Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guilt: Weapon of Mass Deception

A chapter from Ravi Shanker Kapoor’s forthcoming book, ‘How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies’

While discussing assault strategy, military commanders use a term called “softening the target.” It connotes actions that facilitate the capture of a post, bunker, or any other target. The actions can be bombardment by the air force aircraft or heavy shelling by artillery; both were used by India in its war with Pakistan in Kargil in 1999. Aerial and territorial bombardment softens up the target by causing destruction and engendering disarray in the enemy camp, thus making the task of the infantry less dangerous.
Communists and Leftwing authors perform the task of softening the target: their target is civilization; they want to destroy it. And their weapon¾the weapon of mass deception¾is collective guilt. Communists have for long yearned to mold human civilization as per their dogmas¾dialectical materialism, scientific socialism, etc. Such has been their spell over mankind in the twentieth century that even the most erudite and brilliant leaders¾Jawaharlal Nehru being a prime example¾got besotted by the perversion called communism. It is another matter that wherever communism succeeded, it left a trail of unprecedented gore, devastation, and despair. More than 100 million perished under various socialist regimes in the last century. According to Jung Chung and Jon Halliday, authors of Mao: The Unknown Story (October 2005), the Great Helmsman’s barbarity alone was responsible for the killing of about 70 million people.
An equally disturbing fact is that despite all their crimes, communists¾at least in India¾are seldom accused of having done anything wrong. They always adopt a holier-than-thou posture on any and every issue; they masquerade as the champions of the poor, defenders of pluralism, avante-garde of enlightenment, and flag-bearers of modernity and humanism.
Having failed to win the world for their cause, communists have instead seek to destroy what exists. That is, they want to destroy liberal democracy, market economy, individual freedom, open society: they want to destroy human civilization.
Communists and Leftwing authors perform the dual task: one, of deflecting the attention of society from their own misdemeanors; and two, of shifting blame to others. Doing so, they use guilt, among other things, to seek acceptance and legitimacy in a civilized society. Usually, they succeed, as guilt is, in the words of historian Paul Johnson, “the corrosive vice of the civilized.” Where does this vice come from?
From the human nature.
There seems to be some merit in Immanuel Kant’s ethical theory, which emphasizes the absoluteness and universal validity of morals. The great eighteenth century philosopher wrote, “So act as to treat humanity in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end and never as merely a means only.” It hurts when we see our follow beings in misery and agony: as victims of natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, or tsunami; as casualties in wars and violent ethnic conflicts; as the poor suffering from all sorts of adversities. We feel compassion, which often becomes the thin edge of the wedge to spread the feeling of collective guilt.
Reds and intellectuals use compassion to drill guilt into the hearts and minds of the civilized. Therefore, most man-made ills are attributed to one or the other defining feature or consummate fruit of civilization, be it capitalism, globalization, Western civilization, or Hinduism. Hence the guilt of capitalism: heartless treatment of children in the days of Charles Dickens, miserable conditions of workers in the nineteenth century England, etc. And the guilt of globalization: whether it is the Asian crisis of 1997 or socio-economic problems in any poor country in the world, it is globalization that is blamed for causing or worsening them. And Western guilt: oppression and exploitation of Asian and African nations, bad treatment of original inhabitants of the Americas and Australia, etc. And Hindu guilt: severity against the Shudras over the centuries, the rigid caste system, the subjugation of women, and so on.
I’ll begin with a couple of anecdotes, illustrating how guilt, which has entered our psyche, finds expression in facile analysis and everyday conversation. The first one is from a chapter of Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, former joint director of Intelligence Bureau. It is one of the most controversial books published in India (2005) in recent times¾controversial because of its disclosures regarding the misuse of official intelligence apparatus by politicians in power.
Dhar, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1964 batch got the West Bengal cadre. In his early years of career, he was posted at Naksalbari in West Bengal, the cradle of the violent communist movement in India. It is a well-known fact that the Naxals, as the adherents of the movement came to be called, were traitors; their allegiance was to Beijing and their slogan was “China’s chairman is our chairman.” So, what was the reaction of India’s rulers? One would have expected the entire political class to unite and support the armed forces in their fight against the Naxals. But what actually happened? “To Delhi Naksalbari rumblings were insignificant sparks and the ruling Communist and Bangla Congress leaders conjured up a suicidal policy of destroying the very constitutional, political and administrative edifices, which they were supposed to uphold,” writes Dhar.
A group led by the local Naxal leader, Jangal Santhal, “drew first police blood near Kheru Jote when a police party headed by inspector Sonam Wangdi was ambushed… Wandi was a fine investigating officer, but did not have training in facing an armed hostile mob. The cult of armed mob violence by ideologically maddened cadres was new to the police force in West Bengal.” In fact, it was new to the entire nation. A few battalions of the Eastern Frontier Rifles and the State Armed Police were no doubt inducted. Dhar continues:

But other highly visible and unusual forces too descended on Naksalbari to supervise the police action. Senior ministers like Harekrishan Konar and Sushil Dhara etc camped in the police state to shoulder the responsibility of guiding the police operations in accordance with their brand of ideological policing. With the ministers around the top revenue and police administration officials too converged on the tiny town. The ministers had laid down new policing norms: wait and watch and to see that ‘legal violence’ was not applied against the ‘Naxals,’ who attacked human lives and plundered properties with impunity. Left to the district administration the ‘law and order’ aspects of the movement could have been taken care of within a few weeks. But the ideologically fired ministers of the government wanted to usher in ‘people’s democracy’ add new dimensions to the concept of destroying the constitutional order from within and chase a chimera called social revolution through the tools of anarchy and class annihilation…
It was abundantly made clear that I should not use force without explicit permission of the ministers camping in the police station.

Dhar points out that the Naxals were a murderous and intolerant lot. They killed Jagadananda Roy, a Left-leaning revolutionary who had fought against the British Empire. The young police officer successfully aborted a violent Naxal attack on the house of a farmer. In this encounter, a few members of Jangal Santhal’s “revolutionary army” were injured. The reward? One of the camping ministers, Konar who was a Marxist, threatened him with dismissal!
The ministers were not Naxals; in fact, the Naxals were baying for their blood. Yet, they were sympathetic towards the violent extremists. The cause of their sympathy towards the Naksalbari movement was guilt¾the guilt of not being able to ameliorate the conditions of poor peasants, sharecroppers, and tribals; the guilt of not being socialistic enough so as to usher in an egalitarian paradise on earth. And here lies the irony and the tragedy of contemporary India. The irony: socialism is the system that impedes economic growth and development, the system that curtails the eradication of poverty, the system that empowers the politician and the bureaucrat; and yet in India the cure for socialism is sought not in its abolition but in more socialism. The tragedy: the nation is not able to get rid of socialism lock, stock, and barrel. Meanwhile guilt pervades further, permeating the public debate, infecting the body-politic, dominating the minds and hearts of those who matter.
What is worse is that even those who suffer from the hands of Naxals are guilt-ridden. Dhar, for instance, perceives Naxalism as “an idea that provides courage and tools to the have-nots to fight for their rights”! The observation is not merely trite; it betrays the blind acceptance and internalization of the Leftwing proposition: that unjust social and economic conditions that are responsible for terrorism, insurgency, or revolutionary violence. The truth is that Naxalism, like other forms of terrorism, does not have much to do with socio-economic conditions or poverty. In fact, there is little correlation between poverty and revolutionary violence. The French Revolution, for instance, did not happen because the incidence of poverty, repression, and oppression was the worst over there; in 1789, in most countries of the world the condition of the poor was much worse than that of the French peasants; yet, there was a revolution in France. Closer home, there was insurgency in Punjab for more than a decade; there is still a terrorism in Kashmir. This despite the fact that the two are among better-off states of India. But Dhar continues to parrot the supposed relationship between poverty and terrorism.
The second anecdote about the spread of guilt is from my first-hand experience. At a party in the fall of 2005, I was talking to a distant relative. A retired colonel from the Indian Army, he is employed as security in-charge of a medium-sized company near Delhi. He was talking about the company he worked with, his job profile, his interaction with workers, the union leaders, and so on. Then he said something that baffled me: “Sometimes, I feel guilty for being part of a system that exploits poor workers.” Does his company not pay the employees the minimum wages, as stipulated by the authorities, I asked him. It does pay them, he answered. Then where is the exploitation, I asked. The conversation ended abruptly as some of his acquaintances wanted to talk to him, but I kept thinking about it.
Here was a man who has served in the most British institution of the country, the Indian Army¾an institution that has largely escaped the dangerous enthusiasms of our politicians, the imbecilic fads of social justice, the rabidity of social engineering. And yet he is mouthing a shibboleth¾that big companies exploit workers, that market economy is essentially exploitative¾that has been comprehensively and indubitably proven wrong. As we saw in the chapter on Jawaharlal Nehru, capitalism or market economy is the only system in which there is no exploitation.
So we find two gentlemen, a seasoned cop and a senior army official, resonating Leftist ideas. It shows the pervasiveness and preponderance of Leftist ideas. This has become possible because of the intellectual influence of the Left, an influence that is greatly disproportionate to its political strength. The education system, academia, the media, the entire opinion-making apparatus¾everything has been monopolized by the commies and pinkish intellectuals. They distort history to indoctrinate the young, impressionable minds as per their convenience. Anybody who challenges the intellectual mafia¾as former Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi did¾is demonized, denounced, and derided. The Leftist mafia has many tools and techniques in its repertory¾slander, falsification, sophistry, sanctimoniousness, disingenuousness, guilt-mongering. The last one is most widely used.
In India, more than half a century of guilt-mongering and other Leftist tricks have created a climate of opinion in which Marxist lies pass off as gospel truth. By the way, guilt-mongering is a lucrative industry in the West as well. But in Western countries, especially in the US, there is a vigorous Rightwing movement to counter and debunk Leftist lies. In the US, for instance, black conservative author Thomas Sowell has steadfastly written against the purveyors of guilt. He has consistently attacked the liberal establishment that continues to pontificate over white racism and the explains all black problems as the “legacy of slavery.” He comes out with facts that would astonish any educated person. According to him, Islamic societies enslaved more Africans than Europeans did. Sowell points out that this fact is ignored and sole emphasis is laid on European enslavement of Africa. The idea is “to score ideological points against American society or Western civilization, or to induce guilt and thereby extract benefits from the white population today.” This is truer in India than in the West; our history books, particularly those written by commies, are testimony to that; Bipan Chandra, the Don Corleone of History Mafia, has also been involved in distorting, among other things, the history of slavery.
In an article on February 8, 2005, Sowell wrote:

It seems so obvious today that, as Lincoln said, if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. But no country anywhere believed that three centuries ago.
A very readable and remarkable new book that has just been published¾ Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild¾traces the history of the world’s first anti-slavery movement, which began with a meeting of 12 “deeply religious” men in London in 1787.
The book re-creates the very different world of that time, in which slavery was so much taken for granted that most people simply did not think about it, one way or the other. Nor did the leading intellectuals, political leaders, or religious leaders in Britain or anywhere else in the world.
The dozen men who formed the world’s first anti-slavery movement saw their task as getting their fellow Englishmen to think about slavery¾about the brutal facts and about the moral implications of those facts.
Their conviction that this would be enough to turn the British public, and ultimately the British Empire, against slavery might seem naive, except that this is precisely what happened. It did not happen quickly and it did not happen without encountering bitter opposition, for the British were at the time the world’s biggest slave traders and this created wealthy and politically powerful special interests defending slavery.
The anti-slavery movement nevertheless persisted through decades of struggles and defeats in Parliament until eventually they secured a ban on the international slave trade, and ultimately a ban on slavery itself throughout the British Empire.
Even more remarkable, Britain took it upon itself, as the leading naval power of the world, to police the ban on slave trading against other nations. Intercepting and boarding other countries’ ships on the high seas to look for slaves, the British became and remained for more than a century the world’s policeman when it came to stopping the slave trade…
Chances do not look good. The anti-slavery movement was spearheaded by people who would today be called “the religious right” and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover, what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.
Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today's intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn’t fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened.

Such facts do not fit into the Left’s scheme of things; so, they are either ignored or downplayed. Hence the emphasis on white guilt. And Western guilt. And capitalist guilt. And Hindu guilt. But, as V.S. Naipaul asked in an interview, where is Arab guilt (regarding Arabs’ role in slavery)? One may ask many similar questions: Where is Muslim guilt (regarding ill-treatment of women, non-Muslims, etc)? Where is socialist guilt (economic devastation in countries like India)? Where is communist guilt (killing of millions of people in China, Soviet Union, Cambodia, etc)? No answers. The attempt is to suppress facts, buty the truth, and promote a kingdom of mendacity.
Communists and Leftwing intellectuals are the generals of the kingdom of mendacity. Human civilization is the target; they are softening the target by using the strategy of guilt-mongering. The bombardment of lies and white lies continues unabated. More often than not, liberals end up as accomplices of the Left in this war against civilization. They become useful for the commies. That is why Lenin called them “useful idiots.”

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Falling in love with chains

We fail Sharansky’s test
Ravi Shanker Kapoor
India is supposed to be a free country¾ in fact, a democracy with the Constitution ensuring the freedom of expression. But the reality behind this appearance is not very agreeable: our freedom, though not a sham, is incomplete. Further, we are not only partially free but the sphere of our freedom is also gradually shrinking.
We are partially free; for the Indian Constitution, while ensuring the "freedom of speech and expression" in Article 19 (a), imposes "reasonable restrictions" for the maintenance of "the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence." Since the concepts of the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign States and public order are comprehensive enough to restrict the freedom of expression in every conceivable manner, the sphere of freedom has shrunk considerably. For instance, the government cannot be accused of betraying the Constitution if it comes down heavily against an author who exposes the role of Pakistan in fomenting jihad in India. A ban on his writings would not be mala fide, if the government says that it wants to improve ties with Pakistan and his writings may jeopardize the improving Indo-Pak relations. Besides, decency and morality are vague and, therefore, can be applied arbitrarily.
Apart from the legal, Constitutional restrictions, there is the problem of national mood. Not a single day passes when some political party, social organization, religious group, or downright publicity-hungry outfit does not demand a ban on some movie, book, exhibition, video remix, etc. The Hindus want ban on the nude painting of Saraswati by M.F. Husain; the Muslims want anything even vaguely against Islam to be proscribed; a few Sikh groups campaigned against the film, Jo Bole So Nihal, even though it was cleared by their supreme body, SGPC; many Christians were against the showing of The Da Vinci Code. Then there are governments and politicians that love moral-policing. Union Health Minister A. Ramadoss wants to ban the depiction of any smoking scenes in films and on television screen. The Maharashtra government last year ordered the closure of dance-bars in Bombay and other parts of the state, thus rendering thousands of dancing girls without vocation¾ all this in the name of securing the moral health of youths. There are myriad examples of assault on the freedom of expression.
What is worse is that such assaults continue unabated; they do not cause revulsion among people at large; on the contrary, some actually enjoy considerable public support. I remember listening to a radio phone-in programme over the issue of ban of smoking scenes in films; most of the callers favored the ban. At any rate, the ban mania can become endemic, as it has in India, in two cases: people, openly or tacitly, support bans; or they are not bothered. While the former implies that the people have started seeking a variety of chains for their own bondage, the latter suggests that they are casual about being free or in thralldom. In neither case, we can be called a free society.
We do not pass the town-square test as devised by Sharansky (I wonder if we can ever do that). This calls for a little introduction of the man who has emerged as an evangelist of freedom. Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky was born in the Ukraine, and graduated with a degree in mathematics from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow. His early association with the human rights movement was as an English interpreter for Andrei Sakharov, before emerging in his own right as a foremost dissident and spokesman for the Soviet Jewry movement.
In 1973, Sharansky applied for an exit visa to Israel, but was refused because of "security" reasons. He remained prominently involved in Jewish refusenik activities until his arrest in 1977. Convicted in 1978 of treason and spying on behalf of the United States, Sharansky was sentenced to thirteen years imprisonment. He spent sixteen months in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, frequently in solitary confinement and in a special "torture cell," before being transferred to a notorious prison camp in the Siberian Gulag.
During the years of his imprisonment, Sharansky became a symbol for human rights in general and Soviet Jewry in particular. A campaign for his release was waged tirelessly by his wife, Avital, who emigrated to Israel immediately after their wedding with the hope that her husband would follow shortly. Intense diplomatic efforts and public outcry for his release were unsuccessful until 1986, when Sharansky was released as part of an East-West prisoner exchange. Freed on the border of a still-divided Germany, he was met by the Israeli ambassador who presented him immediately with his new Israeli passport under the Hebrew name of Natan Sharansky. He arrived in Israel on February 11, 1986, and was greeted by leading government officials, including then Prime Minister Shimon Peres, was given a hero’s welcome. He later became a cabinet minister in Israel.
In an interview, Sharansky said, "We can gain some optimism from history." He cites the example of Japan. "Truman’s advisors were very skeptical about the prospects for democracy in Japan, as were most of the ‘experts’ of the time. And there were good reasons to be skeptical. This was a country with virtually no exposure to the West for centuries. Japan’s rigidly hierarchical society and unique culture was seen as antithetical to democratic life. In fact, when the concept of rights was translated into Japan it took a compound word consisting of four characters to express it. But democracy in Japan has been a great success story. Japan is not a Western democracy. The Japanese have kept their traditions, culture and heritage, but they have joined the community of free nations."
In Sharansky’s scheme of things, there are two kinds of societies, free societies and fear societies. "Free societies are societies in which the right of dissent is protected. In contrast, fear societies are societies in which dissent is banned. One can determine whether a society is free by applying what we call the ‘town-square test.’ Can someone within that society walk into the town-square and say what they want without fear of being punished for his or her views? If so, then that society is a free society. If not, it is a fear society."
We are clearly a fear society and not a free society. Whatever freedom of expression we can boast of today is also getting eroded. The most depressing aspect of this erosion is that it is mostly we, the people of India, who are guilty.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Superpower status for India: For whom?

Superpower status for India: For whom?
Ravi Shanker Kapoor
It is not only power that corrupts men and women. Even its absence, and yearning for it, has a corrupting influence—at least in India. Almost every second day we are informed about some study or estimate showing that by 2015, 2020, or some other year, we would become a superpower. We would be a world power like the United States. And the result is an orgy of self-congratulatory inanities.
We start feeling proud of everything we think we can boast of. We feel proud of the Himalayas and the Ganges, of Taj Mahal and Khajuraho, of our glorious history and cultural diversity, of our freedom movement and Mahatma Gandhi, of our secularism and pluralism, of our doctors and engineers, of Satyajit Ray and Shekhar Kapoor, of Kalpana Chawla and Hargovind Khurana, of the booming software sector and "our" LN Mittal. It is a long list. We are also proud of Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, though she has declared her desire to "secede" from India.
Even minor achievements, like Sania Mirza entering the third round of Australian Open, are magnified a million times and presented as "historic" feats. Sometimes, sheer fraudulence is glorified—e.g., Saurav Singh topping a non-existent Nasa test.
In this patriotic hysteria, a few facts are cavalierly ignored. First, America is the sole superpower today in spite of itself and not because it wanted to be one. The Americans always wanted to remain in isolation; they wanted to shield their country—which many or them saw as an Arcadia—from the corruptions, enthusiasms, and bigotry of the Old World. Hence the Monroe Doctrine. Hence the Senate’s veto against joining the League of Nations. Hence America’s refusal to join the World Wars as an original belligerent. Not that this isolationism was without exceptions; America did intervene in South East Asia, and got embroiled in the Vietnam War. Then there was the fierce engagement with the Soviet Union in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, which resulted in the demise of communism. The same, however, cannot be said about the current American war on terror; it is a reactive rather than proactive engagement, a consequence of September 11—an event that has been compared with Pearl Harbor. The fact is that not one American conservative thinker in the twentieth century—from Russel Kirk and Whittakar Chambers to William Buckley, Irving Kristol, and Victor David Hanson—pontificated about making the US a superpower. On the contrary, some of the issues which engage our experts, scholars, intellectuals, and media brahmins are: when would India become a developed country, how to build an Indian century, when would we achieve the superpower status. We are impatient to become a superpower.
Second, it is not America that calls itself a superpower; it is the rest of the world that does so—often despairingly. Owing to its economic might, military muscle, technological prowess, and cultural dominance, America is seen as a country whose presence cannot be ignored by any people on this planet.
The third important fact that is often ignored is this: achieving the superpower status is not something that can be called a tangible target. India, or any other country, can fix a target to double its per capita income in five or eight years, of removing poverty in a time-frame, of eradicating polio or child labor in another time-frame, of electrifying all villages by some date; all these are quantifiable and measurable targets. But achieving the superpower status or building an Indian century is not a quantifiable target; one can’t fix a date and say that on this day India will become a superpower. How can any of us hazard a guess that on such and such day the rest of the world would see India as a superpower?
The most important fact that is overlooked in jingoistic frenzy is that in India there is a lack of almost every prerequisite that has made America a superpower. America believes in free economy and open society; both are under threat in India. Unfortunately, both are under threat from the Left as well as the Right. The threat from the Left is political as well as ideological. The intellectual class, especially in India, largely remains wedded to the pernicious philosophy of socialism. True that there is a vocal segment of pro-reforms lobby, but it’s too small and too restricted to the conference halls of business chambers to influence the public discourse at large; the public discourse is still carried out in an essentially Leftist idiom. Privatization, for instance, is equated with "selling of family silver" and foreign investment is seen as the onslaught of myriad East India Companies. Such is the intellectual hegemony of the Left that even the Sangh Parivar, the so-called Right, ends up echoing socialist shibboleths. And it has proved to be as effective as communists in checking India’s march to market economy. For instance, it played a key role in stalling oil sector privatization in 2002.
The threat to the open society, too, could scarcely be over-emphasized. There is the Sangh Parivar which wants the society to be controlled and regulated; it wants to prescribe which movies to watch, which songs and videos to be banned; it wants to guide men and women what they should wear, how they should behave, why they should avoid abominations like Valentine’s Day.
The attempts of the Left to destroy the open society are no less frightening. It cries hoarse when members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal criticize MF Hussain’s painting of nude Saraswati; it screams that this is an attack on the freedom of expression. But it bans Tasleema Nasreen’s book; it brazenly placates the rabid mullahs by joining in the persecution of the brave author. And it is not only the communist parties that indulge in duplicity; the entire intellectual class is involved in duplicity. Our great intellectuals wax eloquent about the right to expression when Hussain is attacked by Hindu nationalists; they write pompous articles; they sermonize in talk-shows; they rave and rant at seminars; they participate in candle-light marches. But when the issue is Tasleema Nasreen, there is a thundering silence; at the most, there is a one-liner that ‘we condemn attacks by Muslim communalists, as we condemn attacks by Hindu communalists,’ and that is the end of it; there is no dance and drama about assault on the freedom of expression. So much for their love for the open society.
Worse, intellectuals still love the Nehruvian claptrap. The result is that the nation shows astonishing propensity to soak high humbug. For instance, the well-known author Sunil Khilnani said at a conference some time ago, "In recent decades, we have done well in building up economic and military power. It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the rise in our economic and military strength has coincided with a decline in moral power."
This is much more than high humbug; this is mendacity at its worst. What moral power we ever had? As a nation, we mostly sided with the Soviet Union whose ideology was the most barbarous mankind has ever seen. We kept quiet at the rape of Hungary in 1956 and the outrage in Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the name of Non-Aligned Movement, we entertained some of the worst tyrants of the world. As a nation, we annexed Goa without going to the United Nations. We were responsible for the vivisection of Pakistan. We unnecessarily sent troops to Sri Lanka, and burnt our fingers. Where was "moral power" in all this? But our politicians and intellectuals succeeded for half a century of convincing the people of India’s "moral power." Now they are trying to fool us about the imminence of India becoming a superpower.
In any case, who would gain from the superpower status? The answer is unambiguous: the politician. But it is restraint on the powers of the politician¾ and not his further empowerment¾ that should be the objective of all decent citizens. So, an endeavor to accelerate the rollback of the state from economy and society would be a better occupation. All the talk of India becoming a superpower is nothing but opium of the opinion-makers. The sooner we gave up vainglorious pretensions of moral power or global superpower, the better for us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Phony messiahs of the poor

Phony messiahs of the poor
Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The champions of caste-based reservations always accuse the opponents as being ‘elitist’, ‘anti-poor’, ‘anti-egalitarian’ and so on. The reaction of quotawallahs to the oversight committee’s report, however, exposes them as the most reactionary anti-egalitarians. Committee chairman and former Karnataka Chief Minister Veerappa Moily’s statement regarding a regular (five-yearly or 10-yearly) review of the reservation policy for other backward classes (OBCs) has enraged the quota lobby within the government. The Tamil parties DMK and PMK—whose politics revolves around the divisive Aryan north-Dravidian south ideology and caste politics—and some other parties like that of Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav are stridently campaigning against the oversight committee’s recommendations. They have accused Moily of being anti-reservation—a serious charge for a politician from south India where affirmative action is a holy cow and social justice is a mantra few can afford to dispense with.
In the West, studies have been done on affirmative action, proving that it hurts rather than helps the intended beneficiaries. As a recent article by George F. Will showed, there is a movement in the American state of Michigan out to do away with quotas based on ethnicity; and many blacks are supporting this movement. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our country that even the review of reservations is met with fierce opposition from their protagonists.
Their brazenness also becomes evident from their attitude towards the creamy layer. The Supreme Court judgment, which validated the recommendations of the retrograde Mandal Commission report, had urged the government that the benefits of reservations for OBCs should not be siphoned off by the creamy layer. Even without the apex court’s caveat, this should have been the concern of a sincere proponent of affirmative action and social justice. For it is in the name of egalitarianism and of equal opportunity for all reservations are justified by their votaries. It is common knowledge that most benefits of quotas are monopolised by small elites among the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs. Therefore, keeping these privileged coteries out of the reservation benefits would be truly in the spirit of affirmative action (assuming that there is some merit in it); exclusion of the creamy layer would an authentic pro-poor measure.
So, if we accept for a moment the claim of quota advocates that reservations help the poor, their demand to perpetuate benefits to the creamy layer undermines their own argument of helping the poor. What is worse is that some intellectuals are providing the ammunition of sophistry to help the phony messiahs of the poor. One of them is Planning Commission member B.L. Mungekar, who is also in the oversight committee. The government should ignore the fallaciousness of such people.

Gallantry awards for terrorists

What next? Gallantry awards for terrorists?
Request for clemency for Afzal is shameful
Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s request for condoning the death penalty imposed on Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal is a new low in Indian politics. For it is not a case of an incumbent chief minister pleading for reprieve for an acquaintance convicted of an ordinary crime; it is a case of condoning high treason. Afzal was involved in murderous, traitorous activities and the sentence has come after the case has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. The judicial system was fair, for another accused, S.A.R. Geelani, was given the benefit of the doubt, even though he was, and still is, wedded to the cause of Kashmiri separatism. Which shows that the judges were not swept off their feet by sentiments. So, the pleading for clemency for Afzal is as despicable as it is disgraceful. That such a request is made, and that too by no less than a person than the chief minister, is in itself a matter of grave concern. Worse, many other J&K politicians have joined the chorus. Omar Abdullah, president of the National Conference and former Union Minister, has also appealed for condoning Afzal's death penalty. "Thousands have been killed here during the last 18 years but that has not helped the return of peace to the state. Hanging Afzal would derail the ongoing peace process," he said.
Then there is Mehbooba Mufti, president of the ruling People's Democratic Party and an ally in the coalition government headed by Azad. She says, "We live in Gandhi's land. Our objective is to win hearts and not hurt them. Carrying out the death sentence in case of Afzal would result in many complications that can adversely affect the confidence building process between the state and the Centre. It will also seriously retard the peace process.” Never before was sophistry more brazen. Mufti talks about “Gandhi’s land,” but has she ever tried to convert the Kashmiri terrorists to the ideals of non-violence and peaceful co-existence? And what is her idea of the “peace process”? Does she expect the Indian state to ignore assault on its most sacrosanct institution, Parliament? Does she want the murderers of cops to go scot-free? The reaction of the ruling Congress Party is even more disconcerting. "We neither endorse nor reject the chief minister's suggestion," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said replying to questions at the party's daily briefing. But, Mr Singhvi, why don’t you reject, if not denounce, Azad’s suggestion? Was ever such a reprehensible suggestion ever made by a chief minister? And what is next in the name of peace process? Gallantry awards for the jihadis who were killed in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001?