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Good that Congress is reconciling with historical facts: Jitender Singh

The article published has been written and published by the party’s Mumbai unit and has caused a stir within the rank and file. It clearly blames Nehru for the state of affairs in Kashmir, China and Tibet and states that Nehru should have listened to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s views on international affairs.The article, which does not reveal the name of the writer, has been published in this month’s issue of ‘Congress Darshan’ Hindi edition as a tribute piece to mark Patel’s death anniversary on December 15.”Despite Patel getting the post of deputy prime minister and home minister, relations between the two leaders remained strained, and both had threatened to resign time and again,” the article says.

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Shashi Tharoor calls death penalty an ‘aberration’ in democracy, call for its abolition again

“We should abolish death penalty to uphold the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,” he said

Contending that death penalty has mostly affected the marginalised people, the Congress leader said the state should not become killer.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday demanded abolition of death penalty, describing it as an “aberration in a healthy democracy”. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, he said hanging people does not deter crime and there is a lot of subjectivity in application of death penalty. “It (death penalty) is an aberration in a healthy democracy,” Tharoor said, adding that instead preventive and reformative measures should be strengthened to prevent crimes.Contending that death penalty has mostly affected the marginalised people, the Congress leader said the state should not become killer. “We should abolish death penalty to uphold the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,” he said.According to him, around 70 per cent of the UN member nations have abolished death penalty. M B Rajesh (CPI-M) urged the government to review the hike in cancellation charges for railway tickets saying it is creating great difficulties for the passengers. The “exhorbitant hike” in cancellation charges is exploitation of passengers and the Railway Minister should have a re-look at the matter as well as restore the old charges, he said. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Cong) claimed that over 200 tea workers have died in the last two months in West Bengal and alleged that the workers are not given the minimum wages. He voiced concern over the deaths and said the Centre and state government should work together to address the situation. Chowdhury said since Prime Minister Narendra Modi “boasts” of being a tea-seller in his childhood, he should help in giving a fair deal to the tea plantation workers. Keshav Prasad Maurya (BJP) alleged that law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has deteriorated and demanded the dismissal of the Akhilesh Yadav government. He said many BJP workers have been killed in the state but action has not been taken by the state government. Dushyant Chautala (INLD) sought amendment to MPLADS rules as he alleged that officials are delaying implementation of programmes that are funded with money from it.The rules need to be amended to ensure that programmes under it are implemented at the earliest, he said. He was supported by members cutting across party lines. AIADMK leader P Venugopal said many people have been affected by heavy rainfall and floods in Tamil Nadu and the central government should immediately release more funds for relief works in the state. His party colleague V Sathyabama urged the Centre to establish a knitswear board in Tamil Nadu at Tirupur, which has a big knitswear industry. Sumedhanand Saraswati (BJP) said the Centre should look at setting up a sports university in Rajasthan.

Shashi Tharoor likely to be questioned again in Sunanda Pushkar case

Sources in Delhi police said court’s permission to conduct a polygraph test on Tharoor was likely to be sought soon as the investigators were trying to take the high-profile case to a logical conclusion.

Shashi Tharoor

Investigators probing the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar may again question her husband and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and move court soon seeking lie detector test on him even as a long-awaited FBI report of her viscera samples said she died of poison.Sources in Delhi police said court’s permission to conduct a polygraph test on Tharoor was likely to be sought soon as the investigators were trying to take the high-profile case to a logical conclusion. The investigators have so far conducted polygraph test on six persons, all prime witnesses in the case, including Tharoors’ domestic help Narayan Singh, driver Bajrangi and Sanjay Dewan, a close friend of the couple.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tharoor was not subjected to the test but was questioned thrice in the case. 52-year-old Sunanda was found dead in a five-star hotel suite on January 17 last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor. The sources said Tharoor is likely to be questioned again as the eight-page FBI report of Sunanda’s viscera broght to fore certain details crucial to the probe. The police will soon submit the report to court.The report received via e-mail on Tuesday, suggested that Sunanda died of some poison, which they have named, said sources. However, police have so far refused to disclose the type of poison mentioned in the report.Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said the report from the Washington DC-based laboratory of FBI would soon be handed over to a medical board for examination.”The FBI lab had conducted analysis of various substances.And this should give an indication (as to the reason behind her death) once the doctors go through the report,” said Bassi. The report has ruled out the theory of the variant of a radioactive element named Polonium having caused Sunanda’s death, Bassi said, adding that radiation levels in her viscera samples were “within the standard safety norms”. Analysis of the report shall take time and, even after submission in court, it shall only be shared once all the legal issues connected with it have been studied, he said.The viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in Washington DC in February to determine the kind of poison that killed her after an AIIMS medical board identified poisoning as the reason behind her death but did not mention any specific substance.The police are also expecting a more detailed version of the report in the next few days, said sources. Reacting to the developments, AIIMS forensic head Sudhir Gupta stuck to his opinion that poisoning was the cause of death. He added that the “domain is much more large”, when specifically asked whether Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, had caused the death.”There are findings that confirm that the death was due to poisoning. We concluded by eliminating the other causes of her death,” Gupta said. In January, police had claimed that Sunanda was poisoned, and registered a murder case against unknown persons.Three others — S K Sharma, Vikas Ahlawat and Sunil Takru, had also undergone the polygraph test. The police team probing the case has so far questioned at least 15 people. Tharoor, his staff members and close friends were among those questioned by Delhi Police. Sunanda’s son Shiv Menon was quizzed by the SIT on February 5. Police sources had said that Menon was asked about the relationship between Tharoor and Sunanda

Can’t share details of FBI report on Sunanda Pushkar’s death until submission in court: Delhi Police

Radiation levels in the viscera samples of Pushkar, the wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, were “within the standard safety norms”, Delhi Police had said on Tuesday as they shared the findings of the FBI report

Sunanda Pushkar

The details of the FBI report that has virtually ruled out ‘polonium poisoning’ as the cause of Sunanda Pushkar’s death cannot be made public before its submission in court, Delhi Police said on Wednesday.”The report cannot be made public at least till the time we send it to the court,” said Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi. Even as the report was reviewed by a panel of the senior- most police officials today, Bassi added that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that has been set up to probe the case has not yet been handed over the report for analysis. Analysis of the report shall take time and, even after submission in court, it shall only be shared once all the legal issues connected with it have been studied, the top cop said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Radiation levels in the viscera samples of Pushkar, the wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, were “within the standard safety norms”, Delhi Police had said on Tuesday as they shared the findings of the FBI report. Bassi had said that the report from the Washington D.C.- based laboratory would be soon handed over to a medical board for examination before further action is taken in the case.Sources in police had said that SIT is likely to summon Tharoor again for questioning. They are also likely to seek court’s permission to conduct a polygraph test (lie detector test) on the former Union minister.Investigators have so far conducted polygraph tests on six persons, all prime witnesses in the case, including Tharoor’s domestic help Narayan Singh and driver Bajrangi and Sanjay Dewan, a close friend of the couple. Tharoor was not subjected to the test but was questioned.According to sources, the eight-page FBI report, received via e-mail around nine months after the samples were sent for examination, has named the alleged poison that led to Sunanda’s death two years ago. The viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in February to determine the kind of poison that may have killed her after an AIIMS medical board identified poisoning as the reason behind her death but did not mention any specific substance.Reacting to the development, AIIMS forensic head Sudhir Gupta stuck to his opinion that poisoning was the cause of death. However, he said that the “domain is much more large”, when specifically asked whether Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, had caused Pushkar’s death.

Kerala civic body elections: this time, it does feel different with BJP in the box with Cong & LDF

Local body elections in Kerala are due on 2 November, and as I write this, campaigning is in full swing. Even though we have had a damp month or two – normally, after Onam, there is bright sunshine, but this year September and October have been rainy – there is a lot of energy on the streets. Every corner, it seems, hosts a small election meeting when I drive home after work, and you have loud, earnest-looking men (and a few women) proclaiming loudly that their party is the one you must vote for.

Kerala is obviously highly politicised and highly polarised. In years past, it has generally alternated between the Congress and the Marxists in the Assembly elections (which are due shortly), and it votes contrary to national trends. But the next Assembly election might be a watershed, and the local body elections will give the best predictions — this is truly a semi-final, and therefore observers are keenly watching what happens.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. PTICongress leader Shashi Tharoor. PTI

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. PTI

Shashi Tharoor, MP, who has been busy campaigning for Congress candidates in Thiruvananthapuram and vicinity, feels his party is going to win in a landslide. He thinks that the BJP will be a damp squib.

Of course, Tharoor is a good observer of the political scene and has his ear to the ground. He may well be right. But the key is in his observation about the BJP. For, after having been an also-ran, and never having won a single seat in the Kerala Assembly ever, the BJP is now on the verge of becoming a force to reckon with in Kerala. They cannot be written off any more.

When the dust settles, it may remain a duopoly between the Congress’ UDF and the Marxists’ LDF, and these two parties may well remain the ones in power. But the fact is that the BJP is making both of them rethink the electoral calculus. And the BJP may or may not be satisfied with being the swing bloc that decides which of these two alliances forms the next government. They may ask for their pound of flesh.

Despite much talk about the political maturity of the Kerala voter, my sense is that the place remains mired in considerations of religion and jati. It is quite possibly the most communal part of the country, but people are clever enough to hide it in conversations, especially with observers. Covert communalism, on the other hand, is widespread.

It is a peculiar setup, where, according to the 2011 Census, 54 percent are Hindus, 27 percent Muslims, and 18 percent Christians, although the reality is that a lot of the Hindus are Communists, and there is over-counting of Hindus due to large-scale conversions, so the actual Hindu vote is lower. Among the Hindus, there are several groups: Ezhava (OBC) 20 percent, Nair (FC) 13 percent, Pulaya (SC) 2 percent, and so forth.

Almost all these groups tend to vote in blocs. Thus the Congress has traditional voters concentrated among Christians and Nairs; the Muslim League, Muslims; and the Marxist vote has been dominated by Ezhavas. This pattern has been stable for a long time and may account for the razor-thin margins by which candidates win.

There are also regional imbalances. Northern Kerala (Malabar) is dominated by Muslims; Central Kerala by Christians, and Southern Kerala by Hindus in terms of numbers and influence.

This stable equilibrium has been disrupted by two things this year: a Hindu consolidation contemporaneous with the arrival of Narendra Modi on the national stage and the estrangement of the Ezhavas from the Marxists.

There has traditionally been bad blood between the numerically dominant Hindu groups, the Ezhavas and the Nairs – and they generally have not voted for or with each other. The result has been that a consolidated Hindu vote never emerged, whereas there are dependable Christian and Muslim votebanks.

This year, two things happened: the BJP’s Kerala cadres are working towards a united Hindu vote. In fact, most of their collateral seemed to have a triumvirate of 19th century leaders, thus symbolising a pan-Hindu movement. From the Ezhavas, Sree Narayana Guru; from the Nairs, Chattampi Swamikal, and from the Pulayas, Ayyankali. It is widely believed that such a positioning will bear fruit for the BJP.

The Ezhava organisation, Sree Narayana Darma Paripalana Yogam, has been in the forefront of this consolidation, with its leader Vellappally Natesan hobnobbing with the BJP. This will hurt the Marxists and there is a non-trivial possibility they will be routed.

The Nair Service Society demurs, and prefers the Congress, but it appears individual Nairs are being attracted to the BJP, thus hurting the Congress.

The Pulaya Mahasabha has also been openly supportive of the BJP, reasoning perhaps that as an OBC, Modi is more sympathetic to their needs.

Thus the situation is fluid. Tharoor may be right: the Congress, with its trusty Christian votebank, may not be affected very much. But they will face anti-incumbency, especially because of big scams. Just today as I write this, a Vigilance Court startled them by declaring their sitting Finance Minister would be investigated in a large and contentious alcohol-related scam. (This is important, because Keralites are the biggest consumers of alcohol on a per capita basis, alas.)

The Marxists are also vulnerable. That is partly because of pure demographics and partly because of their own missteps. Marxists hurt Ezhava sentiments by taking them for granted, and also through insensitivity. They created, in a parade, a tableau of Sree Narayana Guru being lassoed and then crucified by upper caste Hindus. The idea was that OBCs were being oppressed by upper jatis, but it came across as arrogant and sacrilegious. Besides, a series of bloody murders of RSS activists by Marxists (and vice versa) has tarnished their image.

The BJP has a problem with name recognition: few of its top echelons are household names, but the general trend supports them. The award-return circus and Kerala House beef circus may help or hinder the BJP, it is hard to tell. Encouragingly for them, the most recent by-election, in Aruvikkara showed them gaining a number of new voters.

Thus, the overall situation in Kerala remains murky, but chances are that the Congress and the Marxists will lose some of their support, the Muslim League will retain its, and the BJP will gain.

Returning awards amounts to dishonouring recognition: Shashi Tharoor

Thiruvananthapuram: Taking a contrary stand on return of Sahitiya Akademi awards by eminent writers, former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor on Thursday commented that although writers have every right to stand up for their freedom of expression, returning the awards amount to “dishonouring” the recognition.

Shashi Tharoor. Reuters

Shashi Tharoor. Reuters

“Personally, I regret the fact that a section of writers have returned the Akademi awards. Award is a recognition of intellectual, literary, creative or academic merits. It is not a political act,” he told PTI on the sidelines of a function in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Sahitya Akademi is actually an independent institution, and the concerns we have are political ones. For writers, I think there is no need to confuse these two. One should oppose the present climate…one should stand up for freedom…but one should not dishonour the award,” he said.

An established writer and columnist, Tharoor said awards are “society’s tributes to the achievements of writers and neither the achievements nor the tributes can be rolled back.”

However, the Congress leader said he was very much glad that so many writers had stood up for their cause at a time when many others had preferred silence.

“Writers are justified in their concern because the atmosphere of intellectual freedom is essential to promote and permit creativity in writing. Freedom of expression is something which any writer has a moral obligation to pick up for,” the 59-year-old MP from the state capital said.

Stating that freedom of expression is not just an abstract right in the constitution, Tharoor noted it was “as important as the blood that flows in our vein or the ink that flows in the pen”.

If the Sahitya Akademi is a disappointment to these writers, the Akademi itself must be pressured to review its stand on these issues, the former diplomat felt.

“Many prominent Malayalam writers including MT Vasudevan Nair, Paul Zacharia and Sugathakumari have not returned their Akademi honours. I do not think that they are any less committed to freedom,” he said.

When asked about the shrinking liberal space as lamented by writers and activists, Tharoor said he has been deeply concerned over the trend.

“If we are silent, if we are intimidated, if we shrink away, then the liberal space will also shrink…it is in our hands,” he said.

Though the government has a powerful influence and the political process can be a constrain on the liberal space, they are not the only guarantees of that space, Tharoor said.

“We ourselves in Indian society have to stand up for and guarantee the space. I hope we will do so more and more and if all these returned awards become a significant thrust in terms of reversing the tide, then they would serve the purpose even if the method itself may not be the one that I share,” he said.

Tharoor said a number of recent incidents, including mounting intolerance from people in position, irresponsible loose talks by leaders, banning of a singer because of his nationality, blackening of the face of an organiser of a book release and so on; put India in a bad light before the international community.

PTI

Shashi Tharoor says returning awards amounts to dishonouring recognition

An established writer and columnist, Tharoor said awards are “society’s tributes to the achievements of writers and neither the achievements nor the tributes can be rolled back.”
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Taking a contrary stand on return of Sahitya Akademi awards by eminent writers, former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor on Thursday commented that although writers have every right to stand up for their freedom of expression, returning the awards amount to “dishonouring” the recognition.”Personally, I regret the fact that a section of writers have returned the Akademi awards. Award is a recognition of intellectual, literary, creative or academic merits. It is not a political act,” he said. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Sahitya Akademi is actually an independent institution, and the concerns we have are political ones. For writers, I think there is no need to confuse these two. One should oppose the present climate…one should stand up for freedom…but one should not dishonour the award,” he said.An established writer and columnist, Tharoor said awards are “society’s tributes to the achievements of writers and neither the achievements nor the tributes can be rolled back.”However, the Congress leader said he was very much glad that so many writers had stood up for their cause at a time when many others had preferred silence.”Writers are justified in their concern because the atmosphere of intellectual freedom is essential to promote and permit creativity in writing. Freedom of expression is something which any writer has a moral obligation to pick up for,” the 59-year-old MP from the state capital said.Stating that freedom of expression is not just an abstract right in the constitution, Tharoor noted it was “as important as the blood that flows in our vein or the ink that flows in the pen”. If the Sahitya Akademi is a disappointment to these writers, the Akademi itself must be pressured to review its stand on these issues, the former diplomat felt.”Many prominent Malayalam writers including M T Vasudevan Nair, Paul Zacharia and Sugathakumari have not returned their Akademi honours. I do not think that they are any less committed to freedom,” he said.When asked about the shrinking liberal space as lamented by writers and activists, Tharoor said he has been deeply concerned over the trend.”If we are silent, if we are intimidated, if we shrink away, then the liberal space will also shrink…it is in our hands,” he said.Though the government has a powerful influence and the political process can be a constrain on the liberal space, they are not the only guarantees of that space, Tharoor said.”We ourselves in Indian society have to stand up for and guarantee the space. I hope we will do so more and more and if all these returned awards become a significant thrust in terms of reversing the tide, then they would serve the purpose even if the method itself may not be the one that I share,” he said.Tharoor said a number of recent incidents, including mounting intolerance from people in position, irresponsible loose talks by leaders, banning of a singer because of his nationality, blackening of the face of an organiser of a book release and so on; put India in a bad light before the international community.

Dadri lynching: Now, Digvijaya says Cong will back cow slaughter ban if BJP proposes

The cows of Bihar now have a stake in the upcoming election.

BJP leader Sushil Modi has said that if the NDA wins in the state cow slaughter will be banned.

Once politicians promised to give us jobs, highways, polytechnics and hospitals to get our vote. Now they want votes by promising to take something away.

The political foodfight that has erupted over beef shows that when it comes to pandering to the electorate to get votes, there is no sacred cow our good netas will not milk. Only one thing is for sure. If all of this is to make you think our political class genuinely cares a lot about cows, that’s a load of bull. As Shashi Tharoor understood from the furore over his innocuous “cattle class” tweet, the cow is just a handy way to settle political scores. It is the political Kamdhenu that keeps giving.

When it comes to beef, politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths. “Even Hindus eat beef,” said Lalu Prasad Yadav of the RJD.

When the NDA attacked him, Lalu backtracked and said he meant meat, not beef. But happy to fish in troubled waters, advocate Sudhir Ojha has filed a complaint in Muzaffarpur saying Lalu’s comment was “hate speech” and meant to spread “communal tension to woo voters”. As if Sushil Modi was trying to placate tensions by promising a cow slaughter ban.

During the Maharashtra beef ban hullabaloo, Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told those dying to eat beef to go to Pakistan. At that time his colleague Kiren Rijiu retorted angrily “I eat beef. I’m from Arunachal Pradesh. Can somebody stop me? So let us not be touchy about somebody’s practices.” Within days Rijiju beat a hasty retreat saying he was misquoted and “Hindu faiths and sentiments must be respected in Hindu majority states.”

Digvijaya Singh in a file photo. PTIDigvijaya Singh in a file photo. PTI

Digvijaya Singh in a file photo. PTI

This is not about saving cows at a time when the indigenous Indian cow is actually endangered. It’s about naked political horse-trading. Not to be outdone by the BJP, the Congress’ Digvijaya Singh wants to remind people that Congress governments were the ones banning cow slaughter in some 24 states including Bihar. But the party’s spokesperson Pramod Tiwari has said it is not the party’s habit to interfere with the eating habits of individuals as long as they do not interfere with existing laws. That is classic doublespeak about wanting to have your cow and eat your beef too.

All this has led to a bizarre patchwork of cattle laws across the country. Some states have a ban on all cattle slaughter. Some allow slaughter of cows that are old or sick. Some ban only cow slaughter. Some require a “fit for slaughter” certificate. A few require no certificate at all. And that’s about slaughter not about consuming beef. That sounds confusing but there was no evidence that Indians were tearing out their hair trying to keep their steak orders straight as they moved from state to state. But the Congress is floating the idea of one ban to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Digvijaya Singh says his party is open to a discussion about a national ban on cow slaughter. He boasted that the Congress Working Committee had passed a resolution in the 1930s seeking a ban on cow slaughter. What stopped the Congress from enforcing such a ban or even having a national discussion about it in the 60 odd years it has been in power? Now the beleaguered party thinks it can regain lost electoral ground, especially Hindu votes, on the back of the long-suffering cow.

Of course no one wants to have a real debate about beef and its contested place in Indian history. Ashok Sanjay Guha, professor emeritus at JNU, reminds us in The Telegraph that Swami Vivekananda, so beloved of the Prime Minister, said, “There was a time without eating beef no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; when a king, a hermit, or a great man visited, the best bullock was killed in his honour.” The great sage Yajnavalkya in the Satpatha Brahman responds to a lecture against beef eating by saying “I eat only really tender beef.”

“Buddism and Jainism led this movement (against cow slaughter)”, writes Guha. Its driving force, more than religion was economic and ecological because of shortage of pasture and frequent famines. Religion helped sell the movement to the masses.

That’s not to say “Yajnavalkya ate tender beef” is a valid argument for swaying us on one side or the other of a ban. But it is an inconvenient truth that is shouted down by the likes of BJP leader Sangeet Som who find more political dividend in

calling

other Indians “those cow killers”. If Yajnavalkya had been around today, what would Som have called him?

While the politicians are rustling cows for votes, our celebrities have also decided to come out of the beef-eating closet. “I eat beef and I don’t consider cow as mother,” says retired justice Markandey Katju. “I just ate beef. Come and murder me,” tweets Shobhaa De.

Eating beef has bizarrely become the latest status symbol of civil rights, Page 3’s great stand against illiberalism. Having said that it’s important that some normally outspoken stalwarts in the higher echelons of the BJP, who are well-known for loving their steak, should stand up to the bullying Soms within their own ranks. Otherwise just as LGBT activists once outed closet lawmakers during the AIDS crisis in the US, they too could be outed as closet steak-eaters who were cowed into silence and looked away when the knives were out for the Akhlaqs of the world.

They should speak up because ultimately the fight is not really about the right to eat beef. It is about tolerating difference and not beating it to a pulp with a brick.

And everyone, not just the beef-eaters has a steak in that.

Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga: Dear politicians, our PM was talking about bribes, not meat!

The meat ban imposed by state governments has spread from Maharashtra to Jammu and Kashmir and now Karnataka.

Representational Image: Butter Chicken

When PM Narendra Modi made his famous remark ‘Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga’ he was referring to corruption and bribes. Some leaders, unfortunately, seem to have misinterpreted the statement as referring to meat and promptly banned it. Today, the meat ban controversy has taken India by storm with Bengaluru being the latest addition to the list of cities that have banned meat on on Ganesh Chathurthi. And people there are definitely not happy.Though the BBMP Commissioner in Bengaluru has stated it’s a routine thing practiced during festivals, the fact that it comes in the wake of the recent meat bans across India has citizens fuming. Rajiv Narayan, a sales professional in Bengaluru, says about the meat ban on Ganesh Chathurthi, “It’s ridiculous that governments and government bodies forget about their core function, which is governance and waste time on trivial meat bans and unwarranted regulation of human freedom.” <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to ban sale of meat for four days in Mumbai this year during the Jain festival of Paryushan, many people in the city saw red. Then the Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, and Chhattisgarh governments all followed up with a similar meat ban on account of Paryushan. India, the world’s largest democracy, is synonymous with vegetarianism but the reality is that two thirds of the people here consume non-vegetarian food. Moreover, Hindus, Muslims and Christians refrain from eating non-vegetarian food at certain times of the year during festivals like Navrathri, Ramzan and Lent. In this scenario, it seems ironical that state governments have taken the step to impose a meat ban on its citizens. Even staunch vegetarians who believe that animals should be protected and not eaten, don’t agree with the state governments’ no meat diktat. Says actress Sakshi Agarwal, “It should be an individual’s choice! People need to be educated on the perils of meat-eating rather than forcing a ban because that’s just dictatorial.”While many politicians have kept silent on the meat ban, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “I’m vegetarian myself, but don’t expect others to give up meat for me. Muslims starve for Ramzan and Catholics at Lent, but rest not obliged to. Problem w/Mumbai’s 4-day meat ban for Paryushan Parva, the Jain religious event: why should respect for one community’s practices be imposed on others?”India is a country where all communities – irrespective of religion -have been living harmoniously because of the respect given to different cultural practices. There has always been an unspoken rule of deference among people who ensured that religious sentiments are not hurt. However, the BJP government’s beef ban in Maharashtra in April this year set the ball rolling for unfortunate things to come. The stepping of the state into what is clearly seen as the domain of personal freedom has got people (even social media) fretting, fuming and questioning the role of the government. While social differences may exist between people, imposing a meat ban and stating it’s for the sake of a particular religious community is sure to bring these simmering differences to a boil. Though the state governments think they are doing something for the good of one community when they are, in fact, creating more disharmony and outrage in the country. So can they just leave the meat alone and get back to governance?

Massive gap between PM Modi’s rhetoric & reality, says Shashi Tharoor

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday said that there is a “massive gap” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘impressive speeches’ and the reality, as he might have given “excellent” ideas but could not provide “adequate” attention to them.

Shashi Tharoor

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday said that there is a “massive gap” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘impressive speeches’ and the reality, as he might have given “excellent” ideas but could not provide “adequate” attention to them.”There is a massive gap between Modi’s rhetoric and reality. There is no point in having a doctor who gives an excellent diagnosis but cannot write a prescription or give adequate medication to cure it,” Tharoor said at a programme in Jaipur on Monday. Targeting Pakistan, he said that problem lies within the neighbouring country and its solution can only come if civilian power increases and military power decreases.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In India, state has an army, but in Pakistan, the army has a state. In India, one joins the army to defend the country, but one joins the army in Pakistan to run the country. “Army there (in Pakistan) runs the country. Everything is controlled by the military. As a result, the Pakistani military has the largest share of budgets,” the former minister said.”There is no army in the world that has a larger share of its own country’s money,” he said. Tharoor urged that trade and travel channels between the two counties should be generously opened.

Delhi HC pulls up Sudhir Gupta for ‘delaying tactics’ on AIIMS plea

During the brief hearing, Gupta who had earlier alleged discrimination after he claimed to have refused to act unprofessionally in the Sunanda Pushkar autopsy matter, said the way his replacement was being sought by All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) was not justified.
File Photo
ANI
The Delhi High Court on Monday pulled up AIIMS forensic department head Sudhir Kumar Gupta for not serving the copy of his reply to the institute and other parties, observing that he was trying to “delay” the proceedings on a plea seeking his replacement.”Counsel for petitioner (AIIMS) says that he has not received the copy of reply which has been filed by the respondent (Gupta). It has been found that copy of reply was posted at the address of AIIMS, which appears to be a delaying tactics on the part of respondent,” a bench of Justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the brief hearing, Gupta who had earlier alleged discrimination after he claimed to have refused to act unprofessionally in the Sunanda Pushkar autopsy matter, said the way his replacement was being sought by All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) was not justified.”Earlier, the convention adopted by the institute in replacing the head of a department was that either the incumbent was unavailable or he or she resigns from the post, only in those cases a new person was appointed,” Gupta’s counsel Senior Advocate Amarendra Sharan said. To this, the bench observed, “you can’t continue to be a head of department forever.” The counsel then alleged that Dr D N Bhardwaj, whose appointment as the new head of the Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department is being sought by AIIMS, is not a competent person to hold the post.”He (Bhardwaj) has Parkinson’s disease and he is the person who has left a bullet during an autopsy of victim in a Ponty Chadha case,” Sharan alleged, adding that Bhardwaj does not deserve to be the head of a department.To this, the bench said “may be he has Parkinson’s disease of a very initial stage. This can’t be a ground for not allowing a person to be a head of department.” The bench then posted the matter for September 3. On July 1, the court had sought Gupta’s response on a plea by AIIMS seeking its permission to appoint Bhardwaj as the new head of its forensic department.The application was moved by AIIMS against the backdrop of the court’s March 25 direction asking the institute to take its permission before replacing Gupta. The court order had come on Gupta’s plea challenging a March 4 decision of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) rejecting his charge that one Dr O P Murty was promoted after purging his seniority, with the purpose of obtaining a “tailor-made report” in the sensational murder case of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor.Gupta had also alleged that AIIMS had illegally purged his seniority with “malafide intention” to punish him for refusing to act unprofessionally in the autopsy matter. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had also filed an application seeking court’s permission to be heard in the matter. Swamy informed the court that even though the issue related to service matter, the alleged controversy was of public interest and so he wanted to address the court on it.The BJP leader said that Gupta’s decision not to give favourable report in the Pushkar case was correct. In its application, AIIMS had said that Bhardwaj was senior to Gupta by four years and the latter had not challenged the former’s seniority either before CAT or in the high court.Absolving former union minister and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of the charge of any wrong-doing, CAT had said “the email sent by Shashi Tharoor, the then Union Minister, to Dr Rajiv Bhasin, on January 26, 2014, and the notice dated June 2, 2014 issued by Dr Adarsh Kumar, Member Secretary, Medical Board, AIIMS, do not reveal anything to show that any pressure was put on the applicant to submit a tailor-made autopsy report in Sunanda Pushkar’s case.” In his complaint before the tribunal, Gupta had alleged he was asked to prepare tailor-made autopsy report giving clean chit, irrespective of his professional conclusions, after conducting autopsy on Pushkar’s body.The government had denied the allegations before CAT on August 27 last year, stating that the matter regarding Murty’s promotion was referred to the Department of Personnel and Training and he was promoted only after its clarification.

Porn ban: Modi govt’s bid for swachh internet has become a source of mockery

The government insists its big bad porn ban has been done in the name of blocking child pornography rather than as a blanket ban on adult entertainment in general.

But some of the names on the black list of 857 don’t seem to quite fit the pedophlia proscription – maturosexy.com or shemale.asia, not to mention a very not XXX-rated CollegeHumor.com and BarstoolSports. But then who is going to sit and parse the list and petition the government to unblock their matureosexy entertainment on the grounds that no children are involved? Which bureaucrat does one write to?

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

It’s surreal enough that our politicians are jousting with high minded rhetoric about porn in public. Once upon a time they just minded their own business and watched porn quietly in parliament on their mobile phones. Now they are minding everyone else’s business.

But in true government style this is all show with no substance. Just as the much ballyhooed Swacch Bharat campaign tagged people with gusto but has hardly resulted in a visibly cleaner India. The 15 August deadline is approaching and the Economic Times says companies are scrambling to scale up their toilet building plans. Toilet building is one thing, toilet maintenance is another. The only thing we know for sure is that the government has spent Rs 94 crore on ads for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “Now people are at least aware they should not litter,” says skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy. But do they not litter?

The problem was always really about will not awareness. And the fact that most of the time there are no dustbins to be found nearby. On 15 August the government will probably trot out an impressive number of toilets built as proof of a giant leap forward for Swachh Bharat but the basic question will remain – do we feel we live in a cleaner India?

Symbols are important but if a campaign gets mired in its own symbols, it defeats its very purpose by ignoring the big picture and painting by numbers instead. A Swachh Bharat is about a cleaner India and the toilets have to be a means to that end, not the end in itself, something crossed off a checklist.

Cleaning the internet of child porn is even more riddled with hollow symbolism. The government might think the list of 857 is proof of its commitment to the issue and testimony to its seriousness about combating child porn. In reality, thanks to the government’s ham-handed efforts, the media is awash in the last few days with more coverage of porn than it has done in years. The government has effectively legitimised porn in mainstream discourse by taking a sledgehammer to it.

As any Indian who downloads pirated movies could have told the government, this is an exercise in futility. 857 is just a drop in the bucket given the tens of thousands of sites out there. Blocking the URLs does nothing because the same sites can rechristen themselves or create a mirror site and pop up again. A Pakistani friend commented that “Your Pakistani neighours have one word for you: Proxy” which might lead to interesting new frontiers in Aman ki Asha – VPN tutorials instead of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Finally there’s always BitTorrent. And appointing someone like a retired Supreme Court judge to be the porn ombudsman, as the government is apparently mulling, is hardly going to fix any of these loopholes. Where there is a will there is a way and this list of 857 will not clean up the Internet anymore than tagging Shah Rukh Khan or Shashi Tharoor will clean up our streets.

But at least Swachh Bharat can be credited for attempting to create some kind of awareness about the importance of cleanliness and sanitation. Swachh Internet is actually having the reverse effect. All the government has really done in its zeal is informed the nation at large about hundreds of porn sites they knew nothing about day before yesterday but can now check out via VPN. In its efforts to combat child porn, the government has made scouring the world wide web for it that much easier with its handy Beginner’s Guide to Internet Porn.

It’s mystifying that a campaign that was so good at fine-tuning and honing its message has proven so klunky in power.

In a way this half-hearted website-scrubbing move parallels what the censor board tried to do with its blacklist of forbidden words. Those included “masturbating” and “haramazada”. Apparently sitting MPs can get away with using that word but films cannot. @uddubhaskar scoffed on Twitter “So, going by the list of words banned by the Censor Board, none of Pahlaj Nilhalani’s films would have passed without censoring the songs.” Nihalani, is of course the chief of the censor board. Even his own committee member Ashok Pandit panned the directive calling it a “murder of creativity”. Director Hansal Mehta said “This board has again taken us back in time. They want us to protect Indian culture but it is the culture as the [Hindu nationalist group] RSS wants.”

Whether a true RSS-supporter never says any of those cuss words or visits any of those forbidden 857 sites, all that these loophole-ridden plainly ineffective measures prove is that while puritanism can be a source for concern, half-baked puritanism is a source for mockery.

There were already a slew of jokes yesterday saying the government’s porn ban was to boost the home-grown “certified adult” efforts of its chosen FTII head Gajendra Chauhan’s ouvre like Jungle Love, Jungle Queen and Khuli Khidki.

As for the next MLA caught watching porn on his mobile phone, we can already hear the robust defence “Well I was not on any of the 857 sites identified by the government.”

States shouldn’t act like murderers: Shashi Tharoor on death penalty

Thiruvananthapuram: Under attack over his tweets after Yakub Memon’s execution, Shashi Tharoor on Sunday stuck to his opposition to death penalty even for terrorists, saying states should not act like “murderers” and that the criminal justice system left much room for errors and biases.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor spoke against the death penalty. Reuters

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor spoke against the death penalty. Reuters

“Terrorists should be put behind bars throughout their life without parole. In earlier days, there was a belief that if a person murders someone, he should be killed. Why do we need to follow the old obsolete practice…,” the Congress MP and former Union Minister said.

“When we implement capital punishment, we are actually acting like them. They are the murderers and the state should not act like them,” Tharoor told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on the sidelines of a function.

On the recent controversy over his tweet on the execution of Mumbai terror attack convict Memon, he said, “I have not said a word on Memon case. What I tweeted was that I was not going into the merits of an individual case and it was the responsibility of the Supreme Court. I had tweeted against the death penalty which is an obsolete practice.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had also said that “we don’t have the right to take anyone’s life.”

The Congress MP from Thiruvanathapuram said not only he, but several leaders, including Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Kanimozhi, Shatrughan Sinha and Varun Gandhi had also supported the abolition of death penalty.

“As many as 143 countries have already abandoned the practice of death penalty. Another 25 countries are not practising it though the capital punishment is there in their law. Only around 35 countries are practising it at present. Why should our country follow such a practice?” Tharoor asked.

Tharoor had earlier faced BJP’s ire for saying that he was “saddened” by the news that “our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too”.

In an article on the issue, Tharoor said there is no statistical correlation between applying the death penalty and preventing murder. About 10 people were executed from 1980 to 1990 for the offence of murder under section 302 of the IPC, but the incidence of murder increased from 22,149 to 35,045 during the same period.

Similarly, during 1990-2000, even though about 8 people were executed, the incidence of murder increased from 35,045 to 37,399. However, during 2000-2010, only one person was executed and the incidence of murder decreased from 37,399 in 2000 to 33,335 in 2010, Tharoor said.

He contended that the “ambiguous” application of the “rarest of the rare” principle enunciated by the Supreme Court further disabled an individual from determining what offence would actually lead to a sentence of death penalty or life imprisonment.

The Congress MP argued that the quality of legal representation and the economic status of the accused have to be factored in since many more poor criminals were executed than well-off ones.

The judicial use of expressions like “the collective conscience of the community has been shocked” to justify the death penalty testifies to the room for subjectivity and the grave risk that ill-informed media rhetoric can affect a decision, he added.

Noting that the prevailing criminal justice system leaves much room for “errors and biases”, he said there was a possibility that the investigating agency is not able to collect sufficient and relevant evidence, the legal counsel not competent enough to assess and defend his case and the judge was influenced by personal biases and media reports.

While 436 death sentences were imposed by the lower courts in the four years from 2010-13, 280 were commuted to life imprisonment and only two people were actually executed, he said.

Tharoor went on to contend that that there were “no comprehensive parameters” to ascertain whether a person has been rightfully executed and hence, morally difficult to justify taking such an extreme step.

PTI

No death penalty even for terrorists, says Shashi Tharoor

“When we implement capital punishment, we are actually acting like them. They are the murderers and the state should not act like them,” the Congress MP told reporters.

Shashi Tharoor

Image Courtesy: Twitter
Unfazed by criticism, former union minister Shashi Tharoor on Sunday opposed death penalty even for terrorists saying it was an “obsolete practice” and they should instead be put behind bars for the rest of their lives without parole. “Terrorists should be put behind bars throughout their life without parole. In earlier days, there was a belief that if a person murders someone, he should be killed. Why do we need to follow the old obsolete practice…,” the Congress MP said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”When we implement capital punishment, we are actually acting like them. They are the murderers and the state should not act like them,” the Congress MP told reporters here on the sidelines of a function, organised by ‘Tree Walk’, an environmental organisation. On the recent controversy over his tweet on the execution of Mumbai terror attack convict Yakub Memon, he said: “I have not said a word on Memon case. What I tweeted was that I was not going into the merits of an individual case and it was the responsibility of the Supreme Court. I had tweeted against the death penalty which is an obsolete practice.”UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had also said that “we don’t have the right to take anyone’s life.” The Congress MP from Thiruvanathapuram said not only he, but several leaders, including Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Kanimozhi, Shatrughan Sinha and Varun Gandhi had also supported the abolition of death penalty. “As many as 143 countries have already abandoned the practice of death penalty. Another 25 countries are not practising it though the capital punishment is there in their law. Only around 35 countries are practising it at present. Why should our country follow such a practice?,” Tharoor asked.Tharoor had earlier faced BJP’s ire for saying that he was “saddened” by the news that “our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too”.

‘Death penalty an anomaly’: Amid debate over Yakub Memon, Varun Gandhi support abolition

New Delhi: In the midst of a raging debate over the death penalty to Mumbai terror attack convict Yakub Memon, BJP MP Varun Gandhi has favoured abolition of capital punishment, saying 94 percent of death row convicts are either Dalits or from minority communities.

In an article ‘The Noose Casts A Shameful Shadow’ in Outlook, Varun has said that death penalty is an “anomaly” for the world’s largest democracy and “needs correction”.

Varun Gandhi. AFPVarun Gandhi. AFP

Varun Gandhi. AFP

His comments come close on the heels of another party MP Shatrughan Sinha signing a petition in favour of Memon, which was deprecated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who said that the act had “embarrassed” the party and was “extremely sad” that he went against the party line.

This also comes after Congress MP Shashi Tharoor faced BJP’s ire for saying that he was “saddened” by the news that “our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too”.

Noting that India is one of the 58 countries where death penalty has been retained, Varun said the country needs to recognise the changing global scenario.

“The death penalty is not just a remedy available at the disposal of the law, but a human rights issue, beyond the pale of law. For the largest democracy, the death penalty is an anomaly. It needs correction. Many that live do deserve death. And some that die deserve life. One must not be too eager to deal out death in judgement,” he said in the article.

He added that capital punishment can have a socio-economic bias too and noted that 75 per cent of convicts in India on death row belong to the socially and economically marginalised classes. “94 per cent of death row convicts are Dalits or from the minorities,” he said.

“The poor consistently get the short end of the legal stick. The death penalty is a consequence of poor legal representation and institutional bias. The gallows remain a poor man’s trap,” he said.

Terming the hangman as “a disgrace to any civilised society”, Varun said, “Beyond its ethics, a basic unpredictability makes capital punishment a social evil.”

Arguing that with so few actually hanged, the Sultanpur MP said, “The death penalty’s rarity has essentially failed to achieve deterrence. Research has consistently failed to establish direct correlation between the death penalty and deterrence.”

Favouring abolition of death penalty, he said it is an international obligation.

He added that frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in our social fabric and our government.

“Condemning a terrorist to death is an easy path to take; but it creates martyrs. Keeping them in life imprisonment makes the cause less attractive and increases attrition. Their fame is diminished. Propaganda for jailed heroes is less potent,” he said.

PTI

My sincerity never noticed, appreciated’, Shashi Tharoor in fresh row over e-mail to Sonia Gandhi

Last week only he was scolded by the Congress chief over the leak of his views against party’s stalling tactics in Parliament in the media.

Diplomat-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor (59) on Saturday landed in fresh trouble within his Congress party, after a two-page e-mail addressed to party president Sonia Gandhi surfaced, where in he had expressed dismay over the leadership not appreciating his “sincerity”.Last week only he was scolded by the Congress chief over the leak of his views against party’s stalling tactics in Parliament in the media. Sonia, who generally keeps her cool, literally blasted Tharoor at the meeting of party MPs. She even refused to buy Tharoor argument that he was not behind leaking meeting details to media. “You always do this, it’s become a habit with you,” an angry Sonia said. Interestingly, the very next day Tharoor came in for handsome praise from none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for his speech at Oxford University, sparking speculations that something’s cooking between Kerala MP and the BJP.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The e-mail that surfaced on Saturday shows angry Tharoor expressing dismay at media reports that he had cut an “isolated figure” at the meeting and “everybody disagreed with him”, when he had suggested that the party should not stall Parliament. “I was dismayed, indeed distressed, by our exchange at the morning meeting,” Tharoor said in his e-mail to Sonia. He also responded to the criticism that he had leaked meeting proceedings. “Why on earth would I have spoken to the media to undermine myself and my standing within the party?”However, he refused to comment on his supposed letter to Sonia through an email. “I will neither confirm nor deny because even responding to such a question legitimises your line of inquiry,” he said in Thiruvananthapuram. Tharoor complained that it is he who is the victim of stories being planted in the media. Tharoor alleged that these rumours were “maliciously” aimed at him and maintained it as an attempt by some insiders to prevent frank airing of views by him within the party forums in future.“I have served the party’s interests with sincerity… while often feeling that this has neither been seen nor appreciated. The events of the last 24 hours sadly suggest that this remained the case,” Tharoor said.

After Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh, BJP’s Varun Gandhi opposes death penalty

Yakub Memon’s hanging on July 30th has sparked a debate about the death sentence and this time the one who stands against the capital punishment is Varun Gandhi, BJP MP from Sultanpur.

File Photo: Varun Gandhi

Recently, MP and the BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha was criticised by Arun Jaitely for his signature on the mercy plea filed by Yakub Memon. Writing for Outlook, Varun has written an opinion peace titled ‘The Noose Casts A Shameful Shadow’ where he advocates the abolishment of capital punishment.In his article, he cites several historical references such as Babylon civilisation, Jesus Christ and the Crusades and the British rule, and calls the death sentence not just brutal but ‘anachronistic’. Despite the presence of investigation agencies and a proper legal proceeding, Varun Gandhi doesn’t believe that judgements can be accurate. He mentions a study by Columbia University of 5,760 cases (between 1973-­1995) that reveals an error rate of 70 per cent in capital punishment verdicts. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Varun goes on to say that 75 per cent of the convicts on death row belong to socially and economically-marginalised classes; 94 per cent of death row convicts are Dalits or from the minorities. “The poor consistently get the short end of the legal stick. The death penalty is a consequence of poor legal representation and institutional bias”, he writes.A couple of days ago, Shashi Tharoor of the Congress Party had posted a series of tweets that debated against the capital punishment. In his article Varun seems to carry the same pitch, “A death penalty at the end of a long and tedious process is no deterrent.”He believes that long prison terms (with no parole till a minimum stretch is served) can deter crime better and quicker trials can add to effectiveness. In his article he presented facts and figures from across the world, and quoted Buddhism philosophy, Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria and George Bernard Shaw among many to make a point that the capital punishment is not much of justice than retribution.Varun Gandhi’s article appeals to the government to abolish capital punishment and look for better alternatives. Varun concludes by writing, “India, as one of the 58-odd countries where death penalty is retained, needs to recognise the changing global scenario. The death penalty is not just a remedy available at the disposal of the law, but a human rights issue, beyond the pale of law. For the largest democracy, the death penalty is an anomaly. It needs correction. Many that live do deserve death. And some that die deserve life. One must not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”A little over 22 years after 12 coordinated blasts rocked Mumbai, killing 257 people and injuring over 700, the lone convict on death row in the case – Yakub Memon, was on Thursday executed about two hours after his lawyer’s last-gasp plea to get the death warrant. The plea was signed by many veteran lawyers, politicians and other known personalities.A day earler, Senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh had sparked controversy by their remarks against capital punishment. In a series of tweets Tharoor had said that he was saddenned by the hanging of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub. He said, “The state-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too.” Tharoor also added, “There is no evidence that death penalty serves as a deterrent: to the contrary in fact. All it does is exact retribution: unworthy of a government.”Whereas, Digvijaya Singh sparked controversy tweeting, “exemplary urgency and commitment has been shown by govt and judiciary in punishing an accused of terror. I hope similar commitment of govt and judiciary would be shown in all cases of terror irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.”

BJP attacks Digvijay Singh and Shashi Tharoor for comments on Yakub Memon

BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said Congress leaders have committed the “grave crime” of supporting an anti-national Yakub Memon and for raising “question” marks on the country’s judiciary.

dna Research & Archives
BJP attacked Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and Shashi Tharoor on Thursday for their statements on the hanging of Yakub Memon alleging they amounted to being “anti-national” and demanded an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi. BJP also said that their comments were an “insult” to people wanting to get rid of terrorism and any politics over it is regrettable.Union Minister Arun Jaitley slammed Congress leaders for giving “contrarian” statements on Memon’s death sentence, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, saying it is “a cause of concern” and demanded that its president Sonia Gandhi explain to the country the party’s stand on this. He lamented that it was the country’s “misfortune” that Congress leaders were giving statements that were “politically motivated” on an incident like the 1993 Mumbai terror attacks, which is an important terror incident in which 257 persons lost their lives and several hundreds injured.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said Congress leaders have committed the “grave crime” of supporting an anti-national Yakub Memon and for raising “question” marks on the country’s judiciary.”Supporting an anti-national amounts to being anti-national,” he said.Questioning the “silence” of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and demanding action against the leaders, he said “the silence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is not just laughable but also surprising. We demand that they either support Digvijay Singh and Shashi Tharoor or act against them. Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi should apologise for the statements of leaders that amounts to the insult of the nation,” the BJP leader said.Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked Singh, saying his comments “seek to question the judicial process”, and spoke of Singh’s attempts at “alignment” between judicial process and politics. Prasad said he chose to ignore Tharoor’s tweets against the hanging, which the Congress MP dubbed as “state-sponsored killing”, and added that he was “more troubled” by Singh’s comments as he was aCongress general secretary, chief minister for 10 years and an “adviser” to Rahul Gandhi. Prasad’s ministerial colleague Rajiv Pratap Rudy said he was “shocked” by Tharoor’s comments and termed them as “bizarre”.

The Return of the Native? Shashi Tharoor’s critique of Britain misses the mark

The former under-secretary general of the United Nations, distinguished writer and essayist and controversial Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, has in an Oxford University debate argued that the demand for reparations for British colonization of India is not outlandish; it is, in fact, a moral debt. According to Tharoor, after the arrival of the British, India went from having 27 percent of the world trade to less than 2 percent.

He added that India provided numerous soldiers for World War I and II, funded these wars through taxes as well as supplied ammunition and garments. He also spoke about how Britain’s industrialization was built on the labor and capital from India. Tharoor then posits, “It’s a bit rich to oppress, enslave, kill, torture, maim people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it. We were denied democracy, so we had to snatch it, seize it from you.”

Watch the video here.

I would argue that it is Tharoor’s assertions that are rich. This is not to imply that British Colonialism was an unalloyed good, or even exonerate and whitewash it but rather put things into perspective. Colonialism was morally and politically repugnant; it should and must be condemned and never allowed to be repeated. But to hold a nation and a people that had nothing to do with it responsible and culpable for the odious practice is equally bad. So why is Tharoor taking the British on a guilt trip? What accounts for this? Is it morally correct?

Shashi Tharoor’s academic credentials are impeccable; he also has a stellar career to boast of. But the man essentially ‘cut his teeth’ in the West. (Ironically but perhaps naturally , Tharoor employs a very Western idiom to chastise India’s erstwhile colonial masters). Tharoor ‘discovered’ India in the West; he wrote tomes about it. In one of his books, Tharoor typically describes his rather ungainly experience with a hotel receptionist in Delhi and then claims to love India, warts and all. He even takes on VS Naipaul and asserts that Naipaul’s critiques of India are anecdotal.

Shashi Tharoor. Image courtesy: Sachin Gokhale.Shashi Tharoor. Image courtesy: Sachin Gokhale.

Shashi Tharoor. Image courtesy: Sachin Gokhale.

Tharoor’s nationalism and his admiration or even adulation for India is writ perhaps in all of his works. The point of delineating briefly some of the themes of Tharoor’s works is that the man’s intellectual and emotional evolution correspond to type: they reflect the ambivalence inherent in an upper or middle class person from the East who receives an education in the West. It is this ambivalence that is at work in Tharoor’s trial of Britain. A born again Indian finds reason to fault the British and feels good about it.

There are some flaws in Tharoor’s argument. First, it was not British colonialism per se that was responsible for the poor performance and regression of India’s economy. The structure of the world economy (some would even say, global economy) was changing. This axiomatically entailed a shift in the terms of trade. India, like other asian states, probably could not cope up and its terms of trade and economic growth took a steep dip. (Obiter Dictum, the structure of the world economy has again changed and the erstwhile decolonized are gaining from the trend. Who is to cop blame or take credit for this) This is admittedly a reductive counterpoint to Tharoor’s bad economics.

Let me now analyze and assess Tharoor’s political point. Tharoor asserts that, ‘ we were denied democracy, so we had to snatch it, seize it from you’. Really? Democracy is a very Western concept and idea. So is nationalism which Tharoor alludes to by saying,’ we had to snatch it..’. It was the gale of nationalism that swept the West or the then imperial metropoles that percolated to the non western colonized world that made the ‘native’ leaders self aware and conscious. These native leaders then, again perhaps from a sense of aggrievement( experience of racism and marginalization in the West and its projection onto their peoples or in some instances genuine empathy) or a nouveau sensibility gained in the West, the moral outrage accruing from this resisted against colonialism. But key here is that the idiom employed was very Western. Two and two does not then make four in Tharoor’s schema and formulation.

Now let me make a broader point: colonialism and imperialism are perhaps are as old as history or more accurately modern history. Most nations or peoples have been perpetrators and perpetuators of either. If reparations are held to be a ‘moral debt’, our imagination would stretch itself in apportioning blame and seeking reparations.

Colonialism , to repeat, was an odious concept and practice. The world has , in most senses, moved on. The contemporary world is defined by fluidity and porosity where even the post Westphalian construct, the nation state, is also in transition. The nation state in the non western world was a product of decolonization. If this construct is not set in stone, then perhaps older constructs and concepts, which lead to an ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ mentality also lose their salience. The world is in transition. We are perhaps on the cusp of something unknown. Prudence suggests that we do not become willful prisoners of the past but move on in an idiom that is bold and beautiful. The world that is taking shape brooks no facile identity based distinctions. Let’s not obstruct this but hold hands and forge a glorious future.

Full transcript: Shashi Tharoor on politics, Macaulayputras and the Sunanda investigation

Away from the media scrum that often follows him, Congress leader, author and Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor opened up on many issues — personal and professional and musical — at the Firstpost Salon on 13 July in Mumbai.

Following is the transcript of his conversation with Firstpost senior editor Sandip Roy:

Sandip Roy: Thank you everybody for coming and thank you Shashi for coming and Saloning with us.

Shashi Tharoor: Good to be here. Good to see you all.

Sandip Roy: I want to start on a slightly personal note. I know that you recently lost your grandmother, who was close to a 100…

Shashi Tharoor: 98.

Sandip Roy: 98… And … not many of us have the privilege, in a way, of knowing our grandmothers, for having them with us for so long in our lives. She lived in your ancestral home in the Western Ghat. Touch a little bit on how important was she in your life and how important is that house to you.

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Shashi Tharoor and Firstpost Senior Editor Sandip Roy.

Shashi Tharoor: Yeah, the house represents a kind of a principal connection in some ways to one’s own lineage. I was born in London and when my parents moved back to India the first house that I was brought to was this one which was about a couple of hundred years old. No one knows exactly how old it is, but it is about a couple of hundred years old. It is in the middle of the Western Ghats, in the district of Palghat, the rice bowl of Kerala. When I first started going there as a child – because my parents were a part of this typical Diaspora- my father worked in Bombay, then Calcutta and then Delhi. And every year, the kids will be taken back to their “ancestral home”. And what was striking about this place was that it was so different from urban India, because it was this big old sprawling house in the middle of the rice fields. And literally, when I first started going there, there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no indoor bathrooms. Basically, we would brush our teeth and spit into the paddy fields. It was quite extraordinary as an alternate experience.

Sandip Roy: Was it fun or a punishment?

Shashi Tharoor: I think initially, we all felt it as more of a punishment. I remember saying to my father with the precociously unpleasant wit that comes to the young, that going south is strictly for the birds. But, the fact is that, after a while, it actually began to grow on one. The intangible things, the easy sort of comradeship with the relatives growing up in the house; And because my mother was the eldest child a lot of my uncles and aunts were more like brothers and sisters to me. In fact, I actually have an uncle who is younger than me, because he was born when my grandmother was forty and I had already been born 11 months earlier. The remarkable thing about my grandmother’s longevity is that we have a photograph of five generations of women from the family that is she, my mother, my sister, my niece and her baby… all in one photograph, which means the world to us. She and I had even joked mildly about the prospects of celebrating her 100th and my 60th together, because, she would have turned 100 in the November of next year. And I will hit the dreaded shashtiyaathpurti in the March of next year, but it was not to be. She represented lot of things. She represented leadership of the family. My grandfather passed away in 1967. So, she suddenly, went from being the mild, not so terribly talkative wife to being the matriarch, who had to raise the entire brood, run this house. And, she grew very impressively into the task. She was the glue that kept us all together. We would all gather from far flung corners, not just India, but from all over the globe.

Sandip Roy: What did she have to say about you joining politics?

Shashi Tharoor: I have to admit that, for most of the families, who don’t come from a political background, the instinctive reaction is one of disapproval. Why on earth would you go into this? What was the point in you studying so hard and getting good marks, if you had to end up in politics? That is for the people who don’t study and don’t get good marks. That’s the usual attitude, I am afraid. My mother and my grandmother never took well to my suddenly being a politician.

Sandip Roy: Your father worked for The Statesman newspaper. Was politics at all a part of your daily life in anyway? How did you encounter it?

Shashi Tharoor: No, it was something that we talked about but, very much with the detachment that intellectuals tend to have. In other words, I read newspapers; I talked elsewhere about it, including in this book, about, how, in the morning, my dad would sit down with me and read all the newspapers available in the city we were in, which was Calcutta in my high school years. And then in the evening he would bring home the newspapers from the rest of the country. I actually read and wrote a lot for Indian newspapers and Indian news. In that sense, intellectually politics was one of my major interests. But, I have to admit that actually…

Sandip Roy: Getting your hands dirty…

Shashi Tharoor: … Putting one’s feet into it never struck me as something that I was ever likely to do, largely because the political world seems so foreign to the world that we occupy the middle class professionals.

Sandip Roy: What I wanted to talk about, was growing up in a socialist India, how were your beliefs and assumptions? If you think about somebody of your background, your class, growing up now, what would be the most radical points of difference?

Shashi Tharoor: People growing up today are much more attuned to that India, the India that has come into being since 1991 and liberalisation, because what we have seen with post-liberalisation India is that, profit for example is no longer a dirty word, as it was when I was growing up. The idea that people can actually value entrepreneurship is now very much accepted, whereas when I was advocating it in my college days, I was literally alone. There wasn’t a constituency in those consensually socialist days for ideas like that. In that sense, the backgrounds were very different and people would take much more for granted that capitalism and private enterprise are desirable things rather than these bogeymen, these villains, which goes back to the whole East India experience. The British East India Company came into trade and stayed on to rule so, instinctively the suspicion was that you have a hidden agenda behind the business of commerce.

Sandip Roy: When you talked about your college days, when you were in St Stephens, you were a supporter of Swatantra Party and Swapan Dasgupta was a Trotskyite .

Shashi Tharoor: So, was Chandan Mitra actually. But, Chandan was a little more pragmatic and ended up being my campaign manager when I ran for the president. Swapan was on the other side but in any case, Swapan’s and Chandan’s journey to the right was one of the more interesting and amusing stuff for those of us in college.

Sandip Roy: What about you then? Will you still feel at home if the Swatantra Party existed?

Shashi Tharoor: I would very much feel at home with the liberalism of the Swatantra Party. But, what’s interesting is that the Congress party has moved a long way in that direction. First of all, the Swatantra Party disappeared while I was in college. It merged in 1974 with Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Kranti Dal to become the BLD. Much to my horror. I remember taking Piloo Mody to task from the audience when he came to speak at St Stephens College. But, the fact is that it did disappear. It wasn’t that it was anymore an option. But, with liberalisation, the Congress party adopted many of its core tenets. It was always socially a liberal party. It also became economically more of a liberal party. It is a big tent party. You have people who are self proclaimed Marxists like my good friend Mani Shankar Aiyar and others who proudly say that they are Marxist. But, we also have people who would be in economic terms seen as right wingers in the same party. And ultimately, the main difference, and I suppose the main difference for me too from those days, is that the Congress party has become more of a social democratic institution. That is it is in favour of re-enterprise of growth, of liberal economics, but it wants the revenues that emerge from the growth to be distributed to those who have none. And to my mind, that is entirely a reasonable proposition because what they are saying is that we have to acknowledge that in a country like ours today that there are enormous numbers of people living below the poverty line; they don’t have a social safety net and frankly, the magic of the market cannot appeal to those who cannot afford to enter the market place. Therefore you need to be able to have the capacity to use the revenues and recruit a government, from the prosperity that comes through economic growth, in order to help the people who have nothing. And to my mind that’s what the Congress party stands for and I was very comfortable going into it today.

Sandip Roy: Well, you said in this book that you consider yourself as an old fashioned liberal, which puts you in a minority. When you say that you are comfortable going into it, was the party comfortable with your old fashioned liberal views coming into it?

Shashi Tharoor: I think that the answer would depend on who you ask, precisely with a party as diverse as the Congress is, you are bound to find some people with differing views and certainly those who are on the Left of the spectrum do not find my views congenial or even acceptable. Many others are quite happy to see what I stand for being within the party. The truth is that India’s ideological polarizations are actually quite peculiar. We go round, all of you in the media, calling the BJP a right wing party but in what meaningful sense are it a right wing party, it is culturally a right wing party but, it is a nativist party in its economics. Until Mr. Modi came along, it was Left in conventional terms, to even the Congress party. They are much more protectionist in the sense that the Swadeshi Jagran Manch talk against foreign direct investment. They are against foreign investment of any sort. They are also against many aspects of foreign trade. They came up with a slogan ‘We want silicon chips, but not potato chips’ which is not a choice that the West was essentially offering them. This is the kind of economics that the core of the BJP movement stands for. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch is much more authentic to it than Mr. Modi saying that the government has no business to be in business. This was very much a party whose idea of capitalism began and ended with the middle men, small traders of the mandis were the core of the BJP. And that, was one of the reasons why, for example, a kind of foreign direct investment in retail attracted such hostility in the BJP because, it would give better prices to the farmer, lower costs for the consumers and eliminate the middlemen. But, the middle men are where they draw their support from. This is not Right wing economics by any stretch of imagination. The Right wing and the Left wings are the terms that mean very little for our political discourse.

Sandip Roy: We are going to talk a bit more about the current economics, but, I want to go back in time again with your years in St Stephens. One of the things that we have learnt from an impeccable source is that when you were around that time, you were pretty good at pretending to be cricket commentators while shaving.

Shashi Tharoor: I was a cricket nut from a very young age. Yes, one of the things that I would do is… the radio was all that we had in those days; we had no television in my childhood. So radio commentary was the thing that I would do…

Sandip Roy: We also learnt, I don’t know how many of you know the song Lilly the pink had a particular connection with you, your family and car rides…

Shashi Tharoor: This guy has been infiltrating my family; my sisters are the only conceivable source. I have two sisters and he knows the one in California. ‘Lily The Pink’ was song by the group named The Scaffold, which is not known for anything else than ‘Lily the Pink’. But, with a limited vocal range, it was a song which I could sing. I sang it quite boisterously throughout my early teens. It came out in 69, so, I was 13 when it came out. And I think that I kept it going through high school.

Sandip Roy: Can we have a stanza of Lily The Pink

Shashi Tharoor: Sure, I will give you two, in fact.

Brother Tony was notably bony
He would never eat his meals
Then they gave him medicinal compound
Now they move him round on wheels.
Jonny Hammer, had a terrible st st st st stammer
He could hardly s s say a word
And then they gave him medicinal compound
Now’s he’s seen, but never heard.
We’ll drink a drink a drink
To lily the pink the pink the pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented, medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Sandip Roy: Have you ever tempted to Indianize the song for the political situations?

Shashi Tharoor: No, this was… I wouldn’t dare to.

Sandip Roy: But, in those days, when you joined St Stephens, in one of your essays about St Stephens, you said that it marked you for the rest of your life. In what way did it mark you, in both good and bad way?

Shashi Tharoor: St Stephens was very much an elite institution in the best sense of the word. It was very difficult to get into. They took the best students, not in terms of marks and cut offs, as it happens today but they took people of talents and abilities from various fields. Some of the better known, more illustrious names, people who have got third division in high school, but were outstanding debaters or actors or musicians and creative people. The college could see that qualities and would take them in. We really had an extremely impressive talent all around us. Second, it was an amazingly pan national college, people from every part of the country could be found there. It gave you a sense of Indian nationhood in the microcosm of the extremely well qualified. Then, you had tremendous amount of creative freedom. There were all these college union societies made up of students with a faculty advisor, who was by and large stayed away from being too directive. In that sense, you learn responsibility, you exercise creativity and you came up with your own things. I founded the Quiz club, which is still in its existence forty one years later. I revived the ‘Wodehouse’ society.

Sandip Roy: What did the ‘Wodehouse’ society do?

Shashi Tharoor: Sadly, it has gone extinct, thanks to the co-education. I am sorry to say to the ladies here. But, what it was a society that was dedicated to the great master of the English. It was dedicated to good humour in college. We ran mimicry competitions, extempore speeches, which were judged for its humour more than anything else. We ran a practical joke week, with the sanction of the college authorities, which was usually quite an extraordinary event every year. We also published a magazine which is much funnier than the official campus rep.

Sandip Roy: What kind of practical joke would a college sanction…. it sounds deadly. A college would never dream of doing something like that.

Shashi Tharoor: It did. I can’t sit down and remember all the practical jokes so many years ago. Some of them were very funny. I remember when I was a victim of, when I was the president of the union; a student came to me after dark, rather late in the residence with somebody extremely tattered up in a skirt. He said that, “Look, I am sorry. I got this whore into college and the gates are shut. I can’t get her out. You have got to help me out or else I will be expelled. There I was the president of the college and it’s not my job to escort… at the same time, one learns early that every vote counts, you don’t want to expel somebody, who has voted for you. Don’t want to see him being expelled. I got into all sorts of tangles in trying to actually spirit this offender out through the closed gates. Until, of course, it turned out to be some poor fresher in drag. I was a victim of this particular joke and I can’t remember whether that joke won the competition that year or not. But, there were others which were perhaps as funny as it sounds in retrospect.

Sandip Roy: If you look at your Wikipedia and all the other people who went to St Stephens with you at the same time, you mentioned some of them Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra and many others who went at that time. It sounds like a wonderful glorious golden time, the chosen class it feels like. But, is that some of the things that have come into attack right now where people say that ‘These are the people. This is the elitist India’. People who will shout at each other in a television studio, you and Swapan Dasgupta for example, but are chummy then will stick up to each other when they go off camera and they will do favours for each other. This is the worst of the elitist India.

Shashi Tharoor: I am afraid that is not always true of all the pairings you can come up with. But having said that, there has been a lot of mutual respect and regard which was fashioned by that sheer experience and in some ways, I wish that our country were run more that way. I think, for example, the way in which for today, there’s so much of bitterness and hostility between the principal opposition party and the ruling party is not good for getting things done in our country and in the democracy. So, I would rather argue rivalry with each other and then got on to strike an acceptable compromise in the interest of the nation. And frankly, if that’s the worst if you can accuse Stephanians’ of, then, I don’t think it’s such a bad sin.

Sandip Roy: Why do you think that thing felt so out of favour to the point of being looked at as a Oxonian old boys club who talk with an Oxonian accent and make the deals behind the doors and we need to get away from that. And if you are my political opponent, then you must not even drink tea with that person.

Shashi Tharoor: You know, that wasn’t the case. It certainly has become the case. I have given up trying to invite BJP people, ministers from the present government over to my house for a meal, because they no longer show up or they accept and then don’t come. It’s one of these things where there seems to be a systematic attempt to avoid the social interactions with the enemy. But, in the old days, we weren’t the enemy. We were the adversary, the rival, alternative, but not the enemy. And, that I think is the way democracy ought to be faced. You don’t have to agree with somebody’s views. You let the public decide which views should prevail and once they prevailed, you work with the outcome of the electoral process. We are not doing that enough, things are very nasty… even before I came back to the Indian politics, UPA 1, was deeply disrupted by the BJP of several times in the house. The no-confidence vote over an Indo-US nuclear deal, they had begun negotiating. And, then, at the end of the UPA 2, it was very clear that five sessions of Parliament were pretty much wrecked by the BJP’s behaviour. The result is that now, the golden rule of Indian politics has become ‘do unto them, what they did unto you’. Congress is also behaving in the same way because we are so bearing the scars when we would try to get things done in the national interest.

Sandip Roy: So do you consider as a Macaulayputra?

Shashi Tharoor: I was asked once by Sagarika Ghose, who had asked to me to make a speech on the relevance of Macaulayputras. It was never recorded. So, I no longer recall what I said. Macaulay’s idea of creating this class of people who are as he put it, brown in colour or Indian in colour but English in taste and morals and opinions and intellect, that was very much a colonial enterprise intended to create a class of interpreters between the British and those they govern. That was the whole logic. And the fact that, it is a project one can object to intellectually and for historic reasons. It does not mean that in the process, some good wasn’t done. After all, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote The Discovery of India in English and the kind of pan-national vision that an English education has been able to ensure very, many people is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, some would argue that it is less authentic than a sense of Indianness gleamed in a purely Indian language environment, but, it seems to me that the punning, collegians who speaks in English is as much a part of the Indian reality as the Hindi-speaking peasant in the Gangetic plain. In my view, there is no particular argument, other than numbers to make one more authentic than the other. We are all the part of the Indian reality.

Sandip Roy: Is it not true that the punning Oxonian accented Stephanian can be accused of looking down at the one who couldn’t do it?

Shashi Tharoor: Not the St. Stephens I knew. In fact, one of my classmates Harsh Mandar, who is very active on the social service league. I was an ordinary member he was a very, very active member. He went on to tremendous work for the poor, with the marginalised, with the discriminated, and the oppressed. And, he is, in no means, alone. Banker Roy, is another such Stephanian. Well, there is a strong sense of identification with the people who are not, shall we say, likely to be encountered in a Stephanian classroom, but, who ultimately make up the larger portion of the Indian reality and we are certainly not indifferent to them. As I said, the elitism of St Stephen’s was the elitism of merit. It was not snobbery. I don’t ever remember anybody at St Stephen’s having conversations about expensive watches or fancy clothes or foreign holidays. They were the conversations of ideas, of intellect, of creative energies being unleashed and indeed as I said that people like Harsh, of the social service commitment. It was not at all the kind of sneering snobbishness that people wrongly confound with elitism.

Sandip Roy: You give a very spirited defence about what a Macaulayputra could be. Which I guess, are you saying you are one? Do you admit to it? You accept this?

Shashi Tharoor: The term is obviously meant to be a disparaging one so, I certainly have no desire to lay claim to it. So, if I am asked to account for my place in India as somebody who is more comfortable in English than in any other language, which is a principal sin of which the Macaulayputras are accused, I have to plead guilty. I make speeches in Malayalam, couldn’t get elected in Kerala without that. I can converse in Hindi and I manage smatterings of Bengali and Tamil, but the fact is that English is very much my first language. If that makes me a Macaulayputra, linguistically fine, but, don’t assume that along with that comes a series of attitudes that are also ascribed to the Macaulayputras as I don’t really believe that’s fair. There are many with an English language education that have whole range of diverse views and awareness of the Indian experience, in ways I think, are denied to somebody who has never known anything except the Hindi speaking existence of small town UP. They are in some way cut off from the experience of say my grandmother had in Kerala.

Sandip Roy: People have talked a lot about the arrival of Narendra Modi, the age of Macaulayputra is over, the age of Lutyens elite is over. Do you culturally feel a difference in Delhi right now?

Shashi Tharoor: It’s too early to tell. First of all it has only been a year now. Secondly, the principal cultural difference I have seen is that the interaction and socialising after hours across the political divide is much less. Otherwise, Delhi pretty much chugged on as always. I don’t see an enormous amount of difference. There does seem have been some sort of instruction going out to the ruling party’s grandees that they should not be attending parties or hobnobbing with the others. That may be one sort of a cultural difference that has occurred. Certainly, one sees and hears much more of Hindi being used, thanks to Mr. Modi’s own inclination. That doesn’t mean that the English has disappeared from the intellectual conversations from the drawing rooms of Delhi. I don’t know how much can one speak about some sort of cultural sea change.

Sandip Roy: Let’s talk about when you go abroad; you were young and you go abroad, your college life and the Indian community at that time. Now, we live in an age where, on one hand, we have the ‘Modison’ Square Garden extravaganza, and on the other hand, you have the ‘Bobby Jindal’s so white’ hash tag going viral everywhere. What was it like for you when you went?

Shashi Tharoor: There were certainly fewer Indians around. I went to Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which was near Boston and there was only one Indian restaurant in the whole of north eastern of New England. It was called the Indian restaurant. My American roommate and I would go there once a month as that’s all we could afford, to have an Indian meal. Phone calls were $12 a minute; I remember it wasn’t as you were calling home every minute to speak to Mom and Dad. You were cut off. You are making your own life, your own way. There were Indian associations, very occasional movie screenings, often far away in some suburb, I remember Sholay coming and it was a good one hour to get to the place where it was being screened, where there were a little more of Indians. I don’t think that at that point, one would have been able to project the kind of America today, where Indians are so influential even getting the American politicians elected. The Indian caucus is the largest caucus in any of the US congress. There is remarkable transformation. A show like ‘ER’ comes on the air, and the critics are saying, “How can it be a good show, because who so ever has heard of an American Emergency Room without an Indian doctor!” And then, they had to quickly write a part for an Indian doctor. Parminder Nagra, then came in. And then ER became the kind of success it went into became. That was not the America that I went to in 1975.

Sandip Roy: We have a question from Twitter, my apologies for not able to find out the name of the person who sent us this question. It’s basically asking do you think that the long distance nationalism of the Indians abroad is actually a dangerous thing.

Shashi Tharoor: It could a dangerous thing or it could be a positive thing. Many of us go abroad for the first time, voluntarily or involuntarily find themselves becoming the ambassadors of the country where we have come from, particularly when we see the foreigners who are ill-informed about our country or who have little knowledge about our country. We have an instinctive desire to defend it. The normal human nature equally applies to an American going abroad and French people going abroad. We Indians are no different. To that degree we become prouder of India we left because we are somewhere else and called to account for it as a part of accounting for ourselves. I have also witnessed a sort of expatriate extremism where you find some of the Diaspora go abroad and start supporting and sometimes financially supporting some of the most famous extreme causes in the country that they had left behind. I am trying to analyse this with pop psychology that they go abroad, they don’t fully fit in, they look in the mirror and they realise that they are not like the other people who are settled. And rather like the faithless lover, who blames the woman he has spurned for having left her, the expatriate’ extremists blame the country for obliging him to leave. And therefore he decides to support or finance extreme ideas as to how to change that country for the better. That can range from the support for the Khalistani terrorism in California, or the support for the Irish Republican army in New York or the Sri Lankan Tamils who financed the LTTE from Diasporas from America, Canada and everywhere else. All of that is, explained by these phenomena, but in a slightly milder way, it also explains the extraordinary support for the hate movement and the Hindutva movement and so on, amongst Americans who are living far away from what they see as a point of Indian civilization. It’s the same people who are surrounded by white non-Hindus and engaging with them and living amidst them, send money back in dollars to promote intolerance back in India, which is a very strange and unhealthy phenomenon.

Sandip Roy: Do you see the phenomenon as growing?

Shashi Tharoor: I don’t know. First of all, I no longer live abroad and I don’t see it around me. People like me started writing about it; I started writing about it in the 90s. As numbers grew, those who were against this kind of intolerance also grew and their voices began to be heard as well, by and large, because those people who preach divisiveness, religious chauvinism are themselves out of touch and out of sync with the kind of prevalent culture liberalist pluralist culture prevailing in the country they are living in. But no they are attempting to mask a little more their overt intolerant agenda.

Sandip Roy: Speaking about intolerance, referring to Chetan Bhagat, what he had written about it recently about the pop psychology analysis of the trolls. Do you believe that there is a difference between Right wing troll and a Left wing troll in terms of quantity and quality?

Shashi Tharoor: I was looking for Jaggi (R Jagannathan, Editor-in-chief, Firstpost), because he just began this evening by talking about trolls from both the sides. I am not aware about any Congress trolls. We just don’t have them. We are civilised, moderate, reasonable party.

Sandip Roy: That is incompetent not to have your own army of trolls!.

Shashi Tharoor: The point is that there are of course people who express their views in extreme language; using the distance that the internet gives you sometimes the anonymity that internet gives you. The anonymity of the internet and more importantly the distance; which actually permits people to speak and write in terms that they know that they wouldn’t get away with in a normal conversation. I remember once being in a social occasion where a couple of young men came up to me and chatted with me in the most respectful manner, called me Sir and all that. And when they gave me their names, I realised that one of them had just abused me one day before on Twitter.

Sandip Roy: Did you call him on it?

Shashi Tharoor: No, I said. Why bother. He was trying to be nice. It’s better to take people on their face value. The irony about all of this is that you never know how much of this is posturing. Of course, you don’t like reading it. I congratulate Twitter for having invented the mute button. You can now just silence these characters by having them not inflict their vileness upon you. The numbers, there is no comparison. As I said that I don’t really agree with the Right and the Left here, the organised preparation of the pro-BJP and pro-Hindutva elements vastly outstrips anything remotely comparable from the other side of the spectrum, in terms of the quantity and also the vileness, sustained nastiness of personal attacks. And I think it partly because they all felt at one point that they weren’t getting a fair enough shake in the mainstream media. So, they would take over the social media, they came to this conclusion much earlier than anybody else had and they moved into this way and occupied the commanding heights. For they are in large numbers and very well organised and in some of the abuses that I get, for example, it’s very clear and instruction had gone out, because around 30-40 people will be abusing me in the same identical manner and sometimes with the same identical words, but always the same angle of attack. And you know that this is a sustained campaign and there is nothing that you can do much about it.

Sandip Roy: Before you joined the UN, you had thought that after you finished your PhD, you will come back to be a journalist, as you were thinking. So, do you ever wonder about the road not taken that you could have been in… Arbnab Goswami’s chair!

Shashi Tharoor: Oh My God! Perish the thought. I haven’t allowed myself to think of what might have been. I think it’s slightly a self-indulgent thing to do. But, first of all, when I left India, I have to admit that my ambition up to college had been the Foreign Service. I was just very good at taking exams, came first and I thought that would ace those exams too and get in. Then, the Emergency came along. There was the profound disillusioning period. I just did not want to take the exams anymore. So, I never took the Foreign Service’s exams. So, that eliminated the most obvious profession for the people of my kind and background. And then, I was left with the choice between essentially academics or journalism, the other two things that interested me, until the UN came along. And, once I got into the UN, I thought that I will do it for a year or two or three no more for some, put some hard currency in the banks in India, that was very sought after those days and come back and in any case, I was more inclined to write than to teach. So, probably, it would have been journalism. Of course, there was no serious television journalism during those days; it would have been the print media. Looking back, I am not sure if I have any enormous regrets. I have led a very, very richly rewarding, not from the financial sense, but the intellectual satisfactions thereof. Life at the United Nations and on the international stage…

Sandip Roy: When you were joining the UN, you were told don’t bother about applying, there are too many Indians.

Shashi Tharoor: Yes, that’s right. When I first tried to apply to the UN, I was told that there are too many Indians over represented. Then what happened was that I was able to go out and join the UN organisation that didn’t have too national quarters. It was the UN High Commissioner for the refugees. After 11 years, I moved into the regular UN, that was at the end of the Cold War and when peace keeping was beginning to expand and I grew with it.

Sandip Roy: Tell us a little bit about you going to Singapore, the boat people crisis. What kind of impact that it leave on you?

Shashi Tharoor: Huge! First of all, I was alarmingly young for my responsibility. So, I had to conceal my age. It was an amazing time of personal growth. We had these Vietnamese fleeing their country in boats, and then being rescued on the high seas by the merchant vessels, which inevitably would come to Singapore to offload the people. The Singaporeans were resistant to offloading refuges until it was known what it would become of them. So, the job involved unusual combination of things, negotiating with the Singapore government, negotiating with the embassies of various countries for resettlement, working with shipping companies, many of them were flying flags wherein you couldn’t expect to resettle the refugees, including in a few cases Indian and Bangladeshi and ships; and at the same time running a refugee camp because unlike the other South East Asian countries, Singapore did not want it to be their responsibility. They wanted the UN to do it. So, I learnt a lot of things, including finding creative solutions to bureaucratic dilemmas all the time. At some point, I should write about all of this, but, I haven’t. But, there were these amazing experiences. But the most amazing experience was to be able to put your head to the pillow at night knowing the things that you have done during the day have made a difference to many human being’s lives, human beings who you would meet at the refugee camp. So many stories I can tell. We had a few dramatic ones as well as a few tragic ones including that of cannibalism, which had to be investigated. One story that I recall is that of a young family that had left Vietnam in a tiny boat with a cannibalised engine. The engine however conked out, and they started drifting at the China Sea. They were living on rain water and hope and because the baby and infant would not survive on the rain water, the parents’ cut their thumbs and children were seen sucking on parents’ thumbs for survival as the blood had nutrients; and later after they were rescued I saw the same family, all healthy and well-dressed ready to embark a new life in the US. I have seen an enormous amount of human satisfaction; there are people who are grown up, Canadian, or French or Australian, because of my skill of persuading the ambassadors, immigrating officers or visiting ministers, to make exceptions to their policies to bend the rules, under which these people were taken. It was an extraordinary life.

Sandip Roy: Even as you talk about the satisfaction of being able to put your head to your pillow at night, knowing that you made a difference in people’s life you were also the face of the UN at that time, when the Srebrenica massacre was going on. That must have been hard to face the media day after day…

Shashi Tharoor: That was in the peace keeping incarnation. I have just been at a seminar in Hague at the Institute of Global Justice with the number of those who had dealt with the Yugoslavian crises. I was handling the Yugoslavia headquarters, the people who faced the horrors directly were the ones who were in the fields, which I still haven’t done. Those with us for the political responsibility from the very beginning argued to the Security Council that peace keeping is inappropriate to a situation where there was no peace to keep. It wasn’t devised to be sent in during an ongoing war. The rules and principles of peace keeping worked effectively, won the Nobel Prize in situations where the parties had agreed to a peace and our job was to maintain it and ensure that it didn’t break down. But, you can’t go into a shooting war where people are actually using the peace keeping force to manoeuvre their own military interest behind them. We said this repeatedly in black and white of the public record but in any case, it was painful. First of all, such kind of a major international event and you never acting in any autonomy, like a huge pressure, the weight of the government’s pressure playing upon you, certainly by then the media had become the significant player in the international affairs. We were the good UN officials waiting for the reports from the fields before conveying them into appropriate form, the ambassadors were like ‘we just have seen this in CNN, why haven’t you reported to us’? And there was an entire transformation of the world happening at that time when all this was happening. And yes, you had the peacekeeping blue helmets, attempting to conduct themselves according to the rules and the principles of peacekeeping when clearly what was needed was to take sides, which was not what peacekeeping was all about. It was simply the wrong solution applied to a major problem.

Sandip Roy: You have worked with the UN, now you are working with India and its bureaucracy. They are regarded as the well-funded, and pampered…

Shashi Tharoor: I must say that bureaucracies have something more in common. But, India is more process oriented than process driven. UN is much less hierarchical. I have never been able to cure an Indian bureaucrat’s habit of calling me Sir, whereas in the UN, as a 22-year-old UN staff, I was encouraged by my senior UN staffs to use their first name. To begin with, the place is more informal, it was easier to cut corners and take decisions and get things done. But, obviously there were certain challenges like there was a lot of diversity of nationality, languages, cultures, work ethics, procedures which sometimes in areas like peace keeping were irrelevant because everyone who came there were all action oriented but in other parts in the UN could have been a less happy. In India of course we have a national bureaucracy, but we are really very much rule bound. All this notions of file bound interminable process would be to get tasks done. I would argue that we are less efficient than we should be; given the importance of the tasks here we face in the country.

Sandip Roy: I hear two different stories from reading papers. One is that now in the Modi-era, is that of an empowered bureaucrats. The minister is bypassed, the bureaucrat is empowered. Then we also read a story in The Times of India recently where the bureaucrats are flying back to their states in a reverse migration that hasn’t been seen before. You have a lot of bureaucrat friends. What’s the kind of gossip that you have been hearing?

Shashi Tharoor: The gossip I’m hearing is that empowerment is a myth. Mr. Modi started calling and meeting the secretaries directly and that is what he does even it today. The whole thing has mainly resulted in secretaries not going to play golf; and they make sure that they are known to be in office till 8 or 9’o clock. That’s the major impact. But what they say is that everything that they do ends up in the PMO. They are waiting for the overburdened PM to tell them what they want to do. It’s a much less effective bureaucracy in the present government than it was in the bad old days of the UPA.

Sandip Roy: We have couple of questions from people through twitter. Jaishree Vijayan asks ‘Do you think that you lost your freedom of expression when you became a politician’?

Shashi Tharoor: To some degree yes. When you become an elected politician, you represent the interest of your voters and that of your party, because you are a member of a political organisation. Sometimes your party takes a stand that you may personally disagree with, but you are not at liberty to express your disagreement. I remember when we had this outrage in Parliament with the so called cartoon controversy, of the 1950’s cartoon of Shankar, of Nehru ji flogging a tortoise with Dr. Ambedkar sitting on it. Honestly, I thought that our party’s position was completely absurd and immature that the cartoon was clearly not meant to be denigrating Ambedkar at all. It was a political commentary of the progress of some issues Dr. Ambedkar was in charge of. And what is more, is that Shankar, the person who had drawn the cartoon was a favorite of the Nehru’s who went onto win the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. For us to suddenly make him into this Dalit-hating person was absurd. Given the fact that my party was unanimous in the passion of its views of the subject, I preferred to keep silent rather than to express my views at that time. This is an example of my freedom of expression not being the same.

Sandip Roy: What is the most appropriate definition of economy class in India now? Would you venture?

Shashi Tharoor: I will refrain from any further contributions to the lexicon. I must say that I have travelled Indian economy class are much more spacious and roomy than the equivalent in America.

Sandip Roy: Do you think that the media is responsible for a certain dumbing down.

Shashi Tharoor: We have a media culture now in which breaking news is all about getting TRPs. There are a large number of economically unviable channels competing for the same number of eyeballs. And the only way that they can do it is by over sensationalising. The media that I have seen has certainly not lived up to the ideals that I thought they should have. My father worked for a media organisation, on the managerial side, not on the journalistic side. We grew up believing in the freedom of the press and the importance of the media and I’m sorry to say but the print media is selling news the same way. It is a sad thing what has happened to the media now.

Sandip Roy: With that media culture, after your wife died and the whole controversy erupted, do you feel in all these high profile cases, because there is so much of a media trials that happens at the same time, whether it is this case or the Aarushi case; that in the end this phrase ‘having your day in court’ means nothing in India …

Shashi Tharoor: The horrifying thing about this is that some deeply obnoxious anchors have taken upon themselves as not just to be witness, which is the job of the press, but, witness, prosecutor, judge jury and executioner all into one. The result is that even if the police conclude their work, and come up with the truth, and that is now established in the court of law, there will still be a lingering whiff of suspicion having been created by the lies that has been residually spread in a quest for TRPs. It’s really sad that our media class has become like this. I have actually had many moments about I ought to take some legal action. My lawyers advised me that I cannot do so until the investigation is over. I went through an earlier bout of being falsely maligned in the press during the so called IPL controversy. I chose at that point not to take legal action feeling that this was a free press played its role in a political democracy. Subsequently, when other kinds of maligning occurred, I felt, that at this point one should take action. You will, spend an enormous amount of money and emotional energy and the case won’t be heard for many years. Is it worth it? Now, if the media organisations are going to get away with the expectations that most of the victims won’t be able to take effective action against them then, they will continue to be irresponsible and convict innocent people, ruin lives and break heads and break reputations. I think that at some point, some of us will have to stand up and confront. The Press Council, the Editor’s Guild, all have been very, very weak in confronting all of this, maybe, one will have to look at the legal institutions to see what we can do. This is not just irresponsible; this is dangerous for the society.

Sandip Roy: How did you decide that you won’t go into radio silence like other politicians do when they are surrounded with controversy? You would continue with your professional life, your professional engagement at the risk of appearing to some as brazen?

Shashi Tharoor: That was a risk that I had to take. Initially, in fact I did go into radio silence. Certainly, losing my wife was enough to ensure that. I went off Twitter or any public appearances for almost six weeks, of which in the three weeks, I had physically lost my voice. It was a psychological situation, but I literally couldn’t have been heard anyway. After that, when I finally re-emerged, first of all, I knew that I had done nothing wrong. And there was no reason to be cowed by false accusations into silence. Second, I had an obligation to those who had voted for me to serve their interest and I couldn’t do that in silence. And third, a few months down the road, I had an election to fight. Either I would run away, which some would see as an admission of guilt or I would face the electorate and ask them to judge me for the person that they knew me to be. And I chose consciously the latter course. And in the end, yes, certainly a lot of damage was done. Rival political parties sent squads into the homes of voters to say how you can vote for this man, he murdered his wife. Enough people disbelieved it and I still managed to win the elections.

Sandip Roy: I don’t know about the people in the audience, but, I was surprised you won in an election where many Congress heavyweights were routed and you had the double whammy of having this cloud following you. Were you surprised?

Shashi Tharoor: I wasn’t surprised as I had worked very hard for that. One good thing that came out from my resignation from the External Affairs Ministry was that suddenly I had time for the constituency, that in that job, I didn’t have. I really devoted myself and I got a lot of things done which hadn’t been done by any of my far more illustrious predecessors. This included a national highway bypass project that was stuck for 40 years! The stones had been laid and nothing had been done. I got the whole of the bureaucracy moving and here in Delhi and funding done. That bypass became a reality. Trains for the constituency, a lot of lives were changed for the better that I was able to ensure were done. The voters fortunately remembered that and voted for that and not for other things.

Sandip Roy: That was the election that you won. As somebody, like you said, were very good at taking exams, when you decided to step back to from the elections to the UN Secretary General, withdraw from it, did that sting?

Shashi Tharoor: It was hard. I was just 22 years when I had joined the UN. I really had spent my entire life there. I had an unusually interesting career and I had worked in all the key fields of the UN. Humanitarian works, refugee work, peace keeping, political, been in the Security Councils, worked in the Secretary General’s office, run my own department and all of this stuff. In many ways, I had felt uniquely prepared for that position. But, you know of course I had enough sense to realise that the secretarial elections is not about the best resume, but, it is ultimately a political decision made by handful of member states in the Security Council and you have to accept that those are the basis on which the decision will be made. So, when it happened, I certainly accepted that was the outcome, but it certainly meant a huge change in my life, in my plans, because if I had not contested I had a decade to go at the United Nations. As a career person, I could have continued. And I would have had to reinvent my life at that point. Equally, as I look back, I had a very short campaign of three and a half months, nominated by the government of India in June, which was a bit later than what was ideal for the contest. And many ways, I would look back at the three and a half months and say ‘Should I would have done it?’ But, my answer was a yes. It was worth doing, it was worth trying to do. Then I took refuge in the lesson of The Gita that you really have to do something without the expectation of a reward or without focusing on the outcome. And the outcome turned out to be two votes short: one of which was a permanent member and that was enough to knock me out of the fray, but the effort was worth making. Of course, there was a consolation that out of the seven candidates, who included a deputy PM, clutch of foreign ministers, a sitting president of a country and a prince, I still managed to come second beating a lot of them.

Sandip Roy: Since we talked about the flawed legal system, when the photographs were flashed out in the media and such terrible things in the course of the investigations, how much faith you have in the system to vindicate you?

Shashi Tharoor: One has to believe in the system. It’s the system that we have got. I very much have co-operated throughout with the investigations, whatever their requests, they have raided my home and taken away my phone. I have co-operated with all of this. I have even done something which I never thought that I would ever do… giving them access to all my emails, which they have dutifully copied onto a hard drive. I believe that in a fair minded probe, that there’s absolutely no way in which I can be found wanting in terms of co-operation. The police themselves had said so. The supposition that a crime has occurred rest entirely on the word of an extremely suspect individual, a doctor facing charges of plagiarism and incompetence. It is something that the police have to investigate, whether there was a crime at all. That’s what they are investigating. This gentleman has alleged that there was poisoning… without any visual evidence and no chemical evidence of poisoning. There will be an entire process. I am sure that at the end of it all, reasonable conclusion will be found and whatever that conclusion is, I will then have to draw my own stand on whether this has been a fair process in the end or not. But, I start off with the premise that the people will be fair. In matters of life and death, these are not issues where biases or political agendas or other issues should come in and determine the conclusion. I am certainly hoping and believing in the fairness of the integrity of the system.

Shashi Tharoor is a hero: Here’s what this says about manic-depressive India

The near-unanimous applause received by Shashi Tharoor for his Oxford speech on whether Britain owed reparations to India for its colonial era depredations tells us more about ourselves than the Congress MP’s oratorical or debating skills.

The man who has repeatedly been sent to the doghouse by his own party for speaking his mind, and, more recently, by a segment of the media that has decided he had something to do with his wife Sunanda’s death, found himself declared a hero by former critics, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi complimenting him for it.

Image courtesy: PTIImage courtesy: PTI

Image courtesy: PTI

The deficit in the area of applause came from his party leadership, which has so far said nothing on it. Most probably the top leadership does not want heroes outside the family. On the contrary, Sonia Gandhi is alleged to have “scolded” Tharoor for obliquely criticizing his party’s disruptions in parliament – something he denied on TV yesterday (23 July) – just when he was becoming the toast of the town.

While we can leave aside the Gandhi family’s churlishness in failing to compliment one of its own MPs, what needs analysis is why India found Tharoor to be a hero on the basis of one speech when it was willing to believe the worst about him a few days earlier.

My own pop psychology analysis leads me to conclude the following: Indians are desperately seeking heroes we can all admire. Fractious as we are among ourselves on anything and everything, we tend to be manic-depressive when seeking or debunking heroes. Our champ-to-chump cycles of public approval and disapproval are extremely volatile. MS Dhoni can overnight turn from Captain Cool to Captain Fool who can do nothing right, and Tharoor can become instant hero after being consigned to media pariah status for a while. There is never a reversal to the mean in our case: between hero and zero there are no grey zones of balanced assessment; Narendra Modi can be a development messiah one day, or a fascist Hitler the next.

Not only that, we tend to read the same act differently when it involves two different people. If Shashi Tharoor’s speech had been made by, say, Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS, it would probably be seen as boorish behaviour on the soil of his gracious British hosts or the worst type of jingoism.

The sheer variability of our assessments of people and situations indicates deep insecurities and anxieties in us. These insecurities are manifested in how we seek to designate people as heroes, and what we seek in leaders.

Even though Indians have learnt to live more comfortably with diversity and difference than the west, we have still not been able to find commonality in who we find heroic and who we don’t. Hence the need to find heroes in cricket and sport and in speeches against British colonialism. Our Indianness is stronger when we can define a common enemy rather than in any positive purpose. We can’t find common ground on even a Nehru or a Gandhi. The Tharoor speech carried the day with all of us because everyone could agree on Britain as the villain of the piece. He would have been criticized by the Right or the Left if he had chosen to speak on one of our national personalities – whether Nehru or Patel or Netaji or Savarkar. Our internal diversity and mistrust prevents us from agreeing on common heroes. Today the only consensus we have is on Ambedkar, and even this is more because many people don’t want to be politically incorrect about a Dalit icon

Apart from a desperate search for common heroes whom we debunk equally callously when our mood shifts, Indians are schizophrenic on the need for strong leaders. We crave strong leaders who project power because we know otherwise there will be no order in politics (or in any sphere of public life). At the same time, we dislike the stifling nature of the personality cult that afflicts all political parties. Today there is almost no political party that does not accept one-party-one-leader as the norm. Out of the two exceptions, BJP and the Communists, the BJP under Modi has headed in this direction with astonishing political results, and the one party still to embrace this cult (CPM) is heading for the political wilderness.

More than being true democrats, what emerges is this reality: our extreme diversity makes democracy a necessity. What we truly desire in not debate or discussion, but the veto over other people’s preferences. Our insecurities and lack of self-esteem inclines us to accept benign autocracy over collective leadership and democratic debate; and we still put more faith in individuals and caste groups than in institutions and the rule of law. The argumentative india is less about argumentation and debate and more about finding a reason to oppose those we don’t like – as our politicians demonstrate every day.

Tharoor brought us together for reasons that may not last. We are yet to leave our insecurities and low self-esteem behind. This is why we are inclined to see insults when none may be intended; this is why we mobilise around convicted criminals rather than accept the neutrality of law. We have a long way to go in cultivating a true democratic spirit where the law and institutions are above everything else.

Everyone hates the British: How Shashi Tharoor’s suave Oxford speech united a polarised India

The British Empire can do something even Narendra Modi cannot.

It can unite the country.

The Prime Minister did namaste to his predecessor Manmohan Singh and shook hands with others in the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha as he tried to turn on the charm offensive. But it did not really work to mute the chorus demanding resignations.

Meanwhile Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s video of a speech at an Oxford Union Society debate arguing that Britain owes reparations has gone viral, embraced on all sides of the political spectrum, earning Tharoor a nod from Modi-ji himself. (Though his party chief Sonia Gandhi is apparently miffed with him for not approving of the Congress’ gung-ho obstruction strategy in parliament.)

Shashi Tharoor during the Oxford Union speech.Shashi Tharoor during the Oxford Union speech.

Shashi Tharoor during the Oxford Union speech.

It proves one thing. Everybody loves to hate the British empire. Nearly seven decades after Independence age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite utility.

Tharoor is at his Oxonian best in the speech marshaling facts and figures with bon mots like the seasoned debater that he is, rebutting his opponents with witty repartee and brandishing statistics like weapons to give that perfectly-honed cutting edge to his arguments.

The British had the gall to call (Robert Clive) Clive of India as if he belonged to the country when in fact much of the country belonged to him. India’s share of the world economy by the time the British arrived on its shores was 23 percent. By the time the British left it was down to below 4 percent. The Industrial Revolution in Britain was premised on deindustrialising India.

We literally paid for our own oppression.

It’s a bit rich to oppress, torture, maim, enslave people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it.

The arguments are not new. Without taking away at all from Tharoor’s unquestioned panache in a debating forum, what’s most fascinating about it all, is the fervour with which the speech has been embraced on all sides. Tharoor is not truth-telling to a stunned House of Lords in London or speaking at the UN on some resolution about reparations. He is doing what a good debater is supposed to do whether it’s at the Oxford Union or the Calcutta Club – scoring points. And he does it very well since his side won the debate.

Tharoor has given many other speeches laced with wit and erudition. Those have not gone quite viral in the same way. In fact, what has tended to go viral are the witticisms that have landed him in hot water. He made his cattle class quip in 2009 and even to this day it’s still misunderstood by people who think he was snootily calling them livestock. But this speech, which did not really make waves when the Oxford Union debate actually happened, has struck a national chord once it went online.

Even in 2015 we are still not quite past the Raj hangover. We remain the step-children of the Raj. And while nothing can excuse colonialism or whitewash its sins, the Raj is a handy whipping boy for all sides.

For the Congress and its supporters, the British Raj was always the textbook villain. Their great heroes were the ones that snatched Independence from the grasp of the British Empire. And even more convenient, dwelling on the depredations of the Big Bad Burrasahib allows the Congress to wring its hands and shrug away its own failings after 1947. As an editorial in the Times of India points out “From a contemporary standpoint, it’s disappointing that almost seven decades of independence have made little difference to India’s economic size in relation to the world. And for much of this period Tharoor’s party, Congress, was in power.” The Congress’ standard excuse for the infamous Hindu rate of growth was colonial trauma. Two centuries of colonial ravages could not be undone in two decades or six.

For the Hindu nationalist side, Tharoor’s speech resonates differently. They daydream about the India that could have been. The one that would have already been a superpower had foreign invaders not looted the country and caged the golden bird. In that narrative the foreign invader is not just Robert Clive and his merry men but Babur and his descendants. The period of colonial rule they talk about is much longer than the two hundred years Tharoor is talking about. But the arc of the argument is one that reverberates with them. A glorious India that had 23 percent of the world’s economy, an India which understood plastic surgery and genetics and television and airplanes long before the rest of the world got on board, an India that was poised on the threshold of greatness. The arrival of Narendra Modi, for them, has been a moment about reclaiming control of that narrative. Make in India is part of a dream of that renaissance because India’s rich civilisation had been left out of the other Renaissance – the one with a capital R. When Kalidasa was writing exquisite poems Europe was busy with Visigoths ransacking the flailing Roman Empire and not paying attention.

The wonder of this speech is not the person making it. This is not about the reinvention of Shashi Tharoor as the man being lionised by the same media that was hounding him even a month ago. The man making the speech is the Shashi Tharoor we have always known – suave, articulate and a consummate debater. The wonder is really the speech that has found its sweet spot in the middle of India’s fevered polarised politics without really intending to do so. It was meant for the audience at the Oxford Union but now it’s turned out to have what politicians dream of — something for everyone .

While the reparations he argues for are for the sins from centuries past, there is a bit that might have far more contemporary relevance for our politics today. At the end of the speech making a passionate case for even symbolic reparations Tharoor says “The abilty to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry will go a far far longer way than some percentage of GDP.”

Now if only some of the politicians furiously butting heads in parliament and dredging up each other’s scams to shame each other would pay attention to that bit, we could all get moving with the nation’s business.

In case you missed it, watch the video here:

Why Shashi Tharoor’s a hero and what it says about manic-depressive India

The near-unanimous applause received by Shashi Tharoor for his Oxford speech on whether Britain owed reparations to India for its colonial era depredations tells us more about ourselves than the Congress MP’s oratorical or debating skills.

The man who has repeatedly been sent to the doghouse by his own party for speaking his mind, and, more recently, by a segment of the media that has decided he had something to do with his wife Sunanda’s death, found himself declared a hero by former critics, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi complimenting him for it.

Image courtesy: PTIImage courtesy: PTI

Image courtesy: PTI

The deficit in the area of applause came from his party leadership, which has so far said nothing on it. Most probably the top leadership does not want heroes outside the family. On the contrary, Sonia Gandhi is alleged to have “scolded” Tharoor for obliquely criticizing his party’s disruptions in parliament – something he denied on TV yesterday (23 July) – just when he was becoming the toast of the town.

While we can leave aside the Gandhi family’s churlishness in failing to compliment one of its own MPs, what needs analysis is why India found Tharoor to be a hero on the basis of one speech when it was willing to believe the worst about him a few days earlier.

My own pop psychology analysis leads me to conclude the following: Indians are desperately seeking heroes we can all admire. Fractious as we are among ourselves on anything and everything, we tend to be manic-depressive when seeking or debunking heroes. Our champ-to-chump cycles of public approval and disapproval are extremely volatile. MS Dhoni can overnight turn from Captain Cool to Captain Fool who can do nothing right, and Tharoor can become instant hero after being consigned to media pariah status for a while. There is never a reversal to the mean in our case: between hero and zero there are no grey zones of balanced assessment; Narendra Modi can be a development messiah one day, or a fascist Hitler the next.

Not only that, we tend to read the same act differently when it involves two different people. If Shashi Tharoor’s speech had been made by, say, Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS, it would probably be seen as boorish behaviour on the soil of his gracious British hosts or the worst type of jingoism.

The sheer variability of our assessments of people and situations indicates deep insecurities and anxieties in us. These insecurities are manifested in how we seek to designate people as heroes, and what we seek in leaders.

Even though Indians have learnt to live more comfortably with diversity and difference than the west, we have still not been able to find commonality in who we find heroic and who we don’t. Hence the need to find heroes in cricket and sport and in speeches against British colonialism. Our Indianness is stronger when we can define a common enemy rather than in any positive purpose. We can’t find common ground on even a Nehru or a Gandhi. The Tharoor speech carried the day with all of us because everyone could agree on Britain as the villain of the piece. He would have been criticized by the Right or the Left if he had chosen to speak on one of our national personalities – whether Nehru or Patel or Netaji or Savarkar. Our internal diversity and mistrust prevents us from agreeing on common heroes. Today the only consensus we have is on Ambedkar, and even this is more because many people don’t want to be politically incorrect about a Dalit icon

Apart from a desperate search for common heroes whom we debunk equally callously when our mood shifts, Indians are schizophrenic on the need for strong leaders. We crave strong leaders who project power because we know otherwise there will be no order in politics (or in any sphere of public life). At the same time, we dislike the stifling nature of the personality cult that afflicts all political parties. Today there is almost no political party that does not accept one-party-one-leader as the norm. Out of the two exceptions, BJP and the Communists, the BJP under Modi has headed in this direction with astonishing political results, and the one party still to embrace this cult (CPM) is heading for the political wilderness.

More than being true democrats, what emerges is this reality: our extreme diversity makes democracy a necessity. What we truly desire in not debate or discussion, but the veto over other people’s preferences. Our insecurities and lack of self-esteem inclines us to accept benign autocracy over collective leadership and democratic debate; and we still put more faith in individuals and caste groups than in institutions and the rule of law. The argumentative india is less about argumentation and debate and more about finding a reason to oppose those we don’t like – as our politicians demonstrate every day.

Tharoor brought us together for reasons that may not last. We are yet to leave our insecurities and low self-esteem behind. This is why we are inclined to see insults when none may be intended; this is why we mobilise around convicted criminals rather than accept the neutrality of law. We have a long way to go in cultivating a true democratic spirit where the law and institutions are above everything else.

PM Modi leaves ‘positive impression’ during foreign visits: Shashi Tharoor

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor again praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, saying he leaves a “positive impression” during his foreign visits and that he does a “right thing” in which ever country he travels.

Manit Balmiki
dna
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor again praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, saying he leaves a “positive impression” during his foreign visits and that he does a “right thing” in which ever country he travels.Tharoor, a former Minister of State for External affairs who has earned his party”s wrath before for his praise of Modi, however, said, there has been no change on India”s foreign policy front as the prime minister has been pursuing the ones framed by the previous UPA government.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The personal energy that Mr Modi has brought to the diplomacy….he has visited 24 countries in last one year… Doing so he does a right thing in which ever country he goes to leave a positive impression and I think that has to be acknowledged.”Other thing we should acknowledge that he has done something in which I had criticised Indian governments in the past enough of leveraging our soft power rather than nearly take it for granted,” the Congress MP said, citing instances like the International Yoga Day. Tharoor was speaking at noted scholar C Raja Mohan”s launch of Book ”Modi”s World, Expanding India”s Spehere of Influence”.He also said that the prime minister has taken a stand different from BJP on some key diplomatic issues.”The Indo-Nuclear deal…the BJP even brought an no-confidence vote…the same BJP that refused to continue any discussion about the Land Bangladesh Agreeement and has ratified. It”s not just a continuation of the (UPA) policy, but a reversal of the BJP”s policy, which to my mind a good indication that foreign policy is different from sitting in the South Block and sitting in Gandhinagar,” he added.Tharoor’s appreciative statements on Modi came against the backdrop of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s relentless campaign against the contentious land acquisition bill and also his attacks on the prime minister on a range of issues. Tharoor had earlier said that in the Prime Minister “we are all seeing a master communicator at work”.Tharoor”s praise of Modi quite a few times was frowned upon by Congress. Tharoor had also accepted the Prime Minister”s invitation to join the ”Clean India” campaign.

Resumption of talks: Need to ascertain if Pakistan is serious, says Shashi Tharoor

Commenting on the decision for a fresh beginning of talks at an interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russia, Tharoor said that the government should first understand how serious Pakistan was, particularly on the issue of terrorism.

Sounding a cautious note after India and Pakistan decided to revive their stalled dialogue process, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the government should ascertain the neighbouring country’s seriousness on the issue of terrorism while going ahead on bilateral ties.Commenting on the decision for a fresh beginning of talks at an interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russia, Tharoor said that the government should first understand how serious Pakistan was, particularly on the issue of terrorism. “We need to know the intention. Pakistan is such a country where the army decides things and, when the army comes into action, then it becomes difficult for the civilian government to stop them,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Dialogue is important, but the subject has to be clear. Terrorism is our first priority. If Pakistan is not serious, then what is the benefit of holding talks? There has been no useful cooperation so far,” said Tharoor told reporters here. He was in the city to address a seminar on ‘Soft Power of India’, organised by FICCI FLO. Speaking at the event, the former Union minister welcomed the Modi government’s initiative to promote Yoga at the international level, but said that “running after a world record” was unwarranted. He also said that the BJP-led government should take a hard stand on such statements by the party’s leader which reflect narrow-mindedness.”Some people want to pretend India is a Hindu country, but can India be acknowledged without the poetry of Ghalib, qawwali or cricket?” he asked. On the Lalit Modi controversy and Congress’s demand for the resignation of Union Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, he said it was extremely unusual that there was no action against the duo. Under UPA rule, leaders were asked to resign over allegations, he said. Tharoor said that the legal process should continue and the issue should not be forgotten.

Sunanda Pushkar death probe: Six, including Tharoor’s driver, undergo polygraph test

New Delhi: Six persons including three “prime witnesses” in the Sunanda Pushkar death case were put through lie detector test, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said today amid indication that a number of other witnesses may be asked to undergo the examination.

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTIFile photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

“Our investigation is continuing and whatever is required to be done will be done. So far we have carried out polygraph tests on six persons. If there is any requirement we will conduct further tests,” Bassi said.

Last month, Delhi Police had approached a city court for permission to carry out polygraph test on Narain Singh, who is domestic help of Sunanda’s husband and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, driver Bajrangi and family friend Sanjay Dewan.

The court had later allowed the investigators to conduct the polygraph test on the three suspects with their consent.

Three others — S K Sharma, Vikas Ahlawat and Sunil Takru, had also undergone the polygraph test.

Asked whether investigators were planning to subject Tharoor to polygraph test, Bassi said he would not like to “speculate”.

“I would not like to speculate but as and when anything of this sort is required we will let you know. But unnecessary speculation is not advisable,” he told reporters.

Tharoor has been questioned thrice in this case. Sunanda was found dead in the hotel suite on January 17 last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.

Investigators said they are trying hard to make breakthrough in the high-profile case and are waiting a report from Federal Bureau of Investigation to know about the kind of poison found in Sunanda’s body.

Her viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in Washington in February after an AIIMS panel concluded that the poison cannot be detected in Indian labs.

Bassi said the report of the polygraph test on the witnesses is awaited.

Police had accused Singh, Bajrangi and Dewan of concealing “material facts” like a power cut in room no. 345 at Leela Hotel on January 17, 2014 around 7 PM where Pushkar was found dead around 8 PM.

In January, police had claimed that Sunanda (51) was poisoned, and registered a murder case against unknown persons.

PTI

Sunanda Pushkar case: Six undergoes polygraph case

Last month, Delhi Police had approached a city court for permission to carry out polygraph test on Narain Singh, who is domestic help of Sunanda’s husband and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, driver Bajrangi and family friend Sanjay Dewan.

Six persons including three “prime witnesses” in the Sunanda Pushkar death case were put through lie detector test, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said amid indication that a number of other witnesses may be asked to undergo the examination.”Our investigation is continuing and whatever is required to be done will be done. So far we have carried out polygraph tests on six persons. If there is any requirement we will conduct further tests,” Bassi said. Last month, Delhi Police had approached a city court for permission to carry out polygraph test on Narain Singh, who is domestic help of Sunanda’s husband and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, driver Bajrangi and family friend Sanjay Dewan.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court had later allowed the investigators to conduct the polygraph test on the three suspects with their consent. Three others — S K Sharma, Vikas Ahlawat and Sunil Takru, had also undergone the polygraph test.Asked whether investigators were planning to subject Tharoor to polygraph test, Bassi said he would not like to “speculate”.”I would not like to speculate but as and when anything of this sort is required we will let you know. But unnecessary speculation is not advisable,” he told reporters. Tharoor has been questioned thrice in this case. Sunanda was found dead in the hotel suite on January 17 last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.Investigators said they are trying hard to make breakthrough in the high-profile case and are waiting a report from Federal Bureau of Investigation to know about the kind of poison found in Sunanda’s body. Her viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in Washington in February after an AIIMS panel concluded that the poison cannot be detected in Indian labs.Bassi said the report of the polygraph test on the witnesses is awaited. Police had accused Singh, Bajrangi and Dewan of concealing “material facts” like a power cut in room no. 345 at Leela Hotel on January 17, 2014 around 7 PM where Pushkar was found dead around 8 PM. In January, police had claimed that Sunanda (51) was poisoned, and registered a murder case against unknown persons.

Sunanda Pushkar death probe: SIT carries out polygraph test on 3 key witnesses

Last month, the three witnesses–Shashi Tharoor’s domestic help Narain Singh, driver Bajrangi and friend Sanjay Dewan — had agreed to undergo the lie-detector tests.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) carries out polygraph test on 3 key witnesses–Sanjay Dewan, Narain Singh and Bajrangi– in Sunanda Pushkar death probe.Last month, the three witnesses had agreed to undergo the lie-detector tests.A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Delhi Police had earlier said that Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s domestic help Narain Singh, driver Bajrangi and family friend Sanjay Dewan might be “hiding something” including “material facts” and asked a Delhi court for permission to subject them to a polygraph test.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The counsel appearing for the three suspects told the court that their clients have fully cooperated with the police. “The Supreme Court has said that this (polygraph test) is not a relied upon evidence but if the police wants to do this, we are giving the consent,” the counsel said. The counsel also told the magistrate that police should inform the court regarding the questions which they want to ask during the test.”My clients are ready to undergo the polygraph test because we don’t want to give the impression that we are running away from the probe,” the counsel said. The police had said in the plea that on January 17, 2014 Tharoor’s close friend Sanjay Dewan came to the hotel at 5 pm and remained there till the discovery of Pushkar’s death. He could not give plausible reason for cancelling his trip to Mumbai and his coming to the hotel in Delhi, it had said.”He remained silent about the power cut on January 17, 2014 at about 7 pm in room no. 345 at Leela Hotel just before the discovery of the death of Sunanda Pushkar, while he was very much present in the room along with Shashi Tharoor,” the application had said, adding that he did not properly reply to questions regarding the injuries on Pushkar’s body.The police had claimed he did not wake up Pushkar for two and a half hours and also not explained why he preferred Dr Rajan Mohan, who came all the way from Patel Nagar in West Delhi, over the hotel doctor who could come immediately.It had alleged that Dewan did not give proper explanation for sending driver Bajrangi to bring Dr Mohan even without meeting Pushkar in her room. Police had said that Dewan did not produce his cell phone which was required to retrieve the text messages exchanged between him and Tharoor as per the call details. “It shows that he is hiding the material facts related to this case,” it had said.Regarding suspect Narain, police ahd claimed it was found that he had accompanied the Tharoor couple from KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, and remained with Pushkar in the hotel from January 15-17, 2014 till her death and that he was very well-acquainted with the facts relating to her death.”But he did not disclose how the injury marks had taken place on her body and relations between Tharoor and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar which was a bone of discord between the couple”, the plea had said.It had added that Narain cited the reason for Pushkar’s stay in the hotel to be the ongoing repair work at their residence in Lodhi Estate but it was found that the work was over before her arrival in Delhi on January 15, 2014, and alleged that he had tried to “mislead” the investigation.The police had further said that Narain remained silent on the “issue” on which Pushkar wanted to “expose” Tharoor in a press conference which was to be held on January 17, 2014. It had also said the mobile phone recovered from Narain belonged to Tharoor who could not explain the reason why he was keeping it.The police had mentioned similar reasons with regard to Bajrangi and said he was present in the hotel on January 16-17, 2014 and was acquainted with the facts of the case. “He (Bajrangi) did not disclose about the injury marks present on the body of deceased Sunanda Puskhar. He also did not disclose about relation of Shashi Tharoor with Pakistan journalist Mehr Tarar which was an apple of discord between the couple,” it had said.Tharoor has been questioned thrice in this case so far. Pushkar was found dead in the hotel suite on January 17 last year, days after a public spat on Twitter where she accused her husband of having an affair with the Pakistani journalist. In the first week of January this year, police claimed that Sunanda Pushkar (51) was poisoned, and registered a murder case against unknown persons. A Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to probe the case, is learnt to be looking into a possible link with the multi-million dollar Indian Premier League.

Was pressurised while preparing Sunananda’s post-mortem report: AIIMS forensic head Gupta

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Sunanda case: AIIMS seeks Delhi HC permission to replace forensic head Sudhir Kumar Gupta

AIIMS has moved Delhi High Court seeking permission to replace its forensic department head Sudhir Kumar Gupta, who has alleged discrimination after he claimed to have refused to act unprofessionally in the Sunanda Pushkar autopsy matter.

AIIMS has moved Delhi High Court seeking permission to replace its forensic department head Sudhir Kumar Gupta, who has alleged discrimination after he claimed to have refused to act unprofessionally in the Sunanda Pushkar autopsy matter.All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has sought the court’s permission to appoint Dr DN Bhardwaj as the new head of its Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department. The court is slated to hear the matter on July 23.The application has been moved against the backdrop of the court’s March 25 direction by which it had asked the Institute to take its permission before replacing Gupta.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court’s March 25 order had come on Gupta’s plea challenging a March 4 decision of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) rejecting his charge that one Dr OP Murty was promoted after purging his seniority, with the purpose of obtaining a “tailor-made report” in the sensational murder case of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor.He also alleged that AIIMS had illegally purged his seniority with “malafide intention” to punish him for refusing to act unprofessionally in the autopsy matter.In its application, AIIMS said that Bhardwaj was senior to Gupta by four years and that Gupta had not challenged the former’s seniority either before CAT or in the high court.Absolving former Union minister and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of the charge of any wrong-doing, CAT had said, “the email sent by Shashi Tharoor, the then Union Minister, to Dr Rajiv Bhasin, on January 26, 2014, and the notice dated June 2, 2014 issued by Dr Adarsh Kumar, Member Secretary, Medical Board, AIIMS do not reveal anything to show that any pressure was put on the applicant to submit a tailor-made autopsy report in Sunanda Pushkar’s case.” In his complaint before the tribunal, Gupta had claimed he was asked to prepare tailor-made autopsy report giving clean chit, irrespective of his professional conclusions, after conducting autopsy on Pushkar’s body.The government had denied the allegations before CAT on August 27 last year, stating that the matter regarding Murty’s promotion was referred to the Department of Personnel and Training and he was promoted only after its clarification.Gupta’s plea has also alleged that Murty had “started creating difficulty in the routine functioning of Gupta as HoD, claiming seniority illegally conferred upon him.” He has contended that the CAT findings were “illegal and contrary to the law and facts and circumstances of the present case”.

Sunanda Pushkar death case: Delhi Police to receive FBI’s viscera report within a month

New Delhi: Delhi Police are expecting to get former union minister Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar’s viscera report from US-based Federal Bureau of Investigation in the next 15 to 30 days, which is likely to throw light on the kind of poison that caused her death as concluded by AIIMS panel of doctors.

Police Commissioner BS Bassi said the polygraph test on three key witnesses in the case will be conducted in the next seven to ten days.

Sunanda Pushkar in a file photo. PTISunanda Pushkar in a file photo. PTI

Sunanda Pushkar in a file photo. PTI

The investigators hoped both the viscera report and polygraph test will give a direction to the probe into the high-profile case.

Sunanda’s viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in Washington in February to determine the type of poison that is suspected to have caused her death. An AIIMS medical board had identified poisoning as the reason behind her death but did not mention the type of the poison.

They had listed some kind of poisons most of which were radioactive isotopes that cannot be detected by labs in India.

Highly-placed sources said that the final viscera report is expected in the next 15 to 30 days.

Bassi rubbished media reports that the viscera report has been received.

“Certain media reports that we have received Sunanda’s viscera sample from FBI are baseless. FBI is aware of our need. There is a laid down procedure and guidelines which are followed in such cases before which the findings cannot be reached upon. We are still waiting for the report,” he told reporters.

Asked when the police would conduct the polygraph test on three witnesses, Bassi said that they have asked experts to give them a date and they hope to get it done in a week or ten days.

When questioned whether police will move court for polygraph test on other witnesses including Shashi Tharoor, Bassi said that he would not like to “speculate” on the issue. Tharoor has been questioned thrice in this case so far.

Sunanda was found dead in a five-star hotel suite here on January 17 last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.

Three suspects in Sunanda Pushkar murder case, two of them employed by Tharoor and the third, a friend, will undergo lie detector test after a Delhi court had on May 20 allowed investigators to conduct it following their consent.

Police have accused the three of concealing “material facts” like a power cut in room no. 345 at Leela Hotel on January 17, 2014 around 7 PM where Sunanda was found dead around 8 PM.

PTI

Shashi Tharoor calls reporters ‘scum’, later says it was directed only at one channel

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor lost his cool on Wednesday when he was repeatedly asked questions regarding the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar, and called media reporters ‘self appointed liars and scum’.

Shashi Tharoor. PTI/File imageShashi Tharoor. PTI/File image

Shashi Tharoor. PTI/File image

“I speak to the police, not to self appointed liars and scum,” said Tharoor when a reporter repeatedly asked him to comment on the ongoing case.

The incident comes after a court allowed the police to carry out lie-detector tests on three aides in connection with Pushkar’s death.

Later, Tharoor took to Twitter to further criticize the reporter.

But on Thursday morning, Tharoor took to the social media site again to clarify that his comments were directed only to one channel and not towards the media in general.

Sunanda Pushkar murder: Delhi Police may question Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar

New Delhi: The Delhi Police Special Investigation Team that is investigating the Sunanda Pushkar death case on Thursday said it may question Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over whom she supposedly fought with her husband Shashi Tharoor before her death last year.

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTIFile photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi said Tarar may be questioned, if required, as she may throw light in the case.

“If required, we will speak to her as she is a relevant person who can throw light in the case. Our efforts will be to talk to her,” Bassi said when asked whether the SIT probing the case will examine her.

Sources in the police said that a formal request may be sent to her through “official channels” to join the investigations.

Tarar had two months back said that she was ready to answer any question on the issue.

“If they want to ask me anything… If they want to ask me any question whatsoever that they think… I can answer,” 46-year-old Tarar had said a day after Delhi Police had registered a murder case into Sunanda’s death.

52-year-old Sunanda was found dead in her suite at a five star hotel in South Delhi on the night of 17 January last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.

Tharoor was questioned by the investigators last month.

Bassi said investigators have also asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US to complete examination of Sunanda’s viscera as soon as possible.

A senior police official had gone to the US to give the sample of Sunanda’s viscera to the FBI.

The investigators want to confirm the kind of poison which was found in Sunanda’s body by a panel of doctors of AIIMS. The AIIMS report could not find out the kind of poison in her body.

“We had told them (FBI) to do it as early as possible. They follow certain procedures and processes. So it may take some time,” Bassi said.

He said, if required, Tharoor will “definitely” be called for questioning again.

He said the certain gadgets obtained by the investigators are also being examined.

PTI

Sunanda Pushkar murder case: Delhi Police may question Mehr Tarar

New Delhi: The Delhi Police Special Investigation Team that is investigating the Sunanda Pushkar death case on Thursday said it may question Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over whom she supposedly fought with her husband Shashi Tharoor before her death last year.

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTIFile photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

File photo of Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi said Tarar may be questioned, if required, as she may throw light in the case.

“If required, we will speak to her as she is a relevant person who can throw light in the case. Our efforts will be to talk to her,” Bassi said when asked whether the SIT probing the case will examine her.

Sources in the police said that a formal request may be sent to her through “official channels” to join the investigations.

Tarar had two months back said that she was ready to answer any question on the issue.

“If they want to ask me anything… If they want to ask me any question whatsoever that they think… I can answer,” 46-year-old Tarar had said a day after Delhi Police had registered a murder case into Sunanda’s death.

52-year-old Sunanda was found dead in her suite at a five star hotel in South Delhi on the night of 17 January last year, a day after she was involved in a spat with Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.

Tharoor was questioned by the investigators last month.

Bassi said investigators have also asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US to complete examination of Sunanda’s viscera as soon as possible.

A senior police official had gone to the US to give the sample of Sunanda’s viscera to the FBI.

The investigators want to confirm the kind of poison which was found in Sunanda’s body by a panel of doctors of AIIMS. The AIIMS report could not find out the kind of poison in her body.

“We had told them (FBI) to do it as early as possible. They follow certain procedures and processes. So it may take some time,” Bassi said.

He said, if required, Tharoor will “definitely” be called for questioning again.

He said the certain gadgets obtained by the investigators are also being examined.

PTI

Head of forensic dept didn’t face any pressure in Sunanda Pushkar case: AIIMS

New Delhi: The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Wednesday rejected allegations levelled by its Head of Department of Forensic Medicine Sudhir Gupta that he was pressurised to manipulate the post mortem report of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of then Union Minister Shashi Tharoor.

Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

Sunanda Pushkar. PTI

“The AIIMS administration categorically denies any such allegation that there was any attempt to pressurise Sudhir Gupta to change the post-mortem report,” it said.

When asked if Gupta faced pressure from outside, as he has hinted in an affidavit, AIIMS spokesperson Amit Gupta told reporters the administration was not aware of it but if there was any pressure from outside then he will have to bring evidence on it.

“We have no evidence that he was under pressure from outside and how he reacted to that,” the spokesperson and Media and Protocol Department Head Neerja Bhatla said.

The premier health institute did not rule out disciplinary action against Gupta, saying “if AIIMS feels or if we get any directive then action will be taken as per rules”.

Gupta has filed an affidavit before Central Administrative Tribunal against the move to promote a faculty member which, he alleged, was started under the then UPA government so that he could be removed as the head of the department as he did not change the post mortem report.

Sunanda (52) was found dead in a 5-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of 17 January, a day after her twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over an alleged affair with Tharoor.

Gupta refused to comment on his reported allegation, saying he has already stated the facts before the “competent” authorities.

“I don’t want to comment on this issue. It is a legal matter, a serious issue, I cannot share with the media. I am a government servant. Whatever I wanted to say, I have said at a competent place,” he said.

Gupta, who was heading the panel that conducted Sunanda’s postmortem, has reportedly alleged he was pressurised to show that her death was natural which he resisted.

The autopsy report had mentioned more than a dozen injury marks on Sunanda’s both hands and an abrasion on her cheek which suggests a “use of blunt force”, besides a “deep teeth bite” on the edge of her left palm. Viscera samples were preserved after the autopsy at AIIMS and were sent to CFSL for further tests.

The CFSL report hinted at drug poisoning but its findings were not conclusive enough to file an FIR in the case, according to police.

PTI

Sunanda Pushkar murder: Tharoor appears before SIT for third time in two days

New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Friday appeared for the third time in two days before the Special Investigation Team(SIT) that is probing his wife Sunanda’s mysterious death.

Tharoor visited Sarojini Nagar Police Station informing the SIT that he was leaving for Thiruvananthapuram later in the day.

Shashi Tharoor. AFPShashi Tharoor. AFP

Shashi Tharoor. AFP

Police sources said that the SIT has asked Tharoor to keep them informed about his movements and contact details so that the team can get in touch with him whenever they need him during investigation. However, police has not put any restrictions on his movement as of now.

The former Union Minister reached the police station around 1 pm and spent about half-an-hour. Although he was not formally questioned during the visit, but police did ask him some supplementary questions regards what he had told them yesterday during two rounds of questioning that lasted nearly seven hours.

Meanwhile, sources also said that a team from the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police is in Mumbai to look into the business model of defunct IPL Kochi franchise and see whether there was anything fishy in its financial transactions. The team is also likely to meet BCCI officials in this regard.

Yesterday’s questioning of Tharoor was mainly focused on the IPL controversy which had broken out in early 2010 when he was minister of state for external affairs.

There were allegations that he had “misused” his office to ensure that Rs 70 crore, which was equivalent to 19 percent equity in IPL Kochi franchise Rendezvous Sports, was paid to Sunanda, a charge denied by him.

Tharoor was yesterday quizzed for nearly seven hours, spread over two rounds including for two hours late in the night during which he faced tough questions mainly on IPL controversy.

The questioning of Tharoor by a five-member SIT team took place at the Anti Auto Theft Squad (AATS) office in Vasant Vihar in South Delhi.

Delhi Police had earlier examined the former Union minister on 19 January.

Another round of questioning of Tharoor may take place over the weekend, police sources said yesterday.

Tharoor’s interrogation came on a day when Sunanda’s viscera sample was sent to a FBI laboratory in the US for further probe.

Tharoor’s domestic help Bajrangi and Narayan Singh, his common friend Sanjay Dewan, his PS Praveen Kumar and Rajat Mohan (cardiologist of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital) were questioned along with him earlier in the day. Besides, they were also separately quizzed.

Sunanda was found dead in her suite at a five star hotel in south Delhi on the night of 17 January, 2014, a day after she was involved in a spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on microblogging website Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Tharoor.

Police had last month filed a murder case and formed an SIT to probe the case. Police sources also said that Tharoor submitted some computer data — which included emails and other information in digital form — pertaining to the communication he had with various individuals and authorities before and after Sunanda’s death.

Asked about the matter, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, said, “Tharoor was called today and we took some information and data. We will now analyse the data and see… We gathered detailed information from him yesterday, now his statement will be analysed.”

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters at Thiruvananthapuram airport this evening, Tharoor refused to divulge details of his questioning while maintaining that he was “available” for the police whenever they wanted to speak to him.

“I am not getting into any details of anything which is between me and the police. When the investigation is on, it’s my duty to cooperate with the investigation, nothing else. As far as I am concerned, every Indian citizen has the duty to cooperate with the authorities as they do their duty. That’s what I am doing,” he said.

“Beyond that, it is not appropriate for me to answer questions on any details. I have not done so in Delhi and am not going to do so in Thiruvananthapuram. I am here as your MP for the next few days,” he added.

Asked when he would be questioned again, he said, “Whenever they (police) want to speak to me, I am available.”

PTI

Shashi Tharoor clarifies stand on Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Congress leader and former union minister, Shashi Tharoor, in his new book points out how implementation of some of the plans announced by the Prime Minister could be Modi government’s Achilles’ heel. Insisting he was quoted out of context from his session with Mihir Sharma at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, he quoted from ‘India Shastra’, his latest collection of essays. “There is a paradox at the heart of Mr Modi’s ascent to the Prime Ministership. His speeches and rhetoric appear to recognize and harness a vital shift in our national politics from a politics of identity to a politics of performance. Yet he has ridden to power at the helm of a party, the BJP, which is ill-suited to the challenge of delinking India’s polity from the incendiary issue of religious identity that it had built its base on,” he quoted from his essay and added, “I don’t know why I have been quoted only as saying that Modi’s speeches are a shift in politics; from the politics of identity to politics of performance, by a section of the media.”

Congress leader and former union minister, Shashi Tharoor, in his new book points out how implementation of some of the plans announced by the Prime Minister could be Modi government’s Achilles’ heel. Insisting he was quoted out of context from his session with Mihir Sharma at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, he quoted from ‘India Shastra’, his latest collection of essays. “There is a paradox at the heart of Mr Modi’s ascent to the Prime Ministership. His speeches and rhetoric appear to recognize and harness a vital shift in our national politics from a politics of identity to a politics of performance. Yet he has ridden to power at the helm of a party, the BJP, which is ill-suited to the challenge of delinking India’s polity from the incendiary issue of religious identity that it had built its base on,” he quoted from his essay and added, “I don’t know why I have been quoted only as saying that Modi’s speeches are a shift in politics; from the politics of identity to politics of performance, by a section of the media.”

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BJPPrime MinisterNarendra ModiShashi TharoorZee JLF 2015

Delhi police wanted to know what Sunanda told me, says Amar Singh after 2-hour grilling session

In the latest developments in the Sunanda Pushkar murder case, former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh was questioned by a special investigating team (SIT) of Delhi Police on Wednesday, media reports said.

The Times of India in this article quoted Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi as saying that Amar Singh had claimed he had information related to Sunanda’s murder case.

Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a five-star hotel in Delhi a year ago.

Sunanda Pushkar. PTI/File image

After a two-hour grilling session, Amar Singh met mediapersons and said, “I was quizzed for about two hours. Since, the matter is under investigation, it is best that we let police investigate it properly. At the end everything will be clear.”

“When the SIT team of Delhi Police came to know that Sunanda had talked to me a few days before her death, they asked me about the sequence of my talk with her…I conveyed to the Delhi Police whatever I knew about Sunanda,” Zee News quoted Amar Singh as saying.

Amar Singh refused to name anyone in the Sunanda murder case and added, “I respect Shashi Tharoor and Soniaji and I will not say anything to slander anyone. Sunanda was a good friend and I have spoken the truth. I have told them (the Delhi police) what I know and I do not want to interfere in the probe.

Quoting Singh, the TOI report said Sunanda had called the former SP leader two days before her death.

According to a report in the NDTV, Amar Singh had recently told a TV channel that Sunanda Pushkar was depressed over the IPL fiasco. He further added that Sunanda broke down and she wanted to reveal information about the IPL to Amar Singh, according to the report.

However, Zee News quoted the minister also saying Sunanda was a brave lady and she could not commit suicide. Apart from Amar Singh, Delhi police will call Sunanda’s husband, Shashi Tharoor again for quizzing.

Reports also said that Sunanda’s son Shiv Pushkar Menon might be summoned by the SIT for questioning. On January 19, Tharoor was questioned for around three-and-a-half hours. Police officials had then refused to share Tharoor’s answers during the questioning, saying any revelation would hamper the investigation.