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Sagarika Ghose
Tuesday , July 01, 2014

In defence of Angrezi: Modi speaks the language of Macaulayputras

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Now that PM Narendra Modi has made an unexpected speech in the language of the Macaulayputras at a moment of national pride when PSLV blasted off from Sriharikota, its clear that the government is alive to the political dangers of speaking Hindi beyond the Vindhyas. A near sweep of the "Hindi heartland" has propelled the BJP to a remarkable election win in 2014. Which is why reports of Hindi being insisted upon in official communication and on social media have sparked off much controversy, with the southern states fearing a return of the "Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan" worldview. The centre has now been forced to clarify that Hindi will not be imposed on non- Hindi speaking states and Modi has himself not baulked at using the colonial Father Tongue at yet another launch of bharatiya rocketry. Yet the Hindi fixation of a "nationalist" government, once again reveals that the English....

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Ashoka example

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The dhamma of change A ruler stood on the battlefield surveying the wages of war. A personal choice was made or perhaps a politically strategic decision was taken that changed a country's history forever. Ashoka turned his back on conflict, embraced Buddhism, and gave his kingdom efficient governance for 4 decades. History books chronicle the roads, edicts and Ashoka's philosophy of dhamma. The pre-transformation Ashoka, the apparently heartless warrior before the Kalinga war, does not get a mention in textbooks. History judges Ashoka by his post-Kalinga war transformation, and he remains one of history's greatest examples of a genuine change of heart. Ambedkar, Nehru and Gandhi and other leaders of the freedom movement looked to the past to re-interpret the future. For Ambedkar, Buddhism became the modern manifesto of the Dalit cause, he saw Dalits as the original Buddhists. An ancient faith became the modernising, egalitarian....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Missing the shades

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Citizen media lost out to star struck media in Campaign 2014 The marathon campaign of 2014 is at an end and as we await the final result, opinion and exit polls are forecasting wins for the Narendra Modi-led NDA. Like 1977 the party of "change" is set to make big gains in North India to come to power, but unlike 1977, when the towering leader was the woman in government namely Indira Gandhi, today by contrast the towering leader is the man in the Opposition, namely Narendra Modi. In 1977, the Opposition Janata Party was an unknown quantity, but today the Opposition BJP has media clout, corporate clout and a big face. The government even after 10 years in power, appears to have no clout, no big face and looks limp. The roles were reversed in 1977. So as the campaign ends, it's time to introspect on how....

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Elf-spotting at election time

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The Indian voter is a pragmatist not an idealist It's election time and am in pursuit of an old familiar Elf. Have pursued this Elf in five general elections until now, trying to read his feather-light footprints as they skip in dirt tracks, crawl through dark tenements without electricity, wait in front of taps that have run dry or hide in forests hoping for guns to fall silent. My elusive quarry at election time, the Elf of Self Respect. A high degree of self-awareness characterizes the Indian voter. Residents of Muzaffarnagar know theirs is a society torn apart by politics, that religious hatred and suspicion have destroyed the notion of Mohabbat-nagar. They are polarized into opposing camps of Jat vs Muslim yet at the same time troubled with communal hatred. On voting day they will vote on the dictates of their inner demons but also organize sadhbhavna melas....

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Loyal Than The King

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Modi's silence on the foot-soldiers who act in his name is disturbing General elections! Yet rendered somewhat joyless by the creeping authoritarianism which seems to have taken hold across the political spectrum. Students who cheered Pakistan at a cricket match were charged with sedition. Journalists have been threatened with physical attack on social media for expressing contrarian political views. On the day polls were announced political parties engaged in street battles. A politician visiting the state that prides itself on stable governance had his car windows broken. The institutionalisation of goon power in India is a trend as old as the Emergency, but today more than ever, goons are jump-starting the political process not only because they are seen as invaluable in galvanising core voters but also because they feel protected by the deafening imperial silence of the top leadership across parties from Sonia Gandhi to Narendra....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 'pure' and the 'polluted'

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Parties must shed the politics of puritanism and become reformist instead In his riveting book "Zealot" about Jesus, the historical character who lived in the context of Jewish insurrections against the Roman empire, historian Reza Aslan writes: "Poor, pious and anti-aristocratic, the members of the Zealot Party wanted to remain true to the original intentions of the revolt: to purify the Holy land and establish God's rule on earth." Purify the nation, rid the land of the unclean, sweep away the filth: if we transpose Aslan's words about the first century C.E and transpose it to 21st century India, we find that almost similar inclinations towards "purity" and "pollution" are creating a politics of puritanism by all political parties. Anthropologist Louis Dumont in his classic, Homo Hierarchicus said "purity" and "pollution" are central to the Hindu caste system. The higher one is up the caste hierarchy, the cleaner....

Thursday , January 09, 2014

Secularism in winter

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Secularism needs to break free of Modi-obsession and walk with new muscular energy I came back from the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar's riot victims, not just numbed by the deaths of 6-year olds from the freezing cold, but bewildered at the manner in which the so called "secular" Samajwadi Party government had left for dead, those in whose name it apparently rules. Why, in a dispensation avowedly committed to minority rights, were thousands of Muslim families (the UP government has now forcibly cleared 43 camps) living in those filthy relief camps, without water, medicines or blankets? Why the mostly deafening silence of the Left -once the vigilant guardians of minorities--on the death of over 30 toddlers due to cold? Homeless, their children dying, with only local madrasas providing shelter, Muzaffarnagar riot victims still cling to hopes of justice. They hope that FIRs will be registered against those who....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Voice of the city

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AAP's success could spread to other cities and change urban politics The city has roared in unison. From slum colony to gated enclave, from street vendors to former bureaucrats, from cycle rickshaw drivers to professors, the city of money and conscience, of power and activism, of grime and shine, of brutal feudal patriarchy but also of blithe womanly courage, one voice has captured the city. Arvind Kejriwal-the Johnny come lately, the rookie, the seemingly-anarchist jholawalllah, laughed at by the power elite, scorned by the inner circles - the gate crasher has stormed the citadel. Blitzed by daily corruption and mega scams, torched by VIP culture, self-esteem broken every day by the lal batti cars and the Don't-You-Know-Who-I-Am attitude of those who never wait in queue, the city has raised up a force for its own transformation. But as the city begins a new tryst with....

Tuesday , November 26, 2013

Why the Aarushi Talwar case is a rape of justice

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At the heart of the CBI's case in the Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj Banjade double murder is a perverted patriarchal fantasy. The CBI and Noida police are convinced that 14-year-old Aarushi was having an "affair" with 45-year-old domestic help, Hemraj. It was, after all, because of this "affair" that father Rajesh in a fit of rage, on seeing Aarushi and Hemraj in an "objectionable intimate position" killed them both due to grave provocation. Ah, the lurid fantasies of the porn-suffused brain! The deadly mix of lascivious prejudice and moral puritanism that grips our mind when we think of "young women" these days. The automatic suspicion of endless orgies and extravagant nudity with which a brutally patriarchal society gazes at a "modern" young woman's bare arms, clothes and lifestyle. How excitingly value-less these young are, whisper the puritan-pornographers in vicarious glee. How have the police reached this conclusion of an "affair" between....

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Losing the information war

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Because politicians see voters as gullible, they continue to suppress or distort information Don't like the results of an opinion poll that forecasts a possible defeat? Ban the poll. Don't like "sickular" journalists who ask uncomfortable questions about riots? Shun those journalists. Asked to provide answers on how natural resources like spectrum and coal are being utilised? Remain silent and make vague statements on coalition dharma and political conspiracy. Asked why reportedly Rs 2,500 crores are being spent on a statue? Silence the questioner by calling him/her an "anti- national traitor". Politicians today have totally failed to grasp the one ubiquitous feature of 21st century democracy: the power and demand for open and diverse information. No political party today is inclined to fight the information war transparently because all parties believe voters are gullible, purchasable and easy to sway through propaganda. While the Congress believes that suppressing information....


More about Sagarika Ghose

Sagarika Ghose has been a journalist for 20 years, starting her career with The Times of India, then moving to become part of the start-up team of Outlook magazine, subsequently joining The Indian Express as Senior Editor. She was anchor of the flagship BBC World programme Question Time India.


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