Tag Archives: politics

India – Criminal Indifference


“A brutal crime shocks the nation, but even as public discontent grows, our ’leaders’ waffle and play the blame game. But we can’t pin all the blame on our self-serving politicians – it’s us, Indian citizens, which have allowed regressive ideas and criminal behaviour to flourish….”

My article on violence against women was published by Eurasia Review on 25 December 2012 and can be found at : OpEd: India – Criminal Indifference

India – Criminal Indifference

As the year ended, the nation was shaken to its core by the brutal rape of a young woman. The barbaric incident and the shocking details of the torture inflicted by the six depraved criminals may have left us distraught, but are we willing to change things? And where do we start? The system may have failed, as many say, but blaming the government solely would be futile – the rot goes deep into our society.

Govt & The Police: At Our Majesty’s Service

Our police system, largely unchanged since the colonial days, is still based on the concept of protecting the ruling classes, through brutality and fear. Ask any youth – especially a woman – of their experience with the men in khakhi, and the recollection will probably make them shudder.

The police may not have been around to protect the woman (whose injuries are so severe that she might never lead a normal life even if she survives) but was ready to attack peaceful protesters gathered in central Delhi – a VIP area reserved for our nation’s ruling classes. The police clamped down on protests, kicking and beating even old women and children, seemingly going out of their way to intimidate the press.

Ministers and political leaders, meanwhile, condemned the protesters – some still spouting regressive ideas that women should not be outside after nightfall, others asking the protesters to go home satisfied as the UPA chairperson had deigned to meet a handful – and played out their traditional roles of being indifferent to the realities of life in India. Then, closing down the Delhi Metro – the sole ‘safe’ means of public transport for women in India’s ‘rape capital’ – showed just how out-of-touch – and cruel – India’s rulers are. Meanwhile, it was alleged that police officials tried to intimidate the victim and her mother while a magistrate was recording her statement!

And then, how can we forget rape laws and the outdated justice system, which often puts the victim on trial. Blaming the rape on the woman, claiming she had ‘provoked’ a rapist, and subjecting her to unimaginably regressive tests and questioning is just unspeakably cruel. This is not what a civilised society does. And then there is the not-so-insignificant issue that most sexual assault gets fobbed off as ‘eve-teasing’ or ‘molestation’, terms that minimize the horror of sex crimes.

But can we expect a transformation? Not till we change. Safe in their Delhi fortresses, surrounded by armed guards, and living a life of luxury at the taxpayer’s expense, it’s unlikely our politicians will want any change in the system, as that would only reduce their grip over our nation. So, change must come from society, but sadly, the rot in the government emanates from the decay in Indian society.

Societal Shame

It’s a matter of shame that a nation which prides itself as a rising power still gives public space to arguments against individual choice and liberty. That we still allow self-proclaimed ‘defenders of our heritage’ to argue against safety and liberty for half our population, doesn’t show us as a modern democracy, but a feudal tyranny.

It’s nearly 70 years since we gained independence, yet we don’t want freedom to reach a large swathe of our population. Women have been killed for ‘disgracing Indian culture’, attacked over their attire, and assaulted for having the temerity to turn down a suitor. And then there’s female foeticide – the fact that even many ‘educated’ Indians prefer to deal with the ‘problem’ of women by preventing them from being born shows just how cruel we are. Violence against women doesn’t stop here. Our society almost seems to fear women, or rather, men fear a loss in power should women be allowed to take their place in society. So we ban them from talking to their friends, don’t allow them to carry cell phones, and if all else fails, yank them out of school. Continue reading India – Criminal Indifference

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India & Russia – Does the ‘special relationship’ still exist?

Indian Air Force MiG-25, IAF Museum, New Delhi

Are India and Russia still as thick as back in the good ‘ol days of the Cold War, or has the bonhomie petered off? Eurasia Review carries my article on Indo-Russian relations.

India and Russia attempt to put ties on an even keel
Vladimir Putin is on his way to New Delhi. But India-Russian ties don’t seem to be as strong as they once were.  A look at where the erstwhile allies stand.

For nearly half a century, there was one world capital that had immense influence in New Delhi: Moscow was where India’s government sought political and military support even as it tried to maintain a stance of non-alignment. This relationship went beyond politics, (perhaps for the simple reason of Moscow being far enough for India not to worry about becoming a vassal state) and there was ample evidence (such as India being the first export customer of the MiG-29) that both nations looked at each other through a prism of complete trust.

Even now, despite big-ticket acquisitions from the US, Israel, and France, most of India’s military hardware is of Russian origin, and Moscow continues to be, at least in public, a trusted ally of New Delhi. However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union has had a seemingly deleterious effect on this relationship. With the inheritor of the Soviet empire, Russia, no longer as pre-eminent on the world stage, and India’s leadership acknowledging the need for closer links with the West, Indo-Russian ties seem to be suffering from a lack of direction.

Difficult times
The genesis of this gradual drift can be traced back to the collapse of the Soviet Union. With Russia no longer an undisputed world power, Moscow was forced to look West. The Boris Yeltsin years saw a realignment of Russia’s links with its erstwhile enemies, and the priorities of economic regeneration and reintegration with the world left little space for India, which itself was going through an economic transformation.

While the Yeltsin years are considered to be a nadir in Indo-Russian relations, if for the simple reason that India no longer enjoyed the spotlight, military ties continued to be on a sound footing. Weapons sales continued and India remained a trusted customer. Vladimir Putin’s nationalist platform then brought back the bonhomie and India again found itself more than an armaments customer.

However, the past few years have once again seen Indo-Russian ties go through a rough path. But just how deep is this rift?

Continue reading India & Russia – Does the ‘special relationship’ still exist?

Zero-Benefit Games

“In game theory and economic theory, a zero–sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s)” ~ from Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Zero-Sum Games’

Here’s a look at any newspaper over the period of a week:

1. Politician from Party A gets embroiled in a scam; Party A calls it vendetta; Party B labels it corruption, touts its ‘honest’ credentials, and says Party A is harming the nation

2. Politician from Party B gets involved in a new scam; Party B calls it vendetta; Party A yells ‘corruption’, touts its ‘honest’ credentials, and says Party B is harming the nation

3. Party A and Party B fling mud at each other, describing each other as corrupt, while denying that any hints of wrongdoing can be traced back to their members

4. Party A’s spokesman lashes out at the leader of Party B; the latter returns the favour

5. The mudslinging continues till a new scam in uncovered; everything’s forgotten and it’s back to square one

That’s what Indian news can be distilled down to in its purest form. Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that there’s no space left for dialogue, or for a political party to admit being in the wrong. Go back a week, a month, a year, or even a decade, and what’s depressingly evident is how political parties from all sides of the spectrum seem to keep on insisting they’re pure as the driven snow.

The recent Parliament logjam was an example of how zero-sum games are harming our nation. For months, barely any work was conducted in the ‘temple’ of the world’s biggest democracy and all because neither the opposition parties nor the ruling coalition were willing to admit that they could have been wrong.

Now, think of what would happen if an individual behaved like this in his personal or professional life – he’d be referred to a psychologist who’d have a field day with all diagnoses that could be applied. Sadly, while this seems tragically funny at one level, it’s crippling our nation. Is it really true that the opposition is always right, or conversely, that the ruling coalition can’t ever make a misstep?

For our economy to return to a path of high growth, for the dismal state of millions of our less-than-fortunate brethren to be improved, this has to stop. Scoring political points is all right, but when that’s affecting the lives of hundreds of millions, it’s beyond a joke. Politics might be a game – or rather, a business – for the ‘professionals’ in Parliament and in the state assemblies, but the only loser is the nation.

Winds of Change

My article on the Myanmar elections was published in the April 2012 issue of Zeitgeist Asia. An excerpt is produced here. The complete article can be viewed at:

http://asiamagazines.org/International/Asia_Magazine/All/Current_Edition/2012/April/Myanmar-Winds-Of-Change.html

The joyous celebrations seen in Yangon following the publication of results from 1st April’s by-elections seem to say it all. While Myanmar’s fledgling democracy might still be a long way off from being the gold standard for a free society, the very fact that the by-elections have been largely free and fair says a lot.

The opposition National League for Democracy‘s (NLD) stunning performance – the NLD won 40 of the 45 seats up for grabs in the by-elections – has put to rest all fears about the ruling junta’s intentions. The rapprochement process kick-started last year seems to be well on track. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for long a beacon for Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, is all set to take her place in Parliament following her win.

Isles of Discord

My article on the Falkland Islands was published in the March 2012 issue of Zeitgeist Asia. An excerpt is produced here. The complete article can be viewed at:

http://asiamagazines.org/International/Asia_Magazine/All/Current_Edition/2012/March/Americas.html

After a lull of thirty years, the Falklands have once again come under the spotlight following revelations that British oil companies would start prospecting in the South Atlantic. While national pride may have contributed to the 1982 conflict, this time around, the promise of undersea mineral wealth has added a new dimension: Latest estimates suggest that the establishment of an oil industry in the Falklands could eventually contribute $180 billion to the UK’s economy. Some even say that the seabed around the Falklands could hold more mineral wealth than the North Sea.