Ramjas, Umar Khalid & “Free Speech”

Ramjas College proposed a seminar “Culture of Protest.”

It invited Umar Khalid who had, in 2016, intended to hold a programme on Afzal Guru in JNU. Guru was Kashmiri separatist who was convicted for the 2001 attack on the Parliament of India. Umar Khalid later the same year praised Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian security forces saying, “Burhan wasn’t scared of death, he was scared of a life lived in subjugation. He detested it. He lived a free man, died a free man …..”.

Khalid was to speak on the people of Chattisgarh whom he described as “the most oppressed people in the country”.

Chattisgarh, part of the Red Corridor, is affected by Naxalite-Maoist insurgency and has been described as the epicentre of the conflict. Khalid’s interest in it is therefore not surprising. In April 2010 the Maoists killed 76 CRPF policemen in one of the most vicious attacks on Indian security forces in Dantewada district of the state. In May 2013 they attacked a convoy of the leaders of the Congress in the Sukma district of Chattisgarh killing 27 people including a former central minister, a state minister and the Chattisgarh Congress chief. The problem festers it being said that the long term goal is to establish a Marxist state in India. And Pakistan’s ISI is allying with the Maoists to destabilise India from within.

Notice the convergence of the Khalid’s comments on Burhan with his empathy for the “oppressed people” of Chattisgarh.

One Debraj Mookerjee writing in the Indian Express admitted that Khalid may not have talked about Bastar alone though that was the subject of his Phd work. Mookerjee said there was a possibility of Khalid making “politically contentious” points while speaking of Bastar but Khalid has the right to his views. And “protest” being nothing but the expression of disapproval or dissent is sanctified by the right to free speech.

The unstated major text of this view, however, is that terrorists can be rhapsodised, insurgents  can be glorified, and carnage in and subversion of the country can be celebrated under the honorific title “Culture of Protest” with the aid of “free speech”. In other words the protagonists of this view, like the teachers of Ramjas, believe that it is indeed a laudable exercise for students to “think critically” whether India should remain undivided or should there be a secession at the bidding of separatists or division at the instance of guerrilla armies because the integrity of India is not an incontestable fact and such differences of opinions need to be protected.

If this is the real agenda why then hide insidiously behind seemingly innocent topics of discussion like “Culture of Protest”? Is honesty in discourse less important a value than freedom? Or is speech to be seen only in its contest with violence? The motivation behind claims to free speech must be transparent if the contest of ideas has to be real.

Protest is first induced surreptitiously and then a direct attack is launched at the protest itself on the ground that the protest is unjustified! The chaos which was actually intended is then presented as a misbegotten reaction to something which could not reasonably be anticipated. And with guileful disingenuity the provocateur is eventually presented as the victim.

Let us not fetishise free speech. The unquestioned reverence to speech can only be conceded when it is justified in the context of its critique. Truth may not be fixed but the integrity of India is. And that will not be subject to inquest, review or scrutiny.

The Padma Awards Controversy

Where cronyism becomes the creed only the craven can be celebrated. The annual brouhaha over the Padma awards therefore never ceases to startle me. Such honours are always conferred even where they are not actually deserved. The truly deserving seldom seek awards and, in the distorted scheme of things in which we live, thus become disentitled to receive them. After all it is not honour which is being bestowed but patronage!

Acharya Kriplani had, in 1970, moved a non-official Bill for the abolition of these awards. According to the Bill the decorations were not always according to merit with the Government of the day not the best judge of the merit or eminence of the recipients and what was intended to be for a few exceptionally talented individuals was transformed into a torrent of conferrals.

Quite predictably the Kriplani’s Bill was defeated. The Padmas had to be conferred by politicians on themselves (Indira Gandhi), their teachers (Rajiv Gandhi), their doctors (Vajpayee & Manmohan Singh) or on prospective political allies (MGR and now Sharad Pawar) or those who shout the loudest (Saina Nehwal). Bharat Ratna Tendulkar is busy endorsing products and teams on television while Dhyan Chand (a national icon but of a less favoured sport) lies obscure and anonymous in his grave. Dubious antecedents are no bar to the grant or holding of these awards – being shady or above-board has nothing to do with qualities intrinsic to the individual in question and is only a question of perception. And a favourable perception of those who have to confer awards is all that is required for entitlement!

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of India while rejecting a petition against conferring of awards nevertheless observed that it is necessary to ensure that the “recipient are subjected to feelings of respect rather than suspicion” and that “the number of awards should not be so large as to dilute their value.” The Court “did not say more” because it had entrusted the job to a Committee of “high level functionaries” which was to keep in view the “anxieties” expressed by the Court.

Judgments are not meant to be homilies which is the reason the Court’s exhortation has been treated with utter disdain and contempt.

As the RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal said “when the Awards Committee choose about 100 names from thousands of nominations in just a few hours over two to three meetings, it seems likely that a pre-decided list is put before the committee for endorsement.” No ennobling exercise this, just a kick in the teeth of the deserving while giving short shrift to the “anxieties” which led the Court to constitute the Committee itself.

It is apparent from the manner in which the Padma awards have been granted that what was meant to be an honour has been reduced to a mere title which is specifically barred by Article 18 of the Constitution of India and the breach of the condition precedent for their retention as declared by the Supreme Court renders the very process of granting these honours void in law.

Considering its process and its selectees I feel the Padma Awards should be re-named Padma’s Wards!

J&K Assembly Ruckus – A DISGRACE!

Asked about the disrespect shown to the anthem by National Conference, Congress and Communist party of India-Marxist,  the NC MLA and Provincial President Devender Singh Rana said, “Please ask BJP people who became champions of nationalism. They created an environment of anarchy in the state. Ask PDP who created such an environment. They created such a situation”.

Disrespect of the National Anthem is a wrong in itself and condemnation of that wrong cannot be met by attacking a perceived disreputability of others, an approach which replaces logic with invective and eliminates any possibility of argument with sheer abuse. The disgrace with which Rana and the others covered themselves will not be any less merely because BJP and PDP “created the environment”. There was no compulsion to be part of that environment created by BJP & PDP!

But there is something far more sinister in this comment. The suggestion is “if you are nationalistic there will be anarchy”! I am not dealing in this blog with the informal fallacy of False Dilemma which ignores not only that there can be position between two extremes  (nationalism and anarchy) or even that the alternatives themselves (that is nationalism and anarchy) can be completely different. I am more horrified by the fact that in linking nationalism with anarchy the comment mischievously attacks the very existence of a shared identity and proceeds to assail the very continuation of national identity by suggesting that it will only lead to confusion, chaos and disorder!

This utterly disreputable comment is made worse because it was made to defend sloganeering when the National Anthem was being played and the Governor’s address to the legislature had to be cut short. The National Anthem is symbolic of the values of a pluralistic constitutional polity and provides self-identification of citizenry with norms having nothing to do with ethnicity or culture creating a civic bond, building civic empowerment and creating what Muller said was “a plausible and appealing style of political allegiance.” And the anthem was being rendered in the legislature which is a legal construct implicit in whose establishment is limitation of authority which is but an instance of the norm of checking abuse of power the disruption of which negates the very concept lawfulness which pits an organised orderly polity against anarchy. Nationalism did not cause anarchy. The anti-nations caused it.

The comment in fact goes beyond Kashmir and attempts to hollow India out. There is a pattern in the behaviour. First ethnic basis of nationalism is denied. Then cultural unity is made an outcaste. Liberal values are next assaulted. Multicultural tendencies are thereafter derided. And now nationalism is reduced to an epithet and made to share space with anarchy.

The utterly appalling nature of the comment is made worse by the complete shamelessness with which it is expressed. Nationalism does not lead to anarchy. Shamelessness does!

Saif, Taimur & Name-Calling!

In an Indian Defence Review Blog it was mentioned that Pakistan is working on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) named Taimur. India however has an Intercontinental Celebrity Baby Made (ICBM) in India with that name thanks to Saif! It is a sheer coincidence that Pakistani’s and Saif share the liking for that name. Pakistan chose it because of its visceral hostility towards India celebrating the Taimur’s invasion of Delhi and the brutal massacre which followed it. Saif however is the ultimate patriot – he has shown some Indians can do in India what Pakistan cannot from Pakistan!!

Then perhaps Saif chose the name because he is actually a Mongol. He wants to celebrate the Taimurian passion to restore and then expand the Mongolian Empire. It is a different matter that Ghengis Khan is credited with the largest contiguous Mongol Empire. The point Saif very intelligently notes is that Ghenghis’ military campaigns in India were not of the same ferocity for Saif’s son to proudly carry that name. Taimur is better! There is another reason; Ghengis was called “Great Khan” and Bollywood has too many great Khans to bother about that old chap!!

Or perhaps its got nothing to do with Mongols. In fact nothing at all to do with anyone. You see Saif, the eminent historian that he is, knows that in Taimur’s time everyone was fighting everyone else. Muslims fought Muslims too! Saif only likes the razing of cities and torturing and massacring of captives – the more cruel a person the better. And does Taimur not fit the bill. Come on the answer is an obvious YES!!

And are we not living in INTOLERANT times? The name should suit the times. Enough of secularism and tolerance – God its suffocating! The Sword of Islam is the answer. With whom is the Sword of Islam associated? Hehhehheh – Taimur!

Saif is just a loving parent choosing the best name for his son! No one from the Islamic Golden Age could be the right choice for him. Do you think we need to be bothered about Philosophy, Science, Mathematics or Art and Culture with whom have been associated very eminent Muslims? Not at all!

And now that Taimur is taken, Ghaznavi, Ghauri and Abdali remain as future choices. These are the names of the existing Pakistani missiles.

The supremely cultivated Rishi Kapur told everyone disapproving the choice to “shut the fuck up”! How will he respond to people like me who provide the justification for Saif’s choice?? 🙂

Rahul Gandhi’s “Earthquake” & Alice In Wonderland moments!

Without joining the political battle and confining myself only to the language used in political discourse I feel that many times our “leaders” (its a disgrace at times to use this undeserved appellation) not only NEVER MEAN WHAT THEY SAY say but actually SAY WHAT THEY CANNOT MEAN. I was amused to hear Rahul Gandhi’s comment on Narendra Modi. He MEANT Modi is “QUAKING” because of the apprehended revelations. However he SAID there will be an “EARTHQUAKE” when he will speak. He COULD NOT have MEANT that because the earthquake would consume the maker (that is Rahul Gandhi) himself rendering the quaking of Modi irrelevant! So far from being EXPLOSIVE as was presumed the allegations would actually be IMPLOSIVE. And that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what was intended to be conveyed! Orwell will surely turn in his grave. He used “DOUBLESPEAK” as a CONSCIOUS political strategy to manipulate and control the population. He never anticipated a variant of this arising SPONTANEOUSLY out of the utter banality of the speaker with consequences completely different from the original intent. That’s DOUBLESPEAK DOUBLESPEAK – we KNOW the speaker did not mean it yet WONDER what he meant with no one knowing the real meaning. The ensuing confusion enables everyone to take any meaning from it with the real meaning not known to anyone! Thus we have BJP saying Rahul Gandhi has “nothing earth-shattering to reveal” assuming what he MEANT but did not SAY but it is NOT saying that what Rahul SAID affects HIM not THEM! And AAP wonders why Rahul is NOT actually speaking out what he threatens to say UNCONCERNED that taking what Rahul SAYS literally will consume AAP in the earthquake for no fault of itself! Its the ALICE IN WONDERLAND MOMENT – the only thing is it is REAL. Wish I could say (borrowing from the work) “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS” – but in the scheme of things the heads seem irrelevant and so “off with their heads” will actually make NO difference!! 🙂

OMAR ABDULLAH- THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF KASHMIR

Omar Abdullah is the Scarlet Pimpernel of Kashmir. His real identity is secret. He assumes the role of Omar during the day but keeps the experience of his secret identity muffled as he addresses the people during the day. His harebrained, imbecilic and witless comments are but a disguise. He remains the ultimate Indian.

Omar, as Scarlet Pimpernel, knows former President of Pakistan Musharraf who admitted that Pakistan trained Lashkar-e-Taiba and other organizations to carry out terrorist attacks in Kashmir was in fact an Indian Agent. This is the reason why he is condemning the Indian Government.

Hafiz Syed who wants war against India “until liberation of Kashmir” is actually mole of the Indian Government. He may be ranting to frenzied crowd repeatedly shouting “Jihad” near Minar-e-Pakistan but India Gate is where his heart is. The Scarlet Pimpernel knows it and is dropping hints but Indians are too silly to take the hint.

Nagrota, Uri, Chursoon and Udhampur attacks were staged by the Indian Army! They are tired of fighting the Pakistanis all the time and are inventing new war-games to keep themselves occupied. How does the Indian Government condemn or warn Pakistan. One has to believe Scarlet Pimpernel.

Terrorists exchanged for hostages in the IC 814 hijacking and included Masood Ashar. Scarlet Omar knows Ashar was never released. The man who in a speech at Karachi vowed to liberate Kashmir from “Indian rule”and identified generally as Masood Ashar was not him but a body double created by RAW.

Pakistan has no interest in Kashmir. Its 22 Special Envoys only wanted a pleasurable excursion out of the country – sponsored by India. And Nawaz Sharif’s interest in Burhan Wani who sought Hafis Syed’s blessings for Jihad against India aside from the repeated references to the UN Resolutions on Kashmir was so acting because the Indian Intelligence had changed the script of the speech otherwise Indian envoys would have had nothing to respond to and their presence at the UN would have been seen as waste of public money.

And the exodus of Pandits from Kashmir is a lie only to defame the Kashmir. Jagmohan did it. He was the agent of the Central Government.

Omar Pimpernel knows Indians have got their heroes and villains mixed up. So he acts like a villain but he is actually the real hero. He has realised that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. And Omar has no intention of being a scoundrel!

US Presidential Elections: American Dream & Indian Reality

Terror became a serious problem to warrant launching of “war” against it ( the term was used for the first time only in September 2001 by then US President George Bush) only when the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked. India had been a victim of terror for decades prior but had to fend against it alone.

Majoritarianism was so illiberal and anti-democratic that India was lectured about its vice but becomes a legitimate basis of the claim to undermine the legal process to elect the President of United States despite the system being consciously so devised by the framers of the American Constitution and there being four earlier instances of such an event happening.

Illiteracy and consequent improbability of a functional democracy was often used to pillory India’s democratic credentials but the elite and the educated do not control the electoral results even in the United States.

Tolerance was taught to India,  a society far more diverse and multicultural than the United States, but extreme intolerance to an outcome is being celebrated in a manner which will shame the most intolerant of societies.

Nostalgia for a hoary past was denounced as regressive in India but invocation of that nostalgia propelled a candidate to be the President of the country.

The frustrations towards a system which denied majority of Indians both voice and rights became a communal issue in India despite the American experience showing it is just a secular reaction of sapient and sentient population to problems of every day life the religion of those suffering an inane element having no relevance to the reaction.

India was mocked for its elitism and derided as a feudal set-up masquerading as democracy but it are the privileged and the elite who are mocking democracy in the United States.

The unity of India was made subject of ridicule. But see the deep divisions in the so-called cohesion of an apparently well-integrated society.

And viability of Indian institutions was often doubted but there has never been an instance when the results of a national election, no matter how unfavourable, were ever demurred to, or contested or disregarded in this country.

Its a no-contest between and American Dream and the Indian Reality!