Friday, January 28, 2011

The age of digital intolerance

A storm has been brewing on the digital world specially the twitter for a long time. What would have started as a one-off case is now being seen more as a pattern. Actually not even a pattern but a methodical madness. It's been seen increasingly that people from the so-called 'right wing' have been getting into ugly scraps with media people, analysts and others. Some call this group as Internet Hindus and others call them RSS Storm Troopers. I object to both because both are highly biased and grossly generalised. So let's call them Right Wing Twitterati for simplicity.

B Raman, ex-civil servant and one of the leading analysts in the country, recently wrote this piece after his showdowns with the RWT - . Why has the digital world come to a point where a senior person has to write such an article. Let me make it clear that one ideological grounds, I have nothing common with him. I disagree with most of his analysis and am sure he too would never be comfortable with the ideological spectrum I represent.

It;s not only about B Raman but Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Ranvir Shorey, Nikhil Wagle and many others have had their fights in the past. To be honest many of them actually enjoy provoking and then crying 'victim'. If you actually see the tweets from some of the people mentioned above, you will realise they have indulged in greater intolerance and provoked people. And when people have responded, they have gone on to brand the reaction as right wing attack. While I have no love lost for any of the people mentioned, I do feel that the RWTs are giving them a chance to brand them. If one stops for a minute and thinks, one will realise that Manish Tewari has been one of the most abusive people on the twitter. But his language was never questioned and nor was it called the Slave Brigade Crusade. Why the double standards on same problem? The people who are the Crybabies have to introspect and answer that. People like Sagarika, Wagle, Barkha, Nidhi should also respect the digital medium. On TV they were the kings and the queens, people had to lap up whatever they offered. But on digital world, they are nothing more than commoners. So when Sagarika calls someone a right wing jerk, she sould be ready to be called a media concubine. Similarly if Barkha questions someones integrity, she has to take the Radia potshots and Barkha should remember that the first case of online intolerance is creditted to her. No guerilla warfare please. Its the crazy internet jungle.

Coming to the RWTs, I have always maintained that RSS suffers the most from its fringe elements because already biased media loves to potray the loonies are the rule rather than exceptions. In one twitter exchange with Nikhil Wagle I asked him if he thinks RSS is all fanatics or would he also recall people like Atalji, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhideji, Rambhau Mhalgi.. all great thinkers and people with extraordinary integrity. When RSS has lakhs of such noteworthy people, why should we give our opponents the chance to strengthen their biases and remember us only for anarchy? RWTs have to understand that you never win an argument by shouting, you win it by sheer strength of your content. Arun Jaitleyji famously says if your message is powerful, no one will ignore it. So rather than getting personal or abusive, letshave the right amount of ideological conviction and reason in our tweets. As far as frustrations and anger over biases goes, I will use one of the lines I like in life - Gussa badi kameeni cheez hain, sahi waqt pe istemaal hua to kamaal nahin to sirf bawaal.

And what do I tell to people like Mr. Raman or Sagarika or Barkha or Nikhil Wagle? Well, just one thing, the RWTs are not some aliens. They are a passionate, patriotic bunch of our own people. We talk about Aman ki Asha and Global Village but if we cant co-exist with our own people inspite of ideological differences, then we all are equally intolerant. And it wont be long bfore this intolerance reaches the real world too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes for Tiranga

Very rarely has a 26th January been watched with the such anticipation. And why not? This year the Republic Day is watched not for the show, the pomp and the dazzle in New Delhi but the action in far -off Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Isn't it a tragedy that the day when India celebrates it constitution, some youth will be facing police and their water canons, tear gas shells, lathis, maybe bululets too, just to exercise a right which Republic of India gives them. And the right is to hoist Indian Tricolour at any place on Indian soil as long as it is clean and respectable towards the flag.

Media has ,as always, gone ahead with its own biases in lambasting BJP and its youth wing for the Ekta Yatra. But no body so far has questioned why has BJYM taken out the yatra. The answers are not too far to find out. In last few years, Kashmir valley has been held hostage by an unholy nexus of seperatists, media and social activists. They at no point of time have lost an opportunity to spit at India or anything remotely Indian. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Arundhati Roy, Gautam Navlakha, Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan are some of the people who seem to be running a campaign against Indian interests in the state. And in each occasions, the government of India has been surrendering. Be it during Amarnath Land Row or the action against stone pelters or troop reduction or the removal of AFSPA. The continous kid glove treatment to the seperatists in valley has not gone well with the other population of the state. That's why you saw unprecedented crowd at the Kashmir conclaves organised by BJP. More and more nationalists forces are slowly realising the dangers of seperatism. They have been wanting to enter the mainstream but have been held back by a handful of seperatists. This yatra is to connect the rest of India with this nationalist part of the state.

And this is precisely why the J n K government as well as Central Government and the seperatists are afraid of this yatra. Imagine a CM who sat silent when Srinagar burnt or was under stone fire, now spewing fire and wanting to stop the yatra. The yatra is to tell him , not to take the nationalist side too lightly.

Looking at the slew of steps taken in recent past, one thing is obvious, you will face no fire if you are a seperatist and want to spread anti-India venom. This and recent statements by Pak diplomats on how Pakistan was close to a deal with the UPA government, one can imagine Government at both central n state giving major concessions to the seperatists. This yatra is also to warn the government from any such surrender. This is precisely the reason, first voice against the yatra came from seperatists leader Yasin Malk. After he protested, NC, PDP and Congress joined the fracas to further their bogus secularism.

In current scenario, it would be prudent if the governments do not indulge in competetive seperatism and allow the youth to hoist national flag at Lal Chowk, the same place where seperatists furled Pakistani flag during recent strife.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Corruption, Institutions and Congress

31st December 2010, Income Tax tribunal passed a long pending order nailing the people (including Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi's close friend O Quattrochi) who allegedly received kickbacks in more than 2 decade old Bofors case. This was the apt end to the year 2010 which for India could easily be called the Year of Scams and Inflation. And ironically the institutions who should be the guard and the watchdogs against corruption are turning out to be the failed pillars of democracy.

Corruption has always been an issue in India since independence. Old timers do talk about how then Finance Minister was forced to resign when allegations of corruption were made against Krishnamurti in 1950s. Then PM Nehru had to face pressure and criticism from leaders across political spectrum including his son in law Firoze Ghandy. Then came the era where Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi made corruption a part of routine life in Indian society. Aided by the license raj and the brute majority that Congress enjoyed, corruption found its way right from the corridors of governance to the common officials on the ground. It took a massive movement by Jayaprakash Narayan alongwith RSS to awaken the entire nation to the dangers of corruption and nepotism. For the first time, Congress looked beatable in Indian politics.

But lot has changed since then 9including method and scales of corruption). In later years, Indian democracy found a few new institutions to work with existing institutions for a clean governance. Alongwith the courts, now we had CVC to keep a vigil on various departments. Media which played a stellar role in the Bofors corruption campaign gained more teeth with infusion of 24 x 7 TV channels. Common sense would have said that with this corruption should have come down.

But the year 2010 has clearly showed how corruption instead of reducing has taken epic proportions. Adarsh scam, CWG scam, 2G scam, the daylight wheat robbery, the sugar scam, Lavasa and many more were unearthed in the year. While involvement of ruling politicians was a given thing, these scams brought in new players right from media Tzars (and Tzarinas) to corporate head honchos to lobbyists to bureaucrats to defence forces to judges to vigilance office. For a moment it seemed, this was a well-oiled unit given protection at the highest level.

If one looks at it closely, it seems Congress has learnt a lesson or two from its Bofors and Narsimha Rao days. While it was as corrupt then, it also used to be regularly caught on the wrong foot because of the various institutions mentioned above. So one guesses that when it came back to power in 2004 as UPA 1, it made a systematic process to weaken the institutions. A case in point is the misuse of CBI in last 6 years. The only case where CBI was seen to be swift was in the Amit Shah where it acted as if it was under pressure to treat a state Home Minister like a petty pickpocket. Compare that to the lethargy shown in CWG or 2G scam. One has been hearing daily since 2 months on how Kalmadi, Raja, Radia etc will be caught in a day or two but nothing has happened. The slow pace has helped the accused to ensure papers are not found easily. Same CBI has been periodically used against Mayawati, Laloo, Mulayam for political benefits at time of crisis. While no one had any doubts about CBI being a Congress pawn, recent IT Tribunal notings make this fact known universally. If an institution is facing a crediblity crisis, the government in a normal circumstances would ensure a person with impeccable credentials is brought to lead it and that means the person is selected by those who have set high standards or integrity. But this is not what Congress did. They brought in Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commisioner. Thomas faces charges in a graft case in Kerala and is also under scanner for his tenure in Telecom Ministry when 2G Scam happened. his appointment was against the wish of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. Why this departure from a regular practice where CVC has to be selected with approvals from PM, Home Minsiter and Leader of Opposition? Now the same tainted CVC was given the task to select the new CBI Director. The entire episode shows that Congress is keen to kill the neutrality of investigating and vigilance agencies for fear of being caught red handed.

If there have 2 institutions on whom Indians have place greatest faith, it is the court and the media. But Congress has ensured that these two are made an integral part of their Loot India campaign. Ex CJI Balakrishnan is one person who sat over some of the most controversial economic and business decisions in his tenure. The doubts raised by his colleagues and ex- CJIs on his behaviour and integrity are serious. The fact that his kins have increased their wealth manifold during his tenure is enough to make any person smell a scam. Add to his kin's involvement with a political party and it clearly raises questions over his political neutralilty too. Rather than making such a person leave public life and enquire against him, the Congress in centre has gone ahead to make him the chairperson of National Human Rights Commission. And media is silent in all these acts of ommision and commision. Similarly Congress has ensured many retired and tainted bureaucrats are given such positions after their tenure is over. Ramamnand Tiwari and Subhash Lalla in Maharashtra are similar examples of tainted babus getting plum posts after retirement. Its like asking a thief to keep a vigil on his theft and others wrong doings too.

So far there were a few whispers about the mainstream media being a party in crime with the Congress but the leaked Radia tapes proved that they are a part and parcel of the government and the party. How else can one explain renowned journalists like Vir Sanghavi and Barkha Dutt lobbying for the man who is said to have been the kingpin of the 2G scam? If media is not doing its job of being a watchdog, where can a common Indian look to.

Many skeptics will ask "but how will this affect a common man". Well, this affects the common man the most. Imagine the money Indian economy lost due to 2G and CWG scams. The same money could have been used for schemes for those below poverty line or to reduce the pressures of inflation. The food inflation which is making 2 meals a luxury for a poor man could have been avoided had the government and its institutions not allowed the wheat, the sugar and now the onion scam to happen. Every paisa that is taken away in an act of corruption is a paise on which the aam aadmi has the first right. But this has gone missing to PM Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi or the "PM in waiting" Rahul Gandhi.

But all is not lost. The fact that, inspite of most institutions not playing their part fairly, so many scams were unearthed and the government was pushed to the corner to explain, is heartening. This means that there are elements in media, bureaucracy and judiciary which are not ready to be the slaves of the Gandhi dynasty and care for the country. It is time where people of this country have to revolt against the tenure of corruption which has made life impossible for a common man.