Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shubh Deepawali

Diwali greetings to one and all. शुभ दीपावली!

Image from here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why cries for “no death penalty” are bogus

This post originally appeared here.
President Pratibha Patil confirmed the death sentence awarded to former Prime Minster Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins. The sentence itself came about after a long trial process in our courts. One would think that law being followed to its logical conclusion would be welcomed by all. But this is not the case.
For their own political reasons, Tamil Nadu politicians have asked that the death sentence be commuted. Our human rights activists and liberals do not have to worry about votes, but they have joined the clamour. “No death penalty because it is inhuman” they say. Curiously one sees a sudden rise in such campaigns by human rights activists and liberals only at opportune moments. At all other times such cries are nowhere to be heard. If they were indeed so passionately against capital punishment they would have been more consistent. Needless to say that is not the case.
This concern for human rights is lacking in balance. In the case of a murder or an assassination the first human rights abuse is by the perpetrator who takes life of the victim. The victim suffers loss of life. Any and all human rights of the victim cease to exist with loss of life. It would only be natural to expect that those violating rights of the victim be made to face the full extent of law and suffer any consequences provided by the law. After all, a civilized society is governed by rule of law. And death sentences are handed out by courts after following laws laid out by civilized societies. Yet we seem to have a problem.
The human rights clamour seen for convicts invariably reaches fever pitch but in contrast we hardly hear anything by the same group for victims. Victims are the ones who have lost and suffered the most. They are in need of justice for suffering loss of rights. But one does not see any such campaign worth talking about for the victims. Justice being done to victims following the course of law is being denied by the human rights activists in their opportunistic cry for “no death penalty”. That irony is lost on them.
When one sees this convenient cry for abolishing capital punishment one cannot help but question principles of such rights activists. Sincere intentions would have been evident if campaigns were sustained, consistent which would have resulted in either starting a meaningful debate or having death penalty abolished. Instead we have these intermittent cries at opportune moments.
Looking at the conduct of some of our career human rights activists and liberal opinion makers it seems that their campaigns are designed, calculated with possible benefits in mind. Some of them have indeed succeeded in benefiting from their calibrated campaigns and also have earned patronage from expected quarters. What is lacking is an objective scrutiny of their record as activists. Such a scrutiny is likely to show their failure in bringing about any meaningful change to human rights issues.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Debate or driving a wedge?

This post originally appeared here.
That our TV and newspaper debates have become didactic is increasingly apparent. But are they without any purpose? Without any motive? Why do opinion makers feel compelled to lead people in a certain direction? And does this direction lead people to a certain political choice while steering them away from others? The answer can be found in what transpires in these debates.
Baba Ramdev started a campaign against corruption. This campaign gathered so much momentum that the government sent four union ministers to meet the Baba. Things did not go as the government had hoped. The Baba’s campaign acquired a deeply Saffron character. Soon after that we heard TV studios sing in chorus disparaging the Baba and his campaign. We saw TV studio invitees echoing exactly the same thoughts as that of the anchors who themselves echoed thoughts of the government. Switch to a debate in another TV studio and one could not help but think one was hearing an echo of the debate in the other TV studio. This was in sharp contrast with the almost approving nod Anna Hazare’s campaign received. The difference between the two was that Anna’s campaign was strictly “apolitical” while Baba’s was “political” and not just “political” but “Saffron” too.
Take a more recent example. The Karnataka Lokayukta came out with a report on mining scams. Yeddyurappa of BJP was the Chief Minister heading a majority government. Congress and JDS are the political opposition. Yeddyurappa and his family find mention in the report and every TV studio asked for his ouster. Yeddyurappa resigned. A similar thing happened in Delhi. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress party has a more serious involvement in the Commonwealth Games corruption. The Shunglu Committee and CAG reports have listed the scam in detail and questioned her role in the same. An equivalent level of campaign for her ouster is nowhere to be seen in TV studios or newspaper columns. The reaction has been disproportionately muted. It was said that the BJP would strengthen its moral standing against corruption by making Yeddyurappa resign. Now we hear the CAG had exceeded its mandate in indicting Sheila Dikshit and that its findings are not final but must be put under scrutiny.
These are but two recent and more popular examples. Scores such examples can be witnessed if one go through most of our debates. The resulting narrative of such debates disadvantages a certain political formation and by default this benefits the grand old political formation. The political formation at advantage has been given the highly desirable character of being secular. With secularism being spoken of favourably and rewarded in TV studios and columns, parties associating themselves with secularism enjoy good word of mouth.
With such debates it becomes difficult for anyone to put the favourable political formation under scrutiny and not attract criticism. The result of such debates is to drive a wedge between the fence sitters and political formations not identified with secularism. Such debates consolidate the committed and make it difficult, almost impossible for the uncommitted to choose anything but the secular choice.