O yes, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian Elections

Dear Hasan Minhaj,

Yes, brother, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian politics! Absolutely not. I totally agree with that but not for the reasons that were portrayed in the first couple of minutes of the show.

During my stay in the US, I did observe a general lack of understanding of India and Indian politics among the majority of Indians who have settled there since decades and your show was just a proof of that. I am not blaming but then somewhere the NRIs refuse to accept that lack of knowledge and feel entitled to speak up just because there are platforms available and there are listeners.
It was just sheer incomplete information, no understanding of the core issues of Indian society + politics and an extremely one-sided view of the issues, organizations, and the leaders.

Through this blog, I am just attempting to bring in some perspective to the topics covered. I am not the epicenter of the knowledge or insights but having closely following Indian politics till date and having witnessed, in person, BJP’s administration and Modi’s leadership while growing up in Gujarat and living in India up until 2015, I guess I do bring in some level of credibility.

1. Balakot Attack
About the Balakot attack, you failed to mention that Indian media has recently provided enough details about how the targets were actually hit as the latest satellite images show (Indian Air Force collates proof of strikes at Balakot camp, 80% bombs hit target: IAF gives satellite images to govt as proof of Balakot airstrike, Balakot airstrike: 80% bombs hit target, says IAF in proof submitted to govt).
The portrayal of the entire incident as their word vs our word is quite naive. If you follow the news, you would know that Pakistan has continuously denied access to the international media to the site of air strike (Pakistan continues blocking media access to IAF’s air strike site, Why does the media have no real access?, No access to Pakistan religious school that India says it bombed) but just touring them around the forests. Pakistani PM was also caught red-handed lying on television when he said Pakistan had captured two Indian air crafts in the dogfight that followed a few days after the air strike when the fact was the second plane was Pakistan’s F-16 itself and the pilot was badly beaten up by the locals (and is said to have died in the hospital later on). Pakistan has also failed to acknowledge this – which is terrible for a soldier who risked his life for the country.
And saying that the Indian government was exploiting Kashmir for elections is also a totally idiotic. Indian army conducted operations in Myanmar in 2015 and then in PoK in 2016 (in response to Uri attack). Even in 2016, the same excuse was given by the anti-India and anti-BJP folks that due to elections in Uttar Pradesh, this was done. The fact is that, in India, every year some 4-5 (or even more) states go into elections to elect a state government. So, it is common and easy to portray any positive step of the government as an election hoodwink.

2. Jobs
You spoke literally just for 10 seconds on this topic to give out a judgment. The fact of the matter is that this is one topic where there is significant confusion (just read these two articles: The reason India jobs data is not credible and The sharp debate on jobs data shows govt may arrive at a process for understanding India’s labour market) and making any conclusive statement is absolutely naive. There are plenty of data sources giving a variety of information but none of them covering the entire spectrum. Unlike the US, the UK, and many other western countries, India has never had any credible source of employment information. While the larger estimates do not favor the government at all – more confusion in this matter will only be detrimental to the government.

3. Demonetization
You showed a CPI worker (AIKS cap, red t-shirt and CPI flag in the background) criticizing the demonetization – so obvious. If you don’t know what AIKS is and the equation between CPI and BJP – research a bit. You, spending just above 60 seconds on the topic to conclude it as a failure is an absolute injustice to the topic itself because it was a very carefully planned exercise which had other aspects too – which was obviously ignored in the video – like the Jan Dhan Yojana and the closure of shell companies identified due to this exercise. You may want to read the following:
Govt cancelled 2.24 lakh suspected shell companies post demonetisation, disqualified 3.09 lakh directors, 2.09 lakh companies deregistered; directors face action, Black money accounts frozen, 2-3 lakh shell company owners now face up to 10 years jail.

If you really want to know what failure of demonetization looks like – just read about demonetization in Venezuela.
And while you talked about demonetization, you failed to mention the largest financial inclusion exercise carried out before that – the Jan Dhan accounts. While India received independence way back in 1947 and bank nationalizations happened in the 1969 and 1980, it still excluded more than half of the population from the financial system. While the numbers vary slightly from sources to sources, even by 2014, half or less than half of the Indian adults had a bank account. And, from there the number up to 80% and still counting. Yes, there are arguments that many (maybe a majority) of these newly opened accounts are dormant. But one also needs to take into consideration that any behavioral change in society takes persistent efforts and time. People who are habituated to deal in cash for 70 years post independence will not move to transact through their banks overnight.

4. Disenfranchisement of Immigrants
You mentioned the disenfranchisement of immigrants in Assam but failed to mention that these were illegal immigrants. It was also surprising that you missed out on some very basic details on NRC

  1. It was first prepared in 1951 to tackle the issue of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  2. The current NRC exercise is a part of the Assam Accord that was signed by the then Congress PM in 1986, Late Rajiv Gandhi (you should have asked Shashi Tharoor about this) but was never implemented and
  3. The current exercise was mandated by the honorable Supreme Court of India on October 2013 (when Congress government was in power).

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a monstrous problem for both, West Bengal and Assam. It is being portrayed as Muslim immigrants (as if a particular religion is targeted) but they fail to mention that the immigrants come from Bangladesh which is 90% Islamic. Many governments, including this one, have been trying to arrive at a solution and a part of the solution is to send the illegal immigrants back to Bangladesh.

Yes, when the first list of National Register for Citizens was created, it did include some actual citizens as well but that was due to lack of documental evidence and there was a time period provided to such citizens to submit the relevant documents. Ironically, this whole infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh (and Rohingyas from Myanmar) totally contradicts the perception that minorities are not safe in India 🙂

5. Hindu Nationalism is not anti-Muslim
BJP talks about Hindu nationalism but that speaks of Hinduism as a value system – not religion. Every single scheme of the present government has been targeted to every single Indian irrespective of religion or caste – be it Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Aayushman Bharat, Make in India, Awaas Yojana and many others. This government is also the first one to introduce reservations based on economic status, rather than social status.
So, calling the current government as communal or anti-Muslim is highly ironic especially when compared to the previous Congress government that stated that a certain community has the first right on India’s resources. Some of the most perceived right-wing leaders like Subramanian Swamy has a Muslim son-in-law. He himself is married to a Parsi. The PM, in his addresses, always iterates 1.3 billion Indians instead of using a collective of religion or caste or anything else that divides India. Unfortunately, he and BJP often gets targeted and accused as anti-Muslim because, unlike other parties, they are not in the practice of appeasing minorities for votes. You may want to read this:
PMO intervenes to end Kerala disabled boy’s fight for education.

6. Affiliation with RSS
Regarding his affiliation with RSS, if you know about the RSS in detail as most of the Indians do, it becomes a source of confidence and not a source of concern. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) pretty much translates to National Volunteers Group – no reference to any particular religion or caste etc. Yes, the organization is primarily focused on the Hindu way of life and incorporating discipline into the Indian youth (the video that you showed of the physical exercises is essentially a part of inculcating the discipline). Having said that, RSS has been always forefront in carrying out relief work in any natural or man-made disasters – be it in Kashmir or Kerala. The organization has given some of the greatest and the most respected leaders India has seen post-Independence.
You might be surprised to know that RSS has many members from Muslims, Christian, and Sikh community and they understand the true philosophy of RSS. It also has a Muslim wing itself called RMM (Rashtriya Muslim Manch), a Sikh wing called Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (What brings Muslims, Christians and Sikhs to RSS? Why do they join the organization that is considered to be the antithesis of secular politics in India).
Time and again, the western media and public in general, has always failed to understand the Hinduism because they tend to see Hinduism from an Abrahamic lens. You should read the book “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines” by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

7. Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination
Regarding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi – I know, for western media, Mahatma Gandhi is pretty much next to God – but research is required in understanding the background of the whole thing which the majority of Indian media and almost the entire of western media never took interest in and always talked about it in a superficial manner. I am not justifying the assassination – it was definitely wrong – but the reason for condemnation of assassination also matters as much as condemnation itself. I would suggest you watch this and try to get some perspective

8. Monk with a Gun
You mentioned “Monk with a Gun” but one needs to go back to understanding the history of India where this (weapons) was actually the part of the education. This is not something new. I have mentioned more about it here.
Regarding changing the names, it is not a change of the name per se. It is restoring the original names (not sure why nobody told you that). And it is not anti-Muslim for sure. It is anti-Mughal – the dark era in the history of India that was marred by systematic destruction of India’s vast natural resources, forced religious conversions, destruction of India’s agricultural strength, unjust and high taxes (including jizya), and many other atrocities by the Mughal invaders. Similar exercises have happened time and again. Just read here – Renaming of Cities in India. Again, it requires some good reading.

9. Lynchings
Regarding the lynchings, there are two major points. The narrative that it has been increasing since 2014 is wrong because 1) There is no credible data available that suggests that since 2014 there is an increase; 2) NCRB started reporting communal riots only after 2014 – so obviously there were no reported lynchings before 2014 since nobody was actually recording it; and 3) Mob lynching has been talked more since 2014 and has caught media attention but just because we come to know more about it now and not before doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist at the same scale earlier. Mob lynching is a result of a challenge that India faces in terms of law enforcement which is being tried to overcome since decades. I would suggest you watch this

You may also want to read this: Can Data Tell Us Whether Lynchings Have Gone Up Under Modi, And Should It Matter?

10. Democracy in Danger
When you say that Indians also feel that the “democracy is backsliding” – you show Yogendra Yadav who has been a classic anti-Modi person who will obviously say those things. If you don’t know the history of Yogendra Yadav, please read about him. Since 2014, there have been regular attempts to project that the Indian democracy is in danger under the present government (completely ignoring the fact that this is the government elected by citizens of India with a landslide victory – the first time in three decades. I would actually not consider 1984 because that landslide was driven by emotions rather than performance). Be it the award wapasi show, tukde tukde gang, intolerance debate or EVM drama. If you do not know about these terms, please read.

Again, I sincerely hope there wasn’t any agenda behind this episode. 29 minutes is a too short a time considering the breadth of the topics covered – which essentially meant quantity was prioritized over quality – and in this case misinformation or half-information was prioritized over a genuine talk.

If true, it’s sad that nobody from BJP opted to speak to you and you only received one-sided biased Leftist view of the Indian politics from Shashi Tharoor. He is a great orator but it was very sad to hear that he obviated corruption. But then it is nothing new – that has been the mentality of the Congress and many other parties since ages. When Rahul Gandhi was asked about dynastic politics at University of California, Berkeley, he just said “that’s the way India works” – in spite of having a present government that has not only opposed dynastic politics in words but also in practice. Just follow the news around the list of candidates they released for the upcoming general elections in India and the whole logic behind identifying the right candidate for the right constituency. They are demonstrating how democracy should actually work.

While talking about all other things, within one minute, you could have also covered this bullet point list:

  • India is the 6th largest economy (10th in 2012-2015) by nominal GDP (3rd by PPP) – World Bank
  • India jumped 57 places (134 to 77) in ease of doing business in just 4 years – Tradingeconomics.com | World Bank
  • The government went on to simplify the indirect taxation system by bringing everything under GST (Centre and State) and categorizing items to make some very essential items under 0% taxation.
  • The Indian PM received the Champion of the Earth from the United Nations for his bold environmental leadership on the global stage – United Nations Environment Programme
  • International Yoga Day was one resolution that received massive support (co-sponsorship) of 177 countries out of 193.
  • Sushma Swaraj was invited as a Chief Guest at OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) States – the first time since its inception in 1969 – and in spite of opposition from Pakistan – so much for the anti-Muslim government and the party.

Again, here, I may not have been able to cover everything in detail. I am not even sure if I spending so much time on writing this was even worth it. But this is something that ought to be done.

P.S. I also came across this video which has some brilliant points debunking myths spread around the western world about India. Great work by The Sham Sharma Show:

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Is India Scared of Executions?

As of September 01, 2011

 

Yesterday, I was came across a newscast on the stay order of Madras(shouldn’t we say Chennai???) High Court on the execution of the three convicts of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. While the honorable President rejected the mercy petitions in August 11, Tamilnadu legislative assembly passed a unanimous resolution asking the government to commute the death sentences which was followed by the HC stay order. This reminded me of the numerous mercy petitions that are currently in pending in various courts, MHA and President over the death sentences already declared. It also brings in a question in my mind that why is executing capital punishment so difficult in this country? And if the country is so much against it, then why do we have it altogether when we cannot exercise it? In addition, there are three major concerns, I would like to discuss further.

  1. Why is there a biased morality when it comes to mercy petitions for the convicts?
  2. Does the government need to revise the considerations on mercy petitions? Why is the country not clear on its stand on death penalties?
  3. Can our country afford to keep such petitions pending that take a toll on country’s exchequer (which is essentially tax payer’s money)?

 

The senior counsel of the three convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, which includes eminent lawyers Ram Jethmalani, R Vaigai and Colin Gonsalves, argued citing violation of Article 21 of the constitution which cites “Protection of Life and Personal Liberty”. On the other hand, the human rights organizations express concerns on death penalties as they violate a person’s right to live. However, this is looking only on the one side of the coin. If we look into the crimes executed by the convicts, it mainly involves homicides and murders. From the victim’s perspective, the convict has also violated the victim’s “right to live”. It is amazing how HROs, polity and the supporters of the convicts completely overlook this perspective while lobbying for the mercy petition in the court or to the President.

Looking into the history,India has a terrible record in executing the executions (not something to moan about but delving into further details reveals it as a terrible record). Looking into the number of death sentences awarded, there is no concrete data available. However, according to Amnesty International, more than 378 death sentences have been ordered as a total of six years between 2001 and 2010 but none of them have been executed. Last execution that took place in the country was seven years back when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in a rape+murder case. As per the latest news, there are 17 mercy petitions pending before the President (this does not include Afzal Guru since his petition is still decaying in the offices of MHA and yet to be forwarded to the President). The current president has, so far, disposed off three petitions – Mahendra Nath Das, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and the three assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. However, if someone feels that the story ends once the President rejects the petition, hold-your-breath. All the three rejected petitions have found rescue squads in their respective states. While Guwahati HC stayed the execution of Mahendra Nath Das even after President’s rejection; Tamilnadu HC stayed the execution of the three assassins by eight weeks. On the other hand, stage is being set for the clemency petition of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar as the Punjab CM Prakash Singh Badal wrote to the President to re-examine the mercy plea of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar. Looking at the history, it won’t be surprising if Punjab HC does the Guwahati and Tamilnadu. These are just the three of the 17 pending petitions. And we are not considering the ones that await recommendation of MHA, like that of Afzal Guru. There are more in line like Ajmal Kasab, whose petition is currently in Supreme Court. Looking at the route, if SC rejects the plea, the petition will go to MHA for recommendation after which it will reach the President’s table. The entire process is easily expected to take at least 10 years.

The question is why this country is having such a high level of sympathy for gruesome murderers? Killing, in any form, is a violation of a person’s right to live. By morality or by religion, none of the human beings have any right on another one’s life. However, when one human violates this right to the other, does the former deserve enough for a consideration on the same right? Rights are always accompanied by duties. If we enjoy the right to live, it is our duty to let others live. Keeping such convicts alive, that too because of this loophole in the system, can set a dangerous precedent and a potential threat for the national security where the murderers will be sure that they would be allowed to live for free (inside the jail) for many more years, no matter how grave their crime is. The mercy petitions also questions the morals of the people involved in filing these petitions. While having sympathy for these convicts since they share the same state or religion can be understood, but having blind sympathy that surmounts all ethics and values is what is baffling. The supremacy of human life should not hold true in these situations.

The concern here is not only on the moral grounds but also on the financial grounds. In May 2011, the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) sent a bill of Rs.10 crore to the Maharashtra government behind the expenditure on guarding Ajmal Kasab. Similar, probably little less, goes for Afzal Guru as well. Let us just say Rs.7 crore. Now, multiply this by 10 years. That amounts to whopping Rs.170 crores combined, only for two of the convicts. If we add the three convicts of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, it will multiply, probably, 1.4 times, which means Rs.238 crores. The question is, can our country afford to keep these convicts for such a long time? If we divide Rs.238 crores by our population, it would come to be roughly Rs.2 per head. It would be interesting to do a survey and ask people if they would like to give Rs.2 to the government for guarding terrorists like Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru (or for that matter, any grisly murderer). Anyone wonder, what will be the answer?

To conclude, it’s time, the country should clear its stand on executions and show the convicts their right place. There is also a need to fix a timeline for President to decide on mercy petitions and a clear law that states the President’s decision as supreme and non-appealable. This will help in faster resolutions of the cases and will save a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money which is wasted in harboring the evils of the society.