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.




Aatish Taseer has the final word (NaMo vs. RaGa)

A masterful article which explains succinctly why elites like Rahul Gandhi lost (and will perhaps never rule India) and what is the exact problem with a man of the masses like Narendrabhai Modi.

‘Then, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s comment the other day—and he only ever refers to him as ‘shahzada’—that
poverty is “a state of mind”, he said: “Now what I want to know is: Is
this poverty that the Prime Minister is asking Obama to alleviate real?
Is it the poverty of our streets and neighbourboods? Is it real poverty?
Or is this also that state-of-mind poverty?”

This election began for me with a Modi rally in Delhi last September.
I was struck at the time by a number of things. These are my
impressions from that day:
…..And then, just as P— and I were getting pretty restless, the
strangest thing happened. The sky darkened. A cool wind began to blow,
and the temperature seemed to drop by several degrees.  

A long narrow
poster of Modi tied to the metal frame of the tent came free and began
to blow in the wind. But in such a way that it seemed—because of the
little ripple that [ran] through the poster—that Modi was waving at us. 
In fact, many people from the press corps—you know how India loves a bit
of magic!—got up and began to photograph this strange phenomenon.
just because on this day of ‘chamchamati dhoop’ it was suddenly
cooler, and the glare from the sky was gone, but because this
apparition of the leader seeming to wave at the press enclosure
coincided exactly with Modi’s arrival on stage!

And when I stood up on
my chair to see the reaction of the crowd, it was not so small. Not
small at all, in fact. 

‘He began in humour. And this is [rare]. This is not a funny country:
there are very few political leaders who can really make people laugh.
“The Prime Minister is in America at the moment,” he said, embarking on a
cruel impression of the PM. “He is grovelling before Obama. He is
telling him that we are a poor country, and that America should help us.
“‘We are,’” he went on, in a weak plaintive voice, “‘a nation of 125
crore, but we are poor. Please help us!’”

‘Then, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s comment the other day—and he only ever refers to him as ‘shahzada’—that
poverty is “a state of mind”, he said: “Now what I want to know is: Is
this poverty that the Prime Minister is asking Obama to alleviate real?
Is it the poverty of our streets and neighbourboods? Is it real poverty?
Or is this also that state-of-mind poverty?”

And for many minutes, this was all that he did. He just made us
laugh, at the expense of the discredited PM, and The Madonna with Child.


‘But then—and one could almost not tell when it happened— all the
humour fell away. And he was angry. Full of this emotion that I now
think of as distinctly his: this mixture of pain and sadness edged with
great anger.

‘… His victory will decimate the opposition. Not just in terms of
numbers, but philosophically too. It will be a long time before the
Congress finds its way again. The [pundits in Delhi] will say I’m wrong.
How will he find the numbers? they ask. But the numbers will come. This is going to be one of those elections when all the old calculations cease to apply.’

And, if I have sympathy for Modi, if I wish to see him
succeed, it is because of my sympathy for the people who support him.

It is this India—clear-headed, restless, hungry—that has energised
this election. It is the India that some of us have been waiting to see
come into being.

It is also my concern for this India that has prejudiced my view of
this election. The reason is that I grew up among a class of
Indians—privileged, exclusively English-speaking, intimately connected
to power and politics—who loathed this other India. They turned their
nose up at their bad English; they complained of their body odour; they
described them, while doing an impression before a hooting drawing room
of people
(I’m thinking now of a large mondaine of Delhi society) as
‘ball-scratchers.’ They hated their beliefs and practices; they held
their religion in contempt; they lived in open terror of their rise.

Only the Poor were beautiful. The people I grew up among had great
reserves of feeling for the rural poor.
And through their many schemes
and yojanas, their fraudulent plans for empowerment, their concern for
tribal art and religion, this crowd of ethnistas and Oxbridge Lefties
worked hard to make sure that the Poor never lost the thing that gave
them their great charm, namely their poverty.
Now while it would be
unfair to say that the members of this class supplied leaders
exclusively to the Congress party—many of them went on to join other
parties, some even to lead large states—it would not be an exaggeration
to say that if one party were to be singled out as sharing the beliefs
and prejudices of this class, it would be the Congress Party under the
leadership of the Gandhi family.

And the decline that was to
be observed between Jawaharlal Nehru’s generation and Rajiv Gandhi’s was
visible everywhere. No one perhaps expected that it would have brought
us so soon to Rahul Gandhi; one might be forgiven for thinking an
intervening stage was needed; but decline itself was inescapable.
It is
not possible for a class to remain vital if it cannot draw cultural
nourishment from the place it inhabits. That class then will produce
people without the means to deal with India; it will produce
Coomaraswamy’s intellectual pariah, ‘the nondescript superficial being’
who is neither of the East nor the West. 

Because the sense I had at that rally in Rohini—then subsequently, in
Kanpur, and then again, here, in Benares— was of a country unbound. A
country coming free of its historical obeisance to the class the Gandhi
family represented. The change was happening not because the new middle
classes sensed the danger the elite posed to their own growth. No: it
was much more basic than that. It was that the cultural gap had finally
grown too wide. And if they turned away from Rahul Gandhi, it was not
because they saw him as a threat to their own interests, it was because
they couldn’t understand a word he was saying. In the past, this might
have produced a feeling of apology in them; it now produced an equal and
corresponding feeling of contempt.

It was there in the voice of a young priest who came to see me the
other day. He was of a grand line of priests belonging to the Kashi
Vishwanath Mandir. He wore jeans and a kurta, pink-stemmed rimless
glasses; his ringtone was: ‘Yada yada hi dharmasya…’ There were
broad streaks of yellow on his forehead, pierced red at the centre, and
he wore a ring of Hessonite, for his Rahu was bad. We had not met to
discuss politics. 

But the young priest, after making apologies for being
apolitical, as men of God frequently do, could talk of nothing else. Of
Modi, he said: “Rahul Gandhi se toh zyaada sincere hain. Kam se kam unko bataana toh nahi padhha ke yeh Vishwanath hain. Rahul Gandhi ko bataana padhha ke yeh Vishwanath hain.”
Then, as if coming to the heart of the difference between the two men,
he said Modi knew how to perform all the rites at the temple. “Rahul
Gandhi,” the priest added cruelly, “toh sona-chaandi dekh rahe thhe. Unko toh Vishwanath se koi matlab hi nahi thha.”

This was what was new this election. In another time, Rahul Gandhi
would not only have been forgiven his deracination; he would have been
admired for it.

But cultural rootedness came with problems of its own; in fact, it
came with the problems of that culture. And, likeable as the priest was,
he was an effortless bigot.
He lamented the fact that all of India’s
Muslims had not been sent to Pakistan in 1947; he spoke of the need,
when Modi came to power, for one decisive riot that would show Muslims
their place. To hear him speak was to be reminded of how dangerous it
was to romanticise one India over another. It was also to be reminded of
the man the priest supported this election, the man from whom such a
wide range of things were expected.

Modi, that day in Rohini, when I first heard him speak, had said a
few things that worried me very much. He said that at that same
breakfast in New York where our Prime Minister had been insulted, some
Indian journalists had been present. Would they, he thundered,
those journalists, be answerable to the people of India for why they
had been eating Nawaz Sharif’s breakfast
while their Prime Minister was
being insulted?
….No press freedoms would need to be reeled in; the change of air
was often threat enough. But, more than all this, what really worried me
about what Modi said that day was that it suggested a certain kind of
man. Whose principal crime, in my eyes, is not so much that he is a
bigot, but a provincial.

The provincial is a problem not because you can’t have a glass of
wine with him, though that would be nice too. Nor is it simply that he
is not a man of the intellect—not a reader, not someone of subtle mind.
The provincial is a problem because his plan for Development, on which
his entire fame rests, often ends up being too shallow a plan. Too
limited in its scope. 

Modi, if he is to bring profound change, must not go the Erdogan or
Rajapaksa route. Because the conditions for the emergence of that kind
of leader do exist in India.
There is the malaise left behind by the
previous government; there is a loud majoritarian feeling; there is
disgust with the elite; and there are people baying for a strong leader.
It is very easy to imagine an India in which Modi, if he delivers on
Development, will be forgiven everything else.
And anyone with a harsh
word to say about him will be driven out of town. It would be terrible
if that atmosphere were allowed to grow in India. 




Kamila Shamsie pro-community, anti-nation

Kamila is standing up for free speech (or to be precise, the right to remain silent). This is, on the face of it, a noble cause. However as a member of the elite, she needs to check her privilege and fully appreciate the benefits of having one foot in the West and one in the East. Dual citizenship brings many material benefits yet appears to be problematic in many other ways (only one of which is to turn up one’s nose at old-fashioned concepts such as nationalism and patriotism).

If immigrants are only to subscribe to the (liberal) religion of community spirit and ignore the national treasures of their adopted nation (yes, the Queen is one), then what is the purpose of getting an UK citizenship anyway? Are there no communities to be built in Pakistan? We know the answer to that: people are seeking shelter from the evil Taliban (which itself was spawned by evil Amrika).

Of course, in this day and age immigrants are not expected to be grateful for having escaped a fate worse than death, rather the host country must be grateful because diversity has gone up and large groups of people do not speak English in public (in the UK). It seems to us however that Kamila is actually encouraging trickle-down of elite thought processes which will make integration of working class immigrants more difficult. Isolated from the mainstream, such people are likely to turn angry, frustrated and resentful (especially when financial success eludes them and cultural domination of the secular West terrifies them). What will all this anger do for fostering true community spirit, Kamila?

I have had reason to think about national
anthems recently myself. Last year I became a British citizen, and
during the citizenship ceremony found myself merely moving my lips
during most of God Save the Queen. 

The only national anthem I have ever
sung in the UK is Pakistan’s – but before anyone leaps to conclusions
about what this might reveal about my attitudes towards the two nations
of which I am a citizen, let me explain.

In 2012, a theatrical
group from Pakistan performed at the Globe theatre, kicking off with a
rendition of the anthem. My first response was embarrassment.
But there
is something deeper in me than a thought-out response, developed in my
adult life, towards the symbols of nationalism: nostalgia.
Every week at
school we sang Pakistan’s national anthem, and my friend Zerxes,
playing the piano accompaniment, would add a humorous flourish between
I always hear those extra notes when I listen to the national
anthem, and it still makes me smile as I sing.
There is also this to be
said for Pakistan’s national anthem: the lyrics are in Persian, which
renders a good portion of it unintelligible to almost everyone in the
We can all therefore impose our own meaning on them: “Rise up,
it’s time for a Revolution!” or “More TV channels now!”

British national anthem, on the other hand, is problematic because it is
impossible for anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of
English to ignore what it is saying: God Save the Queen. I wish the
Queen no harm, but if you want me to sing something with feeling make it
“Prime minister, save our libraries”.
The truth is, you can probably
get me to sing along to most things if the musical arrangement is
attractive enough and the words don’t simultaneously
demand a
wholehearted appreciation of God, Queen and nation – really, it’s too

I’ve never given the appearance of not singing the British
anthem when those around me are doing so. Instead, I move my lips
meaninglessly, and only sing out such bits as “men should brothers be”.
I’m conscious, you see, that my failure to sing might be seen as a
churlish rejection of the country in which I’ve chosen to live. I am
aware of a whole freighted business of the migrant’s relationship to
their adopted nation each time I encounter the national anthem.

expect I would sing La Marseillaise if I were in France. However, I
would do so not as a national anthem, but as a revolutionary song
(expect for bits such as “mâles accents”). We should each have the right
to decide what a song means to us, and what singing it at a particular
moment might symbolise. The underlying problem with all national
anthems, regardless of their lyrics, is that too much is assumed when
certain people choose not to sing them, and the assumptions are related
to how “true” a citizen of the state you are deemed to be.

Pakistani from the widely persecuted Ahmadiyya community not singing
Pakistan’s anthem would face greater hostility than I would, even though
I’m now living outside Pakistan. A French minister born in French
Guiana who remains silent during La Marseillaise at a public ceremony to
commemorate the abolition of slavery will face hostility even though
other ministers routinely don’t sing along. This is true even though –
or perhaps because – the minister in question was instrumental in
bringing about a law that recognised slavery as a crime.

nationalism, patriotism, community spirit. I would immediately look
askance at anyone who lacks the last and possesses the first. The two
words in between are more complicated. The national anthem can represent
any one of those four terms – or none – to the citizens of a state. But
everyone in a nation should have the equal right to sing or not sing.
And surely, we should care more about the laws politicians propose than
what they do when a band strikes up. Or where they were born. Or their
skin colour.




Jobs in religious engineering (5 Lakhs/month)

With India getting all set for Hindu/Hindutva rule new promising opportunities are on the horizon.

The economy is suffering and there are very few good jobs. Now the Supreme Court is ready to step in and contribute towards (very high-end) job creation. We need urgently programs/majors such as Religious Engineering and Religious Management. Will the Indian Institutes of Technology and Management (and many others) pay any attention?
best graduates from IITs and IIMs dream of the salary amicus curiae
Gopal Subramaniam has recommended for head priests of Sree
Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

In his report to
the Supreme Court on management of the temple, which shot into the
limelight after wealth estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore was discovered,
Subramaniam listed the hierarchy of priests with thantris at the top
followed by periyanambi, panchakavyathunambi, thakkadam and thiruvambadi
nambis. He said the thantris should be paid Rs 5 lakh per month.

Starting with the thantris, the amicus said none of the four main
priests reside within the temple complex. This is because their earnings
from conducting rituals in the temple were meagre which forced them to
perform rituals outside. He said their residential quarters too were in
dilapidated condition.

“It is submitted that an amount that is
proportional to the stature of the thantris should be fixed by the
temple authorities, preferably a sum of Rs 5 lakh per month, to be paid
according to the directions of the (head) thantri,” the report said.

On their living quarters, the amicus said, “The temple authorities
should suitably renovate the residences of thantris. The thantris should
also be provided with two assistants (Brahmins) according to their
choice who can cook, clean and follow the ‘majhar’.”

Subramaniam said the salaries of the four periyanambis, the high priests
who maintain celibacy during their tenure in the temple to perform
archana and offer worship to the deity, was worse.

salaries of nambis are very low, around Rs 12,500 per month and they are
not entitled to emoluments being temporary staff,” he said and provided
a graded salary structure for them as per their status in the conduct
of rituals in the temple.

The amicus recommended to the apex
court that “archana commission can be fixed at 7% after consultation
with the temple authorities and the salary of the periyanambi should be
around Rs 90,000 per month”. “The panchakavyathunambi should be
paid Rs 80,000 per month as salary while thakkadam and thiruvambadi
nambis should receive Rs 60,000 per month,” he said.

Apart from
steep hike in salary and renovation of their residential quarters, the
amicus curiae recommended examination of the feasibility of having an
adequate cooling system in the sanctum sanctorum.

“If feasible,
such a cooling system should be installed at the earliest. This will
help in protecting the health of the nambis, protect the deity from harm
and also ensure hygiene inside the temple,” he said.

nambis should also be provided with security, he suggested. “The nambis
are also concerned about their security as they feel news has spread
that the keys to the kallaras (vaults where the wealth is stored) are
kept with them. Consequently, the nambis believe that it has become
dangerous for them to step out without police security,” he said.

Subramaniam said, “Security concerns of the priests should be addressed
adequately. Policemen wearing traditional attire may accompany them.”