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Is Sachin Tendulkar the media’s anti-Modi?

Over the past couple of weeks, in the run-up to Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, there is perhaps only one personality who has rivaled Sachin in media coverage – Narendra Modi. However, while every event associated with Modi culminates in a ‘debate’, with Sachin it becomes a reason to celebrate. Obviously, both of them attract eyeballs – and hence the unrelenting coverage. That said, the media has contributed as much to the creation of both the Sachin and Modi cults – albeit in contrasting fashions. In the case of Sachin the evangelical fervor with which he was revered by the media as ‘God’ meant the near complete proselytisation of a populace. On the other hand, the media not sparing every dubious opportunity to nitpick when it came to Modi resulted in a section of citizenry rebelling against this siege. History tells us that, it is rebellion that is the fountainhead of many faiths.

Casting shadows

Casting shadows

Putting the microscope on Sachin, it is an indisputable fact that he was a gifted cricketer [though some dispute his effectiveness  – check out Master Laster by Sumit Chakraberty] – but does that elevate him from being a mere mortal on more routine matters off the field? Has the media even tried to ask Sachin any uncomfortable questions? Well, apparently not – here is a sample of 10 questions that G. Sampath wishes someone asks Sachin. Some of those 10 questions will be central to the remainder of this post. In case of Modi though, till recently, every interview revolved around ‘uncomfortable questions’ about the 2002 riots.

Sachin’s batting was always a pleasure to watch. His sublime straight drives and cantankerous cuts consistently evoke awe and applause. Though, as Rohit Brijnath says ‘it would have been too much for Sachin to have been lyrical‘ . With this being the case, Sachin tends to be etched in our minds more as statistics than as strokes. And Sachin’s obsession with numbers simply reinforces it. I can think of two instances which underscore this – 1) Sachin’s protest against Dravid’s declaration when he was on 194* and 2) The 100th hundred saga, culminating in a lost cause – 114 off 147 against Bangladesh. But then aren’t we all like that – How many of us really work in ‘teams’ in our offices? Are we really unhappy if our company profits are down, but we get a promotion?

I think it is a bit far-fetched to have expected Sachin or anyone to have ‘exposed’ match-fixing. By the same standards most of us in the middle-class would be making visits to the Lok Ayukta and Vigilance departments every other day. On the other questions of Ferrari tax exemption and FSI enhancement for his bungalow – how many of us ‘invest’ in tax-savings schemes? How many middle-class localities would you find today that do not violate building by-laws?

While it is the middle-classness of Sachin that endears him to us, what attracts us to Modi is the exact opposite – that he has done what none of us have had the conviction or courage to do. He has sacrificed his life for the Sangh, he has patiently waited his turn. He doesn’t have time for a family, and has consciously kept his family far away from power. Yet, he aspired for the highest office. For those of us in the middle-class who have no aspirations beyond hoarding real-estate, “Modi for PM” symbolizes an audacious aspiration that we could never associate with a mere tea-boy.  In addition to the pragmatism of it all, Modi as PM would be poetic justice in the eyes of many of us.

Coming back to Sachin, his farewell speech though was touching. Best part was that he didn’t start with thanking Sonia Gandhi and end with N.Srinivasan. He spoke about what really mattered to him – his family. That he chose to mention his late agent Mark Mascarenhas showed he was talking from his heart. Given his sincerity and humility what one cannot fathom is his  consent for this ‘retirement circus’.

His wife said, Sachin decided to go the moment he realised that he couldn’t give his 100%, and his farewell series ‘worked-out’. It is a sort of self-contradiction – why have a farewell series at all if Sachin feels he cant give a 100%? Someone who walked the talk was Adam Gilchrist, who decided on his retirement in the fraction of a second – between the time the ball hit his glove and dropped to the ground (when he grassed a catch). Much to everyone’s surprise he announced his retirement on 96-tests. It is such retirements that get permanently embalmed in history – for they can never be orchestrated again.

Where was the need to give the world many months’ notice and kick-off a media frenzy – it would be naive, if not foolish, to say Sachin didn’t foresee this farewell. Here is where one wonders if it was Sachin’s obsession with statistics that triumphed or if he was arm-twisted by commercial considerations in the media and the BCCI. Neither option seems unrealistic. Even more bizarre was Sachin’s acceptance of Rajya Sabha membership, when he was an active cricketer. Given his popularity, he knows better that most that he can become a Member of Parliament the moment he chooses to – when Navjot Sidhu and Kirti Azad can, it is but a blink an eyelid for Sachin. So why the hurry? What were the compulsions? Did this have anything to do with the Bharat Ratna?

Sachin is but a reflection of those of us in the middle-class. He is no God. He is the nice guy next door who will drive you to the hospital but doesn’t always make way for an ambulance.

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Lakshmi Chaudhry’s lies on FirstPost: Calling El Chaudhry’s Toro

Nidhi Razdan of NDTV recently made a mess of her interview with British MP Barry Gardiner on an invitation to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to address the House of Commons. The interview came in for flak – not unsurprising considering that Razdan used “controversy / ial” 4-times in the opening 20 secs of the interview!

As is normal in today’s day and age, this outrage played out over Social Media – twitter to be more precise. Lakshmi Chaudhry (@elchaudhry on twitter) jumped in with an article on FirstPost (where is a Senior Editor). Again, her post was on expected lines, considering her track record. Her views contradicting popular online online sentiment – not uncommon when it comes to any subject that even remotely relates to Modi. Chaudhry says Razdan allowed Gardiner to “lie, dodge and attack her in the most shameless manner possible.” She reprimands Razdan for failing to nail Gardiner and advises all journalists to “do their homework”.

ImageChaudhry concludes in the same vein “Worse, Gardiner’s antics sparked a Twitter lynching campaign which forced Razdan to shut her twitter account, offering a suitably shameful epilogue to this spectacle of shamelessness”

So, here is the Bio of the twitter account referenced by Chaudhry in the article.

ImageThe language used clearly indicates it is a parody. And for the benefit of the intellectually challenged, the bio also states it is a parody. The account was active at the time when Chaudhry published her article, though it seemed to have passed through intermittent periods of suspension in the past.

So now which account did the “Twitter lynching campaign” target? What was the “shameful epilogue” that Chaudhry refers to?

Appropriately enough for an article which preached to journalists to “do their homework” and called this a “spectacle of shamelessness”, FirstPost edited the copy and put this in place “Correction: We’ve been informed by Ms Razdan that she has not been on Twitter for the past 2-plus years. The copy has been corrected to reflect the same.

L’affaire Vadra was waiting to explode

The recent issue of Robert Vadra seems like it was inevitable.  It was like the stage was set, once the atmosphere was right, and the time auspicious, a button would be pressed throwing Rocket Robert in orbit.

While the business activities of Vadra are undoubtedly questionably, but even more suspicious is the nature of his activities. Today’s article in ‘The Hindu’ says there are a maze of questions on Vadra’s business activities. But a far more significant question that people aren’t asking is ‘why is Vadra in this sort of a business?’ Especially when there were alternative proven ‘business models’ that Vadra could employ.

There have been several media reports on Sonia Gandhi’s net worth being estimated at $2-19 Billion. Nobody in the Indian media attempted to investigate this matter, neither did Sonia & Co. try to defend. The reason for this is that there are absolutely no leads. Everything starts and ends with ‘Swiss Banks’. It is well documented that the likes of proven crooks like Ottavio Quattrochi were regulars at Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s residence. Scams like Bofors involving Quattrochi were also proven at international forums, yet the buck couldn’t be traced back to the Gandhis.  They were very likely, the real power behind Quattrochi and Quattrochi understands that he is nothing without their backing.  If the Gandhis pulled the plug, Quattrochi could kiss his freedom goodbye and would be forced to cool his heels in prison. Sonia needs someone like Mr.Q to manage her benami black money stashed overseas. This incestuous pact keeps them both going. Sonia is one of the richest and most powerful women in the world and Quattrochi must be rolling in luxury.

As a result Sonia has power without responsibility and as her recent foreign travels prove, is awash with cash despite a negligible legal net worth. Her official asset declaration is between Rs. 90 lakhs – 1.2 Crore. She does not own any property of her own. Even Rahul Gandhi has only an inherited a farm house in Gurgaon. Despite having an ‘aam aadmi’ balance sheet, how has Sonia tilted the balance of power towards herself with no known money or muscle power? Perhaps the answer lies in the international reports of her wealth. It is unlikely that either the above question or the answer to it will be found in India.

Why didn’t Vadra also adopt this time tested model? It has proven to be successful despite the Bofors scam being uncovered. Wasn’t this the safe and obvious choice? Why did Vadra go into property acquisition and a company opening spree? Especially, when the family whose shadow he is living under had no such interests in Indian realty or business? Don’t they share a set of family friends and advisors? Why did Vadra decide to take this route, or was he led up a garden path?

For arguments’ sake, let us assume that Robert Vadra wanted to cash in on the the India growth story. The Vadra family ran a business in Moradabad and it is plausible that Robert wanted to ‘make it large’ after moving to Delhi. It should have been simple enough, one would think. There is a ready model for this as well, in case Vadra wasn’t greatly enthused by his in-laws’ model of outlawing their wealth to foreign bank accounts.

There are umpteen examples of the gen-next from political families being very successful business people. The Sun Network is a case in point. While Sun might have benefited from the fact that its founders were the sons of ex-Union Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran and grand nephews of DMK patriarch Karunanidhi. Their political parentage would have benefited them immensely no doubt, but their businesses are successful ones. Today, their money comes from the consumer, and the share price is market driven. There will be ‘opportunities’ like the 2-G scam to make the extra buck, but it is the “extra” buck.  They aren’t directly dependent on anyone’s  largesse (government or otherwise) and DMK being out of power can only marginally alter their business fortunes. The Sun Group is a legitimate business house and Marans are worth billions, and that too in white money.

There are more such examples – the low profile VG Siddhartha (SM Krishna’ son-in-law) owns Cafe Coffee Day, MindTree and a host of other ventures. Then we have Jagan Reddy who cunningly transformed much of his ill-gotten wealth into real companies. He even managed to sell Bharathi Cements (built on political patronage of granting limestone reserves and water) to a French  company.

All things being equal, Indians prefer to do business with those who are ‘connected’ – for who knows when it may come in handy. Most political families benefit from this attitude of their business partners. Thus, building a network of handicraft stores across India or managing luxury hotels or running an airline should have been a cakewalk for Vadra. It would have been the legal and honorable path to prosperity – grow, professionalise, go public and get rich. That Vadra didn’t take this route is most baffling.

Being a member of India’s most powerful family, it is but obvious that he will be subjected to great scrutiny. Which ‘strategic analyst’ advised Vadra to open a series of shell companies with zero employees and no real business activities apart from accepting interest free loans and purchasing under-priced real estate? Whats more, Vadra boldly declared this to the Registrar of Companies, effectively making this information public. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that it has all the makings of a scam and Vadra is a sitting duck. How could a family that routinely specializes in fooling hundreds of millions make such an elementary mistake?

During the recent UP elections, Vadra had announced that he was ready to join politics, if people want him to. A rebuttal and snub came quickly from Priyanka, who clarified that Robert was happy as a successful businessman and would not be entering politics. This statement probably ended Vadra’s chances in the Congress.  The events of the recent past have effectively dashed any hopes Vadra achieving any more ‘success’ in business too.

It is time for people to stop looking for loopholes and connect the dots in the Vadra story.

The canard against Karnataka: The Hindu’s hit-job continues: Intro

Over the past few weeks and months the attacks against Karnataka in the media have become incessant. Once it is ‘housing discrimination’ in Bangalore, then it is ‘anti-minority’ RTE  (both of which this blog has addressed) and of course the ‘Rama Sene’, ‘Mangalore pub’, ‘Church attack’ and many more such attempts at slander by the pink-chaddiwalas and their ilk. Most of these have been refuted by the ‘affected’ parties themselves! (for another blog)

Another in this line is an article from a newspaper ironically titled “The Hindu”. The article attacks the “education department” in Karnataka, which has become the whipping boy of the media. The ministry is headed by a simple, well-intentioned  gentleman, Visveshwara Hegde Kageri, whose clidren actually live in a viallge and attend the local goverment school there. (mentioned this in the RTE post as well!) The media continues take advantage of him and paint all sorts of stories attempting to tarnish his image. (media should try doing this with the Gowdas if they have the guts). Coming back to the article, in ‘The Hindu’ it is titled “A book of Indian holidays without Christmas or Id”. The real title of the book is ‘Festivals of Indians‘. Notice the sly deceipt – Festival is replaced with Holiday. This in itself exposes the agenda of this media house. 

Again, this is a reference book  – NOT a textbook. Meaning, this can be referred to by students for deeper study in a particular subject matter. Typically there would be a list of various books under this category. While this is only one of the  reference books, covering Hindu festivals,  the list could well include the Bible or the Qu’ran. ‘The Hindu’ as usual does not bother going into the details of which other books have been classified as ‘reference books’. Research has become too much of a headache for our media. Fortunately, the Directorate of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT) in Karnataka has published textbooks online, which are downloadable free of charge. This is perhaps one of the few states in the country to take up such an initiative. But ‘The Hindu’ did not consider it worthy to be written about.

Getting back to the point, the 10th standard social science text-book (compulsory reading for all students) contains a Chapter on ‘socio-religious reformist movements in India’, the only reference to religion in the book.The contents are ‘secular’ from every angle and hence do not excite ‘The Hindu’. The ‘upper-caste’ (as ‘The Hindu’ would prefer to call it) Brahmo and Arya Samaj movements are covered alongwith Phule’s Sathya Shodak Samaj, Annie Beasant’s Theosophical Society and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s Aligarh Movement. It was secular enough for India’s richest muslim to endorse – the website is supported by Azim Premji Foundation. But ‘The Hindu’ isn’t convinced.

‘The Hindu’ further goes on to exasperate “even religious days observed primarily by the upper castes,……, are given detailed descriptions in the book.” Now what does this mean?  Let me for a minute assume that this assertion is accurate. Why do the religious days observed by so-called upper castes not merit a mention? Aren’t they part of this country’s heritage and culture? Or do such practices affect the ‘feelings’ of certain communities? What sort of nonsense is this? The book is meant to talk about certain festivals celebrated in India. The author is free to describe any festival he has knowledge of. The DSERT in no way states that this book is the Bible (pun intended) for all students. This is one of the books that students can CHOOSE to refer in a particular subject area, if it interests them. This sort of mischievous language by ‘The Hindu’ is aimed at spreading malice amongst different castes – against each other.

For all it’s secularness, see this article in ‘The Hindu’ titled “Festivals of Light“. Curiously, the article talks ONLY about, non-Hindu festivals and contains a picture of Christmas tree. By the same logic, how is this secular? There are no photos of Muslim festivals – so is this Islamophobia? Giving the benefit of the doubt to ‘The Hindu’, ( ‘a Hindu’ is always magnanimous. Not too sure about ‘The Hindu’) one would assume that the article attempts to highlight lesser known “festivals of light”. Similarly, this book as well – Sri. (Sorry, that was communal) Mr. Varadarajan, I hope you get it! 

The article quotes a member of the Dakshina Kannada, Congress Minority Committee. Talk about being apolitical and ‘secular’. Flashing this book at him would be akin to flashing a red rag to a raging bull whose brain cells have been replaced with testosterone.

This is but a part of a larger effort to malign Karnataka as it stands out like a sore thumb in ‘secular south-india’. The steadfastness of the state to its roots irks the ‘secular media’. The BJP government has come at a convenient time for the creation of ‘communal’ bogeyman. The secular media is having a field day, pontificating from their air-conditioned offices in salubrious Bangalore.

PS: There has just been too much muck floating around – communal, casteist etc. which needs to be addressed. This is just an introduction. I hope am able to get out of the Bangalore weather induced indolence and get to the rest!

Calling “The Hindu’s” bluff on Bangalore

Syncretic NOT Synthetic

Last week ‘The Hindu’ came out with coordinated articles in Delhi and Bangalore with grandiose titles like “apartheid” and “mired in prejudice”. Both these pieces are aimed at conjuring in the mind of a lay reader, a British Raj-esque image of neighbourhoods and cities – with each of them have a board that screams “Dogs, non-vegetarians, non-Hindus and non-upper castes NOT ALLOWED”. In the week that has gone by, blogger Sandeep come out with an evocative personal account vividly describing the other side; when the so-called discriminators have been at the receiving end. However, as a Bangalorean, I found “The Hindu” article deeply offensive and bereft of facts. That the article was biased was undisputed. But I also think it is imperative that the ‘The Hindu’s’ falsehoods and factual inaccuracies are exposed. For starters, the author of the article is one ‘Sudipto Mondal’ – all I can say is that it is irresponsible to allow someone who doesn’t understand the ethos of a city to go ahead and pass judgements on the locals.

Coming to the facts – I will try and highlight the facts that I have seen and absorbed over my lifetime – almost all of which I have spent in the heart of Bangalore. Unlike a majority of the city’s populace today, I have grown up with the city. I have walked the lawns and climbed trees in the very houses that ‘The Hindu’ accuses of bias – with meat eating Hindu and Muslim friends. The lawn is just as soft to Hindu or Muslim and the fruits just as sweet for vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The people are just as warm.

Here is the real picture, at least in South Bangalore (Basavanagudi, Jayanagar). Yes, there are more ‘upper caste’, ‘educated’, ‘old world professionals’ living here than would perhaps be the case in other areas. That said, there are enough non-vegetarians in South Bangalore, in my very neighbourhood. They may not be ‘dalits’, but are typically landed OBCs. (will reserve the unique ‘food habits’ of such neighbourhoods and it’s residents for another blog.) Fortunately or unfortunately, like most other residents of such neighbourhoods, these meat-eaters too come from a lineage of professionals and administrators. Their forefathers are most likely to have been High Court Judges, Engineers or high-ranking Civil servants.

It is also noteworthy that just in the two areas of Basavanagudi and Jayanagar (surroundings) alone, one would find at least 10 Churches and more than 25 Mosques (conservative estimate – if a 2km radius is added the numbers would more than double). If indeed the locals are prejudicial against minorities, how could this be possible? Are the locals only prejudiced against people from minority communities “staying” in their area, but fine with places of worship of different faiths in their neighbourhood? Are members of the minority communities convinced of the need to have their Churches and Mosques in areas where they aren’t allowed to live? Or do the minorities love these areas so much that they are willing to travel long distances just to pray in these areas.

If only ‘The Hindu’ had bothered to read the history of Bangalore. ‘Basavanagudi’ and ‘Malleshwaram’ areas were created as a result of the outbreak of bubonic plague in Bangalore. These areas were meant to house government servants who complained of lack of sanitation facilities and unhygienic conditions. Naturally, the aforementioned areas were inhabited by these civil servants, irrespective of caste and community.

Just as today’s software districts are occupied by those who work there. Why do the apartments around, say, Whitefield or Electronic City have more non-Kannadiga professionals? Should we support reservation (by linguistics, caste and community) in sale of apartment blocks as well? That is exactly what ‘The Hindu’ is suggesting by quoting an obscure former Corporator, that there aren’t “enough” muslims or dalits in some areas. This is like saying forest rights should be given to all people living in the district, not just forest dwelling Tribals.

There is also the absolutely puerile argument about “activist” Ruth Manorama being declined (NOT denied) office space by a certain elderly couple – to bother explaining it’s puerility would be undermining the intelligence of an average human being. The fungiblity of caste is a point to note. In this article ‘Lingayats’ are clubbed with upper castes, which is seldom the case elsewhere. When was the last time you saw an article that read “upper caste leader B.S.Yeddyurappa”? Technically, Lingayats are covered under the OBC list in Karnataka. Out of the blue, the case of north-east student Richard Loitam, who died in a student scuffle, is brought up. If the objective was to highlight discrimination, then why talk about murders? For the record, he was allegedly murdered by a migrant student hailing from East India – has nothing to do with Bangalore locals. This is the classical danger posed by the theories of victimhood based on caste and community. New enemy (or at least opposite) ‘forces’ are created in ‘fertile minds’ from time to time, targeting certain ethnic and demographic identities.

Interestingly, the article says that ‘prejudice’ is maximum in areas which are best endowed with infrastructure. Here is a thought, these areas are also the most law abiding – you will see building bye-law violations are far lower than compared with more “secular” areas. Crime rates are much lower and traffic is more organised. Are these characteristics a result of “prejudice”? If this sort of broad-brushing by the ‘The Hindu’, of a certain law-abiding and non-vociferous  section of the populace isn’t prejudice bordering on racism, then what is?

India is a diverse nation. Diversity, in India’s context, is the coming together of different parts, each with it’s own unique characteristics and construct. One part alone cannot be representative of India. Each neighbourhood cannot have speakers of 22 languages just because India has 22 official languages. “The Hindu” confuses India’s syncretic diversity with every district being a synthetic mini-India, with all religions, castes etc. being represented.

Sandeep asks in his blog, if the Hindu will talk about the demographic siege. It appears to me that a demographic siege is indeed what “The Hindu” is advocating.

Right to be a Minority institution (and make majority profits)

Recently Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, the Karnataka Education Minister has announced that an institution would require to have at least 75% of it’s students from a particular minority community, if it wishes to obtain a tag of ‘minority institution’. All such ‘minority institutions’ would be exempt from RTE coverage, meaning they would not have to provide 25% of the seats of ‘Economically Weaker Students’ (EWS). This has caused a furore in the media in Karnataka with newspapers citing the example of Tamil Nadu, where the criterion for minority status is 50% of the student body. Some have further gone on to accuse Kageri of not explaining his logic of 75% for Karnataka and others have used the old trick of foisting their opinion through “sources”. Eg :- “Some officials though, said 50% would have been better.” Firstly, nobody knows who this “official” is. Secondly, there is no explanation of how 50% would be better – because it is so in Tamil Nadu? Well, Tamil Nadu’s policies are not quite based on exemplary application of rational thought and logic – be it free TVs and grinders or chasing away Sri Lankan trainees. But I digress. Since our journalists have not had the time or inclination to apply their minds to this 75% cut-off, let me try and help.

Just to set the context right, minorities can be primarily on the basis of two parameters – religion and language. Religions which would qualify would be Muslim, Christian, Jain and Sikh. Similarly, languages which could practically make the cut in Karnataka are Tamil, Telugu, Tulu, Marathi, Kodava, Konkani and Malayalam. A cursory glance at Karnataka’s demographic distribution would show there is no secular (pardon the pun) distribution of minorities in the state and Karnataka is a reasonably sized state with the distance between the Northern and Souther tip being close to 900kms.

Coming to the numbers now. (Note: I am using professional colleges as metric as data on schools is limited) In terms of Medical colleges there are 9 minority institutions in Karnataka of which 2 are religious minority and 7 are linguistic minority. On dental colleges the break-up is 3 to 7 in favour of linguistic minority.  The mix is altered in case of Engineering colleges with 10 being religious minority and 5 being linguistic. So in total we have 34 minority professional colleges in Karnataka. Contrast this with Tamil Nadu – there are 86, yes 86 minority Engineering colleges alone in Tamil Nadu (what how long the list would be if we added medical and other colleges to this!). Predominantly these are religious minorities –  ‘Christian’ and ‘Muslim’, with a few linguistic minority (mostly Telugu with the odd Gujarati!) thrown in. Also, am sure none of these ‘minority’ institutions have a ‘minority student’ populace of over 25%. The court has only given directions that the ‘minority management’ can distribute a proportion of the seats to individuals as per their discretion, which may not necessarily be to those belonging to the ‘minority community’. Nobody really ‘serves’ the minorities.

Most new educational institutions are started by those with political links. Unlike in Tamil Nadu, the number of dangerously religious brand of vote-bank politics is not as prevalent in Karnataka, especially of the Christian variety. Clearly, the minority mindset and politics of minoritism is in currency in Tamil Nadu and no political establishment wants to antagonise these ‘communities’. Hence the liberal 50% number for RTE.

The more important aspect is the demographic distribution amongst linguistic minorities in Karnataka. A 6% Tamil population doesn’t mean that each district in Karnataka as a 4-8% Tamil population. Reality is that 20-25% of Bangalore is Tamil and there is no significant Tamil presence in 25 of Karnataka’s 30 districts. Similarly, Tulu speakers are concentrated in 2 coastal districts and likewise Marathi speakers are mostly in Belgaum. If indeed I want to serve a particular community – linguistic or religious, I would have to set up shop in that specific area / location where the population is concentrated. In such areas, the ‘minority’ population would be well in excess of 80%. Many villages in Kolar speak only Telugu and localities in Bangalore such as Frazer town would be almost fully Tamil speaking.  So, even if my classroom is representative of the local demographic, I would be a minority institution. However, if I locate my institution in an area where the minority population is much smaller, the size of my institution would have to match the needs of the locals ‘minority’ population, if my intention is to genuinely to help minorities. If I have an institution where the intake is 1000 and minority population is 500, my intention would not be to cater to minority alone.

The concept of ‘minority institution’ itself is debatable. If indeed the idea is to preserve my ‘minority’ culture, why would an institution recruit any non-minority students. If I want to promote multi-culturalism why would I want the “minority” tag? Ideally the cut-off should be 100%. Nevertheless, a 75% cut-off seems more reasonable than 50% and especially so in Karnataka.

Footnotes:

– The Karnataka Education Minister’s Children study in a Government run Kannada medium school in a village in Uttara Kannada district. For less informed journo friends, the district precedes Goa as you go up the Konkan coast.

– Union Minorities Minister runs a very successful education franchise which is indeed benefiting a minority; the owners of the school and in some cases, the highly privileged students. The franchise is called ‘Delhi Public School’.

The venomous case of “environmentalist” Janaki Lenin

Janaki Lenin, a supposed “green warrior” has come out with an article titled “When Hindutva replaces rational thought in our green movements” on FirstPost. This piece exposes Lenin’s real intent of maligning Hinduism, and has brazenly done away with all the subtlety that she used in her earlier articles.

Let me start with the title of the article itself “When Hindutva replaces rational thought…”. It is meant to imply that

Whose is more venomous – Lenin or a Snake?

‘Hindutva’ and rationality are in opposition to each other. The contents of the article are quite the contrary – it only shows how cultural traditions have been used to reach environmental goals – starting from the Chipko movement to ISKCON’s intervention in Vrindavan to the Save Ganga movement. Typically environmentalists would celebrate this coming together to meet common goals. Not for Lenin; for her one has to first be “anti-saffron” to be green.

Upon examining the antecedents of Lenin, the picture becomes a lot clearer as to what her real intentions are. Her past writings include an article grandiosely titled “Religion Vs. Conservation” The article spews venom against Hindu pilgrims, accusing them of many environmentally damaging acts. She does not stop at this. She charges Sabarimala pilgrims of spreading jaundice amongst local tribals. Curiously, the article contains no inferences whatsoever to Christian or Muslim pilgrimages. Even a back of the envelope calculation of carbon emissions due to the Hajj pilgrimage would am sure throw up a huge number. Coming closer home to Lenin, in Tamil Nadu, the Velankanni Christian shrine sees a rush of Christians thronging the town during peak season. Thanks to the heat plastic bottles and covers are strewn all over the place, which Christian pilgrims discard after quenching their thirst. None of these ever find a mention in Lenin’s article.

Her writing is littered with this sort of vicious propaganda.  She writes about Anna Hazare’s environmentalism and conveniently concludes that despite his success he needs to be denounced and his model discarded as it goes against what she calls “social justice”.  She celebrates the POSCO verdict and uses TR Baalu (former Union Shipping Minister from the DMK) to support her stand.  TR Baalu is the same minister who was eagerly pushing for the Sethusamudram project – for he and his family were getting lucrative contracts. Faced with opposition on both environmental and cultural counts, Baalu’s boss Karunanidhi retorted in support of Baalu “From which engineering college has Rama got a degree?”  The Sethusamudram project had to be supported as it was being opposed by “Hindus (read: Hindutva forces)”. Hence Baalu is a friend! Such are Lenin’s secular credentials. This indeed calls for a ‘Laal Salaam’.

She again goes on to criticise ‘Indians (again read: Hindus)’ in a piece ultra-euphemistically titled “Racism of Indians towards Tribals“, or something to that effect. Again the contents betray the title. Lenin links the introduction of British laws in the 1800’s to our “racism” towards tribals. The usual drill – first start with lack of rehabilitation, under-development et. al culminating in words like ‘gang-rape’, ‘murder’ etc. You get the picture. But wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about racism. The fact is that in India tribals do not have a unified ethnicity – those in Dangs would be completely different from those in Dimapur. “Racism against tribals” can at best be rhetoric bereft of any rational. The connect perhaps can be made by more intellectually gifted mortals like Lenin.

She has repeatedly campaigned for Tribals being left alone in their homes / forests; against government creating
‘eco-reserves’ free from human habitation. Interestingly there is no mention of  “Christian Missionary intervention” in tribal areas. It is a well known fact that missionaries are pouring money into “developing” tribal areas – with building construction and introduction of western methods. Wonder why Lenin, a “crusader” for the tribal way of life does not dwell on this point in any of her writings.

Lenin unwittingly gives the game away in her blog celebrating her “atheism“. Typical story of “self-discovery” – how she was ‘different’ from others since school. How she ‘wrestled within herself’ to find God etc. Anyway coming to the facts – Lenin has a traditionally anti-Hindu lineage and was educated in a Christian missionary. She apparently tried to ‘find God’ by practising both Christianity and Hinduism. Her discovery of Christianity included attending moral science classes at her missionary school, reading the Bible and interacting with Nuns and Fathers. In contrast, her insightful journey into Hinduism encompassed the enlightening acts of sitting in a temple and drenching herself and others in Holi colours – after all that is all there is to Hinduism. As per script, she did not find peace in either religion and turned to Zen Buddhism.

Lenin lives in Chennai with her herpetologist partner Romulus Whitaker, who is also the founder of Madras Snake park. Comes as no surprise considering Rom Whitaker’s expertise in handling and housing poisonous creatures.

Why Pranab was bumped off: reality behind the presidential race

It is almost certain that Pranab Mukherjee will be President, but the sequence of events leading up to his nomination needs more explaining.

Earlier this week Manmohan Singh evoked ‘animal spirits’ of the economy and thankfully only the bulls on the stock-market heard the call and the Sensex shot up by over 400 points in a day. So what lies behind the ‘animal instincts’ statement a day after taking over as Finance Minister?

Manmohan Singh has had his share of hollow statements in terms of the economy – endlessly blaming global factors and classical statements like ‘there is no magic wand’. One looks to magic for solutions only when one is convinced that a timely solution does not exist in the real world. The ‘magic wand’ statement is in fact an acceptance of guilt – that the economy has been dragged so deep in trouble that it will take a long time, if at all, to make any progress.

Given this backdrop, how did the mumbling Manmohan come up with some mumbo-jumbo on GAAR to shore up the markets, two days after Pranab Mukherjee’s departure. The answer is that it perhaps has more to do with Mukherjee’s ousting from the Cabinet. Why couldn’t this announcement have been done when the rupee and GDP were breaching new lows – why the wait for Pranab to move out? It but is obvious that there was a plan to deprive Pranab of any credit. In fact on the following day all newspapers screamed on the front pages “Reforms back on track in FinMin as Pranab leaves”

There is sufficient evidence to show that Pranab Mukherjee never had any economic ideology. In fact Pranab has never strongly expressed his affiliation towards any sort of ideology – be it (pseudo)secularism, loyalty towards the Gandhis, affirmative action etc. It is this openness that won him friends across the political spectrum. Thus, while Sonia Gandhi needed him, she never really wanted him.

Pranab was not the first to quote the global scenario as an excuse for our economy – other Congressmen were. He has been one of the few in the high-handed Cabinet, to concede that there is a problem in the economy and steps need to be taken to fix it. Yet, despite recognising the need to act, why did Pranab never act? Perhaps because he was not allowed.

Sonia was never really a fan of Pranab Mukherjee. For, he is a practising Hindu and has never adequately demonstrated his subservience to “the family”.  Yes, he was loyal to Indira, but not to the family. Thus, Sonia ensured that Pranab’s hands were tied and he was forced to watch the economy slide downwards while continuing to burden the exchequer with populist freebies. Sonia had probably outsourced the task of opposing reforms to Mamata. Example: There was no way the Trinamool could react to the Railway Budget in 7-mins (the time between when Railway Minister Trivedi announced the fare hikes and Derek O’Brien’s tweet). The TMC was informed in advance, and the ensuing drama was in fact a well planned strategy. Using allies as an alibi, Sonia chained the Finance Ministry’s (and other “enemy” ministers’) policies.

Sonia probably used P.Chidambaram to monitor Pranab. Considering that Pranab was the No.2 in the Cabinet there was no way anyone could get away with bugging his office, unless of course they had the blessings of Sonia. Also, with PC heading the Gandhis’ money-laundering department, he had all the support he needed to play these dirty games.

The Presidential election was an ideal opportunity to bump-off Pranab. He was too dangerous to be allowed to become Prime Minister and hence had to be eliminated once and for all. There was absolutely no reason for Mamata to reject Pranab or Mulayam to reject Ansari. M & M were but hand-maidens of Sonia. Their press conference nominating Manmohan Singh for the Presidentship was an absolute farce. It gave the Congress and opportunity to “react” and they nominated Pranab for President. There is no precedent of the most powerful man in government being nominated for Presidency. Has any member of the most powerful Gandhi-Nehru family ever aspired / been nominated for Presidentship? Never. Clearly, this is not an elevation for Pranab – it is an elimination.

Pranab’s nomination was also an invitation for Congress detractors to attack him. Hitherto the attack was focused on the Gandhis, PC and Sibals; Pranab had been largely left out. Even Team Anna had said that their discussions with Pranab were the most fruitful in the height of the Lokpal agitation. But with the Presidential nomination, Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Pranab had been involved in the Scorpene scam. Pranab’s links with the Ambanis was dragged out of the closet (which may be true, but not relevant today). The blame for the economic mess was attributed to Pranab.

What a master stroke – now the Congress can get away with gimmickry on the economy and blame Pranab for all the mess. Rahul is ready to be Prime Minister! Now that is what we call a magic wand!

Unhashing Shabnam Hashmi

A few months ago the union government inducted activists Shabnam Hashmi and Teesta Setalvad into Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). What qualifications these activist have to contribute constructively to education is best known to those who appointed them. In public records it is unclear what Hashmi has studied, though it appears that she claims to be a Stephanian and also claims to having studied in the USSR for 6-years on a scholarship. What she studied is again not explicitly mentioned in the public domain. Her work has been that of a ‘social and political activist’ – I wonder if there aren’t more qualified educationists in our country to advise the government! 

What she could contribute to education was demonstrated in yesterday’s CABE meeting. Hashmi attacked the Gujarat for discrimnating against minorities. Being a state with a 15% tribal population, a ~80% literacy rate could at worst be considered reasonable and at best commendable. Since Hashmi has perhaps been recruited to voice the concerns of minorities she could have highlighted states like J&K and Bihar whose literacy rates are around below 65% (or below) and the ‘minority population’ is far greater than what it is in Gujarat.

Yet Hashmi chose Gujarat. Let us look at her allegations / statements:

Allegation: She alleged that in more than 2000 schools minorities are not being admitted. Gujarat has over 32,000 primary schools and her statement raises several questions:
– How did Hashmi arrive at the number that she did? (2,000 out of 32,000)? 
– Does she imply that the state government is selectively advising schools against enrolling minorities? What about the other 30,000 schools; are they happily inducting minority students?
– Most importanly – Where is the empirical evidence or data? These days, this sort of data is mostly a click away or at worst an RTI away. Yet Hashmi responded that the she can ‘produce‘ the data later, but her “extensive research” shows that there is discrimination in Gujarat. Now that produces more questions.
– Hashmi was informed well in advance about the CABE meet – they are not organised suddenly be anybody on a whim. If she had indeed conducted “extensive research”, why didn’t she come armed with data and reports and place on record the evidence backing her allegations.
– ‘Data can be given later?’ If she has indeed studied so vastly why didnt she at least give broad directions? For Eg: discrimination is seen in riot affected areas or Modi’s constituency etc?’ The fact that she evaded the question of evidence all together leaves the door open to massaging / fabricating data to suit her requirements.
– She claimed that she will produce “names of schools with photos”. How would photos of schools qualify for evidence of discrimination? Are schools in Gujarat located in hiding which nobody is aware of so that discrimination can be secretely practiced? Real evidence should be answering these questions: “which school discriminates? – names of school; who discriminated against whom? headmaster / student / parent details; when was this discrimination done – year / month of discrimination? This can be backed with broader data – literacy rate amongst muslims pre-2002 v/s now, enrollment levels of minorities in those 2000 schools in different classes etc. Percentage of muslims The “photos” as evidence indicates the sensationalist attitude of the person in question. The attempt is probably to project unrelated / inconsequential visuals as ‘evidence’ and then go the biased media to get some easy publicity. Even Kapil Sibal said a case could not be made till evidence was presented.

Hashmi also tried to attack Haryana for education facilities in the minority dominated Mewat region. The Congress Harayana Education Minister debunked her allegations immediately. Instead of making wild allegations, Hashmi could do well to convince her Jesuit missionary friends who are ‘secular’ members of her organisation ANHAD, to open schools in muslim dominated districts. For the Jesuits have vast experience in running schools in Dalit and Tribal dominated regions. Muslims are indeed as backward as Dalits – why dont the Jesuits want to serve Muslims in the name of Jesus Christ? Afterall they are secular enough to work together in ANHAD – why not work together to actually do some good. 

 

The Italian Job – Sonia, a ship and some gunshots

The recent incident of Italian marines shooting two fishermen from Kerala seems to have caught the imagination of the media and public alike. Unfortunately the real issues at hand are being obfuscated by trivialities.  Let me actually put-down what has happened:

1) Two fisherman on the high seas, around 24km from the Indian shore where shot dead. Apparently they were assumed to be Somali pirates, as per the Italians’ official defence.

Sonia: still a real bomb-shell?

2) The Italians who fired were apparently trying to escape and the brave Indian Navy ‘dragged’ them ashore.

3) The so-called marines are then taken into policy custody and all hell breaks loose.

4) The Italians say these guys must be tried back in Italy.

5) Italian Dy. Foreign Minister comes to India to negotiate.

6) A Catholic cardinal at the Vatican, Mar George Alencherry (originally from Kollam (Kerala) calls Catholic Ministers in Kerala to request them to go soft on the Catholic Italians while regretting the death of two Catholic Indian fishermen.  [Am quoting Mar Alencherry verbatim here; not being sarcastic. Read his statements. http://www.firstpost.com/india/why-is-keralas-newest-cardinal-batting-for-italian-killers-221271.html]

7) The battle is still on as marines strode into court in their uniforms, reports of them being served pizzas in prison and demonstrations by various groups. India is apparently unmoved and wants to prosecute these men in India.

Now, taking on each point – not answering but questioning:

Q1) The threat of piracy is mostly seen around Somalia (the horn of Africa) in the Arabian Sea. Somalia is a good 4000km away from Kerala!

Q2) Indians dragging Italians to an Indian court from outside India. When did we Indians become so effective? Last I heard we were running behind one Mr.Ottavio Quattoroachi in Malaysia and Brazil armed with red-corner notices from Interpol.  Surprise Surprise – we let Mr.Quattoroachi get away and also de-freeze his bank accounts – just in case he is short of money to run away! Must say we have become a far more  effective and efficient force now!

Q3) Why are ‘Italian Marines’ on a private ship? – shouldn’t it be more like gun-toting mafia instead of marines?

Not yet an offer that Sonia can't resist

Q4) A trial in Italy. What are people smoking these days?  Ever heard of Amanda Knox, an American student who was ILLEGALLY kept in prison in Italy for 4-YEARS!!! [http://melibeeglobal.com/2011/10/understanding-the-amanda-knox-verdict/]. May be they mean we should go to the Godfather for justice. Unfortunately, Indians  continue to resist this offer!

Q5) Dy. Foreign Minister comes to India for negotiations. There are 125 Indians in Italian jails [http://www.tehelka.com/channels/Web_Specials/2011/March/07/images/map2.jpg] With a total of almost 6800 Indians in jails abroad, if this is the precedent, the Indian Foreign Minister would actually become a foreigner to India as he would be negotiating the release of Indians across the world. Though, I guess SM Krishna would prefer this to sitting in South Block.

Q6) When did religion start coming into this? A Catholic Cardinal is speaking for his Italian cousins who killed two of his Malayali Catholic Chettas?

Q7) When did India start taking a hardline against foreign criminals in India. If Ajmal Kasab is enjoying our hospitality, lets not forget Peter Bleach, who was allowed to go scot-free with a ‘Presidential Pardon’ despite being CONVICTED in the purulia arms drop case. [http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2104/stories/20040227008313400.htm]. The arms drop if anything was an attempt to wage war against India. How serious is the issue of the murder of 2 fishermen in comparison?

Clearly there is more to this than meets the eye. While we will have to wait for the details to unravel, here is a summary of what could actually be the truth –

– It has been established that Sonia’s sister runs two antique shops in Italy and Sonia Gandhi is the main supplier of smuggled antiques to these shops ironically named Etnica and Ganpati [http://janataparty.org/soniaisthemodern.html]. Not to mention Robert Vadra is also a ‘jewellery exporter’ and was introduced to Priyanka through his business. [http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?202854]. His meteoric rise is another story – for another blog.

– The poor fishermen were only carriers of smuggled antiques to be delivered to the Italian ship for smuggling back to Italy.

Murders in Paris, Robbery in Rome and Killings in Kerala

– They were in the process of doing their job, while they were suddenly caught in the cross-fire. Sonia, Vadra & Co had a difference of opinion with their smuggler-partners and a Sicilian gang-war broke out in the sea. The Italian media has claimed that there were many boats in the vicinity and concrete evidence that the bullets were fired by these marines is yet to be produced by India.

– Sonia now wants to teach the rival gang a lesson. Hence all this pressure on the police to prosecute the in India.

– The Cardinal Mar George Alencherry was trying to convince the rival gang to relent and give into Sonia, for he knows the power that Sonia wields and needs Sonia’s support to carry out his Catholic agenda in India. He was only trying to get through to the ‘marines’ through the Kerala ministers who have direct access to the detainees.

It will be interesting to see how it all ends. If the rival gang will kiss and make up with Sonia (meaning India relents and lets the marines go) or escalates to the next level (meaning these Italians will be in detention till Sonia settles scores).

Wonder who is the bigger bomb-shell – Sonia or this story!