Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Opposition's job is to well... Oppose!

Yesterday, I saw this on Mahim Causeway:

I would certainly like to hear Mr. Kirit Soumaiya's opinion on what measures should the finance minister take. Or whether he knows how many 'किसान' or 'Small Investors' are resorting to 'आत्महत्या'

Monday, October 27, 2008


Mobs are above the law

Amit Varma, Mint, June '07

I felt an intense desire yesterday to go out and burn a bus. There was no specific reason for this – it was like a craving for ice-cream – and I also figured that I would throw stones at shop windows afterwards. Being in a social mood, I called up a couple of friends to ask if they would like to join me. They politely declined. Oddly, they also asked if I was okay. “I’m just fine,” I told them. “You go have latte and feel sophisticated.”

But I understand their apprehension. Had a couple of us gone out and burnt a bus, we would have been arrested instantly, and later thrashed in the lock-up. On the other hand, had a couple hundred of us gone, nothing would have happened. We would have been allowed to burn buses and throw stones, and even hurt or kill a few people as long as they weren’t anyone influential. All we’d need was a banner or two, or even just some slogans to shout. “We want justice,” we could proclaim, while figuring out whether you set fire to the tyre before or after it’s around the hapless passerby. It takes skill.

In India, mobs are above the law. The events in Rajasthan in the last few days are an illustration of this. The losses to business because of the protests by the Gujjars and their clashes with the Meenas are estimated to run in the hundreds of crores, and I think you’d agree with me that a lot of it was avoidable. Most mob violence in India is.

Now, mobs are a problem across the world. Sports-related mob violence takes place in most of the developed countries, and earlier this week around 1000 people were injured at protests at the G8 summit at Rostock. But mostly, police struggle to stop such violence because of logistical issues. Countries across the world recruit police keeping relatively normal times in mind, and find themselves over-stretched when riots take place.

In India, our police is certainly below par, but it isn’t all about logistics. Mob violence is often not controlled even when it can be, which is not something you’ll see in the UK or the US. How often have police in India been known to stand by and watch as rioters damage property and/or people? They do this mostly because they know that the violence they are witnessing is not a mere law-and-order issue, but a political one. It is outside their domain.

Politics in India has been sanctified, and you’ll never find a cop arresting a politician, unless he is being used as a tool by an even more powerful politician. Any mob activity that has political sanction has, by default, the implicit support of the law-and-order machinery. This applies to bandhs, to morchas, to strikes and even to riots, as we saw in Delhi in 1984 and Gujarat in 2002. And because the polity is so fractured and votebank politics is commonplace, many relatively small groups – such as the Gujjars – can disrupt normal life and get away with it.

While the police is biased towards the powerful, the legal system is also dysfunctional. Even if someone gets arrested for rioting – it has been known to happen, though always at the bottom of the food chain – do you seriously expect him to be brought to justice? The fellow will get bail, the case will drag on for years, the cops will be too incompetent to file a proper chargesheet and witnesses will change their tune. In the end, justice will not be done.

An excellent illustration of police bias and legal incompetence is the difference in the handling of the Bombay riots of 1992-93 and the blasts of 1993. Around 900 people died in the former, 250 in the latter, and yet, those who were behind the riots, as part of mobs that had political support, have yet to be punished. Justice has been done in the latter case, but were the riots any less criminal than the bomb blasts?

In case all this makes you so distraught that you are tempted to turn to prayer, don’t. God is part of the problem here, not the solution. Nothing insulates mob violence in India such as the excuse of religion. Forget religious riots—have you ever tried walking the streets of Mumbai during Ganpati, when drunk young men clog the streets, dancing and throwing colour with abandon? Anything that is done in India under the guise of religion is immune to the law.

Festivals in India enable mob misbehaviour, and the way they are celebrated in modern times virtually gives social sanction for hooliganism. This applies even to a relatively non-religious festival like Holi, which is no longer a wholesome celebration of spring but an excuse to harass women (and even men, sometimes) whom one doesn’t know.

Anyway, I have written enough, and I will go now to indulge a craving. No, you won’t find me burning any buses today. Instead, I’ll go get some ice cream. But if a few hundred of you ever desire to go out and set the town on fire, get in touch with me. I have contacts, and we’ll have a blast.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

...hope he also regretted Mumbai's rape

At the risk of making this sound like a political blog, I would like to build on my post yesterday in which I appreciated MiD-DAY for having an opinion and taking a stand.

Today, MiD-DAY's front page headlines reads "Raat bhar ghar ki yaad aati rahi" with a cartoon showing the MNS leader lying on the floor of a cramped room.

The best part though was the opening lines of the article in some 30 point bold grey: "Raj Thackeray spent 19 hours in police custody yesterday, which means thoughts must've drifted home. This is an insider view on those hours. (We optimists hope he also regretted Mumbai's rape)"

Reported by Vinod Menon and Kranti Vibhute, this is what I call journalism with balls!

Update: A little later, the e-paper versions of this article had a more subtle tone. The Pune e-paper now says, "We wonder whether he also ruminated over the violence his arrest had unleashed in Mumbai"

I wonder whether someone suddenly felt the need to make the 'changes' upon receiving some serious CYA advice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What makes me happy on Mumbai Bandh...

Thanks to the MNS, you can drive constantly at 80 even in Bombay these days. I reached home in 45 minutes yesterday... on a route that generally takes my 75 to 90 mins to cover.

Jai Maharashtra

No foreign hand in this one

As the events unfold and are brought to me each morning on a broadsheet, I am thoroughly convinced that India is a land of breakthrough innovation. While there are blasts happening all over the country - irrespective of the region's religious or linguistic representation - which at least shows that the IM, ISI or whoever look at India as an integrated mass, we have a brand new form of terrorism: the homegrown variety currently being marketed by the MNS.

It doesn't beat however, the Indian ability to manage the old-wine, new-bottle act with utmost perfection. Consider the case of our beloved MNS itself and you will see how it closely replicates the Shiv Sena act just a few years ago.


The recycle-and-innovate routine certainly deserves an "In Popular Culture" section for sure. I know you are thinking Karzzzzz so I will skip explanation! :)


Interning at a media company has its own set of undocumented perks. For one, you get to read newspapers at work. When you read all the dailies that the city gets to read, you realise that the only thing that diffrentiates one from another is the advertisements that they carry.

Indian journalists, I am sure, are a closely tied community. It is worth mentioning this here because that is the only way one can explain how legacy is passed on from the seniors to the just-joined-journalists.
I remember reading the newspapers when Bal was arrested. I bet I am not the only one who gets a sense of déjà vu when they read about Raj sahab today.

Ditto with cricket - Sachin looking high up in the air, bat raised every time he, you know... and those huge DOWN arrows every time the sensex crashes.

It works... Copy, paste... lagao!


Talking of identical coverage on the Raj Thackarey issue, I would like to mention a rare exception & commend MiD-DAY for their columns today. The tabloid, generally criticised for its masala content, had some real balls to take a stand and condemn the homegrown terrorist in print.

Sure I want my dailies to be neutral and present mere facts - I don't need the reporters' point of view on most news items, but I really appreciate that a newspaper has the guts to come out in the open and criticise acts which are simultaneously illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman.

Good job, MiD-DAY!

Monday, October 20, 2008

No one told you when to run

I just realised the amount of time I waste online.
It was a Sunday a few hours back and I spent the whole day until now surfing around (check the time)

Sigh! The Internet is why I will never be able to achieve my dreams!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


If you are late for work in the morning in Bombay, and you reach the station just as the train is leaving the platform, you can run up to the packed compartments and find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outwards from the train like petals. As you run alongside the train, you will be picked up and some tiny space will be made for your feet on the edge of the open doorway. The rest is up to you. You will probably have to hang on to the door frame with your fingertips, being careful not to lean out too far lest you get decapitated by a pole placed too close to the tracks. But consider what has happened. Your fellow passengers, already packed tighter than cattle are legally allowed to be, their shirts already drenched in swear in the badly ventilated compartment, having stood like this for hours, retain an empathy for you, know that your boss might yell at you or cut your pay if you miss this train, and will make space where none exists to take one more person with them. And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning or whether you're from Malabar Hill or New York or Jogeshwari. All they know is that you're trying to get to the city of gold, and that's enough. Come on board, they say. We'll adjust.

Source: pg. 534, Maximum City by Suketu Mehta

Monday, October 06, 2008

What the...

I have been reading more newspapers these days than I've ever read in my life - thanks to HT - and quite honestly, it is very depressing.

Whenever someone tells you that there was a blast in some place, you casually ask, "Kitne blasts hue?" or a more surpised "Ek hi blast hua kya?"
Meanwhile, the self-obsessed Home Minister is seen changing outfits every hour to make the most of the media attention. Despite of repeated failure and appeals from citizens asking him to step down, the Home Minister - who is a subject of mockery and the cartoonists' favourite - is shameless enough to hold on to his beloved seat.

Churches are being attacked, nuns are being raped, while the Bajrang Dal or equivalents yell "Jay Shri Ram" as if raping and violence were the guiding principles of Hinduism.

Tata pulls out of Bengal thanks to a protest, driven by - at least the way I see it - a political motive more than a genuine concern for less than 20% of the farmers who did not want to give their land away.
Not to forget, these are the same farmers who were made to vacate their own land at gunpoint by a government who is as much to blame as the opposition.

I-banks are falling, so are the markets, people are being sacked; FIIs neither have the money, nor the confidence to invest in India.

We have Mr. Raj Thackeray, whom I 'spoke' about in my previous post, telling us very politely that Mumbai uske baap ki hai.

Journalists and young students are killed in the national capital whose CM - whose prime concern should be women's safety - blames the victims for moving out alone in an 'unsafe' city.

Be it nuclear deal or reservations or whatever, the government does it just to prove its mattle, to gather something it can pitch in the next elections. The opposition opposes whatever the government does - who cares if it for the good of the nation?!

This is all that stays in my mind at the end of the day, when I am about to go to bed.
I have somehow started expecting a repition of the above - more blasts, more MNS attacks, more vote bank politics - everyday, still hating it but surprisingly accepting it as the state of things.

No, don't get me wrong. I love this country. I know most that things are going great. I know that most of our people are much better than they were 10 years back.
It's just that my mind has started feeling an itch all of a sudden. I have started getting a creepy feeling, a question knocking in my head - something is going wrong somewhere.


Friday, October 03, 2008

I had a nightmare today...

I log on to the internet and all 3 homepages I have set in फायरफॉक्स are in मराठी.
So basically, my facebook tells me, जैक्सन राजन नी तुम्हाला पोक केला आहे and my Yahoo inbox declares that I have ३ नवीन ई-मेल.

Perhaps that was not scary enough, so I get ready and move towards my car. It takes me a while to find it though, since it is freshly painted in orange, just like all the other cars in the society.
I also can't help noticing that my car radio plays only Marathi songs.

What really woke me up, however, was when I reached SP - I found my room locked; my books(!) and stuff lying in the hallway.
I see Jackson; he tells me that we were thrown out of the institute - SP was forced to admit 30% Marathi participants and they therefore had to strike all the DBTs off the list!

Reservations, linguistic differentiation and layoffs... such a perfect modern-day nightmare material for an 'open' category, non-Maharashtrian MBA student in Bombay*.

*Okay, Mumbai.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

There is no Good(adj.) Bad(n)

It's pissing off when something bad happens and people say, 'Whatever happens, happens for good.'

I think D nailed it when he once SMSed me,
'If bad things happen for good, what do good things happen for?'