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4

There is little point writing beyond this. Muslims protest. Whatever it is, they protest. Protests turn violent. People condemn. Then it is an insult of Islam. This rubbish cycle continues forever...

Ironic Islamic Protests

Today, when news hit that a Berlin court has allowed a rightwing extremist organization to use cartoons of Mohammed during their protest; I remembered the Danish cartoon controversy. At that time, Orkut was the social network of choice. A Danish newspaper had published a series of cartoons of Islamic prophet Mohammed, much to the delight of atheists and the many people irritated with touchy Muslims.

Predictably, very predictably, Muslims were furious. Protests happened worldwide. Bombs, death threats, the works. Yet, they resulted in increased hate for Islam and more ridicule. Communities like "Quran is not from God" flourished. Indian, Pakistani and other atheists in countries with restricted freedoms took to fake profiles to vent their fury, many from countries with freedom of speech posted from their real profiles. Me having neither luxury remained content to read.

It was quite apparent that the more the protests raged, the more insane Muslims looked.

But you know what the irony of this was? The people who took the protests far and wide were Muslims themselves. Two Muslim Imams who had got asylum in Denmark had compiled the cartoons. For good measure, they added cartoons from another newspaper, which were making fun of the first newspaper's campaign and not Mohammed at all.

and...

They added three cartoons to their dossier that had not been published anywhere. At all. One was a picture of a man at a pig squealing contest in France. A general photo available on the Internet. They added it to their dossier with a caption saying that he was Mohammed, thus committing blasphemy themselves, but Muslims ignored that when it got exposed, as they were highlighting the sins of the original cartoons. Many made excuses that the photos may have been published somewhere. Or may have been mailed as forwards.

Atheists in one of the community ran a challenge asking anyone to prove that the photos were published anywhere before the dossier by the Imams or to prove that such a forward existed. To my knowledge, no one did. Bombs, death threats, mayhem followed. The newspaper was forced to apologize in the interests of humanity and their own safety, though their law did not require them to.

Similar protests happened when a crazy pastor in the US threatened to burn a Quran and eventually did burn it. Protests and condemnation followed worldwide with attacks on Americans (which, to many meant any white people). A brutal massacre followed in Afghanistan.

Some photo of a pig at/on Mecca (I never did find out) resulted in muslims in Thane or Mulund rioting. Of course, an image search can still find lots of blasphemous images. It is impossible to wipe them off the Internet. So any  time you want to get Muslims acting insane, all you have to do is Google and tweet a link.

Behead those who say Islam is violent

It became further ridiculous when ridicule of Islam for being a violent religion was protested by huge processions of Muslims, and someone with a sharp eye caught posters saying "Kill those who say Islam is violent" and "Kill those who say Islam is intolerant".

It would be hilarious, but is tragic that all you have to do is create a fake profile; upload an insulting image and watch Muslims destroy their lives as well as those of others. Because make no mistake, apart from lawless wastelands of the world, every single place, Muslims got into trouble with the law over vandalism, rioting, murder, attempt to murder and what not. This is the part everyone forgets, or it would end. The swathes of destruction and dead people stood indisputable proof of the violence of Islam. In protesting a condemnation of Islam, Muslims set about proving it right.

Countless Muslims got police records over these that would forever be a mark on their records, damaging future jobs, visas, passports, education and more. They would forever be on the radars of US organizations. And US security is Obsessive Compulsive. Then, when they travel, if there is increased security for Muslims, that is seen as insulting too.

The real story here is the fiction peddled by religious leaders that every injustice against every single Muslim needs Muslims everywhere to be outraged. If under normal circumstances people break, vandalize, threaten, indulge in hate speech, they are thugs. If they do it for religion, they are people who are hurt. Historic wrongs must be remembered, and hopefully reversed. Any wrong against a Muslim is intentional. Non-Muslims violating Muslim norms are a greater outrage than Muslims. Non-Muslims killing Muslims are a greater outrage than Muslims.

Thus, if you have someone who preaches the Muslim need to protest, he is in business all year. And I do mean business, because the main purpose of these protests works out as shows of power as well as making people feel scared enough of non-Muslims that they huddle together and support whoever the big guy with the claims of power and protection is. Which will happen to be the guy promoting protest or whoever he points to. Surprise!

Where Muslims were in minorities, they became targets for retaliatory hate crime attacks for their "terrorist supporting" ways and for imposing their religious expectations on the world at large. Sikhs often paid the price, because too many people are ignorant about differences. Of course, these hate crimes are further fodder on how Islam is attacked.

Who benefits?

The crazies. Religious-political entities whose support base would be pathetic because of their regressive and unpalatable attitudes become bastions of true Muslim protection, because the world is unsafe enough without them. There is always political profit in violence, and if there is a neighbourhood mullah explaining h

Who loses?

People trying hard to humanize Islam. To build bridges. To coexist.

Closer home, we have Muslims on some kind of rampage. Protests turning violent in various cities. Yesterday in Lucknow the Buddha park was vandalized. Statues, yes, but even plants uprooted. I wonder what evil the plants represented. Worse, what sense in the world does it make to vandalize the Buddha park in Lukhnow, because someone showed you photos of Lamas standing over Muslim dead bodies (which in reality are Lamas on a rescue operation). If you are going to be stupid, is it any surprise that criminals can con you into getting a police record for their profit?

Few are going to notice that as far as damage to life and limb goes, these protests have not lead to as many deaths as their numbers would lead one to fear. There have been smaller mobs and more dead in India's history itself. The police is happy to let the rioters do their thing. If all goes well, they will be a nice vote bank at the cost of public property. If not, they can always claim to be overwhelmed. Notice how the profit belongs to someone else, in loss, it will be the Muslims blamed. A political method, but the sanction comes from their own leaders using them.

People from northeast are under a real, imaginary or fake death threat all over the country - depending on who you believe - the threats may even be planted. But the result is the same. There are people from the northeast fleeing cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune to better be safe than sorry. True or false, they work because of the reputation Muslims have created. It is believable that people in an unrelated place can be hurt by Muslims. The rumor *could* be true. This credibility to the rumors is something Muslims have granted, which gives anyone with an internet connection the ability to plant rumors on their behalf. This can be Muslims who would like not to be traced, or Hindus who would like to score a political point, or anyone with a political agenda.

All any one has to do to make Muslims look like homicidal maniacs is.... nothing. Just point them to a suitable outrage. Hyper emotionalism and misplaced anger do the rest. All the government needs to do to shrug its own responsibilities of massive misgovernance is to let the circus distract from them. And please note here, by government it is the Congress government, the supposed messiah of Muslims that I am talking about. The BJP is not even in the picture here. This time, the worst they may have done - *may* - even that is unverified; is scared northeast people into believing rumors, attributing intentions or hyped the threat angle, etc. Political opportunism, but waaaaay after Muslims and Congress have done worse.

In my view, the story of the Muslim outrage - everywhere in the world, where it isn't local - is Muslims insulting Islam more than anyone else. They harm themselves and their futures most. They make their religion look like a headless chicken act holding local communities hostage to outrage anywhere in the world, which is bizarre. Unless Muslims learn to see how they get used for political purposes, they will forever be delivering outrage when buttons are pushed, till a point comes when the religion itself starts getting banned for being a law and order problem.

This is a crisis now. There needs to be better dialogue among Muslims and categorical refusals to become mobs to protest things on the basis of religion. To refuse to risk their own lives, limbs, properties and reputations over things happening in another part of the world. To rubbish the fiction that a government not moved to action by a multi-ethnic massacre spanning months can be intimidated into fixing problems if enough buses are burnt today afternoon.

Am I recommending against the fundamental right to protest? No. I am recommending FOR the fundamental right to free speech - which includes receiving accurate information, that gets encroached by whoever wants to use outrage. Right to free speech includes right to information. Your free choice is only as good as the information being fed to you. Time to stop assuming some sources of information as golden. They have stabbed too many backs. Change the victim narrative. You are enough people. Stop being paranoid. The exact same advice I give to women. LIVE free and limits will dissolve. Fighting ain't gonna work if you already are the victim. And if you aren't victim, you don't need to fight.

This cannot be stressed enough. This is already a crisis.

8

Dear Anonymous,

Congratulations on your first successful protests in India, and what a way to begin - a dozen cities at the same time!

June 9 happened and Internet Freedom Activists protested in several cities of India.Astonishingly, the call sent out by Anonymous India survived the considerable propaganda machine and made it to the real world. This is no mean achievement for an entity that has just come into bring and spent two weeks or so in promoting their first protest. An entity without any financial or organizational backing to enable protests anywhere.

Considering this, it is amazing that volunteers from various cities organized protests at their own expense and initiative. I also applaud the courage of those who protested. It is very easy to protest in a crowd. You go with the flow. When your group is small, and your goal is already under systematic attack, it takes exceptional courage to be the few men (or women) standing in the spotlight.

Not only did these organizers promote the protests and convince increasing numbers of people to join in, they managed to fund it too. In a few cases, small local groups supported voluntarily, in other places, the protesters didn't know each other at all. It is a tribute to Anonymous striking a note of inspiration that this is possible, and I applaud the call you took and your success in its manifestation. I admit that I was one of the few very skeptical people who thought that the protests would either not happen, or worse happen with really few people in very few locations.

I supported your cause, no doubt, but I didn't think India was ready to speak out on censorship to this extent after struggling to raise support for the Freedom Fast in Delhi recently. I didn't think it possible, but true to the advice I got in one of the interviews, I, being one who thought it was not possible, did not get in the way of people doing it. And it was good advice. Thrilled to be proved wrong.

The response was mixed. The earliest sign of trouble came when the police in Cochin "arrested" six protesters after their protest was done. There was much anger (including by me) but it later turned out that the Cochin police not being informed of the protest had detained them for questioning about the protest and let them go after taking their personal details and making a few veiled threats about them being questioned if there was further trouble.

The worst response of the state happened in Hyderabad and Kolkata. In Hyderabad the protests were supported by the Free Software Movement of India. Protesters were threatened by a senior police officer with arrest and confiscation of protest materials including T-Shirts. They were forced to negotiate when the activists stood their ground and the protest was relocated to the nearby Indira Park with a police escort.

Mamatadidi's Kolkata shines once more - not. About 200 protesters arrived for the protest, and were confronted by the police who allowed them 15 min silent protest. Varying accounts on exact methods  agreed that Police noted details and allowed to protest as a split group to look less visible. There were worrisome accounts of indirect intimidation and veiled threats. It says much about the paranoia in Kolkata over dissent that when the police started noting personal details of protesters, the number dropped to a fourth of what it was. Further, after they were forced to leave, when they assembled at a nearby park, plainclothesmen started taking photos of them without any regard to their refusals. At which point they disbanded. But the cops weren't done. They started making individual calls to the numbers they collected interrogating them about their intent and questions like how long they were "gathering online to make protests". Very insane. Mamata Banerjee is increasingly looking like a very worrisome dictator.

And then our President Pratibha Patil shines once more for being anti-people and possibly without even being aware of what gets perpetrated in her name. Protesters in Pune were refused permission to protest anywhere in the city because the President was in the city. Now Pune is huge. Surely there was one corner the President was not Occupying that the common man could Occupy? No such thing. While they did not deny permission on record, they did not give it either (classic Indian red tape). Pune decided to go ahead anyway, but the response was reluctant.

I am interested in knowing how you plan to work around such blocks, because these are important to address, and they hit a lot of citizens routinely if they want to protest anything.

From all accounts, the protests in other places went well. The most life affirming response came in Mumbai, where a protester actually reported that one of the senior officials at Azad Maidan recommended that they repeat their protest soon, if they did not get a good response first time. Win, Mumbai, this is how you win hearts. Hoezaay attended the protest both to support and to report and has a heart warming account of Occupy Mumbai on his blog. A rare worldview, where he staunchly supports the movement, and acknowledges disagreements including areas he doesn't support at all without letting it undermine his firm assertion of the value of the protest in any way. Worth reading.

Occupy Bangalore, Occupy Delhi looked very fun too. The support to the Bangalore protests by FSMK (Free Software Movement Karnataka) who had a parallel protest against the IT Rules was also very appreciated.

Specially worth mentioning is that I was astonished to see that the protests in less publicized places like Calicut, Chandigarh, Jaipur or Manipal go so well. I heard that there was a small protest at Chennai too. They hardly got any attention, but it needs to be acknowledged that they not only have internet users, but they have internet users willing to own a stake in shaping the country's access to the internet. I think this speaks well for our future.

I missed information on Nagpur, Indore, Ahmedabad. I don't think protests happened there.

The response to the protests online was one of initial skepticism followed by a section of people enthusiastically following and spreading news of the various protests. Contemptuous comments about the size of the response persisted, but frankly, I don't give them any weight. In my view, the Anonymous protests were a roaring success. We, of the masala expectations want to see oceans of people to count a protest as successful, since that is the new "benchmark" since the JanLokpal protests. However, the popcorn gallery needs to get a reality check, in my view. Team Anna's protests are coordinated from a central point, backed by organizations with grassroots networks in large swathes of the country. They have funding. They ran SMS campaigns, and did a thousand other things. The handling of the protest is a study in promotion and it was fueled by outrage in the population over corruption.

In comparison, the Anonymous protests are ad hoc. You have no iconic figures, no centralized decision making, no organized reach into the population. Additionally, while almost everyone who understands our IT Act and Rules is outraged, in the physical world, the population of internet users is about 10% and over 99% of those have little awareness of issues like censorship. They will wake up when something they took for granted will not work anymore, or if something they said gets wiped out. Until then, the issue of censorship is not something they expect. Indeed, most Indian users of the internet actually assume Freedom of Expression as described in the US constitution for all intents and purposes. They are not even aware that they could be silenced for being something as subjective as "offensive". Even fewer may be willing to make the effort to actually go to a place and voice support for an idea that their government wants to criminalize. Considering this, the numbers are nothing short of a miracle.

It is a mark of the call of Anonymous capturing the needs and imagination of the people that they can go from being unknowns to having protests in over a dozen cities within a few weeks. A person discounting this has failed to see what is happening among people. Kudos!

That said, I have a few suggestions for Anonymous:

  1. Don't use privately owned public locations (like Malls) for protests unless you know and trust the owning entities as supporters of freedom of speech. It is too easy to evict protesters from private property (even under "inspiration" from the government). Ideally, it should not be so if the protest is not disruptive, seeing as how anyone can enter a mall, and wearing masks is not illegal in India, but remember what we are fighting? Censorship. We have an environment where raising voice against the status quo is almost criminalized by default. We can fight this, but it has to be a separate fight, or it will sabotage this one.
  2. Don't ask for permissions. I have been following your protests with avid interest (including lurking with a nick and being kicked for it) and I have seen that the biggest hurdle to organizing the protests was permissions, which were difficult to get and often for inexplicable reasons. Naturally, if you don't want to break laws, you will have to plan protests that won't need permissions. Smaller groups, other ways of being visible, whatever... and keep the large protests on the ground for special occasions.
  3. Not to mention the fact that apparently you can't protest as an individual in India. Only organizations get permissions to protest. This is very strange and a whole subject in itself. I suggest formally using Anonymous as the name of an organization and if needed, getting someone to register it in some form, so that all future individual protests in the country can simply put Anonymous as the protesting organization and reclaim their freedom to protest - regardless of whether they are Anonymous or not. This will directly make you heroes for many.
  4. The information needs to be documented and organized for easy reference. I know that since all of you are individuals, this is not easy to manage. I will try and help you with this. If/when I get time, or you should ask bloggers and other internetizens who may have time to volunteer and create timelines and archives of links.
  5. While we haven't had much success overturning censorship so far, there are several individuals and organizations working hard to get the IT Rules revoked, for example. They already have in depth and very responsibly conducted research in place, as well as plans on how to make it happen. Anonymous should consider following news on this and throwing their power behind such efforts, since this is one of your goals too. For example, the recent Stop IT Rules Campaign and the Freedom Fast. There are other efforts being made. If you wish, I can try and find out information on this for you. Or, I suppose you have your ways.
  6. While DDoS or defacing attacks are your chosen method, I think if you must break laws and risk your safety for it, then the payoff ought to be higher. In your place I would certainly not risk my safety over blocking access to a site, that too temporarily. Instead, you should focus more on releasing information pertaining to corruption and other damage being done to the country. Information that would otherwise not be accessible to people.
  7. You should consider creating an RTI archive, where people can send you copies of documents they receive through RTI and you make them public - after a certain delay if needed, if there are stories being released on their basis. Such documents should be carefully tagged with all related keywords and be searchable for people needing information. This will propel the country's struggle toward transparency and accountability, provide activists with far larger quantities of information than they can from individual efforts. They will help provide a layer of safety for the lives of RTI activists as well as resist all attempts at silencing. Operation RTI, may I recommend? Additional bonus, you will get a lot of volunteers because it will be totally legal. I can help you with setting it up if needed. I am also willing t host or admin it, but this project cannot be run by a single individual. It will become too large. I will need volunteers.

That I support Anonymous is no secret. I support all efforts at creating a change toward freedoms and inclusion. I supported Team Anna, I support Satyamev Jayate, I support women's rights advocates, I support the campaign to get rid of the IT Rules, I think all these ways collectively add to the momentum. I am not bothered by the flaws of any method as long as they don't harm life and limb, because I have not yet encountered any call for change that was perfect. In my view, change comes through continuous improvement, not perfect solutions. We are a living culture, and we learn from our experiences. To block change for fear of imperfections is a symptom of a defensive mind that fears failure. In my view, rather than block something "because it will not work", it is far more useful to allow it to try and work, and if it doesn't work, it can't be used anyway. In that sense, I may not be a hacker or support some of the methods used by you, but I certainly accept that there is a very real need you are trying to address, and I respect that.

Or in other words, I don't appreciate the idea of servers being attacked. I don't think it is legal, but I think our situation on censorship is far worse. If that is what it takes, I would compare it with stealing the codes of a nuclear bomb to defuse it. Sure, it is stealing, but heck yes, it helps.

I also accept and understand when you say that the advantages such protest offers you may be the only way the protest can be sustained. Words from the interview remain in my mind. You can't be silenced or defamed. Therefore you will be heard. I think you have a point there, when all kinds of dissent is not allowed to stand by personal attacks and discrediting of anyone raising questions, perhaps it is necessary to let the questions stand on their own without anyone to sabotage attached.

There are many things to say. The idea of Anonymous has always fascinated me ever since I heard it. In fact, this blog is founded on a similar idea, though opposite in many ways. You leave behind identity, I use identity as an expression of one reality in the country. But the focus on ideas being the driving force for change is the same. You are the idealism of a generic, nameless human, I am an example human standing as an expression of the reality of many such people. The same idea, abstracted in different ways.

So Anonymous as an idea is very precious to me. And I do believe that it is possible to do great things if we are able to leave behind our identities and image obsessions and work purely in the realm of valuing ideas regardless of source, on their own merit.

I wish you the very best.

With love,

Vidyut

21

Silent Marches are mushrooming everywhere. Quiet, apologetic, they don’t want to inconvenience you, they will not cause anyone any trouble, they only want to quietly say their thing and dissolve away. Maybe something will happen, maybe not. Then when another tragedy strikes, they will march again. This epidemic of silent marches in a way denotes everything that is wrong with the country.

For some reason, people have taken the idea of peaceful protest and turned it into something tame and obedient and considerate of problems. They imagine they are channeling the Mahatma. Hello? The movement in which Gandhi did these protests was NON-COOPERATION movement. Ring a bell? They were non-violent, but they weren’t convenient!!! They shook up people. They courted arrest, they got beaten, they ran into hazaar problems and created problems for the culture of impunity too. They most certainly didn’t cooperate with police and avoid inconvenience to anyone!

Silent Marches are convenient. They are not messy. They don’t create waves. They don’t scare people. They have little risk of facing some inconvenient problem like a police lathi charge or arrest. Silent marchers come, silent marchers go. The tradition marches on. A few candles for decoration, maybe white or black clothes – as per dress code. Some placards that people can idly walk back and read.

Silent marches suit media. They can cover them like any other event. There is no risk of violence, no need to protect cameras, no investigative risks to be taken. A protest news story already written out on the placards, ready for the press. Best of all, they don’t risk police lathi charges, and they need not miss their dinner date or even miss being late from clothes getting too messy.

None of this compares with the convenience to the government. Nothing beats civil society being civilized when it comes to government impunity. Your application has reached an appropriate desk and it will be filed away. Thank you for your concern. We appreciate citizens like you making efforts for the country. Jai Hind (for good measure). It required, they may visit the location briefly (not for your garden variety march) or issue understanding words to the media.

It is a win win for everyone. People have protested with minimal inconvenience. Media has covered with minimum inconvenience, government has responded with minimum inconvenience. Change hasn’t happened, but that wasn’t the point anyway. The point was to ask the government to make a change, and the application has been received.

Lather Rinse Repeat.

Silent Marches are the manifestation of our pretentiousness. Our flaunting of our model citizenship, our consideration for people who  may be inconvenienced, our need to be seen as change agents in the society… without getting inconvenienced. It is a pretend peacefulness, because peace does not give rise to protest. Turmoil does. But that will be messy. Hide all that under a big white drape, claim to be more Buddha than Gautam himself and get your show on the road.

The fact that the government does nothing suits Silent Marchers, because if the government actually did something and they were required to contribute to it, most of them wouldn’t be certain if they had the time. Also, the government not doing anything is an important counterpoint that keeps them innocent and thus irresponsible. When a peaceful protest for keeping women safe happens in a country where every third woman is estimated to have suffered  Domestic Violence, what does that protest mean at all? That ministers came and beat up your wife? Oh wait, this is about rapes in public places. Then it is fine.

The extreme effort a Silent March goes to, to make sure that they are forgotten as fast as possible itself is an unconscious inclination to disempower the cause. The focus is less on drawing attention to the problem, and more on directing conduct, considering “others”, polishing a halo and managing the event.

You want a protest that will work? Do what has a proven record of getting governments and police immediately removing all barriers – DOMINATE. If people can burn buses to protest religious insult, and instead of condeming bus burners, your country goes to great effort to censor the entire world, here’s your clue. Don’t burn buses and kill people, but there is much that can be done to pressure the government into obeying now.

Be unpredictable. Be something they need to keep an eye on, even if you break no laws. Let your protesters wander into side alleys to write graffiti on the street. Raise noisy slogans. Let people complain to the cops about the noise. Let there be pressure to pay attention to this chaos in paradise. Chant slogans naming people who are responsible for peace and are failing. Be everywhere except the “permitted” place. Get drums. Refuse to leave. Live tweet, run a live video stream. Give people numbers to fax reactions (government numbers, not yours). Get arrested and get more people to protest your arrest. Create a fucking racket if your problem is urgent and keep raising volume till you get help. It is an age old signal of urgent action needed. Don’t use a language no one knows, or worse, reassures them that something is being done, and all will be well – before anything at all is done.

What in the world is a protest if it does all it can to cushion the rest of the world from its cause and prevents anyone being inconvenienced enough to need to attend immediately?

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7

There are other kinds of evidence too of the colonial hangover in various aspects of life in India. One of those is some kind of a belief about a ‘Centre-State relationship’ that has not been consciously articulated, and therefore some of its deeper implications remain unexamined. Here ‘Centre’ is represented by the national government with its seat in Delhi (New Delhi to be accurate). In reality, this government, headed by a Prime Minister and his cabinet, is authorized by the adult population of India. This is because the process is one of election to the Loksabha (the Lower House of the parliament) based on adult franchise every five years (unless the mandate gets withdrawn earlier through various constitutional processes). There is also the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) with limited authority. The President of the Indian Republic, who is authorized to hold that office by the people’s representatives to the Loksabha and the Rajya Sabha, holds tremendous power based on the Constitutional authority. Then there are the various state governments that are also headed by people’s representatives, through election. So, since both the central government and the state governments are run by the representatives of the adult population of India, and the Republic’s Constitution spells out the nature of centre-state relationship, any dispute or difference occurring between the center and one or more states, logically requires resolution through constitutional process that also allows legal action.

However, there are all too many instances of the political parties, including the one in power in a state government, to give call for a general strike against certain decisions taken at the centre that is experienced as negatively affecting the state or the entire nation. Only, such general strikes are called bandhs (literally closure or a dam) and in character have little or no difference from general strikes. This usually happens when the party in power in a state sits on the opposition bench in the parliament. It then becomes an absurd situation of opposing a decision taken by people’s representatives at the centre by a political party that controls the state government, also run by people’s representatives. To that extent the state government covertly supports the bandh. I am calling it absurd because it becomes a fight between two sets of office holders, both of whom derive their authority from the people of India. My hypothesis to explain this absurd phenomenon is that this too is a colonial hangover. Delhi has been the seat of power held by foreigners from 1206 when the Turks conquered parts of northern India and started ruling from Delhi. This process ended only on August 15, 1947, when the British had to part with their Indian empire, that got divided in to present day India (Bharat), Pakistan, Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) and Sri Lanka (erstwhile Ceylon).

In the unconscious of the Indian psyche, it seems, the central government still remains as some kind of a ‘foreign’ power that gives ‘legitimacy’ to the conscious part of the psyche of the dominant political parties that form the state governments to call bandhs. The parties in the opposition in different states too then follow this model and organise bandhs to oppose decisions taken by their respective state governments. That such bandhs are destructive of the country’s economy or that it is the poor – the daily wage earners, small shop keepers and other small businesses, as also those who deal in such perishable products as vegetables, fish, fruits etc. that are sold daily in municipal markets – who are the worst sufferers, seems to be of no concern to the bandh organizers. It is as though like in the colonial days, political parties assume that great sacrifices are required by the people to shake off the foreign imperial power!

The adolescent aspect of these bandhs is indiscriminate vandalisation of both private and public property to express one’s anger against the powers that be. Once again, it is as though state owned property is not created out of people’s money, but from the ill-gained money of some foreign imperial power and therefore it is ‘good’ to destroy them.

This seems to be truer for West Bengal than many other states because, I further hypothesise, the seat of British power in India was originally Bengal with Calcutta as the capital of British India. Much later, it was shifted to Delhi (New Delhi). So the psyche of the Bengalis holds the idea of power being taken away by those who rule from Delhi and therefore bandhs are called in West Bengal almost at the drop of a hat!

It is also well known that little or no change has been made to the manuals of various all-India civil services like the I.A.S., the I.P.S. etc. During several occasions when I ran workshops at the IAS academy in Mussoorie, I was intrigued to find that this institution continues to start life in the morning by giving riding lessons, as though IAS officers posted in India’s vast rural areas, even today, are required to ride horses like their predecessors – the ICS – who had to ride horses in the absence of motorable roads in British India. While the British police academy in UK today have a training schedule of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for five days of the week, the police academy in Hyderabad runs the punishing schedule of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week that was introduced by the British Raj. They also continue to follow the schedule of alternate weeks of indoor lectures and outdoor physical exercise of various kinds. When I went to run workshops on two occasions at the police academy, I was told by some senior police officers, who were on the teaching staff, that this schedule is followed even though at the beginning of every week of indoor work many participants fall asleep in the class room from sheer exhaustion. Further, when the probation period ends, the load of paper work, (also a legacy of the British administration) is such that the IPS officers get little time for physical exercise. After the punishing physical activities of the academy, this leads to obesity among young IPS officers. Yet the old colonial practice is mindlessly followed.

Concludes in Part 7

Biographical Note

Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at gipisi2@gmail.com.