Archive for July, 2013


The other day, the editor, of the newspaper I work for, got a call from an irate reader who blasted him for missing a story on Narendra Modi. The Chief Copy Editor who was monitoring stories for the page and I missed the three or four paragraph story which was flashed on the wire at around 9 pm. In journalistic parlance it was a miss. It happens often. We usually let out the F word, castigate ourselves, and continue with our work. It’s not the end of the world. However, when the Editor told me about the reaction of the reader, it sounded like the reader almost said, “How dare you miss the story on Narendra Modi?”

The Editor tried telling him that we have always been carrying reports on Modi – for and against, and more for than against – and this one was an inadvertent miss, nothing else. But the reader was furious. It didn’t surprise me. The reaction is as bad as the one you get from sycophants of Rahul Gandhi, who won’t hear a word against their Prince Charming – like the Renuka Choudharys, Manish Tewaris and Sanjay Jhas of the world. At least they are a lot more civil in their use of language. The reaction of the Narendra Modi Fan Club, on the other hand, borders on the extreme, often (though not in this particular instance) from the abrasive to the vituperative, with no restraint on the language – MC, BC, TMK etc – which I am sure even Modi would not encourage. I sometimes read exchanges between pro and anti Modi groups and some of the language used by both makes me cringe.

I am no fan of the Congress Party or the Nehru-Gandhi clan either. I believe the party has done more damage to the ‘secular’ fabric of this country than the so called right-wing BJP did (if any) in the five years that it ruled. Their so-called sympathy for the Muslims and the oppressed classes is nothing but a squalid vote-grabbing exercise. And even the communities mentioned here have to be blind and stupid not to see that. If the Congress genuinely believed in secularism and support for the oppressed classes, both these ‘communities’ would have progressed. But they are still living off government dole. And politicians and religious leaders in their own communities are ensuring that they remain where they are with little or no change in their social status. What is unfortunate is very few have tried to break out of the state of deprivation they have been subjected to.

You can blame the upper class Brahmin for denying the backward classes their share of the pie. But you also have to remember that a majority of those upper class Brahmins, including the redoubtable Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru were part of the Congress Party that has ruled this country for over 60 years, which swore by the poor and on its so called secular credentials. The truth is it did little. If it had done something substantial, a majority of Indians wouldn’t be in the sorry state they are in today.  And the government would not be resorting to Food Bills, subsidies and reservations to keep those communities on their side. And when it comes to the secular talk, let’s not forget the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, where a Congress prime minister looked on indulgently as mobs ran riot through Delhi and various other parts of India. Does ‘secular’, according to the Congress, mean only appeasing the Muslims?  You can blame the BJP for the Babri Masjid demolition but you have to also remember that it was a Congress prime minister who actually did nothing to stop it.

And like the Congress, the BJP too cannot change history. Whatever happened in Gujarat is a fact. Whether Modi had a hand in it, is for the courts to decide. As for the puppy and ‘nationalist Hindu’ remarks, I think a lot of people deliberately misinterpreted the analogies, just like they deliberately misread Shashi Tharoor’s ‘cattle class’ tweet. And others just climbed on to the bandwagon! Whether it was an accidental or a deliberate attempt by Modi (the attached cartoon by Sakal Times cartoonist Alok Nirantar is a good indicator) to polarise voters, and whether it could do more harm than good to his electoral chances, is for him and his party to figure out as 2014 nears. The jury is still out on that one.

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But his shouting brigade should stop behaving like he is already prime minister. When members of his own party are working against him, the least these clowns, who have anointed themselves his public relations department, can do is to temper their own reactions. Forget criticism, they cannot even accept a newspaper editor’s apology for missing a story on Modi! And these guys criticise the Congress government for being dictatorial! Not that the BJP has ever claimed to be ‘secular’ party. But since they have always been venting against the Congress for the manner in which it has been run all these years, I am surprised by the hysterical reaction of the Modi fan club against anything said about their leader.

The media will continue to write for and against Modi, as the case may be. I don’t think it needs lessons on propriety and free speech from his fan club. When the media has not spared the prime minister for his silence, why should they spare Modi for his puppy talk?

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The Supreme Court verdict on dance bars is just the slap the Maharashtra Government needed to realise that a ban is hardly the solution to (what it believes is) a problem. Unfortunately, whether it is a State government or the one at the Centre, both believe in inflicting on citizens (as Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said) a remedy that is usually worse than the cure. The government and its various arms are unable to do their jobs, so the easiest way out is to ban what they cannot control – and this, with all the infrastructure, manpower and machinery at their disposal.

What is even more ridiculous is the reaction of some politicians, and women among them. They claim that the opening of dance bars will lead to a spurt in crime. It is the most stupid observation I’ve read, but that coming from politicians, who usually talk without thinking, it is not surprising.  According to one of them, youngsters were robbing and maiming people so they could visit dance bars! Really, these guys think citizens still survive in some kind of time warp, and are fobbed off with such rubbish. Has crime miraculously come down since the ban?

I am sure this did not happen because of the presence of dance bars. This incident happened on April 24, this year, when the ban on dance bars was in place.

Or this incident, which happened in February this year. Or this one, which happened in September last year.

These are just three random incidents that I pulled out of the Internet. There are plenty more, like the rape and murder of Darshana Tongare, Jyoti Kumari Chowdhari and the Nayana Pujari in Pune. Every day we read about such cases from every part of the State. These happened much after the closure of dance bars in the State.

I am sure not every woman who dances in a bar is a prostitute. Many have husbands who have no problems with the profession their wives are in, and others have children, who they are putting through school. Circumstances have forced them to take to dancing in bars or working as waitresses. It is better than begging on the streets or doing what RR Patil believes ALL these women do? Instead of giving them a sympathetic ear and trying to solve their problems, Patil and his ministry go right ahead and deny them the right of livelihood – however ‘debased’ it maybe? I am glad the Supreme Court finally put RR Patil and his ministry in its place.  We have enough instances of  how incompetent Patil is. The Mumbai terrors attacks and the bomb blasts that have occurred in the State after that are proof that he really has no clue how to handle a crisis.

Just like a lot of other issues in this country – child trafficking, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking and crimes against women and minors – bar dancers are not going to disappear, because of a ban. Find a solution, Sir, don’t create more problems.

It’s just like the silly measures being threatened by Kapil Sibal and now by (the Indian caricature of Bertie Wooster esq) Manish Tewari, to ban social networking sites and file cases against anyone who pokes fun because they ridicule their crown prince and his family. Note – THEIR crown prince, not ours – at least not mine. You really cannot control the Internet. Even China has learnt that the hard way. Dissent only grows if you try to control free speech.

If the State government is so concerned about the health of its citizens, why not ban the riding of two-wheelers by all those who don’t wear helmets? Why not confiscate driving licences and their vehicles? As many, if not more, two-wheeler riders die every day in the State. But do you even hear of the State taking this issue seriously? The Southern Command authorities tried to implement a helmet ban in Pune Cantonment, but gave up because they got no help from the local police. The police personnel ride around without helmets, so how can they catch offenders?

The other day I saw a blog which makes fun of former president Pratibha Patil. Maybe, I am a bit old-fashioned in some respects, and I have a problem with people ridiculing a president, whether past or present. However, that does not mean I am going to dash off a mail to the blogger asking him or her to pull down the page. I read it and smiled at the inane comments made about her accompanied by pictures.

I heard that there is another one on Sharad Pawar floating around on the www. When the content on these portals is brought to Mr Pawar’s notice, I am sure he or his PR machinery will go into overdrive and ask the ministry to block it or send the offending blogger a legal notice.  Criticising him or his government’s policies is perfectly okay, but if you get personal then you should not be screaming about your right to free speech being violated, if and when you are slapped with a legal notice. Just as it is the blogger’s right to put up anything on the www it’s the right of the injured party to react that way.

Who wins that round has to be seen, but banning anything – from dance bars to websites – is not the solution to a problem.