Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Lucid Dream and Reality

A Lucid Dream and Reality
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

The 2009 General election is going to witness a dawn of professional politics where political parties will be marketed as commodities to lure potential voters. It will not be merely a traditional competition between Congress and BJP but a plethora of small parties with regional interest will compete to get a share of people’s sympathy. Isn’t it good news for the general voter? The potential voter will get to choose from a variety of political parties thus making an end to the politics of ‘either or’ (read Congress or BJP). Welcome to the era of coalition politics where the interests of two mainstream political parties will be subject to strict scrutiny of smaller parties. The threat from smaller parties is so strong that some politicians are flouting the idea of a Congress-BJP alliance! The days of political monopoly are over!

The five years of UPA rule was supposed to benefit Aam Aadmi (Common Man) but it has only served the interests of Khaas Aadmi. UPA’s Common Minimum Programme was replaced by Uncommon Minimum Programme based on four ‘achievements’: Indo-US nuclear deal, Chandrayaan moon mission, 9% growth and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar win! None of this is directly related to the common man.

Indo-US nuclear deal is still no-clear deal to many; it will take at least 8 years to generate nuclear power. Chandrayaan moon mission is part of a satellite programme which any government would have followed it. The “9% growth rate” is indeed related to the fellow Indians but nobody is asking this: what percentage of Indians have benefited from the 9% growth rate? Merely 10%! This figure sums up the economic policy of the UPA government which is ironically headed by an economist and has the “dream economic team.”

The government of “Aam Aadmi” has shown remarkable generosity in subsidising big business houses and SEZs (Special Economic Zones). UPA has tacitly ignored small and medium enterprises which constitute the majority of Indians. The rich-poor divide has widened but yet UPA is singing a tune of good times! In the last five years India has not witnessed economic prosperity but economic regression. This fact can be gauged from Human Development Index of United Nations Development Programme where India’s rank has slipped from 124 to 132 in 2008. Even countries like Bhutan, Algeria, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iran have performed better than India!

What is the role of UPA government in a British movie with Indian actors? The euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire at best can be described as an act of individual creativity. The movie depicts the story of India’s poor and the bottom-line is the survival spirit of Mumbai. The movie must remind our shameless politicians a fact that gathers dust in government files that at least 30% of India’s population still leaves below the poverty line. There are at least 260 million Indians who still go to bed hungry every night.

The UPA, very subtly, is doing an NDA. It is building a momentum similar to NDA’s India Shining campaign. NDA had pumped 4000 million rupees of Indian taxpayer’s money in the form of advertisement just to communicate Indians how good they are feeling! P. Sainath, rural editor of The Hindu had commented then, “The fastest growing sector in India Shinning is not IT or software, textiles or automobiles. It is inequality.” His comment still holds relevance.

If Congress has miserably failed in its economic policy then BJP has floundered in making it a real issue which affects fellow Indians irrespective of their caste and religion. BJP is still trapped in its stone-age politics despite the fact that its allies have made it abundantly clear that they don’t support BJP’s Ram Janambhoomi movement. The BJP’s poll strategists have forgotten a fact that Indian economy was performing better in NDA’s rule.

None of the political parties have a slogan to communicate what they stand for. Congress does not have a stand to stand on. It is in self-congratulatory mode. BJP reeks of infighting and its Prime Ministerial candidate is behaving like Alice in Wonderland! Mayawati, the touchable politician of India’s untouchables, is doing a Hillary Clinton. Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh Company do not belong to anyone; they only understand the politics of selfishness. Sharad Pawar is a man of vested interests. He can go to any extent to save his party’s interests; even an alliance with Shiv Sena can not be ruled out. Shiv Sena, which used to be like a family managed business has suffered partition. Raj Thackeray, the “stray cub” has begun to bite in order to save Marathi interests.

Slogans have altered the course of history but our political parties are indulging in mud-slinging. None of the parties have a slogan to define themselves and their party’s ideology. In the recent history, two slogans had a profound impact on people all across the world. George Bush Senior, a strong contender for retaining American presidency in 1992, was defeated by a young and charismatic Bill Clinton who coined the famous slogan ‘it’s the economy stupid!’ It highlighted a deteriorating economy which had undergone recession. Bush senior had emerged successful in Cold War and first Gulf war against Iraq but yet it was only on the basis of a powerful slogan his government was brought down.

The second slogan consumed Republican Party of George Bush Junior. Obama’s slogan ‘We need change’ captured the imagination of ordinary Americans who were fed up with a war-infested President and an economy that was on the verge of collapse.

Indira Gandhi knew her party’s slogan; Sonia Gandhi does not have a slogan. L.K. Advani does not know the art of sloganeering! Leftist parties have an old slogan which Prakash Karat is not very keen to modify. Mulayam Singh has fresh slogan for fellow politicians: Hum Saath Saath Hain!

Isn’t it slightly confusing for the fellow Indian voters? The voters want to identify with political parties but not a single party is willing to identify itself with a cause! Each political party is trying to shine its old and rusty ideology but as P. Sainath wrote, “All the shine we work up will not conceal the darkness.”

Is a new light in the form of Third National Front needed to illuminate a new India?

That remains a lucid dream.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tenali’s Tantrum: For the love of kith and kin

Tenali’s Tantrum: For the love of kith and kin
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

It is hard to determine the extent to which parents today can go towards promoting their kids, to make them famous. This is truer in case of the parents in the urban areas. Having hailed from modest background with little or no scope to harness their skills and develop their talents with their financial prowess they want to ensure that the opportunities are made available to their children. There is nothing wrong with this mentality. It’s indeed commendable to ensure that you make provision for your kids of which you were once deprived of. After all that is also an important aspect of parenthood.

But what is not commendable is the obsession to promote one’s offspring at the cost of others. In Mangalore, a few months back I met a bright and promoting Hindustani classical singer. With all his passion, dedication and sincere perseverance he has hardly been able to make a mark until now. He’s in his early 20s. Yes, it’s a young age but there are several others, even younger in age, yet an enviable exposure. The only reason for him being yet to get a fair chance to prove is skill is absence of ‘God father’. His guru a distinguished persona in the Music world passed away just after training him - making him, literally, orphan in the world of Music. It has been over three years since his mentor passed away and still he hasn’t got a soul to promote him.

In Mangalore alone there are umpteen societies, forums and associations for promoting talents. Government of India and Karnataka spends virtually a fortune, as they say, ‘to identify and promote talents’. The funds are certainly allocated and events are held from time to time. The corruption is yet to play a spoil sport and yet all these funds are yet to benefit this struggling artiste.

The reason is simple. Handfuls of people dominate all the committees and organization ‘committed’ for promoting talent. And these people have been since the very beginning utilizing their position to promote their own kith and kin. You said unfair? Absolutely!

The following are some of the tricks they employ. The government allocate funds for conducting events here. For a music event, the chairperson calls for artists from places far and wide. The artists are paid a premium. And most of time, one may find that the ‘upcoming’ artist is son of a person who chairs concert in his city. And most of the time there is an understanding between them to exchange their kids. In this way, funds allocated by governments are being utilized continuously for promoting kids of these ‘patriarch’s of music’.

Yes, you should have the curiosity to learn the name of people involved. But will it not be unfair if only few are named? And to name them all, the space allocated for this column would just be not enough.

Such practices are being occurred not just in Mangalore but all over the country. ‘To excel in Music one ought to be a [‘big father’s son.’] says a budding artist. And with all the bit of research I have found no testimony to prove him otherwise.

Music, arts and culture are not just subjects but part and parcel of this country’s rich heritage and diverse legacy. Because these are not object you can seldom preserve them in museums. You have to motivate people with true talents for them to live. How is an organization to promote talents when its trustees, directors and mentors are busy promoting their kith and kin? Yes, it is certainly not bad for a trustee to promote this progeny or relative, but that should not be at the cost of those who deserve a legitimate opportunity.

Aren’t by such practices these personalities at the helm of such organization killing the talents and, also, the art? Aren’t these men guilty of conspiracy of eliminating a culture?

One may not be trained in arts, culture or music. But the basic essence of these is to amuse the observer. The interests of masses in these arts, culture and music are dying fast. The death shall be faster should these men allowed to chair these organization and promote, unjustly, their relatives. This has to stop. This ought to end.

Author is Director of Prabal Publishing, Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK) and Visiting Faculty & Hon. Prof. of Journalism

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amplifying Advani Logic

Amplifying Advani Logic
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

Law and order have two enemies: the Full Truth and the Complete Lie. When people realize the truth, they start revolutions. When they are fed lies they begin meaningless riots. (M.J. Akbar, 1979)

A leader is one who leads by example and does not follow in the footsteps of his followers and disciples but Lal Krishna Advani, country's desperate Prime Minister-in-waiting, is an exceptional political entity. He used to lead by example in his infamous Rath Yatra days but the addictive taste of Delhi's political power has changed his state of mind. No wonder he is blindly advocating a theory originally propagated by a small fish in the dirty pond of India's communalism – the notorious Narendra Modi.

Modi had recently said, "Attacks like 26/11 couldn't have happened without local support... The UPA Government is quiet on this aspect because of vote-bank politics." In other words, it simply means that the attack could not have taken place without the active help of Indian Muslims. Modi's statement was much appreciated within the BJP and Sangh Parivar. Advani, whose eyesight is fixed on 7 Race Course Road (Prime Minster's residence), realized that it was time that he broke his dignified silence to please saffron souls lest they think Modi is their natural leader! It is in this context Advani raised the issue that local angle "could not be ruled out", and demanded a "thorough" judicial inquiry covering "this aspect of the conspiracy as well."
Winston Churchill once said, "The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground." Had Advani kept his ears to the ground, he would have certainly broadened his approach but he didn't. A man who desperately wants to be India's next Prime Minister should have demanded a "thorough" judicial inquiry of Batla House, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta blast and Malegaon blasts etc. That would have made him a man of all seasons but alas he is a man of saffron reason!

If Advani's eyes are on the 7 Race Course Road, his ears are paying attention across the border. He is desperately seeking votes in Pakistan! The ad featuring on many Pakistani websites reads, 'It's possible, Advani for Prime Minister.' Does Advani want to become Prime Minister of Pakistan? Advani's adventurous ambition will bring much needed relief to Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's current Prime Minister!

For a change we must give Advani benefit of doubt. If his "local angle" concern is indeed genuine, let's try to apply this logic in totality. What would be the reaction of government and politicians if any political leader of Malegaon tries to raise the "local angle" involvement in September 29 2008 blast? What if he repeats the exact words of L.K. Advani only replacing 26/11 with Malegaon blast? He would be branded as a "communalist", an "anti-national". The police department will sing a song of law and order problem. It is quite possible that he would be booked under some sections of Indian Penal Code for making provocative statement of the communal nature.

This classic Indian duplicity is not a gift of British Raj but it's a product of hate-preachers who still see Indian Muslims as "outsiders" and "invaders". This tendency emanates from none other than the right-wing ideologue Golwalkar who put it quite bluntly, "Ever since the evil day, when Muslims just landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu nation has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers."

It is altogether a different matter that this kind of rabid rhetoric has been replaced by soft Hindutva because in an era of coalition politics, BJP can not form government on its own. Adopting the same kind of language will cut short Advani's Prime Ministerial dream.
The duplicity and hypocrisy of L.K. Advani is nothing new. He has been accused of a criminal conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid. Advani first blamed Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and, next, acclaimed the event as a historic one. In front of Liberhan Commission, he has repeatedly said that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of his life although Advani had said in Ayodhya that, "Aaj (December 6) kar seva ka akhiri din hai, kar sevak aaj akhiri kar seva karenge." (It is the final day for the kar seva today. The kar sevaks will be doing the final kar seva today). And when the demolition of the mosque was in progress, he also told that the Central forces were moving from Faizabad towards Ayodhya, but they were not afraid of it and instructed the public to block the national highway straightway so that forces do not reach Ram Janam Bhoomi. This was reported by Indian Express and later documented by noted lawyer and commentator A.G. Noorani. Jaswant Singh said that the demolition should not have happened in the sense that the BJP was one of the participants and BJP has direct responsibility. Ashok Singhal was more blunt. He told a gathering in London that "Kar sevaks had removed a stigma attached to the Hindu community. This was a matter of pride for Hindus the world over. It was like Hanuman setting fire to Lanka."

A.G. Noorani has beautifully described BJP's confession and denial thus, "The BJP wants to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. It simultaneously acknowledges as well as denies its involvement in the crime."

Advani's autobiography (My Country, My Life) is full of lies and contradictions and there is ample evidence of his "Muslim phobia" in it. It is an attempt to portray Advani as a "nationalist" leader and pave way for his Prime Ministerial dream. Perhaps the last word must be left to Noorani: "If Advani succeeds in fulfilling his 20-year-old ambition, this book will rank as the Fuhrer's Mein Kampf. If he is defeated in 2009, it will be remembered for ever as the swansong of a man who wanted to be Prime Minister of India too badly."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A lesson in life – at large

A lesson in life – at large
By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Life has always taken so many absurd twists and turns that I have stopped keeping its counts. Shifting over five professions, namely software programmer, web designing, marketer, writer, editor and now publisher cum administrator, I have come to but one conclusion: If you are capable, if you can believe in you… opportunities knock on your doors.

It's not easy to quit a job, for many. I have quit over forty times! You think I am lying? No-way! It's completely true. I have only quit, never was once that I was sacked. I quit out of my own reasons. People may call it "arrogance" but I call it conviction to values. I have lived by values and have seldom compromised on them – come what may. And because I have never compromised my credibility has seldom took a hit.

Today I am a publisher. I head a publishing company. I got this job after I spent over a year as a freelance writer. This job can mean a lot to many. I can certainly promote myself here, and well, but that's against my values. People may have blamed that I have promoted my self, but I know that I have never did it. And because I have never done that, and because I have promoted people with talents instead, I have with me an indisputable asset called 'Goodwill'. It is out of this goodwill that I am able to transcend any organization I work for in greater strata than it was, before me assuming a position there. Yes I may be proud of it, but certainly not pompous.

Across these professions I have learnt so many valuable lessons. Was it not for these lessons I would had been nought. I may not be a 'great' person, but what is being 'great'? Does someone have a definition for it? I wonder – if at all. All men no matter what they are or where they are… they are but men. Men have their own limitations, and, of course, strength. Many are despicable.
Their position is not for eternity, at some point in time they will fall, they all face failure before their rendezvous with death. They make mistakes and they may well make history… but they are men. You can't make men into gods and when you turn men in gods the history is replete with stories of savagery. Idolizing men is neither simple nor good.

Because all men have their limitation, many try to find people who are without it. They are ever in search of it, either outside or within. When they don't find it within, they find it out. And if they don't find one… they 'make' one. Cronies are nothing but men of such dreadful feeling. They make no good to the world. If at all they do something, it is but evil.

I have seen such crony's just on political or religious sphere but also on organizational as well as personal level. There are these 'leaders' who harp their power upon men trying to make them cronies. Cronies are so many in so many organizations. Their only job is to woo their bosses' ego.
In an organizational level, to get a work done… you always need to work with people. There exist no people without egos, while some may conceal… many of them show-off. Higher the position of a person in the hierarchy greater is his ego. To get a work done, it is imperative for a manager to play with these egos, but cautiously. If he plays it well… he wins. If not… he's gone.

In a nut shell the lesson I have learnt here is: In life travesties are innumerable. Life is never fair and so are people. Given that are we to conclude that world is a bad place to live in? Not really.

The world runs on simple formulae: [What's in it for me.] If you want to be a winner you need to have the genius to find what the other person wants and also the acumen to get that which he wants. Given you have these two, you can win the world. Should your knowledge fail to give that to you then its insane... sheer waste.

The Rise of the Hindu Right

The Rise of the Hindu Right
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

At what point in history did the word 'Sadhvi' enter the Muslim lexicon? Did the word 'Sadhvi' enter the Muslim psyche with the arrest of Pragya Singh Thakur, Malegaon bomb blast accused? The answer is a firm no. Pragya Singh Thakur is merely an offshoot; continuation of a contagious disease called communalism planted into the body politic of India with the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. The legacy of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur can be traced back to the Sadhvi Rithambara who had famously said, "Ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tor do" [Give one more push, bring down Babri Masjid].

We do not have any proof to suggest that Sadhvi Pragya is a descendent of Sadhvi Rithambara but they share a common ideology of hatred against Muslims with varying degrees of execution. The former believes in the physical virus of violence while the latter believes in the verbal virus of violence. Sadhvi Rithambara is more dangerous than Sadhvi Pragya because her methodology is to cultivate hate within the confines of law of the land. She is a hate-monger in the disguise of a woman preacher who had once said, "Muslims are like a lemon squirted into the cream of India. They turn it sour. We have to remove the lemon, cut it up into little pieces, squeeze out the pips and throw them away."

This poisonous potion of hate sums up the ideology of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and all the associated organisations of right-wing political family, loosely referred as the Sangh Parivar.

The BJP was born from the womb of Sangh Praivar and therefore a legitimate child of the Hindutva brigade. When the BJP came to power at Centre in 1999, there was a palpable sense of jubilation in the Parivar camp. For it was the time to 'right' a "historical wrong"; to construct Ram Temple in Ayodhya. To capitalize on Hindu sentiments Sadhvi Rithambara was touring America in 2002. She was at the Ganesh Temple in New York to raise funds for her new project – homes and shelters for Hindu orphans and widows.

She delivered a fiery speech peppered with poison. She said, "The efforts to build a temple for Lord Ram at the Babri Masjid site had given Indians a sense of pride… People questioned the Ram Janam Bhoomi movement but I told them if the youth of India stood up for the cause, even Muslims will start to say Long Live Lord Ram [Yahan to meeyan log bhi bolenge, Jai Shree Ram]."

What a project for Hindu orphans and widows has got to do with Ram Janam Bhoomi?
A comparatively calm and docile South India has begun to understand and include words like 'terrorism', 'communalism' and 'hate' in its day today vocabulary. That brings us to an interesting metaphor: When there is any trouble in the body, it is the whole body that feels the pain. Pramod Mutalik symbolizes and shares the pain of Sadhvi Pragya. Mutalik may have become a Muslim household name with his provocative statement, "Malegaon is a Jhalak. More is possible if every woman picks up bombs", but he was in the news much before Sadhvi Pragya. In the second half of 2008, the same Mutalik, a vendor of anarchy, had said in a press conference held in Bangalore press club that Hindu suicide squads are ready "to take on Islamic terrorists."

This news item remained on the fringe and nobody bothered to pick it up since Mutalik posed a threat only to the Indian Muslims. He became a despicable object only when his men attacked 'Hindu' women in a pub in Mangalore.

Sadhvi Rithambara, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Pramod Mutalik once belonged to BJP whose unofficial doctrine is based on the hate culture. It is altogether a different matter that when the hate crosses the permissible limit, BJP tries to distance itself from its ardent supporters.

Kalyan Singh, once the poster boy of BJP, has suddenly become an imposter for the BJP. Kalyan Singh is the same politician whose right-wing ability to check on Yadavs was once a prized possession of the BJP. Mulayam Singh's new-found love with Kalyan Singh is a well-planned political strategy to kill two-birds with one arrow. Mulayam Singh may have a mulayam corner for Kalyan Singh but Muslims will not become victims of his velvet-politics. It was under the watchful eyes of Kalyan Singh that Babri Masjid was demolished. The then UP Governor Satyanarayan Reddy had written a letter to the then PM Narsimha Rao on December 1, 1992 urging that the "general law and order situation, especially on the communal front, is satisfactory." Both BJP-ruled UP and Congress-ruled Centre slept over this suggestion.
Kalyan Singh was guilty of connivance while Narsimha Rao was guilty of inaction; he preferred to sleep that fateful afternoon when Babri Masjid was being brought down. A question worth-asking: Is there any difference between an open enemy and unfaithful friend?

If right-wing politics of BJP demolished Babri Masjid, the middle path politics of Congress gave us the world's longest running Liberhan commission. The commission would hopefully file the report by March end. Muslims will not give an award to Justice Liberhan for revealing the name of the culprits because they already know the names!

India is taking a right-wing turn once again. Sadhvi Rithambara, Sadhvi Pragya, Pramod Mutalik Kalyan Singh and Narendra Modi are the L.K. Advanis of the decade hell-bent on pressing the Hitler nerve.

Can India be saved from indignant Indians?