Monday, August 15, 2016

Vintage Modi lobs "Balochistan" time bomb !


It was vintage Narendra Modi -- virtually calling spade a spade and throwing a real-time bomb teaser to Pakistan. Balochistan is in news. Looking at the nervous response of sickular army on Twitter and Facebook, I am confident - Namo has hit the jackpot. He has struck where it actually hurts Islamabad and the sickular jingoists on this side of the border.

                                                   


"The world is watching. People of Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan and occupied Kashmir have thanked me a lot in the past few days. I am grateful to them," Modi said in his customary address to the nation on the occasion of 70th Independence Day. 


He said the way people from these Pakistani regions "wished me well, gives me great joy".
In thanking an Indian Prime Minister, "they have thanked the whole population of my country", he said. 

"I want to offer my gratitude to these people."

In the all-party meeting last week in Delhi, Modi had said that it was time for Islamabad to explain to the world its "atrocities on people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan". 

In effect, the game has begun.

BJP strategists believe, previous regime led by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should have emulated Atal Behari Vajpayee's foreign policy. They feel China had abandoned its claim over Sikkim. This is a shining example of the BJP government’s skill at effective diplomacy. 

In contrast, there is little to dispute that the UPA government under Manmohan Singh had perhaps done immense “dis-service” to the foreign policy handling and even forced compromising on general consensus – just to score brownie points in domestic politics.


Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha has termed Manmohan Singh's reference to Balochistan in a joint document signed with Pakistan as a "mistake".

Manmohan Singh regime had signed an Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh. Many found the reference to Balochistan in the joint statement was uncalled for.

BJP was not alone in 2009 in attacking the government. Even left parties said such a reference was erroneous. Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha charged the UPA regime in Lok Sabha with compromising on national interest and alleged that the Prime Minister had “walked all the way into the Pakistan camp”.
The signing of the joint agreement was also seen as ‘somersault’ by the critics of the agreement wherein Pakistan could rake up in future about India’s alleged involvement in Balochistan. “Balochistan will continue to haunt India,” is the refrain.

While some called it a “bad draft”, the then Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor was caught tongue-in-cheek stating that  the agreement had no legal binding.

The External Affairs Minister S M Krishna compounded these when he said we agreed to the draft as “we had nothing to hide in Balochistan”.
Perhaps, Dr Manmohan Singh himself later called it a "bad draft"! 

Now the table is turned. Modi has actually taken the Balochistan battle back to Pakistan.

However, all said and done; initial Congress reaction is both predictable and revolves around a line -- "this is not our party line".


Congress leader and former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who succeeded S M Krishna, slammed Prime Minister Modi for referring to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech.

"Balochistan is a different thing from PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). We have every right to speak about PoK because it is our matter. Balochistan is not," Khurshid told TimesNow.
The former external affairs minister said Balochistan was an internal matter of Pakistan. "When the question is about a sovereign nation, we should maintain a sense of restraint.
"Do we allow Americans to speak about atrocities in our country? Do we express concern over the atrocities in Africa and Europe?"

What will Congress officially say - now remains to be seen! But Salman has perhaps overdone a bit -- something he could have avoided. But from his calculation, Salman is right as his comments have "secular merits". 

Nevertheless - jingoists on both sides - India-Pakistan as well as "sickular India-and Modi Bhakts" will be playing up their respective cards and rhetoric.




What we have ahead is unknown. As the good old saying goes - the answer to this query lies in the womb of time.

The general refrain from the Ministry of External Affairs so far in Delhi used to be -- unless we have the appropriate capacity in all the three areas namely political, economic and military it is “more prudent” for India to remain low profile.

Modi has not only contested this. He has done so with vengeance. True -- Vision, Ambition and Necessity are the three basic elements those shape international policies of any country.

Modi is certainly the hardliner boy around. He is taking a calculated risk. Perhaps the world will to awake to know more about Balochistan vis-a-vis the gunfire and stone pelting stories of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the end of the day, one may sound bit skeptical;  but one cannot help remarking that if a country which does not look at its past and present to draw a foreign policy is actually on a flawed road map. Prime Minister Narendra Modi --used to overdose of attack by 'sickular gang' in India is certainly aware of these. 

Ends


"Sir, I suffer from the congenial weakness of believing I can do anything”. – Lord Louis Mountbatten to Winston Churchill when the all important offer of Indian Viceroy post was made.


This quote has a relevance here!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

With apologies: Do I know Mahashweta Devi ? And what’s correct about her writings?

CYNICISM AND CRITICISM ARE TWO FACTORS THOSE EASILY DESCRIBE JOURNALISTS……….!!!

Obviously I have both in plenty. There are two other elements vital in journalism those follow taking their own path – The EGO and Honesty or the lack of it. Ego is in plenty ! and honesty – generally a shortfall.
In the meantime – let us recall a comment from the illustrious scientist Albert Einstein …..:: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

In our country – who are stupids? Those who avoid the beaten track? Sensible world call them ‘mad’ and ‘failed jokers’ too!
So when illustrious writer Mahashweta Devi died on July 28, 2016 – words of condolence messages, twitter oneliners and Facebook messages went around. Those who knew and deserved to write about her did so – others who hardly had any knowledge and wanted to make a fashion statement also did so.

Most – if not all - commentaries were laudatory. And why not? She was great and she is no longer.

Does the story end there? My story does not. I bring back my CYNICISM TO WORK. Ego too catches up and there’s a thin borderline clash between honesty and dishonesty!

What’s so special about Mahashweta Devi’s writings? Obituaries flooded in. President, Vice President, Congress chief Sonia, film makers, Mamata Banerjee – who gets inspiration to paint to write poems for “crores” – none could be miss.

A tweet went around with Sushma Swaraj naming “wrong books” of Mahasweta Devi as the busy External Affairs Minister allegedly mistook another Devi – Ashapurna Devi’s works! You could not have missed it.

Now let us turn the table – why she attained the greatness? What theme did her writings actually seek to propagate? Was she selective? If so why? Tribals of north east are also tribals, do they figure in her chronicle of being “a conscience keeper” – as none other than virtuos ‘Saint’ Sonia Gandhi had described the illustrious writer?

You are right, I am being cynic and stretching it too far ! May be, may be not!
But will it be wrong to argue: It is as though saving the remains of Marxism is more important than saving humanity. Whereever Mahashweta traveled, a particular thought process prevailed. Because India’s communists and Marxists “virtuous” gang had nothing to do with north eastern states – except Tripura – Mahasweta Devi did not go either.
I am not finding fault. But as a northeastern boy – who can perhaps never have a “hut” of his own north east hills and valleys – can have this grudge. Is it really unjustified?
Then comes in her vintage best role after 2002 mayhem in Gujarat. Mark her wordings – no doubt she has endeared herself as so dearly to ultra-left “Neo-Lady Jinnah” Ms Mamata Banerjee!


''The people who perpetrated heinous vandalism in Ayodhya in December 1992 and stoked communal flames are again at their game for the last few months. We know the pattern. We even know the remedy. The trouble is a complete lack of political will to put a stop this kind of madness'', she said in her famous letter to the then President K R Narayanan. 


Politically correct again! What about those who died in the train mayhem at Godhra?
So, at this juncture – first rapid fire quiz query: What Mahashweata Devi did or said after Nandigram and Singur?

“Even at her advanced age she did not hesitate to extend her support to the peoples’ struggles in Singur, Nandigram, and Junglemahal, and fought for the release of political prisoners,” says an obit in 'Economic and Political Weekly', a magazine once founded and edited by her maternal uncle Sachin Choudhary

Readers of these blogs know for sure that I have no sympathies for Marxists and their hypocrisies.

But the clash of CPI-M and pro-Naxalite elements in Singur-Nandigram chapter of Bengal polity is a question the answer to which actually lay in the womb of time.

Will it be wrong to say - politically Mahashweta Devi had been close to the “revolutionary life in Indian politics” and her books actually bear testimony to explicit sympathy with the Naxalites?

Take for instance – what is generally given out as her watershed – defining moment - novel of 1974, Hajar Chaurashir Ma (Mother Of 1084), which is one of Devi’s most widely read works.


The book deals with the life of a Naxalite – whose identity is later dismissed as mere No. 1084 in morgue. It actually ends up justifying Naxal movement – something that was later called “single biggest challenge of India”. 

Supposed to deal with “the emotional struggles” of a mother when she is summoned to identify her son lying dead in the police morgue – also later filmed well by Govind Nihalini (starring Jaya Bachchan), the book and the mother protagonist seemed to endorse the path of Naxalism.

Post 1970-91 plot – when Bengal had witnessed the first taste of Naxalism that started from a place called Naxalbari in West Bengal --- the mother actually understands “her son’s death”! She understands how the double standards of bourgeois society had forced her son to rebel against it !



 If you are not convinced; take a closer look at this: In her introduction to Agnigarbha (1978), Devi explained her mission thus:

‘I find my people still groaning under hunger, landlessness, indebtedness and bonded labor. An anger, luminous, burning and passionate, directed against a system that has failed to liberate my people from these horrible constraints is the only source of inspiration in all my writing. 

All the parties to the Left as well as to the Right have failed to keep their commitment to the common people. I do not hope to see in my lifetime any reason to change this conviction of mine. Hence I go on writing to the best of my abilities about the people, so that I can face myself without any sense of guilt and shame. For a writer faces judgement in her lifetime and remains answerable.’ 

I am afraid elsewhere and with someone else - one could have heard - why you are glorifying Maoism?
Blogger in North Bengal 

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Alone at Top": An English Short Story

this story was written and published in 2012
(WBRi Online Magazine) in Washingtonbanglaradio.com

A screen saver image on his computer carried a rather unusual caption, “Suicide is man’s way of telling the God, you cannot fire me, I quit”. Unwittingly, Mohan Kumar, alias MK, as he is better known in the professional world today, gave a curious look at the same. The computer mechanic had saved the image after doing the regular
servicing. Could it have been done intentionally; but what the hell the outsourced mechanic boy would have to tell MK. 

The pinkish image of a fish floating in blue waters and diving occasionally in some corner gave him a special excitement. Did he find it biographical?

The fish trying to leap into the bigger tumbler from the adjacent
small one appealed him most.

 Life is like that --- one has to grow
constantly. One has to jump into the bigger tumbler. The risk is okay.
But the stagnancy is equivalent to farewell.
MK was not sure. But he did never have much to deal with God or even
think about death. 

Suicide, remorse or anything such never bothered him much. All his life he has been a gutter fighter. He has quit several jobs before joining the National News Trust, the country’s premier multi-media news organization.

NNT is today the most ‘reliable voice’ in the info world and the undisputed leader in television journalism, wire journalism and also running two dailies –one English and the other in Hindi. 
NNT originally had started as a news wire and then it launched two 
dailies. It had ventured into television journalism much late having launched a round the clock bilingual news channel. To be the chief executive of such a company was no small matter. He had a tastefully decorated office chamber, quite spacious – something
he had dreamt long back when he had joined the company as a cub reporter about 25 years back. But that’s a page from the past. 
The company is actually run by a Board of Trustees with hardly any  interference and thus, the CEO himself for all practical purpose is the real boss.

Today, MK has emerged as the longest serving CEO of the company and had got a special arrangement signed with the Board of Trustees. Under the new deal inked, he has been given more functional autonomy, more key decisive say on ‘transfer and promotion policy’, especially the foreign transfer, which was once a monopoly of the Board chairman and vice-chairman. 


And an unwritten mandate to neutralize the workers’ union and bring cost cutting by enforcing retrenchment policies.The Board too found all realistic especially in the context of economic recession as each Trustee faced stiff competition in their
respective sectors. The owner of a aviation major Sudip Ganguly was the first to endorse the proposal at the Board meeting for cost cutting and retrenchment among the workers – of all categories. The Board chairman Ganguly’s aviation, DreamFlier has run into debt and subsequently to a host of managerial issues.

MK had made a presentation and convinced the Board that the entire grade III staff could be dispensed with as their utility in the company has got over with the emergence of new technology, especially the highly booming IT software and the internet. The emergence of paperless culture also made ample room for downsizing the grade IV staff strength.

Naturally, as he walked into his office chamber, he exuded confidence in every action of his. He could understand there was a new found verb in his movements. He knew, as rest of the senior grade executives have been pushed to the wall and will have to slog it out to keep their relevance and importance in the company, MK has been made all
powerful. He sat by the computer apparently lost in a deep silence --- brooding on some matters he was actually not quite clear of. He walked into the rest room. The mirror smiled at him – almost complimenting him on the ‘new coup’ he staged by pushing out all his immediate competitors and juniors out of the race.
At top, you are alone, he seemed to have told the mirror in his
subconscious mind.
As he was walking back to his chair, to his surprise he was feeling
some pangs of worry creep up as he recalled his roadmap – the way to the glories.


                     

The office peon walked in with a set of papers. Dismissing him by his mere powerful look, he ordered the peon to leave the papers on his table. MK  pressed the alarm button and this time directed his Man Friday, Gulab Ram for the coffee. Suddenly he sprang up on his feet and walked into the rest room again to take a closer look at the
mirror as if it needed to be told of something very urgently. MK smiled at the mirror. This time a more intimate smile. 


"Yes, you are bad. Very bad. But success does not come of its own. I can make
you better. Much, much better.”

He returned to his designated chair. Resting his right hand on his forehead --- by his old habit – he wondered, so much to do, so much to achieve, but so little time. It was depressing momentarily. As he thought the strong cup of coffee from Gulab Ram will help him.

In the meantime, he got scanning the papers left minutes before by the peon. In his latest circular, he had abolished the post of deputy CEOs – a move which would leave no second man under him. No second man meant – no immediate threat. His understanding of management was in these simpler terms. Colleagues are not for support or sharing his workload. To him, a deputy CEO would be immediate threat.

By this latest move he now had four assistant general managers immediately below him but downstairs at least by two-three grades. In other words, any assistant general manager to be considered for top post as CEO would have to be first considered for general managers and then possibly deputy CEOs.

“Bloody parasites…, what more they deserve,” MK thought for a while.
He knew by keeping a motley crowd of ‘yes men’ and mediocre-level people at top he would be making the company’s management weak and possibly less efficient than it has been traditionally been. But he also knew by doing so, he has only emerged stronger.




Success, if any, should be in the air we breathe. It ought to be felt and seen everything one does; everywhere one goes. Thus, to MK, only thing that ever mattered was the success, the glories and of course the pay and perks.

But all of it did not work out as easily as it could be thought of in retrospect. In fact, MK had to ascertain this quite the hard way. Two powerful factions of the workers’ union had to be managed. MK used the well tested divide and rule policy and used one faction against the other. Ultimately he could neutralize each other. He had to undertake
a few innovative steps, set up his core team and punish those who were not following his line. Often, of course, he made the difference between his personal line and
management line very thin.


@


Just then Roop Lal Kishore walked in. As MK gave him a stern look, Roop Lal folded his hands; and bowed his head in obeisance. Roop Lal is used to doing this. There’s nothing unusual about it. So MK asked him rudely, “so why you are here?”

“I thought…..,” the poor fellow was fumbling. “Acchha, I didn’t know, you can also think. Now, bolo” – out came the order tersely.

“Sir, there is a big news, I think Sir, One Indian AirSeas plane has been hijacked in Colombo”.

Roop Lal had hardly finished. MK sprang up on his feet. He moved out to the news hall. Roop Lal was helplessly following him, trying to keep up with the pace. A successful boss also walks pretty fast, Roop Lal must have guessed. MK gestured towards the ‘war-room’ for a quick meeting. All the Editors and both production heads of the television channel came out running. Apparently some of them knew that a plane has been hijacked.


The senior editors in NNT were aware of MK’s style of functioning. In fact, Anirudh Sanyal, the low profile yet efficient Senior Editor of English Wire Service, was even carrying the print out of the news flashed minutes ago: 

‘An Indian AirService plane has been feared hijacked”.

In the war-room, MK was at the peak of his excitement. He took his seat once and then again sprang up. The normal sitting arrangement could display the hierarchy around the large round table. At the centre would be MK as the boss. To his left would be Rooplal in a corner looking ever eager to take the orders. Facing him was Anirudh Sanyal, also MK’s batch-mate in the NNT.


To Sanyal’s left would be the two television heads. And in that room, in a corner lay a wooden chair – isolated – for the screwed up man summoned to be reprimanded. This lay vacant today. But today, all others were standing dutifully as if they knew the boss
would spring up sooner than later. Roop Lal brought in a glass of water for MK and placed it on the table. This was also not unusual. 


Roop Lal had proficiency in these kinds of jobs. He was designated as ‘national coordinator’ and thus could poke his nose in every sections. However, poking the nose was not his job, he was the ears and the eyes of the CEO –Mohan Kumar keeping tab on what all goes on.

Anirudh Sanyal watched the proceedings with calmness. As Editor of English Wire service, it was his department that has broken the news.

“Who got into this lead? Can I have a print out?”, MK shouted.

Roop Lal almost ran out before he could hear Anirudh saying, “here, I have it”. That son of a ….., Roop Lal was almost cursing Anirudh Sanyal.

Sanyal, a capable man that he is gave a small brief to MK and also said, “now we need to workout related stories….. I have asked for reactions immediately from the Hijack Response Team in the Government of India. Manjeet Singh has left for the job. Akhilesh Kumar has also run to the Civil Aviation Minister’s house”.


“What about airport?, the television guys should be there”, MK said.
“Yes, they are and some live shots have been aired too”, said Snighdha
Medhekar, the dashing Marathi damsel and chief of Television channel.
She said two senior reporters – from both English and Hindi sections
are also down there.

MK had joined the NNT as a rookie reporter. As essentially a newsman he had made cultivating the nose for right knack for ‘news’ as his trump card. Actually on professional matters, few could match him. This had no doubt proved helpful in his climb up the pole, which normally in the industry would lay greasy.

Having taken care of domestic front, he immediately called for Manish Kumar Reddy, an old hand in diplomatic reporting. MK put him on the job for working on a diplomatic story as New Delhi’s relation with Colombo had run into rough weather following the coup in the island nation. Obviously, the suggestion was will the government now sit down for a diplomatic back channel communication with Colombo’s new military
rulers.

A big news event would also sometime excite MK the wrong way. He would move up and down the gigantic news hall and scream from one end to the other. 


MK’s faithful loyalist Roop Lal Kishore would tirelessly try to cope with the pace of his boss. In the meanwhile, occasionally he would walk into MK’s large office cabin and instruct Gulab Ram for coffee for MK. 

On his part, MK would often shoe away Roop Lal directing him to oversee what else has gone on the newswire or television channels.
After strolling and passing his instructions, MK would walk into his office chamber, and pick up the phone to tell his maid servant at home about the big event. In other words, he would be late tonight. These are normal in most news men life and MK knew this was the reality. His wife Arundhati also appreciated it for quite sometime but no longer. Arundhati used to be really a passive partner in their family who always thought it was her obligation to make things easier and smoother for MK at home. But she too gave up.

Sitting on his sofa, MK was lost in himself, lay there stretched. Thoughts would crowd his head fast – was he really satisfied with all that he has achieved?

Tears welled up in his eyes as he remembered Nivedita, his first love or infatuation. Nivedia had rejected his offer long back. The Chandigarh damsel had very attractive eyes, curious lips and powerful chest of a north Indian maiden who had developed a little too quickly.


He had his chin rested on his palm again by habit. His faithful Gulab Ram walked in with his daily dose of tablets. One yellow and the other white. Swallowing them with about half glass of water, he instructed Gulab not to be disturbed for a while. “I want to take rest for a while…..”.


Accordingly the room was shut and his phones were directed to personal staff’s table.

                               


As he tried to close his eyes, Nivedita’s face surfaced again before his eyes like the tide wave. The failure to win over Nivedita had been haunting MK all along his life. To a large extent, MK often thought it was this frustration that made him a gutter fighter. May be without his knowing he always wanted to make himself a worthy lover boy for Nivedita.
The first meeting, he always remembered with excitement. Nivedita was
sitting at the foot of the bed his mother was as he had just walked in. Their eyes met. For a while MK stood stunned unable to move his eyes off Nivedita’s radiant face veiled partly by her hair. She had smiled with a twinkle in her eyes. MK took some time to get back his composure. This was a unique experience; something he had never experienced. 


MK did not know, he was in love. But he knew, there was something like this.

Time has paced out very fast. MK was trying to come back to the present. He wanted to traverse from the past very fast. The past has not been all a sweet dream. Nevertheless the reality is today. Here, he is the CEO of NNT and almost a national celebrity. He had dined with Kings, saw princesses move their hips and had interviewed
dictators and cricket legends. Life has given him, may be, what he had sought.
But in the process, he had to cough up some price. His wife Arundhati had separated from him complaining especially about his indifference to family life. For few years, he had even got involved in an extra-marital affair with a smart scion of a conservative rich family. That also died its natural death.

Slowly, he was again lost in a web of puzzles. 


Now whether I am happy,
I cannot answer that, he thought.
He tried to reason with himself….. hmmm the real answer lies only in the womb of time or would be never answered. He seemed to tell himself yet another time: the question would probably not be answered even by posterity… Because, the key question whether I am happy or not would die with me.



Suddenly, he recalled only in the morning his daughter had called him saying she was flying back from Colombo. Momentarily, he wondered whether she also took the ill-fated hijacked flight.

His daughter Lavanya had gone to Colombo in connection with her relief work organized by the NGO she works with in conjunction with the UN agencies. The military coup in the island nation was followed by mass killing of an ethnic minority group in a sensitive pocket.

                         



Unwittingly, MK switched on the television channel, the home production NNT News. It flashed the news that the hijacked plane had crashed into the blue waters and all passengers and crew members on board had died. Gradually, the news reader, Shalini Thapar read out the names of casualty. It included Lavanya Bhardwaj. MK knew this was his daughter – using her mother’s surname ‘Bhardwaj’.

His hands stood still. Lips dried up and eyes welled up obviously threatening to spill. A sudden feel dawned on him. That he was wrong and that he had sinned may be.. It was too much to bear. He sobbed his heart out, burying his head between his knees, his body bend like a rope on the sofa.

He lay there in silence till sleep finally overcame him. Probably, he woke up after an hour… the pain too woke up with him.



Just then there was a knock on his door and English wire editor Anirudh Sanyal walked
in with few others. Before he could muster his words braving his dried tongue, Sanyal said, “MK our NNT television has been proved wrong. The plane has not crashed. 

The ticker guys in Chennai had got it all wrong. All passengers on board including Lavanya is safe”.

MK could not hold it. Like a small kid, he walked into the arms of Sanyal and with his tearful eyes gave a look, which if translated would have simply read: I am sorry friend.

ends