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Sagarika Ghose
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....

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Heading towards a saffron UPA?

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So far we have not heard any real policy alternatives from Modi That the media is one of the main battle fields in Polls 2014 is seen from the many speeches and outbursts regularly taking place on live TV. Not only did Rahul Gandhi choose a press conference to make his "Nonsense" intervention, but almost every one of BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi's speeches is covered live by most TV channels. Modi's speeches yield a slogan-a-minute and a controversy a minute, from "India needs action not Acts" to "Yes We can" to "dehati aurat", to "pehle shauchalay phir devalaya." In fact, Modi's the one politician who's understood the needs of a society defined by the communication and information revolution. The Gandhis remain loftily incommunicado. The Prime Minister hardly ever brings voters into confidence. But Modi relentlessly seeks out newer audiences and his social media outreach is formidable,....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One side of the see-saw

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In Parliament, there is a deadening artificial consensus between all parties The Monsoon Session of Parliament has drawn to a busy close, with MPs showing uncharacteristic zeal in passing a host of bills that the UPA rushed through in the last few days of the session. Yet have the so-called debates on the Bills been examples of democracy-in action? Hardly. Every politician voted for the Food Security Bill. Every politician voted for the Land Acquisition Bill. Every politician is apparently pro-farmer and anti-industry when it comes to land purchases. Every politician is in favour of distributing cheap food. Every politician is in favour of government expenditure on welfare. Every politician is anti- rich and pro-poor. Far from a genuine ideological exchange on the growth versus equity debate, a deadening artificial consensus prevails among lawmakers, snuffing out any real contest of ideas. Perhaps the only point of difference is....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In search of the modern Hindu

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Its time to liberate Hinduism from politics "I was born Hindu, and I am a nationalist. So you can call me a Hindu nationalist." So said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Modi's social media armies calls themselves "proud Hindus" and "unapologetic Hindus." Your humble columnist has the dubious honour of coining the phrase "Internet Hindus". Author Salman Rushdie has said he finds the rise of Hindu intolerance in India at the moment just as worrying as the rise of Islamic intolerance. There is large scale Hindu-isation of popular culture, as seen in the best selling novels by Amish on the life of Shiva, the hit TV serial Mahadev, the thronging temples, the high decibel festivals, export quality Hinduism in the form of yoga gurus and wellness spas. From the ritualistic to the lifestyle statement, to the faith of million at the Kumbh, to the cultural nationalism of....


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 before moving to CNN-IBN as prime time anchor and Deputy Editor. She is the anchor of the award-winning flagship debate programme Face The Nation on CNN-IBN. She is also a columnist for the Hindustan Times. She has won numerous awards including FICCI Media Achiever Award and Gr8-ITA Award for Excellence in Journalism. She is a graduate in History from St Stephen's College and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where she gained an MA and M.Phil in History and International Relations. She is the author of two acclaimed novels The Gin Drinkers and Blind Faith, both published worldwide by HarperCollins Publishers.


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