India: The Modi Question, BBC’s documentary raises a wider one. By blocking links on social media, hasn’t the government stirred up a hornet’s nest and given it more publicity than it may have got? Perhaps. But Opposition parties and their student wings have put a spoke in the I& B Ministry’s wheel. They are screening it in university campuses, party headquarters and even a beach! The canvas is growing: Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee first screened it at its headquarters, then at Shanghumugham beach for general public and plans to go across the State; youth wing of CPM, Democratic Youth Federation of India, says it’s going to screen it not just in the southern state, but across India; in Delhi, the SFI held a screening screened at Jamia Millia Islamia university; in JNU the university administration was accused of cutting power and internet to stop the screening at the students’ union office, but many showed it on their mobile-phones; at Punjab University the NSUI’s screening of the documentary was stopped midway on grounds it had no permission; some students of University of Hyderabad screened it on its campus; in Kolkata, the SFI screened it at Jadavpur University; TMC MPs shared the link saying they would fight against ‘censorship’. The list will expand.
Leading to another question—would it have been wiser for the government to simply ignore the documentary? The directive to block it on platforms such as Twitter and YouTube apparently has backfired. It’s one thing for South Block to trash the documentary on 2002 riots as “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and reflects a “colonial mindset”, joined by I&B Ministry claiming it undermines “sovereignty and integrity of India” and has “potential to adversely impact” country’s “friendly relations with foreign states” and “public order within the country,” and another to take action which raises doubts about freedom of expression and speech in the world’s largest democracy. Be that as it may, the government would find some solace as it got support from unusual quarter. Veteran Congress leader A K Antony’s son, Anil, resigned from the Digital Media and AICC Social Media and Digital Communications Cell, after what he termed as “intolerant calls” and “abuses” over his tweet against the documentary. In his resignation letter he hit hard saying “by now I have been made well aware that you, your colleagues and the coterie around your leadership are only keen to work with a bunch of sycophants and chamchas, who would unquestionably be at your beck and call…” It did hit headlines, but not as many as those against the blockade. The screening war goes on!
Telangana High Office Row
The quarrel between Telangana Governor-Chief Minister office was on display on Republic Day. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao kept away from the celebrations hosted by Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan at Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad. The deteriorating relationship between the two simmers, despite High Court the evening before directing government to conductcelebrations in a grand manner, with a ceremonial parade, as per Centre’s instructions. While Soundararajan unfurled the Tricolour at Governor House, KCR did so at Pragati Bhavan, his camp office-cum-official residence, offered floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar and paid homage at Army Memorial at Secunderabad to those who sacrificed their life for the country. Since taking over in 2019, the Governor has accused the government of violating protocol and CM not attending the customary ‘At Home’, whereas Rao has accused her of being an BJP agent, as prior to her appointment she was BJP President in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin along with Cabinet colleagues and officials attended Governor Ravi’s ‘At Home’, a pleasant surprise as the two have been at loggerheads in recent weeks. Will Telangana follow too, even if it turns out to be a façade?
AAP Knocks on SC Door
Halted mayoral elections in Delhi force the AAP to knock on Supreme Court’s door. On Thursday last it’s candidate Shelly Oberoi petitioned urging the poll be conducted in a time-bound manner. This after the election was stalled on Tuesday last for the 2ndtime this month after the House was adjourned indefinitely by LG-appointed presiding officer following another brawl between AAP and BJP members, with former objecting to aldermen being administered oath first. In fact, quoting Article 243R of Constitution and Section 3 of DMC Act,AAP maintains aldermen don’t have the right to vote and should be prohibited from doing so. It has accused the BJP of hooliganism saying ‘it has no moral right to capture and illegally control the MCD for so long. The MCD was put under Central government on pretext of unification and delimitation works. People of Delhi gave AAP the mandate in the MCD and despite that, the BJP resorted to dirty politics…” The BJP accuses AAP of misleading public, has no faith in Constitution and was deliberately obstructing the polls. Will Delhi have its mayor and how soon, is the big question.
Funds For Wine & Dine!
The TMC would need to do one better than accusing BJP of ‘political witch hunt’ viz arrest of its spokesperson Saket Gokhale by ED in a money laundering case. For the charges are entertaining! In its remand note to a local court in Ahmedabad, the ED claimed, “over Rs 1.07 crore funds collected through crowd funding (June 2019 to October 2022) were splurged on speculative share trading, wining and dining and other personal expenses which appear to be extravagant.” Gokhale, lodged in judicial custody in a Gujarat police case, denies all of it saying funds were raised ‘for his sustenance and were utilised for 3 campaigns –‘fight with RTI,’‘Saket Vs Modi,’ and ‘justice for Suhas (his father),” and another ‘Support Saket in his transparency battle.’ The ED alleged that after preparing ‘a bogus electronic document in name of ‘OurDemocracy.in’ by which he collected funding, he diverted the funds for his personal use thereby committing offence plus was ‘not cooperating.’ The special PMLA court gave custody to ED till January 31.Will it eventually nail the ‘splurge’?
Will ‘Save Ladakh’ get Prime Minister Modi’s attention? Noted social reformer and education innovator Sonam Wangchuk precisely seeks this as he started his five-day climate fast from the rooftop of the Himalayan Institute of Alternative Ladakh in Phyang on Thursday last. However, his aim of going up to Khardung La, world’s highest motorable road at 18,000 ft with -40 degree C has literally hit bad weather. The roads were blocked due to heavy snowfall. But his video post says too he was being denied permission to get to his destination by the administration “citing threats to my life and so on. I think there is more to that. If this was the case, the base of Khardung La has all the medical facilities.” He’s not giving up and will keep trying for permission. Wangchuk is concerned over climate catastrophes given that studies suggest extinction of nearly 2/3rd of the glaciers and if steps are not taken, ‘the industries, tourism, and commerce will continue to flourish in Ladakh and will eventually finish it…creating enormous problems due to water scarcity in India and its neighbourhood…’ He wants Modi to intervene and safeguard the ecosystem under Constitution’s 6thschedule. Not asking for too much, is he? —INFA