Reign in the Hooligans or Lose Popularity
The astounding win in the Uttar Pradesh elections has underlined Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity in the country and while some may insist communal polarisation was the key behind the win, Hindustan Times' anonymous commentator Chanakya writes that many young people said they wanted 'naukri' not mandir or masjid. But vigilantism on the streets by so-called gaurakshaks and the erosion of personal freedoms should force the government to seriously evaluate the situation.
But, while I don’t doubt the intentions of the government, the fringe Hindutva elements seem to be pulling in another, dangerous direction. Which is why I felt that there was a disconnect between what home minister Rajnath Singh recently said in Parliament about how India cannot discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, religion or colour and what is really happening on the ground. Either he doesn’t follow the news, which is alarming given his portfolio, or he thinks that what is happening around us is not discrimination. It is no use railing against the media for highlighting what are becoming very worrying trends of exclusion and violence in the name of culture and tradition, caste and religion.
Important People and Powerful Governments Can't Bring Themselves to Say Sorry
Citing the examples of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaekwad and the attacks against the African nationals that took place in Greater Noida recently, Karan Thapar, in Hindustan Times, writes that powerful people and governments have a tough time apologising for mistakes they make but expect forgiveness anyway. He mentions that Gaekwad's apology in Parliament wasn't addressed to the victim but to the civil aviation minister and wasn't to express regret for his actions but to get his travel ban lifted. Similarly, India's response to the concerns raised by African heads of missions in India about the attacks was to outrightly deny they were racist in nature. This pattern of apology is deeply counterproductive.
The (Ministry of External Affairs) spokesman’s intention was to put the best gloss on what happened rather than express contrition leave aside apologise. He knew India had erred but couldn’t admit it. He wanted forgiveness but was too proud to say sorry.
Maid in India: Three Reasons Why Self-Help is Better than Domestic Help
In his column in The Times of India, Aakar Patel lists out three reasons why hiring domestic help perpetuates existing regressive social dynamics and also cuts off an entire class of people from inventing and building. He says that hiring domestic help or 'servants' dehumanises us because of the rules we impose on those who work for us. He also adds that this system propagates and strengthens the caste system. Finally, he points out that not knowing how to do basic repairs or build things with one's own hands dampens the ability and desire to innovate.
Making tools, fixing things, designing things. We have no instinct for these and this is not new. The writer UR Ananthamurthy agreed with this when we discussed it a few months before his death. He said this didn’t apply to lower castes, and he’s right. But the problem is that the rest of us, who have access to a quality education, don’t kick on to become productive inventors.
Kashmir is Sliding into Disaster
India has successfully managed to alienate the Kashmiri people, writes P Chidambaram in The Indian Express. With the response to all challenges in the region being met with more warnings and more troops, India is definitively failing at winning hearts and minds. He lists out the steps that the country needs to take immediately if it wants to turn the situation around.
The writing on the wall is clear. The alienation of the people of the Kashmir Valley is nearly complete. We are on the brink of losing Kashmir. We cannot retrieve the situation through a ‘muscular’ policy — tough talk by ministers, dire warnings from the Army Chief, deploying more troops or killing more protesters.
Parivartan of the Wrong Kind
While she says she has supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past in her column in The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh writes that he should seriously re-evaluate the freedom that cow vigilantes and 'anti-Romeo squades' abuse to morally police society. She points to liquor and beef bans as well as to groups that harass young couples on the street and says it is neither 'parivartan' notr vikas.
It should not be the business of judges to make policy but they are busy doing this instead of concentrating on much needed improvements in the justice system. Is it not time that the Prime Minister spoke up against this judicial interference? Is it not time the Prime Minister told us what he thinks of the rise and rise of a version of Hindutva that threatens to change India for the worse?
Kaun Banega Rashtrapati?
As speculation about who will be India's next President increases, Meghnad Desai, in The Indian Express, lists out some ways in which the seat of power should be looked at. First he suggests that the Hindi term for President - 'Rashtrapati' - be changed to a more gender neutral Rashtrapramukh. He adds that while once upon a time, the seat was given to one who had support from all sides of the party lines, but now the choice is made purely on political grounds.
Without prejudice to the incumbent, it is indisputable that of all the presidents of recent years, it was President Abdul Kalam who connected best with the people. He aroused genuine affection. He was a teacher and a mentor to many, even from a distance. He was unusual in many respects. He came from outside party politics. His being Muslim (Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, picking him, surprising many of his detractors) was not his only card. It was his expertise as a scientist, his ability to rise above all politics and his informality which won all the hearts. His passing away saw a genuine national mourning.
The State Must Not Try and Win Votes By Waiving Farmers' Loans
The BJP had made an election promise to forgive farmers their loans of up to Rs 1 lakh and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced that he will fulfill this promise. Mark Tully, in Hindustan Times, argues that while this promise may have won BJP the election, the government must not waive off loans and see it as the solution to the problem of farmer suicides without acknowledging that there is a dire need for agricultural reforms.
Loan waivers have also done nothing to resolve the problems farmers face when they come in contact with officials and bank employees, particularly the all-pervasive corruption. One of the farmers whose story I heard then had left a note of all his debts in his pocket. One of the debts was a bribe an official was demanding for registering the transfer of land to the farmer after the family holding had been divided. Rural banks’ bureaucracy has proved such a hurdle that many UP farmers will not benefit from Yogi Adityanath’s generosity because they have been forced to borrow from money-lenders or other traditional sources which are not covered by the waiver.
Why Surpreet Matters More Than Kejriwal
Shobhaa De takes a dig at the nationwide media coverage of the Delhi bypolls in The Times of India, and points out that beyond the National Capital Region, the rest of the country isn't obsessing about what's going in the Capital. She adds that the Aam Aadmi Party's loss wasn't the end of the world and the rest of the country continued to move on as always. She then brings up the story of Surpreet Kaur, a television anchor in Raipur who read a bulletin about the death of her husband on Live television and didn't break down. De insists that in this situation, the politics of Kejriwal is not as important as the courage of the young woman.
There may be many more Surpreet Kaurs out there in the far corners of this vast and diverse land, struggling and succeeding, striving and winning. For them, today’s India poses a daunting challenge for sure, but it also holds out a huge promise. Ten years ago, I doubt that someone like Surpreet Kaur would have got the opportunity to show the world the stuff she is made of. For her, and millions like her, it matters little whether Arvind Kejriwal stays or goes. A bypoll here, an assembly seat won or lost there, has no relevance to them. It’s all very well for political commentators to write reams and reams on a more ‘inclusive India’. But while we still have forces unleashing Romeo squads on young Indians, what sort of ‘inclusiveness’ are we discussing? In today’s stifling environment, a beautiful love story featuring Surpreet Kaur and her husband Harshad Gawde, would have been snuffed out before it could ever bloom.
Why PM Narendra Modi Would Love to See a United Opposition in 2019
The BJP is on a roll and Prime Minister Modi seems unstoppable, writes Rajesh Mahapatra in Hindustan Times. But there are two years between now and his re-election bid in 2019 and a lot can happen over that time. The BJP's electoral successes could push the regional parties to put up a joint front but this won't be easy as their ideologies may be conflicting. Also, between now and 2019, there is no election scheduled in a state that is dominated by a regional party so it's a faceoff between the BJP and the Congress.
All told, if a grand alliance of regional parties does come about, how far will it go to be the alternative that the aspirational Indian would bet on? From Mamata Banerjee to Mayawati and the Marans from the south, leaders of most regional parties stand discredited among voters, for reasons that range from corruption scandals to governance failure. Their coming together will only make Modi look even better.
On The Quint:
- AAP’s Bypoll Rout: Unbridled National Ambition Undoing Kejriwal?
- With BJP Surge in Bengal, Will Bhadralok Succumb to Polarisation?
- Let Individuals, Not Religion, Decide Whether to Eat Meat
- With 100 Cr Unverified Aadhaar Numbers, Time for Accountability
- After Sunday’s Bloody Bypoll, Can Kashmir Hold An Election Soon?
- Jadhav Issue: India Must Launch Quiet Diplomacy with Saudi, UAE