Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jethmalani's travesty and Hypocrisies Galore in Tamil Nadu

Ram Jethmalani became a household name in the late 80's thanks to his "10 questions a day" to Rajiv Gandhi in Indian Express. When asked about the question Rajiv retorted "I dont have to answer every dog that barks". Jethmalani returned volley, "Mr PM dogs bark only at thieves". Those were heady days. As a naive teenager I was drawn like a moth into such grandstanding. Jethmalani, A.G. Noorani, Arun Shourie, Ramnath Goenka were all heroes. Gurumurthy's articles on Reliance Industries were a huge hit. Little did we know that Express was merely taking sides in a corporate war. Parsi Goenka was siding with Parsi Nusli Wadia the owner of Bombay Dyeing. I still remember Jethmalani's questions. Jethmalani had traced where Amitabh's children studied. Abhishek Bachchan was studying in Aiglon Villars in Switzerland. Their school fees and how Amitabh could afford such foreign exchange was a question. Another day a photo of Ajitabh Bachchan's home in Switzerland was splashed on the front pages with its price tag. Again a question of how Amitabh and his brother Ajitabh could afford it. The not so subtle innuendo was that Amitabh had siphoned Bofors kickbacks. This was vintage Jethmalani. As 17 year old little could I appreciate that much of what he did was invasion of privacy, sheer tabloid journalism, neither of which are hallmarks of a criminal lawyer who was so brilliant that he got a special permission to practice law at 18.

Today Jethmalani is a hero in Tamil Nadu for playing, what is portrayed as, lead role in getting a stay from Madras High Court against the hanging sentence for the Rajiv assassination convicts. The other two lawyers were Colin Gonsalves and R.Vaigai. Both Colin and Vaigai come with impeccable credentials. Vaigai, the only Tamil in the defense panel, is spearheading a forum to hold the judiciary accountable. Vaigai is instrumental in the impeachment proceedings against Justice Dinakaran. Colin an IIT graduate turned to become Law student to fight for human rights.

At the outset let me state categorically that I've nothing against a death row person availing every single legal avenue  to prove his/her innocence. That said I am completely repelled by the obnoxious mob mentality. This whole circus is riddled with contradictions and hypocrasies. Most who support the trio were acerbic critics of Anna Hazare's protests. Every criticism they unfairly flung at Anna is now completely true of this so called 'people's sentiment'.

When Anna commended Narendra Modi the secular brigade pounced on him and tore him to shreds. Today we have Ram Jethmalani an ex-BJP minister as defense counsel. If BJP as opposition party takes advantage of Anna's protest Anna becomes guilty by association. Yet not a murmur about this BJP cadre who is defending the darling trio. The flag waving and shouting of 'Bharat Mata ki jai" were decried as nationalism that borders on chauvinism. Today I am told that any Tamil who opposes clemency for the trio ceases to be a Tamil. Anna Hazare was mostly upbraided by so called intellectuals as blackmailing the government. Anna's protest was censured as unconstitutional. This is where the hypocrisy touches a nadir. Today the protests seeking clemency are anything but non-violent or constitutional.

Watch this video below

These are called students. If this is called civil protest I just lost my dictionary. As I was narrating the High Court order to my dad he surprised me by asking "Why Jethmalani and Colin, why do they keep running to North Indian lawyers, could they not find good lawyers in Tamil Nadu". Note, that self-styled leader of Tamil language and custodian of Tamil diaspora Karunanidhi begged Jethmalani to appear in person for his daughter's bail plea. I was mulling over the choice of lawyers and wondering could not Tamil Nadu's law colleges produce good lawyers. Then I remembered the Madras Law College student violence when a student was beaten to pulp. Have we forgotten how lawyers acted like hooligans in High Court. The Sri Krishna committee report gave a scalding picture of lawyers who were practically lawbreakers. From this cesspool people like Vaigai are rarity to flower. One blogger rants against North Indians for not joining the chorus and instead questioning the propriety of the circus. Little does he realise that his trio owes their grace period to North Indians.

Another irony is that most who decry the judicial process today were the ones who were gloating over the humiliation suffered by Jaya in the uniform syllabus shenanigans. Thanks to that ruling today students read a history textbook that has a section titled "achievement of Hitler". Those who gloated then now find the shoe on the other foot. Jaya who is still smarting from that humiliation hesitated to question the Supreme court ruling or take any action that would invite potential wrath of SC. Finally she caved in. The TN assembly resolution is not worth the paper its written on and sets a very dangerous precedent for mob rule in questions of law. When Tamils get angry that Delhi called the resolution "not binding" and threaten secession they should remember that Salman Kurshid was merely acting constitutional.

The most shameful hypocrisy was Perarivalan's own clemency petition. He says as 19 year old he was attracted to EVR's ideology and that he supported 'anti-Brahminism". Then without batting an eyelid he cites V.R.Krishna Iyer's letter in support of his clemency petition. Today DK partisans refer to Krishna Iyer with reverence "noted legal luminary Krishna Iyer 'himself'..". If Krishna Iyer had said anything different these guys would not hesitate to lynch him and deride him with obscene epithets referring to Krishna Iyer's caste. Every time I think one cannot go further down in hypocrisy these guys show me a new nadir. By the way I wonder what makes a 19 year old boy hate an ethnic community. Maybe, as Karunanidhi wrote recently, if released he might he lead a 'reformed' life. Karunanidhi did not realise that that statement implies guilt, a fact violently disputed by his idolaters. R.Vaigai, daughter of noted communist leader P.Ramamurthy hails from a Brahmin family. I do hope Perarivalan gets released and realises to whom he owes his life to.

The most heinous hypocrisy is concerning Rajiv himself. I am yet to hear from anyone who supports the trio as innocent voice any remorse over the gruesome murder of a man. All this love for humane punishment is basically bollocks. I see tweets about how Rajiv turned a blind eye to the Sikh genocide. Yes it was shameful. But that does not mean his killing can be justified. The hypocrisy is even more cutting when one notes that none of these people called Rajiv shameful at that time for that. It was just Sikhs being killed in far off Delhi. One commentator made a chilling observation that because Rajiv was North Indian Tamils are keen to overlook his killing and shamelessly ask for clemency beyond the purview of law. Let me reiterate that I do not grudge any redress within the confines of the law. There are many valid grounds for questioning how justice was dispensed with.

Ram Jethmalani appearing for Kanimozhi cited her gender as reason to be enlarged on bail. Today Jethmalani adds that courts should listen  to people's voice. Jethmalani has gone senile. Every associate of Anna Hazare was brought under a microscope for any dirty linen to be discovered. Arundhati's article citing Ford Foundation funding for Kejriwal was widely circulated and tweeted.  Here is Jethmalani who earned the reputation of being "smugglers lawyer". Barring a few publicity seeking cases like Kehar Singh his clientele reads like a rogues gallery. Haji Mastan, Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh etc. The worst charade of Jethmalani was his U-turn of Afzal Guru. After having defended Guru saying he did not get a fair trial Jethmalani did a U-turn when he needed a BJP seat. In chilling words Jethmalani declared "What I had said was that such indoctrinated elements (like Afzal) shouldn’t be allowed to die easily, but they should made to rot in jails,” .  All for a Rajya Sabha ticket. If Jethmalani had appeared for the prosecution all this dirty laundry would be shouted from the rooftops by my Dravidian brethren.

When Arjun Singh, in a naked attempt to upstage Manmohan, implemented Mandal in IIT's it raised furore on both sides of the aisle. Those for it shrieked "what is sacred about IIT, do we need islands of excellence", "what is excellence after all, who decides it", "merit is a bogey". Today its IIT-ian Colin Gonsalves who is called for defense. After all did not V.P. Singh come scurrying to Memorial Sloan Kettering after proudly announcing the first Mandal doctor in AIIMS. Karunanidhi once acidly asked "what good is education" and then sent Maran to Houston. Dont we know these scumbags.

After surveying the endless list of hypocrisies I feel like asking, "at long last, Sir, have you no decency".

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rajiv Killers and The Death Penalty Debate

Michel Foucault in "Discipline and Punish:The Birth of the Prison" recounts in grisly detail the execution of Damiens, convicted of regicide, on March 2nd 1757. Torture is a mild word. Reading the details would churn our stomachs. A sample. "the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red hot pincers, his right hand burned with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead". The details continue for three pages.  US constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment". The journey towards that is a mark of civilization and it comes to a head on a pivotal question of what to do with a heinous criminal? What is just and humane punishment?

What are we to do with a killer who kills a defenseless child in the most gruesome manner? Can any parent forgive such a criminal? What are we to do with a Timothy McVeigh, executed for Oklohoma city bombing, whose intent was to kill innocent people including children? What are we to do with Satwant  Singh and Beant Singh who mercilessly unloaded several rounds of ammunition on an unarmed woman who had entrusted her own safety to them? What are we to do when a supposedly innocent Kehar Singh gets executed along with Satwant Singh?

Whether its US or India death penalty is not handed down lightly. Its reserved for the rarest of the rare cases and where the guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Recently all of USA was riveted watching the Casey Anthony murder case involving a mom accused of killing her two year old child. The jury came to a gut wrenching decision that Casey's guilt was not proved beyond doubt. Casey was acquitted, like O.J.Simpson, on all counts. The last time death penalty received wide notice in India was when a rapist who killed a child was hanged in Calcutta. Note, that none of the objectors today in Tamil Nadu voiced any note of protest other than the usual protests by liberals.

The case involving Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan has come to a climax after 21 years. 21 years ago Rajiv Gandhi, ex-PM and possible next PM of India, was murdered gruesomely by LTTE thugs. Without going into conspiracy theories around who else was involved lets just say that the key murderers are all dead (Sivarasan, Subha, Thanu, Pottu Amman and Prabakaran himself). As the murder trial wound its way to the Supreme court finally 4 were sentenced to death. To add drama one pair, Nalini and Murugan, gave birth to a child in captivity. Both were sentenced to death. This created ripples amongst legal circles and human rights activists. The Indian state faced prospect of 'creating' an orphan. Sonia Gandhi and her children out of great magnanimity decided to pardon the mother. When Nalini filed her mercy petition thanks to Sonia's forgiveness it was accepted. The remaining three petitions, as per then CM Karunanidhi's cabinet decision, was rejected. 

Neither me nor anybody other than those connected directly with the trial can say with any certainty about the merits of the case. However we all opine from what we learn through media reports, online sources etc. With that background one can safely conclude that Perarivalan, especially, had a very tangential role if at all. As is usual in India he was tortured mercilessly and made to sign papers. Arrested as a 19 year old he has languished in prison for 21 years. As a 40 year old he now faces the gallows on Sep 9th unless the High Court gives him reprieve tomorrow. Even if one were to ignore the confessions procured by torture and accepts his guilt his crime does not befit the punishment. He stands on par with Kehar Singh who was accused of being a co-conspirator in the Indira assassination case. Santhan's case appears to be more confused involving mistaken identity. Essentially in both of their cases their guilt is very circumstantial at best and at worst fabricated by the police. Seen either way it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to send them to the gallows.

The case against Nalini and Murugan appears to be more genuine. This is reflected in the current agitations clamoring for the release or commutation of death sentence for the trio. Most arguments start off with Perarivalan's coerced confessions, muddled proofs of Santhan and then reluctantly proceeds to include Murugan. When the arguments come to Murugan they take on more specious tones. That he has spent 21 years in prison is cited as punishment enough. That he was at worst an unsuspecting collaborator is promoted. Finally now his daughter has released a message from London pleading for clemency. This is where I break off with the so called Tamil enthusiasts. I don't know though what enthusiasm for Tamil has got to do with addressing evaluations of guilt in a gruesome murder. But then this is Tamil Nadu.

As for the clemency reason for Nalini I find it repugnant. She and her paramour Murugan (I am not sure if they were wedded at that time) decided to take part in a conspiracy to murder a high value target, here I am giving credence to the theory, for the sake of argument, that they are unsuspecting accomplices. In the midst of that they enjoyed marital bliss and Nalini got pregnant. They did not think of their child. The murder they helped orchestrate killed 10+ innocent bystander including an innocent Rajiv Gandhi. Today that child's plea for clemency is doing the rounds on the web. Has anybody thought about the children of the victims who were dirt poor themselves. Nalini's daughter is being educated in London today. Does anybody even know the names of the children of the victims other than Priyanka and Rahul? The case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg is pertinent to cite here. They were convicted of espionage in the most notorious trial in USA. Both, parents to small children, were sentenced to death. The children were later raised as orphans. Very tragic. Very sad BUT who is to be blamed here? If Murugan had a role to play he should be prosecuted. The death penalty should be carefully weighed depending on the crucial question of whether he was central to the conspiracy or an unwitting accomplice. On that score he should be spared and sentenced to life imprisonment. This is my second breaking point with the agitators.

Amongst the scores of protesters these sentences are now portrayed as some act by North Indians against innocent Tamils. That the rest of India is nonchalant about Sep 9th angers many a Tamil chauvinist. I remember how Ram Jethmalani used to scream about Kehar Singh's innocence in Indian Express. I don't remember any Tamil leader or activist writing anything against death penalty then. In a country like India there are very few issues that assume a pan-Indian quality and evoke a nationwide response. Also let me note here that when Mumbai was ripped by bomb blasts in 1993 Tamil Nadu was tranquil as if Mumbai was on a different planet.

Another relevant but very irritating point is the kind of  people who now pontificate about how death penalty is state sanctioned murder and how that is pure vengeance, not justice. A good majority of these newly minted anti-death-penalty protesters are unabashed, unapologetic worshippers of Prabakaran. Even now they refuse to acknowledge the reign of terror unleashed by Prabakaran against his opponents, Tamils and Sinhalese alike. Rajiv Gandhi, Premadasa, Amirthalingam, Alfred Duraiappa, Sabarathinam, Mathiah and an endless list of people were killed in cold blood. In a final shameful act of megalomania he held his own Tamil brethren as human shields and mercilessly ordered his cadre to mow down the fleeing people in the final days of 2009 war. Yet we never heard a squeak of protest from any of these peaceniks.

The arguments furthered by anti-death-penalty protesters are specious at best and at worst downright silly. One could always trust the redoubtable Subavee (an ex-TADA detainee) to provide some entertaining fodder. I always check (DK media) for news like this. Subavee in his smooth voice with a befriending smile offers an analogy. Subavee reasons that Indian law does not cut off the hand of an assailant just because the assailant had cut off the hand of a victim. Put simply law does not promote 'eye for an eye'. He reasons, therefore death penalty is barbarous since its vengeance seeking. The logic holds good on surface.

In USA, unlike India, the kin of victims can request to witness an execution of the convict. When Timothy McVeigh was executed the kin of a victim observed "I had to see it to convince myself that this monster is dead". Yes, there is a primal, sort of tribal even, instinct in this. Of course there is an element of vengeance. But its a much needed catharsis for the victims. However what Subavee fails to note is that as much as retribution in like is not practiced for other crimes death sentence also is NOT offered to every murderer. Death sentence is not given just because a life is lost. It is reserved for the most heinous acts.

When Godse had to be sentenced the question of the appropriateness of death sentence in a country that pays fealty to Gandhi was discussed intensely. Would Gandhi have pardoned Godse? It makes for good parlor discussion, like would Christ pardon Judas? This is the world we live in. There are monsters in this world. Recently the death penalty invited attention during the Afzal Guru case. Yet another case where the evidence is either circumstantial or practically foisted. Afzal Guru is sentenced to death in the Dec 2001attack on Indian parliament. Afzal Guru, being Muslim, attracted to his defense every self appointed custodian of Muslim interests in India, starting with, who else, Arundhathi Roy and our own Subavee. Subavee, for once is honest, in this video when he narrates how a Muslim organization that invited him to speak on behalf Afzal Guru later backtracked when Subavee asked them to join in abolishing death penalty altogether. Subavee, with a smile, says that the reason was simple, Middle east Islamic states practice death penalty very crudely.

The only valid argument against death penalty is that if a mistake happens its irrevocable. That said I don't consider the Indian form of 'life sentence', 9 years+, as sufficient punishment. The case of Megan Kanka in New Jersey is pertinent here. Megan, a 7 year old child, was molested and killed by her neighbor Jesse Timmendequas. Jesse was sentenced to die. While Jesse waited on death row New Jersey abolished death sentence. Jesse's sentence was commuted to life without parole. Jesse will never see the outside world.

A certain hypocrisy runs through this clamor for releasing the trio. I've not read or heard any Tamil columnist or opinion maker, including the current crop of bloggers, voice anything about death penalty so far. Today when a fellow traveler is indicted everyone is jumping up to action.

Most of these protesters, not coincidentally, were against Anna Hazare's protests and called Anna a blackmailer for compelling the parliament to enact his bill. Anna was advised to stick to constitutional methods. Today these protests are the result of people disliking what constitutional process has produced. The protests, rail roko etc, are patently unconstitutional and are nakedly blackmailing the government.

Calling a 19 year old girl's self-immolation as "courage" is shameful. Senkodi's act is a gross injustice to her parents. Tamil Nadu, thanks to Dravidian politics, has encouraged such stupidities. Leaders regularly commend such acts, reward the families. When would people learn that such acts get nothing. No leader or leader's kith and kin commit self immolation. Vaiko swore on the ashes of his cadre who committed self immolation that he would never align with DMK. Anbazhgan and MK extolled those who committed self immolation during anti-Hindi agitation. Needless to say what their children learnt.

In their zeal to release the trio most are rushing hither and thither like a blinded cyclops. The real issue is the rotten state of courts in India. That it took 11 years to adjudicate a mercy petition is grossly inhuman. That statements procured by torture and lapsed laws (TADA) were admitted in a court of law says much about Indian jurisprudence. Kehar Singh, Afzal Guru, Perarivalan are sad reminders of how justice is dispensed. I'd rather have the courts open a re-trial, conduct it expeditiously and transparently and free them without an iota of doubt. That's more honor to the wrongly convicted. These protests should be more for justice to be done not asking for mercy.

Let justice prevail.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anna Vs Arundhathi, Veeramani and Intelligentsia

Arundhati Roy, A JNU Prof, Veeramani and a host of others have unleashed a barrage of criticism, a virtual vitriolic out pour against a hapless septuagenarian who is tormenting his frail body and faces possible death. It is not very surprising to see intellectuals arrayed against this upsurge by the hoi-polloi. Anna has been accused of every imaginable political skulduggery and his motives are not only questioned but also maligned. The media frenzy is derided as corporate media that is cashing in on a craze. We suddenly find lovers of constitution rushing to the fore to protect a constitution that has been amended willy nilly for 100+ times in 64 years. We are lectured on how Jan Lokpal will undermine the constitutional liberties and create an unbridled agency.

Arundhati Roy who was fascinated by gun toting Maoists is horrified at a fasting Anna. That Maoists blew up schools, murdered policemen gruesomely, raped fellow comrades, smuggled arms and function as stooges of China does not bother her. Yet she is deeply worried about Anna's backers. Her article "I'd rather not be Anna" is a litany  of hypocrisies save for one paragraph were she worries about a street vendor. She freely indulges in guilt by association and much of the guilt she assigns is also due to her animosity towards her ideological opposites. That Arvind Kejriwal's organization received a grant from Ford Foundation is suspect in her eyes. By being associated with Kejriwal Anna too is tarnished on that account. The Ford Foundation, like numerous other US based foundations, does admirable philanthropy. That Kejriwal an IIT grad did not board a flight to US like his classmates and instead chose public service is a fact that does not even merit mention. A good rebuttal to Arundhati is at’d-rather-be-anna-than-arundhati/  As that blogger points out Arundhati's complaints like Anna being a 'new saint' etc are churlish. That Anna has not voiced an opinion on every issue under the sun irks Arundhati.

A JNU professor wrote the most shameful article on this. Titled "Ambedkar's way and Anna Hazare's methods" the column slanders that Lokpal is anti-Dalit. Prof Thorat says Dalits worry that Lokpal provisions would make Dalit employees vulnerable to complaints out of caste prejudice. He cites how many cases filed by Dalits under the "Prevention of atrocities act" is languishing. Thorat ignores the fact that the snail like judiciary is a separate problem. That such complaints are not investigated expeditiously is a part of a larger judiciary problem.

Professor Thorat waxes eloquently about how Ambedkar wanted Indians to adopt strictly constitutional methods to bring about social changes. Nothing gets my goat quite like that argument.  Reservation quota was initially stipulated for only 10 years, with no end in sight its been extended for 64 years (note that reservation has been in vogue in some form or other in TN since 1920's thats 90 years of quota). The constitution stipulates that the total quota should not exceed 50%. TN has 69% set aside in quota. This is where Veeramani, a neo-Nazi steps in.

Veeramani and his DK underlings organized meetings to prove how A.Raja is honest. Then during the first Anna Hazare fast Veeramani and his race baiting DK organized meetings vilifying Hazare. Raja is innocent. Hazare is a crook. Crucify Jesus. Release Barabbas. Veeramani started floating theories of, well what else but, Brahminical conspiracy. If Veeramani does not have bowel movements he will blame it on Cho Ramasamy. Veeramani is worried about how Hazare is blackmailing the government by fasting. What always confounds me is Veeramani's absolute lack of a sense of irony. Having pilloried Hazare for blackmailing the government by mobilizing people, Veeramani, without batting an eyelid, today, calls for a war against Kapil Sibal for wanting to introduce entrance exams. He issues a clarion call for a war and he wants to wage 'war' to such an extent that no Forward Community member is ever again appointed as education minister:

ஒடுக்கப்பட்ட மக்களின் கழுத்தை அறுக்கும் இந்தத் திட்டத்தை கருவிலேயே முறியடிக்கும் முயற்சியில் நாடாளுமன்றத்தில் உள்ள தாழ்த்தப்பட்ட, பிற்படுத்தப்பட்ட மற்றும் சிறுபான்மை சமூகத்தைச் சேர்ந்த உறுப்பினர்கள், பூகம்பப் புயலாக எழுந்து நின்று முறியடிக்க வேண்டும். குறிப்பாக கல்வி அமைச்சர் பதவி என்பது உயர் ஜாதியினரிடமே  இருக்கவே கூடாது என்கிற அளவுக்கும் பிரச்சினையை முழு வீச்சில் முடுக்கி விட வேண்டும். 

Whether its Ramadoss or the Gujjar's when violent agitations were launched to get quotas nobody winced or wondered about governments being blackmailed. Ramadoss's stooges justified the whole sale felling of trees and mayhem that he unleashed to get quotas.

Prof Thorat says Ambedkar is wary of Indians succumbing to hero worship due to our cultural roots. Thorat wonders how else would a yoga teacher get so many followers. Here Thorat, like most intellectuals, tends to look down upon the religious minded. Thorat ignores the fact that Indians hero-worship not only out of religious reasons. Rajnikant is hero worshipped in TN. Veeramani , who also has been presenting Anna's crusade as anti-Dalit, is practically living off of a cult worship of E.V.R. EVR encouraged his followers to erect his statues while he was alive. EVR reveled in inaugurating his statues. Of course lets ignore the fact that they call themselves 'Rationalists". Jayakanthan once acidly remarked, "DK people are not atheists, their god is EVR". To complete the irony today Ambedkar himself is the most sacrosanct  idol.

Today the constitution gets so many well intentioned protectors. Where we these people when a destitute Muslim woman, Shah BanoRajiv Gandhi with his 450+ brute majority in Lok Sabha amended the constitution to override the Supreme Court ruling. Arundhati Roy and Gnani breathlessly ask "what about Irom Sharmila who is fasting for years together and is being force fed". Anna touched a problem to which every Indian could relate. Irom Sharmila took a problem that is purely localized. Naturally the outpouring of support is different.

The middle class hypocrisy is another accusation. People wonder why has the middle class suddenly woken up. A New York Times article, by an Indian origin author, berates the middle class that it is not entirely impeccable on questions of integrity. In a country like India it is almost impossible to be honest every dealing. Yes the middle class indulges in bribery of RTO's to get drivers licenses, bribes a policeman, bribes a government employee (who in turn is middle class himself) etc etc. The middle class that has chafed under this system and is now crying ENOUGH. Political corruption engenders bureaucratic corruption.

Doctors in government hospital in Sankaran kovil were directed to collect money for a function organized in honor of Stalin. Where would the doctor get the money. of course from patients. When I narrated this to a Veeramani worshipper, here in USA, the answer was a glib "they could have written a letter to CM's cell and it would have been stopped". I was left speechless at the fanatical ideological blinders of this guy. While the incident in Sankarankovil illustrates how political corruption is the fountain head the reaction by this party man also shows how dangerously corrupted India is. When A.Raja landed in Madras after his resignation Veeramani organized what he called a "rousing reception". A.Raja is innocent until proven guilty but to celebrate the arrival of a ex-minister who had to resign on prima-facie charges of corruption shows how venal the society's leaders are.

Without Lok Ayuktha would Yeddyurappa have resigned? As I wrote earlier the constitution actually protects the ruling class from the reach of the hands of law. As the Bard said in Hamlet, "plate sin with gold and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks". Some ask would not existing laws suffice. Existing laws are not just insufficient they shielded Jaya , they shielded Raja for more than 2 years. That CBI could not even properly investigate him until the Prime Minister granted permission is ridiculous. We are told that Lok Pal is not a cure all panacea. Of course not. Independence of investigating agencies etc are talked about. Nobody can disagree with that. The day the CBI can investigate the Home Minister if needed is when they would have attained complete independence. Somewhere a beginning is to be made. Anna has lit the fire for that.

Nandan Nilekani's interview to CNN-IBN got wide notice for his quote that Anna's movement will not solve everything and very justifiably draws attention to the fact that systems need to be changed. Nilekani correctly identifies that many of the red tape systems we have provides a fertile ground for corruption. His remark on Anna received wide publicity but what most tended to gloss over was Nandan's even more astute observation that corruption of the astronomical scale is incorrectly attributed to privatization and the economic reforms. Nilekani put his finger on the problem saying that the recent scams were all in areas where thhe government had a role to play as buyer or seller. Economic liberalization in many areas has unleashed productivity and lifted hundreds of thousands out of poverty.

That brings me to the final question, will this Lokpal solve corruption completely. Not even the illiterate think it so. Badri Seshadri (founder of cricinfo) a prominent publisher and blogger narrated an exchange his friend had with two government employees from UP. One employees parents had died in an accident and he was able to get their bodies only after bribing officials. He stated beautifully:

“அண்ணா ஹஸாரே, ஜன் லோக்பால் என்கிறாரே, இதெல்லாம் உங்களுக்குப் புரிகிறதா?”
“இல்லை. அதெல்லாம் எங்களுக்கு அவ்வளவாகப் புரியாது.”
“அப்படியென்றால் எதற்காக உண்ணாவிரதத்தில் கலந்துகொள்ள வந்திருக்கிறீர்கள்?”
“உங்களுக்குத் தெரியாது... என் தாயும் தந்தையும் விபத்தில் இறந்து அந்த உடல்களை வாங்க நான் எவ்வளவு லஞ்சம் கொடுக்கவேண்டிவந்தது, எவ்வளவு கஷ்டப்படவேண்டியிருந்தது என்று. நீங்கள் எல்லாம் பையில் காசைப் போட்டு வேலைக்காரனிடம் கொடுத்தனுப்பி உங்கள் வேலைகளைச் செய்துகொள்பவர்கள். உங்களுக்குத் தெரியாது நாங்கள் தினம் தினம் படும் கஷ்டம். அண்ணா ஹஸாரே எங்களுக்காகப் போராடுகிறார். அதனால் லஞ்சம் தீர்ந்துவிடுமா என்றால் தெரியாது. ஆனால் ஒருவேளை தீர்ந்துவிட்டால்? அதனால்தான் வந்திருக்கிறோம். எத்தனை நாள் ஆனாலும் பரவாயில்லை. எனக்குச் சம்பளமே கிடைக்காவிட்டாலும் பரவாயில்லை. அவருடன் இருப்போம். மேலும் இன்னொரு விஷயம். அவர் நல்லவர்.”

That is all people expect from this. If there are issues with what Anna proposes lets talk about it. If Anna becomes delusional with all this publicity lets discard him then. All that he has accomplished is to rouse a nation. Even if one were to be overwhelmed by the frenzy so what. This is not frenzy over a multi-million dollar Super Star movie. This is not frenzy over a megalomaniac chief minister organizing a language conference for self glorification. This frenzy is towards something that all can agree upon. The country is vibrant enough to channelize this. What angers me most is that people are ridiculing a person who has put his life on the line for a laudable initiative. He sure has warts, who does not. But he rises above that and what is most important for once a leader has called upon Indians to stand up for something good. God bless that frail soul.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Road to 9/11: Fundamentalism Run Amuck

In the days after 9/11 it was fashionable to say "we condemn the atrocity but..." and then lecture down to America that America practically invited the attack. The reasons offered were projections of each persons own animosity towards America. Ranging from Sujatha Ranagarajan writing for a South Indian vernacular magazine to Noam Chomsky, considered the greatest genius in Cognitive psychology, the advices were variations of a meme: America's super power attitude, propping up dictatorial regimes, middle east policy, military adventurism etc. That the 19 suicide attackers left no note made it convenient for each person to trot out his or her own theory as to why they did it. Recently I finished reading Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer winning "The Looming Tower:Al Qaeda and The Road To 9/11". Around the same time Osama's killing happened and Washington Post published an article titled "Five Myths about Osama Bin Laden". The first myth was that Osama was trained by CIA.

A columnist for Frontline, a fortnightly from Chennai, helpfully wrote about the possible motivations of the hijackers, "Betrayal of the Palestinians, the destruction of Iraq! One can reasonably assume that these two great devastations of the Arabo-Muslim world were vivid in the memory of those 19 hijackers on September 11 this year". (Note the Iraq war the author refers here is the 1991 Gulf War that was fully supported by UN, Gulf States etc). Palestine. Iraq. Support of US to middle east potentates were all the most repeated reasons.

Lawrence Wright, based on extensive interviews and deep research, unravels the puzzle of who the actors and what were  their 'possible' motivations. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches I thought I shall write a few blogs on this topic and allied issues not just as a book review but as a history that not many are aware of and would lack the patience to accumulate by reading a 600 page book (its a page turner).

The suppression of free speech, the military state etc are offered as reasons that fueled terrorism since legitimate expression of dissent was prohibited. The support offered by US to such middle east oligarchies notably the Saudi Royal family is cited as cause. Bollocks.

Anger at suppression of democracy or democratic processes was the least of concerns for the hijackers or Al Qaeda. In fact Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Azzam all pay fealty to fundamentalist Wahhabi sect that was founded by US educated Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid Qutb quit USA only because he was disgusted that USA was un-Islamic. Most left wing people who espouse social justice, affirmative action etc decried what they called US hegemony and used 9/11 to pillory US. What is worse is that they did not realize that Al Qaeda'a intellectual godfather Sayyid Qutb,Wright notes, hated egalitarianism. Qutb used to quote the Koran, "we have created you class upon class".

Sayyid Qutb rebelled against Nasser, not for more democracy, but because he said Nasser's Egypt was not Islamic enough and required to be overthrown. Sayyid was arrested, tortured and finally hanged.

Anwar Sadat is supposed to have told Golda Meir, "if you make peace with me you will go back to Israel a hero. If I make peace with you when I go back to Egypt I will be assassinated". Sadat's wife had made it easier for women to get divorce. Sadat, after the Yom Kippur War, made historical peace with Israel. His prophecy came true tragically. Sadat was assassinated. How was his killing justified? How did they justify killing a fellow Muslim? Sayyid Qutb's ideology of 'takfir' helped. By declaring that a muslim has become un-islamic by his/her acts, a takfir, the respective person is removed from being protected as a fellow muslim. Wright acidly notes, "the pious Anwar Sadat was the first pro-medern victim of the reverse logic of takfir".

Democracy was repugnant to the followers of Qutb. "Democracy was un-islamic. Therefore anyone who voted was an apostate and forfeited his life". Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian Nobel laureate, was declared an 'infidel' and suffered a near fatal knife attack.

Often the apologists for terrorism speak fondly of how youth get attracted to terrorism due to lack of education and opportunities in life. Wright quotes a study of political prisoners in 1970's Egypt, "majority were sons of middle-level government officials, educated in science and engineering,...,They were not the alienated, marginalized youth that a sociologist might expect. While tomes are written excoriating the CIA coup in Iran to install the Shah as examples of US hegemony and US support of totalitarian regimes little have we heard on how Islamists engineered a coup in Sudan to install a Islamic regime. It is Sudan that was home later to Bin Laden before he ventured to Afghanistan.

In the murky world of middle east the attempt on Mubarak was another watershed event. Egyptian police abused a thirteen year old boy and blackmailed him into infiltrating Zawahiri's organization that was suspected of a hand in the attempt on Mubarak. The boy and another friend were used by Egyptian agencies to kill Zaawahiri and his associates in Sudan during a meeting. Sudanese intelligence discovered the plot and the boys were abandoned by the Egyptians. Many members of Al Qaeda objected to putting the boys on trial. Zawahiri, to prove that the boys had attained manhood, stripped them and then shot them. The boys confession and shooting was videotaped. The outrage infuriated the Sudanese government which chased Zawahiri out.

Bin Laden's own journey was an odyssey that culminated in 9/11. Incidentally, Wright says, Bin Laden hated Yasser Arafat. In Bin Laden's opinion Arafat was a secular and not islamic enough.

The presence of American troops in Saudi after the 1991 Persian Gulf War is cited consistently by Bin Laden as something that offended him. It did not matter that American army was stationed in Suadi at the behest of the government which feared Saddam more. Bin Laden loathed the fact that the gulf states took US help to stop Saddam Hussein. Incidentally Bin Laden hated Saddam (Iraq was more westernized than any other gulf state). Bin Laden tried convincing the Saudi king that he would stop Saddam with his mujahideens from Afghanistan. By the way nowhere in the book Wright establishes any link between CIA and Bin Laden (a fact confirmed by Peter Bergen, the only US journalist who interviewed Bin Laden).

What not many lay readers know is that Americans troops stationed in Saudi, not anywhere near Mecca, is nothing compared to how French troops entered Mecca itself at the behest of Saudi king. In 1979, yet another Islamist group, took Mecca by siege during Haj period. It shook the Islamic world. Saudi King after vacillating and unable to clear the holiest shrine invited French troops who then entered Mecca where no non-Muslim could ever go. (Saudi Arabia denies this happened). For something that the US had nothing to do with Khomeini blamed US and for good measure blamed Israel too. Needless  to say Anti-American demonstrations including burning down of an embassy ensued. It was the Bin Laden family that provided vital clues to the French on the building details.

An event that crystallized Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization was, according to Wright, the botched bombing in Amen on Dec 29th 1992. The bombing was supposed to kill American soldiers going to Somalia as part of an international relief effort to that impoverished country. The bomb went off but killed no American. A Yemeni and and and Australian had died. Bin Laden's deputy and mentor, Abu Hajer, justified it based on a fatwa by Ibn Tamiyyah. In a chilling rationale that defied any sane logic killing of innocents was justified. Wright, ends the chapter with a ominous note, "Al Qaeda would concentrate not on fighting armies but on killing civilians".

The last chapter, titled, "Revelations" rounds it all of. On 9/12, the day after the carnage, Soufan a Muslim FBI agent went to interrogate Abu Jandal who was apprehended for the Nairobi Embassy bombing. Abu Jandal, Wright says, 'was confounded by Soufan and what he represented: A Muslim who could argue religion with him, who was in the FBI, who loved America'. Sofan asked about the innocent women and children who died in that bombing. In particular Soufan asks about a woman on a bus 'who was clutching her baby, trying to protect him from the flames. Both had been incinerated'. Jandals reply was "God will give them rewards in the Hereafter". About them being innocent he reasoned cruelly, that the bombings took place on a Friday when Muslims were supposed to have been in mosques. If she was not in a mosque what was she doing on a bus. She was not a Muslim then but a 'takfir' and deserved to die.

Time and again the recurrent theme in the biography of each actor is a fiendish fundamentalism that cloaked itself in causes that were never consistent or helpful to the people they were supposed to help. Palestine, American imperialism etc were all fig leaf causes only to hide their desire of establishing a Caliphate. Re-establishing an Ottoman style Caliphate was their desire. In a post cold-war world the only remaining obstacle was USA.

No wonder Lawrence Wright got a Pulitzer for a landmark book. Wright patiently pieces together the jigsaw puzzle and leads us through the twisted world of terrorism. I shall continue with a couple more blogs. The 9/11 hijackers chose to meet in Hamburg for a reason. After 9/11 US citizenry was aghast at how agencies did not share information. The reasons for that and more await a little.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anna Hazare and Ambedkar's constitution

As I was mulling over the Hazare drama that unfolded over a day I picked up Donald Kagan's "Pericles of Athens and the birth of democracy". Kagan, Yale history professor, is the foremost authority on the Peloponnessian war and Athenian history. Kagan states democracies "need to meet three conditions if they are to flourish. The first is to have a set of good institutions; the second is to have a body of citizens who possess a good understanding of the principles of democracy;the third is to have a high quality of leadership, at least at critical moments". India suffers from a serious deficiency of the first and the third conditions leading to an erosion of the second.

I remember vividly the attempts by Subramanian Swamy to prosecute Jayalalitha based on prima facie evidence. His stumbling block was the Indian constitution that made it necessary for a litigant to get the 'permission' of the Governor to prosecute a Chief Minister. India's constitution framers retained the feudal mindset of protecting the ruling elites despite overthrowing feudal colonialism. While the framers of US constitution agonized over separation of powers and checks and balances the framers of Indian constitution gladly concentrated power in the hands of very few with no checks. Paula Jones, a literal nobody, sued the US  President who is often referred to as the most powerful man on earth. Bill Clinton had to testify before a grand jury. He was reprimanded too for his perjury. Let's not nitpick his impeachment and find faults with the US system. What is to be gleaned here is that a common woman could sue and bring to court the President. There is no constitutional bar. If Americans, even in 1776, were told that a President is beyond the reach of the law until he demits office in order to maintain decorum, they would reject it outright as laughable.

The Karnataka spectacle was shameful. That a corrupt chief minister had to be cajoled into leaving office is despicable. What is even worse is that he could dictate the choice of his successor. Corruption and politics are inseparable in any corner of the world. US politicians have paid a high price for corruption. Governors and Congressmen have been charged and sent to jail.

The Lok Pal exemption of the Prime Minister is ridiculous. The excuses given for the protection are childish. It is said that the office of  PM is dignified and hence should not be subject to litigation. The dignity of an office is in the transparency not in how the office holder is shielded. As always, national interest, is another excuse trotted out. We are told that foreign powers would instigate law suits and destabilize the country. Silly. It shows a complete lack of faith in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. The ever present excuse is that PM should be protected from frivolous law suits. Yet again it shows a complete lack of faith in the judiciary.

Every August 15th a handful of Tamil bloggers with DK/DMK allegiance would decry India's independence and the Union itself. A throwback to the Dravidanadu days of C.N.Annathurai. Their chief grouse is the many shortcomings of the Indian state. Kashmir, step motherly treatment of North East, Tamil Nadu's perennial riparian problems with neighboring states etc. Nobody has paused to reflect on the simple fact that their beloved idol Ambedkar is the architect of a shoddy constitution from which all these flaws emanate from. Ambedkar learned law in Columbia University under the aegis of none other than John Dewey.

That Indira Gandhi could dismiss governments at will, that corrupt ministers cannot be prosecuted by an independent authority, that government servants can never be fired for any misdeed, that authority is centralized with no respect for federalism etc etc are all features of the constitution is lost on many. It took just 3 days for Indian parliament to ratify the constitution. That Indira Gandhi could paralyze democracy by declaring Emergency signed off by a pusillanimous parliament and a weasel of a President is a shameful feature.The ratification of US constitution itself is worth volumes of Pulitzer prize winning books. The furious debate, the Federalist Papers, the anti-Federalist papers are all stories worth reading and learning from. Sadly, even a US educated lawyer failed to give his countrymen a good constitution. Every so called safe guard in the Indian constitution has caused more havoc than serving the intended good purpose. 

The founding fathers of US agonized endlessly over writing laws in such a manner as to avoid a monarchy. They deeply distrusted human nature to do good. The very Bill of Rights was written only because they felt that rights were not sufficiently guarded in the original constitution. 

How many of us have reflected on the fact that Indian Penal Code is very draconian and gives very wide powers to the police? Pre-emptive arrests alone exceeded 1000+ yesterday. That a government can arrest people preemptively before they start a peaceful protest is an anachronism in civilized world. When the Patriot Act was passed in USA, addressing serious loopholes in national security, it was debated hotly to protect individual rights. It is still not set in stone. The act needs to be renewed by the Congress. Rajiv Gandhi passed TADA without a murmur of protest. NSA, MISA, TADA, POTA all were done within the framework of the Indian constitution. Remember it was the Supreme Court that sanctioned suspending habeas corpus during Emergency. Habeas Corpus is considered the corner stone modern law. Even today a producer of a stage play has to submit his/her script to the local police station in order to secure permission to stage the play. A remnant from the British Raj days when dramas were considered seditious. 

Ambedkar. US framers were particular in designing a system of polity that was very unlike the British. Whereas Indian framers were content to mostly do a copy and paste of various constitutions finally rendering a mish-mash. Until a recent high court ruling the common man in India could not fly his national flag whereas every minister and government functionary could. In Ambedkar's constitution retains the spirit of the colonial midst that thee rulers are to be judged by a different law if at all they are to be judged.The Indian constitution fully qualifies for the cliche that what is good is not original and what is original is not good. 

In fact I wonder what if any is Ambedkar's original thinking other than the quota system. Even that was not designed well. It was originally envisaged only for 10 years. Its in vogue for 64 years. The constitution stipulated that quota should not exceed 50%. Tamil Nadu has a draconian 69% and is tucked sneakily into the 9th Schedule.

Ahhh the 9th schedule. ONLY the Indian constitution has got a section of the laws walled off from judicial review. 9th Schdule is non-justiciable. The 9th schedule was created to prevent judicial review of the Urban land ceiling act. Protecting ULCA from judicial review was necessary in order to prevent courts from overturning laws that were promulgated to redress the Zamindari system. Today that spirit of 9th schedule is violated and the 9th schedule is used as a catch all bucket for any legislation that Parliament does not want the courts to review. The inclusion of TN's oppressive quota regime is pending before a constitution bench for over a decade.

Most of the ills that plague Indian politics can thus be traced to an effete constitution written by unimaginative people who were only fit to be clerks. Everything highlighted above has contributed to corrupting every facet of the society. Indira's dismissal of Farooq Abdullah fomented Kashmir's problems. Quotas have generated the most shameful vote bank politics. Stifled freedom of opinion has often suffocated ideas and engendered mediocrity. 

A tamil blogger today tweeted "A taste of Indian democracy for the middle class, arrest of Anna Hazare". What eventually happened was UPA getting a taste of democracy. The upsurge in spontaneous protests brought the gargantuan Indian state to its knees to release Hazare. This is democracy at its best moment. It is extremely shameful that Harvard educated Chidambaram, Harvard law school alumnus Kapil Sibal and Oxford educated Manmohan Singh have perpetrated this despicable arrest. 

At the end of the day whether its Columbia educated Ambedkar or these Harvard and Oxford alumni they all remained just Indians at soul and never learned anything from their US education. I don't know if its a failure of education or of the pupils. That they had lived in societies far more free has done nothing to their spirits to give their fellow countrymen good governance or the framework for it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Theory of Relativity, The Nazis and Soviet Russia.

A scientist, especially Nobel Laureates and heads of premier research institutions, is held in awe by the common man. A man of science is thought of as rational, one who rises 'above' common passions and prejudices. However a cursory reading of the lives of scientists would dispel that myth. At the end scientists, too, are just human beings.

I am now reading "The Born-Einstein Letters:1916 - 1955" edited by Max Born. This is a collection of correspondences between physicist Max Born, his wife Hedi and Albert Einstein. Its a charming book that does not tax the reader but nevertheless leaves one enriched. I love to read anything about Einstein and hence I am not a stranger to the many controversies of the period that the letters portray but the personal narrative brings such distant happening to an immediacy. 

Anti-semitism, hating Jews, is often thought of as unique to Germany, thanks to Holocaust. Even more simplistically many think that Jews were persecuted by just Hitler and his bigoted ideology that the Germans took a fancy for under turbulent times. Anti-semitism has deep roots in Europe (and USA too!!!!). When Einstein, an unknown worker in an office for issuing patents, shook the scientific world in 1905 with his paper "Special Theory of relativity" he burst into the international scene. Finally when he published, in 1915, "the general theory of relativity",  he practically redefined the world for eternity. Problem was he was a Jew. 

As early as 1920 Philip Lenard, Nobel Prize winner in 1905 for his research on cathode rays, spearheaded several German scientists in a blistering nakedly anti-Semitic attack on Einstein. Lenard was a member of the Nazi party and chairman of "Aryan Physics". Lenard and many other's attacked TOR (Theory of Relativity) as a "Jewish Conspiracy". Irving Wallace, researching for his book ' The Prize' about Nobel's, discovered that Lenard was instrumental in making the Nobel committee to award the prize to Einstein not for relativity but for his lesser known papers on Photoelectric effect and Brownian motion. The prize was inevitable after Eddington in a spectacular experiment had proved the curvature of space as predicted by the General TOR. 

TOR fared even worse in Soviet Russia. In a letter dated 12th August 1929, Born writes to Einstein seeking help for a Russian physicist, Rumer. Born writes "Rumor, left Russia because relativists are treated badly there (truly!). The Theory of relativity is thought to contradict the official materialist philosophy and, as I've already been told by Joffe, its adherents are persecuted". TOR was thought to contradict the central tenet of determinism of dialectical materialism that ruled the roost in Soviet communist era. Born adds a detailed note to the letter. Rumor had been deported for espousing TOR to some Gulag near the Arctic ocean. "After the death of Stalin he received a telegram" freeing him and recalling him back to Moscow. Rumer was appointed head of an institute and became a loyal communist. Born says Rumer later wrote to him extolling the virtues of communism and how "Soviet system is superior to Western institutions, not only politically and economically, BUT ALSO MORALLY". 

Incidentally Soviet Russia also disliked genetics and frowned on Gregor Mendel for the same reasons as they objected to TOR. Science was an ideological football in Russia. School students learned only the Mendeleev periodic table (based on atomic weight) and not the modern periodic table (based on atomic number). I remember my school chemistry textbook detailing key difference between Mendeleev's and Modern periodic tables and how the latter addresses certain defects of Mendeleev's table.

Scientists are often the worst offenders of the tenets of science. However throughout history eventually science, and truth, often triumph in the end.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Narendra Modi: Redeeming himself and Gujarat.

I never thought I'd come to write a blog like this one. But that's the charm of life. A recent spate of articles and, in my opinion, a key development made me re-evaluate Narendra Modi and come round to accepting him.

Economist magazine recently heaped praise on Modi as the force behind making Gujarat India's Guangdong, China's prosperous outpost. The article starts with a bang, "So many things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India". Gujarat outstrips the national GDP.Economist points out that with just 5% of the country's population Gujarat accounts for 22% of India's exports and 16% of India's industrial output.The article attests to an 'effective bureaucracy'. An industrialist vouches that he could set up a factory without paying bribes. A distinct wonder in corruption ridden India. In an article in Feb Economist again drew attention to Modi, "Gujarat and its controversial leader". The state, Economist points out, has surplus electricity which it sells to other states.

A February 8th 2011 report in New York Times, "Narendra Modi, a Divisive Indian Official Loved by Business" states, "compared with most other states, Gujarat has smoother roads and less garbage next to streets. More than 99% of Gujarat's village have electricity compared to 85% nationally". NYT too specifies how Modi brought down corruption by making many services online and works like a chief executive. NYT cites businessmen, "he gives promising people positions of responsibility...non-performers are pushed aside". This Feb 8th 2011 article also ominously said "in another state considered pro-business, Tamil Nadu in the south, the ruling party, D.M.K., has been dogged by accusations of corruption". A US based trade group member sums it up "If you are an investors in India, Gujarat must be at the top of your list". Just ask Ratan Tata who was chased out of west Bengal by that shrew of a politician Mamata.

A key moment of re-evaluating Modi came when he invited Narayana Murthy to head an 'incubation' center for future entrepreneurs. In neighboring Tamil Nadu Murthy would be tarnished as a "Kanadiga Brahmin", a double negative. To see an Indian politician talk to a top business man about ideas and invite him to lead an institute to create entrepreneurs to "create wealth" is a refreshing sight amidst pygmies who ride to power on freebies and indulge in mindless blather of distributing wealth with no idea of how to create it in the first place.

What finally compelled me to write was a feature in Rediff, borrowed from Business Standard, titled "Modi: Iron man to ladies' man with focus on growth" . Modi has launched a program 'Mission Mangalam', that will be a database, a giant employment exchange, of skilled and unskilled labor. Linking that mission with SHG (Self help group) he aims to tap into unused and unpaid labor of rural women. His health schemes are not palliative freebies for sloganeering but read like well thought out policy proposals. Gujarat's budget for women and child welfare, Business Standard says, has gone up from Rs 300 crores in 2007 to Rs1,281 crores in 2011.

BUT what is common to every article extolling progress in Gujarat is one criticism. Whether its economist or NYT or Business Standard or BusinessWeek every article draws attention to the Gujarat riots that makes Modi a lightning rod for criticism. US famously refused visa to Modi on grounds of religious intolerance, thanks in no small measure to some hectic lobbying by self declared secular Indians in USA. Modi still addressed the meeting, a Gujarathi cultural meeting, by video conferencing.

Getting over the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots is what sickens anybody's stomach. How do you bring yourself to vote for a man who sat in CM's office while 1000+ Muslims, including many women and children, were butchered? Including a sitting Member of the Parliament. How do we turn a blind eye to Ishrat Jahan's death? How do we vote looking beyond the fact that a guy, who bragged in a TV documentary that he slit open a pregnant Muslim woman's belly, is still at large?

I now venture into a territory that stinks. What I say would appear as rationalizing or excusing but I can vouch its not.

Lets take a step back into time. When Delhi burned after Indira's assassination Rajiv's reply was "the earth is bound to shake when a large tree falls". Top brass from Congress, roamed the city with murderous goons and systematically killed 3000 innocent Sikhs. 25 years later, with a Sikh Prime minister, not a single leader has been convicted in court. Indira Gandhi was warned not to conduct elections in Assam which was seething with anger and divisiveness. Indira plowed ahead and the result was unspeakable horror in Nellie. Indira and later Rajiv brought order Punjab by burying human rights. K.P.S.Gill notorious for encounter killings is celebrated as 'super cop'. Does anybody remember the case of "Jodhpur detainees".Karunanidhi was warned not to name bus corporations with Dalit names. He proceeded and Madurai burned for a week. Finally the entire practice was abolished. An entire village was ransacked and women raped when policemen went in search of forest brigand Veerappan. In Karnataka an entire village was kept under TADA and tortured for the same reason.

What use is all this vaunted administrative efficacy if it could not stop a bloodletting? However its patently unfair to judge Gujarat riots in isolation especially divorcing it from GodhraTehelka telecast an interview of boastful murderers lets note that there was no Tehelka to hold Congress ministers to account for so many riots that happened not just under their watch but also because of them. Excoriating Modi endlessly smacks a tad of hypocrisy.

Modi's detractors in Tamil Nadu are mostly DMK/DK supporters who suffer from selective amnesia. When I see a DMK supporter crying full throated in defense of secularism and probity in defending lives I puke. DMK shamelessly aligned with Indira many times including immediately after Emergency. Most ironically DMK was very shamelessly aligned with BJP just to spite Jaya and to foot Murasoli Maran's medical bills.

That Modi comes from humble backgrounds and is a provincial leader is his drawback. In the absence of any pan-Indian leader within BJP and in view of Manmohans's effete leadership that is bedeviled by scabs of corruption maybe it is Modi's time. Lets watch.