Friday, August 28, 2020

Sushant Singh, Rhea Chakraborty, Arnab Goswami

Started watching the breaking news on various channels regarding the case of Sushant’s Singh death.  At the outset, I am not comfortable with Arnab making a “demand” that Rhea should be arrested. 

Individual Justice, in the modern society, cannot be delivered by opinion poll or by wish of the majority. 

And Arnab is antithesis of how you want to raise your child.  He is a bully.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Political Dynasties and Intra Party Democracy

What is the problem?

Most Indian political parties tend to become dynastic, they turn into a fiefdoms, usually run by one chieftain, who promotes his kith and kin, promotes nepotism, and does not practice democratic practices within the party, chooses MLA candidates who are subservient, whereby the MLA feels he/she is more accountable to the chieftain than to the people who elected him/her.

Why do most political parties in India tend to become political dynasties?

Many political parties in India, small regional parties and even large national parties, have turned into political dynasties.  This tendency is all pervasive.  The reason for this is that while India as a nation is democratic, the inner workings of a political party in India is not democratic.  The leader of the party is not elected, and if he/she is elected, those elections are mostly sham exercise.  The MLA candidates are handpicked by the chieftain, based on allegiance, loyalty, nepotism, caste equation, and many other attributes, AND NOT elected by the party members of that constituency.  

Without a regulation or a legal mandate, political parties in India are thus free not to practice intra-party democracy.  This is the fundamental problem. 

Only few political parties have been able to instil and practise a small degree of democracy within the party, examples being BJP and the Communist Party.  Most other parties in India, including national parties like Congress and most regional parties in India, have turned into dynasties.

What is the Solution?

Many political parties in various countries have either practiced intra-party democracy voluntarily (like in US), or have mandated it (Germany, Portugal).  Clearly Indian political parties have not practiced it voluntarily.  Therefore mandating it is the solution. 

Like how electoral reforms have been brought, or how RTI was brought about, through an Act of Parliament, political party intra-party democracy can be mandated through an Act of Parliament.  This could also be tied to legalized political party financing to further incentivize.

With that reform, a huge change can be brought into Indian political party functioning. 

What is Intra-Party Democracy?

Intra-party democracy has three essential attributes.

  1. Chief Minister candidate should be democratically elected by the elected legislative members.
  2. Elected legislated candidate should be democratically elected by the registered party members.
  3. Registered party members can be enrolled through free and fair process subject to scrutiny. 
These reforms will substantially put an end to fiefdoms and political dynasties in India. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Why Indians protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

Imagine 4 people who have fled a neighbor country of India, because they were persecuted in that country.  Now, they are living together in a small community in India.  A Shia who is targeted as anti-Muslim and blasphemous by the Sunni majority in that country, a Ahmediya who is now considered non-Muslim in his Islamic country, a Hindu, and a Sikh.  They have been living in India now for few years.  They have come to this country because this country has always taken pride in treating all its people equally irrespective of their religion.  Asaduddin Owaisi, one of the prominent Muslim politicians from India, boasts that nobody in Pakistan or Bangladesh should worry about Indian Muslims, because Indian Muslims have far better rights than Muslims living in those countries.  He goes further to say that unlike in those countries where one sect of Islam is treated as inferior, no such ill-treatment happens to any Islamic sect in India. 

Now, comes Citizenship Amendment Act, which says that it is going to treat these migrants differently, based on their religious identity, singling out Muslims.

Because of this Act, the Hindu friend and the Sikh friend become citizens in India, whereas the Shia friend and Ahmediya friend are now shipped off to a detention center.   It dawns up on all of us living in India, that all of a sudden, this country has started to deprive someone of their basic rights based on their religious identity, even though all of them came from same country of origin. 

To understand what it means.  Let’s create another scenario.  Indians migrate to US, settle there and become citizens there.  But imagine US passes an Act, which treats Indians differently based on their religion.  It opines, since Hindus are in majority in India, they are prosperous and well off and therefore do not need to migrate, and then they go about denying Green Card and Citizenship to Indian Hindus while naturalizing Muslims and Christians from India.  How would Indian Hindus feel?  Shouldn’t Indian Hindus protest? Shouldn’t Americans protest this egregious Act that discriminates people on religious identities?

The reason why so many people in India, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, across different religions, are protesting against this Act, is not because of the actual modalities of the Act.  It does not really matter if the Act affects only the immigrants or illegals and not the citizens.  What matters is that this Act allows for converting the State into saying, ‘you are special to me only if you are non-Muslim.  I will throw you out only because you are a Muslim’.  The fact that this nation has made a law that determines the eligibility of coming and living in this country, based on your religious identity, is very problematic to every Indian who has always believed in the basic tenets of Indian Constitution, that it is secular, and that it treats its people the same, whether they are Shia, Sunni, Ahmediya, Sufi, or Sikh, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain. 

The reason why so many Indians are perturbed by this Act is that for the first time ever, this nation has passed a law that will determine the legal status, citizenship status, and thereby according them the basic rights, based on religious identity. 

This is anathematic to all those Indians.  We rejected the model of Pakistan that constituted itself as a religious state.   Indians are genuinely upset.  Hindus who took pride that we have always been tolerant, Muslims who took pride that while other Islamic countries discriminate their own fellow Muslims based on the sects but India doesn’t, Sikhs who believe India is their home though they are a minority, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, all living with pride that this nation is truly pluralistic unlike any other nation on this planet, they all find this Act abhorrent, dangerous because its sets a new precedent, and completely unconstitutional because it violates the basic principles of equality on which this country was founded.  

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Why Naidu campaigning in Telangana is arrogant and hegemonistic?

Imagine Jayalalitha (erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) fielding her own candidates and campaigning in Karnataka Assembly elections! 

Anyone who understands the political history of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu would find such a scenario silly, weird and even dangerous.  The reason is: unlike two friendly neighbours such as Odisha and West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have serious issues over sharing of river waters, and those burning topic brings people regularly onto streets in protests.   Therefore, Jayalalitha fielding her candidates in Karnataka would be seen as hegemonistic, a way of entering Karnataka politics to subvert the political system, only to gain something for her own Tamil Nadu State.  It would undermine the democracy within Karnataka.  Such a scenario is unlikely.  Jayalalitha would never have campaigned in Karnataka.

And yet, today, we see such unlikely scenario happening in Telangana. 

There are two essential reasons why Naidu campaigning in Telangana is not just downright amoral, but is sinister, and a threat of democracy within Telangana.

The rivalry between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is an accepted fact.   Almost every political pundit knows about it.  There are many unresolved issues pending from the bifurcation, many corporations are still undivided, and most importantly, there is this issue of sharing of river waters.  Whenever Telangana moved ahead to build an irrigation project within Telangana to tap into their rightful share of river water, Naidu has objected to it by writing a letter to the Central Government.  He has demonstrated that he unequivocally stands against the interests of Telangana and its people.  Therefore, such a leader, from the neighbouring state which is unfriendly, to come to Telangana to position his candidates and campaign has only agenda: it is a subversive attempt to undermine the interests of Telangana, an attempt to tamper into the democratic process within Telangana to unfairly gain something for Andhra Pradesh. 

Also, when Telangana State formation was announced on 9th December 2009 by P Chidambaram, it was Naidu and his MPs and MLAs who stood against the formation of Telangana by protesting openly.  Naidu was one of the main leaders of the opposition to formation of Telangana.   He sat on a strike in Delhi openly opposing the formation of Telangana.  After the bifurcation, he used his clout as a partner in NDA to steal few of the mandals from Telangana, which were then merged with Andhra Pradesh.  He blatantly took the position of opposing the interests of Telangana.  Therefore his campaign in Telangana once again shows the same arrogance of the Andhra leadership, the very leadership Telangana fought against to form a new State.   His interests are antithetical to interests of Telangana.

His campaign in Telangana is not just amoral and sinister, but it is hegemonistic and in every aspect completely anti-Telangana.  It should be summarily rejected by the people of Telangana.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Telangana in Movies, Is it a Dialect, Accent or Slang?

Warning: This article has A-rated content. Not for people younger than 18.  Definitely, not for the two peevish Telugu Anchors.

During the peak of Telangana Movement, I wrote two articles, Telangana 59: Why do we accept Telugu movies? And Telangana 58: Impact of Movies.  In one of them, I wrote:

For a very long time Telangana people were ashamed to speak Telangana in front of others, and the practice continues even now though it is declining. Many Telangana people hide their accent when heard in public forums.  In some families, Telangana people ridicule their own folk who speak Telangana and try to correct them.  Some Telangana families grew up imitating their Andhra neighbors completely rejecting their identity. They hate being associated with the tag of Telangana.

Formation of State of Telangana has changed all that.  Now, people are not afraid or shy or embarrassed to speak Telangana.  In fact, there is a generation of young Telangana people who think it is uber cool to speak Telangana.  Therefore, it is not a coincidence that formation of State of Telangana has heralded four successful movies in the last one year that have a dominant Telangana element: Pelli Choopulu, Ami Tumi, Fida and Arjun Reddy

When referring to Telangana language in Telugu movies, what I have noticed is that most people in the film industry refer to it as Slang. That’s when I find that characterization problematic.

So, is Telangana a dialect, an accent or slang?

Dialect is another version of a language with completely different words and phrases for expressing the same, sometimes following a different syntax and grammar.  We have many dialects of Hindi in India like Bhojpuri and Haryanvi.

An accent is when you pronounce the same word differently.  Australians, New Zealanders, and Americans pronounce the same words differently.   In India too, Bengalis and Malayalee would pronounce similar words quite differently.

Slang is an informal version of a language.  The way Blacks in United States use informal words, like chill or tripping.  Most often, slang is spoken colloquially, and is not considered acceptable in written form, because it is informal.  Of late, what Black people speak is considered Ebonics, a dialect of American English.

For a long time, Telangana was derided, ridiculed and insulted because it was considered informal, something not worthy of being written in a formal context, a slang.

But in reality, Telangana is a dialect (and not a slang), with its own history, culture, and words and phrases (like Thokku for pickle), and now in the State of Telangana it is a formal language, and therefore words spoken in Telangana are no longer considered informal, but acceptable.  That is one of the moot points of Telangana Movement. 

As predicted long ago, formation of Telangana has brought onto the scene a new genre of Telugu movies, where hero or heroine or both speak Telangana.  K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), while delivering on the State of Telangana, inadvertently delivered on something else, a new film industry which is based in Telangana.

Now here comes another problem. 

Cuss words in Arjun Reddy

The movie Arjun Reddy depicts in-your-face Telangana, incorporating those cuss words that some Telangana youth speak quite freely.  And that has created furore amongst some Andhra TV anchors.  It goes without saying that the objections raised now against Arjun Reddy have the similar Andhra-Telangana bias, where those who grew with Andhra ethos could not digest how people could speak such a language.

Arjun Reddy used the Indian version of Motherfucker (Madarchod) which created outrage amongst two Andhra Telugu anchors.  They started calling it an insult to Mothers.   In reality, most cuss words are really not a direct reference to one’s mother, one’s sister, one’s father.  

To understand Arjun Reddy, one should look at Irish language.  It is a dialect of English language, but the population in Ireland use cuss words quite freely in their day-to-day life.  They use words like fuck, bollocks, shite, cunt, even at a family dinner and the same is reflected in movies.  Not everyone does, but some do.  And it is quite OK to hear those words in an Irish film. 

Not everyone in Telangana uses the cuss words spoken in Arjun Reddy, but some do, and it is quite OK to hear those words in a Telangana film. 

Here is a small history of usage of swear words in Hollywood movies:

Looks like Vijay Deverakonda is the Samuel Jackson of Indian movies, if we were to go by how many times Samuel Jacksons says it.
Use of Motherfucker by Samuler Jackson:

When Samuel Jackson says it, it is not an insult to a mother.  It is a part of the language. We can debate whether that language is a good thing or not.  But it is still part of the language. 

A word to the two peevish Telugu TV anchors: Arjun Reddy is an adult film, to be watched by adults. If you have a problem, don’t go to the movies.  You could continue watching your hip-gyrating, double entendres, vulgar insinuations, slapping the heroine on the butt, pressing her bosoms, in the other Telugu movies with your families, as is your wont.

But no one can stop the sweeping phenomenon. Telangana movies are an in-thing now, and they come with our idiosyncrasies, our habits, our cuss words, and our endearing words.  You may not like it, but they are not going to go away.  

So, Welcome Telangana! The new Hollywood of Indian movies!

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

‘I hate India’

When you hear on TV that Someone said the above statement, the first thing that comes to your mind these days is, that Someone must be anti-national.  That Someone doesn’t deserve to be in India.  Ministers who have the important job of running the country are stopping their work to tweet, or grab the nearest TV camera, to say, ‘Someone should be thrown out of the country.  Why live in this country if you hate it?’ 

So what does it mean to say ‘I hate India’?

‘I hate India’ says an activist

An activist who is fighting against construction of dams, after being harassed, arrested, and tormented, says, ‘I hate India, for its apathy towards those who have to leave their homes’.  All of a sudden, this sentence doesn’t look anti-national anymore.

‘I hate India’ says a tourist

A Indian tourist who travels the world gets back to India, and looks at the pollution, the dirt, the trash, and the garbage everywhere, and says, ‘I hate India. I think we should start cleaning our cities first’.  All of a sudden, this sentence doesn’t look anti-national anymore.

‘I hate India’, says an angry mother

An old Indian mother who lost her husband, says, ‘I hate India. Which makes me stand in line for many months before giving me my pension’.  All of a sudden, this sentence doesn’t look anti-national anymore.

‘I love India’, says a terrorist

Before blowing up a big bomb in an Indian city, a terrorist records his voice and puts on internet, ‘I love India.  I love it so much that I really want every Indian to feel the pain of love I have for them’.  All of a sudden, ‘I love India’ doesn’t sound so endearing anymore. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Demonetization: The essential objectives

[Disclaimer: All the views expressed in here are personal and do not reflect the opinion or the position of the organization that the author works for.] 

It is becoming evident from the long lines at ATMs across India, and the troubles faced by the farmers and small-time traders, that the implementation of the demonitization initiative has been quite poor.  Clearly, it could have been planned better and executed better.  As Supreme Court of India warned, if things don’t improve, we could see riots in this country.

But the poor implementation is not good enough reason to conclude that this exercise will not achieve its objectives.

So what are those objectives? 

Unlike most people in India, including those who actually introduced this initiative – namely the Prime Minister and his team, I don’t have unrealistic expectations from the current initiative of denotification of the existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes.  

According to me, the objective of this exercise is not that much about curbing counterfeit money, nor about trying to ‘get out’ the black money from their hideouts.  Yes, the introduction of new currency notes would obviate the problem of counterfeit notes, but only for a while, because if the enemy is insistent on copying and releasing even the new notes, they could do so, given some amount of time.  And, unlike what most people hope, there is no need for black money to be deposited into the banks.  If that money cease to exist, it is good enough.  The shortfall in circulation or non-existence of the black money is good enough for the Government to infuse more printed notes, thereby giving itself a fillip in public spending on infrastructure projects. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Demonitization: Will it work?

I hear lot of criticism launched against Demonitization.  I cite some of them here.

‘Poor people are suffering’

‘It is the common man who is hurt.  Look at the long lines at each ATM.  They are standing there for hours’.

And yet the narrative is not as simple as it sounds.  When these people standing in line at ATM are asked if they are facing trouble, almost all of them say, ‘Yes’.  But when asked if this move is good, they all say, ‘Yes’.  Then they add, ‘This is an inconvenience, but in the larger good, this is OK.  On the whole, we support this initiative from Prime Minister Modi’.

So, it all depends on what part of narrative you want to hear.  If you hear only the first part, it does clearly say that people are inconvenienced to a great extent.  But if you hear the second part, common man endorses Modi’s demonitization. 

Did Government bungle up its implementation?


First, it did not prepare itself with enough new rupee notes it wanted to introduce.   It should have had enough stock with it before announcing the demonitization of old notes.   The paucity of new notes is creating lot of trouble to many businesses, including the common man.

Second.  Why did they not create 500 and 2000 rupee notes the same size as old 500 and 1000 rupee note? That would not have required the calibration of ATMs which is currently underway, and is causing the impediment in delivering cash to people.

It definitely looks like Indian economy has come to a standstill.  However, given few more days, with more new notes brought into circulation, the problem of paucity of notes will fade away and normalcy will be restored.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Demonetization: Defining moment in Indian History

I am not a Modi-Bhakt. In fact, I have been a big critic of Narendra Modi, when it comes to his tolerance of religious intolerance in this country.  And yet, today I stand in support of his historic decision to invalidate the legal tender for the existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes that are in circulation.

Those who meet me usually ask me for a solution to some of the problems that we face in India, probably because I tend to maintain the attitude that I do have a solution to such problems ;-).  So, over the last many years, when anyone had asked me, ‘How do we root out black money in the country?’ my answer was, ‘In fact, the solution is quite simple.  I would make the 500 and 1000 rupees notes invalid as of today.  And everyone has to come to the bank to exchange and get new notes starting tomorrow.’

The discussion would then usually go into whether the political leadership in India would ever do it.  The answer would be – ‘it is not a very pragmatic decision for a political leader, he would invariably alienate most of his colleagues in politics, because politics in India is funded mostly by the black money.   One would really need balls to do it, and our politicians rarely have that’.

And yet, three days ago, I get a call from a good friend.  ‘Watch the news’, he said.  Unfolding before me was the one of the most defining moments in Indian History.   Prime Minister was announcing the demonitization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

In 1947, Nehru in his famous Tryst with Destiny speech, said:
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

On 8 Nov 2016, Modi in his speech announcing demonetization of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes said:
There comes a time in the history of country’s development when a need is felt for strong and decisive stand… there come moments, those moments come but rarely.

And we will all remember this moment twenty years from now, where India stepped from the old into new.  Where an age ends, and a new age begins. 

And yet I find some criticism, some naysayers.  

How could you not celebrate this moment?

Yes, there would be some hiccups.  Never will such a transition be smooth for everyone.  When Telangana was struggling for statehood, many people complained of inconvenience caused by strikes and bandhs, and I asked, would you rather allow a large section of people not have their freedoms just because you are inconvenienced?

Like how a small child cries in pain when given vaccination for her own good, these are nothing but small inconveniences that we face right now, but we would have found a cure to curbing black money in this country.

Let’s celebrate.  And take inspiration to do something bold!

This message is for all state governments across the country.  Pass those bold bills, take those bold decisions.  Go against the tide, piss your colleagues, challenge the status quo!  Reform, rectify, improve, break down, invent, be creative! 

Carpe Diem!

For a change, be bold!

Thank you, Mr. Modi. 

Coming from people like us, you should take it as a compliment! ;-)

Friday, November 04, 2016

Why do our roads and cities continue to fail us?

In August 2015, we landed in Taiwan a day after Category-5 Super Typhoon Soudelor made a landfall with destructive winds reaching 215 km/h, with torrential rains causing widespread damage and disruptions, accumulating 632 mm of rain in 12 hours, where a record-breaking 5 million households lost power on the island, and yet the roads were intact, and the city came back to life within a day.  Looking at how well the city looked and functioned, we couldn’t believe that they had experienced such a powerful typhoon the day before. 

In September 2016, Hyderabad city faced a 24-hour long rain fall from the active south-west monsoon, accumulating 164 mm of rain, but that brought the city to a standstill, resulting in inundation of several localities, breaching of drainage system, with many of the roads completely damaged, causing hours of traffic jams across the city.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, storms, flash floods - these are some of the extreme but routine natural weather conditions that hit most parts of the world.  Developed countries tend to face them as much as any other country.  And yet, the roads in those countries don’t get damaged the way Indian roads take a hit after a single large rain.  Those cities don’t get inundated and don't come to a grinding halt so easily as Indian cities do. 

Friday, July 08, 2016

Salman Khan felt like a ‘Raped Woman’

Recently, Salman Khan in an interview said he felt like a raped woman.
“While shooting, during those six hours, there’d be so much of lifting and thrusting on the ground involved. That was tough for me because… When I used to walk out of the ring, after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman.”

The twitterati went abuzz taking umbrage to this remark: One person asks, ‘how does he know what a raped woman feels’.  Amir Khan thought it was ‘insensitive’. Kangana Ranaut thinks his comments were ‘horrible’.  Anurag Kashyap felt they were ‘very thoughtless’, while Freida Pinto takes ‘offence’.

Such a reaction is quite understandable.  This is definitely an insensitive remark in the modern context.  Now, with so much awareness in gender discrimination, sexual harassment of women, and child abuse, these statements sound very insensitive and callous.

Yes, insensitive and callous, statements of bad taste.  Agreed.
But are these statements illegal?