Sunday 4 September 2016

Dark Clouds

Chanced upon the June 14, 2015 special issue of The Week on Internal Emergency- 40 year anniversary. Made for interesting reading. Prominent writers like Kuldip Nayar and Rajinder Sachar threw light on the dark days of emergency rule. Student activists of that era- Sharad Yadav and Gita Ramaswamy- recalled the personal 'fire by the ordeal' and how it transformed them permanently. Everyone said that this period of emergency was the worst period of our democratic existence and this should not be repeated.
The magazine goes on to compare the present and paint a picture of how the conditions for emergency are the same as it was during the early1970s. The government is trying to suppress free speech and right to protest- two of our fundamental rights. We went through the Award Wapasi phase that was in reaction to what the writers, scientists and film makers felt was an atmosphere of intolerance. Have we come out of that? And then came the JNU and Rohit Vemula incidents to remind us that things are just getting worse.
Just utter the K word and you could be in trouble. Sedition cases have, according to recent statistics, gone down from the previous year- 30 cases registered in 2015 instead of 47 in 2014. Statistics can be used to cloud the real issue as we know in the context of 'poverty line'.
As Wendell Phillips (abolitionist- anti-slavery) said in 1852, "Eternal vigil is the price of liberty". Just when we think that there is scope for free thinking, we need to be cautious as someone will certainly feel threatened. And then use some pretext to shut you up or at least shout you down.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Election Choice

It is difficult to fathom the political class. Manish Tewari, I&B Minister and Congress spokesperson, has chickened out of contesting elections. Other stalwarts are also running for cover- Chidambaram and Jayanthi Natarajan. The writing is clear- Congress is in for its biggest electoral defeat- drubbing. When a party has 10 years to do something for the citizens of this country, they fail miserably, the defeat is well deserved.
The Congress propaganda is hollow as the people cannot be fooled into believing something that doesn't exist. Our PM is still reluctant to speak up and own responsibility for messing up the economy. Corruption was allowed to flourish under the nose of our wise PM. Rahul Gandhi is incapable of bringing about any reforms in the party as he is crippled by the need for the old guard. Some are putting up a brave front- Nandan Nilekani is alleged to be honest and hardworking. He also spends his own money to build the infrastructure in Bangalore. But why should anyone vote for him as he is running on a Congress ticket? He cannot erase the negative image of the party which has ruled for ten long years with his personal qualifications. They have given tickets to tainted politicians who if elected will go about their business as usual.
My vote is going to be used to send a message to the ruling dispensation- you loot the country and then want us to vote for you? Sorry, Nandan you will not get my vote, even though you are the best choice for Bangalore South. All the same- best of luck.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Free Speech

It is difficult to express one's views without someone feeling that they have been hurt. In the last six years of blogging this is the first instance of being asked to remove something because it hurt their feelings. I have now vowed to write generally and be very careful in pointing to anyone or anything. What I also acknowledge is the fact that we never stop learning. We do make mistakes and constantly learn from that. Hopefully this will be the first and last mistake.It doesn't mean that I will stop writing.
The other day I came across this piece in the newspaper that spoke about the culture of 'getting offended' easily. Political cartoons lampooned politician and everyone including that politician had a good laugh. Today, you are constantly reminded to be careful in the interest of society- you can neither poke fun at politicians nor at symbols of nation. Everything is becoming sacred- beyond reproach. 
Long back in a debate on NDTV Big Fight, journalist Tavleen Singh made an argument for free speech, without any restrictions. The constitution guarantees us freedom of speech and expression but within boundaries- the society has to decide if we want that to be broadened or narrowed. In the interest of democracy and freedom, we should decide to narrow the restrictions and allow for open debate and discussion.

First Posting

Saw the new ad for First Post- CNN-IBN's stand alone online newspaper. Creative ad- takes you through the entire process that goes into putting a newspaper together for you. The punch line- so much effort to read yesterday's news! First Post gives you news as it occurs- no delay and fresh as long as you have that net connection. Newspaper is dead, long live the newspaper (web).
Yes, it is true that newspaper production is turning costly and is not environmentally friendly. But large number of readers are reading newspapers now. India has the potential for many more newly literate to pick up this habit. It is possible only if newspapers are still around.
It is truly a cultural thing. We crave for the morning cup of coffee and the newspaper to go with it. It reminds one of the days gone by- time was on our side and one could spend an hour sipping and reading. Maybe things are different today. Who has the time- one has to catch up with news on the go. Smart phones are convenient to read everything of interest- only briefly. In-depth and analytical stories are lost in the digital whirlpool. It is therefore farfetched to expect many to know what is actually going on in the world.
The death of newspapers is inimical to democracy. How can one expect to take the right decision if you are not aware of the basis for it? Newspapers provide news, analysis and views to help citizens take tough decisions. Hope atleast in India and for India, newspapers stay on for a long time to come.

Friday 14 September 2012

Alien rights

Should students from other countries be treated differently? They are not familiar with our system, culture and expectations and therefore may require time to adjust. As a student in America I never got any special treatment and I am thankful for that. But should every foreign student be judged by the same yardstick? The problem is that many of them don't take the initiative or do it very late in the day.
Thai students who suddenly arrived in July 2005 posed a different challenge. The were very timid and unfamiliar with English and it took them a year to gather the strength to come forward and ask for help.
Today, when there is a debate on how to integrate the foreign students into the mainstream, there seems to be no consensus. There is an ad hoc strategy based on individual cases and that does not augur well. We, of course, need to discuss the issue with the stakeholders as it is important for everyone to feel part of the University and be proud of it.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Show Time

It is always nice to know about the progress of your students. but when they come together to give a stunning performance it gladdens your heart. the three years of student life in a college is the time to learn, experiment and grow up. friendships are forged and promises made to keep in touch. real life after college leaves no scope for keeping in touch. work, new colleagues and harsh life takes its toll.
It therefore sounds so surreal when so many of them work for a passion and keep the fire going. love for theater may have brought them together but to sustain and pool in their resources for a brilliant performance is truly incredible. there is a great legacy that satya shourie and her troupe have joined. starting with chaitanya, aravind, shibu, rajesh, arif, gautam, rahul, malyaban, nayantara to satya it has been a growing crop of creative, bold and enthusiastic young people reaching for the stars.
The department and college is proud of you guys and acknowledges this achievement. may the flock grow and multiply for we want to be entertained purposefully. Silence! the court is in session was the latest in this endeavour and wishing twisted arrows all the very best and hoping to see more of them in the future.we would of course support you with our presence.

Friday 7 September 2012

yes, primeminister

PM manmohan singh is making news, yet again. this time he is featured in the washington post. we indians are getting used to making world headlines but we still have a long way to go in dealing with criticism. the post has rightly refused to issue an apology for attacking the leadership of our pm. it is their prerogative and everyone has their viewpoint. just like praising someone all the time does not guarantee a good image, criticism is not going to bring down the image. a person will be judged by his/her work and we have 8 years of upa rule under manmohan singh to judge him.
Whether manmohan goes down as the most incompetent pm or not is a mute issue. the reaction, knee-jerk at that, by the congress adds to the apprehension that this government will utilize every opportunity to silence the free expression. image managers in the government just have to convince a few people at the helm of affairs to change their attitude towards governance- it is not a license to do what they want. just when one thinks that we had the worst case of corruption, another pops up. these are just those that have slipped out- who knows how many are still waiting to explode on the public scene?
When will the governments understand that it is difficult to fool people all the time- action speaks louder than words. act firmly, not after being forced; get rid of all the tainted ministers- there are a lot with dubious records languishing due to their clouts(satraps); get out of the election mode and concentrate on governance.