Friday, November 25, 2016

Politics and violence, a curious case of the Red Brigade

Violence has always been a part of human behaviour. It manifests itself in different forms and degrees. Humans as hunter gatherers perpetrated violence by uprooting plants and killing animals to survive. Settlements led to periodic and sustained violence by clearing forests for agriculture, killing of pests to protect the produce and harvesting the crop to feed oneself. Over a period of time some forms of violence became acceptable. Survival is the biggest instinct and humans, like all other forms of life ensure that they survive as individuals and as a species. What was not acceptable was violence against a fellow human. It was branded as crime and attracted punishment, often punishable by another set of violent actions.

Humans have moved on from being mere hunter-gatherers and farmers. We have codified laws, which warn us against committing violence against fellow humans and animals. But violence still persists. Throughout history we have evidence of violence against fellow humans. The twentieth century saw some of the most heinous episodes of violence where millions perished. The concentration camps run by the Nazis across Europe, the death march of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey, the forced labour camps run by Stalin in Communist Russia, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the great leap forward in Communist China, were all despicable acts of violence against fellow humans. The five episodes of mass violence claimed approximately 86 million people. Of this 77% or 67 million lost their lives in Communist Russia and China. The Red Brigade was a formidable force when it came to killing its own people.

The ideology of eliminating one’s opponent has not died down even after the death of Communism in both Russia and China. Both countries remain extremely authoritative and suppress rights of their own citizens. The Communist ideology has replicated its tendencies of eliminating its opponents where ever it went. India is no exception. The seven political murders this year in Kerala is a case in point.

The only two states where the Communists could ever win elections have seen one of the worst kinds of political killings. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, then minister of Information and Cultural Affairs, in a response to an assembly question has stated that between 1977 and 1996, around 28,000 political murders took place in West Bengal. That is almost 3.8 murders a day. The political murders in West Bengal predate their accession of power in 1977. The Sainbari Killings of 1970 is one such incident where the Communists are believed to have fed rice drenched in blood of the victims to their mother. The political opponents of the Left who were killed belonged to the Congress and later on to the Trinamool Congress. The cycle has hardly stopped after a second round of resounding defeat of the Communists.

The state of affairs in Kerala is not much different. Only the number of murders are less. There are no reliable statistics available on the actual number of political killings in Kerala. However, an RTI response revealed that between 1997 and 2008, 56 people were killed in internecine violence. The numbers would have gone up since then. This year alone has seen seven political murders in Kerala, most of them from the Malabar region where the Communists have a strong support base.

It will be wrong to blame the Communists for the spate of political murder since many of the dead belonged to the Communist carders. The blame lies equally on the other side too. But then there is the question of, “why only states ruled/dominated by the Communist parties see such political killings”? The opponents of Communists, both the Congress and the BJP are in power in many states. We do not read about mass killings carried out by either the Congress or the BJP against each other in those states. It is always the states ruled or dominated by the Communist parties, from where such barbaric stories come from.

The red brigade in India is running a riot. Killing opponents instead of defeating them at the ballot. Their leaders have the courage to write opinion pieces and give television bytes to portray themselves as victims. As India becomes more educated, more aware and more informed, there is hope that the killing machines of Communist parties will be stopped, by Indians. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When hatred becomes worship

Here, hold my liberal hand
So Donald Trump finally won. The prolonged campaign and bitter verbal duels between Clinton and Trump are behind us and the fact is sinking in slowly, for many people. But is Trump’s win really shocking? Yes, because we were made to believe that it is impossible. Because we were told for months together that Clinton is everything that America stands for, all the liberal ideas and egalitarian ideology that America represents. Trump on the other hand is a capitalist, has evaded taxes, is misogynist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, racist, etc. All this was told to us by the so called “respected” and “neutral” media. The CNNs and NYTs of the world rallied behind Clinton. Even our own media outlets were found sharing photo frames with Clinton. So yes, the people on the street actually believed that Trump is going to lose. So much so that Indians, many of whom who may not even have a passport, are angry at his win. They are outraged and shudder in disbelief.

As the postmortem of Clinton’s defeat or Trump’s win unfolds in news studios in the next days, one of the facts that will stand out is the adverse impact of the extreme negative campaigns that the media together with Clinton ran against Trump. It was all about how bad trump is. It was never about what Clinton will do to bring back jobs and growth to America. Even if there were things that Clinton said about jobs and growth, they were drowned by the reports of what Trump said.

A prolonged negative campaign always backfires. No matter how undeserving the target is. We saw it in Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and we saw it this week in America. The lesson: common people on street are not bothered about how bad someone is. In desperate times the people worry more about jobs and economic security more than the self-actualization goals like social equality and immigration. The point was completely lost by the “liberal” media and the Champagne/Limousine socialists who feed them content.

The Indian media is increasingly looking like the out of touch American media. We are constantly fed with opinions in the name of news and debates. We are made see things from a thick coloured glass. The glass, which is dipped and let to soak in the “liberal” coulours by the m
edia. Be it anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir or shooting down of a suspected terror boat near our maritime borders or demonetizing of high value currency to tackle the black money problem. We are always fed with biased views. We are told why the government is wrong. Glorification of hardened terrorists, candle light vigils for condemned terrorists and shooting from the shoulders of daily wagers to counter the demonetizing drive is all passed as news and freedom of speech. Of course with a liberal sprinkling of cries of “stifling press freedom”.

The media has crossed the line between news and opinion. What they don’t realise is that in this age of social media and alternate platforms to access news, their biased opinions are falling flat. What they also fail to realise is that extreme forms of hate against a group or individual is always counterproductive. As Devdutt Pattanaik in his recent post wrote that hatred leads to reverse devotion. What it also leads to is awakening of the masses. People start thinking. This is where the game ends for the media.

Once a seed of thought is planted it quickly grows into a tree, which bears fruits of realisations. People see the double standards behind which the elite and Champagne socialists or private jet socialists (as the case of Clinton is) hide. The Indian media should realise that they are not catering to a country of snake charmers. We have left those days behind us. It is now time for them to wake up and redraw the line between news and opinion. Let people know what the media house stands for and which way it leans.