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Anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin Genocide 1948: Need For Recognition, Healing

It has taken a magnum opus on Veer Savarkar to put in print a memory that still lives and torments millions: The memory of the 1948 anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin genocide, a “wilfully erased chapter of history.” While writing for his concluding volume on the freedom fighter – Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 – author Vikram Sampath’s crowdsourcing efforts through social media drew an outpouring of tragic personal tales from survivors and descendants of the 1948 pogrom. The book captures how the carnage started from Bombay and Pune before spreading to Nagpur, Satara, Sangli, Miraj, the Patwardhan States, Belgaum, Kolhapur, where thousands of Brahmins were either massacred or their properties destroyed; and most villages in the state were ethnically cleansed of Brahmins. Thanks to laws like the Press Act, the media was silent on it – as it was on the coverage of the Partition Holocaust against Hindus and Sikhs in the newly created Pakistan, and its Kashmir horrors. Washington Post reported on wave of looting, arson and killings; New York Times said how “the communal riots quickly swept Bombay when news of Mr Gandhi’s death was received (January 30, 1948).” The accounts of DP Mishra, home minister of Central Provinces, point to a systematic pogrom against Brahmins and how no FIRs were lodged. Says Sampath: “The tragedy apart, denying its very occurrence makes it a doubly chilling crime.”

Aug 16: 75th Anniversary of Great Calcutta Killings Vs TMC’s Khela Hobe Divas

August 16, 1946 is mourned by millions as a day of catastrophe: Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call for Direct Action Day in Kolkata – with the threat of ‘We shall have India divided or India destroyed’ – led to mind-numbing slaughters as bazars and homes were torched, thousands massacred. The carnage also broke the resolve of the secular leaders, who decided to buy peace by conceding to Jinnah’s demand. According to Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins: “Mountbatten was haunted by the spectre of Direct Action Day staged in Calcutta in 1946 by the Moslem League in which 26,000 Hindus were killed in 72 hours.” The consequence of the Great Calcutta Killings should have been the arrest and trial of the perpetrators, but it ended up rewarding them: talks accelerated for the creation of West and East Pakistan, which became a nightmarish reality a year later August 14, 1947. Against this traumatic background, West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress’ idea to celebrate Khela Hobe Divas on Aug 16 is being decried as not only insensitive but also an insult to the memory of those butchered in the savage killings. For BJP Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, “Khela Hobe’ was never a poll bugle: it was always a veiled call to the cadres for unleashing stone age barbarism.” TMC has dismissed the public opprobrium as an attempt to spread hatred.

BJP Adding Heft & Gravitas

Eagles don’t flock you have to find them one at a time, said Ross Perot, the American billionaire who also ran for the Presidency. And BJP, it seems, is following Perot’s strategy to T. From time to time they have been wooing heavyweight politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and sports personalities into the party fold. The latest news from the BJP HQ: Metro Man E-Sreedharan is likely to join the party and contest elections in the poll-bound Kerala. The BJP has often boasted about its pantheon of crowd pullers and super achievers with clean image. In Tamil Nadu, they had almost succeeded with Superstar Rajnikant but at the eleventh hour he backed out on health grounds. In West Bengal, they are trying to woo yesteryear Superstar Mithun Chakraborty who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress ticket in 2014. But, two years later he stepped down. With elections round the corner, the BJP is not only looking for winning candidates to form the government but also a local hero who will take over as the chief minister. That’s the promise Amit Shah has made to the Bengalis. The guessing game is on as to who will wear the crown.

To The Harvey Weinsteins of India: #MeToo Is Back

A very public outrage against misdemeanours by powerful men has received the much-needed judicial support. #MeToo is not some time-barred phenomenon. “The woman has the right to put her grievances at any platform and even after decades,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Pandey who acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case initiated by the former Union Minister MJ Akbar. The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity, the Delhi court observed. It will be interesting to see if Akbar’s battery of lawyers – led by Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co – will challenge the order. But the public opinion is hardening. “Akbar must be made to pay for this,” tweeted civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan. #MeToo has still miles to go in India. Experts note how the Supreme Court had upheld Delhi High Court’s acquittal of Peepli Live director Mahmood Farooqui of rape charges on the grounds that a ‘feeble no’ from a friend may have been construed as consent (from a Columbia University researcher, who had come to India on a Fulbright exchange fellowship). The trial court had convicted Farooqui but the decision was overturned by the Delhi High Court. Earlier, #MeToo flagbearer Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against actor Nana Patekar collapsed too with the Mumbai police filing closure for want of evidence.

Budget Text, Pretext, Context And Subtext

The ‘Subtext’ hangs in the air long after former Finance Minister P Chidambaram decoded the Text, Pretext, Context & Subtext of the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech 2021-22 at the Rajya Sabha. What’s the text of the speech? He explained: “The text is prosaic, bureaucratic.” What’s the pretext? “The pretext is: we have a pandemic. (Yet) we have supply side measures!” And the context? “The context is a slowing down economy, pushed into a deep recession, minus 10%, thanks to the pandemic — and thanks to incompetent economic management.” He continued: “But, more than the text, more than the pretext, more than the context, what is important is the subtext. The subtext is: this is a Budget prepared for the rich, of the rich and by the rich.” He said the Budget has nothing for: 120 mn people losing jobs; 64 mn dropping out of the labour force, including 22% women; and 35% of MSMEs shut down. Replying to the Budget discussion in Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman put the things in context: “Speaker sir, the former FM is trying to imitate you but he has been a miserable failure in the impact he created unlike you who has created good impact.” Speaker M Venkaiah Naidu is known for his quick one-liners that fill the House Of Elders with laughter.

Of Andolan-Jeevi, Par-Jeevi & New Age FDI

Arguably, nobody conjures up national slogans as profoundly – or coins acronyms as tellingly — as PM Narendra Modi. The Government’s pantheon of programmes – from Swachh Bharat to Make in India to Startup India and Stand Up India – all bear the signature of the master wordsmith. Many of the acronyms – from SCAM to JAM he popularised continue to endure. Some acronyms are being masterly resurrected – FDI is now ‘Foreign Destructive Ideology.’ And the patriots must now stay away from this FDI, the PM informed while replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha. In 2015, the FDI meant ‘First Develop India’, a mission to support the Make in India programme. 2021 onwards, this will mean Transnational or foreign ‘tukde-tukde gang’ that promotes Rihanna tweet-busters, Meena Harris ‘book of Intimidation Monsters, or Greta Thunberg’s Tool-Kit for Dummies that transforms tractor rallies into raging rampage. Another breed of creatures that patriots must guard against are: Andolan-Jeevi (one who feasts on protests), who is actually a par-jeevi, (a parasite) for the nation. His creative masterstroke was in full, sublime display at a time the Opposition sensed they had Modi on the mat over the farmers’ agitation.

Big Tech & The Globalization of Protest

“I’m just a phone call away,” said PM Narendra Modi to the agitating farmers, while expressing pain over the vandalisation of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the U.S.; and assuring the law will take its own course in the Republic Day Tractor Rally violence that injured about 400 cops in New Delhi. What the government received was a Tweet from Hollywood pop star Rihanna on #farmerprotest: “Why aren’t we talking about this?” Soon, this became a synchronised tweet assault from other international influencers – with Indian celebrities and politicians joining in, taking their own ideological positions. Shouldn’t the government dismiss this tweet-burst as an innocuous thing? They didn’t. Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s office issued a statement: “Temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible.” Let’s accept that the Globalization of Protest is on the ascendency – while the other real trade Globalization is weakening. With the Big Tech providing megaphones to new Transnational entities and Influencers, the George Floyd protest riots in the U.S. became a massive global BLM campaign. And Turkey President RT Erdogan’s call for a boycott of French goods triggered massive anti-French rallies.

COVID-19: What About The South African Variant?

It’s been a year since the coronavirus touched India. It is now rapidly declining, seemingly escaping a second wave unlike the developed world where vaccine rollout has been botched and the healthcare system overwhelmed. India in comparison has done much better for reasons we don’t know. We may even be into herd immunity. There are conjectures but no peer-reviewed scientific papers have emerged yet.  That said, the Indian public does not have the full picture about the status of the UK variant of the virus. By mid-January, 150 persons tested positive for the new strain of the virus that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson had described as “more lethal”. Nor do we know much about the South African virus – an altogether different mutant said to be less amenable to the new vaccines developed so far. Have they too stealthily entered India?  After the initial announcement of the UK variant spotted in travellers from the UK, nothing is known about the SA variant. All this is discomfiting after the struggle with Covid19 since March last year. — Mahesh Vijapurkar  

FASTag: Plugging Rs 9000-Cr Leakage?

Why are some people up in arms against Modi government over the implementation of FASTag?   According to the reports, the daily toll plaza collection via FASTag — 615 plazas of NHAI and 100 toll plazas of State highways – is nearly Rs 93-100 crore per day in January 2021 compared to around Rs 65-68 crore a year ago. Roughly this works out to Rs 25 crore leakage every day or Rs 750 crore per month or nearly Rs 9,000 crore per year. That’s big money which is being siphoned off the system and ending in the pockets of the corrupt officials and politicians.  Effectively FASTag has blocked one more avenue to make black money. In the other move, the Modi government’s implementation of faceless tax scrutiny would leave some of the corrupted tax officials high and dry. This ill-gotten wealth is what pushes the real estate prices up in the metros. Earlier, the Direct Benefit Transfer for 450 government schemes saw the government plugging leakage to the tune of Rs 153,000 crore. Net, net more money in the government coffers. Clearly it is the Government At Work.


Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.