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A guest post by Hari Prasad on the propaganda prevailing in India, the nature of it and the implications it has for the country and its ability to understand its government.

India. It was May, 26th 2014. There was a coronation in front of an historic building to an undisputed emperor of the purportedly new dawn, the king of good days (not times). There was hope, expectation, (misplaced) rejuvenation among many and there was anxiety, curiosity, worry and suspense among another lot. What one thinks and feels (or felt of thought) is not relevant when it comes to judge what has happened since.

There have been seemingly unconnected statements made by various ‘fringes’ – a term which is mostly an excuse by the present ruling dispensation in India and its larger family the RSS. It is important to see why these statements and certain actions are to be seen in cohesion and not as so called ‘isolated’ anomalies.

But how are things handled these days in India? How is criticism taken these days in India? How is opposite point of view is viewed in India? All of these not by Indians but by the present ruling dispensation and its cohorts in India.

I have kept the prose very rudimentary, less grammatical and only in hints or examples (not explanations) and there is a reason to it.

Ad hominem:

You place an argument and instead of responding to that argument, we are called names. I will let you assume what those names have been and how many people have been victims of those. To electoral opponents in Delhi to an economist.

Ad nauseum:

How many times have we heard a single or very limited ideas being repeated – like ‘Love jihad’ or ‘us vs them’ or ‘appeasement of past’?

Appeal to authority:

How many seemingly unconnected and extremely opposite national icons have been appropriated by this group? Bhagat Singh was a completely left. Ambedkar called Hinduism “a veritable chamber of horrors.” Netaji had nothing to do with RSS. Patel was opposed to RSS. Yet, and that’s where the beauty lies, they are being appropriated.

Appeal to Prejudice:

How many loaded and emotive election campaigns have we seen during 2014 and two years after that? Whether it is 15lakh per person to Muslim across the border in Assam to crackers across the border in Bihar, to the latest Kairana, we have come a long way in just appealing to only emotions.

Big Lie:

The big lie was economy was absolutely down. Nothing moved. Policy paralysis. Based on the new series (or magic series, if you are one of the critics), in fact the economy didn’t do as bad in numbers published by the finance ministry in final years of UPA. But in meetings after meetings, in interviews after interviews we heard the word “revival” used sparingly and without any inherent meaning. There was no concrete proof provided on what that word meant. There was neither concrete proof provided for the word “in shambles.”

And oh, the global economy was blamed. And what did the world see after 2008? A high growth and high demand period? (more on specifics in another post)

Black and white fallacy:

Sometime back, I wrote on ‘is and the ought.’ Apart from those, we have been provided with few false choices during these two years. A shining example – “have four kids or else…”

Cherry Picking:

Savarkar sympathizers quoting Gandhi, to their own convenience. The irony died multiple times in the past two years.

Classical Conditioning:

If you are against this government or its policies, you are termed you know what by you know who. What happened and is happening to the NGOs and the activists in Chatisgarh is beyond comprehension.

Common Man:

Remember the photo ops – worshipping parliament, crying in central hall, posing with broom. These appeal to the common folks, just like you and me. And by the way what is wrong with it? Nothing, if they are true and honest and we know now those are not. When you work actively to topple elected government, your empty symbolism is sheer waste.

Cult personality:

My favourite. There is nothing wrong in personality but everything wrong with Cult personality. Name a person in India who has used mass (and social) media to have cultivated idealized, heroic and worshipful image? The never-wrong image fuels the followers and in turn feeds the person as well.

Demonizing the enemy:

Remember the Hitler and Akbar comparison by a dimwit? Libtards sounding bastards to refer liberals. Presstitute sounding prostitute or press? These are sub-human and at once demonizes all opponents.

Dictat:

Indian Prime Ministership is supposed to be first among equals. There has never been a PM apart from Nehru who personified this. However, there was nothing called as Dictat from the last PM. But now, there are Diktats – Yoga Day on Ramzan, Good Governance day on Christmas etc. With short term memory, we forget the burqa diktat in one Jaipur rally of BJP and yea, asking colleges to send pupils to its Mhow rally.

Disinformation:

Dadri. JNU and Hyderabad University. Created false records, forged video to convince us of some untruth. This also has extended to conceal truths by censorship. Udta Punjab is a case in point and not the end of it. Kerala – somlia comment. Amit Shah showing a Sri Lanka kid’s pic with the words “God’s own curse”

Euphoria:

Circa 2014. Need say more? Or all the NRI meets.

Exaggeration:

Modi lied about paying off Gujarat’s debt before and he lied about 15 lakh per person on black money. And I am waiting and so are crores. These are all classic case of exaggeration which are allowed only to poets and if politicians use this licence they have one word for it – LIARS!

Fear, uncertainty and doubt:

With demonization and name calling, few sections of society are left in fear. They have to prove everytime that they are innocent and the starting point of any debate is under the assumption that they are guilty.

Flag-waving:

After 6 decades of independence we are left with a debate on nationalism and patriotism. Now, we are expected to prove our patriotism first when we debate the idiots and foxes in power. To provoke nationalism is one thing, it can harness good in a society but the flag waving group is certainly not doing for it.

Guilt by association:

You are associated with congress, yes you are guilty and anti-national. Well, when they cross the river and come over to BJP, their sins are cleansed by Ganga jal and are reborn. Assam to Uttarakhand to Arunachal we have seen it all.

Half truth:

“Despite being Muslim….” That’s how a minister referred to Late APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a Muslim, yes, no denying that but ‘despite’?

Intentional Vagueness:

This government is a master in not disclosing facts and trumpeting on motherhood statements. Take for example BJP-PDP alliance. Or for example the Naga accord. What are the specifics? What have we conceded or accepted to? Bharat Mata is worshipped but “afforestation commitment” and “Forests Rights Act” certificate have been removed for miners!

Labelling:

Aadarsh Liberals. Libtards. Sicklar. Presstitutes. Barmaid.

These are easy, simple, deceptive, meaning less but enchants the crowd. (Bhakt is a praise and cannot be called as pejorative.)

Managing the news:

As Arun Shourie said, this government is managing the news and not the economy. What we are given now are recurrent themes – “under threat,” “love jihad,” “illegal migration,” “fastest growing” and acronyms and abbreviations for endless recycled policies and schemes. But actions on those? Never mind.

Minimization:

Dadri. It was not a cow. No, wait. It was a cow. So killing is justified. An unjustifiable position is justified. Go online and see comments and feedback on Godhra and the answer is glaring.

Name calling:

Should it be elaborated? How many facts based arguments have we seen in the past two years? Every issue is twisted to make it emotionally suitable to a point of view, to an agenda, to a predisposed conclusion. Oh! And don’t forget a former general calling some Dog. Behold, Sickulars!

Oversimplification:

Pakistan, China and the like. We have seen and heard solutions to all. We have seen and heard the past government being (rightly) criticized for handling these issues and were offered “56 inch.” But what have we seen? ISI has visited our Air Base, China came in last week, Nepal screwed and no, we love Africans (but only one of our CMs has a reservation about Nigerians). Results? A big big zero.

Rationalization:

How many reasons have we been offered for completely indefensible acts?

Scapegoating:

Oh yea. Blame it on Nehru. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on Mughal Rule (note: not on British Rule). But I am incapable to providing solutions or answers. All I can do is blame the past. And no, don’t question me on my work. Because, I am a patriot.

Also, keeping a one arm distance, the ‘fringes’ are offered as scapegoats whereas they are perfectly in line with the mind-set and ideology of the ruling dispensation.

Stereotyping:

NGOs are foreign national plant. Christians are converting beasts. Most of the supporters actually believe this garbage. And no, I need not say anything about their thoughts on Muslims. A quick stroll through whom the PM ‘follows’ in Twitter will give a glimpse of the stereotyping.

Testimonial:

In March, 2016, BJP tweeted a purported quote of Mahatma Gandhi praising Savarkar. However, when I tried searching a lot, I couldn’t find a quote.

Third Party technique:

Another testimonial came in the form of WikiLeaks which praised Modi as corruption free. Remember? That was also a lie. An organization which is respected and hated worldwide was quoted without any authentication or permission and self-glorified itself.

Unstated Assumption:

One follower, a famous one at that said “When pest control is done at homes, cockroaches, insects etc come out. The house gets cleaned up.” What is the implication? Eradication of all who are opposing this government of us? Or even if they oppose what is the written law, so what? The unstated assumption here is that like Hitler used vermin, he had used it and threatened whoever is opposed to whatever this government thinks it as right. So did he propose a ‘final solution’ to the problem?

Virtue words:

Truth alone triumphs

The world is one single family

Non-violence is the topmost Dharma

Let good thoughts come from everywhere

All spiritual paths are treated equally

“Sahana bavathu… let there be no hostility”

These were pre-2014 words of Modi’s Idea of India.

As recently as last week, we have seen the double message – Vikas from PM and Kairana from the planner.

So why are all these necessary? What are these random phrases? These are phrases which define any propaganda machinery. Their methods, techniques and their ways. Its hard to see things in isolation but when you connect the dots, you have it all.

Without knowing and without being obvious, what we are seeing and living with is a propaganda machinery at work. We can’t search for a plan, a blueprint. What we are left with are actions on ground, inferences glaring at our face, wanting to take note and stand up and raise our voice.

Why was the prose kept very simple? Because someone in the past said that propaganda must be kept simple.

What is Propaganda?

The dictionary describes it as “information, especially of biased nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

What will this trend lead to?

People who have the power also have the responsibility to do. In our case, we have the power to resist such schemes, manipulations and twisting of facts. If we stand and watch silently, if we think that this has not happened to me so it will never happen to me, I leave you with these wise words of Niemoller.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Dissent, debate and disagreement are cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. By using the techniques of propaganda, the ruling party and its affiliated ‘parivar’ are undermining it. Brick by brick, the edifice of our democracy is being eroded in front of our eyes and we are remaining mute spectators.

If we think, this will not happen to India, just because this is India, we are either living in fools’ paradise or utterly stupid.

Wake up, its propaganda!

Originally published here

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There is an abundance of claims by the government both about the virtues of demonetisation as well as the duration of the "inconvenience" people have to go through. Here is my attempt to debunk some of them.

To begin with, there is a slight problem. The objectives of the demonetisation have not been officially and explicitly listed anywhere, it appears, so one must draw them based on the Prime Minister's speech and whatever various people have said would be a "good" result from the demonetisation. These include fighting black money, fake currency notes, reducing corruption, bringing most of the money in the country into the banking system, generating more taxes and improving economy. Other non-stated objectives, widely pointed out of course, would be the ongoing bank bailout using private funds of citizens (recapitalizing, it is called in polite circles) and strangling the financial resources and thus limiting power while contesting elections for political opponents.

Let us look at these one by one.

Fighting black money

There seems to be no consensus on how much black money exactly is in the form of currency notes. An estimated 6% of all illegitimate income recovered has been in the form of currency, which does not appear to be a lot in comparison with the losses to the economy from the shock of the demonetisation. How much has been recovered is unclear. There are several reported instances of notes being confiscated. However how much of it is black money and how much is (or gets explained away as) legitimate income remains to be seen. There are reports of the news of the demonetisation already been leaked to the wealthy well in time and is supported by increased sales of gold before the demonetisation being announced. Additionally, as economists are repeatedly cautioning, black money is a result of the nature of the transaction rather than a quality of the money, so the same notes can be black money or white depending on the legality of the transaction and whether it is declared in taxes.

Supporters of the government, in their attempts to silence all criticism of demonetisation have increasingly taken to demonising cash transactions or the possession of cash itself as black money, which is a dangerous perspective in a country where 95% of the transactions happen in cash. They might as well call India a black money country. This view is incorrect and obfuscates facts. However, there is no shortage of reports of the old notes themselves being traded for a lesser value creating an overnight black market ranging from a single note to crores being laundered through agents. Between the advance warning and the laundering a large amount of the already small percentage of black money is likely to have safely returned to its owners without changing color.

A small percentage of people may declare their money and choose to pay tax on it, but this is not likely to be a large amount given that amounts over 2.5 lakh will be flagged for Income Tax, and those that cannot be explained as legitimate income are likely to incur a 200% fine in addition to the tax on the deposit (though there currently does not appear to be a provision under the law), essentially leaving only 10% with the owner of the money. Another percentage of the black money is likely to be confiscated from suspicious deposits in banks and through raids. Given that the Income Tax Department will have to show that this money is not legitimate income, the percentage of money likely to be confiscated will be small compared with all deposits flagged, if for no reason then for the sheer number of accounts that will be flagged requiring manpower to investigate and process. No doubt mass mailing of notices will happen and is already reported to have started.

However, there appear to be plenty of ways for people to launder money, including big and connected agents close to the government, false sales of gold, purchase of gold, backdated fixed deposits in banks, interest free loans, advance salaries for several months to employees and more. The government itself offered the victims of the Kanpur train tragedy compensation in the old and illegal notes. It is anyone's guess whether these amounts were originally withdrawn as legal notes and swapped with illegal ones before giving the victims, since the notes not being legal tender cannot be legally paid out by the government after demonetisation.

But the biggest blow to claims of black money being hindered by #demonetisation is the abundance of people named as having offshore accounts, notorious for having black money, cronies who have benefited from disproportionate favors from Modi led governments (state before center) and of course the noble denizens of the black money rich Bollywood. If all these people support demonetisation, they are clearly not worried about their black money being in trouble.

Fighting fake currency notes

The new notes introduced have no additional security features. Existing notes are already counterfeited, so it does not seem like demonetisation will prevent fake currency to any large degree. In fact, within days of the new notes being released, there were instances of photocopies of the notes being used to defraud people, including, in one instance by school children. The garish color and relatively flimsy paper of the new 2000 rupee notes make even real notes appear to be dubious in comparison with regular currency notes. How soon or late counterfeiters start producing fake notes is anyone's guess, but there is absolutely nothing to indicate that it won't happen. We certainly seem to have failed in intercepting their distribution, or fake notes would not be a reason to demonetise.

The hasty nature of the demonetisation causing the panic and overburdening the banks has not allowed banks to adequately examine deposits to catch and refuse fake notes, so existing fake notes are likely to have been knowingly or unknowingly legitimized with government approved real currency through deposits and exchanges.

Reducing corruption

This seems to be mostly fiction, as even in this short duration, a bribe of four lakhs was paid using the new 2,000 rupee notes, that at the time of being caught had not even been released for a week. Reducing corruption cannot be achieved by changing currency. It would require better law enforcement and deterrents. The government machinery being one of the biggest causes of corruption in the country on every level, the government making a claim of reducing corruption with the simple changing of notes sounds mostly like the fox claiming to provide security for the poultry. Indeed in recent days, we have seen allegations backed by documents that implicate the Prime Minister himself in receiving over 55 crores from the Sahara group when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Another set of serious allegations come from several quarters, notably a BJP MLA himself, indicating that businessmen close to the ruling party had advance notice of the demonetisation and had already cleared their black money. A third allegation is that people close to the president of BJP, Amit Shah himself are exchanging large sums of black money for a fat commission. This is by Yatin Oza, a former BJP MLA who also claims to have videos backing his accusation as well as makes some realistic challenges about the richest people not featuring among those with large deposits of money into banks. Large quantities of 2,000 rupee notes seen with various people support these accusations, as no one can legally get a bundle of 2,000 rupee notes at this point due to limitations on withdrawal. None of these allegations have so far been denied by the Prime Minster or Amit Shah.

While the country lines up for access to its own cash, a large number of loans by high profile defaulters have been written off. A green fine worth 200 crore levied on Adani has been waived. BJP MLA from Rohtak has publicly reassured black money owners that they need not worry and that Haryana Chief Minister Khattar and Modi were with them. And all this is just within the last few days without needing any extensive searches through history. It is unclear why corruption would reduce under a leadership like this.

Routing most money through the banking system

How much money remains in the banking system is a matter of debate once the cash demonetised is fully replaced. Opinions are split on this. Right now people have no choice, since they aren't allowed to withdraw much cash, and banks are often even failing to provide the allowed limits of cash given the severe cash crunch that is likely to last for 4 - 6 months by most estimates. When they do have choice, it is quite possible that a lot of the cash will be withdrawn right back out. Also, given the availability of the 2,000 rupee notes and their relatively low utility for transactions, the only purpose they could realistically be used in any quantity appears to be hoarding. Even while limited cash withdrawals are allowed, there have been several instances of bundles of 2,000 rupees being seen with people including office bearers of the BJP as well as being used to pay bribes. The instances described in the black money laundering also would remain outside the banking system. So it is entirely possible that while the country struggles for cash, a lot of the illegitimate money may still remain out of the system, merely converted to new notes.

In the meanwhile, there seems to be some evidence for the misuse of Jan Dhan accounts (and indeed it could be done with other accounts too) for parking funds. So money entering the banking system may not necessarily be in a manner desired. My suspicion is also that if there are corrupt bank employees, money could be deposited into the bank accounts of people who aren't even aware that their account is being used for laundering. Such money could probably be recovered by forging signatures on withdrawal slips or misuse of debit cards if the person whose account is misused is known to the launderer and trusts them. There seems to be evidence of this happening as well. Such money would fly right out of the banking system once scrutiny was reduced and if caught, would implicate a complete innocent.

The large number of Jan Dhan accounts lying unused and thus likely to not be monitored by owners are particularly a concern, as they have been suspected to be misused for hawala transations in the past.

Improving collection of taxes

While there will be increased collection of taxes, there are easier ways of doing this with far less loss to the economy. Namely tax reforms, reducing corruption in the tax system and robust enforcement. As of now, about 1% of India's population pays taxes. Given the widespread poverty even with an absurdly low poverty line, how much this number can be realistically expected to rise is anyone's guess. The economic stagnation will also result in fewer taxes being collected because of lost jobs, wages, business losses and devalued goods, even if more people temporarily seem to be on the radar.

Recapitalizing banks

Banks will be recapitalized, loans will be easier to get, interest rates will be lowered... are the expected outcomes from demonetisation. I am no expert on these matters, but given the kind of slowdown the economy is seeing, there will also be reduced deposits, transactions, people digging into savings and businesses collapsing, taking their loans down the drain with them. There is speculation that low interest loans will encourage rebuilding of the economy. No economist of note seems optimistic that it will outstrip the shrinking already set into motion. At best it is put as a possibility in the long run, all things going well. All things don't appear to be going well, given that it will be months before there is any liquidity worth mentioning for businesses. What advantage will evolve in the long run remains to be seen.

Preventing terror financing

This seems to be a popular reason on TV as well as supporters of the government. Modi himself referred to it in his speech. However, going by evidence so far, it does not make sense. Manohar Parrikar hurried to claimsuccess as a halt in stone pelting incidents in Kashmir after demonetisation. This echoes a popular belief within the ranks of the BJP leadership and supporters - that the stone pelting incidents in Kashmir are not spontaneous protests, but well organized and funded with black money. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Apart from demonetisation having triggered stone pelting on banks in other parts of the country, the stone pelting in Kashmir had actually reduced by October - as per the J&K Home department data (BJP itself is a part of the J&K government) - well before demonetisation and there have been incidents of stone pelting after the demonetisation as well, though congruent with the slower frequency. Furthermore, Kashmir actually saw the least disruption to daily life and order as a result of demonetisation in the country - this is attributed to the penetration of banking to even remote parts of Kashmir as compared with the rest of the country.

Furthermore, the most counterfeited currency in the world is the dollar and it is also the one most likely to be used by international terrorists for financing, yet demonetisation has not seemed to be a feasible deterrent to any such use if it happens. In comparison, Indian currency has far more limited use - within India and Nepal alone and is even less likely to be used. Several people have pointed out that there is no reason why terrorists wouldn't use online banking and electronic transfers, given that they could be accomplished with fake identities, and being caught for taxes is unlikely to bother those willing to brave the consequences of being caught for terrorism (there may be the potential to dispute this using some jokes on taxes here).

Attack on finances of other political parties

One would expect to see a lot more agitation among political parties if their finances were truly disrupted. And it would have been possible for the BJP to disrupt them quite thoroughly if it had chosen to implement transparency in political funding as well. However, BJP has not done that - quite likely as a result of it being the party with the largest amounts of unaccounted funding in the country at present. Consequently, the other parties are merely opposing the BJP for politics as well as the sheer disastrous nature of the demonetisation. There seem to be no indications of alarm for their own well being.

There have been no instances of black money being found with rival parties or politicans so far. In fact, so far the few instances of large amounts of cash being found as currency notes have all been from the BJP itself. The reason for this likely is that political parties being allowed to accept funds in cash as well as not provide details for donations under 20,000 rupees, it is a routine practice for parties to even show larger amounts of black money as several donations of smaller amounts. Far from being cornered, rival parties would likely be able to comfortably change old notes for new ones, including the potential of laundering black money to white for politicians belonging to the party.

It is unclear what advantage, if any the demonetisation will end up giving BJP in comparison with rivals when measured against the tremendous inconvenience, losses and worse caused to voters.

This post will be updated with links to all the claims and quotes in a couple of days when I get some time. Till then, you could probably google the references up if you need them.

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As I write this post, Indian Digital rights activists are watching in horror as "ethical hacker" Ankit Fadia has been declared the brand ambassador of Digital India. As Twitter goes nuts trying to show how big a "blunder" this is, perhaps it is time to realize that it is not a blunder. It is a deliberate stupidification of India with deliberate installations of mirrors of Modi's will rather than independent intellectuals.

Deliberate incompetence is the hallmark of appointments by Modi sarkar and they happen too often to be considered mistakes. From Smriti Irani, who faked her own education credentials handling National Education to Ankit Fadia, a self proclaimed ethical hacker no professional respects is only the tip of the iceberg that had started showing up right from Modi's election campaign.

Kirron Kher, contesting from Chandigarh in the Lok Sabha Elections had candidly admitted in an interview to the Indian Express, "I am not a politician. I do not see myself as politician. I see myself as somebody who is working for my city and fought (elections) to get one more seat to (Narendra) Modi ji. That is how see myself. I did not ask for the ticket. It was given to me and now I am here." Contesting against a 4 time MP Pawan Bansal of the Congress and Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party, the candidature of Kirron Kher had been met with black flags by BJP workers themselves in Chandigarh. She won.

From Modi's holograms being projected nationwide to sidelining of senior leaders, Modi is clearly a man not interested in the contributions of others, even as he accepts their necessity. The Supreme Court rapped the Women and Child Ministry for the delay in filling vacancies in the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, but the reason turned out to be the PMO not clearing their appointments.

But if we see the appointments being made, there is little reason for cheer. Amartya Sen resigned in protest citing unprecedented interference in academics from the government. I do not see him as a leftist, but I am aware the supporters of the present government do. Yet we now have students of the FTII protesting as well. Surely the case cannot be that Modi lacks supporters among excellent actors that he settled for Gajendra Chauhan to avoid dealing with a "secular" (as his current whine in foreign countries goes)?

In a scathing piece on the rise of "anti-intellectualism" under the present government, Rishi Majumder identifies the common thread behind persistent absurd appointments as "The lack of a strong, distinct, individual vision for what they want to achieve with their charges." even as they are good managers. I see it as the appointees being conduits for a vision dictated from sources out of public scrutiny. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere, readily reflecting someone's will.

But there is more. It is a deliberate flaunting of unchecked stupidification in an obscene carnage of an intellectual India. The word "intellectual" itself has been turned into a slur by the supporters of this regime. The message is clear. "We do not want your fancy theories. We want the freedom to define scholarship however we wish." The trend is far reaching and flaunted at the most trivial of opportunities. Of all the journalists in the world, Modi chose Fareed Zakaria to give his first interview. Till then, Farid Zakaria's biggest attention puller was when his articles got pulled down for plagiarism.

Smriti Irani got rewarded for her loyalty and robust defense of Modi.  Fine. But it is not just that. What she was entrusted with was something she had been discredited for. It is not about less qualified politicians. Faking qualifications on an election affidavit is an act that declares that her qualifications felt inadequate to her own eyes. She could have been rewarded in many other ways, but she now she handles the nation's education. Something she has been established as inadequate about.

It is not merely loyalty. Modi's supporters include several senior journalists as well, but would someone like say, Kanchan Gupta accept being told what he could ask and what he couldn't? In addition to showing critics that they cannot stop him, no matter what he does, Modi's choices of people are also a statement of what behavior among supporters will get rewarded. Modi does not want independent thinking even among his supporters. Kanchan Gupta and Subramanian Swamy - two of the most independent thinking right wing thinkers are conspicuously free of responsibility, even as jokes circulate about Advani in the margadarshak mandal. The three countries Ajit Doval (who had been caught with Chota Rajan'sgangster) took an interest in, bombed in terms of foreign policy. As we speak, freaking "Hindu" Nepal has people outraging against India. It does not seem to matter to anyone. Baba Ramdev is selling churans to cure dengue and collaborating with the Defense Research and Development Organization - toward what purpose is anyone's guess.

Modi himself seems to take absurd speech to greater heights when he talks of Ganesha's head being an evidence of plastic surgery being practiced in ancient India. Not even transplants, mind you. Plastic surgery. While speaking of a super elite hospital helping improve healthcare for the masses in India, like the 32-rupees people would be lining up to pay over a thousand rupees to even be seen as an outpatient in this miracle hospital. Let there be no doubt that not even an effort to sound rational was made.

At a time when Modi has the biggest organized support among all public figures on the internet, at a time when he launches an average of two websites a month, at a time when a large part of his election victory was due to towering ethical and unethical efforts online, it is absurd to imagine that he does not have anyone to be a better brand ambassador for Digital India than Ankit Fadia - who is not respected by anyone other than abject ignorant newbies to coding. As far as appointing for incompetence goes, Ankit Fadia would rank as his second most spectacular appointment (the first being Smriti Irani, of course), because for anyone who has even passable knowledge of the subjects Ankit Fadia writes about, his name has become synonymous with plagiarism. A superstar script kiddie with dubious claims to fame. But he has the one thing Rishi Majumder had identified as a prerequisite. There is no evidence of Ankit Fadia even wanting to learn as long as he can sell his books and meaningless certificates.

Modi sarkar does not care that it reflects idolizing of incompetence on issues crucial to the nation. It does not need to care about public opinion for another 3.5 years. In a world where policies useful to cronies must be pushed unhindered, intelligent people slow things down with their questions. Even when they support. Unthinking and efficient people doing as told is what makes selling the country out from under people's feet possible. Meticulously following the government's stand, and unperturbed, supporting the government's opposite stand as well, when criticism forces a U-Turn.

 

The message to supporters is even clearer than it is to critics. I want your support, not your brain. If you want your reward, this is your key.

 

11

Yakub Memon is the brother of Tiger Memon and provided him and Dawood Ibrahim financial assistance in the planning of the Mumbai train blasts of 1993. After the blasts, Dawood Ibrahim and the Memon family escaped to Pakistan, where they lived under the protection of the ISI.

To make a long story short, anecdotal accounts reveal that the family did not approve of Tiger Memon's terrorist act and wished to return to India and Yakub consulted with a cousin from Bombay with regard to surrendering to justice in India. He had traveled to Kathmandu with documents, video and audio tapes that incriminated Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. While specific details in the interim are not clear, what is known is that Yakub Memon came to the attention of Nepal police and surrendered and was brought to India by road and flown to Delhi and formally arrested.

After he was arrested, he provided crucial evidence regarding the terrorist conspiracy to Indian agencies that helped, for the first time in conclusively establishing the role of Pakistan's ISI in terrorist attacks in India. He also arranged for his family to travel from Pakistan to Dubai and surrender to Indian authorities and be brought to India.

In essence, Yakub Memon had a peripheral role in the attacks and provided assistance to the investigation that helped establish the real culprits conclusively. While the nature of his agreement with the Indian agencies is unclear, an article by B. Raman, who headed the Pakistan desk of the Research and Analysis Wing of India when Memon was arrested is categorical that his actions and assistance constituted mitigating circumstances and that the prosecution should not have asked for a death penalty.

An article in the Times of India, after his sentencing in 2007 described that the family returned to India after discovering the magnitude of the damage from the attack and to make themselves available for questioning. The understanding was that the women would not be arrested, but only questioned, while the men would be arrested, but assisted to get bail. The family was not involved in Tiger Memon's underworld activities.

According to the Quint, which quotes Shyam Keswani on ABPLive, the Indian government reneged on the deal, rendering the CBI helpless with regard to their agreement with Yakub. "A senior investigating officer of the CBI called us for a meeting in one of the bungalows opposite the Secretariat....The CBI officer told me to file a bail plea and that the CBI would not oppose it. The reason for this, he said, was that Memon had helped the agency unravel things it would not have been able to in 30-35 years...The next day I filed a bail application, but the CBI opposed it tooth and nail. Later I met the same CBI officer and asked him why were you joking with me? He apologised and told me the Government of India has changed its stand... He was betrayed by the Government of India."

And the rest is history.

To the bloodthirsty fanatic supporters of the government, a hanged Muslim terrorist is good news, and anyone questioning that is defending terrorists and against national interest, and so on. The usual tape.

However, in my view, there are several serious reasons Yakub Memon should not be hanged.

What was his role in the actual attacks?

His involvement does not appear to have extended to the actual attacks at all. A chartered accountant helping his brother with finances - which are used in a terrorist attack - does not exactly scream of knowingly carrying out terrorist attacks. A death penalty seems disproportionate for his known "crime".

What is the value of the word of the Indian government?

While the exact nature of the deal with Yakub Memon is unknown, logic would tell us that he would not hae requested for the death sentence for himself and life sentences for his family as a condition of surrender. The government prosecuted him with proofs he willingly provided to bring the real perpetrators to book. We seem to have taken the easiest route to having someone to hang rather than following through on our word as well as pursuing the real culprits. It is whatever deal he made that brought the rest of the family to India. The documentary proof he provided allowed India to make a strong case against the real perpetrators - of this there is no doubt - Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim. India not upholding its part of the deal stinks of dishonesty.

Whose interests are served?

Yakub Memon and his family frustrated the ISI and returned to India and their actions here helped India. Hanging Yakub Memon almost sounds like India serving the ISI by punishing them for betraying Pakistan.

Yakub Memon was advised by his cousin as well as Tiger Memon to not return to India. His hanging for doing exactly that proves that Tiger Memon was right and that the government couldn't care less about guilt or innocence if they have a hanging to show people for a crime.

What is lost with Yakub Memon?

Given the rabid nationalism going high decibel about terrorists, I'm not going to make humanitarian arguments about the death penalty or indeed the terrorist's interest at all. No use. We are beyond that. Life does not matter here if there is a good excuse, and there are a thousand excuses for taking the life of a terrorist.

Given how little regard we have for the country's laws or honor, it seems pointless to expect the word of the country to mean anything when a convenient hanging is in sight. After all, we specialize in saying whatever is convenient and doing whatever is convenient - independently of each other.

Given how little respect we have for anyone pleading to save lives, let us ignore the petition by eminent jurists, politicians and more.

However, what will even give nationalists pause is the question whether we have given up on bringing Tiger Memon or Dawood Ibrahim back? Or is hanging a peripheral accused already in the hands of the Indian government and letting go of the kingpins a part of some bizarre track two? Are we seriously saying that we would not need Yakub Memon to nail Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim to the wall if we succeeded in capturing them? Or is this a quiet admission that we aren't going to get them and we might as well hang someone?

Are we saying that hanging Yakub Memon is in our interest while the main perpetrators are at large? Is his testimony or further information not of any importance in the event we can negotiate an extradition or to bring about international pressure for such an extradition?

All that hanging Yakub Memon proves is that the Indian government cannot be trusted to uphold their part of deals with approvers for intelligence on crimes. It serves terrorist interests by deterring any affiliate who has intel from taking it to the authorities. If they fail to grab the real culprits even with information you provide, you'll be hanged in the place of the culprits.

It is really troubling that the prosecution and courts have chosen to think like an average rioter on the street. One Memon masterminded the blasts and is out of reach, crucify his family!

And for what? The real culprits still roam free in Pakistan. Yakub Memon never bombed anyone. You are no safer with him dead or alive. All we are doing is getting rid of a key witness - legally, this time, advertizing that India cannot be trusted to make deals for intel in an extremely high profile manner and achieving little more than a dead body that would otherwise live in prison for life.

The ISI should probably send a thank you card to the Indian idiots.

1

While there is nothing new about problems emerging with the government pushed Aadhaar Cards, the scheme is dogged by recurring problems. Cobrapost has done a devastating sting that should put Aadhaar in its grave and see several people arrested, if there is accountable governance in this country.

Unraveling the ‘Uniqueness’ of UIDAI

What was supposed to be a unique identification number providing identification and access to a host of government benefits and services to Indian residents, ‘Aadhar’ has almost unvaryingly been extended to immigrants who have illegally crossed into the Indian border. Almost anyone, be it Indian or an illegal immigrant can get an Aadhar Card made without any proof of identity. More importantly, they get an Indian identity. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency that issues Aadhar cards however seems oblivious to all this. Cobrapost, exposes the underbelly of Aadhar, which was for long touted as Government of India’s most ambitious programme.

The Inside Story:

Posing as a conduit or an immigrant applicant, our Cobrapost reporter poses as a benefactor of refugees from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and approached a dozen Aadhar offices. He tells them that these immigrants have no proof of identity or proof of address but need help in getting an Aadhar card. The convenience, with which almost each of the Aadhar enrolment officers gave assurances to not only provide the Aadhar Card but also a proof of Indian identity, wasn’t surprising. Without a prescribed rulebook for the fraud it was up to these officers to make their demands. Most of them were reluctant initially, but gave in when the applicant agreed to the prescribed fees. The negotiations happened and a time was fixed for the applicant to come. Almost in all cases, the Aadhar officers asked for a photograph and address written on a piece of paper for the purpose of making an affidavit, as proof of identity. The affidavit had to be countersigned by the local MLA or a gazetted officer thus making it valid. No one bothered to check the antecedents of our immigrant applicants.

From charges as high as Rs 500 to as low as Rs 2500, the ‘Aadhar officers’ agreed to make Aadhar Cards for applicants without any proof of identification or proof of address. These are the same people who have been entrusted to securely collect and send the biometric and demographic data of an individual to UIDAI’s data collection centre in Bangalore, Karnataka.

In a recently filed RTI query by a former defence scientist and RTI activist, Mathew Thomas, it has been found that UIDAI has not cared to check the antecedents of the companies that have been enlisted to collect biometric data. He alleges that the RTI made it clear that the data is being made accessible to foreign countries as these companies are owned by former CIA and FBI officials. Thus, clearly enough our personal data may just be sold to these companies who may use it in any manner they fancy.

In an interview published on 14th January, 2011 in the Hard News Magazine, Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman UIDAI, on being reminded that biometrics have been known to malfunction when such a large number of people are involved said, “I think it will work despite the problems. Obviously, when you implement a brand new technology, there will be challenges. But, fundamentally, it will work. In a context where many people have no identity and the ways of authenticating identity are not very robust, the fact that we are taking this to 99.99 per cent of the population is in itself a huge improvement. We must look at the programme's progress in terms of where we are and where we are going.”
With no or extremely feeble privacy laws in place, it has become imperative for India to declare ‘Right to Privacy’ as a fundamental right. A draft bill, which was introduced by the then law minister, M. Veerappa Moily in 2011 has still not been passed by the parliament. Indian citizens cannot defend themselves in the wake of a loss of privacy. For now, agencies like the UIDAI, who have vast deposits of the biometric and demographic details of billions of Indians can function without any trepidation. Evidently, the Government of India is not bothered about malfeasance and neither does it care if common citizens like us, who have unknowingly given their personal details, have any right to disclosure.

UIDAI knew India had a population of more than a billion and with a growth rate of almost 1.5% per year, it was bound to increase. Providing a unique identification number is not wrong but the manner in which UIDAI collected biometric data and proof of identity was. With enrolment centers functioning as fly-by-night operators, charging varying amounts of fees for manufacturing Indian identities for non-Indian applicants, capitalizing on their nexus with their local MLAs in generating a parallel line of business, Aadhar has failed on all parameters it was based on. It has yet again proved that populism oriented, government mandated schemes do not work in a country with such humongous demographics. Perhaps, Nandan Nilekani should first accommodate more questions to justify UPA’s most ambitious programme than to blatantly promote his candidature for the Lok Sabha 2014 elections.

We are providing small excerpts from the twelve cases where Cobrapost has exposed the business of making Aadhar cards for illegal immigrants who approach without any proof of identity.

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