Saturday, December 17, 2011

Is Kapil Sibal really an idiot, don’t think so!

#IdiotKapilSibal, this is how one was supposed to respond on Twitter with respect to the recent act of the current Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Residents of the virtual world were being called upon in cohorts to flaunt the words in their Facebook statuses, ‘Kapil Sibal is an idiot’.

In midst of the mayhem regarding soaring charges of corruption, Anna’s dreadful proclamations and the FDI fiasco probably this was the last of all the fireballs that the UPA pundits expected of coming up. Newton went on to state famously in his third law of motion, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Definitely there must be some action on part of virtual behemoths that has irked Mr. Minister so much!

Let’s first focus on the litigant’s appeal, the 38 million Facebook users in India most of whom are crying hoarse these days from what they sense is the vicious cycle of emergency ready to cast a spell on their freedom.

Freedom of Speech is endowed on one as a liberty by virtue of Fundamental Rights, but how does one differentiate between the prominently highlighted, F-word (err, that wasn’t an intentional double meaning innuendo), a reference was being made simply to ‘F’reedom and ‘F’oul-Mouthing.

The series of scathing remarks appearing at a regular frequency on Facebook, directed at specifically those representing the Congress was in bad taste indeed. Morphed photographs of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh in an embarrassing state, Rahul Gandhi being declared a rapist, and most blasphemous of them all was a post which declared that Sanjay Gandhi was in fact the illegitimate son of Indira Gandhi. Such otherwise encomiums were showered with ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ at a pace never seen before, yeah ‘viral’ is after all the buzz word these days.

Well, if Mr. Sibal is asking for the internet content to be reviewed he might sound archaic for sure but then doesn’t one need to introspect what it is that is being considered for scrutiny! Don’t we belong to the nation that has been into lampooning at the politicians through the graffiti in Newspapers or those illustrations that appeared towards the year’s end or near the festival of Holi to add on to the fervor of the celebration? But humor was never relegated to such stooping low levels when brandishing attempts are directed at the ruling party, the insouciant internet users more than happy to promote it as well without caring to even clarify. Alas! You see no such application is facilitated out there in this regard!

Hilary Clinton is being vociferous these days as she exclaimed at the recently concluded conference on digital freedom in The Hague that countries should not gag the internet voice. Fair enough! Seems a valid conjecture after all it is a flat world reclaiming the glory of the past ever since the Berlin Wall came down.

Those that were quoted as examples in Ms. Clinton’s speech included Russian blogger, Aleksei Navalny who was sentenced to fifteen days prison for labeling the Putin’s party as the ‘party of swindlers and thieves’ in the wake of the entire federal state protesting against the alleged rigging of the Presidential Elections. Then there was mention of the Syrian blogger, Anas al-Marawi who received flak for criticizing the President Bashar al-Assad’s government. 

Where do we go from here?

With the recent London Riots attributing a lot of action on the streets by hoodlums to the online lumpen, appointing a watchdog for the dotcom world seems a practical idea to some extent. For a nation like India that is at the brink of another General Election, the public should be wary of the propagandists. Did anyone pause for a moment to reflect why all the slugfest was launched specifically against the Congress politico?

One can’t deny from the fact that Mr. Sibal might be delivering the duties of being the patriot of one of the oldest parties of India but his contention doesn’t entirely form the crux of bin-liners.

Why does one have to take the route of obscenity and morphed pics to assert a point?
If it is truly about ushering an idea or raising your voice against the State why not follow the footsteps of Rousseau, Voltaire and Emile Zola who brought a revolution through their writings. Perhaps the right-winged middle class that dominates the social networking sites would find it almost impossible to tread on this path! After all ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ in a mere ‘scrolling’ act is way too simpler than causing the grey cells into a state of substantive activity.

Peter Nelson said, “One of the problems the internet has introduced is that in this electronic village, all the village idiots have internet access”. So next time before declaring anyone an idiot, remember the other four fingers are pointing at self only!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Amidst the wham bam of Kolaveri Di

“Have you heard it?” asked my friend hoping that I would chime in with interesting inputs from my end. However my befuddled look signaled her to explain certain factoids thereby apprising me of the recent phenomena that have taken the inhabitants of the 'virtual world’ by a storm.

Surpassing the clichéd in every possible way, the peppy number, ‘Kolaveri Di’ is turning out to be an exemplary entity to its counterparts in the glitzy world. Credited with 14,047,173 hits (the last time when I checked out on YouTube) the song is an outpouring of a jilted lover who is lamenting over the musings of his life in Tanglish. Relishing the fruits of viral marketing, Dhanush, the lyricist, singer and actor of the upcoming film ‘3’, son-in-law of the God of Indian Cinema, Rajnikant, can sure grab the backrest of his chair as the popularity of the song is going to work wonders for him  and his better-half, Aishwarya, who has directed the motion picture. Sony-walas must be enjoying the soiree at the moment as the notion so common among the FOSLA (Frustrated one-sided lover’s association) maniacs is delivering fantabulous results.

Make-believe-frothy-world caresses our senses to such an extent that often we choose to close our eyes and refuse to behold the harsh realities. By the way did anyone pay attention to Justice Markandey Katju’s contention lately?  Outspoken as he is and the one who dared to lock horns with the journalistic community, his latest shot includes proclamation that Indians are low on the front of intellectualquotient. What? ‘We the people’ being touted as alecky types? Hang on Mr. Katju, you see we belong to a developing nation that thrives on social networking portals, we are into lending support to Anna Hazare, extending ‘likes’ to morphed and offending photographs of the Congress men & women and then heaving a sigh and humming Kolaveri di for this is what life is all about!

Even if the forces of the State have gunned down Kishen Ji few have the guts to delve into the consequences that McCarthyism has led to. Isn’t it crucial, something that goes in sync with the zeitgeist, after all we are talking about Mallojula Koteswara Rao (nom de guerre, Kishen Ji) a Science graduate who refused to bow and scrape before the government way back in 1975. His credentials included garnering the support of as many as 60,000 farmers in 1977 as he led the peasant movement against the feudal barons. Since the color of moon is still ‘white’ no one gives two hoots for the man who believed that he was the ‘real Desh Bhakt’; Mamta Banerjee is justifying the course of action stating that terrorist activity was being hatched by the Maoists to topple hergovernment. If only the dead could have spoken from their graves, a trap would have been laid easily for the reprobate; the pointer is still dangling in 360-degrees direction you see!

As veteran journalist P. Sainath writes in ‘The Hindu’ in anarticle dated November 24, 2011 that even WEF (World Economic Forum) is nothing but a sham much similar on the lines of televised fights that are intended to delight its niche audience. ‘The Week’ comes with a shocking story how Karnataka is emerging as the capital of malnourished children and the state government being tongue-tied when it is about taking concrete steps to aid the ills. But the clan that hails ‘soup song’ is looking forward to what Aishwarya Rai’s daughter is looking like! You see whether the nation’s bitiya alias baby B has inherited the features of former Ms. World or resembles more to papa is an issue of utmost importance. The buzz of the hour is that Bollywood that doles out several duds a year has pinned its hopes on the toddler, so stakes are really high even if you are not into the game of Poker.

While another gooey number scuttles amidst others into the I-pods, life treads along at its usual pace for the beggar who sits on the steps of the Jhandewalan Metro Station, the only whiff of change is probably the small garland of lilies that is replaced on the tattered photograph of a Hindu deity, and the quint of shillings with every passing day. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shahrukh Khan – Why do we love to hate this man?

We never welcomed Ra One with open hands, though that tendency to criticize and look at something with suspicion is among many of our venalities. The masses might be relishing no-brainers being hurled at them by Salman Khan, but when it’s about SRK we seem to climb on to a saddle and ride with raging velocity shunning everything that’s got to do with King Khan. As far as the naysayers are concerned here’s news that would shatter them for sure, the super-hero saga, Ra One has done pretty well at the box office minting Rs. 112 crores (well, it’s just the third week!) from a plot that saw the investment touching almost Rs. 135 crores. Now if your eyes are good at gamboling figures one would agree that the film has done pretty well to this being added the figures garnered from fans abroad.

Most of us who fall into the bracket of the young workforce making up the country’s economic dividend belong to a generation that has imagined and fantasized their spouses to be like Raj, the famous character SRK has donned with aplomb for so many years. Yet what it is that breaks through that halo of enchantment and makes us disillusioned about the man himself. For one must admit Shahrukh has emerged to be the face of liberal Muslims, an individual who has asserted his beliefs with utmost genuineness and conformity. Be it the India Today Conclave 2009, where he tries to decode the thin line that distinguishes faith from belief, be it an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai where he states that terrorism can’t be institutionalized and that this impending peril has in fact no religion or whether it is a face-off with Barkha Dutt where he concedes that he practices Islam though he tells his kids that religion is all about hard work and happiness, this actor using the stature of his fame has tried to express views that would make the obscurantist and the dogmatist shy away in some unknown corner.

Those secular notions depicting the confidence of a man hailing from the minority group that has cried hoarse against the State for long, is not only restricted to the juxtaposition of the idols of Hindu deities at his lavish place of residence, ‘Mannat’ along with the ‘Quran’. There is another face of the man who is endorsing more than a dozen products at the moment. It was the 90s that established the supremacy of Shahrukh in the backdrop of liberalization unleashing and crawling slowly to make a mark in the minds of the general public. SRK beamed like a ray of hope to the multi-national behemoths that were looking for a familiar face and one whose cohorts shall work wonders for them. Pepsi ad featuring SRK, Kajol and a kiddo, Shahid Kapoor is well-etched in our memories till date.

Brand Equity is a very sensitive entity that happens to waver even with a smidge of an unpleasant thing. In 2008 Shahrukh was endorsing the highest number of products, a stupendous 39! Did that actually build an impregnable wall around our favorite actor who was caught up in a whirlwind of XYZ products, each of those granules causing a cosmic collision between our implicit trust and his contention? Tepid response of the fans seems to be giving an answer without even speaking a word.

A Delhi boy, who lost both his parents at an early age, came to Mumbai, the city of dreams and made it really big beyond anyone’s imagination! His success story is what middle class fables are made of, that is more credible since he didn’t have any godfather and his lineage by no means had its roots in the glitzy world. While his doctor, Ali Sarin at Nanavati Hospital proclaims him to be a workaholic, for the man himself, work is a means of avoiding slipping into a bout of depression. ‘The inner and outer world of Shahrukh Khan’ (2005) a documentary on the Badshah of Bollywood catches up with the personal and professional life of the star, wherein, he admits nonchalantly that he’s part of a plastic world. He doesn’t have to dribble that fragrance of humility all over him as it comes naturally, for that matter he wouldn’t mind signing autographs for fans that have huddled alongside him even as he pays an obeisance to his parents at the graveyard in Delhi.

Facebook walls and mobile inboxes were already flooded with jokes around Ra-one, one of them went something like this, what if SRK’s son had asked him, Pa can we watch ‘Dabang’ instead! Are we then sadists, perverse creatures who seem to draw some sort of pleasure in caviling act? Those who reject him out rightly saying that he doesn’t experiment with his roles, here’s a look at five of his recent films that don’t seem to have a connection in any manner whatsoever – Asoka (2001), Swades (2004), Paheli (2005), Chak de India (2007), My name is Khan (2010).

Veteran journalist, Fareed Zakaria in one of his interviewswith SRK on CNN introduced the actor as one for whose films stakes are as high as that in a venture belonging to Tom Cruise or Will Smith. Next time when you hop off to the nearest theater to behold the latest offering by Shahrukh Khan, keep away with the G-one (bad robot) in some drawer at home as that would be a good idea, at least saving ‘Chammak Challo’ from becoming into some sort of a banshee!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skin Head, Dead Head, Everybody Gone Bad!!

“……Situation, aggravation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Bang bang, shot dead
Everybody’s gone mad
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us.”

Hence goes the lines from the famous 1996 single of Michael Jackson that earned notoriety due to its anti-Semitic references. Though the song might have been at the hearth of turmoil and underwent alteration before making its way among the music lovers, the words still hold relevance amidst a season marked by frisson of despair and hopelessness.

A lot of things construing in the ambience add grist to the mill and inadvertently call forth rumination. Amidst those who mull about the travails of the many lying at the bottom of the pyramid, a foremost name happens to be that of the economist, Esther Duflo. A professor of Development Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she is credited with being at the helm of affairs of her Poverty Action Lab a funded venture, an aide of hers including another economist of repute, Abhijit V. Banerjee. Her findings have had a profound effect on world leaders and philanthropists alike with the likes of Bill Gates taking keen interest in her endeavors. Her findings that are based on an extensive field-work conducted in India, Ghana and Kenya spread over a period of fifteen years are an eye-opener.

For instance in order to allure the rural masses into a de-worming drive, a part of an immunization program there have been instances of offering them a bag of lentils for doing so. Bizarre as it might appear but as this ‘Randomista’ (term often attributed to Esther Duflo for her practice of introducing random control trials in her areas of study) believes that corrupt practices are tip of the iceberg the actual problem with poverty alleviation programs is the lack of far-sightedness.

A middleman taking away a chunk of earnings that belongs rightfully to the farmers has been the catastrophe cited with regards to the MGNREGA. The dramatis personae in this entire tableaux is not only a hapless Natha for whom things have gone bad horribly, but also the mandarins being regulated by their honchos in the government who create the interminable mess in the first place. Another seemingly Horcrux that drops by at this stage is the startling revelation coming from the aegis of the Union Government’s statistical compendium, 2011, according to which every eighth child putting up in urban areas in the age group of 0-6 years is in fact inhabiting the slums. And we take immense pride in gloating about the fact that India would ride in times to come owing to its economic dividend. If this is the talent pool we seem to be banking upon then I’m afraid the future has a grimacing face unlike that which is being painted via word of mouth.

While the entire nation especially those humbugs hailing from the middle class jubilate with the victory of Sushil Kumar, the blue-eyed boy who won Rs. 5 crores on KBC, quite a majority overlooked the HDI report that came and went by without budging a single strand of any individual. As per the UNDP’s human development report, out of 187 countries, India ranked at 134 in terms of human development index. Sri Lanka fairs better than India in terms of human development and indicators with regards to Bangladesh were better than the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Very few care two hoots about that, come on now, we are a developing nation and are promised of a double-digit GDP growth, so these pitfalls are actually a part of the illustrious journey towards a well-inflated mirage you see!

The worst thing is this that a paracetamol is yet to be invented for this febrile state of the surging groups, the FB generation in particular!

 There was this scene in the film, Swades (2004), a movie by Ashutosh Gowatrikar focusing on the detour of a man stuck up between his aspirations abroad and yearning to stay connected with roots in his native place. “Paani lo Paani, Pacchis paise me pani, pani lo pani” shouts a child as he tries to urge the travelers on board a train to take a Kulhad of water from him for a measly amount of 25 p, invoking empathy on part of the protagonist, Mohan (Shahrukh Khan). Perhaps a mid-day meal scheme wasn’t enough to hold on to him within the premises of a Paathshala (school) as he had no time to caress those future plans with the fangs of the present protruding right in front of the naïve toddler.

Oops, I forgot that he has a latest counterpart in Nargis Yadav, the seven billionth child to have taken birth in a sleepy village of Uttar Pradesh!

Does that imply bidding farewell to the Keynesians and welcoming the Randomistas?

Perhaps Jairam Ramesh and Kapil Sibbal should spring into action and find an answer to that one. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

That dwindling fourth pillar!

As I begin to write this post, news has just poured in about the latest accomplishment by Aman Sethi, correspondent with ‘The Hindu’ in Chattisgarh. Mr. Sethi has bagged the Red Cross Journalism prize for a remarkable story he did in March, 2011 wherein troops of Koya and Cobra commandos in a well-planned combing operation had left three villages incinerating, three women were assaulted, three villagers and three policemen got killed in an operation that was based on a tip-off about an arms factory being run by Maoists in Tarmetla region in Dantewada district.  The only thing this troop did stumble upon in their vanquishing act was a 15-foot memorial built to commemorate the death of Maoists killed in April 2010 encounter.

Sethi happens to belong to that infantry of journalists who are trying to make a dent with their own kind of reporting that is raw, refreshing and informative however disturbing it might seem on the very outset of it. Other brave hearts who also seem to don the part of nothing less than mercenaries are Rahul Pandita whose book ‘The Absent State’ impacted my life rather hard and my perspective towards the disturbed regions of India be it the Red Corridor, North-East or Jammu Kashmir for that matter changed for once and all.

As the Goa Thinkfest congregation contemplates over the topic, “Missing Code: Why people are always angry with the media” one needs to understand the impact of the niche carved by media, its sustenance and the myriad roles that come under one umbrella. First and foremost, a sieve needs to be resurrected whereby the flippant scribes could be filtered from the genuine ones with the former ones being packed and sent off to Papua New Guinea for a fairly long time!

As far as the chagrined state of the general public is concerned there are pretty enough and justifiable reasons behind this rage, though it would be even better if it’s referred to as ‘complete disillusionment’ dawning upon with regards to the fourth pillar of democracy. In the context of India, the country’s faith into some of the top-notch journalists was blown into smithereens with the emergence of the Radia Tapes. Collusion between the business houses and political honchos was a known fact but that news reporters of repute are donning the part of messenger between them, bridging every possible lacuna that might exist did leave us flabbergasted if not shocked with fear!

Similarly the tectonic plates were jolted with utmost intensity in the international arena when the Murdoch Gate appeared as the Goliath ready to gobble away the Brown government in UK. It was still digestible as far as hacking of phones of celebrities and the Royal family is concerned, but poking your nose or rather ears, into Milley Dowler’s voicemail, the teenage girl who was abducted and later on found murdered, was atrocious on part of NOTW (News of The World). If people are riled by these actions it shouldn’t come as a surprise rather a reaction that has come naturally thanks to some pesky critters that thrive on sensationalism and prurience, for this is what comprises bytes or rather scoop for them! Downfall of a 168-year old paper was consequential in the wake of chicanery it had opted for to gain access to an even wider readership base.

Yet I can say that it would be wrong to paint the entire canvass with a single color. Still there is this question lurking at the back of my mind, why it is that I have to pick an ‘Everybody loves a good drought’ by P. Sainath to understand how terribly the government schemes have failed in rural areas.  Why it is that a Kishan Yadav hailing from Godda, Bihar who ferries on his cycle as much as 250 kg of coal for distances ranging from 40-60 kilometers all for a daily wage of Rs. 10 per day never makes it to the front page of newspapers or primetime slot of news channels?

Broadsheets have been transformed into retail shanty wherein ads are bubbling more vivaciously with all the bright pictures, colors and hues, catchy bylines and so on and amidst these you would find news managing to make a dent in the Halloween! Let me concede that full-page advertisements hailing from any sub-domain whatsoever does hurt my sensibility to a large extent! Perhaps there is a need to overhaul the business model that is so heavily dependent on frivolous advertisements as a source of revenue!

By the way can anyone explain to me, what are those risqué pictures of Poonam Pandey doing on the online portal of ‘India Today’? Ok a wannabe is trying to garner attention, why are you facilitating it to the lady anyways?

It was a blank editorial that marked the edition of the Indian Express on June 28th, 1975 as a mark of protest against the emergency imposed by former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
And yes, we are not angry perhaps perturbed at the current state of affairs and mulling over if the loopholes can in fact be plugged. After all, the media orchestrated Anna-Lila has gone off air just a few days back!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reciprocated the Wrong Way!

Power of expression is the singular abstract notion that should matter to the concerned audience whenever he is reading or witnessing for that matter. On part of the raconteur, there are boundaries that shouldn’t be transgressed yet there are scribes imbued with a sense to tell the truth in its crudest forms. If you don’t like the stench, one can surely choose to blindfold eyes or clip your nostrils, the fact is that at least the zephyr has nodded to assimilate it all. Yet that unwarranted clash and its drastic consequences send shudders across, the instances telling blatantly to stay within the prescribed limits or else prepare to face the inclement weather.

October 12, 2011 saw Delhi High Court pronouncing its judgment in Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, acquitting the accused, former IPS officer R.K. Sharma, restaurant owner, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash, proclaiming it as lack of evidence thus allowing them to go scot-free, R.K. Sharma has already spent nine years in dismal period of incarceration. One question that’s being raged vociferously is whether justice been eluded in Shivani Bhatnagar murder case!

 This sensitive case hit the headlines on January 23, 1999 when Shivani was found murdered in her rented East Delhi apartment. The first series of arrest in the high-profile case was made in July, 2002 when Bhagwan Sharma, who was an aide of R.K. Sharma and son of an erstwhile Haryana Police officer, was nabbed by the police and then the hunt for the lord of these henchmen began. It was touted as a ‘crime of passion’ with factoids establishing an out-of-marriage affair between Shivani and R.K. Sharma. Ms. Bhatnagar was the Principal Correspondent with the Indian Express before becoming a prey to a heinous plot wherein she was stabbed and strangulated allegedly by men known to her, being evidenced by the tea that was prepared for the guests arriving at her home on the day of the murder.

When the search initiated by the Delhi Police and its stern measures of releasing R.K. Sharma’s picture along with  a reward of Rs. 50,000 did sound like banshee, it was his wife, Madhu Sharma who was suddenly found crying hoarse, wailing and attracting the attention of the 24*7 media. Mrs. Sharma alleged that her husband was in fact being made scapegoat and her scathing allegations were soon targeted at the BJP poster boy, Pramod Mahajan. The political honcho discarded the entire thing as a mere ‘professional relationship’ agreeing to undergo any test if required in the wake of doubts being raised about Shivani’s four-year-old son.

Truly, dignity adhered to a woman’s character, her victimization and those who had committed the malfeasance, all seemingly complex and inter-woven factors seemed to be in contretemps with each other like never before. After a prolonged game of mouse and cat, R.K. Sharma finally surrendered in Ambala, and henceforth began a legal tussle that was based on call details, and arguments to support the prosecution’s contention. Though the prime accused has been let off by the High Court there are questions that remain unanswered.

As per the prosecution, Shivani had threatened to expose R.K. Sharma under the Official Secrets Act. What was so sensitive that this journo was harboring that could indeed prove to be contentious enough? One of Shivani’s friend, Sajjal Shah has given statement in court asserting that R.K. Sharma had met the deceased when Shivani was pursuing a course in London and he was OSD at PMO thus establishing links of a relation that went way back before Ms. Bhatnagar had probably ventured into the profession.

Seasoned legal practitioners have expressed their disapproval over the judgment with some of the former judges choosing to blackball the recent advancement. Justice Sodhi for instance says that he’s sorry for the judgment while Justice J.D. Kapoor opines that another probe should have been called for. The humorous part of this sordid saga is that though the killer Pradeep’s life sentence has been upheld, his motive behind the crime is still unknown.

Though the key document, ‘Ex. PW 135/28’ (the call records) was found riddled with many blips, yet it dawns to one that the 12-year long journey on the legal turf amidst many rife media speculations and fuelled by political influence has ended on a dead end. Though the boots might have been hung for sure yet it’s the scruples that demand more than has been delivered in this case.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why do we need to THINK?

(This post is second in series to what one may refer to as a cliffhanger to the Goa Thinkfest being organized by Tehelka)

Treading along in life in almost somnambulate state does transform us into zombies who have a cocoon, alias la-la land of their own. Events, some being pleasant ones others belonging to the catastrophic category and still others contentious enough to cause fissures do keep recurring and we do keep shrugging and thinking, “Eh! How does that affect my life?” If an individual hasn’t been at the epicenter of a hurricane, doesn’t mean that his nest would never be ruffled, if you weren’t beside the seaside doesn’t imply that ripples shall never reach you……

So goes the mystical lines of song sung by Rabbi Shergill:

Jugni dekhan chali desh
Jide janmay si kadi ved
Jidon kadyaa si angrez
Ki banyaa usdaa
Ki banyaa usdaa haal
Kede kite usne kamaal

(Philosophical sage-cum-observer Jugni, a girl is strolling just to see what has become of the country, land where Vedas were transcribed, from where the British were hounded away, to see what the country has landed itself into in present times…)

Just like the graffiti these days in most of the dailies is being dedicated to the Rs. 32 per capita per day poverty line, the overall collage both in the national as well as international arena gives a distorted picture. If the State’s turf has just overcome the jolts given by Anna and his team, brouhaha is being raised against the ongoing Operation Greenhunt, not to forget the much criticized raid on PUCL General Secretary Kavita Srivastava’s house. We might be languishing somewhere near the bottom when it’s about the Human Development Index but when it’s about corrupt practices we certainly do fair better, take a look at the Global Integrity Financial Report if you still suspect my contention! ‘N’ number of scams being unearthed has become a sort of routine, you see ‘I proud to be Indian for any man out there earning a meager Rs. 34/day is not poor and those with bloated bellies sitting at enviable positions continue to splurge and fill their coffers which by default is known to the public by the name of Swiss Bank Accounts!’; the latest in this series being the alleged LIC loan scam worth Rs. 12,000 crores.

Perhaps Pratap Bhanu Mehta is the best person to turn to at this juncture and seek answers to raging questions, if India can ever do something worthwhile for those being relegated to the bottom of the pyramid, if the vertical strata of society be turned into a horizontal one making it a truly egalitarian sect in all respects; if Aam Aadmi can ever muster the courage to wear knuckles against the inequities of sorts being evident in their milieu! (Disclaimer: This certainly doesn’t imply that men with ‘mera baap chor hai’ embossed on their hands take to roads instead of heading towards offices, guess we already had enough of drama on similar lines at Ramlila Grounds)

Let’s take a break and venture across the Indian Ocean and hey! What do we behold here? The Arab Spring might have subsided to an extent but another intifada seems to be on the brink with the Occupy Wall Street movement against financial inequality becoming fiercer with every passing day! Perhaps the world has truly become flatter than ever before and Thomas Friedman is the right person to turn to and seek some answers in this context! After all he did explain the phenomenon that established an instant relationship between the fall of the Berlin Wall and its pervading effect in terms of diffusion of the PC and dotcom wonder!

So here lies the answer to the million dollar question, why do we need to think – the medulla oblongata needs to be jerked a bit here and there randomly instead of shacking it all up so that enhanced sensitivity yields to better reactions from the end of citizens who otherwise land up being sequestered in the lot of grumblers by birth! With the upcoming Goa Thinkfest a cauldron seems to be brewing on simmering flame, this gourmet of thoughts, views and counter-views shall bring forth ideas that would facilitate substantive answers to surging queries, help understand the changing milieu better and most importantly would transcend our very perspective towards myriad issues.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hu Shuli – The one who took the cudgels against the State

(This post is first in series what one may call as a cliffhanger to the Goa Thinkfest being organized by Tehelka)

As a scribe one of the foremost responsibilities of an individual is to report an event with utmost genuineness without the obvious fudging up of facts. How would you react if as a scribe one is caged in a glass case whereby you can witness the events with their stunning ferocity but when it’s about reporting you are supposed to keep it as a piped down affair? Ugh! What! You’ve already started feeling suffocated questioning your very existence as a snitch! Then this lady’s tale is worth giving attention to who decided to raise her voice as a journo against the very State she was a subject of.

If it was only about caviling for myriad reasons perhaps she would have been lost in the crowd. Hu Shuli called it quits at China’s leading news daily, Worker’s Daily only to become the face of Caijing though this journey was fraught with innumerable pitfalls as much as lessons it brought in for this audacious lady whose temerity was about to set milestones in the regime where strings are pulled when it is sensed that perhaps the horses are galloping way too fast. China is known for its limited freedom to press, an underlying fact that became more than evident in the wake of the Tiananmen Square, 1989 that sent shudders across the globe. One of the fastest growing economies of the globe has its own moribund ways of going about instances recrudescing within its precincts that it either chooses to project or keep under careful wraps.

An article published in NewYorker apprises us of an incident that took place in May, 2008 when the Sichuan province of China was badly hit by an earthquake. No sooner did Hu get the news she immediately set off towards the site of the disaster asking her staff to make arrangements for a satellite phone. This was a bold step taken the fact into consideration that the country doesn’t prefer that kind of Sisyphean coverage of mishaps taking place; a similar quake hit the country way back in 1976 when the government had chosen to keep a mum with regards to the exact death toll rates. So that’s Ms. Shuli – Callous and loquacious and timid only in appearance! Her itinerary of credits includes the various synonyms she earned in her illustrious career with many counterparts hailing from the Chinese as well as foreign turf declaring her as the ‘most dangerous woman in China’.

GoaThinkFest indeed provides with an opportune moment when Hu Shuli would be telling it all how she managed to walk the tight-red-rope all these years. Clambering on to your hard borne contention in a country where journalists are murdered or imprisoned is a feat in itself and Hu has certainly surpassed many obstacles as she bristled past every sojourn. Her tete-a-tete with the Indian en masse also acquires significance in the wake of the recent Kafkaesque that has inflicted a hard-dying blot on the fourth pillar of democracy in India. In the wake of the dwindling state of affairs where politico-journo collusion is being made public through tapes, where biggies in the terrain of journalism are being accused of paid news syndrome with some others trying to snag away their clean collars from the muck of the private equity syndrome, I think an interaction with Hu Shuli would yield to some substantive answers in the Indian context too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review – When a Tree Shook Delhi

When humans assume carnal form in their thoughts and actions, the notion that is foisted on one and all yields atrocious consequences. Authored by journalist Manoj Mitta along with lawyer H S Phoolka, ‘When a tree shook Delhi’ traces the causes and after math of the anti-Sikh riots that broke out in 1984 in the wake of assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

It was on October 31, 1984 when Indira Gandhi was shot dead by two of her Sikh guards who had taken vows to reinstate the Sikh pride believed to have been denigrated in the wake of the recent Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple, Amritsar at the behest of Mrs. Gandhi. From November 1, 1984 onwards the country witnessed another reign of genocide in which ethnic cleansing was directed at the turbaned community to vent out the anger of those miffed at the assassination. In the capital city of Delhi alone, as many as 3000 Sikhs were massacred, children were orphaned and their women were raped.  Police chose to play the role of mute spectators while the killing spree continued unabatedly for four days. Subsequent inquiry conducted under the purview of the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission did little to placate the woes of those whose lives had been devastated by the riots. Justice Nanavati Commission fared slightly better though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to admit in 2005 that the truth is yet to be retrieved even after the passage of twenty-one years.

Was it possible to nip the riots right in its bud? The instances quoted in the book seem to suggest that if the police hadn’t colluded with murky politicians of the ruling Congress party the catastrophe could have been averted. It all started on October 31, 1984 when the cavalcade of President Zail Singh was on its way to AIIMS where the body of bullet-ridden Indira Gandhi lay. As a group of hooligans hurled their attack towards the President’s troupe with anti-Sikh slogans filling the zephyr of the ambience, Mr. Singh made a hair breadth escape; this instance being quoted in a testimony before the Nanavati Commission by Tarlochan Singh, Zail Singh’s press secretary in 1984. Gross incongruities that were to become order of day soon were still in its nascent stage as suggested by an affidavit filed before the Misra Commission by Kuldip Singh, a resident of the Safdarjung Enclave who was present in AIIMS on October 31 owing to his mother-in-law’s treatment that was going on in the same duration. Kuldip affirmed that till that time not a leaf seemed to be ruffled with many Sikhs also marking their presence at AIIMS expressing their grief and mourning for the unfortunate incident.

How a few sparks here and there were converted into incinerating flames can be understood by looking through the series of events that were inflicted on the city in the form of vicious cycle delivering its malfeasance one after another. In an essay titled ‘The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi’ published in The New Yorker in 1995 writer Amitav Ghosh then employed at the Delhi University cites the incident whereby he had just boarded a bus from the Connaught Place to the Safdarjung area, as the bus made its way towards AIIMS a Sardar present in the bus felt pangs of anxiety, in a brief moment of fear he chose to hide underneath a seat. As the group of men who held steel rods and bicycle chain in their hands drew close and were whisked away with the driver and passengers confirming to them that there wasn’t any Sikh among them in the bus; one wonders where were the men in Khaki who should’ve taken some action in the wake of hoodlums trying to create unrest in the city and threatening fellow citizens hailing from a particular community.

Block 11 of Kalyanpuri and Block 32 of Trilokpuri, two residential colonies of Delhi inhabited by Sikhs belonging to low and medium wage earners, these two localities of men and women were transformed into graveyards of burnt and mutilating bodies in a span of few hours as the surging mob of rioters assumed role of individuals gone berserk. When the Sikhs of Block 11 of Kalyanpuri decided to protect themselves and pick up the cudgels against the rambunctious mob, chief of the Kalyanpuri police station, Soor Veer Singh Tyagi barged in with few constables and urged the Sikhs to surrender their weapons under the pretext of measure to liquidate the situation. No sooner the naïve Sikhs handed over their only means of protection than the rioters under the leadership of Dr. Ashok Gupta, representative of Kalyanpuri in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi burst into the Sikh ghetto and lay down mounds of Sikh bodies in a duration of few hours, their tactic of disarmament followed by attack working out wonders for them. More grotesque incidents erupted in Block 32 of Trilokpuri as accounted for by journo, Rahul Bedi and Joseph Malaikan of The Indian Express and Alok Tomar of Jansatta. With the scribes being stopped by the attackers to enter the neighborhood from either entrance, they made their way to the Kalyanpuri police station that had its jurisdiction over Trilokpuri to inform that they in fact smelled the rat out there. The reporters were rebuffed from the police station only to bump into a truck in the vicinity that was garnering horded of flies and had charred bodies of few Sikhs. While 400 Sikhs were brutally killed in Trilokpuri, as many as 1,234 out of 2, 733 Sikhs were killed in East Delhi alone.

Women were among the worst affected in this carnage as they succumbed to the fury of the mobsters, and lost their chastity in the backdrop of their men already being devoured by bunches of lusty and loutish hound dogs. 31 females were abducted from Trilokpuri and held captive for 24-hours in a nearby Chilla village. In a mind-numbing incident being published in a limited-circulation magazine ‘Manushi’ that brought forth the heart wrenching tale of Gurdip Kaur, then 45-years-old who was resident of Trilokpuri and was raped by teenage boys in front of her own son who was burnt alive. While the lady was being ripped off her honor she called out the boys that even they had made their appearance on this Earth through the same passage, her only grief being that she could not save her son as she didn’t have a shred of clothing on her body. The worst thing to have recrudesced is the hard-hitting fact that rape cases have not been reported officially till date and compensations have been offered thereafter to those who have suffered loss of life and property.

With such a beastly attack being waged against the Sikhs by the Congress mercenaries namely HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath; then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi in his infamous speech at Boat Club, Delhi instead of paying his and his party’s due condolence chose to remark that when a might tree does fall, its repercussions are bound to be felt. How very insensitive when a thousand of your brethren have left for their heavenly abode just a fortnight ago. It was due to sincere and unrelenting efforts of lawyer like HS Phoolka who appeared as the vanguard of justice for the victims firstly through the Citizens Justice Committee and later on the Carnage Justice Committee that yielded to some sort of relief for those who suffered and scarred for an entire lifetime. The machinations of the perpetrators didn’t end with the riots they bloomed in full spring as they tried to impede legal proceedings. For every affidavit filed on behalf of the victims there was a matching number of what Justice Ranganath referred to as ‘Anti-victim’ affidavits that were farcical and tried to pull the charade in an utmost manner.

This opprobrium that eventually turned out to be a blot on the Indian state compels one to think if a wall needs to be resurrected between those in power and those belonging to the aegis of the democratic institutions. Internecine outcome of the bonhomie between the ruling party and those entrusted with the responsibility of saving and guarding the lives of the general public would have never occurred if the President for that matter was not reduced to being a an addled individual synonymous with a rubber-stamp. As many still believe that, had India dealt with 1984 riots more seriously, the Godhra carnage would have perhaps not taken place, a bloody massacre preying on another minority community yet again. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not-so-affluent Middle Class – Book Review of ‘Mother Pious Lady’!

Amidst those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths to the impoverished ones struggling to get two meals a day, there exists in India a class that manages to get just enough under the sun. The great Indian bourgeoning Middle Class comes as the filling material that tries to plug the fissures through its aspirations and idiosyncratic ways. ‘Mother Pious Lady’ authored by Santosh Desai gives a kaleidoscopic view of the myriad faces of a segment of a society that almost ten years back used to dangle between a Bajaj scooter and ‘Mere paas maa hai’ syndrome.
It begins with those characteristic features that define life for those trying to eke out a living within the parameters of limited credit amount. Flipping through the pages of the book can very well turn out into a means to hit off the nostalgic lane and revisit those days when urban middle class was trying to figure out the nuances of a plethora of changes that came knocking at their doors. Those ‘n’ number of polythene bags underneath the mattresses, old saris being re-woven into a quilt, those subtle exchange of reactions between a couple without clambering on to PDA (public display of affection), potions of affection served for all in the form of a sumptuous ‘Thali’; these being few of the many finer details that find mention in the book. 
As far as the title is concerned it goes on to explain that psyche of the middle class that believes in perfect presentation on all fronts especially when it’s about a hunt for a prospective match for a daughter. Benevolence has to displayed in every singular action related to looking out for ‘Status Match’, and subsequent paraphernalia associated with BHP (refers to bio-data, horoscope and photograph in matrimony terminology). Needless to say, ‘brother settled in US’ always gives a vantage point to the concerned party. Lavish spending was unknown in daily chores of life and every penny is saved to make the most of it when beti is all set to tread towards her sasural.
From typical bowel habits to the act of unremorseful farting in public, nothing has been spared, not even the clichéd abhorrence for western-style toilets. Buying of vegetables with a grocer is a smart deal if it ends with the procurement of ‘hari mirch and dhania’ absolutely free! There is an inexplicable fondness for timeless flicks like ‘Chupke Chupke’, ‘Bawaarchi’ and ‘Gol Maal’ that remains adhered to the en masse since all these films are imbued with a sense of (in terms of the writer) MCFE (middle class family entertainer). Similarly that magic hovering around old songs is often tried to be revived back via the means of remixes that’s often way too jarring to soothe the sense of audition.
Along with these affable ways there also lay within a hypocrite that would try to put forth a subterfuge to conceal those awkward patches in one’s life. Good example can be drawn from those who believe that ‘preparation for IAS’ or for that matter doing M. Phil, etc. is an easy route to stay in a perpetual state of idleness. Yet the aam aadmi had that ninety-degree inclination towards ‘Neel’ (blue powder) that would render to clothes glistening whiteness and sprinkle on the man who wore that shirt a raging confidence in a crowd of growing mandarins. Journey or ‘Yatra’ was nothing less than a harrowing experience that was inflicted with a panic as far as travelling was concerned; an inland letter and a postcard was looked forward to with palpable excitement associated with the former and rousing anxiousness adhered with the latter, for each of them connoted a sense of personal attention an individual was getting. Scooty did revolutionize the life of a small town girl as she experienced a freedom worth envying compared to her metro counterpart thus allowing her to saunter along the alleys of the city without depending on Papaji and Bhai.
The book changes its gear from being retail in approach in the beginning to assuming pan-India proportion towards the end thus making it difficult to assimilate for a friendly comrade. When the focus is shifted to scarcity of IITs and IIMs, lawyers ending up as spokespersons for political parties, menace such as inflation and terrorism, one tends to withdraw into hibernation as these pertain to the system and not the class the book claims to boast upon. Moreover there are a slew of minutiae that was perhaps overlooked by Mr. Desai. For instance that gourmet charm associated with Pakodi when a guest arrives, the scrutiny that follows a new bride, Bahu in all her overtures from cooking to conducting herself at family functions, penchant for curtains among the middle class as if something has to be muffled out there, that sense of sacrifice in this generation of parents who would not consume goodies but go an extra mile in facilitating convent education to their kiddos. After all, there do exist many subsets that add together to give rise to the large cauldron of the middle class. While some of the foibles and blips make it a dire necessity for the existence of this class, there is a scope for the expansion of the periphery of its thought thereby opening gateways to the emergence of an even strong resilient and morally un-recapitulative part of the society.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Capital Punishment (Part 1) – Why is India clamoring for Afzal’s head?

“The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.” – Bertrand Russell
December 13, 2001 marked that day when the Indian State ran into an uber frenzied state trying to patch-up for the sartorial blunders committed in the context of the very democratic fabric rather brazenly by a group of men who crashed through the gates of the Parliament, opened fire; their insolence and shifty attitude propelling them to get into the institutional temple, the ramparts of which is occupied by those with whom is entrusted the trust of a billion population and the exteriors of which is emblematic of the mainstay of the prudence with which an erstwhile nation of warring princely states has held on to its sovereign nature. As the citizens gawped at the horrendous site with fear, the eventual reaction was to begin with the scavenging act and getting hold of the puckish one who was giving a tough challenge in this joust to none other than the police and with no live survivors amongst the culprits the ‘aam aadmi’ was already crying hoarse against the Investigating Agencies, for we were seeking ways of dealing with the aftermath, at the same time hunting for a plausible butt who could absorb the boiling rage and surging agony of the moment!
 This purging process did yield to substantive conclusions in December 2001 itself when the police finally got hold of the perpetrators behind the attack, ah! That yanking action hitting off well with the mood of the Indian Republic that was tired of thriving on conjectures, and after smelling the sumptuous treat for a while, it was time for a gala party; come devour the victim before someone else fizzes out the fun of that cannibal act!
What? You found it tad too gory to absorb it in a singular scan complimented with a unilateral cerebration! If only there existed a barometer to gauge the atrocities committed on Him who bore it all for having a checkered past, blurred present and no future at all though this was a predisposition imposed on him by few who would even hound his soul to grave and by the circumstances that turned their back on him for reasons beyond the understanding of the sane.

In ‘A Wife’s Appeal’ (The Asian Age dated 4-Nov-2004), Tabassum, the better-half of Mohammed Afzal Guru and a distraught woman who is trying to put the figs of her shattered nest urges earnestly to listen to their tale and then arrive at the conclusion that your sensibilities allow you to sieve through those cluttered thoughts.
Though I’m not very sure how many of us are aware of this sordid saga that has haunted Afzal Guru and his family members for long; so this is the story of eponymous ‘Him’!
Those were the heady days of 1990 when the rapacious beast of terrorism had just crawled out breaking through the shell of its egg and the youngling had begun to get itself acclimatized to the nouveau surroundings! It was during the same year when Afzal guided by some drive the youth of Kashmir is usually incited by, sneaked into the other side of the border in hope of getting proper training with regards to handling of arms & ammunition, the man getting disillusioned soon only to return back to his homeland infused with a vigor to start life on a fresh note!
With a vision in mind for a harmonious life, Afzal’s efforts henceforth were devoid of mere desultory talk, he mustered the courage to surrender before the BSF (Border Security Force) and in 1997 turned to a new leaf altogether by trying his hands in the business of medicines and surgical instruments. As Tabasum wades us through the ebb tide of their lives when despicable hectors like Major Ram Mohan Roy of 22 Rashtriya Rifles followed by DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Darinder Singh thwacked them rather hard, the latter two critters demanding Afzal of an amount of one lakh rupees; this ruthless demand was put forward after serving him with a behavior that hints towards the savage as well as the doltish overtures of our police force; this having been preceded by instances of inducing electric shocks into Afzal’s genitals, trying to chafe his innermost sensibilities to the utmost by making use of ice cold water and pouring petrol into his anus. Voila! Do those barbaric techniques come under the purview of some sort of rehabilitation program for those like Afzal who are trying hard to strike back to the normal life of a civilian? Lump of gold owned by family and a scooter that was two-months old had to be dispensed with in lieu of a living Afzal!
Fasten your seat belts and grab your back rest ladies and gentlemen as the climax has finally huddled up for your sake!

As time elapsed and situation seemed to assume the same amorphous form as ever as before, Afzal had made up his mind to relocate to Delhi and quit the turf that offered him nothing except excruciatingly painful physical and mental agony, and had put up in Delhi recently. It was at the behest of DSP Dravinder Singh that Afzal had given his nod to help a Mohammed and a Tariq in the capital city.
He received his due remuneration of Rs. 35,000 for aiding those he was asked to stand with. The next face-off Afzal had with the men in khaki was yet again even beyond his state of fathoming it in any way as he was picked up from a bus stand in Srinagar and implicated in December 2001 Indian Parliament Attack, though he was not the only isolated being who was being preyed at by those way too busy in the chomping antic!
In case you found that narration soppy enough to turn away your head, lift your eyes, shrug your shoulders and perhaps hurl those smarting comments, “a lady trying to garner sympathy for her husband who is a few yards away from the gallows”; that languorous tone of the audience being replete with a sense of heavy feeling causing you to vacillate between ‘right’ & ‘wrong’!
I’ll take you henceforth into the legal proceedings of the case that was marred by incongruities, loop-holes, lackadaisical attitude based on superfluous assumptions and keeping in reserve the verdict even before the party had said it all in front of the men in black robes and the symbolic statue holding the precarious scales of justice!
‘Mujrim hazir ho’, it was with this melodramatic mute proclamation that the hearing began in the lower courts.
An individual had been implicated, charges already framed, what all needed to be done was to pronounce him guilty, nail him there and then and hogwash an entire generation by sending the perpetrators to gallows. While Afzal didn’t have a single lawyer to defend him in the lower court, the attorney in the High Court chose to MIS-Represent him; statement on behalf of Afzal went around that he would rather like to die by lethal injection than undergoing the pain from being hung by the ropes, with Afzal claiming that he never sent a word like this to public.
The chain of these events might leave one flabbergasted as an individual might mull over the loose ends that still exist in the entire legal set-up, availing the liberties being facilitated at the hands of law might not be a dire necessity but accessing it and allowing it to save one’s skin is a daily practice; unfortunately Afzal it seems hailed from an ‘alien planet’ (so as it seems) and that led to a greater deterioration of the spirit of a man who had posed his faith in the Public Prosecution System.
In the article ’13 Questions for December 13’ (dated December 8, 2006; KAFILA by Shudhabrata Sengupta) some straightforward questions have been put forth blatantly that pull the charade from the entire proceedings that have been carried out with brisk pace and in an utmost traditional manner mired by the impatience to arrive at the verdict and heal the gall that was inadvertently inflicted on the Nation.
Some of those questions do give you the inkling that some serious blunders have in fact been committed in this hurly-burly business of dealing with the complicit – for instance if the vigilante forces of India were apprehending an imminent attack on the Parliament, how come an Ambassador car with terrorists as passengers and laden with explosives got an entry into the premises; Politicians such as Kapil Sibbal and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi have repeatedly asked for the CCTV camera footages to be shown, they claim that there were a total of six armed men and not five (these questions being posed by activists like Arundhati Roy as well) ; repeatedly there’s a mention of a Mohammed and  a Tariq, the identity of whom is not divulged properly; these are just few of those doubts that make the image misty enough for you to switch on the wipers,(letter written by Afzal Guru to his Lawyer Sushil Kumar) but do we even have ‘one’ to get rid of those trickling droplets that are hampering our vision?
And that brings us to the ‘Prime Event of the Night’, the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India; just to apprise you of the factoids that charges had been slapped under the various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) and the Explosive Substances Act by the designated court.
While substantive answers to the queries seem to be a far-fetched dream in this utterly intricate case, contradictions emerge making it seemingly impossible for a layman to have well-defined sequestered spaces having been kept reserved for truth and infidelity. Amidst all this mess, we mustn’t forget the classic Press Conference that was held and Afzal was compelled to make a confession in front of media wallahas who were already salivating at the smell of juicy piece of byte! Thus, at the tip of the Playwright, DCP Rajbir Singh, another hearing was held apart from the Courts of this la-la land, this time the turf being that which came under the purview of the fourth pillar of democracy. That gives me a twitch that we truly are progressing from the age of the Neanderthals and stumbling upon nouveau methods to simplify things in this bizarre society of odds! Cheers!
I would first open my mouth to spill out the contradictions and confusions that have nonetheless set doldrums in the vast stretch of my mental faculty!
Sifting through them one by one, the Supreme Court’s Judgment on the very outset of it has mentioned a series of those instances that led the investigating agencies to the doorbell of Afzal Guru. Call details analysis turned out to be a potent tool in the hands of the state that was used in a judicious manner when it was about incriminating Afzal. Herein arrives my first doubt; 9811489429 this is the number that was being used by Afzal and as per the counsel representing the state this particular number was in regular touch with the deceased terrorists from 28.11.2001 till the day of attack, further it was divulged that this particular number was in touch with the miscreants on the mayday as well at around 10:40 am, 11:04 am and 11:22 am. Charges have been framed in a manner so as to project Afzal as an aide in the entire process of machination and carrying out the malfeasance, I really wonder then that if everything was so meticulously planned what it is that the terrorists felt like sharing with Afzal at every point of time in the backdrop of the personnel employed at the Parliament opening fire at them ferociously. (Similar grounds have been cited for incarcerating SAR Geelani, Shaukat Afsan Guru and Navjot Sandhu; if only numbers had a vocal pitch of their own!)
Claims that have been framed to ensnare Afzal include the trammel that Afzal led the police men and identified those places from where chemicals used in explosives were purchased, a claim that has been refuted by Afzal who offers the contention that he was taken to those places by the investigating team and that he has had no bearing with those spots; these allegations and counter-allegations perhaps need a deeper scrutiny than just a furtive glance. It was at the mortuary of the L.H. Medical College where Mohd. Afzal identified the five terrorists who were no more to tell the truth themselves, these included Mohammed, Raja, Rana, Hamza and Haider; the exact identities of this pentad is yet to be established by the Indian investigating agencies.

Mystery shrouds the role of ACP Rajbir Singh who got a golden opportunity to enhance his CV on 19-Dec-2001 as he took over the case, his initial step in inching towards justice being that of calling forth an ‘Orchestrated Press Conference-cum-Afzal’s Confession Jamboree’ that was successful beyond anyone’s expectations. His mendacious miracle that went down so very well with media and public alike came to light when ‘Aaj Tak’ correspondent, Shams Tahir was cross-examined. Another nugget of truth that popped up hence was that Afzal’s confession was nothing but a proclamation made by him under duress as the officials had warned him of dire consequences threatening him to the extent of bludgeoning his entire family, his younger brother already being held captive by the STF for no reason at all!
In this pastiche comprising of a myriad of oddities, the legal appeal swears by exemplifying the likes of landmark judgments such as Miranda vs. Arizona (1966), whereby the US Supreme Court facilitated the defendant by the right against self-incrimination and allowing him to consult an attorney before interrogation, making sure at the same time that he is aware that the confession can be used to invoke action against him. Why are we in India then relying blindly on the custodial confession when the accussed didn’t even have any legal aid? Certainly there are lumps of falsehood that are snuggling too well with the Indian Evidence Act.
Unfortunately there still doesn’t exist a single Fehling’s Solution or Benedict’s Solution in the bulwarks of our legal laboratory using which the morbidity might be gotten rid of easily. Afzal Guru might have colluded in the murky act owing to coercion or oblivion but certainly that blunder doesn’t call for grave punishment amounting to ‘hang him till death’, pen’s nib broken there and then…..

A man who once succumbed to giving in to antagonistic forces but relinquished the idea and tried to live life like a normal civilian only to be ripped apart by the hectors of the niche doesn’t deserve soul-obliterating treatment like that of urinating in his mouth, while you feel like puking by only scouring through the lines there’s a man who has undergone through all of this. Perhaps those thousand unmarked graves in Kashmir need more attention of its brethren than the imminent carnival that would follow with Afzal’s head in one hand and a glass of beer in another!
For then it would be ‘We, the People of India’ who would have their hands blemished with the crime of transforming Afzal’s teenaged son into another Maqbool Bhat! So instead of baying for Afzal’s head we should rather mull over the following lines from the movie ‘Shaurya’ (2008) recited by Shahrukh Khan:

शौर्य क्या है?

थरथराती इस धरती को रौंदती फ़ौजियों की एक पलटन का शोर,
या सहमे से आसमान को चीरता हुआ बंदूकों की सलामी का शोर।

शौर्य क्या है?
हरी वर्दी पर चमकते हुए चंद पीतल के सितारे,
या सरहद का नाम देकर अनदेखी कुछ लकीरों की नुमाइश।

शौर्य क्या है?
दूर उड़ते खामोश परिंदे को गोलियों से भून देने का एहसास,
या शोलों की बरसात से पल भर में एक शहर को शमशान बना देने का एहसास।

बहती बियास में किसी के गर्म खून का हौले से सुर्ख हो जाना,
या अनजानी किसी जन्नत की फ़िराक में पल पल का दोज़ख बनते जाना,
बारूदों से धुंधलाए इस आसमान में शौर्य क्या है?

वादियों में गूंजते किसी गाँव के मातम में शौर्य क्या है?
शायद एक हौसला शायद एक हिम्मत हमारे बहुत अंदर,
मज़हब के बनाए नारे को तोड़ कर किसी का हाथ थाम लेने की हिम्मत,
गोलियों के बेतहाशा शोर को अपनी खामोशी से चुनौती दे पाने की हिम्मत,
मरती मारती इस दुनिया में निहत्थे डटे रहने की हिम्मत।

आने वाले कल की खातिर अपने हिस्से की कायनात को आज बचा लेने की हिम्मत।

शौर्य क्या है?