On the exodus of North-East Indians

Were we too hasty in jumping to conclusions?

Now that the dust has settled over the exodus of our countrymen from the eight states of the North-east and we have moved over to meatier issues such as cricket, films and social media, it is time to step back and take a look at some of the conclusions drawn after that episode.

One, the exodus was driven purely by rumours and had no basis in reality. Here is the Business Standard story on the exodus, which says that ‘Not just SMSes & posts on social networking sites, panic happened due to concrete instances’. Another story in the Outlook magazine also suggests that the reasons go beyond the rumours carried via SMS/ MMS/ social media. Now recollect how the exodus, when it happened, was explained as being driven solely by rumours. The conclusion was simple: the Indian state is so effete that it can’t stop 30,000 of its citizens (see update at the end) who fled solely because of some ungrounded rumours. And then the verdict: no Indian trusts the Indian State now.

This is not to argue that Indian state isn’t effete or the level of trust among Indians on their government is very low. That is a fact well-established by many incidents and anecdotes in the recent past. But is it as bad — all gloom and doom — as it was made out in the immediacy of the exodus? Did the media and social media contribute to further erosion of the little trust that middle India still has in the State? That is a question we will have to honestly answer at some point. Bangalore hadn’t become Karachi and Karnataka wasn’t looking like North Waziristan with drones hovering above. Heck, India hadn’t become Somalia, a land where practically no state exists. Really, it doesn’t take much for many among us to swing from ‘India Shining’ to ‘India Whining’.

While arriving at conclusions about trusting the Indian State, we must not forget that the people who chose to move were North East Indians. Since independence, when India inherited the concept of Inner Line and Outer Line from the British, the Indian State hasn’t exactly done much to win the trust of these people. If you have lived through turbulent, conflict-ridden times in the North East, marked with insurgencies and counterinsurgency operations, and have been brought up on horrid tales about the Indian State, you will find it difficult to overcome that instinct even if the Police Commissioner of Bangalore or the Karnataka Home Minister assures you personally. More than an administrative failure of the South Indian states, the exodus is a legacy of last 64 years of maladministration and poor governance in the states of NE India. This blogger would like someone to seriously explain what more concrete steps could the governments have taken to stop the exodus.

Look at it in another way. Across the country, most middle-class Indians would trust the Indian army to secure them, if it so assures them. But if you were to ask the same question in Kashmir or Manipur, you would get a radically different answer. It is the same people, it is the same army but our responses are conditioned by our experiences and the tales that our families have brought us up on. Would anyone draw the conclusion that the whole of India doesn’t trust the Indian army because a vocal section of urban Kashmiris or Manipuris says so? Obviously, the sample being used isn’t representative. Perhaps, it was a similar case for North East Indians moving out of some South Indian cities. We must not jump to hasty conclusions and indulge in collective breast-beating about India based on skewed samples. That time and effort can be better spent in creating public pressure on our political leadership to undertake police reforms and fix the criminal justice system.

P.S. – Jinnah created Pakistan on the premise that an exclusive territory is required to protect a community and its identity. Look where that experiment has brought Pakistan today. Some of our leaders in the North Eastern states need to look at Pakistan closely and ponder. It is not the exclusive territory that safeguards a community but the rule of law. That is the only lasting solution to most problems faced not only by the North-Eastern states but also by the rest of India.

Update (26/8): Even though 30,000 is big number, this story from The Telegraph puts it in context:

Altogether 34,627 people from the Northeast, including students, had left the southern city in special trains, fearing reprisal attacks after the Assam riots. Officially, 3.5 lakh people from the region stay in Karnataka, of which 2.5 lakh stay in Bangalore as professionals and students.[Telegraph]

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What Benjamin Franklin actually said

He wasn’t describing some tension between government power and individual liberty

These are surreal times, times when you suspend reality … from its friggin neck. In these times, anyone — even those who don’t know their Benjamin Franklin from Benjamin Button —  will try to counter the argument that all modern democratic states have to strike a fine balance between personal liberty and public security by throwing a quote from Benjamin Franklin at your face. Here is that oft-quoted quote:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Sorry to disappoint you but it doesn’t mean what it seems to say. In fact, it means the opposite. Here is the explanation from Benjamin Wittes:

The words appear originally in a 1755 letter that Franklin is presumed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor during the French and Indian War. The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the Assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the Assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family, which ruled Pennsylvania from afar, to raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the Assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him. So to start matters, Franklin was writing not as a subject being asked to cede his liberty to government, but in his capacity as a legislator being asked to renounce his power to tax lands notionally under his jurisdiction. In other words, the “essential liberty” to which Franklin referred was thus not what we would think of today as civil liberties but, rather, the right of self-governance of a legislature in the interests of collective security.

What’s more the “purchase [of] a little temporary safety” of which Franklin complains was not the ceding of power to a government Leviathan in exchange for some promise of protection from external threat; for in Franklin’s letter, the word “purchase” does not appear to have been a metaphor. The governor was accusing the Assembly of stalling on appropriating money for frontier defense by insisting on including the Penn lands in its taxes—and thus triggering his intervention. And the Penn family later offered cash to fund defense of the frontier—as long as the Assembly would acknowledge that it lacked the power to tax the family’s lands. Franklin was thus complaining of the choice facing the legislature between being able to make funds available for frontier defense and maintaining its right of self-governance—and he was criticizing the governor for suggesting it should be willing to give up the latter to ensure the former.[Lawfare]

Wittes concludes:

In short, Franklin was not describing some tension between government power and individual liberty. He was describing, rather, effective self-government in the service of security as the very liberty it would be contemptible to trade.[Lawfare]

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Defending democratic politics

“When the throne sits upon mud, mud sits upon the throne.”

Matthew Flinders, the author of Defending Politics, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival:

If I’m completely honest, what I’m really thinking about is why so many people seem to have lost faith in political institutions, political processes and politicians. I’m not trying suggest that politics is perfect or that all politicians are angels, but the emergence, in the UK and most parts of the developed world, of huge numbers of ‘disaffected democrats’ worries me.

It worries me because I’ve spent time in places where basic democratic rights and freedoms do not exist, where politics is still based on brutality and intimidation; countries best described as fear societies rather than free societies. Seen from this perspective, democratic politics suddenly seems to matter far more – and deliver far more – than many ‘disaffected democrats’ are willing or able to acknowledge.

…Democratic politics is by no means perfect but let us not deny its benefits and achievements.

A far braver (and some might say more foolish) man than I might even dare to suggest that vast sections of the public have become democratically decadent. Decadent in the sense that their expectations of what politics should deliver have become to high; and their sense of their own personal responsibilities to contribute to society have become too low. I’m personally quite glad that Barack Obama turned out not to be superman after all. Too many people sidestep their own individual responsibilities as citizens by looking for a superhero to take control.[Guardian]

The same argument, made slightly differently by him, in an earlier blogpost.

Democracy generally succeeds in turning ‘fear societies’ into ‘free societies’. It provides a way of allowing our increasingly complex, fragmented and demanding societies to co-exist through compromise and co-operation rather than violence and intimidation (still the default approach to political rule in large parts of the world). To make such an argument is not to deny the existence of social challenges, or to suggest that all politicians are angels or that democratic politics in toto is perfect. It is to take inspiration from Bernard Crick’s In Defence of Politics (published exactly fifty years ago) and accept that democratic politics is inevitably messy, slow, and cumbersome due to the manner in which it works around squeezing simple decisions out of complex and frequently incompatible demands (Weber’s ‘slow boring through hard wood’). My message to all those ‘disaffected democrats’ who seem content to peddle ‘the politics of pessimism’ is simple. Democratic politics cannot ‘make all sad hearts glad’ (to use Crick’s words) but it remains a ‘quite beautiful and civilizing activity’.

Democracy is therefore not a distraction because it ensures that public pressure actually matters. Elections matter because they allow arguments to be made and pressures to be vented. Elections inevitably produce ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ but at least the losers live to fight another day. If there is, however, a problem within American democracy it rests on the fact that some sections of society have arguably become what I call ‘democratically decadent’. Decadent in the sense that they seem to have forgotten that membership of any democratic society involves both rights and responsibilities; it involves listening and talking; giving and taking. No political system or politician can satisfy a world of ever greater public expectations.[Link]

To extend it further,

Democratic politics is hard and its tiresome. It revolves around squeezing collective decisions out of a range of competing and irreconcilable demands. It grates and it grinds and is, to some extent, always destined to disappoint. And yet it remains a quite beautiful social activity.[Link]

This brings us to the importance of citizenship and responsibility in a democratic polity.

Democratic institutions are always reflections of a far deeper truth. This still-hidden truth lies in the society’s accumulating inventory of private agonies and collective discontents. No institutionalized pattern of democracy can ever rise above the severely limited ambitions, insights, and capacities of its citizens. In short, it is not for elections to cast light in dark places.

…No democratic society and polity can ever really be better than the qualitative total of its individual human underpinnings. In a crudely trenchant metaphor, Nietzsche reminds us that, “When the throne sits upon mud, mud sits upon the throne.”[Link]

When the throne sits upon mud, mud sits upon the throne. It is perhaps time for some self-reflection among discontented Indians too.

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Rohingya Muslims in India

India should consider the same status for Hindus fleeing from Pakistan 

Rohingya Muslims, who come from Myanmar’s coastal Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh, are not recognised by Myanamar as its citizens. Three decades ago, the government of Myanmar said the Rohingyas were a resident of Bangladesh and should go to that country. Bangladesh refuses to accept them as its citizens. The Organisation of Islamic Countries has threatened to take the case of Rohingyas to the United Nations. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has granted $50 million to the Rohingyas while Pakistan — ignoring the plight of Ahmedis, Hindus, Christians and Shias in its own country — has been taking immense interest in the matter.

While these countries have been indulging in a lot of talk, not many know that India has been doing more than its bit for the Rohingyas. From the WSJ-IRT:

Over the years, at least 7,000 Rohingya have made their way to India , where many hope to build a new life. Earlier this year, the Indian government granted them long-term stay visas, a step that has improved their welfare and safety in the country.[IRT]

These long-term visas are valid till 2015. It will give them access to education for their children in public schools, and allow them to continue working in the informal sector.

Their actual numbers, however, will be higher as 7,000 Rohingyas are the ones who are registered with the UNHCR in Delhi. As per this piece in The National, Human Rights Watch says that there are another estimated 100,000 refugees from Myanmar living in the north-east of India. Despite having  no legal framework for refugees, India provides long-term stay visas to more Rohingya Muslims than any Muslim country in the world. Even Bangladesh has only around 30,000 Rohingyas on its soil.

This should also answer those who question why India should provide asylum to Hindus fleeing from persecution on Pakistan. If India can provide long-term Visas for Rohingya Muslims, the rationale for providing the same status to Hindu refugees from Pakistan becomes far stronger.

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On 66th Independence Day

Why August 15th was chosen for the transfer of power?

In Lord Moutbatten’s words, as told to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre:

“The date I chose came out of the blue. I chose it in reply to a question. I was determined to show I was master of the whole event. When they asked had we set a date, I knew it had to be soon. I hadn’t worked it out exactly then — I thought it had to be about August or September and I then went out to the 15th August. Why? Because it was the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender.” [Freedom at Midnight]

And then there are variations of the above:

Philip Ziegler, in his biographical work, Mountbatten, writes, “Mountbatten claimed that the date came to him as by inspiration, the only reason for August 15, being the somewhat tenuous one that it was the anniversary of his appointment as Supreme Commander.” However, Mountbatten later “contradicted” this statement in his “own retrospective despatch in which he states that 15 August was agreed with the Indian leaders in the first days of June.” Notwithstanding this denial, Ziegler clarifies, “No trace of such conversations is to be found in the copious records.”

Adding a further twist while clarifying matters, Mountbatten’s Press Attache, Alan Campbell-Johnson, In Mission With Mountbatten, tells us of the “splendid opportunity (which Mountbatten grasped in his broadcast to America on August 8, 1947) to drive home the double meaning of August 15 – V. J. Day – not only as the celebration of a victory, but also as the fulfilment (sic) of a pledge.”[Hindu]

But Mountbatten gave Kuldip Nayyar a slightly different version:

Why did he advance the date [from June 3, 1948 to August 15, 1947]? I asked Mountbatten. He said he could not hold the country together. “Things were slipping from my hands.” The great Calcutta Killing, one year before Partition, had taken place and communal tension prevailed all over. On top of it, there had been the announcement that the British were leaving. “Therefore, I myself decided to quit sooner,” said Mountbatten. “This was not to the liking of Lord Attlee (then British prime minister) but he had given me full powers.”[Rediff]

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, as usual, summed it up most succinctly to Mountbatten: “If you had not transferred power when you did, there would have been no power to transfer.”

Incidentally, Indian flag on 15th August 1947 wasn’t hoisted on the ramparts of Red Fort by Jawahar Lal Nehru but at the Princess Park, to the left of India Gate’s outer hexagonal periphery.

And here are the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly of India on Friday, August 15th 1947. The session ends with members shouting: ” Mahatma Gandhi ki jai. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki jai. Lord Mountbatten ki jai.” More anecdotes of similar nature are contained in the extracts from Mountbatten’s personal report No. 17 of August 16, 1947 which was his last report as Viceroy of India.

On that note, a very happy 66th Independence Day to everyone.

Related postOn 65th Independence Day


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Good riddance

R.I.P. Integrated Action Plan for Maoist-affected areas

As reported here:

Planning Commission member in-charge of rural development Mihir Shah told HT, “There would be no IAP from the next financial year.”[HT]

The Planning Commission may have listed out the official reasons in that piece but the real reason was highlighted in this blogpost last month: What is the point of a special development scheme for Maoist areas which increasingly covers districts not affected by the Maoist menace?

Now that the government has stopped doing the wrong thing, can it move on to doing the right things to counter the Maoist menace?


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Rehman Malik’s [lack of] visa power

Pakistan’s civilian leadership can’t even deliver on the smallest items

The government of India wants to work with Pakistan’s democratically elected civilian leadership and expects it to deliver on the promises the PPP-led government has made to India. One of the stalwarts of that democratically elected civilian government is Advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on Interior Affairs, Mr Rehman Malik. Before being divested of his membership of the Senate recently, he was the Federal Minister of Interior Affairs and continues to perform the same tasks in his new role.

Indian government has sent 12 dossiers on Mumbai terror strikes of November 2008 to Mr Malik’s ministry and received 13 dossiers in return. The end result, as expected: zero progress. But the government of India, perhaps inspired by the tale of King Bruce and the spider, continue to bank on Mr Malik to deliver justice for the victims of Mumbai terror attacks.

Here is a small piece of evidence to show that the Indian government is wrong in banking upon the likes of Mr Malik in the Pakistani civilian government.

To filmmaker Onir’s question on why visas can’t be normalised so that ordinary people can visit, not just journalists, Malik replied that it has to be reciprocal. He offered to extend the visas of the visiting Indian delegates and said that he had given them two-month, police reporting exempted, multiple-entry visas.

It speaks volumes for the state of India-Pakistan relations and our bureaucracies and security establishments that despite his instructions, the Indian delegates were given 10-day, single entry, police-reporting visas. The police reporting was time-consuming but it wasn’t a bad experience, said the delegates.[Link]

So the head of Pakistan’s interior ministry gives Indian participants in a social media summit at Karachi ‘two-month, police reporting exempted, multiple-entry visas’ and what they get instead are ’10-day, single entry, police-reporting visas’. Do we really expect this Pakistani government to prosecute the likes of Hafiz Saeed?

This, however, doesn’t mean that if the Indian government were to instead talk to Pakistan Army directly, the results would be vastly different or favourable to India.  Read this old blogpost, Deadlines to GHQ, to understand the argument: It isn’t about whom we talk to; it is about our capacity to make the other side listen.

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Of lies and literature

What is the real status of Jamaat ud Dawa’s ban in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s former foreign secretary — of the Indian evidence on Mumbai terror attacks is literature fame — and the new High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir gave an interview to Karan Thapar. Here is a question about the Jamaat ud Dawa.

Karan Thapar: But you know why the Lahore court released him on September 2009 when he had actually been arrested under the antiterrorist act because his organisation Jamata-ul-Dawa was not banned under the act. That was the lacuna that permitted the Lahore court. And the said party is even today, the JuD is not banned under the act, so that lacuna continues.

Salman Bashir: On that aspect, I think, I ought to be explicit both the LeT and the JUD are restricted and prohibited under law.[Link]

Here is the media report of that September 2009 hearing. Judge for yourself what the truth is.

During the hearing, the court asked Punjab Assistant Advocate General Malik Abdul Aziz whether the JD was a banned organisation. The assistant advocate general sought half an hour to give answer to the court after getting proper information from the Federal Ministry of Interior. The court granted him the time.

On resumption of the hearing, the assistant advocate general told the court that the Punjab government had not issued any notification regarding ban on the JD and the Federal Ministry of Interior had restricted activities of the JD on the basis of resolution of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

He said the name of the JD was not included in the list of those organisations which were banned by the Federal Ministry of Interior under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.He said the name of JD had not been included in the list of proscribed organisations but was added on a watch list due to terrorism threats.[Link]

In December 2008, the United Nations Security Council had listed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa as an alias of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, declaring it a terrorist group as part of Resolution 1267, which is also known as the al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee.

This was done after Pakistan’s ambassador to UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon said that his government would act against Jamaat-ud-Dawa if the UNSC added the group to the terrorist list.

“After the designation of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) under (resolution) 1267, the government on receiving communication from the Security Council shall proscribe the JUD and take other consequential actions, as required, including the freezing of assets,” Haroon said.[ToI]

Lies, promises and more lies. Rinse, wash, repeat. It defies commonsense that India can still attempt to repose trust in Pakistani diplomats and leaders. The facts are there for everyone to see, except the Indian government, which believes that playing cricket and allowing Pakistani propaganda on Indian TV channels will get justice for the victims of Mumbai terror attacks.

Here is another gem from Salman ‘literature’ Bashir:

Karan Thapar: So once again you are saying that Pakistan is doing everything it can to restrain Hafiz Saeed but you have to operate within your laws.

Salman Bashir: That is unfortunately the dilemma. The civil societies have to operate with in the limits of law.[Link]

Ha. The limits of the law or the unwillingness to use the law? In any case, what can you say about a country where a dreaded terrorist like Hafiz Saeed, with a $10 million bounty on information leading to his arrest or conviction –  to go along with a UNSC Resolution declaring him a terrorist — is considered a part of the “civil society”?

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Cricket… without balls?

Yes, Indians love cricket a lot. But do they love India less?

The Board for Control of Cricket in India has announced the resumption of cricketing ties between India and Pakistan.  Bilateral cricketing ties between the two were cut off following the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 — terror attacks which were controlled and executed by the Pakistani state, and the perpetrators have gone unpunished in Pakistan so far.

The Indian government has already given a go-ahead for these plans. As per Mr Rajiv Shukla, who wears many hats, but was probably speaking with the hat of the cricket administrator on:

“I have spoken to the home minister and he has said his ministry has no objection. The Ministry of External Affairs [India's foreign ministry] has also agreed to this tour.” [Link]

It is not just the government but the opposition is also on board. Mr Shukla also said that “the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley was a part of this decision and he supported the move.”

Let us look at the reasons that have prompted the resumption of the cricketing ties.

One, as per Mr Shukla, “the public has always wanted to watch India and Pakistan play.” If Mr Shukla, who is also a union minister, is referring to the Indian public, then Indian public also wants to see the perpetrators of 26-11 terror strikes punished immediately. It perhaps even wants Hafiz Saeed and a few of his jehadi comrades dead. If Mr Shukla is referring to the Pakistani public, it wants India to immediately give up Kashmir. A vast section may believe that India perhaps poses an existential threat to Pakistan and thus would be better nuked out. Will Mr Shukla or his government go about fulfilling these demands, either of the Indian public or the Pakistani public? This argument thus holds little water.

Second, sport should be above politics and if cricket can bring the two countries together, no one should oppose it. There are two parts to this argument. The first part goes to why the cricketing ties between the two were snapped in 2008. They were snapped after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because of Pakistan’s unwillingness to punish the perpetrators of those attacks. Despite exchange of 25 dossiers — 12 from India and 13 from Pakistan — Pakistan’s unwillingness to prosecute the terrorists remains unchanged. Its new high commissioner to India last week asserted that “it is really unbelievable, incredible to allege that Pakistani state, institutes have been involved in” Mumbai terror attacks. If there has been no change in circumstances — and Pakistani attitude — why has India changed its stance?

That answer is also known. Pakistan Cricket Board has been under tremendous financial pressure and there have been several attempts by the Pakistan Cricket Board in recent months to convince the BCCI to resume cricketing ties.

But how is cricket related to Mumbai terror strikes? Please rewind to the cricket match played between India and England barely a fortnight after the Mumbai terror strikes where India chased a stiff fourth innings target, guided by an unbeaten Sachin Tendulkar century. Here is what Mr Tendulkar, who is now a nominated Rajya Sabha MP, said:

“From my point of view I look at it as an attack on India, not just on Mumbai. It is an attack on India and it should hurt every Indian. It’s not only for the people of Mumbai, it’s for all of us. We’re Indians and that is how I look at it and I’d like to dedicate this hundred to all the people who have gone through such terrible times.”[Link]

It wasn’t an emotional statement made by Mr Tendulkar in the heat of the moment. Even last month, Mr Tendulkar had ranked his century against England after Mumbai terror attack as his personal favourite among his 100 international hundreds. Anyone who thinks that cricket and 26-11 terror strikes are not related can go and listen to Mr Tendulkar.

Another Indian cricketing legend, Sunil Gavaskar has also echoed the sentiments of millions on resumption of cricketing ties:

“Being a Mumbaikar I feel, what is the urgency when there is no co-operation [regarding the probe into the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008] from the other side?”

It is not only cricket. Sport has always been related to, and controlled by politics. Ban on sporting teams from South Africa during the Apartheid era or the boycott of 1980 Moscow Olympics by the US and its allies, or the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by the Soviet block are vivid examples of politics trumping sports. Closer home, no team or person officially representing Pakistan has ever played an Israeli team or player. If politics should never interfere with politics, let us see Pakistan opening up its sporting ties with Israel. That is as unlikely as Hafiz Saeed being prosecuted in a Pakistani court for the Mumbai terror attacks.

When things are not normal between India and Pakistan, and they are contingent upon Pakistan acting against terrorists who have killed Indians, there is no need to put up an act of normalcy by resuming cricketing ties. Every measure must be initiated to isolate Pakistan internationally and drive home the cost of perpetrating terror on Indian soil. Stopping bilateral cricket matches has to be one such measure.

Indians love their cricket, and they would certainly appreciate Pakistani cricketers perform in the arena. But it can’t be at the cost of national interest. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Tis not that I lov’d Cricket less, but that I lov’d India more.”

P.S. – Let us not forget that Sajid Mir, as per Abu Jundal, came to India on a cricket-spectator visa for reconnoitering the sites for terror attacks. There is a genuine fear that this largeheartedness in playing cricket will be accompanied by largeheartedness in granting visas for “sports enthusiasts” like Sajid Mir.

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The closed circle of writing for open minds

When you next read an opinion piece, think of what that writing attempts to do

Arnold Kling has a smart classification of writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can, he says,

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author

(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author

(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

In the Indian context, almost 95% of the writing in blogposts, op-eds and columns is of the (c) type. The arguments are advanced to further close the minds of the people on the same side of the author. Some writers do it very well with hard facts and cold logic, like Arun Shourie, while others like P Sainath may rely more on emotional tugs to convince those on their side. And then there are poor imitations of Shourie and Sainath whose writings we suffer every day on various websites, newspapers, magazines and journals.

The ‘preaching to the choir’ style, as Arnold says, is the default state of writing for most people. Unless you are not consciously trying to do (a) or (b), then you will almost surely do (c). It would thus be an interesting exercise to identify Indian writers who have a very high ratio of (a) and (b) in their writings.

Each one of us will have her own choice of such writers but one name which comes at the top of this blogger’s mind — and most people will find it hard to disagree with that choice — is Pratap Bhanu Mehta. He is, by far, India’s foremost public intellectual.

Despite trying hard, I really can’t think of more names in that category. Go ahead and tell me in the comments if you think I have missed any.

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