PAKISTAN: WAILING EYES ,IMPALED INNOCENCE & FRENZIED BIGOTRY !

The birth of Bangladesh on 16 December 71 debunked the “two-nation” theory and questioned the rationale for the creation of Pakistan. 43 years to the day, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) massacred 132 children in Peshawar and painfully drove the final nail in Jinnah’s theory. For the dead, the Pakistani establishment had a lot to answer for. And for those who survived, it was their burden to live with scarred and impaled innocence.

16 December 14; six heavily armed TTP terrorists, wearing Frontier Corps uniforms and suicide vests, entered the Army Public School and Degree College (APS) in Peshawar and killed young and innocent children. Those who hid or played dead were pulled out and shot. The Principal was burnt alive. For 8 hours the defenceless children were at the mercy of these butchers.

Who were these fanatics who tore apart the last remaining vestige of civility in Pakistan? The answer to this question encompasses all aspects of Pakistan’s unfortunate 67 year existence.

Pakistan was formed on the basis of the theory that the Muslims of the sub-continent are a different nation. The religious and fundamentalist elements thus wanted Islam as the bedrock of the society whereas Jinnah had a moderate and modernist vision for Pakistan. The break up with East Pakistan in 1971 allowed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to become Prime Minister and a need was felt to cement the State together with an Islamic glue. Pakistan was thus declared an Islamic Republic. Radicalisation had thus been given a semiofficial stamp of approval.

Once Gneral Zia-ul-Haq came to power he embarked on the “Islamisation of Pakistan” to ensure that the Nation gained preeminence amongst Islamic nations and achieve international prominence.

He established Sharia Courts, declared certain muslim sects as unislamic, made Arabic and Islamiat studies compulsory in schools and professional institutes, established a Shoora Council to replace the National Assembly, introduced Islamist punishments by briging in the “Hadood Ordinance”, Nizam-e-salaat was started to ensure regularity of prayers, Madrasas (religious seminaries) and mosques grew in numbers, punishment for blasphemy was changed to death and the last bastion of rationality- the Army- too was brought under this “Islamisation” by encouraging religiosity amongst all ranks.

The Islamisation was now complete!

In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan in cahoots with the US, created and armed the Mujahideens (The soldiers of God) who would wage Jehad (holy war) against the Soviets. This led to an influx of refugees from Afghanistan and an unprecedented weaponisation of the tribal areas. The holy war also led to a renewed wave of radicalization in the name of Islam.

The Taliban were created to ensure that a pliant dispensation filled the void left by the Soviets and cemented the concept of non-state actors as a National Security Strategy. Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban and had it not been for the 9/11 attacks they would have still been in power. Through them Pakistan was able to achieve its strategic depth in Afghanistan.

Post 9/11, Pakistan replicated its earlier efforts to retain toehold in Afghanistan.While supporting ISAF actions,it also allowed safe sanctuary and provided patronage to the Taliban and the al Qaeda and established the concept of “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” to suit its requirement of selectively acting against these elements – based on the level of usefulness of these groups. This concept applied to other non-state organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiybba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) directed against India and the anti Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahiba.

In 2007, disparate Jehadi groups fighting the US came under one umbrella and established the TTP under their leader Baitullah Mehsud and later Hakimullah Mehsud. TTP targeted the ISAF and did not bother the Pakistani Army or State and was a safe investment for a post US scenario as well. However, once under Mullah Fazlullah, the TTP perceived the Pakistani State as siding with the infidels in allowing drone attacks and “rendition” of Jehadi leaders to the US.

Now for the first time the TTP turned against the Pakistani State and established its writ over large swathes of the restive tribal areas.Pakistan was now finally confronting the hydra headed monster that it had created.

The TTP meanwhile bombed markets and mosques, attacked the General Head Quarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 , the Mehran Naval Base in 2011, Wagah Border Crossing in 2014, KarachI Airport in 2014 and in between (according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack -GCPEA) attacked 838 schools and killed 30 children and injured 97 others between 2009 ans 2012 including Malal Yusufzai.

The Pakistan Army finally launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the TTP and registered considerable gains, yet it did not act against the likes of Jehadi groups such as the Haqqani Network and the anti India LeT and JeM. The establishment had yet to learn its lessons about playing with fire and raising snakes in your own courtyard.

On 16 December 14, the TTP facing the heat in the operations, attacked the innocent and unsuspecting children of APS, Peshawar. This bestiality exposed the true face of these bigots and fanatics and also the bankruptcy of Pakistan’s belief in raising and harbouring such Jehadi groups.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, a shell shocked Pakistan Prime Minister,Nawaz Sharif, announced that the operations against the TTP shall be escalated. The Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif rushed to Kabul to meet the ISAF Head General Joseph Dunford and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to provide evidence of the APS attack being controlled from Afghanistan and to ask Afghanistan to hand over Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Chief Mullah Fazlullah.

Now all this was eerily similar to the Indian reactions and demands made on Pakistan in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks which killed almost 200 innocents and on which Pakistan is yet to act.

Till now an unmindful Pakistani Establishment heartlessly ignored the wailing eyes of its citizen and raised “snakes and monsters” to attack its neighbours while turning a blind eye to what these organisations were inflicting on its citizenry and the society. Until the snake turned around and bit the children of Pakistan.

Years of Islamisation cannot be undone by either lifting the moratorium on the death penalty or by ordering even more sustained operations. But to reach there it has to take small yet resolute steps such as not differentiating between the Jehadis for its misplaced strategic aims and by demonstrating willingness to dismantle anti India terrorist set up. Its most crucial test will be its ability to act against the perpetrators of 26/11 such as Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed.Pakistan will gradually have to undo all measures initiated by Zia ul Haq and embrace modernity and moderate politics

Is Pakistan willing to bite the bullet and once and for all give up on the faulty premise on which it invested in these Jehadi and sectarian organiations?

If not, Pakistan should brace up for a re-enactment of the bloodbath at Peshawar and this time it will only be worse, and I shudder to think of what really can be worse than shooting 132 school children !

The Amul Ad depicts the children of APS, Peshawar in their uniforms.The children have a wary expression and the elder amongst them, along with the Amul Girl,have been shown as guiding them.

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The Tag LineHumein khilne do…padhne do…udne do..badhne do…means that the children are requesting the various takeholders to spare them atleast and allow them to blossom, study,soar high and grow…

…all of which was denied to the innocent victims of Peshawar !

12 January 15; Peshawar school reopens;The ill fated APS,Peshawar reopened  today after being renovated in the wake of the terrorist attack. Pakistan’s Army Chief was present at the school to welcome back the children and to send a reassuring message to the people .

The swift reopening and the children resuming their normal routine is a sign of the resolve to bounce back from the tragedy and also a subtle but defiant message to the Taliban.

The psychological impact on the children however will be life long and hope they get the required help to get over those ghastly scenes and the loss of the friends they will never ever meet again.Hats off to their courage and hoping their rulers demonstrate the same resolve in shunning the terror groups who have brought Pakistan to its knees.

 

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“FREEZER “, “KISSING” & “TUNNU” BABAS – GODMEN GALORE AND THEIR TEMPLES OF DOOM !

In a country where a black cat can do what a traffic light can’t and where time is auspicious and not precious it’s natural to have your very own “customized” “Godman”, promising you salvation,and mercifully at cheap rates too. But with cheap rates – sleaze, avarice and crime also come cheap;sadly at the expense of the hapless victims of this Ungodly Man!

In late November, Satlok Ashram (hermitage) of self-styled “Godman” Sant Rampal, witnessed a pitched battle between his “private” army (Army of God? Mujahideen?) and the Police. Rampal, an erstwhile engineer, calls himself the “avatar” or reincarnation of a mystic poet Kabir. His stand off with the Police took place as he had been defying court orders to appear in relation to a case of inciting violence and murder ,dating back to 2006.

Rampal used 15000 disciples as “human shields” and caused the death of six people before finaly being arrested. Search revealed ostentatious opulence, sex literature, porn CDs and pregnancy kits from the “Godman’s” personal chamber and records of transfer of funds running into crores of rupees while the standoff was in progress. Rampal now stands accused of treason and sedition also . Definitely a first for a God!

There are others too in this Roll of “Honour”.

Asaram “Bapu” (father), preached the “existence of one supreme conscious”, but stood accused of murder and sex crimes while creating a Rupees 5000 crore empire. He and son Narayan Sai were arrested on charges of rape based on the complaint by a former disciple.The Police had to conduct a paternity test on the septugenarian “Godman” to get the charges to stick.Asaram passed with flying colours and the duo are still behind bars.

Please welcome Nirmal Baba- a failed businessman, who prescribes bizarre solutions for ushering in “kripa” (blessings),such as changing the “lal chutney” (red dip) for the “hari chutney” (green dip) while partaking the Indian snack “samosa” (???) and promises uninterrupted blessings for as less as Rupees 2000 (USD 30) to those who are gullible enough to believe him.He is presently facing charges of fraud leveled by some of his “now enlightened” followers.

“Freezer” Baba or Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagran Samiti died on 29 January 14 but his body is still kept in a deep freezer by his disciples as they say he will awake again from “spiritual Samadhi”! His death is shrouded in mystery owing to land and wealth related issues.

“Kissing Baba” who hugged and kissed his devotees to remove their afflictions and problems, was recently arrested in Kaddapa.

We also had “Godman” Chandraswami who could supposedly “read minds” but was “famously” accused of gun running  and of being involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s murder. And Swami Premanand who produced “lingams” (male phallus) for select devotees (??), but only until he was arrested and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for raping 13 girls!!

But its Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ek Insaan-spiritual head of the Dera Sachcha Sauda takes the cake. He drives a Range Rover, wears rockstar clothes, has Z plus security status and is a “spiritual Mika” who has crooned Punjabi pop numbers such as “Love Charger” and “Atom Bomb” ! He is making his directorial and acting debut in the film MSG-The Messenger of God in which amongst other stunts he plays rugby to save the world! To round up the impressive CV, Rahim is accused of blasphemy, two rapes and two murders also!

The movie -MSG-The Messenger of God,starring Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim has run into serious trouble in Punjabi and has stoked communal embers  as it portrays him as an apostle of God. And also God himself!. It’s release is being opposed vehemently by the predominantly upper caste Sikhs and the ruling  Akali Dal.The Censor Board chief ,Leela Samson resigned citing political interference in by the ruling dispensation in according clearances to the movie which the board had denied on grounds of communal harmony.The matter went to the tribunal and is presently subjudice with the movie yet to be released.Meanwhile the opposing camps have only been becoming more belligerent and threatening violence against each other..all in the name of God.

The Amul ad on the movie MSG-The Messenger of God captures  the controversy regarding the Censor board certification.It shows a caricature depicting Ram Rahim in a costume worn by him in the movie and looking surprised at the cuts made by the Censor Board.It also shows a caricature depicting Leela Samson angrily walking out and a pen thrown on the ground showcasing the fiasco surrounding her sudden resignation . .The Amul Girl is witness to it all while a raging fire depicts the violence that has erupted because of  the controversial movie.

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The Tag Line…Sab  Godmal Hai. ..is a play on the Hindi word “golmaal” implying that everything is murky about the incident and also hints at the entire controversy being in the name of God – and in this case the Godman  of Dera Sachcha  Sauda.

The Punch Line..Messenger of Taste..is a play on  the name of the controversial movie and suggests that Amul is spreading a simpler message unlike others around us.

Getting back to the main theme.

The Amul Ad on Sant Rampal depicts the  carnage and fiasco at Satlok Ashram. It shows Rampal with his trademark hand gesture being nabbed by the Police. The battle gear of the Police, an upturned ashram and shadowy figures of the trapped disciples round off the scene,with the Amul Girl shown as a bystander.

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The Tag Line…Sharampal Baba?….is a take on the name “Rampal” and the urdu word “Sharam” meaning shame. It asks the simple question that isn’t this “Godman” ashamed of all that he has indulged in?

The Punch Line…Spread Amity and Amulity…is a message for these “Godmen” as also the society to spread peace and amity and a subtle play on the name Amul.

Religion in India is characterised by elitist rituals,schisms,exclusivity and “Godmen”  who have held sway over the minds of the excluded as well as the so called “privileged” groups.The “Deras” are a result of the former where the excluded classes have found a semblance of acceptability and also a sense of strength in numbers.Even the, affluent and the privileged get sucked into this whirlpool of religiosity.Since our childhood we are fed on a staple of “miracles” by saints and Gods we get drawn to modern day “super healers” and “Godmen”.These then conjure fake miracles and prey on our need to lean on a superior power.

Once the “Godman” has sufficient following he is then a mascot for the politicians who intend exploiting the crowd pulling power of these “saints” for their electoral gains. And the “Godman” then perpetuates more power and wealth. A self-sustaining cycle is thus in place and includes the most demeaning aspect of sexual exploitation of the disciples.

The misdeeds and ungodly conduct of the “Godmen” are well documented yet we allow this charade to continue.It is because of the “disciples”; they are the biggest perpetrators of this misery.Seeking redemption and solace these mindless herds flock in thousands to any new wonder magician claiming to be the reincarnation of any deity under the sun.These disciples allow themselves to be fooled and start believing in their “Gods” and their machinations and contribute to the perpetuation of various myths surrounding the “Godman”; the most common being some wonder “vibhuthi” (holy ash) or concoction or potion which cures all ils except superstition !

Superstition and lack of rationality perpetuate undying loyalty to the chosen “Godman”.Its an amazingly successful “business model” and all that is required is to master a  few scriptures, voice modulation,a PR agency,handful of congregations and a sleight of hand for tricks packaged as miracles.Of course a pliant section of the media too.Then in 2 to 3 years anyone can become a “Godman” and then carry on with his legacy and whence the politco-religious nexus is complete he can unleash his perversion on the hapless yet culpable devotees.

Why is this phenomenon successful in India?Well, when the mere ability to sign ones name is considered a benchmark for literacy then true knowledge and rationality will surely give way to robed charlatans and their antics. QED!

The negative manifestations of the “Godman phenomenon” are also and undeniable result of the mixing up of politics, religion and democracy and its exploitation by the politicians. This prevents our government of the day from taking resolute action against frauds and charlatans and encourages them to inflict misery and  chicanery on the hapless (yet culpable) disciples.

To round up, I suggest that the next “Godman” should name himself “Frauddy Baba” as the name itself would be a disclaimer and he could then indulge in all that he desires!

POST SCRIPT

Related to the subject is the recently released Raj Kumar Hirani directed and Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma starrer “PK” which is a satire on the business of “Godmen”.The movie has become the highest grossing Bollywood flick but has run into serious trouble with right wing Hindu organisations protesting the supposed denigration of the religion in the movie.

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A previous Amul ad on “PK” depicted a controversial nude poster of Aamir Khan for the promotion of the movie and the Amul Girl is shown wearing an attire which was worn by Aamir Khan in one of the scenes of the movie. The tag line and the punch line are a play on the name of the movie and the fact that Aamir bared all in this venture.

The protests against the movie inspired another Amul ad.The ad shows a  caricature depicting Aamir Khan as PK and borrows from a scene in the movie wherein PK shows the contents of his briefcase to his friend Jaggu, played by Anushka Sharma. Here Amul butter blocks are shown in the briefcase with the Amul girl depicting Jaggu in a similar attire as in the movie.

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The Tag Line Don’t Bhaste It,Taste it…has borrowed the word “bhaste” from a song in the movie which is but a demented pronunciation of the word “waste”.It subtly implores people to watch the movie and not to ruin it by baying for its banning.

The Punch Line… Tarray it ,Please…is an oblique exhortation to the public to try the Amul butter as also a clever play on the heavily accented eastern dialect of the central character PK and it obliquely exhorts the people to at least watch the movie and to give it a try before dismissing it out rightly.

The controversy was needless and most on ground were protesting without having watched the movie itself.And if there was anything to be protested about then it was he blatant misuse of a gullible man’s faith to perpetuate practices and superstitions as highlighted in the movie.

YEH INDIA KA CRICKET HAI -PART II :JITTERY DRIVES,NERVY HOOKS & BLIND REDEMPTION !

The India Australia Test Series is underway and the Indian Team is straining all its sinews – not to meet competition- but to go Down Under! With the Indian galley holed and sunk twice already only the committed few have survived scrutiny. For the others, there’s no Anushka Sharma this time around, to play scape goat for their “jittery drives” and “nervy hooks”!

The contest for the Border Gavaskar Trophy is always a much anticipated affair. It’s billed higher than the England Australia Ashes too and more so this time as the current series is being played under the emotionally charged backdrop of the tragic demise of Aussie cricketer Phillip Hughes.

So far the Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli led Indians have faltered miserably.

Yes! We have two Captains, so what? We have the richest and most powerful cricket set up – BCCI – and we can do anything! Why, we can even add a third Captain after all its an important series, isn’t it? And I recommend Team Director Ravi Shastri as Captain No 3. One for each session of play.The Aussies will probably be too busy laughing and might lose half a Test Match !!!!

In the first “Test” at Adeaide,India lost narrowly by 48 runs largely on the back of stand in Captain ,Virat Kohli’s “tons” (centuries – 100 runs)in each innings. Making his debut as Captain, Kohli led from the front and bravely too, especially after being hit on the head off the very first ball he faced. At this stage it seemed as if the “no WAGs on tour” ( WAGs – Wives and Girlfriends) theory had some merit indeed.

So,I waited for the results of the Second India Australia Test Match at Brisbane to see if the controversial “no WAGs” assertion got established for good.or would come undone.

India batted well in the first innings and it seemed that the absence of WAGs was doing them good. But the second innings saw a woeful batting display.Shikhar Dhawan’s freakish wrist injury during practice on the fourth morning of the second Test Match meant that Kohli would have to go in instead at the start of the day’s play. The switch didn’t work and the Indian batting collapsed. The Captain said that Kohli got just 10 minutes to prepare for the switch in batting order and the change “unsettled” the team! Did I hear it correctly? The change in batting order “unsettled” the team???(And not the presence of a WAG – MIND IT !)Also,Kohli failing in both innings implies that after all its not Anushka Sharma but his batting prowess which holds his game together or otherwise.

And by the way, professionals don’t proffer such lame excuses and are supposed to be conditioned and always prepared for the worst just as doctors and Army personnel are. Highly paid and pampered – our cricketers blaming the practice pitches, lack of time for preparation or lack of vegetarian food for their dismal performance smacks of a fortress and under siege mentality. Just admit that Mitchel Johnson was too good on the day. With this attitude I predict a 4-0 score line in favour of Australia..

Now that the “no WAGs” theory is all but consigned to the dustbin, what if some team member insists on rechristening WAGs as BAGs? BAGs ? Boyfriends and Girlfriends! Prepare for it now, lest we find ourselves as unprepared as our “dhoorander” (or down under) cricket team.

The Amul ad/ topical on Virat Kohli commemorates his remarkable achievement of scoring a century in each innings of an overseas Test Match.It has a caricature depicting the bearded Virat holding a placard in each hand announcing his feat.The Amul Girl is holding the player’s cricket gear and offering him a Amul butter laden toast as a reward for his achievement.

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The Tag LineVir Proud of Youis a play on the name Virat and the words “we are” and expresses the sense of pride in the manner in which the “Captain Braveheart” compiled the centuries , in the first Test Match in Adeaide, in spite of getting hit by a bouncer as well as inspired an epic, though unsuccessful, run chase.

The Punch LineTons of Tastealludes to the two “tons” – 100 run scores- copiled by Kohli as well as extolls the superlative taste of the Amul Butter.

And the WAGs have struck back too, as not taking them along on tour has denied our team management valuable options,as some of the WAGs would surely have batted better than the Indian “tail” which has refused to wag so far and has firmly stayed between the hind legs!

Curse of the WAGs, any takers?

The Indian cricket team may not win redemption Down Under but it did happen in some measure through the astounding feat of India’s Blind Cricket Team. They beat arch rivals Pakistan in the fourth World Cup recently held in South Africa. These are “bravehearts” too, who deserve accolades galore.The media chose to relegate the achievement to an almost “non-issue” status and though the Team was felicitated by PM, Narendra Modi there wasn’t any accompanying euphoria or ticker tape parade either. They have equaled the feat of the able bodies cricket teams of 1983,2007 and 2011 but for our lack of regard for the specially abled, their achievement has gone unsung. None-the-less, these brave blind men have won our cricketing heritage a redemption of sorts.

The Amul ad line also paid tributes to Aussie cricketer Phillip Hughes (also known as Phil Hughes) who died as a result of a bouncer hitting him on the back of his neck.He died 3 days short of his 26th birthday and was also on the cusp of his recall to the Aussie Test Team.His accident and demise provoked a huge outpouring of grief in Australia and amongst cricket players and enthusiasts.The incident also sparked a debate on the safety gear in cricket as well as whether the “bouncer” needs to be banned or not.

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This Amul ad/ topical on Phil Hughes pays tribute to his memory and cricketing persona and has captured the “#PutOutYourBats” campaign and form of tribute adopted by millions of people worldwide when they “put out their bats” with a cap in remembrance of the fallen cricketer. A huge loss indeed.

RIP “HUGHESY” -1988 – 2014 !

23 December 14; On the eve of the Boxing Day India Australia Test Match it has emerged that after Virat Kohli got out cheaply on the 4th day of the second Test Match at Brisbane , he came and lambasted Shikhar Dawan for “feigning” injury to avoid facing the Aussie pacers.To which Dhawan retorted sharply leading to Team Director Ravi Shastri intervening and preventing the situation from going out of hand.

“Virat Kohli Shikhar Dhawan Fight” ! I typed this to get in on the details myself.Happy surfing !!!

Post Script; April 2015

Virat Kohli’s disappointing performance in the knock out games in the World Cup came in for critical review as it seemed that young firebrand and the Indian Test Captain , for all his imperious talent had yet to learn how to handle the pressures and weight of expectations of being a frontline Indian cricket player, especially in big ticket games.He is being touted as the next Tendulkar, but he has a long long long way to go before he can emulate the maestro.Its not about the cricket scores alone, its also about the temperament and the ability to soak pressure, which Tendulkar did admirably for 25 years and stayed at the top of his game dishing out one memorable performance after another.

The adoring millions turned against Virat Kohli ,as they sought to vent their ire and lay the blame for the loss of their team at the World Cup.The presence of his girlfriend , Bollywood actor, Anushka Sharma, with him during the World Cup once again coincided with his poor form and led to blame being laid on her for Virat’s performance.Her presence was considered as the reason for Kohli losing his focus and concentration.Lots of netizens ripped into the duo and anequal number lent them support as well.Kohli and Sharma exited the airport, on arrival in India, holding hands and looing distraught and uncertain and clearly seeking solace and comfort in each other.

Also, Kohli’s misbehaviour with journalists and intemperate and immature on field spats an reactions point towards a larger malaise in the talented player.He needs to channelise his energies correctly or he may find that “jab tak balla chalta hai , tab tak thaath hain !”

This Amul ad/ topical on Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma captures the criticism that the duo faced for Kohli’s poor performances with the bat.It shows two caricatures, depicting Virat and Anushka sitting togethr and tending to each other, with the Amul Girl offering them the delicious Amul butter laced toasts.The topical captures the cricket player’s and the Bollywood actor’s romance especially in the backdrop of the negative publiciy that the duo received.

The Tag Line …Sab ne bana di jodi…  is a play on the Anushka starrer Rabb ne bana di jodi and hints at the Virat and her being a couple.

The Punch Line …Have It NHow… is a play on the word “now” with the first two letters in the word “NHow” ,subtly reminding us of Anushka’s home production NH 10, in which she also stars in the lead role.

This is not the end of the story.There’s much more and i am sure they will be happy tidings to say the least.

NIRBHAYA REDUX – “UBER” DISGRACE & THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD!!!

Within two years of the “Nirbhaya” smear, a cab driver  perpetrates heinous rape in the heart of the National Capital. What follows is a study in absurdity and in the dock are all those who are now making all the noises – not necessarily the right ones!

5th December 2014, New Delhi, a 27 year old finance executive boards a taxi, provided through the Uber App and before the trip’s over her world has disastrously transformed. The driver rapes her en route and drives off!

The impunity with which Shiv Kumar Yadav,the alleged perpetrator, diverted from the designated route and committed the crime raises some qestions.

Was there a GPS tracking the cab? Was Uber monitoring the trip? Was Yadav’s criminal record checked? Do enforcement regulations exist?

The answer to all of these queries is exactly what you feared – No! Yadav had a GPS enabled and company provided I phone which he switched off after picking up the passenger. Since Uber ride share services in India do not fall under regulatory mechanisms which make installation of GPS mandatory they did not track the driver. It’s mandatory only for cab services hired by employers for late night drops of women passengers.

Also, Uber claims it “is not a transportation provider” but an “aggregator”. This implies that it does not own a fleet and it does not employ drivers, unlike other transportation providers. So it has “zero liability” towards ensuring the drivers registered with it have valid licenses, permits and insurances. Instead it’s the government which picks up the tab!

This is exactly the reply made by Uber to shake off responsibility, in its initial response to the incident. Uber cool !

No need to seethe as all those who have signed up with them have agreed to that “UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. IT IS SOLELY YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE IF A THIRD PARTY PROVIDER WILL MEET YOUR NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS”. This allows them to shrug and walk away while you are traumatized for life. Read the fine print next time, “me hearties”!

For the background checks it has emerged that there are 4000 unverified cab drivers registered with Uber and the likes of Yadav were employed on the basis of forged “character certificates”. So does Uber even know who is driving? And this is when Uber advertises to provide safe rides and “shortcut to everywhere” – including your personal hell!

Yadav did not possess the Public Service Vehicle Badge (PSV Badge) which is mandatory for cab drivers. This badge is provisionally available from the Transport Department based on furnishing of the passport or a character certificate. Previously a three page Police verification form was required to be filled which sought details of criminal record and also two local guarantors of addresses and character. This was done away in 2013 and in its absence Yadav avoided disclosing facts such as his trials for sexual crimes in 2003 and 2013!

A look at Uber’s record reveals that it has services banned in Spain, Netherlands and Germany for unfair business practices and for flouting national permit requirements. Also,In Portland and California it is facing law suits over flouting regulations and for misleading customers about its background checks on drivers !

These concerns have been raised earlier and the regulatory bodies should have taken cognisance of Uber’s record worldwide. But that’s where the theatre of the absurd descends upon us.The main protagonists seem like the anthropomorphic characters from Lewis Caroll’s – Alice in Wonderland.

Like the “Queen of Hearts” declaring “off with her head” the Government immediately banned Uber from operating in Delhi. This was seemingly to appease seething public anger in a poll bound Delhi and not for regulatory concerns. The service could have been banned earlier but like Alice, the regulators had been drinking heavily from bottles labelled “Slumber on” and “Cant care lesser”!

Like “Bill the Lizard” fetches the gloves from inside the palace in a time of crisis Delhi Police too retrieved Yadav from Mathura. The Police’s unwillingness to deal with Yadav and his ilk emboldens the latter.But what better can be expected from a potbellied service seeped in alleged corruption and unsympathetic to the public it serves? (Uber burps I suppose !)

Post its castigation, Uber’s concern for the safety of women in Indian cities rings hollow and would have warmed the cockles of “Mock Turtle” who remains sad in the story even though he has no sadness !!!

The media carried out a public trial for the intial few days to cash on the TRPs and the various political parties instead of suggesting practical measures to deal with the menace indulged in a pathetic blame game ! The entire jamboree reminded me of the farcical trial of “Knave of Hearts for stealing the queen’s tarts”!

And just as in the famous tale when Alice speaks up to protest the ridiculous proceedings the King and Queen order “off with her head” this is what happens to the women of this country when they raise their voice against the lax attitude towards rape, Mulayam Singh Yadav will come up with “boyj will be boyj” theory and Chautala will prescribe early marriages and no mobile phones for girls, to prevent rape. Uber Bizarre !!!

Alice in Trauma-land indeed !

The Amul Ad is based on the incident being discussed.It depicts the Amul Girl angrily admonishing a caricature depicting an Uber executive. The executive is showing the I Phone as an alternative to and defence for not installing the GPS in the taxis.In the background is a white cab akin to the white Maruti Swift Dezire involved in the crime and a cab driver depicted cleaning his taxi, a common sight.

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The Tag Line….KhUberdaar Kyon Nahin Thheis a play on the name of Uber and the hindi word “khabardaar” which means “to be careful”.The Amul Girl is seeking the answer from Uber as to why the company wasn’t careful enough to prevent occurrence of the rape.

The Punch Line….Safe To Take Home…subtly brings home the threat posed by unregulated service providers such as Uber by comparing it with the unquestioned reliability of the Amul Butter !

There’s an urgent need to regulate the USD 6-8 billion taxi industry in India of which only 6 percent is regulated. Unbridled advent of foreign companies by luring them with low taxes and easy processes doesn’t mean that regulations will be done away with or be absolutely lax. The government and the regulators will need to ensure the safety and interests of the people of this country.

Uber verifies criminal records for drivers associated with it in the US for the last 7 years in each county of residence, in the Federal Court and also in the national crime’s register. But here it did not even check that Yadav’s cell was not registered on his name !

Not banning but stringent enforcement will work. The Police needs to get its act (and belly) in shape to infuse confidence. And they need help from the community as well,as protecting the women in our families is foremost the society’s responsibility.Its time for community policing to take root and also for creating a national register of offenders to simplify the verification process.

And its already too late for the 25000 rape victims in 2014 alone….

Parting thought..

Missing Arvind Kejriwal’s sound bytes as since the muffler is out- “Kaali Khansi” has perhaps taken the “Cheshire Cat’s” tongue !

 

 

MODI IN SIACHEN: BETWEEN MANTO AND A HOT DIWALI ROCKET !

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with the Indian Army soldiers in Siachen, it captured the nation’s imagination. On the back of resounding election victories and a successful US visit this was a political “masterstroke” which was bound to bolster his political star.

At 5 AM on 24th October, there was a desperate knock on the bed room door of Nawaz Sharif. It was the Pakistan Army Chief, Raheel Sharif. He informed a bemused Nawaz that Modi was on his way to Siachen and that Pakistan HAD to respond at all costs. And that too soon.

Still wearing his pink coloured polka dotted night suit, Nawaz Sharif was bundled into a chopper heading to the Pakistan side of the Saltoro Ridge which houses the Siachen Glacier.As Modi was reportedly wearing two jackets in the icy heights, the Pakistan Army thought their PM would look “macho” without wearing even one !!!

Without a jacket, Nawaz Sharif developed delirium and started praising Modi for his adroit sense of politics and shouted that “Pakistan mein bhi Modi Sarkar” !!!! Fearing embarrassment, the Pakistan Army chopper was ordered to abort mission!

Modi’s surprise visit to the “world’s highest battlefield” had claimed its first unintended victim.

The Indian PM was to initially mark Diwali in flood hit Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Intending to send across a message he also added Siachen to his itenary. This was to be the first visit in a decade by an Indian PM to Siachen Glacier (which in Balti means ” Land with an abundance of roses”; an irony indeed )During the visit to the glacier he flew over the Indian Army positions,visited the Base Camp,addressed the troops as well as interacted with them over a cup of tea.

Modi expressed solidarity with the soldiers and conveyed to them the Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices of the Indian Army. He also commended the Army’s rescue effort during the recent floods in Kashmir and assured that prickly and emotive issues such as modernization, One Rank One Pension and a National War Memorial will be addressed satisfactorily.

The sub text of the visit was also unmistakable as the PM was visiting a difficult battle zone in the backdrop of his decisive and firm response to Pakistan’s trans LC firing. And with a strategic connivance of China and Pakistan converging in Kashmir, his visit held massive significance.

By now the opposition had woken up to the news of the latest Modi manouevre. Dear ol’ “Pappu” was confused as to why was Modi visiting Siachen on Halloween and claiming it was Diwali ??? Halloween???Someone quickly went an placed an earthen pot on his head lest he called a press conference to “expose” facts which would decimate his Indian National Congress (INC) to the extent that all its members would only be acting in Ram Leela for the next few decades or so. Pappu of course would struggle to get the role of even a tree in the “Ashok Vatika”!

Modi was also visiting Srinagar and this gave the opposition a whiff of a chance to get back into the “game”.Spokespersons and leaders such as Rashid Alvi (Congress),Anwar Ali (JDU), Tariq Anwar insinuated that Modi’s real intent in going to Srinagar was to further his Party’s prospects in the upcoming elections in J&K. Irrespective of the truth, not one demonstrated neither compassion for the flood victims nor solidarity with the soldiers. All that mattered was “the Party line”. For this unbridled buffoonery all  of them have qualified for an all-expenses paid 9 nights and 10 days on Bana Top, a post at 22000 ft! Of course without jackets !

The Amul Ad/ topical on Narendra Modi’s Siachen visit is based on a photo of the PM during his  visit, wherein he is depicted as seated and patting a dog with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Dalbir Singh Suhag and another officer are present in the background.A smiling Amul Girl is shown as the dog handler. The detailing is good as the characters are identifiable by their attire during the actual event.

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The Tag LineSiachen Jahan Se Achchais a take on the popular patriotic Urdu poem “Saare Jahan se achcha Hindustan Hamara” by Muhammad Iqbal (also known as Allama Iqbal) and conveys Modi’s intent in celebrating Diwali in Siachen rather than any other place in the world. Ironically the creators have chosen a tag line to depict Siachen – a battle zone between India and Pakistan – from the works of a poet who was later the ideologue behind the idea of Pakistan. (Iqbal composed this poem as the Taranah -e- Hind in 1904 and his transformation from a secular poet to an ideologue of a future Muslim society was complete when in 1910 he composed the Taranah -e-Milli ,an ode to the greatness of Islam).

The Punch LineTop of the worldsignifies the giddy heights at Siachen and relates it to the status of Amul Butter as being on top of its trade!

There’s been much speculation about whether the dog with Modi depicted was a adopted stray or a trained canine serving alongside the troops? It reminds me of Sadat Hasan Manto’s short story “The Dog of Tithwal” wherein the Indian and Pakistani troops name the same stray dog as “Jhun Jhun” and “Shun Shun” respectively. And to underscore the situation of the time the dog is expected to choose nationalities.It later loses its life when he is shot at by both sides.

To lift the veil, the dog in the strip is named Deva and it’s a Great Swiss Mountain Dog serving as a combatant with an Indian Army Dog Unit and is trained for Avalanche Rescue Operations.

Its important for us all to realize that Siachen is one of the key national efforts and the PM’s visit has gone a long way in endorsing the fact. Some columnist have also observed that Modi has re-established the “institutional relevance of the military” in nation building. His visit endorses the Government’s commitment towards defence related issues, be they operational or administrative in nature.

Modi’s visit was like a well-made Diwali rocket which had the intended effect its fired for – loud and spectacular. Its just that some in the opposition felt its hot end finding its mark on them !!!

After having walked to the Base Camp the onus is on Modi to walk the talk.He will need to back his words with deeds and resist the temptation to use the military as an expedient for his political agenda.Genuine or rhetorical – the true import of his actions will emerge as time goes by. Mr Modi, history and the thousands of families who have given martyrs to this country are watching you intently.Fail at your peril !

Meanwhile, taking a leaf out of Modi’s book, Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to express solidarity with “his” troops over Christmas.He is visiting the buffaloes in his native Saifai !!!