The World According to 'Gap':
Sikhs, Tokenism and Mistaken Xenophobia

[Published in CounterPunch, Nov 29-Dec 1]

Gap has managed two marketing scoops within a short period. It got a Sikh model, Waris Ahluwalia, to be the face of its Holiday 2013 campaign, and when one of the hoardings was defaced it scored by acting against the racist attack and promptly posted the ad as its background picture on Twitter. 

People who wear Gap could now also wear a halo. Those who did not became potential loyalists. Are people all that easy to please, or are these gestures a great way to divert attention from dealing with the real stuff? Who buys anything only because of the models? Lady Gaga's piss, the latest gimmick to market it as a limited edition fragrance, is a quirk. 

The conscience of commerce 

Had Gap used Prabhjot Singh, the Columbia University professor who was beaten up on September 21 after being called “Osama” in the increasing incidence of White terror the symbolism would have been more potent. But that is never the plan. A message by a Sikh on Gap’s Facebook page says it all: “Thanks for honouring Sikh culture in your ad, Gap. #Respect.”

Somewhere in the Bronx, in the hoarding of the garment ad that had the words "Make love", love was replaced with bombs. Beneath the logo was scrawled, “Please stop driving taxis”. 

The person who helped this drivel get a premiere opening was a media commentator. He took it upon himself to awaken people about what goes on in “a haven of tolerance”, New York City, where one in every three residents is an immigrant. “I wanted the world to see how millions of brown people are viewed in American today,” wrote Arsalan Iftikhar. 

Gap, according to him, is way ahead in fighting for minority rights. “…as the year 2014 inches closer to us, I want to live in an America where a fashion model can be a handsome, bearded brown dude in a turban who is considered as beautiful as a busty blonde-haired white girl in see-through lingerie.”

He completely loses the plot. For someone who describes himself as a “person of color” he seems to forget that white is also a colour. He has problems with stereotypes and yet falls into the same fetid rut not only regarding race, but also of how women are viewed by men. The transposition is disingenuous and completely off. In fact, it only conforms to the set piece of advertising as titillation. 

The Gap ad is not the first. In June 2008, Kenneth Cole had put out an ad that stated: “A Sikh male, about 25 to 35 years old, who is ‘attractive’” for a worldwide campaign titled ‘Non-Uniform Thinkers’. Sonny (Sandeep) Caberwal was one of the faces of its campaign focus: “We all walk in different shoes.” This too was in New York. A life-size picture of the model was at the Rockefeller Centre. The Sikh community honoured Caberwal.

How does being attractive and of a certain age send out any special message? The fashion house specified Sikh male; they wanted a bloody turban to sell their “different shoes” idea. They were using him and his religious identity. “Non-uniform” means different, as in not one kind. So the Sikh was being hoisted up in cardboard form but he sure was not a part of the mainstream. 

Caberwal had said in an interview: 

“People think Sikhs are fundamentalist, outside the mainstream of society, or immigrants or something is wrong with them. Kenneth Cole wanted to represent the fabric of American culture. There’s a lot of struggle in the United States as to how we perceive people post 9-11. I’m as much American as anyone else.”

Racism in the retail space is about magnanimity, and has little or nothing to do with how perceptions work or can change. Over-the-counter tokenism has many takers because it works as a placebo. 

Clutching at origins 

Most citizens of a pluralistic society would also want to retain traces of their origin, and hold it up as evidence of multi-culturalism. However, it is not quite so simple. If the ‘superior race’, and by that I mean the host country, offers hors d’oeuvres by way of acceptance, then the immigrant guest indulges in a ritualistic form of debriefing.

The Surat Initiative’s noble purpose is to introduce themselves to Americans by offering to tie a turban for them. This is mere exotica, a feather in the cap, flowers in the hair, not inclusiveness. No one dressed up in costume, as it were, would feel different, even if they look different. Besides, who are these Americans? Do the Sikh groups approach Blacks, Hispanics, Asians? There is an assumption that only white Americans are the authentic citizens; it nullifies the whole theory about the “core values” of the country. Pluralism isn’t about pointing out differences.

Prabhjot Singh too appears to carouse the pantomime when he says, "I want to live in a community where somebody feels comfortable asking me 'Hey, what's on your head? Why do you have that beard? What are you doing here? Are you American?' I think we should be able to ask those questions.” 

In civil discourse, this would be deemed offensive. He is putting an identity to the test of a prejudging jury. It is frightening and intrusive. Do Jews have to explain to anybody in the United States what the kippah they wear on their head signifies and whether they are American despite it, which is the implication of Singh’s argument? If this serves to ensure an equitable social space, would Sikhs be as comfortable posing queries about American naturalised habits and rituals? 

Nobody needs a modern state to be discussing religion as its primary hallmark. We have the Pam Gellers who have problems with “Muslim turkeys” for Thanksgiving. Their response to a faith arises mainly from their adherence to another. A slaughtered bird does not adhere to any belief system. 

Mistaken identity 

It is not said out loud, but the Sikh community does resent being the fallout on the war against terrorism. In so many ways this is tragic that there has to be a study on ‘Turban Myths’ by Stanford researchers and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF). 70 per cent Americans think Sikhs are Muslim. Therefore, one cannot dismiss this as ignorance. Stereotypes are blinding and willing to smother whatever comes in the line of blinkered vision. The Sikh Coalition got supermarkets that had an Osama costume with a turban and a stick removed from their racks. One of its directors said, “If you lost a loved one during the 9/11 attacks or during our nation’s war against al Qaida, or if someone attacked your father in a hate crime because he wears a turban, I doubt this costume would make you comfortable.” 

Does this not demean those who might choose to dress in this manner? Hate crimes predate 9/11 as has been noted: “During the 1979 hostage crisis, Sikhs were called Iranian. During the first Iraq war, we were called Iraqi. After 9/11, we've been called al-Qaeda, Taliban and Afghan, with all the accompanying slurs.” 

Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the driving force behind the separatist movement for Khalistan in Indian Punjab, had a strong presence in the US and Canada. It is revealing that no indigenous slur was cast on the Sikhs because of him.

The weight of post 9/11 is a heavy stone. The first victim of reaction to it was a Sikh. Anger that coagulated into fanaticism did not differentiate between a “towel head” and a “rag on the head”. Coupled with a beard, these identity marks harked back to Osama in the public imagination. 

After the Wisconsin attacks, I had written this:

Can this not happen to others, too? Did the Sikhs not get killed for being Sikhs in their home country, India, where the ruling party conducted an operation right inside the Golden Temple? Have the Sikhs not had to fight for their right to wear turbans, to carry their symbolic swords? Was there any al Qaeda then?

That a term like “mistaken xenophobia” is used in the mainstream makes it obvious who the real targets are. That this does not disturb the diaspora as a whole is distressing.  There is a pecking order among the ‘others’, and more often than not each group wants to keep its universal master in a fine frame of mind. Co-option becomes slavery.

A contrarian viewpoint comes from Clark Harris, a white convert to Sikhism, who wants to uphold the culture of a martial race of the faith and is also a proponent of gun culture:

“I just can’t imagine going out without wearing a handgun in today’s society. You’re just really asking for trouble especially in our situation where there are so many people out there who hate us for looking Sikh…From what I saw, he (Prabhjot Singh) wasn’t wearing a kirpan, and I think that would’ve been a real deterrent…I think there are enough teachings in Sikh history, like by Guru Gobind Singh, that we should be able to defend ourselves and defend those who can’t defend themselves. That’s why, in my mind, we wear the kirpan so it’s not a showpiece.”
Responses to racism as well as defensiveness do become showpieces. The model and the persecuted become eye-candy, granted space by those of privilege. The commercial agenda is not to work on abuse, but on hurt sentiments. This gets the community members to lend support in tangible ways.  To be assimilated by those on a temporary guilt trip loosens many strings, including the purse ones. 

(c) Farzana Versey


Rubbles and Reminscences: 26/11 Redux

The frosted window had what looked like crushed ice stuck on it. I did not reach out to touch it. Had I tried, it would not brush roughly against my skin. It was encased inside another glass. This was at the top floor of Leopold Café.

A friend was visiting and I decided to show ‘my Mumbai’ in the limited time we had. He was not new to the city, so my version would just be one more. We entered the place where you can sit and watch the crowds on Colaba Causeway. The pavement does not have potholes as it always did. It is a neat walkway now. As always, there were too many people talking in too many tongues. Foreigners dominated. No space.

We were directed to the top. I have never sat there. With little choice, we climbed the steep stairs and found a small table. After ordering some light snacks, I recounted memories of earlier visits. Until, he looked at the glass and said, “Hey, they have retained this.”

This was a remnant of the Mumbai attacks. Leopold was one of the targets. I had not bothered to look because nothing was visible below. Now I saw that crushed glass. I cringed.

We left soon after.

Walking down the road I was tempted to pick up some street stuff and did. The Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel is not too far. There are barricades like coffins every few yards.

In the street, I went click-click. Then my visitor wanted to drive via Nariman Point and as we passed Hotel Trident, he said, “Do you realise we have just done a 26/11 sites tour?”

I was shocked. Shocked that it had happened without any plan, without any thought.

The fact is that I should have thought.

I had done so back in those days when I protested against Mumbai’s Charge of the Lightweight Brigade, when I avoided being included in all manner of rallies and panels.

Should I have written this blogpost, then? Yes. Because I did it. You may not know, but I will. There is no escape. It was not for 26/11. It was just for being a part of my city, for showing it off. A city that is more than what destroys it, more than the sounds that echo in large halls.

The horse-driven carriages had lights brighter than I had ever seen before and in one there was a family from another Indian city. I loved the look on their faces as they watched the sea. My sea. I owned it even as I sometimes thirst for droplets.


A couple of months ago, I was searching for one of my lost pieces. I found this here

Not to be coddled by anybody, not even the liberals. Not to whine about it, even though people like martyrs. Tough luck. Deny them that pleasure of liking. Of anointing.

At this moment, I feel privileged and, although I detest the word, humbled that I could continue to write because I love to. The noises of appropriators or authorised dissenters could not muffle my voice. I owe it as much to those who have listened to it.

© Farzana Versey 


When the verdict was passed on the 26/11 case, the judges roundly pulled up the media. There was barely any discussion about that. 

And Blind is up again, if you want to listen to it.


No end to justice: The Aarushi-Hemraj murder verdict

The verdict is out. But this is only another beginning. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, parents of 14-year-old Aarushi have been pronounced guilty of her murder and that of their domestic help, Hemraj, in the early hours of May 16, 2008. There is also the charge of destroying evidence and filing a false FIR.

They issued a statement saying they will fight for justice. For themselves. Aarushi, even in death, was treated with disdain. Every bit of her for public consumption. No one was concerned about her reputation. Dead people don't have reputations. No one was concerned about Hemraj. I include myself in this group of people who treated his death cursorily.

This is what the death of the poor mean. What is even more astonishing is that after the verdict, there is sadness. People have short memories. The media that enjoyed the spectacle of conjecture now talks about probity. The media that sensationalised the case now thinks in terms of giving respectful space and not judging. Who were they to judge, to begin with? But not only did they judge, they decided on the 'turn of events'. Reporters were posted in Noida and acted as detectives. The change was quite evident.

I have written quite a bit about the case and following are excerpts.

June 2, 2008

Her father Dr. Rajesh Talwar is under suspicion for having killed her and their servant because he found them in a compromising position; other reports suggest that the girl knew about her father’s extra-marital affair. Whatever it is, I do find it surprising that the mother, Nupur, is appearing on several television channels to save her husband. She should be in the lawyer’s offices, with the police. Not giving sound bytes to the cameras. I am afraid I feel no sympathy for her when I watch her. Besides, they say she was in the house when the murders took place.

[I mentioned today that she was on TV a day after the murder. There were cameras covering this, so I did think in terms of a soundbite. Now, it appears she gave an interview to NDTV a week later. Apparently, that is fine. Also, I am told to remember that she was "stoic". That is not the point. It is whether you want justice for your daughter or for your husband and yourself?]

Now comes the part about the media. Aaj Tak channel had a story in the initial days titled, “Papa yeh tu ne kya kiya?” (Papa, what have you done?) What is this? Some soap opera? And when the mother was mentioned they played the track of the song “Maa…tu sab jaanti hai…” from the film Taare Zameen Par.

July 13, 2008

Criticising the UP police once again for their alleged irresponsible handling of the Aarushi murder case, Union minister for women and child development Renuka Choudhary said that the family should sue the police. “The family should sue the state police and those responsible for bungling the case must be suspended,’’ she said.

This isn’t mere concern about how the case was handled and the character assassination of Aarushi’s father Dr. Rajesh Talwar. It is about party politics.

This is a way to make the Mayawati government accountable.

It is true the police was most shabby in how they went about getting evidence, but why did the Talwars not mention their compounder Krishna’s name right then? Now he is the prime suspect. The question also remains as to where the parents were when the murder took place and how soon did they inform the police.

And just for the information of the minister, it wasn’t merely the cops who tarnished Aarushi’s name; the media went haywire. There was no need to report all that and no need to show all those teachers and students certifying the girl’s reputation. All this only draws attention to something that may be untrue but gives enough scope for rumours.

Dec 30, 2010

The CBI can’t solve a case. Aarushi... has left enough traces. But those traces do not seem to find their way to the source.

The Central Bureau of Investigation came into the picture soon after the Noida police made no headway. Perhaps, the entry of the CBI was the big mistake. Big people need big people to get mouths shut.

They found the weapon, they have a reasonable motive – “immediate provocation”, they know of missing files and the swapped vaginal swab, they know that someone was tampering with evidence. Then, why is it so difficult to find out who and why?

It is impossible that the findings reveal absolutely nothing. What did the DNA sample show? What did the brain-mapping reveal? Who cleared the room before the police came in? It need not be one person. These are people in different places doing different things. Who was calling the shots? And why?

Instead, the CBI has washed its hands of the case:

“The agency has filed a final report for the closure of the case on grounds of insufficient evidence in the competent court.”

It has been only two and a half years. There are cases that are pending for decades. I would like to see what Aarushi’s parents do next. It must surely be tough on them to have a daughter raped and murdered in the next room and the place cleaned up while they were around just a few metres away, isn’t it? They should file a case against the Noida police and the CBI and the hospital authorities for shirking their duty and making a mockery of justice.

They have the power, being educated and relatively better-off than many who do not have the means. Let this be a fight for the silent Aarushis and the silenced ones.

I don't know what to add except that there are silenced Hemrajs too.

There cannot be closure for facts change over a period of time because perceptions of them do.


Sunday ka Funda

"Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god."
— Aristotle

What happens if beast and human come together? When I saw this photograph, even before reading the article, I found immense beauty in it. Beauty, not courage, not adventure. We have seen divers, all dressed up and prepared to face sharks. In an older video, Christina gets real close, and the BBC commentary even talks about the sexual attraction, of mimicking a shark, of the shark being in a trance.

There are other questions that can be raised about interfering with nature, courting danger. And what happens were the shark to turn violent? Who is to blame? Would killing the shark that you have been embracing until now be deemed self-defence? Can it, if we rally extend the argument, be a crime of passion?

The article does not have answers. However, it describes the encounter:

At the 22-second mark, one man swims down and grabs the dorsal fin of the lemon shark. After riding it for several seconds, he does something truly shocking. He swings around to the bottom of the shark, gives it a bear hug and hangs on belly to belly. His head is precariously located just below the shark's mouth and he hangs on for several seconds before finally letting it go.

Before you watch this, let me ask Aristotle: Is it solitude when man and beast come together in what could be a spiritual (and a broad sense godly) experience?


Will Tarun Tejpal open a can of worms?

The manner in which the case of the editor who sexually exploited an intern is being played out one would imagine that people never had a low opinion of the media. From the looks of it, they expect the highest standards of propriety, chastity and morals from the news purveyors.

Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor of Tehelka, the investigative and sometimes controversial magazine, forced himself upon a young reporter from his office during the recent ThinkFest organised by the magazine. He wrote a letter to the managing editor; she, in turn, forwarded it to the rest of the staff with a short note.

Not noteworthy

The letter has been taken to the cleaners, and rightly so. But, let us pause and think. What could he have said? I am surprised he put anything on record at all. Why is nobody suggesting that perhaps he has been forced to by one or two of the many who are supposed to be sponsors or 'well-wishers' of Tehelka?

In the note, he does a promo for his mag. Let us look at it from the long-term perspective. He has to keep his best people around, and ensure that they are not affected by the scandal. It is part patriarch and mostly self-interest. The financial stakes are not to be sniffed at. His mention of a six-month leave is probably a face-saver. Or, perhaps, someone up there has provided some sort of guarantee?

Tejpal, of course, attempts to cover his tracks:

"It is tragic, therefore, that in a lapse of judgment I have hurt our own high principles. Because it involves Tehelka, and a sterling shared legacy, I feel atonement cannot be just words. I must do the penance that lacerates me."

This is all about him, and not a thought for the young woman, the daughter of his old colleague, his daughter's friend. However, the quibble over his use of terminology has revealed something: most have played right into it by getting moralistic themselves rather than treating his behaviour as a crime that needs to be tried legally.

Shoma Chaudhary in her letter to the Tehelka team has called it an "untoward incident". Again, much as this term is reductionist, did she have a choice if she had to forward a note? Could she go beyond the mandate, that too when she was to be in charge of the team?

On NDTV last night, she came across more strongly, and spoke about treating this case as sexual harassment at the workplace.

One needs to broadbase this, to include SH in other work-related environment too. Women journalists have to conduct interviews that are often not without the uncalled-for attention they receive. I am deliberately being euphemistic here, because adding to the sexual connotations just gives those looking for a high a talking point and little else.

Look, who's talking

This incident, like many others, has become about scoring over an opponent. Tehelka was supposedly a magazine with Congress leanings, so the opposition is quick to bring in references to Asaram Bapu and even the stalking by 'Sahib' in Gujarat, as though one evil cancels the other. Then there are competitors in the media, who have found a wonderful opportunity to pick holes at everything Tehelka has done, as though their own house is clean.

Should this incident be an example for exposing the media? Yes. But, if anybody thinks it is an isolated incident, then they are wrong. The assumption behind wanting such an exposé is that the public really did not believe such a thing was possible and the media was above-board. I doubt if it is naïveté. It seems more like the feigning of innocence so that they can now concentrate, rather lasciviously, on a case study.

However, can one entirely wipe out the work of many of its reporters only because of what their boss did, unknown to them? Now that they know, should they be punished for being part of the organisation?

The problem here has ceased to be about sexually abusive behaviour. Tejpal is the right candidate for pillorying. Brash, flashy, and sanctimonious. Even a letter written by an environmentalist made a mention of him and his red Pajero.

To be noted therefore: If a person in a position of power is not brash, flashy and does not have a red Pajero there is a better chance of his crime being less eyeball-grabbing. Tejpal had plans to start Prufrock, some sort of elite club. Where did he get the money, how can he do such elite things after claiming to stand up for investigative journalism...such questions are posed by those who seem clueless about the media, or think it better to go along with the flow.

The whole corporate structure works on barter, and as has happened often power is abused. It would not help to indulge in innuendo or even give random examples.

In some cases such abuse is passed off as consensual. This sort of consent is as forced as molestation. Besides media heads, there are the sponsors, the businessmen, traders, film stars, PR agents, and even colleagues that follow a pecking order. Women are used as bait, if not a straight honey trap. Go fly a kite if you did not know about this.

The Tehelka ThinkFest has been in the news regarding some of its sponsors. Again, I have an issue with all such fests because they only dumb down intellectual/literary exchange and compromise them at the altar of the highest bidder. For the critics to now use unconnected material from the past is sheer opportunism and will do nothing for the crime for which Tejpal must be tried.

Is anybody really interested in the victim or justice for her? Does it matter whether or not she covered cases of exploitation for the magazine? What if she wrote a gossip column or about fashion or sexy things — should we then judge her differently?

If anything, Tehelka was given a halo by the readers, mainly for its over-emphasis on sting operations that became trendy. Now, they are treating this as the story of the fallen hero.

Justice is not about self-righteous indignation.

© Farzana Versey


Also read my 2003 essay (from an anthology on the media): When puppets hide behind pomposity


Update on November 23

Although most people are in the loop of who said what, just to put on record what the girl said:

In her complaint to Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Choudhary, the victim says, "It is extremely painful for me to write this email to you – I have struggled with finding an easier way to say it, but there isn’t one. The editor in chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, sexually assaulted me at Think on two occasions last week. From the very first moment, I wanted to call you, or find you and tell you what he had done to me – but given how absorbed you were at Think; preparing for and conducting sessions, and the fact that it was impossible for the two of us to get even a minute alone together, I could not. To add to this, I had to process the fact that it was Tarun who molested me — my father’s ex colleague and my best friend’s dad, and someone I had so deeply respected and admired for so many years."

“I hope you will also understand how traumatic and terrifying it has been for me to report this to you — and yet how critical it is that Tehelka constitute an anti sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines immediately, to investigate this matter. At the very least, I will need a written apology from Mr Tejpal and an acknowledgement of the same to be circulated through the organization. It cannot be considered acceptable for him to treat a female employee in this way.”

And here is Shoma Chaudhary's statement


I no knot what to do...

"You know nothing about the business of writing," he told me.

Then came the details. How to get off. Get it off. Take off. Take it off. Book launches. Public relations. Publishers and their demands. Reviewers and their demands. Readers and their demands. The format. The cover. The pages. The typeface. The people to meet.

"What's happening with your book?" I asked him.

"I don't know."

I returned to my soggy half-finished sentence and patted it dry.

© Farzana Versey

The rape 'excuse'

Why has everything become about rape? The US ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, was asked why Americans did not come to India for studies. This was during her visit to an institute in Ranchi. She replied:

"The concern for personal security and perceived increased danger to women as a result of the rape cases was perhaps a factor in US students' decision regarding study in India."

First let us get this out of the way. How many Americans would want to study in India? The obvious answer is, few, if at all. And these few would opt for an off-beat course, not any mainstream field of study.

India is a good education option for young people from Africa and the Middle East. One does not see European, American or Australian students here, unless their parents belong to the diplomatic corps or have jobs in the many multinational companies that have set up offices. They have a choice in the American School or the more elite institutions run by business houses.

The latter are doing a good job, in fact, of preparing Indian students to qualify for further studies in the West. Many of them will probably stay on, unless they have big daddies at home who will keep the swivel chair ready for them.

Chances are that nobody will bother to ask them about the dangers of living in any of the countries overseas due to fear of racist attacks, of gun culture, of teen pregnancies, of date rape, or of any of the problems that the young citizens of those countries face.

Certainly, it is disturbing that women's security is treated with such disdain in India. There is relentless harassment of female western tourists at some places and there have been cases of sexual crimes against them.

But, Ms. Powell is being unfair in using rape as the reason for students staying away. Or she is just feeding on the relentless media blitz following the Delhi gangrape and the articles that have kept up the momentum?

I have stated this often that we are indulging in the worst possible form of reductionism by making rape into an exhibit and repeating every detail, thereby objectifying the victim.

Instead of grabbing every news item and airing it, giving the cops their 15 minutes of fame, the media could be more proactive. It is not only about how the world perceives us, but how this sort of coverage impacts on minds. I am repeating myself, but this is creating ghettos where women are told to be afraid at every step.

The implication here is as bad as 'she brought it upon herself'. Women are told that if they venture into certain places, they could be raped. What does this mean? Would it not make sense to ensure that those places are well-secured if we know about the danger there?

And it would really help if all those Indians writing stories for the western media would not try and replace the old exotica with this backward society narrative. For, it is only one part of the truth. Those who capitalise on it constitute the rest of the this truth. They are the progressive regressors who use rape as an adjective without even realising how demeaning that is.

© Farzana Versey


This post is not to ignore the problems faced by women from outside, as you will see in this earlier piece: Can Indian men handle foreign women?

Image (only for representation): Latitude News


Sunday ka Funda

"Everyone who enjoys thinks that the principal thing to the tree is the fruit, but in point of fact the principal thing to it is the seed. — Herein lies the difference between them that create and them that enjoy."

— Friedrich Nietzsche

While the seed is crucial, it would be foolish to believe anyone, I mean anyone, would want to enjoy seeds. Besides, those who sow seeds are not doing so only to create. They too wish to enjoy the fruits.

This could apply not just to real seeds, trees, fruits, but to any aspect of life. For me, especially, it is about creativity. An idea that remains an idea can suffocate. I need an outlet.

It is possible to also enjoy another's creation without necessarily knowing or wondering about the seed that gave it birth.

This afternoon for two hours I was enraptured with music that was in some ways alien, and in some familiar. Kenya is the land my Nani came from. I think about her every single day. Listening to this song just took me closer to her history. Another seed.

This is not the season for it, but 'Kothbiro' means "the rain is coming"...


Where honouring Sachin Tendulkar means securing popular vote

It is not about Sachin Tendulkar being honoured with the Bharat Ratna that is the issue. It is the timing, the manner in which the highest civilian award is handed out for a personal milestone. Sachin has played well for India, no doubt. But, why did the government not wait to confer this award? It seems now that it is a populist choice, almost as though bowing to public pressure and thereby scoring political points.

It is no secret that the Padma awards and Bharat Ratna too are driven by political considerations. At the run-up to the former, there is heavy lobbying. The lobbying for Sachin to get the Bharat Ratna has been in the public domain for a while now. I watched Lata Mangeshkat, who has taken on the role of advising on awards and political positions these days, root for Sachin on a TV show, as he played his last test match.

What exactly does such retirement mean, in days when the game offers so many options? Sachin, like many other cricketers, has used his position for commercial advantage. It is fair enough to say that he will continue to endorse products. Today's paper had this ad:

In wanting to pay tribute, it has inadvertently sent a message that here is the hero who has everything that you may not be able to aspire for, but at the very least you should have something to return to. There is something a little sad here.

On November 16, Sachin played his last match as people before him have done. His statistics are better, way better. His record as a 'clean cricketer' made him a middle-class icon. Here is the dichotomy, and to an extent it is a bit disturbing. Indian streets are full of gully cricket. There were people from humble origins who played successful innings.

Sachin came from a decent, educated background. Let us not for a moment forget that this would have had an impact on perception of him. He moved out of the literary enclave where he spent his childhood, he drove swishy cars, wore designer clothes, opened restaurants, was seen in the best company. Anybody else would have been seen in a different light. His persona did have something to do with it, but one cannot entirely ignore the middle-class propensity for accepting upward mobility and business acumen that does not come with any obvious taint.

This squishy image, bundled with achievement, has kept him safe from any slurs. Indians are cricket crazy. They think of Sachin as god. These are not streetside boys, but the educated. Those who can rub shoulders with the big people because now there is that little hope where smarts have replaced knowledge. The behaviour of his fans is no different from that of the bhakts of some politicians being built up as cult figures.

The cult of Sachin is in a different league with celebrities endorsing him. Should one have a quarrel with the honour for Tendulkar only because of this?

No. But, why does public sentiment not matter where it counts? The government comes out looking like it wanted the popular vote and decided to ride the crest.

There in the audience was Rahul Gandhi, sitting not in the VIP box, but with the spectators. There was Krishh Hritik Roshan, our version of Superman. There was Aamir Khan who has made his activist career with selective televised truth through 'Satyameva Jayate'. There was Nita Ambani, the owner of IPL team 'Mumbai Indians', who has already announced that Sachin will continue to play an important role. Another party at Antilla will soon be announced.

Tendulkar is the first sportsperson to be awarded the Bharat Ratna. This should make us feel ashamed over how the Indian government treats sports, and ought to make it obvious that this has nothing to do with love for sports. Yes, Sachin will get the facilities to run academies. Therefore, the highest civilian honour is like any popular award.

However, one must grant it to the authorities who made the final decision. They knew there would be suspicious minds, so they announced two recipients. The other one is Professor CNR Rao, the man behind India's maiden Mars mission. The papers have given him a footnote paragraph:

Prof CNR Rao is an eminent scientist and a well recognized international authority on solid state and materials chemistry. He has published over 1,400 research papers and 45 books.

Good move. Sachin fans can continue to hog the limelight because no one will be unduly bothered about Prof. Rao and the government can breathe easy it can fool most of the public that it has not been biased or opportunistic.

Yet, a maiden Mars mission? I suppose it is all about the confluence of planets and stars.

© Farzana Versey


For those who came in late, Justice Markandeya Katju had been lobbying for Mirza Ghalib to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna. Read my take on that: Writers, Patrons and Politics


Second image in collage is Sachin with Manjrekar, Vivek Razdan and journalist Shekhar Gupta in 1989 tour of Pakistan. I've used it before here...the lipstick boys.


Cuss words, youth power and wannabe leaders

We should see through the pretense and realise that the common man makes good business sense. The target audience is not the common man. It is the young. There has been too much emphasis on 'youth power' by all political parties, irrespective of who they are fielding as candidates. Everybody seems to be high on hormones.

All news channels I surfed last evening played the snippet of a man using cuss words to refer to our Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde. Standing next to him was a woman, Shazia Ilmi, a member of the National Executive of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). She wore the party cap as did quite a few in the audience. The man, Rajiv Laxman, is only a supporter. He hosts MTV Roadies, not a terribly aam aadmi show. Was he there to pump adrenalin?

The Congress has used intemperate language, the SP has done so, the BJP has made derogatory references, with its PM candidate leading from the front in the cuss campaign.

While there is most definitely a need to rein in what is broadly referred to as "hate speech", I find it hypocritical of some in the media to take a holier-than-thou position when swear words are used. For example, in the Times Now discussion, the host Arnab Goswami told Shazia Ilmi that she was on the show "only because of that", and they replayed the loop of the speech, with moralistic beeps of course, with the lady cheering on.

Is it not ironical that what is considered reprehensible becomes reason enough to get invited to such shows? Ms. Ilmi apologised several times and this was noted, as though the sainted host and the other sainted panelists were priests listening to a Confession and tacitly absolving her of the sin.

One can easily wager that this show got a good deal of mileage, and I confess that I did want to check out what the beeped-out words were. So, you can well imagine how enthralled the youth is. To suggest patronisingly that our youngsters are intelligent and can see through is not enough.

All political parties look for weaknesses, not strengths, in the electorate. That is the reason we have sops and vote banks. In the case of youth power, it is fairly scattered. It is quite safe to assume that beneath those Aam Aadmi caps are gelled hair. The same applies to the other parties. The Congress has stuck to the tested scions from old palaces, whose ground work means going abroad for social/environment/management studies to use in their fiefdoms. The SP has stayed with its caste/class ideas. The BJP has got a background team of Internet savvy people who hawk one leader, his every utterance, every rally, every meeting made to look like an event.

To use the cliché: what came first - chicken or egg? Has youth power pushed the political agenda or are the politicians playing the youth? Here, except for Rahul Gandhi, the Congress is sticking to its stodgy ways. The real danger comes from two wannabes — Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi. One a wannabe chief minister, the other a wannabe prime minister. They first 'appeal' to the youth with some charm, some lies, or at least half truth. They came across as knights — one selling transparency, the other development and growth. These are abstract, if not vague, ideas.

They appeal to the young who do not want responsibility. They crave for action, to see things bared open, for tall buildings, 3D communication. They want their politicians to be like smartphones.

Both these leaders have also used women well. A whole bunch of smart educated women are the front. This modernistic take is in fact quite regressive, for they primarily do a cheerleader act. There are some who appear regularly on panel discussions, but their role seems to be restricted to a cleanup job. They do not seem to have any ambitions for themselves.

One might well say that this applies to male party members as well. Not many will openly talk about posts they are eyeing or how far they wish to go. But the stridency of the women is in a different league, and includes supporters. This probably is to appeal to the female electorate and the youth at the same time. Let us not forget that patriarchy is not dead. It is being handed over as legacy in a covert manner. When the young watch these mother figures or sister figures fight the battle of neo-cult heroes, they just know that the baton is to be passed on to the last man standing.

A few cuss words don't dent the image. In fact, these are words the young use in the open arenas where they can anonymously abuse anyone, take on the powers that oppose their new ideological hero. They don't even realise that what they are supporting probably goes against their lifestyle or the very principles on which this country stands.

It is this lack of introspection that gives politicians a carte blanche to tap into such youth power. It is also called brainwashing.

© Farzana Versey


Image: Cartoonstock


Let us meet? Another Indo-Pak moment...

Milne do. Let us meet. This is how the peace narrative of India-Pakistan relations go. Some of us have expressed reservations, emphasising how diplomacy is imperative and cricket, films, culture should not intrude or override political considerations.

Peaceniks are nice people. I am not sure about movements at any time, for they too become political if not commercial enterprises for certain media groups to use people-to-people contact for just making music, quite literally. One does not need to assert peace if the intention is purely cultural.

However, I do know that families are separated, and it is not only due to the Partition, although that is the most heart wrenching memory because it divided the country and, to an extent, the people. I do know how getting visas for people who can spot the sliver of a river or peek at trees across the border are torn because of such divisions and acrimony. These are not the ones who will go via Wagah.

While I wait for that, I cannot deny that this short by Google is indeed a warm recognition of the soul of what were once 'one people':

Google Search - Reunion from Google Pakistan on Vimeo.


This is far more important than the hype over our Home Minister P. Chidambaram being in the same room as a Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef at a non-government function.


Sunday ka Funda

I think about the sea often. But, it struck me that when eyes are described in Hindi or Urdu poetry, there is a reference to them as possessing the depth of the river: "Jheel si gehri aankhein". How deep are rivers?

Do they too cause little storms? Or, is their tranquility enough to shake us up, wake us up...to dream a daydream?



Is Pakistan using the Taliban? Radio Mullah to Remote Control

Within a week of a drone strike killing the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud and the selection of Mullah Fazlullah in his place, Pakistan stands exposed for its dithering policy towards the tribal areas and, as a consequence, terrorism. So long as the militants stuck to their idea of a Sharia-ised nation, shooting people for going against their interpretation of god’s law, the establishment maintained a stoic distance. It had for long tolerated the men with AK-47s as guards outside banks and hotels in the true-blue manner of giving handouts to the good guys, a lesson learned from watching the Pentagon in Dirty Harry mode.

As soon as the urban streets were bloodied by the new Taliban, the non Mujahids, the ones who wanted a stake in the pie of what the country was carved out for, to begin with – an Islamic state – the political hierarchy became testy. There are 30 or so factions of the Taliban, and different clans have varied methods of operating and to an extent ideology. More important, their political allegiances are revealing. This manifests itself in how the urban class responds to the Taliban, or to terrorism.

There was outrage when the TTP and allied groups spoke of Mehsud as a martyr. In Pakistan ‘shaheed’ is a word used often, including for white sheets covering bodies with no names – the unfortunate victims of both terrorism and flawed government policies. Most of these do not have any ideology, or at least none that they could be identified with. Much of such destruction took place even before the TTP. So, what gave birth to the Pakistan Taliban? It seems to be an illegitimate child of the Afghan Talib and the people who run the country. From the isolation of the rule of law not extending beyond FATA to it snaking its way via American ‘protectionism’, Pakistan’s leaders had found a new constituency, a new area of darkness they could sell to the world and reap the benefits.

Is it any wonder that almost all the reports about the just-anointed TTP chief refer to him as the man behind the “assassination” attempt on Malala? Fazlullah’s sins have been encapsulated in this theme-bomb of the West. It is dangerous, but then there is a section of Pakistanis that loves courting drawing room danger. They are all quick to label themselves as victims of the Taliban, when many would not even leave their comfort zone and visit those beautiful areas they claim as their own. It is not fear of the Taliban; it is, and was, fear of their own people, of people they considered backward.

Even Imran Khan, a Pashtun himself, used to enact a role of tribesman. It is only in the last couple of years since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) became a force and now the government of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) that his role has become enmeshed. It comes with a price. He is now the man with the golden gun. An apologist of jihad. To an extent, the accusations are not unfounded. As a politician he does have greater responsibility, although the labels jihadi and apologist are employed loosely and carelessly.

The point is not whether Mehsud deserved to die, but whether his death is likely to end the reign of terror. It is rather disconcerting that the success rate of drones getting the ‘real’ men has been dismal. Why is that so? The U.S. announces a bounty, and no one needs to claim it. For, one day a drone finds the terrorist and claims temporary victory to distract the Pakistanis. If civil society is going to accept such killings, it will need to introspect also about giving a license for the killing of innocent people, and it will have to drop its liberal stance regarding capital punishment. Why should American justice prevail over its own laws?

Being a pawn has served Pakistan’s democrats well throughout history. Although most of its senior leaders have been arrested at some point in time, none of them had tried to deal with the strife in the northern areas.

On the eve of the meeting with the TTP, Mehsud was killed by a drone. Impeccable timing and aim. Pertinently, in the recent meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had expressed his opposition to the drone strikes, as any self-respecting leader ought to. Wham. They got one guy. Lesson for the leader.

Following the murder, the snarky response to Sharif’s government wanting to initiate peace talks with the Taliban exposed the political expediency of the elite. Surely, people are not naïve to imagine that the Taliban can run a parallel system without some assistance. Also, for whatever it is worth, the TTP is not a fringe organisation. As in many instances, it is a titular voice of the region, not unlike the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain. They were born of violent struggle, and the umbilical cord with the establishment has not been cut completely. A dialogue with the Taliban is as crucial, if not more, to Pakistan as is a dialogue with the U.S. on its troops in the country.

In this noise, Imran Khan openly mourned for Mehsud. It was time for titters. These days, the best way to gauge how the Pakistani mind works is to watch the two well-defined conflicting reactions to Khan. According to his opponents, he has no right to call himself a liberal. They are unwilling to accept that talking with TTP militants is not any different than the killers from the air. To pass off such amorality as self-righteousness is disingenuous. The young leader of Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, called him a coward. Jogging memory might have worked better, for his mother Benazir Bhutto looked the other way during the Taliban’s early days. Nipping it in the bud was not considered an option.

The PPP is at a loose end. It is plausible that it saw in Mehsud’s killing not only the death of a terrorist, but a few points down for Sharif. However, in good old subcontinental manner, things have come full circle. Destiny or a more devious plan? With so many sparring groups within the Taliban, and barely a few days after the last rites and ritual mourning, the shura decided on Fazlullah as their leader. He does not live in the region anymore, and he was helming the operations during the regime of the PPP, when the schools were burned. In fact, in 2009 “it accepted all his conditions and enacted Sharia law in Swat but Mullah Fazlullah still refused to disarm”. There was no dialogue, no peace initiative. One is not suggesting cowardice.

But, it is rather amusing to read accounts that almost make Fazlullah appear like a supra-Mehsud character, taking the evilness of the Talib to the apogee when only a few days ago there were images of Mehsud watching a beheading of one of his own. It might not be wrong to say that it is the Pakistani leadership that is the Taliban’s nemesis rather than it being the other way. Perhaps, leaders of various parties are messing around with different factions to help them in their own ambitious plans.

Meanwhile, under the guise of avenging the “martyrdom of Mehsud”, TTP leader, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhitani, said: "The talks about peace between Pakistan and Taliban leaders is just a trap of enemies and to distract the masses. All political parties that are part of government are considered to be our enemies.”

The Taliban seem to be more astute politicians than the mainstream political establishment. They knew that when the Pakistani army entered Waziristan, it was using it as a showpiece of gym-toned abs for a celluloid performance. For the TTP, this was more like a green signal to spread their wings.

In 2010, I had the rather unnerving, but enlightening, experience of being introduced to Fazlullah in his Radio Mullah avatar. His sermons played in a cab for two hours. As I mentioned then, underground FM station sermons are not an unusual phenomenon. Ham radio broadcasts have been used during freedom struggles and insurgency movements. It is a smart strategy because it reaches people without the need for physical contact.

We now have a leader “in exile” further romanticised by distance. While ostensibly he will rule remotely, the infiltration into the Taliban by mainstream politics is how the cookie will really crumble.

(c) Farzana Versey

Published in CounterPunch, Nov 8-10


Opinion Polls, NOTA and Intellectual Waste

The word 'ban' is so potent that even those who do not know what is going on suddenly become agitated. Needless to say, these are what we charmingly refer to as the cream of society. This is not elite in the posh sense. You will find crumpled kurtas, jholawaalas, bidi-smokers, Old Monk drinkers in this crowd. Should you dare to even want a discussion, you will be deemed a conservative.

Now, here comes the rub. The rightwing political groups are part of the move against the ban on opinion polls.

Reportage and commentary have stuck to two neat divides of to ban and not to ban.

It is the AICC that has asked the Election Commission for "restriction on their [poll findings] publication and dissemination during elections". Congress party general secretary Digvijay Singh said:

“...These have become a farce. They should be banned altogether. The kind of complaints, information that I have got show that anybody can pay and get a survey as desired...In a country of 1.2 billion people, how can a few thousand people predict the trend. It has become a racket. So many groups have sprung up.”

One may have issues with the man, and also accept the possibility that the party is responding in such a manner because some trends are going against them. However, it is typically churlish to suggest that it is due to fear of Modi, especially as in the past the BJP too had problems with such polls.

Not so now. Narendra Modi is agitated by this undemocratic behaviour:

"Those who have followed Indian politics and the workings of the Congress party after Independence would agree that the stand of the Congress Party does not come as a surprise. The biggest casualty of the Congress Party’s arrogance while in power and its tendency to trample over Institutions has been our Fundamental Right to Free Speech."

How much of freedom of speech and expression could he possibly believe in when his government has banned the screening of films and art galleries have been destroyed in his state? Perhaps he should have asked for opinion polls to find put the public reaction. He has issues with the occasion when there was a clampdown on the social media. It is only natural for him to have expressed "solidarity" because most of the accounts were part of the disruption process. These same accounts are out to discredit anyone who exposes their government and ministers.

It does not in any manner imply that other political parties are not prone to such muzzling, but do we really consider such chaos as democratic?

To digress: The Congress came up with the ridiculous suggestion that the marshes in Madhya Pradesh should be covered because the lotuses in them would be publicity for the BJP election symbol and against the campaign rules. This is asinine, and the party was called out on it.

Modi further writes:

"My concern is not limited to this proposal to ban opinion polls. Tomorrow, the Congress may seek a ban on articles, editorials and blogs during election time on the very same grounds. If they lose an election they may then seek a ban on the Election Commission and if the Courts do not support them then they may say why not ban the courts! After all this a Party that resorted to imposing the Emergency in response to an inconvenient Court Verdict."

A politician will target only his immediate opponents, notwithstanding the fact that he will camouflage it as a principled stand.

There is a rather misguided perception that this amounts to banning opinion. It does not. Polls are based only on random selection. Everybody knows that, like rigging at booths, these too can be manufactured, especially since today the process has gained a certain sex appeal where titillation works. So, you have trends that do not commit and talk about a wave and sway. This is really devious, for they are wiling to to play into selective hands until they can retain the primetime slot. There is nothing to lose for the sponsors, because the end result can be attributed to several aspects, including low voter turnout due to everything from climatic to anti-climactic factors.

If they are so useless, then why want to do away with them at all? My reasoning is that it once again props up a limited number of people as the constituency and the deciding factors. The impact works as auto-suggestion, and we have the great Indian middle-class with its online shopping and yuppie dreams believing in any spectacle.

It is particularly important this time — whether during the upcoming Assembly polls or the general elections next year — for it has become a circus where the competition is between acrobats and clowns. Arvind Kejriwal has used his now-patented idea of having transparency. How can there be transparency in opinion polls? They are safe, for they do not stick their necks out.

To the hyperventilating suggestion that this could be a prelude to banning of other forms of expression, it has been done before and not because of opinion polls. (Not too long ago, a spoof site on Modi was blocked.) The media is often restricted due to commercial considerations that want to cozy up to certain political groups. This is an ongoing bias. However, a reading of any analysis is most certainly less random and quite clearly an opinion. The right to reject that viewpoint is embedded in it.

One cannot say the same about opinion polls where amidst charts and chants you are being bulldozed into believing something that may not even be an outright lie, forget the truth.

Rather interestingly, the Election Commission has confirmed the new symbol for the 'None of the Above' option, where voters reject all the candidates.

Is NOTA an opinion? It sounds good on paper. But it won't have an impact.

The EC has already clarified that the candidate securing the highest number of votes would be declared elected even if the number of electors going for the NOTA option surpassed the votes polled by the electoral contestants.

There goes the non vote. NOTA is a wasted opinion, and chances are that those who have made this choice would publicly claim otherwise, if the party that comes to power looks cosmetically good. Will those who opted for NOTA come out and claim to be votaries of it?

In some ways, the rejection of all candidates is a rejection of the electoral process. If no one is good enough, then just boycott. 'None of the above' reeks of self-righteousness, rather than an opinion.

© Farzana Versey


Reshma - Raw Silk

Reshma. A voice that was pain personified. But, I listened to her even when I was happy; the sort of happiness that depended on a few drops of water, rather than a cup brimming over.

Reshma. A voice that spread like a summer night. Clear enough to be able to see the stars and humid enough to cause beads of perspiration.

Reshma. A voice that seemed to come from a distance. And then inched closer, closer, closer to grasp you in your own embrace.

Reshma. A voice that did not tinkle like glass, but was the sound of shards cracking underfoot.

Reshma. A scar to always remind of a wound.


To read: Cool desert

To listen: Goriye main jaana pardes

Return to light...

Lights greeted him upon his return after a 14-year exile. If we do not see the symbolism of epics and mythology, then what use are they?

Diwali surely is not only about a well-lit Ayodhya welcoming Lord Rama.

The light conveys coming out of darkness, of the warmth from diyas, of flames dancing in the wind, conveying evanescence. And the oil and the wick that stay in the background to light up things and are then burned out themselves.

Yet, light is never far away.

It is said that some raagas are so potent they can create and destroy. Legend has it that when Tansen used to sing in the emperor's court, the room would be filled with light. I think the power of such light is within us.

"Curving back within myself I create again & again."
- Bhagvad Gita

A Happy Diwali!


Ageism as monstrosity

Why is old age fit enough to be a Halloween costume? Heidi Klum chose to dress up as one for the annual party. As Jezebel reported, "She's honestly unrecognizable — look at the fake veins on her legs and hands. She must be wearing fake skin over her skin, like a festive version of Necromancer pants."

These pants are made of human skin. We won't go there now, but Halloween is supposed to commemorate the dead, martyrs and loved ones who have left. What message does this 'costume' convey? To begin with, it does not look like a costume. It is realistic. It makes it appear that the end is near for old age, and the body must be ravaged and sag and wrinkle.

As an international supermodel who has seen a lot of cosmetic intervention around her, Heidi ought to know that this is not how old age always looks. I am not against the fact that this could be the natural consequence, and there is nothing to be squeamish about it. But for Halloween — when everybody wants to do a make-believe? Had she chosen a gothic version, it would have been more than fine. This, however, is eerily reminiscent of the real, and it does not appear to be granted the respect it deserves.

There seems to be a whole attitude towards ageism that props up not just the Botox industry, but more damagingly the thought process. Youth, irrespective of maturity, is seen as the final authority, the mantle-wearers, the shining knights and primped up goddesses.

Had these fake veins been real they'd hurt like hell. Fantasy reduces them to a caricature.

© Farzana Versey


I had written about how Halloween made me Somebody Else

Saturday Snapshots

A quick weekend roundup of what made news and what it means.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud has been killed in a drone attack. Liberal Pakistanis are jubilating that at last a drone has hit the right guy. (How often did they point out the wrong targets?) The problem is that they do not even try to put pressure on their government to deal with such men. I'd like to know how the Americans manage to get it right this time. If they are capable of good targeting, why is it that so many civilians have been killed? Was this a chance encounter that gives them enough ammo to live on before their exit from Afghanistan? (Incidentally, Mehsud has been 'killed' before, too.)

And then there is Imran Khan. His tragedy is that every time somebody from TTP dies or is killed Pakistanis start mourning for his political career. They don't even realise what an unhealthy obsession it is. But, then, he is a few words away, unlike dealing with the real McTalibs.


Just got news that Rohit Sharma has scored a double century in the ODI against Australia.

Due to too much hoopla, I've lost interest in cricket. But seriously, scoring over 200 in a one-day match is like cooking biryani is a microwave oven.


Lata Mangeshkar has declared:

"Narendrabhai is like my brother. All of us want to see him become the Prime Minister. On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, I hope our wishes would come true."

Surely, Lataji cannot speak on behalf of all Indians. She is using a religious festival and has done what amounts to campaigning for Modi. We are aware of the family's leanings towards the Hindutva ideology and its support for the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. We also know how she made a noise about the proposed flyover on Peddar Road only because it would affect her. (She resides there.) Such political interference is not new, and when she was not getting an assurance she sulked and threatened to leave the city. Her sister Asha Bhosle spoke of moving to Dubai, which happens to be convenient because she owns a restaurant chain in the UAE as well as other Arab countries and London.

Wonder why Lataji has not sought a haven in Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Modi's reaction was amusing:

"With their (Mangeshkar family) divine voices, delighted crores of people making them stress-free with music and making their minds and bodies healthy."

PS: My views on Lataji predate Modi's appearance on the political scene.


No comments:

Michael Fassbender is fed-up with everyone obsessing over his penis.

"It wouldn't be acceptable, it would be seen as sexual harassment, people saying (to an actress), 'Your vagina...' You know?"


Mr. KPS Gill, did the police tutor Modi on the action-reaction theory?

The fact that the Modi camp rejoices over a few statements by a tainted former deputy general of police reveals the desperation to get a "clean chit".

In May 2002, KPS Gill was called in as security advisor to Narendra Modi. On October 31, 2013, over eleven years later, he says the Gujarat Chief Minister cannot be held responsible for the post-Godhra riots.

His reasoning:

"In law and order situations, it is the police leadership which has to respond and not the political leadership."

It happened to be the anniversary of the anti-Sikh riots when he said this, so it sounds particularly unfortunate. For, then, people like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, who have been tried for their role in the 1984 riots, would also be seen as blameless.

Why should Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, or even Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, be made answerable for the recent Patna blasts, prior and during Modi's rally? After all, they constitute the political leadership.

Why question Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh for what happened in Muzaffarnagar?

When protestors are beaten with lathis and tear gas shells are used, why does the police force not take responsibility? Why does the matter reach the political leaders, including the President?

KPS Gill has got to have answers to these allied queries, for he cannot be selective.

He was appointed by Modi as security advisor, which is a political process and position, to an extent. It was three months after the riots. What did he do? Whose responsibility are compensations, rehabilitation? Who should visit the refugee camps?

"I realised that people of all political parties who were anti-Modi and anti-BJP were taking advantage of this mayhem and making all efforts to defame Modi one way or the other."

There is no denying that political parties always come in to take advantage, and the BJP is no exception. Could Mr. Gill explain how exactly does defamation of Modi take away his lack of intervention? The fact is that the matter did not end with the "mayhem" (interesting choice of word).

The report further states:

He charged the policemen and the administration had become communal after the incident in Godhra and Mr Modi, who had just become the chief Minister, did not have proper grip over the state machinery...he said that after taking charge as the security advisor of the state, he had visited all places where violence had taken place and policemen from top to bottom refuted having received any direction of the type being mentioned.

• The police deal with communal issues on a routine basis. They are not supposed to be communally prejudiced. The manner in which Gill is running down the Force is rather surprising.

• If Modi did not have a grip on the state, how does it matter? Why did he start using his remote powers? Don't they go against the former DGP's own thesis that it is not a political issue?

• There was much that happened soon after the riots, including the transfer of senior police officers. So, if the police leadership has to take responsibility, why were they shunted out? Would they not stand up for what they did? They did not transfer themselves, right?

Those cases are documented and the cops have served/are serving sentences.

• If they did not get any directions, why has no senior cop from Gujarat come out and said so in clear terms about the murders, the destruction of property, the encounter killings?

And why did Narendra Modi speak about action-reaction at the very beginning? Was he tutored by the cops?

There is a limit to the whitewash job.


Speaking of KPS Gill, even a whitewash job by him is not really capable of cleaning. He has, after all, served a sentence himself.

In 1989, he was charged for sexual harassment with 90 IAS officers signing the petition.

Rupan Deol Bajaj, an IAS officer herself, had persisted with the case and later said:

"Gill was convicted of sexual harassment charges by the Supreme Court and it's high time the government withdrew the Padma Shri award it gave him."

It is important to understand the mindset of such a man before taking his clean chit at face value.

End note:

"The rank and file of the Punjab police force feared him. I cannot say that they respected him. He was very supportive of his subordinates as long as they co-operated in achieving his goals. Even delinquents and evil-doers were tolerated if their actions fitted into his grand designs."

- Julio Ribeiro, who inducted Gill in the operations in Punjab

© Farzana Versey