Reality Check India

Ceasefire of large bore guns

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 27, 2009

Only the naive will believe that the Rajapaske government will let Indian get involved in a major way in reconstruction. India did not act as a strong nation ought to. There is no devolution framework document on the table after the late 80’s.  India has not articulated any vision for the Sri Lankan Tamils post war. Citing the island nations sovereignty at every step, India has justified its own inaction.

Read this very important article by Muthukumar Friends Movement.

In any case, todays events took the cake.

1. Karunanidhi calls a lightning hunger strike.

2. Chidambaram says the centre presses Sri Lanka to stop hostilities.

3. A few phone calls later, home minister P. Chidambaram calms the Tamilnadu CM, says ‘India welcomes cessation of activities‘.

4. The media flashes news that Sri Lanka has announced end of offensive action thanks to the centres pressure.

5. The TN CM calls off his fast.

After event (5), things would have been settled down in the old socialist days.  Unfortunately, information travels fast these days of half-socialism. We have these  dang satellite channels. Within a few hours, Rajapakse immediately checked the Indian government with a curt statement. Apparently, the Sri Lankan army only stopped using heavy artillery and air strikes. This is in fact an admission that the SL army in fact did use these weapons against civilians. Again conveniently overlooked by the media.

Overall, a pretty embarrassing day for Indian foreign policy.

The Congress partys stand is quite understandable. The dravidian formations failure  to play any meaningful  part (pre-war, during war, or post-war) when its own blood are reduced to beggars right next door exposes its limitations and relevance today.

In related news, irate Tamils smashed a few windows of the Indian embassy in London.

Here is what a protestor thinks,

The demonstrators accused India of covertly supporting the Sri Lankan government and blocking a halt in the fighting.

“India is instigating this war, orchestrating it in the background. They are conducting the drama, even if the Sri Lankan government wants to pull out, they are not being allowed to,” said a protester who gave his name as only as Sanjeevan.

Source : Reuters UK

In other words, we get the bad name and our enemies get the goodies (read strategic toeholds)

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No suitable candidate ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 26, 2009

Of late, the media has given extensive airtime to youngsters venting out their “there is no suitable candidate” views.

Here is our advice to these youngsters.

Here is the question you are asked to answer.

Which one is better

Which one is better ?

The better of the two is still not going to be perfect. The next time around, the choices offered will be probably better.  Do not walk away from making a choice. You will remain with defective vision and the choices will be poorer next time.

Remember that there is no default choice in the absence of a perfect choice.

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Phase I elections and a dedication to jawans of BSF/CRPF

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 16, 2009

This is what I found watching the English language media tonight on Phase I of the Indian general elections.

All guests and anchors on all channels hailed the great Indian electoral exercise.  It was a joyous hour of prime time today.

None of them thanked the 18 volunteer jawans who laid down their lives to make it happen. Who were these brave people ?

Shame on you media !

So, from Reality Check – Thank you BSF and CRPF jawans. 

On this forty degree dusty day, you laid down your lives to enable the show to go on.  Your sacrifices have sobered our appreciation of the election carnival and reminded us how far we have to go.

Think tank Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 15, 2009

This is a good sign for Indian blogging.We appear to have made a connection with the people who have  connections. In this light, I have to applaud Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta for responding to a post on the Offstumped blog. See the Offstumped post here.

Let us take a closer look at Mr Mehtas article titled, “The politics of hurt” from the Indian Express.

Apparently, Mr Advanis expression of hurt at Dr Manmohan Singhs remarks was the trigger for this article.  Mr Mehta makes three main points; that the BJP has no high ideals, its cadres have misplaced idealism, and it was a flash in the pan

He ends his article with the inscrutable argument that if something is so long lived it must be worth saving.

But the very longevity of the Congress is a sign that there is something about it that is worth salvaging.

Source : IE

I am sure there were Soviet intellectuals who made similar arguments about communism and white plantation owners in America who made similar arguments about slavery. The best argument along longevity lines of the Congress party is that it offers a safer federation of narrow interests than the BJP.  Would you trust a new chit fund or one that has been around for 40 years ?

Since we started at the end , lets wind back up his article a bit:

Why else would a supposed strongman like Modi be so upset if someone simply pointed out that internal communalism is a serious danger to India?

Source : IE

It seems like the words have enjoyed an ayurvedic massage. The actual words were more like  “Communalism is a greater threat than terrorism” (PC press conference). A small twist in words but a complete turnaround in meaning. I do not recall when the Congress merely said that communlalism was ‘a serious danger’. There is no sting in it.

In any case, public intellectuals cannot ignore the fact that the word “communalism” has not been defined. Giving benefits to communities without the burden of data is the biggest example of communalism as far as the misguided readers of this blog are concerned.  Others observe usage of these words and like the characters in Rashomon have made it their own. Apparently, it was a big deal for Mr Mehta too once, he quit his post as NKC member.

In India, especially the English media, it is common knowledge that the word “communalism” is used as a simple synonym for “BJP” and the word “secularism” is used as a synonym for “Congress and potential allies”. Can Mr Mehta deny this ? If he does, then can he supply us with his view of what communalism means in his next article ? Is the BJD communal now  ?

In this context, the sentence “communalism is a greater threat than terrorism” simply translates to “BJP is a greater threat than terrorism“.  Obviously you cannot expect Mr Modi and others to let this pass in election time. It is true that they do not challenge the English media’s use of the word “communal”. This only points to the BJPs lack of expertise in the English language and their ignorance of the number one rule in politics, “Do not let others define you”. In every media appearance, they must stall until the host clarifies every usage of the word secular and communal. Indian citizens of all religions and castes deserve a definition of these two words.

Lets back up a little more,

One sign in the Congress’s favour is that in the age group thirties and forties, it has a more plausible cast of characters than the BJP.

I wish he had named some Congress leaders in the thirties and forties. I can only think of two. If the BJP has no mass leader barring Shivraj Singh Chauhan, then this article is moot because India has nothing to worry. In any case, the only way a thirty year old can be a mass leader is if he is entrusted with the benefit protection keys from his father.  Not the kind of leader the free Indian youth need right now.

Finally, lets get to what he really wanted to say.

 But most of those who pillory the Congress do so with the sense that the Congress does not live up to its own best ideals. They attack the Congress in the name of an idea of what the Congress should be. It is the ideal of the Congress that makes its realities look sordid. But the same cannot be said of the BJP. The dominant idea that holds it together is not an affirmative one; it is a negative one, powered largely by a politics of resentment. It has no high ideals, only grudges to nurse.

Source : IE

Let me try to parse this splendid specimen of subcontinental prose.

From his own vantage point, he finds that those who attack the Congress are dissapointed that the party does not live up to its high ideals.  Somewhat like a surgeon who has developed butter fingers. Those that attack the BJP do so not because it has not lived up to its high ideals, but because its high ideals are themselves worthy of pillorying. Somewhat like a thief who is also a good performer at his job.

Those who expressed hope that independent think tanks can thrive in a socialist setup built on lies and mass deception should reconsider.

Remember, we bloggers still have to give Mr Mehta credit for responding to the post on Offstumped. It would have been dead easy for him to summarily ignore the blogging community like everyone else.

Not easy to undermine

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 14, 2009

Here is a good article in the Far Eastern Economic Review titled “One Caste, One Vote“. The article is open now, but may require registration later.

Mushirul Hasan, vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia University in Delhi, points out that “although caste and religion get intertwined very often and can complicate and confuse the picture, caste is the dominant factor in Indian politics. At the end of the day, episodic events like the Varun Gandhi comments cannot influence the mature Indian electorate, because caste solidarity is not easy to undermine.”

Source : FEER

Mr Hasan is right, but the independent sociologists at JNU must do more. I find it hard to believe that they do not see that benefit protection and not some mythical caste affinity operates the machine.

If benefits like quota based social justice can be recovered from the ad hoc protectors and subjected to a data based system, things will change dramatically.

So Mr Hasan,  caste solidarity at the voting booth is so easy, yet so difficult to undermine.

Future of social justice and equality in India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 12, 2009

The PMK wanted  to include caste based data in the 2011 census.  So they filed a PIL in the Supreme Court.

Why the need for census ?

Some say that the need for such data is blindingly obvious. The ultimate staging unit for both social justice and compromised equality before law is caste.

The court today refused to entertain the case.

“How can we give a direction to the government to conduct a caste-based census? It is a policy decision. If it was not done for last more than 70 years, there must be some reason behind it. Why should it be done now? Some fear that there could be a social problem,” the CJI said.

Source : TOI

 

Goes on to suggest a course of action,

This did not click with the Bench, which said: “The elections are round the corner. You wait for two months and there will be a new government. May be you will also be part of it. And then you can represent the government to change the policy on census.”

Source : TOI

In other words, the court appears to want little  to do with the number one constitutional issue in front of this country. The issue of data (evidence) based social justice. 

 

Dont expect the legal blogs to throw light on this subject. Lawyers actually make a good living out of this mess. Mr TTK warned during the constituent assembly debates that this policy will become a lawyers paradise.  Here we are now.

In the comments section, please do not criticise the judges. We have some laws in this country that are strictly enforced.

Yogendra Yadav mixes it up

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 11, 2009

This article is about the “6 myths about Indian elections” by Mr Yogendra  Yadav. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7973477.stm

Here is a quick list for those who are too lazy to read the whole thing.

  1. Women vote as per husbands wishes
  2. Muslims vote heavily and as a bloc
  3. The young vote distinctly and independently
  4. High turnout means defeat for the ruling party
  5. There is widespread apathy towards politics
  6. Indians dont caste their vote they vote their caste

Actually, I dont think people really consider items 1-5 as true any more. So, shattering myths 1-5 is like shattering the myth that the sun revolves around the earth. Passe.

Let us consider the all important point number 6 (of caste). Item 2 (muslims) is a special case of 6.

Yogendra Yadav says :

But the fact remains that most voters in most constituencies in India do not have a simple option of voting along caste lines.

Either they have more than one candidate from their own caste or they have none.

They simply cannot vote according to their caste. There has to be a consideration other than caste for almost three-quarters of the voters.

Source : BBC (emphasis added)

Lets break it down, because his claim that 75% of Indians are not, or rather cannot, be impacted by the caste factor is astonishing.

What he is really saying is that the caste factor can be neutralized in two ways :

  • if two candidates from the same caste are in the running in a given constituency
  • if no candidate from a particular caste is in the running then the caste factor is neutralized ( at least for the population of that caste )

On Reality Check there have been plenty of posts on this subject. People do not vote for candidates of their caste, they vote for benefits attached to being members of that caste.  Since the benefits are not subject to examination, they are under the sole custody of a particular formation.

So lets test Mr Yadavs hypothesis :

Can the Congress undermine the SP by simply fielding Yadav candidates in all constituencies where the SP has also fielded Yadav candidates ? The presence of two Yadav candidates would instantly neutralize the Yadav voters affinity and make them vote for a larger issue (such as a sewage system or drinking water).

Repeat the same : Is it so easy to neutralize the PMK simply by fielding Vanniyar candidates ? RJD, NCP, BJP in KA.

 

The Muslims present a unique picture, which deserves a separate post. On the surface, Muslims as a group could be considered as just another caste like Yadavs, Kurmis, Thevars, Lingayaths. 

On deeper examination, you find stark differences.

  • unlike the others, they have to TRANSFER their vote to a non muslim formation (quick tell me a muslim congress leader or a muslim DMK leader)
  • unlike the others, the muslims (at least in the north) do not have concrete quota benefits to be protected from examination
  • the oft quoted muslim benefits like the Haj subsidy and the Wakf board benefits are not significant
  • the muslims in large parts of India vote on fear rather than benefit protection  (M J Akbar has pointed this out in many of his articles)

 

We have no choice but to turn to western intellectuals for a no holds barred analysis of Indian society and politics. Check out the free chapter from Lauda Dudley Jenkins book ‘Identity and Identification in India’. Can we never have an Indian scholar produce a work like this ?

Here is an short interview of Lloyd and Suzanne Rudolph (who have been studying India for over 50 years),

You have been observing Indian elections since the 1950s. What have been some of the major changes in the election process over the years?

We have noticed four changes. First, a decline in the politics of charisma and darshan and a rise in the politics of vote banks and benefits. Second, the emergence of two Indias, the one-third of the voting public that views television and whose vote is shaped by personalities and persuasion, and the two-thirds of the voting public whose vote is shaped by identity politics.

Third, an effort to break the hold of vote bank and regional determination of voter choice by appealing to an aam aadmi, a hypothetical all-India, average or median voter. Fourth, the appearance of an incipient women’s vote based on a growing consciousness that there are women’s values and interests independent of family and community.
Source : TOI
The grand anomaly of not subjecting compromises to equality to rational examination cannot be ignored. We just start using phrases like votebanks, muslim appeasement, vote-their-caste, without even attempting to understand what these phrases might really mean.

Lalu bites the Indian state

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 7, 2009

lalu

Lalu Prasad Yadav has said that he would have killed Varun Gandhi by crushing him with a road roller if he had been home minister without worrying about the consequences. Source : Indian Express

Consider this  :

“I will cut off the hands of those who raise a hand against Hindus.. blah blah”

Detained under the NSA, bail nullified, not permitted to meet mother, charged with attempt to murder, campaigning prevented.

Compare with this :

“Had I been the country’s home minister, I would have crushed Varun Gandhi under a roller and destroyed him without caring for the consequences for his hate speech against Muslims,” Prasad told an election meeting.

Source : Indian Express

Will he be placed under NSA ? Dont hold your breath.

Such an open expression of intent or desire to commit a specific murderous crime must be punished. Leave aside the elections. The legal implications of ignoring this are grave. Even more so because Mr Lalu is a senior cabinet minister. 

  • If someone were to actually attempt such a crime (god forbid), what can the courts say if the accused says he was inspired by a Cabinet minister. 
  • If Lalu becomes the Home Minister or Prime Minister. What if someone is caught for this or a similar crime ? What will be the position of the government if someone acted on the intent announced by the minister and summarily ignored by the media.

 

 He said this at an election rally.  The EC might wink-wink it and show us all that it is a shell, the media might ignore it, but the people get it. The country watches as equality before the law is compromised at all levels.  The net loser is the set of institutions that together make up the Indian state.

PS : We dont buy the teddy bear image of Lalu created by the media. For fifteen years millions have suffered under his rule. So much so, that Aravind Adiga calls that area “The Darkness”. That must count for something.

Election without a choice

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 6, 2009

Everyone in this country is confused about the elections.  You would think that the elections in the worlds largest democracy with the worlds largest problems would attract lively debate or media coverage. Even the 2004 elections were better. Remember TV anchors criss crossing the country on trains and buses and asking them questions. Nothing of that sort now.

A very cynical understanding is sinking in. That this is a counting exercise of the current strength of temporary groups of narrow interests. Nothing more, nothing less. Once the elections are over, the winners are  free to split, merge, tie up and deal with the same people they fought against.

The vast majority of voters will just vote for the candidate who will do his best to prevent examination of special benefits to his group.  The election stops there.  

After the numbers are out, there will be another round of wheeling dealing in which opponents can become friends and friends can fall out.  This election is the real one and happens after hours.

Case in point : Kerala , West Bengal, and Tripura

What are the people voting for in these three states ?

The left parties will either support the Congress-led coalition (yet to be named) or will support another coalition (also to be named) that will prevent the BJP-led coalition (to be named) from coming to power.

So, a vote for the left is a vote for instability. In the most stable scenario, the left will support the Congress.

Why not vote for the Congress or Trinamool directly if you are secularly inclined ?

The election train

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 3, 2009

I guess the social justice train is not stopping at their station.

I have to admit this video really gave me the chills. Even though it seems to be taken by an amateur with a cell phone ?  Especially the stone cold look of the boy who sings the song and the little girl.

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