I trust you will allow me the liberty of addressing you in this rather affectionate but respectful manner, being as I am a die-hard, hardly-alive 67-year-old senior citizen and supporter of your AAP government in Dilli.
I am writing to compliment you for launching the ‘Chief Minister Advocates’ Welfare Scheme’ (CMAWS). Surely, this must rank as the world’s most wonderful Group Life-cum-Health Insurance scheme launched by the government for the benefit of one of the most vulnerable, impoverished and persecuted sections of the common citizenry—in this case, the community of Advocates registered with the Bar Council of Delhi.
I first came to know of CMAWS barely two weeks ago— on April 1st, from a report in my Times of Indiapaper. By a curious and perhaps unfortunate coincidence the report on C-MAWS was next to an article informing me that our poor AAP leader Manish Sisodia-bhai had been denied bail despite the best efforts of his Advocates.
And because of this coincidence, Kejriwal-bhai, I did not believe what I read about CMAWS that day.
It was April 1st, no?
Hah, I told myself, this CMAWS sounds so good it is too good to be true! Sab bakwaas, I told myself, these saale badmaash Times of India patrakaars are making one nice April Fool joke just to keep us readers cheerful while Modi and Shah and all their nasty BJP-wallahs are doing zulum and chillum on all of us with CBI and ED and all, and and persecuting and prosecuting and jailing our dear Sisodia-bhai and Jain-bhai and other AAP- bhais just because they are doing so much welfare for the Dilli public.
And so, I laughed scornfully at the CMAWS report that day. Hohoho. Hahahaha.
O Kejriwal-bhai, a thousand times I apologize, from the heart of my bottom to bottom of my heart I apologize, but I laughed heartily at CMAWS that day.
But then two days ago I again saw a report on CMAWS in my paper—this time, a full-page colour advertisement! It has your smiling photo in it!
It not only confirms that CMAWS is true and real and not some horrible BJP feku news , but it describes the many benefits of this thoughtful welfare scheme created by you for Dilli’s long-suffering Advocates!
I have since then visited the CMAWS website and am delighted to learn many thrilling facts like the following:
CMAWS gives every Advocate registered with Bar Council of Delhi a group Life Insurance Cover of Rs 10 lakhs
CMAWS also gives group Mediclaim Insurance floating cover of Rs 5 lakhs for the Advocate and his/her family members
As many as 22,467 advocates and their family members are beneficiaries of CMAWS based on the ‘First List’ of the scheme.
Another 29,612advocates and their family members arebeneficiaries of CMAWS based on the ‘Second List’ of the scheme.
Most excitingly, the advertisement announces that you have extended the last date for registration and application under CMAWS to April 17th 2023!!
I am overjoyed to inform you, dear Kejriwal-bhai, that I have accepted your kind invitation and have separately applied for registration and inclusion of my own name under CMAWS.
Of course, prima facie my application is liable for rejection because I am not an Advocate.
However, as I have explained in the Introduction and Annexures 2 (d) and 6(a) of my CMAWS application:
I am an obscure, struggling, ageing self-employed writer, and as such I too am among the vulnerable, neglected, impoverished and persecuted sections of society.
My annual income has never exceeded and will never exceed Rs 6 lakhs, which is well below the Rs 8 Lakhs ceiling imposed by Government of India for determining ‘Creamy Layer’ status of OBC.
Also, as evidenced by attested copy of receipt in Appendix 2 of my application, I have in March 2023 paid the sum of Rs 53,673 as annual renewal premium for a health insurance policy of face value of a piddly little Rs 2 lakhs. As a consequence, I am currently surviving on various permutations and combinations of aloevera sabzis, grass-flavoured daals (no, not the smoking kind, that I gave up), and the occasional banana.
Hence, I would deeply welcome any support by way of getting a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs or more…especially if it is at taxpayers’ expense, as under CMAWS.
In conclusion, dear Kejriwal-bhai, I once again congratulate and thank you for creating an excellent and innovative affirmative action scheme like CMAWS! I am confident that with the launch of CMAWS, any and all legal problems that any and all AAP members may face any time at all in the future will be eagerly and ably taken up and resolved by the tens of thousands of joyous Advocates who have already joined and will continue to join and reap the benefits of this brilliantly schemed scheme.
Please do convey my best wishes to Sisodia-bhai when you meet him next.
[Written during a spell of occasional fever with headache…diagnosed as possibly Monkey Flucomplicated by Acute Media-otic Hysteria]
Delhi is globally renowned for its brazen and aggressive motorists. Delhi is also globally renowned for its brazen and aggressive monkeys. Many visitors to the Capital see no distinction whatsoever between these two invasive species, whose populations are increasing in our beloved Capital by leaps and bounds (so to squeak).
And thereby hangs a tail.
Be that as it may, a recent newspaper report celebrates the fact that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has been catching an ever-increasing number of monkeys and rehabilitating them in the once-lovely wilderness of the Asola Sanctuary, located in the last remnants of the Aravalis between the goonda-and-politician–infested badlands of Delhi and Gurugram.
We managed to obtain some interesting and highly improbable insights into how the MCD has achieved success in its monkey business, thanks to a brief but illuminating interview with Shri Bandarlal Poonchwallah, Senior Advisor to Commissioner, MC&RD (Monkey Capture & Rehabilitation Department), MCD.
Q: Could you tell us a little more about the MCD’s Monkey Catching initiative?
Poonchwallah: As the name indicates, a Monkey Catcher catches monkeys. We currently have six Monkey Catchers on the MC&RD rolls. Besides a monthly retainer, our Monkey Catchers are each paid a small incentive on piece-rate basis— or more accurately, on monkey-rate basis. The incentive ranges from Rs 1200 per monkey caught in East, North or West Delhi, to Rs 2400 for monkeys caught in South Delhi …
Q: But why do you pay Rs 2400 for South Delhi monkeys? That’s almost double the amount of incentive paid for monkeys from other parts of Delhi?
Poonchwallah: Arre bhai, you must understand that South Delhi monkeys are very much like South Delhi humans—they are much higher up in the socio-economic ladder than their cousins from other parts of Delhi. Also, like their human South Delhi colleagues, South Delhi monkeys are better-nourished, better educated, more cunning, and more well-connected with powerful members of local human communities including senior officials of Delhi Government and Union Government. So, they are much more difficult to locate and trap. For all these reasons they must be assigned a much higher monkey-rate value.
Q: Surely you can’t be serious?
Poonchwallah: (patiently) The MC&RD has well-documented evidence to support this thesis. Our Monkey Catchers often report that South Delhi monkeys look healthier and are better groomed than other monkeys; in fact, Lutyens Delhi monkeys often chatter among themselves with distinct British or American accents. Most of them scorn traditional Indian food! So, we have to procure costly international food items like thin-crust pizzas, sushi, and whatnot to entice these high-class South Delhi monkeys…whereas simple desi snacks like peanuts or samosas will do to trap, say, East Delhi monkeys. Here, I will show you… (Scrabbles among papers on desk)
Poonchwallah: (impatiently)… Wait, just yesterday I had a report from our senior-most Monkey Catcher on a young monkey he caught in South Delhi’s Nizamuddin area…ah, here it is. (Readsfrom note) It seems that he—meaning this South Delhi monkey, not the Monkey Catcher who caught him—eats only organic food cooked in virgin cold-pressed olive oil, is fond of wearing Paco Rabanne perfume, and has become quite notorious for selecting and stealing only Ray Ban glasses and 5G cellphones from strollers in the nearby Sundar Nursery …
Q: What! But…this is incredible!
Poonchwallah: Yes! It is! I am glad you see it! (Bitterly) But no-one else seems to understand the value of the empirical knowledge and experience acquired by us in the course of our Monkey-Catching initiative. Despite MC&RD’s numerous proposals to the Delhi government and Union governments and to academic institutions like Delhi University, JNU and others, nobody seems to be interested in funding this wonderful opportunity for conducting socio-anthropological research into how Delhi’s monkey populations are adapting in diverse ways to the rapidly changing metropolitan environment, the socio-cultural mores and fashion trends…(breaks off, sinks into moody silence)
Q: (shakento core) Well, sir…to return to the topic …how much does this Monkey-Catching initiative cost us taxpayers?
Poonchwallah: (reading from file) Let’s see…between April and July last year, that is 2021, MCD caught and rehabilitated 350 monkeys. So, at an average incentive of, say, Rs 1800 per monkey, we paid our Monkey Catchers about Rs 6.3 lakhs as incentive during these four months. (looks up proudly) But during the same four-month period this year, 2022, we have caught and rehabilitated over 600 monkeys…for which we have paid our Monkey Catchers Rs 10.8 lakhs in incentives.
Q: That’s impressive! And after you catch and rehabilitate the monkeys in the Asola Sanctuary, how do you make sure the monkeys stay there? Monkeys are great travellers…so how do you make sure they don’t return to the City? Do you monitor them in their new home? Do you periodically count their numbers in Asola?
Poonchwallah: (with explosive snort): Kya bakte ho! Do you seriously think MCD employees can go and sit in the Asola Sanctuary and count monkeys? (Continues in calmer tone) Don’t misunderstand me—I agree that this Monitoring & Evaluation task in Asola is important. And I may add that 99% of all MCD staff, including myself, would jump at the chance of a permanent posting in Asola. But this wretched Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi simply will not give MCD the required funds for this vital component of our Monkey-Catching initiative, despite repeated demands. Arre, these @$*@]%$&! AAP-wallahs haven’t even given us the funds to pay our municipal sweepers their wages since September 2021… (relapses into sullen muttering)
Q: But…but this means there’s a strong likelihood that the monkeys being caught now by MCD were in fact caught earlier too? That the monkeys are travelling back from Asola to Delhi just as fast as the MCD is relocating them from Delhi to Asola?! Isn’t it possible that the MCD is catching the same monkeys over and over again, counting them multiple times, and paying Monkey Catchers for this circular exercise?
Poonchwallah: (slight hunted look) Baah! Tchah! Tut! Only a complete nutcase would want to return to this wretched City after being given a chance to leave it! No, no, I think we can and must trust the monkeys to be sensible enough to stay where they have been rehabilitated, at the beautiful Asola Sanctuary.
Poonchwallah: (unfazed, continues to rave) …If at all some monkeys are detected coming back from Asola to Delhi, that must be because of ecological destruction in the Asola Sanctuary that is being actively encouraged by these same ##$**^&!saala %$ AAP-wallahs…
Poonchwallah: ((warms to the theme) In fact, that explains why, as reported by our Monkey Catchers, most of the monkeys we are trapping nowadays look thin and famished! You see? Not only are these unfortunate monkeys not able to forage for food in Asola because of deforestation and environmental degradation, but they are forced to trek back over 25 kilometers all the way to Delhi! It is a shame. It is a violation of their human rights!
Poonchwallah: [clearly gone completely ape] We shall demand that Delhi’s AAP government provide MCD with a fleet of 10 AC buses so that we can transport the monkeys safely to and from Asola. Electric buses – so that we minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, my MC&RD team will leave no stone unturned in trapping and rehabilitating these poor monkeys on ongoing basis. In our budget estimates for the next financial year, that is 2023–24, we project to catch around 16,800 monkeys, in anticipation of which we propose to hire 10 additional Monkey Catchers and set aside a corpus of 3.5 crores as incentives for our Monkey Catchers…
[interview abruptly terminated at this point, when alpha-male monkey wearing Chaprasi uniform leaped in through open window, snatched away Shri Poonchwallah’s mobile phone, saluted us with a grin and strolled out through office door to seat himself on stool outside.]
Under Aam Aadmi Party, Delhi has plumbed spectacular new depths in crime monitoring, water contamination and air pollution
This short report is about Delhi, where I’ve lived for over 28 years now. It’s been written between November 16th and November 30th 2021, when the air pollution levels have consistently exceeded the danger levels by 600% to 1000%.
The report focuses on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Arvind Kejriwal.
Well… The AAP government has presided over the Capital since 2015, and hence must take its share of credits and debits as well as bear overall responsibility for Delhi’s accrued virtues and vices during the past six years.
Besides, while glancing through my dusty archives of political writings during the past decade or three, I find that I’ve directed my words of admiration and admonition primarily at BJP, Congress, CPM, CPI, the Dravida duo, RJD, and Samajwadi Party. It strikes me that AAP might feel hurt at being left out. Hence, I focus this report on examining the initiatives and achievements of Kejriwal-bhai and his co-AAPted party workers and shirkers in managing three critical domains that impact daily existence in Delhi: law and order, water quality, and air quality.
But at this point, an important disclaimer.
I hereby declare and solemnly swear, with all the necessary swearwords, oaths, and imprecations, that I have been a votary of AAP since 2013.
I support and vote for AAP – at least in the Delhi Assembly, not because of any particular public good it’s done for the people of Delhi, but because—unlike the earlier Congress and BJP governments which did nothing for the people of Delhi but only ignored, abused, exploited, pillaged, plundered, ravaged and otherwise looted us in disgustingly casteist, communal and communist ways—the AAP too has done nothing and continues to do nothing for the people of Delhi, but it does nothing in an admirably secular way, i.e., it ignores, abuses, exploits, pillages, plunders, ravages and otherwise loots us irrespective of our caste, class, religion, or ethnicity.
By doing nothing for the people of Delhi, good or bad, AAP gives us, the citizens, the liberty and licence to do pretty much what we the people of India in general and of Delhi in particular are talented at doing and love to do the most: namely, pillage, plunder, exploit, ravage and otherwise loot one other in secular, communal, communist and other politically and socially accepted ways with no interference from our wise AAP government.
And now, I proceed to summarize the evidence of AAP’s incredible and indelible achievements so that all of us can gasp in wonder, even as we gasp for the last remaining traces of oxygen in Delhi’s air.
Thanks to AAP’s capable and culpable governance since 2015, Delhi continues to maintain its top position in the country – if not the world – in many spheres of socioeconomic, academic and cultural inactivity.
Here are a few prominent Medals of Dishonour that AAP has won for Delhi:
The most lawless and crime-infested city in India.
The most corrupt city in India.
Ranked consistently among the top three dirtiest cities in India
The capital city with the worst air quality on Earth for the eighth year in a row.
The Yamuna river is among the most polluted on Earth
But now I must pause. I realize it is cynical and unfair to say that AAP does nothing for the people, good or bad. I herewith apologize and respectfully amend my statement: AAP actually does one thing very well.
AAP has proven itself to be a master and/or mistress at Monitoring & Measuring (M&M) the many problems that have plagued Delhi since Independence (and quite possibly, since the time of Indraprastha).
Consider violent crime, that plagues our beloved city. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our AAP government, over 410,000 new CCTV cameras have been installed since 2015 across the city as of August 2021. Admittedly, these CCTV cameras haven’t stopped violent crimes—in fact, violent crimes continue to happen at accelerating rate. But these lakhs of new CCTV cameras have provided a wonderful M&M mechanism for street crimes, and a much larger number of the violent crimes are being recorded live. This enables the AAP government to compile much more accurate statistical dataon violent crimes, thus providing a solid authenticated foundation for Delhi to claim and retain its top position among Crime Capitals of the World. The CCTV footage and statistical data are also being provided by AAP to the main-scream TV news channels on ongoing basis for national and global-level entertainment.
AAP has also taken pains to point out—through sustained year-round advertisement campaigns costing several thousand crores of taxpayers’ money year after year— that it has greatly improved public security by installing many thousands of new streetlights in crime-prone areas.
Some anti-AAP people (most probably nasty BJP and Congress-wallahs with hidden agendas) complain about the fact that over half the installed CCTV cameras have been imported from China—that too during the military stand-off between India and China at Galwan in 2020. They jeer at the fact that the CCTV cameras don’t capture criminals; they only capture their crimes. They even allege that the new streetlights are only helping the criminals see their victims better and plan their crimes more efficiently.
However, AAP correctly responds that:
Catching criminals is the job of Delhi Police which reports only to the Union Home Ministry and is thus controlled by those ☠@!##$%☠ BJP-wallahs;
A large number of CCTV cameras are being stolen and/or damaged on ongoing basis – most probably by dalals and stooges of those same ☠**%&☠☠ BJP and Congress saalas who want to give AAP a bad name.
There is nothing wrong about importing CCTV cameras from China, because India believes in the spirit of vasudaiva kutumbakam.
The newly installed streetlights have not only improved the quality of the CCTV footage on violent crimes; they also enable the common Delhi citizen to take night-time selfies where night-time selfies were not possible before, to spot criminals sooner and have time to run like hell for safety before being caught, and to see and avoid pot-holes, open manholes, heaps of garbage and other hazards while running.
Managing Water Quality
Another important area where the AAP government has achieved remarkable landmarks through enhanced M&M capabilities is water quality; specifically, contamination of the Yamuna by untreated human wastes (commonly known as shit).
Now, we all know the Yamuna has been filthy since probably the time of Qutubbudin Aibak. But the BJP and Congress governments did nothing to clean it up, and so when AAP came to power one of its promises was to clean up the Yamuna and make it fit for bathing in by 2020.
At this point, a little gyaan. According to norms of WHO and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), river water is unsafe and unfit for even bathing in if its faecal coliform count (i.e. a measure of how much shit it contains) is more than 2500 (per 100 ml water)
When Kejriwal’s AAP took charge of Delhi government in 2015, the maximum measured faecal coliform count at Okhla was close to 5000,000 per 100 ml (i.e. 2000 times the danger level).
By 2019, the faecal coliform count at Okhla had increased by leaps and bounds to over 9500,000 per 100 ml (i.e. 3800 times the danger level).
In March 2021 the Delhi Pollution Control Committee reported that the faecal coliform count in Okhla was 45,000,000 per 100 ml (i.e. 18,000 times the danger level) [data from DPCC lab report here].
Thanks to scientific M&M under the AAP government, and bolstered by the AAP government’s sustained ‘Clean Yamuna’ campaign, the faecal coliform in the Yamuna has increased by leaps and bounds: from 2000 times danger level in 2015 to an amazing 18,000 times danger level by March 2021.
Instead of being thrilled by this remarkable AAP achievement, the usual gang of AAP-haters and baiters (all BJP and Congress chamchas, for sure) complain that the Yamuna’s astronomically high coliform count only shows that the river water is now at par with the stuff we flush away in toilets. They add bitterly that if the current trend continues (as it will, if AAP remains in power for another term or two as seems likely), the Yamuna’s faecal coliform count will become so high that the river will solidify into a sludge of…well…shit.
AAP is unfazed by the criticism. Flushed with enthusiasm (so to speak), it has vowed to continue its ‘Clean Yamuna’ initiative. On November 19th, Chief Minister Kejriwal declared that “the Yamuna will be cleaned by 2025”.
Managing Air Quality
Nowhere is AAP’s uniquely dismal aptitude (AAPtitude?) in governance more clearly visible (at least, on the 5-6 days in the year when an object 2 metres away is clearly visible through the smog) than in managing the quality of Delhi’s air.
The AAP’s sustained, hyperbolic and mutually contradictory efforts at combating air pollution during the last six years essentially boil down to the following:
Strenuous advertising campaigns that urge the Delhi citizens to use public transport like buses and Metro instead of private vehicles.
Reducing the fleet-strength of the city bus operator Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) from around 6000 buses in 2015 to 3000 buses as of today. [AAP’sRationale: these old buses are inefficient and add to air pollution! Result: more people buy scooters/bikes and cars, adding more to air pollution.]
Opposing the expansion of the Delhi Metro’s Phase 4 corridor. [AAP’sRationale: the Metro Phase 4 construction will require felling of several hundred young trees planted during AAP’s afforestation campaigns, mainly on wastelands. Result: as above. ]
Strenuous, continuous and almost completely useless efforts over the last six years to purchase 8000 new CNG buses (so that the DTC fleet can be increased to 11,000 buses). Not one new bus has so far been procured. However, as a sign of great progress, AAP recently announced (November 6th, 2021) that 190 new CNG buses ‘will be inducted’ starting next year, i.e. 2022.
Setting up two ‘smog towers’ (in Connaught Place and in Anand Vihar) at a cost of Rs 40 crores while ignoring all warnings and criticisms including mine. These smog towers have proved to be a complete farce, as predicted. For instance, on November 6th, the smog tower at Connaught Place delivered ‘clean air’ which had a PM 2.5 level of 453 (against the maximum safety level of 60). See the report here.
Blaming previous BJP and Congress governments for not doing enough to clean up Delhi’s air, thus burdening AAP with a ‘legacy’ of air pollution
Blaming the BJP-ruled Union Government for not giving enough money to the AAP government of Delhi to fund its essential public-interest advertising campaigns in electronic and print media by which it attacks the Union Government for not giving adequate funds to the AAP government of Delhi to help combat various problems such as water and air pollution
Blaming the BJP-ruled governments of the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for encouraging/allowing farmers to burn post-kharif harvest stubble in their fields and create smoke that adds to Delhi’s air pollution.
The plain and bitter truth is, Delhi’s own traffic alone contributes to anything between 65% and 85% of all air pollution including particulates, depending on the time of year. Hardly surprising, considering that Delhi had nearly 12 million registered motorized vehicles on its choked roads as of March 2021.
The Delhi NCR’s own industry and construction sectors contribute most of the remaining air pollution throughout the year. Stubble burning contributes a maximum of only about 30%—that too for barely three weeks in a year! Likewise, the admittedly noisy and smoky but much-maligned Diwali crackers contribute no more than 10–12% of air pollution—for three days in the year!
The scientific studies are all out there, in public domain.
O Gentle Reader, just imagine 12 million vehicles on jam-packed roads day after day, all that diesel and petrol and CNG burning, the CO2 and CO and particulates shooting out of those millions of exhaust pipes…
Yet, we Delhi-wallahs dare blame the farmers for stubble burning?
Who among us has the courage to call a spade a spade (instead of a spatially challenged diamond) and blame ourselves for spawning this choking horror that hangs over the city?
A word of praise is due to the media, for providing enthusiastic support to the AAP government in blaming everybody but the citizens of Delhi themselves for Delhi’s air pollution. Particularly noteworthy is Times of India’s ‘Let Delhi Breathe’ campaign, under which the most creative headlines, well-spun graphics, cunningly twisted data and plain fake news are combined to create a narrative that Delhi’s air pollution is entirely due to all those nasty stubble-burning farmers from Punjab, Haryana, and western U.P.
For instance, today (30th November), stubble burning contributes barely 2% to Delhi’s the PM 2.5 load. In other words, 98% of Delhi’s air pollution is of our own creation! But instead of headlining this, TOI obligingly plays up the stubble burning through crafty graphics and a headline that reads ‘Smoke without fire: AQI very poor’.
Enough. Bus ho gya.
I have, after years of thought and dilly-dallying (Dilli-dallying?) resolved to move out from Delhi. Inshallah, by 2023…assuming I survive 2022.
Even as I write this, the prospect of leaving Delhi brings a wave of deep sadness; so deep that I wonder whether I should explore the Dark Web for a small but effective dose of potassium cyanide.
I gaze out the window at the dismal, grey-brown murk enveloping the sky…a darkness at noon … and then I cackle in glee.
I don’t need potassium cyanide to end it all.
All I need do is open the window and breathe deeply….
This is about the ongoing anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi.
I visited Shaheen Bagh on Friday the 31st January 2020 between 10:00 and 14:30. I wanted to find out, for myself, whether the anti-CAA protest going on here is indeed ‘spontaneous’ as claimed by Left-leaning media and their cohorts; or whether it is ‘manufactured’ as claimed by the Right-leaning media and their cohorts.
What I learned and experienced confirms my worst fears about what’s going on in Shaheen Bagh and where it will lead us—fears that I summarized in this photo (apologies: I might have already posted this to some of you on 31st January via WhatsApp and Instagram).
I firmly believe the Shaheen Bagh protest is as spontaneous as a forest fire started by ‘tourists’ who first doused the helpless trees with petrol, then set the trees ablaze starting with the young ones … and now visit the fire every evening during Prime Time TV hours with fresh supplies of petrol and other inflammatory materials to make sure the fires don’t die out.
I expected to find a sea of protesters, singing and chanting slogans of Peace, Harmony, Patriotism, Insaaniyat. I found barely 70 to 80 people in all. About a dozen women were in their tent, near the makeshift stage; the men stood around outside in little clusters, tense, conversing in low murmurs. Barring a couple of Mentors and one Minder who stood out by their suspicious glances towards me, their confident, persuasive tones and carefully careless attire, all were locals. My few conversations with the local men were short, their nods were brief, smiles strained. They were courteous, I wandered around and took a few photos unhindered. But there was fear in their eyes, in the air. The fear fear that took me back to Bombay, 1992, when men turned into monsters and the stench of blood and burning human hair and death hung over Dharavi and Mahim and Jogeshwari…
I joined one group; they were anxiously discussing the young Muslim man who had been shot at by another, a Hindu, outside the Jamia Millia the previous day. “It might happen here!” was their refrain. A Mentor reassured them that it wouldn’t; urged them to remain courageous and continue their ‘andolan‘.
Aside of the Mentors and Minder, there was only one other non-local like me: a middle-aged bearded man wandering around with a camera. Where are the crowds, the speeches and shows? he asked a little plaintively. The Minder, who was built like a mini-truck, was gruff: “Sham ko ao…tabhi log aate hain.”
Come in the evening: that’s when the crowds are here.
Shaheen Bagh is designed for Prime Time.
I reiterate what I voiced in an earlier post: that each and every political group in India—Left or Right, AAP or non-existent Centre—is yearning for large-scale communal violence to divide the masses along Hindu vs. Muslim lines. Because the Ayodhya issue that has sustained all of them for over 30 years has finally been resolved honourably by the Supreme Court, much to their chagrin; henceforth, Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi can no longer be flogged by them for votes.
And so, all political parties are doing their best—and their worst—to create a new long-term issue for Hindu vs. Muslim polarization. They all hope to gain by sparking off communal violence in Shaheen Bagh. And they are being aided and abetted in their efforts by their respective captive media and ‘intellectuals’.
I firmly believe the locals of Shaheen Bagh and of nearby Abu Fazal Enclave – the majority of them hapless working class Muslims —have been terrorized by Evil Teachers into believing that because of CAA it is only a matter of time before they, and all other Muslims in India, will be identified as ‘illegals’, carted off to detention camps by the police, and then ‘deported’ – if not murdered by RSS-led Hindu mobs.
I now know for sure who these Evil Visiting Teachers of Shaheen Bagh are, too. I think you too won’t find it hard to identify them even without visiting Shaheen Bagh – some of the posters are a dead giveaway (see below).
No words can convey my rage and sadness at what is being done at Shaheen Bagh…at the venality of those who have made its impoverished people scapegoats in a Pilot Project for scaling up to nation-wide violence.
The Shaheen Bagh Project is already showing signs of success. Anti-CAA has already morphed into anti-NRC, anti-NPR, anti-Census. Young women and men undertaking routine social indicator surveys in rural areas – Bengal and U.P come to mind – have been severely assaulted because of the Project’s most effective and toxic CAA Awareness Programs.
The Right to Citizenship has already morphed into the Right as a Citizen to Remain Anonymous and Invisible – without of course surrendering any Rights to receive state largess due to caste, religion, and so forth.
The first guns have emerged. The protests against the Shaheen Bagh protests are getting more edgy…even as Delhi’s Assembly elections are days away.
The secondary fires from Shaheen Bagh now spread across India – even as Assam, the only state where the presence of about 2 million Bangladeshis is not disputed by any but the chronically insane, remains tense but calm.
Thereby hangs a tale.
The outer barriers – easily crossed, just one police gypsy with a few bored constables who didn’t bother me
The other evening – 17th of November it was – I went with a couple of friends and heard T M Krishna sing at the Garden of Five Senses, Delhi.
It was great!
Krishna was in fine voice; a voice I’d heard only a couple of times earlier, rendering Thyagaraja krithis as smoothly as folk songs. Oh, and also singing in a short but powerful campaign video against Unilever for dumping toxic chemicals and endangering the people and ecology of Kodaikanal (click here to see it)
That’s all I knew of Krishna till around the 14th of November; that he was a great musician, innovative, that he sang for good causes.
And then this great big thing blew up in our faces, amplified to megaton levels by media: that Airports Authority of India and Spic-Macay had abruptly cancelled a scheduled concert on 17th November featuring Krishna, among other artistes. AAI gave no reasons for the cancellation; but I understood, from editorials print and online, that Krishna was regarded by BJP sympathizers – and therefore, the Central Government, and by inference, AAI too— as ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-Indian culture’, all because he, Krishna, conveyed pithy political and social messages through his songs. I also heard and read that Krishna had been cruelly trolled by ‘right-wing Hindutva’ nuts.
All this I found profoundly disheartening, disturbing, disgusting. I hoped, over those two days that followed, for some strong reaction from the Central Government, from AAI…but there was only stony silence.
And so, when Delhi’s AAP government announced that it would host a performance by Krishna on the 17th, I decided I must attend. Not to convey some glorious ‘secular message’ or make a ‘political statement’ or anything pretentious as that, but to simply hear Krishna, a musician who just wanted to sing from his heart about things he felt strongly about… and had been cruelly treated for wanting to do that.
Given the circumstances, I was a little worried about the event becoming more a political jamboree than a music concert. But credit to AAP leaders Kejriwal and Sisodia, not only did they arrive only about 20 minutes late, which is incredibly early by Delhi standards, but their bhashans were mercifully brief and non-incendiary. Krishna himself was all dignity: he murmured that he was there not to speak but to sing…and so he did: wonderfully, passionately, movingly.
Now, clacking out these words, I wonder: why must we taint everything in our lives that brings joy, with the corrosive acid of divisive politics?
My music or writing or theatre, my art, my rendering of what I think of as art, might not be to your liking, and vice versa; but surely we can each find the art we like and peacefully enjoy it without having to mock, disfigure, destroy others’ likes, others’ art? Without hurting others?
Just as you, gentle reader, might hold the view that I can’t write for nuts (doubtless with great justification). But that shouldn’t drive us – and our fans, our acolytes, assuming we have any – at each others’ throats?
Like: I never liked M F Hussain’s paintings. M F Hussain, in my view, couldn’t paint for nuts. I have said so to friends who like M F Hussain’s paintings. It hasn’t affected our friendship.
I remember even writing so once (in Indian Express, in a letter): in the late 1990s, a time when, weirdly, it had become the politically correct thing to like M F Hussain, and you risked being branded ‘Hindu communalist’ or ‘fascist’ if you said you didn’t like Hussain. Well, I wrote I didn’t like M F Hussain’s work, not because his work offended my religious or cultural sensibilities but because his work offended my artistic sensibilities. But (I added) that didn’t mean I had the right to burn his paintings or run the man out of the country.
You, I, anyone at all, can take on T M Krishna fair and square, one-on-one, for his political views, such as they are…just as Krishna has the right to take on any of us fair and square for our political views, such as ours are.
But when Krishna the musician is invited to present his music, we must welcome him and respect him as musician.
I have heard Krishna, I love his music, I admire his politics. But that’s my opinion; you can think differently, it’s okay.
But none of us, none of us can allow a government institution like AAI to judge an artiste, any artiste, by his or her perceived ‘politics’.
It is terrible, the way AAI has capitulated before a gang of nameless, faceless e-thugs whose claim to represent ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Indian culture’ is as well-founded as Lashkar e Toiba’s claim to represent ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamic culture’.
It is good that Delhi’s AAP government gave Krishna a chance to play at the Garden of Five Senses…and us the chance to hear him.
As of today, 19th November 2018, I am a votary of AAP.
But I shall watch AAP’s future activities with considerable interest before taking the call at the next polls. Knowing our politicians, be they from Left, Right or virtually non-existent Centre, chances are high that the AAP will commit some colossal balls-up ere long…
That’s why we need you, T M Krishna! Jai Vijaye Bhava! Jai Hind.