Monday, December 14, 2009

My Grandpa and the great Telengana predicament ...

My Grandpa, a fierce freedom fighter and an erstwhile member of the dreaded revolutionary group - the Anushilani Samiti of undivided Bengal, gave up his radical ways after getting influenced by the Gandhian philosophy of earning sovereignty through peaceful means and 'satyagraha'. In fact my Grandpa told me that the process of introspection had started much before. He was an ardent follower of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and was in fact deeply moved by his renunciation of politics during early years of the 20th century.

The most endearing memories of my Grandpa revolves around his ever readiness to tell stories, those from his life as also from Hindu mythology and contemporary literary classics. I heard stories of the relentless and hazardous fights of the revolutionaries, the exploits, trials and tribulations of the young members of the Samiti. My Grandpa, an avid reader that he was, kept narrating stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well. My personal favourite ofcourse were those moments when I could see his eyes lit up with passion while his voice registered a distinct spring, whenever he read out to me and my cousins, excerpts from Bankim's 'Ananda Math' and 'Devi Chaudhurani'.

Even as a kid I used to get thoroughly besotted by the fervour that most of those tales exuded, and silently promised myself to uphold the hard earned sovereignty of this country and to fight unto death against any power or entity that tried to take away our freedom or dared to maul our national unity. Strategies were drawn out and plans were discussed with my cousins, mulling over revolutionary tactics against any impending foreign threat, while enjoying home-made freshly puffed rice (muri) and green chillies. Our young indulgent home tutor usually joined us during those fiery rendezvous. He never seemed too eager to sweat it out during an extended power-cut with the ever confusing Algebra and a bunch of thoroughly mischievous and truant set of kids. The yellow light of a meagre lantern added to the suspense and thrill. Hardly did we realise that three decades later the greatest threat to our unity would come not from external forces but from our very own people.

A complete mayhem has been unleashed after Sonia Gandhi assured the TRS Chief of a resolution on a separate Telengana state. Many a push have come to a shove since then and various insurgent groups have renewed their pledge and demand for separate states to be carved out from the existing ones, within the Indian federation, supposedly to uphold and cater to the interests of the ethnic population represented by these ethnic leaders.

Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Purvanchal, Vidarbha, Sourastra, Maru Pradesh, Coorg, Bodoland are only few of the many new states being demanded by the separatists in various parts of the country. And the methods of support to their causes are varied from peaceful hunger strikes to deadly clandestine suicide attacks and damage to peoples' lives and property. So what do you do? Accept the demands and create more states and invariably add to the challenges experienced by the Central Government in handling so many states already, along with the constant inter-state rivalry that hardly promotes the national cause or that of a people (consider the case of Cauvery river water distribution issue)? Or do you thwart every possible separatist attempt on the part of these ethnic groups with sheer administrative and judicial forces, with the risk of keeping the fire of discontentment amongst the ethnic groups shimmering forever? Or do you create more effective and inclusive platforms for dialogues and formulate policies and find solutions, those aim to serve the purposes of the nation, the states and the tiniest but by no means insignificant ethnic groups?

Prior to the Partition, there were myriad numbers of Princely states those were not annexed to the Indian union under the British - those who had complete internal administrative autonomy. But once the British gave up their suzerainty, these states had the choice of merging themselves with either of India or Pakistan, or maintain their independence. The last of such incorporations happened in the year 1975, in the form of Sikkim, following an overwhelming public referendum there. India thus transformed into a complete democratic republic with no role for the Rajas, Nawabs or Nizams of these princely states in public administration.

India, since then have seen disintegration of existing states resulting in formation of new states as well as conversion of Union Territories into full-fledged states, and have been constantly living with the fear and scary possibility of the whole Union falling apart into innumerable smaller states representing the identities and interests of the smallest ethnic groups - cultural, linguistic, religious, economic, etc.!

I know my Grandpa would have questioned the very feasibility of this narrow divisive regional and ethnic politics and the credibility of the leaders propagating them, if he would have been alive and kicking. He always said, this country's greatest strength lied in the fact that in spite of the fabric of this country being a complex composite of a huge number of very different ethnic communities, people always managed to come together, to share dreams and goals, to form and put forward a united front against a common enemy. No doubt, the freedom struggle against our colonial rulers helped him form his opinion and come to this conclusion about our inherent strength as a nation. But he never told us how we could stay united and share common goals, in absence of a common enemy. Or is there in fact an invisible common enemy that we are failing to see or sense upfront?

Pics courtesy: SanAtana Dharma

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Obama-Singh Joint Press Conference and an impoverished democracy: National integration and the radical groups - Part II

The nation waited with bated breath in anticipation of a historic press conference to be addressed by the first officially visiting Constitutional Head of a country during the tenure of President Obama. To the disappointment of many, there wasn’t any apparent expression or demonstration on the part of either of the Statesmen to prove that was any major breakthrough or spectacular understanding, except for the fact that Dr. Singh put it in so many words, during the joint statement session, that he was ‘satisfied’ with the outcome of his discussions with the President of USA, and that Obama termed India a natural ally in the war against terrorism.

Whether Dr. Singh was able to remove the bottlenecks created by the Obama administration to the nuclear deal and hasten up the process was unclear. Neither was it apparent whether President Obama could pressurise India enough to bend to the demands of the developed nations related to the signing of the nuclear NPT or agreeing to the emission standards to prevent climate change. It seemed as if the entire media hype surrounding the summit came a cropper.
But, one statement made by President Obama got me thinking. He mentioned during his address that America has quite a few things to learn from India and took the example of India's story of being a food sufficient nation. Pride is the natural feeling that I should have experienced immediately. On the contrary I was engulfed by a strange feeling of helplessness and sorrow. Can you beat the gaping paradox, staring right at our face, that in a statistically food sufficient country like ours, nearly 400 million is languishing in severe poverty, barely surviving on a meal a day, earning much less than a dollar a day worth income?

We are spending billions on research and developing technologies to try and search for the ever-evasive, yet-to-be-detected ‘life’ on extra-terrestrial locations when we have not being able to protect or improve lives of our own very real people in our own very real, very independent country, right here, right now. I have nothing against lunar missions or nuclear energy. But I am certainly not ok with the pretentious stances taken by our statesmen and myopic politicians, while proclaiming the huge successes of the 5-Year Plans and path-breaking economic measures taken by successive governments, for complete eradication of poverty.

Even after more than 50 years of Independence India still has the world's largest number of poor people in a single country. It’s like the proverbial albatross, the noose around the neck that the world’s largest democracy is doomed to live with, forever. An extremely powerful ex-Prime Minister of this country had once famously admitted that post independence, we have faltered as a nation, in three primary areas – food, healthcare, education. Three decades later, the situation hasn’t changed much. Or has it? This is a no-brainer.

Our equity markets are buzzing with bullish sentiments and activities, more than ever before. FIIs never get tired listening to the India story and keep coming in hoards, even during phases when the rest of the world’s economies were facing crippling credit crisis scenarios.

The world’s pretty much convinced ... India is the next big thing! But are we, in reality? If yes, then at what cost? I would like to understand the true meaning of economic prowess? Is it the ability of few of the large industrial conglomerates to make mind-boggling multi-billion dollar global acquisitions or is it the nation’s ability to provide food, shelter, adequate healthcare, qualitative education, employment, social security and empowerment to all its subjects?

Ensuring national energy sufficiency is important, no doubt. But equally important, if not more so, is eradication of impoverishment plaguing hundreds of millions. Do we want to build our growth story on extremely weak socio-economic foundations?

Going by the projections recently provided by the United Nations, over a billion people are hungry, worldwide. And it’s incredible a fact that India accounts to nearly 40% of that figure. Doesn’t it sound like a farce, when our politicians proclaim India as the next economic superpower or Nobel-winning American President wishes to learn the tricks of being food grain sufficient and independent from the Indian economists and policy makers, while 400 million of our countrymen cannot generate enough income to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, healthcare and education?

Poverty rarely receives any lip service from the self proclaimed socio-political crusaders (aka political leaders and activists), nor do they get any footage in media platforms – ‘poverty’ is hardly a glamorous subject or spectacle for the ‘revolutionary’ Indian media in comparison to say a failed lunar mission, or the news related to the inability of the Indian bureaucrats to drive the nuclear deal through the Obama administration. As a nation we are obsessed with “Breaking News” ... and ‘poverty’ doesn’t qualify!

Pics courtesy: Mangalore Today

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The rise and rise of the Maoists: National integration and the radical groups - Part I

The PMO has branded the Maoists as a social menace and the single biggest threat to national security. The radical left ideologists are opposed by virtually all political parties representing the Indian electorate, concerned with the rapidly growing influence of the groups and its sympathisers across the nation, their activities slowly extending beyond the ‘red corridor’ of initial influence.As a nation we are spending a lot of our time, energy and resources trying to suppress the outbursts, the anger and many manifestations of the pain and frustration from decades of socio-economic disparity and deprivation.

I am definitely not a supporter of these radical groups or sympathiser of their means of protest, purely due to the fact that I am a firm supporter of democracy and do not subscribe to any form of ruthlessness, violence or indiscretion, that in any which way hurts the very foundation and fabric of this nation .

I just have a feeling, as a law abiding, tax-paying citizen of this country, that our establishments have missed a trick or just not inspired or competent enough to decipher the macro picture. We have got entangled in the myriad outbursts and the violent demonstrations and in the processes of enforcing cosmetic damage control mechanisms, rather than analysing the circumstances and drafting solutions to the bigger problem – the ‘causes’ themselves, those trigger such extremism. As long as the real causes of the collective anger of a large section of people remain unaddressed or unconsidered, it will to continue to sprout insurgents and radical groups, those who would chose extremism and violence over peaceful and democratic means, clamouring for rightful attention from the authorities and the of people of this country. The once feeble voices will start gathering greater support and momentum, possibly engulfing larger and more influential sections of the civil society. Involvement and moral support of more and more educated intellectuals from the social mainstream, to the mass struggles and the downtrodden fore-fronting these struggles, happening in many pockets of rural Bengal should be seriously considered as an omen of bigger things to come.

We blame the rebel leaders for instigating violence, for garnering groups to take up arms against the state and its administrators. But if one considers a contrarian viewpoint, if this great country and its citizens are already being administered as per the vision and promise of the founding fathers, if the pillars of its policies and programs are firmly entrenched into, meant for and are being executed for the overall welfare of the Indian people, why and how would a handful of radical leaders be able to turn an entire population against the state and its machineries? Should we believe that the ideologies, philosophies and policies of a few separatist and extremist leaders are far better and stronger than those propagated by innumerable freedom fighters who fought for a free Indian society shining bright with equality and tolerance or for that matter from those championed by hoards of notable social scientists and political ideologists and leaders, produced in the last five decades and even earlier, in this great democracy?

Time is ripe for collective national introspection and debate. The last and the most mindless thing we could afford to do at this point in time is to equate the primarily imported Jihadi separatists with radical leftists sprouting from within this country.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Terrorists, terror itself or something else... which is the real problem ?

Does terror have a face? Many would say it does. Some would say not one, but many.

It seems our definition of terror or its many faces have very slowly, unconciously yet decisively narrowed down to a very small range of dreadful acts and demonstrations. As if, we almost have build a 'brand' called terror and not all horryfing acts of human indiscretion qualify to be branded 'terror'. As if a certain amount of collective 'colateral damage' is neccessary for an act to be termed as a truly terrorising one. As if terror is proliferated exclusively by organised networks and so called socio-ethinic institutions and cannot be perpetrated at a personal level. Our societies, unfortunately, have been desensitised to the endless acts of terror those affect our daily lives relentlessly.

The Indian central anti-terror investigating agencies are suddenly on a functional overdrive, since 26/11, trying to nail evidences against the perpetrators of institutionalised and often state-sponsored acts of terror. The indian beaurocrats are burning midnight oil - and also gallons of HSD and other jet fuels, crisscrossing continents - to convince the so-called 'allies in the war against terror' to effect extraditions and sanctions and so on and so forth. But, no state agency, institution or action group in this country is found to initiate any strategised and structured action against the growing numbers of cases of domestic violance, of various forms, happenning all over this great democracy, accross all sections of the civic societies. It is apparent that quantity and scale of tangible loss has become the measure for qualification of events as acts of terror. In fact in the last couple of decades or so terror has been glamourised to fault and industries have been build around it - ones those are either for or against it, benefitting a section of the society who are aware of its tremendous commercial potential. Who have the mind, the means, the say, resources and tools, either way - for or against, to use the raw material called 'fright' and process it to churn out the proverbial millions. And that includes nuclear powers, rogue states, jihadi groups, religious intolerants, political parties, unscrupulous industrial houses to local goons, land sharks, political cadres and perpetrators of domestic and social violance.

Cadres of a certain political party vandalising the office of a leading media house in Mumbai, is nothing but a well-strategised act on the part of an organisation, which, along with its politcial ideology, has been steadily slipping into terrains of social and political irrelevance in the last few years, in a compellingly consmolitan and economically progressing state. Ditto with Talibans, who have started turning their weapons against the very establishments those created the dreaded Frankesteins out of them and have suddenly started disowning them. I fail to understand how such acts of terror are different from the continuing waves of tortures, trials and tribulations against millions of women in this part of the world or for that matter the rural population painfully and perenially languishing below the poverty line.

Terror has always been a method, a tool, to establish authority, a regime, an industry within the purview of a social framework - local, regional, national or beyond. What we classify today as 'terror' are mere manifestations and outcome of years of cumulative social degeneration, which we have not put enough efforts to understand and reign in. Acts of consistent domestic and social violations have equally consequential, far-reaching and irreversible ramifications on the very social fabric and demographics, those keep on producing global terrorists, in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia, Africa and other places, spreading to the farthest reaches of this globe.

What probably needed for us to realise is that terror and its shoots has penetrated the most private and personal quarters of human lives challenging the very basics of existence. Our appreciation and understanding of the very nature, dimensions and scale of the problem has to chage. Our notions and the presumptuous approaches and methods of finding a solution to the menace of terror needs to be revisited with care and concern.

An act of terror cannot nullify the effects of another, neither can it mend the degenerating roots of our society. Terror in the name of 'war against terror' can only add to the sum total of horror, panic, loss, sufferings, miserability and near mayhem affecting lives of millions and virtually pushing us to the brink of a complete human holocaust.

In fact there isn't "A solution". The process has to start - a process that is sensitive, humane, inclusive, non-hypocritical, unselfish, broad-based and aimed at arresting the poignant social degeneration and not as reactive, stop-gap and short-sighted as 'fighting' terror with an equal amount of guile and terror. It's like fighting the effects and manifestations of a disease, conveniently turning a blind eye to the the disease itself. I have not known a fire that has doused another fire ever. The solution has to be trasforming and not reactive or restricting.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The core of the problem

A vessel criss-crossing vast expanses of water across continents, carrying people and cargo is known as a 'ship'. A vehicle traversing the terrains of space, reaching out to the farthest corners of the milky way and beyond is called a 'spaceship'. How would you term a capsule that's designed to carry passengers, machinery, tools and nuclear load to the 'core of the earth'? An 'earthship' ... a 'geoship' or something else?

In fact, irrespective of it's nomenclature, it's pretty intriguing a concept, isn't it?

Well, I got to watch a movie on the TV the other day and was immediately pushed to the edge of my imagination, after a long time. It's about a group of American volunteers, from various walks of life, virtually sacrificing their lives, to protech mankind ... as it always happens in those great American sci-fi fantasies, where a bunch of Yankees take it upon themselves to save the world from the clutch of imminent extinction, due to some terrible natural disaster. The movie under consideration is about a set of people, including one representing the NASA, a geo physicist, a post graduate university professor, a nuclear physicist, a space craft engineer, a navigation specialist ... can't remember the exact mix ... seven of them in all ... joining together on a mission, to get inside a capsule, specially designed, almost resembling a screw, with laser projection systems at the fore, to drill through the earth, piercing the crust after reaching the bottom of the ocean, to go through various layers of the earth, facing deadly challenges in each stage with great American gusto, finally reaching the 'core', to bombard it with a pre-calculated loads of nuclear ammo.

All this and more apparently to 'stablise' the core that has been destabilised for some geo-physical reason which has created waves of mammoth and irreversible natural disasters and destructions, around the globe, sounding the bells of "dooms day".

Well, I must admit, the film is worth watching simply for the reasons of ingenuity of the plot, the quality of the performances of the protagonists and of course for the surreal special effects perfectly suited for a high intensity sci-fi. But, my contention is not the quality of production but the subject itself.

Why do film makers, more so in the Western World, make movies those depict onset of natural phenomenon of incredible proportions or disaster upon this earth, for reasons created by man or otherwise, and how human beings fight tooth and nail, assisted by huge advances in technology, with the impending disaster to prevent complete wipe out of humantiy from the face of the earth.

What's the purpose? Is it just stretching the limits of imagination and fear in the minds of the cine going audience to rake in the moolahs? Or is it to put to use the ever evolving movie making techniques and SFX to create the scale and hoopla around emerging trends of entertainment? Or is it simply man's desire to convince himself that he has the willingness, abilities, means and resources to take nature head-on, at any given circumstance, and emerge victorious in protecting its existence against any natural onslaught, caused by his own insensitivities.

Hope we will live another day to find the answers ...

Pics courtesy:

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The quest begins ...

... who cares for just another blog ? I don't. Do you ?
... but then why am I here ? doing what ? looking for who or what ? do I need anything ? or do I have something to offer ... something to share? who do I share with? who needs my thoughts and paraphernalia anyways ?
... Heavens !
... why, who, when, what, where, how ...
God ! ... this is way too confusing ...
... and I thought it was a cakewalk ...

But then, on second thought ... I see a purpose behind all this confusion ... the reason behind this madness ...

... a faint picture appears ... very faint ... worne out by decades of oblivion ... a kid standing spellbound, watching with his large, vulnerable eyes wide open with wonder ... Gouri, one of his few favourite animals reared in the backyard of his house, delivering its first off-spring in one of the chilliest winter mornings of the late 70s. The kid, along with four other cousins, who were all part of a large Brahmin joint family, got mesmerised by what they saw ... the apparent signs of pangs of birth-pain in Gouri, a large, beautiful white cow, the concern on the face of the middle-aged veterinarian and "Jethu", the eldest son of "Borodadu" (the elder amongst the two grandfathers in the family), who were overseeing the delivery and who had allowed the kids, after a lot of pestering, to watch the spectacle ... the plausible relief and joy in the air once the calf was delivered, the pet doctor's post-delivery care, Gouri's anxiousness to shower her care on the newborn, the wet calf's constant effort to stand and stabilise and its inability to do so, its palpable joy and comfort on being licked all over, by its mother ...

... days passed ... watching the antics of the new born became a favourite pastime of the kid .. how the calf got used to drinking away its mother's milk ... how it got used to the presence of kids around it ... how it got used to getting tied down to a post, when its mother got milked for the family's consumption, how it got used to the jute sack that got wrapped around its body during the night to protect it from the chill, how it made itself cosy with the warmth of its mother's body during the nights ...

... the best part for the kid was ofcourse something else ... his first exposure to uncontrolled, no-holds-barred freedom and apparent madness ...

The backyard, the courtyard and the empty space around the house was substantially large ... and the calf made the best use of it ... it spend hours running around, not strong or stable, yet free and energetic ... reaching all possible corners ... randomly altering its path - without any rhyme or reason, deliberately pushing the frontiers of the space available, completely unmindful of any danger whatsoever, often slipping and hitting things unmindfully, everytime getting up on its wobbling legs and re-initiating its run ... as if destinations didn't matter, goals were yet unheard of ... reasoning made way for the sheer pleasure of exploring ... the blinding passion and intoxicating insanity of "seeking" ...

... the kid loved what he saw ... it got etched, permanently, on the canvas of his young mind ... got covered by the dust and dirt of changing time, responsibilities, priorities and sensibilities ... but the form stayed ... the beautiful images stayed ... the urge to be able to become as free and carefree as a newly born calf, on a chilly winter morning stayed ...

... the kid grew up, started making money, became socially responsible, got "focussed" ... "goal-driven". ... but the wish remained ... and probably gathered momentum ...

... the kid's search for freedom continues ...

The Seeker

Pics courtesy: First Baptist Church

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