Tera Kya Hoga Kaliya?

Tera Kya Hoga Kaliya?


That line from Sholay is what comes to mind listening to Rajnath Singh’s ‘apology’. The antics of politicians never fail to amuse but BJP is giving full value for money. First come the senile prattlings – Hindus must have at least 5 children – We will give shelter to Hindu Bangladeshis but Muslims are infiltrators and must be deported – and other gems. Then comes along Rajnath Singh apparently in Damage Control Mode saying that he (BJP or him personally?) is prepared to bow his head to Muslims IF (and only IF) they have done anything wrong. That is the most creative apology that I have heard in a long time. So I thought I would share some thoughts on this.

1.      Firstly we must differentiate between a mistake and a crime. What happened in Gujarat was a premeditated crime. Not a mistake. An apology, even a genuine one, has no standing in our Criminal Justice System for such a crime. Crimes must be punished. It is as simple as that.

2.     Secondly what Rajnath Singh proposed is not an apology at all because in any apology the first requirement is admission of guilt. He is reported to have said, ‘IF WE DID ANYTHING WRONG…..’ That is not an admission of guilt at all. Did they do wrong or didn’t they do?

3.      Thirdly what happened in Gujarat is a fact – that 2000+ Indian citizens were murdered. It is now for the State to investigate the crime and bring the perpetrators to book according to the IPC/CRPC. That is why we have a Police Service and a Criminal Code. Where is the question of any apology taking the place of the Criminal Code?

4.      The same is true in the case of the Sikh pogrom in Delhi and elsewhere after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In that case also the criminals are walking free while those who were bereaved, lives destroyed and homes desolated – are still crying for justice. Only that. Justice as citizens of India – not Sikhs. Just citizens of India.

5.      Fourthly we need to stop talking about Muslims and Sikhs and Christians as if they are anything special. We are a secular democratic republic according to our Constitution which is the Supreme Authority of this land. According to that Constitution a citizen of this country is entitled to the same rights and is liable to fulfill the same duties as any other citizen, IRRESPECTIVE of his/her religion or ideological beliefs. So let us talk about crime and punishment and not about the religion of the victim or criminal. That makes no difference to the seriousness of the crime.

6.      Fifthly we have every faith in the Legal System of this country and only demand that it be used properly and fairly. Let the police investigate properly what happened and bring the criminals to book and let the courts pass sentence and let it be carried out. That is what the Legal System is supposed to do. Any Government or political party which opposes that is opposing the Constitution of India.

7.      Sixthly we have no faith in Rajnath Singh or his party and this suspicion was amply supported by his non-statement and its prompt refutation by the BJP spokesperson. When their promises can’t even last 24 hours, what hope that they will be honored post-election? Amnesia seems to be a common problem of the BJP.

Is it such a difficult thing for justice to be done? Is it such a crime to ask for justice?

That is all we – the citizens of India – ask. DO JUSTICE

Jai Hind
If I were President of Egypt

If I were President of Egypt

 
 

This is a piece I wrote in April 2013

Having been to Egypt recently and watching recent developments I thought to myself, ‘What would I do if I were the President of Egypt?’ Sadly as I write this, there has been a coup in Egypt and the democratically elected government has been removed by the military. While the opposition is chortling about it they may like to recall the saying, ‘Throwing the baby out with the bath water.’ A democracy by definition is a government where civilian authority is supreme, not military. Soldiers who call the shots are like wolves shepherding sheep and the results are predictable. What the opposition needs to realise is that a faulty democracy is a million times preferable to a perfect military dictatorship and by sabotaging and not supporting a democratically elected government, no matter their weaknesses, they have opened the door to their own destruction and have written slavery for themselves. What they don’t realise is that by their actions all that they have done is to strengthen and legitimize anti-democracy forces. That dog always bites.

Very similar to our (Muslim) lack of foresight when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered and the Khilafa was abolished by the British-French combine. What those who gladly accepted little kingdoms for themselves failed (or refused) to recognize was that they were party to the death of the Institution of Khilafa, the Khilafatul Muslimeen. Even if one of them had declared himself Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen instead of King; King Abdul Aziz ibn Al Saud was clearly the best candidate for this as he was the ruler of Hijaz with the Haramain Shareefain in it; the Institution of Khilafa which had come down through the centuries would still have been alive. Great efforts were made in India led by Mohnammed Ali Jauhar, Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi and others and supported by Mahatma Gandhi but to no avail. Self-interest dominated thinking and so Arab leaders accepted bits and pieces of the Ottoman Empire as their fiefdoms and the rest is history. Same logic to what the Opposition is doing in Egypt which shows that people who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The sheep who asks the wolf to help him against another sheep is bound to perish. Wolves eat sheep. Sheep can only forget or ignore that at their peril.

So what would I do if I were the president? Here are some thoughts.

The first thing that I would remind myself is that in politics facts mean nothing. Statistics less than nothing. Spectacle, impression, symbolism and communication mean everything. Symbolism, visibility and public eye are the platform on which politics runs.  In politics being truthful is less important than being believable. That is the basis of all mythology. Politics is at the root of mythology and most mythology arises from political realities.  Morsi’s dilemma proves that the economy supersedes ideology. Food before ideas. Hungry people are angry people, so feed them first. People who have nothing to lose are the most brave and reckless, so give them something to lose. Get people involved in development and they will see the benefit of government. Otherwise they will blame the same government no matter how unfair it seems. They may realise it is unfair but who else can they blame?

Nobody can cure Egypt’s economic problems in one year – except by magic. But I don’t think Egyptian magicians have it in them anymore. Maybe that is why the Pharaoh had so many of them in his time. The fact remains however that economic development must be seen to be happening. So Morsi needs (needed?) to concentrate on projects that will employ people. Large numbers of them. Infrastructure is a key area for this and Allah knows, Egypt needs it like a fish needs water. I was there in April and saw lots of men sitting in the tea shops. Very bad sign for the economy as well as for the government. They need to get those men off the streets. So employ them. There are any number of infrastructure companies in the world who will come with the money if you have the right scheme. That is what the government should do – create the schemes and invite investors.

Second major avenue of employment and high visibility is garbage collection – there are mountains waiting to be collected in the streets of Cairo. There are companies who collect garbage, recycle it, make compost and manure and fuel briquettes and generate electricity. All these are commercial activities and will employ people and clean the cities at the same time. High visibility and everyone will be positively affected.

Third is housing – not the fancy villas of Rehab but housing for the poor. Again a commercially viable alternative especially when combined with easy credit. Any number of ME countries will gladly fund something like that. Once again this will generate employment locally and solve a major problem.

Fourth is to encourage agriculture by handing out parcels of land to those who will farm them. Make a scheme where they will become the owners of the land if they can show that they can successfully farm it. Canada is a major success story in this respect. They did it by inviting Sikh farmers from Punjab. Egypt can do it with their own people. Seed and fertilizer companies will gladly partner with the government for this and so will various lending agencies.

Fifth is to concentrate on elementary and secondary schools – invite local companies to fund them and get philanthropic organizations like Qatar Foundation to help. In India, Bharati-Airtel has schools which have cumulatively more than 200,000 children. I am sure Egypt needs more than that but that alone is enough to create a buzz where it counts. Make funding of schools and housing a mandatory requirement for local and foreign companies operating in Egypt and give them tax breaks to do this. Get women involved in education and all developmental activities. They are more than 50% of the population with huge influence. No government can survive, much less sustain if it doesn’t engage its female population. So get women involved wherever they have the competence to contribute. In today’s world don’t underestimate the power of the woman in public. She will be there whether you like it or not. Your only choice is to decide if you want her with you or against you. So talk to them, involve them and leverage their presence for the good.

Market the handicrafts of Egypt. They make some really great stuff there but nobody knows about it. Having them sitting in Khan Al Khalili is not enough. They need to do exhibitions in the major cities of the West and take orders. Once again there are entrepreneurs who will do all this, provided the government provides a user friendly climate. The bureaucracy needs to go. So does the corruption.

Finally leverage tourism. Egypt has some unique monuments which like the Taj Mahal in India attract loads of foreign tourists. However Egyptian monuments are badly maintained (if at all), very difficult to get to because of extremely bad roads and riddled with touts and conmen. I was conned into sitting in a horse carriage to visit the pyramids and then the man demanded 500 Egyptian Pounds for the trip of a few hundred meters. I managed to escape from his clutches only by threatening violence. Then he followed me all the way as I walked bringing down his price until he begged me for 10 Egyptian Pounds – ‘only because you are my brother’. So clean up the act. Maintain the places, improve access and get rid of those who fleece tourists and give Egypt a bad name.

Then publicly invite the opposition to join the government and when they refuse, publicize that also. Let everyone know what you are doing, loudly and frequently. That way they can’t talk about non-inclusion. Keep the ideological agenda separate from the economic agenda. Sell the ideological agenda by communicating with people and giving them good information and allaying their fears. If not, the real and imaginary fears about the ideology will sabotage everything else. Ideology is a matter of belief; a matter of the heart. Hearts take time to change. If you link your success to that change, you will invariably fail. People must see the benefit of the ideology in action before they will believe that it is worth supporting and adopting. Talking about the ideology is pointless. Enforcing it is suicide.

Do all this very publicly so that people know what is going on. Remember that everyone has a stake in development and will support it. So involve them. Involvement means to delegate power, listen to their story, accept discord and learn to use it to build relationships. Involvement also means to accept that some things will need to be done in ways that are not necessarily what you would choose to do, but that is the real litmus test of delegation and empowerment; will you let them do it their way?

I hope lessons are learnt and democracy gets a genuine chance. Egypt is too important a country to be written off and forgotten. Or to allow once again to go back into dictatorship.

Easy to kill

30thJanuary, 1948 – Nathuram Godse fired a bullet which ended a life that impacted millions of others and continues to do so 66 years later. Gandhiji was perhaps the only Father of the Nation to be killed by his own people. We all share the shame.
Easy to kill. Impossible to forget.
So what do we remember?
1.    The power of living your message which comes out of a passionate belief that you are on the right path that leads to eventual success no matter how foggy it may look.
2.    The power of perseverance in the face of apparently insurmountable odds – arising from the knowledge that the winner of the race is only decided at the end.
3.    The power of demonstrating your commitment by walking the talk because people listen with their eyes and don’t care what you say until they see what you do.
4.    The power of tackling strategic issues which may seem insignificant to begin with but drive the change you seek to create.
5.    The power of demonstrating that your method works because seeing is believing.
6.    The power of breaking the loop of violence and introducing Ahimsa to the world.
7.    The power of taking diverse people along with you and keeping them focused on the common goal despite their individual differences.
8.    The power of holding oneself accountable for results and not blaming others for failure.
9.    The power of remaining humble despite praise and adulation of millions.
10. The danger of indecisive action when someone tries to go off in a different direction because of his own vested interests.
11. The danger of not creating robust successors to carry on the message.
12. The danger of relinquishing leadership too early before the dust had settled.

The danger of being human.
The question for us is not why Gandhiji died but what he died for. The question for us is what we intend to do today if indeed we share his dream of a nation that runs on the four wheels of truth, justice, compassion and service.
Gandhian principles make even more sense today than they did in 1948. But all principles are only as good as their practice. Gandhiji demonstrated the courage to practice what he preached and history is witness to the results. He proved his point beyond doubt.
Gandhian political strategy and method have been analyzed and commented upon but what is often forgotten is the ethical and moral belief that underpinned it. Gandhiji’s success was built on love for his fellow human beings – not hatred. Hatred killed him – but failed to extinguish his memory or the power of what he demonstrated.
Whether the death of Gandhiji is to be mourned or not will be decided by what we decide to do with his dream – our dream – the dream of a united India. Will we support hatred or love? Will we support compassion for the weak or their oppression? Will we support truth and justice or lies and corruption packaged as patriotism? This is our time. And history will hold us accountable for it.

We salute a man who was not afraid to be a man. Yes he died. And no, he will never be forgotten.

(I don’t own the picture. I don’t know who owns it. I thank them for making it.)

Same Chairs, Different Bottoms

An over 12 year old cartoon that featured in the national media to mark 50 years of India’s independence: the situation is as grim

Once upon a time there was a beautiful land in which clear rivers flowed through lush forests. Birds flocked to the trees which were heavy with fruit until one was almost deafened by the cacophony of their cries. And if one dared to walk under the trees, then one needed an umbrella which quickly changed color and became white with the spirited discharge of processed fruit ensuing forth from enthusiastic birds.  Of animals there were plenty in this land but only the non-biting kind. All those that bit had been muzzled and lived on a diet of liquid protein shakes and Red Bull. So it appeared as if all was right with the world and the sun was shining and rain was falling and there was actually a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Never mind that nobody had actually got to it yet. Good thing that, or there would not be a pot at the end of the thing now, would there?

However the Wise Ones tell us never to be deceived by what we see for there can be much under the surface that is not visible to the naked eye. And that is how things were in this land as well. There was much pain and suffering under the surface. The reason for this was very simple. The land was enslaved. People craved to be independent and free but they were enslaved.
There were two kinds of people in this land, the Fatty Bottoms and the Bony Backsides. Fatty Bottoms, hereinafter to be referred as FBs were the rulers. Bony Backsides were the workers who lived only to serve the FBs. In due form we shall refer to them henceforth as BBs. Fatty Bottoms sat on special chairs which were specially shaped to fit their rather large sit-upons. FBs never left their chairs and when they had to go to a party or indeed anywhere they forced the BBs to carry them there, chair and all. This added to the suffering of the BBs because not only were FBs heavy to carry, the movement disturbed the fluid balance in their bellies and they expressed their feelings in an aromatic manner. The aroma unfortunately had no competition except perhaps from Satilla the Skunk and was not appreciated by the BBs who had to carry the FBs to their parties.
Not unnaturally it was the greatest desire of the BBs to become free of the oppressive Fatty Bottom rule. For this they schemed and made many plans but never managed to succeed, because the FBs had a law called Secret Code 420. This law had specially and very cleverly been made to ensure that the FBs always remained in power and the BBs could never become free.
It was a very interesting law because it was only one line.
Secret Code 420:
Whether any action is a crime or not depends on who does it, not on what is done.
So if a BB protested against the oppression, for example, he was called a rebel and jailed. If he took any direct action which the FBs were frightened of, it was labeled ‘terrorism’ and he was hanged after first being tortured. If something happened and the FB police couldn’t find out who did it, they simply grabbed the first BB they could lay their hands on and then beat him into a state where he would willingly admit to anything including what the birds did. Then once he had put it all in writing, he would conveniently encounter a stray bullet while attempting to commit mass murder of FBs and would be out of the race. This saved a lot of time and energy of the entire legal system which was much appreciated by all of FB-dom. What the BBs felt about the sudden abridgement of their friend’s lifespan was neither here nor there, because BB’s feelings and opinions were of no consequence anyway.
As they lived in this land, the BBs always wondered what it was that gave the FBs so much power. The Wise Ones told them that the secret lay in the shape of their chairs. The chairs of the FBs were carefully shaped with two very large cup-like depressions to fit the two cheeks of the sit-upon with a little ridge in the center to ensure that there was minimal lateral slide. The BBs believed that it was these chairs and their shape that gave the FBs their power to rule. Occasionally when an FB who had been carried around for some time desired to commune with nature, some of his BB chair carriers would try out the FB’s chair for size. Naturally this was a capital offence and any BB caught sitting in an FB chair would have his head separated from his body, but forbidden fruit is sweet and so BBs took the risk to sit in the FB chair anyway. But the experience was disappointing. The chair was intensely uncomfortable for a Bony Backside’s sit-upon. It poked them from all sides and they could neither fit into one depression or the other. The central ridge was the worst as it played havoc with all the delicate parts of the BB. How such a devilish contraption was so comfortable for an FB, the BB could never understand. Meanwhile here comes the FB master and time to go on the road once again.
One day it came to pass that there arose among the BBs one who was not afraid of the FBs. He carried a stick, wore eye glasses and drank goat’s milk. He was called the Great One. The Great One did great things which all the BBs marveled at and which were a source of unending aggravation for the FB establishment. For example, one day he walked to the sea and made salt to prove that those who wanted salt in their food could very well make it themselves and had no need to go to Wal-Mart to get it, thank you very much. He spun thread on a spinning wheel and made cloth and then wore it wrapped around his waist. He never got around to making any more cloth as it took too long and he had much to do and so never wore a shirt. Great One had several companions among whom was one who always said that he had many miles to go before he slept. His name was Ruby Red. It is not known who he was going to meet at the end of that long road, but it was a good line to say and so he always said it: ‘Many miles to go before I sleep’. It is said that the time makes the man. And so it happened in this case.
The BBs with their leader, Great One- the guy with the stick, followed by the guy going for a walk – Ruby Red, managed to raise enough of a revolution to make life difficult for the FBs. Their war cry was, ‘FBs go home and take your chairs with you.’ BBs were convinced that until the FB chairs were destroyed and removed from the land they would never be free.
‘How can you have a one-line law?’ someone asked.
‘How can an action be judged by who does it?’ demanded another.
‘Right is right and wrong is wrong and never the twain shall meet,’ said the third.
‘It is a conspiracy to keep us enslaved forever,’ said a fourth.
Such conversations have the power of a typhoon because they open the mind and stir the heart. Gradually the noise built up until it could be heard above the cacophony of the aforementioned birds and then it grew some more and drowned out the birds altogether. ‘FBs GO HOME’ shouted the BBs. FBs GO HOME.!!
Now wait a minute, you tell me. Did they not used to also say, ‘Take your chairs with you?
Hmm!! Clever you!! You are observant. Yes they used to. But they shortened it. Why? Try shouting the whole mouthful as a slogan and you will see why. So the last part about the chairs was taken to be understood. After all once the FBs were gone, the horrible chairs would be demolished and burnt up because they were so uncomfortable for the BBs to sit in anyway and the law would be changed and everyone would live happily ever after. QED.
So it came to pass, that in the middle of one night, the FBs left and the BBs were free. There was much rejoicing and dancing in the streets. Goat’s milk flowed like water and people spun spinning wheels like mad. Great One was nowhere to be found as he had apparently gone off now that he had some time, to see where it was that Ruby Red was headed towards. Ruby Red on the other hand took a right about turn and returned just in time to bid the last FB a fond farewell and then since there was nothing more to do, he sat down on the FB’s chair to rest.
The next day Ruby Red gathered some of his friends together and called the meeting to order and spoke thus. “My friends,” he said. “We have been given freedom at midnight. There is nowhere to sit except these chairs and no law except the Secret Code 420. I suggest that we all rest for a while and think about this before we throw out this law. It is true that we did not like it when we were at  the receiving end but notice that today we are not. The law served the FBs very well for 200 years. We have a lot of time to change the law so let us not be in a hurry to change it straight away. Meanwhile let us get used to sitting in these horrible chairs, which believe it or not, since I have been sitting in mine for a while now, is not as uncomfortable as it used to be.” All his friends agreed with this plan to put things on hold for a while and get used to the chairs and let the old law continue. Someone even asked where Great One had gotten too, but others were not too interested and so the matter was dropped.
Time passed and those who were watching from the sidelines noticed something strange. The bottoms of Ruby Red and his cronies started to change shape. They became fat and round and took the shape of the depressions in the chairs. Ruby Red and his cronies became very comfortable in their FB chairs; though they were no longer called that. They had a new name; Singhasan.
So much so that they became very resentful if they were asked to move and go anywhere. “Why can’t we get someone to carry us?” they demanded. “Why not indeed?” said Ruby Red. “Let it be done!” he thundered and many compliant BBs ran to do his bidding. Up rose his Singhasan on the shoulders of those who had been accustomed to carry it for the FB who sat in it before Ruby Red. And off he went, followed by his whole train of friends, each on his own Singhasan carried on the shoulders of its own bearers.
Some BBs resented this turn of events and shouted at Ruby Red and his friends as they went by, “We did not elect you so that you could behave like the FBs.” Another yelled, “What is the difference between you and the FBs?” As this started to grow, Ruby Red and his cronies became worried. They knew the power of the word, for they had themselves used it to great advantage. So they issued orders that anyone shouting against Ruby Red or his cronies was being anti-national and should be arrested. After all what was the difference between Ruby Red and the nation? Had he and his friends not sacrificed so many other BBs in order to get independence from the FBs? So naturally now, loyalty to the Ruby Red Gang was loyalty to the Nation. And opposing the Ruby Red Gang was treason. So the hunt started to ferret out the traitors. If the actual person could not be found anyone else could take his place. After all it was now a free country.
“But shouting against the rulers was what you used to do, isn’t it?” his wife asked Ruby Red.
“Ah! But the ruler was different, you see,” explained Ruby Red.
“But you used to say that justice is not about the individual but about the act. Just because you do something does not make it right, when the same thing was wrong when the FBs did it. Isn’t that how the law was in the time of the FBs? Whether any action is a crime or not depends on who does it, not on what is done? Today we are independent. We are free. Didn’t you used to say that the law was unjust and must be changed?” she demanded.
“Ah!” smiled Ruby Red. “You see, that is still the law. We never actually changed it. Really quite convenient if you ask me. Suits us just fine. After all we lived by it for 200 years, so what’s so different now?”
“You have changed,” said his wife, in a disappointed tone.
“Maybe”, said Ruby Red. “But the chair is the same. Miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.”
“So are we truly independent?” she would not leave him in peace?

“That”, said Ruby Red, “depends on who is asking”.

[Image Caption and Source : http://delhigreens.com/2009/10/02/on-gandhi-jayanthi-remembering-the-mahatma-to-resurrect-his-principles/ ]

Differentiating between ‘Saying’ and ‘Doing’

Speaking against the law is freedom; breaking it is a crime

I had a very interesting conversation one morning. A very dear friend called and said in effect, “Renuka Chowdhury is after Pramod Mutalik because his people beat up girls in Mangalore pubs but did you know that someone has given a fatwa in UP to say that Muslim girls must not go to co-ed schools. I read what you write but you should write against these kinds of fatwas. Why are they against educating girls?” And so on and so on.

So I did some research and this is what I found:

1.    A fatwa is an opinion. A legal opinion according to Islamic law which is not binding on anyone as in this country Islamic law is not the law of the land. Naturally this still being a free country, everyone is entitled to his opinion, including the Mufti who gave the fatwa as well as Mr. Mutalik, Renuka Chowdhury, my friend and myself.
2.    Islamic law is against the free social/recreational mixing of men and women who are not married or otherwise blood relations and so any legal expert if asked will give this opinion that co-ed education is to be avoided.
3.    I was also told that where there is no alternative, girls are allowed to study in co-ed colleges, just as they are allowed to work in workplaces which have men or shop in malls which have men or go to hospitals which have male doctors and so on. The only condition is that they should be properly clothed in clothing that fully covers their body and head as required by Islamic law.
4.    That an opinion to the effect that Muslim girls should not study in co-ed schools is not the same thing as “Muslim girls should not study.” The opinion is not against educating women but against the environment in which such study may be carried out. But if we are conditioned to believe something negative and don’t make independent enquiries then there is no way of reaching the truth.
5.    I found out that the Justice Sachar Committee’s Report on Minorities notes that more than 2 million Muslim boys and girls study in Madrassas (Muslim owned and operated schools which use the Qur’an and other religious texts as the basis of education) in India. These schools are entirely funded by the Muslim community internally and don’t take a single Rupee from the Government of India even though education is a responsibility of the GOI. The monthly expenditure on these children @ Rs. 500 per child is Rs. 2 billion. Yes monthly. Not annually. And that more than 40% of these children are girls. Amazing!! I always thought Muslims were against education!!! Yet the poorest community in India thinks education is important enough to spend this amazing amount on it, even though it is resource starved in so many ways. Yet it continues to be maligned.
6.    And now hold your breath; guess which community has the highest percentage of women who are literate? No prizes for guessing. True these Madrassas are not co-ed schools. But then the purpose is to educate, isn’t it? Not merely to have a co-ed environment. And what’s so strange about that? After all Wilhelm’s is an all girls school. So are all St. Annes, all Mount Carmel, all St. Georges Girls Grammar Schools all over this country and I can name many more. Yet when was the last time you heard criticism about the Apostolic Carmelite Order or other Orders of Christian Nuns who run these schools? Or demands that they should be made co-ed?
7.    Now how about Mr. Mutalik and his gang of goons called Ram Sene? Did they give an opinion? Or did they break the law?
8.    They informed the media of what they were going to do and then they entered a pub and assaulted and injured Hindu girls who were there with Muslim boys, because they were there with Muslim boys. Then they proceeded to talk about the erosion of Indian culture by pubs. These actions continue with the tacit approval of the Police and State Administration in Karnataka.

The confusion in the mind seems to be between having an opinion and acting on it when to do so may contravene the law of the land. The issue is not whether or not we like a particular law. Frankly many Muslims including myself are very glad that someone beat up Muslim boys who were sitting in bars and pubs when our religion clearly prohibits the consumption of alcohol or being in places where alcohol is served even if you are not drinking. So in spirit there is a fair amount of approval among the Muslims for the actions of Mr. Mutalik’s goons. That however is not the issue at stake.
The issue is whether or not someone has the right to break a law in order to impose his will (no matter how well intentioned) on someone else in this country? And the answer is a very emphatic, “NO!” Beating up people who don’t confirm to your code of behavior is not permitted in India and is a crime. And that is where the problem lies, because in our land we have become used to the law being applied, not in relation to the crime but in relation to who commits the crime. So Mr. Mutalik is applauded and his goons walk free and continue their crimes, unopposed. While poor Renuka Chowdhury gets the short end of the stick for speaking out against the failure of the Government to govern.

Such is life, as a dear friend of mine would say, every time she faced something like this. Such indeed is life. And such is the confusion in our minds, where we confuse between an opinion and action. To have an opinion against a law and to speak against it is a sign of freedom. To break that law is a crime. Let us be clear in our minds about the difference.

Democracy & the Corporation – Corporatizing the Globe

 

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”      Edward Dowling

We’re seeing a sudden surge of dictatorial fascistic leaders around the globe. Here’s something I wrote several years ago, trying to explain what’s happening especially when people give the example of good governance as Singapore, or Malaysia under Mahatir, or Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, or India under Indira Gandhi by saying that the national leader was a CEO.

My point is that yes, they were great CEO’s and that’s precisely what was wrong with them and their style.

The fault of the rest of us was that we accepted this situation without understanding what was behind it and were happy that the trains ran on time in exchange for our freedoms which were quietly taken away. I think that in today’s political scenario where totalitarianism is sought to be passed off as the price for efficiency, it is particularly important to reflect on what we are giving up for what and ask ourselves whether it is worth it? Remember that social change is more or less permanent. Once it is done, it is almost impossible to undo. A change of government will only change the bottoms in the chairs; not the chairs or the mentality that comes with them. Let us choose wisely because our choice is about ourselves, not anyone else.

Every time anyone protested the State-Corporation reacted like its business model; put down revolts mercilessly; interpreting dissent as treason and punishing it accordingly. That’s why I don’t see Occupy Wall Street, Arab Sprung (not a typo) and the latest Women’s Protest in Washington after the Inauguration of President Trump and similar things as winds of change but as incipient rebellions which will be crushed. Sorry for the jaundiced opinion but I don’t like to fool myself or anyone else. The Arab Spring is a case in point.

Those who want change will have to do a lot more than marching in the streets.

Today the biggest crime is not what The Empire commits daily, openly and blatantly but to criticize the Empire. The saddest/funniest thing is to see this new morality being enforced; not by agents of the Empire but by stupid little slave leaders who don’t even realize what they’re doing. The victims are enforcing their own victimization. How convenient for the oppressors…you get what you want without the bad name that should go with oppression.

Of late we have been seeing many articles lamenting the role of the Press and Media in today’s society and complaining how it is no longer objective and principled but seems to be more a propaganda machine than anything else. I thought it therefore necessary to try to put things in perspective so that we can recognize what is really happening to our world. That way we will either take the trouble to change matters or at least see how entirely expected and appropriate the role of the media and press is, under the circumstances.

The play Mouse Trap is the longest running play in history. It has been going on since 1947. But strangely the ending is always the same. Now isn’t that very peculiar? Or is it really quite understandable because though the actors have changed since 1947, the script is the same and so no matter which actor comes, he or she is forced to speak the same lines and so the play begins in the same way and the ending is the same.

I would like you to remember this analogy while I recall a quick history lesson. Once upon a time there was a multi-national company, run from a warehouse in London where its Board sat. It sent out its managers at first to trade with Indian kings. They took permission to build trading posts, then permission to recruit a small force to secure their goods. Gradually these trading posts metamorphosed into forts, the security guards into a private army and the country managers into Governors. The enslavement of India was well on its way, before the Indian leadership such as there was, even woke up to the fact. That India was more a geography than a political reality at the time was no doubt helpful to those who had a more global view. Robert Clive, Country Manager, British East India Company, became the Governor General (notice the title and its implication) of India, annexed independent states and assassinated their legitimate heads and installed his own Agents to administer what had been in effect independent countries in their own right. All with the knowledge and tacit approval of the British Crown.

It was the so-called ‘Mutiny’ of 1857, which only the last of the Great Mughals, Bahadur Shah Zafar had the courage to call by its real name, ‘The Indian War of Independence’, that forced the British Crown to take a more active role. The slavery of India did not end however; we just changed our owners. Bahadur Shah Zafar was accused of treason and banished from the land of his forefathers. His three sons were shot dead in cold blood and their bodies stripped naked and left in the street with orders not to be buried for three days. So much for the great justice of the British Raj. Bahadur Shah Zafar defended his position and pointed out that it was he, who was the king of the land, not the British East India Company and so he couldn’t possibly have committed treason against himself. It was the Company Sahib (note the address of respect, enforced on India) which was the intruder into a land where they came to trade and stayed to rule. Of course, the plea fell on the deaf ears of the British East India Company’s judge and Bahadur Shah Zafar was banished from the home of his forefathers forever.  That is when he wrote his famous couplet:

kitnaa hai bad_naseeb “Zafar” dafn key liye
do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein

(How unfortunate is Zafar that even to be buried, He couldn’t get two yards of earth in the land of his love)

He was banished to Burma and died in Rangoon; even his grave there today is all but forgotten.

Cut to 2017; a century and a half later and what do we see? The names have changed. The actors have changed but the script is the same and so the play continues. The objectives are the same and so are the methods; grabbing raw material, fuel, land, labor, power and markets in any way possible using any means at one’s disposal and treating any attempt by the rightful owners at self-defense as rebellion, to be crushed mercilessly with overwhelming force. The foundation of this method is of course even more ancient. The industrial-military complex and its methodology for global domination is first recorded more than 2000 years ago, in the annals of the history of the Roman Empire. The Empire is long gone, but ideology outlasts its proponents and so the lessons have been learned and are being practiced. The centurion replaced by the present-day soldier performing the same role; following orders from on high, crushing all attempts at exercising local freedom.

The world however has changed in some ways, in that public opinion does have a bigger say in things, than used to be the case with the Romans or the British Empire. So, thought-steering evolved to a fine art. That and the art of influencing others by means of repeating a lie over and over. Lessons once again learnt from a master, the head of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels. Only, we are not silly enough to actually call it Propaganda Ministry. Instead we call it the Free Press. So, the lie becomes the truth. The victim deserves to die and the law is a handmaiden of the tyrant, designed to give his every action the veneer of legitimacy.

The New World Order is well on its way to achieving its aim of global domination, called by yet another harmless, even benevolent sounding name, Globalization.

Just reflect a bit on this: what differentiates a Corporation from a Democracy?

Corporation

  1. Hereditary or nominated head
  2. Absolute authority of leadership
  3. If people don’t like the leader, they must leave
  4. Attempts at asserting equality, freedom or questioning decisions are seen as Opposition = Rebellion = Treason = Punishment = ‘Death’: Firing from the job
  5. Master plan for everyone. Others must align to it
  6. Freedom is anathema except for the top leadership. Everyone else is free only to follow orders, couched in nice language.
  7. Test of success = alignment to values
  8. Mark of a leader = Can break unions
  9. Mark of a trouble maker = represents the people = Union leader
  10. Inequality is accepted even expected
  11. Corporations seek to influence consumers
  12. Media/Press = the PR Agency. It sings the official tune, its success lies in its ability to influence minds by interpreting (not reporting) facts, it invents language to ensure that all official actions appear good and all opposition to them appears bad
  13. Freedom fighter = insurgent/terrorist; dead civilians = collateral damage; genocide = ethnic cleansing; murder = encounter. Its job is to ensure that the establishment always appears to be noble, good, pious   and kind; no matter what it does. It can never be objective

Democracy

  1. Elected head
  2. Participatory authority
  3. If people don’t like the leader the leader must leave
  4. Collective bargaining and decision making is encouraged. Citizens participate in leadership. Questioning and Opposition: Signs of a healthy democracy
  5. Participatory master planning open to change as necessary
  6. Equality and freedom are sacred; supported and defended by the constitution
  7. Constituents are citizens, equal participants in the future of the collective
  8. Citizens are equal free and encouraged to influence the government
  9. Democracies seek to consult citizens
  10. Media/Press is the agent of the people. It gives them a voice, it encourages debate, it provides a space for national debate/dialogue, it encourages divergent ideas and ideologies, it reports facts and it questions authority and official decisions. It is the interface between the government and citizens and by its role it tells the government what the people really want or what they think of one policy or another. It keeps authoritative tendencies in check by its ability to expose them and redresses the wrongs committed by those in power.

Corporations see people as consumers. Democracies have citizens

I can go on but I won’t. I will leave you to add to this list as you wish. Those of you who have read Collins and Porras’, Built to Last will read with interest the reasons for greatness that they cite for what they call ‘Visionary Companies’. Among them; Total Alignment to a Core Ideology and Cult-like Cultures are most critical. The single most critical need for a Cult-like Culture is a profusion of mindless followers, who will do what they are told, without question. That is what alignment is all about. And incidentally that is what the fascist state also needs. The success of the corporation is measured by how it can increase shareholder value. This is a direct result of high profits through good margins or high volumes or both. Everything else is subordinate to that goal.

That is the reason why in British India, the British rulers forced the farmers of North India to grow indigo instead of food and precipitated a famine that resulted in more than one million deaths, but of course, not one of them British. But the commercial success of the venture justified the cost in human lives. Especially when they were not British lives but those of some nameless poor black people in ‘that colony of ours’. Similarly, to create a market for the produce of the cloth mills of Yorkshire, the vibrant textile industry of Northern and Central India was deliberately destroyed including the smashing of looms. Millions of small weavers were reduced to penury overnight. And the inferior cloth from Yorkshire had a free entry into the huge Indian market. After all, one must wear clothes, no matter their origin. It is not an accident that Gandhiji took Swadeshi as his slogan, burnt his British clothes and donned the dhoti. He used the spinning wheel as his symbol and spun thread and made khadi cotton cloth.  Unlike many today, he knew his history very well and was a master at putting his finger on the nerve that hurt the most.

Corporatizing of Democracy: The Totalitarian State

The ideal situation for the corporation is when the state becomes a corporation. Then the head of state is proudly called a ‘CEO’. Productivity is at the peak, trains run on time, there is no disruption of work, students study, workers work, teachers teach their subject exclusively, parents condition the next generation properly and all government is left to those who walk the corridors of power. Indeed, this is as it should be and all is right with the ant colony. It is not accidental that countries like China, Israel and even Pakistan have long had most favored nation status with the US/Europe but India (when we were part of the Non-Aligned Movement: what an appropriate name it was!) did not. Those were the days when the trade union movement was vibrant though for those who worked for corporations this was something of a problem. Then came the criminalization (totalitarian control) of trade unions by political parties who floated their own unions and eventually trade union activity became a memory.

The Corporation is interested in one thing only as I mentioned; maximizing profit. Social, religious or political ideologies are of no interest to it in any way except in terms of how they support its goal.

Above all the corporation needs order. It calls it by many names; peace, harmony, goodness for all mankind, but what it really needs is order. The fastest and surest way to create order is by the use of overwhelming force. Zero tolerance. All protest, debate, demonstrations, criticism and ‘confusion’ must be eliminated to get silence and order.

Corporations and corporate language finds immediate resonance in the military because many if not most of modern corporate thinking has roots in military command theory. That is the reason why if you read the history of the development of any fascist totalitarian rule, you will find that the first collaborators of fascist rulers are always industrialists, businessmen; in short those who run corporations. For it is they who understand and empathize with the fascist leader the best.

Corporations are the most undemocratic structures in the world and stand for the exact opposite of all democratic values. However now we have a problem. And that is, what do we do with public opinion if we express the truth as I have done? The solution is language. Say the same thing but differently.

So, the Voice of the Corporation (their Media/Press companies) talks of freedom (they mean freedom to obey), equality (you are exactly equal to the next man on the assembly line), meeting aspirations (provided you keep your head to the corporate grinding wheel for 30 years first), progress (corporate goals are being met) and welfare (good living conditions for the enforcers). Crime and patriotism are both redefined. Any action that seeks to slow down or change the corporate goal is a crime. Any opposition to official ideology is treason. Patriotism is not love of and loyalty to the country but loyalty to the government of the day. Criticism is defined as disloyalty. Curtailing of freedom and human rights are justified in the interest of security.

In order to get people to not just agree to their freedoms being curtailed and human rights being reduced and violated, terror is used by the state or its agencies so that fear crazed people will come running into the open arms of the police asking for protection and gladly ratify the most draconian laws which imprison their minds, tongues and actions. Security is inversely proportional to functionality. People are taught this valuable lesson so that they tamely accept hours of waiting for flights, strange security guards delving into their most personal belongings and their probing hands and eyes rampaging all over their bodies, ostensibly searching for hidden arms.

People who have learnt these lessons also learn to keep their mouths shut even if they don’t actively support legislation legalizing torture, murder, detention without cause and disappearances in the night. And those who don’t learn this lesson become examples whose fate enables others to learn.

Freedom of speech is a very well-rehearsed charade. The Corporate State allows you to say whatever you want and to hold demonstrations of as many people as you want. This serves two very important ends: it supports the illusion of freedom of speech and allows people a way of letting off steam so that there isn’t enough buildup to bring about fundamental change. This also allows the Corporate State the opportunity to identify potential threats to itself and to take care of them later once the noise has subsided and all the demonstrators have gone back to their TV screens and popcorn. Then the Corporate State does what it intended to do anyway. The Iraq war, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Tiananmen Square massacre in China are all good examples.

There are many others but I will leave you to think of them. The same is the case of Judicial Enquiries where compliant judges sign on dotted lines and the case is always closed in favor of the Corporate State. Ask, when was the last time that the State was indicted in a Judicial Enquiry and its agents went to jail?

The last thing that a Corporate State needs is a thinking, questioning, middle class that has options. So, it seeks to remove them and to change their situation where the people are completely dependent on the state which then becomes the best way of controlling them. Financial meltdowns, whether they are deliberately engineered or the result of excessive greed are a very useful tool to bring the middle class down to earth. It is the middle class which loses the shirt on its collective back and has its homes repossessed and suddenly higher goals like freedom, liberty and human rights have to be subordinated to the immediate goal of putting food on the table or ensuring a roof overhead. After the meltdown, the Corporate State steps in with its bail-out plans, all neatly packaged with a veritable spaghetti of strings attached. All sensible people fall in line. Those who protest or worse, seek to show others the reality are struck down, often by their own badly frightened compatriots. If they escape that fate, the Corporate State removes them from circulation for the common good, silently watched by the mute majority.

Ask, in the latest meltdown who’s suffering the most? Corporate heads who are responsible for the meltdown or the middle class who were their faithful employees? Ask, how is it that heads of corporations which went bankrupt went home with multi-million dollar pay and bonus packages? What are these rewards for? Ask, who are the direct and immediate beneficiaries of the bailout packages? Ask, how many corporate heads lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts or lost their homes in the financial meltdown? Ask, where were the decisions that created the meltdown taken; in board rooms or on the assembly line? Ask, but who is the one who lost the shirt on his back and the roof over his head?

The Corporate State is a great supporter of technology. It funds and supports without limit all research that enables it to control the people better and more powerfully. The official line of course is that this is in the interest of the people themselves to better be able to protect them from harm. Anyone thinking of raising his voice against more and more invasive surveillance is silenced by his own people. Some truly amazing technological developments are being mentioned. Bugs with solar powered cameras which will transmit real-time images and audio to a satellite which will beam it back to a central console monitoring the doings of the target group. The term ‘fly-on-the-wall’ suddenly has a very different and sinister meaning. Satellite maps that pinpoint your home, car and yourself exactly and can track your every move. Cell phones, credit cards, ID cards, retina scans all to identify you positively and to track your every move. Once again, I won’t go on.

The point is that the vast majority of research and development that is currently going on is not in the areas of health, food production, environmental protection, education or economic development but in the area of what is euphemistically called ‘security systems. In fact, these are not security systems but surveillance systems, control systems and more sinister systems which all dovetail to focus on the overarching goal of enhancing the hold of the Corporate State on the world.

What can we do?

What the Corporate State can’t stand is the light of day on its activities. So accurate reporting of facts, shining the light of enquiry on shady deals, asking the unasked, speaking the unspoken and raising your voice against injustice right at its inception, are all necessary. Technology today gives us the ability to do all of this without depending on the Corporate Media to give us space. Thanks to the internet, camera mobiles, smart phones and the ability to upload images and text from almost anywhere, it is possible today to ensure that at least those who are interested can see the side of the picture that the likes of CNN, Times, Fox and other mouthpieces of the establishment have been hiding.

Ultimately to act or to sit and watch is the decision of the individual. We can’t force anyone to act. What we can and must do however is to ensure that people have access to correct information so that they can make good decisions. What we can and must do is to ensure that critical questions are asked and brought into the debate so that people can demand more and better information from the agencies of the Corporate State.

Whether they get that information or not immediately is not the issue. When they start asking the questions this in itself will generate positive trends where citizens will stop acting like consumers and start to exercise some of their rights. The right to information is one. The right to justice is another. Freedom of belief and speech is another. I believe that as citizens of democracies, no matter how flawed, if we can enforce accountability by sharing information and asking questions we will have achieved a great deal in ensuring that men and women can still walk free in the land, long after we are gone.