Sunday, December 08, 2013

Semi Final and voter wisdom

At  4pm on a Sunday the Indian electorate has delivered a verdict.
About Delhi first. While I have been a fan of idealism, the cynic in me has often despaired and wondered wether the times in which we live will has any place for any idealism. The electorate has shown that idealism is not dead and given a choice they have with some caution given encouragement to a green horn Aam Aadmi Party. The fact that more people voted in this election than ever before, first time voters came out with a fresh mind and one in three voted for Aam Aadmi Party is an important pointer. When going to vote, voters vote on issues affecting them and express either their happiness and give a positive vote or vote against the dispensation which they perceive as corrupt and bad and chose the other option. So is it only a question of changing horses and the voter be damned?  In this context the emergence of AAP presented an alternative pro people option. The major difference is that without being right or left there has to be alternative which puts people and nation above all considerations. The voter has seen such hopes and promises being dashed in the past and therefore hesitated to vote for the dispensation which is seen as a "not likely to win". This to my mind seems to be the reason for AAP not getting past the winning post. While I am delighted with this result and hope for India's democracy, I would like to sound a note of caution. The most important thing for AAP is to remember that they must never compromise on means to achieve an end result, however laudable it may seem. They must shun communism and casteism which for long have undermined Indian democracy.

About the other states, the BJP has reason to celebrate as they have decimated the weak and ineffective Congress. I also feel that their decision to project Modi has significantly contributed to the magnitude of their victory. Along with that I feel that the real message given by the voter to the BJP in MP is that quiet good governance without playing the communal can also yield rich electoral dividends. The same message but with some riders holds true for Chhatissgarh. Can Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh be given credit for achieving this result? I think the voter in these two instances rewarded good governance with victory. In Rajasthan a corrupt ineffective inefficient government was punished unequivocally by the people and a chastened former CM has been given another chance.The lesson for the Congress is that laurels of past, minority appeasement, populism and dole cannot be a substitute for performance and good governance.

My hope for the future is that the momentum of Delhi will spill over to the Lok Sabha election and the voter who sincerely believe in a real alternative will take courage and make the pro people choices.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

Friday, November 22, 2013

Can India become a Hindu Rashtra and Is there a danger of Modi becoming a modern day Hitler???

The optimist in me answers no to both the questions, however the danger of one or both happening is distinctly possible.
Hinduism has been defined by the supreme court and by the first real international representative of the religion , in the form of Swami Vivekananda, as an ethos or a way of life. This is very well expressed as a sanatana dharma,  a code of ethics, a way of living through which one may achieve moksha (enlightenment, liberation). The religion evolved from the Vedas which are author less books, passed on from generations through the spoken and the written word culminating in the Vedanta or the end of knowledge. The upanishads and the last one the Bhagavad Gita, are the end or epitome of real knowledge. The adherents of this faith never seeked to proselytize or conquer or subjugate others. The absence of a single universal teacher or papal structure allowed the Hindu to evolve from lowest forms of worship to the highest discovery of the presence of divinity in all of creation. While such a lofty and liberal world view is desirable, the practitioners of any religion distort and destroy it's true meaning and create divisions in the name of religion.

In an imperfect world, divisions in the name of community and caste abound. Along with human greed for power and money and erosion of values, the political class perpetuate these differences in the name of political strategy and actively perpetuate these divisions. The history of this nation is replete with these action reaction sagas. While some are lauded as master strokes of political strategy, most of them have resulted in tragic consequences. A Muslim League created by a sidelined petulant Jinnah, led to creation of a moth eaten Pakistan. The role of a power hungry Congress leadership led to the sidelining of the Father of the nation and riots on an unimaginable scale. The nation scarred by the trauma of partition resolved to mould itself as a democracy and heal the wounds of partition by adopting democracy and deemed to have no discrimination on the basis of religion or caste. But, tragically it did not adopt a uniform civil code and it made positive discrimination for the lower castes a policy. These were enshrined as temporary measures to be reviewed every decade. The genesis of minority appeasement came from the constituent assembly not allowing a Hindu Law which looked on child marriage as desirable but widow remarriage as undesirable. The practice of Sati was abolished. All these measures were opposed by the Jan Sanghis who are now BJP. So while undesirable religious practices among minorities like many wives, oral divorce, no adoption etc were allowed the Hindus were made to follow what virtually amounted to a uniform civil code. The politics of minority appeasement reaped rich electoral dividends for the Congress, which ruled for most of the early years post independence. The rest is history.

Coming to Modi and his mentor turned foe Advani, they have both honed double speak and outright lies into an instrument of policy. They have used the masks of an inclusive Vajpayee and plank of good governance as masks to hide their real aims to make India a theocratic Hindu Rashtra where the rest are second class citizens who will be compelled to accept the rule of the majority. The subversion of history in text books, intolerance to artists who are critical to Modi, bumping off of innocents in the name of encounters, stalking of women by illegal means, subversion of police and judiciary to such an extent that SC transferred all riot cases to special bench of Mumbai HC, hounding and destruction of political rivals both within the party and outside are just some of the very serious allegations which Modi and his cohorts face. No answers are given or sought to these questions by the middle class and upwardly mobile classes of India. They would like to believe that these are minor aberrations as against the shining India dream, which they feel Modi represents. The ghettoisation of the  Muslims in Gujarat and the infamous analogy of the puppy under a truck for the riot victims are not trivial issues. Of course he aided and abetted by corrupt, foolish and inefficient Congress, pursuing a path of minority appeasement and soft Hindutva.

However, I have immense faith in the Indian electorate and democracy to believe that the voters verdict will be good for this nation. The country has gone through the dark days of dictatorship in 1975 and the post Babri Masjid demolition riots. I hope that the capitulation of the people and the media of '75 and the communal violence of the 1990's will never be repeated ever again.

Even as we ready ourselves for the elections of 2014,we must choose an alternative non BJP non Congress alternative. A small number of effective MP' s with a visionary patriotic honest outlook can steer the nation on the correct path of inclusive growth free of corruption, communal discrimination and caste based politics.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar finally decides to put a full stop to his story.

Well finally the question which a few years ago was asked in inaudible whispers, but lately had become completely audible whispers, has been answered. Will he? won't he? When will he? should he? shouldn't he? Where will he? were all being asked.

The game of cricket has always been a game of talent skill and above all temperament. Special talents bordering on the genius come but once in a generation and the cricket crazy nation India was lucky to get one such in the form of a young cherubic boy named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar,who burst on the scene 24 years back. He had even before starting his international career, been noticed as a prodigy waiting to burst on the scene. Many a talent of this kind has fallen by the wayside and examples of such so called prodigies and the next Bradman's and Gavaskar's have flattered to deceive. The fact that Sachin was able to carry these huge expectations as one of the youngest player ever to have ever played first class and international cricket and do that throughout his 24 year long career put him in bracket above lesser mortals. The numbers are staggering and his records in all formats except T20 are better than all of his contemporaries and better than most cricketers past and present.

The spectacle of Sachin 's batsmanship in his early heyday,. was a sight for the God' s. He dominated bowlers all over the world with superb attacking skills and also ground them with his immaculate defense. His colleagues and opponents almost without exception respected him and put their best effort to get his scalp. A team man and mentor to the younger players, he was a role model for the generations of cricketers who grew with him became players inspired by him.

However, does all this make him the greatest or the God of cricket? I think not for reasons I wish to write even at the cost of displeasing some of my readers. Over such a long career the proportion of match winnings in the finals of important tournaments are few and far between. In fact Sachin seems to get India into the finals but it is the other players with the  better temperament who have won us the major tournaments in Sachin 's career. His slowing down when approaching personal landmarks, sometimes detrimental to the team's interest and failure to perform as a captain remain the flaws in his great career.  Towards the later stage of his career his batting lacked the authority and class of his best times. However being such a great and powerful cricketer, Sachin went through turbulent times in Indian cricket, but never took a public stand or expressed his opinion on the raging controversial issues of the day. The  saddest cut for me is the fact that the BCCI arranged a farewell series for Sachin against convenient opponents rather than a contest against the greatest test side with the fastest bowler of the day. While many may think that I am a bit harsh in judging the man, however the greatest need to excel on every parameter.  Therefore the other big names in cricket also do qualify to greatness  equal or even more than the great Sachin.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Rahul Dravid: A class apart

Greatness is defined in many ways and is always relative and comparative, however in the rare cases a person excels in his field, but even if he is not the greatest he is a class act, a class apart. Rahul Dravid well and truly in my books comes in the latter category.

Even if statistics and numbers are taken as a measure of greatness, Rahul is a legend, but Rahul's greatness lay in terms which are immeasurable. In a career spanning almost two decades, there is not even a whiff of controversy. No tantrum, no cheating, no dissent, no wild gesture, no show of inappropriate emotion, no financial impropriety, no indiscipline. I doubt there can be any person in any field who can play at the highest level for so many years in this way.

At the same time, despite his great qualities, he was not lacking in passion and exuberance, but like his game, everything was measured and precise. While he was a copy book, technically sound player, he had the unique ability to reinvent himself and adopt his game to the format, he played in. Around him the trio of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman were far more talented, but Dravid equaled them and surpassed them in commitment, preparation and execution. While he could perhaps never bat like a Sehwag, he played second fiddle and was the sanity counter-point when they batted together. He was the architect of many major test triumphs in his long career, but in his moment of glory he remained humble and self effacing to a fault. While I am unable to quote his exact words, I remember him saying something to the effect that cricketers merely played a game and should not be worshiped as heroes for the greater heroes in life are the soldiers teachers and the workers. He exemplified selflessness and selfless play, as none in my living memory could ever do.

Education makes a man and Rahul Dravid intellectually seemed miles above his contemporaries. He was a keen student of the game and remains so till today. The man who always shunned the lime light has played his last game on the field, but he can never fade in my memory. Personally, I rate him higher than any cricketer, from any country. In this day of instant gratification, poor attention spans and external flashiness, the solid, steady and ever reliable Dravid stands out as an icon, a Kohinoor diamond, unique, incomparable and a role model for generations to come. May Indian cricket have the wisdom to honor its most selfless soldier and utilize his service in coaching, administration, mentoring or in any other capacity deemed fit.

Rahul Dravid Good-bye and Good luck!!!!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

My Travel Down Under

These are a few observations and thoughts about the continent and country Australia, my own observations with love for all and malice towards none.

While Australia and India qualify to be literal continents, they are really a melting pot of different people and cultures. While one is a nation of immigrants, the other has a bewildering mix of indigenous cultures and people as different as chalk and cheese.

The contrast that hits one in the face is the inverse relation between population and space. Australia with large barren spaces, with majority of its people living in Sydney Melbourne Brisbane, Perth  and Canberra but still the populated zones not nearly as densely populated as small towns of India. On the other hand dense cheek by jowl urban slums and large rural populations, with  less space and small land holdings characterize India.

The sheer noise, odours and vibrant colours contrast with the very standardized look of every center street or town with nearly the same mix of shops establishments and facilities. The cool climes along with chilly winds and green clean surroundings contrast with the heat and dust and dirt and grime of Indian streets and towns.

While both are multi-cultural societies, there is an Indianness among the Indian citizens which gives a unity in diversity, this contrasts with only a small occasional encounter with what is known as the typical Aussie bloke. The white Aussie blokes have become a rarity in their own land. This being my fourth visit, the number of Indians seem to certainly on the rise.

The Aussie lead stories on TV seem to be often about club football or accidents or local crime rather than politics or national or international headlines. India has its argumentative adversarial politics, rising to lofty debates and plunging to disruptive mudslinging but with never a dull moment. The elections, budgets debates on migrants are insipid non events, but the final of AFL (Australian Football) a game restricted to Victoria and a few clubs in other states is billed as a grand Final and virtually brings the state to a standstill. I do not think a world cup cricket final at the MCG will create a similar frenzy. Over a lakh of people gather from 9am in stadium for a game starting in the afternoon, with free flowing alcohol and pre game entertainment seems as important as the game. While Aussie football is a game of brain but of much more brawn. The audience certainly is mostly similar and high on spirit. The females come to gorge on the guys. I think the Indian cricket lovers are certainly more intelligent including the female following.

As parents of a differently abled child Australia stands out for the access and facilities for independent travel. The civic sense, courtesy and patience shown by co-travellers to senior citizens and the differently abled is truly exemplary and worthy of emulation. The focus on community living and independence is very great and achievable due to the availability of more space and smaller population. However the crumbling family structures and broken families being the norm rather than the exception, the disabled are left in the care of volunteers or employees doing a job. The possibility of over use of sedatives remains a fear, even though we saw no direct evidence to support the  same.

Retail therapy and acquisition of material objects is something where Australia is miles ahead of India. The Woolworth's, Coles, Target's, Myers, Miller's, K Mart, Office works, Aldi's, Harvey Norman's, Bunning's and Masters jostle with the 2$, reject  shops and local Chinese and Japanese ones. But the downside is that the sheer absence of a local area touch to retail trade makes it a boring repetitive experience. India on the other hand has lots to offer in the informal off the street shopping experience, which varies with the local community and it's needs.  While down under despite integration the different communities have shops giving them the stuff to make them not feel homesick.

In terms of food cuisine Melbourne caters to all kinds, however Indians miss the spice and a vegan like me was sometimes struggling to get healthy options. Once on an occasion I was eating in the ubiquitous MacDonald's the only available vegetarian food was a garden salad and an apple pie which was available on what was called the loose change menu. However Mediterranean salads and outlets serving asian food, sushi rolls with brown rice avacados and veggies were the among the better choices, vietnamese rice paper rolls were good too, but we had to clarify that the rice paper was edible and not a packing material.. The variety of fruits and exotic chinese veggies were things that we enjoyed and gorged on. I wonder weather everything was local or global as the ecological footprint of imported stuff had a real price far more than the marked one. Frozen processed stuff off the shelf was cheap and the average aussie used all that very often.  I am really unsure how toxic or detrimental were these choices in the long run. Cheese, chocolates, cakes pastries, breads were a staple elements in the Aussie diets and rampant obesity was seen too. However, being a sports loving nation they burnt their calories and there were many fit persons too. For a nation so particular in preserving its bio-diversity, the huge consumption of meat and meat based products along with dairy products and the rampant use of non biodegradable packing material was really irrational. The fact is that as nation the Aussies are among the worst offenders in terms carbon foot print. To top all this the rampant use of SUV's creates further damage.

Water waste in showers are routine, however awareness and water saving taps showers and sparing use of water is increasingly being done. Water wastage is certainly decreasing in Australia and lot of rain water harvesting is being done. We in India need to learn from our friends down under and implement these measures too.

Driving in Aussie cities and towns and country side is an absolute pleasure. Top class roads, well marked, with excellent road discipline and no over speeding makes travel up to 500 km. possible in about 4 hours driving time. This seems a distant dream in mera bharat.

The city walks promenades, river fronts and beaches along with the tourist spots have always been well maintained and give tourists excellent infrastructure to comfortably enjoy the tours. our visit to Buchan caves near Lakes Entrance was indeed spectacular and educative too. Our trip to Ocean grove living in a wonderful house with scenic locales was great too. We will cherish these visits and sites for years to come. We were also witness to a wonderful tulip garden show in Lilydale near Melbourne, an example of the influence of dutch culture in Oz. The spectacular tulip beds colours and local farm produce were a totally different facet of the Melbourne we knew from the past.

Parties in Oz the family ones are hard work for the families hosting the parties, but over the last four visits I see changes and the ability to handle large numbers and the family team work in handling these parties has become much better. The guests too seem to pitch in with food help and co-hosting making parties a happy tension free affair. Our relatives and close friends in Oz have now become much more informal and our comfort levels in parties has increased over the years. We are indeed grateful to all for making our daughters birthday party a memorable affair, the like of which she has not had in India.

Our three weeks were not used to do the usual tourist tours as we had already seen and experienced those before, but were spent in spending quality time with family especially my nephew and niece. While they are growing up and rapidly becoming part of a multi-cultural society, we are happy that we have much to share and interact with them. Sometimes i wonder if we will have relevant stuff to share in future, but these apprehensions that we had at the start of our tour disappeared at the end of the three weeks and in the end we wished we could stay for a bit longer.

Goodbye Australia we will come again and we would like to have all of you friends over in India  whenever you wish. We have lesser space than you can offer but we will try and make up with our spirit of "Atithi Devo Bhavo" translated as the desire to treat guests as we would treat God.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Is he a fool or are we fools??

The NaMo interview is too tempting for me not to blog
We will analyze each answer and see.
Is it frustrating that many people still define you by 2002?People have a right to be critical. We are a democratic country. Everyone has their own view. I would feel guilty if I did something wrong. Frustration comes when you think “I got caught. I was stealing and I got caught.” That’s not my case.

You can say what u want but i do not care since i was not caught. I made sure that i destroyed as much evidence i could, bought over and threatened as many witnesses i could and rewarded or punished the police officers who obeyed or disobeyed me. So who can catch me???

Do you regret what happened?
I’ll tell you. India’s Supreme Court is considered a good court today in the world. The Supreme Court created a special investigative team (SIT) and top-most, very bright officers who overlookoversee the SIT. That report came. In that report, I was given a thoroughly clean chit, a thoroughly clean chit. Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.

The SIT said that there was no prosecutable evidence cause much had been destroyed. Amicus curie who reviewed SIT report said that there were many omissions and failure to take evidence by SIT from important police officers. Clean chit would not have meant the unprecedented transfer of cases from Gujarat to other states. Now after all this clean chit he only thought of equating or referring to the factual record of loss of life as an incidental collateral accidental damage as can occur due the carelessness of his employee who drove over a puppy. He is not forgetting the fact that ministers were directing the police ie. the drivers in their control rooms and exhorting them to kill in the name of Ram. SIT said he made inflammatory speeches, police did not act while incidents were happening under their nose.

Should your government have responded differently?
Up till now, we feel that we used our full strength to set out to do the right thing.

But do you think you did the right thing in 2002?
Absolutely. However much brainpower the Supreme Being has given us, however much experience I’ve got, and whatever I had available in that situation and this is what the SIT had investigated.

He used all his strength to do the right thing ie. teach his Muslim citizens a lesson they would never forget for the rest of their lives. In 2002 he was inexperienced but had enough brain power to make victims out of poor Muslims

.Do you believe India should have a secular leader?
We do believe that … But what is the definition of secularism? For me, my secularism is, India first. I say, the philosophy of my party is ‘Justice to all. Appeasement to none.’ This is our secularism.
Critics say you are an authoritarian, supporters say you are a decisive leader. Who is the real Modi?
If you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you’re decisive then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin … People want him to make decisions. Only then they accept the person as a leader. That is a quality, it’s not a negative. The other thing is, if someone was an authoritarian then how would he be able to run a government for so many years? … Without a team effort how can you get success? And that’s why I say Gujarat’s success is not Modi’s success. This is the success of Team Gujarat.
Justice to all, the state of rehabilitation camps, and the stark difference in civic amenities in the Hindu majority area vs Muslim minority areas shows stark injustice. Some secularism is this modi brand where some people can live only if they are ready to be second class citizens and if not they can be crushed in engineered riots. Authoritarian leaders crush all leaders in their old party and like wolves hound them out.
What about the suggestion that you don’t take criticism?I always say the strength of democracy lies in criticism. If there is no criticism that means there is no democracy. And if you want to grow, you must invite criticism. And I want to grow, I want to invite criticism. But I’m against allegations. There is a vast difference between criticism and allegations. For criticism, you have to research, you’ll have to compare things, you’ll have to come with data, factual information, then you can criticize. Now no one is ready to do the hard work. So the simple way is to make allegations. In a democracy, allegations will never improve situations. So, I’m against allegations but I always welcome criticism.
People say economic development in Gujarat is hyped upIn a democracy, who is the final judge? The final judge is the voter. If this was just hype, if this was all noise, then the public would see it every day. “Modi said he would deliver water.” But then he would say “Modi is lying. The water hasn’t reached.” Then why would he like Modi? In India’s vibrant democracy system, and in the presence of vibrant political parties, if someone chooses him for the third time, and he gets close to a two-third majority then people feel what is being said is true. Yes, the road is being paved, yes, work is being done, children are being educated. There are new things coming for health. 108 (emergency number) service is available. They see it all. So that’s why someone might say hype or talk, but the public won’t believe them. The public will reject it. And the public has a lot of strength, a lot.
Should you be doing more for inclusive economic growth?
Gujarat is a state that people have a lot of expectations from. We’re doing a good job, that’s why the expectations are high. As they should be. Nothing is wrong.
On indicators like malnutrition, infant mortality
Infant mortality has improved tremendously in Gujarat, tremendously. Compared to every other state in Hindustan, we are a better performing state. Second thing, malnutrition, in Hindustan today, real-time data is not available. When you don’t have real time data, how are you going to analyse?
We do believe in inclusive growth, we do believe that the benefits of this development must reach to the last person and they must be the beneficiary. So this is what we’re doing.
Whatever agrees with is ok but any criticism is a baseless allegation. Misled people voting for him and reelecting him, means he is perfect and need not answer the critics. All stats of lack of inclusive growth are hyped and false, becoz if they were true he would not have been reelected. Elections in India are not won on performance but on perception, first past the post and fallacies of the system allow leader with support of less than the majority get 2/3rd majority in the assembly.
People want to know who is the real Modi – Hindu nationalist leader or pro-business chief minister?
I’m nationalist. I’m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I’m a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So, I’m a Hindu nationalist so yes, you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist because I’m a born Hindu. I’m patriotic so nothing is wrong in it. As far as progressive, development-oriented, workaholic, whatever they say, this is what they are saying. So there’s no contradiction between the two. It’s one and the same image.
On Brand Modi and people behind the PR strategy
The western world and India – there’s a huge difference between them. Here, India is such a country that a PR agency will not be able to make a person into anything. Media can’t make anything of a person. If someone tries to project a false face in India, then my country reacts badly to it. Here, people’s thinking is different. People won’t tolerate hypocrisy for very long. If you project yourself the way you actually are, then people will accept even your shortcomings. Man’s weaknesses are accepted. And they’ll say, yes, okay, he’s genuine, he works hard. So our country’s thinking is different. As far as a PR agency is concerned, I have never looked at or listened to or met a PR agency. Modi does not have a PR agency. Never have I kept one.
Nationalist of a HIndu Rashtra propounded by his mentors who considered all non-Hindus as second class citizens. This goes against our constitution. Patriotism which makes a man rescue people from his own state in a national crisis and thump his chest for it. Are these marks of a national leader. A man known in social media as feku modi for false identities, who takes credit for all his governments personally and does not share responsibility of his governments failures and blames foot soldiers and drivers for the same.
Lots more can be written but Modi stands exposed and i think this seems to me to be the beginning of his end.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Human Rights and National Security

This is an issue existing for a long time and in particular in a vulnerable soft state like India, the popular view can easily lead to dangerous consequences. An overburdened inefficient criminal justice system, along with pliable unaccountable investigative agencies will often allow criminals and terrorists to escape, the clutches of law. So then many citizens believe that terrorists whose crimes are inhuman cannot expect to be recipients of human rights. When someone wages war against state in the name of religion or in retaliation for perceived injustice then that person risks getting killed like in a war situation. Is this acceptable for a democracy like India? Specifically where the political polarization on religion lines reaps rich electoral dividends and even national security becomes a victim of adversarial politics, should we accept encounter killings of suspected or confirmed terrorists as the price for national security.

While no state or political system is perfect, we have chosen to be a democracy pledged to upholding the rule of law and assuming every person to be innocent unless proved guilty. The debate about the 19 year old Ishrat Jahan throws up these questions and i will seek to answer them in as balanced a manner as possible.

The facts of the case is that a 19 year old Muslim girl disappeared 9 years back from her house in Mumbai and reached Gujarat. This raises suspicion and gives credence to the theory that she maybe having terrorist links. Her name being listed on LeT website and coming from David Headley's testimony can be motivated leaks, but do not establish her to be a terrorist, as both are unreliable motivated sources of information. The fact that the home ministry of india in an affidavit called Ishrat a terrorist and then retracted its affidavit also raises suspicion of political interference with investigative agencies to malign BJP and Modi in particular. On the other hand it can be IB trying to cover its tracks as they were scared that the blame for the encounter killing might reach them. CBI filing a charge sheet and alleging that they have evidence that the four persons killed were captured and murdered and weapons were procured from IB and planted on the bodies to make it out to be a fake encounter is a fact in this case too. Speculation is that in a state guilty of crimes against minorities there was a heightened security risk to the CM and HM Modi and Amit Shah safed and kali daadhi and it would reap political dividends to eliminate some hard core or if need be even imagined terrorists to reinforce the image of a tough leader capable of protecting himself and his state from any terrorist. The other issue is the role of IB. While some degree of freedom and autonomy for an agency involved in intelligence gathering is justified, even IB is accountable to someone and its participation in investigation, and active involvement in encounter killings is at best unacceptable and in fact criminal. IB has a lot to answer for in this saga. Can it become a hand maiden of the political establishment?

So how does one sift the facts from the speculation? Encounter killings occur when the leadership and people of the nation are insecure and there is tacit approval from the citizens for the same. In an atmosphere of assertive national identity based on majority appeasement, the political establishment uses this method, not as a necessary evil , but as a tool to reap electoral dividends, which is what the BJP is doing. However, the Congress by flip flopping on Ishrat's terrorist links is guilty too of trying to clip Modi's wings by legally entangling him. This is to cover up their inability to take him on politically for fear of losing votes. I feel that the rule of law places a responsibility on the state to efficiently create a safe and secure environment, by using legitimate fair means. Policing without political interference, by a trained sensitized police force with a zero tolerance for partiality or use of illegal encounters is really needed. Ishrat Jahan's case is not an isolated case but is symptomatic of a flawed democracy. We must condemn encounter killings as a police force allowed to get away with murder can run amuck and use this tool to cover up inefficiency and shoddy investigation. Terrorism grows in the fertile soil of minority persecution and arrest persecution and killing of innocent persons in the name of collateral damage. Bad policing and political masters, misuse of police for selfish ends creates situations, which can undermine Indian democracy. We must not allow this to happen at any cost.

The citizens of this country must understand that institutions of state consisting of lawmakers, investigators and judiciary must be strengthened, made accountable and allowed to function with freedom and autonomy, but at the same time be held accountable. Nobody is above the law and the high and mighty must pay a price for their misdeeds.
vispi jokhi

Sunday, June 09, 2013

NaMonia vs NaMania

History is full of lessons but we are in an era of short term memories and instant gratification, so we lack vision and visionaries. The last three days have seen images and signs of hysteria with a build up reminiscent of what was seen in 1930's in far away Germany. It led to the rise and rise of a leader called Adolf Hitler and the fall of a nation and its people leading to a shame which continues to haunt it. While 2013 is not 1930's and India is not Germany and Modi is not Hitler may be true, but it is time for right thinking individuals to stand up and thwart the NaMoniacal NaMania that can potentially lead to a situation that Germany found itself in.

There are so many what if's that are worth recollecting today and ironically 11 years back at the same venue a leader with a visionary image which transcended party lines had an opportunity to live up to his image and create history. Atal Bihari Vajpayee instinctively knew that the occurrences in Gujarat 2002 were not an action reaction but a criminal act of misgovernance where the state instead of impartially protecting all sections of the populace, allowed one section to kill and persecute the minority. Weather this was just allowing the Hindus to wreak vengeance for Godhra train burning or a calculated cynical attempt to consolidate the Hindu vote was not certain in 2002, but A B Vajpayee's comment to Modi reminding him of the concept of Raj dharma left nobody in doubt. At that time the hawk in L.K. Advani saw the electoral dividend and prevented Vajpayee from following his conscience. Had Vajpayee acted, the 2004 story may have been different, and so would 2009 been different. While the 2002 led to solid consolidation of Gujarat, the plurality of the Indian polity and the divisive agenda of the BJP, did not find support in the country and despite the NDA running a decent Government, its obsession with India shining and minority bashing lost it the support of the wise common man and revived a dead and moribund Congress. Even Advan's attempt to hide his true colors failed to convince the wise Indian voter. Over the years Modi has systematically usurped the powers of the state and back stabbed and betrayed all the persons who contributed to his rise, by foul or fair means. In Gujarat majority appeasement became the mantra and making minorities live as second class citizens became the norm. Along with this media manipulation and self glorification made Modi a larger than life figure. His efficient and effective governance was projected as a model worthy of emulation on a national scale. Our first past post election model does not reflect the popular mandate and even in Gujarat where Modi has never got past the 50% mark. large section of the gujarati population is now seeing through the game and in my recent visit to Gujarat I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my cousins and Gujerati friends seeing the threat and danger which Modi represents. The Congress had 9 years to rule efficiently and run an inclusive government but massive corruption and government which is anti common man has given Modi and his party an opportunity. The efficient style of governance and corporate CEO efficiency are worthy of emulation and can lead to a rapid economic growth, however, the state of Gujarat is a business class state and would have grown even without a Modi at the helm. The swanky malls of Ahmadabad the smooth roads and expressways, flyovers, ambitious solar power projects and rise in prosperity are indeed very impressive, but the price the nation may have to pay by endorsing a dictator and arrogant megalomaniac leader will far outweigh these benefits. India has endured and punished the dictatorship and arrogance of Indira Gandhi in the mid'70's, and Advani and Vajpayee were imprisoned physically. Today both of them are imprisoned, while one does not even know his fate the other knows it and finds himself helpless and breft of support in a party which he himself has created.

However, I see hope and have immense faith in the wisdom of the ridiculed and underestimated common man the so called "mango people". They will come up with a verdict that will punish the corrupt present government and yet not allow a dictator to sit in the top chair. NaMonia will remain just that and till there are enough right thinking democratic people, Modi's dream of making India a theocratic Hindu rashtra will remain just a dream.

Vispi H. Jokhi

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

IPL: Is it Satan come to destroy the Game or Cricket of the Times???

Right from the outset, the concept of IPL has evoked mixed feelings among the cricket fans. The purists and real lovers of the game have always looked upon this version as a fast furious brainless power game, lacking skill finesse and a test of real attritional skills and character of an individual. India's unexpected T 20 World Cup triumph in 2007 led by a Captain cool, with a bunch of untried untested talent mixed with some experience led to T 20 becoming a new kid off the block ready to entertain in an era of life in the fast lane, where attention spans were shorter than ever. I cannot imagine anybody sitting to watch a Gavaskar or even a Shastri play through a whole day with less than a hundred to their name and the team with just over 200-250 scored in a day. One cannot help but point out the irony of the moment of a young cricketer called Sreesanth catching out the Pakistani Misbah off the unsung Joginder Singh, giving a nation its great moment of joy contrasted with the same guy arrested and jailed for becoming a sree 420.

While T 20  was considered a game suited to the fast life, the top class cricketers and purists reinvented themselves and adopted their games to suit this format.. The battle which was heavily skewed in favor of the batsmen, slowly became an even contest as the bowlers developed clever variations to bamboozle the batters. All this was fine till this was a variation in the multiple formats of cricket, but IPL changed everything when the game became an entertainment and a dazzlingshow and   a means to earn mega bucks for average young players and for semi retired or about to retire old players to rake in the moolah. Corporates and moneyed film stars with spare money poured it in and like in all such ventures, rules were given the go by and were flouted at will. The methods of payment, to cricketers, the auction rules were all flouted at various stages during the previous years and finally the most obvious conflict of interest was allowed when the owner of a team playing in the league was also president of the controlling authority. Players put club and franchisee interest above nation and state as the money was huge. The official figures and player pay offs were to say the least unbelievable and so absurd that one had to be foolish to believe that Satan and evil had not creeped in. And to silent the traditionalists, money was distributed to cricketers of the past. The nexus of money, show biz, drugs, gambling and all that is evil took over and now threatens to engulf the game totally. Where do the Dravids, Kumbles and Dhonis fit in? Great legends of the game stand tarnished if they turn a blind eye to this menace and dismiss the deep rooted malaise ailing cricket as an aberration. I think it is time to kill the menace of IPL and rethink this league. Money is important and every sportsman has a right to earn his due, but I am sure cricketers of integrity must be ruing their decision to associate themselves with this monster called IPL.

While one can say that the decay is symptomatic of the times we live in, I think the authorities and the wiser counsels owe it to the cricket lover to clean the game and scrap the IPL if needed. Radical diseases demand radical remedies. T 20 can continue if the game is clean and regulations are put in place which make malpractice difficult and if detected punishable by life bans from cricket and cricket related activities.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

May Queen Ball : Musings and views

Yesterday along with my family I attended the May Queen Ball, an annual event of the Rustom Baug residents association. For the benefit of my non-parsi brethren it is a beauty pageant to show case the Parsi aspiring models/actors. It has a long history and like in all parsi events become a battle for ploitical upmanship among the warring groups. Without getting into those issues, this was my first time in attending the show. Parsis are demographically an ageing declining community with a glorious past and a pioneering zeal in being the first to adopt all things modern. To this day the community can boast of some great or some average achievers in the showbiz industry of India with talented singers, dancers, actors, models and production houses headed by Parsis. Maureen Wadia the queenbee of beauty pageants in India was the most prominent of these persons present on the occasion. Fitness guru Mickey Mehta, along with TV stars many of whom were unknown to a non tv buff like me.

The main event the beauty pageant was well done, almost on par and as professional as a national level event could be, it was certainly not a crude local amateurish show, but a show which seemed to confirm that the Parsi community still had the pioneering modernity tradition intact. The girls were well groomed walked the ramp with confidence style and a panache which would do professionals proud. But as if to prove they were human and not programmed dolls most of them floundered on the question round. They tried to be over feminist little realizing that a beauty pageant is very easily an example of commodification of women something they were professing to fight against. The filler items dances and fashion walks were very well done and a mix of western and bollywood were quite good.

While there is a healthy tradition of respect for the old, I thought the beauties should have been crowned by their young colleagues and the older persons should have taken backstage. However, this is typically unlike India and so we had to go through the ritual as ordained by tradition. At the end the organizers must take some credit for living up to the expectations of the community and putting up a commendable show.

Should we take these events so seriously? Can there not be some more spontaneity and a fun approach to such contests? Probably like in all things a middle path would be just right. A little less "training"  or grooming and a little more child like innocence and sweetness can make the show better and more fun.

Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, April 28, 2013

India 2014: Kaun Banega Vijeta?

The country is in count down mode to the annual democratic mela called the colorful loud Indian Election. The obvious choice seems to between two of the main formations UPA vs NDA and the logic of anti-incumbency points to advantage NDA. But is it all that simple? Obviously not, or else no reason to blog.

We have an UPAII run by a caretaker PM who appeared to be in charge at the beginning of his term, five years ago seemingly running a comfortable majority government. A regime beset by massive unprecedented corruption, naivety in political management of agitations by civil society and an inability and unwillingness to lead in any form. Besides, this aam aadmi projects like NREGA also in bad shape should mean bad news. However, on the positive side the government has steered the ship in the face of a floundering world economic situation to relative stability. Also no   communal agenda is partially negated by an image of minority appeasement and being soft on terror. An inexperienced naive, untried leader, given the reins purely on the basis of a surname certainly makes UPA, not a great choice.

On the other side is an NDA whose record as an opposition is an image of destructive opportunistic posturing, with a dismal record of disrupting parliament for a record number of days. A formation with many ambitious leaders, a patriarch who is too old, many leaders without mass base, but with only one clever leader with a mass base created on a combination of efficient governance and media manipulation. Is NDA record on corruption better?  Not in most of their governments, definitely not Karnataka but at least in the public eye better in Gujarat. However, even here it is the media manipulation at work, big ticket corruption and selling of the state to corporates is there in Gujarat too. A decisive leader wedded to corporate interests with an image of ruthless dictatorial governance, with scant respect for minorities, makes it a tough choice for the Indian voter.

So does this point to a hung parliament with small formations dictating the ruling formation? I think the Indian electorate has matured since those days and will certainly not vote for uncertainty. I think we need to selectively put into Parliament quality persons who can by sheer stature and name control and exert moral pressure on the ruling formations and keep them on their toes. The intelligentsia and civil society must therefore play their cards well and target tainted and non performing  political leaders. A planned campaign and a non aligned non UPA-NDA group of parliamentarians with unimpeachable impeccable credentials with about 40-50 seats in the Loksabha is ideal. Of the remaining 490 seats an ideal 250/240 or 260/230 divide would be good for the nation. If this leads to instability a formula of national government is provided in our constitution, where parliament can elect a leader of the house, who can form a national government. This can create an exciting new experiment in consensual governance where decisions are made on merit without the shadow of electoral politics.

Utopian, ideal scenario is what most of you will feel I am propagating but the dreamer and eternal optimist in me makes me hope for just such a eventuality.

Vispi Jokhi

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pardon Mercy Crime and Punishment

So much has been said and written and said about these words in the context of Sanjay Dutt that more on the same may lead to indigestion or revulsion. However i have a few things to add. I do not want to talk of merits demerits of the case. All i want to say is that the words which form the title of this post apply to every person differently.
Pardon for a celebrity but none for a commoner.
Mercy for juveniles accused of the worst bestiality but none for under trials wrongly framed and incarcerated in jails.
Crime when a person murders with a motive but none when mass murderers get elected repeatedly.
Punishment and that too capital on statute, but used as a political tool by a state to counter opposition and deflect attention from pressing issues.

Who can pardon? President, Governor or really an executive on whose advise the latter act. Or should the persons affected by the acts of the criminal have a right to pardon. Can one allow both or either one of them to exercise this right? I certainly think not, otherwise the politicians will create more mischief than they already do. While victims will have a bias, giving them right to pardon can easily lead to anarchy. So judges will act according to the evidence and the blind fold lady signifies, blinding to all extraneous influences that can deflect their attention from the matters presented to them.

Mercy is tempered by the chance to reform and the assurance that the criminal has genuine remorse and his release does not endanger the lives of common citizens of the country. India needs to get capital punishment out of its statute book and become a state capable of real mercy and jails must become reform centers.

Crime by the state is far worse than that of the individual and most often an uneducated misguided indoctrinated person.

Punishment given by the rule of law is dictated by the evidence presented to it and the law itself, however the powers of Karma-phala seem to be the only ones that matter, at least for the believers as also the atheists who believe in truth and existence.

In an imperfect society and world we will continue to get imperfect verdicts and unequal applications of justice based on religion, gender, caste and class. So let us get on with life and leave the judges and the judged to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. And finally let the universal Consciousness to play out and influence individual consciousness as deemed fit.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Justice Blind but is there a sane alternative???

Afzal Guru has two faces, depending on which side of the divide we stand. The bearded Muslim stereotyped terrorist, accused and found guilty of being a co-conspirator in a crime which in sheer magnitude if completed could have led to a cascading sequence of events potentially leading to the end to our existence. The other face is of a wronged Indian citizen treated harshly by a biased state. The logical end to a successful attack on Parliament would be nuclear conflagration leading to annihilation of large parts of our nations. This debate would then have been completely irrelevant for a law higher than the laws of the land would have run its course. However, destiny willed otherwise and the presence of mind of the security personnel and the collective karmas of our much maligned political class led to both nations surviving. While none of us seem to have learnt our lessons and we lurch for one disaster to another, today we need to ask the cliched question, Is justice blind? and more important is there an alternative?

While the famous blind folded lady with the scales of justice signifies a system whereby the judge is supposed to interpret the laws and give justice based on hard facts and evidence and turn a blind eye to any consideration based on emotion, personal belief prejudice or personal benefit. Judges are considered to be the repositories of wisdom, impartial detached and buddha like. While no one can claim infallibility, the endeavor is to minimize error. In built in the system is what we call in cricket, the benefit of doubt, where like the batsman is given the benefit, the accused is assumed innocent till without doubt he is found guilty. In the case of Afzal Guru and the Indian Muslim at large, often the Indian state has either out of sheer incompetence or inherent or acquired bias, routinely rounded up local suspects and using questionable means tried to "solve" the terror attack cases. It is a tribute to our courts and the secular polity of our nation that most of these have been exonerated. However, the due process of law has taken so much time that the best part of these persons lives have gone in jails and most of these persons come out frustrated and their plight has led to many citizens from the minority community feeling like second class unwanted persons in their motherland. Fortunately, as yet the Indian Muslim has realized that despite his frustrations against the state, terror has no place in his life.

Has Afzal Guru been given the benefit of doubt or is he a victim of an erroneous decision? Again the answer lies in the two faces of Afzal Guru. While in cricket the umpires decision is final, the founding fathers of our Constitution laid down guidelines for the use of the death penalty. It was to be exercised for the rarest of rare crimes and after all doubts have been laid to rest. In this case, there is no doubt that an attack on Parliament is an act of war and qualifies to be the rarest of rare crimes. However, Afzal Guru's confession was not admissible as evidence and his legal defense was by an reluctant and unwilling amicus curiae provided by the state. Even the judgement observed that the need to heal the wound inflicted on the collective consciousness of the nation was considered as a reason to decide the severity of the punishment. This to my mind seemed to be against the tenets of natural justice. Keeping such a possibility in mind our constitution wisely, gave the President of India the right to receive mercy petitions and a right to commute the death sentence. This power must be exercised by a wise and merciful state to try and reform a terrorist, much in the tradition of appealing the divine consciousness presence in all of us as ordained by our scriptures. Personally, I feel living on death row is like dying every single day and the incarceration of this man for almost 8 years is worse than death penalty.

The worst thing however, is the manner, timing and political opportunism displayed by our leaders. A persons life and death is not a trifling business. After so many years a state wakes up in an election year to become tough on terror of one kind, while conveniently ignoring crimes of similar magnitude including acts of terror involving assassination of a former PM and a serving CM. Both these crimes preceded the attack on Parliament. To believe that the Singh-Shinde duo with a pliant Pranabda, are leaders leading from the front, capable of decisiveness coming from a strong governance, is really laughable.

I hope civil society can now work towards abolition of death penalty on our statutes so that mercy petitions and clemency are rendered irrelevant and we move closer to reformation of the criminal and the ideal of hating the sin rather than the sinner.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Rape Issue

I have been following the debate on the Rape issue and feel that there is a lot noise and not enough substance. We are all trying to drown each others voices and views thinking that we alone are custodians of wisdom and are always right. The phenomenon of rape is really a form of violence and we have based our whole society and its values on violence.

It starts with birth and abortion when we allow a child to be killed legally as it is born as a consequence of sex before legal marriage or merely because the child is female or conceived with a defect detected before birth. Nobody seems to condemn that violence. Then we feed ourselves with animal products and milk, by killing the animal for our pleasure or stealing its milk and eggs and even going to the extent of unnaturally and artificially rearing the animals to use them for human dare I say "inhuman" consumption.

Then we daily rush to earn money so that we can spend and when we have excess, we spend excessively and indulge in all our greed. And the more we have the less it seems is left to satiate our never ending desires to posses and keep for ourselves and not lose  what we  already have. Rush, road rage, anger, competition and desire to win by all means fair or foul create a materialistic mind set. Let me state that this materialistic mind set which makes man crave for sense pleasures is only one step towards the increasing violence and the willingness to go against our real divine nature which is "sat" or existence, "chit" or consciousness and "ananda" which which is bliss.

Violence in our homes against women who are treated like doormats, children who are abused by their own parents, relatives who betray their trust and indulge in bestiality as bad as the one which has provoked this outrage, needs to be first condemned and then rooted out by one and all, before sitting in judgement others.

While freedom to dress as one pleases is granted, any freedom taken to extreme limits is not really permissible. No right comes without responsibility and it is not a medieval mind set but a respect for each other which makes one dress appropriately, with an aim to cloth oneself rather than use clothes to make a style or provocative statement. Aping of the western model of promiscuity and free sex and multiple partner sex is certainly not in our interest. Loud music with vulgar lyrics and vulgar gyrations and excessive show of flesh leads to a pandering to our lowest instincts and desires and demoniacal tendencies. Add to all this alcohol and substance abuse, with rave parties and wife swapping games, then we know that we are creating a climate where rape and bestiality of the kind we saw in the Delhi rape episode becomes a commonplace occurrence.

So where do we go from here? Is the outrage a temporary phenomenon? Can we introspect and address the root causes of violence? Or shall we continue life as usual? I think while we are right in the short term to ask the state to provide security and remove the violent elements in our society, we must understand that these violent elements spring from the same society and its values. So unless we recognize and reduce to a minimum all forms of violence in thoughts, words and deeds we can never stop the acts of rape in our society. 

Dr. Vispi Jokhi