Saturday, 25 March 2017


   We appear to be going through an intense and populist phase of cultural revival these days and this is therefore as good a time as any to put on record my opposition to the efforts by Mr. Modi and his team to eradicate the system of bribes in our two thousand year old country. I see this as an assault on our glorious past and a move that seriously jeopardises our GDP growth rates.
   Bribes have been an integral sub-set of our hoary culture for hundreds of years, a practice which is respected and admired. It has been an indispensable part of  religion. Ours is a transactional religion where we give in order to receive. We regularly bribe our Gods to grant us things- a child, a house, a job,even a contract- which we usually don't deserve either on merit or on sperm count. Our temples are overflowing with gold and cash: Tirumala reportedly has an annual income that exceeds that of even the Vatican. During the recent demonetisation exercise even the government had to turn to these temples to tide them over the cash flow problem. The govt. wants their hoards of gold to buttress the country's bullion reserves.All this wealth is essentially a pay-off to the Gods. Indians are the least philanthrophic of races, but we will even borrow money to "donate" to our temples, for a consideration, of course.
   It would therefore be unrealistic to expect that this urge would be confined only to places of worship, and not be reflected in our daily lives. We accept corruption as a way of life and nothing proves this better than the fact that we keep on electing and re-electing corrupt politicians to office every five years. No stigma ever attaches to them, we treat them as- you guessed it- demi Gods who are entitled to all the lucre they can gather.
  The India of today is a historical consequence of bribes. It was not the Mughal armies that captured our fair country but the strategic distribution of bribes on a colossal scale. The Marathas and Rajputs were vanquished by paying off assorted generals and gate keepers, enabling the Mughal armies to easily capture the great forts of Golconda, Parli, Wardhangarh, Nandgir, Chandan, Allahabad, to name just a few. Dara Shikoh's son was betrayed ( and killed) for a bribe, thus ensuring that Aurangzeb could cement his rule. Even the British conquest of India was facilitated by Robert Clive's bribing Mir Jaffar at Plassey: it took just 3000 British troops and a lot of money to deliver India to the British crown.
   Our ancestors ( peace be upon them) had made bribery a fine art: they recognised that, like all fine art forms, it possessed subtle nuances and therefore categorised them into different types based on occasion and purpose: the nazrana, the shukrana, the mehentana and so on. Some were for specific favours, some for creating generic goodwill, others intended to simply establish the lofty status of the giver. But back then negotiations were conducted with savoir faire and refinement, over a game of chess, " banarsi paan" being served en passant, with even a gyrating tawaif being thrown in for good measure. None of today's vulgarity of Samsonite suitcases, dark  and smoke filled back rooms, or initials in a diary. This is what happens when an art is converted into a science. There is a legend in my family of an ancestor who was organising his daughter's wedding in his mansion when he received news that a gang of dacoits was planning to plunder his house at the same precise time as the wedding. This would have been an intolerable loss of face for the zamindar in front of all his guests. So said forefather summoned the gang leader and offered him a sum of money he could not refuse in return for not raiding his house. All amicably settled with a bribe, and this is the crux of our ancient tradition of bribery: it was not about the money alone, but about status and recognition of one's respective position in society. For them, bribery was like the quality of mercy described so well by Shakespeare: it is not strained, it is twice blessed for it blesses both the giver and the taker !
   Economists, those purveyors of the dismal science who can never agree on anything, typically disagree on this subject too. One group ( the Harvard lot) claim that bribes knock about 2% off our GDP. The others( the Hard Work lot) differ- they are of the view that bribes add to productivity and national wealth. I tend to agree with the latter.  Corruption makes bureaucracies more efficient. Given the lethargy of our govt. machinery and the thicket of laws and regulations that enmesh us, absolutely nothing would get done in this country without pay-offs: no roads or bridges, no passports or driving licences, no industry or trade, no public transport or bank loans, no export or import, no govt. jobs or old age pensions. If we are growing at 7.1% or 7.5% or whatever mythical figure the govt. would like us to believe, it is because of the bribes that grease the wheels of development. Just look at the latest empirical data-- the moment govt. clamped down on black money (the accumulated stock of bribes and wealth generated by bribes) by way of demonetisation our growth rate has fallen, the economy has slowed down and unemployment has shot up ! I believe things will improve by the second quarter of 2017, once the bribes start flowing again. Its not love which makes the world- or, to be more accurate, India- go around: its black money and bribes. This constitutes 15%-20% of our GDP but is the catalyst which generates the other 85%. Now that Mr. Jaitley has no doubt realised this by seeing that more money has been deposited in banks than what was demonetised by him, he will perhaps now abandon his attempts to demolish this central pillar of our history and culture. He should just consider it as another Service Tax , a more efficient one, for when we pay a bribe we get what we expect whereas when we shell out Mr. Jaitley's service tax we rarely do.
   So perhaps we need a mass movement to preserve this sapient part of our culture, to protect it from modern freakonomics, to save it from a Western paradigm whose biggest cultural achievement to date is the  MacNugget. After all, if we can fight to retain Jallikatu, Santhara, Dowry, Female foeticide  and Triple Talaq as  cultural legacies, why not the fine art of Bribery ? !

Friday, 17 March 2017


    Somebody on TV the other day termed Indian elections the largest organisational exercise in the world. Perhaps it is, but how accurately does it reflect our diverse 1250 million people ? How representative are our governments " manufactured" by these elections? Consider some figures. Women constitute almost 50% of the electorate but very few are given tickets ( even the fortunate few are usually wives, sisters or daughters of the even more fortunate ). The result ? There are only 7 women Ministers in the current Union Council of Ministers numbering almost 80 worthies. Only 64 of 542 MPs in the Lok Sabha come from the fairer sex; the figures for the Rajya Sabha are an even more dismal 27/245. Muslims constitute 18% of the population but number only 3 in the Union Cabinet. Even this is a huge improvement over the state of their representation in the states where the BJP has governments: in them there is only one Muslim among a total of 151 Ministers.
   India's per capita income is Rs. 93,231. But don't believe this for a minute; its a distorted figure, pushed up by the  incomes of the 14800 multi-millionaires( assets of Rs. 61 crores and above), the 1,37,100 ultra High Net Worth Individuals( assets of Rs. 25 crore and above), the 24.40,000 asessees who declared an income of more than Rs. 10 lakhs in 2014-15, the 750,000 who deposited more than Rs. 2.50 lakhs each in their bank accounts post demonetisation. If one factors in these super rich the average income of the average Indian would be closer to something like Rs. 10000 to Rs. 15000 per annum. And don't forget the 300 million below the poverty line. But is this reflected in the representatives we elect to our Parliament and legislatures ? The flavour of the answer lies in the figures just released by the ADR ( Association for Democratic Rights), the leading election watch dog, relating to the MLAs just elected to the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. Of the 403 MLAs elected as many as 322 are crorepatis ( assets in excess of Rs. 100,00,000 !0 This may not be representative of the electorate but is certainly representative of all our legislatures, Parliament included. And here's the clincher- a full 75% of the total seats were won by one of the three richest candidates in each constituency, more than one third by THE RICHEST CANDIDATE.  The old adage- India is a rich country with poor people- has been upended: we are now, more accurately, a poor country with rich people!
   Sticking with UP, and if we deem our legislatures to fairly represent us, then every third person in UP  is an alleged criminal. The same set of ADR figures( based on filings by candidates with the Election Commission of India) reveal that 143 of the new UP MLAs have criminal cases registered against them- more than one third. Purely statistically, ours then is a country awash in riches and crime.
   Most important of all, however, is the fact that the governments formed as a result of elections are never representative of what the people want. They do not have the support of the majority of the population, not even the support of the majority of the people who voted! They are usually all minority governments. An analysis of the results of the elections just concluded in UP will make this point clearer.
   The overall voting percentage was 61%. Of this, the BJP ( which won with 312 seats) secured the highest-39.7% and formed the govt. Does it faithfully represent the wishes or preferences of the people of UP ? No. it does not. Because what these figures mean is that only 24 out of every 61 voters who cast their votes  voted for the BJP. If we factor in the persons who did not vote at all, then the figure becomes 24 out of 100. The same is true of Punjab where the overall voting percentage was higher at 65% and the Congress won with 38.5% of the votes cast. This means that only 26 people out of every 100 in Punjab voted for the Congress. The same peculiar circumstance applies to all elections in India including to Parliament. Governments formed as a result of such voting may claim to be the largest single parties, but they cannot claim to enjoy the confidence of the majority of the people by any means.
   This peculiar lacunae arises because of our " first past the post " system, in which whoever secures the highest number of votes in a constituency bags the seat, regardless of the actual number of votes he gets. So, though BJP secured only 39.7% of the votes cast in UP ( or only 24% of the total available votes)  it yet won 75% of the seats. Sometimes the working of this FPTP system can result in bigger distortions: in both Manipur and Goa the BJP got more votes than the Congress but ended up with fewer seats! Punjab is even more grotesque: the AAP got 7% lesser votes than the BJP+SAD combine, but ended up with 2 more seats.
   Some countries have found ways to correct this unsymmetric situation. Voting is held over several rounds till only two contestants are left in the field, of whom obviously one has to secure at least 51% of the votes cast in order to win. Others have a preferential vote system where both first and second preference votes are cast and tallied to determine the winner. As regards the representation of women and minorities, or the domination of money power, these are social issues which require an enlightened society and a progressive govt. to resolve. We, unfortunately, have never had one and are not likely to have one in the near future, either. We will continue inane debates about EVMs and Code of Conduct, wallow in our majoritarian and patriarchal mindsets rather than take any proactive action to ensure that both our elections and governments better reflect the wishes of the people. After all, any govt. which comes to power will not want to change the faulty system which brought it to power, will it ?    

Monday, 13 March 2017


[ This piece was published on the op-ed page of the NEW INDIAN EXPRESS on 13.3.2017 ]

   First, a note of sanity among all the celebratory pandemonium: the BJP has won two major states , lost in two and barely hung on to the fifth; the Congress has not been decimated: it has won in two states and is the largest single party in the third. But since Uttar Pradesh has more seats than all the other four states combined the stupendous performance of the BJP there cannot but overshadow the others, and its portent for future national politics has to be considered carefully.
   The number crunchers will be at it for weeks, analysing castes, communities, regions, ages, gender and what not. But what is already clear is the fact that Mr. Modi’s new syncretic formula of success- an amalgam of aggressive economics and social engineering- will be hard to beat in 2019. He has delivered little on the economic front so far except Demonetisation, but that one strike won him this election on the 8th of November itself because of its pure perception value. The brilliant reverse social engineering of Amit Shah, centered around the pan India Hindu identity of the BJP, has delivered the coup-de-grace to the narrower Hindu parties like the SP and BSP by subsuming all the sub identities like Dalits, Yadavs, Jatavs. Kurmis, OBCs. The BJP has now created its own social coalition., a more powerful one. Only this can explain the massive 325 seats it has won in UP- the religious polarisation ( which did happen) is only one part of the explanation. Mr. Modi has stormed these hitherto sacrosanct social ghettos and left them in ruins. This is something all Indians should welcome.
   There are other important takeaways. Modi is the Colossus in whose shadow the BJP exists. As long as his brand equity holds he does not need a CM face, it fact it may even become a liability. He does not need allies: in Punjab and Goa where the BJP fought in an alliance it lost. Thirdly, for the first time in decades a Prime Minister is conducting himself like a true leader of a nation- setting the agenda rather than following a populist clamour. He is not a careful builder of concensus but a risk-loving unilateralist. This election perhaps demonstrates that this is precisely what today’s India, sick of indecisive vacillation and appeasement, desperately wants. This fits in with global trends too; more and more countries are seeking out authoritarian leaders- Trump, Putin,Duterte, Erdogan- in these troubled and uncertain times.
   Where does Mr. Modi take the BJP and the nation from here ? The reaffirmed mandate comes with heightened expectations- of tangibles, not mere promises. Modi is riding a tiger and cannot now dismount, he has to deliver in the two years remaining for him and this is a gauntlet he will happily pick up. I visualise a renewed thrust and urgency being added to his Reforms initiatives. The biggest of them are already done things- GST and Demonetisation. There is no time left for initiating any new reform, and there are plenty already on the table which are languishing: expect the centre to get after them with a missionary, if not messianic, spirit here onwards.
   Some of them are already up and running ( and have paid the BJP rich dividends in these elections): Jan Dhan, Digital India, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Gas cylinders distribution, Udai ( for State Electricity Boards), Scholarships for minorities, Direct Benefits Transfers, Swacch Bharat, Kanya Smridhi Yojana and Ujjwal Yojana. But to seal up 2019 Mr. Modi will now concentrate on the big-ticket reforms already announced but hanging fire owing to bureaucratic lethargy, stake-holder resistance or non-cooperation by states. His biggest concern has to be the creation of new jobs-at least 20 million in the next two years- what with 18 million new voters being added every year.This involves tackling the following sectors/areas:
Banking: even though the Banks are now awash with deposits post demonetisation the lines of credit are choked and they are reluctant to lend. The reason is the NPAs which have continued to increase under the present govt. and now amount to more than Rs. 7 lakh crores. This logjam has to be broken if Make in India is to be a success .
Manufacturing: The key to the massive job creation Mr. Modi needs to win 2019. Currently stagnating at 16% of GDP, the target is to reach 25% by 2020; this by itself will create 100 million jobs. But the private investment necessary for this is just not happening due to issues related to credit, land, labour and infrastructural constraints. The govt. has to unravel this Gordian knot.
Defense Production : the most critical aspect of Make in India is the indigenisation of defense production. Our armed forces will need US$ 100 billion of equipment in the next decade, almost all of which is currently imported. The govt. wants to achieve 60% indigenisation by 2020 which will not only create millions of new jobs but will also conserve foreign exchange. But we are nowhere near this figure. To achieve it a new policy on strategic partnerships with the private sector is needed: the draft policy has been languishing since 2016. Expect Mr. Modi to now crack the whip on this.
Bureaucracy: this perennial stumbling block to any reform now will have to either change or perish. Modi cannot allow this rusted frame to stand between him and a place in history. They have got the gravy from the 7th Pay Commission and will now have to deliver on both policy and implementation. Mr. Modi’s changes so far have been cosmetic, tinkering with appointment procedures and ACRs. He will now wield the broadsword and hack away the deadwood and the undergrowth. This will, however, create a strong pushback.
The Judiciary: there has never been any love lost between Modi and the higher judiciary. This uneasy relationship will become more strained and become a battle between two tyrannies: those of the elected and the unelected. This is dangerous ground, however, a struggle between the twin values of accountability and independence. With his reaffirmed mandate Mr. Modi will now demand more of the former, and the people will support him given the dismal sate of our criminal justice system.
   I foresee some other, not so welcome, reaffirmations by the Prime Minister and his govt.- a harder line on Kashmir, a determined reiteration of the BJP’s unilateral concept of Nationalism, a renewed push for the Uniform Civil Code, more ABVP inspired unrest on university campuses, further encroachments on the federal structure, a further distancing from the minorities. One unfortunate consequence of the BJP victory will inevitably be that the BJP will feel vindicated for everything it has done in the past- good and bad- and pursue it with even greater vigour.
   The writing is on the wall for the Opposition. They will have to find new leadership, move beyond the jaded secular versus communal rhetoric, break out of caste and class silos, offer better options of development and economics, campaign on ideas rather than personalities, subsume their individual egos for constructive alliances. They can either hang together or they will hang separately.

Friday, 10 March 2017


   [ This article was published in the New Indian Express on 10th Feb. 2017.]         

   The Yamuna river in Delhi symbolises the city’s poverty line. To its east live Delhi’s “ have nots”: almost 30% of the population crammed into just 15% of the city’s area, comprising the lower- middle and  working classes, including lakhs of migrant labour and most of its 1600 odd slums. To its west reside the “ have lots”: the millionaires, politicians, bureaucrats, business magnates, media barons and their opinionated anchors, the upper crest as it were.
   The Delhi west of the Yamuna ( New Delhi) has a visceral hatred for Kejriwal and considers him a charlatan, anarchist, populist, bad-mouth. East Delhi’s marginalised millions love him, with the same vigour with which all previous govts. have ignored them. The Yamuna is not, therefore, just a 200 feet wide ribbon of sludge, it is the fault line which defines and explains the politics of Kejriwal.
   New Delhi has historically thrived by being status quoist, its hands firmly clasped on all the levers of power. It appropriates the major share of the budget to maintain its broad avenues and verdant parks, its per capita consumption of public resources is many times that of East Delhi. It has the best schools, hospitals,hotels, malls and clubs. The East, on the other hand, has the largest number of garbage dumps and the biggest sanitary landfills. New Delhi has profited handsomely from the status quo, at the cost of its poor easterly cousin, and both the Centre and the state have been comfortable with this arrangement. Kejriwal is not, and this is his calling card.
   Kejriwal is challenging this status quo. He rejects the centre’s version of the Queensbury rules which have made Chief Ministers of Union Territories helpless puppets, a judicial dispensation which is conservatively inclined to the status quo, a bureaucracy which welcomes this dichotomy of power because it renders it unaccountable. Kejriwal has started channelizing the state’s resources to the hitherto neglected millions symbolised by East Delhi. Deprived by the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor of a say in most areas of governance, he has concentrated on the three still with him, and this has not gone down too well with the pampered elite.
   In Education he has added 10000 class rooms, put a tight leash on private schools’ hunger for fee hikes, made admission to EWS seats on-line to remove discretion. In the Health sector he has allocated 16% of the budget ( Rs.5292 crore), the highest percentage for any state . His  initiatives in providing  Universal Health Care include opening of 100 Mohalla Clinics( 300 more have been sanctioned last week), free diagnostic tests at private labs, free operations at empanelled private hospitals if the waiting period in  govt. hospitals exceeds one month, have been applauded internationally by Kofi Annan and the WHO, and have been held up as a model even for developed countries .He has provided free power upto 400 units per month and free “ lifeline” water of 20000 litres per month: the former covers 86% of Delhi’s poorest residents, and the latter benefits 12.56 households. 8000 public toilets have been constructed in two years, whereas only 4875 had been built in the preceding 4 years.The slums( unauthorised colonies, JJ colonies) have been his main focus; Delhi has 309 of the first and 700 of the latter and they house 40% of the city’s population but no govt. had really thought of them earlier.
   New Delhi is not impressed, naturally: its residents don’t need public toilets, they have  private ones “ en suite”, lifeline water is irrelevant: they use more water to wash their cars; Mohalla Clinics and free diagnostics don’t matter because they go to 5-star private hospitals  or CGHS dispensaries; fee hikes don’t bother them either: their children go to air conditioned schools anyway. But they strongly resent the fact that Kejriwal dares to put the interests of the under-privileged before their own. They decry the fact that he spends 1200 crores on free power, forgetting that the 12000 members of the Gymkhana and Golf Clubs benefit from a subsidy of Rs. 50 lakhs, per member per year ( the annual interest on the value of the 200 acres of land they are sitting on, minus the pittance they pay as lease rent)!
   New/ South Delhi feel threatened by Kejriwal and his AAP because of his attempts to redraft the rules of governance and the definition of “ public interest.” So do all the mainstream political parties, because he is appealing across the traditional paradigms of caste, class and religion. His policy concerns are centered on the 50% of India which owns only 1% of its wealth, not on the 1% who have cornered 49% of it ( Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2014). If there is one thing they all agree on it is the imperative to stop him before he does any more damage to the self-serving edifice so assiduously built by them, before he upends the apple cart.
  But Kejriwal and AAP are not unique: they can be better understood if they are seen as part of the “ Populism” movement that has captured the USA and is sweeping across Europe. As John Judis explains so well in his new book THE POPULIST EXPLOSION, this is a trend/doctrine that is here to stay, drawing its sustenance from “ the deep well of discontent” with the status quo. “Populism”, as exemplified by the likes of Donald Trump, Italy’s Beppe Grillo, UK’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marine La Pen is a push-back against the traditionally powerful elite: journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists. It rejects the existing systems which it sees as rigged against the poor and the lower middle class by a liberal elite.

   If the AAP does well in Punjab and Goa  it shall become only the seventh national party and can become a nucleus around which the regional parties can coalesce for 2019. The latter are powerful in their own states but lack a pan India appeal or agenda, which the AAP can provide. Kejriwal is perhaps proving that globalisation is not merely an economic phenomenon but also a political one. He is still the underdog but  he may yet prove Mark Twain was right when he said: “ Its not about the size of the dog in the fight, its about the size of the fight in the dog.”

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


    I have just finished reading the sixty page suicide note written by the ex Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Shri Kaliko Phul on 8th August 2016, just before he killed himself. I feel drained and morally exhausted. The contents of the note are shocking to the point where every right thinking Indian should ponder over the fate of this sorry nation. Mr. Phul lays bare the naked truth about the sordid nature of politics and governments in his state and the country at large, the ugliness which prompted him to take his life. He recounts in some detail the endemic corruption in Arunachal Pradesh and names the leaders responsible, along with specifics of projects, dates and amounts stolen. But what takes one's breath away is the listing of prominent ( national level) politicians, officials, law officers, judges, even the current President of India, as having been recipients of bribes, and of how they sought huge sums of money to favour him in various matters. Once again, the unfortunate Phul has provided a wealth of details for each transaction, including the names of middle-men involved. His widow has moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a detailed investigation into these contents. Mainline media, usually so deafening in their accusations and opinions at primetime that one can't hear the planes landing at IGI airport, has maintained a sphinx-like silence on the matter.
    These charges are mere allegations and the unsupported word of a man who, by the definition of his circumstances, must have been mentally traumatised when he penned these words. But they must still be taken seriously by the gate-keepers of the nation for the following reasons: First, Kaliko Phul was no ordinary man- he was the Chief Minister of a state, with access to all govt. records, and Chief Ministers are not known to kill themselves without reason. Second, his suicide note can, perhaps, come within the definition of a dying declaration under the law, and such statements are generally attached a higher degree of authenticity than others. Our justice system regularly arrests and imprisons people on the basis of suicide notes; why then should it not at least inquire into the contents of this one? Third, the names mentioned in the note are of such eminent persons in our public and judicial life that the country's honour demands that, one way or the other, no doubt should attach to anyone of them. There is only one way of ensuring this- a full, independent enquiry, not by any judicial or police body, but by a panel of persons with unimpeachable integrity and record of public life. Because, and this is the fourth reason: not only must Caesar's wife be above suspicion, her character certificate must not be issued by Caesar himself.
  Corruption in hallowed portals is the elephant in our sitting rooms and in news rooms and TV studios. The elephant just got bigger. How long can we pretend that we just can't see it ?

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   One of the truths to be imbibed from George Orwell's books is that when any extreme ideology wants to take over a peoples it is not enough to just subjugate their bodies, you have to control their minds, for an idea is more powerful than any army. This is exactly what the BJP is attempting to do in this country, with some success so far. National level institutes are being left to the tender mercies of worthies with no qualifications for their jobs- witness the appointment of an unknown " historian" to head ICCHR, a cricketer for NIFT, a TV actor whose last role was some twenty years ago for the Film and Television Institute, an unsuccessful maker of C grade films for the Censor Board, to name just a few. Their only qualification is that they will cleave to the party line and impose it within their fiefdoms. Even more damaging, our Universities are being gradually  bludgeoned into submission, by a two pronged approach. At one level, Vice Chancellors and Directors of IITs and IIMs are being denied the autonomy and respect these institutions demand, with Shastri Bhavan interfering in every important matter. The UGC, an ostensibly autonomous body, has been practically taken over by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. At the second level, the ABVP has been turned loose on the campuses, supported publicly by Ministers of the govt. and assisted insidiously by the machinery of the state. Riding piggy back on the ruling party, its membership has expanded from 22.49 lakhs in 2013-14 to 32 lakhs in 2016-17. It is now present in 20000 of the 35000 colleges. This in itself is not a bad thing- after all the NSUI ( Congress), the AISF( Communist Party of India) and the SFI ( CPI Marxist) also have memberships of 40 lakhs, 35 lakhs and 15 lakhs, respectively. The damage- and the danger-lies in the fact that the ABVP behaves more like the Gestapo than like a students' union. It will tolerate no other ideology and will use threats, intimidation and violence to drown out contrary views. This it does under the banner of a " Nationalism" conceived, defined and articulated by them alone and blessed by their parent bodies, the BJP and RSS. Only their idea of nationalism will decide which subjects are taught, which debates are organised, which speakers are invited, and who is to be allowed on the campus.
  After Hyderabad, Jadhavpur, Chandigarh, JNU, Jodhpur, Jharkhand, it is now the turn of Delhi Univ. A seminar was not allowed to be held on the 22nd of last month on the specious ground that two of the speakers were from JNU- one of them charged with " sedition". ( Incidentally, even 12 months after the alleged seditious act the Delhi police has not been able to file the charge-sheet in court, presumably because they have no evidence !). The ABVP expressed its protest against the seminar in the only way it knows- by vandalism, violence ( even against girls and their own teachers) and goondaism. The Delhi police, by now well trained in the are of subverting justice after the JNU and Kanhaiya Kumar episodes, provided full protection to these violators of law, and, as is their wont, beat up journalists and girls instead.
   The BJP/ ABVP game plan appears to be working. A plucky young girl whose father is an Army martyr and who stood up against this pernicious conspiracy is being trolled on social media, the abuse being encouraged by Ministers and MPs of the union govt. who have been inciting the trolls with their own shameful tweets. An MP compares her to Dawood Ibrahim and a junior Home Minister advises her to "concentrate on her studies" ( perhaps he himself should concentrate on his job, considering he has made such a mess of it so far). There can be no greater irony than the fact that these lumpens are presuming to teach patriotism to a girl whose family has, for three generations, been serving in the armed forces of the nation ! The throttling of ideas and debate has begun:  Ambedkar University( in Delhi) has called off a seminar it was organising on Kashmir fearing similar threats. Other universities are no doubt watching and will take their cue from what happens in Delhi over the next few days.
   There is much more at stake here than just a seminar. Our students are waging a battle on our behalf. My generation has already let down the country repeatedly: the least we can do now is speak out and support these idealistic youngsters before we are condemned to an Orwellian future where, as he puts it so well, 
We are almost there.........