2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

The Hand that Rocks the Bihar Cradle

Even as crude provincial caricature, it was a tableau tough to locate in Bihar until very recently. A dummy Nitish Kumar dolled up as object of derision, a placard in hand that proclaimed: “Alpasankhyak voteron ko hum apna daamaad bhi banane ko taiyaar hain….I am even ready to accept minority voters as sons-in-law…” Beside him, a live prop as stereotype of the minority voter. Another representing the Congress and proclaiming it is willing to “gamble away the nation” for minority votes. In the backdrop to such coarse burlesque, the purported solution: an enthroned representation of Narendra Modi.

The incendiary Bettiah tableau
The incendiary Bettiah tableau

It was partly the public mounting of such and similar montages that lit the fuse to communal clashes in mixed settlements off Bettiah in north-west Bihar last week. A few days before the Bettiah hostilities, a skirmish had erupted in Katihar over burial rights and quickly contained. A few days after Bettiah, an argument over a dhaba menu near Nawada triggered unfounded rumour-mongering, criminal rousing of passions and two violent deaths. Continue reading “The Hand that Rocks the Bihar Cradle”

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2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Angry Graffiti: Why Amartya Sen Won’t Have Narendra Modi As His Prime Minister

The Argumentative Indian enters a debate he’d like Indians to engage with

New Delhi, July 22: Narendra Modi’s incipient bid for prime ministership has received stinging disapproval from public intellectual and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. “I do not want Modi to be my Prime Minister,” Sen told journalist Sagarika Ghose in an interview that aired on CNN-IBN “As an Indian citizen I could say we Indians don’t want a situation where the minorities feel insecure and could legitimately thing that there was organised violence against them in 2002. That’s a terrible record. As an Indian citizen I do not want an Indian Prime Minister who has that kind of record.”

amartya-sen-0044

Sen’s remarks come at a time when Modi’s anointment as the BJP-NDA’s prime ministerial nominee for 2014 is being given final shape on the political anvil. RSS bosses have signalled approval from their Nagpur shadows. Modi’s party boss, Rajnath Singh, is on a PR mission the United States, calling him the most popular leader across the land and lobbying to have travel barriers imposed on the Gujarat chief minister following the 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem abrogated.  His party spokespersons are in overdrive, pre-promoting his candidacy and protecting him from censure by rivals for flagrant and provocative references to India’s Muslims. He has likened his grief over the killing of thousands of Muslims under his watch in Gujarat to emotions he would feel if a kutte ka bachcha, or puppy, were to come under the wheel of his car. He also chose to disparage the Congress’ brand of secularism likening it to the burqa, the public attire of many Muslim women. Some of these statements have been made in the course of Modi’s revved up effort to define his vision of India to varied audiences. Continue reading “Angry Graffiti: Why Amartya Sen Won’t Have Narendra Modi As His Prime Minister”

2006, Baroda, Reportage, Tehelka

The Secular Lies of Vadodara

Sankarshan Thakur visits a torn city whose communal neuroses go beyond Narendra Modi and recent riots. First published in Tehelka on May 20, 2006.

The driver’s saying, no way, his taxi isn’t going any further. He is shaking his head and looking as if to say, “You must be mad even to ask.”

Champaner Gate? “Nai saab, apun kaa jaan kaa bhi to fikir hai; biwi, baal-bachcha hai, nai saab, yahin chhodo.”

We walk the teeming rivulet lanes of the old town, a crazy baroque of medieval finery embossed with coarse masonry; carved timber held together by garish tiling, a block of cement smothering evidence of a fallen balustrade, a rusty water-cooler rammed into what was once some refined Parsi’s gable, style choked by substance.

We return late afternoon near-swayed by the intransigent driver’s reason. Champaner Gate isn’t so much the opening on a wizened town breathing through layer upon layer of coexistent time. It is more a gash cleaved in the minds of its people. 1969. 1971. 1978. 1982. 1983. 1987. 1991. 1992. 1993. 1995. 1998. 2000. 2002. 2002 again and again. 2005. April 2006. The tear has been ripped too oft, too savagely for sutures to work. Continue reading “The Secular Lies of Vadodara”