media, where Najeeb was painted as a victim and the students who were slapped by him were painted as aggressors. News reports further suggested that Najeeb had been “abducted” by some people, pointing fingers at ABVP.

According to his mother, Najeeb had called her up at 2 AM following that night’s incidents to tell her about the fight he had, which prompted her to rush to JNU from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh. She also talked to him at 11 AM when she reached Anand Vihar in Delhi, and Najeeb confirmed that he was in his hostel room. Later he was not found there when his mother reached JNU at around 12.30 PM. He had left his mobile phone in his hostel room. If left is to be believed, a student was abducted in broad day light around noon.

Apart from the claim of abduction sounding preposterous, eye witnesses state that Najeeb had actually left campus the next day in an auto-rickshaw on his own. A CCTV footage of this incident would have proved or disproved this claim, just as minutes of the meeting prove what happened that night, but JNU has no CCTV cameras installed. When the administration proposed so, whole of JNU had protested against their installation as they didn’t want the ‘state’ monitoring their fiefdom.

Intimidation and threats

The chain of events doesn’t stop here. Now violent elements are threatening students of JNU who are going against the narrative. Ex-Joint Secretary of JNUSU and ABVP activist Saurabh Sharma who posted the copies of the minutes on Facebook to defend his organisation being dragged into the incident, is now getting death threats. A letter from Jahangirpuri sent by some ‘Sahid Khan’ says that “he will find and cut” Sharma into pieces and that “he will burn down the entire ABVP and the other students of JNU”.

Threats
Threats

Even the hostel president Alimuddin took to social media and complained of being harassed by some groups. The hostel where it all happened – Mahi-Mandavi hostel – is being branded a “Sanghi hostel” by the left student groups.

A larger game at play

So why did all this happen? Was Najeeb the sole person responsible for it? Apparently no.

It is feared that many parties to create a Rohith Vemula kind of a situation again, with Najeeb Ahmad as the scapegoat, with someone else pulling the strings. Whether Najeeb became a part of it voluntarily or involuntarily is not known yet.

But whatever may be the case, the controversy has again put JNU in news with a narrative that ‘our campuses are not safe’ blaming a particular ideology. This will continue to grow in days to come, before the truth comes out, if it ever does.

Tolerance vs Mutual respect – How India should treat its immigration policy

The Government of India is considering a few amendments in regards to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The government has already set up a joint committee of parliamentarians who are examining the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which will look into the matter of granting Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from our neighbouring countries who have been living in India for a minimum period of six years. You can check The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 here (pdf link).

There have already been a few articles that have discussed this matter. There was an article in the Times of India that was critical of this move by the government. There have been a couple of other pieces in Swarajya magazine – here and here – that have given a slightly more contrarian and nuanced view of the same.

Whom do we let in to stay with us in our country has never been an easy issue to tackle. The 1st issue that we will have to tackle in a secular democratic republic like India would be that the basic premise of the Bill violates the fundamental constitutional principle of treating each individual as a separate entity, as it appears to equate citizenship with specific religions only.

Immigration has been an issue a major portion of the world is struggling with. Whether it’s Europe, USA or India, immigration is an extremely touchy issue. Who do we let in? What can be considered a valid process of granting people asylum in any country? In fact, what should be the larger immigration policy of any country irrespective of whether it is an asylum seeker or an economic migrant?

But does compassion mean one becomes stupid and lets anyone in without any formal process? What should be the basic philosophy or ideology behind an immigration process? How do we go about vetting the people we want to let into our society beyond the economic/education parameters.

I believe immigration policies should be shaped on the principle of “Mutual Respect” which was proposed by Rajiv Malhotra in his book Being Different. Every country/society/group has a grand narrative. In the case of the group of people that live together in the entity named India our grand narrative is a pluralistic value system, which has come out of a wide range of decentralized open Dharmic Darshanas. It is this plural Dharmic value system that has let people of all denominations in from time immemorial.

Now the critics of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 say that this bill is discriminatory. But is that really the case? Take the case of Pakistan for example. Can we say that people who follow a very rigid/exclusivist/expansionist faith system like Salafi Islam merge into a pluralistic secular democratic society like India? We just have to look at the way Hindus, Christians and Sikhs have been treated in Pakistan.

For that matter what has been the trend when it comes to Hindus/Atheists in Bangladesh? A cursory look at the numbers in both these countries clearly indicates that Hindus and other minorities are being persecuted and their numbers have been declining consistently. They are either converted forcefully or murdered. In such a scenario how can anyone in their right mind object to letting in these persecuted minorities in India? Also, how can anyone who is in their senses say that we should let in the butchers of these very people into India along with them because a society cannot be selective in its choice of people it wants to let in?

If we allow people with such rigid mindsets in our society, we just create more fissures in our society. Indian Islam is already under threat from Salafi extremism. Why do we want to self inflict even more pain?

Also, as a Nireshvara (atheist), I feel letting such people in is a direct threat to my existence. Just look at the numbers provided in the Pew polls that cover Pakistan and Bangladesh. A significant chunk of the population in those two countries believes that the punishment for apostasy and blasphemy should be death. A significant majority of citizens in these countries want religious laws to govern every aspect of their life. Are these beliefs compatible with a secular democratic republic like India? How can we use secularism and democracy to let a set of people in who are completely against those very set of values that we value and cherish so much?

Anyone who comes into India should pass the test of “mutual respect”. Mere “tolerance” is not enough anymore. If India’s larger narrative is that all paths are equally valid then anyone coming inside India should be asked what they think about this inherent value system of India. Immigration has to be a tool not just to help the persecuted. It should also see to it that fault lines aren’t created in the society.

Will a practicing Salafi Muslim say that idol worship/atheism are fine? If it isn’t fine, what does he/she think ought to be done about it? Should we let in people who think atheists or idol worshippers ought to be killed? If an immigration policy leads to ghettoisation is that policy sound?

Demography matters. If some people believe that individuals carrying beliefs that are antithetical to ours will suddenly come and change those beliefs, I’m sorry, those people are extremely naive. Maybe they have been listening to John Lenon’s song “Imagine” a little too much.

Systems based on “tolerance” will fail. Western societies are based on tolerance. Just see what’s happening there right now. Every society has to graduate from tolerance to mutual respect. And people who refuse to do that, well, they can stay where they are.

Just because a few left leaning politicians and activists have a death wish it does not mean everyone has to die. Wanting to stay alive is a basic human instinct. Why bring such people over here? What purpose does it solve?

I am not saying that we stop being humanitarian. But one can only be humanitarian if one stays alive! And while no one wants to say, it the fact of the matter is that when a society gets to a point where the quotient of Islamists increase, it leads to a significant increase in violence, terrorism and all sorts of other problems.

Wherever Salafi Islam enters, there are violent clashes. Islam that is practiced in its current form in Pakistan & Bangladesh is incompatible with pluralism of India. Stats don’t lie. If Salafi Islam is plural why are the Hindu numbers in Pakistan and Bangladesh dwindling? Also have we forgotten Kashmir?

Immigration can’t become a tool where you inflict wounds upon yourself. India as a country has to be selective in its immigration policies. It should only let in people who believe in “mutual respect”.

What I am trying to do is to say something that has been discussed in our drawing rooms for many years. I have no intention of stereotyping all Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh. I am sure there are a lot of good folks amongst them. I am not someone who has hatred in his heart. But tell me one simple thing, when you look at the stats in those Pew polls don’t you get worried?

I will end this article by quoting a small excerpt of a speech given by a gentleman called Salim Mansur to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in Canada. You can check the full text of the speech here.

“If the level of immigration in Canada is being maintained and defended on the basis of the need to deal with the problems of Canadian society in terms of aging population, fertility rates among Canadian women, skilled labour requirements, and maintaining a growth level for the population consistent with the growth of the economy, then this policy needs to be re-evaluated. We cannot fix the social problems of Canadian society by an open immigration policy that adds to the numbers at a rate that puts into question the absorptive capacity of the country, not only in economic terms, but also, if not more importantly, in cultural and social terms, and what this does to our political arrangement as a liberal democracy.

The flow of immigration into Canada from around the world, and in particular the flow from Muslim countries, means a pouring in of numbers into a liberal society of people from cultures at best non-liberal. But we know through our studies and observation that the illiberal mix of cultures poses one of the greatest dilemmas and an unprecedented challenge to liberal societies such as ours, when there is no demand placed on immigrants any longer to assimilate into the founding liberal values of the country to which they have immigrated. Instead, a misguided and thoroughly wrong-headed policy of multiculturalism encourages the opposite.”

Goa Elections Part 2: A look at the opposition and the probable outcome

In the first part of analysing the Goa elections, we looked at the BJP’s standing in Goa. But BJP’s future cannot be looked at in isolation, without considering its opponents. This part will cover that aspect and by the end of the post, we would get a birds eye view of the current scenario, and also what one can expect in the upcoming elections:

Coming to the opposition, the Congress continues to be the main opposition party. In many ways, the national political scenario mimics what happens in Goa. Before the current BJP Government came to power, Goa was ruled by the Congress Government, which oversaw the biggest scam Goa has ever seen: The mining scam. The CM was more of a compromise candidate, who allowed his ministers to have a free run. BJP’s 2012 campaign was very person centric, focused around Parrikar. The result was BJP getting an absolute majority for the very first time. The Congress was routed and managed to get just 9 MLAs out of 40. This is very much like what happened in 2014 at the centre. But the Congress is in even bigger trouble in Goa.

1 out of the 9 MLAs is officially with the Congress, but he has been openly batting for BJP, has a post in the current Government, and is lining up for a BJP ticket in the upcoming elections. Another MLA has been expelled for 6 years for anti-party activities. His wife, continues to be in Congress, but since her husband, who is the real influencer is out, she may follow suit. That brings down the effective Congress tally to 6. Factor in 2 more Congress MLAs who are rumoured to be moving to BJP’s alliance partner MGP. All-in-all, a dismal scenario.

One of the major reasons for this downfall of Congress is the severe infighting. There are around half-a-dozen former CMs in the Congress party, who are mostly no longer MLAs, forming the old guard, all of whom would like to revitalise their careers. There is also the younger group, most of whom are MLAs, and are unhappy with the machinations of the old guard.

The public though largely continues to see Congress as a corrupt party which destroyed Goa. Sure, there maybe some who would go back to the Congress having tried BJP last time, but the Congress is overall in pretty bad shape.

Then we have around 5 MLAs who won as independents or as part of a regional party. Micky Pacheco’s Goa Vikas Party (GVP), which fought the last elections with BJP’s support and won 2 seats, has now gone anti-BJP, but Pacheco is having trouble managing his other MLA itself, who may contest with BJP’s support. GVP’s fortunes are on the downfall. 2 more independents have formed another regional party called Goa Forward Party (GFP), with their only ideology being that of occupying the anti-BJP space. The main leader of GFP is an ex-Congressman and is said to still influence the Congress High Command at the centre.

GFP has been hankering for a Mahagathbandhan with Congress and NCP, but Congress has been unyielding to the demands of the likes of GFP. Although they are playing hardball now, one expects, as elections draw closer, at least these 3 parties will have an explicit or implicit alliance. Or else they may all find it very difficult to survive since all of them are vying for broadly the same voter base.

Finally we have AAP which has self-declared itself as the winner of Goa. This was based on a survey done by a little known firm in Goa, which gave AAP 35% of the voteshare, but still managed to show the BJP combine as the single largest entity. The findings of the poll have been disputed as being self-contradictory by many experts, but AAP has cherry-picked the most favourable metric and splashed it all over Goa.

Having said that, AAP is the first party to have gotten into campaign mode, with their door-to-door campaigning. AAP’s stock was sky high a few weeks ago, but has come down considerably after AAP’s implosion at Delhi, and even further after Kejriwal’s comments on surgical strikes. The problem AAP faces is that the people in AAP currently represent an assorted set of individuals with no common ideology. Some come from the background of pro-Marathi lobby, while the party is trying to woo the Christian voters, who will never vote for such people.

This is not to say AAP is completely devoid of leaders. Recently Elvis Gomes, a bureaucrat, quit his Government post to join AAP. Hi enjoys a clean image, and could very well be the CM face. Another tall leader is Dr Oscar Rebello, who has been involved in various civil society movements in the past, although he is unlikely to contest elections. The other leader though are either imports from diverse backgrounds or unknown quantities. AAP’s views on major prickly issues which face Goa are also unknown, the common refrain being “the people will decide”.

The difficulty in analysing AAP is no-one is sure about their real on the ground influence. Their main voter base will obviously be a chunk of the Congress votes, largely Christians, while trying to wean away a portion of the Hindus as well. AAP’s success or failure depends entirely on how many votes can they pull away from the Congress: Will it be a Delhi 2013 repeat where BJP emerged as the largest party as AAP broke into Congress’s votebank? Or will it be a Delhi 2015 scenario where AAP steals almost the entire voter base of Congress leaving the Congress destroyed?

Delhi 2015 will be unlikely because Goa is not Delhi. Goan demographics are skewed with Christians touching almost 85% in some constituencies in the sub-district Salcete, which has 7 constituencies and where on an average Christians make up 54% of the voters. The scene is dramatically opposite in the rest of Goa, where they make up just 26% of the population on an average, falling to 7% in a few seats. Hence even a Delhi 2015 like consolidation of the Christian vote towards AAP will have a bearing only in a few constituencies.

So to sum up: BJP has weakened since 2012, MGP looks to get stronger. Congress is tottering and will need a Mahagathbandan with NCP and GFP to manage to put up a fight. AAP is an unknown quantity. So what will happen? There have been five opinion polls in Goa till now:

The predictions
The predictions

All of them point to the BJP-MGP combine being the leaders. While the numbers are debatable, the fact is this: the opposition to the BJP is utterly fractured. Even if the Mahagathbandhan takes shape, there is the AAP which will eat some of its votes. In fact AAP may eat into the anti-BJP votes and help BJP win a few seats where it came second last time around. But if the voters decisively swerve to AAP, then AAP may wrest these seats.

As of today, certainly BJP has it neck ahead, mainly because of the There-Is-No-Alternative (TINA) factor. Even in other states we have seen that BJP has performed well against Congress but stutters against a strong regional force. The regional parties in Goa have influence in just 3-4 constituencies hence are not a force to reckon with. Only AAP could prove to be a challenger, but for that they need to ensure the utter demolition of the Congress, and to gain any critical mass, they have to spread their influence beyond the Christian belt, which seems unlikely.

While Goa will lose out in national coverage thanks to Uttar Pradesh and the other northern state elections, the temperatures are surely going to soar here.

Good news! Now you can see tweets of a person who has blocked you

In one of the last major “enhancements” in user experience, Twitter had made it virtually impossible for logged-in users to read tweets of someone who had blocked them.

While earlier it meant that the person who had blocked you will not receive any notifications from you, the newer enhancement meant that you just could not see his or her timeline or tweet at all.

When you, logged into Twitter, visited the profile of the person who had blocked you, or when you clicked any tweet link shared by someone else, you got the message saying “You are blocked from following @XYZ and viewing @XYZ’s Tweets.”

It became especially irritating and frustrating when a third person quoted the tweet of someone who had blocked you. You could read the comment (the quote) but were left clueless about the original tweet, in response of which the comment was made.

This often led to people saying “screenshot please” to the person who had quoted the tweet of someone who had blocked you. Not everyone was going to oblige with this request for obvious reasons.

But now there is a solution to it. Some people are going to love it and some are going to hate it. But you can’t ignore this solution!

The solution, available in shape of a browser extension, has been developed by Ravi Kiran – an IT professional who calls himself “part-time web developer full time troller” – and is currently available for the Chrome browser.

Ravi had earlier created a Twitter bot @helpunmask. Logged-in users, whether using an app or a browser, needed to tag this bot account and use specific hashtags to see tweet of someone who had blocked them. But now things are far easier when you are on desktop.

All you need is to download and add this extension (please click here if you are currently on a Chrome browser), enable it, and refresh or restart your browser. You should be seeing the Twitter bird flying out of cage on the top of your browser.

Helpunmask - helping you see tweets of people who have blocked you
The sign of freedom!

Viola! You are uncaged. You are unblocked. You are free.

Download and enable the extension, go to the timeline of someone who had blocked you, you can now see all the tweets! You can also see quoted tweets and don’t need to say “screenshot please!”

All good, yeah? But don’t troll! 😉

When Bengal burned, media closed its eyes, apparently to ‘maintain peace’

About 40 kms from Kolkata lies the town of Naihati – the birthplace of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, the author of India’s national song Vande Mataram.

Apart from being famous for being home to eminent Bengalis, Naihati which has been known well known for its Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Chhat Puja, houses a substantial Muslim population along with Hindustanis (second generation Bihari migrants who settled there).

The town has been relatively event free with both the Hindu and the Muslim communities coexisting throughout the years. My two househelps – Bina (Hindu) & Ruksar (Muslim) both hail from there.

I was getting ready for office on Friday last week after the long holidays following Durga Puja and Muharram when I discovered that Bina hadn’t turned up, without notice, and Ruksar who did, seemed visibly shaken. On the previous day, both had not turned up, without notice again, so my mother was angry at the sudden absences.

On inquiring, with great reluctance Ruksar narrated of extreme violence and riot like situation in Naihati – the scale of which was unprecedented in the locality.

As Ruksar narrated, I was dumbstruck. It happened on Wednesday eve the day of Vijaya Dashami, which happened to coincide with Muharram. Procession of Durga Visarjan as well as Muharram Taziya  were parallely taking place on the streets. It started with the Muslims who were partaking in the Taziya procession being irked by the noise surrounding the Durga immersion.

They apparently let their anger known and demanded the noise be lowered, however in the revelry none of the Hindus obliged. Following this, one of the firecrackers being burst by the Hindu procession landed on the Taziya accidentally and led to it being burnt.

What followed was pandemonium with Muslims gathering en mass, taking out swords and not only beheading the Durga idol but pillaging the whole Visarjan procession. Large scale violence broke out allover parts of the town mainly around Hazinagar with clashes between both the communities.

As I listened, I felt numb. The incident of Kaliachak riots in the beginning of this year flashed before my eyes.

More so I was perplexed at how to take the news, for a violence of this scale would surely be covered by the local media which incidentally didn’t.

I looked hard at all the local news outlets I could find but found no such news. On the contrary, in its Sunday edition, Anandabazaar Patrika – the leading Bengali Daily – published a story of  communal harmony in North 24 Parganas district to which Naihati coincidentally belongs. It eulogized how Muslims partook in Durga Visarjan and Hindu ladies would help dressing up Muslim kids for Taziya procession. It couldn’t be farther from the truth which I later found out.

The only news which seemed to corroborate the incidents I found were tweets in the social media from various accounts. Later, both the opposition parties, BJP and CPM – on either ends of the ideological divide – confirmed the violence and mayhem.

So something was wrong, but still, nothing by the media, either local or Delhi based. So I had to rely on social media for news.

The Hindu Samiti let by Mr. Tapan Ghosh let out a series of picture and video evidence of a not only a violence marred Naihati but to my horror a series of communal incidents on similar lines allover Bengal – Kharagpur, Malda, Birbhum, etc. The story was the same. The Hindus bore most of the brunt. So much so, peaceful Hindus were attacked during Lakshmi Puja on Saturday for and while following their customs. Add to that, there were claims that the police was not helping.

I was still skeptical at the veracity of the news. As we have often on social media, news of this extreme kind can turn out to be untrue.

But I wondered what stops media from reporting the truth and thus stop any guesswork and possible mischief in shape of rumormongering?

On Sunday evening a friend who came over incidentally initiated conversation about violence hit Bengal. He’s closely associated with the media so I asked him about this silence by media. He told me how media took “conscious decision” to black out violence “lest riots break out in mass scale” – a statement which perplexed my already befuddled brain. Wouldn’t focusing on an event lead to action and ultimately ensure it stopping?

Perhaps this is what they refer to as “moral compass” – where they manipulate facts and incidents to suit what they think is in public interest. For me, it was not in public interest to keep mum when such atrocities were happening. This is running away from responsibility. This is shoddy journalism. In fact, this is cowardice and helping the criminal – by closing your eyes when a crime is being committed.

My friend further claimed that not only to “maintain peace”, journalists didn’t speak out as many of them feared retribution from the ruling party in West Bengal. I found this explanation a bit more believable than the moral compass argument. Because many non-media professionals too, who did get the news through various outlets like Twitter and WhatsApp, chose to largely remain silent, perhaps under fear of the administration?

Nonetheless, the social media didn’t remain silent, and some outlets, which can’t be considered part of the mainstream media, did publish some reports about violence in other parts of West Bengal. Truth was still elusive.

When a visibly shaken Bina finally turned up three days later on Monday, she narrated how Hindu families were most affected by the violence that peaked during the weekend. Homes were barged in, women and children were raped, houses were ransacked. She was so scared that along with her children, she had moved to town to stay in her parent’s house to only return on Sunday eve.

Amidst this, the Hindus in Naihati having suffered majority of the brunt and suffered the humiliation of their idols being beheaded, had taken calls to take down a local Masjid. This threatened to make things worse, and finally it prompted the local administration, which was watching “helplessly” hitherto, to finally call in the military on Sunday. This led to the violence halting after additional imposition of section 144.

Finally on Monday, corroborating the whole Naihati violence, The Indian Express published a news report. However, to suit their narrative, they changed the accidental firecracker to “low intensity bombs”, hinting that it was deliberately hurled at Taziya to trigger the violence. Nonetheless, the mainstream media was finally reporting about the violence.

The show hosted by Rohit Sardana not only mentioned the news of the scathing observations of Calcutta High Court in its 6th October judgment overruling state government’s imposition of ban on Durga immersion the same days as Muharram (the court called it appeasement) but also investigative reports of widespread violence in Bengal during Durga visarjan compounded by state admin’s apathy. Some of these reports suggested state admin’s direct role in inciting violence. You can watch the entire show here.

So what most right thinking Bengalis fear nowadays, has finally came true – Bengal has become a tinderbox of communal violence, and situation is getting worse with certain sections acting with impunity. They derive this impudence and confidence by the politics of appeasement and because the media prefers to maintain silence when they wield their might.

Instead of reporting the violence which could be otherwise stopped at the earliest due to the focus, the fourth pillar of democracy chose to be a mute spectator. Sometimes I wonder, does the media choose to stay silent because it really feared further violence or they do it so that when they finally report, the truth has been tampered with to suit a particular narrative? Like accidentally strayed firecrackers becoming deliberately hurled bombs.

The real sufferers amidst all these are the people of this great land of Bengal – the land of the likes of Tagore, Vidyasagar, Nazrul, and Vivekananda. Uderneath a mask of secularism is a state going on a road to perdition.

Anurag Kashyap reveals female journo’s mobile number on Facebook, journo gets harassed by trolls

Maverick Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap just cant set a foot right. Yesterday, in a bizarre attempt to draw publicity to his friend Karan Johar’s movie, he tried to drag Prime Minister Modi into the troubles Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is facing from some film associations. The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association (COEA) had requested its members to stop screening any movies related to Pakistani artistes. This would obviously hit Johar’s movie. So for some reason, for this internal feud between Bollywood, Kashyap dragged in the Prime Minister, only to get slammed on social media.

Today he has once again landed in a soup, and worse, caused extreme harassment to a female journalist. The story goes like this: a young female journalist with CNN News 18 was trying her best to get Kashyap to talk to her on the controversy. Kashyap in his typical manner rudely rebuffed her. The journalist was in fact trying to allow him make his side clear. But Kashyap claimed he wasn’t at home.

And he wasn’t done with just attacking someone doing their job. In his frustration, he took to Facebook and posted a screenshot of the conversation he had with the woman. While posting a private chat is itself not very correct, he did not even bother to blur or cover sensitive personal information like the personal number of the female journalist:

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Private information blurred by OpIndia.com

No sooner did Kashyap post this information on his Facebook page, which his fans follow, the said journalist’s nightmarish ordeal began. Her colleagues took to Twitter to reveal that ever since Kashyap irresponsibly poster her number on Facebook, the journalist was getting harassed by SMS and calls:

Another colleague made an even more shocking revelation: The harassers were calling from Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Syria!

It is shocking that a celebrity like Kashyap could endanger the safety of a female journalist like this just because he didn’t want to talk to her. Worse, how does he explain harassing calls from places like Pakistan and Syria, when the information was only posted on his page which ideally should be catering to Indian fans. Kashyap later deleted the post.

Talking about the incident Prabal Pratap Singh, Consulting Editor of the national news channel said: “Anurag has deleted the post from his Facebook account, but we still want an apology from his end. My legal team is looking into the matter as to what action we should take.”

Brouhaha over nothing: Why security cover to Arnab is justified

The news of Arnab Goswami, editor- in-chief of Times Now and popular anchor of the show The Newshour, getting threat based Y-security cover was received with much brouhaha on the internet; especially from the detractors of Arnab as shown in OpIndia’s article here.

One might feel the questioning to be justified. More so in this era of questioning VVIP treatment for eminent persons – a campaign Arnab himself has often spearheaded.

However, when the treatment comes on the heels of terrorism, every argument gets negated.

The Issue

Arnab Goswami’s show on Times Now has often taken a hawkish stand on Pakistan as opposed to their counterparts. For years media counterparts like NDTV and their journalists like Barkha Dutt have sung the tunes that has found resonance with the Pakistan’s establishment. So much so that Pakistan’s top terror head Hafeez Saeed had even openly endorsed her.

Following the Uri attacks by Pakistan and Surgical strikes by India in response, the nationalist stand of Arnab not only touched a chord with the audience – as reflected by the surge in his viewership – but also made him a target of the Pakistan backed groups. Arnab and his channel have exposed the atrocities in Balochistan by the Pakistani army too, making him a subject of hate.

It should be recalled that Times Now reporters have earlier been attacked in Kashmir, much before the current phase of violence erupted. Arnab is almost synonymous with Times Now, so such physical attacks on him can’t be ruled out.

On the above account, reports that Arnab has threat from Pak based terror outfits should come as no surprise.

On the particular issue of government providing security cover:

Logically speaking

Many would ask if the security cover is justified, and why Arnab himself could not pay for his own private security?

The logical explanation to that will be if a gun wielding terrorist does attack Arnab, a private security personnel with a single bore weapon would not by any means provide adequate protection. Moreover, the threat perception was as per IB inputs. It would be laughable to think  that IB could coordinate with private security over incoming intel. It’s a matter of national security and secrecy.

For this very reason, highly trained government security would be the right choice.

Legally speaking

Now those who’re still not convinced with the argument above, there’s a lesser known legal angle to this.

There exists many levels of security in our country, the highest being SPG (Special Protection Group). Along with the SPG, there are others including Z+, Z, Y etc in decreasing order of threat perception level.

While the SPG security is governed by the Special Protection Group Act, 1988, the rest of the security protocols are decided by the IB, MHA, SSC and the State gogovernments.

As can be seen in the case of Narendra Singh vs The State Of Bihar & Ors on 28 June, 2016, the court stated the following:

In contra, the counsel for the State has submitted that no person can claim as a matter of right a security cover of specified category. Such protection or security cover is provided if the SSC on appraisal of current threat perception finds the person a protected person and makes recommendation. The committee after making such recommendation reviews the cases on periodical basis to analyze the justification for continuing with the security cover provided to the protected person and/or for increase or decrease of the security cover of the protected person.

This shows Arnab didn’t “opt” for security cover, but was assigned by the Government.

The judgment further adds:

Although the protected person is an individual /citizen but the office he holds or the social or political responsibilities he discharges is a relevant consideration in grant of Security Cover to the protected person at the cost of the State.

It has to be noted that there has to be a concrete intelligence – credible and serious – input for the IB to give Arnab this security. Moreover the government is obligated to do so based on Article 21 of our constitution as quoted by the Judgment in J.Jayalalithaa vs The State Of Tamil Nadu on 9 June, 2008.

Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949:

Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

The court further added:

Therefore, the Security Review Committee ought to assess the grade and scale of security to be provided to a protectee considering the variable factors, as and when found necessary. The quantum and quality of security cannot remain stagnant or stale, and if they do, it cannot match the devilish designs of the disruptive forces, both from within the country and from alien shores. It is a highly disturbing trend worldwide that such evil forces are adept at using ingenious and innovative devices, to trigger large scale catastrophe and havoc, causing untold sorrow and terrible tragedies. In order to match such terrifying terrorism the nations of the world and their Governments have to upgrade their preparedness and firepower to forestall such events in future. No one can rest when such clandestine and cruel minds are at work to destroy peace, harmony and tranquility in our societies.

In tandem with the judgments and Article 21, the government is obligated to serve Arnab based on a concrete threat, and anyone is free to challenge it in court too.

On the point of paying through taxpayer’s money

There still remains the question of paying for additional security cover from the taxpayer’s money. While in earlier cases like that of Z+ security cover provided for Mukesh Ambani, Mr. Ambani paid from his pocket, it is yet to be known if Arnab does the same.

In conclusion

In the lieu of an existent threat, the security cover is justified. If the threat level rises or drops, who knows Arnab may get upgraded to Z security also or get demoted to Y category respectively as had happened in MS Dhoni’s case. Or it could be completely removed as threats are assessed and reviewed periodically on a regular basis.

(This article was written with inputs from @muglikar_ and @delhi_lawyer)

Goa Elections Part 1: Analysing BJP’s prospects

If you happen to visit Goa, and if you do not see a single poster saying “AAP winning Goa”, then your lifetime’s supply of beer is on me. Jokes and jokers apart, which way will Goa swing in the upcoming elections? A detailed analysis will hopefully give us a picture of the ground reality as it stands.

Lets start with the BJP, which is in power with it’s pre-poll alliance partner of 2012 Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP). BJP has 21 MLAs giving it the absolute majority in a house of 40, while the MGP has 3 MLAs.

The biggest news surrounding Goa BJP is that Goa is the first state where the RSS split ranks with BJP. The fact though is that only a section of the RSS split and has formed a party called Goa Surakhsa Manch (GSM), with only one stated objective of “protecting Indian languages namely Marathi and Konkani” and in the process hurting BJP as much as possible.

This rebellion itself is a mystery. Publicly the story is this: The erstwhile Congress regime gave Government grants to schools which had English as the Medium of Instruction (MOI), which led to a large number of schools switching over to English. This got the goat of the RSS and Indian language lovers, and they led an agitation back then, called the “Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch” (BBSM). This was backed by Parrikar, the then opposition leader, who promised to scrap this rule if he came to power.

He did come back to power, but instead of scrapping the rule, the BJP Government chose to “freeze” the situation, not allowing any more English medium schools to get grants. The rationale was that any U-Turn would be playing with the future of thousands of children if the policy was altered within just 2-3 years. While BBSM was not fully happy, they remained silent. In fact, the leader of GSM and former RSS chief Subhash Velingkar, who led the revolt, even defended the Government’s position back then. Then what changed in 2015 which lead to an acrimonious split in 2016?

Late 2014, Parrikar moved to the centre as India’s Defence Minister, thereby leaving his bastion Panaji open. Velingkar had hoped that his yes-man from within the RSS would be chosen as the BJP candidate for the by-elections. But BJP selected Parrikar’s protege, Siddharth Kunkolienkar a young engineer and Parrikar’s right hand man as the candidate. The snub, that too in favour of someone roughly half his age was too much for Velingkar’s ego to bear. And from then on the relations began souring, which have finally led to the current scenario. The bitter verbal fight in the open, with Velingkar firing personal barbs at Parrikar are further testament to the fact that this man’s ego has been hurt, and his “principled” pro-Indian languages stand, is a mere facade.

Cutting to the chase, the GSM may eat up a small portion of the BJP’s votes, but it is expected that the proportion would not be significant enough to damage BJP in most of the seats. One also cannot rule out any overt or covert patch-up between the two by the time the elections take place.

The BJP on its part adopted an interesting strategy on this MOI issue. It would have been very easy for them to fulfil their pre-election promise of scrapping the Congress’s policy. They would have appeased their support base, but instead they chose to take the more appropriate stance, given the situation. This stance is also in favour of the Christian population in Goa, who have supported the Congress’s move. One of the reasons for BJP alone getting an absolute majority in 2012 was the backing from the Church and the Christians, and this would seem to be BJP’s way of repaying their faith.

But things couldn’t have gone worse for BJP. The script clearly was to repose the faith of the Christian community which elected an unprecedented 6 Christian BJP MLAs in 2012: A Christian was made the deputy CM in 2012 bypassing current CM Parsekar; The pro-Christian MOI policy; Hosting of events such as the Portuguese version of the Commonwealth Games for Portuguese colonies; and many more such pro-Christian decisions. But today, BJP would be lucky to have even 5% of the Christian population backing them.

The reason is between 2012 and 2017, came a 16 May 2014. Then Goa CM Parrikar, was one of the first BJP leaders to openly back Modi for PM. Ever since, it has been a downfall for BJP’s popularity amongst the Christians. Modi’s demonisation by the media since 2002 is such that the minorities just cannot reconcile to him being the PM, and their wrath is incurred upon anyone seemingly close to Modi, in this case Parrikar and by association, BJP Goa. The intolerance drama and churches under attack false narrative only added to their apprehensions. Hence, come 2017, BJP may as well say goodbye to the Christian vote.

As far as Governance is concerned, BJP has done fairly well. Infrastructure has gotten a major boost with bridges and roads being in the focus. Many of the pre-poll promises such as VAT cut on petrol, Mediclaim scheme, doles to housewives and adult girls, were fulfilled. BJP came riding on the anti-Mining-scam sentiment and as soon as he assumed power, Parrikar banned mining for 6 months, in order to clean up the mess. But the 6 months got extended to almost 3 years as activists stepped in and the Supreme Court extended the ban. During this period, Goa’s economy slumped like never before, and it is to Parrikar’s credit that even in those tough times, the state’s developmental works and schemes functioned smoothly.

The resentment among people towards BJP can be mainly attributed to 2 issues: the culprits of the above mentioned Mining scam are yet to be brought to book and the off-shore Casinos which Congress had brought into river Mandovi, are still there, although BJP had promised to get rid of them. The mining scam is being investigated by the Lokayukta hence the delay, and the Casinos have now become a revenue source for the Government, which cant be axed overnight, but such reasons may not be palatable to the voters. Hence BJP may be hampered by these issues at least marginally in the upcoming elections. Also, a certain amount of anti-incumbency is bound to set in.

Another major drawback for BJP is naturally the loss of Parrikar to the centre. All said and done, he was a cut above all other politicians in Goa. The current CM Parsekar though competent, lacks the appeal and charisma which Parrikar had, which eventually landed him the 21 MLAs in 2012. Sadly for Parsekar, he is also saddled with the baggage of not having a very dashing personality, which often makes him an object of unfair ridicule. With his able performance, he has changed people’s perception about him to an extent, but he can never hope to reach heights of Parrikar’s popularity anytime soon.

BJP’s alliance partner MGP has a very dubious distinction: By the end of this term, the party will have been in power for over 10 years at a stretch in Goa. Till 2012 it was in alliance with the Congress and then once Congress lost, with the BJP. The party thus has established itself as a free-floater in Goan politics with no ideological problems with BJP or Congress. It is basically a fiefdom of the Dhavlikar brothers duo, but of late it has become the vehicle of choice for many MLAs aspiring to be in power. Congress and Independent MLAs who would have problems joining the BJP are eyeing MGP tickets.

The MGP which won a mere 3 seats out of 40 in the last elections, now dreams of winning 8-9 seats, making the party the “king-maker” of Goa. In fact, the party’s leader has even gone on record saying he could be the next CM. The party’s relationship with the BJP is slightly strained as of now, since MGP is looking to expand at the cost of BJP in some seats. BJP has been firm on continuing its alliance with the MGP. Although MGP is playing hard to get right now, one expects BJP and MGP to patch up as elections come closer.

The major reason for this would be to avoid a split of the Hindu votes, which both BJP and MGP need. There is already the GSM which will take a small portion of these Hindu votes, and if BJP and MGP split, then it would be catastrophic for both the parties.

Speaking in terms of general sentiment or “wave”, by and large, the majority Hindu population cant be said to be under any sort of wave, either pro-BJP or anti-BJP. Things are quite different among the minorities though and there is a strong anti-BJP wave among them, unlike in 2012 when a substantial chunk went with BJP.

The 2012 Goa election results were quite similar to the performance BJP managed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And the situation BJP Goa is in the upcoming 2017 elections, might as well be what BJP may face nationally in 2019: Many core demands unfulfilled, Congress scamsters roaming free, but a decent development track record. In such a case, its important to see the strength of the opposition, which we will look at in the second part of this analysis.

Trolls and journalists make light of terror threat to Arnab Goswami

After news broke of Arnab Goswami being provided a threat based Y-category security by the government, many eminent trolls and journalists united to oppose the security cover provided to him while not sparing any thought about the threat Arnab faces from Pakistani terrorists for his reporting against them and their mother country.

The level of hatred for the editor-in-chief of Times Now was so apparent from their tweets that it almost sounded that they wished some terrorist had actually killed Arnab. Some of them tried to trend #TommyGetsSecurity on Twitter, which was disappointing as Lutyens crowd is expected to think of a more sophisticated dog name.

Here are some tweets by trolls and journalists mocking Arnab Goswam’s security concerns:

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Perhaps speaking from own experience where journalism is all about rewards for loyalty to a political group?

Maybe with security, the journalist can work more fearlessly if he doesn’t have to fear for his life? Maybe?

Own soil means on Twitter? Twitter does have a fine feature called block. Also, apparently this is not “whataboutery”.

Because why let facts come in the way of a good propaganda?

Calling Pakistan a “terrorist state” is now bigotry for trolls.

For the records, government has always provided security to non-political personalities. Tehelka journalist Anirudh Behel was provided security by the Congress government only a couple of years back. So according to the logic of these trolls and journalists, was he being rewarded for planting fake stories against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah?

Bollywood, Patriotism, and ‘BTW, Bharat Mata Ki Jai’

Scene 1

I finish my morning run and sit on a bench to catch some breath. As I close my eyes and try to meditate, my phone vibrates. Again. And again.

This is Manish, a young student of Allahabad University. Few months back when I had gone to give a lecture at Allahabad University, Manish was my local guide. Manish is a Bollywood zealot. He just can’t hear anything bad about Bollywood. Period.

Once his classmates made fun of a movie he liked, and he singlehandedly fought with them using classroom chairs, and broke his arm. He loves Bollywood. He breathes Bollywood. And he is not alone.

I am a small town man having roots in Uttar Pradesh so for me it’s very easy to understand such young men. They live in difficult conditions, struggling for everything in life and with little hope of a different future. Their lives revolve around Bollywood, cricket and politics. They fantasize films, find pride in cricket, and use politics to vent all negativity. These are the people who help filmmakers and film stars buy Ferraris. They are the consumers. They are the audience.

I was surprised to see Manish calling me at 10 AM on a Sunday morning. I took his call.

“Why is Anurag Bhaiya saying all this? Is this all true?” his voice starts to choke and then comes a long pause. “Which Anurag Bhaiya?” I try to pacify him and take the conversation forward.

He explains to me that Anurag Kashyap of Gangs Of Wasseypur fame has tweeted that Modi should apologize for meeting Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. In a series of tweets he blames Modi for the boycott of Karan Johar’s upcoming movie ADHM by a regional Single Screen Exhibitor’s Association.

I knew about all these as I’m active on Twitter, but I decided to let him speak and relieve his feelings.

“Bhaiya, what is B… T… W…?” he asks me.

“It means ‘by the way’. It is short form of writing on internet,” I explain him the new written language that is yet to penetrate the hinterland fully. There is a long pause again. “Why do you ask me?” I try to break the silence.

“Bhaiya, itni beizatti to hamari kabhi nahin hui… (I was never humiliated like this before)” he says and then he reads out Anurag’s final tweet in the series ‘Btw Bharat Mata ki Jai Sir @narendramodi’.

“By the way? Ab Bharat Mata ki Jai, by the way ho gaya?” he asks me emphatically, and in the same breath he adds, “Bhaiya, kya aap logon ko koi paise de raha hai ye sab bolne ke liye (is someone giving you guys money to say all this rubbish)?”

He chokes and disconnects.

I kept sitting on the bench for a long time wondering why is he blaming me for someone else’s tweets? Why is he accusing me for being sold out against India? Am I answerable for Anurag Kashyap’s tweets?

People see Bollywood as one entity. They perceive it as one mindset. If one star says something, they tend to believe that everyone in the industry is of the same view. Exactly like when some irrelevant Sadhu or Sadhvi makes a stupid remark and the entire media starts blaming BJP and Modi.

In good times, all Bollywood stars and filmmakers talk about the fraternity as if it’s one big happy family. When everyone tweets exceptionally good things about one bad film or when everyone defends a sin of a member, any outsider would believe that everyone is united in good and bad times. The façade that Bollywood has created around it is taken for the reality.

If a Manish believes that I am answerable for Anurag’s personal tweets, he is not at fault, for the entire industry stood up to support Anurag when Udta Punjab was stuck with censors. Perhaps I was the first person from the industry to tweet in his support.

What Manish doesn’t understand that at that time it was about the freedom of expression – a principle – but this time it’s about India – a nation, an idea. It’s about a latent war that has been unleashed by the enemy. It’s about survival. It’s about morality. It’s about loyalty. And what he fails to understand is that everyone’s idea of morality or loyalty is different, and it evolves from his personal experience and agenda in life.

Therefore, I can’t speak on behalf of Anurag. But what hurts me is that we have collectively brought our morality to such level that a young boy from Allahabad – a Bollywood militant willing to give his life for Bollywood – is questioning our integrity.

For him, it’s impossible to fathom that in this moment of national crisis how can anyone not stand up for the nation’s interest, and instead try to defend Pakistani artists who refused to condemn Uri attack?

Like I said earlier, he loves Bollywood. He breathes Bollywood. For him any word from his heroes is the final word. This is the power of Bollywood.

It’s unfortunate that some heroes undervalue this power. Sometimes one selfish tweet can short-circuit this power. No one can help Bollywood when its own people damage it.

Let’s not forget that like every Ram needs a Hanuman to become Ram, Bollywood needs Manish. We need to understand his sentiments.

He wants his heroes to protect what is dear to him – his country. He wants to put pressure on Pakistan to stop this latent war, but he can’t see Bollywood willing to do that. When he sees us failing to do so, he deduces that we are sold out.

There are some symbols he respects, and in such times he would like his heroes to respect those symbols too. And ‘Bharat Mata’ is one such symbol. If we think Manish is being too sensitive, we can’t communicate to him by disrespecting the symbols he loves and respects, and make him even more sensitive.

I am sad to acknowledge that we have failed to respect Manish who helps us make our movies. And mansions. And cricket teams. He is Bharat.

Therefore, Anurag when you say “BTW, Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, you are insulting his symbols, you are insulting him. You are insulting your own audience.

Scene 2

Today is the election day for my housing society. Once in 5 years all residents chose a managing committee, followed by lunch. The general profile is that of frequent flyers, upward mobile, aware and rational people. The mood is relaxed, a lot of jokes are exchanged, politics is discussed and sumptuous lunch is devoured.

I am a little late. Almost everyone is there. As soon as I enter, everyone turns towards me as if I have committed a sin and entered a convent. “Sir, yeh sab kyon kar rahe ho aap log (why are you guys doing this)?” one of the most aware members asks me. “When the film industry has boycotted the film why are you blaming the PM?” another member shoots.

I realize Anurag Kashyap is trending everywhere. If Manish is on one end of supposedly unaware India, these people are on the other end. But their sentiments about Bollywood are the same. At both ends of this spectrum, people doubt Bollywood’s integrity.

I live with these people. They should know that I am an outcast after making an anti-left film in ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’. They should know that when my film was boycotted at JNU, when I was attacked at Jadavpur University, when my film wasn’t getting a release, when critics were killing the film without even seeing it, when friends of Indie champions were conspiring to kill the film before its release, nobody from the industry stood up to support the film. Despite that, they blame me for Anurag’s tweets.

“Why are you guys defending Pakistani actors instead of supporting our soldiers? Why can’t you people say that you stand for India? Why can’t KJo ask his actors to condemn terrorism? Why are they dragging PM in it? Why are you asking Modi to apologize for Lahore visit? Do you have any idea about diplomacy? Foreign policy? Do you think soldiers are our servants? Can’t your industry give a simple statement in the respect of our soldiers? On one hand you guys say that artists have nothing to do with the politics and on the other hand you play dirty politics with these tweets? Is money everything? Will you stoop so low for money that you start hating India?”

All kind of questions flow from all directions. They are blinded by anger. And frustration. And disgust. For Bollywood’s lack of patriotism.

I try to to explain to them and cool the tempers down by saying that IMPAA has banned Pakistani artists for patriotic reasons. That Exhibitors association has refused to screen films with Pakistani artists for patriotic reasons.

“No, that’s not true!” a disgruntled member says, “Bollywood is not buckling under ‘patriotic’ pressure, but it’s pure business decision. They fear damage to their property from gunda elements of Raj Thackrey’s MNS.”

I see logic in his argument. It’s not just MNS, and it’ not just Mumbai. And it’s not just the risk of physical injury. It’s the power of economic boycott, which has been being used by a new breed of evocative young Indians of late. They have called for boycott of movies and brands earlier, and recently their call for boycott of Chinese goods has shown impact on markets.

Ironically, this power of boycott was shown by the same elite class that now looks down upon this new breed. Their own strategy has been copied, only that the style and subtlety is missing a bit. Just like a Literature Festival used to keep away from some authors in order to not anger ‘liberal’ authors, distributors are now keeping away from certain kinds of films in order to not anger this new breed?

I am further forced to see the hypocrisy and opportunism of Bollywood. When big multiplex chains refuse to screen small films (which is as good as a boycott or ban) why isn’t there such hullabaloo? Because they fear the ‘Gangs of Bollywood’.

Do they love cinema or just ‘their’ cinema? The gang has systematically crushed talent and promoted mediocrity. What is the reason that some of our best directors and writers are sitting at home with no work? Is it possible in any other industry for such immense talent with amazing work record to remain unemployed? And then we are getting people from Pakistan.

The gang has systematically eliminated Indian talent from Indian cinema. The gang has killed the common man from the common man’s medium. The gang has corrupted the industry beyond words and siphoned off the monies by creating coteries and writing RIP on many studios and individual producer’s graves.

Everyone fears their unreasonable might. Everyone wants to please them. Either by remaining silent or by tweeting in the gang’s interest – in their film’s praise. They have their own brand of politics. For them to say that artists should be kept away from politics is like a pickpocket saying that he should be kept away from wallets.

The reason the gang doesn’t stand in support of India is that it doesn’t know what is India. It doesn’t know who are these ‘so called’ Indians. What they want? What they feel? Manish is an alien to them. A troll to them.

But whenever a gang has reached this point of limbo, the doom is certain. Boycott, either by an association or the audience, is just the beginning of a certain end.

Scene 3

I sit alone in a dark room, all alone, wondering if I ever wanted to belong to an industry which says ‘BTW, Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.

An old song of Rajesh Khanna plays in the background ‘Yeh public hai, yeh sab janti hai.’

***

(Vivek Agnihotri is a filmmaker, columnist, and a motivational speaker. He tweets @vivekagnihotri)

Anurag Kashyap gets slammed for furthering false anti-Modi narrative on social media

Don’t blame it on the sunshine. Don’t blame it on the moonlight. Don’t blame it on the good times. Blame it on the boogie“, goes the classic song by The Jacksons from the 70s. To make this song relevant in today’s world, we just have to replace the word “boogie” with “Modi”.

There has been a lot of debate recently on media and social media, about India’s engagement levels with Pakistan. Pakistan sponsored terrorists have been constantly attacking India in the past few weeks. The Uri attack which saw 18 of our soldiers martyred was the start, and ever since, multiple attempts have been made by terrorists to cause more damage, but our armed forces have foiled such attacks.

In the backdrop of this, calls have come from many sections of society to completely isolate Pakistan. The Government of India has acted on the Military, Political and Diplomatic fronts, since it is completely within the purview of the state. The cultural angle is where there has been some debate. One side feels Pakistani artistes should be isolated, not only because they are Pakistani, but also because they refused to condemn the Uri attacks. The rest feel artistes are a separate class of people beyond such issues. There is also the argument that Pakistan should be hit economically as well, which is why many people have started movements such as #BoycottChineseGoods, and even movies which indirectly benefit Pakistani citizens.

Even as the above debate was going on,  the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association (COEA) announced that it has requested its members to no longer screen films starring Pakistani artistes, including actors and music directors. This will hit Karan Johar’s upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, starring Fawad Khan among others.

The Government on its part has not issued any order against Pakistani artistes or movies featuring them. The Home Ministry in fact has said categorically that the Government has no problem giving VISAs to Pakistani artistes. “Modi-chamcha” Pahlaj Nihalani attacked COEA for their decision, and “Modi-controlled” Censor Board cleared Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. But inspite of all of this, Director Anurag Kashyap chose twitter to vent out his frustrations at PM Modi:

Social media users found these messages highly stupid and idiotic. Many said that how would addressing the PM help if a Bollywood Industry body had taken the step. Many also highlighted how Kashyap had lost the plot by recalling a peace-time friendly gesture, but not acknowledging the most recent surgical strikes authorised by India on Pakistan:

If Kashyap feels so strongly about this ban, he should probably take the COEA to court. Its time the on-screen maverick displays some real life bravado against his own fraternity, instead of dragging unrelated people to score political points.

One also wonders why so much outrage over the “request” of an association of single screen cinema owners to their members to stop playing movies involving Pakistanis. Firstly, its only a “request” which many may flout and secondly Ae Dil Hai Mushkil doesnt seem like a movie for the single screen crowd. Is this another publicity stunt, as this person pointed out?

Any new movie of @anuragkashyap72 coming out now? Poor chap seems to have run out of marketing budget. https://t.co/NHaqzZ9p0R

— Arnold’s Soundness (@brakoo) October 16, 2016

Only time will tell if this move by Kashyap may hurt prospects of ADHM even more, since Modi fans may choose to boycott this movie too, as Kashyap has made this issue needlessly political.

Man thrown out by Arnab was a radical ex-ACP accused of sheltering rioters

Shamsher Khan Pathan has now been etched in Social Media folklore as the guy who was thrown out by Arnab Goswami for having a loud and aggressive attitude against women and his condescending and radical remarks. More specifically, he was thrown out of Arnab’s show because of his suggestion that the female muslim panelists should try issuing a triple-talaq to their husbands and see what happens.

As it turns out, this was not his first brush with controversy. Shamsher Khan Pathan had floated the Avam Vikas Party which was one of the outfits present at the infamous protest at Azad Maidan Mumbai back in 2012. This protest culminating with 2 people losing their lives, 55 people including 45 police officers getting injured and the Amar Jyoti Javan Memorial present there getting desecrated.

The shocking part is, Mr Pathan is himself Former Assistant Commissioner of Police. Comsidering he has seen the police force inside out, one would have imagined that the group he leads would not have resorted to attacking cops. We can only wonder as to what Mr Pathan felt about the injury and loss of property of his ex-colleagues.

Worse, Mr Pathan was asked by the Mumbai police to vacate his Government owned house for sheltering the Azad Maidan rioters. The Dongri Police report stated that right from the day of his retirement, the retired cop was conducting political activities from the house, which belongs to the government. Further, on August 11, the day of the riots, more than a dozen rioters had visited Pathan’s house and stayed there for a few hours

Not just that, in another case Mr Shamsher and his supporters were booked for rioting and obstructing a public servant in duty. They were supposedly protesting that Mr Shamsher’s medically unfit goats which were to be sacrificed for Bakri-Id weren’t being given proper care.

Had this been a small time activist or neta, no one would have batted an eyelid but this man served in the police force and rose as high up as the Assistant Commissioner of Police. When you assume such a high office, your opinion and actions matters and you are able to take and influence key decisions. With such radical religious opinions and misogynistic outlook one wonders as to would he have been able to take sound unbiased critical decisions which would have influenced the lives of both women and people whose religious views are in conflict with Mr Shamsher’s.

The Hindu blames Hindu groups only for a conference stopped by various groups

White-washing by The Hindu
The left-leaning newspaper blames the entire fiasco on Hindutva while making no mention of other political and religious groups involved in protests.

A conference of atheists was supposed to take place in Vrindavan yesterday, but the conference had to be called off after there were protests by local residents belonging to various groups.

The two day conference titled “Aeinwein Masti With Nastik Friends” was being organized by a person named Swami Balendu, but it attracted opposition and protests after Balendu’s views on religions were published in local newspapers on the day the event was supposed to be flagged off.

Local newspapers quoted Balendu as saying that public places of worship were in reality personal places of indulgence of religious leaders. He reportedly said that all holy books like the Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, or Guru Granth Sahib were tools to spread superstition and people should keep away from them. He further termed these books as work of fiction and source of entertainment.

Reports suggest that once these views were published in newspapers, many local leaders declared their opposition to the event and vowed to stop it.

Speaking to Amar Ujala newspaper, Imam of Mathura Darwaza Jama Masjid Mohammad Umar Qadri claimed that Balendu had lost his mental balance and that his statement could spread frenzy in the country. Manager of local Gurudwara was also quoted as condemning Balendu’s statement. Muslim groups too submitted an ultimatum to the local administration against the planned event, according to Nai Duniya.

On Friday, a crowd made of up members of various organizations assembled and demanded cancellation of the event. They burnt the effigy of Balendu and shouted slogans against him.

Amar Ujala and Nai Duniya reported that the crowd comprised of local Congress leader, BJP leader, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Samajwadi party leaders, Hindu leaders, and some Muslim leaders who confronted the organizers of the event. According to Dainik Jagran, this crowd was joined by some estranged relatives of Balendu too, who accused Balendu’s brother of harassing his wife.

With tensions rising, local administration asked Balendu to cancel the event and issue an apology to the aggrieved parties. As per Amar Ujala, Balendu did as suggested by the administration and police, but a watered down version of the event still took place on Friday night.

So this is how it happened:

  1. A rather unknown atheist event came into the knowledge of locals after media coverage
  2. Locals belonging to various religious and political groups opposed the event
  3. The event was cancelled, but a small gathering of atheists still took place

And this is how The Hindu reported it:

White-washing by The Hindu
The left-leaning newspaper blames the entire fiasco on Hindutva while making no mention of other political and religious groups involved in protests.

Nowhere in the report by the left-leaning newspaper it is mentioned that those opposing the meeting/conference were also from non-Hindu religious groups or non-Hindutva political groups. That is The Hindu for you.

At the same time, these so-called Hindutva groups should chill a bit about “atheism”.

Talk about Dalits, reach out to Modi haters, use Media – Pakistan’s new Kashmir policy

In wake of Modi government’s diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan coupled with surgical strikes by the army, Pakistan is working out a new strategy to counter India. A committee consisting of members of the Pakistani senate has come out with a report that has some tactical suggestions for the government of Pakistan.

OpIndia.com has in its possession the aforementioned report i.e. the policy document adopted by the committee constituted to guide Pakistan Government on “policy guidelines in view of the latest situation developing between India and Pakistan.” A detailed analysis of this document (pdf link) throws some interesting insights.

Background of the Committee

The Senate of Pakistan is like an “Upper House” which gives equal representation to all federation units of the state and is constituted by elected Members. Members represent Pakistani people and are expected to “defend and promote national interests.” On 22nd July 2016 this legislating body had passed a unanimous resolution condemning the killing of Burhan Wani and atrocities by Indian Army.

The 13 member Committee was formed vide a resolution dated 26th September 2016 i.e. after the Uri Attack. On 29th September 2016 the Committee was briefed by none less than Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Defense along with Secretary Defense and Sartaj Aziz, Advisor Foreign Affairs. On 4th October the Committee adopted the policy document unanimously.

Recommended policy to counter India

The policy paper starts with repeating usual rhetoric about Indian excesses in Kashmir, but it appears to be conceding that Pakistan has been cornered and isolated by India in recent weeks.

The paper declares that the stand taken by the current Indian government has been the most aggressive by any government since 1971, when both the countries went to war over independence of Bangladesh. It also expresses concern over the fact that Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka decided not to attend the SAARC summit, and expectedly, blames India for it.

But most interesting aspect is the kind of steps it suggests the government of Pakistan to take to counter India’s efforts of pressurizing and isolating Pakistan.

These are some of those recommended steps:

  1. The policy calls for a Media Coordination Committee with select Journalists as members to “counter Indian propaganda” and specifically promote a media strategy.
  2. It calls for periodical briefings of foreign media and optimal use of social media.
  3. It calls for setting up a “soft power office” (Aman ki Asha?) to highlight cultural and economic outputs.
  4. The policy stresses on the need to hire International lobbyists and strategic communication firms to “change global narrative”.
  5. The Policy document calls for highlighting the “fault-lines” in the Indian society. They specifically mention Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits as “alienated” sections about whom narrative should be built.
  6. The Policy also calls to target Modi and RSS ideology, and suggests reaching out to those in India who are “opposed to Modi’s extremism”. Policy specifically talks about reaching out to people in Political parties, Media, and Civil Society.

There are total of 22 points that further repeats old policies like building a Kashmir narrative where extremism is entirely blamed on India marginalizing the Kashmiri youth, and to tell USA that Pakistan won’t be able to help in US “war on terror” if India continues to engage it along its eastern borders.

However, the 5th and 6th points in this article show that what was once a covert strategy to create “fault-lines” within India is now an overt and open state policy of the Pakistan government, where they are seeking help from elements of the Indian society.

Sign of things to come

It seems Pakistan won’t need to try too hard as some sections in the Indian society are already doing what the policy would want them to do.

For example, the mainstream media ran a series of “attack on church” stories, most of which turned out to be fake or exaggerated, but it highlighted a “fault line” as desired by policy document. Similarly, the editorial policy of many Indian newspapers to mention castes of victim or perpetrator even if the crime is not caste related, is doing what the Pakistan’s policy documents suggests.

The Kashmir narrative where a youth is just frustrated by lack of jobs and government apathy is also a popular narrative being peddled by many in the Indian media. Such journalists sidestep the issue of Islamic radicalization that is being trigged by Pakistan’s agencies and other global events.

And instead of Pakistan reaching out to Modi haters, politicians like Manishankar Aiyar themselves have reached out to Pakistani and said “remove Modi and bring us”. Recently Arvind Kejriwal too got support from Pakistan over his comments on surgical strikes.

It almost appears that Pakistani senate came up with the policy after observing the conduct of Indian media and some politicians. Or maybe that was the “beta testing” of the policy before the document was made public?

Nonetheless, implementation of these strategies is now a public stated policy which will be backed by steps like hiring international lobbyists, as the policy document declares. This means that a lot of money is also on offer for those who are willing to help Pakistan in implementing this policy i.e. any more Ghulam Nabi Fais will be created.

So next time you are exposed to a narrative that sounds aligned to what Pakistan considers a part of its strategy to counter India, do make a little effort to find out if the journalist/activist/organization was chasing the “truth” or chasing the lobbying money.

This is why bodies like Muslim Personal Law Board oppose Uniform Civil Code

One of the oft-repeated arguments put forward against Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is that this is against the fundamental right to practice one’s religion. It is argued that the act of the state to legislate in matters, which ought to be governed through religious texts, is an attack on religious freedom.

Outwardly it might appear so, but in practice, UCC doesn’t take away any religious freedom. Yes, it takes away the rights of religious bodies to control a group – and that’s why those who fancy themselves as representatives or leaders of a religion are opposing it – but it doesn’t strip an individual his freedom to follow certain religious practices or rules.

Let’s first understand the issues involved in layman language to understand this important difference.

The laws of a nation can be broadly divided into two types – criminal laws and civil laws.

Criminal laws, as the name suggests, deal with issues related to crime e.g. theft, murder, violence, economic fraud, harassment, etc. while civil laws deal with issues such as marriage, inheritance, adoption, maintenance, divorce, etc. there are some issues that are covered under both e.g. defamation and domestic violence.

An act of crime is often seen not just as an offense against an individual, but as an offense against the society as a whole – as it disturbs public order – which is why the criminal law is common for everyone.

However, a civil wrong is often seen as a matter between two individuals or groups. Yes, such wrongs can also be seen as a wrong against the society e.g. a matter of divorce could be seen as a matter pertaining to the larger issue of status of women in a society, but in legal terms, civil wrongs are treated differently than criminal offenses.

Another crucial difference is – a civil wrong is legally actionable only when an aggrieved party seeks a remedy, while a criminal offense is deemed to be committed the moment such an act is carried out by someone, whether or not there is any complainant.

For example, if there is a murder in the neighborhood and nobody knows the victim, the state will still investigate it and try to deliver justice, but if a son has voluntarily given up share in his dad’s property, the state won’t intervene and ensure a ‘fair’ inheritance.

Understanding it in the context of Uniform Civil Code, let’s assume that there is a civil law (part of UCC, which by the way could be a series of amendments or legislation, instead of being one single act) which states that retired parents have the right to get minimum 5% of the monthly salary from their grown up children as maintenance for their old age.

There is a person X who feels that he has enough retirement funds and he doesn’t need such maintenance from his son or daughter. The state, or a third party, can’t force X or his children in this case to execute the provisions of the law.

Now assume that there is a religion Y that says that it’s a sin for a person to take money from his or her children. Technically, the civil law (UCC) has given X the right to commit this sin – and thus the custodians of religion Y will call the civil law “anti-Y” and an attack on their faith – but in practice, it doesn’t force the followers of Y to commit the sin.

If the person X is religious, he will not exercise his right to get money from his children even if his retirement funds deplete. He will not see himself as an aggrieved party due to his religious beliefs. Thus despite the civil law that contravenes his faith, he will have all the freedom to follow his faith.

Now for whatever reasons – whether X is a bit less religious or he is in dire need of money – if X decides to exercise his right, and commits a sin in the eyes of religious leaders of Y, he can’t be stopped or punished from committing this sin.

And this is where Uniform Civil Code takes away the rights of a religious body. When personal laws exist, X can be stopped or punished under such laws whose interpretation and implementation are often controlled by these bodies. This power of controlling lives of people is taken away from such bodies if UCC come into effect replacing personal laws.

Yes, it all depends upon how the Uniform Civil Code is drafted, but the default position in most civil cases is a third party or the state not having the locus standi to intervene on behalf of the aggrieved party. In essence, UCC doesn’t take away the individual rights to practice one’s religion, even when the code may appear to be in conflict with the religious beliefs, as is explained in the example above.

It gives the citizens some ‘secular rights’, which they may or may not exercise depending upon their religious beliefs or their religiousness. If a religious body is not comfortable with the idea of allowing varying levels of religiosity to adherents of the religion, it will feel threatened, and which is why they are the most vocal in opposing UCC, terming it a “war” on religious rights.

The problem with ‘reforms must come from within among minorities’ argument

Last week, the government took a stand in the Supreme Court against triple talaq, arguing that such practices were regressive and needed reconsideration. Around the same time, the Law Commission of India issued an appeal (pdf link) seeking public consultation on the issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

This has once again opened up the debate on religious rights of minority groups, especially Muslims, versus overall reform and progression in the society. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has declared that the entire debate was “fraud” and that UCC was not good for the country, while some Muslim clerics have claimed that the government’s stand on triple talaq was “anti-Islamic”.

On the other hand, some activists and organizations like Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan have welcomed the government’s stand on triple talaq, though not all of them have explicitly supported the idea of implementing UCC.

The debate is going on and political parties too have jumped into it, but one set of people who are keeping safe is the group that is pretty active on other occasions when some activism can be taken up – the self-proclaimed liberals.

The soliciting of public view on UCC by the law commission would have been a perfect opportunity to show one’s activism, but unfortunately that zeal missing. OpIndia.com contributor Ashutosh Muglikar was among those few ones who tried to make people aware of this appeal by law commission. He created an online friendly form to help people send in their views to the commission.

When explicitly asked about their views on UCC, most of these liberal-secular people would have the following argument to offer – I support reforms, and I agree that some of these regressive religious practices should go, but we should be careful not to impose our views on the minorities. The reform should come from within.

For example, look at this response by Malini Parthasarathy, former Editor of the left-leaning newspaper The Hindu:

Now at first sight, this appears a compassionate, balanced and ‘secular’ response, but this argument – let reforms come from within – has inherent flaws and risks.

First of all, it reduces the question of reform and rights e.g. women rights to “us versus them” issue. The same set of people claim to be fighting against this reductionism on other occasions, but on the question of UCC, suddenly they are part of “us the majority”? In fact, this is a form of communalism, where you suddenly start feeling yourself as part of the majority Hindu crowd when asked to comment on UCC!

Secondly, it gives out a message as if legislation in India is decided by some majoritarian brute force. It’s true that law making is a function of being in majority, but there are enough checks and balances in our constitution and legal system to ensure that this doesn’t turn into majoritarianism. Expressing an opinion on UCC doesn’t mean that the popular opinion becomes the law tomorrow. You were just asked about your opinion, not asked to vote in a referendum! So why is this fear of expressing an opinion without adding a caveat?

And thirdly, and perhaps the most sinister risk, is that when you say that reforms must come from within a group, you are encouraging that particular group to draw strict boundaries to define who is “within”. So the moment someone asks for reforms that are unpopular within the group, he or she is declared an outsider and pushed out of the boundary. Voila! Now that voice is no longer from within.

We have seen how Muslim clerics declare someone a non-believer for not agreeing with their strict interpretations. Commentators like Taslima Nasreen or Tarek Fatah, who insist that Shariat is not good even for the Muslim society, are often branded kaafirs or even Sanghis. This insistence that ‘reforms must come from within’ will only encourage the communities to closely guard what’s within and throw out those asking for change.

It’s time to throw away this political correctness out of window and not hide behind ‘reforms must come from within’ argument.

Man who spread fake story about gau-rakshaks says he did it because he hates Hindus

MUMBAI: Barun Kashyap, a creative director with a production house, had made headlines a couple of months back when he claimed that he was abused and threatened by some gau-rakshaks (cow protectors) after they mistook his bag as made of cow leather.

He wrote about his experience in a Facebook post, which was made popular on social media by self-declared liberal activists and some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders who vouched for the 24-year-old executive being the “gentlest, most soft spoken kid”.

His version of the story was reported by the mainstream media as gospel truth, and there were usual commentary about how there was “rising intolerance” in India and how “right wing” elements were making India a “Hindu Taliban”.

However, on social media, people challenged Barun’s narrative. In his Facebook post, he had mentioned that he noted down the auto number (vehicle registration number) as well as the mobile number of the auto driver. People also asked him if he took any pictures from his mobile. They asked him to make those public so that his claims could be cross verified.

the deleted Facebook post
The original Facebook post, which was later deleted by Barun Kashyap, and which the police has now found out to be fabricated to defame Hindus.

But instead of providing those details, Barun deleted the Facebook post itself. Though by then, the media had made his story viral. Even the Chief Minister of Maharashtra was made aware of the case and he promised police action to punish the culprits i.e. the gau-rakshaks.

Earlier this month, on 2nd October, after police investigated the case, it turned out that the culprits were not some gau-rakshaks but Barun Kashyap himself, who allegedly made up this entire story to create some news and gain some popularity.

Police informed that the CCTV footage of the area and Barun’s mobile locations didn’t match the story claimed by the “creative” director. Even the vehicle registration number provided by Barun and the sketch of the auto-driver didn’t match any real auto or person after talking to about 180 auto drivers in that region. Police declared that they were treating Barun as suspect after their initial findings.

This made Barun see red and he took the help of AAP leaders. On the official Facebook page of AAP Mumbai, a fresh statement of Barun was published, where he accused the Mumbai police of pressurizing him.

A close look at Barun’s statement shared by AAP reveals that it contains information that was different from his original post – which he had deleted – perhaps to “explain” the preliminary findings of police investigations, which had made his claim dubious.

For example, in his new post, Barun claims that the auto number was not in readable state and was written in Marathi, a language he doesn’t know. Similarly he claims that the mobile number provided by the auto driver – which he didn’t share despite people asking for it – turned out to be fake.

He also claims that his mobile phone was in his bag switched off all the time while he was bullied by the gau-rakshaks. Perhaps this new information is supposed to explain why his mobile location didn’t match his original story, and why he didn’t take any pictures.

Apart from these, in his new post shared by AAP, Barun makes no mention of any temple where these gau-rakshaks, wearing red tilak, were supposed to be sitting and smoking – as claimed in his original Facebook post – before they were summoned by this auto-driver.

Despite AAP leaders like Priti Sharma Menon shielding him and providing him moral and legal support, police took Barun Kashyap in custody on 4th October for further investigations. And now it has come to light that Barun has accepted that he made up the story. And apparently he did so, because he hates Hindus.

“I lied because have hatred towards Hindus.” Barun is quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.

Barun Kashyap has been has been booked under section 153A (promoting enmity between groups) and 182B (for use of lawful power of a public servant to injure or annoy any person) of the Indian Penal Code and is currently lodged in Arthur Road jail. Due to AAP leaders figuring in this incident again and again, Police is also investigating if there was any political conspiracy behind the whole story.

BJP worker killed in hometown of Kerala CM, who had allegedly supported such killings

Violent attacks and killings of RSS and BJP workers have increased ever since the Left front government took charge in Kerala in May 2016, and the situation doesn’t seem to be improving. Barely four days after BJP President Amit Shah shared the news of a young BJP worker named Vishnu being hacked to death, comes the news of another BJP worker named Ramith being killed in Kerala.

The latest killing has taken place in Kannur district, from where the current Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hails. The district is notorious for left-wing terror and has been termed as India’s ‘political murder capital’ by many commentators.

The district was in news earlier this year prior to assembly elections in Kerala for similar reasons. It had seen murder of 27-year-old RSS worker Sujith, who was earlier a member of the communist party. Like most radical groups, communists too don’t tolerate someone leaving their lines, and they retaliate through violence.

During his campaigns for assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had talked about the violence, and had highlighted the example of Sadanandan Master – a BJP candidate whose legs were hacked by communists but who dared to fight elections against them from one of the constituencies in Kannur.

In the latest case, Ramith was attacked and killed in Pinarayi town, which happens to be the hometown of the current CM. This is not the first time such tragedy has befallen on Ramith’s family. In 2002, Ramith’s father Uthaman too was killed by suspected communists.

Communists didn’t stop at murdering Ramith’s father. The following day in 2002, communists killed two more people who were returning from funeral of Uthaman. It happened to be a hartal day called to protest the killing of Uthaman.

Now in a situation that sounds eerily similar to what happened 14 years ago, BJP has called for a hartal tomorrow to protest against the killing of Ramith. One hopes that the state government will not allow a repeat of the twin killings, though it failed to stop the repeat of killing of Ramith’s father.

However, with the state ruled by a Chief Minister, who has been accused of supporting political killings, things look bleak. It should be recalled that a former colleague of Pinarayi Vijayan had claimed that the Kerala CM had asked his Kerala communists to learn the ‘art of killing’ from Bengali communists who would ‘kidnap people, bury their bodies in deep pit along with a sack of salt’.

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