Saturday, 30 October 2010

Equity for Tribals?

I have just read the latest inspired offering from GoI to the tribals sitting on the mineral rich belt which the state cannot wait to get its hands on. In the usual manner of dealing with those whom force, violence, rape cannot dispose, the latest strategy is to just buy-em-out! The GoM met recently in Delhi to discuss the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act which proposed a 26% equity for tribals of the region. The general 'public' response to this bill seems to be 'positive' - i.e. people who care about tribal rights feel that it is high time that they - the tribals - got a piece of their own pie, worth upto 2 lakh per year income for the tribals. And...I would agree, that the tribals should at least get a piece of their own pie.

However, I object to this way of operating on several grounds...primarily the bill
seems far from fulfilling a necessary condition which the GoM does not even address - that of prior sanction for mining rights in tribal territories. Only in case of 'minor' minerals does the bill propose a consultation with those effected. Secondly, the present government seems to be in unacceptable hurry to exploit the nation's major and non-renewable mineral reserves within the present generation - or in its present term in office. This pace of exploitation will leave no scope for either the environment or the cultures residing within to adjust or attempt equilibrium with their changing situations. Thirdly, I am deeply concerned about the role that large financial compensations will play in largely non-cash based case the promised equity actually reaches all those effected - a scenario that can hardly be taken for granted in India!
.....I wrote this a while back and do not remember why did not post it. I reread it now and find what I've written somewhat incomplete, although still 'perfectly reasonable' :)

So I am posting it!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Manmohan's Economy

Some times, the most severe, and irreparable damage comes from most innocuous of acts. I am referring to how a single, gentle, educated, and seemingly reasonable and harmless person by the name of Manmohan Singh became visible on the national platform, then acceptable, and finally the leader of a potentially great democracy. He did this by a promise to deliver on an idea...and the damage this did to the potential of who we, the nation, could have become was irreparable, terminal.

And this is what he did. By 'opening' India's economy, he actually opened doors to that easy evil that slumbers within us all - he legitimised greed, promoted rampant consumerism, and in doing this promised us an Utopia with unprecedented national growth and prosperity for all. It was a seductive dream to buy...and the intelligentsia succumbed to this sales pitch readily, greedily. It was a panacea for national grief - while also appeased the conscience of those yielding to its marketable pleasures. The educated, middle class bought into this, by closing their faculty, shutting their eyes and plugging their ears to their own voices of reason.The new generation of adults were allowed, no..encouraged to shop more, buy more, consume more because we were told, these very hedonistic activities would somehow provide jobs, alleviate poverty, and take us into a glorious era for a truly independent, free and developed India.

We did not pause to question how much trickling down would be required from the consumers, and over what time scales, to alleviate the 70% or so of our BPL into a market economy of shopping for their own TVs or refrigerators...for that is what was implicitly promised, wasn't it? We just did not sit down to work out some basic numbers - and we still refuse to do it. We do not confront the sordid fact that no amount of IIT building or adding Business Schools, inviting MNCs to mine, manufacture or employ is ever going to fulfill, for all, the basic goals of food security, access to health, rise in literacy and such, that we need to define our real development.

The Manmohan paradigm has failed its lofty goals of inclusive development - and maybe it was naive to assume it was ever meant for the masses. It was a notion sold to that small fraction who were visible, vocal and in-charge of a majority share of our pyramid economy. Manmohan economy continues to attract the comfortable class, with international salaries, tax benefits, swanky shopping malls - all those who take pride in saying "now we can buy everything in India"

So what do we do with the most of the rest of the Indian nationals - who do not fit? Who build our roads, malls, homes, resorts? We vacuum them away under a cosmopolitan, secular, glitzy rug into slums, bastis, and beggar homes, eliminate them via Salwa Judums or operations Green Hunt or make them a part of our constantly displaced population - a fallout of our big dams, big mines, big projects, big Dreams of BIG People.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Ten Things I Abhor

1. Manual Scavanging
2. SEZ
3. Anti-environment Development
4.The Kashmir Lie
5.Babri Masjid 'Justice'
6.Nuclear Power and Defense
7.Farmer Suicides
8.GM crops
9.Unjust Peace
10. Sexual Violence and State Repression

Sunday, 17 October 2010

(Un)Just Peace

I know it is more than a little late to sit down and comment on the indigestibility of the entire Babri episode - its ghastly demolition, the unbearably long gestation of the title suit in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri case, and the recent regurgitation of a judicial verdict by the Allahabad High court that had little to do with justice or law. Still - I thought I would voice the following.

India is held hostage by its own people, a relatively small but highly volatile, right wing, communal hindutva group which who threaten the fabric of our democratic constitution. And, we all cow down before them. We encourage them with our apprehensions, and strengthen them with our fears. The entire Babri Masjid epic has been fuelled, burnt and finally, recently disposed, by these fears of the thinking and comfortable middle class, who refused to take a visible, vocal, and secular stance, favoring instead their own peaceful comfort, prior to, during and post-demolition of the Babri masjid. This despite episodes of extreme violence, despite thousands who were killed, and despite the innumerable lives destroyed. As a nation we continue to exist in this same immoral daze of fear plus apathy.

Prior to the judgment day, appeals rang out - appeals made from the highest office in the country - that citizens maintain peace. It is strange to appeal for peace at pronouncement of justice – for any nation. And who were the appeals made to? To the knowing and ignoring middle class? Or to the minority community of Muslims, lest they take on Ramrajya?? No. The appeals were directed to the same segment that had demolished the Masjid and were rumbling warnings even before the judgment day. A Just Peace is not to be appealed, beseeched, requested but disciplined into habit and willed into necessary action. The nation, and by representation, our government, lacks both the will and the discipline to enforce peace rooted firmly in justice – as defined by our constitution.

And then the verdict came….

Eighteen years after the demolition of Babri Masjid, the verdict did not ring out with truth, did not proclaim justice, did not uphold with respect and honor the ideals pronounced by our constitution. It instead attempted to negotiate an unequal compromise in favor of communal peace and harmony, and in doing so proclaimed the violators, desecrators, miscreants - victorious. There was jubilation by the Hindu right and relief by the minority Muslims that blood would not be shed, nor homes destroyed or lives ruined – a virulent mafia had been appeased. The verdict reeked of justice being sold out in favor of peace - a cowardly attempt that does not confront the illegitimate premise of the title suit, the illegal acts perpetrated, nor attempt to question if the statute of limitations runs out for Hindutva claims over a piece of real estate where those of Muslim faith had prayed for over three centuries. It compromises the real question of justice in favor of an unjust peace. And this has a historical precedence. Illegal acts committed over ownership by Babri masjid by members of a visible, powerful hindu majority have been condoned systematically by legal amendments to the prevailing status quo from 1949 onwards, gagging down a faith that had practiced here.

And now…we have an unjust peace. We have rendered our brothers and sisters of a minority faith mute, quiet, humbled that Indian justice has no place for their justice, Indian peace demands their acceptance of a secondary citizenship, and being Indian is really about being a hindu. A rich, vibrant, alive culture of a faith has been castrated by the rule book of Ram Rajya.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


I knew instinctively that it would be unbearable to watch 'Rizwaan' at night. So I went for a matinee presentation by Indian Ensemble of 'Rizwaan' a play written and directed by Abhishek Majumdar based on Agha Shahid Ali's collection of poems 'The country without a post office'. And.. I let the play sledge hammer away at my heart, breaking it into pieces of individual pain at what the collective 'I' had caused to the whole region of people in Kashmir - mothers, fathers, sons, friends - with innocence and hopes, lives and dreams. I know the Indian I have caused this - and I prefer to bury this deep inside to continue with the act of living I. Yet today, I faced my pain, guilt, suffering with an unblinking eye, unshed tears. I know that only by act of confronting my sins and seeking penance can I salve my Kashmir conscience. I now no longer talk of Kashmir 'separatists' or 'extremists' - and I understand that India occupies Kashmir, forcefully, brutally and unforgivably. I also understand that their seeking Azadi is the only unavoidable choice we left them by treating them so....

And therefore I will seek penance, by keeping Kashmir alive in my conscious conscience, speaking about Kashmir, and allowing it to lament to me...I know that I must at least hear Kashmir before I find strength to fight for its right. And do this only to absolve my sins and seek forgiveness.