Weekly Update: China-India By-Bye; Only In India, Two Parliaments; Law Is Politics

India and China are on their 12th round of what they both like to say ‘talks’. Neither country is run by armies. China is a one party State. Leadership emerges through the political ladder. Decisions are made by the political leadership. India is a democracy. Its leaders emerge through the political process.

The normal protocol for issues to be resolved between countries is through a political dialogue. Yet it is the armies of both countries that are engaged in the process of withdrawing from flash points.

Admittedly talks between the two foreign Ministers did take place, the Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. This happened early in July at Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Surely the principles and the landmarks would have been decided between Beijing or Delhi. All that the armies have to do is get on with it, left foot first or right foot first depending which side of the new cold war one is. Yet talks after talks there is some hitch and the feet don’t move.

The number of dispute areas have metamorphosed like the Covid virus. There were only two areas in 1960s, now there are over 10 hotspots.

The 12th round of talks is about a small part. The larger Depsang Plains further North are not even mentioned. Here Chinese troops have been preventing Indian jawans from accessing their usual patrolling stations. This is near the Karakoram Pass.

It’s clear that the terms, pace and method of engagement is being determined by China. It is gradually wearing down India. China wants to carry on with its CPEC road project through Pakistan and protect it from any Indian attacks in future. Until it feels assured that India won’t interfere with that, we are likely to see 13th, 14th and so on talks between military hierarchies of both countries. Not to forget the elephant in the discussion room between the Indian and Chinese Commanders, the United States with its own strategic policy casting a shadow on any bilateral Sino-Indian talks.

Happens Only In India

There is the Lok Sabha and there is the Kisan Sansad, a mock parallel Parliament of farmers. Kisan Sansad is not quite elected by universal franchise, vote cheating or fisticuffs. It’s been a gentle process. Farmers wanting to push Modi to reverse his farm laws, have been at pains to ensure their protest remains peaceful and lawful.

The Sansad (Kisan one) has repealed some of the laws. It even had a ladies day with all members being ladies. A 100% ladies Lok Sabha might not be a bad idea. They might bring pragmatism and policies to feed the population rather than feed superpower ambitions.

Meanwhile, Modiji who first tried adopting the persona of a vegetarian version of Raksasha, the terrible, soon found that the Constitution does not cater for Rakshasas anymore. Times have changed since Vedic days. Moreover the International community went tut tut. So Modi backed off.

Now Modiji seems relaxed. He has realised its all about votes. No point in being ‘Fury with a Sadhu look’. His new wardrobe incarnation is a sadhu or perhaps even a demi god look. It might catch on as the fashion iconology of the year. Imagine Biden and Boris in one. Xi certainly won’t try it. Imran Khan has his own ‘salwar kameez’ look.

Meanwhile, farmers have reached some sort of a plateau in their campaign and adopting innovative ways to keep the media attention. Jantar Mantar is an apt name for the Sansad. They haven’t quite leveraged the international community.  They are also hoping victory will come at the polls. Narendar Singh, a former Agriculture Minister in Bihar said this is a revolution.

Only in India, with all its idiosyncrasies and polarities can one have two parliaments at the same time without violence or crackdown or charges of sedition.  At the same time, only in India can a sedition charge be masted on one’s head if someone says something nasty about dear leader Modiji while having Article 19, the freedom of expression.

Ultimately, Law Is Politics

If there is any evidence needed that the law is merely a tool in the broader cloud of politics, the United States enquiry/no enquiry on the 6th January Capitol Hill insurrection is it.  Everybody with a TV, smart phone or gadget to look at news, saw what happened. The faces of the insurgents and the speeches and tweets of those encouraging them are in the public domain. Not even hidden. But no enquiry to who threatened law and order or even worse, the democratic fabric of the country always bleating on about democracy and human rights.

The law in its finality is made by politicians in elected chambers or by politburos. It’s the politicians who decide what will constitute crime, fraud, rape, violence etc and in some cases who gets thrown in jail. They then put it in circulation. The lawyers work within that frame. There is no such thing as natural law. Go and stand in front of a lion and say, ‘I have a right to life’. Nature does not observe man’s law. Man’s law is made by man. Simple.

The USA that wants a rule-based international order and countries around the world to have constitutions and proper legal instruments based on human rights principles, obviously believes that, ‘do as the Mullah says, not as the Mullah does’.

To prove the point of politics as the source of order, law and arbiter of legitimacy,, the ultimate city crier of law and order, the US Republican party is opposing any enquiry into how the insurrection occurred, who was responsible for inciting and organising and who bears responsibility for breaking the law!

Statues of justice with a blindfolded lady really need to have a small figure of a male politician with a chain on her foot to portray the honest state of affairs. At least in USA and in motherland India. In both countries politics interprets the interpretation and even frames the scope of interpretation. Work that out, My Lords.  In fact in most countries. Ask Russians and Brexited Europe.

But there is some honesty, somewhere. The High Court of Rajasthan has the figure of Manu depicting Indian justice. Manu was quite a misogynist with clear ideas on roles and duties of women. Moreover he seems to have handed quite a bit of arbitrary power to the ruler, now the politician. That is the reality of law in India.

Just as in US, the Republicans can stop a criminal enquiry into the perpetrators of January insurrection, Indian politicians are able to stop enquiries on rapes carried by them. It’s a united world of politicians.

When Celebs Call Out For A Cause!

Football came by accident. I was more interested in politics. I always had my eyes turned to the social injustices in the country. I just happened to be good at football, which gave me entrance to a very different and privileged environment…If people do not have the power to say things, then I will say it for them.
–Socrates, Brazilian soccer legend

Do celebrities, writers, artists, filmmakers, celluloid superstars, sports icons, among others, have a special social and political responsibility towards their life and times? Are they located in history despite their wealth, success and fame? Can their fame, success and prosperity make their own societies, and their own world, a better place?

This uncanny question came back with its bitter ritualism soon after pop star Rihanna Tweeted only six words, referring to a CNN report on the peaceful, relentless farmers’ struggle in India. Her six words were amplified by a 100 million fan base, and reamplified by tens of thousands. The global sky virtually opened up with social media messages backing the farmers. The medium became the message.

This was followed by Greta Thunberg’s tweet, along with a forthright message by lawyer and author Meena Harris, the niece of American Vice President Kamala Harris.

The ruling establishment in Delhi was rattled beyond words. This led to an avalanche by its troll army using all predictable means: vile, foul, sexist, vicious threats, including against a British female MP. Two other jarring notes quickly followed, both leaving a bad taste in bad faith, as a sycophantic public spectacle.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a long-winding statement in response to Rihanna’s Tweet, replete with nationalistic, ‘bureaucratese’, with the hashtag #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether. This was followed by a handful of Bollywood actors and Indian cricketers, including Sachin Tendulkar, putting out identical hashtags and look-alike statements.

Sachin wrote: India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation.

In the first instance, seasoned journalists who have covered the MEA would be utterly shocked! How come the ministry chose to react with such a lengthy, burdensome response, to a six-word post by an American pop star – this is unprecedented! Does it reflect the abject loss of diplomatic finesse and protocol in terms of foreign policy, or, indeed, is the ground beneath their feet really slipping?

Since Sachin is an icon, he faced the brunt of public criticism. It all became more jarring because of his ‘speechless’ record in the Rajya Sabha as an MP, and his eternal refusal to utter one word ever on any public or controversial issue in the past.

The farmers were hurt: how come Sachin had not spoken about their non-violent struggle, the 200 dead under the open-sky, the internet ban, concrete barricades, the siege, the long nights for over two months in this freezing cold? How come his love for India and its sovereignty did not include the thousands of farmers and their families peacefully protesting, while he chose to ride the ruling regime’s hashtag bandwagon?

ALSO READ: ‘Rihanna, Greta Amplified Voice Of Farmers’

It is bitter realism that most Indian celluloid superstars and sports icons, with their huge fan-following, either keep wilfully mum during a national crisis, never take up a cause for public interest, express no angst or anger against gross injustice or human suffering, or, instead, choose to toe the pro-establishment line. Their silence often borders on complicity. For our cricket heroes, former and current, apart from cricketing jargon, the cat seems to have got their tongue in all circumstances.

Compare this to those who inevitably stand up to the powers-that-be, speak the truth, take public positions, aware of the risks involved, unafraid of the consequences – the likes of the (late) UR Ananthamurthy, Mahasweta Devi, Rajendra Yadav, Soumitra Chatterjee or Girish Karnad, among other greats. Or, Sharmila Tagore, Amol Palekar, Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap and Naseeruddin Shah, among others. Even Deepika Padukone, a mega star, had the guts to stand in silence and solidarity with student protesters in JNU, after they were brutally assaulted by the armed goons of BJP’s youth wing, with cops watching in tacit alliance.

This follows a noble tradition among the greats in the Indian artistic domain, including cinema. Salil Chaudhury, Ritwik Ghatak, Kaifi Azmi, Munshi Premchand, Rabindranath Tagore, Sahir Ludhianvi, Balraj Sahni, Utpal Dutt, stars of our aesthetic firmament, firmly stood against fascism, and injustice, and aligned with the poorest of the poor. This was reflected also in their cinema, literature, music and lyrics. During the Emergency, Kishore Kumar and Dev Anand openly defied Sanjay Gandhi’s diktats and Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship.

Outside India, Socrates lived his political life as a soccer legend in full defiance of the military dictatorship; Diego Maradona openly flaunted the tattoos of Che Guevara on his body, as well his comradeship with Fidel Castro; Pablo Neruda became ill after his close friend, Salvador Allende, elected president of Chile, was killed in a CIA-backed military coup; Vaclav Havel led the Prague spring against the ossified ‘Communist’ dictatorship; Mohammad Ali defied the US government and refused to go to war and kill the people of Vietnam. This is a long and illustrious history.

American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench while the US national anthem was being played in a pre-season game on August 26, 2016. Why? To protest against police brutality and racism. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of colour,” he said. Later, he started ‘taking the knee’, which has been followed by athletes, celebrities and ordinary people in support of the Black Lives Matter movement triggered by the murder of George Floyd when a cop suffocated him with his knee.

ALSO READ: Many Celebs Spoke For Indian Farmers

During the Vietnam War, a huge section of Hollywood marched with the anti-war protesters. George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, Robert Redford, Uma Thurman, Matt Damon, Richard Gere, Jessica Lange, among others, opposed the Iraq war, calling the WMD scare fake. Award-giving ceremonies and public functions were used to protest against the Iraq War and George Bush. Said Gael Garcia Bernal, famous for his role of Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries, “If Frida (Kahlo) were alive, she’d be on our side, against the war” even as he presented a song from the film about the famed Mexican artist.

In the contemporary era, the BLM movement has galvanised almost the entire Hollywood and entertainment fraternity, with celebrities like Michael B Jordon, Tyler Cameron, Matt James, Madonna, Sophie Turner, Jo Jonas, Vanessa Hudgens, Ben Affleck, among hosts of others, marching on the streets and taking categorical position against racism.

Jennifer Lopez wrote on Instagram: “Max (son) told me a few days ago: ‘You know mom, since you have a following like some of my YouTuber gamers and they ask us to support things and we do, you should do that for George Floyd.’… I said, ‘Funny you say that baby, I am planning a few things. Do you want to help by making a sign?’” The singer added: “And they did!! We talked about how if one person doesn’t have justice then no one does. That this country was built on the belief of freedom and justice for all. We must take a stand for what we believe in and fight against the injustices in this world. So, we continue to peacefully protest until there is change.”