Thursday, June 25, 2009

A New Season for Epidemics

CPM special politburo meeting to discuss the rising threat of factionalism in its Kerala unit: news

Statutory Warning: As monsoon hits, it is a new season of epidemics in Kerala...!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lalgarh: Why Do People Fight the Armed Forces of the State?

As the confrontation between the people in Lalgarh and the police forces in West Bengal is raging, there took place a discussion on how and why this mindless violence. My friend Ajit Sahi, a senior journalist who travels to the most inaccessible parts of India to report on human rights violations, sent a note which is very important because it highlights the issue from his own experiences and observation.

I reproduce this note for the benefit of my readers:

Hi Chekkutty Sir,

I have been reading your exchange and I feel constrained to jump in here. I cannot claim that enough wisdom, knowledge or perspective rests in me to opine on the issue at hand, but I do have limited experience of reporting for Tehelka on the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

While so much attention has been focused on the siege of Lalgarh, and there is much joy in India's urban English-speaking militarist middle class at the supposedly succeeding police and paramilitary action there, just why doesn't anyone dare to talk about the utter failure of the State against the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand?

Where is all the machoism and the bravura in the media and the middle classes at the hopelessly one-sided war that wages on in these states? Since January this year, I have driven hours upon hours through the two states, through the most heavily Naxal-dominated areas -- the south Bastar districts of Dantewada and Bijapur in Chhattisgarh and Latehar in Jharkhand.

And the State? The Police? Non-existent. Zilch. I was in Latehar on April 22, the day the Naxals called a statewide bandh to protest the killing of five innocent villagers by CRPF. I was on the road for TEN hours and I saw not a SINGLE policeman, forget about a patrol. Just hours later, some 200 Naxals swooped down on a rural railway station and held an entire train hostage for four hours! And the State? Not a single policeman dared to enter the station.

Every time I travel in these two states, I am warned by police officers that I am doing so at my risk and that I shouldn't expect any help from them should I run into trouble. On January 26 this year, during the "Black Day" called by the Naxals, I traveled on a road in south Chhattisgarh that had never before been seized by Naxals. This time, it was. Except for one brave police officers who oversaw clearing of boulders placed by Naxals on the roads, all other police officers sat holed inside their stations.

Then, of course, is the issue of the Naxals themselves. The question that no one is asking is: just why is Mr Chidambaram and everyone else so exercised about Maoists seizing power in Lalgarh? Anyone who works in the field knows that the police and the State cannot enter many parts of the country. Until very recently, half of Bihar was like that. Large chunks of Uttar Pradesh are like that. I would like to see the police enter areas in Mumbai that are totally ruled by the underworld.

So why isn't the Indian media, the middle class, Mr. Chidambaram, the Prime Minister interested in reoccupying the badlands of UP and Bihar?

The answer is simple. In Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and also West Bengal lie hidden some of the best deposits of natural resources. The Indian middle class doesn't give a damn how many millions of people are uprooted from their villages in order to secure their natural resources. The corporate media that represents the narrow interests of the Indian industry is totally in favour of claiming such resources, even if it means employing the most brutal and repressive violence.

You need to travel to such regions, Dr. Aravindan, to see who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. The state is overwhelmingly the brute perpetrator there. Every part of the system -- the executive, the judiciary, the politicians -- are badly compromised. The indigenous people are the victims, but we brand them all as Naxals.

So just how long do you think India will be able to sustain this oppression of the people who, instead of being seen as citizens of India deserving of social justice, are brutalized and condemned as violent criminals?

Let me remind you of what is happening in the US. Right from Barack Obama to even top military generals and CIA chiefs have admitted that the brutal US campaign in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have not made America safer. Instead, they now openly say, the American militarism has increased the threat from terrorism.

I am reminded of a cartoon I saw years ago. As his angry mother glares at him, a boy of perhaps six years in age explains his confusion as to why his younger brother, sitting besides him on the floor, was crying himself hoarse. "I just don't know why he is crying as I eat my apple," the kid told his mother, pointing at his younger sibling. "He was also crying when I was eating his apple."

We, Mr. Chekkutty, have for far too long been eating every one's apples. But, well, I think now the disadvantaged are no more as helpless as they once were.

I don't support the Naxals either. But there is no way that I can support the state, when, through people like Mr. Chidambaram, all it does is push the agenda of the rapacious capitalists who kill, maim, torture and enslave just so to trespass and illegally annex land that has for centuries belonged to the people who have lived on it.

If India's middle class doesn't wake up to this truth, the battle can only get grimmer and more violent.

Ajit Sahi

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do We Need a CIA to Destabilize the Communist Party in Kerala?

Comrade Jayarajan says the CIA is out to destabilize Kerala's Communist Party.

Well, who can accept encroachments into one's own turf...!

Comrade E P Jayarajan has come out with the revelation that there are fifth column within the CPM; what is more, he warns us, the CIA is back at its favourite game, that is destabilizing the communist movement in Kerala.

That inaugurates a new stage in the purges which started as soon as the Kannur PB took over the reins of the party in Kerala. Hundreds of people have already been thrown out and sure, we will see many more of it if Jayarajan and others have their way.

But what I fail to understand and is why should the CIA waste its time in Kerala? What is there in our communist movement for them to destabilize? This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. Maybe it shows how bereft of ideas are our CPM leaders today who find themselves exposed beyond help.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Comrades, Leave the Governor Alone and Face the Corruption Case in Court

The decision of Kerala Governor R S Gavai to give green signal to the CBI for the prosecution of CPM state secretary and politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case has now raised a debate on the issue of the constitutional validity of the action of the governor. The CPM and some legal experts like Justice V R Krishna Iyer say that this is a clear violation of the principles of federalism enshrined in the Indian Constitution and hence violate the constitutional scheme of things.

I think the Constitution is not a dead and static body of legal cliche’s that can be used to defend any malpractices on the part of public persons. It has to be interpreted with the best interests of a society that seeks decent and responsible governance.

Here we will have to ask a few questions:

How did the cabinet recommendation reach the Governor that no permission be given for prosecution in the case? It was under external pressure. There is sufficient evidence that a party to the criminal conspiracy had been involved in it and hence the cabinet decision was not a normal, democratic and constitutional action. The Governor had to take a decision in the issue and prima facie he had every reason to believe that the cabinet recommendation and the AG's report on which it was purportedly based, were not proper because they were not taken without "fear or favour."

Was the Governor acting according to his own whims and fancies? It would be a wrong to think the Governor had any axe to grind here, because right from the beginning the case was not a politically motivated one: It was the constitutional bodies like the CAG that unearthed it and it was later the Kerala High Court which demanded the reluctant CBI to look Into the political aspects of the case.

My point is that the CPM's present position, attacking the Governor for overstepping his duties in our federal system, is specious. To my mind, the Governor had to take into view all players in our constitutional system, namely the judiciary and the people's verdict. The judiciary had been monitoring the case and hence it is bound to go back to the same judiciary for final adjudication. No amount of political pressure can be allowed to subvert the judicial process and rule of law. If that were the case, the Governor would have been accused of abdicating his role as the custodian of the Constitution.

Now about the people's verdict: There was no referendum on the issue of the trial in the recent elections, but the present verdict has in many ways expressed the people's resentment over the way the State is being governed. It also gave a clean chit to the Centre which runs the CBI and other agencies now being castigated as politically motivated agencies. Hence, no charge of political vendetta can stick and if any, the verdict can only be interpreted the other way round, as a verdict in favour of a trial .

And finally, do the Governors behave as they used to in the past, as viceroys of the Centre nowadays? There is no such case in recent past and remember no one dares to play with Art. 356 today, unlike the Indira and Rajiv days. Frankly, I feel this is no occasion to castigate the Governor as an agent of the centre. The CPM argument that Governor did play havoc with Constitution and federalism simply does not wash because he took the totality of the situation into view and decided in the best interests of the people whose money is involved here. In no way it can be construed as a subversion of our lofty constitutional principles. No amount of federalism can be a justification or an alibi for excusing the plunder of national resources by interested parties.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Azhikode Discovers a Bird (or Dog) that Dirties its Own Nest…(or Party)

Prof Sukumar Azhikode says no bird dirties its own nest: news

But some birds do dirty other's nests or name...!

A few years ago when Prof M N Vijayan was leading the charge against ‘revisionists’ in CPM with Patam magazine as his weapon of mass destruction, I had written an article in Madhyamam weekly castigating the professor, calling him a revolutionary post retirement.

I recently included this article in my collection of essays published earlier this year, but in the past five years since the publication of this piece, my own views on the CPM and its inner-party struggle have undergone a sea-change. Those days, I felt Prof Vijayan and his gang of storm-troopers were playing a game of partisan politics in the party, and I felt the young leaders were the victims in this manhunt. Hence I strongly supported them and described Vijayan a person who had done immense damage to the future of the party.

But in the past five years, the situation has changed tremendously and now it is the young leadership who seem to be taking the party to ransom. They have made the inner-party debates a matter of convenience, they have converted the party into a place for summary trials and instant justice throwing out hundreds of cadres for no reasons whatsoever, and other similar actions which convince me that Prof Vijayan, after all, was prophetic. This is what he had foreseen and this is what he wanted to stop. He was right.

He died speaking about it, his last words being a reminder of why we should keep on raising our voice, why should we keep our memories fresh. He was defending the harsh words used by his magazine, though personally he had never used any such words. He was a soft-spoken man who, however, never compromised on his principles.

Now when I watch Sukumar Azhikode, his foul-mouthed utterances against a veteran politician like V S Achuthanandan in full flow, I was reminded of M N Vijayan and his graceful way of criticism. Azhikode is a painful reminder that we have lost the civilized way of public criticism, that our intellectuals now resemble hired thugs. His recent interview with Mathrubhumi weekly was a shabby act, where he likens the chief minister to someone who dirties his own place of rest.

Well, he has now dragged in Henry David Thoreau to clean up. He says he was quoting Thoreau, who was speaking about the bird which never dirtied its nest, but was misquoted by the magazine and misunderstood by the chief minister and the public. Well, what it tells me is one thing: That Azhikode is a man who has his foot in the mouth.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Selecting a Career for Your Child? For God's Sake, Leave It To Them...

I JUST returned home after a visit to Ernakulam, where my son Praful had to write the entrance examination for law conducted by the national law universities' common admission board.

There was a big crowd there, as hundreds of children from various parts of Kerala had come to write the exam. There seems to be a huge spurt in demand for law courses offered by national law schools, as three years ago when Amrita, my daughter, took it, the candidates were comparatively fewer.

But the candidates appeared to be of two types: Those who came there simply because somebody told them it was a course that could help win jobs with hefty money; and those who had some background in law or were seriously interested in pursuing law as a career. But what was surprising was that in most cases, these decisions were taken not by the children, but by their parents.

I do not say parents don't have a say in selecting a career for their kids. They do, but that is an advisory role; not a decision-making role. I am disturbed many parents are now trying to take over their children's lives, imposing their pet wishes on the youngsters. This could prove to be disastrous.

I do not claim I don't interfere with my children's lives. I do. In the case of my son, I was trying to tell him if he is interested in a management career, as he seemed to be, then he must first pursue a course like economics or law that could prove helpful in tackling challenges in a management career.

It was not easy. What advice to offer calls for serious effort, I realize. The other day, I was advising a friend to read a book on economics, Economics: Making sense of Modern Economies, edited by Simon Cox. I was reading the book as I was planning to lecture to my 17-year-old son, as he had to decide on what course to pursue.

As kids go, I must admit this one is a genuine representative of his generation, carefree to the core giving paroxysms of anxiety to his mother. So I thought it would be prudent and economic to advise him to pursue economics, and I was trying to convince him this discipline, in itself, was as sexy as say IT or other hot pursuits of our times. Or if he was eager on MBA, he could pursue that as well.

Now I know that we need a lot of convincing not only our youngsters but their parents too on the matter of pursuing the right career. Like me, two of my brothers too have boys who now seek a degree course and I find, it is a mad pursuit for the best and most juicy. No one wants the second place and hence a mad rush. The kids are now being fed ambitions beyond their endurance and one of my friends told me he had spent Rs. 25,000 just to purchase various application forms alone!

I thought he was kidding or trying to make me feel petty and look stingy as, as a matter of fact, I had spent only Rs. 3000 for such application forms for various entrance tests. But later I realized he was telling me the truth, as there are dozens of such tests now going on and they charge hefty amounts just for the prospectus and application forms. Sure, they must be making a hefty amount of money this way.

You may say these are gullible, uneducated people. Not at all. They are middle class people with excellent education, professional track record, and access to all the information available in the world. Still, they seem to be critically confused when it comes to the career choice for their children. I really do not know why this is so: is it a question of one's unending ambitions or is it a matter of our outlook, or is it a question of a problem of plenty?

One thing is sure: we need career guidance not only for our children but for their parents too so that the kids would be saved much headaches in their lives.