Tag Archives: Politics

Rise of the Hindu Right Wing: Godhra Verdict Should Be a Deterrent

A few years ago when I was at university abroad, I worked on a research project on Muslims stereotyping in TV news. For my research I interviewed a cross section of people in India asking them about their opinion about the Godhra riots and the subsequent news coverage. I mostly got blank faces and mumbles as replies to my questions. People were afraid to voice their opinions despite assurances of anonymity. The most common excuse being, “I really don’t know what happened there.” Which was surprising, to say the least.

It was in 2002 when I woke up one day to read the news that some Hindu activists had died in an arson incident in a train. A few days later, the revenge brigade was ready, allegedly led by Hindu right wing groups like VHP, Bajrang Dal and the state machinery.

In what I consider one of the darkest moments of a modern democratic India, I saw genocide unfolding in front of my eyes, Muslims killed for being Muslims. I read horror stories of foetus being ripped from the womb of a pregnant woman, a group of people killed in an apartment block, families wiped out. Those three days of horror and alleged complicity of the state machinery were a dent to India’s secularism and sovereignty.

And since then every time I have tried to defend India and said that it’s a democratic country with secularism entrenched firmly, the Godhra incident has been the answer for those with opposing opinions, those disillusioned by the very pillars of the system which helped spurn such terror. Seemingly, I have never had a fitting reply.

Today’s verdict of the trial court means, I can say that the system works. Even if it has been abused by those religious majority in positions of power, they have been shown their place by the same system. When the accused awarded a sentence are a former minister, political leaders and other important people, it means something.

I am sure they will appeal. The case will go to High Court, maybe the Supreme Court. There will be many years before a final verdict comes along. But a good start is the key, a deterrent to others who may want to indulge in sectarian violence. As a friend says, “there will be many challenges ahead.”

The state of Gujarat is due for elections this year. The BJP government looks all set to come back to power. I am not sure if today’s verdict will cause any damage, given that it has come back to power twice after that brutal carnage. I hope it dent’s Narendra Modi’s chance of becoming the next Prime Minister if not the Chief Minister. I hope we can truly say we are democratic, one day.

While we are at it, I hope 1984 will not be forgotten. After all if one politico-religious set of people have to swallow the bitter pill, why shouldn’t the Congress?


Filed under India

India’s Monsoon Economy: And Why We Need to Change It

It was to a TV news crew that the farmer sat in his field showing the once golden corn, now browning. His shoulders hunched and hands outstretched in despair. The monsoon has not yet reached the farms and his produce, due to lack of water, is wasting away.

Farmers toil very hard to fill the stomachs of those who live in the city. My own experience of extensively covering the wheat bowl of India a few years ago gave me a sense of how much effort goes into the process of farming, of working hard in intense weathers, on relying on rain gods for success. I came back to the city with a new respect for those we consider our poorer or less-cultured compatriots. They are the reason I have food on my plate.

But the axis on which the food security of this country hinges is Monsoon. A good monsoon means more food stocks. Which means simply – less inflation and a happier government. A bad monsoon strikes fear deep in the government. It has known to lead a government to collapse (just because onion prices rose so much after a bad spell of rains).

And this year in a rain-starved India, the metrological department has predicted a 31% deficit in rainfall. The government has sprung into action and the Agriculture Ministry has rolled out a contingency plan with the Minister assuring that the situation is ‘not that serious’ (he seems to have a direct connection with the rain gods!).

India has launched agricultural and weather satellites in space, it has agriculture scientists, it has a government machinery geared towards providing agricultural support. About 70% of this country is rural and about 60% are directly engage in agriculture and 10% indirectly gainfully employed because of it. What gets my goat is why after such technological advancement, about 70% (a conservative estimate) farmers rely on a good monsoon for a bumper crop. The yield varies every year according to the rainfall. And rainfall is often ‘abnormal’ – less or more.

Since weather as an entity cannot be controlled (except in China where they do rain-seeding), why can’t the government let farmers take control of their destiny using other methods? Why can’t the government help evolve a system of irrigation where farmers don’t have to depend on the Monsoon? Why can’t it resolve water issues, make canals, encourage drip irrigation? Why can’t it evolve strategies where farmers can grow their produce in a temperature and water controlled environment? Why can’t we have a government that doesn’t think of ‘Monsoon contingency plans’ instead of providing long term solutions? A country where the inflation in the third and forth quarter of the economic review does not depend on the weather!

To the powers that be, my only plea is review the system, change policies and do something for our farmer-folk. Amen!


Filed under India

Rise of The Son

Post partition, Uttar Pradesh was one the most important states in India contributing a fair share of politicians, administrators, academics, artists and poets to the country. However the decades following saw the state slide into caste and communal politics, divisions so deep that they still define how people vote and how they think. This is a state where as soon as you meet somebody, you will be asked you surname, judged and put into a category.

On a micro level, decades of divisive politics have made the people inward thinking, anti-growth and more communal. Macro effects have been large scale migration, uncontrolled population, hooliganism and a strong goodna raj throughout the state.

State and Central election wins are dependent on which community the ‘leader’ represents and how much can the party workers coerce people into voting for their leader. Government after government has been embroiled into corruption scandals and has taken aid of goonda raj to rule the state, pushing it backward rather than forward. Like termite eating the state from inside, weakening it so its executive and judiciary are unable to function properly.

Each change of guard brings with it skepticism, hope for some community or the other (never for the entire state) and for the administration that some semblance of rules will be followed. A clean sweep by the Samajwadi Party has shown a voter confidence in son of three time Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ­­– Akhilesh Yadav.


Akhilesh Yadav, Courtsey CNN-IBN

Not only has be been the face of the campaign, going on a rigorous 3500 kilometer pre election trail and attending over 200 rallies, the party has had a progressive election manifesto – computers for students, English language and a promise of curbing goonda raj.
Concerns about the health of his father and who will be the next Chief Minister were afloat, with a growing consensus among party works that Akhilesh should take over.

And now as the time to form the government has come closer, the party has announced Akhilesh Yadav as the Chief Minister of the state. Will the rise of the son lead to a new era? Will the state see development as it deserves? Will the rookie politician be able to afield the minefield of complex politics and come out unscathed? The answer to these questions will unfold in the next five years. Here’s hoping that the rise of the son will lead to rise of the state, from the ashes to where it belongs.


Filed under India