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Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Rilke the German poet in one of his letters to his beloved Lou Andreas - Salome said “Now I come to you full of future. And from habit we begin to live our past.” This remark, though made in amorous context, aptly describes the preoccupation of our leadership and the tragedy of our country.Saddled with the claims accrued in the past we have deferred thinking about our present and have prorogued the future. Looking back and walking forward, we are fighting tomorrow’s battle with yesterday’s weapons.
The two main issues which are engaging the mind of the nation are related in curious ways,and must be considered as part of an integral whole: they are both throwbacks to our past. It is along these axes that the democratic politics is active today. The clamour to construct Ram Mandir at Ayodhya as well as the more strident assertions for reservation, hew in to the same logic: they seek full reparation today for injustices done to aggrieved groups in historical past.
It is a large, general and undisputed fact of history that the Muslim invaders demolished countless temples and built mosques on the rubble and showed the contempt of a conqueror towards a subjugated populace in many other ways. Whether Babri Masjid was definitively one such is in a parlous state of confusion. Some groups like VHP and other hardliners demand three temples to indemnify them for the large scale destruction of temples by Muslims in the past irrespective of historical specificity of their claims.The combined wisdom of Indian judiciary is busy boning up the fine points of historical scholarship on the veracity of the claim that there was a Hindu temple at Ayodhya before Babari mosque was built. To this extent the juridical principle has been recognized that demand for specific reparation must establish the specific nature of grievance .
The forefathers of members of today's scheduled castes and tribes suffered inhuman indignities and denial of opportunities at the hands of the caste Hindus for ages and it is one of the most shameful chapters of our history. Reservation for them today , also called affirmative action,is by way of compensating them for the lost opportunities to their ancestors in the past . And what could be more affirmative and demonstrative than robbing the present day Peter to pay present day Paul!
Those who came of age in 1950s were discriminated against to advance the claim of their SC/St compatriots. They philosophized this deprivation as their share of the burden for promoting the newly born Republic. The rights of their children were similarly taken away to accommodate the children of the privileged father who had taken away their father’s right. To this generation philosophizing offered no solace. They recognized their helplessness and let the matter rest there. Now when the grand children and great grandchildren of the same groups are similarly being forced by the third and fourth generation of the newly privileged dynasties, they know they are victims of profane majoritarianism, political convenience and the palpable sense of frustration even anger can be seen all over.
Man, mineral and microbes live in different time spans. The constitution provided for a ten year limit to this arrangement which was consistent with the human life span, which is measured neither thousands of years nor in hours and days like mineral and microbes respectively .Many a ‘ten years’ have gone by and it is now seventy years and looks like going to go on forever and forever. For the proponents of social justice,it is an open ended programme which seeks reversal to the old iniquitous and unjust system. They now want to cast themselves in the role of the oppressor, because they are rich in votes, the currency of power today. If the reservation is to last for another thousand, even fifty years what is there to keep the many generations of Indians affected by reservation interested in democratic politics? What does equality of opportunity mean, after all you have only one life to live.
Reservation as envisaged only makes entitlement for Peter and disenfranchisement for Paul hereditary. Give it a free run and it will recreate the arrangement in the vilified Manu Smriti. The dalit should not only be uplifted, the Brahmin must be diminished and demonized .( Tilak , taraju aur talwar, inko maro jute char. BHURA BAL SAF KARO, Abki bar bahdo mein, gori kalayian kado mein). Is it any different from the desire of some ill-advised aggressive elements among Hindus, who would like the arrangement reversed, with Hindus at the top and Muslims relegated to secondary status like it was in the days of hegemony of Muslim rulers. Our politics does not aim at uplifting the outcast, it merely wants to put the tag on other groups by shutting out some castes- from opportunities and relegate them to illiteracy and poverty for long will.
Surprisingly the secular liberal opinion favours a judicial verdict on Ayodhya on the basis of concrete historical evidence but it also supports the strange jurisprudence of indemnifying the living and identifiable beneficiaries for the injustices caused to the anonymous, unidentified ancestors by robbing identifiable progenies of unidentifiable ancestors in the present.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Several years back in an article ,That Pantomime Artist Known As Police , published in Indian Express( I was fond of seeing my name in papers in those years ) I wrote, “The growing ineffectiveness of state police forces in the face of powerful offenders creates a demand for CBI investigation. This occurs even in cases which are well within the professional and logistic competence of the state police. The CBI itself becomes eminently vulnerable to charges of bias once the affairs of the Central Government become the subject matter of enquiry. The state police forces are well on way to being reduced to a level where they will be good for nothing but ceremonial parades and watch and ward duties and a day may come when the CBI too may face an erosion of credibility. Who shall we turn to then? Interpol, the FBI, or Scotland Yard?". Has that dreaded day come to refer the standoff between the Kolkata police and the CBI to a neutral agency outside our borders.
"For the last several decades ambitious political leaders have sought to create fiercely loyal battalions of bureaucratic palace guards who, if they pass the loyalty test, are exempted from every other. The idea of the neutrality of civil service has long since been jettisoned in practice and the civil servant and political masters often show the internal cohesion of predatory gangs." From my blog Resurrected from Retirement
Mamta Banerjee makes an unprecedented intervention on behalf of her minion, Rajeev Kumar, who had investigated the chit fund scam as per the requirement of his master. Contrary to conduct rules, contrary to the canons of dignified behaviour Mr. Rajeev Kumar Police Commissioner is sitting on dharna along with his CM. The duo are protesting against the CBI which made it convenient to expedite investigation of the same Sarda case at a time and in a manner to help its master score some brownie points against his rival. Some time back the two top most officers of CBI Arun Verma and Asthana, owing allegiance to the two major political parties were engaged in a vicious no holds barred fight, dozens officers ranged on both sides. Big dads of both the political gangs were daring each other on behalf of their minions. We prefer to call these “gang wars” constitutional break down, because our self-image would not let us believe that notwithstanding our claims to maturity as a secular welfare state governed on the principles of west minster system, we are more akin to the earliest political formations where the master personally directed everything and men who owed personal loyalty and allegiance to the master were in charge. These officials “ slaves, household officials, attendants, personal ‘favorites,” were suitably compensated or opportunities were created for them to compensate themselves. Close your eyes, let your mind survey the situation, does it sound like a description of things closer home?
PS : I am reminded of an old aphorism . If you give the monkey a typewriter ( it is an old aphorism before word processors came in ) and let him type away to glory with no constraint on time , in a given period , he will have rewritten all of Shakesperare's plays etc.I believe our constitution is a mandarin text for us and given an infinite number of years we shall make it work . Not just now .

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Life and Death Of George Fernandes: Revenge Of The Grateful

The Emergency made a hero out of George Fernandes. Shackled but defiant, holding aloft the chains that bound him in captivity, he became the symbol of resistance of the free and indomitable human spirit that does not yield to dictators and autocrats.
George Fernandes, was perhaps one minority political figure in recent times whose minority status never cropped up in the context of his rise in politics and power. He needed no introduction other than being himself. Which religious community did he belong to, what was his caste, where did he come from, the highly caste ridden and sectarian constituency of Muzaffarpur in Bihar did not ask these questions before voting him to the Lok Sabha?
Since George Fernades did not live off politics but for politics, totally unrelated people contributed money and resources to get him elected while the man himself was incarcerated. He was such a simple man, his needs were meagre and even his elevation to the cabinet did not alter his life style.
He was a heroic figure hence tragic betrayal at the hands of those who stood deeply indebted to him was very much in keeping with the traditional fate of a hero. A man who created a party, cemented and sustained a durable political alliance and nurtured leaders, was ultimately betrayed by those who benefited from him the most. The giant killer and seven time parliamentarian was made to taste defeat due to the machination of friends and disciples. The grateful had their revenge. He never recovered from the ignominy of his drubbing and gradually slipped into Alzheimer’s leading to complete dissolution of identity. He was lost to himself a long time ago. Yesterday he was lost to the world. Adieu George

Brand Gandhi

The alacrity with which Indians welcome the heirs of their rulers points to the unpalatable fact that our genius is more suited to monarchy than democracy .Indians have loved their monarchs through the ages and foreign extraction adds to the glamour of exoticism .Our fetish for being ruled by those whom we adore is well known, and if the loved one is not available for some reason or the other to do the ruling, we make do with his sandal. Nehru Gandhi dynasty has fulfilled all our latent aspirations and that too while maintaining the facade of democracy.Had Sanjay Baru an adequate sense of history and causation he would not have called Manmohan Singh an “accidental” prime minister.
By the way does not the reversion of Ms Priyanka Vadra to Priyanka Gandhi disguise a cynical intent to exploit the Gandhi name. She already has the pedigree, she wants to add to the legitimacy a sense of piety as well. She is entitled to revert to her maiden name by virtue of belonging to Feroze Gandhi clan but who is this Feroze Gandhi. As a reference point Mrs. Indira Gandhi who had long tutelage under her father Nehru, and later became well known in her own right, sometimes let herself be called Indira Nehru Gandhi, because the name Nehru added stature, Nehru spelt substnace .But does reverting to Gandhi in case of Priyanka Vadra add the same value . Is Feroze Gandhi revered, even known , in the same way as Mahatma Gandhi is?If not, then Priyanka Vadra would have done just fine .In a country with an abysmally low level of literacy, the name Gandhi has the potential of deceiving people or at at least subliminally affecting their choices. ( Indira Gandhi was perceived to be the daughter of Mahatma Gandhi by many people in many countries!)The unusual degree of slavishness and sycophancy of intellectuals and media men at the service of the dynasty is already working hard to make the Gandhi magic happen.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

RANDHIR VERMA, I.P.S(.Bihar R R 1974) Superintendent Of Police Was martyred in an -encounter with terrorists who were trying to loot a bank in DHANBAD, twenty seven years ago.
(This obituary, REQUIEM FOR RANDIR, appeared in Sunday Observer, a paper which has now ceased publication. The present version is a slightly edited version from an old typed copy that I fished out for a forth coming book on Bihar Police. It may differ slightly from the original version that came out . )
Before the fateful day of the 3rd January 1991 there were two Randhir Vermas-RandhirVerma the man and Randhir Verma the legend. In his death the two coalesced. If anything the man far outstripped the legend. I knew a little of both, and it can be said that the manner of his death was perfectly in keeping with his whole character. In the line of duty he thought nothing of setting his personal security at naught. We have it on good authority that earlier on, on many occasions-in Begusarai, in Muzaffarpur, Bettia. Chaibasa-he had sometimes used his bare hands to good account against much better armed criminals. Contrary to the comic notion of police making its appearance on the scene in the last frame, he was there , sometimes in his Pajamas, some times with the shaving lather still intact on one cheek. Always ahead of every one else. In many a hair raising encounters he had left death panting far behind. It seems he was imbued with a sense that he was not born to die-one of the many ploys that death devises to trap its marked victims. But in an endgame with death-death has to have an upper hand.
Those who have served with him hold him in awe; his superhuman courage was matched by an equally formidable array of accomplishments ii the field of sports and athletics. Even in these unregenerate days his integrity remained beyond reproach. But above all was his ability to lead from the front, to chastise the laggards and the pusillanimous by the example of his personal valour. It found its apotheosis in the manner the end came. He went ahead and engagaged the terrorists in mortal combat, disregarding all rules of caution and close quarter combat. The fear of death failed to deter him. In fact he mocked at its capacity -to instill fear. It is in this context that the wisdom born out of hindsight of how he should have challenged the desperadoes becomes jejune even irrelevant. He had his own standards of courage and caution and I am sure he would have been utterly pleased with his own response had he come out alive of this encounter, as he was wont to. In this close encounter of the weird kind he gave with his vintage service revolver the terrorists armed with assault rifles back as good as he got and came out victorious. Destroyed but not defeated.
Superhuman courage was certainly the most spectacular and visible of his qualities but that was not all that the man Randhir Verma was about. It seems he was born to disprove many theories, to demystify many pet notions. He was so humble, so very eager to help and had such disarming and engaging manners that one had almost begun to question the axiom that great abilities are always coupled with a certain hauteur, a cold aloofness, even superciliousness.
He made the largest number of appearances in his familiar role of a troubleshooter for the government. Whether it was marginalizing the activities of the redoubtable and seemingly invincible Kamdeo-Singh or containing the tribal agitation in Chaibasa , success and fame fell to his share as a matter of course. Yet he wore them very lightly. The most remarkable thing was that his success and achievments were never tainted by controversies. One may have a few reservations here and there but the man stood apart, towered above his no mean achievements. Public adulations' and appreciation didri't turn his head. Didn't sweep him off his feet. He remained his own affable, approachable and very, very human self. In a competitive world where people are all the time selling themselves , he refrained from talking about his well-deserved achievements. He was in fact a little secretive about them. He didn't develop an image of himself,therefore, he was not obliged to be a prisoner of his own image. His qualities as an officer were intrinsic to the man. In spite of the enormous pressure of work he radiated warmth and a playful tenderness. His zest for life and the extremely positive attitude quite belied the notion of a harassed, cynical, or tense police officer.
It may appear to be an unashamed hagiography to those unfamiliar with his life but in all fairness to the man there couldn't be another mode of describing him. Any portrait of him has to be larger than life because he was in fact larger than life. It will be extremely difficult to rival his feat but his legend will inspire the generations of officers to come. Of him one can truly say what was said of Alexander “In the shadow of your gigantic achievements we pitch our miserable little tent.”

Thursday, December 20, 2018

                    Leaders Of Nation

We seem to be approaching  closing time in  the  gardens of Sare  Jahan Se Accha Hindostan  Hamara. The nightingales have departed – or have been driven  out – and what we hear is the cawing of the crows, where of late the song birds sang with gay abandon. The occasional owl has given way to a parliament of them . These owls  are not the owls of Minerva, they are  not associated with wisdom and knowledge, nor do they  seem to be  the  carriers of  Lakshmi , the Goddess of wealth  . These are the harbingers of night and the forces that represent darkness.  The famous couplet , Barbad  Gulistan Karne Ko Bas Eh Hee Ullu Kafi Hai; Har Shakh Par Ullu Baitha  Hai Anjame Gulistan Kya  Hoga.” ( “One single owl is enough to lay waste a blooming garden, what would be its fate if  every single branch is  occupied by an owl.”)

 I am reminded of a fable by James Thurber  which is very apposite for our time . ( I love  Thurber and I can never have enough of him!) A mole  tried to hoodwink an owl one night and was caught. He escaped to tell his compatriots that the owl was all powerful and he could see in the darkness of night. A fox interjected,  ‘but can he see during the day?’  A valid question but he was promptly shooed away.A delegation waited upon him to test his abilities. Some one asked him to give another expression for “That is to say,” The owl promptly said,  “To wit.” A  bird hid her claws and yet the owl could answer correctly. So on. Finally everyone was convinced  that he was indeed God  and he was invited to lead the animals and birds of the  jungle .

 Inflated by  his new found recognition, the very next morning he led his followers on the broad expressway . There were outriders flanking the cavalcade and the owl marched in  the firm centre  followed by the motley procession.  Some of the animals wondered  at the sagacity of this move ,  some even warned that  they were likely to be run over but the owl, unable to see in the broad day light,  jut smirked, sure in his wisdom .  A huge truck was running into them directly and the outriders warned the owl but he said, “yeah,  I  can see.” His  followers blinded by adoration  saw in this another proof of his courage, prescience, and the ability to lead. The truck   flattened  them over in no time. Owl, the great leader and all.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Wise Indian Voter

Disclaimer: I am sorry, this time round I shall not be able to tell you whether I am being serious or comical? I myself don’t know.

In 1907 Wilhelm Von Osten, a German  mathematics teacher   demonstrated the numerical skill of his horse Hans - Clever Hans  as it   later came to be known throughout Germany-  and caused a minor sensation. But diligent scientific investigations proved that the horse was keenly observing his trainer and responding  to the cues from his body language to nod at the correct answer.  The Clever Hans syndrome had its brief period of fame, but it did  provided an important methodology in conducting animal intelligence experiments.   Observer-expectancy effect is widely used in studies in animal cognition.
 Every   now and then   the Indian  voters vote one  way or the other  and The results naturally go in  favour of  one party/  group or the other. Predictably  the results  throw  the  commentators, analysts, strategists and believers in  democracy  into  raptures.   A lot of inspirational verbiage , heavy  jargon and statistical tools like bar graph, pies , chart and scatter diagram are all yoked by violence together to  establish, scientifically ,  the wisdom and the perspicacity of the voter. The act of  unseating the  ruling  charlatan   is taken  as an   evidence  of the maturing of democracy just as installing him five or ten or fifteen  or twenty years earlier  had  then  been  declared an  act of  great maturity. It seems that the primal state of immaturity is the default position of the Indian voter, the state of equilibrium , the state of  maximum entropy to which having shown its maturity on election eve,  he quietly retires.
   The fact of the matter is that the voters’ choices are no more intelligent than that of Clever Hans or the roadside fortune telling parrot. The high costs involved  and the  mammoth organising capability  required to make an all India presence , has already narrowed the choice of acceptable alternatives to the two major political alliances.   The paid media has ensured that you don’t know a thing  about them for sure  and you have to vote by blind instinct or prejudice.  Those who know both  could describe  them only in the memorable phrase of Stalin: “they are both worse .”
 The voters  respond to certain inducements, blandishments or subliminal appeals. Loan waiver, free electricity, free laptop, free liquor, freedom to smooch in the Echo Park or Sanjay Gandhi Udyan,( a great vote catcher among the young  in Bihar sometime back ) Mandir , Masjid, Mandal , Kamandal, caste , community,  are some sure fire formulas.  At the end of the day  long association with  power has  the  same effect   as living in the same underwear for long: they both stink and   need to be  changed, purely    in the interest of hygiene.  Nothing clever or exciting  about  that!.If you take elections for what they are – a farce, a masked ball , a  carnival, –  you can enjoy them as the most memorable show on earth .
 ‘Free elections’’, says the maverick thinker, commentator and polemicist Slavoj Zizek,” involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.”  For  full  participation  the pretense  must be taken very seriously. You must prattle in your  dunce’s  cap pretending it be a crown. (I remember a line  of  a song  I heard as  a chid: Mat kaho ki sir pe topi hai, ye kaho ki sir pe taj hai.’ My generation was   indoctrinated  in this business of topi pahanna and pahnana  as children).  The would be tormentor/ oppressor/ excoriator  would  appear behind the mask  of   a servant,a  chowkidar , a  benefactor , a  reformer , a paupper  and  beg  for your vote.  The electorate   must    plays his role of prince  with all  the seriousness at his command  and  having granted the supplicant- pauper-  his vote be   prepared  to be heard no more. Those , like me who can see the tree  for the wood  enjoy   democracy   as  a farce, and  those  many who don’t , suffer it  as  tragedy.