Monday, December 26, 2011

Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Anna Hazare's Fast against Corruption Fight against Corruption may not be an earth-shattering change in the political landscape, but is a milestone nevertheless. 

The much anticipated week is on. Anna Hazare has had his destiny written in red, and is all set to fast, again. Anna hazare's fasting has been getting so regular that some may wonder if it may not make news any more - just like corruption was accepted as a way of life in the ancient, culturally rich country, before Anna Hazare decided to take on the bad guys. 'Ancient' alright, but 'culturally rich' may get a few eyebrows raised, especially among those caught among the many different 'cultural' forces that are in operation in India these days. But then, that's beside the point. It's time for Anna Hazare to steal the limelight again, by occupying centre stage and foregoing his meals.

Of course, it is much more than just a matter of foregoing his meals. Of late, the youth have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of history, with some of the terms traditionally referred to, recorded, and read about only in history books, coming to life. "Quit India" and "Jail Bharo" were the bastions of Mahatma Gandhi, weapons in his armoury of non-violence, which he wielded strategically to get the huge country together, mobilise their strength and channelise the public anger towards a common cause - to gain Independence from the British Rule. Till a few years back, the country had largely relegated these historic events to the libraries and the public archives, with the terms having gone out of common usage and having been accorded 'cultural heritage' status. 

The youth, who were deluded with a whole lot of inputs, claims and perspectives from diverse channels and had been verging on disillusionment, getting caught in the run of the mill, searching for a career and an identity, and caring a damn about whatever happened in the dirty sphere of politics, got a shot in their arm. Till a few months back, if anyone had asked what united the diverse lot of Indians, separated by States, languages, cultures, traditions, castes and religions and a whole lot of geographic and demographic factors, the unanimous answers would have been 'Cricket' and 'Bollywood'. That changed with a series of terrorist attacks, blood baths, security lapses, gory visuals, and profuse losses of lives, when terrorism came into the agenda and started to touch a raw nerve in the Indian psyche. But there has not been anything as electrifying as Anna Hazare and his 'India Against Corruption' movement that redefined protests and made heads turn. 

There is no dearth of intelligentsia in the country, nor is there a leadership vacuum. In fact, there has been a problem of abundance when it comes to leadership and cult figures. The issue, however, was that there was no figurehead who could mobilise the intensity and the heat that the youth were capable of generating. The energy was frittering away in non-productive or purely economic pursuits, when the politicians had a jolly good time, abusing their powers and making hay while the sun was still shining. Getting back to the initial claim that Anna Hazare's role has been much more than just that of foregoing his meals, what he has done is to show the way forward to the youth who were getting increasingly disillusioned with the status quo and were growing increasingly indifferent to the gross abuse of power and the deteriorating standards of living of the middle class and those who struggled below the poverty line. They almost started believing it when the Government promised through its propaganda machinery that India was actually shining!

So much for what Anna Hazare and Team Anna has achieved. What about the team's original objectives? 'Eliminating scope for and eradicating corruption through Legislation' - that would be like pumping out the bad blood and filling the system up with good blood. That is an ideal motive beyond any scope for argument. The question is about feasibility. To quote from a previous rant on the same subject, "Without the last citizen in the queue educated, informed and empowered to deal with their life on their own terms, the political machinery, with its artificial intelligence that it has now got used to, would take every opportunity to strike back - with vengeance." 

The keywords here are "Political Machinery" - and it is no ordinary structure that Anna Hazare and his team are dealing with. The Indian political system is a beast, and a wild one in that, which has been having its way for decades now - and has got deeply addicted to power and all the goodies that come with it. Team Anna has been out to tame the beast. Unfortunately for the team and for the old man, however, they have set out to tame the beast with a leash and a cage that the beast itself has to provide them. In effect, Anna Hazare and company are fighting to get a legislation through by the political bosses, which would sanction the design and formation a cage to get the political bosses locked themselves up in. He could as well have asked them to file FIR's against themselves, try themselves in the courts of justice, line up behind bars, and hang themselves! And they are talking of the mere act of getting a legislation passed. Getting the system up to speed to the new reality, cleaning up the system, clearing the filth, and getting in the 'good blood' are in the distant horizon. It makes one wonder, how many times Anna Hazare might have to fast before he sees that day when corruption is actually eliminated and eradicated by the force of a piece of legislation!

Well, Anna Hazare will fast on the 27th of December, while the political bosses would debate the Lokpal Bill. And debates are nothing new to the power mongers who have made their way to the top through bickering, quarrelling, clambering, plotting, and cutting their teeth in the system using every trick in the book. And the show will go on. Anna Hazare may have had his dream and his objectives, But in Clearway's view, it is the by-product that is more important. Someone had to channelise the youth and orient their powers towards a tangible, credible objective, to make them get genuinely interested in the political process and in the state of affairs, and more importantly, to make them think. Team Anna has achieved the objective with flying colours. Discounting the lack of coordination that an ad hoc team is naturally expected to experience, and the negative publicity that some events involving the team have generated, Anna Hazare has done what no one else has managed to do ever since Mahatma Gandhi was shot. The only exception would, perhaps, be Kamal Hassan in Shankar's 'Indian'.

Image: 88 Reviews

It's unfair to ask much else out of the patriot who has put his life on the line for the greater good. His destiny was to keep fighting and to light the fire in the hearts of the youth. Change had to begin somewhere  - and it has begun in all flamboyance, from a spark in Ralegan Siddhi. As for the political class, the fighting has just begun for them too. But they would do what they do best - to play politics and stay afloat. And yes, they would definitely succeed in that. Anna Hazare is not the first challenge they have faced in their political career - nor would he be the last. But at least, they now have something to take serious note of, in an otherwise one-sided game, where the system has been the defending champion and its people, decidedly underdog. People would still remain so for the foreseeable future - what they have now is a ray of hope, an awareness that corruption could indeed be a dirty word, and some sense of direction in the dark world defined by the ruthless political class.

Related Posts:
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi
Anna Hazare: Lokpall Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Life . . . and Death

The contrast was jarring. Two pictures that were shared, the same day, on Facebook, and they couldn't be farther away from each other. Unfortunately, they both belong to the same planet, and they constitute our world!

Gold, Glitter and Wealth

Famine and Death

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mayawati Interview: WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

Mayawati is back in the news - and how! This time, having run out of chasing the same people over and over again, she has sought to go for a target of a different breed - Julian Assange! Assange is her privileged, chosen opponent for now. 

It was in March, 2010, that Mayawati had given her exclusive interview to this reporter, when she made news with her garland made of currency notes. Now, the reporter had to get back to her for another exclusive from Mayawati, in the light of the current not-so-happy relationship that she has developed overnight with Mr Julian Assange. Here we go:

Reporter: Hello Mayawati Ji, Thank you for agreeing for this exclusive interview.

Mayawati: My Pressure! Er . . . I mean, my pleasure. What do you want to ask? Ask me quick, I'm in a hurry.

RP: Sure Mayawati Ji, I understand you would be busy with meeting so many people. To start off with, I hope your garland is safe?

Mayawati: I am not in a mood to comment on the garland now. I am busy using Google to read what this Juliet Assault is talking about me.

RP: You mean, Mr Julian Assange?

Mayawati: Yes yes, the same person. Do you think I don't know him? I know both him and his lover. Romeo. But I cannot understand why he is talking of me now. I'm sure he is mentally retarded and needs asylum. 

RP: Well Mayawati Ji, let's get to that. But is it true that you sent a Private Jet, empty, to Mumbai to buy sandals?

Mayawati: Ridiculous! I was supposed to go to Mumbai to complete a sandalwood deal. And at the last moment, I forgot to wear my sandals. So, I got down from the flight. But the pilot did not know that, and he left me and went to Mumbai alone. And the press people twisted the story, and the US people tilted it again!

RP: Oh! Alright. But, how did the pilot leave without you?

Mayawati: That's what I'm saying! The rear view mirror in the plane had broken, so the pilot did not see when I got down, and he went up without lifting me!

RP: Ahem! That sounds logical. By the way, you mentioned of some Sandalwood deal. What is that Mayawati Ji?

Mayawati: Sandalwood deal? When did I mention about that? That Juliet Assault is mentally retarded, and you are physically retarded! You hear things that I never said!

RP: Well, possibly so. Anyway, so, the pilot returned empty again?

Mayawati: Then what? He went empty, so, if he had to transport me back from Mumbai, I should take another flight to Mumbai and come in his plane. But then, my second plane will come empty, will it not? That's why, I asked him to bring a pair of sandals instead of me. If you know Ramayana, Bharath worshipped Rama's sandals in Rama's absence. Similarly, my pilot took my sandals instead of me. What's wrong in it?

RP: But you said you had forgotten your sandals before you left for Mumbai, that's why you did not go to Mumbai and the plane went empty. How did the pilot get your sandals from Mumbai then?

Mayawati: Exactly! That's the reason I asked the pilot to get a new pair of sandals from Mumbai, because both me and my sandals did not board the plane!

RP: Perfect! Anyway, WikiLeaks reports that you have 9 cooks and two tasters . . . 

Mayawati: That's again ridiculous! The 9 people are not my cooks. I ask them to cook for the entire Uttar Pradesh State, and send food to all my party workers in the State. The USA and WikiLeaks have misinterpreted my generosity and have said they are my cooks alone! Anyway, how can I eat what 9 people cook?  

RP: How generous! And what about the two tasters?

Mayawati: They are wasters, not tasters! They were my cooks who wasted a lot of food when they cooked. So, I dismissed them and called them "Food Wasters". The media, again, they twisted and the USA tilted the story!

RP: So, you had 11 cooks earlier, not 9!

Mayawati: Is 9 plus 2 equal to 11? Then 11 means 1 +1 = 2. So, I had only 2 cooks, not eleven. And even those two cooks were food tasters, I mean wasters. So, I had no cooks at all. It is all media hype and creativity!

RP: You had no cooks? But you said you cooked for the entire State using those 9 cooks . . . 

Mayawati: I don't have time. Finish the interview fast. Next question please . . . 

RP: Did you ask some politician to do sit-ups because you were not happy with his behaviour?

Mayawati: Yes, that is true!

RP: Wow! So, you accept that?

Mayawati: Of course! See, this guy was putting on a lot of weight. And he never worked, always sat and became lazy. So, I asked him to do sit-ups to reduce weight, because I was not happy with his behaviour of putting on weight.

RP: Hmm. Wonderful. WikiLeaks has also claimed that you are a 'paranoid dictator'. 

Mayawati: First of all, let me clarify, I don't have paranoid or any other disease. And I used to dictate letters to my secretary. So, I was a dictator, but I was not paranoid.

RP: But Mayawati Ji, Paranoid does not refer to any disease. Paranoid means . . . 

Mayawati: How many questions more?

RP: Well, almost over. Mr Julian Assange has said that he would be happy to come to India if you send him a plane, and he has also said he would get you 'a range of finest British footwear'.

Mayawati: Did he say that? But, I did not find it in WikiLeaks . . .

RP: Well, Mayawati Ji, you can't find these things in WikiLeaks.

Mayawati: See, this exposes that Juliet Assault. His own website will not publish what he says. If I say something, even Google will publish it!

RP: Well, Actually, Google does not publish anything. It only . . . 

Mayawati: You don't know anything my Reporter. Google publishes whatever I say. Even before I came here, I checked with Google, and it had published every word of mine.

RP: Well, as you say, Mayawati Ji. But, what do you have to say about his offer?

Mayawati: Well, if he wants to buy me some British footwear, why would I oppose it? 

RP: But he says you have to send your private jet for that.

Mayawati: To UK? Why not? First, let him tell me what kind of sandals he has bought for me, then I will send my jet to bring them here.

RP: And how about Julian Assange? 

Mayawati: I can bring him here only if he comes with another garland. And he has to delete all my details from his website and publish good news about me in WikiLeaks.

RP: But that is not what WikiLeaks is about.

Mayawati: Then it's fine. I can manage with my Mumbai sandals. And I will keep publishing news about me in Google. And I will make room for both Juliet and Romeo in a mental asylum here.

RP: Well, I can't take it any more. Will come again when Google publishes about you. Thank you Mayawati Ji.

Mayawati: Good bye. It's time for me to go to Mumbai again.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption, and the Political System: A New Beginning

Image: BBC

Finally, it has happened. The most eagerly awaited, the most dreaded and the most unexpected, have all happened in a flash. It was just when nothing remained but a glimmer of hope, when all was forgotten but a few annual rituals and public holidays, when the constitutional system, the reckless youth and the rotting middle class were all written off, when the status quo came to be taken as the perpetual reality, and when democracy verged on the anarchy, the history of non-violence and the culture of Satyagraha that were relegated to museums and history books, were brought back to life by a movement in all its prowess, in a show of strength of dimensions beyond imagination.

It was a long forgotten folklore that the Parliament existed for its people. It was as if the systems invented to serve the humans, developed their own 'Artificial Intelligence' and started enslaving their masters. And the masters were beaten to believe that they were the slaves, and that the machines were designed to rule over them. It was the stuff that Matrix and the Terminator are made of. The political class assumed supremacy, and the citizens became their subservient servants. While the ruling class enjoyed their lives, the people were kept in the dark, blind-folded. And the bureaucrats were able to get away with it all. The machines made the rules in their own favour - and broke them at their own will. And it became the way of life, and the way things worked in here. And, as is typical, the youth were reckless, the elite were careless, and the middle class, hopeless. When corruption began to rule, the people were left searching for a leader. As corruption spread far, deep and wide from within, the system was left with a hollow core - and the vacuum was felt all around. People knew Mahatma Gandhi was History - and accepted that the modern age was all about frustration and desperation. 

APJ Abdul Kalam was a ray of hope in a dark cloud with no silver lining. But he was in a system that showed no mercy to the exceptional. When Mumbai came under attack, it was as if the nerves had transmitted a weak signal in a monster in deep slumber. Some sparks here and there, and a few days later, it was business as usual. When Anna Hazare was in the news initially, the news channels found it an opportunity to flash something short of a sensation. And no pundit, back then, would have predicted him, an ageing, worthless man with nothing to lose, to become a brand to reckon with, and to weave a dream in every Indian's eyes. But what has transpired when a simple man put himself on the line and threatened to give his life - virtually his only possession - away, for a cause that he believed in, was unbelievable. The Parliament was forced to do its duty. The law makers were forced to draft the rules. The politicians were forced to go to work. Every bureaucrat was forced to turn back, sit up and take notice - with alarming concern, noting that this time, people were putting him under the scanner. For the first time in a long while, corruption started seeming to be a dirty word!

There are many signals that the unprecedented event in Free India has sent across to all quarters of the social and political scheme. And every actor in the play would be taking home their own lessons from the famed Ramlila Maidan, or Ramlila grounds, which the poor patriot, Anna Hazare, had made his home of late. And he did have more than his share of visitors to his new home. Hectic parleys, discussions and debates, heated altercations, arguments, accusations, they all had to give way when a protest turned into a movement like never before. 

Some may call it revolutionary, some may baulk at it as setting a dangerous precedent in arm-twisting the big brother into action, and some may hate Anna Hazare with all of their lives' assets and properties. This is the success of an impeccable person with his heart full of willpower and literally nothing to lose in life, and of branding a campaign and coordinating it to precision, aimed at making the system take notice and respond. However, there is virtually anything that Team Anna could make of what is nothing but its initial break through. The nation may be filled with Euphoria, celebrating what they may see as their victory over the oppressors. But what the team makes out of the very beginnings of a movement, is entirely up to the team that made this happen. With Anna mentioning of Electoral Reforms even as the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had just initiated the debate on Lokpal Bill, the bureaucrats may have a hard time going to sleep peacefully, for the first time in a long while. 

The reality, however, is that the problem has just got its share of attention. And the problem runs much deeper than what it may ever seem from the outside. The celebrations mark the beginning of a new phase in the Indian political history, but change is still at a distant horizon. It would be naive to think that what flew out of the Pandora's box would creep back grudgingly into it with the stroke of a legislation or with the coming of age of an apolitical system called the civil society. The common man, about whom this has all been about, is still out there in the fields and along the vast country side, reading about and discussing Anna Hazare, and counting his hard earned daily wages, as he gets ready to cast his vote to the political party that would pay him the most or would gift him the goodies. To him or her, New Delhi is a different world, and Anna Hazare could well end up to be someone who adamantly refused to eat for two weeks while sitting in the open grounds. Without the last citizen in the queue educated, informed and empowered to deal with their life on their own terms, the political machinery, with its artificial intelligence that it has now got used to, would take every opportunity to strike back - with vengeance.

Related Posts: 
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi 
Anna Hazare: Lokpal Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mumbai Blasts

"We will get to the bottom of this
 This was a pre-meditated terrorist attack
 We will not tolerate this kind of violence
 This is a terrorist attack and cold-blooded murder
 Mumbaikars have always stood up to this kind of attack
 We strongly condemn the attacks
 I am proud of the people of Mumbai
 I appeal to the people of Mumbai to remain calm and united
 I have asked the Home Minister to provide all possible assistance to the State
 The perpetrators of this horrendous attack will be brought to book"

Friday, April 08, 2011

Anna Hazare - Lokpal Bill and Beyond


Is the Centre capitulating under pressure or is it trying out tactics that would see the pressure on Lokpal Bill rescind?

Hope was all but lost. Then came along Anna Hazare! For a nation that has shown the world, the way forward with Non-violence, Anna Hazare was just the face that the youth were searching for. In a country where rampant corruption has been spreading its tentacles far, wide and deep, where the toiling section at the bottom of the hierarchy, grumbling middle class and the indifferent elite would get together only when Mumbai is bombed, the Taj is held to ransom or when Team India lifts the World Cup, it is moving to find people uniting for a common cause, under a leader who dares the bad guys with virtually nothing to lose!

Whenever the Lokpal Bill has been discussed, it has been shoved under the carpet under one pretext or the other for decades together. So, when the Jan Lokpal Bill was crafted by the civil society that has been growing increasingly impatient with the status quo tainted with corruption in various facets of public life, it was path breaking in its own right. It's as good as tossing the question straight in legislature's face: If you could not enact a bill for four decades in the face of burgeoning corruption that has taken giant proportions over the years since Independence, why shouldn't we draft one for you without charging a penny for our services?

The ruling class and the bureaucrats can only be expected to get jittery with the voice that has started resonating across India. And the reverberating force of the newly unified voice has already taken its first casualty, with Sharad Pawar deciding to go into oblivion with regard to GoM on Lokpal bill, rather than face the music and have his stained image tarnished further. That is more than convincing an evidence that when people speak as one, the public servants have to listen.

Image: Deccan Chronicle

With the Nation having sensed its lost identity, the question is, how far should the United Front of Anna Hazare, staunchly supported by other prominent faces like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan and Santosh Hegde, push this forward? The Government has been striking notes of conciliation, indicating the grave concern and the urgency underlying the thinking in the corridors of power. Is this a movement that has reached a critical mass, rocking the foundations and the core of the nerve centre of the politics of corruption? Is the Centre capitulating under pressure or is it trying out tactics that would see the pressure on Lokpal Bill rescind?

What this agitation would have reminded those who have been clinging to their chairs by their sheer lust for power than anything else, is that they are, ultimately, accountable for their actions. But there is more to this issue than what meets the naked eye. The breed that we have let grow all over the country is not something that can be corrected or eradicated with the stroke of a single bill or legislation. All said and done, they are the system, and they are the ones who would have to enact and enforce a draft of any kind that is legislated. What Anna Hazare has achieved with his agitation is something to reckon with, and the Government would not risk its stakes in such a tricky situation. However, let us be reminded that it takes strategy, than sheer force, to leverage the situation and engage the government in dialogue with the civil society. Anna Hazare and his team would have to use this opportunity to make the Government get into discussion mode with the people. Threat of action is more powerful than action itself. And tactical pressure has to be maintained over a period, constantly reminding the bureaucrats and the politicians that they have been elected by the people to serve the people. This is the time, not to go full throttle and all out for the jugular, but to check the pace and cruise along with measured control.

As has been rightly pointed out by Anna Hazare, he has to stay out of any position of responsibility and should remain a strategist, a consultant, and more importantly, a figurehead who would be perceived as a constant threat to those who are willing to cross the line. We have not reached the critical mass yet. But we do have sufficient force to start nudging the system in the right direction.

Related Posts:
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi
Anna Hazare, India against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning
Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Corruption in India, Lok Pal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi

When currency notes are traded by our multi-faceted leaders, why should it be Mahatma Gandhi who goes on sale?

This topic needs no introduction. With the Cricket World Cup fever settling down after India won the World Cup 2011 in style, now is the time for some earnest stock-taking, not in sports but in other, more important, walks of life. The Lok Pal Bill has been living on the edge for decades now, bouncing from the walls of the Parliament back to the drawing board like a tennis ball - this is one place in India where tennis is preferred over cricket - as the cricket ball would wear down when made to bounce off the walls as many times as the Lok Pal bill has been made to. The Bill that was first introduced in 1969 has been walking back and forth along the corridors of power for over 40 years now, but has still not seen the light of the day. 

It should come as no surprise to those who are in the know, that politicians are still found debating the bill that could have serious implications for their own breed. Voices from the civil society, led from the front by Anna Hazare and other prominent faces like Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi, are out to make a difference to the way things are handled by those in power, calling for a strict (caustic?) version of the Bill rather than the watered-down version that is preferred, and currently being proposed by the Government of India. They also demand that members of the civil society be made part of the anti-corruption panel. Another issue is the proposed inclusion of people in the panel, who have had tarnished images. Anna Hazare has been vocal and direct in his attack on Sharad Pawar, the Union Minister of Agriculture, whom the Government has proposed to lead the Panel against corruption. The irony is stark, says Anna Hazare - how could we have the corrupt leading the panel against the corrupt?
Image Courtesy:

Anna Hazare has entered the second day of his fast unto death if the bill is not accepted in the form as drafted by 'India against Corruption', the movement by the Civil Society that has come up with terms of the draft that really matter. It remains to be seen as to what effect the 'Gandhian style' fast would have on politicians, in these days of high-flying corruption, where millions and billions in kick-backs are the order of the day. Talking of Mahatma Gandhi and the way the Indian currency is losing its value, both monetarily and morally, the issue should be sparking another debate off, if Mahatma Gandhi should still feature in the Indian Rupee note, which has increasingly become the "symbol of corruption". When currency notes are traded by our multi-faceted leaders, why should it be Mahatma Gandhi who goes on sale? Anna Hazare should perhaps be starting off with his demand to either eliminate corruption from the country, or replace Mahatma Gandhi with someone else's face on the Indian Rupee. And given the mood of agitation that he is in right now, he may even nominate Sharad Pawar as the 'Figurehead' for the role.

Related Posts:
Anna Hazare: Lokpal Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning
Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Monday, April 04, 2011

Burning the Koran, Pastor Terry Jones and Barack Obama: Time to Act Tough

Image Courtesy: Daily Mail, UK
Ever since Pastor Terry Jones first announced his outrageous intention to burn the Koran, in a bonfire coinciding with 9/11 anniversary, religious intolerance seems to be hitting a new low with every passing day. Tension has always been in the air, all around the world, where such incendiary action is only expected to lead to widespread demonstrations, protests and inevitable violence. And when he finally made good on his intentions and burnt the Koran after a mock trial, there were outbursts of anger and emotions in places that have anyway been sensitive spots with a fragile state of affairs, finally culminating in the slaughter of UN officials at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.

While such violent reactions were predicted as a direct result of burning of Quran, there can be no justification of either action. The difference between the despicable act of burning a sacred religious text and a savage reaction to the act in Afghanistan lies not in the scale of hatred involved, but only in accountability for the actions. Pastor Terry Jones is responsible for spreading hatred through incendiary remarks and deeds, while none can be held responsible for mob action of violence. What both the incidents do achieve, is to widen the gap and increase the divide between two communities. Each one could blame the other and hold the each other responsible for the violence that ensued, resulting in meaningless loss of lives and fuelling growing enmity, forming further grounds for fresh negative acts. But, where does the cycle end?

To quote an old adage, 'With great power comes great responsibility'; there can not be many doubts as to where the power in this equation lies. If the US considers it its duty to get involved in international affairs, as it did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and if it wants to enforce global peace, the responsibility for the current unrest lies squarely with the United States of America. It is never easy to run a democracy, and there would always be conflicting elements that stoke hatred among religions and communities that form the very basis of democracy. However, such provocative actions as the one done by Terry Jones need to be condemned and controlled with utmost urgency, to send a message that would be in line with the signals that the US wants to send across the world, to the international community. With its forces still at work in the Middle East, and with the region being more fragile than ever, given the scale of social uprising that the monarchs of the regions are having to deal with, there is more than ethical and moral responsibility that should make the US take decisive measures to stop the likes of Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Centre. There are practical reasons for the US to take the initiative and make such people pay for, and realise the gravity of their deeds. 

President Obama has tried to bring in the much desired 'Change' and is seeking re-election in 2012. One important facet of the 'Change' has to be the way the US is perceived around the world. If someone can do it, Obama can do it. If it has to be done, now is the time!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

India Wins World Cup 2011 - "We Are The Champions!"

This is the first time, in almost 6 years of existence of Clearway, that I have felt compelled to write three consecutive posts on Cricket. So, at the outset, let me emphasise that this is not a Cricket Blog. But, the occasion is such that 2nd April 2011 is to be etched in Indian minds forever! India winning the World Cup was never a serious prospect, perhaps, till a few weeks back. And I, personally, did not pay focussed attention to World Cup 2011, even as the Flagship event of world cricket kicked off in February. And now, here is the Indian team, beaming across the world with the prestigious Trophy in its hand, pride and joy writ all over its face! 

People of my generation have grown up listening to stories of the Indian Cricket team winning its first ever prized treasure, way back in 1983. And given the swift pace of the modern world, 1983 would have semblances of the pre-historic era, especially to the cricket-loving current generation of the country. "Cricket-loving" is an under-statement. In a buzzing nation coloured with splashes of boisterous celebrations and emotional festivities, cricket has occupied unrivalled centre-stage, not just in the sporting arena, but in the entire gamut of entertainment and beyond. Cricket is an inevitable part of life for the hundreds of millions, who have grown up listening intensely to radio commentaries, watching matches in black-and white television sets, and playing the game in its numerous forms at schools, in the neighbourhood playgrounds, along roadsides and by the beaches and street corners. For those of us who have vague memories associated with India winning the 1983 World Cup, the ultimate possession that we could dream of, as a nation, is the symbol of unrivalled global superiority in the world of cricket, in an event that is celebrated once in four years. And last night was, by no means, just another night. It was History! A day that, going by the records, happens only once in 28 years! 

What MS Dhoni and his team have achieved, by that standard, is phenomenal! They have not just won a competition. It's not just about emerging victorious in a tournament. It is not a matter of achieving the first place in international rankings. The deal is not about India beating Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the trot. Team India have pierced the senses, made their way through innumerable Indian minds and have filled a void that has constantly existed in the subconscious. They have made the zealous followers of the sport, who have had cricket ingrained in their elements, realise themselves and their burning desire for something intangible and unexplainable - "Yes, this is what we have wanted all the while!" The fanatics of Indian cricket may well take a few days to realise the depths of what occurred at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, on a Saturday that they have been waiting for in what seems an eternity. It's the feeling of parched land, riddled with self-doubts and inconsistencies, and only powered by a faint ray of hope for some divine mercy, suddenly being flooded with a torrent of celestial bliss by the Gods. And those who grace this religion that cuts across human divides, reign supreme as Demigods! 

Immense in his stature as portrayed by mortals like us, stands tall a man, clad in blue, his heart buoyant with child-like enthusiasm, his face bubbling with charm, his name radiating the charisma of his personality and worshipped by his followers as the supreme among the Demigods. Still, a mortal that he in reality is, he has been part of as many as six of the teams that have set out on a hunt to bring the famed cup back to the country, ever since it slipped out of the Nation in 1987. The 2nd of April, 2011 was, again, destined to be the day that his thirst for the one recognition has remained elusive for more than two decades of his dominance of Indian, and world cricket, was finally quenched. Today, the dream of Sachin Tendulkar, a sportsman with an astounding array of records, with a deep passion for the sport and a quest for the ultimate prize, stands fulfilled. It was a fitting tribute paid by the next generation in the squad to the Little Master, the young battalion who would have grown up motivated by, watching and learning from him on Television and in person, to carry him around the stadium on their shoulders and parading their pride and devotion to their Living legend.

What Dhoni, guided by Gary Kirsten, has infused in the team is immense confidence in their ability to perform as one unit. That new-born self-belief would make them question history - why should it be an event that happens only once in 28 years? Is that an unwritten rule, or have they been deprived of the World Cup for almost three decades by their own oblivious disorientation? Well, that is something that the Indian cricket team would work out in the coming days. For now, they have treated their followers and fans like never before. The next few days would be spent by the common man in hazed disbelief of the intensity of what has just hit him unannounced, before unabashed pride kicks in, and he declares to the world: "We are the Champions!"  

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sachin Tendulkar - Grumbling Detractors, Dropped Catches and the Crowning Glory

Sachin Tendulkar has always played like a King, growing from a gifted prodigy to a seasoned run-machine, deciding the pace of countless games with a master’s touch and adapting seamlessly to changing situations. 

Apart from the remarkable victory that India scored against arch rivals Pakistan at the World Cup Semi-finals, marked by jubilant celebrations all over the country (which has already been discussed threadbare and analysed to its elements at numerous news reports and blog posts), a significant aspect of the match was that Sachin Tendulkar, the Superman of Indian cricket, stopped short of marking his one-hundredth Century in cricket. And this is significant in more ways than one. For one, it was a burning desire by the legions of cricket fans in the country, that India outplay Pakistan in the all-important Semi-final match and cruise along to the Finals, to meet Sri Lanka at Mumbai on Saturday. More than the lure of the World Cup was the lust for victory against India’s neighbour with a long, shared history of international relations that blew hot and cold. Then, there is the nagging accusation, which people have hurled at the Master while drawing a rather sadistic pleasure, that Sachin fails invariably to perform in high-pressure games and crisis situations – it eludes logic if he is expected to cease being a mere mortal and start brandishing celestial powers, if he has not done so yet on his opponents, to be able to silence his relentless critics – and he doesn’t have many records left to break anyway! Further, there is this superstitious belief in the canons of India’s national religion that the team would somehow fail at the expense of Tendulkar’s ton – “whenever Sachin has scored a century, India has struggled or lost the game”!

Leaving the host of projections of the human mind indulging in an endless streak of analytical adventures aside, perhaps the most significant aspect about the way Sachin left the creases without disturbing the record books yesterday at Mohali, is in his not creating history punctuated with a dubious record. There has never been such a miracle in the History of the game that someone has been so ruthless and dealt so many opponents mercilessly, to score a hundred hundreds! And it is only once that Sachin Tendulkar would be crowned with such a glory in the arena of International Cricket, with a record that had not even been fancied by anyone before he steadily approached the daunting landmark, never slogging but crafting his path with strokes of elegance and grace. Given the grandeur of the occasion that the entire world would not have an option but to stop and applaud, why would he want to strain his own record books, by creating history with as many as four dropped catches and a couple of referrals (which were not lives anyway)? Tendulkar’s “lives” are already among the most talked about topics since yesterday, something that the Master Blaster has seldom been associated with. And his detractors would have already smelt blood, even as the Pakistani team was busy, inexplicably spilling rather straight forward catches at regular intervals.  The commentators would refuse to admit that they had misread the wicket even as the much-awaited (and media-hyped) game began, calling it a batsman’s paradise, as the ball kept crawling inches above the ground and stopping in its track, falling well short of the keeper's gloves on many an occasion, as if the leather had been drenched and soaked in a tank full of water. As batsmen of both the teams fell helplessly, without a clue, deceived by the wily nature of a deceptively lifeless track, the wise men with microphones would rather blame the travails on pressure and the situation, shovelling it all under the convenient label of “nerves”, sticking to their guns rather than acknowledging the appalling nature of the cricket pitch.

And it is not just in such difficult terrain as in the semi-final match alone that Sachin has topped the scorecard, and eventually making the difference between an Indian victory and defeat. Sachin has always played like a King, growing from a gifted prodigy to a seasoned run-machine, deciding the pace of countless games with a master’s touch and adapting seamlessly to changing situations. The crowning jewel in his collection of records deserves to be sublime, free from the strains of dropped catches and revoked decisions. For someone who has made India proud with his sparkling class, we could all wait for his moment of virtually insurmountable glory!

Monday, March 28, 2011

India-Pakistan World Cup Semi-finals: The Buzz on Twitter is only Growing Louder

Looks like it's Wednesday Fever this week, all over the media. There is expectation in the air - along with anxiety, excitement, and even a thirst for each other's blood! Well, that's what is being made of the India-Pakistan Semi-finals of Cricket World Cup 2011, at the "encounter" at Mohali. Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN tweets: "after watching most of our news channels, feel we want to make it out to be world war 3. jingoism 'sells'. sad.". And features a story that reads: "Nothing is more important than Ind-Pak"!

Yes, this is Big - no doubting that. Anything associated with cricket is Big in India, and anything that has to do
with Pakistan triggers an odd combination of hormones spontaneously in the general public. And this is World Cup Semi-finals, featuring arch rivals India and Pakistan! As another prominent journalist, Barkha Dutt, has tweeted: "India & Pakistan are dysfunctionally fixated with each other. As Bono would say, Cant live with or without you". Now, with the Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani having been formally invited by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the India-Pakistan Semi-finals, there is pressure mounting on not just the players and people of India and Pakistan, but even those involved in organising the event and the security forces, who would be geared up for "World War 3"! 

Chill folks, this is a match. This is definitely THE match, but still, it is just a match. There was a commentator who said on Radio, "Lose the Finals, boys, but Win THIS one"! If you are not from India or Pakistan, you may not be able to actually feel it - but the mood is very much that of two nations all set for War! "India-Pakistan", "Mohali" and "Gilani" are three among the top ten trending topics in India on Twitter. Ever imagined "Gilani" being among top tweets in India? So, how would, or rather, why would people on either side of the border settle for the "this is just a match" theory? 

One has got to admit - this is NOT just another match, going by the popular sentiment that is fed liberally by the media fuel. There was a Tweet by a user: "News networks already going bonkers building up the India/Pakistan match. How can either team afford to lose?". That was, at the time of writing, a "Top Tweet", already Retweeted 12 times! It's getting HOT - and the "war" is still two days away! 

Rajdeep Sardesai tried to put things in perspective: "Pak manager intikhab alam bang on: says its a do or die match for both teams, but it aint war, and no one will be killed.". Well, hopefully so! In any case, Twitter is bound to be abuzz with live updates and do its bit to build it up beyond boiling point. It's not all in the game any more! 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Feature - "Clearway Theme"

Starting today, a new Section is introduced - "Clearway Theme", at the Top-right portion of this Blog. It would feature a series of links associated with a chosen theme. It could be a series of blog posts from this blog, it could be a list of web-sites associated with the theme, or it could be any on-line link in line with the chosen theme. 

There are no rules as to how long the theme will stay at Clearway, or how long the list would be. Themes would be chosen arbitrarily and randomly. And the themes would keep changing. For more information, why not check out "Clearway Theme"? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Terrorism and the Power of Positive Change

What if, let's say, terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayiba, had opted for a Positive route instead, to attain their objectives?

Terrorism needs no introduction to mankind, and more so to the current generation of the species that has seen some of the bloodiest exhibitions of the phenomenon all around the world. While records are available for numerous trails of destruction, paved in history and drenched in blood, the latest threat is reported to be a Fidayeen Attack, targeting the most popular event in the world of Cricket, the Finals of Cricket World Cup 2011

It's unfortunate that Sports has always been caught in the firing line, either in the political twisters or in terror threats. But, irrespective of whether the stage set for terrorist attacks is a Sports event, the Parliament House, Mumbai or the World Trade Centre, irrespective of whether these are successful attacks, failed attempts, small-scale damage or large-scale destruction, ultimately, they all reflect the frustration, hatred and pent-up negative emotions in the human mind. Failed aspirations or incidents of perceived injustices faced in an imperfect world result in the almost inevitable and immediately available outlet to the skewed human mind - the negative channel. And there are always people and groups who want to exploit the angry, the ignorant, the deprived and the misled. Ideologies are misinterpreted, youth are misguided, and the confused are plain brain-washed. The results are armed people trained in mindless cruelty and savage brutality, ready to throw away their priceless lives with the sole intention of bringing misery and destruction to members of their own species.  

Terrorism has been on for ages, but the only results of the negative force have always been negative. The fact is, that there can never be a positive result out of a negative force. If the objective is to bring about positive change, it can never be achieved using negative means. However, despite abundant evidence through the ages, there are organisations, like Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jamaat-e-Ahle-Sunnat, as reported in this particular terrorist threat to the World Cup Cricket Finals, that spill vital human energy into negative channels. What if, let's say, a terrorist organisation like Lashkar-e-Tayiba, had opted for a positive route instead, to attain whatever its objective is? Japan was mutilated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with permanent marks and scars of massive destruction. What good would it have meant, if Japan had sought to rebuild its capacities and capabilities with the goal of striking back with vengeance? It did re-build, but what was at play was abundant positive energy. And this positive force made the difference that no negativity could have ever made to a nation that was virtually turned to rubble and ash. It is this resilience that springs out of positive force, which gives its people the courage and the determination to stand up to and overcome the current unprecedented contingency of Earthquake, Tsunami and the nasty nuclear leak that nature has imposed on it. 

That a Nation that has repeatedly borne the brunt of devastation has risen and will keep rebuilding its capabilities by the sheer force of positive energy, is sufficient evidence for an entire community of people, suffering from the pathetic disease of self-pity, deprivation and hatred, to renounce their path of self-destruction and channelise their mind powers into positive forces. If Jamaat-e-Ahle-Sunnat does comprise of scholars and people of religious knowledge, why would it want to be relegated to mere providing justifications for self-defeating violence, rather than lead and team up with other organisations with similar motives, and bring about the very positive change that it is elusively searching for, rather than through destructive means that are meant to be doomed by the very definition of Terrorism? 

It is the destiny of the human mind that the first, natural course that it takes when faced with resistance, is predominantly negative. The mind lacks the strength to resist and make its way through inevitable obstructions. But those who have a culture of channelising their energies positively and creating value from what was destroyed ruthlessly, like the Japanese, have reaped rewards time and again. Success becomes a winning habit and a positive culture thrives amidst the gravest adversity. Will the terrorist organisations learn from the likes of Japan to organise themselves positively? Positive change lies right behind them, but would they turn back and recognise change?      

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Allies Pound Libya: War and Objective - Who's in Control?

In over 6 years of talking of current affairs and in discussing matters that matter in India and, occasionally, around the world, this is the 150th Blog Post at Clearway. From its first post in October 2005, Clearway has travelled a while, and there is a possibility that it might have evolved over the years as well! Over time, with 150 discussions and commentaries, this blog has increasingly embraced an international tone, while the focus remained on India. And that, I believe, would be the way Clearway would continue to express itself, appreciating the good, reprimanding the bad, and cruising along at its own leisurely pace. 

Incidentally, this blog post does have an international flavour to it, where the world is watching Libya unfold, with Muammar Gaddafi in spotlight. It is international, given the host of nations that have been firing cruise missiles into locations that are considered strategic in Libya. And it is international, because this "war", unlike the War on Iraq, has its official stamp of recognition from the United Nations with the UN Resolution 1973. However, being international has its own problems, especially given the broad scope of the UN Resolution in this case.

The allies are free to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya from the grotesque forces and measures taken by the Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to bomb and massacre his own people. The problem in this case, has to do with the objective. What do the measures encompass? What is the ultimate motive? Going to war with the idea of protecting civilians looks noble, but how is the motive to be achieved? Is Gaddafi himself a legitimate target? How would the allies know that the war has ended? Would it be brought to end with the overthrowing of Gaddafi, or does he have to be prosecuted or plain eliminated? Obama has stated that ground troops would not be deployed, and all attacks would be coordinated from the air and sea. So, how accurate are the targets that are being fired upon? There are reports that people out there in Libya themselves are not clear as to who the Loyalists are and who the Rebels are! How would the coalition know who is to be targeted? Reports show a clear division among Libyan people as pro-Gaddadfi supporters and the opponents. With a cohort of allies firing from the air and from sub-marines at targets that may not be clear-cut in the first place, is Libya heading towards a perennial Civil War, in yet another long drawn campaign by the West in Middle East Asia? How many civilian casualties are to be expected out of the attacks, and how many would be within "tolerable limits"? And who is to blame for collateral damage? 

The Wikileaks video "Collateral Murder" was a graphic portrayal of how civilians could fall prey, caught in the cross-fire and being wrongly identified as terrorists by impatient snipers on the prowl. Where does the accountability in an attack by a coalition lie? Who is in control, when the US says it would transfer authority to NATO after an initial phase of attacks? And how would the allies know that the mission has been accomplished, when there is confusion with regard to the very mission that has been under way rather swiftly, immediately after the UN Resolution was passed?

There may not be much room for illegitimacy in the allies' decision to act, given the gravity of the situation that has been depicted of in Libya. But the issue lies with the execution of a rather hazy objective that even people in responsible positions involved in the execution do not seem to be very clear about. Firing thousands of missiles from hundreds of miles away with no back-up on the ground to do reconnaissance activities and guide them on to the right targets doesn't sound like sound strategy from the outset. And given the state of the economy that the West find themselves in now, winding up in Iraq, re-building Afghanistan and starting afresh in Libya is bound to be a strain, even if the nations involved are among the most affluent in the world. The BBC report, titled "Each Missile Costs a Million" may not be happy reading for the Exchequer, when the missiles keep cruising without knowing whom they're going to kiss! 

The questions are definitely not exhaustive. And clearly, given the ambiguous scope of the exercise, the wider repercussions for the entire region, the uncertainty and the risks involved in the operations, and given the budget commitments for the Western economies that are still limping back from recession, there are enormous  costs involved, both in terms of finances and collateral damage. Still, action had to be taken - and it's war again!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Altar of Human Rights - Crisis in Libya

Human Rights is supposed to be fundamental to every member of the species. However, there has been a history of rights denied to different people at different points in time. This time, the breach is happening in Libya. The concept of Revolution takes the shape of the side that you watch it from - and you become a Freedom Fighter or a Terrorist depending on which side of the border that you find yourself in.

We do not have a George Bush now, and there is no Saddam Hussein. But that doesn't take away reality from its realms of existence, or hidden agendas from the pages of conspiracy theories. Leaving the covert agenda aside, the reality remains that Libya is in trouble, Gaddafi has long been in power, media has been barred from painting a clear picture, and news has a tendency to find its way, trickling through the gaps in the electronic era. 

While the Libyan Leader has been exhorting his people to sing and dance and rejoice, the sky has also been raining bullets elsewhere in the same country. The United States has announced sanctions and the world community is deliberating, as lives are being lost and the lucky ones are fleeing. The altar for human rights, right now, is in Libya.