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The CBI imbroglio

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By Manini Chatterjee

The Supreme Court, in its order on October 23, restricted the use of fireworks during all festivals across the country to a window between 8 pm and 10 pm. Delhi’s well-heeled gentry hailed the order in the hope that the city — which bears the brunt of pollution each winter — will have a cleaner Diwali this year.

But two weeks before Diwali, and a few hours after the apex court order, the air turned foul in the heart of the capital’s elite Lutyens’ zone. It reeked of menace and intrigue. The explosion took place well after midnight, quietly and stealthily. But its reverberations spread far and wide; its repercussions are still unraveling.

 

In a pre-dawn crackdown that has no parallel in democratic India, raids were conducted on the headquarters of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the premier anti-corruption agency in the country. The office of the CBI director, Alok Verma, was sealed, and a whole lot of evidence that the agency had gathered was seized. In the morning, orders were served on both Verma and CBI special director and No. 2, Rakesh Asthana, sending them on “leave”, as many as 13 officers were summarily transferred, and CBI joint director, M. Nageshwar Rao, was appointed the interim chief.

The mafia style operation this past week may have seemed like a surreal drama without precedence. But what preceded and followed it, and continues to be the dominant narrative, tells a different story. For the truth is that the Narendra Modi government has pulled off a classic smoke and mirrors act. Smoke and mirrors — defined as “the obscuring or embellishing of the truth of a situation with misleading or irrelevant information”, something that “is intended to make you believe that something is being done or is true when it is not” — has never been as apt a description as in the unfolding drama of the CBI.

The line peddled by the Bharatiya Janata Party spokesmen is that the government had to resort to an ‘extraordinary action’ to meet an ‘extraordinary situation’ caused by internal turmoil within the CBI; a “turf war” between the top two in the agency; an ego clash between two individuals who charged one another with corruption.

On Friday, after the Supreme Court order in response to Verma’s plea against his virtual dismissal, the Union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, came up with a more sophisticated spin. The Supreme Court appointed a retired judge, A.K. Patnaik, to supervise the Central Vigilance Commission probe into the charges of corruption made by Asthana against Verma to be completed in two weeks. It also issued notices to the Centre and the CVC on the plea of the NGO, Common Cause, to set up an SIT to investigate alleged corrupt practices by Asthana.

Clearly pleased that the apex court had not passed any strictures against the government and had not reinstated Verma immediately, Jaitley said, “The Supreme Court ruling is an extremely positive development… All officers of the CBI, particularly the top two, are like Caesar’s wife and must be beyond suspicion.”

Fine words these, except that it conceals a truth that is at the heart of the CBI’s current crisis. The CBI has been mired in controversy before. Previous governments, too, have used the agency to settle political scores, leading to the Supreme Court’s famous “caged parrot” epithet some years ago.

But never before has the top leadership of the government been so blatant in backing one officer over another, and, in the process, brazenly subverting elementary norms that govern any supposedly autonomous entity.

It is no secret that Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, was a favourite of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah when the duo ruled supreme in Gujarat. When a chief minister becomes prime minister, it is only natural for him to get officers of his choice to New Delhi. But procedures have to be followed, criteria have to be met.

The government tried to bypass both. Asthana was first brought in as additional director to the CBI in early 2016. That year, on December 2, the incumbent director, Anil Sinha, was to retire. Just two days before that, the No. 2 in the agency, R.K. Dutta was suddenly transferred to the home ministry. Asthana was then appointed interim director. On December 5, the senior lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of Common Cause, moved a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking the appointment of a full-time director of the CBI, and challenging Asthana’s appointment.

It was only after that that the selection committee — comprising the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India — met and chose the former Delhi police commissioner, Alok Verma, as the new CBI director. Verma assumed office on February 1, 2017, for a fixed two year term.

But in spite of Verma’s appointment, it became clear that the top leadership trusted Asthana much more. He was given charge of all major cases concerning Opposition leaders: Sarada; Narada; the IRCTC case against Lalu Prasad and family; the Aircel-Maxis and INX media cases against P. Chidambaram; the AgustaWestland chopper deal; the Robert Vadra land deal case, you name it. He also had easy access to the PMO and acted as if he were the boss — attending meetings in place of the director and seeking to recruit his own team of officers.

The government may have felt that Verma, out of gratitude for his appointment, would be a willing rubber stamp and let Asthana call the shots. But Verma — mild mannered, but tough underneath — refused to take things lying down. In October 2017, he gave a dissent note to the CVC against the elevation of Asthana to the rank of special director. In his note, Verma pointed out that Asthana was under investigation for allegedly taking a Rs 3.88 crore bribe from the Baroda based Sterling Biotech firm which was facing a case of money laundering running into over Rs 5,000 crore. The CVC overruled Verma’s objections and went ahead with Asthana’s promotion.

Common Cause, once again, moved a PIL against his elevation. Apart from the bribery charge, the PIL also pointed out that Asthana’s son, Ankush, had worked for close to three years as an assistant manager with Sterling Biotech, and the owners of the company had provided hotel accommodation and other facilities gratis for the wedding of Asthana’s daughter in Baroda in late 2016. The Supreme Court, however, went by the CVC’s decision and refused to intervene.

Matters continued to worsen over the months. Finally, on October 23, this year, the CBI divested Asthana of all responsibilities, following investigations into his alleged bribe taking and extortion in half a dozen cases.

Asthana, meanwhile, had hit back by writing to the cabinet secretary, P K Sinha, listing a litany of charges against Verma. Although Verma has so far had an unblemished record, these counter-charges suddenly put them both at par.

This suited the government only too well. Verma had refused to play ball by suffering Asthana’s insubordination. He had irked the government further by meeting Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan who sought an investigation into the Rafale deal. Having painted the entire Opposition as corrupt on the basis of CBI cases lodged against them, and having refused to open its own decisions to any investigation or scrutiny, the Modi regime simply could not afford to tolerate a CBI director who showed a hint of spine, who had access to past secrets that the two most powerful people in the country are keen on hiding.

The dramatic crackdown in the middle of the night may have removed the CBI boss for now. But the prime minister’s abject failure to sort out matters before they reached a flashpoint and the subsequent sledgehammer operation also reveal an uncharacteristic sense of panic, a loss of control.

Faced with escalating charges of wrongdoing in cases involving Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and, most of all, Anil Ambani and the Rafale imbroglio, Modi apologists take cover in the fact that there is no “smoking gun” evidence so far. The blanket of smoke, after the CBI explosion, has certainly become thick. But it cannot forever obscure the murkiness that lies underneath…


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Roots of Social Darwinism

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By Amir Suhail Wani

August Comte, the forefather of modern sociology divided human history into three stages, “the theological stage, when events of the universe are interpreted in terms of divine powers, the metaphysical stage in which we find no mention of specific Gods (Although external forces are still referred to in order to explain events)and the stage of positivism, where events are explained in terms of common laws deduced from observation and calculation without having recourse to spirit, God or external power’’. Positivist philosophy is a technical term applied by Comte to his view of the world. He believed that human mind should confine itself to actual facts or phenomenon. Comte’s central thrust was to apply scientific methods to the study of society. Positivism, therefore says Patrick “really amounts to this: Science is the final stage of human thought” Comte’s positivism thus amounts to epiphenomenalism, restraining humans to abstain to look behind the phenomenon into their root causes. Such an approach shifted the gaze of man from metaphysical causes to mere physical events.

Time and again the slogan was raised that “All knowledge that is factual is connected with experiences, in such a way that verification or direct or indirect confirmation is possible”. Such a view had long lasting ramifications on almost all subjects of human interest and it provided a new matrix for the re-synthesis of human thought. One of the most important emergent consequences of this doctrine was the mechanical interpretation of life. The first step in this direction was taken by Charles Darwin, who posited that all living species evolved from a single cell that emerged on the earth 3.8 million years ago. Organic evolutionists believe that the study of animal life shows higher and lower species exist, which range from unicellular to multicellular organisms. When these observations are linked with the fossils preserved in different layers of earth’s crust, it is revealed (to evolutionists) that higher forms of life have actually emerged from the lower forms. Thus it deems man as the decedent of apes, which apart from its biological aspects has some serious philosophical consequences. We shall not go into the details of evolution, neither its acceptance nor rejection; however, we shall see that how it has led to the downfall of human values and created a podium for what can be called as the descent of man68.But the spontaneous origin of life governed by laws of probability is something which no rational being can accept. Thus Prof. Leslie Orgel, an evolutionist of repute from the University of San Diego confesses in 1994 issue of Scientific American magazine confesses that:-

 

“It is extremely improbable that proteins and nucleic acids both of which are structurally complex arose spontaneously in the same place at the same time. Yet it also seems impossible to have one without the other. And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means.

The philosophical ramifications of the theory of evolution are still far reaching. We can approach it in two directions, either as an ascent of man or as the descent of man, the former being positive approach while the latter being negative Darwinian approach. For, to say that man emerged from lower forms of life implies a rhetoric degeneration of the pedestal that man occupies. It can also be said that man is the climax of process of evolution and occupies the highest place in the hierarchy of creation. Even if it is assumed, for time being that the theory of evolution has some credibility, even then it has no scope either to deny the existence of creator nor to demote man from his pedestal. In former case, can be argued that if evolution is correct then the God works like this and evolution is one among his many means to bring existence out of naught. In argument to second statement, it can be exampled that the origin of things hardly matters when it comes to its real ends. As an example, stars are created out of miniscule and unworthy atoms of hydrogen and helium, but when it comes to their purposive nature, the stars lit the entire universe. It is pertinent to quote Allama lqbal in this regard, who said:-

“The fact that the higher emerges out of the lower does not rob the higher of its worth and dignity. It is not the origin of a thing that matters, it is the capacity, the significance and the final reach of the emergent that matter- indeed the evolution of life shows that though in the beginning, the mental is dominated by the physical, the mental, as it grows in power, tends to dominate the physical and may eventually rise to a position of complete independence”

There are other versions of evolution like that of spiritual evolution, cosmic evolution, which believes that evolution means the adoption of life to the energy patterns of universe or in other words to harmonize oneself with the laws of nature. In Islamic lexicon, this is termed as “Submitting to Shariah or divine law”. It also believes that things have to have some causes before they start assuming phenomenal form and since man strives for higher values these values must exist. Thus this evolution doesn’t stop at man, but takes entire cosmos into its fold, while simultaneously striving towards never ending vistas. The second part of this vision deals with the evolution of universe tracing back its origin to big bang and investigating its time evolution through different cosmic time scales’. There is also another version of evolution called creative evolution, to which we will come after a while. Thus on the whole we have seen that the evolutionary picture of man, as interpreted by Darwinists reduces man to an amoral biped with no sense of higher values. Such an interpretation of Evolution has often brought it into strong clash with the religion and the doctrine has been refuted, not merely on dogmatic but on sound rational basis.

The formulation of the theory of evolution was a turning point in the evolution of human thought. The way, this theory was interpreted removed God from the cosmic screen. Thus Julian Huxley, in his book Religion without revelation remarked that “Newton showed that God did not control the movement of the planets. Laplace in his famous aphorism affirmed that astronomy had no need of God hypothesis; Darwin and Pasteur between them did the same for biology”. Such interpretations paved the ground for materialists and deprived humans of the spiritual element which had been an inspiring factor in evolution of civilizations. This materialistic doctrine took different forms in different sectors of life. In physical sciences it came to be concluded that the universal phenomenon are governed by strict and immutable laws of physics, with no intervention of creator. In biology, as shown above it was precluded that life emerged from De novo without the intervention of creator. So much of determinism, it was concluded that even the realms of human free will are subject to laws of mechanics (Laplace). This was the picture of philosophy and the framework of human understanding that existed in and prior to 1860.

The philosophy was further reinforced by Karl Marx, via his famous doctrines of capitalism and Marxism. It is said of Marx that he gave to history what Darwin gave to biology. Marx claimed that he had discovered the laws of social evolution which govern our present, past and future of our social dynamics as the laws of physics govern the overall history of physical phenomenon. In other words, he established social and physical sciences on same stand. As the laws of physical universe are immutable to any human intervention, so are the laws of social evolution unchangeable and follow a definite course on their own, without any active participation of man. Further he professed that all social phenomenon are a consequence of class conflict. As Manifesto of the communist party puts it, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles .

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” Apart from his views on social history or economic system, which remain a subject of controversy, Marx presented a picture of man that deserves special mention. Marx referred to humans as Gattungswesen, translated as “species essence” By this Marx meant that humans are capable of making or shaping their own nature to a great extent. As Erich Fromm notes “For Marx’s philosophy, which has found its most articulate expression in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, the central issue is that of the existence of the real individual man, who is what he does, and whose “nature” unfolds and reveals itself in history. But in contrast to Kierkegaard and others, Marx sees man in his full concreteness as a member of a given society and of a given class, aided in his development by society, and at the same times its captive. The full realization of man’s humanity and his emancipation from the social forces that imprison him is bound up, for Marx, with the recognition of these forces, and with social change based on this recognition.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com)

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RESPECT YOURSELF

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BY Shabbir Aariz

Respect is more valuable than praise and we are told ‘respect others and you will be respected’. Not bad but because of this, one is likely to become obsessed with pleasing everyone else, ignoring one’s own self for having been guided to a thinking that any importance if accorded to one’s own self, is something wrong to do. But everything in your life depends on how you treat yourself as the self-respect is at the root of everything that you will ever do, how you treat yourself and allow everyone else to treat you and it is always important not put yourself last.

Self-respect is neither to be confused with an inflated ego or self-esteem or over confidence. One can have little self-respect while acting with self esteem by conducting himself in the manner that makes him very successful. If one has a bad day, one falls an easy prey to blame, guilt, depression, despair and stress and with that the self-esteem also is at a risk of disappearance that once had inflated one’s ego, given also the feeling of being very special and important. Respecting oneself is not all about that. Respecting one’s own self is nothing to do with being conceited or self centered and egoist….. in fact it does the quite opposite. Self-respect is all about discovering one’s worth and having its deep sense and showing the worthiness of giving and receiving love and respect. It is a belief about one’s own worth and value. One needs to admit and acknowledge to oneself that one deserves not to be treated poorly but with respect and have the courage to stand up for oneself while being treated in a manner that is less than what one really deserves. It is an ability to adjust one’s life after knowing one’s worth on one’s own terms and isolating people treating one poorly. It is being able to never saying ‘yes’ while wanting to say ‘no’ and letting others know the same. It never makes a person bad but respectable and strong. It has to do with feelings people experience that come from their sense of worthiness or unworthiness. It is about having the ability to put a halt to any attempt that is aimed at taking one for granted.

 

When one learns to love oneself and treat others with respect that gives one an amazing inner satisfaction. It is not ego which would mean only to respect yourself. Self-respect means to be able to sacrificing personal interest for greater good. In one’s relationship with anyone, respect is an important quality and there is no exception when it comes to one’s relationship to oneself. It is about having a sense of honor and dignity about yourself, your choices, decisions and your life. It is about treating others well and knowing that by doing so, others will treat you well in return. It keeps us on track in our lives. It is really interesting to teach others how to treat us.

It has to be viewed differently than self esteem which is the feeling of knowing we can conduct ourselves well out there in the world. We can be good at our job and know that our families are thriving due to our leadership. Outwardly we are successful in at least some of the ways our society defines success. But it is very possible to experience self esteem without any self-respect. It is that deeper, inner feeling about ourselves. Self esteem is earned undoubtedly by proving ourselves that we can achieve positive results in our various life tasks. Self-respect is also earned……. It is an inside job that nobody can do for us. It can neither be bought nor can another person bestow it upon us. It is not until we truly love and respect ourselves, that we can begin to believe that we are worthy of another person’s love and respect. It is the most important thing we either have it or don’t have, because it forms the keystone of how we treat ourselves and how we allow others to treat us. The only thing we can change already resides within us—such as our preferences, our attitudes towards ourselves and life in general—-we can come out of our feelings of ‘victim’ by acknowledging that we do actually have enough control over many aspects of our lives. No one can make you feel badly about yourself without your permission. Don’t say yes while you want to say no and if you do so, you teach others to take you for granted and treat you poorly. With this faith and conviction, you are neither arrogant, nor an egoist or selfish but a giver of love, care, compassion and respect because you equally want to amass all that in return.

(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: vaklishabir@gmail.com)

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Women in our society

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By Irshad Ahmed Bhat & Zahid Sultan Magray

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a women”.
Simone De Beauvoir.

Discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long running phenomenon that characterizes society at large. Beyond economic figures and financial abstractions a particularly heinous manifestation of toxic patriarchal society is violence against women; rape is undoubtedly one such horrible crime.

 

Rape happens everywhere: it happens inside homes, families, in education institutions, in neighbourhood, in police stations, in towns, villages and its incidence is increasing in India after every passing day. In fact, in India, rape is fourth most common crime against women. Gender equality performance of India like other south Asian countries is dismal. World economic forum Global Gender Gap report 2018 ranked India at 142 out of 149 countries on economic participation and opportunity gap.

Protest whether in physical or virtual space against such crimes is important because it shakes the conscience of society, brings people close to change, makes them feel part of the change. And there is certainly good chance that widely held wave of protests in wake of three year old Sumbal minor ‘ s rape case will lead to some expected results after widespread Outrage. But what is need is to ask ourselves; why did rape of female child, college going daughters, girls at working places or married mother’s occur cutting across age differences? It is important to protest but it is not something that occurs by itself. It is a part of continuing & embedded violence in society that targets women on daily basis that needs to be looked upon. Selective sex abortions, female infanticide , male child preference , dowry related case , workplace sexual harassment , physical violence, physiological violence , intimate partner violence , sexual violence and structural violence against women are what makes such crimes a normalcy. It is this culture that leads to such violence against women & pervasive sexism.

Modern women still encounter widespread gender inequality and often internalise conservative attitudes towards women’s social role. Society at large is stagnating under the veneer of modernity which further internalised these behaviours among women. Famous feminist Simon de Beauvoir said, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a women”. She was referring to the notion of social construction of a person as a women. In the second sex, De Beauvoir sketches a kind of existential history of a women’s life. A story of a women’s attitudes her body and bodily functions changes over years, and of how society influences this attitude. Here De Beauvoir raises the core question of female embodiment; are the supposed disadvantages of the female body actual disadvantages which exist objectively in all societies, or are they merely judged to be disadvantaged by our society? Paul Sartre observed that whatever we perceive, including other people, is rendered as an “object” to our gaze and is defined by us. De Beauvoir takes up this idea of Paul Sartre and applies it to men’s perception of women. The very concept of women, argues De Beauvoir, is a male concept. Women is always, ‘other’ because male is the ‘seer’: he is subject and she is the object. The meaning of what it is to be a women is given by man. This timelessness observation is all relevant and holds good in our society without an iota of doubt.

Similarly, Masculinity is also related to the notion of becoming a man in a sexists, misogynist world. It is a stereotype or social construct. Not all men are violent or aggressive .it is the pursuit of power that public consciousness is being moulded to uphold the notion of destructive, brutal or aggressive aspect of manhood. The industrialization has also created a havoc by bringing into the cult of exploitation, exclusion and stratification while creating straight Jacket role for being a man or women through inflexible sexual racial division of labour. Vulgar depiction of male dominance and focus on male privileges & entitlements is creating a culture of misogyny.

Addressing a crime like rape needed a comprehensive holistic approach to maintain and support gender equality at interpersonal, family, society, country or at global level by combating domestic violence against women, ensuring progressive institutional & legal procedures, imparting Education on gender equity from primary to university level in collaboration with religious community, structural reforms to end bias towards women. A vibrant grassroots women’s network is needed to push policy makers and communities to step up actions on gender equality, to ensure accountability on legislation addressing violence against women. Similarly, In Muslim society, The Quranic command for ensuring women right and their protection, fair and equal treatment needs to be rejuvenated and emphasized, and Muslim mainstream scholarship must address such pressing issues

What makes judiciary in India hesitant to intrude by criminalising marital rape or rapes in general, it is here that structure of caste, and culture and sexuality inhabit women’s freedom with fatal consequences. To seek justice (Punitive) for rape victims in such a culture is little more than melodrama. More importantly, the real task is to shift attitudes towards sexual violence, not just to victims’ post-facto but more importantly to accept that rapists are a product of a society to which we all as a society are responsible in one or other way.

It is about a society, how it creates, perpetuates and sustains the mind-set that leads to rape like crimes and how such privileges intensify this centuries old violence. Women do not choose to think about their bodies and bodily processes negatively. Rather they are being forced to do so as a result of being embedded in a toxic patriarchal society. And half of the descendants of Eva are deprived and marginalized by rest male fellows of their legitimate share.
(Feedback at: bhatirshad@gmail.com)

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