OPINION

Monthly Archives: MAY 2018


AAGE, AAGE DEKHIYE, HOTA HAI KYA, GURU!
“Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and “Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship
26.05.18 - S Pal
“Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and “Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship



ON WEDNESDAY, May 23, HD Kumaraswamy finally took the oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, and the resultant pictures jolted India's polity. Sonia Gandhi stood next to Mayawati, Sharad Pawar on the other side, Akhilesh Yadav beaming, Sitaram Yechury in a crisp kurta, Ajit Singh’s glasses firmly on his nose and even Velu Narayanasamy looking like a VIP.

Even as news anchors discussed whether the Opposition unity will hold till 2019, for the people of Punjab, there was something very intriguing about that picture, and rightly so. It was not easy not to miss someone who was not in the frame. The absence was much more jarring than his presence.

Congress effectively has only one chief minister in India now, and that is Amarinder Singh. (If you insist on splitting hair and counting Puducherry CM, then let's grant the party two chief ministers.)

On Rahul Gandhi's comeuppance day, when mom Sonia Gandhi rubbed shoulders with a galaxy of opposition leaders, Amarinder Singh was not there up on the stage, notwithstanding the fact that he is the only CM of the party.  
 
And still, no one missed him! The Congress did not even issue a perfunctory press release to say Amarinder Singh had some other pressing engagement. The national media just did not bother to underline his absence.

The worst thing in politics is when you simply vanish from the headlines. Irrelevance on the national stage is a measure of your unimportance.
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On Rahul Gandhi's comeuppance day, when mom Sonia Gandhi rubbed shoulders with a galaxy of opposition leaders, Amarinder Singh was not there up on the stage, notwithstanding the fact that he is the only Chief Minister of the party.  
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You can always argue that Amarinder’s ties with 10, Janpath go back a long way, and that he was a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi from school days. You can remind me that Amarinder Singh has had a rough run-in with Sonia Gandhi in 2004 also when he passed the Termination of Agreements Act. Each of those facts check out, but the moot question today is: Where does he stand with Rahul Gandhi at this juncture in the party’s future plans? 

Rahul Gandhi virtually launched the Congress' campaign for the 2019 general elections with the "Jan Aakrosh" rally at the end of April this year, attended by thousands. 

While Amarinder Singh was present on the stage, just count the number of people between him and Rahul Gandhi in scores of pictures beamed across India.

Next came the 84th plenary session of the Congress in Delhi, where Navjot Sidhu spoke at length, made news by apologising to Dr Manmohan Singh who he had often targeted in the past before joining the Congress. Amarinder Singh was barely noticed in that event.
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The worst thing in politics is when you simply vanish from the headlines. Irrelevance on the national stage is a measure of your unimportance.  
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Ordinarily, if a state minister is facing a charge as serious as involuntary manslaughter, the president of the party would be in no hurry to grant him an appointment, even if he is acquitted by the highest court. A cooling off period is always recommended.

But in case of Navjot Sidhu, Rahul Gandhi hardly lost any time in releasing his photographs with him. And then the messaging was massaged further: next in print was Navjot Sidhu in a picture-perfect frame with Sonia Gandhi. 

For anyone in Moti Bagh still not able to see the big picture, they released one with Priyanka Gandhi.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi did not call Amarinder Singh to Karnataka even for a single day for campaigning in an election that was a do or die for the young leader. 

Rahul Gandhi badly wanted to talk in Karnataka about what Congress did for farmers. He did, but never mentioned what Amarinder Singh considers his big achievement — waiving off loans of farmers with huge spectacles of distributing Karza Mukti Parman Patars. 

While Amarinder Singh was not in the picture with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in Bengaluru, some other people were able to manage an appointment with Rahul Gandhi at lightening trunk call speed. These were three MLAs from Punjab who advertised to every Tom, Dick and journalist that they were miffed with Amarinder Singh following the cabinet expansion.
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Rahul Gandhi badly wanted to talk in Karnataka about what Congress did for farmers. But he never mentioned that Amarinder Singh has waived off the farmers’ loans.  
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Not once did anyone in the high command pick up the phone to say a word to 40 MLAs of the party who went all out, gunning for Amarinder Singh and writing a letter to him, telling him he was not doing enough to catch the big fish involved in drug trade in Punjab. In fact, the gang of 40 was gleefully sharing the draft of the letter with journalists.

Do you think senior IAS officers, those keeping a tab on every twist and turn related to 10, Janpath and political analysts with an ear to the ground as well as the powers that be, do not read these signs? They even read what is not being said. In fact, that silence rings out too loud.

Journalists in Punjab may not have bothered to read such tea leaves, but Divya Spandana, the woman responsible for the aggressive social media presence of Congress in cybersphere, has never bothered much to tweet about Amarinder Singh's government.

In fact, when Amarinder Singh made it a prestige issue to snub Canadian premier Justin Trudeau, saying he will not be welcoming the visiting leader, Divya Spandana went all out to tweet that she will give the youthful Canadian a big hug. This is what a snub looks like!

In fact, the way the rather peculiar relationship between the Congress president and Amarinder Singh has been conducted in the public domain reflects a consistent less than savoury track record.

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Do you think senior IAS officers, those keeping a tab on every twist and turn related to 10, Janpath and political analysts with an ear to the ground as well as the powers that be, do not read these signs? They even read what is not being said.  
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Rahul Gandhi will have to grow a lot older to forget that Amarinder Singh had publicly said he was not ready to assume the party leadership and Sonia Gandhi should remain at the helm.

Amarinder Singh gladly told his hagiographer that when Rahul Gandhi asked him in 2015 if he was planning to break away from Congress and float his own party, he had blatantly told him that that exactly was his plan. 

"If I do not fit in your scheme of things, I will need to find an alternative...I have to look for my own path if you don't have a plan for me," Amarinder Singh is quoted as having told Rahul Gandhi.

When Rahul Gandhi said both sides will be losers if that were to happen, Amarinder's blunt response was: "So be it." Amarinder Singh has happily promoted the book, and also its author, and never refuted a single claim the book made.

But that was a very different Rahul Gandhi; to Amarinder Singh's chagrin, the Rahul Gandhi he has to deal with now does not even bother to telephone him and ask him to come to share the stage in Bengaluru at a rare high point in his political career.

Gone is the Rahul Gandhi who Amarinder Singh was able to browbeat when he wanted Pratap Singh Bajwa to be eased out of Punjab Congress presidentship. This is a Rahul Gandhi that projects to the world that Navjot Singh Sidhu is his friend and the man he backs. And Navjot Singh Sidhu tells the world that Amarinder Singh is someone he hardly cares about.
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Divya Spandana, the woman responsible for the aggressive social media presence of Congress in cybersphere, has never bothered much to tweet about Amarinder Singh's government.  
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From dealing with Fastway to taking action against corrupt officials to reminding people about mining mafia (read Rana Gurjit Singh to Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia), Navjot Sidhu is someone who tells the town that he carries a gun bigger than the sheriff's kiddy slingshot.

Amarinder Singh wrote an article in the Indian Express, demanding a bravery medal for the Indian Army Major who trussed up a man on a jeep and used him as a human shield against stonepelters. He wrote an article in The Tribune, advocating a free hand for the Army in Kashmir and termed any resultant corpses as collateral damage. He, much like Sushma Swaraj, wants three Pakistani heads for each Indian soldier martyred. 

None of that is something Rahul Gandhi can spout as Congress' line of thinking.

Amarinder has never uttered a word against the RSS, never made it a point to join issue with the BJP about beef ban, or lynchings, or hatred against Muslims. He never spoke against love jihad or referred to the Ishrat Jahan encounter or the assault on JNU or the suicide of Rohit Vemula or the disappearance of Najib who still hasn’t come home.  

Not long ago, Narendra Modi called Amarinder Singh a "swatanter fauji," someone who the Congress does not control.
 
On his birthday this year, Rahul Gandhi in a tweet wished "good health and happiness" to "Captain Amarinder Singh ji."

Amarinder tweeted back: "Thankyou Rahul for your kind wishes."

You can attribute the absence of "Shri" or "ji" or even "Gandhi" to the difference between Amarinder's 76 years and Rahul Gandhi's 48, but anyone in politics with an IQ above 30 knows that it reflects not just 28 years of gap but a huge trust deficit.
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"If I do not fit in your scheme of things, I will need to find an alternative...I have to look for my own path if you don't have a plan for me," Amarinder Singh told Rahul Gandhi. That was a different Rahul Gandhi, one who did not care that Amarinder wasn’t on stage in Karnataka.  
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Rahul Gandhi and Amarinder Singh are effectively not on talking terms. A Manpreet Singh Badal has a better access to high command. A Navjot Singh Sidhu manages separate clicks with mom, son and sister.
 
Why, pray, even the three newly self-anointed musketeers get an audience without even having to send a postcard.

How do you think a party president announces to his rank and file that he has made up his mind, and that a new sheriff will soon be seen wearing the badge? Not by erecting a huge hoarding in Patiala, but by sending twenty different signals that others have his ear. The automatic response is: Thoko taali.

Amarinder Singh's successor is being anointed, and political pundits are busy how will the race among Navjot Sidhu, Manpreet Badal, Sunil Jakhar and a few others will pan out in the last lap.

Meanwhile, Amarinder's stances reflect a lot of saffron hue, and the BJP does not have a leader worth his or her name in Punjab. The Vijay Samplas driven by Vineet Joshis of the world are an apology, and a Shwet Malik or a Kamal Sharma aren't made of the stuff that can carry a party on its shoulder. It has been out shopping for a good leader in Punjab for quite some time. Lending a shoulder to a breakaway heavyweight wouldn't be a bad electoral strategy.
 

In fact, it may work out well in Punjab's current political scenario where the Aam Aadmi Party is limited to keeping Sukhpal Singh Khaira in front of a microphone and a Bhagwant Mann away from a bottle. The space for a third force is wide open. Is it a hole the size of an Amarinder Singh?

When the Congress was crying from the rooftops that the Centre was using the Enforcement Directorate to arm twist its MLAs into shifting loyalties in Karnataka, Amarinder Singh stayed completely mum. After all, he has had a passing acquaintance with the ED, and the ED has some bank account numbers.
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When the Congress was accusing the Centre of using the Enforcement Directorate to arm twist its MLAs, Amarinder was silent even though he knows the ED. The trouble is that the ED knows some bank account numbers.  
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It was a tough, long night. The Congress high command was keen that Abhishek Manu Singhvi should reach Delhi in time but since the Chandigarh airport was closed, Singhvi would have reached Delhi by train late in the night. Eventually, the party arranged a chartered plane and used the Pinjore airstrip to get him to Delhi. 

"You can understand why we did not seek to use the chopper Amarinder flies in all the time, and why no offer came from his side,” said a senior Congress leader.

On NDTV that night, Dr Pronnoy Roy teasingly asked a Congress representative if the party planned at some stage to whisk away its MLAs to faraway Amritsar where they would obviously have been safe.

"If only the Congress did that! Phir to samjh lo seedhe hee Yediyurappa jee ke ghar par pahunch jaate (Then, you should take it for granted that they would have been delivered directly to Yediyurappa at his residence),” chuckled a BJP leader watching the telecast with me.
I am sick of reading the signs. Anyone would be. Besides, the writing on the wall does not qualify to be called sign language. Those unable to read it are politically blind and headed for an abyss.

Look for tough times ahead for Amarinder Singh. Last time he had tried to carve out a lone furrow was in 1992, forming Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic), and managing to win 856 votes in his Assembly seat. Political security deposits can be lost very fast in Punjab. His brother-in-law Simranjit Singh Mann found out decades earlier. The Royal House of Patiala even earlier than that. The Doon-school educated generation should have a better roadmap planned. By most estimates, it will have saffron edges, possibly a lot of saffron even in the centre.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT



 





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Jinnah today, Nehru tomorrow
12.05.18 - Jawed Naqvi
Jinnah today, Nehru tomorrow



YOU COULD HAVE spotted, as I did, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in an official portrait at the Indian Muslim League’s headquarters in Kerala in the 1990s. I’m not sure if the picture is still around after the party split down the middle, subsequently. Asked to comment on a political ally’s seemingly awkward connection in an election year, the Congress party’s phlegmatic spokesman Vitthalrao Gadgil inhaled his snuff and smiled: "They see him as the founder of their party.” That was that, as it should be.

As for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Sir Syed Ahmad Khan founded it as the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College ostensibly to improve his community’s chances after it was picked out for shabby treatment by the British following the role of Muslims in the 1857 uprising.

In 1916, at the Lucknow Pact, Sarojini Naidu applauded Jinnah as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. An unwitting point her compliment masked was it gave Jinnah the status of a Muslim leader, whereas Gandhi and Nehru were deemed Indian stalwarts, subsuming their religious identities.

It must have rankled Jinnah somewhat like the way Majaz’s comment must have irritated Salaam Machhlishahri. "Now Salaam sahib will recite his verse. He is an established poet of Machhlishahr.” Meet Gandhi the Indian leader. Meet Jinnah the Muslim leader. The description presaged a bloody chasm.

This psychology continues to play out freely even today. Muslim presidents, Muslim movie stars and on one occasion even a Muslim home minister India has produced. That’s brilliant.

But all that the community ever needed, like anyone else, was equal rights as citizens, including jobs in the army, police and bureaucracy, but above all scientific education. A Muslim president or a Muslim movie star should not ideally be the chip in a social bargain. Justice Sachar died the other day after untiringly reminding us of the need to mainstream Muslims.
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So why did Prime Minister Modi’s supporters suddenly find Jinnah’s portrait disagreeable in the students’ union hall of AMU?
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A key point of rupture between Gandhi and Jinnah came over their approach to a scientific outlook. Sir Syed as well as Jinnah had sought to keep modernity and reason upfront in their quest to retrieve Muslims from the talons of the clergy. Gandhi, with his support for the Khilafat Movement and his love of religious symbolism, did the opposite as he sought to take an entire community back to their mediaeval past and, thereby, to the clergy, the forerunners of today’s All-India Muslim Personal Board.

It’s the same clergy that every Indian party uses to its advantage in the electoral fray after having pushed a multi-million-strong community into the arms of mullahs. Jinnah’s hero, lest we forget, was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the anti-clerical liberator of his community from centuries of obscurantist hold.

So why did Prime Minister Modi’s supporters suddenly find Jinnah’s portrait disagreeable in the students’ union hall of AMU?

One day a deputy from the party wrote to the vice chancellor to remove the portrait and the next day they attacked the university, helped by the police. The portrait has been there for decades, after all, from the day Jinnah visited the students. And that was way before prime minister Vajpayee went to Lahore and finally put his seal of approval on the idea of Pakistan by visiting Minar-i-Pakistan.
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Jinnah’s hero, lest we forget, was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the anti-clerical liberator of his community from centuries of obscurantist hold.
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That should have rankled Nathuram Godse’s spirit. His ashes were kept to be immersed in River Indus when it would be part of a Hindu rashtra. Vajpayee drowned that dream with one gesture and no Hindutva agent protested.

There’s no logic to what mindless hordes do to pander to their notions of nationhood on either side of the border. The explanation to the latest round of vandalism was, however, rooted in realpolitik. The Karnataka assembly elections are due to be held on May 12. The Congress party rules the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party sees the polls as its gateway to southern India but it is struggling to find a durable toehold anywhere in the south.

It was not possible for the BJP to communally polarise the Karnataka elections with violence — a ploy that usually works for it — in a state under Congress rule. The hoodlums were unleashed in far away Uttar Pradesh on May 1 over Jinnah’s portrait. TV channels betrothed to Hindutva transmitted the violence to middle-class drawing rooms in Karnataka dutifully.

How much traction the issue finds with the electorate will be revealed when the votes are counted on May 15 for the three-cornered contest. Suffice it to say that the BJP has thrown everything into the elections, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was also dispatched to berate Karnataka for accepting a government that allows cow slaughter and beef eating in the state.
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There’s no logic to what mindless hordes do to pander to their notions of nationhood on either side of the border.
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Together with the southern states, beef eating is perfectly legal in BJP-ruled Goa and all north-eastern states. And if you think the BJP has distanced itself from Muslims to galvanise the Hindu vote you are wrong again. It has set up dozens of Muslim candidates for local elections in West Bengal where Muslims generally tend to support Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. And who were at the helm of the anti-Jinnah tirade the other day? It was Muslims loyal to the BJP.

The question is where do Indian liberals stand on the Jinnah controversy? Can the Indian left forget, and if so to what avail, that it had endorsed Jinnah’s campaign for Pakistan?

The late Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, the iconic partisan from Lahore, had told me in some detail about her visit to Jinnah on her bicycle to convey the communist party’s support to the idea of Pakistan. It’s fine if the communists disown the idea today. But denial alone will not save them from the next Hindutva assault. The target is not Jinnah, but Indian liberals. It is not surprising that those who hate Jinnah are not ardent fans of Nehru and the left either. Learn from Gadgil, with or without his addictive snuff.

 
 
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. This article first appeared in dawn.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author.
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

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PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT






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MATTER OF JUSTICE
Sohrabuddin Encounter Case: Time To Bring Focus Back On
06.05.18 - VIPIN PUBBY*
Sohrabuddin Encounter Case: Time To Bring Focus Back On



WHILE THE HIGHEST court of the country has ruled out any foul play in the death in 2014 of CBI judge BH Loya, who was hearing the high-profile case of alleged false encounter of suspected terrorist Sohrabuddin Shaikh, the suspicion lurking over the circumstances leading to the death of the judge are not likely to be forgotten soon.

Neither the opposition parties nor those inimical to the all-power BJP chief Amit Shah, the right hand of prime minister Narendra Modi, would give a decent burial to the question of ‘mysterious’ death of Judge Loya. It is, however, time to bring the focus back on the infamous case of alleged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Shah and his associates. It had taken place 18 years ago in Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister of the state and Shah his home minister.
 
Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife Kausar Bi

The ‘encounter’, which has remained suspect from the day it took place in November 2005 near Ahmedabad, has remained in headlines because of the several twists and turns the case has taken over the years. The unanswered questions relate to the inconsistencies in the court proceedings, selective discharge of high-profile accused, questions over granting of bail, abrupt transfer of judges and witnesses turning hostile.

A former high court judge, Justice Abhay M Thipsay, who has himself decided some bail applications in the case, recently brought some of these inconsistencies in public domain.
No less than 15 of the 38 accused in the case being heard by a CBI court in Mumbai have been discharged so far. The court had framed charges including murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence against 22 of the initial 38 accused. Also, shockingly, 22 of the 30 witnesses have turned hostile since November last year.
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The unanswered questions relate to the inconsistencies in the court proceedings, selective discharge of high-profile accused, questions over granting of bail, abrupt transfer of judges and witnesses turning hostile.
------------
As per the prosecution, the case dates back to November 2005 when Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausarbi and associate Tulasiram Prajapati were forced to alight from a Sangli-bound bus from Hyderabad. Subsequently Sohrabuddin was killed in an ‘encounter’. His wife, who was an eyewitness to the killing of her husband, was also killed but her remains were never found. Some time later the eyewitness in the case, Prajapati, was also killed in an ‘encounter’.

Justice Thipsay pointed out at the strange manner in which several high-profile accused in the case were discharged and the ‘absurd’ inconsistencies he found in orders passed by the Special CBI court currently hearing the case. He went on record to say that all these and other aspects of the proceedings point to the "failure of justice and of the justice delivery system”.

He pointed out that it was unusual that bail was denied to a number of accused for several years and then another court held that there was was no prima facie case against those accused. He also found that lower level police officers were not discharged while the seniors were discharged even though the material or evidence against them was the same.

All these factors need to be probed thoroughly.
 
It would also be prudent for Amit Shah and other prominent accused, who had been discharged, that they should ask for an independent judicial inquiry. Otherwise they would always remain under the shadow of suspicion.

But is it too much to expect from the judicial system in the country which has shameful number of 3 crore cases pending including over two crore in subordinate courts. Despite the high regard given to the Justice delivery system in ancient India, including the myth of the Throne of Vikramyadita, a king known for fair and quick justice, the judicial delivery system leaves much to be desired.
----------
It takes a life time or even generations to get justice in India. There are the unresolved cases dating back to several decades where victims are still waiting for justice. Among those are the cases pertaining to the 1984 killings that took place in Delhi and elsewhere. 
----------
Here it takes a life time or even generations to get justice. While Sohrabuddin case has not been solved, and killers not punished, for the last 18 years, there are the unresolved cases dating back to several decades where victims are still waiting for justice. Among those are the cases pertaining to the massacre that took place in Delhi and elsewhere. The alleged killers have been roaming free not only during the Congress rule at the Centre, and it is alleged that most killers were members or sympathisers of the party, but also when the BJP (an ally of the Shiromani Akali Dal) is at the helm of affairs.

Enough damage has already been done. It is high time to focus on the justice delivery system in the country. After all, as the adage goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
 
 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)

 

 


 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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AFRAID OF PEACE?
The reality is that war-making is a profitable enterprise
05.05.18 - AASIM SAJJAD AKHTAR
The reality is that war-making is a profitable enterprise



THIS PAST TUESDAY was the International Day of Workers, an occasion for labour movements and leftists the world over to recall the day in 1886 when unarmed labourers, carrying white flags symbolising peace, protested against appalling working conditions in the American city of Chicago. Authorities fired indiscriminately, and the white flags were turned red by the spilt blood of the peaceful protesters.

May Day is still celebrated in Pakistan and the rest of the world but the heyday of the organised labour movement and traditional communist parties that spoke for the haloed proletariat would appear to have passed. Nevertheless, as Mahir Ali noted in his column earlier this week, the contradictions of contemporary capitalism are arguably even more pronounced than when the anti-capitalist revolutionary upheavals of the previous century were taking place.
---------
Peace is a pretty hackneyed word, particularly given that armies often who claim to be its biggest defenders.
---------
Indeed, the blood of the weak continues to be spilt by the rich and powerful, and the challenge for those who remain committed to struggling for a peaceful world free of exploitation is to recognise the contradictions of the contemporary order and build a viable emancipatory political movement with the proverbial wretched of the earth as its primary subject.

The imperative of peace, in my understanding, could be one plank of a revolutionary politics of our times — unbeknownst to many, it was the primary demand around which Lenin’s revolutionaries in Russia built a mass movement in 1917.

Peace is a pretty hackneyed word, particularly given that armies often who claim to be its biggest defenders. But the reality is that war-making is a profitable enterprise, and not only in terms of hard cash that is earned from selling the weapons of war. States and their corporate backers also benefit from ideologies of war — in Pakistan’s case, we have been in some form of metaphorical war for 70 years, an ever-present justification for an ever-expanding security apparatus.

So while everyone might claim they want it, the real constituency for peace is ordinary people who have no other agenda than wanting to see their children grow up free from the psychological scars of war. In recent times the Pakhtun Tahaffaz Movement has forced the rest of Pakistan to confront what the reality of war has meant for the people of Fata. In the few days leading up to May Day, we were yet again reminded of what the Hazaras of Quetta have been enduring for years.
---------
So while everyone might claim they want it, the real constituency for peace is ordinary people who have no other agenda than wanting to see their children grow up free from the psychological scars of war.
---------
The hunger strike led by young women in Quetta against years and years of targeted killings of the Hazara people — often depicted as sectarian violence but in reality much more layered and insidious — was eventually called off when the army chief himself visited the protesters and promised to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice and the spate of killings was brought to a halt.

But haven’t we heard this before? This is not the first time that the beleaguered Hazaras have been promised justice — and, most importantly, peace. It has happened before that enraged protesters refused to accept the assurances of the elected government and demanded that the top brass of the army itself act as a guarantor of peace. On this occasion too, the federal interior minister’s promises were insufficient — the real power in the land asked to intervene.

The Baloch too have been placated time and again over 70 years — we will give you peace, say our defenders. But peace never seems to come for any of our people, even those hapless tenant farmers in the Punjabi heartland of Okara.

In a week when the two Koreas have made a tenuous step towards de-escalation, and even the demagogues ruling China and India have sat together to at least collectively utter the rhetoric of peace, the question must be asked: who, in our land of the pure, is afraid of peace?

It is not rocket science that internal peace in this country is linked irrevocably with peace in our neighbourhood. This week yet another bloodbath took place in Kabul, a country that has suffered most of all from the wars that have been imposed on us all by imperialist powers and our own establishment. Today we must all demand peace with our neighbours — Afghanistan and India most of all. Yes, peace is a two-way street, and they have as big a role to play as we do. But those in glass houses should not throw stones.
---------
It is not rocket science that internal peace in this country is linked irrevocably with peace in our neighbourhood.
---------
In the final analysis, in war too it is the workers of the world who make sacrifices so their overlords continue to thrive. It is workers who fight in the name of nation, religion and whatnot even while the designs of establishments and corporations to divide and rule through a reign of organised chaos remain unchecked.

Another May Day has passed but the need for a radical transformation of the world we live in is as acute as ever. Our flag is red with blood, but peace is what we want.
 

 

 

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. This article first appeared in dawn.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author.


  
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT







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INQUILAB ZINDABAD. YES, BUT HOW?
The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!
03.05.18 - KAMJAAT SINGH
The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!



 Sitaram Yechury at Punjab State Congress of CPI(M) on April 10, 2018 at Mahilpur (Hoshiarpur).
 
AT A TIME when Punjab is in the throes of a massive social upheaval and there is a complete disconnect between its farmers, farm labourers and those dependent on rural economy and others in towns and cities who are more cued into structures of political power, one would have thought that vast swathes of political space is open to a strong Left or left of Centre, progressive, liberal forces to storm in and lead.

Instead, Punjab's Left seems completely out of reckoning. Neither the CPI appointing its new State Secretary made for many headlines nor could the CPI(M) manage many eyeballs even with its 22nd Party Congress in Hyderabad from April 18-22, 2018.
----------
The comrades in Punjab let down the local populace when they failed to understand the essence of the uprising in the late 1980s and early 1990s, seeing it merely as a war between secessionists and unionists.
----------
In the divisive climate of politics that India is witnessing today, the Left had its agenda clearly cut out. That's why its absence is jarring, except for the statements and media space its leaders in Delhi hog at times.

The 22nd Party Congress of CPI(M) also made news for its factional politics. The media speculation that re-elected party general secretary Sitaram Yechury could favour an explicit "understanding” or "electoral alliance” with the Congress was all that we got.

Harkishen Singh Surjit seems to be back in business. Ghosts are always restless in graves. So we are back to discussing if the Indian political faultline of secular versus communal and the exercise to unite "all secular and democratic forces to defeat semi-fascism" will take us anywhere.

On May 5, 2018, it will be 200 years since the birth of Karl Marx. The historic moment in time follows the 150 years last year of the publication of the first volume of Marx’s Das Kapital in September 1867. One wonders if the Left was able to sell 2017 or 2018 as major opportunities to rethink Indian polity.
----------
Harkishen Singh Surjit seems to be back in business. Ghosts are always restless in graves. So we are back to discussing if the Indian political faultline of secular versus communal and the exercise to unite "all secular and democratic forces to defeat semi-fascism" will take us anywhere.
----------
As the sketch of Marx peered down from the podium at the CPI(M) Congress, the revolutionary road was nowhere in sight. As the Economic and Political Weekly wrote in its latest edition, "The old man might just be reminding the comrades that his ideas, stripped of their revolutionary essence, will not have the power to survive. Will they heed such wisdom?"

The comrades in Punjab let down the local populace when they failed to understand the essence of the uprising in the late 1980s and early 1990s, seeing it merely as a war between secessionists and unionists.

They were quick to side with a ham-handed State that had no compunction in ignoring voices of aspiration, political assertion, demands for a revision of Centre-State dynamics and fears and apprehensions of a minority of being obliterated and divested of its identity.

Sitaram Yechury marching with party comrades in Punjab in April 2018. Forget about people, how many journalists know the name of state secretary of CPI(M)

 
The comrades chose to back a State that found in fake encounters an instrument of state policy, and were happy with unscrupulous police officers showering money upon their favourite party mouthpiece newspapers. That was blood money, and should have been too red for even the Reds.

These are different times. One would believe that the Left in Punjab has travelled some distance since then. Troublesome legacies are hard to get rid of, but a consistent, pro-people approach and presence in the political sphere often helps mitigate such painful memories.

Sadly, that's where the Left is again letting down Punjab. Where is the mainstream Left activist in the villages of Punjab where farm suicides have become staple news? Where is the mainstream Left activist when tamasha-style loan waiver events are held in the state and thousands are rallied to celebrate a benevolent chief minister? 
----------
The Left needs to talk about people's problems in people's language. It needs to ask why a P Sainath roaming in Punjab's villages and speaking about farm suicides has a better traction factor than a comrade talking about intensification of neo-liberal capitalist exploitation.
----------
Where is the mainstream Left activist when communal forces run riot in Phagwara for days? Where is the mainstream Left activist when Shiv Sena factions mushroom in Punjab? Where is the mainstream Left activist when the RSS poison seeps into the body polity all the time?

Why should there not be a Left position on convening Gram Sabhas in Punjab's villages? Why is the Left out of the picture when a CM starts running micro-administrative tasks from his chopper seat?

The Balwant Singhs, Charan Singh Virdis, Sukhwinder Singh Sekhons, Bhupinder Sambhars, Jagroop Singhs or Joginder Dayals need to ponder if they are part of the problem, if they are obstacles. True, these are leaders who have played a part, mostly constructive, but then not bowing out in time is a capital offence in politics.

If a Narendra Modi can tell his party colleagues to dine at the houses of dalits -- and we have no doubt that it is a mere tamasha — why can't the mainstream Left take a moral high ground and be with the families of hundreds of farmers and farm labourers who have committed suicide?

It is true that the Left activists are the only ones who are seen in the field when a protest happens. It is equally true that many shades of Left are indeed active, reaching out to the downtrodden in Punjab. But our pet peeve is the mainstream Left.

They could have impacted the larger polity. Instead, they have rushed to become irrelevant.
----------
Where is the mainstream Left activist when communal forces run riot in Phagwara for days? Where is the mainstream Left activist when Shiv Sena factions mushroom in Punjab? Why should there not be a Left position on convening Gram Sabhas in Punjab's villages?
----------
The fact that no political party in Punjab even commented on the 22nd Party Congress of CPI(M) should be a lesson in this irrelevance. True, the enemy ignores you. Truer still, that you make it possible, even inevitable.

The comrade in Punjab, ready to fight over a Pash or even over a Gagbani churner, is not persuasive enough to get his fellow comrades to engage in any united struggle. It is incapable of building unity of people to fight the communal forces at the grassroots. At best, it is engaged in appropriate electoral tactics to maximize the pooling of anti-BJP votes.

P. Sainath at Patiala, on April 28, 2018. 
 
It needs to talk about people's problems in people's language. It needs to ask why a P Sainath roaming in Punjab's villages and speaking about farm suicides has a better traction factor than a comrade talking about intensification of neo-liberal capitalist exploitation.

The BJP now rules 21 of India’s 29 states. The CPI(M) has only 9 seats in the Lok Sabha, and the CPI, just one. Comrades have been humiliated in their bastions in West Bengal and Tripura. 

They need to think beyond cadre violence. They need to speak more clearly than the Congress on Kashmir and AFSPA. They need to engage with their own role in Punjab during the dark days. And they need to get in and get dirty in Punjab's villages where death is knocking at the doors of the most hardworking of our people.

They need to deal with the Caste question upfront. They need to engage with Ambedkar and Ambedkarites with more open heart. They need to talk in terms of local idiom and rooted politics. They need to deal with political aspirations of those they characterised as hotheads - in Punjab then, in Kashmir and northeast now.

They need to confront comprador bourgeoisie forces without using words such as comprador bourgeoisie forces. Why is Guru Nanak missing from their speeches? Why is Banda Singh Bahadur's Land to the Tiller slogan missing from their approach?

Punjab's comrades have failed to bring lessons from Kerala's collective farming, the women's movement there, to Punjab. That's because they were busy speaking about landlord-corporate-bourgeois class without doing anything about it. 
----------
It is true that the Left activists are the only ones who are seen in the field when a protest happens. But our pet peeve is the mainstream Left. They could have impacted the larger polity. Instead, they have rushed to become irrelevant.
----------
Of course, it is true that even in Kerala, the communist governments have done little to make the Marxian egalitarian social order a reality so far, but we need to at least follow the southern state's social democratic welfare model.

Also, the party can forget about attracting more young people to the fold if it continues to function in this fashion. Post-2019, even this space for democratic functioning may shrink. This is the time to forget trivia and get real.

Mere talk of fascist threat will not do. The revolutionary road will lead to nowhere if it does not pass through the radical essence of Marxism. You cannot hope for a revolution if you do not want to engage with the biggest revolutionary the land has produced – the one who said Kirt Karo, Naam Japo, Vand Chhako.

All we can say is: Kaamraid jee, jaago, aur jaagte raho.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

SUPER EFFICIENCY ONBOARD CM’S CHOPPER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties: The Coordinated Silence of Amarinder Singh & Badals

PM MODI VINDICATES PUNJAB TODAY REPORTAGE

NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA - Trudeau came to Punjab, pushed Amarinder closer to BJP, then called him a liar

JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

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OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

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Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar 

RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.

MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

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PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

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MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 
        





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