Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yes! We can admire Rahul Gandhi

Yes! We can admire Rahul Gandhi

By; Salman Nizami

Rahul Gandhi has been called many things. The fact that the BJP has a full-fledged propaganda cell (with close to a thousand paid members whose only job is to belittle, besmirch and tarnish Rahul’s appeal) is reflective of the threat the ‘hyper-nationalistic’ party feels from this 40-something, soft-spoken Gandhi scion. I’m not writing this because of my association with the Congress party. I felt compelled to put down in as many words, in all my honesty, what I observed during my first-hand interaction with Rahul and his brand of politics. First things first -- the leader is positive, he is downright sincere and not the least bit bitter, given the slander and calumny he has to face from the Sangh brigade and Modi bhakts and an almost compromised media, who listen to and give space to only one man: we all know who. 

I admire Rahul for not stooping to the level of those who have slurred him as anti-national, comedian, Shahzada, less-hindu. Rahul has stayed on the high road, despite enduring an onslaught of attacks, including some that target his mother & sister. He responds to smear tactics by exposing them for the lies they are, but he does not resort to his own mud-slinging. I admire Rahul, because he refuses to play the politics of fear. We've all heard the famous Rahul's “Daro Mat 'Dont be scared'” slogan, but have we really taken the time to analyze what it actually means? Is it just some political slogan? For some of us, yes, that's pretty much all it is. However, if you look closely, you'll see a whole different meaning in those few words. To me, this slogan goes far deeper than a mere political slogan. This is what Rahul once told me. “Daro Mat” doesn't only refer to a political slogan to target the BJP government's dictatorship but rather to all the obstacles & hurdles you will come across in your life. Whatever the hardship and adversity might be, we are capable of achieving what we really want if we put our minds into it.

Rahul Gandhi suffered pains in silence. Father Rajiv Gandhi Ji, Grand mother Indira Gandhi Ji killed. But Rahul always maintained dignity. Rahul's road to the president of the INC is full of roadblocks, but he relentlessly kept pushing until he reached his position in a time when secular forces are on target by hindutva forces who are helbent to divide the nation. If there is one thing Rahul wanted us to realize, it is that perseverance is the mark of a fearless leader. He persevered where most of us would have given up after the first obstacle and this is why we admire him. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Making the other look ugly dodoesn't make you beautiful. Modi & BJP tried so many years to malign Rahul, but today people are standing by him & realising idiocy of Modi. Rahul talks about youth. All countries tht are prospering have PM's who talk about youth. Modi has time for lies only. Truth be told Rahul’s idea of India is in sheer contrast to the closed and bigoted world of the Sanghis. He aspires to live in a country that respects the diversity that God has blessed India with. Yes, it is hard to believe in a utopian world, where we love members of our society, not because of their caste or religion, but because of the fellow feeling that we are all Indians - first and foremost. If this country has to prosper and stand out in the comity of nations, if we ever dream of a society where cunning fat politicians don’t exploit us all in the name of Hindu-Muslim, dietary habits or the way we celebrate our happiness, then we shall all have to defeat the forces of darkness and chauvinism. Rahul may just be the leader to lead that all-important charge. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The deceit of Kashmir’s leadership

While the leader’s gain power, the youth of Kashmir suffers

By: Salman Nizami

If there's something in Kashmir that has not let it break free from the ghost of its troubled past, it is the bewildering politics of its local politicians who have a long history of changing their political discourse to suit their interest. When they are in power, they inch closer to New Delhi so that funds and perks flow in smoothly from the Centre's coffer. When out of power, they lean towards a covert brand of separatism, inciting the youth to press for autonomy. This not only disturbs the law and order, but also severely dents the Centre's efforts for reconciliation.
Let's face it. A section of the Kashmiris are at dispute with the Centre over some political questions. But as their participation in state and national elections suggest, they are also willing to approach these questions with an open mind and be receptive to what the Centre has to offer. Disputes over boundary or sub-national identity politics are not alien to modern nation states. History tells states can solve them over a course of time, by fousing on meaningful engagement with the people. Scotland, for example, voted to continue being a part of the UK. But Kashmir's local leaders have ensured that the pot keeps boiling there.

Unrest suits them. So long as people are in the street pressing for Kashmir solution, all that the local leadership needs to do is fan the feeling, present them as advocates of this cause, and gain at the expanse of the national parties. There is no obligation to prove merit. Look at the present Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for example. While she was the opposition leader between 2008 and 2014, she missed no opportunity to highlight the need for Kashmir cause. Her door-to-door canvassing, inciting resentment against the then coalition government of National conference and Congress in J&K, was in fact responsible why impressive schemes such as 'Umeed', envisioned by the then UPA government to generate rural livelihood in the valley, or Sadbhavana, failed to connect people to the mainstream. 

While the local leaders gain power with such negative propaganda, the youth of Kashmir suffers. The young people, indoctrinated by the pro-kashmir theatric of Kashmir's local leaders, drop out of schools. They end up as street rebels, with no hope for education or jobs. Shockingly, these leaders move on. The People's Democratic Party (of Mehbooba Mufti), for example, joined hands with the right wing BJP, a party hated in Kashmir for its exclusivism. Having attained power in an alliance with the BJP, Mehbooba Mufti even closed her eyes to the increased goondaism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the saffron party’s ideological mentor. 

The father and son from the principal opposition party in J&K is no different. When the National Conference was in power, it adopted strong arm tactics to silence the summer unrest of 2010. Now, they are touring the length and breadth of the valley, reigniting the demand for autonomy and canvassing for Pakistan's inclusion in an all round dialogue. People come under their influence easily, as they have an established network and manpower. A section of the press supports them, too. This is what I meant when I earlier used the phrase, "keep the pot boiling".  

Pakistan too has hoodwinked the Kashmiri’s through the past many decades. With a show of affection for the Kashmiris, both Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and People's Party of Pakistan, two principal mainstream parties in Pakistan, continued to win elections. In July this year, when the unrest started over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a big spectacle out of it and threatened to "expose" India at international forums, including the United Nations General Assembly. What followed was a clean sweep for the PML (N) in polls held in Pakistan administered Kashmir or what they call Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Soon thereafter, it was business as usual for Pakistan.

The Hurriyat champions popular protests in the streets. They forced people to streets, gained headlines, brushed up international connections, and finally betrayed the people by calling off strikes unilaterally. People should see through their tricks. They should see that once the protests are over, they do not even pay courtesy visits to the parents of dead children or take up the cause of those left handicapped in police repression.

People should recognise the merit of performance based politics rather than issue based politics. It is not that Kashmiris do not recognise that. Even now, among all the mayhem, the Chief ministerial tenures of Ghulam Nabi Azad and Bakshi Ghulam Mohommad, both Congress leaders, are fondly remembered since they had focused on job creation, poverty alleviation along with improving the health and education sectors. It is time Kashmiris focused on developmental politics more. 

Published in : http://www.dailyo.in/politics/jammu-kashmir-pdp-un-pakistan-mehbooba-mufti-congress-burhan-wani-rss/story/1/14713.html

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Demonetisation has failed, Modi will too

In the next two & a half years, rest of his mask will slip.

By: Salman Nizami

Have you noticed the bitterness with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been speaking at public meetings of late, including the one in Kanpur in poll bound Uttar Pradesh? The lively, interactive speeches, loaded with blunt humour, with which the PM pulled crowds have given way to scornful outbursts suggesting "I know it all" and "you know nothing" supremacism, as people question his rationale for demonetisation. Political scientists say when a leader turns bitter at his people, rebukes them for failing to laud his initiatives, and demands deference instead of offering arguments, his fall is near.

You don't need a bunch of economists or opposition leaders to tell you demonetisation has backfired. Modi and Amit Shah's demeanour tell it all. Newspapers few days back were littered with reports how Shah lost his cool when BJP's top state leaders apprised him about the seething public mood due to funds crunch. This is an illustration he and his master want to live in a make-believe world where there is all validation and no question. When rulers act so, it shows that they have not only lost the plot, but there is no option left for redemption. 

Let us quickly look at how Modi's tall talk on demonetisation fell flat soon after November 8 when it was announced. His apologists claimed that with one masterstroke, he rendered all unaccounted cash as illegal tender. In reality, almost all of the Rs 15 lakh crore cash in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 came back into the formal banking system. 

The Finance Minister, shocked at this development, gave hurried statement assuring transferring money to bank will not whiten them. The tax department will make scrupulous investigations and levy fines in fraudulent cases. Really? Thirty percent of the sanctioned 70,000 posts in the Income Tax department are lying vacant. Where is the manpower to do this mammoth scrutiny? Are there enough attorneys to take the black sheep to task? 

Understandably, the government scrambled to divert the public attention towards cashless economy, not a part of the original discourse on 8 November. But in a country where only 53% of the population has a bank account, cashless transactions is an utopian concept. 'Modi Antoniatte', a sobriquiet the PM has earned in the social media of late, remains convinced of his assertion though. 

The government claimed demonetisation will stop terror funding. The deadly Nagrota attacks of 29 November, and the Pampore ambush that followed, made mockery of this claim. Naively, the Centre told the people digitalisation will curb black money. Examples suggested otherwise. About 75% of Kenya's adult population make online transactions for all payments yet the country makes headlines for corruption. Other African countries such as Zimbabwe and Tanzania, too, score poor on transparency index despite high digital transaction.

What is further ironical, the Modi government is not even prepared to metamorphose India's economy into a cashless one. The Digital India programme is languishing. Of the 100,000 village panchayats planned to be connected to countrywide optical fibre cable network by March 2016, only 8000 have been actually connected. The target for March 2017 is a mammoth 2.5 lakh village panchayats, a day dream given the current pace.

The problem with this government is the over, over confidence of the Prime Minister. The megalomaniac PM, who created record of sorts by wearing a pin stripe suit with his name stitched 10,000 time on it in January 2015, is convinced that noise can make up for substance. His debatable achievements as Gujarat Chief Minister brought him to the limelight, as his team worked overnight to stifle voices that claimed majority of the investments he was credited to have brought to Gujarat never went beyond the paperwork. He secured the country’s top job in May 2014 riding high on a web of deceitful social media campaign in which, among the countless lies, Switzerland's roads were notoriously shown as Gujarat's roads.

But jumlas come with an expiry date. Now that he is Prime Minister, people are getting disenchanted with all talk and no show. He talked about Swachh Bharat, but the country's lanes remained littered. He talked about Namami Gange, but the holy water remained dirt filled. He talked about Yoga, but health spending was swiftly cut down. He postured about surgical strikes, but record 64 soldiers were killed in 2016, the highest in six years. 

In a stark contrast to the noisy Modi, Manmohan Singh was a doer of action. His SEZ act of 2005 stepped up foreign investment manifold. From rank 5 in mobile penetration when Vajpayee quitted office, India jumped three places by middle of Dr Singh's term and became second only to China. By expanding the budget of mid day meal and emboldening Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, UPA government ensured a giant leap in gross enrolment ratio. NREGA rained jobs. Revolutionary steps in the form of ADHAR, Land Acquisition Act, GST bill were envisaged despite BJP creating hurdles. And it may surprise many, it was UPA's Nirmal Bharat programme and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission that provided the framework for sanitation and urbanisation. When Modi talks of Swachh Bharat and Smart City, he is only reading out from UPA's books, after conveniently changing its cover.

And that sums it all. A great orator and a great lifter of ideas can create a buzz. But he cannot sustain it. In the next two and a half years, rest of his mask will slip.

Published in : http://www.dailyo.in/politics/modi-amit-shah-demonetisation-manmohan-black-money-cashless-india-nrega/story/1/14645.html

Friday, December 2, 2016

Know the past's darkness to realise the present dark forces

In An Era of Darkness, the consummate debater Shashi Tharoor recreates the British Raj with all its horrors & also puts forth the awe-inspiring struggle of the freedom fighters.

By: Salman Nizami

There wouldn't have been a more apt time for a book like An Era of Darkness to be written. Just as judges look at past precedents to arrive at a conclusion on a present case, we needed a book that told us, in such provoking style, about our past darkness, the perpetrators responsible for it, and the modus operandi they used. For we truly are fighting a darkness today. The darkness emanating from phoney nationalism. A looming darkness that, if it is not countered heads on and expunged, threatens to erode our very understanding of a nation and the values and the belief system that it should uphold.

First things first. Never before had we found ourselves in such bewilderment on vital issues relating to nationalism and patriotism. We are suddenly faced with contrasting views on what does allegiance to one's country mean, what makes one a good citizen, who are the heroes of the nation? Who are the baneful? And dangerous as it may seem, more people are falling for the wrong answers. 

We live in an era where the villain is being extolled. Where the integrity of none other than our first Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the builder of modern India, is being questioned. Where the pioneer of freedom struggle, the Congress party, is under a hate campaign of the most sinister order. In An Era of Darkness, the consummate debater Shashi Tharoor recreates the British Raj with all its horrors and also puts forth the awe-inspiring struggle of the freedom fighters. This invariably ends up giving us a clear insight of who is a dark force and who are the harbinger of hope---an insight needed pressingly when the thugs are masquerading as our saviours. 

We more or less know the British harmed us. But we may not have a full understanding of how large the scale of that oppression was. With his painstaking research, Shashi takes us to an era where our forefathers were toiling in the opium fields, our economy was being ravaged, our local businesses killed, our exports made unaffordable by levying high tarrif, and education was offered but in a limited way to produce a generation of clerks. 

We need to know this past darkness, where the Indian blood was not valued at all. With man-made famines like the one in Bengal, the British let innumerable people to die. We need to know this barbarism in order to realise the present hate campaign. We need to realise that those who do not consider every human blood to be of equal value, much like the British did not, are the unmistakable dark forces. 

Take for example the divisive forces that rule our country today. They are trying to kill our humanity. They are creating such bitterness in our hearts that there is no mass condemnation, much less uprising, against the systematic targeting of the minorities. From the killing of Pune techie Shaikh Mohasin Sadiq, allegedly by Hindu Rashtra Sena activists, barely a week after Narendra Modi took oath as Prime Minister, to the mob lynching of Mohommad Akhlaq in Dadri over rumour of beef consumption, there is a constituency of people, under apparent encouragement from the ruling party at the Centre, that is lusting to devour up the minorities. While in the context of Dadri, the saffron party's beef rhetoric is well known, Pune MP Anil Shirole of the BJP had commented upon Sadiq's death that "some amount of repercussions was natural".

Surprisingly, the public remained muted. There was not much condemnation for the BJP, which went on to win the state of Maharashtra not much long after the gruesome episode in Pune. This is happening because those who stand against humanity have covered up their vile agendas by telling the people loudly and repeatedly that they are the nationalists. Which is why Shashi's book is relevant. We need to re-understand, re-recognise the dark forces of the past, their tactics, in order to be aware of the present day's dark forces.

Shashi has so astutely exposed the divide and rule policy of the British. We needed to re-understand this again, with all its covert dimensions. For the BJP is making a never-before like attempt to communalise India and make every Hindu doubt the intentions of his Muslim brethren. Before national elections, there was "pink revolution" theatrics, before Bihar elections there was a "Pakistan will burst crackers" comment, and before Assam elections there was a massive campaign to portray bulk of the Muslims as illegal immigrants. The BJP's games are succeeding. And that is why you need to read this insightful book that tells you how a divide and rule is never the approach of a nation builder. It is the approach of the self-aggrandising forces.

Shashi's book also needs to be read to understand who is a nationalist. The BJP and the RSS will perhaps be tops if you ask the average kid who he thinks is a "desh bhakt". And those of us who know about the absolute zero contribution of the RSS, BJP's ideological fountainhead, will also know that irony just jumped from the tallest building in the street. But more people need to know that. By creating a lively description of thousands and thousands of people who sacrifised their blood for freedom, their immense pain and perseverance, their absolutely selfless and agenda-free service for the country, the long struggle of the leaders of the Congress, their unshakable resolution in the face of insurmountable hardship, Shashi's narration will make you laugh at people who pat their own backs after screaming Bharat Mata ki Jai from the comfort of Facebook or Twitter. 

Shashi's book, while it is free from any political agenda, will also tell you what a sorry state the country was in when it achieved freedom. The understanding of the 1947 penury is necessary to beat PM Modi's absolutely bogus "Congress ne 70 saal me kya kiya" dialogue which he repeats in every public address. When you know that penury, you get to also know how much effort it must have taken the Congressmen, in particular Pt Nehru, to build the country from scratch.

Shashi's book serves another useful purpose. It defeats the false narrative that Muslim rulers were necessarily tyrants. Shashi tells us while they have been outsiders, they did not drain the wealth of the country to any other foreign nation. Shashi makes a case that it was under the Muslim rulers that India's share grew up to become more than a quarter of the world's trade. May be, it will help people to stop falling for the sinister forces that continue to polarise us by repeatedly recalling "how Muslims destroyed India".

Lastly, at a time when debate has got reduced to a cacophony by Bhakts, Shashi's writing, with its expansive case studies and citations, sustained argument, and most importantly, felicity of language may just come as an eye-opener to us all.

Published in : http://www.dailyo.in/arts/shashi-tharoor-in-an-era-of-darkness-british-raj-bjp-congress-1947-partition/story/1/14340.html

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Modi is as bad as Trump

“They generate fear regarding the well-being of the country, and at the same time, a universal hatred for the ruling elite”.

By: Salman Nizami

We are living in extremely dangerous times. Many of you would imagine I am referring to the election of Donald Trump, a xenophobic, misogynist, white supremacist, “nasty” man as US president. I am not.  I am referring to an even more terrifying phenomenon. Which is our willing suspension of disbelief in election times.  This is the very phenomenon which enables evident liars, of the ranks of Trump and back home, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and team, to work up crowds with promises that any sane man would know are hoax, and get elected to office. And still worse, defeat the right policies, the right persons, the right promises and most importantly, the right ideology and value system.

“Chunaavi Jumla”, a term the BJP leaders themselves shamelessly used to describe and own up to some of their false promises post election, has landed as a nuclear weapon in the hands of Modis and Trumps and have made them seemingly unconquerable. What else can otherwise describe the election of a man as US president who wants to grab women by the “female part”, or for that matter, back home, elevation of a man as a demi God, who looked the other way while thousands were slaughtered in the state he headed.  We are living in a dog eats dog world. We are obsessed with our own financial security at a time where even hospitality comes for a price. And hence, we are desperate for policies and government flagship programmes that would help us become more financially sound. Trump and Modi have very well understood this. But alas they are the wrong men. Hence, what has come out is not kindness or sympathy, but inducement. They have understood so grave is our desperation for economic progress, that even if they promised us the moon and the stars and the sky convincingly, we would fall for it. Narendra Modi said he would bring back black money within 100 days of assuming office, and distribute Rs 15 lakh to each person in India. Trump, on the other hand, says he would expel immigrants, thus forcing American companies in the US soil to employ only Americans as labours. Anybody would know you cannot destroy industries by stopping them to hire cheap labour from poor nations. Even legally, you cannot expel immigrants. Anybody would again know that you cannot force a foreign government to reveal names of those who have stashed black money abroad. That procedure would require expansive treaties to be signed. 
But here is what the “willing suspension of disbelief” factor takes its toll. These leaders are magicians. They have just become able to suspend people’s common sense. And make them believe what no sane person should fall for.
And there is a way they do this “black magic”. No, no, they do not use those witchcraft items such as brooms or nimbu tied in red cloth. Their instrument is perverted nationalism. Have you noticed that before the Trumps and Modis actually put forth their bogus economic promises, they spend months together in a rigorous campaign injecting the notion that the country is falling, the country is being looted, and most importantly, that the ruling class is behind it all. This way they generate fear regarding the well-being of the country, and at the same time, a universal hatred for the ruling elite. 
And then they drop their “chunaavi jumlas” that are all but likely to work with a population so benumbed with fear and hatred.  But this is not new. Hitler did just the same. He aroused people’s feelings talking about their country’s glorious past, and then promised the sun and the sky and the moon. But this simple argument with proven example will not convince anybody. Because whether it is Trump, or Modi, they, as I mentioned, already ensure that the mind has been benumbed. 

And the results are everything from sad to horrifying to laughable. Sad because you just missed the chance to elect a madame president after 240 years of independence. Horrifying because you are so conveniently forgetting to condemn bigotry and xenophobia. And laughable that despite given the chance to elect an extremely erudite former secretary of state, you preferred somebody who would perhaps not even know whether Mosul is a city or a person or a food item. 
But this sad, horrifying, laughable mindset, which has emboldened the extreme right wing like never before, seems impregnable. What else can explain that despite a leading US newspaper publishing two pages full with over two hundred or so instances of lies told by or bad behaviour put up by Trump, on the eve of the US election, he still won.
Truth be told, we liberals are just at our wits ends how to deal with this. It is a grave problem calling for great deliberation. There has to be a thorough campaign to counter this, and arouse people from this mass hypnosis that these thug leaders are trapping them in.

Published in : http://www.dailyo.in/politics/donald-trump-narendra-modi-hitler-patriotism-jumla-black-money-false-promises/story/1/14018.html

Saturday, November 12, 2016

BJP under Modi and Amit Shah is suffering, fuelled by hate

The saffron party has no vision to offer to the electorate when it comes to economy or governance.

By: Salman Nizami

Have you noticed how the BJP has run out of specific socio-economic programmes and policies and specific regional and localised agendas, and is fighting elections on rhetoric alone? While all of you can easily recall that the Congress won the Pondicherry elections recently with its clear cut vision of providing 50% reservation for women in local bodies and a job for each household, and that the grand alliance in Bihar scripted success in 2015 with a promise of 35% reservation for women in government jobs and unemployment allowance for nine months in a year, can you really recall what are the BJP's specific visions for election?
No, you cannot. And that is because, in states after states, the saffron party is going to the electorate with a scare rhetoric, in which either the majority community is misled with false stories of a rapidly growing Muslim population that would overtake the Hindu population or an idea is created that Hindu customs and traditions are in danger. On other occasions, in the case of Border States like Assam, people are told about an imaginary case of immigration without any evidence or data being shared to support the claims.
In Bihar, they went to the extent of saying that Pakistan would celebrate if the BJP loses that state. Before you clap for them for being loyal to the so called nationalistic cause, please pause for a moment and also think why are they doing this. Is it truly because of nationalism or is it because they have really, really no visions to offer to the electorate when it comes to economy or governance? The latter is correct. 
BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is suffering from a brain drain like never before. While former party veterans Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani mixed policy perspectives with nationalistic undertones, the current BJP disposition is completely void of socio-economic policies when it comes to making a poll manifesto. Making hoax promises of bringing back black money is easy, but since they failed to deliver that, they are not even left with hoax promises to offer. Rhetoric is the only option left.
What you find in their manifestos are not specific programmes for social upliftment, employment or education, or guaranteeing minimum wages or taking up agricultural crisis or farmers' issues, but rhetoric and rhetoric alone. So while you expect they will tell you how they plan to take Bihar's success story further, you hear them talking crap about "Pakistan me patakhe footenge (Pakistan will burst crackers). When you expect they would mention their master plan for Delhi, they compare rival party's leader to Naxalites. When you are expecting they will talk about the sorry state of industries in West Bengal and how they are prepping up to modernise things, you get to hear about Bangladeshis. No wonder, they fared dismally in all three states.
But those who are arrogant are not the ones who mend their mistakes. So, in Uttar Pradesh again, you hear their loud rhetoric. No, they are not telling you how they would generate more jobs, or increase the state's GDP, or address farmers' issues, or check the deteriorating law and order. What you hear, or rather see, are Aartis and poojas... Ramleela addresses and felicitation of Buddhist monks, all designed to religiously polarise the majority community. 
Why can't the BJP run an election talking about policies and governance issues? Well, the last time they ran an election more or less without rhetoric was in 2004. May be because they were too confident of a victory, though it is another matter their over-confidence sucked big time. Today, they have probably even forgotten that there is a word called election manifesto. That elections are about chalking out public policies, informing the people about them and promising good governance.
 And the way they are shaping up the Uttar Pradesh campaign more than validates this argument. Not many people will be knowing that the BJP is working on a Ramayan museum in the garb of promoting tourism. One right opportunity and they will strike back with their pet Ram Mandir plank. Add to that are a brazen exploitation of the surgical strikes with posters that feature tiny mug shots of the actual martyrs and larger than life images of the prime minister. And of-course, their ignoble defence of an encounter that seems to be fake and their reluctance to initiate a probe further tell us about their polarising tactic. 

Don't let this be mistaken as an expression of nationalism. This is a display of braindrain. 

Published in; http://www.dailyo.in/politics/bjp-up-elections-narendra-modi-amit-shah-communal-polarisation-simi-encounter-hindutava/story/1/13934.html

Monday, October 3, 2016

BJP’s arrogance is costing peace in Kashmir

Congress understood that people have grievances and it sought to address those grievances with a time-bound programme for socio-economic stabilisation

By: Salman Nizami

The sudden turmoil in the Kashmir, though it appears is a reaction to Burhan Wani's encounter, has much deeper roots. The hyper nationalist rants of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in particular its misleading propaganda in Kashmir, has created a fear of persecution among the politically sensitive people of Jammu Kashmir. Burhan’s death only provided people an outlet to bring out what had been simmering beneath the surface ever since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP joined hands to form the government in the Himalayan state. The tension in Kashmir is always simmering beneath the surface because there is no political dialogue involving all affected parties. In the dialogues that take place, voice of the youth and their aspirations are not adequately represented.
The national media is playing the role of a spoilsport by depicting the Kashmiri’s in a rather distasteful manner, which is further alienating the youth of Kashmir from rest of India, and it is also creating mistrust in the Kashmiris. Under these circumstances, it is but natural that an incident like Burhan Wani's killings will kindle the resentment that is present underneath. The BJP is immensely disliked in Kashmir and its ascent to power itself had created near alienation in the people. Though the youth would like to believe in the political leadership of the state and join the mainstream in order to become a part of the progress story of India, the BJP’s posturings undid the years of hard work of the previous Congress disposition.Before the turmoil first started in 2008 (in recent years), the Ghulam Nabi Azad led government had achieved massive success in winning the trust of the people. He had convinced them to look up to India’s participatory politics. Azad is still remembered as the Chief Minister who worked at the ground level and connected to people.During Azad's time, a slew of measures were initiated that aimed at the socio-economic emancipation of the youth in Kashmir. Winning people's trust in a conflict region is an extremely painstaking task, but Azad made some very good advances. That was a time when people were trying to come out of the shadow of the 1990s. People were fatigued and wanted new opportunities after a decade and half long turmoil.
Congress was in power both at the Centre and in the state that time. It started a dialogue with the youth. We are not saying, stone pelting did not happen in those years, but the Congress never reacted with a muscle-flexing nationalism. Congress understood and acknowledged the fact that people have grievances and it sought to address those grievances with a time-bound programme for socio-economic stabilisation.
Had it approached the issue with a “Bharat Mata ki Jai” theatrics, crushing every opposing voices, people in Kashmir would not be able to come out from the pessimism and outrage of the 1990s. But, the Congress reached out to the protesters with the spirit and large-heartedness of a mature democracy.
Resisting the urge to take people to task, it accelerated efforts to provide them the best amenities, bring a change in their lifestyle, and thus, control the situation.Azad in the state and PM Manmohan Singh at the Centre opened new colleges, new hospitals, and a host of other civic facilities. People were given the impression that they are indeed the part of a progressing economy. Their cities were improving. New gardens were added. Azad built so many new districts and the existing ones were given a facelift. New scholarship programmes meant that the youth who was going stray now found hope for a better future.Intervention was also made in the lives of the poor. The services of casual labourers were regularised; new jobs were generated. Industrial units were launched, and loans were provided to small scale business start-ups on a subsided rate. Women were absorbed into lucrative jobs in the Aanganwadis and they were also provided employment through projects like Udaan and Khidmat.NREGA also generated jobs. Slowly but steadily the mindset of the people began to change. People in Kashmir started thinking in terms like, this government is working. Let’s give it a chance. Of-course the Amarnath Yatra row in 2008 was a setback.But in a display of unparalleled grace, Azad resigned as CM no sooner than three lives were lost in the clashes between protesters and forces. Which other political party will show such principle? Least of it is expected from the BJP, which is furthering the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), even though the latter has absolutely no mandate to make policy decisions.
Even when the National Conference (NC) formed the government in Kashmir, Congress continued to play a constructive role as an ally. There were summer unrests in 2009 and 2010 but the reason why people pacified at the end and normalcy returned, was because the Congress treated the protesting crowds as mere protesters rather than bay for their blood and dub them anti-nationals. This is the fundamental difference in the approach of the Congress and the BJP.The Congress wants to talk, listen, co-exist amid differences. For the BJP, either you join them in their so-called nationalist rants or you go to Pakistan. There is no possibility for a debate, and consequently, no scope for a peaceful settlement of differences.
Ever since it came to power in Kashmir, it is doing everything that will send the Kashmiris back to the uncertainty of the 1990s. It debuted in Kashmir with a sinister beef ban drive. Any Kashmiri will vouch that mutton and chicken are the primary diet and beef is eaten by a small section of people.But it seemed the BJP was only espousing this campaign to incite violence against the Muslims in JK. And violence did surface, finally. One Kashmiri truck driver was ghastly set ablaze in Jammu. His fault was that he was rumoured to have been cooking beef. First of all what is the incentive of banning beef in a Muslim majority state, if not for sheer domination?
The BJP's vile agendas didn't stop here. It brought in the RSS cadre in Jammu. The RSS soon intensified its activities in Jammu where the Muslims already live in a perennial fear of being subjugated. The RSS cadre marched through the streets in Jammu with weapons in their hands. Which democracy in this planet will allow such a spectacle? But, BJP deliberately did this to send in a message to Muslims in JK that their days as free and equal citizens were over. In the name of women emancipation, the RSS started imparting arms training to females.The outcome of all of BJP's nefarious designs and activism was that the Muslims in the state, in particular in Kashmir, started harbouring a latent resentment against the state. Just think of the damage it did to Azad’s and Congress' re-conciliatory measures of a decade.
The mutiny was building and the killing of Burhan provided the final trigger. Eighty nine killed in last 82 days and yet people are not retreating from the streets that have almost become warfields. This is so because while in the times of the Congress, the protesters had some hope that the government will sit on the negotiating table and hear their grievances, the crowd now is totally disillusioned, thanks to BJP's muscle-flexing ways and Hindutva posturing. While we do hope the violence subsides, the fascist tendencies of the BJP may just invite a repeat of 1990, with India's image as a secular, democratic nation taking a great beating at the world stage. To control the current situation in Kashmir, the pellet guns should be banned; high handed ways should be avoided. Government should see that those who killed 88 innocent Kashmiris in last two months be immediately punished by fast track courts, that would make up for the great mistrust this present PDP-BJP govt has generated. 
Most importantly, National media should give some platform to Kashmiri's to air their version of the story too, instead of continuously demonising them.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Don’t sell your conscience to buy an award!  
Salman Nizami writes an open letter to Anupam Kher

Dear Mr. Anupam Kher,

I was impelled to write you a letter the day the Padma Bhushan award was announced for you. But I thought you must be too jubilant. Perhaps, you would be floating in the air. When people achieve something beyond their prowess or talent, they float in the air. No, do not write me off as a troll. For, I am not. And, I will be, anyway, explaining in great detail, why the Padma Bhushan award is an honour that exceeds your prowess or talent. And oh yes, I have a few questions, too. Questions pertaining to hypocrisy — your favourite topic for some time!

In a very short time, you have landed yourself in so many controversies that I am losing track how to organise my arguments in order. Every uttering of yours has been equally nauseating, and I am really at my wits end, what should be the order. Let it be random, hence.

You led a tolerance march few weeks back, to prove the point that India is not an intolerant nation. I, of-course, agree with you. But, then, you must also be reminded that if India is not an intolerant country, it is primarily because your apparently favourite party, and its parent organisations like the Jana Sangh and the RSS, were never ever allowed a lion's share in participatory politics. People of India forced those elements into a long hibernation and allowed our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to build modern India. An India, where voices of the weaker section was not subsumed by the muscle flexing of the high and mighty. 

Today you and I can boast of a tolerant India because this RSS was not allowed to dictate terms to the HRD Ministry and influence our education, and through it, our collective thought process. Something, which they are doing now with impunity. Last heard, they have advised the HRD ministry to not allow boys and girls to attend school together, and that school hours should be exceeded to 12 from six, so that everybody can learn Sanskrit. Phew! You, of course, would not talk about it, much less tweet about it. How can you? Who knows the just arrived Padma Bhushan may just be recalled? Just like your favourite party recalled all the honorable governors — to settle scores with the previous government — just after assuming power in 2014? By the way, that's another policy misadventure you will religiously not talk about.

The point is, what right do you have then to point at other people's hypocrisy? What right do you have to say that writers who returned awards over Dadri are hypocrites? What right do you have to question why they kept quiet during 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when you yourself are full of prejudices and do only selective criticism?

Anyway, let us now talk about the award that has just been 'gifted'. Fine, you did some spectacular film called Saraansh some 30 years back. So? Why should you be conferred a Padma Bhushan? What is your contribution to cinema? How are you ahead of all other dozens of film artistes who have been conferred the Padma Sri, a smaller award?

Let me begin with a few examples. Among the artistes from the film fraternity, who got the Padma Sri — I repeat, a lesser award — are Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Priyanka Chopra. Come'n Kher, tweet us five reasons why do you suppose you are a bigger star than Dixit or Rai or Chopra or have greater cinematic brilliance than that much younger director who has given us magnum opuses one after the other. Tweet, tweet. tweet us five reasons.

Do you think you are a bigger star than Madhuri Dixit? She ruled the industry, while you were a character artiste. Don't tell me I am a chauvinist. I am not trivialising character artists. I'm making assessment. You have been awarded for the films you have done. In most of your films, you amazed us. True. But you barely had a 20-25 minutes role. People like Dixit not only amazed us, they also shouldered the Box Office fate of the films. Why should you be given a bigger award than her? And what about Rai or Chopra? They are not only more successful than you, they have also bought the Miss World crown home, and added to the success story of India. You are consummate, but your achievements pale in contrast. Tweet, tweet. Please tweet, how and why you deserve a greater reward than them?

Between, Sania Mirza and Sourav Ganguly too have got only the Pama Sri. And mind you, we are not talking about anybody. We're talking about our very own Dada, the most successful ODI captain, arguably. He did India proud on countless occasions. Despite politics, he outshone. He fought. He inspired us how to be the survivor. Tweet, tweet, please tweet why his stature should be reduced to lower than yours?

The list doesn't end here. There are a whole lot of artists, scientists, sportspersons, musicians, engineers, academicians, writers, poets, dancers, who have all been given the Padma Sri. You, despite being a  small fish compared to them, have been given a bigger award. If you are so opposed to hypocrisy, tweet about the present government's bias. Tweet, that you have been overestimated. 

By the way, you did tweet something about the biases in award announcement. "AWARDS in our country have become a mockery of our system. There is NO authenticity left in any one of them. B it films, National or now PADMA", this is what you had tweeted on 26 January 2010, when some other party was in power. What now Kher? Now that the BJP is in power — a party to which your wife is associated — you no longer are able to see the biases? Or is that the biases now suit you because you got an award yourself? Tweet Kher, tweet. Or else, apologise for your fake tolerance march through which you supposedly exposed the hypocrisy of the writers. 

Between, there's another thing for which you should apologise. Your rantings on Times Now, especially that six minute long teaser. Who are you fooling when you say, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were killed? Don't do such politics. How the hell can you claim thousands of Pandits were killed when even the government of India officially maintains that 219 Pandits were killed. My frequent visits to Migrant Camps throughout Jammu revealed to me how mothers who lost their sons or young wives are left in the lurch. Actors like you get awards in their name, but the ground reality is they are crying for the minimum financial assistance. They do not have the money to pay the tution-fees of their wards. They lack the basic amenities and have no source of income to sustain. Have you ever cared to solve their problems? If not, what right do you have to cry in the name of these people? I met a woman named Shikha Migrant from Pattan, whose husband was killed by unknown gun men. Shika is suffering from high sugar and back pain. Her only source of income is stitching cloths. She has to look after three daughters. She says neither you nor any mainstream politician ever paid her a visit. There are thousands of such women and children who have been left in the lurch although people like you vow of championing their cause.

We are not here to compete for tragedy. But your selective rendition of tragedy must be exposed. You talked about the gang rape of a KP woman in 1989. What stops you from talking about the mass rape of Muslim women in Kunan Poshpora? Don't indulge in this sort of politics for personal gain. The way you are reigniting the sentiments of KPs smacks of revenge. Don't forget if KPs had to leave behind their homes, over 70,000 Muslims too have been killed. What if all elders belonging to the Hindu and the Muslim communities take a leaf out of your book, and start inflaming the passion of the new generation? Are you keen for a civil war? 

Sometimes, your actions borders on inhumanity, I am sorry to say. In a programme meant to talk about the tragedies of the flood victims on a private television channel, you started ranting about KPs. What's wrong with you? And don't tell me you are one KP champion. You are not. You are a successful film artist happy with is own life in Mumbai and enjoying all the luxuries money can afford. KPs are just the means for you to gain limelight and remain in news, and of-course, to appease the current government, which may just shower you with more reward. 

Tweet, how many crumbling temples or houses in Kashmir have you repaired? Well, you can afford to restore at least one temple. Don't you? I agree this is the work of the establishment. Still, given your deep passion for religion and pain over crumbling temples, you can at least shell out a few lakhs and restore one. Have you? Why then bring God and religion in your discourse? Oh I forgot, you are anyway acting to appease a party that have always politicised over God and religion. 

Lastly, I will like to tell you about Mr Bindroo. Mr Bindroo is an old medical store owner in Kashmir. Half of the population trusts him and buys medicines from him. Mr Bindroo treats his customers - all Muslims - like his family. Like Mr Bindroo, there are many KPs who still have strong relations with Kashmiri Muslims. Just for the sake of fame and political convenience, don't divide the Kashmiris. We are one, We both have suffered. We both have to fight.

Mr Bindroo is a kind and compassionate man who has the heart to move on, and bridge the gap between the two communities. Be like Mr. Bindroo.

You, on the other hand, are indulging in double speak to gain the attention of the powers that be, and win a bigger award than what has been conferred to your colleagues who are greater artists than you. Don't be like yourself.

With the hope that you will tweet about your own hypocrisy,
Salman Nizami,