ACTIVISTS JOINING POLITICS: A WELCOME SIGN FOR INDIAN DEMOCRACY

“I have been fasting for the last 16 years. I haven’t got anything from it yet. I am ending my fast today. I want to try a different agitation now. I will contest against the Chief Minister of Manipur in the upcoming state elections.”

Another activist joining politics – that is always a welcome step for Indian democracy. On July 31, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, two pivots of the 2011 anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, announced that they would launch their political party formally on October 2, on the Gandhi Jayanti Day.

Yogendra and Prashant are from the latest crop of the experimental activists who are joining politics after trying their hands in activism for a long period and we can hope that their experience would push them to cleanse the system as they claim and would deliver a politics that would truly be common man centric.

We can say it all began with the Anna’s movement in 2011. It was a massively successful civil society movement in India after decades that forced the government to take notice.

First it was Arvind Kejriwal and his group of supporters from ‘India Against Corruption’ who took the political plunge after they saw that their movement was losing direction and the government was getting an upper hand. Initially, Yogendra and Prashant were with Kejriwal. But later difference cropped up resulting in Kejriwal expelling Yogendra Yadav, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan from the party. In the wave that began with Anna’s movement, many other activists from across the country soon joined the new political party that emerged from the movement – the Aam Aadmi Party.

That is a spontaneous reaction from the people who have been fighting honestly for the last many years – that is spontaneous with Irom Sharmila who has become a global icon of peace and the struggle for it. It is heartening for Indian democracy that the trend has continued and Irom Sharmila is the most notable addition to it after Arvind Kejriwal.

The world has seen the resolve Irom Sharmila has and so we can say she will follow her course even in the future with same zeal. She is yet another in the growing list of activists who are taking a plunge in the mainstream politics and that is a welcome sign for Indian democracy.

Democracy is a participatory process. Every citizen of the country needs to participate in the process to nurture it, to make it strong. Likewise, they need to participate in the acts to keep a check on the factors that weaken it.

A democracy is run by its political institutions.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

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KANHAIYA AND OTHERS TO BE RUSTICATED? TOMORROW IS AGAIN A STORMY DAY IN DELHI.

The inquiry committee constituted by JNU has submitted its report. The day finally came today after the three extensions the committee was granted. And going by the information leaked so far, its findings and recommendations are going to make for headlines.

It has already begun and tomorrow, when there is a big agitation march planned by the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) – Parliament Chalo, it is going to figure prominently. The findings of this probe committee will certainly reflect on how stormy the day is going to be tomorrow.

JNUSU is demanding removal of sedition charges and other cases slapped on Kanhaiya Kumar and others. The Left-wing students unions are backing the move. JNUSU has appealed to the students in Delhi’s different colleges and universities to join the protest tomorrow.

And given the response that Kanhaiya Kumar and other students got after the administration and police made the mess of a simple university issue, the protestors will try to mobilize more support for Kanhaiya Kumar and other students when they take to roads tomorrow.

Kanhaiya Kumar is out on ‘interim bail’ with some tough words by the presiding Delhi High Court judge who delivered the order. Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are still in jail after they failed to secure bail.

So, even after the blitzkrieg that Kanhaiya tried to unleash after his bail on March 3, they, from JNUSU and those under scanner including Kanhaiya, are not going to say anything acidic or hostile to the law of the land – that will further affect their case. Yes, a sort of speech delivered earlier in JNU is expected tomorrow – but it is not going to get same eyeballs – because, since March 3, Kanhaiya Kumar last lost much of his currency that made him relevant for a cause.

Some deft political manoeuvring has to be there then – that conveys what the JNUSU wants to say – and convinces people of its intent and substance. JNUSU opposed this probe committee, demanded a fresh one. Those under investigation didn’t appear before it. And students had support of many faculty members as well. And it was certainly not restricted to the university campus. And that has to be sustained.

A well coordinated movement fanning across the capital city or a significant presence in the heart of Delhi to catch media attention and social media pull will serve the purpose. Yes, a speech is ok – but with the intent that reflects sincerity and commitment to a cause.

If tomorrow has to be a stormy day – it has to be within the confines of the law – like the protests of the hugely successful anti-corruption movement of 2011. And if JNUSU has learnt any lessons, it will try to follow the suit.

Hope sense will prevail tomorrow – unlike what happened on February 9 – when anti-India slogans were raised in JNU. Yes, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and others say they did not raise them and those who shouted those slogans were outsiders and we would love to go with that but with the obvious questions that if all these JNU students were present there, when these slogans were raised, they why none of them bothered to stop such anti-nationals or behaved like responsible citizens by informing the authorities of what had happened.

If there had to be any punishment in this case, it was about this – a disciplinary action by the university administration.

And it is expected that the action taken on the recommendations of inquiry committee would be in line with this spirit – with no expulsions – but clear warnings. Police did not go on hunting for two more students named after Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya surrendered indicates that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SOCIAL BLOGGING

Now is the time to see Social Blogging as a separate category within the realm of the overall larger social activity that blogging is.

Having said that, the Social Blogging content should involve socially relevant and concerned expressions – whether it for activism – or – it is being in solidarity with – in opposing the unjust.

Bloggers have helped shaping the Arab Spring. They have started speaking for those who can’t speak. Blogging is becoming more and more socially responsible.

Bloggers have lost lives in dictatorial regimes, in restive countries and in orthodox societies. The most recent case in point is Bangladesh.

Social Blogging, in fact, is quite strong in oppressive societies where it gets amplified attention and the process that has begun will only intensify further.

Its next big leap is going to be in societies like India. India is a country that is the world’s largest democracy – a country with a robust democracy – but a country where the democracy has still a long way to go.

And the process will be business-driven, even if we scoff at capitalism! Business will lead communication technology penetration that in turn would arm more and more people with information access. Creating a blog or having an online identity to connect with the world had never been this easy.

Long live social media!

And India, the world’s second most populous country, with projections to have the world’s largest share of middle class in a decade or so, just rejected the initiatives of internet and social media giants like India’s Airtel or Facebook to dominate internet/social media by introducing differential pricing through their networks.

Long live net neutrality!

But its sustainability has to be perennial!

Let’s start a debate first and then a discourse to spread the word about Social Blogging and it’s increasing role and need in societies.

SocialBlogging-4

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

KANHAIYA SPOKE WELL

Irrespective of going into the Qualitatives of Kanhaiya Kumar’s address – that he said was not a speech but accumulative expression of his experiences – after his release from the Tihar Jail today – was really something to listen to.

The man spoke well. He had a flow. And he sounded fearless, objective and bound to an ideology. That is probably the difference age brings – a kind of puritan fearlessness where you don’t really think much of the consequences.

Some years ago, once, I had chance to speak to Dr. Binayak Sen over the phone, after he had got a long fought but ‘temporary’ bail in the sedition case the state had imposed on him along with other serious charges. It was a brief conversation where Dr. Sen sounded very cautious on what to speak and what not to. He was evasive on directly answering most of the questions even during our brief conversation.

Dr. Sen is an inspiration – a great crusader of social rights – and he is still the same Dr. Binayak Sen – that he was – when he had started giving shape to the ‘Mitanin’ programme for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh’s hinterlands.

But when I spoke to Dr. Sen, he was around 60 – with years of incarceration and system’s oppression behind him. He was hounded like a hardened criminal when he had simply done his job – of being a doctor – in places no one else wishes to enter. If it is said that doctors are next only to God, doctors like Binayak Sen give a reason to validate that.

But years of State’s hostility and prison term with ageing turned him into a silent crusader than a vocal activist I can say. Something that is not there in case of Kanhaiya Kumar – the 29 year old JNU Students Union president. He is young. He is armed with an ideology. And he sounded like ready to fight come what may. Yes, the Constitutional sanctity is pristine but every act then is permissible within its norms, irrespective of the ideological affiliations (and difference).

The case against Kanhaiya Kumar was always on a flimsy ground and he should have got bail much earlier. In fact, the whole JNU incident (row) was mishandled. We should wish for more in line developments now onward.

This speech by the fellow, delivered at the prestigious institution a while ago, tells where the system erred. Dissent is a must for democracy. Democracy needs consistent spark at ideological levels. A healthy culture of dissent and debate strengthens the Constitution that runs any democracy. Subaltern history should be as important to us as History is.

Irrespective of the observations like a ‘political leader is born today’ or ‘Kanhaiya is making a career option for him’, we should wish this incident, the whole JNU row, may prove a blessing in disguise for us. It has to be much more than mere a ‘making of breaking of a leader’. It has to be a step ahead in the quest to make a just and responsible society. Let’s not make him a hero or a leader. Let’s not do anything to anyone like Kanhaiya Kumar that could bury the valid hopes anymore.

India has had not meaningful and coherent student moments while even China had one – resulting in one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind – the Tiananmen Massacre – when China’s authoritarian regime had killed hundreds of protesting students (some reports quote even thousands).

We should hope this be the right beginning for student movements in India – for student activism from the petty levels of student politics that is reeling under the corrupt and ruthless vice-chancellors mainstream political concerns. The ground is ripe – after the hugely successful civil society anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the massive protests by outraged students and civil society in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

Technology is a leveller and it is helping us, in our societies – to get connected – to speak out and to reach out. Spiral of silence in our country is peeking now. And in my view, it is the next big leap of social media after the Arab Spring. It is heartening to see the hashtag #KanhaiyaKumar trending at top on Twitter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY CAN’T OUR POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENTS ACCOMMODATE VOICES LIKE KOVAN?

While striking down the Section 66A of the Information-Technology Act, the Supreme Court bench had observed, “It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.”

The Supreme Court decision on March 24 this year officially declared a ‘draconian’ law finally draconian.

The observation focuses on ‘balance between right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on right’, here in the context of the freedom of expression, and rightly so because the law enforcing agencies have had a pretty bad track record in that.

The SC bench of J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman said, “If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved by an assurance from the learned Additional Solicitor-General that it will be administered in a reasonable manner. Governments may come and governments may go, but Section 66A goes on forever. An assurance from the present government, even if carried out faithfully, would not bind any successor govt.”

Going by the bad precedent set by the law enforcing agencies, the apex court rightly refused to trust the words of the country’s political establishment.

Because the political administration has time and again acted so – with incidents like cartoons and Facebook posts being the reasons for charges like ‘sedition’ and follow-up arrests. Flurry of such cases and the widespread outrage over them were the central reason behind the SC’s decision on 66A.

But what about the concerned Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

66A was obstructing the freedom of expression with incessant cases of its misuse, and the right logic was put forward that anything of serious nature causing some serious offence could well be handled by the concerned Sections of the IPC.

What about the misuse of the concerned Sections of the IPC?

There is a long list and yesterday’s arrest of a Tamil folk singer, S. Sivadas or Kovan, for writing and propagating songs with ‘allegedly derogatory’ lyrics on Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, has not come as a surprise.

Yes, but as it is to be, and as it is, the anger and the outrage is pouring all across – including from the political establishments anti to Jayalalithaa.

Activists or people like Kovan or many like him, like, for that matter, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra who was arrested for circulating emails with cartoons of Mamata Banarjee, the West Bengal chief minister, are not known beyond their immediate field of activity or their immediate geographical spread – before their unjust arrest.

They have every right to criticise anyone within the democratic norms. The Constitution gives them this freedom.

But who takes guarantee of ensuring that when the administration acts on the contrary, compromising the rights given by the Constitution?

Courts have to intervene then like the top court did with Section 66A. But it doesn’t happen in a day and the struggle with the controversial IPC Sections takes years for saner voices to prevail, like we saw in Dr. Binayak Sen’s case.

Why can’t our political establishments accommodate voices like Kovan or Ambikesh Mahapatra or Binayak Sen or many others who have a different conscience than our ruling establishments?

What about culture of tolerance in our political establishments?

This May, the Kerala High Court observed in a case, “Being a Maoist is of no crime, though the political ideology of the Maoist will not synchronise with our constitutional polity. The police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist, unless the police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawful.”

This and other similar court observations follow from a landmark observation in 2011 given by the Supreme Court while granting bail to Dr. Binayan Sen. The court had said, “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser. That does not make him guilty of sedition. If Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography is found in somebody’s place, is he a Gandhian? No case of sedition is made out on the basis of materials in possession unless you show that he was actively helping or harbouring them.” (Here ‘materials’ means Naxalite/Maoist literature.)

If Kovan has done anything that goes against the state then his arrest can be justified but not on the pretexts like his songs are maligning the image of the state’s chief ministers or he is openly criticising the state sops selling liquor/alcohol – especially when ‘prohibition’ has become a sensitive issue across the country.

Kovan’s case reminds me the Marathi movie ‘Court’, India’s official entry to the Academy Awards (Oscars) this year. In the movie, the main protagonist is jailed time and again as police links his anti-establishment songs to the ‘alleged’ suicide of a person, even if there is evidence on the contrary.

Here are links to Kovan songs. I don’t understand Tamil but I am free, and rightly, to express my solidarity.

Shut down TASMAC and Amma TASMAC (Tamil songs – TASMAC is the Tamil Nadu government outfit that runs the liquor shops in question.)

And here is a photograph, sourced from Twitter, showing S. Sivadas or Kovan performing his art.

Kovan-Twitter

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IT WAS THE WORST THE AAM AADMI PARTY COULD DO

This was the worst of the Aam Aadmi Party we saw today – and the spate of debacles is scheduled to see a downward spiral from here – because the writing on the wall says so.

The AAP fully metamorphosed today into a mainstream political party the preparation of which were underway for many days, especially after the rare victory in the Delhi assembly polls when the party won 67 out of 70 seats.

There was no hurry this time, unlike that shown during the first term of 49 days, the first term which, combined with Congress’ fall and the BJP’s developmental void, made the AAP win so impressive. We did not see appeals for sting operations like we saw the last time. Houses and vehicles in VIP facilities are taken promptly. VIP culture is in vogue with separate lanes. The police and corrupt are not scared like the last time. And so on.

Like a typical mainstream political party, the AAP took the reins of the power on the same date when it had deserted Delhi and chosen the same venue to mark its comeback – the Ramlila Ground.

And it made no tall promises on the day and the ‘many day afters’ after it.

In fact, Arvind Kejriwal now says that if his government fulfils even 40-50% of the promises made, it would be enough.

And today, the politician in him crossed even the threshold that we expected from the political lot which used to be the main target of Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP when he was promising us the sky. the politician in him chose to speak even if a man was dying today.

A farmer committed suicide during the launch rally of the AAP over the anti-land acquisition ordinance protests but Arvind Kejriwal and his partymen kept on speaking, demanding from the Delhi Police that they come and rescue the man.

What a rubbish!

He should have left speaking and should have rushed himself to the spot. The rally should have only one concern then – the man, who was dying. But he did equally opposite to it.

Even the mainstream politicians would not do such a thing – a mistake where a man lost his life and where humanity died once again and where even the mainstream politicians would act humanely.

But Arvind Kejriwal and his partymen were busy in sifting through and shifting the blame, to the Delhi Police, and to other politicians. He was busy criticising the BJP government’s land acquisition ordinance, Congress’ land acquisition bill and the Delhi Police on the delay in saving the man.

He kept on speaking. Even after the man was taken to the hospital where doctors declared him ‘brought dead’.

He was to go the hospital after his volunteers had taken the man to the hospital but the doctors declared him brought dead and mysteriously, after knowing so, after wrapping up the speech, he didn’t go to the hospital.

Seeing the political potential of the issue, every political party jumped into the issue including Rahul Gandhi. It is good to see Rahul Gandhi trying his hand on political issues because a strong opposition is need of the day.

But today, Kejriwal got worse. He fielded his spokesmen even if his party was to share the blame for the death of a man irrespective of his background.

And we see a pattern there.

The good looking and sensible spokespersons of the AAP are out and they are replaced by the spokesmen doing the politicise of the day Kejriwal style. Their only brief is – Kejriwal and the AAP are always right and they cannot make any mistake – and they believe in the dictum of ‘by hook or by crook’.

Like a mainstream politician, Arvind Kejriwal is assured, insured and secured by the electoral mandate that gives him fives year in the office that began on February 14, 2015 only.

And down the line two months only, he has got rid of all those who could pose a threat to his political career. He has got Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Admiral Ramdas and others expelled from the AAP. Other eminent names have already left the party as they felt alienated by the its changing ways. For them, it was no longer a political party with political activism in its blood.

Arvind Kejriwal now has full five years in Delhi and he intends to enjoy it politically with a clear turf.

And who cares for after five years – the day then – certainly not the politician from the lot who happen to be the main target when Kejriwal had begun his political career.

For the Kejriwal of the moment, it doesn’t matter if he is not going to be back after five years – the writing on the wall says.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY THE POLITICAL EXPERIMENT CALLED AAP FAILED? – THE LEGACY OF THE STRUCTURAL FLAW OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION MOVEMENT OF 2011

With the drama that culminated in yesterday’s events at the Aam Aadmi Party’s National Council meet where Arvind Kejriwal was officially crowned as the larger than life king of the party, the thought, if there was any behind the move to transition to a political alternative from an activism background, was also officially buried.

And it can be traced back to the core elements that led to failure of the anti-corruption movement of 2011. The movement was led by Anna Hazare. He was the face of it. Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Yogendra Yadav, Santosh Hegde, Medha Patkar and many others were its active soldiers.

And Arvind Kejriwal was its main strategist. His strategy worked very well when it got the mass appeal of Anna Hazare. But after the brilliant success of April and August legs of the movement in 2011, the slide began.

The December 2011 fast by Anna Hazare in Mumbai was a debacle. Similar was the fate of others that followed.

That leads us to think that the movement was poorly strategized (or was deliberately done so) as when it came to build further on the mass appeal and the localized initial spurt, there were no serious headways. The basic need was the faces beyond the localized pockets in several regions of the country.

But faces didn’t come. Instead, those who had built it, started leaving the movement due to internal differences and ideological rifts. Those who were there tried to maintain their eminence.

The movement ultimately failed due to its structural flaws.

It can be seen in social media response. The traditional media came subsequently. There were many flip-flops on the commitment to the core issue of ‘corruption’. Add to it the personal bickering among the group members and display of personal agenda in the public and we had a perfect recipe for disaster. That too, reflected in the social media trends.

Anna Hazare, the old Team Anna, the new Team Anna and the members of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Aam Aadmi Party’, all were in the news throughout 2012 for different reasons. The common thread among them was they were consistently talking about ‘change’ and the ‘politics of change’. Yet, they didn’t stir the imagination of the youth. The social media was almost not talking about them (except the routine stuff and the existing support base).

Anna Hazare was the major factor that led the youth to trust and accept the call. But once it was clear that the movement was hijacked by the vested interests, they simply moved away from it. The vigourous activity on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media platforms that was there during the April 2011 and September 2011 fasts had flattened later on.

The goodwill eroded – The Team Anna that gave us the AAP had much of the blame to share. Consistent flurry of controversies after August 28, 2011 especially with members like Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Bhushan duo corroded much of the goodwill.

Dislocated functionality – Good names like Rajinder Singh, PV Rajagopal left. Others aired their displeasure about functioning of the ‘core committee’. ‘India Against Corruption’ happened to be a 21-member effort but we were listening to and hearing none but these four-five faces. No replacements came. No fresh faced joined the movement. It had been an area of utter failure that Team Anna created itself.

Empty words – Sometimes impregnated with political overtures like expanding the ‘core committee’ with multilayered structure giving representation to all sections of society like Dalits, Muslims – such promises were made multiple times but nothing happened except confrontation and war of words with the government and its representatives as well as the intensifying internal differences of Team Anna.

Ethically wrong – Campaigning in Hisar was a historical mistake for this anti-corruption movement. When the movement was all about anti-corruption, taking partisan steps even remotely linked to helping someone with questioned credentials win should not have been practiced. Kiran Bedi’s defence of her inflated bills controversy was just absurd. In yet another disappointing move, Anna, more or less, justified his ‘Pawar’s just one-slap’ statement when he blogged about it. Here a Gandhian said that he, apart from Gandhi, believed in Chhatrapati Shivaji, too. So slapping Pawar, according to him, was akin to following values propagated by Shivaji. Smelt of Thackerays! Flatly, just not acceptable!

Unfocused – The much-hyped but left into the oblivion Uttar Pradesh tour was a classical example of resource spoilage. Not much was heard when it came to the summative evaluation of the tour. Days were wasted. Public money was wasted (the tour was funded by money donated by likes of ‘you and me’ during the anti-corruption agitation in Delhi). The anti-corruption movement was not restructured or reoriented for the next step to add more people with it. Instead, big ticket empty announcements like electoral reforms, education reforms, group expansion, anti-government campaigning in the upcoming elections were made again and again.

And similar trajectory can be traced in beginning and the journey so far of the AAP.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

KIRAN BEDI FORMALLY JOINS BJP: ANNA HAZARE IS MENTIONED IN SATIRICAL AND HUMOROUS COMMENTS – IRONY OF A MOVEMENT

Though it was long dead already, and what happened today was to happen sooner or later, thoughts went back there, in past, bringing the reflections back.

Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement of 2011 – one of the biggest civil movements of independent India – was launched successfully against its own elected government – but, unfortunately could not sustain – due to its own fault-lines. Much has been written about it.

We cannot say corruption engulfed it. In fact, we can still find many valid reasons to deny this proposition.

Yes, but we can say that one of the central reasons behind corruption – Indian politics of the day – led to its ‘efficient’ winding up.

And within three years, the movement has been buried deeply. No one talks about it. The mentions don’t go beyond occasional analytical pieces and discourses.

And the person who led it, who was the source behind the movement, who was the central plank around whom the movement and its campaign were designed by his ‘ardent follower of the day, Arvind Kejriwal and an outfit named ‘India Against Corruption” was being mentioned with satirical and humorous mentions today.

— By the acts of the people who used to be the core of the team behind the movement that made Anna Hazare a pan-India icon and an international figure and brought the members of ‘Team Anna’ in the socio-political thinking of the Indian masses.

The politicisation of the anti-corruption movement or to say political branching out of the anti-corruption movement that began with Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 reached to a full circle today with Kiran Bedi joining mainstream politics. We cannot say if there are other circles to come further on the way as almost of the big names of the movement, except few like Santosh Hegde, have taken the political plunge.

Majority of them went with Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party while those who alleged Arvind Kejriwal of compromising the movement chose to stay away. Kiran Bedi was the foremost among them.

And today, as was long expected, she emerged as the face of the party in direct confrontation with Arvind Kejriwal and AAP.

Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas – the essential names of the anti-corruption moment – are all political now.

Yes, some like Medha Patkar are continuing with their activism streak after losing the Lok Sabha polls, but most are fulltime politicians.

And even if we cannot place them, the neo-fulltime politicians, in the lot of the existing political class when it comes to corruption, they cannot be accommodated in our thoughts for the ‘team’ that made us to contribute to the anti-corruption movement of 2011.

The politics of AAP so far effectively tells us, that doesn’t behave differently. They are acting like the political class who India has always seen.

And yes, I tried to find ‘India Against Corruption’ on the internet, but it seems it doesn’t exist there any more.

Irony of changing India! Irony of Indian politics! Irony of political activism of India! Irony of India’s need for change agents!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE GUY FAWKES NIGHT: FOR THE WORLD, IT’S BASICALLY ABOUT THE MASK

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**Collage prepared from the photographs sourced from the Internet


It’s the Guy Fawkes Night today (it’s the Guy Fawkes Day as well/also the Bonfire Night – the India time – by the British time, it is few hours away while writing this). Names apart, it is basically in the message. And the name Guy Fawkes in the contemporary times reiterates it.

The over four centuries old name, associated with a failed treason plot (or the rebellion depending on which side one was – the Gunpowder Treason Plot) to remove the British king and install a Catholic monarch, on November 5, 1605, has come to be associated with a symbol that has fast become the protest mark to raise the voice against establishments and against policies.

The Guy Fawkes Masks are fast becoming the protest symbol of modern-age political activists, protesters and anarchists, from Middle East protests to Occupy Wall Street, from India to the US.

Over the centuries, the day has had changing perceptions in Britain about celebrating it with bonfire and masked effigies but history is history and it is for Britain, rooted in a Monarchy.

For the world of now, it is basically about ‘it is in the message’. Irrespective of the associated history, the contemporary world knows Guy Fawkes Masks as popularized by the film version of the graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ released in 2006.

The 10 issues of ‘V for Vendetta’ had their run-time from 1982 to 1989 where the Guy Fawkes Mask of the day found its origin but the mass appeal it needed to become a growing worldwide phenomenon came with its film adaptation.

The film popularized the Mask the world over and the themes the novel and the film dealt with attached with the Mask the elements of activism against oppression. V, the mysterious central character of the novel in a Guy Fawkes Mask designed by David Lloyd, fought to liberate his country from a Fascist regime in a dystopian future. He raised voice against the wrongs and he gave voice to the others.

And the world has never been bereft of issues crying for attention and voices, in developed nations, in developing countries, in the third-world block, in democracies, and in tyrannies. The issues always look for symbolisms to tell the world of their presence. And many such issues have found their symbolism in the Guy Fawkes Masks after the movie was released.

It also reiterates why cinema is such a powerful communication tool to propagate ideas, to spread thoughts, and to popularize symbols.


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 **Collage prepared from the photographs sourced from the Internet


THE GUY FAWKES NIGHT: FOR THE WORLD, IT’S BASICALLY ABOUT THE MASK

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IROM SHARMILA RE-ARRESTED: PATHETIC IRONIES OF THE STATE CONTINUE

It was expected. It has been happening ever since.

We have seen it happening year after year – Irom Sharmila is released and is re-arrested.

And yes, we know, the state has been behind it- complicit, willingly and comfortably. Her annual release is basically technical in nature otherwise the state would not let her go, unless the court rules so, something that happened this time, something that that gave her a freedom of more than a day.

Indian rights activist Irom SharmilaImage courtesy: Reuters

The court order came on August 19 quashing the charge of ‘attempt to commit suicide’ – she was released on August 20 evening – the police approached her on August 21 for the usual round as Sharmila continued with her fast not taking food and water and refusing medical checkup – and on August 22 morning, she was taken by the police again to the same ‘isolation’ ward of the Imphal hospital where she has spent so many years demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – and where a chief judicial magistrate remanded her to 15 days of judicial custody.

So, the pathetic annual exercise of the state had a differentiator this time – Sharmila had some extended hours of freedom where she expressed about and broke down on her desire for freedom – she spent some time at the site of her protest where she began almost 14 years ago – she spent some time without the tube attached to her nose, something she has been with since November 2000 – she met people – she spoke and she interacted – and the whole world wrote about her freedom this time – because the extended hours gave us the direct access to her – one to one – reaching out,  speaking out.

Irom Sharmila-IEImage courtesy: Indian Express

In previous years, this window was not available, as without a court ruling freeing her of the charges of ‘attempted suicide’, the police would release her as one year would come to an end – only to meet the technical requirement of the law – the Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with ‘attempted suicide’ and has a jail term of one year – and then re-arrest her immediately.

This year, when the Sessions court of Manipur East ruled that Sharmila never said ‘fast-unto-death’ and freed her of charges under the Section 309 of the IPC, a Section that is set to be decriminalized by the Indian government, many of us thought the sense would prevail and the state would act with sanity.

But – but, the state is notorious by its stubbornness – it is one of the bottlenecks of our functional democracy – a democracy that has been able to survive and grow – we saw it in case of Dr. Binayak Sen – we saw it in case of Himanshu Kumar – we have seen it in many other cases – and there is no end to it in the near future – the re-arrest of Irom Sharmila reaffirms that.

The state’s pathetic ironies continue.

THE NORTH-EAST CRISIS

Yes, both, the pro- and anti- AFSPA debates have takers but what negative has happened and is happening due to the AFSPA – with many incidents including the November 2, 2000 Malom Massacre – the massacre that called Irom Sharmila, who was 28 then, to begin her protest fast-until-the AFSPA-repeal on the same day – must be accepted honestly by the state in order to come up with some better and ‘acceptable-to-most’ alternative – like has been the demand always – like has been the need always.

It is true some North-Eastern states like Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, and Manipur have deep-rooted insurgencies and terrorists there enjoy local ethnic support and survive by exploiting the anti-mainland India sentiments. The intense ethnic divide among the tribal groups has only exacerbated the crisis. They are fighting with the Union of India and they are fighting among themselves.

Tripura was the similar story until it got a sensible political leadership in Manik Sarkar, one of the few honest politicians the country has. The security apparatus of the Union of India and the local wing of the state’s politics can learn from Tripura’s experience to look for tools to adopt in handling and overcoming the insurgency. But, so far the condition remains volatile in other crisis hotbeds of the North-East India.

Yes, the political mismanagement and apathy has been largely responsible for it. The whole North-Eastern region is still a largely disconnected landmass with poor infrastructure and almost no industries. The agrarian economy that has the potential to evolve into big-ticket industrial units has been neglected while bilateral trade with neighboring countries that has not much scope has been made the focus of the industrial policy on the North-East so far. The whole region doesn’t produce industrial materials except coal, petroleum products and minerals meant for internal consumption and cannot be exported. Also, there is not enough local talent to support if large-scale industrial units are brought in the region. The paradropping of industries exercise was one of the central reasons that led to the proliferation of insurgencies as the economy was centralized in few hands and the locals did not benefit.

And the hostilities still continue, in spite of the Government of India making serious efforts now. There is a separate ministry in existence for the North-East region for over a decade now. The average per-capita central assistance to the North-East is almost four times of the all India average, Rs. 683.94 Vs Rs. 2574.98, as was in the 10th Five Year Plan and the Special Category Status is to continue till 12th Plan.

But, the hostilities continue, as the crisis has been in making for years and will take time and tough measures handling the insurgents and safeguarding the interests of the common people. The anti-mainland sentiment is still very much there to be exploited by the insurgents.

The experience of the people from the mainland has been pretty bad there, especially in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur. Hindi cinema was banned by an insurgent group in Manipur in 2000 and is still in force. Even the biopic on Mary Kom, the Manipuri icon of the contemporary times, starring a Hindi cinema actress and produced by a Mumbai based production house has not been allowed screening. Tens of thousands have been internally displaced and thousands have been killed in the ongoing insurgency.

TOUGH MEASURES NEEDED BUT THE STATE NEEDS TO BEHAVE

The security establishment of the country does need special measures to deal with such hostile situations where the terrorists enjoy the ethnic support like is the case in Jammu & Kashmir.

But that never means allowing the security forces to go on rampage. And the AFSPA has seen many such cases – like some other draconian laws, used by the state regularly that put activists like Dr. Binayak Sen behind bars.

All such laws and special acts need to be scrutinized for the changes to be incorporated. The archaic laws need to be made contemporary. The special acts like the AFSPA need to come with enough of the stringent measures to set examples for the officers breaching the code or need to be replaced altogether with better and logical mechanisms that serve the purpose of the people as well as of the security needs of the state.

Yes, it is easier said than done. But nothing is easier in running the governments in an ethnically, religiously and culturally complex country like India that is also a functionally successful democracy. There are still many stakeholders who rightly feel left out of the process of democracy and the insurgents grow parasitic on the state and such stakeholders by exploiting the state’s apathy and the stakeholders’ frustration and such hostilities are there in the mainland India as well.

The state needs to behave when it acts with activists raising voices in democratic ways. They are our own people. They are from among us, speaking for their people, for us, and not for the insurgents.

The state needs to give space to the voices like Dr. Binayak Sen or Irom Sharmila in place of implicating them in silly cases under the draconian sections of the legal code. The wide support to these voices tells they represent for the millions who cannot speak or are not allowed to speak and the state must listen to them.

In place of forcing them in jails or in confined spaces, like has been done again with Irom Sharmila.

See the fallacy of the pathetic ironies – the law the Indian government feels is illogical and is to be done away with as explicitly told to the nation – has been used once again by one of its state governments to arrest Irom Sharmila, now a global icon of the Gandhian way of protest – by a Congress-run state government the chief minister of which invited Irom Sharmila to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket as she said after her release this time.

And see the irony holding-up the system – a judge released her quashing the ‘attempt to suicide’ charges as the state could not prove if Irom Sharmila had ever said so (fast-unto-death) – and she certainly didn’t say so since her release on Wednesday evening.

Even then, another judge found her case fit to be filed under the Section 309 of the IPC – under the charge of ‘attempt to commit suicide’ – the same IPC Section that is soon going to be decriminalized by the Government of India.

There was no need to arrest her this time or charge her for ‘attempted suicide’ and remand her to the judicial custody.

Yes, as she refused medical checkup and any nutritional intake, the police was bound to act on concerns of her health, as the Manipur East court ruling ordered, but it could have been done without arresting and charging her.

But, there is no sanity still – it was just the fear of the court order to come clean on acting in time on her health worries the police response told us – the way the police almost dragged her, as the whole nation saw in the news broadcasts, even if acting on the pretext of ‘preventing her health from deteriorating further’ – even if she was screaming – was shameful and utterly disgusting – and is to be condemned.

NDTV video: Irom Sharmila, shouting, forcibly removed from fast venue by cops

Irom Sharmila CollageImage courtesy: NDTV

Yes, the chores of the state’s pathetic ironies continue.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/