Archive for March, 2012

‘Narendra Modi cannot be the face of India’

31 March 2012

Fareed Zakaria, the Bombay-born anchor of the CNN show, GPS—and son of the renowned Islamic scholar Rafiq Zakaria—at “Express Adda“, the informal conversations organised by the Indian Express:

“My personal opinion is that Narendra Modi is unlikely to be a national leader in India and he may not even be a regional leader come December. He has been able to achieve certain kinds of things, but he cannot be the face of India.

Karl Marx said that history repeats itself twice—first time as a tragedy and second time as a farce. There is not going to be a Hindutva takeover of India—this is one stream that will be diverted in the long run.”

Also read: Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

Wait 30 years for a few inches; 300 for the rest

31 March 2012

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: The orange flames leapt up like an army of hissing snakes gone berserk. The searing heat singed, scalded, scorched and burnt every single shrub, root, leaf, branch or trunk that it could encompass in its wake.

The blazing, raging, maniacal inferno unleashed its fury like a gargantuan dragon spewing a gush of acrid brimstone smoke from its furious nostrils and the conflagration went completely out of control.

A pristine part of the sylvan Nagarahole national park—home of that mysterious streak of ochre, the awesome tiger and the lumbering slate grey handsomeness of the elephant, to just think of the two most famous denizens of the mesmerising, soul uplifting, almost divinity inspiring, swathes of wilderness in my part of the world—lay consigned to the innards of history; to the nether world of total annihilation and oblivion; the serpentine aloofness of the game roads of which, I have traversed times without number, in total delight and joy.

Some precious 600 hectares in the Kalhalla range of the national park lay in cinders; the dying embers of the fire that raged uncontrolled for almost close to three days; a gory, sad and tragic reminder of a conservation thought gone awry; the sense of hubris on the part of the powers-that-be, who manage the delicate ecological balance of the park being showcased in stark grotesqueness amidst the ashy white stumps dotting the landscape; vestiges of what were once grand, proud trees that sheltered a million creatures, big and small.

They say just for the first few inches of the upper substrate with its alluviality to re-appear could take about 30 years. And for the jungle to come back to its original state with the trees and their canopies and their eco-system, perhaps a 300! With the rains would have come the humus of the abundant leaf litter that would have aided in the sprouting of fresh grass.

Now the burnt area will show up as a bald patch for an interminably long time.

Nagarahole fell a victim of human rage, a kind of seething, unexplainable frustration that stems from the general feeling that you are not really wanted; of an impotent anger at being marginalised and discarded from the general scheme of things in these jungles, where the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, mandates emphatically that even to pick up a piece of dead or fallen timber is a punishable offence.

The rage stemmed from a tribal heart; those hapless, unfortunate men and women who were brought into the area by the British towards the latter part of the 19th century to raise and manage timber plantations and are now seen as a serious liability by the forest department and conservationists.

Between 1894 and 1901, the British conducted extensive timber logging operations in large tracts of Nagarahole that had come to be called reserve forests. Wood was in great demand in the shipping industry, for railways and the gold mines near Kolar.

The abundant availability of different species of timber made the idea of logging extremely viable. Hence, the Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas and the Yeravas moved in. Under colonial management, the forests of India were seen as rich sources of valuable timber. Conservation, unfortunately, was not high on their agenda. Wild life was never really seen as worthy of being protected.

For the tribals though, life began to take a terribly uncertain turn after the British left in 1947, when the emphasis of forest management slowly began to shift from one of exploitation to that of conservation and protection.

The year 1973 saw the launch of Project Tiger as a desperate attempt to save this flagship species whose numbers had dropped precariously to around 1800 in 1972 from some 40,000 at the turn of the 20th century.

All these developments began to slowly but surely erode the legitimacy of the tribals and more importantly, took away the relevance of their existence inside the forests.

Life for them, inside the jungles of Nagarahole, became a question mark, much like the tail of the grey langurs that inhabit the high branches of the trees around their own settlements.

Talk of relocating them began to surface. Although the government’s thinking was not out of place, certain non-governmental organisations professing to ameliorate the lot of these tribals came into the picture, decidedly with a clear anti-government attitude, vitiating the atmosphere.

Amidst all this, in the nearly 55 tribal hamlets inside the Nagarahole jungles, men, women and children went about life with a certain anguish, an indescribable vulnerability and a sense of near rootlessness as the new milestone Act with its focus on the reduction of the use of forest biomass by humans, forbade them to collect even minor forest produce for selling; like honey, gooseberry, bamboo shoots, soap nut, lichen, tamarind and the barks of certain trees.

While it is indeed sensible to ensure that tribals vacate the jungles in due course, as the extremely sensitive and delicate biodiversity of places like Nagarahole simply cannot take the pressure of humans living there any more, a thought has to be spared to the confused, hapless, poor men and women who have lived there for a hundred years and more.

What is of solemn, paramount importance is to realise once and for all, that wild life conservation simply cannot be done in exclusion. Definitely not by antagonising or alienating those who have professed to understand and believe that the jungle is their legitimate home, no matter what the Wild Life (Protection)Act explains.

On the one hand, the tribals are seen as a serious nuisance to the cause of wild life conservation by foresters. On the other, the government of India passes the Tribal Bill in Parliament which envisions granting legitimacy and tenancy to those who have made the jungles and other wooded expanses of our land their home for centuries!

While it is wonderful to see tribal families move out at the behest of the government and its many schemes aimed at providing them alternative living outside the precincts of the national park, it also becomes incumbent on the managers of the park to build a certain rapport at a human level with those continuing to live inside and refusing to leave for whatever reason. That clearly seems to be non-existent.

How many times haven’t I seen sundry range forest officers either insult a tribal for no apparent reason or simply dismiss him from their midst.

As for the higher officers like the conservators and the rest, mostly even the thought of acknowledging the tribal as a fellow human being is as much a rarity as spotting a tiger on the asphalted road running across Nagarahole! Largely clueless, almost completely illiterate, poverty stricken, tense in the mind, quite often drunk on some cheap liquor, he nourishes a grudge. A kind of torment driven annoyance deep in his heart.

Come summer, when the mostly dry deciduous jungles turn into a living, breathing time bomb, ready to explode into flames at the flick of a match stick, the disgruntlement and the frustration, the anger and angst combine to wreak unspeakable havoc.

For sure, not all tribals harbour such evil thoughts in their mind, but how many angry minds does it take to set fire to a ready-to-burn accumulation of impossible-to-contain combustible biomass?

My own conversations with a cross section of guards and watchers, along the length and breadth of Nagarahole; the actual foot soldiers who strive to safeguard our jungles to the extent possible, generally reveal the point that tribals in the area have to be made to feel a certain oneness with the rank and file of the forest department, importantly the officers.

A kind word, the placing of a friendly arm across their largely bent and impoverished shoulders; a certain gesture of goodwill; an address by the ranger or the conservator at a few key hamlets, educating them to preserve rather than destroy.

Appealing to them not to harm the forests and co-operate with the forest department staff, especially during summer, like it was quite successfully done in the 54 distant and deep ‘podus’ or settlements of the Soliga tribals in the jungles clothing the B.R. Hills in Chamaraja Nagar district, at the behest and initiative of certain well meaning wild lifers; they feel, would have done a great deal to prevent such disastrous incidents like the recent one in Nagarahole.

Incidentally, there has not been a major forest fire in the B.R. Hills area for the past four years where prominent tribal leaders were made to take an oath in the name of Mother Nature on behalf of all the members of their settlements not to disturb or harm the jungles around. The police department was also brought in to be part of such meetings just to instill a certain fear of the penal law as well. All subtle human management ideas, really.

But quite sadly, in the Nagarahole national park, no such moves seem to have been made for decades, leading to a serious disconnect between the forest department and the tribals living there.

And to top it all, there are theories floated around every time a fire occurs that trees rubbing against each other cause sparks to light up; and even worse, the hooves of deer and such other ungulates jam into flint stones causing a conflagration! Not even in the Jurassic era would any paleontologist, worth his own fossil, agree!

A case of double distilled bunkum being bandied about by men of rare idiocy.

Fires happen because of humans. And when you have a section of angry, disgruntled, humans inside a national park, the intensity of the fires they light can be seen from a long distance indeed.

Photographs: courtesy D. Rajkumar

5 reasons why South India is better than North?

30 March 2012

The columnist Aakar Patel has recently moved to Bangalore from Bombay. He writes in Mint on why he prefers south India to north India, and south Indians to north Indians. And lists five reasons for this: music, religion, tolerance, intellectualism and language.

1) South Indians have a written classical music. This has enormous implications. It separates them from north Indians who have no canon of music. The average southerner can assess a performance of his classical music better than the average northerner can…. To appreciate Hindustani music other than instinctively, a northerner must study the deep form of his music, which few can.

2) South India’s high culture has little influence of Islam. It is Hindu culture, not a mix. There is not as much secular music in Carnatic as there is in Hindustani. There’s no equivalent of “Ganga Jamuni”, as the northerner refers to his high culture, a mix of Hindu tradition and the aristocratic Perso-Arabic tradition produced during Muslim rule. This might be seen as a bad thing. But the south Indian is actually quite tolerant.

3) The third thing is southern tolerance. Unlike the Baniya’s, the southern Brahmin’s vegetarianism isn’t oppressive. The intolerant and insular Gujaratis and Marwaris of Malabar Hill have banished all meat from their neighbourhoods. There is little sign of such horror of pork and beef eaters around where I live. This may be because the area is not a traditional Brahmin neighbourhood. But generally speaking, the Gujarati’s fanaticism against meat is absent.

4) South’s urban culture is more intellectual. My hypothesis is that this is so because its culture is dominated by the Brahmin. I like keeping the company of Brahmins, I must admit. When I listen to intelligent conversation in Bangalore and look around the table, they dominate. People like U.R. Ananthamurthy would not be treasured in another culture as they are in Bangalore. It seems to me that civic life here is more intellectual, and certainly it strives to be more intellectual than in Gujarat or Maharashtra.

5) The commonly found ability of south Indians to speak another (southern) state’s language. This comes from proximity more than from any pressing desire to be multicultural. But it shows the southerner’s openness, and even his canon of sacred music includes songs from another state, in another’s language.

Read the full article: Why it is better to live in the South

Also by Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is uniformly second-rate

Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment

Does Amitabh Bachchan own the name ‘Vijay’?

30 March 2012

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A first-generation newspaper promoter launches a newspaper with his first name as part of the title. After a few years, he sells the now well-established newspaper to a well-established newspaper group. The new owners (neither of whom share the original promoter’s surname) continue to publish the newspaper in its original name.

Now, if the original promoter buys up the title of another existing newspaper, which coincidentally also has his first name as part of its title, and decides to compete with his first newspaper in the same markets, is he banking on the saleability of his name—or indulging in trademark infringement?

Confused?

Well, that’s the sum and substance of a controversy that has broken out in Bangalore between The Times of India group of Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, and VRL Media owned by the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar.

Thirteen years ago, Sankeshwar lauched the multi-edition Vijaya Karnataka, which soon became market leader. In 2006, he sold the daily and associated properties to The Times of India group. After the lapse of the five-year no-compete clause, Sankeshwar announced plans to launch a new daily.

He zeroed in on the title Vijaya Vani for his new project.

But The Times group is not amused. In fact, it has apparently issued a legal notice to VRL Media and the matter has landed in the courts in Bangalore. The Times group’s legal notice comes on the eve of Vijaya Vani‘s promise launch on Sunday, April 1.

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of Vijaya Karnataka who now edits Kannada Prabha, points out on his blog:

“If the use of a name like “Vijay” is the cause of the strife, surely Samyukta Karnataka could have objected whenVijaya Karnataka was launched because the word Karnataka was in it? And surely, Praja Vani and Udaya Vani too could take objection to the title Vijaya Vani because the word Vani is in it?”

That’s problem no.1 in The Times argument. Problem no.2 is Vijaya Vani is a title that had been peacefully coming out for a small town called Tumkur, on the outskirts of Bangalore, till Vijaya Sankeshwar purchased it. So, if ToI had no problem with that title for six years, why does it have one now?

Problem no. 3: those who have seen dummy editions of the new (relaunched?) Vijaya Vani  say it will have a picture of the owner, Vijay Sankeshwar, alongside the masthead for a few months. Can either the courts or the registrar of newspapers deny a owner to name a paper after himself?

And who has forgotten the launch of Financial Times by The Times group 20 yers ago that has stymied the launch of the original FT for the last 20 years?

Just one question I’m dying to ask A.K. Antony

28 March 2012

Without a shadow of doubt, the relationship between the armed forces and the civilian administration is going through its most testing time in the history of post-independent India.

What started off as a simple issue over Army chief General V.K. Singh‘s date of birth has spiralled out of control into a disgraceful bushfire of scams and scandals—all being played through the media without consummate ease, and neither side emerges smelling of roses.

In the middle of all this is Arackaparambil Kurien Antony, India’s defence minister for the last seven-and-a-half years.

Like the other “Mr Clean”, prime minister Manmohan Singh, the taciturn and incomprehensible Kerala politician chose silence while the Sukna land scam was raging and while the Adarsh housing scam was unravelling. Little wonder, when General Singh says he brought the issue of a Rs 14 crore bribe offer to his notice, Antony’s reaction, on available evidence, was neither here nor there.

Now, after Gen Singh’s letter to the PM on the state of India’s defences has become public (and enemy) knowledge, after Parliament has been stalled two days in a row, the focus on Antony is getting even more intense. And questions are being asked if personal integrity is a much-overvalued commodity in our polity.

So, what is the one question you would like to ask A.K. Antony?

Like, has he ever considered resigning from his job?

Like, does he understand the situation in Pakistan better?

Keep your queries short, civil and simble.

Photograph: courtesy India Today

German visionary behind our vanishing beauties

28 March 2012

SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR writes from Bangalore: The heat has gone up and the dust has risen. Everywhere dry leaves have covered the ground, but Bangalore was beautiful this Sunday morning from upward of eye-level.

The most striking sight is of the yellow flowers: Tabebuia Argentea which flowers are tiny trumpets, and the Indian Laburnum which hang in a bunch like grapes.

The first is The Tree of Gold; and the other is the Tree of the Golden Showers—or the Vishu, whose flowers, my Malayalee friends tell me, are beloved of Krishna.

I checked now: The Indian Labernum is indeed indigenous, so you may believe Krishna knew them in his ancient time, whereas the Tubebea Argentea is from tropical Americas.

Then there are the trees with pouting purple flowers and others with lavender across their crown and in a carpet on the street at their feet.

The radiant Lady’s Tongue have blossomed too, way overhead, but they’re fallen on the ground as well. And tiny Pongam flowers which are buds even in bloom, which lay sprinkled on the ground all of last week, they are now broad mats of dry fiber—they soften your step when you walk on them.

Bees and butterflies are in a swarm over the Singapore Cherry, flicking and kissing their tiny flowers, their white petals the texture of art paper, and their quivering filaments thinner than human hair—but how they’re straight up and erect!

Many of these trees—or the parents of these trees—arrived here by a foreign hand, a German one, the hand of a man born in Dresden, and long buried in the Christian graveyard in Langford Town in Bangalore, in whose psyche he is deeper-buried and long forgotten—even if the road before Lal Bagh is named Krumbiegel Road.

Gustav Krumbiegel was dear to the Maharaja of Mysore who took him from the Gaekwar of Baroda, to improve Lal Bagh and to bring green and the colors of flowers to Bangalore and Mysore. The Gaekwar had wrested Krumbiegel from London, where Krumbiegel was creating and tending flower beds in Kiev Gardens and Hyde Park.

Krumbiegel spent time also in Hamburg, but before the War, so the fine gardens you see today in that city must’ve been planted by recent horticulturists.

Of course, many of the trees Krumbiegel planted on the avenues of Bangalore have been felled and auctioned and sold as timber. Where the trees stood, and where they’d have flourished for many decades more, over their dead roots the roads have been widened, and by the broadened streets glass and concrete have taken on the role that belongs to trees.

Not that the love of trees and flowers has fled the heart of the Bangalorean. The better apartment blocks have fine young trees in their compounds; the Royal Gardenia hotel has lawns and plants running up and down its walls in a fashion that has perhaps struck wonder in the Creator.

In developments such as the upmarket Nitesh Logos, upcoming on Aga Abbas Ali Road, the landscaping is designed by a Singaporean.

So the insides of residential compounds and corporate campuses are—and will—still be ringed in greens and flowers. The worry is for public spaces: Who will replicate the Maharaja’s initiative to get the best talent in the world for a tasteful planting of trees anew along our roads and in our parks?

Who will take the place of the Maharaja in this moment? And do what developers and software companies have done on private land?

Our politics seems set to stay weak for indeterminate time, so an initiative from the private sector is urgent: first to persuade the government to approve such an undertaking, then for the private corporate enthusiast to actually carry out the grooming—without boards larger than lawns shouting the sponsor’s brand-name, but rather with quiet love for this city which is theirs, and also ours.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (top); Deccan Herald

What really happened in Bangalore 25 days ago?

27 March 2012

The mindless violence that gripped the City Court premises in Bangalore on March 2, 2012 has left an indelible imprint on three vital organs of democracy—the judiciary, the police and the media—especially at a time when the legislature and the executive are in an extended state of paralysis.

While the lawyers and the media have happily hurled charges at each other, the police, 57 of whom were injured in the incident, have suffered silently. They briefly wore black badges demanding “security” to carry out their duties before they were advised against it.

Here, the TV personality Deepak Thimaya recounts a conversation with a police officer.

***

By DEEPAK THIMAYA

What happened on the 2nd of March in the City Court premises in Bangalore?

We have heard the journalists’ and the lawyers’ versions and have already seen enough pictures of the atrocities done by the police. The lawyer community is seething with anger against the police brutality and the media has not stopped complaining about the mischief of some lawyers who started it all.

A new dimension to this whole episode was available after a police officer present in the scene and  part of the whole happenings from morning to evening on the 2nd of March, spoke his mind and his heart which definitely a different version.

He said:

“We knew there would be trouble. From morning many lawyers would come and ask us whether the media would arrive to cover the proceedings in the Janardhana Reddy case.

“Some lawyers were expressing things like ‘Look what the media did to us after our protest at the Mysore Bank Circle? They spoiled our image and made us look like villains in the society. We were belittled in eyes of the goons and thugs we were supposed bring to justice. We don’t want them here.’

“We thought it was not a serious threat but knew that there would be some attempt to disrupt the media coverage when they would come.

“An enclosure was made outside the court premises adjoining the metal barricade on one side of the open space in front of the court building. The media guys were standing there along with their equipments, OB vans and other personnel.

“Then there was rumour that Reddy would be brought into the court through another entrance from the adjoining main road leading to Mysore Bank Circle. After hearing this some media persons started running back and forth between the two points where they expected Reddy’s arrival.

“Some young lawyers were already enraged by the sight of the media people in and around the court premises. Though most of the people stayed in the enclosure, some cameramen and reporters tried to enter the premises and in the process drew ire from the lawyers present.

“Lawyers started telling the police that things would not be alright if the media were moving about in an unrestricted manner. In the meantime Reddy was produced in the court and was taken away. There was a big crowd and some media people indeed moved in to get a better coverage of Reddy’s case.

“On the sideline a scuffle was brewing between a few lawyers and some media men.

“Some lawyers went near the barricade and started threatening the media people to go away and the body language was vehement and unpleasant. Some young media professionals too reacted in a manner that provoked the lawyers to get enraged. While this was on one person pulled a camera tripod from the enclosure into the court ground.

“A dirty scuffle ensued between the lawyers and the media men.

“There were more than a hundred media men and a few dozens of lawyers when the fight broke out. When the scuffle continued more lawyers joined and the situation became worse. The lawyers targeted the equipment more than they did the media professionals.

“Very few media guys were injured.

“We did not actually take any action against the lawyers in the beginning. After Reddy was taken away, the scuffle developed into a full blown violence with a lot of commotion where we were unable to make out as to who exactly was who. By then hundreds of lawyers had gathered in the open space and some had even removed their coats and had gotten into fist fights. We were to an extent not able to distinguish lawyers from others in plain clothes.

“We tried to disperse them by just shoving them away, but when the lawyers started pelting stones on OB vans and setting fire to media vehicles and breaking tv equipments, our DCP gave us orders to cane the miscreants. The lathi charge was as normal as it would have been in any other similar instance. During the lathi charge we ensured that the media people went away and the lawyers went into the court building. Some lawyers who were in the ground were chased away.

“When the lathi charge began the ire of the lawyers shifted from the media to the police. They started throwing stones at us. We noticed that some lawyers would take stones out of their pockets and hurl at us. We were not hurt but we continued to disperse the mob. That is when some lawyers wearing black coats started hurling stones at us from inside the court building.

“Some of them even threw some pots and other things. One of the stones thrown by a person from inside hit the DCP on the head and injured him. We were not perturbed by that too, because all this is common during any mob fury. We ensured that the lawyers inside the building and the remaining had run away from the premises. The media too had left the premises.

“Following that some senior judges arrived at the court premises and tried to pacify the lawyers and install peace, but all that was to no avail. Then we thought that things were actually under control. We received orders to move out of the court premises. Half our men went to Mysore Bank Circle and the rest went to KR Circle.

“Everything looked fine.

“Then we started getting reports that some policemen were trapped inside the court building. That some constables who had gone inside the court to perform court duties like producing the accused, executing court directions, were being brutally beaten up by lawyers and their supporters.

“It was then some rumours started spreading that some policemen were killed inside the court building. This was when it was reported in some channels that police men were killed and some lawyers had gouged out the eyes of some cops inside the building.

“We were already tired and frustrated.

“The public sentiment as projected by the media after our inaction during the January 17th strike by lawyers had played on our minds. Some of us were starving and morose. Mostly disappointed by our helplessness. We were getting news from our friends that the tv channels reported about grievous injuries suffered by policemen and the inhuman treatment of cops by the lawyers.

“Some policemen were extremely enraged and started expressing their desire to go and free their colleagues.

“Some even started saying that since they went soft on the lawyers on the 17th of January, it had emboldened them.

“Some of the policemen decided it was time to deal with the lawyers.

“Just then we heard over the wireless that there was fire and smoke in the court premises. The news spread and the policemen started speaking that perhaps the court was on fire. The rage of the policemen knew no bound.

“It looked like the police were becoming an uncontrollable mob, and before we knew what was happening and before any senior officer could give any orders, the police from both places where they had come to rest started rushing towards the court building.

“The policemen saw that some police vehicles parked near the police outpost near the court building were on fire. Then it all began. The police indeed behaved in a mob like manner. They burnt vehicles, beat lawyers, anyone and everyone they saw, threw stones at the people who were visible inside the building and made a serious attempt to enter the building.

“The KSRP guys know only to beat and to disperse mobs. They are not into social skills. The civilian policemen too are a harangued lot. We, some officers,  tried to stop the policemen from burning vehicles, but it was all out of control. It looked like the policemen were so furious they wanted to go into the building and free those constables who were reported to be trapped and injured. They urged to go inside. Some of us stood at the entrances and stopped them.

“They were so provoked that we knew that if they were allowed inside they would lose their mind.

“They would beat the lawyers and cause serious injuries. There could be a stampede.

“We had to stop and we stopped. We knew that though the police rage was limited to beating and burning vehicles, if some of us had not stopped them certainly atleast a dozon lawyers would have been killed.

“You must know that nobody was killed. No lawyer was killed. No police man was killed. No life threatening injuries. The injuries were not that different from what one would see in any police baton charge. Yes, vehicles were damaged and burnt but compared to any other communal clash or mob fury the loss was fractional.

“Who is at fault? We don’t think the lawyers were at fault. Look at the way the media reported the lawyers strike on 17th of January. Yes, the lawyers overdid it but they need not have been portrayed as villains, as goons and thugs. How would it be for a decent lawyer if someone pointed out the report and sneered at him. How would a lawyer face his family and children. How would the lawyers’ children face their friends and classmates with such reports?

“We could understand their anger. So the anger was seething. They were waiting for an opportunity to get back at the media. They just got it in the City court premises on the 2nd of March. Not all lawyers were involved in the mischief. And not all miscreants were lawyers. It happened and was now it is over.

“What could you say about the police? We were not directly involved in the scuffle. In fact, though many people critcized the police for inaction on the 17th of January, we feel that the police did the right thing. If we dispersed the lawyers by force on that day they would have stayed away from courts and protested.

“Then when the public were inconvenienced they would have blamed us. Some would have even told us that we should have allowed them to strike as long as it was non violent. They would have accused us of taking away the rights of citizens and particularly the workers of law.

“It is difficult to be police. There is so much frustration. The lawyers put cases against the police and the media. The media have papers and tv channels. The police have nothing. They are not protected. We act and it is called excess force and if we do not act it is called irresponsible inaction.

“We cannot expect the politicians to defend us. They are looking at the numbers always and we don’t really matter to them. If we are two they come to us and if the others become four they go to them. It is easy for them to take action against the police because we won’t protest.

“Then the media, the media was doing its job. We too know what competition exists in the media. We understand why the young reporters are so aggressive. It is natural each reporter or cameraman wants to be the first to get an image or news. They are free to go anywhere unless restricted by law.

“We did not give any special protection to the media. In fact most of them stayed where we asked them to stay. We do know that some media men counter provoked the lawyers who were provoking them. None of the media guys were seriously injured.

“The reports in some TV channels were irresponsible but then we too are human beings we too get provoked, we too have rage and we too can behave excessively. But tell us where was the excess. Have you ever heard anytime before about the policemen burning vehicles? Why did it happen here? What was the reason? Why doesn’t someone understand it? Why should we have anything against lawyers? Why should ordinary constables have anything against lawyers?

“On looking back we feel it was wrong to produce Reddy in the court that day, when there was undeniable information that the lawyers were not going to tolerate the presence of media in and around the courts. We had positioned ourselves on the three sides of the building but it was too sensitive a situation.

“It was an unfortunate incident. It happened and now it has to be forgotten with precautions that it should not happen again. There is no use over analyzing it. Listening to the things the lawyers are saying in the courts while filing PILs makes our blood boil. I am sure some policemen would lose their cool again.

“We have had enough. We maybe police but we are human beings too. We too have feelings. Let us bury all ill will and make things better for the future. We accept that there were mistakes by the police but there mistakes by others too. We cannot have so much bitterness. It is time to sort this out.

“Let me tell you something, and let me make it clear, and you can even write this. If some action like punitive or disciplinary action is taken against us things will not be fine. We know that we are used and misused at will by our superiors and the powers above us. We will refuse to control any mob or any violence.

“We will just apply for leave and sit at home. You see what will happen if the government is unfair to the police. We have had enough. We will not take it lying down this time. There is anger among the police and everyone is quiet and waiting. I am not speaking for all the police but I know what the general feeling is.

“We just hope that some better sense prevails upon all parties and this is settled in a sensible way.”

There may be some mismatch in the order of the sequences narrated by the officer, but this is what he said. I am no judge so I leave it for those who can take up this case to a better judgment.

Yes, better sense must prevail.

Also read: Why were journalists targetted in Bangalore?

If this can happen so close to the Vidhana Soudha…?

Does Gen Singh’s bribe claim help or harm Army?

26 March 2012

The saga of the chief of the Army Staff, Gen V.K. Singh, gets murkier and murkier. First, the disparity between the much-decorated general’s recorded date of birth and real date of birth occupied the nation’s (and Supreme Court’s) attention for months, even as much dirty linen was washed by friends of both parties on television.

The whispers were that the government wanted to sneak in one of its chosen men and had chosen to press its line.

Now, after the retirement issue has been sorted out and the line of succession is clear, the outgoing chief has levelled allegations of being offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the purchase of a tranche of sub-standard jeeps. What is more, he has hinted that the offer was made by a lobbyist who was till only recently with the Army and that he had brought the bribe offer to the notice of the defence minister A.K. Antony.

Both incidents are “unprecedented”, as the media loves to call all incidents. But there is little denying that the timing of Gen Singh’s disclosures will put the government already reeling under Coalgate, CWG, 2G and other scams in a spot. Defence bribes are a touchy issue—Bofors claimed the chair of Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and Tehelka‘s Operation Westend still haunts the BJP. That such an incident came during the tenure of “St. Antony” will not be missed by many.

At the same time, there is little denying that, for all his claims to the contrary, Gen Singh’s motives are beginning to acquire a small question mark. Simple question: Do Gen Singh’s moves harm or help the Indian Army?

Udupi verdict shows voters tiring of BJP antics

23 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The defeat in the Udupi-Chikamagalur by-election to the Lok Sabha is the price the BJP has paid—at last—for making a mockery of the mandate it had received from voters in Karnataka voters and reiterated in the string of by-elections held of the assembly in the interregnum.

The subtle changes witnessed in the voting pattern in the by-poll can be ignored only at their peril by the BJP’s strategists.  In a way the voting pattern is indicative of the mood of the people that their patience over the power tantrums of BJP may be running out.

The BJP’s fast rise in Karnataka, especially in the past decade, is mainly attributed to newly enrolled voters voting en masse in its favour to the total exclusion of the two other contenders, Congress and JD S . As a consequence, in the 2008 assembly election, it could displace the Congress as the party with the biggest share of votes.

This vital trend has been reversed this time.

In Udupi-Chikamagalur, an additional 24,000 voters had been freshly enrolled. Not a single vote has gone to the BJP this time in a constituency which all along was considered as one of its bastions in Karnataka.

To make the matters worse, the BJP could not even retain the vote base.

It has suffered erosion to the tune of over 48,000 votes between the 2009 when the parliament elections were held and in the by-election held now. In 2009 itself, the erosion in the vote base was marginal to the extent of little more than 9,000 over the 2008 assembly polls in the concerned segments.

Between 2008 and 2012, the party has lost more than 57,000 voters.

The only redeeming factor, however, is that of the more than 400,000 voters who had reposed confidence in the party in 2009, only ten percent chose to change their political loyalty, while the bulk of the voters chose to remain steady with the party, despite the plethora of scams and scandals that have plagued the party and the deep rooted schism among its top leaders that is now out in the open.

This may be a comforting thought for BJP leaders but one of them, B.S. Yediyurappa who is going all out to rehabilitate himself, is certainly not going to be happy. This is one election, where Yediyurappa openly said that he would not campaign for the party. While the party was battling here, Yediyurappa was on a temple sojourn seeking divine intervention to realise his ambition.

If Yediyurappa’s absence can be one of the contributing factors for the loss of 40,000 votes, then his image as the main vote catcher for the party and his status as the mass leader of the BJP in Karnataka gets a serious dent.

This was one election, which nobody seriously expected Congress to win. But it did not on its own volition but by default as it appears.  For the BJP’s loss of votes in the by-election, has not been a gain for the Congress.

Congress, as the poll figures reveal, could only rake up an additional 24,000 votes to its 2009 tally, which it had lost by a margin of 27,000 votes. The biggest gainer however for the record sake happens to be JDS, which could get  more than 72,000 votes this time, while it had left the seat uncontested last time

Another interesting feature is that the poll turnout in the 2009 general election and the present byelection, was almost been identical – a little more than 68%. And the only change in the scenario has been that over 28,000 new voters were added to the electoral list.  And the increase in the poll turn out has been around 18,000.

While all the new voters are expected not to miss the maiden opportunity to cast vote, obviously around 10,000 established voters who had voted last time obviously stayed way. And this scenario offered an ideal setting for discerning the response of the voters to the ugly happenings in BJP in general and to the internecine quarrels in particular.

Ultimately it so happened that while the Congress could increase its vote share by little more than 18,000 votes, the BJP had lost to the tune of  48,000 votes, and the JDS which had stayed away from contest three years ago, raked up support of  whopping  72,000 votes.

There has been a considerable decline in the number of apolitical voters, who would prefer voting “others” to any of the established parties. The number of such voters   which was around 55,000 last time had got reduced to little more than 28,000.  The bulk of them appeared to have supported JDS.

The moot question is why did the JDS, which had skipped contesting in 2009 choose to be in the arena this time, where it had not got a ghost of chance of winning.  And who was the ultimate beneficiary?

The Congress spokesmen had gone on record to say that move was to keep the secular votes in the constituency (a euphemism for the votes polled by the CPI last time) from going to Congress. Did the presence of the JDS help Congress to win or prevented BJP from winning?

Just one question I’m dying to ask the BJP MLAs

20 March 2012

As the naked lust for power of BJP legislators enters an even more naked phase, with the caste pot being brazenly stirred by assorted mutt heads, the budget session of the Karnataka legislative assembly gets off to an empty start at the Vidhana Soudha, in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Just how much your MLAs value their lovely seats

Sunny, Vishy, Immy, ITC and namma Meera

16 March 2012

NARENDRA K. writes: I was all of 18 years and Meera was 20.

Life had meandered on amidst the vicissitudes of destiny. “Anna” was no more and his absence both as a provider and bulwark of the family was being felt every single day.

“Amma” soldiered on. She put up an iron fisted fight in the unrelenting ring of every day existence; in the heat of abjectness; through the seething fire of an unmarked, untoward future and its uncertainty; amidst the misery of it all.

Meera had completed her MSc degree. Life and its various possibilities looked her in the eye. As a young girl she obviously didn’t quite grasp the various implications.

“Amma” was keen to see her married. But the process of a connubial union comes with a certain mandatory requirement- the money to solemnise the marriage! And that is exactly what was in short supply.

***

It was around this time, in 1978, that a sporting event of rare historical meaning was beginning to unfold in faraway Pakistan.

Beyond the Khyber Pass.

The resumption of cricketing ties between India and Pakistan after a few decades of political hostility. If cricket lovers had to be grateful for the sight of eleven flannelled Indians putting bat to ball on Pakistani soil after a long time, so should Meera be!

Before you wonder how on earth, in the sheer improbability of such a possibility, Meera, of all the people, could have played a role in either Sunil Gavaskar or Gundappa Viswanath padding up in Lahore to face the menacing Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz, there rests a tale!

The cricket series had been sponsored by the famous Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), known the world over for its many cigarette brands. In conjunction with Sportsweek, perhaps the most famous of sports magazines in the country then, under editor Khalid Ansari, they launched a cricket quiz named, ‘Howzatt Cricket Quiz’.

Participants had to collect ten cigarette packs of the ITC brand, answer a few basic questions on cricket, pen a catchy slogan relating to the then fledgling concept of instant cricket and mail them to the company along with the entry form.

I hurried to Sundaram provision store in Vontikoppal, where Amma would always buy the meagre household provisions. I was on a mission. Not to buy rice or dal or soap but to somehow collect the ten mandatory packs of cigarettes, mercifully in their empty state. I had decided to participate in the cricket quiz.

“Sir,” I began hesitatingly. “Could you please help me with ten cigarette packs?”

Before the shop keeper could begin to see red in the rather strange and potentially damaging desire of a young boy barely in his teens in the conservative Mysore of the 1970’s for an item that bespoke an unholy pleasure, and that too in multiple packs, I blurted to him that I needed them only in their empty form to fulfill the requirement to participate in a cricket quiz sponsored by ITC.

The shop keeper, who obviously knew Amma, laughed and said, “In that case, why ten, take twenty!”

And so it was that two sets of forms came to be filled. One in my name and one in Meera’s. All the questions were duly answered, two different slogans were thought of, the cigarette packs were put in place in a big envelope and the post was on its way!

As for the slogans, unfortunately, their recollections are lost in the mists of time, although I vaguely remember writing something of a line which said, ‘Instant cricket is the embodiment of……’, the word embodiment, obviously coming to mind from the many spiritual sessions that I had been part of at the Vidyashala!

This was in September 1978.

***

The cricket series ended, so did the career of the great Gundappa Vishwanath, and there was no sign of any result of the quiz. Not that I expected to win.

As the days went by with their usual uneventfulness in our lives, Dwarakanath of the famous Srinivasa Stores at K.R. Circle, a wholesaler of ITC products, where even the renowned novelist R.K. Narayan shopped for some of his essentials, came calling.

He had some news to give us.

And the news he gave us was the equivalent of a tortoise outrunning a cheetah; of a lame man winning the Olympic gold in the 100 metre dash!

Both Meera and I had won prizes in the cricket quiz!

In July 1979, when the official letter did arrive from the ITC group duly type written on its letter head, we rubbed our eyes in disbelief; in a state of extreme astounded incredulity; in the throes of amazed joyousness.

To read the news that Meera, who incidentally had simply lent her name to the quiz with me having done all the hard work of filling up the form, not to forget doing the round of the provision store in desperate search of those vital cigarette packs, had won the grand prize of ten thousand rupees!

Also, I had won two thousand!

There were two options offered by the company. Either we could accept the cash or in Meera’s case, an Enfield Bullet 350 Standard Motorcycle.

As for me, they offered the cash or a quartz watch in lieu of it.

The leafy streets of Mysore never ever saw the amusing sight of Meera zooming around on a Bullet motorbike nor did anyone see me check time on a gleaming quartz watch then.

Cash it was, thank you!

***

Post script: Quite unbelievably, it was the very same twelve-thousand rupees that went into the financial corpus of Meera’s marriage. That my sister promptly sent back that amount in dollar form after her departure to the United
States is a testimony to her sweetness!

As I sit back today and muse on the serendipitous happening that changed to a large extent the family’s lot, my mind travels back to the time when Swami Jagadatmanandaji, in his book, Badukali Kaliyari, written in 1979, even made a mention of the incident!

Making a reference to a student who had unwaveringly, patiently and intently focussed on the sports page of the newspaper from the back for long, while the swamiji himself, spreading the newspaper in front of him, read the preceding pages which contained other news of varied kinds, he went on to say that any act done with single mindedness and sincerity went a long way in helping achieve the goals of young minds!

Mercifully, in my case, it surely did help. The twelve thousand rupees that came into my family’s kitty was indeed, Manna from heaven!

As told to SUNAAD RAGHURAM

(This article appears in Prabuddha Chetana, a forthcoming souvenir on Kyatasandra Jagannath, an illustrious headmaster of the Ramakrishna Vidyashala and a legendary mathematics teacher. The book will be released on April 8 by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M.N. Venkatachalliah)

Why Tagore was right and Gandhi was not

15 March 2012

Author, illustrator and mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik in Star of Mysore:

“Whether it is the temple of Konark in Orissa or that of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, the artisans have embellished the walls with images of lovers in various stages of embrace. They have been placed there deliberately, to catch the gaze of the devout who enter the shrine.

“Why? To titillate, to communicate, to provoke thought? No one is quite sure.

“One explanation is that these are remnants of fertility rites meant to enhance the power of the temple. Another explanation is that it is sex education for the masses who visit the temple.

“Perhaps it was advertising for the devadasis or sacred courtesans who supplemented the income of the temple. Perhaps they were magical talismans meant to keep demons away. Perhaps they were meant to please Indra, god of the sky, who had a roving eye, so that he did not strike the tall roofs with lightning.

“Perhaps they were merely expressions of pleasure, one of the four aims of life — the other aims being ethics, economics and spirituality. Perhaps they are codes of Tantrik practices, metaphors for deeper metaphysical thought. Perhaps they are all of the above, or maybe, none of the above. No one is completely sure.

“The British were convinced that this was proof of ‘Hindoo’ decadence. Many of our nation’s founding fathers felt ashamed. A group of overzealous social reformers once planned to raze or deface or bury such temple carvings. It is said that Gandhiji supported such action. But then Rabindranath Tagore wrote an impassioned plea that, good or bad, moral or immoral, this was a national treasure that we could not wish away. We had to preserve it. And so it has survived, continuing to baffle us as they have baffled onlookers for hundreds of years.”

For Congress and BJP, writing is on the UP wall

13 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Uttar Pradesh has proved once again the trend observed  in the assembly elections in  West Bengal and Tamil Nadu last year that political changes are wrought mostly by new voters rather than old voters.

The essential difference is that while in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu new voters en masse plumped for the leading opposition party, in UP new voters distributed their largesse among the main contestants and the Samajwadi party proved to be biggest benefactor.

A study of the electoral behaviour in the country has proved one thing in rather conclusive terms: that parties hold on to their bases generally and the shift of political loyalty is very rare indeed. Whatever shift happens takes place marginally, while the bulk remain loyal to the party they have voted before.

Under the circumstances,  political change depends essentially on new voters.

They comprise of two categories, namely newly enrolled voters and those who, though enrolled, had not previously voted before and come to exercise their franchise for the first time.

In Karnataka, it is the newly enrolled voters, who have regularly voted for the BJP in the past three elections, even managing to catapult the party to power in 2008.  It had happened in West Bengal too, where they supported the Trinamool Congress last time.

In Tamil Nadu first-time voters sent packing home the Karunanidhi government of the DMK and put the crown on  Jayalalitha of the AIADMK.

It has  happened once again Uttar Pradesh elections too, where SP led by the father and son duo of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Singh, have turned in a stunning performanance to displace the BSP government of Mayawati and regain power in a very convincing matter.

The UP polls, it may be noted here, witnessed a higher turn out for a State which has a track record of low poll percentages  all these years. For the first time nearly 60% of voters—that is three out of every five voters—turned up at the booths, which is perhaps a record for the State.

It marked a more than 14% increase in the poll turn out and reports said that women turn out was appreciably higher this time.

In terms of  numbers, the increase in poll turn out, meant that more than 2.35 crore voters had cast their votes. This included around 1.38 crore voters who had enrolled themselves as voters for the first time and  remaining chunk being the voters though registered long ago, were exercising their right for the first time.

All these voters were making the choice of parties for the first time.

Of the total of 2.35 crore new votes waiting to be shared, the SP was able to corner a whopping 88 lakhs, to win 224 seats as against 97 in 2007 and earned right to rule the biggest state in India by its own right. This appeared to be direct offshoot of the social engineering done by the SP in the allotment of tickets, the aggressive campaign done by Akhilesh Singh and rising disenchantment with the Mayawati government.

The  ruling BSP which could not match with the superior election campaign of the father-son duo lost the race to retain power. Its only consolation has been that despite all the propaganda unleashed against it, it did receive an additional vote support to the extent of 37.74 lakhs. But this was not enough to retain the power and stem the tide of support that SP had  been able to mop up.  It lost 126 seats to end up with only 80 in a house of 403  but emerge as the main opposition party in the sprawling State.

The Congress, which ran a spirited campaign under the leadership of  Rahul Gandhi, had the next highest share to the extent of 42 lakhs votes. In terms of the seats, it meant an additional six seats to its previous tally of 22.

What is significant is that its share in the polled votes reached the double digit bracket  perhaps for the first time, though it has still a long way to go in quest of power in the state, by taking on the two well entrenched parties, the  SP and the BSP.

All those who are writing off Rahul Gandhi’s campaign as a failure appear to have overlooked a significant fact that the campaign had brought an increase in the base of the Congress. This trend had  also been noticed in Bihar too, where also the campaign was managed by Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP, which regarded the present poll as something of a  runup to the parliamentary polls scheduled in 2014, had quite a disappointing performanance. Though it did receive an additional votes to the extent of  25.19 lakhs,  it lost four seats. Its share in the polled votes showed a decline with the party receiving 15.01% as against 16.96 % of the previous poll.

Another interesting factor is that there had been considerable reduction in the number of voters and seats going to the other splinter parties.  The four main parties between themselves could bag 376 seats in 403-member house, and capture more than 81% of the votes.

From a national point of view, in the context of the  coming parliamentary elections in about two years of time (if not earlier), the prognosis is not good at all for the top two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, whose disconnect with the voters at large has shown no signs of receding.

Of the 2.35 crores of additional voters who exercised their right, in UP, the share of  the two national parties was a  mere 68 lakhs, while a marked higher chunk of votes went in favour of the regional satraps, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, who between them had received a combined support  to the tune of  1.25 crores of votes.

Going by the present mood, it is unlikely that the either the Congress or the BJP is able to show any improvement in the days preceding the next poll.

Press Council chief bats for ‘Porngate’ journos

12 March 2012

Close on the heels of his missives to the chief ministers of Bihar and Maharashtra, the chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Markandey Katju, has shot off a letter to the speaker of the Karntaka legislative assembly against the crackdown on the media in Karnataka following the Porngate expose.

Below is the full text.

***

The  Hon’ble Speaker
Karnataka  Legislative Assembly,
Bangaluru.

Respected Sir,

Re: Proceedings against mediapersons for telecasting MLAs  watching porn

Some MLAs of the Karnataka legislative assembly were filmed watching porn in the Assembly hall. Instead of commending the mediapersons for their professionalism, proceedings have been started against them.

In my respectful opinion such proceedings against the mediapersons jeopardize the freedom of the media guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India, and seek to create an impression that it is the media which has brought the House into disrepute rather than the MLAs  involved.

I am informed that an inquiry committee has been set up by the House to enquire into the matter.

In my respectful opinion the inquiry committee can certainly ask the mediapersons concerned questions to ascertain the correct facts about this sordid affair. But from what I could gather, the question being asked give the impression that the mediapersons are being treated as an accused of some offence, and are being grilled accordingly.

Since grave Constitutional questions are involved in this episode I would like to dwell on the matter in some detail.

In our country it is the Constitution which is supreme, not the legislature or executive. The people of India, in their wisdom, and following the examples of the American and French Constitutions, did not give the legislature absolute sovereignty but only limited sovereignty.

Thus the Indian Constitution does not incorporate Hobbes’ theory of absolute sovereignty (see ‘Leviathan’) but instead it incorporates Locke’s theory of limited sovereignty (see ‘the Second Treatise on Civil Government’) and Rousseau’s theory of sovereignty of the people (see ‘The Social Contract’).

Hence neither the legislature nor the executive can violate the constitutional provisions, particularly the fundamental rights like Article 19 (1) (a).

In a democracy it is the people who are supreme, and all authorities, whether legislative, executive or judicial, are only servants of the people. This is also borne out from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution which states:

“We, the People of India,…………..do hereby adopt, enact and give ourselves this Constitution.”

Since the people are the masters , and the legislators only their representatives, surely the public has the right to be informed of the activities of the legislators. And the media is an agency of the people to give them this information.

Hence I do not see what wrong the media has done by telecasting the watching of porn by the MLAs in the House. To my mind the media were only doing their duty to the people of informing them of the shameful manner in which some of their representatives were behaving.

In this connection I would like to refer to the following words in the judgment of Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court in New York Times  vs. U.S 403 U.S. 713, 1973  (the Pentagon Papers case):

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers deserve to be commended for serving the purpose which the Founding Father saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of the government which led to the Vietnam War the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

To use similar language, far from deserving condemnation, the mediapersons who revealed to the nation the disgusting scenes of MLAs  watching porn in the House deserve to be applauded for their courageous reporting.

Ordinarily, in a democracy all proceedings in a Legislative Assembly must be freely telecast and reported so that the people, who are the supreme authority in a democracy, know how their representatives are behaving. There may, of course, be exceptional situations where this cannot be done.

For example, in the Second World War many secret sessions of the House of Commons were held so that Nazi spies may not know the views of the British political leaders. But such secrecy can only be in exceptional situations. I fail to see what was the exceptional situation in Karnataka which could justify prohibiting mediapersons to report events in the House.

I would therefore respectfully request you to reconsider your decision and withdraw the proceedings against the mediapersons, and instead take strong action against the MLAs who have brought disgrace to the House.

Justice Markandey Katju

Chairman, Press Council of India

To repeat: IPL is a circus, IPL is a circus

12 March 2012

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been called plenty of name by its baiters. Now, as if to live up to the label that it is but a circus—a carnival of cricket, cinema and commerce—the Twenty20 league has come up with a superbly produced TV commercial that underlines the point for those too challenged to discern.

From a flower of stones to a stone of flowers

9 March 2012

About five years is what it takes for the seven-year itch to bite actresses, before they return to life under the arc lamps and gleig lights. The year of the lord 2012 is what the ravishing Raveena Tandon has chosen.

The Patthar ke Phool girl is back where she belongs. She has a TV show of her own and popped up on Friday as the brand ambassador for a jewellery show in Bangalore. Yet another exhibit in churumuri‘s selfless service against the commodification of women.

Not that we mind.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The commodification of women portfolio

RamyaOne more example of commodification of women

RamyaAnother example of commodification of women

Anu PrabhakarAnother example of commodification of examinations

RamyaLike, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

RamyaNow, what will those fools do with these kids?

Aindrita RaySurely all that glitters is more than just gold

Jennifer KotwalThe best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy

RamyaWhat it takes to smoothen some rough blades of grass

Nicole FariaDenims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma

Priyanka TrivediSee, a brand ambassador always gets good press

RoopashreeObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear

Gul PanagYou are almost tempted to say ‘Intel Inside’

RamyaDon’t ask us what it is, but it sure costs a bomb

Mandira BediIt ain’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, sister

Tejaswini Prakash: As if we didn’t have traffic diversions already

Pooja Gandhi: Why Vodafone subscribers experience call drops

Will there ever be another like Rahul Dravid?

9 March 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: When will we ever see a cricketer like Rahul Sharad Dravid again?

Facing the fastest of bowlers in spotless flannels not a crease or button out of shape; executing classy cuts and drive on off and leg; crouched at first slip with the same intensity of focus and concentration that made him the most difficult batsman to get out… the wall, if you will.

He is only retiring from the beautiful game, of course, but rare will be the cricket eye that will not wipe a tear of memory.

Dravid brought to his cricket that rare steely determination to rough out any situation out in the middle and rarer grace and conduct that embellished the game even more.

Taking upon himself things which he had never done before for the sake of the team or for sake of his captain was what cricket all about for him.

Be it opening the innings with Virender Sehwag in Pakistan or donning the wicket-keeper’s gloves for one-day internationals so that Sourav Ganguly could get the balance right, it was all part of Dravid’s unsaid commitment for the team. He took upon the new roles himself with nary a complaint.

Never was a word said against anything or anyone in public, for the cricket he had learnt and practiced would always be fair and can never be ungentlemanly.

If Lord’s didn’t bestow the rare honour of scoring a century on debut, when he was out for 96, Dravid came back after 16 years to score that elusive century on a tour in 2011 where he alone played a lone hand in the entire series, though for a losing cause. Dravid’s name went up at Lord’s as a centurian, a fitting honour for India’s best ever one-drop cricketer.

Dravid’s failure with the bat, if we can call the two months out of 17 years of Test cricket in Australia, surprised the cricketing world including his opponents. That is understandable. Time and again he was the wall between abject submission and victory.

Steve Waugh, looking for victory in India in what he called the Final Frontier ran into Laxman and Harbhajan Singh—and Dravid—who turned a certain defeat into victory at Eden Gardens.

Indian cricket will never be the same without Rahul Dravid, but then a generation of fans all over the world  have been lucky to see one of the best cricketers of the game who had combined the craft of excellence in batting with grace, elegance and humility as his hallmark.

Good Bye, Rahul Dravid. And thanks for what you did both on and off the field.

So, when will we see a Rahul Sharad Dravid again?

Not in our life time, I guess.

Photograph: Rahul Dravid, Test cricket’s second most prolific batsman, after announcing his retirement from international cricket in Bangalore on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

External reading: Suresh Menon in BBC: A special player

Also read: Player no. 207 is the modern-day Vijay Hazare

India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

Who cries in Bangalore for Rahul Sharad Dravid?

In a team of lottery tickets, one surefire winner

CHURUMURI POLL: Why were journos targetted?

5 March 2012

Suvarna News editor-in-chief Vishweshwar Bhat (fifth from right, third row from top) addresses journalists from across the state at a rally to protest the attack by advocates, in Bangalore on Monday.

There is something quite unreal and almost unbelievable about the extraordinary violence unleashed by lawyers on mediamen in Bangalore on Friday last.

For starters, there is the timing of it. It came precisely on the day the disgraced BJP minister G. Janardhana Reddy, whose millions mined from the hills of Bellary installed the BJP in power and who has spent the last few months luxuriating in a jail in Hyderbad, was being presented in court. So, was it an attempt to deflect attention?

Then the unprovoked vandalism, which is what it clearly was regardless of the faults of the media, came within days of the so-called “Porngate” scandal, in which TV channels had ripped the veil of sanctimony that BJP’s members love to cloak themselves in for the benefit of the cameras. So, was it an act of revenge?

Then there is the sheer scale of the goondagiri, going on for hours not very far from the seat of government, the Vidhana Soudha, almost suggesting that the BJP government was either not interested in ending the violence or, worse, wanted it to go on long enough so that the media could be taught a lesson for all its accumulated sins. So, were the chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and home minister R. Ashok government complicit?

And then there are all the usual questions about the criminalisation of the judiciary, which becomes quite apparent looking at the still and moving images of lawyers deftly hurling bricks. Doubtless, the judicial commission appointed by the government will get to the bottom of all this, but what do you think provoked the violence? And going by the manner in which both sides are beating their breasts, will there be an amicable settlement soon, or are the battlines drawn?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read:Bangalore lawyers not to represent media houses

How Kannada channels hit back at lawyers

Why news of the porn scam did not reach Athani

Why youth, women hold key to UP poll verdict

5 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Greater participation of voters in the poll process keeps democracy alvie and vibrant. This has been proved in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal already, and Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state with a whopping 403-member assembly, is all set to follow suit tomorrow.

Higher voter turnout has been a regular feature in Karnataka since 1999. Newly enrolled voters, numbering around 35 lakhs in each election, have almost en masse plumped for the BJP, helping it to catapult to power for the first time in the south.

Result: in terms of the total vote base in the election, BJP has dislodged the Congress from the number one position. (How the BJP is doing hara-kiri with this is a different matter.)

In last year’s assembly elections, this trend was noticed in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, in particular.

In Tamil Nadu, there was no increase in the electorate. But the turn out was quite high. Around 32.11 lakh more voters turned up at the polling booths. Apparently all of them went for AIADMK, helping Jayalalithaa to end the hegemony of the DMK and Karunanidhi. The AIADMK, had an additional 33.81 lakh votes in its kitty. The inference is obvious.

In West Bengal, the size of the electorate increased by 79.26 lakhs while 81.81 lakh more voters had exercised their franchise. This helped the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Bannerjee, to breach the CPM citadel to put an end to its long reign.

Trinamul had got an additional support of to the extent of 80.31 lakh votes. The CPM suffered slight erosion to the extent of 3.22 lakhs. The Congress lost the support to the extent of 14.74 lakhs while the BJP had gained by 11.74 lakh votes.

From the available information, it seems that similar drama is being enacted in the UP too.

The state which has been under the BSP rule of Mayawati witnessed one of the highest poll turnouts in the seven-phase election this time to the extent of over 62%, in an electorate of 12.70 crores.

Around 1.35 crores new voters had been enrolled this time.

In terms of the voters who exercised their franchise, the increase was by over 2 crores according to the election authorities. The observers have noted a marked enthusiasm among women voters this time.

It is the segment of voters who have absolutely no political commitment whatsoever who are going to write the new political history in the state.

The question is, who is going to be the beneficiary of the voters’ largesse—the two front runners, the BSP and the SP, or the BJP and the Congress, which are in the third and fourth position and lag far behind in terms of the total vote strength?

The odds should obviously favour the balance in favour of the BSP and the SP, who between themselves had accounted for 55.85% of the polled votes last time. And their opponents the BJP and Congress lagged far behind in the race with combined vote strength of around 25%.

The choice between them is quite dicey too. The odds favour SP undoubtedly if the incumbency factor is to be reckoned with. But the scales turning in favour of Mayawati cannot be ruled out too in the context of the high turnout of women voters this time.

The chances of the Congress, which fought under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP getting the bonanza may arise if the phenomenon of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, with the entire bunch of the fresh voters extending the support en masse to either of them.

Anyhow what is in the mind of the UP voters would be clear on 6th when the counting of votes is taken up.

If this can happen so close to Vidhana Soudha…

3 March 2012

N. Manjunath, a photojournalist with Karnataka Photo News, is beaten up by advocates at the City civil court in Bangalore on Friday.

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: What is wrong with our Black Coats?

Why are lawyers, who are supposed to uphold the law, protect innocents, work along with their compatriots in other professions like media and police, taking law into their hands are behaving like front-rank hooligans, time after time?

Amidst all the mayhem let loose on cameramen, lady journalists and media equipment at the civil courts in Bangalore on Friday, the police stood transfixed and immobile.

Was it deliberate and on orders?

If a set of thugs wearing whatever colour of coats turn into hooligans and beat up everybody, shouldn’t the protectors of law prevent this massacre? Were they waiting orders from the home minister or the chief minister himself to take any action?

If this kind of lawlessness is condoned by the government of the day, barely a kilometre from the scene of action, God help rest of Karnataka living in far flung places.

When  photographs both still and video clippings are available of those who were indulging in arson and beating up everybody to initiate action against them, why do they need a  ‘thorough enquiry’ which will take its own time?

The question again arises: who is ruling the State?

How is it that lawyers are repeatedly breaking the law and no action is even contemplated against them?

Less than a month back they held Bangalore city to ransom which resulted in massive rasta roko with school kids unable to go home; ladies caught in the melee. Again the BJP government didn’t take any action.

Friday’s episode is a shameful repeat of the previous incident but with a larger question mark over the government’s ability to protect a free press. It appears the State might have taken the ‘tit for tat’ on the porno-gate issue.

When Karnataka is trying to invite more investment into the State, if law and order becomes an issue every second day, the government can say ‘goodbye’ for foreign investment. Investors mainly look for a government which upholds law and order, an environment which is safe to conduct business free from Rasta rook etc.

If the Government does not see the warning signs it will go the West Bengal way. There’s no doubt about that.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How Kannada channels hit back at lawyers

How the BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Why news of the porn scam did not reach Athani

The porn film the BJP ministers should have watched

How Kannada news channels hit back at lawyers

3 March 2012

After the free-for-all in the Bangalore courts on Friday, in which lawyers took the law into their own hands, clobbering reporters, stoning OB vans, etc, all the 24×7 Kannada news channels—TV9, Suvarna News, Udaya News, Janashri, Samaya, Public TV, News 24—blacked out their screens for two minutes at 8 pm and ran a uniform message registering their protest.

The message read:

“We strongly protest the violence unleashed on journalists by lawyers.”

Photograph: courtesy Vishwatma Bhat


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