Wednesday, October 31, 2012

God uncle, God uncle - please help Jagan uncle!

I couldn't but help translate this letter into English - this letter needs to reach the widest possible audience. Another example of the depths, Sakshi newspaper (owned by Jagan Mohan Reddy, s/o YSR) can plunge to. (Earlier examples here). 

The letter was apparently written by three students (one each in 6th, 7th and 8th class). The telugu link is here. Incase it is deleted, a snapshot of the letter is available at the end of this blog. Now please go ahead and read what these three kids have to say: 

We are very angry with God. Because he took away our God-like YSR "thatha" (thatha means grandfather). YSR "thatha" walked amidst the people, learnt about their hardships and ruled only for the people. God therefore got jealous, that "thatha" is getting more name than Himself. Is that why He took him away? We cried. Everyone in our home and village also cried. 

Sadly some people died too. Jagan uncle gave people strength - he told us not to worry because I am coming. He consoled lot of people. He likingly ate curd rice served by old women. Jagan uncle lost a lot of weight by roaming in the hot sun, just to meet all of us. His hands even got scratches because he shook them with everybody. Apparently there are some people in Delhi. They felt afraid that Jagan uncle is getting lot of name because of his travel! They arrested Jagan uncle! They are not allowing Jagan uncle to come out; they are not allowing him to get bail. 

We (us, our friends, our elders, and all poor people) want Jagan uncle to come out. We are praying to God. God uncle, God uncle, our state will benefit if Jagan uncle comes out. Atleast to get our state out of its misery, please get uncle out. 

We all love Vijayamma (YSR's wife), Bharati aunty (Jagan's wife), Sharmila akka (didi). Even if they come, we will be with them. We love the family of YS "thatha". Our hope is that they all stay happily together and our state will prosper. Please grant us our wish, God uncle! 

- Mukka Harikrishna, 7th class, Penuganchiprolu
- Tummulapalli Divya Choudary, 6th class, Kodada
- Tummalapalli Dinesh, 8th class, Kodadaa

Friday, October 5, 2012

At Sonia's defense, always!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Reposting it here for reference :) 


Predictable behaviour is boring. It ceases to cause surprise or shock either. After a while, it starts to border on the ridiculous. And that's precisely the border on which sections of the Indian media are, right now! 

Even before the Congress party could think and respond to queries posed by Narendra Modi on Sonia Gandhi's travel expenses, these folks swooped in and started defending the pious icon of India. Ok my mistake - those queries were not posed by Narendra Modi. Those queries were posed in an RTI query back in 2009. Narendra Modi merely bought that to the notice of the country. Ah, the stupid "facts" at play here again!

All hell broke lose in the TV studios – how dare he question her? Without sharing a copy of the newspaper report, debates went on and on. A copy of the report can be found here.  But for our divas, the figure became "Modi's figure". 

Within minutes, the media located the RTI activist who was quick to deny that received any response for his RTI application! The next obvious question would be - why no response for 3years? But then obvious and our TV media don't go together, so the cliched "Blow to Modi" headline was back in action!

Narendra Modi never ever mentioned about the Sonia’s treatment, yet IBN took the liberty to accuse him of that too.

Meanwhile Narendra Modi has said that he is ready to take back his accusation - all that the Government of India has to do is reply to that RTI. The "Blow to Modi" headline got a second life within a matter of hours!

Playing victimhood comes naturally to Congress, so they (along with media) started twisting this as an inhuman attempt by Modi to cash in on Sonia Gandhi's reported "illness". Narendra Modi didn't give up. He made yet another attempt to very clearly explain what his demand was. Listen to this video - clarity cannot get simpler than this (from 15:05 to 18:15). Why is the government not replying to the RTI? He also says that he is not questioning the medical expenses of Sonia Gandhi; says that we must pay whatever it costs for her health. He is merely asking the government of India to tell it’s citizens how much was spent on Sonia's foreign travels since 2004.

Sonia Gandhi did not respond to any of these queries. Narendra Modi though was unrelenting. NDTV wrote a brilliant piece on this "tit-for-tat". In their assessment, Narendra Modi "did not return" Sonia Gandhi's “favour” of not mentioning him in her address at a rally! An article with a headline that screamed "Modi unrelenting" ends up talking about Sonia's speech, FDI in retail, BJP's opposition to it and what not! The assessment did not end there - they had a 28 minute discussion on the topic and titled it - "Is Narendra Modi's attack on Sonia Gandhi a sign of nervousness?"

Please, don't ask us where in the world did "nervousness" come into the picture here! That's the quality of assessment in our media. However, media's best was yet to come. It happened today in the form of an editorial in The Hindu (where else!). Titled “(Mis)treating Ms. Gandhi”, this editorial is a work of art.

"....Sonia Gandhi’s foreign travels in recent years, often for medical treatment." Oh boy! The Hindu throws all facts into the dustbin, and tells us that Sonia's foreign travels in "recent years" was "often for medical treatment". How recent is "recent"? They won't tell you, for that implies giving out numbers. How does The Hindu know that the travel often was for medical treatment? 

"...on the basis of an unsourced newspaper report" Unsourced? The source of the report was a government agency itself! 

"That he chose to score points off a political rival’s illness shows the moral depths he is prepared to plumb in his pursuit of power." He has explained in the simplest possible language that he is not questioning the illness. He is questioning why an RTI that seeks to know information about her foreign travels and related expenditure is not pending. Yet, Siddarth Varadarajan throws all norms to the winds and concludes this is a moral depth that Modi is plunging into.

The said RTI was filed in 2010. Well before we knew about Sonia Gandhi's medical condition. Instead of telling his readers about that RTI application, Siddarth Varadarajan made a vain and cheap attempt to cheat his readers. The editorial concludes that all this controversy has erupted because an "impenetrable veil of secrecy" is woven around Sonia Gandhi, which is undesirable. Yet bizzarely, someone who questions this secrecy is putting his foot in the mouth! 

In all this melee - no one has yet dared to pose the real question - why is the RTI reply still pending from the government? 

How to still praise the PM!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Reposting it here for reference :) 


Till today, it was hard to believe that one can think of writing a 1200 word article on the current crisis our country is facing, without blaming the existing leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Till today. 

Today, Harish Khare (former media advisor to this Prime Minister) wrote in The Hindu, suggesting that we look at the brighter side of TMC withdrawing support to the UPA. Loaded and lofty words come so easily to these folks - sample just the first two sentences of the article!

Ignoring the adjectives and platitudes attributed to the duo of PM and Sonia Gandhi, the summary of these two lines is that the duo should thank Mamata for giving them "yet" another opportunity to show that they can work around the present economic crisis. "Yet another"? which means the duo were presented with multiple opportunities before? How did they fare then? Harish Khare doesn't bother to tell us.  

Apparently, this is a good time to remind that the nation that it cannot be governed with "timidity". Harish Khare very conveiniently avoids mentioning who exhibits tendencies of "timidity" the most! This Prime Minister has hardly ever stood his ground - the umpteen number of times he has cited "coalition compulsions" to escape taking responsibility is on record - yet Harish Khare wants us to believe that this Prime Minister will show the nation that it cannot be governed with "timidity"! And this is the just the beginning of the article. 

Harish Khare is aghast that Mamata Banerjee, who has been elected to govern West Bengal is seeking powers to control economic and foriegn policy of the entire country. Fair enough - but who displayed extraordinary "timidity" in allowing her to dictate such terms Mr. Harish Khare? Whose "timidity" is responsible for a party with 19 MPs running "roughshod" over a party with >200 MPs? And when you blame the Congress "eagerness" that gave her those powers, who exactly in the Congress exhibited this "eagerness"? Their president? Their general secretary? Their spokesperson? Their booth level cadre?

Midway though the article, this shocker lands! 

Those in the judiciary and other constitutional institutions smelled the spilt blood within the UPA and felt doubly empowered to muddy the political waters.

This has got to be the single most insinuation against multiple institutions ever! Essentially, what Mr. Khare is saying here is that the Supreme Court and the CAG have displayed rank opportunism in trying to bring out the scams and resort to some course correction. Course correction that was ignored by "tentativeness" and "timidity" of the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. It is plain shocking that a former media advisor to the Prime Minister so openly attributes motives to multiple constitutional institutions in one go. 

There continue to be more surprises in store for us.

"For too long, a false impression has been allowed to be created that there are two sets of calculus, one preferred at Race Course Road and another at Akbar Road."

Yep - you read it right - a false impression that there are two power centres it seems! The statement needs no further arguments at all. The world play that these folks resort to, is amusing to say the least. Sample this:
"Prime Ministerial authority needs to be seen to have been restored. "

"Needs to be seen"? Meaning, the authority is being displayed and is not being shown the outer world? Harish Khare himself goes on to explain that the congress ministers cannot be seen as not respecting the Prime Minister. Which brings us back to the original question - who is displaying enormous "timidity" to degrade the institution of the PMO? Who exactly is to take the blame for all this mess, Mr. Harish Khare?

The concluding paragraphs deride the absence of "prime ministerial oversight" too. Basically, a former insider is telling us that this Prime Minister does not bother to oversee due process and procedure. It’s a scathing indictment of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s capabilities, but somehow Mr. Khare wants us to believe that the multiple crises the country is facing is not because of the duo but inspite of them, whilst it is the converse that is true.

Like Kanchan Gupta said - India deserves far better than a Prime Minister held in such utter contempt by coalition partners. 

Linking riots to reforms

Frontline did a cover story titled, "Behind the exodus", and put a picture of scores of people trying to push themselves into a train compartment. So you would expect that this story is about the recent "exodus" that happened due to rumours spread through SMS (and not the social media). However, the story was on why people from North East migrated to other parts of the country - in other words - this has got nothing do with the gruesome riots that are happening in Assam (Frontline had a cover story on these riots in it's earlier issue, but to study at this juncture, the migration of NE folks to other parts in the past 2 decades seems very weird). 

They give us a quick summary in one para on the riots and the subsequent fleeing of NE folks; then dedicate a small para to the "forces of political hindutva" (whatever their relevance is here) and also conclude that the "confused and often contradictory responses of State governments and the Centre aggravated the situation". Too many accusations there, but nah let's bother about the facts right now. The article is about why NE folks migrated out of the region in the first place! 

This article had a long quote from Professor Sudhir Kumar Panwar. The first line: 

“Any objective assessment of contemporary migration would show that this is linked to increasing urbanisation triggered by the pursuit of neoliberal economic policies and globalisation."

Whoa - quiet loaded no? Too many strong words linking many events! 

Let's take a quick look at the above statement - "Any objective assessment....would show..." essentially means that "whatever I am saying is right. Period.". "...increasing urbanisation triggered by the pursuit of neoliberal economic policies and globalisation" - essentially means that increasing urbanisation is happening because people are moving out in search of better opportunities. But if they write in such simple words, they cannot become intellectuals no? 

The choice of words is interesting - "triggered", "neo-liberal economic policies" etc. It's almost as if they were absolute wrong things to happen. And it sounds like those choosing to utlize available opportunities are being selfish! The conclusions are sweeping too – “neo-liberal policies” mandate low or no investment in rural infrastructure it seems! Since the article was trying to get into some root-cause analysis, they should have digressed and tried to explain why the "pursuit of neoliberal economic policies" were necessitated!  

And then the professor ends up deriding the political parties for not linking the "current problem" to the "larger picture" of migration. Now, that leaves the reader mightily confused! The "current problems" in Assam are due to illegal migration from Bangladesh. This article was supposed to be about migration of folks from NE to other parts of the country. Would it be fair enough to conclude that Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is also a result of the neoliberal blah blah blah?

The article ends like this: 

"Undoubtedly, what we have seen in the two months since early July is the result of this negligence and the absence of a coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and related issues."

The "negligence" the author talks about is the "negligence" of the government in not coming up with laws that are friendly to migrants. So essentially, the riots in Assam and the subsequent "exodus" of folks from other states back to NE had nothing to do with illegal migration or rumours of threatening SMS but by the lack of friendly laws! Note the usage of the word "undoubtedly" - which means you and I should not contest this conclusion. 

That is not it - there is another article to back up this cover story. Titled "Push factors" the article quickly tries to explain factors such as partition, agriculture, slow industrial growth etc etc that led to mass migration from the NE states. The wicked "wave of liberalisation" led to increase in demand for security force in infrastructure rich cities - and hence migration further increased. And then we are warned about the danger of  "reverse migration" and a brilliant solution is offered. Hold your breath - the solution is that the NE state governments have to talk to all those employers (like security agencies etc) and negotiate on behalf of all these "young" employees. You read it right - the government has to negotiate on behalf of all employees with all employers to ensure that a proper wage structure is in place for them! 

Very quickly, we moved from the Assam riots to social media ills to "neo liberal globalisation" jargon. So quickly that we have begun to forget that Assam is still burning. Lakhs of people are still displaced, with no guarantee that this spate of violence will stop once they return back. But then, let's blame "globalisation", shall we?

Tail piece: The CM of Assam, Tarun Gogoi apparently made a comment that the population of Muslims increases because they are illetrate. Rajdeep Sardesai wondered -" If Modi said what Gogoi did, the Cong would go for him. What of their own chief minister now?" I asked him back the same question, and just replaced Cong with "sections of media". Three days later, both didn't happen. 

Assam riots to hate on the internet

The following article was written for Niti Central. Reposting here for reference :)

1. I disagree with Kanchan Gupta, but I respect his right for free speech
2. Kanchan Gupta can get abusive, personal, but his free speech (not hate speech) cannot be stifled
3. The likes of "pro-Hindutva" journalists can dish up a lot of "warped logic" but that's no case for blocking them.
4. Oh my God! Shiv Aroor was blocked?? Amit Paranjape was blocked? Gosh, that's so unsettling!
5. It is ok to block/regulate/control abuse/bile/vile/venom when circumstances demand it. 

I am not reproducing verbatim the above points, but those points pretty much sum up the gist of the "liberal" arguments made by some top notch "national" journos/newspapers/think tanks etc. For a moment, you would also think that this block was because the handles were “abusing” people.

From about a month, Assam has been burning. There have been riots that displaced 4 lakh people. More than a 100 people died. People continue to suffer till date; violence continues unabated till date; shockingly people still are being killed. While the Congress government in the state was busy doing nothing to stop this violence, rumours started flying thick and fast - in Pune first, Hyderabad next, Bangalore then, and finally in Chennai. 

Folks from the North East who work in these places started getting SMSes that threatened them to leave the city for their own safety. Rumours spread fast, and people from NE started going back to their home states. Large scale "exodus" was happening and quite expectedly the "national media" came into the picture only when it happened in Bangalore. So desperate was the media to blame this on “social media” that they started including SMS in that too! Investigations also revealed that some websites from Pak are playing mischief and then social media websites like facebook, twitter, blogger, wordpress are being used to spread these false images. 

Please note that none of these images were responsible for the violence in Assam. None of them were responsible for the "exodus". These images sparked rumours that led to a mini-riot in Mumbai - a riot in which the Amar Jawan Jyothi was attacked too. But facts rarely matter when there is an agenda at play! The agenda – start blaming social media. It is so full of hate, so full of losers and what not. They steered the debate towards hatred on social media. 

And here's where our government came into the picture. It issued 4 orders,  in which it asked for specific sites to be blocked). 15 twitter profiles were sought to be blocked (and continue to be blocked) – with no proper reasoning and explanation. If you see the narrative on the "national" media scene, you would think that only Kanchan Gupta, Shiv Aroor and Amit Paranjape were blocked. However, the block was not just about these three folks.

Quietly hidden away are these handles that were blocked too. 

The handle "NorthEastBlog" and "Assam_News" just give you the happenings in the North East. The government does not want that to happen - you see anyone trying to debate that? Hastags related to the riots in assam, disturbances in the northeast have been blocked! This essentially means that the government does not want any kind of related information to be discussed. Now, do you feel that "outrageous" is a very small word to describe these actions by the government? 

Twitter pages of individual users apart from the three journalists mentioned above were blocked – no reason given, no examples of “hate speech” that led to violence shown.

However, as our "national" media is always obssessed with personalities - what does it do? Deviates the debate - towards abuse, vitriol, civility etc. This was not even the reason why the handles and searches were blocked. None of the channels gave details about ALL handles that were blocked. None discussed the various search parameters that were blocked. None were outraged when the government tried to link "National Security" to handles without any evidence. They made this about people; they judged those who were blocked; and then (very sadly) tried to justify the blocking. No examples given, no questions asked.

Within a week, Indian TV media was succesfull deviating the assam riots debate to abuse and trolls on the internet. To paraphrase an earlier chain: Assam Riots --> SMS threat --> "Exodus" of NE from South --> Social Media impact --> Internet Hindus --> Abuse and Trolls. A chain only the Indian TV media can generate. 

"Tyranny" of National Media

The following post was written for newly launched "Niti Central" website on August 15th. Pasting it here for reference :)

A Kannada translation of this piece was also published in "Kannada Prabha" newspaper. Snapshot below the article :) 

Shockingly, the fact that every human life lost in any riot should be seen as a blot on the country is lost in the cacophony of  a studio.

No - the above line is not some random rant by another random blogger. The line is picked up from a profound article written by the Editor-in-Chief of the CNN-IBN network. When read in isolation, the above statement sounds fully logical. Now let's go back a little bit in time. 

On the 24th of July, a tweeter advised the author of the above article to cover all riots equally, be it Gujarat or Assam. The reply

21 died in Assam, more than a 1000 in Gujarat. scale and intensity, plus logistics will determine media coverage.
Yes - you are indeed reading it right. The Editor-in-Chief actually said that - it is the "scale and intensity" that determines the media coverage. The person who is sermonizing the readers on the value of every human life is the same person who put out the number of dead to justify the low coverage time on TV. 

There was outrage over this - many valid questions were posed to him - chief among them by a tweeter was this - how did he know that more than a 1000 died while the riots were happening in Gujarat? He later apologized for his tweet (followed by the routine "we-get-abused-no one-apologises to us" arguments), but I guess the cat was out of the bag by then - is this the insensitivity with which the delhi based english TV news channels operate under? 

The supreme fascinating irony in the first statement does not end there. Here's a quick quiz question - who moderates the "cacophony" in the studio? Bingo - the author (and his ilk)! The "cacophony" is what defines any primetime TV debate in any of the channels, and the moderator seems happy about it more often than not. And we are now being told that this "cacophony" doesn't allow the viewer to have the right perspective! 

There is one more important thing that gains prominence in the "cacophony" that is moderated by these exalted folks - the comparison of riots. Read any article, listen to any debate on riots - we hear only 1984 and 2002 (and perhaps going forward, Assam 2012 will get added). It's as if no riot (big or small) has occurred before 1984, between 1984 and 2002, and between 2002 and 2012. It's one thing for politicians to fight over "whose riot is bigger", but what about the media? Why are they not educating the viewer/reader about the different riots that happened in the country, and their context? Every riot has a context - the author himself tries hard to explain the "context" of the Assam riots and says it's not "black and white" as "bigoted" minds would think. Have you ever seen any article that explains the "context" of any other riot in this country? This "media" is doing such a grave injustice to it's viewers and readers by not bothering to even attempt discuss other riots, but then I guess that's too much to expect! 

However, there is one more profound statement in that profound article that definitely takes the cake. 

No national channel has an OB van in Guwahati.

He was at pains to explain why the "media" covered the Gujarat riots in 2002 more than the Assam riots in 2012. And all that they could come up with is this - No OB van and hence little coverage. The first question that popped up in the mind was this - why is it a "national" channel if it does not even have a OB (Outside Broadcasting) van in one of the major state capital? Fair enough to assume that they do not have an OB van in any of the seven north eastern states of India and yet somehow rub his charade of them being "national" channels on the unsuspecting viewer. 

77 people have died in the riots so far, which have not yet ended. A whopping 4,00,000 (Four Lakh) people have been displaced and are in relief camps - which means they have been thrown away from their homes. If this is not a tragedy that deserves exhaustive coverage, then what does?

PS: The Group Editor of another channel, NDTV took lots of pain to get into Libya during the "Arab Spring". She went in there illegally (or "cladenstinely" as B.Raman said) - only to show the situation to the world. And when Assam was burning (and earlier when there were massive floods), she was nowhere to be seen. Not even close. Tyranny of Distance? Really?