The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Monday 27 December 2010


“Prisoner of voice of conscience” - Why can’t India accommodate voices like Binayak Sen?

It was not so long ago when the government had decided not to pursue tough legal course of action against Arundhati Roy and SAS Geelani on their separatist remarks on Kashmir. (Recent legal activities in the matter is just court directed)

It was not so long ago when we thought to think that we could, too, have  a healthy debate kind of thing on ‘limits’ of freedom of expression when it came to issues like ‘patriotism’ and ‘sedition’. (Though dismissing voices of dissent to render them insignificant was the underlying concern)

It was not a long ago when the highest court of the land had observed about the evidence being made a reason to incarcerate Dr Sen grating him bail. (How jubilant we were!)

It was not a long ago when we all became mute spectators of the savagery of the state machinery as the ‘Vanavasi Chetna Ashram’ was brought to rubble. (And, except some carriers like Tehelka, the voice was not given its due)

And, so, what happened on December 24, when Dr Sen was sentenced to life-imprisonment, was again a humiliating reminder of how an organized society (with all its constituting pillars) in this part of the world works.

A last weekday, a national news channel was discussing ‘whether being an achiever is no more about celebrityhood’ based on outcome of its personality of the year award in different categories that it said was populated well by silent achievers. And, what it meant by silent achiever: someone working to bring change irrespective of any return, even name.

So sacred it seems, and indeed it is. Yes, it is the sort of debate that may go on and on with subjective reasoning and circumstantial explanations. But, here, in this context, it may foretell some important things.

There are activists and opinion leaders, very dear, to the media eyes, trying to fill up the content void of the carriers. There are activists and opinion leaders, very dear to the media eyes, making them available to the carriers as and when the need arises. There are activists and opinion leaders, who, usually, do not resort to the platform that media may provide them to raise the voice as the cause they are working on, doesn’t fit in the mould, that media of the day is cast-of.

Your daily dose of intellectual expertise is supplanted by activists and opinion leaders of the first category (though the impact is as debatable as credibility of the whole news media in India has become now). Likes of Medha Patkar, Arundhari Roy hop the second category and they are justifiably right in doing so. And then there are silent crusaders like Binayak Sen, Himanshu Kumar, Sandeep Pandey, who know doing work at grassroots, in the hinterland, has no relevance for the mainstream media.

And, so, when the state decides to ignore separatist remarks of Arundhati Roy and some other Kashmiri leaders, and at the same time, incarcerate someone like Dr Sen; it puts a big question mark on operability of the whole system. No such debate is raised. The day when the development took place it is all around in English media but what about follow-up. What has been the follow-up since Sen was released on bail last year?

And, lo, this is not just it, on the contrary, this operability gets converted into grilling polarizability of the ruling elite and, behold, here, every fine line that separates political creatures gets blurred. So we never hear a political statement though Chhattisgarh is a BJP ruled state and Congress is sitting very comfortably at the centre (see the level of coordination here within the federal structure of the world’s largest democracy!). Chidambaram is running a crusade sort of operation against Maoists (though we never feel the need to redefine the terms like Naxal or Maoism in present context), agreed, but what happens to the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar or Digvijay Singh, who put the hole Naxal policy in the dock. Why can’t they say something? They will not.

And, so, we see a wide range of dispensation of justice!

It takes a year for CBI to question A Raja; it takes many brickbats by the courts to the law enforcing agencies to go probing the likes of Kalmadi; removal of a ‘so tainted Raja’ puts the whole government in jeopardy (speculations about Lok Sabha arithmetic); a ‘so controversial BSY’ continues in the government, but, we see a ‘never seen’ promptness when it comes to crushing of voices like Dr Sen or Himanshu Kumar or jailing a TN public servant after being found guilty of accepting Rs 100 bribe.

What else can we say?

I have privilege of talking to Dr Sen. I, still, do not have the privilege of meeting him in person. But, I expect to meet him soon whether I get or do not get permission to shoot part of my documentary featuring him. Someone, like Dr Sen, who doesn’t carry a laptop and accesses the online world while at home or at static points of access, for him, mainstream media access cannot be too high on the priority list.

Like many silent achievers, he is just one and probably he likes it to be like that. Thanks to the human conscience that still prevails somewhere, and thanks to the technological advances, Dr Sen has now a concerned following that works irrespective of the duration of media attention, and is getting wider. Yes, the legal recourse, by its very nature in this country, presents before us a long battle to be fought again. And, yes, it is something, that, we can hope for logical outcome by higher courts.

Dr Sen symbolizes the ‘voice of conscience’, for he acts on behalf of millions who cannot be adventurous enough to speak even for their basic rights. We need to take the moment and the movement to the level when the government would see Dr Sen on par with likes of Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy and would accommodate the ‘voices of dissent’ more as ‘voices pinpointing anomalies in the system’.

The hope lies somewhere here:

The Bench ignored the plea of senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, opposing bail on the ground that trial was about to be completed. Justice Katju told counsel: “We know the facts of this case. He has been in jail for two years. We are granting him bail.” "Thank you, please sit down," the bench remarked twice when Rohtagi tried to oppose bail.
(Supreme Court on May 25, 2009)

Till then ‘arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda, too, can never be irrelevant.

Meanwhile, we can wish only if the state doesn’t go the China way in silencing voices of dissent like the Middle Kingdom has done with Liu Xiaobo.  

Sunday 28 November 2010


It is 52 days; 52 days since October 8, 2010. It took 52 days for the Chinese state machinery to crush the Tiananmen Moment of 1989 culminating in June 5 bloodbath from a humble beginning as civilian gathering on April 15.

So what all China has done in these 52 days this time? Certainly it’s not another Tiananmen of 1989 but it can be precursor of something like what came out of mourning after death of Hu Yaobang in 1989.

The 52 days since the Peace Nobel announcement to Liu Xiaobo has seen a frenetic activity by the Chinese government that tells nothing much of the Chinese elite mindset has changed since the days of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. The uprising then had acquired a loud and potent formation with its wide outreach and was meted out with an equally crushing and demeaning spread of totalitarian tentacles subsequently. The seed of a potential uprising this time is subtle and it is there, yes the seed may take longer to germinate here because the change now is happening amidst a conundrum of economic, social and political parameters that the Chinese policymakers are still trying to understand.

Not much insight is needed but a keen observation to the response of the Chinese state machinery and of its elite since October 8.

It has virtually arrested Liu Xia-no communication means available. It has cracked down on members of Chinese intelligentsia who dared speak positively on Liu’s Nobel, arresting some, making some pariah by clipping their wings defaming them by using its state sponsored propaganda machinery (what else can one expect when you have the whole media acting as your mouth organ – no doubt the huge investment that the Chinese media industry saw was never to get its return), cracking down on communication and social networking means of some, threatening the country’s masses with direct and indirect consequences of even thinking about the name Liu Xiaobo, extending it to other countries through its coercive and threatening diplomacy. How else can we have a Nobel Committee alleging a country of years’s Nobel recipient of sabotaging the Prize Ceremony as six countries including Russia (no need to mention China) have shown their inability to join the function? December 10 has still 12 more days to go and expect more muscle juggling of China’s coercive diplomacy externally and an over-alert internal security system internally.

What all these tell? Something ominous!

Yes, ominous for the Chinese elite but symbolically opportune for the Chinese masses with its emerging classes and interestingly foretelling for the world community.

And what are these factors? The similar ones already discussed in previous two parts of this write-up, a burgeoning middle class, new classes within the class-less Chinese society, their growing connectivity and communication freedom and hence their growing demands of a life, always to be bettered in terms of what a ‘standard quality of life’ means universally.

What all it says of what all that China has done in these 52 days for other stakeholders - - Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and the humanity - of the decision to award the Peace Noble to Liu Xiaobo!

Amnesty has stated -  "As we're doing right now, there'll be increased attention paid not only to Liu Xiaobo, but also many of the dozens of other activists who have spoken out, worked really tirelessly, been jailed for promoting freedom of expression, for promoting respect for human rights.  The international community will hopefully pay greater attention to the fact that Liu Xiaobo is not alone, in fact, in the activities that he's been conducting."

Friday 26 November 2010


It was a day
I felt reborn
I got that lost sojourn
Now, how,
I see that!
No more speculation,
A cool resurrection
No whys,
Just congratulation

It was a day
To the transition
To the rejuvenation
To the elevation
To the assimilation

I felt reborn
I got that lost sojourn

It was a day
To the self-realization
To the purest recreation
To the core of self-appreciation
To the conscious determination

Oh no! No more speculation
It’s indeed a cool resurrection

Thank You,
To show me the light
Thank You,
To make it that bright
Thank You,
To be that inspiration
Thank You,
To be elemental in recreation
Thank You,
O friend.. O my beacon..

Sunday 7 November 2010


Anything but the truth is no one can draw even an element of satisfaction in a death, be it of a close relative, or of someone not related at all. But, at the same time, these are some elements of satisfaction only that lead us to manage our day-to-day lives out of the greatest mental agonies that life keeps on throwing us in. And so, the discussion was a pertinent one. Yet, we fall miserably short of getting full picture of this sort of satisfaction to come to terms with such a mishappening like someone's death. The 14-year old-back-into-the-future  boy, 15 years later, still finds him into this quagmire time and again.

"I lost my young son two years ago. The pain is still unbearable. But, somehow, I have managed to go on with life and his memories play an important role in it, for, he had some dreams, dreams of a young blood. If the tragedy has done anything, then, it has made me younger by some years so that I can try to relive the dream of my young son. He had this much of life after that he left. But he left me something that, I, now understand, is the element of satisfaction for me to build on, that is, his dreams. Though unbearable, I see him passing on to a higher realm." Someone from among the audience said.

"I had never had cordial relation with my wife. When she was alive, I never realized who was at fault. But we never thought of separating. Now that she is no more, I find I was on the wrong footing since the very beginning. It makes me yearn for her even more. I have no element of satisfaction. It kills me an inch more on every passing day. How can I not think of being guilty when I know I am?" Another voice from among the audience!

On here, comes the voice of the orator with the foreign accent quoting again a Gita text:

nasato vidyate bhavo
nabhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drsto 'ntas
tv anayos tattva-darshibhih

"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both."

The orator goes on saying, "Both of you are on the path of truth now. Both of you are seeking more truth, truth being a relative term here. One has found the element of satisfaction in his biggest mental agony; another has found the element of dissatisfaction.  One is living the days that he had lived with his son; another is living the days that he could not live with his wife. One has a positive element to move on; another has a negative element to move on; something in both the lives, that is pushing them to find themselves; something that is pushing them to find the one and only absolute truth. Now it is to be seen whether you continue on the path to the extent where this debate of 'a life lived' and 'a life gone' stops making sense, for, the soul is absolute; the soul is purity embodied; the soul is to remain with you, to guide you, even when the body is gone; even when the flesh is annihilated, for, it had to be, sooner or later. What remains is the element of association that comes to haunt you, that goes on hunting you. But, as the time passes, one comes to realize the presence of soul more and more in metaphysical terms, a presence far beyond the sensory modalities. It, then, starts cultivating at the level of subconscious, something that always remains with you, whether you realize it or not. For a soul, nothing changes, for, it is beyond the realms of creation and destruction; for, a soul has to be in a transient state. The only permanent attachment for a soul in a lifetime is with the memories of the time when it was with you. And it honours it, for, it remains with you. Yes, it depends much on the circumstances, circumstances that you are in; circumstances that you create."

Therefore, he adds:

avyakto 'yam acintyo 'yam
avikaryo 'yam ucyate
tasmad evam viditvainam
nanusocitum arhasi

"It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body."

There is no life, no death for a soul. There is just life, no death for memories. There is life; there is death for the body.

But isn't the question of relevance of debates on life and death still there? For, the soul remains with us; it may or may not be with us.

Saturday 6 November 2010


I saw it first on a post by one group fellow on the Internet Writers Guild. Here, I have taken it from a blog which, in turn' took it from somewhere else. There are different versions of this beautiful prose available including the one that is considered original and credited to Mother Teresa. It has shown me light during many odd moments.


In a certain slope of Himalayan Mountain, where Holy Mountain meets holy person, there is a coffee shop that provide simple lunch. In the wall, the owner hangs a beautiful message like this: 


"People are often unreasonable and illogical. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, they may accuse you of ulterior motive. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. What you spend  years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway. If you find happiness and serenity, they might be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, it may never be enough. Give the world the best you have anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway".



Monday 1 November 2010

अचानक ये क्या हुआ

अचानक ये क्या हुआ
क्या था मैं,
क्या समझा गया

जो खोजी धरा पांवो तले
कुछ ना मिला,
ये जीवन जले
जो खोजा खुदी को,
उन साँसों तले,
साया भी गया,
तुम भी ना मिले
जो खोजा तुम्हे ऐ दोस्त मेरे
खोया कुछ ऐसा के,
मन ये भटका फिरे
जो सोचा के फिर से चलें
उन राहों पे,
जहाँ वो मेरा दोस्त फिर से मिले

अचानक ये क्या हुआ
क्या था मैं,
क्या समझा गया
जो खोजी धरा पांवो तले
कुछ ना मिला,
ये जीवन जले

Sunday 31 October 2010


Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat. Circa 1995. The mighty rains had overtaken the Ganga. Ganga was back in her mythological roar away from the sophisticated flow of an advancing civilization. The Ganga-bank ecosystem was back to the practicing days. But the last journey to the salvation remained unaffected. Yes, the set-up was modified. Now the Ganga's ablution was more easily available to the liberating soul.

A boy, around 14, was there to be part of the last journey of one of his relatives. It was not the first time that the boy was visiting such a place, for he always felt drawn to the questions of existence and relevance of the debate on life and death. What perplexed him more was though he would be questioning the relevance of debates on life and death, he would find himself occasionally in such debates, giving an extempore to himself, extending a soliloquy to his drenched yet thirsty soul. He still lives with this dilemma though the restlessness has abated to his inner sanctum sanctorum only. But then, 15 years retro into the future, it was not like that.

So it was circa 1995.

Jutting, running, walking, sneaking through the incessant rain, they all reached to the Ghat of the eternal flame. As the set-up there was rather modified since the Ganga had flooded and covered all the Ghat steps, the space management was allowing limited numbers in one go and so there was time to sit, time to look around, time to think inside, and moreover, there was time to reflect internally and externally.

Soon the boy found a corner for himself where he could escape the rain and could think to look inside. But, he found another group coming to the place. Lost in his thoughts, he thought to find another place.

But as he prepares to leave, so as to not to disturb himself as well as the gentlemen in the other group, suddenly he finds himself attracted to a voice, foreign accented one but rendering and explaining some Sanskrit text.

Though it is not a strange sight to find foreigners at Varanasi Ghats exploring the questions of life and death; foreigners trying to find that missing link of the spiritual quotient of their objectivity oriented lives,  but it is the subject matter under discussion with an orator with a different mother tongue and an Indian audience that draws the attention of the 14-year old boy. The subject matter is revolving around death, spirituality, satisfaction and relevance of the debate on matters of life and death. The representative spiritual text could be the following one from the Gita:

"dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati"

"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change."

Gita has always been the most apt text when one decides to ponder on questions on debates on relevance of life and death. But for that 14-year old boy, then, Gita is not something he is looking for. But then the way the orator with foreign accent is contextualizing the ancient Indian texts in the prevailing situation of contemporary grief and hopelessness in personal relations, and that too, at a place, where every thing else than death disappears, where everything else but illusion remains, seems quite natural to the boy to become part of the group for a while, till he goes back to the gateway of the eternal flame.

The orator with the foreign accent is elaborating on 'satisfaction' as the main attribute to the journey on the spiritual quest emphasizing on the illusion of the cult built around the flesh and the perpetuity of the soul.

It is the acme of the spiritual trajectory for anyone who learns to remain calm and satisfied with whatever the means that he is left with at the end of a day and finds it sufficient to begin the next day; growth for him not only remains economic but it acquires the spiritual dimension too. 'Satisfaction' is the attribute that defines who you are; what is the way that you would take; how far would be the limit that you would define that doesn't harm your spiritual-self and the one that doesn't encroach upon the aspirations of others.  Strangely familiar, the 14-year old boy had always found himself questioning him with such questions in his day-to-day life and that would occasionally bring him to the gateway of the eternal flame.

And here, there is the orator with foreign accent, explaining 'satisfaction' in the context of death among other eventualities of life!

 Strange! Difficult! Extreme! Relevant! Familiar! Captivating! – Words that strike the boy-15-years-retro-into-the-future on the discussion and soon he becomes one of the audience rapt in attention.  


Questions that life invariably, incessantly throws
Questions that may bring an omen of woes
Questions that may then hasten the rows
Questions that sometimes may go overdose
Questions that sometimes embrace thorn of the rose
Questions that, at times, seem verbose
Questions that then lose repose, become grandiose
Questions that, at times, repulse to comatose
Questions that the lose the structured impose
Questions that no more look for their appose

Questions that may bring together
Questions that may send afar
Questions that may push to the altar
Questions that then bring inner to the war
Questions that then may invite the scar
Questions that then push the life on the antiar  
Questions that split open the compose of vicar
Questions that then become the scimitar
Questions that then trade openly in the bazaar
Questions that then synthesize the spar

Questions that sometimes bring the thought
Questions that, at times, make them at odd
Questions that create nowhere of the myriad
Questions that remind the agony of the ciudad
Questions that may emanate from the rot
Questions that then reminds of a zealot
Questions that then may run to find the abbot
Questions that then may crash into their Godot
Questions that sometimes may go for upshot
Questions that then become a silent lot

Life has been the chronicling
Questions being their meandering
Answers have lost the numbering

Answers that know the art of expressing
Silence is the language goes on not expecting
Silence is the connect that goes on recruiting

There comes the moment inveterate
Questions and answers amalgamate
Words bleed on to aerate
No words remain the only recruit
Silence speaks, questions and answers mitigate 

Wednesday 13 October 2010


Night unravels many things. Two nights. October 11/12, October 12/13. It was around 12:45 am.

While crossing a newly laid stretch of road just in the heart of Delhi, connecting the Connaught Place Rajiv Chowk Metro Station to the RK Ashram Metro Station, one encounters a scene, quite usual for a person living in Delhi, but quite unusual if CWG preparation claims are taken into account. Suddenly the car speeds down. What one sees on the road is a beggar lying in the middle and a policeman whisking him away on the road divider made wider by the Delhi Metro. The policeman leaves after whisking the beggar away. When eyes follow the beggar, one can find more like him on the pavement along with many homeless unskilled workers surviving yet another night. The sequence is repeated somewhat in similar manner the next day.

So what is unusual - the beggar on the road touching the CP or the almost similar sequence of event?

These guys cannot even do the patch-up properly. Patch-up, for different organizing agencies spent multiple of crores to hide their failure by hiring specialized agencies to put on hoardings and posters at places and on roadsides to mask the reality of the Delhi belly. And, beggars are nothing but one of the innumerable forced contributors to the failed Delhi beautification drive in the run-up of the Games. Yes, the beggars got company in unskilled migrant labourers, domestic workers and people living in shanty towns.

Circa April 2009! The Delhi government proposes to make Delhi free of beggars for the CWG. A decision bound to draw flak from human rights and volunteer groups. And it drew attention in a way that made the tone of the initiative so meek that the government had to succumb to the pressure. The case came to the court. The next hearing is in November!

Circa 2010! Delhi government thinks of innovations. First comes the great idea – bamboo them out. Under this mega plan, the Delhi government planned to plant aesthetically looking bamboo railings in areas with slum population and on roadsides with homeless that might anyhow caught eyes of tourists, in this case the foreigners. It created a debate. Democracy was put at stake. Good spiced media stuff. The plan ultimately tanked. 

But, beggars in the heart of CP! That shows what Delhi government is capable of. After failing to send them to their native places, it decided to ‘rehabilitate’ them till the games are over. It seems there is some scam that has conned the beggars too. What else can suggest a beggar at CP when Games are at its peak?

And the inherent limitation! Organizing agencies had to manage everything within the left amount out of the Rs 70,000 crore bounty. The result - this drive too failed like unaccountable accounts of project failure of CWG 2010.
So who’s the looser, who’s the winner? Both seem to be reluctant losers, for it doesn’t matter for them. Both will be back to their business once the Games are over; government playing with words in the CWG 2010 fiasco aftermath, beggars trying to make for the loss that they are claiming to incur due to the CWG.

Much has been written about the fiasco named CWG. But, like many Delhi attributes, just google ‘Commonwealth Games and beggars in Delhi’ and one will come across considerable media coverage including international publications. It throws some facts to be counted.

A Wall Street Journal blog says, “Many of Delhi’s beggars agree that the Commonwealth Games have been bad for business. Back when the city was hoping for 1,00,000 extra visitors during the Games, one group of beggars, expecting a big windfall, reportedly started classes to teach its members how to ask for money in different languages. The classes even taught them to recognize currencies from different countries.”

Incredible! Just like beggars on the business near the ‘Incredible! India Food Festival’, set up for Games near the CP.

For beggars and homeless, the Delhi government has provided shelters with tents and Games banners in park and open areas. Here they are provided with food and other necessities. Probably, the beggars still out on the street are ambitious type. The lucre to good business from the visiting foreigners led them to evade the Delhi’s government’s last-ditch effort. 

Straight out of the movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, begging as an organized profession. A media report quotes Paramjeet Kaur, director of ActionAid’s ‘Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan’, “Unskilled workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan who come here are considered beggars. The real beggars in the Capital operate as mafia organizations and are never caught.” And they have sizeable count. A 2006 Delhi University study puts their count at around 60,000. However NGOs say the count is somewhere near 1,00,000 mark. So the quantum of the business here is something to be taken care of by the stakeholders. Any indication why the ‘beggar cleansing’ drive failed?   

National Institute of Urban Affairs report on urban migration says nearly 1,00,000 below-the-poverty-line people migrate to Delhi annually. The Delhi being the main amphitheater, here the government cleansing drive has ended up targeting this group. It has ended up in erasing shanty localities, displacing slum dwellers, encroaching vendors, packing back the migrant labourers. Can Delhi survive without this group of backend labour and alternate economy? A United Nations report says the numbers of such victims of cleansing drive may be up to 4,00,000. This many of people have been forced to leave their homes in the last three years for the drives related to the Games. The NCR towns, Gurgaon and Noida acted in their own characteristic ways. Haryana followed Delhi in Gurgaon in evacuating unskilled migrant labourers given its fraternity on international professional. UP was as usual, doing nothing except filling papers with words and closing some roads.
Delhi CWG 2010 preparations, that have ample scope to continue even after the Games are over, had many human subjects at hand to be treated. And beggars were the most vulnerable one and now they have proven the most resolute one too. It is not about streamlined politics. Sometimes, Democracy, too, comes to the rescue.

And so there are accounts of beggars being witnessed by the local people as well as by the foreigners, not just in hinterland type places of Delhi but at main markets as well as near the hot-shot CWG venues!

But it has thrown an important learning that we all would love to unlearn in the days to come. Making Delhi free of cluttered residential areas, slum dwellings, encroachments and beggars is as difficult as trusting Mr Suresh Kalmadi to organize Olympics in India, if it, somehow, manages to get one.

After-all, holistic growth and development is about corruption free governance that seems unlikely in the India of the day!

Monday 11 October 2010


For Liu Xiaobo: Liu is like a committed Gandhian soldier who employs non-violent means to pursue his larger than life efforts for the humanity, to contribute to the process of change. Values like freedom of speech, human rights, democracy are its present day parameters in a post-colonial world. He has endured state sponsored hardship during the 22 years of his activist life that includes the most severe punishment meted out to anyone after 'challenging state's writ and inciting subversion' was included in the Chinese Criminal Code in 1996. He is no Gandhi or Mandela, but he seems to have a vision like them. 

At personal level, it will be a big boost for his moral strength to continue with his struggle. The argument, that his limited following may altogether cease to exist as the Chinese government will now ruthlessly pursue the mission to kill any perception related to the name 'Liu Xiaobo', may boomerang. The intense cyber activity and widespread Chinese Diaspora will make it hard for any state attempt to stop the spread of word of mouth, and that too in country that has largest number of internet surfers crossing the 400 million mark. In the changed circumstances, the possibility that the Liu Xiaobo is bound to gain ground seems more opportune. After all, we did have differing versions of Tiananmen massacre; we did have clearer versions of Chinese crushing of Tibetan and Uighur movement; we did have this to witness the China government on the back-foot, many a times, in the Google row; after all, we did have version of Liu Xia who has been able to express the displeasure on Chinese panic and expression of shock; after all, we did have reports of Chinese arresting Liu Xia. It’s a changed time, even for the middle kingdom. 

Any why call Liu a dissident. He is more of a proponent of positive change. Perhaps it is not Charter 08 but the ghost of Charter 77 that toppled Eastern European governments in the pro-democracy wave after it was framed in 1977. The panic shown by a defiant China shows this only. 

For China, democracy has a different definition: Off late, there has been much media debate, locally as well as globally about Wen Jiabao’s comments on political restructuring and democracy. But all this talk is within the realm of maintaining ‘one-party’ supremacy and here China finds people like Xiaobo difficult to assimilate in its fold who demand the universal definition of democracy to be applied. One of the demands in the ‘Charter 08’ is establishment of the multi-party system in China, a blasphemy by the standards of the Chinese elite of the day.

Though having a very narrow spectrum, the economic liberalization has started making a dent in the Chinese fortress of one way entry and government fears voices like Liu may give fuel to the unrest that is already being reported. Let’s come to some economic indicators and what they foretell about China of tomorrow.

1978, when China opened up its economy, its rural and urban per-capita income was $19.6 and $50.3 that shot to $606.2 and $2018.4, respectively, in 2007. According to latest World Bank figures, the current Chinese per capita income is $3,590. Though impressive growth, the perception about its prowess and mighty status, militarily as well as economically, that the world’s most populous country has been very deliberately developing since 1978, has an inherent risk and it makes people like Xiaobo even more relevant and the decision to award him Peace Nobel a proper one.

China’s per capita income was 2.52% of that of US in 1980 that improved to the level of 4.05% of US per capita income in 2005. Current per capita income of US is around $40,000. So the gap is huge. Chinese rulers are feeding its middle class base with a dream of life of luxury in the days ahead when China will be world’s largest economy. It is already the second largest when it overtook Japan last quarter. China’s GDP for the last quarter totaled $1.337 trillion ($1.288 trillion-Japan) that is 90 times bigger than what China had in 1978. The dream to chase and bridge this gap is presently the prevailing nationalist sentiment among the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Their income is growing and no doubt, China has tried to distribute the gains to its rural areas too, and where its corrupt system has failed it. Here we need to remember the treatment meted out to the poor while evicting them out of Shanghai and Beijing.

Even by the most liberal estimations, here China might fail in the coming future. Once people are fed-up of what they have achieved, they look for the next level. And the problem is, the swift pace of change in recent times ($2018.4 per capita income to $3,590 in just three year) has made the middle class sentiment change even swifter. The economy growth is bound to slow down and even stagnate in coming years. But, by then China will have a middle class thriving on technological sophistication, connected more to the world and to the Diaspora, and demanding for more and more. When such a huge and aspiring middle class doesn’t get its ends met, it starts questioning the state policies. And given the large population bases, it seems like an unachievable task for countries like India and China to surpass the per-capita income of developed countries, if we talk in terms of the perceivable future.  

The system that China has right now cannot handle it as it has fed its people with a very glossy future, to the very same people who have survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its factory and rationing system. Anyone who is aware of China’s factory system and social habitation built around it, very well knows about its darkness. Chinese middle class will do anything to run away from it. They cannot not be treated like they were before 1978. But in a crisis situation now, they won’t have any alternatives to look for to express their dissatisfaction, like in a democracy, and that is bound to fuel the unrest. Alternative was out of question way back in 1978. But, is China of the day in a situation to adopt crushing tactics like the Tiananmen? Certainly not. It needs to give its citizens options in case of unrest and it has to decide its formations and configuration.

A crisis situation is handled well by a country when it believes in its subjects, the citizens, to say more aptly a democracy that China is not. It can begin a process by assimilating voices like Liu in the mainstream. It should welcome its first Nobel Prize as a way forward to propagate a healthy national debate on political reforms. Economical and political reforms have to be complimentary otherwise China may fall due to its own weight. It cannot have the definition of democracy that it is trying to propagate in the name of political reforms. It needs to have a democracy like that propounded in the ‘Charter 08’. 

Otto Hermann Kahn has very rightly said: The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.

Sunday 10 October 2010


A mighty state machinery goes into thinking mode based on some media inputs and its intelligence briefing. It anticipates some mobilization and prepares a control plan. A house is cordoned off. A lady is put under virtual house arrest. A counter speech is prepared in case the intelligence input gains ground.

Welcome to China, country of 2010 Nobel peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Liu is China’s first Nobel laureate.

It was a day when China joined the league of Burma, Iran, cold-war era USSR or Hitler era Germany in denouncing the person honouring the most serious recognition for efforts to bring the positive change – the Peace Nobel.

It was a day when the Nobel Peace Committee didn’t throw any ‘hard to swallow surprises’ like last year decision to award Peace Nobel to Barack Obama.

It was a day when ‘aspiration’ prevailed over ‘achievement’. Less than expected performance of Obama during last one year in office is any indication?

It was a day when Gandhian values of non-violence and ‘human-first’ prevailed again.

On 8th October 2010, when the Nobel Peace Committee announced the prize for Xiaobo, a human rights activist and a cynosure for the Chinese since 1989 when he took part in protests on the Tiananmen Square as a young academician, it was on the expected line.

Dr Sima Samar, the Afghan human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, Democratic Voice of Burma and Special Court for Sierra Leone were the most talked about contenders for this year Peace Nobel. And all these names suggested one thing, that the Nobel Peace Committee had taken note of its last year’s ‘hard to explain’ decision and was wary of inviting any controversy this year.

All these most talked about contenders this year have an inspiring tale of commitment and contribution and they give wings to aspire for more. Dr Sima Samar is head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She has had a long history of working on human rights issues and is considered a strong female voice in a country like Afghanistan that has virtually no female rights. It becomes important in the wake of recent reports that Taliban are in talks with the Karzai government to end the civil war there. Democratic Voice of Burma is not-for-profit organization based in Norway that equips journalists to work clandestinely and beams programmes into the iron-curtained Burma, both on radio as well as TV waves. Special Court for Sierra Leone was established court in 2002 after the Sierra Leone government requested the United Nations in 2000 to establish an independent court to try the faces responsible for the civil war in Sierra Leone that broke in 1996.

An argument doing rounds was Liu Xiaobo had lesser chances as 2008 would be the ideal year when the prize should have been announced for him, the year when China held the biggest soft power projection spectacle, the Beijing Olympics, the year when Liu Xiaobo co-authored the famed ‘Charter 08’, an ‘allegedly incriminating’ document as the China mouth organs put it.  Ideally that would have given Liu more space to be heard in a country where he does not have following except a courageous section of the intelligentsia.

But, still a Peace Nobel to Liu means many significant things for the parties involved – Liu himself, Chinese like Liu, Chinese other than the Chinese elite, China, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and the humanity. 

Tuesday 5 October 2010



In July 1992, LK Advani reportedly told the house, "You must recognize the fact that from two seats in 1985, we have come to 117 seats in 1991. This happened primarily because we took up this (Ayodhya) issue." Incidentally, the riots in the aftermath of the Babri Mosque demolition had a wider spread. On September 30, after the Ayodhya verdict, in the media glare, Ravishankar Prasad, who appeared on behalf of defendant Ram Chandra Paramhans, was quick to appeal to Muslims to accept the verdict and move for a settlement.

Representatives including the political classes have used religion as a polarization tool to serve their purposes and hidden agendas meet.

The Marxian cliché 'religion is the opium of the people' has been so religiously followed by the representatives since the very beginning of the concept of 'the followers' and 'the followed' when political science as a discipline was no where in existence. A need for a leadership to move on for the followers and a need to justify every deed and control the mob mentality of the masses in case of dissatisfaction gave rise to the different levels of concocted supernatural powers that culminated in a psychological fear of god irrespective of the spiritual underpinnings of seeking questions and getting answers. 'Administrative Theory' to run the system was much in existence much before it got its modern day terminology. The representative class needed it to thwart any attempt to question its legitimacy. But on the other hand, 'Critical Theory' questioning the system was there, too, through the concepts of reformists who gave rise to different faiths and communities like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, and many more, away from the fold of their parent system. And, growth of civilization, intrinsically as well as extrinsically, has seen battles between these two in all the formations.

Historically, if we don't count the natural or spontaneous deaths, this 'civilized' planet Earth has lost maximum of its inhabitants to the hands of religious expeditions, in the name of imperialist expansion or purely for spreading the ideology. 'Crusades' are really the black pages of History chronicles, for they represent how easily masses could be manipulated in the name of religion; masses that didn't care even for their lives. Masses are still being manipulated. The scale, the method, and the degree have become contemporary.

India, like any other civilization, has seen invasions, assimilation and cultural transformations. But a system that works on absolute centrality, though in patches (many princely states), like that in India before the Britishers took sweeping control, doesn't need polarization on religious lines to promote vested interests. Britain used communal polarization as a tool to rule India, dividing the society. They brought acts like the 'Act of 1909' that gave Muslims reserved seats in legislature and a separate electorate. Though an affirmative action, it was a separatist feeling nurtured by the then ruling class that ultimately resulted in division of the country. An act on the religious lines, that saw millions killed and millions displaced. What Britishers had started, was picked up by the radical elements from the Hindu majority. 'Hindutva' was sloganeered in 1923. Apart from small outfits, 'Hindu Mahasabha' (1915) and RSS (1925) came into existence. And the colonized India had the curse of Hindu and Muslim polarization along the communal lines through radical outfits from both the communities. And, that platform has stabilized and is still giving hands to the radical elements of the society, from all the sections.

But this political perception of radical polarization has failed their proponents at time.

Historically, from time to time, we have seen how the human psyche has rebelled to denounce such practices. Gradual rise of democracies out of the concept of the 'nation state' is a perfect case in point.

India before 1947 had Hindu-Muslim polarization but both communities fought together to gain the independence. There were differences but there were millions in India (even some in Pakistan too) who could not be polarized and decided to remain at their birthplace. Evolution of 'Hindustani' culture is another case in point. Ayodhya remained a trivial issue in 1949, fresh in the aftermath of 1947 riots, indicates this only.

And it is a good global mix. Part of the world that is growing and holistically developing is more or less a peace loving world. We cannot find polarization on issues to the extent of religious hatred here. Otherwise there are nation states being run with absolute centrality or countries in transition, trying to become democracies, or democracies like India. The interplay of psyche, religion and mass polarization is problem with countries falling in these last two categories, wherever there is multi-ethnicity.

Coming back to India, probably the shock of 1947 was so deep that it took 45 years of gradual developments in the Ayodhya issue to polarize radical elements of the Hindus to the extent that they led India to a black day, a day of eternal national shame, December 6, 1992. And again, representatives (RSS, BJP and associates) were at the helm to polarize a mob mentality in this case. Given the incidents in the aftermath of the demolition, further polarizations resulted in communal riots, Mumbai blast and Godhra riots.

But, there has been no such thing like an aftermath after the September 30 verdict on land ownership in the Ayodhya issue. Another option at the Supreme Court, stand of different parties involved and instant attempts to gain political mileage (targeting both the communities); nothing seems to be behind this polarization towards peace. This is an unlikely polarization of the human psyche for the representatives from all the political outfits with hidden agendas.

The human psyche and polarization theory doesn't apply to the BJP the way it claimed. It didn't catapult BJP to the power with majority as it had expected (in the light of LK Advani's 1992 claim). It had a disastrous power debut in 1996 and what it could get ultimately in 1998 was a coalition government that forced it to adopt reformist tone. The BJP got a good patron in AB Vajpayee and the party seemed to widen its wing to become a political outfit with liberal view on all the issues of concern. Its loss in 2004 owes more to governance and development issues.

And what Mr. Ravishankar Prasad says now. (Let's see it in the light of the fact that BJP seems to have lost its ground in Uttar Pradesh, the Ayodhay battleground, where it has consistency lost seats with every passing election after 1992)

There seems to be something more subtle about human psyche, religion and day-to-day life of a common man in a more demanding time; something that these representatives have failed to notice.

Monday 4 October 2010


"I will come to meet you there."
"Please come with abbu."

This one is part of conversation between a kid and an elderly, both from the Muslim community, from the movie Firaaq. The scene in point is about a kid who runs away from the relief camp for riot affected people to find his father as he didn't see the father to be killed while witnessing brutal killing, rape and burning of bodies of his family members. The film ends with the kid back in the camp.

Now to the euphoric debates and analyses on the Ayodhya verdict. Much has been said, much is being said, and much will be said. But who all is talking about the issue. You, me, the person next door or a kid like that in the movie or that elderly person! Nah!

These are so-called representatives. Representatives of the people, representatives of advocacy, representatives of liberation of masses, representatives of equality, and representative of voices!

Riots have taken thousands of lives, from all communities, irrespective of religious preferences. But one thing has been uniform. They all were people like me or you or the person next door, irrespective of the religious priorities. Can we go back and find a single incident when any of the so-called representatives faced demise as brutal as killing at the hand of rioters? The answer is a uniform no, indeed. Compare this to the toll estimates of thousands of killings in just two of the riots, in 1992 and in 2002.

Manipulation of the human psyche at mass level has been the most potent tool and root cause of emergence of such a class of representatives. But, at times, limitation of human brain comes to its rescue when it gets frustrated to think any further and gets out of bounds to be manipulated anymore. And this manifested psychological limit saved us this time. We may name it a maturing society. Though nothing can be said with firmness, we have intuition to believe in this.

Unprecedented security measures, high decibel claims and counterclaims, high-octane appeals to maintain peace and calm, implicit designs to gain the political mileage, and the intense media activity, in the run-up to the Ayodhya verdict, and for what? We, as a society, were more sincere with diligent representatives than what we have today. Put some hard work in finding the contemporary media coverage of the 1949 incident related to the Ayodhya conflict. One will hardly come across any significant coverage. If we talk in terms of religious hostility (as we see it today), the events in 1949 were probably on the same scale when a perceived sanctity of some religious place was breached. It was rightly left on the horizon to remain a local issue as it had been since early 1880’s.

Excess of anything is bad and it applies to the flow of information as well. When it meets the psyche that sensationalization is the lubricant of news flow, it becomes a trend to be followed, irrespective of the outcomes. Ayodhya, perceivably, became a national issue and much can be attributed to the excess flow of information. India has seen spread of Ayodhya issue and media on parallel tracks. There has always been a fine line to observe restraint in issues like Ayodhya but commercialization has blurred it over the years. And media is just one group of representatives. There are representatives and their entourage. They were there, continued with verbal exercises for over two weeks. They came in all shades, moderate and adamant, demanding and compromising. But did they represent us?

Do they represent us when it comes to sentiments while thrown in issues like Ayodhya?