Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I'm a Farmer


What one can see from a commoner's perspective is that perhaps the Supreme Court did not go into the constitutional validity of the Farm Laws because primafacie they may not have seen anything ultra vires of the constitution and could not strike down the Farm Laws hence opted to stay it till further orders.

But at the same time on what grounds did the Court stay the Farm Laws? And if they did so to facilitate the committee they propose which will go into the issue, why not then ask the government to repeal it rather? Staying the implementation of the law in itself reflects the Court’s acknowledgement of its obnoxious and egregious nature.

When the Court observed the government did not have consultations on the Bills with all stake holders before ramming it through Parliament, does it not tell us the Bills are bad in law? Why then is the decision to stay and not order the repeal?

Is it beginning to tell us something is "rotten in the State of Denmark "?

The Chief justice timidly observed yesterday that the Farmers may not trust them, but they are the Supreme Court. If the Court finds itself in an unenviable position as this where the trust deficit in the Court is at its nadir, there is no one to blame but the Court itself, and the men in robes who occupy the haloed seats.

The Chief Justice suggesting that the elderly and women participating in the protest must go back, may be as some say a ruse to facilitate the ground for the government to unleash its muscles on the protesting farmers.

Never, in post independent India, and not even during the Indira reign running up to the Emergency infamy have we looked at Courts with sceptical eyes as we now do. Court decisions and subterfuges over the past three to four years do not lend any credence to trust the Judiciary either. A sad state indeed!

What is astonishing insistence of the Court is that the Farmer unions should be participating in the deliberations of the committee. The farmers rightly fear they would be led up the garden path of a Supreme Court nominated expert committee, and once they commit to it they may have no recourse when some alibi is used to vacate the stay on the Farm bills albeit with some cosmetic changes.

I think we are in for a long haul which may either end in unpleasant and the knell for Modi government, or the complete bludgeoning of the farmers by the government, where we may see the Supreme Court like Pontius Pilate washing its hands of the blood of India’s food givers.

If this sounds cynical, I could not help, but I earnestly wish I’m wrong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hanuman Pandaram


 When I was little, children were fed the story of a bogeyman. Recalcitrant, annoying, and clamant children were told about a certain man called ‘hanuman pandaram’ who would appear from nowhere and does bizarre dance moves before he plucks you and vanishes, never to come back. The fear was telling when we were told that the distant sound of a gong was warning his arrival. Eventually, he did come one day and many times thereafter, which told me that the poor soul was a harmless hunched mendicant who did a monkey dance wearing a grotesque looking mask resembling the primate god- the proverbial “hanuman”. He quietly retreated collecting alms.

When I recollect those days, I can tell the fright the story of ‘hanuman pandaram’ aroused in us. But it must have helped many parents to arrest and control their children.

I can liken that fear of Hanuman –pandaram with the scaremongering of the Modi led malice about Muslims and minorities. Like then, when the purpose was served- kids could be controlled and brought to heel, today, the population and societies have been effectively divided and suspicions writ large. The Hindutva agenda has been smoothly accomplished.

Growing up and now after more than half the life span gone by, I cannot for a moment recollect one instance where I was hounded or discriminated against, only because I was born Hindu. It amuses me to hear people parrot what has been fed to them, that the Hindu is under threat in his own country. I dare one person of my age or even younger to come forward and clarify what exactly is the threat he or she faced.

As a kid I went to temples, vied to be in the forefront of the jostling and elbowing devotees so that I could ring the temple bells when the priests threw open the doors of the sanctum of Sanctorum; as a child, I could even go into the chapel in the school and observe nuns kneeling down with piety in prayer and with pity I would gaze at the crucified Christ, then wonder about the saints and the frescos that adorned the chapel. No one forced me to attend catechism classes in school. When I was in my teens I could, and out of my own volition begin to question the frivolity of supplicating to Gods and even forever put stop to temple going as a devotee. And to grow up as a person exhibiting free will, thought and decisions, (albeit certainly a rebel), is a unique experience which takes a little bit of resolve. Fortunately, I wasn’t too bad with that! I did not see the need to question or worry about the church-going friends or Abdul Harris –the school mate who even confessed and showed us to our amusement and wonder his circumcised penis. That did not make us feel he was different. We would eagerly wait for the Christmas cake from a friend of my grandfather, and that arrived unfailingly on every Xmas eve.

Where was the threat to me? Later, not even to my children who had their entire schooling as boarders run by St. Georges Homes in Ooty. It was our decision to write to the school principal that we had no objection in our children attending holy mass on Sundays at the school chapel. Mercifully “love jihad” or “holy crusades” had not arrived in Kerala when I broke ranks and married a catholic and it is (32 years to the date on August 23, tomorrow).

My Hindu-ness has not worn out or diminished, whatever that may be. But fortunately, by not fretting to know what it was and not caring to safeguard that mirage, it gave immense peace that no Gods or places of worship can give.

Yes, twice in my life and both occasions in my early teens I was stalked, accosted, and cajoled to convert. First by the local RSS Sakha bosses and then by the neighbourhood senior who along with the then SFI leader showed up at my gate to enroll me as an active SFI member.

The former was strangely abhorrent even then and the latter not inspiring enough.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Lieutenant General .R.Gopal

It has been a long ride on the road for many of us in the decades that went by after college. A rollercoaster to me personally. But what gives immense pleasure is when you see close friends go up the road, steadily, and (it may seem) effortlessly. The pleasure, the satisfaction one gets to see friends scaling heights in their career is so immense that you must love it to feel it.
One such mate is leaving the Indian Army today. Another bloke will retire from the State Bank of India tomorrow as the Chief General Manager. KT.Ajith the bibliophile, quintessential Kannur leftist liberal (if I may) who cast away what could have also have been a promising career as a Chartered Accountant and joined the SBI mid-stream.
But Lieutenant General Gopal.R UYSM, AVSM, SM of the 8 Gorkha Rifles stands out. Lieutenant General R Gopal held the reins of the prestigious Spear Corps. Spear Corps is one of the largest and operationally active Corps of the Indian Army and headquartered in Dimapur, Nagaland.
Lieutenant General Gopal R, (Retired) is an alumnus of the IMA, Higher Command Courses, and the National Defence College. He has had an illustrious career encompassing command, staff & instructional appointments including those of commanding an Infantry Battalion on the Siachen Glacier, a mountain brigade, and an Assam Rifles Range in South Assam. He was one of the first members of the team which established the Defence Command and Staff College at Botswana.
Gopal stands out unique for tethering himself to one solitary goal in life- a career as a commissioned officer in the Army and to succeed. He indeed did that enviably! His love for the Army, his ambition, his dedication, and the uncompromising attachment to the only goal in his life- to be a soldier! It was a sole obsession unlike what many others like me harboured. And what makes the position he retires worthy as no diamond can be is that he has had a satisfying and proud career spanning 40 years. A soldier who chose the infantry as an obsession!
I first saw him while we were in the Model High School, Thiruvanathapuram and interactions may not have happened because I was a different fish and had other friends and priorities than being obsessed with lessons or the NCC. Later, while I was in the Mahatma Gandhi College, I saw him pass by every afternoon at 3.40 pm precisely on his bicycle. Speeding back home from MarIvanios College. We used to greet him every day with howls and catcalls. He would shyly smile and wiz past, sometimes in his NCC uniform. Those days we would yell,”pattalam”.Now, I can audaciously mention that I’m among the couple or three who dare call him “pattalam”, even to this day.
Two years later we were in the same class at Marivanios College. And since those days I have seen him at the close quarters as the paradigm of dedication and honesty. He has limited fascinations and indulgences unlike most of us, and perhaps what that dominates his attention is gathering information. Sometimes one feels the guy is trying to know too many things. Idiosyncrasies!
A teetotaler. Perhaps most of his quota of spirits were utilised for me. I cannot forget one instance many years ago when I was in Thiruppr. Those days’ mobile phones were yet to be outside science fiction. He sent me a postal mail that his Gorkha would be passing Thiruppur (time mentioned along with the train number) and would I collect a crate of beer from him. Did I need any persuasion? Though the train arrived late by about 8 hours, I could see a diminutive Nepali Gorkha standing on the platform just outside a compartment with the crate of beer and holding aloft a placard with my name on it.
The melee and furore that preceded his train journey in 1980 to New Delhi for the interview and selection process to the IMA are still vivid. An inebriated TTE who tried to finesse his travel almost got strangulated by a furious and incensed young Gopal. For the drunken man was shattering his only dream, and would he for the love of God let someone do that and have his way? Fortunately, the situation was mollified and he could travel on the train with no restraint.
The bloke will seek his old classmates wherever they might be and visit them during his vacation here in Thiruvananthapuram. This is a unique character and seldom have I seen this in any other.
I, Christy, and Aravind can never forget the Royalty we were when we spent a few days in his bungalow in Dimapur as his guest in 2018 December. It was rather awkward and embarrassing to us when the sentries at his gate saluted us each time we went out for a stroll, or whenever they saw us lounge outside on the lawn. As ordinary civilians that were too heavy for us to bear. But looking back, we felt proud to be his friends and guest. It was that unique status that mattered. The many times we spent with him in Wellington, Conoor while he was a Major and a student at the Staff College, and later as Lt. Colonel and Colonel there, are unforgettable.
If I were to suggest a marquis to aspiring young folks, I would suggest Lt. General Gopal R (Retired). For his uncompromising ambition, the earnest efforts put in to achieve his goal, the dedication, sincerity, and honesty with which he accomplished his role.
Welcome mate into the world of civilians and that of social media you had to avoid all along. And the honour of continuing to be “Pattalam” for many of us is solely yours.
It’s with a lot of pride, mate,that I end.
(I just called Raji his wife, and she told me she was at home waiting for him and he is in his office in South Block ).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

By the Power of Emoticons

 I have noticed distinct characteristics in men and women here on Facebook. Some men who brook no criticism, disagreement or even a suggestion take the easiest recourse–abuse and slander! These days seem endemic to Sanghis and unrefined Marxists. Even fans of the Snake wrangler Vava Suresh abused me with such astounding expletives that will pale the toxin of the most venomous of snakes. While women true to themselves walkout and block you when you disagree. Both are intellectually bankrupt lot. What do you think?

Recently three ladies slammed the door in my face on Facebook. One came back rather tame a few months later and said as if she never was the termagant ‘B’ who went away with a snort.” Hi, can you tell me what you think of this?”
I side-wheeler, why are you back here asking me? Why must I engage  with a person overflowing with cussedness?”
“Oh, sorry about that.”
So there she was, but in less than a month she walked out again when I did not agree with her conspiracy theories on matters ranging from moon-landing climate change to the necessity of a vaccine for Covid-19. She boasted that she had never vaccinated her daughter or her pet dogs and never will.
I asked, “not even for polio?”                                                                                                                    She was imperious and said  “Yes and never.”
“Oh, lady, your daughter is 25 and tremendously lucky, and you were stupid.” She unfriended me on FB and blocked my phone too.

Another one with strong detestation for Narendra Modi caught up on Facebook. She seemed knowledgeable and concerned about matters around us and was not uneasy about expressing strongly. But, I was soon to realise that the detestation of Moditva is no guarantee of social relationships.
She wrote on her page that no one is to share her opinions or what she posts without her permission. I wondered if what we write or post on social media attracts copyright law to demand that others should not copy. I also mentioned that the share button is an allowance for copying and if not acknowledging the source or tagging the source would suffice, perhaps! And I suggested rather check with an expert on copyright laws. That peeved her. She went off on a different tangent. She accused me of insensitivity and disregard for another person’s misfortune. That I expressed amusement through a laughing emoji when she wrote in a brief review of the movie “Thappad” , that she thanked her stars she chose to be single.

Gosh, for once the power of emoticons struck me. I  amused now and truly!

I told her, yes it amused me because these days, we often hear the young say so and I have a few amusing cases that I knew where such extreme views for frivolous reasons were raised. Besides, I did not watch the film to critique on it, and my expression was not either disapproving or approving the premise of the story.
The fact was, she followed up and wrote that she walked out on her spouse who was abusive and no man may hit her or have a say over her body, and I was being a true misogynistic sod. By the time, I wrote to her I was sorry for the misunderstanding and there was no way I knew her past, and now I feel awed by her courage and hope she understood my expression through an emoji was not meant to be offensive, she blocked me and vanished.
What a fascinating and convoluted place in this virtual world of social media and the world of emojis!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Do I Hate Modi? A citizen's Posit

The usual refrain is, “you ignorant Modi haters, your dislike for the man is blinding you, and you do not want to accept the good he has done. You sickular, urban-naxal, antinational commies”. Now, this comment has become so hackneyed, that it has begun to show out glaringly who is ignorant if not blinded and biased.
Am I biased in my opinion about Narendra Damodardas Modi the prime minister of India? Do I hate the man so much so, that my assumptions and opinions are prejudiced against him and his almost 6 years as the country’s prime minister? Often I sat back and thought, after all, could these folks be right, that I was biased? Are my opinions and comments (though constitutional given right), determined by my hatred for the man? Do I hate him?

Heads of States often occupy chairs that are unenviable and as the cliché goes, to quote the Shakespearian lament, “………and in the calmest and stillest night,
with all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

I thought and I thought, I even excised the Godhra, and the Gujarat programme from my mind and then juxtaposed next to Narendra Modi, King Henry bemoaning his position as King that he, unlike even the most penurious could not have a moment peace and repose. I drew void! For Modi in his exalted avatar as the master of all, he surveys in the past 6 years as the country’s prime minister failed himself, the people and the country. One must be an incorrigibly blind or a twat to think different.

Before I ventured here to explain my opinion, I had asked his fans to highlight a few of his achievements that changed the country for good, and then, perhaps I could alter my opinion. But since the few times I have done so I invited only invectives and even termination of a longstanding friendship I hasten here to explain my point as a citizen who exercised his vote in the preceding two general elections. So this opinion here of Narendra Modi is that of an ordinary voter, and I hold no political affiliation.

True I had serious reservations against Narendra Modi coming to power. More so if he would retain power in the previous elections. That aside, when he rode into New Delhi in his previous tenure, I wished fervently that I was wrong. His truly symbolic gesture genuflecting at the doors of the country’s parliament made me hope that I could be wrong in understanding the man. I could recall that his more famous predecessor Indira Gandhi virtually held the very Parliament as a juggler would the juggling pins. And she made the cabinet and the house servile and mute, while she mauled the constitution, superseded Judges with pliable ones,
deracinated institutions of democracy and even suspended fundamental rights for 18 long months! Now here we have a lesser-known person, controversial but a commoner, go down on his knees and then prostrate at the doorstep of democracy as he himself put it. Indeed a matter to hope and have trust!
I thought, perhaps the thumping election win had chastened him and he would call upon his countrymen to unite, to leave behind parochial, communal and religious intolerances and differences, exhort camaraderie and universal brotherhood. I told to myself he will halt the limbo of the second UPA, tackle corruption that was killing the country, instill confidence in the economy, lend succor to the multitude of the needy, the underprivileged and the marginalised. Shun the divisive, hate-filled saffron- hindutva ideology that he exercised in Gujarat and as the Prime Minister enedavour to build an inclusive and rainbow nation (to paraphrase Bishop Desmond Tutu). Uplift the underprivileged and the marginalised, give meaning to Dalit life by going hard on caste and untouchability both still scourge and abomination in many parts of the country, and ensure tribals are not dispossessed and are treated like human beings and citizens of this country. He will heed scientific data and advise and strive to arrest climate change-related issues and ensure the environment is protected and not raped barren and left scorched in the name of development. That he would address the confidence reposed in him by the youth of the country who swayed by his “sab ke sath saka vikas” and “achedin” slogans flocked behind him. He would like a sorcerer pull out the rabbit that would halt the disastrous slide in Kashmir and deal with Pakistan and China as Statesman. He will recast the often shot-funded health and education, strive to persist with a scientific temper that Jawaharlal Nehru exhorted and is laid out in the Directive Principles of the constitution.

However, as days, weeks, months and years went by, Modi’s intentions became less curioser and less curioser. As Arun Shourie famously put it Modi rule is UPA plus the cow!
1- It became clearer and clearer that here we have saddled a man who is a thespian nonpareil, who thrives on theatrics and spectacles, gimmicks and foolery, who is a sophist and pedals falsehood at every turn, that even his academic qualification has become an apparent lie and joke, like the fantastic stories invented about his childhood.
2- A man who is so egoistic that his only intent is to enhance his image, whose knowledge of economics is penurious and yet his conceit and hubris prevents him from owning up his mistake or keeping talent and scholarship around him.
3- He is indebted to his crony capitalist friends for putting him in the prime minister's chair and quid pro quo became blatant.
4- And he instead of tackling corruption, in a way legalised it through an egregious instrument called “electoral bonds”.
5- He unleashed sectarianism and gave carte blanche authority to the Sangh parivar to inflict its hindutva goons on the society and began targeting Muslim, minorities, Dalits, and tribals, paving way for lynching in the name of the cow, the Hindu god Ram and the religion. The gentle beast, the cow became a predatory animal and the law enforcers’ facilitators of the crimes committed by saffron goons.
6- Bigotry soon was made the official religion and daily doses of outlandish, bizarre, idiocy BJP ministers and parliamentarians began to zealously mouth became an utter embarrassment to commonsense and to the country itself.
7- The extent of fear and emasculation that was to come among the intelligentsia was noticed even as back as 2014 when physicians sat mutely through a speech of Modi wherein he claimed, cosmetic surgery and reproductive genetics were used thousands of years ago in ancient India. He referred to the birth of mythical Karna and the figure of the elephant-headed god Ganesha as examples. Stupidity seemed to be seamless in Modi rule.
8- Then the most ridiculous, quixotic and heartless of all his decisions- demonetisation was inflicted on the country.
9- And one of the most novel of tax regimes- GST mooted by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and which Modi as the chief-minister opposed tooth and nail was rolled out hastily, without a proper plan or thought and literally botched it up. Modi’s yearning for theatrics and a position with the founding fathers of the country was so irresistible that he made the parliament convene at midnight to announce the new tax regime, without planning or forethought, throwing commerce and tax generation into a tailspin.
10- For the first time in the history of Independent India the world’s financial institutions began to sceptically eye statistical figures dished out by Modi government. It was pathetic, the country’s own Department of Statistics distanced from the government’s data and figures.
11- Lies and falsehood became the rule and norm. Cyber cells were set up to spread innuendos, falsehood, and canard.
12- The mammoth defence deal with France was arrogated by the man himself and his government stonewalled and refused to answer legitimate queries about the deal.
13- Procedures were steamrolled through in parliament with scant regard for conventions and propriety.
14- Constitution was defenestrated when Article 370 was abrogated.
15- Important legislations were blatantly piloted without debate and scrutiny in the lower house as money-bills, circumventing the possibility of discussion and bottlenecks in the opposition-controlled Rajyasabha.
16- An egregious law to use religious profiling like in the Third Reich to identify and sequester Muslims was passed in parliament, throwing the country into turmoil and Modi made the infamous and unstatesmanlike comment that protesting people can be identified by the dress they wear.
17- Institutions were systematically encroached and packed with ideologues, textbooks were refurbished with hindutva narratives and mumbo jumbo.
18- The Courts and the media were bought or bludgeoned to submission, institutions of higher learning were targeted, canards were spread about them and the students there and criminals escorted by police were given a free hand to enter campuses and attack faculty and students.
19- Police were used to aid rioters and let the capital of the country burn for three days, targeting Muslims.
20- Sufficient international reports and the WHO missive on the possibility of COVID-19 turning into a pandemic were ignored for one full month and more. Ostensibly Narendra Modi had more pressing issues to handle- the toppling of the government in the State of Madhya Pradesh and then the international thamsha of Donald Trump’s visit. By then the damage was done and proactive recourse were nonstarters.
21- Intolerance towards criticism and different opinions became so abusive that paled Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.
22- Contempt for scholarship, intellect, and science. Central funding for research tweaked to .8 percent of the GDP and funds for education and health slashed.
23- Like he claims if he is a democrat what prevented him from facing the media? Not one candid press meet in his tenure so far. That itself proves his weak guts when facing the truth.
24- As a person living in Kerala, I cannot forget how malevolently Narendra Modi finessed all sources of aid and assistance from friendly Arab countries that were promised to the State to stand up to the devastating flood two years ago.

The man’s penchant for theatrics and symbolic gestures which befool Indians have always been plenty during the past 6 years. His wailing to burn him at the stake if demonetisation was a failure moved people to such extent that they stood by him. But forgot to heed his offer when demonetisaion became a monumental blunder, fraud, and crime on Indians. The dramatics over the coffin of 40 soldiers blasted to oblivion in a bomb blast at a high-security zone in Pulwama and the outrage still remains a mystery like the Godhra, but moved people to a great emotional extent that they rallied behind the man. The adventures across the border on a cloudy night, evading Pakistani Radars to hunt terrorists amassed near the international border was enough reason to anoint Modi as Napoleon Bonaparte – the fearless, and like Lancelot the daring knight in shining armour that India was searching for 70 years! These two incidents propelled him back with a thumping majority, but over the dead bodies of thousands of farmers who ended their lives, plowed down by farm distress, 40-year high unemployment, economic tail-spin to an alarming extent, atrocities on dalits and refusal to hear their agony, marginalisation and insecurity among Muslims and minorities, hounding and dispossession of tribals and prevalent mutual suspicion in the society which reached a never seen proportion.

Before coming to the recent theatrics of clanging and banging vessels and then the lighting of candles and lamps, remember a delayed response and the decision to enforce a nationwide lock-down was implemented with a notice of 4 hours. We saw the exodus and frenetic scramble by lakhs of migrant labourers , total disruption and defeating the very purpose of lockdown. Modi's penchant for drama sans idea, planning and thought, in brief lack of commonsense and empathy reflected here. And again both spectacles proved clownish and disastrous from the very need to distance physically. Only time can tell what is in store. His call for clang- bang would have been welcome if Mister Modi had shown an iota of honesty and sincerity in dealing with sectarianism communal hatred his party and the Sangh fanned out. I would not have hesitated to be part of these exercises symbolically though if the man had uttered one effective sentence addressed to his bakths and Sanghi storm-troopers that unity and oneness should mean inclusiveness of all people irrespective of religion, caste and creed and that symbolisms must be translated into realism. I would have volunteered had he not infamously profiled dissenters based on what they wear. That was an outrageous utterance from the prime minister of the country. Let him first target bigotry, be it of whatever religious hue, if he sincerely wants unity among all Indians. A symbolic drama will be an irritating comedy and utter dishonesty when he, Narendra Modi has not to date shown one act of carrying all Indians with him.

Now it is not just hating it is the detestation of what he stands for and am offended that the prime minister of the country is a person who has created more division than the Brits could in their infamous imperial history. Mister Modi, there is still time and opportunity to make amends and leave a legacy that will make posterity dismiss your fallibilities and see you as a Statesman.

I see that the country has been changed forever and even if Modi is voted out in the next general elections in 2024 or even the one after (should there be one), it will be years before the social fabric of the country can be repaired and people would begin to trust their neighbours; where ethnicity, religion, and caste become insignificant and harmony, food, shelter, security and clean environment become existential matters

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Wizard King

Once upon a time there lived in a faraway land, a man who boasted a broad chest and he ruled over a kingdom where its people even surprised him for their lack of intelligence. And he rightly observed them so to his coterie. But they, his subjects, in their blinkered life had not seen a donkey and so could not compare themselves with the twat, dumb-looking timid beast. They believed their King was smart and they clever as their King.
The King was canny as a fox, but he also thought he was smart and had a high IQ. Kings from other kingdoms would always want to remind him politely he was an idiot like his subjects, but alas he always hastened to hug and charm them as soon as he saw them, that they preferred not to be candid and risk being rude in the bargain.
The fact remained as stark as that, that the King would go on national television as he often did and announced mad decrees he claimed were for the greater common good and demanded compliances which his donkey subjects, the twats gleefully obliged, eagerly looking up to him for more.
He was a sorcerer if he could hypnotise his donkey subjects and they joyfully followed him like even the pied piper of Hamelin would have no alternative but envy the King. He would proclaim his decrees at night and the next day, he would wail, beat his chest that they should burn him at the stake if he was wrong, and they forgave him, they could not bear tears in his eyes. They knew not that his eyes were of marble and could not generate tears. Often he would send out a decoy, a look-alike (though many say for real)- his old mamma to run the same errand he asked his donkey subjects to do and they would go gaga and dance singing eulogies of the King and his old mamma. The King would not even spare his old mamma! How noble! The King would laugh his guts out, rocking in his chair in his castle. And the donkeys in unionism would bray, “Oh, great leader, you are the shining star, the burning sun, son of Gods you could never be wrong. You are infallible, you are the light and deliverance.”
One day a little before midnight the King went on Television dressed in his splendid silk attire appliqued tapestry that at a closer look told was his name embroidered in the thread of gold, his snow-white mane immaculately groomed and waxed with ancient Indian herbs, its aroma stifling even through the television screens but as aromatic incense to his hallucinated subjects in their dreamy indolence. He then decreed that from midnight that night he was suspending the earth’s gravity so that his subjects could spread their wings, tethered until then by evil forces and fly with abandon. Midnight came by and his donkey subjects flocked and jostled to jump out of their apartment windows and float like fairies in the state of zero gravity. Many living in hutments scampered up coconut palms, so they could jump and fly. Such was his prehensile purchase and sway over them they gleefully jumped and flew; then they fell flat on their skulls and on their faces, on to the ground below like hailstones. Their craniums, ribs, and bones breaking like twigs, and still, they thought they felt they were flying, the strong cold wind in the sky blow in their faces. They were in awe that they could fly. And the wizard King with ease held them in his spell, that their broken skulls, dying hearts, and aching bodies refused to believe they did not fly. They bled and bled!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Circus after the Hanging

For some time yesterday early morning after I switched on the TV, I began to wonder if Covid-19 vanished from the country overnight. There was not a word of the contagion, all that burst out on TV channels was the hanging of the four rapists in the wee hours in Tihar.
It seemed like a carnival at the gates of Tihar. Newfound trust in the judiciary as placards displayed “we trust Judiciary”. Then all kinds of bizarre slogans which I now fail to recollect. Men were jubilant, so were women. It all seemed like some medieval circus where public executions had taken place and the crowd braying for more blood. The 7 years of wait had finally come to close and the Indian judicial system that moves as fast as a tortoise has ground its way and brought to close a sordid chapter of gang rape, brutality, and murder that may pale the wildest of barbarians even the Vikings.
7 years ago on a wintry night, the unfortunate Delhi girl was stalked by six savage men and after thrashing her companion to an almost invalid state the brutes set upon her gang-raped her in the most flagitious and dreadful way only human beings can think of. That night India as a country and we as social beings failed the young girl miserably. We failed because we let six depraved societal beings physically violate her – she was mauled and torn apart. The brutality that even wild beasts would not do was heaped on her. We again failed when we most outrageously rechristened her “Nirbhaya”, or the fearless. How dare we? How dare we presume that the girl was not plowed down by mortal fear when six hellish, debauched men pounced on her and ignoring her pleas, cries, and entreaties ripped her apart like hungry savage wild dogs? How dare we call her fantastic names ostensibly to elevate her on a high pedestal of courage and bravery and thereby mollify our collective guilt? She, a frail teenager, I’m sure could do nothing to resist when six cannibals had her pinned her down and set upon her in the most gruesome fashion words fail to tell. And we try to believe she was “fearless”! It makes me sick and retch when I hear the girl being referred to as “nirbhaya”, it must put down our heads in shame. She ought to be known by her given maiden name, her memory must not live under a pseudonym the hypocrite society granted her. That is the least justice we can do for her.
One can empathise with her parents who were pleading for the execution of her daughter's rapists. Their anguish minds could not have seen beyond that and the moral, ethical side of jurisprudence. When the mother said with relief that at last, her late daughter got justice, we could hold out our feelings for her. What else can a mother feel? But it makes me wonder when the general public says that “Justice served for ‘Nirbhaya”. What justice could a dead person possibly get? One said her soul was writhing would now be at peace. Semantics and fantastic phrases apart, the soul is itself a mirage that we human beings invented to appease our longing for immortality. A satisfaction we get when we think a part of us live even after we are dead.
What justice is it that we could give the girl now she is dead that we as a society collectively failed to provide her while she was alive? What justice are we waiting to render to the teenaged Unnao girl who was brutally raped and later murdered? What justice can we now give Asifa the seven-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped for days and murdered in a temple in Kathau, Kashmir? How many more individual justice are we to ensure for rape and murder of women and little girls that happen every day in this country? It is offensive that we even think of finding satisfaction and expect to clear our conscience by invoking the end word in such cases- “justice served”. My foot!
We saw tribal instincts come alive in front of Tihar yesterday morning and the kill TV channels found in the news of the hanging of the quartet, baring a few channels like the Asianet News and NDTV who simultaneously dealt with the very foundation of the premises on which capital punishment continues to be on the statute in countries like India that we call civilised. The benchmark for “rarest of rare case”, is a flawed premise. A protest against capital punishment will in today’s India be as seditious and anti-national as criticising Hindutva. The old and humane avatar of Kiran Bedi the fiery cop, when she took charge as the first female Inspector General of the prison, carried prison reforms that were in tune with a society that claimed to be civilised. She was upbraided for trying to reform the incorrigible and calling for human rights in prisons. It is an old primitive tribal notion that believes prisoners do not have their rights as human beings. One can even ask the hackneyed cliché well if something that happened to the Delhi girl fell upon your kin you might then think differently.
There is a sine qua non for calling ourselves a civilised lot. That must first ensure the patriarchal mindset and misogyny are erased from the society; children from a young age are taught to respect women; if an accused when guilty of a crime is punished as per law and that very law must either address his or her transformation in incarceration or accept the fact that retributive justice is no justice but only vendetta as offensive as the crime itself. Look at people braying for blood of the accused or the guilty. We see that in primitive tribal societies. It doesn’t take much thought to understand that the men who were vociferous in front of Tihar, yesterday would perhaps readily stalk and violate a woman, molest, grope and harass if a given situation makes them believe that they can escape being apprehended or punished. That is the duality of people. You hunt the victim and later cry for her.
A few months ago much of the country applauded when the Hyderabad police stage-managed an encounter and bumped off three rapist murderers. We, like daft, were more than eager to accept their alibi that the men tried to attack the police posse before attempting to bolt. We even were content to think that extrajudicial killings were providing speedy ‘justice’. What we forgot to understand was we are going back into primitivity. Did we have a convincing trail that diligently tested the accusation those men were guilty of the crime? Or were they decoy planted by the real rapists – murderers? Did we realize the anarchy such extrajudicial, instant retribution can cause to the fabric of the society and its law and jurisprudence? Not a word thereafter, we moved on – in fact we have moved backward.
Now, when we stand up and be passionate about what we call retributive justice for the Delhi girl and thinking she finally got justice, we are lying unto ourselves and let me put it, mocking her soul if you may. There is no proof that retributive justice or capital punishment, and in primitive semantics an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth holds good as a deterrent. Only in uncivilised barbaric societies that still fall for that, quoting antediluvian practices and bizarre books can think of chopping one's hand for theft, stoning for adultery and decapitation for murder. When the world over societies has done away with capital punishment, I do not see why that medieval retributive punishment should not be removed from the statute of a country like India which claims to be civilised. Lifelong incarceration with or without a chance of parole is what would torment the criminal either leading to his or her reform or pathological decay.

To quote Henry Ford, “Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty”.