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1

Where is the secular and liberal voice of India being lost? Why is India increasingly being toward paranoid insecurity over coexistence?

This trip to Delhi is turning out to be interesting. For that matter this whole past week has been interesting. The has been yet another flutter of panic in our oh so refined conscience about the appalling rise of BJP.

These moments come and go, I have seen. They are quite entertaining for the opportunity to make sarcastic tweets at something ugly. In terms of utility, they are pretty much meaningless, even counterproductive. Impotent outage by opponents is the true mark of victory to a cult of power.

Yeah, so a thug has found recognition. Or rather what is perceived as a new level of thug. So?

People are agitated. BJP has fooled the masses with fake news, polarising rumours and likely EVM rigging.

And this is news because...?

Can anyone honestly say that the BJP has done anything differently? All this was known. There were no indications that winning tactics would be dropped over some sudden discovery of ethics. So what is the new outrage?

Part of it is that we are unsettled by this rise. Mirza Waheed remarked on twitter "@Vidyut  Three years is all it's taken. It's chilling what how much the far right has achieved."

While i think it has been much longer than three years, what I said spontaneously then is my belief.


And yet it is not so simple. If, as Arundhati Roy famously put it, the middle and upper classes have seceded to the stratosphere, it is also true that the intellectuals have seceded to an intellectual stratosphere. Sadly, the financial stratosphere pays the bills, while the intellectual stratosphere can only form clubs of like minded people.

And of course, the vast majority of people has access to neither stratosphere.

The challenge for the intellectual elite today, is to learn to implement the egalitarianism they allegedly believe in.

How is it that they apparently have views that are empowering and progressive and yet primitive propaganda succeeds in pitting citizens against each other in what amounts to a tribal war conducted with votes? It cannot be that the right wing has extraordinary intelligence or communication skills. So where does the thinking fail? Is it really true that people would prefer an existence of paranoia and hostility over one of secure coexistence?

That doesn't sound right. After all, the basis of civilisation itself is a need for a guarantee of secure co-existence. The Hindu rashtra, with its model of every street thug ruling his own kingdom with impunity is not sustainable even if it grew unopposed and there was consensus on wanting a religious state. Yogi Adityanath is not an accident. He is the product of impunity being a norm.

But it will be a long time before such a model fails. Too long to be of relevance to the well-being of a county. This is recognised by the intellectual elite. But not by the masses.

So what are the missing parts? Where is secular thought falling to include the people it aims to include?

I have several views on this and will be blogging further to present them over coming months.

For now, I leave you readers with this question. Why is it that the fundamental principles of shared citizenship are being discarded so rapidly in favour of moves that disenfranchise a section of the population?

Make no mistake, the rules being broken get broken for the security of all -broken is broken- even though the temptation right now is the targeting of some.

1

The Indian socio-political space is polarized as never before. The religious and economic right wings came together in an unprecedented show of solidarity and gave India its first Prime Minister who refuses to answer any questioning. The writing was on the wall. Subramanian Swamy had detailed the RSS "plan" as far back as 1999 with remarkable accuracy if one is to read it with the wisdom of hindsight.

Arundhati Roy had spoken of the economic separation going on in the Indian society in words that have since been seared onto the minds of most people who read them.

What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere.

Journalists, bloggers, social media commentators have been pointing to this situation coming. This blog has certainly not pulled any punches, and the only surprise in it is the number of people who apparently did not imagine that people given to disregarding law and country while not even in power are wreaking complete mayhem now that they are.

Repulsive utterances and acts have systematically decimated any gullible people who had believed that the country would thrive under a Hindutva right extremist government. Pretty much the only supporters the government has left is its core constituency - those who support them not in spite of their communally hostile views and acts, but because of them. Businessmen are already talking about lack of investments, rupee continues to sink and so on.

Call it BJP's anti-intellectualism committing suicide by pitting itself against institutions of education or call it the simple end of the election campaign resulting in the fog of advertising coming off people's eyes, blaming the right is not such a difficult thing these days. They seem to be doing more than half the work themselves.

In the process, what is happening is a complete absolution of those who are not these barbarians. The nice halos of liberals, intellectuals, leftists and what not other identities with lofty morals are shining brilliant more from the lack lustre contrast of a determinedly incompetent right than any particular merit of their own.

How easy it has become to forget that the Congress pretty much handed the country to BJP on a platter, or that the excellent campaign of Kejriwal suddenly stopped talking of deliverables and dived into Gods after pitching the meager finances of the party into Varanasi and ensuring that hundreds of other seats did not campaign well for shortage of money? A careful Modi wave respected the Gandhi and Yadav parivars even when it swept across UP in a historic win. BJP returned the favor in Delhi elections giving AAP the landslide win so close to Kejriwal's heart. Of course, Kejriwal wasn't ungrateful. After becoming CM and whisking off for treatment at the supposedly hated PM's recommendation, his party did a nice purge of leftists who could have a problem with placing results over ethics or process.

And it goes on. Rahul Gandhi has started finding his eloquence. A near dead left is suddenly visible on Twitter. The country, as is normal for a democracy has no real answer for who should lead it.

Unless India wants to keep swinging between opportunists, the need of the hour is for a struggle for the intellect. A struggle to examine social norms, assumptions, and holy cows and test them against own reasoning, own experiences in life,  own sense of judgment. A struggle to assert own authority to demand accountability and performance from a government.

While there is no doubt that the Hindutva right is a disaster for India not just socially and economically, but in terms of intellectual capital, fundamental freedoms and perhaps even national integration itself, blaming the Hindutva right for the state of the country would be a mistake. For all their faults, their unsuitability was never hidden. A phenomenal carpet bombing of propaganda, entire cover ups of history, brutal and crude campaigns, opportunistic use of human rights propaganda and more got them a landslide victory. A complete multi-pronged brainwashing campaign with a budget to rival the GDPs of entire countries and still, their vote share wasn't a third of the voters in the country.

Can a citizen afford to forget that while the Hindutva right may be guilty of conducting this "advertising scam" and while it may be "guilty" of governing exactly as it has always said it wants a country to be run, it is the complacency of the left and the intellectuals that completely failed to challenge even a single prong of the facade? The word intellectual implies a mind that spends time in thought. A mind capable of more efficient thinking, more robust processes of concluding. Is it not time that the citizen asked whether the country's public intellectuals have served it well?

I have yet to find a reasoned argument that can engage with a crude and illogical defamatory conclusion that makes up in quantity what lacks in quality when it comes to propagation. Why is it that our intellectuals have not made an effort to fight the dangerous undermining of critical thinking nationwide, even as there has been no shortage of them screaming alarm that it was happening?

The right has never pretended to include people. Their concept is simple. "We are the rightful rulers of this land, and we'd like the rest of you to vanish. In any case, we will oppose you anything you want, fundamental right or otherwise" This is no secret. The fundamental of the ideology plays out when it is possible to simply accuse someone loudly enough for it to be a truth to be fixed with a lynch mob. It is not that the mob is stupid enough that no one realizes that the targets are probably framed. It is that the mob is fine with the destruction of the targets for whatever the superficial reason. Be it a Dadri lynching or "terrorists" in JNU.

The question of national integration has to be one for the left to answer. Because the left claims to believe in inclusion. Have they been talking to be understood by all, if a country can be fooled into pseudo-nationalist outrage at the drop of a hat? Have our public thinkers thought loud enough?

While our upper and middle classes are seceding into the stratosphere economically, is it not equally true that our intellectuals have so seceded into an intellectual stratosphere that their ideas of free speech and fundamental rights don't sound familiar to the masses?

A blog by a right wing blogger, Amrit Hallan comes to mind. In it, he compares why Niti Central shut down, but Scroll thrived. To me, the reason seems to be that Niti Central was set up with the specific purpose of electoral propaganda when BJP was in the opposition. Its archives contain often reckless condemnation of a lot of things done by the UPA2 that BJP is currently doing, and it is no longer a suitable publication for the purposes of those it served, because its own archives would condemn those it favors. My guess is that in a few months, it will mushroom up in another avatar with content more suitable to publicizing the work of this government and nothing inconvenient criticizing very similar actions by another government.

But reading the piece by Amrit Hallan was a revelation. Not because his analysis differed from mine - that is bound to happen - I have an extremely cynical view of political propaganda as a whole and BJP affiliated propaganda in particular. What stunned me was how he saw the "Left". From reading his post, the inescapable perception is that of the "left" as he puts it (including leftists and "Congis", activists, etc) as a monolith. He goes to the extent of speaking of leftists promoting each other by name or linking to pieces and creating an artificial credibility where none exists. To look at the piece in terms of its merit as a debate would laugh it off the stage, because it is so absurd.

Yet, if someone does not understand the thinking that leads to stands on fundamental rights, would not completely independent instances of agreement with rights they do not wish to give appear to be an incomprehensible conspiracy? If I did not understand, say for example architecture and published something that creates an unstable building for reasons completely beyond my knowledge, would experts who trashed my article not appear as a conspiracy of elitists unwilling to recognize my masterpiece because I did not agree with them?

Would it not appear as a conspiracy to someone conditioned to react with hate to "enemies" of India, if their reaction were criticized for impinging on the rights and safety of another? To someone who has never had a deep dialogue on citizenship and the right of every citizen to their nation, would it not appear that there was nothing being impinged in order to correct a perceived threat?

If I wrote an article criticizing the beef ban in Maharashtra from an animal husbandry perspective, Asad Owaisi retweeted it, because he perceives the beef ban as a targeting of Muslims, a few dalit activists retweeted it because of the lack of recognition of dalits eating beef as a legitimate diet of Indian Hindus, if those endorsing fundamental freedoms retweeted it because they oppose the imposition of religious belief on people..... would it not appear to be a conspiracy to a well meaning, if ignorant urban product who has never cared for cattle, but been brought up considering it holy and further radicalized to believe that a cow is nothing and nothing but a symbol of Hindu faith?

Why would an urban mind think about the crisis of fodder and water in rural India? Why would it think of a centuries old thriving trade (and exports) of Kolhapuri chappals? Why would it think of massive income from the export of beef, because Indian taboos make India the only country in the world where beef (considered superior meat) is actually cheaper than goat meat, resulting in massive export business? These things are not told to the mind, the ideas of individual rights are not informed to the mind. What remains is a fog of outraged insult that anybody would kill and eat their mother. That is where the bizarre questions come from.

Would you kill and eat your mother?

Well, I wouldn't tie her in a cattle shed either!

That is what they know. Then begins the desperate search to make an emotional stand sound logical.

No one can know what they don't know. What sort of an intellectual capital have we created that there are so many among our masses who are unaware of the reasoning behind fundamental rights? What sort of an intellectual capital have we created that there are so many left in ignorance that they can be fodder for opportunists to feed ideas for political profit? How is it that we can have a country where the population of cows rivals that of states, and yet the products of our education have no idea of the economy cattle sustain beyond religious faith?

The cow is just an example. This kind of deficit of reasoning that results in dangerous, life threatening outrage can be traced to a lack of adequate information, lack of education, lack of public debate.

We could sneer at them for their stupidity, but it would be useful to remember that we are all products of our circumstances. None of us were born wise. None of us stop learning. All of us learn in various ways unique to us that trigger deeper thought on assumptions that often lead to complete changes in views.

Whose responsibility is it to inculcate such thought? Actually, no one's. Today, we have an abundance of activists pointing out problems and demanding solutions from governments and advocating change, but relatively few reformers who create change regardless of society or government. Governments themselves have over and over abdicated this responsibility. Remember, it wasn't fanatics ruling when we chose to embrace liberalism so thoroughly that our films went from coolie and mazdoor heroes to flashy cars and item girls. It wasn't fanatics in rule when our media chased wealth so thoroughly that national integration was no longer for public content. No more ek chidiya anek chidiya and mile sur mera tumhara. Now paisa bolta hain.

Well, paisa spoke. It spoke so loud that it created an entire fantasy world for youth who never experienced a public space where children dreamed of becoming teachers and scientists instead of MBAs and MNC employees. It never told them of social injustices and showed them films like Amar Prem. Their world is one where these ugly things don't happen. In fact, they are "less privileged", if you look at the bling they are bombarded with as "normal".

You cannot expect private individuals to educate public intellect. You cannot even force them to speak so that they are understood by masses without violating their rights to free speech. That almost sounds like forced conscription for weapons of mass instruction. Something a government will never bring about regardless of political party in power, because idiots are easier to con with pipe dreams than people asking why midday meals are so pathetic and where the money went.

So who is left, whose responsibility it is to create intellectual capital?

No one's. It is a responsibility abdicated by one and all.

But I can tell you what will happen if we do not have a more thinking citizenry. We will burn each other to the ground when incited by opportunists for goals that won't give us a thing beyond the heady sense of being the neighbourhood's biggest bully. Regardless of whether it is the left or the right, the dalits or the brahmins, the Muslims or the Hindutvawadis, everyone will burn. No matter who the opportunists, the ones dying in street fights are always cannon fodder.

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Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU for 2.5 years and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus.

Harshit Agarwal, student of JNU and eyewitness to the events that unfolded after the protest by DSU on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Originally posted on Quora.

A lot of answers are here. The only weird thing is not one of them is from a JNU student or who witnessed what happened on that controversial day and yet everyone has such strong opinions about the whole incident from people calling everyone studying in JNU as terrorists, jihadis and naxals to asking for the university to be completely shutdown!

I am a JNU student studying right now and also happen to be a witness from distance for some events that happened on that controversial date - 9th February 2016. So, that kinda renders me more legitimate to answer this question than people who only know about it through Zee News and Times Now.

On 9th February 2016, ex-members of a student organization DSU, short for 'Democratic Students Union' had called for a cultural meeting of a protest against what they called 'the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat' and in solidarity with 'the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination.' A lot of Kashmiri students from inside and outside the campus were to attend the event.

'Democratic Students Union(DSU)' is an ultra-leftist group in the campus that believes in the ideology of Maoism. It's a very small group of very well read students. They are not terrorists or naxals by any means. I have been in the campus for more than 2 years and never have I witnessed or heard of them committing a terror activity as much as of throwing a stone, let alone overthrowing the state!

Now, first things first.

Did they do something wrong in organizing a meeting over the issue of Kashmir? Is the issue of Kashmir so sacred to us and our brains so brainwashed with the idea of nazi-like nationalism that we are not even ready to hear about the issue of Kashmir from Kashmiris themselves?

Do I support the secession of Kashmir from India? No.

I am not even aware of the exact nuances of the political matter, but I am ready to hear, learn and debate all sorts of opinions, especially from the inhabitants themselves.

Now, did the organizers of the meeting do something wrong in calling Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat's execution 'judicial murder'? And was it the first time somebody raised an objection on capital punishment and the judgement of a court?

After Afzal Guru was hanged, a lot of human rights group condemned the hanging. The political party PDP with whom BJP has formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir itself called Afzal's hanging 'travesty of justice'. Arundhati Roy condemned it. Shashi Tharoor called it wrong. Markandey Katju has severely criticized it.

Praveen Swami, Indian journalist, analyst and author specialising on international strategic and security issues wrote in The Hindu,

"The Supreme Court’s word is not, and ought not to be, the final word. Indeed, the deep ambiguities that surround Guru’s case are in themselves compelling argument to rethink the death penalty."

Former Delhi High Court chief justice, Justice AP Shah, said that the hanging of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon were politically motivated.

Now were all these people anti-nationals, terrorists, jihadis?

I have faith in your wisdom to answer that.

Now coming to next issue - the shouting of 'anti-national slogans'.

Now 20 minutes before the meeting was going to start, ABVP, who consider themselves to be the sole harbingers of nationalism, wrote to the administration asking it to withdraw the permission of organizing the meeting as it was 'harmful for campus' atmosphere'. The administration, feeling afraid of clashes, denied the permission. Now, for those who do not know, JNU is a beautiful democratic space where all voices are heard, all opinions however radical, respected. And ABVP was scuttling that space.

DSU asked for help from JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru Students' Union) and other left student organizations like SFI(Students Federation of India), and AISA(All India Students Association) to gather in support of their right to democratically and peacefully hold meeting and mind you, NOT in support of their ideology or their stand on Kashmir. DSU, JNUSU, and other student organizations decided they would not let the administration and the ABVP scuttle their hard-earned democratic space to debate and discuss, and decided to go ahead with the meeting.

The administration sent security guards to cover the badminton court where the meeting was supposed to happen, and denied the permission to use mics. The organizers agreed.

They decided they would continue the meeting around the dhaba itself and without the mics. However, the ABVP mobilized its cadres and started threatening and intimidating the students and organizers. They started shouting cliched slogans like

'Ye Kashmir Hamara hai, saara ka saara hai.'

The organizers as a response to them, and to create solidarity among the students attending the meeting started shouting,

"Hum kya chaahte? Azaadi!"

Do you think there was something highly inflammatory  and dangerous in this statement? Think about it. Nations break all the time. We were chanting the same slogan under Britishers. Soviet Union disintegrated. Secession is neither good nor bad. It depends on the precise circumstances of the region. And mind you, I don't support the secession of Kashmir. I claim to have insufficient knowledge of the situation and conditions of the people residing in that region. Hence, I am neither for nor against it. Hence, I have no problems with a group of students simply shouting slogans in support of a particular region's freedom. They were not planning a conspiracy to overthrow the government and seize Kashmir from India. They were simple students who read, travel and learn about socio-political issues and have a stand about it.

Next slogan -

"Tum kitne Afzal maaroge, har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

Now, I did not study the case closely, and hence, would believe in the courts of India and therefore, I believe Afzal Guru was a terrorist. Though principally I am against capital punishment.

However, this group of students believed that he did not deserve capital punishment and also have their skepticism about his involvement in the parliamentary attack. I am picking up this from wikipedia -

"It has to be noted, that in its judgement of 5 August 2005, the supreme court admitted that the evidence against Guru was only circumstantial, and that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation."

And this directly from the Supreme Court judgement:

"The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

So, a group of students believe that Afzal Guru was framed, had no role in the attack on the parliament and his capital punishment was wrong. Big deal?

And were therefore shouting, "Har ghar se Afzal niklega!"

And mind you, these people are not carrying any arms, all they are carrying are ideas.

So, in such a case, what should the state do? Charge them for conspiracy against the state? Or maybe merely try to engage with them, debate with them about a difference of opinion?

And was this some secretly organized meeting about overthrowing the government smuggling in bombs and grenades? No, this was a public meeting. Everyone was invited. You were free to disagree with them. They are not doing it in hiding. If they were terrorists they would not come out in public! But didn't you see them all at your TV channels courageously defending themselves and their right to have a difference of opinion? Tell me, which traits of terrorists do you find in them?

Now, I'll come to the most controversial part - the slogans against India.

In the meeting, there was a whole group of Kashmiri students which had come from outside JNU to attend the meeting. If you would even look closely at the video that is being circulated, you will only see these students who had formed a circle in the center of the gathering. And trust me ,not one of whom was from JNU! I was present during the event for some time, and I could not recognize a single face from that group as being from JNU.

This group of students, who belonged to Kashmir, and had faced the wrath of the AFSPA for decades, were angered to see ABVP disrupt their meeting, and started shouting the slogans against India, like:

"Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi!"
"India, Go Back"

In my almost 2.5 years of stay in JNU, I have never heard these slogans shouted anywhere. These are nowhere even close to the ideology of any left parties, let alone DSU.

To make things clearer, here is what a Kashmiri student who is not a JNU student and who was not present in the meeting, has written about the slogans on his facebook wall, after hearing them on youtube:

"Let me do the “DECONSTRUCTION” not Derridian but ‘Kashmiri deconstruction’ of the slogans that have become so controversial.

1. BHARAT KEE BARBADI TAK JANG RAHEY GEE

Bharat for a Kashmiri young men and women who were born in 1990s and after means Indian Military Establishment. The representative image of Indian state is always, Men-in-uniform-with-weapons.

BARBADI is used in the same lexicon as it’s used by different organizations in India. It means end to the military occupation of Kashmir.

JANG means struggle, whether peaceful, Gandhian, Marxian, Gramscian or violent depends on your interpretation of the word.

I hope it leads to some clarity. Anyways it might be a ‘fringe’ slogan in spaces like JNU but it’s a ‘mass’ slogan in Kashmir.

2. AZADI: The word AZADI, which is the most confusing word for ‘Indians’. Let me simplify it for you. It’s not a seditious slogan nor is it secessionist. AZADI as a slogan is historically, socially, culturally, conceptually and principally rooted in the principle of Right to Self Determination of people belonging to a region occupied by two nation-states identified as Kashmir.

Let me add more, Azadi is a synonym of Resistance and has a very deep aspirational value attached to it."

About the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad', it is disputed. I did not hear any such slogan while I was present there. There is a slogan in a video, but it's not clear as to who shouted it - the Kashmiri students or the ABVP as a conspiracy, as this video below explains:

Now, that it's been clear that no JNU student was involved in shouting anti-India slogans, let's come to the way the government responded to this:

The police on the orders of Home Minister Rajnath Singh raid our univeristy and then hostels. They pick up the JNUSU President from within the campus with no substantial evidence and the court remands him for a 3 day police custody. He did not shout the slogans. He is a member of the All India Students Federation(AISF) which is the student wing of the Communist Party of India(CPI) which has no Maoist or secessionist ideology and is the mildest of all left parties.

Yesterday too, seven more students were picked up by the police from the campus.

I say, if you are hell bent on arresting, arrest those Kashmiri students at the most. But ruthlessly witch-hunting students is outrageous and clearly not what you would expect from a democratic government!

And finally, I am going to touch a raw nerve here, but I think it's become important that someone does -

"Why are we so volatile regarding our ideas of nationalism? Why do we treat it like religion? Somebody shouts few slogans and it becomes absolute blasphemy! A university is a place for debate, discussion and dissent! Slogans should be answered by slogans, and not by sedition charges!"

Elaborating on this, I would like to quote the first prime minister of India 'Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose name the university bears:

A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People."

At such a crucial time, when JNU is facing all kinds of fabricated lies and flak from media, I would urge all of you to stand with JNU. It is one of a kind of university and it's absolutely beautiful, both in it's spirit and geography.

I urge you all to visit my university sometime. It welcomes everyone, accommodates everyone...:)

9

There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

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It is clear that among the things done wrongly in the Tehelka scandal, some are obvious (like DO NOT RAPE), others have been discussed (Like DO NOT COVER UP A RAPE) and still more resulted from media failure in maintaining an objective view. These are largely unique to this case. Well, the rape is not such a unique thing in India, but the rest are unique to this case. I think wrong was done on several levels and I am trying to look at the larger picture in terms of what can be done to prevent these fails in our response to incidences like this.

Regardless of the media fury, custodial rape is not such an unprecedented thing and there is a need to realize that the cause of women does not get helped by insisting on treating someone as guilty on the basis of a word. Just like all crimes need proof, rape too should need proof. The norm for accepting a victim's word is important because rape being an intimate and often private crime, there is a need that suffering not be dismissed out of hand and that the victim receives a fair trial and support on the assumption that she will not lie about such a thing because of prevailing social conditions.

However, if what is a protective measure for the victim becomes a presumption of guilt for the man, we are creating dangerous precedents. In my view, believing the victim and extending all support to her is important. It is equally important that the right of any citizen, men included, to be innocent till proved guilty is respected - particularly by state and media, because their responses have the power to punish with broken reputations and destroyed lives well before the case reaches court.

For those who are looking at this incident as a new awareness of women's rights, I don't agree with you. The awareness may be where the light of media is shining, but I don't even think it is awareness about the victim's rights. People watching media are under the perception that this man is guilty. I will not fool myself that very many have bought into the principle of believing a woman on claims of rape, so I'm not going to imagine that anything has changed. And if it has changed and the masses at large realize that a woman accusing a man of rape will be believed by default to the point his reputation can be in shreds and he is arrested on a non-bailable warrant and sent to police custody for interrogation without the victim even filing a complaint, I don't imagine the resulting conclusions will do any favors to women, particularly in a misogynist society.

There is a difference between a presumption of truth for the victim's claims and the presumption of guilt for the one accused. Not only has the line been crossed repeatedly in the Tarun Tejpal case, there doesn't even seem to be a passing interest in finding out where it could be. In my view, several things were wrong with the response to the victim's accusations by Tehelka/Shoma, the government, the courts. The media court I have talked about so much, I am tired of talking about it.

Firstly, Shoma was not just wrong in refusing a sexual harassment committee in media - however briefly or however much she changed later. She was wrong from the word go, in unilaterally and privately managing the accusations. The sexual harassment committee should have been formed on receiving the letter and the committee should have been the one to decide whether an apology needs to be issued or Tejpal needs to step down or a police case needs to be filed.

In acting unilaterally to address the issue, Shoma not only created a perception of denial of justice, cover up and persecution in the victim, she harmed the interests of Tarun Tejpal by assigning guilt - without which the apology holds no meaning. Tejpal's interests were further harmed by him stepping down suo motto. Without his stepping down being required by either the victim or a committee, it appeared as an admission of guilt on a crime of massive proportions. All this could be avoided if proper procedures were followed or even if there was no sexual harassment committee, a group of seniors acting in a collective decision rather than something Shoma and Tejpal came up with on their own.

This may be something for organizations to take note of, because any kind of apology or punishment may not be a proof of anything, but it definitely creates a perception of guilt. Take for example the cases of sexual harassment in the Supreme Court, Dainik Bhaskar and other ones cropping up in media. While it cannot be denied that the BJP with its considerable power to command media and social media had a special grudge with Tehelka, the outrage has Brinda Karat and Arundhati Roy criticizing as well, who most certainly cannot be considered BJP stooges. So how is it that one case of molestation get so much attention without a case being filed, while other cases are filed and still there hardly seems to be a word of condemnation. Bhatia has not apologized or resigned or any such thing and the complaing against him is one of ongoing sexual abuse and threats to career. Sort of serial Tejpal. So why is there no anger? Because in public perception, it is an accusation that will go to court and so on. In public perception, Tejpal, in stepping down made an admission of guilt.

The Vishakha guidelines are for creating a process around addressing allegations, not only protecting victims. A proper procedure would have protected Tejpal's interest as well if he was innocent as he claims. Yet the guidelines are hardly followed by most organizations including Tehelka, Dainik Bhaskar and the Supreme Court. The Vishakha guidelines are only available in English. A glaring lapse that came to attention that took 15 years to be noticed. Genderlog India has now started a citizen volunteer project to translate the Vishakha guidelines into different languages. Do volunteer your efforts.

It is even more scary when the government is swayed by media hype into an action engineered by it. How many instances of crimes against women when the woman deliberately hasn't filed an FIR get picked up by the government? Why was a special case made out of this? It is not a matter of "high profile". The number of politicians alone who "outrage the modesty" of rape victims with character assassinations in media runs by the dozen every year. The number of blogs detailing sexual abuse vast and there is no action taken by the state. Police themselves convince victims to not file cases. And now apparently the state needs to file a case even when victim didn't want. The lack of uniformity of the response shows how the state is run by media. The Chief Minister of Goa had promised two arrests recently. The first was a rapist of a seven year old child, whom the child had identified. The second recent case where he promised action against proven crime was the group of political workers who thrashed a Nigerian badly enough to send him to hospital, serious with head injuries. Video footage should make it really easy for the assaulters to be identified. 53 Nigerians got booked for "hooliganism" none of the political workers got booked for an assault that put a man's life in danger. So yes, I totally believe that this case is not political and that Parrikar takes actions against any wrongs he spots. Right.

In a country where laws presume a woman to be speaking the truth on accusations of rape, it becomes important to not harm the chances of the accused in being innocent till proved guilty, or the laws will get resented, genuine distress will be dismissed as framing of innocent men and so on. We may be able to deliver to standards where an accusation of rape without proof can send a man to jail for ten years, getting the masses to see that as justice will not be so easy. Worse, high profile cases will create a spillover of perception about all accusations of rape that cannot be proved and get believed on the victim's word alone. It is already difficult for victims to get justice, what kind of very serious cover ups will happen to protect men from women with "unfair advantages"? When I went to file a police complaint for domestic abuse two years ago, the "man talk" in the station with my husband who had accompanied me was all about how nothing can be done if a woman "chooses to frame her husband". There was no complaint filed.

How long before accusations of rape go under that banner of "chooses to frame"?

A controversial provision to protect women being weaponized against an accused to destroy him without a trial is guaranteed to do more harm than good. The price will be a setback for the credibility of women when they claim to be abused. Without trivializing the trauma of any kind of abuse, the fact is that today, an elite woman was able to use a safeguard to bring her assaulter down without a trial, while for the common woman, the fact continues that she has trouble being believed unless she lands up in the hospital or morgue. In spite of filing a case, the Dainik Bhaskar victim has had no such belief invested in her accusations, even as two other women report the same exploitation of them by the same man. Harish Bhatia remains comfortably "unavailable for comment" with media not particularly bothered about the gravity of his actions. The NCW that is so concerned about the Tejpal case let Harish Bhatia's victim down without so much as a splash.

So let us not pretend that this is any moment of awareness of women's rights. Media choosing to magnify this case and present the accused as already guilty has led to *this* woman being believed when she claims an assault. Nothing has changed for women at large and if it has, it certainly has not changed for the better with an exhibition of what "a woman can do to a man" without trial - when it was in reality the media who did it. A media that has already dialed down the interest in this case and will move on, till it picks another woman out of the crowd to fight her case, as usual leaving the status quo for women at large undisturbed. This woman has a lot of well connected friends who may support her after the limelight moves on, but for all intents and purposes, the story is over. The media court has judged and moved on. The victim can fight her own war in a court of law indefinitely. A war she didn't want defending an accusation she hadn't put into words (rape). A war she cannot back off from now without appearing to be accusing falsely. A war that will require her to travel to a different state to fight - something her accused can do far more easily than her.

There is nothing more damaging to the cause of women's rights than hit and run feminists who grab a cause, rampage for vengeance and get distracted by the next glittery thing, dumping the war they magnified onto the victim's head, who will now have to deal with it on her own.

Sex sells. Media still treats rape as sex for this purpose. Sex sells even when it is simply saying rape is not sex. Get it?

What does it matter if the sheer magnitude of "outrage" has put 9 people out of jobs at the last count, counting resignations in protest (including victim) and Shoma and Tejpal stepping down. An organization is near collapse putting hundreds of jobs at further risk. And the case has not even reached courts.

This, to me is not feminism, but an exploitation of feminism for agendas against specific accused. An exploitation of feminism for media profits.