Friday, January 12, 2018

The Four Wise Men

Perhaps the operative part of the letter the four judges have sent to the Chief Justice is this: "There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justice of this court selectively to the benches "of their preference" without any rational basis for such assignment (with quote marks). And in the press conference, while asked if the case of Justice Loya's death is among the cases referred to in the letter, Justice Gogoi replied, 'Yes."
It's huge, unprecedented and extraordinary. In plain words, four senior judges at the Supreme Court -- one of them could be the next CJI-- come out in public and say the rot has spread even to the highest office of India's judiciary. This is an inflexion point. Something Prime Minister Modi could certainly say has happened for the real first time while he is in power. But it also demands answers. According to whose "preference" cases are being allotted in the Supreme Court? Is the CJI a pawn acting on behalf of some external forces? If the freedom of judiciary is in danger, as the letter claims, who is endangering it? When the judges say they don't want future generations to say they sold their souls, the question is who all in the judiciary have already sold their souls and who are the buyers?
You may not get the answers. Instead, there will be a vicious campaign against the judges. Some Alok Bhatt, who's followed by none other than the Prime Minister himself, has already tweeted, "Impeach all four bastards and also drag everyone instigating judiciary." (He didn't take much time to realise who's against whom). The whole issue could be brushed as an intra-judiciary power struggle. The judges could be accused of acting out of frustration or many more. But remember, these kind of incidents do not happen every year, not in every decade. It's happening for the first time in the history of the country, so it needs that strong a reason. It shows how serious the situation is. And I am sure the judges have taken this path after much deliberation, including of the consequences. As a citizen, I genuinely appreciate their patriotism, moral courage and commitment to constitutional values. You often hear these words from bigots, sectarian nationalists and power-hungry maniacs these days. But Justices Kurian Joseph, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur have exemplified these values through their dissent. #DemocracyInDanger, really.

Let There Be More WCCs

On this wall, I had bragged about Kerala's social advances whenever it came under assault by Sangh propaganda. There are actual progress the state has achieved in many fields. But when it comes to misogyny, Kerala, sadly, is as bad as any other place in the country. Just have a look at the down-rating campaign carried out by the fans of Malayalam movie super stars against Women in Cinema Collective. The reason: the grouping shared an article critical of Mammootty (to be specific, his choice of characters at the age of 67, on their Facebook page (which they later deleted). Since then, fans have been giving single star rating to the WCC Facebook page with atrocious comments on the women associated with the group.
Some say, quite innocently, the down-rating campaign is a democratic exercise and the fans are just using that. But it's not that simple. First, these fan handles are writing the filthiest of the comments about women artists on the WCC page. Second, what's the reason and motive behind this campaign? (I won't be surprised, given the criminal networks in the film industry, even if these trolls are paid.) The context was the controversy triggered by actor Parvathy's criticism about the misogynistic portrayal of women in Malayalam cinema, with a reference to Mammootty's Kasaba. It should have triggered a debate in any healthy society with influential voices in the industry concerned taking the lead. instead, they chose to remain silent, when cyber thugs unleashed a hate campaign. The motive is to stifle voices of dissent from women through bullying, cyber mob-attacks and threats.
Worse, the so-called superstars are all silent. Mammootty just made an ambivalent comment that he'd not asked anyone to speak on behalf of him -- not a word about the cyber bullying, rape threats and abuses, which still continue. It's a colleague of their who is being targeted, for raising a critical opinion. Still, none of the leading stars came out in support for Parvathy. None of them is expected to come in support for WCC either. Even Manju Warrier, "the lady super star", dodged questions on the issue. Some, like Pratap Pothan, are busy complaining about the absence of an organisation for men in cinema (what a trash)! Still, it's impressive that Parvathy, unlike most others in the field, is holding the fort. She wrote an article on Scroll, explaining her views ( On Twitter, you see a confident, valiant woman sitting back enjoying the show "with popcorn". She may be lacking support now. She may have been attacked by the brain-dead cyber thugs. But the flag she holds is the future. Let there be more Parvathys and WCCs.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

All the Superstar's Men

Fans of these so-called Malayalam superstars are as bad as religious fundamentalists -- intolerant, abusive, thuggish and incapable of possessing even a semblance of progressivism. Take the two recent instances. When Dileep was arrested in the case of abducting and assaulting a female colleague, these fan groups launched a campaign against the victim and in favour of the 'popular hero'. Even those who took strong stances supporting the victim were targeted online.
The second incident is the cyberattacks actor Parvathy is facing over raising some valid comments on anti-woman scenes in Kasaba, a repulsive, hard-to-finish Mammootty movie. Mammootty fans started an abusive, shaming campaign against Parvathy on social media, including making death and rape threats. Now they call for boycotting Parvathy's coming movie, My Story, a video song of which is being mass-disliked on YouTube (some of them had even called for boycotting Mayanadhi, a crime-romance drama released around Christmas. The reason is that the movie is directed by Aashiq Abu, whose wife, Rima, is a friend of Parvathy). All for a woman saying some words criticising a superstar movie.
Interestingly, though unsurprisingly, the biggies in the Malayalam movie, both male and female actors, have turned a blind eye to the incident. The producer of Kasaba apparently offered a job to one of the cyber abusers. Even Mammootty took a couple of weeks to respond to the verbal assaults these cyber thugs make in his name. He said he hasn't entrusted anyone to speak on behalf of him, falling short of condemning his fans' actions. Seeing this bullying and hate campaign, even I feel ashamed of being a Mammootty fan in my school-college days. And it's terrible that the so-called megastar, whose fancy dress movies hardly make any impact these days, be it in the box office or in the minds of cinema lovers, is still unmoved by all this.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Waiting for a deluge

With the US-led international troops set to leave in 2014, the country is once again at the crossroads in its search for peace and stability. Even after the ’s ouster from power and a decade-long war that followed, the spectre of the 1990s is staring at modern Afghanistan. The federal government is now weak, society is fragmented, different militia are rising, the Taliban is strong and international troops are leaving. Will Afghanistan fall back to post-Soviet days?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Deconstructing The War On Terror

Five days after the September 11 attack, the then US President, George W. Bush promised to rid the world of "evil doers". Before two weeks had passed, he said, "our war begins with al-Qaeda but it doesn't end there". Instead, "it will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated". Those words marked the beginning of the 9/11 wars, which saw the United States fighting a protracted battle against "evil" regimes and extremist groups in the Muslim world. Jason Burke, The Guardian's foreign correspondent, writes in his latest book, The 9/11 Wars, that all the major figures in the Bush administration had repeatedly stressed against going for a war against terror on a global scale. They warned that "this new conflict would last a long time". It did, even outliving Bush's presidency. - See more at: 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Winter of Arab discontent

Was it a coup? Some call it an "atypical" coup. Anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters who backed Egyptian military's intervention to remove elected President Mohamed Morsi from power on July 3 term it a "recolution" (a mix of revolution and a coup). Ask John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and he will say the "military did not take over". Call it a coup or some other term, but what happened in Egypt is that it has slipped under another military regime, at least for now. But the roots of the present crisis go back to the Brotherhood's government days. When the Freedom and Justice Party - the political wing of the Brothers - mistook its electoral victories for a mandate for Islamising Egypt even as the economic worries of the country remained unaddressed, it set the stage for the second phase of mass uprisings in the country.

The history and mystery of Pakistan

Pakistan is a nation of contradictions. It's a country created in the name of religion, where the father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wanted to build a liberal democratic state. It started as a democratic country, like India, but soon slipped into military dictatorship, which shaped Pakistan's ideology in the years that followed. It's both a victim and a promoter of religious terrorism. It's a country that proved many wrong in the past but remains the centre of global geopolitical risk assessments. It's not an easy country to understand. Apocalypse Pakistan: An Anatomy of 'the World's Most Dangerous Nation', written by two Italian journalists, Francesca Marino and Beniamino Natale, attempts to do the nearly impossible job of unravelling the mystery that is Pakistan.