Mamata Banerjee

We can’t leave India to our politicians or professors

The smugness on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s face as if Messiah of peace between India and Pakistan, as he made way for Kartarpur across Wagah border, really got my goat up. Surely he knows Imran Khan is just a dummy; that terrorism both for Khalistan and Kashmir (or for Kabul) is our neighbour’s export, that for Vajpayee’s bus initiative we got Kargil. All this is not for India. This is to nurture his own constituency with an eye to be Punjab’s next chief minister. It would all suit Pakistan and Khalistan donors but not India.

But then why blame Sidhu? I read today Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that Mamata, Akhilesh, Mayawati and Left are ok but not Congress. Mamata, for whom Durga Puja is not a priority and who equates BJP with Taliban; Akhilesh who sees BJP as the biggest danger to democracy; Mayawati who terms Modi as anti-poor; Left’s Sitaram Yechury who calls Modi as the looter of India, are all okay now. All this might win Modi elections. But what about India? What about millions of Hindus who see a threat in these forces and view Modi as their saviour?

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are making overt gestures to be seen as essentially Hindus. They support the agitation against Supreme Court verdict on Sabrimala; have desisted in backing Sidhu on Kartarpur; Sonia sports a tilak (how ludicrous can it really get) in election rallies; and Rahul Gandhi shows his janau to everyone when none of his previous four generations ever wore it.  All this is for political dividends and certainly not India.

Shiv Sena are now agitated on Ram Mandir. Uddhav Thackeray and his army reached all the way to Ayodhya. Till recently, millions of workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, most of whom are Hindus, were anathema to them. Now they can go thousands of miles to support a long-cherished dream of Hindus. The idea is to cut the plank which could help BJP in 2019 elections. Did you really think it was for Hindus or India?

Once in a while we are suffused with hope. Arvind Kejriwal was once such in 2014. He evoked Gandhi; wore muffler and slippers and took on the high and mighty of this land. Now he cartwheels around Mamata and Mayawati. He has made sure if another Kejriwal emerges he would have no chance of gaining people’s affection.  

But then who thinks for India? The ones who bring their garbage in the name of newspapers to our verandahs; the police or judiciary who give a damn to our urgency; the bureaucracy who are nothing better than glorified clerks afraid to put signature to anything meaningful; the NGOs most of whom are forward soldiers of foreign funders or the academia who trade pen for cheques?

Do you think you and I care about India? We would crib about thousands of issues in our air-conditioned rooms but never take that one step towards an agency. What did you last do about the filth in your neighourhood? Or the menace of wild dogs who could mount a concerted attack if you step out in pitched darkness? What do we personally do to reduce pollution or energy-usage? The horror that our schools are for our children? Taught by teachers who equate education with their salary slips? When did we last visit a village where 80 per cent of India still lives?

Politicians, media, judiciary, policy, bureaucracy, civil society and we as individuals are all too many words and too little action. It can’t work; it won’t work. India is stretching itself thin. Almost 18 per cent of world’s humanity is sitting on a volcano of lies and manipulation. The righteous impotence of me right vs.you wrong; your religion vs. my religion; those charlatans who take past quotes out of context and plaster the edit pages; the newspapers who pass on socialites and film actresses as our new Plato and Socrates. Writers have a role if they are impartial and neutral and appeal to reason or logic. Not when it is sold to someone else’s good. As readers we must take the pen out of their hands and give them shovels to dig their own graves.

Indians now need to be real stakeholders if India is to survive. We need to look at issues both personal and impersonal though the line is often blurred.  Personal would involve making our politicians, judiciary, police, media, bureaucracy accountable. Impersonal would mean larger issues such as those of farmers, joblessness etc.. We need citizens’ charters who audit our institutions like accounting firms do to their clients. We need to force our way into decisions our politicians take or the decisions our judiciary delays—for all other reasons except to the benefit of a common man.  We need to show them our anger is no longer limited to our drawing rooms. Trust me, we the faceless would have the attention of thousands of eyes and cameras if we stop them at their gates and demand an answer. Our inertia is our weakness and the only strength they have.

India can go wrong any moment. It could be an ecological disaster or a hostile nuclear-armed neighbourhood. It could be the lava of a largely young nation which frustrated at lack of jobs or coma of our judiciary could bury us all under a thick carpet of violence and breakdown. We surely can’t leave it to our politicians and professors.

Assam’s NRC: All you need to know and which media doesn’t tell you

It’s possible looking at wall-to-wall coverage of Assam’s National Register for Citizens (NRC) final draft in our newspapers that you believe a Hindu nationalist party in the Centre is rendering lakhs of unfortunate Muslims homeless.

It’s also possible that you believe in the blood-curdling call of Mamata Banerjee and fear that a civil war would reach our doorsteps.

It’s quite possible tears are welling up in your eyes at the graphic coverage of Indian Express about unfortunate victims rendered illegal in one stroke.

It’s possible you are breaking out in a sweat over the prospects of another “Partition” as snakes-in-the-sleeve come out writhing in the mud.

It’s quite possible your respect for Congress has gone a millimeter up after they gave adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha over the matter.

My advisory to you is to shove this all in the nearest bin or spare your toilet roll. You need to know that this exercise has been mandated by the Supreme Court (and not Modi government); that it’s just a draft; that no NRC exercise has been taken up after 1951 (sic); that Congress had itself promised so in the Assam Accord of 1985; and that Mamata Banerjee back in 2005 had herself wanted the illegal Bangladesh immigrants identified. In case you want to know everything there is to know about illegal migrants in Assam over the centuries and the present, just to make sure this nonsense doesn’t waste an extra second of yours from now, read this piece and no further.

If nothing, please pay heed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh who has stressed “it’s just a draft” and nobody is going to a “detention centre.”

You could also bear this basic question in mind in case your office-colleagues are thumping your desk down: All the regional leaders who are shedding copious tears on “poor” illegal migrants of Assam– “refugee in own country,” as per Mamata — whether their own people in state would welcome these 40 lakh illegals in their fold.

All things point to nothing materially changing for illegal migrants post release of second draft of NRC. One, India doesn’t have an agreement with Bangladesh in place (our eastern neighbours don’t even acknowledge influx of illegal migrants from its stable); Two, a porous border allows an extradited illegal migrant to return without hassle; Three, many lakhs of illegal immigrants are already spread all over the country, especially in metropolis such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Who keeps tab on them?

Sooner than later though, illegal migrants must be taken off the election rolls; ways must be found to give refuge to millions of fleeing Hindus (and other Indic minority sects) from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with full citizenship status (without worrying about Rohingyas or Human Right Activists—for Hindus have only India to turn to while Muslims and Christians have dozens of own doors to knock around the world); and illegal migrants legally committed not to indulge in political or religious subversive acts.

Grand Opposition Alliance? You must be joking

Indian Express ran a front page story on Tuesday with the screaming headline: “Maya to Party: Back SP again in coming bypolls…” Times of India, the same day, ran the headline “Maya won’t support SP in bypolls.” One of them for sure is lying.

It doesn’t take long to detect who’s lying. The Times of India story is based on a press statement by the BSP. It’s exact words are: “BSP will not activiate its cadres in any bypolls in future, the way it did it in Gorakhpur and Phulpur.” The backdrop of these developments is the upcoming bypolls in Kairana and Noorpur assembly seats in UP.

Yet Indian Express has completely ignored the press statement. It’s telling its readers—in line with it’s primary function of propaganda abroad—of a communion between the two “warring kingdoms” even though a schism has occurred. (Meanwhile, it’s gleefully jumping up and down in concocting a schism between Reserve Bank of India and the government as its second front page lead).

So create schism where none exist and bury a schism where it does exist!!! Who bells the cat? Surely not your sanctimonious Editors’ Guild or Press Council of India!

Mayawati may change her mind and support SP in UP bypolls in coming days. But that’s a different matter altogether. The issue for the moment is that Indian Express willfully spikes a story which shows not all is well between “babua and bua.” It also ignores Mayawati chiding an “immature Akhilesh Yadav” for SP’s devious role in the recent Rajya Sabha poll.

Meanwhile Indian Express, which catches even a sneeze of the “piddi”, completely ignores the words of Ranjan Chowdhury. The West Bengal Congress chief has plainly said that “Mamata Benerjee is an opportunist leader.” Chowdhary has claimed that Mamata can’t be trusted as anti-BJP voice. He has cited the instance of Mamata siding with Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) which in turn supports BJP inside the Parliament. He has accused Ms Banerjee of inviting BJP in West Bengal in the first place, “who espoused the policy that BJP was not untouchable;” and during her regime “hundreds of RSS shakahas were opened.” Chowdhury further says: “In future, if she thinks she will gain more benefit by allying with BJP, she will do it.”

Tellingly, Chowdhury says: “Mamata is aspirational and wants to become the PM. She does not express her desire in words but her actions make her ambition amply clear.”

So there you are: BSP doesn’t trust SP; Congress doesn’t trust Mamata; one part of the left says join Congress, the other says don’t.  And we have Congress declaring in plain words—in the words of Chowdhury—that all “the regional parties want is to ensure that they are able to extract their pounds of flesh whoever comes to power. Or, if they are lucky somebody can become a Chandrashekhar or Deve Gowda (as PM).”  Chowdhury’s words betray the Congress anxiety in case Rahul Gandhi misses out on Prime Ministership.

So this is the bunch of opportunist opposition who don’t care a hoot about what happens to you or me or to this country. All they want is to extract their “pounds of flesh,” as Chowdhury says. Yet our English mainstream media is swooning over the Grand Alliance in offing.

I mean how shameless could they really get!