Monday, August 22, 2011

In the heat of the Anna Hazare campaign, there has been some pointed and very well argued criticism that organizing mass rallies and undertaking a fast unto death is coercive and subverts the parliamentary process. Indeed, Gandhi himself had admitted to the coercion implicit in the methods he adopted to pressurize the British Raj. This becomes strikingly obvious if we suspend our disbelief and imagine for a moment that it is Baba Ramdev who has undertaken a fast-unto-death to make yoga compulsory in secondary schools across the country. Now, apart from a vague notion that nothing should really be compulsory for anyone, I don’t harbour Read the rest of this entry »

Prabhakaran meets the maker

19th May 09. I landed in Chennai for my cousin’s wedding the day Prabhakaran was killed. His stocky frame clothed in camouflage lay on the ground, his eyes bulged straight out as if daring the one above. It might even have looked serene if the top of his head was not conspicuously missing. It would be two days before any official acknowledgment of his death appeared in Indian media. Tamil Nadu was quietly engrossed in the political drama unfolding in Delhi, brought about by DMK chief Karunanidhi. Having won a decisive mandate, he seemed insistent on milking Congress for a cabinet berth to all but his pet dog’s new litter.

25th May 09. The special session convened by the United Nations Human Rights Council saw two resolutions: Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The dominance of identity politics in the public sphere inevitably peaks with the onset of election season. However, current events have caused this unwelcome avatar of political life to not just dominate, but to cleanse political forums of any other form and expression of politics. The uncovering of the conspiracy behind the Malegaon blasts case has made headlines in national news networks for being the first instance where Hindu conspirators have been arrested and the role of right wing Hindu militant outfits is being seriously probed. This is especially surprising as the investigators have previously picked up Muslims who they claim are members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) or of the Pakistan-based outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba while simultaneously ruling out the role of Hindu organizations based on prima facie evidence.
As of October 2008, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad is in the process of investigating the involvement of Leiutenant-Colonel Purohit, a serving army officer and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a Hindu renunciate Read the rest of this entry »

Monday, September 22, 2008

 

In the summer of 2008, I had the good fortune to visit a picturesque hamlet tucked away in the hills of the Kalakkad Tiger Reserve in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu. I went with my father and a local social worker who interacted with the adivasis (aboriginal peoples) who inhabited the village.

We parked our car where the asphalt ended and waded through one stream, crossed another on a rickety bamboo bridge and suddenly found ourselves in as remote a part of the country as I could think of. Here, I was a city-bred foreigner. On the slopes of a hill, Read the rest of this entry »

While I think this piece was badly written, it foreshadowed a spate of grisly attacks on RTI activists. The logical conclusion of the ramble below is to argue for a strong whistleblower protection act.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

There has been much debate and discussion on the merits and limitations of the RTI Act legislated into law in India in 2005. The writing on the wall is that this is the most prominently citizen-oriented and user-friendly law to introduce transparency in government systems since Independence which has also managed to evade the countless bureaucratic attempts to limit its purview. As of now, it is only the Department of Defence which reserves its right to not answer to RTI queries. These queries can be made all over the country to locally deputed Public Information Officers in writing or by phone. Even the handwritten ‘notings’ on files by bureaucrats are not exempt. The general public Read the rest of this entry »

Friday, January 25, 2008

I happened to be in the Shivaji Park area of Bombay last week when I spotted posters announcing a political rally starring one Mr. Narendra Modi the following day. For those unfamiliar with this character, he is the prodigal victor of a recently conducted long and protracted election battle in the state of Gujarat, one of the more economically advanced parts of the country. The Gujarati public decided to extend their mandate to this most controversial Cheif Minister by another five years after his not wholly unsubstantiated claims of bringing about huge improvements in infrastructure and increases in industrial investment in the state.

‘Controversial’ I said, I know. Read the rest of this entry »