RSS led by Modi in charge of India Part II: Domestic Policy

Where to look for the clue?

  • RSS world vision,
  • CM Modi led Gujarat Model
  • Modi’s Vision document,





Changes likely in school texts. In past, NDA Government and UPA Government have been involved in TextBook Controversy  with NDA pushing for elimination of what it perceives as
Marxist biases while UPA pushing for elimination of what it perceives as
saffronisation. BJP has claimed that it will change the history books, if it comes to power to correct “distortions introduced by Marxist historians” .
Changes one can expect:
  1. In History texts: In Modern History, one can look forward to a
    diluted Role to some of INC icons  (Nehru and dynasty in particular),
    more emphasis on RSS icons (Tilak, Savarkar, Golwalkar, Shyama Prasad
    Mukherjee, and so on) ;   Medievel History- greater emphasis on ‘Hindu’
    part with projection of Muslim rulers as foreign invaders. Any such move
    will be resisted by academia, Congress and Left but with a simple
    majority in Lower House, one wonders what can stop BJP from pushing
    through these changes that it has always desired on ideological ground
    and can help it reap electoral dividends in future?
  2. Greater Stress on Indian Languages:BJP Manifesto talks about promoting Indian Languages:
English is not prefered by Modi himself. In Gujarat, Modi has denied
English education to the poor till age 10. Gujarat’s government schools
teach ABCD only in class 5. It may not possible to execute the same in
Central Boards but greater emphasis on Indian Languages likely to be


Protect the Cow


Good days ahead for Gau Mata. What BJP Manifesto says:
Previous NDA Government’s effort to ban Cow Slaughter were defeated by her own allies . No such ally compulsion exists this time around. Mr Modi himself had raked up the issue of Beef exports in his election campaign . Beef Export Industry is already on tenterhooks 

A ‘Traditional’ and ‘moral’ media

BJP Art & Culture cell has already promised to promote Tradition in Bollywood.Previous NDA Government had reconstituted the Central Board of Film Certification that restricted on films/documentaries that showed Hindu Right in bad light or projected ‘immoral’ activities .Though UPA Government was no icon of liberalism on this front, things likely to worse under NDA.

Ram Mandir

If not handled properly, Things could get really ugly on this front. Under Previous NDA Government, Agitation for building Ram Temple
reached its peak in 2002- it turned so bad that PM had to ask RSS
to persuade VHP to back down (parallels here with Nawaz’s adventures
with Punjabi Taliban?). The raised Communal tempers provided the fertile ground over which Gujarat’s horrific rioting blossomed.
This time around, Ram Mandir was placed right at the top in Cultural
Heritage segment of BJP’s election Manifesto for 2014 elections,
Ram Mandir
RSS has gone to the extent of demanding a law for the same. Mr Modi himself got into a controversy for invoking Ram in Faizabad District (only a few kilometre from Ayodhya)
Whether a BJP led Government actually builds a Ram temple in Ayodhya
is not the real issue, the real issue is the all India communal frenzy
(polarisation and violence) that raking of this issue unleashes.
VHP stormtroopers will raise the heat on this issue (atleast by the mid
or end of the term, if not in the beginning itself). How the Indian society and
Modi led Central State machinery responds to the crisis is anybody’s guess.
Raam Ke Naam: Anand Patwardha’s documentary on Babri Mosque Demolition


UCC is a long pending demand of BJP. What BJP Manifesto says:
Like banning Cow Slaughter, Previous BJP led NDA Government’s UCC initiative was blocked by allies . No such ally reliance exists this time. Mr Modi has dropped hints of implementing it
but would be interesting to
see if BJP can actually get beyond the rhetoric. It will have to overcome severe criticism- Parliamentary as well as Judicial, to push it through. Also, it is not clear what BJP can gain by killing her golden goose- that exposes ‘Secular’ hypocrisy of Congress & Left and nourishes the Hindutva narrative of Muslims being an alien
barbaric community.



Big Infrastructure Projects

Likely to get a boost. Under
Vajpayee Govt: National Highway Development Programme and Gold
Quadrilateral of Roadways were launched. Among other things, Modi is promising a Golden
Quadrilaterial of Bullet Trains and 100 smart cities. Such mega-infrastructure
projects will serve well the core supporters of Mr Modi- Pro-Corporate/Business and Neo-middle classes of India and also polish the Global Power ambitions of Bharat Mata. 
PS: Large
scale River Linking projects however likely to be mere hot air. The challenges posed by a democratic federal structure of Governance, 
environmental costs and massive engineering put it beyond the capacity of Indian state.  

New States : 

One can look forward to newer states on India’s map.Carving out new states only requires a simple majority in both houses of Parliament. BJP, as a matter of principle, has been backing
formation of smaller states. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand were
created during the previous NDA rule. In Jammu & Kashmir, giving Laddakh a UT status has been BJP’s dream but more autonomy to J&K as articulated by National Conference is a big No. Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat was won by BJP- which is perceived as a victory for GJM-an organisation that has been leading a powerful Gorkhaland state movement for years. In Maharashtra, although BJP has backed carving out of Vidharbha but ally Shiv does not like it. Splitting of UP however is possible.


Schemes, Statues, cities, infrastructure based on muscular Hindu leaders of Past, RSS icons and Ancient Indian personalities & places: 

NDA is already talking about renaming or scrapping some of the present schemes. Among other things, Previous
NDA Government installed V D Savarkar’s portrait in Central Hall of
Parliament right in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait. In past, BJP has also protested
for renaming certain cities (Ahmedabad to Karnavati and Allahabad to

Savarkar’s Portrait, Parliament’s Central Hall, 2003


Sedition charges, Reinstatement of POTA,stringent Anti-Terror measures and assault on Free Speech: 

A Modi Government may worsen the already precarious conditions for Free Speech in India. Apart
from RSS’ narrow brand of nationalism, Mr Modi is perceived as an authoritarian administrator who muzzles his critics with full prejudice.


Jammu & Kashmir: 

What BJP Manifesto says:

Mr Modi has already announced return of Kashmiri Pandits as his key issue of action.
Abrogating Article 370 has also been BJP’s stand
all along, however this would require Constitutional Amendment- which
in turn requires support of special 2/3rd majority in both houses, which
alone doesn’t have, though by bringing in some new allies broader
alliance of NDA may reach that figure in Lok Sabha. But even then, the
numbers may still not add up in Rajya Sabha. Another stumbling block
could be the Judicial Review as National
Conference has  insisted that abrogation of the Article would open
the case of State’s accession to India. Any autocratic step towards
abrogation of Article 370  holds potential of precipitating a major
crisis in Kashmir Valley. In Past, Modi has engaged in jingoistic acts in Kashmir. Will it be any different this time? Are we looking at a new mature Modi? Anybody’s guess
PS: Have covered only few broad points on domestic front where Modi’s policy may significantly differ from  UPA Government. Thoughts on Foreign Policy to follow in Part III…

Sponsoring Terrorism in Afghanistan; the early days..

Ikram Sehgal is supposed to be “close to the khaki establishment” (others regard him as closer to Uncle Sam, how would I know?).
 I have no idea what he is trying to say here and why, but the first half has some (well known, but not widely known) tidbits about recent AfPak history. Published in Pakistan Today

Army and the ISI

By Ikram Sehgal

The son of Late Brig Mohammad Ahmad (later DG IB and author
of “My Chief”, a biography of Field Marshal Ayub Khan) and one of my closest
friends since childhood, Col (Retd) Salman Ahmad has fought more battles than
anyone else in Pakistan Army’s history. Starting with Bedian with I E Bengal in
the 1965 war, this unsung hero participated extensively in counter guerilla
operations in former East Pakistan during 1971. His SSG Company supported our
(44 Punjab now 4 Sindh) counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan in 1973.
Subsequently in 1973 he trained Afghan dissidents in Peshawar under command of
Brig (later Maj Gen and Governor) Nasirullah Khan Babar, then Inspector General
Frontier Corps (FC) and later PPP stalwart. Ahmad Shah Masoud, Haji Din
Mohammad (presently Karzai’s Advisor), Engineer Ayub (former Minister) and a
whole host of Afghan dissidents belonging to Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani,
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf etc factions were among his students.

This clandestine outreach strategy was commissioned by none
other the than President of Pakistan, late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The next time
the PPP start fulminating about Ziaul Haq’s intervention in Afghanistan, they
should kindly get their facts right. Neither the Army nor the ISI started our
Afghan adventurism, this was a deliberate state policy crafted by PPP’s
founder. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind, Indira Gandhi suffered
the Sikh backlash of Sanjay Gandhi’s ill-advised sponsorship of Bhindranewala,
Ms Benazir paid the price for her father’s interference in Afghanistan. Bilawal
Bhutto Zardari needs a tutorial on his grandfather’s “vision thing”.

After commanding 2 Commando in 1982-83, Salman transferred
to the ISI to take charge of training and operations for Afghan Mujahideen from
1983 to 1985. Codenamed “Col Faizan”, from 1985 to 1990 he ran all ISI/CIA
operations in the south of Afghanistan (including the area around Kandahar and
Herat). He took Sandy Gall, Carlotta’s father, deep into Soviet-occupied
Afghanistan to film the BBC documentary “Allah Against the Gunships” depicting
the Mujahideen fighting Soviet helicopter gunships with small arms (this before
the Stingers arrived).

Late Col Sultan Amir Tarar (codenamed Col Imam) operated
mostly in the north, the common perception that he discovered Mullah Umar is
not true. As Ms Benazir’s Interior Minister in her second term as PM, Gen Babar
tasked Sultan Amir, Consul General Kandahar in 1994-1995, to get Mullah Umar’s
help in recovering the Pakistani trucks hijacked by bandits on the road to
Herat west of Kandahar. Mullah Umar rode the momentum of this success, uniting
all Mujahideen factions and Afghan Army defectors under Taliban aegis in the
Kandahar area and eventually taking control of most of Afghanistan. Initially
with the Taliban, Mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf later defected to the
Northern Alliance, he was the one who invited Bin Laden back to Afghanistan. Having
switched sides, five years later Bin Laden misused his Taliban sanctuary to
commit 9/11, the most despicable of atrocities in modern history.

Col Sultan Amir’s brutal murder by late TTP Chief Hakimullah
Mehsud was shown on YouTube. Earlier former ISI official Sqn Ldr (Retd) Khalid
Khawaja was executed allegedly because of the telephonic misinformation fed to
the Taliban by Hamid Mir that he was working for the CIA, Khalid Khawaja’s
family members accused him of murder. Eye scans aside, “voice recognition” is
the most authentic identification in bio-metrics today.

The faulty post-Afghan war policies were crafted by
arm-chair strategists in the (then) ISI hierarchy having no experience
whatsoever of the Afghan War. Having an ingrained inferiority complex for not
having heard a shot being fired in anger, these “GT Road warriors” who rise to
high rank invariably resent obtaining counsel from field veterans. Protesting
this, Salman reverted to the Army in 1990, retiring two years later. He
repeated “I told you so” with great anguish over the years while Afghanistan
went from bad to worse (and Pakistan spiralling downwards from worse to
possibly “horrifying” post-2014).

The wrong perception of ISI being “a state within a state”
developed during the Afghan War when it was given a free hand, first under Lt
Gen (later Gen) Akhtar Abdul Rahman and then Lt Gen Hamid Gul, to partner CIA
in organizing the Mujahideen battling the Soviets. This perception of
intelligence agencies is similar all over the world because of the nature of
their business, their personnel are seemingly untouchable. Most ISI personnel
are on deputation from the Army mostly with a very small percentage from the
Navy and Air Force, the regular cadre of ISI officers are mostly in the junior
ranks. Officers and men from the Pakistan Army (mostly from the SSG) like
Salman and Sultan Amir joined ISI in droves to help the Afghans wage their
“fight for freedom”. Giving the ultimate sacrifice in the “Jehad”, many of our
unsung heroes lie buried in unmarked graves in Afghanistan, lamented only by
their immediate family and friends.

The DG ISI in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure, Lt Gen
Ziauddin, distanced himself from the Army in support of the then PM, when push
came to shove on Oct 12, 1999 the ISI rank and file abandoned their own boss in
support of the Army Chief. A not so well known fact, only Lt Gen Zahirul Islam
has served an earlier ISI tenure before he became its DG, no other Head of ISI
has been in the ISI in any rank in its entire history.

A motivated canard “floated” by vested interest is that the
Army and the ISI hierarchy are somehow at odds. Almost the entire ISI hierarchy being from the army, the Army and the ISI remain in
sync. This baseless mischief is totally wrong, a pathetic attempt to invent a
“truth” from a blatant lie. The detractors contradict themselves by
simultaneously accusing the ISI of engineering army take-overs (the so-called
“hidden hands”).

When the ill-intentioned motivated become desperate, they
resort to such blatant misinformation. The Army and the ISI have always been on
the same page, and will always remain so.


The worst nightmare of India’s ‘Pseudo-Secularist’ crowd came true on 16th
of May 2014. BJP under Mr Modi annihilated her political opponents,
securing a simple majority on its own in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of
Indian Parliament) – first time in BJP’s history.
While some of us (including myself) were sceptical of  NDA (the broader BJP led alliance) victory, most Opinion Polls and exit polls did predict NDA’s triumph but only a select few could foresee such a colossal mandate in favour of BJP alone.
And So?
Given BJP’s own simple majority in Lower house, it (under supreme
command of Mr Modi) will have full control over Union Executive
(Ministries) for the next 5 years. Unlike past NDA Governments, BJP (Mr Modi and RSS) does not need regional allies to stay in power and the allies
themselves include no major self proclaimed ‘Secular’/ ‘Anti-Communal’
Party (TDP and Shiv Sena alone control 34 out of 54 Non-BJP NDA ally
For ordinary law-making, support of only a simple majority in both
houses is required. While BJP dominates the lower house, even her broader alliance of NDA does not have a simple majority in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) but can secure it by 2016 when a third of Rajya Sabha members retire. Also, for BJP there exist ways to sidestep the present the minority in RajyaSabha.
The point being- broadly speaking, BJP alone (RSS led by former
SwayamSevak Mr Narendra Modi to be exact) will be in complete command of
Indian Union’s 2 most powerful branches – Legislature (leaving out the tricky business of Constitutional Amendments) and the Executive
for the next 5 years. We have never been here before.
Now what India? 
A lot will depend on Mr Modi’s Personality. For all the doom and gloom, it has to conceded that BJP (unlike Maoist revolutionaries, Bodo militant gangs and Mujahideens)
is a recognised national political party that (in principle, if not
always in practice) takes part peacefully in elections under the
existing Constitution of India. Mr Modi has been elected to power by the
World’s largest electorate through a largely free and fair
elections(does not have the majority of votes but that’s how existing
FPTP system operates-if unfair, unfair for everyone). Be it due to
failures of Congress, Left and Regional satraps or due to of Mr Modi’s
brilliant campaigning or both; he has secured the popular mandate to run
Government of India. After 5 years, he will have to again win the popular mandate to secure another term, else peacefully pass over the crown to the opponents.
Having said that, A democracy based on mere majoritarianism is a Zombie Democracy.
BJP’s ideological and cadre base of RSS retains her long standing
commitment to the ideology of Hindu Nationalism which is at odds with
Indian State’s existing Constitutional commitment Secularism and
Minority Right. This is quite apart from blindingly obvious human right
issues given our bloody history of Partition, Riotings and ongoing Muslim Ghettoisation in urban areas of North and West India.
So while this is not a Fascist end of India scenario (as yet), there are legitimate concerns regarding
the policies that a Modi led RSS Government may pursue.  
A brief list of Cultural and other domestic policies that a BJP Government may go for, to follow in the Part II…

The Officer’s Advice

By Waseem Altaf
The fact that Hamid Mir received six bullets on his body is no more an issue. That Hayatullah, Musa Khankhel and Saleem Shahzad were brutally murdered was never an issue either. How terrorists infiltrated into airbases at Mahran and Kamra and the GHQ never caused a dent in the “dignity” of those responsible, nor did the mass surrender during 1971 war and the crushing defeat in Kargil ever shamed the ones involved. And nobody ever bothered how the disastrous effects of military rule for nearly half the life of this country played havoc with state institutions and impacted the society.
But when the brother of a man fighting for his life accused “an institution” and the picture of an army general was flashed on the TV screens, all hell broke loose.
It disturbed so many in the sacred land while the “dignity” of an institution was held at stake- and it was a national issue!
It perturbed everybody from anchorman Mubashar Luqman to terrorist Hafiz Saeed, to traders to groups of lawyers to Mullah Qadri and Imran Khan who came on the streets; being associates of the “powers that be” they were fully mobilized.
Advertisements with names of fake associations were splashed on national dailies, banners were hoisted praising ISI and army with pictures of serving generals and entire media groups were deployed to denounce Geo.
And today some extremely cheap measures are being employed. Right from severing cables of operators showing Geo to pressurizing private members of PEMRA to ban Geo to implicating its workers in a blasphemy case, every abhorable step is being taken by those who demand the nations’ unconditional respect.

The way the most organized institution of the state is behaving is pathetic. It’s like how a newly recruited cadet behaves with a policeman on a traffic violation. Unfortunately they never mature. Right from the rank and file to top leadership they exhibit the same immature behavior.
And they think that nobody understands who is behind Sarwat Qadri and Tahir Qadri, Imran Khan and Hafiz Saeed. Go to a barber shop and people are discussing ISI; such utter humiliation of a state institution. I recall its not long ago when nobody would even mention ISI during a discussion and today the talk of the town is the tussle between a private limited company vis-à-vis the army and ISI.
A British Superintendent of Police during pre-partition Lahore was wiser.
It so happened that a police officer by the name of Qurban Ali Shah was shopping in civvies at Anarkali Lahore when he spotted a policeman beating a tongawala with a lash, who had apparently made a traffic violation. He went to the policeman and without introducing himself asked him to stop that for beating someone like that was illegal. “Babu, mind your own business or I will do the same with you” was the constable’s response. The officer noted the identification number of the constable from his belt and left the place. He had thought of teaching him a lesson for insulting him.
In office, when he went to see his boss, an Englishman, he narrated the whole incident. He also informed him of his intention to “discipline” the policeman.
“Well you are a Superintendent of Police (SP) and have all the powers to punish the constable but let me tell you something” asserted the British officer. Only you know and I know that a constable insulted an SP and none else. Tomorrow when you will punish him, the entire Lahore police will come to know that a constable defied an SP. And let me say that not you but the constable would emerge as the hero. SP Qurban Ali Shah got the logic and immediately dropped the idea.
Any lapse on part of Geo could have been downplayed and a graceful apology on behalf of the company was sufficient. But today the army and the ISI are feverishly after a private limited company called Independent Media Corporation. They want to teach it a lesson. While completely oblivious of consumer rights, they want a complete ban on its transmission. Though the maximum they can achieve is a partial ban in cantonment areas.
In the process the khakis have completely forgotten that Geo is gaining everybody’s sympathies and that it would emerge as the hero out of this mess while the losers are all set to lose another war.
No doubt it was due to their farsightedness and wisdom that the sun never set on the British Empire.
Waseem Altaf


Drones flying over Mumbai

Dont worry, this is not a bomb the marriage party campaign….unless the groom has ordered a lot of pizzas to be air-dropped.

Next time any BPites care to visit Mumbai, please let us know in advance, the drone/pizza combo will be waiting for you as you exit the airport. Its a nice way of saying welcome:-)
financial capital, notorious for its traffic snarls, has achieved a
first in the country after a city-based pizza outlet used an unmanned
drone to execute a delivery by taking the aerial route recently.

“All of us had read about (global e-commerce giant) Amazon’s plans of
using drones. We successfully carried out a test-delivery by sending a
pizza to a customer located 1.5 km away from our outlet on May 11,”
Francesco’s Pizzeria chief executive Mikhel Rajani told today.

He stressed that this was only a test-flight but its results confirm that it can be used routinely in a few years. 
A four-rotor drone took off with the order from its outlet in central
Mumbai’s Lower Parel area and delivered it to a high-rise building in
adjacent Worli area, Rajani said, claiming that it is for the first time
that the ubiquitous drone has been used for such a purpose in the

The eatery, which has been in operations for two years,
has made a video of the delivery, he said, adding an auto engineer
friend helped with making the flight possible.

Rajani, who comes
from a family that is into textiles, said the drone saves time and
costs for a company like his, which would otherwise depend on a
two-wheeler borne agent to deliver the pizzas.
“What we have
done now will be common place in the next four-five years,” he said,
adding every such customised drone costs around USD 2,000. At present,
there are certain restrictions on the regulatory front like the drone
not allowed to fly above 400 ft altitude and barred from flying over
security establishments, he said, adding the American Federal Aviation
Authority’s regulations on usage of drones, expected next year, will

Apart from that there are technical difficulties like a
limited operating radius of 8 km
after which the batteries go dry, he
said, adding proper infrastructure like having charging stations can

Even though the four-rotor version drone had a limited
carrying capacity
, he said the payload capacity can be increased to up
to 8 kg in case of a an eight-rotor drone.




Mrs Menon goes to (two) Pakistan(s)

The first Pakistan (Pak-A) said hello with the warmest smile, while the second (Pak-B) ordered the Hindu reporter of The Hindu out of the country (Snehesh Alex Philip of Press Trust of India was also asked to leave, no reasoning was disclosed).

All the cliches in MM’s closing report (see below) are there for the consumption of sophisticated folks to think over a cup of (green) tea while sadly nodding in agreement. There is a comment from a (presumed) left liberal as to how India has now become just like Pakistan (presumably Pak-B). That leads to a very interesting and curious point – the quota of (2) Pakistani journalists (to be stationed in India) has never been utilized – hence the above point is not really testable/verifiable. OTOH many Modified readers are in a nasty mood, they keep asking why she does not have anything to say about the Hindus in Pakistan (MM was frog-marched out because she talked to a Baloch leader).  

Indeed Meena madam, what about the Hindus? Reports from the Pakistani National Assembly state that Hindus are departing by the thousands every year.  
Ethnic cleansing leading to population transfer has happened during the past partitions and in-between (alternatives being forced conversion and/or genocide). Sad to say that the future of these impoverished people – unlike elite expats such as Meena Menon – will be only a little less dark in India as it was back home.
5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India and other countries every
year due to religious persecution, ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)
lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Wankwani has told the Pakistani National
…..”During last two months, six incidents of religious
desecration happened only in Sindh province. In all incidents, religious
books of Hindu minority and their places of worship were burnt,” said
Wankwani, who also heads the Pakistan Hindu Council. 

The Pakistani Press concludes that the expulsions of Indian journalists were a subtle way for the Deep State to tell PM Sharif to not get any ideas about “normalizing” relations with India. The super-courageous Mian Sahib did not quite get the memo and was one of the first heads of state to congratulate PM-elect of India and also invited him for a state visit. Things may not be as one-sided as it seems. There is always a little hope, that South Asia will be a better place for all its denizens. 

As he looks at me with hope, my camera gives me away. He thinks I am a
tourist, which means dollars. He grins in disappointment when I tell him
I am from India, but he’s excited to have met one. Even the female
security guard asks me a lot of questions about India. In the women’s
section in the shrine, many of them tell me it is an honour to have met
someone from their favourite nation. Coming right after I was told to
leave Pakistan in a week’s time, it couldn’t have felt better.

This was how it was when I left for Pakistan in August 2013. After
landing in Islamabad around midnight, we went to buy a can of drinking
water from a chemist, where we experienced our first taste of welcome.
From then on there was practically no one who didn’t exude charm or
warmth; the sinister exceptions came much later. With a visa that was
restricted only to Islamabad, and which had to be renewed every three
months, the paperwork was enormous; the many trips to the External
Publicity (EP) Wing, our contact point, were meant to tire us out. Even
there they were nice, always ready to offer a cup of tea and words of
solace that the visa would be renewed.

Right from the time I reached, there was a constant flurry of activity
and plenty of news. The All Parties Conference which endorsed a dialogue
with the Taliban, the weeklong series of blasts in Peshawar, especially
the attack on the church which killed over 80, the sporadic attacks on
the media, the sectarian killings, the blasphemy cases, the Mumbai
attacks trial, Parliament and Supreme Court, apart from political party
press conferences and other meetings and seminars, all kept me busy.

In December, the federal government decided to prosecute the former
military dictator, General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf, slapped with
charges in many high profile cases but who had secured bail in most of
them. Covering the trial in the special court meant getting a pass which
was graciously granted to me. I had access to Parliament as well, with
my pass usually ready on the first day of the many sessions I attended.
There was the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed who had held some rallies,
the really large one being on ‘Defence of Pakistan’ day, and directed
largely against India and the United States. Covering the Mumbai attacks
trial was initially easy, with the lawyers and the prosecutor more than
eager to talk to you. Then, one day, I was told not to call anymore for
information as my reports were causing trouble.

A word on my spooks. Being an ardent admirer of the Thompson Twins in
Hergè’s classic Tintin comics, I didn’t think that I would have my own
experience with the bumbling duo. I first saw them at the visa office
where they made it a point to get so close to me that they almost bumped
into me. It soon became a regular affair. They didn’t stand outside my
house till the last two days, but always met the people I did interviews
with and asked them questions about me. My friends too were not spared.
They were keen on knowing whether my discussions had centred on the
Pakistan Army or defence, which was hilarious; with friends there are so
many other things to talk about.

The bumbling moment came when they followed my husband and I on Trail
six, a charming hike up the Margalla Hills behind the Faisal Mosque. It
was obvious that it was their first hike as they kept asking the others
on the trail the way back and thought we would return that way too. They
gave up halfway and decided to wait for us to return. At the top we
found a path that traversed all the way to Pir Sohawa, the highest point
in the hills and decided to follow it. I don’t know how long they had
waited for us in the blazing sun with no trees for shade and I am sure
they didn’t take to that kindly.

Early on in January, I was warned by the EP wing that my visa would not be renewed.
There was no reason given. I used to submit applications at regular
intervals to visit other parts of Pakistan such as Taxila, Lahore,
Peshawar and Mohenjo-Daro after the Sindh government had invited us to
cover the festival, but there was no reply.

But it was in March, after I had interviewed Mama Qadeer Baloch who had
walked over 3,000 km from Quetta to the capital with his small band of
followers, most of them relatives of missing persons, that things became
serious. A top official grilled me for an hour on why I had done an
interview which was “anti-Pakistan” and then demanded to see my notes.
He accused me of jeopardising my chances of a visa renewal with such
stories, and advised me to write on art and culture instead. Amused, I
told him that art and culture were limited in Islamabad and that I had
done my best. If the government was so keen that I cover only these
subjects, it should have sent me to places of great cultural interest in
Pakistan like Taxila, which it hadn’t. I had interviewed Abida Parveen,
a personal favourite, on her astounding new album, “Shah Jo Raag,” done
a feature on Haroon, the genius behind “Burka Avenger,” and other

One of the first people I had met was Shoaib Sultan Khan, a bureaucrat,
whose inspiring rural development initiatives and connections with India
made for a great article. He will remain for me the most interesting
person I met there and will leave behind a legacy of lasting ties with
rural communities in both countries. For a story on the oral history
project, on Partition, being collected by the Citizens Archive of
Pakistan (CAP), I had met Khalid Chima and his wife, Nasreen and Dr.
Naeem Qureshi, and it was among the memorable meetings I have had.
Nasreen lamented that she belonged to a really small minority which
still believed in secular values and that they were more endangered than
anyone else in Pakistan. 
The venerable Abid Hassan Minto had the most
interesting memories of the Left movement and he jocularly accused me of
taking down too many notes (doing a PhD) for a newspaper article.
Though I couldn’t visit the Murree Brewery, its CEO, Isphanyar Bhandara
was most gracious in granting me an interview in Islamabad. I was glad
to hear and know that the spirit of Pakistan lives on despite so many

Terror came close to home when the F-8 Markaz — which I used to visit
often, and just a stone’s throw away from my house — was bombed on March
3. I heard staccato firing followed by two deafening explosions which
shook the house and rattled the window panes. Scenes of devastation were
in store at the district courts with pools of blood and body parts
everywhere. Soon after, the bombing of the fruit market in the city was a
terrifying reminder that the peace talks with the Taliban were not
going anywhere.

More shocking news was in store with attacks on Raza Rumi, a kind friend
and host, and Hamid Mir, whom I used to often meet in Parliament. He
prayed there every Friday. It was shocking that journalists you knew
were now either out of the country or in hospital. Some of them were
dead too. Despite talk of there being a vibrant press in Pakistan, it
was under great stress with repeated attacks and a veiled censorship
which meant that certain things couldn’t be written about. Yet, brave
journalists and columnists continued with their writing, against all

As I was leaving Pakistan, my thoughts were on the warmth I had
received, the many friendly people I had met but equally so on the
intimidation I had faced from some quarters. However, I will cherish my
hikes, the long walks and some of the good friends I made. I will also
remember how the ‘other half’ lives in the capital, in sprawling slums
with their broad and stinking gutters; the women from Skardu collecting
firewood near an opulent hotel; the threatened Christians huddling under
tents after being displaced from their homes; the plight of the Ahmadis
and Shias, and a certain grimness that lay behind all that opulence.

And, finally, the subject of culture. The obsession with Bollywood and
Indian film music always threatened to dominate our conversations with
the only cinema in Centaurus Mall running to full houses even when the
most mediocre Hindi film was screened. This was the real Pakistan with
people always ready to welcome you and help you along. The salesman at
my favourite Khaadi store offered me loyalty points after some last
minute shopping. I told him it was too late, I was leaving the country
and Indians didn’t get loyalty points here!

Clearly, there are two states within this nation, two states of mind, and, regrettably, the twain shall never meet.


5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India and other countries every
year due to religious persecution, ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)
lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Wankwani has told the Pakistani National

“During last two months, six incidents of religious
desecration happened only in Sindh province. In all incidents, religious
books of Hindu minority and their places of worship were burnt,” said
Wankwani, who also heads the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He said
the government has so far neither made arrests nor taken action against
any extremist group involved in attacks. “No one from the minority
community feels safe in Pakistan,” he said on Monday while commenting on
law and order situation in the country.

He blamed the
government for failing to control frequent attacks against Hindus and
maintained it was the community’s constitutional right to practice its
religion freely in Pakistan.

“But the rights of Hindus have
never remained a priority here. The problems of Hindus are multiplying
in Pakistan instead of decreasing. Are we not part of this country?” he

He said it was the teaching of all the religions to
respect other faiths but the minorities had failed to get equal rights
in Pakistan.

The lawmaker informed the house that scores of
Hindu women have been abducted in last few years in Sindh province and
later married to their kidnappers after forcible conversion. He urged
the government to take steps to counter it.

Wankwani asked why
issues of minorities never came up for discussion in the house. “When
Jinnah’s residence was attacked and destroyed in Ziarat town of
Baluchistan, the National Assembly had debated on the issue for four
consecutive days,” he said.

“I request the house to spare some
time for taking up the problems faced by minorities.” He said Hindus
are also equal citizens of Pakistan and their holy books should also be
considered equally respectful.

Wankwani suggested the government to set up a parliamentary committee to discuss issues related to minorities in this regard.

There was a pin-drop silence in the house as all legislators attentively listened to his emotional speech.

Later, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed
said the government will ensure the protection of minorities at all cost
as it is mentioned in the Constitution.


Link (1):





India- A Nutritional Basket Case

With almost every second child stunted in the country, India is virtually a nutritional basket case…The stasis in India’s nutritional indicators owes to three key factors.
First, the double whammy of high population density and unsanitary
conditions in India stunts the growth of children, who bear a
disproportionate burden of infectious diseases and lose their ability to
absorb nutrients…Second, India’s lopsided food policy has made cereals widely available
at the cost of other foods. The so-called green revolution focused on
cereals, and met the needs of a hungry nation but the nutrient deficit
remained unaddressed. Consumption figures reported by the National
Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reflect this. Barely 1% of households
reported skipping two square meals a day in the latest NSSO survey. Even
the average cereal consumption across income classes is roughly equal.
But many families in the lower income deciles are unable to afford
pulses, fruits and vegetables…The third key reason for the high malnutrition burden is the
extraordinarily low social status of women in India. Within families,
women receive fewer nutrients than men and since a majority of women are
anaemic and under-nourished, they bear babies with low birth weights.
India has among the highest proportions of low birth-weight babies, who
face a nutritional disadvantage right at birth. This problem is a
civilizational challenge for the country, and one that is unlikely to be
solved by government action alone.

More here.


“Look at me, I’m here to end all your woes”

Rahul Pandita (and many others) have commented on the fact that Rahul Gandhi was smiling while speaking to the nation after the elections. It was not a humble smile. He was not being gracious in defeat. It was not even a defiant – sorry guys we lost it but we will come back – smile.

It was a – look at me, I am doing just fine – smile. It was evidence (if any was required) that he does not spend time worrying about the fact that an 128 year old organization (to be precise a branch of that old tree) which led India to freedom, “divided Pakistan into two” (his words) and brought computers and shopping malls to a shabby old socialist republic has been destroyed by a Naren Class neutron bomb- where all his supporters are dead but the buildings of a not-so-secular India are left standing.
For many Indians — most Indians — Mr. Gandhi was the boy who had held on
to his father at his grandmother’s funeral in 1984. He was a “victim,”
who was forced to lead a barricaded life. In Uttar Pradesh, that had
sent his great-grandfather, grandmother and both parents to Parliament,
people were hopeful about him.

There, the Muslims had become tired of
the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and had begun to snap at the
sheer mention of the Congress’ Salman Khurshid. Many among the Dalits
had begun to ask whether the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Ms. Mayawati
cared more for them or her statues.


In 2004, Mr. Gandhi was 34; he was young and he was talking right. He
came across as an honest person who accepted he was at his position
because he belonged to the Gandhi family. 

Around this time, Mr. Gandhi also began touring villages. He portrayed
himself as the poor man’s friend; as someone who would always be ready
to bear a poor man’s load. But in the end, it was all reduced to a

In January 2008, four months after he was made the party’s general
secretary, Mr. Gandhi spent a night in Amethi in a hut belonging to a
Dalit woman, Sunita. During the recent campaigning, she told
mediapersons that after Mr. Gandhi’s visit, a job had been offered to
her husband from which he was later thrown out. She said she managed to
meet Mr. Gandhi after many failed attempts, but he wouldn’t even
recognise her.

In January 2009, Mr. Gandhi went to another Dalit woman’s hut in his
constituency, this time accompanied by the then British Foreign
Secretary, David Miliband. “Look at me, I’m here to end all your woes,”
Mr. Gandhi told a shivering Shiv Kumari. The Congress workers brought
fresh mattresses and pillows for the two VIPs to sleep on. When they
left the next day, these too were taken away.

In 2012, speaking to journalists, Ms. Kumari’s family members said the
family was in bad shape and unable to pay an agricultural loan of

Mr. Miliband has, in the meantime, moved on after failing to win the elections in 2010. According to a 2013 Financial Times report,
his earnings since he left government were £9,85,315 — from “lucrative
directorships and speaking roles” (The report said that as a speaker,
Mr. Miliband commanded a fee of up to £20,000).

According to the affidavit submitted by Mr. Gandhi before the Election
Commission of India, the value of his assets has doubled in the last
five years. In Mr. Gandhi’s case, though, it is quite doubtful if there
will be someone willing to pay to hear him speak – except loyalists like
Satish Sharma or Rita Bahuguna.

This month, Mr. Gandhi completed 10 years in Parliament. But even after
getting elected from Amethi for the third consecutive time, a majority
of votes that made him victorious were essentially cast for his surname. 
Why is it so hard for Mr. Gandhi to understand this? Why is it that
even after 10 years of attempting to prove that he is not incompetent
Mr. Gandhi still comes across as one?

The problem lies in the randomness with which Mr. Gandhi took up issues.
The problem is that he chose to take shortcuts for everything,
including the prime ministership. The truth is that he thought he would
paradrop himself in the middle of a “cause” and leave his mark.

Initially, when Mr. Gandhi would get down from his SUV and roll up his
sleeves, people thought he meant business. But gradually, they lost
hope. Mr. Gandhi came and saw and thought he had conquered. But he had
not. The coterie of party sycophants that surrounded him never told him

In 2009, 15 Congress leaders, keen to exhibit their loyalty, decided to
do a sleepover at Dalit houses. But they turned it into slapstick. Most
of them brought their own food and plates. In Kanpur, the minister,
Sriprakash Jaiswal brought his movie equipment along with his food and
bedding to a Dalit’s hut and left many hours before sunrise.

In October 2013, Mr. Gandhi said the Dalits needed “escape velocity” of
Jupiter to achieve success. But instead of offering them that impetus,
he kept revolving in his own orbit of vacuousness.

It is with the same lack of follow-up that Mr. Gandhi approached other
serious issues. In October 2011, he urged the Union Health Minister to
visit encephalitis-hit Gorakhpur. The command was followed. But next
year, 557 people died of the disease — the maximum fatality in five
years. We never heard a word from him.

All these years Mr. Gandhi spoke about the social schemes the Congress
party had introduced in a manner similar to how quacks at roadside
Himalayan dawakhanas speak of their “herbs” to cure venereal
In the last few months, his laying down his vision for a
better India became a comic spectacle. He referred to poverty as a
“state of mind” and commented that “the poor can’t eat roads.”

As a result, the Congress party has suffered a humiliating defeat.

Permit-raj for bonsais

For many decades after independence (and especially since the nationalization era) India suffered grievously under the so-called permit-raj system – even a land-line phone connection (equipment made by the State-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd) would require years. And that was not the end of it, long-distance connection (and to foreign lands) quality used to be atrocious. Calls to the USA (given the time difference) used to be a tense all-night affair as late as the 1990s.

Aatish Taseer reflects on the impact of permit-raj on the very entity that invented it – the Indian National Congress. This internal permit-raj regulated the injection of new political talent that would be required to keep the organizational wheels churning and the boilers firing. There was only one problem with the hot-housing effort: it was intentionally set-up to create bonsais not banyans. 

Every Congress leader,
as with certain bonsai, comes with, or will cultivate, a self-dwarfing
mechanism. He can grow, he knows, but never too big. He must be careful
not to put the heir in shadow; and, when the heir is something of a
bonsai himself, this is not always easy. 

The last desperate call for reform was in 1999, when the Amar, Akbar, and Anthony trio of Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno Sangma raised the banner of revolt. Sonia they said was not fit for purpose. That was a good time as any to cut off the family with a (well deserved) pension. Too bad that it did not come to pass.

Today, fifteen years later, Pawar is left bloodied but unbowed in face of the Modi storm. His party won four seats in Maharashtra (including his daughter Supriya Sule from home-town Baramati) as compared to the two for Congress. Anwar won handsomely from Katihar, Bihar and Purno Sangma is aligned with the BJP. If you only permit bonsais be prepared for harakiri.
It was a hot desolate morning. The countryside was very poor and
arid, and past a sloping expanse of fields, solid gold with ripened
wheat, an ancient and arresting vision:
the white sands and distant glitter of the Ganges. 

The road rose and
we came upon the Congress campaign. There was something almost quaint
about the sight of the Congress tricolour in the little village of
Kamarian. It was like one of those flags, which when ubiquitous and
powerful had offended the eye, but now, absent long enough to be robbed
of its associations, brought up—as with the hammer-and-sickle— a feeling
almost akin to nostalgia. The candidate was a political heir and the
son of a family friend.

A handsome man, he sat on the floor among a
smallish crowd of people with a Congress cloth, lined saffron and green,
tied like a turban round his head. He was soft spoken and listened
attentively to all that was said. Later, in the car, on the way to
another meeting, he said, in reply to a question about why he wanted to
be in politics:
“A while ago, I had an accident and broke my femur. I
was in bed for three months and began to think about what I would really
like to do. And I realised that I wanted to do something for the people
here. I know I can’t change India, but I would like, on a personal
level, at least, to do politics in a different way.”

A general observation: this is the kind of man—sincere, hardworking,
with a certain fineness of sensibility—that the Congress, much more than
the BJP, is able to attract. The tragedy is that it is never able to do
anything with this talent. Dynasty is to blame. 

Every Congress leader,
as with certain bonsai, comes with, or will cultivate, a self-dwarfing
mechanism. He can grow, he knows, but never too big. He must be careful
not to put the heir in shadow; and, when the heir is something of a
bonsai himself, this is not always easy. It takes a real invertebrate
like Manmohan Singh to meet the party’s idea of what the stature of the
extra-familial leader should be. In such an atmosphere, where illusions
must be kept alive, and where great lies have routinely to be told,
there are always men to tell them.




Arvind Kejriwal

Aatish Taseer on the magic and madness behind Arvind Kejriwal. Wonderful stuff.

He is not so much the aam
aadmi as he is the caricature of an aam aadmi. He is like the Punjab
Power employee Shah Rukh Khan plays in Rab ne Bana di Jodi, who, out of a kind of shame at his ordinariness, adopts a Bergerac-esque proxy to win the love of his wife.

There is one charge, above all others, that has not left Arvind
Kejriwal’s side this election. It is that, when faced with the hard
practical reality of running an administration in Delhi, he fled the
field, returning once more to the only thing he knows: the life of

To this, Kejriwal has responded in an understandable way. He
has tried to turn a weakness into a strength.
Like the writer who, made
aware of a flaw in his book, pretends it is not a flaw at all but part
of the book’s strength, Kejriwal has, on numerous occasions, spoken of
the courage needed to leave the Chief Minister’s chair in Delhi. He has
invoked the life of renunciation. Doston, inko kya pata tyaag kya hota hai!
He has compared his leaving Delhi to Ram leaving Ayodhya.
It has been a
valiant effort, but, in my view, unconvincing. The charge is too

It is serious not just because it is on everyone’s lips; not just
because it has harmed him politically, earning him one of this
election’s most damning epithets: bhagoda; no, it is serious
because it goes to the heart of our fears about the Aam Aadmi Party.

These include fears of anarchy, intolerance, an inability to work with
others. But, of all these, one stands out in my mind. It is the fear
that Arvind Kejriwal is that most dangerous of all political animals:
the messiah. The man for whom any existing reality is too impure to be
corrected, and who strives for some necessarily vague Utopia, which he,
alone, by what feels like an act of faith, will bring into being. 

messiah is dangerous because he is at bottom a nihilist. I have written
before, in a different context: ‘Every man who ever dreamt up a
Utopia was animated far more by the wish to purge than to build. I would
say, too, that the great flaw in any Utopia is the intellectually lazy
notion—and one capable of unspeakable violence—that if only the society
were cleansed or purged of some particular undesirable element, the
Utopia would automatically— come into being. That nothing more would
need to be done.’

In the case of Arvind Kejriwal, that undesirable element—the
fire by which all aims will magically be realised, all evils
cleansed—is Corruption. It came up again and again in a speech I heard
him give in Harsos, a small village on the rural edge of this
constituency. It was the first time I was hearing him speak, and I was
at once alarmed and fascinated.

Let me say first that it is difficult to exaggerate the extent to
which this man is physically unimpressive. He has thin long arms; a
small frame and, one suspects, a flaccid body; he wears baggy clothes in
dull colours, and carries a blue Reynolds pen in his pocket. There is
the trace of a whine in his voice. He is not so much the aam aadmi as he is the caricature of an aam aadmi. He is like the Punjab Power employee Shah Rukh Khan plays in Rab ne Bana di Jodi, who, out of a kind of shame at his ordinariness, adopts a Bergerac-esque proxy to win the love of his wife.

Yet—and this is what makes his physicality so fascinating— under this
drab diminutive appearance, this Gogolian picture of the government
servant, there lies an iron-willed monster of perseverance and
When his party men say, “Modi will never find a fiercer,
more relentless opponent than Kejriwal,” I believe them. And when
Kejriwal himself says: “I have not run away. Antim saans taq tumhari chhati pe moong daalunga,”
I believe him too. It is, in fact, in this combination of physical
puniness and inward strength that the resemblance to Gandhi becomes
striking in more ways than one.
For, like Gandhi, Kejriwal’s vision of
what he seeks to dismantle is all too real and tangible, but what he
wishes to put in its place—that kingdom of heaven he wishes to lead us
into—is pure chimera.

One never hears him utter a harsh word against what must be the
fountainhead of corruption in this country, the Indian state. In fact,
if one were to close one’s eyes and imagine Kejriwal’s India, it would
be a giant expanse, reaching as far as the eye could see, of two- and
three-storey government flats, in Sovietised shades of blue, beige and
grey, packed full of pious government servants, leading a dreary
existence on subsidised gas, housing, water and electricity.

But haven’t we—you might well ask—already rejected this vision of
India? Isn’t that what this election is about? Hasn’t India, having
already sampled the genius of the Indian state, come out in significant
numbers to say: no, we do not want that India. And not simply because it
doesn’t work or is corrupt, but because it is shabby and lifeless and
stifles the spirit.
Have we not already opted for the other India?
Which, crude as it may still be, is the India of roads and malls and
IPLs—Sheila and Munni’s India! 

Do we not agree that, at this stage in
our development, we have more to fear from big government than big
business? Is it not generally acknowledged that the source of corruption
in this country is a State that preys on private enterprise, rather
than private enterprise preying on the State?
And is it not true that
India’s daily encounter with corruption occurs, not in the Reliance or
Vodafone shop, but in the government office?

Kejriwal—that scourge of Corruption—does not reflect this in his
politics at all. He is far more willing to demonise business than the

In fact, one of the things that has intrigued me this election is the
kind of anger I sense for Kejriwal’s brand of austerity.
The AAP will
tell you that the violence against its volunteers is all
BJP-sponsored—and, no doubt, some of it is. But some of it is also
spontaneous. They seem to arouse a kind of contempt. I have witnessed it
in all quarters, now in a driver at the Harsos rally, who, on seeing
Kejriwal in his Scorpio, might say: “Yeh simplicity kuchh zyaada toh nahi ho gayi?” Now, in some BHU students, jeering at AAP workers taking a boat ride on the Ganga: “Lagta hai ke pehli baar boat mein jaa rahein hain.” Or, here, in a man who took me aside in Chitvan gym, to say: “Kejriwal se zyaada diwaaliya insaan maine kabhi nahi dekha hai. Voh maansik rogi hai.” And, even at the little protest outside my house, a BHU student muttered: “Isko toh main bhi thhapadh maar sakta hun.” 

India, it seems, knows what to do with simplicity when it comes in the
form of a holy man— Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Anna Hazare. It is far less
sure of what to do with it when it comes in the form of Arvind Kejriwal.

Still, it is something of a miracle that he exists at all. Wrong-
headed as his politics may be, there is no greater tribute to the
democracy we live in than its ability, less than two years after
Kejriwal was fasting in the streets of Delhi, to have absorbed him
electorally. I will say, too, that the people who comprise his
party—many of whom have left their jobs to serve the cause— are among
the most decent people to ever enter politics. And, whether they win or
lose, they will have forever altered the political culture of this
Already, due largely to their advent, there is a growing
conviction that politics need not be the province of the cynical
professional, but that ordinary people, tired of what they see around
them, can and must step forward.

This is not AAP’s election. Many of them know as much. They would
like to be, they say, Modi’s main opposition. They are hoping for
100-150 seats. They are dreaming. It would have been much better had
they stayed in Delhi and proved that their politics was more than a
politics of protest. And yet, that morning when I left them in their
small silent circle on the edge of the Ganga, and found myself swept up
in Modi’s jansailaabh, an angry flood of youth, testosterone,
hope and pride, which was, by turns, exciting and scary, I could not
help but feel what a good thing it would be for Indian democracy if, in
Modi’s hour of triumph, the man tasked with whispering ‘memento mori’ in his ear was none other than this most formidable of former taxmen.