Thursday, July 30, 2015

A little memory can go a long way

A little memory can go a long way

It is the silences that attend media coverage of Yakub Memon’s impending execution and not the Shiv Sena’s aggressive calls for his hanging that hold a mirror to Indian democracy most clearly. Leading national dailies carry photos of mangled bomb blast sites and interview those affected, as if to justify the imposition of the death penalty; none ask why other victims must continue to suffer silently the indignity of watching their attackers go scot-free.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A journey through the shifting battlegrounds of land and human souls

The road from Jagdalpur to Lohandiguda is a smooth 30 km, turning off into some of the most beautiful and unusual villages in the region. High stone walls fence off large compounds around houses of mud, thatch and shale.  Chind or date palm trees grow along the bunds of the fields, and the tabletop hills rise flat and low in the background. The ravages of a couple of limestone quarries apart, this is fertile agricultural land.

Madhu, one of the men I met in Sirisguda, recounted a conversation he had with a shopkeeper in Jagdalpur, who asked him where he was from. “Lohandiguda”, he replied. “Then you are the maliks of Tata,” the shopkeeper said, “They will give you all the facilities you need, especially since your fields produce nothing.” Madhu replied, “Thanks, but I am earning fine now, and grow three crops a year, and don’t need the Tatas.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Salwa Judum 2.0? What a disaster that will be

In the last ten years, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and his government have been at pains to claim that the 2005 Salwa Judum had nothing to do with the MOUs his government had signed with the Tatas and Essar the same year, and that it was a spontaneous people’s movement. It may have been coincidence the first time, but to proclaim Salwa Judum II just when Prime Minister Modi announced investment plans for Rs 24,000 crore in Bastar suggests that even Salwa Judum I was a made to order product, a ‘people’s movement’ purchased off some corporate shelf. At the very least, it was manufactured in Delhi, Raipur and in the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, and not in some Dantewada village.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Land Acquisition and Modi in Dantewada

Prime Minister Modi must be commended for visiting Dantewada. But while the last visiting PM recognized its unique biodiversity and culture, Mr. Modi wants to get rid of these as fast as possible.

The government has announced Rs 24, 000 crore investment in the region for a ultra mega steel plant at Dilmilli, and the Raoghat-Jagdalpur railway line among other things. The MOUs are with the public sector SAIL, NMDC and IRCON, but as ongoing construction at the NMDC Nagarnar steel plant shows, many private sector companies like the Tatas have contracts to build specific components.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Any attempt to start Salwa Judum II will be clear contempt of court

"The State of Chattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos, that in any manner or form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person. The measures to be taken by the State of Chattisgarh shall include, but not be limited to, investigation of all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, or those popularly known as Koya Commandos, filing of appropriate FIR’s and diligent prosecution."

Judgement of Justice Reddy and Justice Nijjar, Supreme Court of India, July 5, 2011.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Chilling Effect of Restraints

Indian governments in general, and the Modi government in particular, can be relied on to elevate spurious notions of national security or national honour over actual change, just like the green curtains drawn over Ahmedabad’s slums when the Chinese president came to visit. God forbid the world should come to know, via a BBC film, that the saintly Indian man commits crimes against the revered Indian woman.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Indian National Interest

Indian National Interest (INI) requires that our environment be ruined, our people displaced, our resources thoughtlessly mined, all for the benefit of foreign companies, and for the private benefit of people in power. This is the only conclusion that we can draw after reading the recent Indian Express revelations on Essar alongside the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) affidavit in the Delhi High Court responding to Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai’s plea that her constitutional rights were being curtailed by the government stopping her from flying abroad to testify before a British parliamentary committee.