Indian Left not revolutionary threat to US : CIA felt so in 1982

The United States may be anathema for the Indian communists but the CIA appeared not to rate them highly, as they feel they are neither a “revolutionary threat” or a “serious challenge” to American interests.

The American spy agency also goes on to charge the communists of “trading their class struggle philosophy for a share of parliamentary power” but at the same time says that they forced to concentrate on electoral politics as country’s religious, cultural and social institutions resist revolutionary changes.

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Declassified records, which are now made available online, show how the CIA agents captured every developments in communist parties through incisive analysis.

From the analysis on India’s first elected Communist government to split in CPI and activities during Emergency, the CIA reportage on the Indian Left sometimes resembled the language of self-criticism one could read in Party Congress documents.

An analysis in September 1982 ‘India: Dim Prospects for the Communists’ reasoned that social and cultural institutions and Hindu religious traditions have become a “formidable barriers” for their growth.

It said the communists won several elections in states for 30 years but they have “little hope” of making “meaningful gains”. Their long-term prospects for eventually leading a national government are “almost remote”.

The CIA analysis blames it on a “divisive tradition” among communists have “fragmented the movement, created morale problems” and leaders have a “vested interest” in maintaining separate identity.

Communist parties do not substantially differ from Congress’ stands on land reforms, secularism, the CIA report said.

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“By projecting themselves as simply left-leaning parties, the Indian Communists have lost their distinctive revolutionary character,” it said adding communists’ participation in Parliamentary system has “reduced the revolutionary consciousness” of its followers.

The trade unions have lost stature as “militant” organisations, it said.

The CIA “believed” in 1982 that the “ageing” leadership has created a “troublesome generation gap” in communist parties. It said the ” inadequate infusion of new people and ideas to the policy making apparatus is a persistent weakness”. Few younger members were inducted into higher committees in CPI(M) and CPI.

A CIA report in August 1962 report said the undivided CPI’s major leaders were “both articulate and intelligent” with some of them graduates from European universities. But lower the ladder, quality of leadership “tends to deteriorate” and the situation is “no worse” than other parties.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 24, 2017)

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‘Coffee with D’ lands in trouble

A satirical take on a journalist’s attempt to interview a certain ‘Don D’ in Karachi has landed a yet-to-be released Hindi movie in trouble.

The release of the film ‘Coffee with D’ — in which a “celebrated” journalist is interviewing a don holed up in Karachi – has now been postponed by the makers by at least week even as they are keeping their fingers crossed.

The movie was slated to be released this Friday but now it has been postponed to January 13.

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Director Vishal Sharma, producer Vinod Rahani and actor Sunil Grover, who is playing the lead role, are receiving anonymous calls threatening them of dire consequences if the do not remove references to Dawood Ibrahim from the film.

The filmmakers have now approached Delhi Police against the threat calls seeking action against the callers. Police said they are investigating the case but no case has been registered so far.

“The calls are still coming. Hope police would take necessary action and we would be able to release the movie as scheduled. We hope to release it on January 13 or may be on January 20,” Mishra told DH.

Asked whether certain scenes and references will be removed, he said he cannot answer this query right now.

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All trouble started after the film’s trailer was released on December 14 last year and later they had to remove references to the don from it following repeated calls.

“Since then we have been receiving threat calls from different numbers asking us to make changes to the film. The caller has specifically told us to remove parts of the film which portray Dawood Ibrahim in bad light and make fun of him,” the complaint to Delhi Police said.

“He (the caller) has also said that he will kill the entire crew and their families if we fail to comply with his demands,” it added.

On January 1, six calls were made between 4:40 PM and 9:12 PM from an internet number +344*. On December 31, 2016, calls were received from a mobile +97152118****.

After threats came, the makers had muted references to Dawood from the trailer.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 5, 2016)

2016/2017: And the fight for equality rages on…

Girls are still killed in wombs, dowry continues to claim lives and acid attacks disfigure many but the fight for equality is still being waged — whether it is for entry into holy shrines or flying a fighter jet or opposing a discriminatory divorce law.

Same is the case for Dalits who were brutally beaten up and in some cases even killed for the job they do, as the flogging actually flocked them together to fight for political space and bargain for their rights.

India is changing with the economically and socially underprivileged not shying away from a fight against the patriarchal colossus in 2016. This is the year India could boast of crossing one billion mark in mobile connections signalling a new high with more people Whatsapping and Facebooking as well as using the internet for venting their anger and anguish on issues of their concern.

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(Image Courtesy: Yes! Magazine)

One of the biggest take-away was the fight for women’s entry into holy spaces. Whether it was Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar or Kerala’s Sabarimala or Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, women were in the forefront to fight against a custom which was evidently biased. They won in Shani temple and Haji Ali Dargah but the legal battle is still on in Sabarimala.

Though religious orthodoxy helmed by men managed to keep the women away from holy spaces, the fairer sex have now managed to create fissures in it. “What right does the temple have to forbid women from entering any part of the temple? Can you deny a woman her right to climb Mount Everest? The reasons for banning anything must be common for all,” Supreme Court judge Justice Dipak Misra said during one of the hearings on Sabarimala.

Another issue that got prominence in country’s discourse was the issue of triple talaq. The debate did not restrict on rights of women but got enlarged to whether personal laws can be violative of Constitutional provisions.

It has not reached a logical conclusion in courts but those who raised it have managed to strike a chord among several people. But the question is how they could wade through the vested electoral interests of parties of all hues as well as Muslim orthodoxy and emerge victorious in their fight.

The tempers on the Uniform Civil Code also rose with the ruling BJP pitching for the idea but it still needs to gain traction as a section of Muslims and other minorities are still wary of any such moves. Though several secular and Left academicians and intellectuals are supportive of the idea, they doubt the intentions of BJP, as they believe that the ruling party is pushing forward a divisive agenda.

Dalit attrocities too hogged limelight with more and more underprivileged taking assertive political stands. Dalit rights became a talking point after some youth were beaten up for doing their jobs – skinning dead cows – in Gujarat.

One of the biggest jobs before the government will be to ensure that it there is no caste violence anywhere in the country. The signal has to go in uncertain terms that whether eating habits or once job should not be the reason for people taking law into their hands.

Shrillness in TV studios and social media, sometimes bordering on irrational and informed debate taking a back seat, were another issue that was another highlight for 2016. Whether it was a song or a scene in a film or a fiction, a censor was lurking around.

Tamil author Perumal Murugan, who returned to writing this year after his faced troubled for his novel, summed up this August, “a censor is seated inside me now. He is testing every word that is born within me. His constant caution that a word may be misunderstood so, or it may be interpreted this, is a real bother. But I am unable to shake him off.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 27, 2016)

Communal Trouble, Police

Localities having 22-40% population of Muslims are more prone to communal trouble, a retired IPS officer’s study for a government think tank has said.

The controversial remarks are part of the study ‘Précis on Crowd Control’ by retired IPS officer P P S Sidhu, which was submitted to Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The study, which was shared with states earlier this year after BPRD’s Training Division evaluated it, deals with crowd psychology, use of force to control crowds and regulated control of crowds.

“Areas which have a population containing 22-40% Muslims are generally more prone to communal trouble. The situation is compounded further if this area has a large percentage of refugees from Pakistan,” the study says without elaborating in a section “some common perceptible features” of communal riots.

It also points out that interested parties may plan an incident or disturbance in advance due to political or economic reason while warning the police against equating the aggressor and the aggressed while handling the disturbance.

“In most cases of riot, the accused are not successfully prosecuted because of their large numbers and because of lack of proper evidence. Thus, violators are able to escape the clutches of law to disturb peace time and again,” the study notes.

Apart from the “known evil” of Hindu-Muslim differences, differences between Hindus and Sikhs and between Hindus and Christians have also taken root in different parts of the country. The divide within the Hindu community on the basis of caste and language has “gradually been widening”.

The study also put the blame on resurgence of fundamentalism and militancy amongst various communities on political parties which indulge in communal issues. “Issues which in the past remained local, have now started assuming national proportions because of the communalisation of politics,” it said citing Rameeza Bee case and Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.

It cites handling students as the “most difficult task” as they are “unreasonable and will readily indulge in minor acts of looting (usually eatables fruits, etc.) and vandalism on the slightest provocation”.

“Severe action against them by the police only leads to public sympathy for the students. This is so because of the involvement of a large cross section of the public with them as the students are regarded as immature children,” it added.

(Nov 15, 2016)

Arundhati’s new novel to hit stands next June

Nineteen years after ‘The God of Small Things’ wove a magic spell around readers, writer Arundhati Roy will be back with her second fiction next June.

Her publisher Hamish Hamilton UK and Penguin India on Monday announced that they will be publishing the 54-year-old’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’.

This will be Roy’s first work of fiction since ‘The God of Small Things’, which won the Booker Prize in 1997.

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“I am glad to report that the mad souls (even the wicked ones) in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness have found a way into the world, and that I have found my publishers,” Roy said in a statement.

The publishers Simon Prosser of Hamish Hamilton and Meru Gokhale of Penguin India said it is both a pleasure and an honour to publish “an incredible book”, which has “multiple levels, one of the finest we have read in recent times”.

“The writing is extraordinary, and so too are the characters – brought to life with such generosity and empathy, in language of the utmost freshness, joyfully reminding us that words are alive too, that they can wake us up and lend us new ways of seeing, feeling, hearing, engaging. It makes the novel new – in the original meaning of novel,” they said.

Roy’s literary agent David Godwin said, “utterly original. It has been 20 years in the making. And well worth the wait.”

Though Roy has not written a fiction since her debut novel, she had created storms through her essays on Narmada struggle, Maoists, condemnation of India’s nuclear tests and US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

She has also acted films like ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’, for which she also bagged the national award for screenplay.

(An edited story appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 4, 2016)

Kashmir: Narratives that slip through stones and pellets

Stones have been flung a million times in the past over 60 days while pellet shots in hundreds have blinded scores. Those stones hurled by protesters and pellets fired by security personnel now symbolise a growing alienation of the Kashmir valley. Both sides are busy weaving their narratives, updating it to their convenience and selling it to their constituencies. There is no middle ground here. If one raises the injuries suffered by the Kashmiri youth during their fight, the nationalist counter is ready with the injury count of the security personnel fighting the ‘enemies’. The heaven on the earth — the Kashmir valley — has now been reduced to a slinging match of narratives and its competing counters. The deadly attack in Uri is likely to reinforce it.

No one will ever say that peace reigned in Kashmir till July 8 when the self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with the security forces. The protests were there but Kashmir was not on fire as it was earlier. But the July 8 incident changed the scenario. Violent protests erupted across the valley, not just limited to Srinagar or its outskirts. Stones, pellets and bullets were followed by rhetoric from both sides. However, it appears there was no effort or attempt to understand or tell people on both sides of the divide why Kashmir erupted in anger. Was it just the manifestation of anti-India feelings? Why suddenly Kashmiri youths were on streets? Was it the pent up anger? If so, what made them remain silent in the last two-three years? Did the mainstream India try to understand that?

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(A man shows his tooth to an Indian policemen as he seeks permission to see a doctor after he was stopped during a curfew in Srinagar. Photo by Reuters)

One-upmanship seems to be the mantra of the political class in dealing with Kashmir. A convenient narrative on Kashmir is now built around separatists and the BJP-led NDA government’s tough stand on Pakistan by raking up Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Separatist leaders are now depicted as parasites of the Indian system. The best example was the remarks by two senior government functionaries on the eve of the crucial meeting of an all-party delegation that visited. Their comments on the plans to curtail the ‘freebies’ to separatists like security made screaming headlines but in hours Home Minister Rajnath Singh told political leaders that there was no such plan. While some were gleeful about such news reports, one has to think whether such duplicity help in solving a crisis. How will one solve a problem if it thinks that it will not involve a particular set of stakeholders, even if they have lost their teeth?

Another issue which Kashimiris were raising was the use of pellet guns. The use of this crowd controlling weapon had invited the wrath of the common man as well as rights activists. The continued use of pellet guns despite a replacement in PAVA shells have also not gone down well. Except a few, almost all parties call for not using pellet guns. The horrifying pictures of those struck with pellet guns should be enough for not using it. Fresh violence erupted in the valley on September 17 when the pellet-ridden body of a 13-year-old boy was found in Srinagar. Before that, over 500 people suffered eye injuries due to pellet shots and many of them were blinded. Questions will surely rise why pellet guns are not used against Patidar protesters in Gujarat or Jat agitators in Haryana. One should know that winning the hearts of a Kashmiri is not through pellet guns. Every shot from pellet guns will be further alienating Kashmiris. The government should know that what they are fighting for is not a valley of blinds.

The rhetoric in mainstream media – both in print and visual – is also not adding to the efforts to find an end to the present imbroglio. The jingoistic positions are not going to help. Perception management is fine but media does not need to gulp the official line without questioning. Several theories are floated for reinforcing the official position from the change in character of the struggle in Kashmir to the regressive Islamist genre of Wahabism to the suspicious funding for the protests that erupted after Wani’s killing. Before spreading the theories one needs to also provide proof for theories like Wahabi elements taking over the leadership and changing the character of their protests from ‘azadi’ to setting up an Islamist state. Till recently, this argument was not put forward. Even then, if this argument is right, another question arises – how the character of the protest changed and what are the reasons for it? In a democracy, people need to be told the truth.

While dealing with Kashmir, one cannot forget that Pakistan do create trouble from across the border. It has to be isolated in international community for its support for terrorism. The nurturing of the terror infrastructure by Pakistan has to be exposed. Again, one has to think twice before taking a line “for one tooth, the complete jaw”. The attack on the brigade headquarters in Uri has come at a bad time for the country as it is struggling to bring peace to Kashmir. New Delhi is rightly angry. The attack has the potential of jeopardising whatever little the political process had gained during the past few weeks after the visit of an all-party delegation. The political leadership and policy makers should ensure that the attack do not have a bearing on New Delhi’s engagement with Kashmiris. The attack should not be used to further becoming hawkish in the valley. A militarist approach inside the valley may go against the gains what New Delhi wants to garner.

(An edited version appeared in Panorama section of Deccan Herald on Sep 20, 2016)

Buz of middleman ‘most flourishing’: Book

The business of middleman is the “most flourishing” and recession-proof industry in India, says a new book.

Drawing on the needs of a nondescript village in Bihar which needs a road and hospital, the book talks about how middlemen help big businesses subvert the system and get their jobs done.

According to ‘A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India’ by journalist Josy Joseph, the Indian democracy works only through middlemen who know how to get the moribund system moving.

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“Ordinary Indians in their thousands wait patiently every day at the residence of local politicians, typists, professional middlemen and such intermediaries to get the system to deliver what is justifiably theirs,” the book says.

On the other hand, the corporates look clearances for a government deal worth billion dollars.

As an example, the book talks about how East West Airlines promoter Thakiyuddin Wahid was murdered, how Mumbai Police ignored leads suggesting that Dawood gang was behind and insisted that rival Chhota Rajan gang was behind it and the possible role of a business rival.

It goes on to say that the business of being a middleman between public and governments is the “most flourishing industry” in India and is “recession-proof” with no entry barriers.

“A significant part of India’s GDP and much of its black economy is made of the fees generated by these facilitators for getting people what is, mostly, rightfully their – or for getting businessmen deals that may not have gone to them otherwise,” it adds.

At the same time, the book also says that India’s social welfare schemes look “very impressive” on paper but on the ground it is a “vastly different story”.

No other economy is growing as fast as India’s while “simultaneously recording such low progress” in the reduction of malnutrition, eradication of poverty and illiteracy.

Referring to an elderly villager in Bihar who gets only Rs 100 as old page pension when he is supposed to get Rs 300, the book says that government officials and their political masters might be cornering around Rs 60 crore a month. “And this is just one social welfare scheme in one of India’s 29 states and seven Union Territories,” it adds.

(Aug 30, 2016)

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