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The Emperor’s New Clothes is branded Kashmir

Graffiti is painted on shop shutters in Srinagar

The archaic children’s tale, Emperor’s New Clothes is really a story layered with clever subtext. Something widely accepted as true or professed as being praiseworthy due to an unwillingness of the general population to criticize it or be seen as going against popular opinion (due to ignorance or otherwise). Never has this subtext been more relevant than the extremely disconcerting violence in Kashmir, just another chapter in what has been a few year dominant with public unrest in various parts of the country due to polarising reasons.

 

For almost 2 months now the beautiful state of Jammu & Kashmir has been overwhelmed with violence across multiple districts. The killing of a Kashmiri Militant Youth Burhan Wani in early July has sparked protests across the state, with concerned citizens and youths turning hostile due the increased proliferation of security and the transgression of personal rights of Kashmiris. Things escalated quickly with Pakistan and Indian representatives engaging in a war of words and the most citizens of our country trained their guns on Pakistan for causing this issue. However, if ignorance could be quantified, then the weighing scale would be out of order at this point.

 

What really plagues Kashmir?

To try to get the proverbial handle on this let’s delve into the quagmire that is Kashmir. The place that is known as Heaven on Earth is no stranger to problems. Dogged by violent clashes and almost always the tipping point of tempers between Pakistan and India, it is considered the most unstable and dangerous places in India. The State borders the only two countries that India has gone to war against and neither China nor Pakistan have eased up on their border incursion stances leading to increased deployment of security personnel, both with the Indian Army and the State Controlled J&K Police.

 

This rapacious growth of security personnel overtime has created discomfort and displeasure among the Kashmiris, leading to disillusionment with a Government that has been accused of little dialogue with its people and their needs. The increasing national identity of Pro-Hindutva activists, and silence from position of power, across the country has also threatened the secularity of the entire country and has further unsettled the already unstable Kashmiri populace. The communal polarisation was complete with the PDP merging with the BJP after it’s figure head Mufti Mohammed Sayeed passed away.

 

 

With requests of independent statehood rebuffed on a constant basis, normalcy has never been restored to the Kashmir Valley. Many of the youth are now taking to arms and are creating Militant outfits to attack security personnel. Burhan Wani was one such youth who was abused by Indian security personnel at the age of 10.

 

Burhan took up militancy at the young age of 15 and had gone on to become a commander at 21. He released a 6 minute video where he urged Kashmiri’s to report Indian security movements to him and his team so that they could ‘take action’ against the ‘enemies of the state’. Following this video, Burhan was shot and killed by the Kashmir Police, sparking outrage and protests across the state. Over 50,000 Kashmiri’s are said to have attended the funeral of Burhan.

 

Repeated Human Rights Violations

With an increasing death toll coupled with multiplying injuries and threats, the Kashmir unrest continues the disturbing trend of repeated human right violations in the country. The Rohit Vermula unrest, the JNU unrest, the Patidhar stir, the Jat Stir, constant attacks and murders by ‘Gau Rakshaks’, the Kashmir unrest and the increasing no.of attacks on Dalits in recent months are worrying. There appears to be an undercurrent of malcontentment that is being swept under the rug with no affirmative actions or resolutions taken to address the root of the problems.

 

Deeply ingrained is the belief that the evil conceal their dangerous predilections for violence, polarization and domination that when they wear them like bangles for all to see, the gullible laugh and call it a pose, or find it strangely charming.

 

When the United Nations Chief Ban Ki Moon conveyed his concern over the current situation and wished to send a delegation to investigate the Human Rights Violation, the request was rejected by Cabinet stating that it is an internal matter and not an international one.

 

This is where the pillars of logical argument start crumbling into fine dust. If the matter happened to be as internal as made out, what is the need to constantly engage Pakistan in a war of words through this event. To put things into perspective, the USA, UK, China and EU have all also released statements deploring the acts of the security forces in Kashmir today, but only Pakistan has been targeted. Also, wouldn’t engaging Pakistan automatically indicate it is not merely an internal matter?

 

Putting all that aside, irrespective of whether it is an international matter or an internal matter, why was the UN HR delegation denied entry to India? It’s not as if they are run by the US or China or Pakistan. The UN happens to be a non-partisan group that report facts and not opinions. A report from the UN would have equipped policy makers with information that could have been used to effectively curb Human Right abuse, however a golden opportunity was missed. One cannot help but hope the motive is not sinister, especially when considering a British team wishing to examine to communal harmony in India was also denied entry earlier this year.

 

Potential Solution?

Is there a potential solution for the issue raging on in J&K? In my opinion there can. I strongly feel Kashmir is now an integral part of India, granting the state independent statehood would have a debilitating effect on both India and J&K itself, as it is unequipped to handle the rigours of its geographical position.

 

One of the biggest reasons Kashmir will never be seceded by India is the fact that it happens to be a strategic vantage point. The Kashmir mountains and valleys make it a natural barrier from invasions outside the country. This will also explain why Kargil was a big battle for India as the points seized by Pakistan were critical barrier points.

 

But in my opinion the entire issue with J&K is it is largely viewed as a military and strategic place of interest for the country. So much so that there has been limited infrastructure development and minimal economic growth in industrial segments of the State. This has not only created a paucity in jobs but also resentment as the rest of India sees significant investment in the above mentioned areas.

 

Pakistan is a punching bag for a lot of issues in the State. The thought that Pakistan are the enemy is something that is pulverised into minds right from early school. This significantly affects free thinking as a lot of the issues really do not involve Pakistan at all. Schooling of an erudite manner needs to be in place to make Indians feel that Pakistan is not just a country, it’s a congregation of people. There will be good people and there will be bad people, just like how they are in India. The more this thought is approbated, the less virulent will our opinions be about Pakistan.

 

This more cultured approach to tackling the root of the challenges faced by Kashmiris will yield positive results, and while it may be impossible to remove militancy or cross border incursions, addressing issues by providing Kashmiri’s alternatives and valuing their life will drastically reduce the insurgents and will create a more positive and conducive atmosphere across the State and the country as whole. We have citizens that have incredible potential and hopefully this potential is achieved in the right way, by being empowered with knowledge and information rather than propaganda. This will genuinely help India prosper as a country with both economic growth and valuing Human Rights.

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Reservations – Why it’s Essential and Why it’s all Wrong

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It is an issue which is constantly rumbling in the pits of the stomach of the country. Multiple stirs and suicides, paired with the Ruling Party’s strategic silence on the matter has meant it’s slowly working its way to the forefront of challenges faced by our Overlords. Most recently, the Censor Board banned a movie about the Patidhar Stir in Gujarat stating that it is likely to cause unrest and it will be a threat to the sovereignty and security of the country. I’m inclined to agree with this move and personally feel that the country is not educated or aware enough to handle a subject of that level of seriousness. The likelihood of the populous being swayed by simple yet emotional or violent portrayals of reservations might evoke passion and cause unrest in certain parts the country. Unfortunately, none of these acts nor movies will delve deep enough into the Jungle, that is reservation, to find the solution and solace that the country really needs.

 

Reservation is not Unique to India, its prevalent across the world

Before, we journey into the treacherous issued posed by Reservation, I felt it appropriate to brief the uniqueness of this problem in India. While reservations is a concept that is fairly common across the world, to uplift certain parts of the society that require facilitation, caste is a concept that entirely unique to India and does not exist anywhere else in the world. ‘Casteism’ was reasonably prevalent in the 1700s and 1800s in India. It was something that originated from centuries old customs and writings that nobody questioned. If someone broke the designated duty of the caste, they were either shunned or moved away from that society of people. It was a problem but not one which was out of hand, not until the British realised it could be.

 

Divide and rule was a strategy used by the British to devastating effect and the trappings of which are still felt to this day. Caste was one of the victims of this Divide & Rule policy where the Monarchy constantly gave benefits to a particular part of the society and quite vocally neglected another. This exercise was done in frequent intervals, ignoring one community while favouring another community/caste, driving a wedge between the different castes and societies in India. This vitriol channelled itself into various outlets including theatre, music, news and, the most damning of them all, story-tales to children. Is there any surprise this dislike has continued not only shortly after 1947 but even till 2017, almost 70 years after the British Oligarchs left the promise-land?

 

“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them. “

 

Reservations were meant to be for 15 years only. The Constituent Assembly was short-sighted

The most eminent, Nationalist, far-sighted group of individuals were tasked with the responsibility of developing the Constitution for the largest democracy in the world. They set-out to tackle some of the greatest challenges faced by the country at the time and set precedents for the future of India. As Casteism and offshoots of the same, such as untouchability, was rampant at the time of Independence, the Assembly felt it appropriate to genuinely adhere to equality guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights and give every person in the country an equal opportunity to lead a dignified life.

 

‘What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights. ‘

 

They felt not providing reservation for the oppressed sections of the society would only perpetuate inequality and would therefore not be true to the Constitution of India. They introduced Reservation but stated it would exist for 15 years for the specified classes of people. This move, in my opinion, is 2 of the most short-sighted decisions taken by the assembly. While I am in total agreement with the concept of reservation and the idea behind it, the fact that it was meant to be only for a period of 15 years automatically invalidates the ideology of equality. Humans by nature discriminate and it would only be a matter of time before another society becomes oppressed while one becomes the oppressor. Further, the Assembly introduced rigid ‘classes’ that would be eligible for the benefits of reservation. Another shockingly short-sighted view as, yet again, it invalidates the point of reservation itself as it guarantees reservations for a certain set of people constantly, which means they are never really empowered.

 

Needless to say, 70 years on, we have seen this part of the Constitution to be the most contentious. Repeatedly Politicians have used it as a weapon for political vote-banks and have kept these sections of the society oppressed and uneducated to benefit their political ambitions. These ambitions saw the 15 year reservation period extended indefinitely and classes of people eligible for reservation, constantly increased with the % of reservation also constantly being pushed. Despite, Supreme Court directing a cap on the % of reservation, some State Governments have still found ways to increase the reservations to 60%.

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Why is it always Reservation or No Reservation? There Exists a Middle Ground – My Solution

Reservation is essential to enable equality and growth to specific people. But Reservation as it stands is a failure and the very fact that it has existed for 70 years and continues to remain static goes to show that it has done nothing to fuel the growth of the people whom reservations has been made for. It has merely been a powerful tool for the Politicians to wield and use effectively for their vested interests.

 

Reservation needs to be dynamic. It needs to be something that can be reviewed on a regular basis and check the effectiveness. A system should be in place which ensures the right level of reservation and resources need to be directed to the identified groups of people. It needs to be measurable. But considering the diverse nature and amount of people that exist in India, is it practically possible? How are you going to identify these people?

 

I believe it’s easily possible.  We have an existing very powerful and expensive exercise that is carried out by all governments, irrespective of who is in power. The Census! Every person in India is visited and demographic details are obtained from the people of India. All the Government will need to do is expand the scope of the census, add more questions understanding the income status, wealth status and education status of everyone in the household. Get a trained representative to ask more questions about the social challenges and difficulties faced and the impacts of the same. The Census process will probably take a year longer to complete, but it’ll be a process that will be entirely worth it. The Government will have quantifiable and quantitative information regarding every citizen in India. The information will enable the Govt. to take decisions which are directly at addressing any inequalities which have been measured by this census data. All resources and reservation can be directed effectively in addressing these issues. A firmer stand can be taken where qualitative issues have plagued the growth of a certain class of people. Further, the Govt every 10 years can evaluate the impact of the decisions and resources to the specific class of people. The Govt. will be dynamic and will evolve and ration the right amount of resources to be administered to oppressed groups of people, the ones that are improving and new groups of people that might feature in the census.

 

I believe, this approach will ensure that there is genuine eradication of inequality and it will uphold the soul of the Constitution to enable Right to Equality. It will make reservation more effective and transparent and it will transform the Country.

 

‘People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities‘ – Linda Ellerbee

The Dark Underbelly of Freedom of Speech and Tanmay Bhatt

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Samuel L Jackson places reasonable restrictions on saying what

The tirade of Tanmy Bhatt, of AIB fame, about the beloved public figures Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar has evoked some very strong reactions on twitter and in the upper echelons of the Government. Needless to say, this has brought to forefront the ever raging tempest, the Free Speech debate.

India has the longest constitution in the world and this is not without reason. A fairly young constitution, less than 70 years old, the Constitution has already seen 100 amendments made compared to just 27 made to the 228 year old Constitution of the United States of America. In an almost comical and ironic, but relevant comparison, the first amendment to the Indian Constitution put into place ‘reasonable restrictions’ on Freedom of Speech, while the first amendment of the US Constitution prohibited any sort of abridgement of free speech.

 

So what happened in the 1 year of Absolute Free Speech in India?

 

Earlier, in March 1950, in Delhi, the government’s attempts at pre-censoring the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece, the Organiser, had been over-ruled. The East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949, under which the curbs were being applied, was held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In another case in May 1950, involving a left-leaning journal called Crossroads, published by Romesh Thapar from Mumbai, met with the same fate. At the time, Madras state had banned the Communist Party and, as part of that policy, prohibited the entry and circulation of Crossroads in the state. Thapar contested this ban legally and won, with the Supreme Court declaring the Madras Maintenance of Public Safety Act, 1949 unconstitutional.

 

Within a week of the decision, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, complaining that this ruling weakened the power of the Center in regulation of Press and the Public. Patel feared not being empowered to gag a Leader who was campaigning to annul Bengal’s partition (at the time). Despite their dissensions on most matters, both Nehru and the Iron Man of India believed in a powerful centralised state and decided to put into place certain controls which they could use as a device to restrict free speech in specific places. It is believed that the Father of the Constitution, BR Ambedkar, did not agree with these views but was a minority. However, he still managed to place the caveat of ‘reasonable’ restrictions that would be decided by the Judiciary, opposed to the Patel camp which insisted on total restriction which was in power of the executive.

 

Ridiculous Reasonable Restrictions Restore Ringleader Rule

 

We’re today saddled with vaguely defined hate speech, sedition and blasphemy laws that are repeatedly used on a regular basis for political ends. When people found solace in the internet, the Government sought to control the same and passed the Information Technology Act, 2000 which even went so far as to penalise “offensive” electronic messages. While one might argue that curbs on free speech are required in a country as wide and culturally different as India is, one fails to appreciate the ground reality of the situation. As we have seen in Mumbai in 1993 or in Gujarat in 2002, the state does not really seek to clamp down on free speech for such altruistic purposes. Instead, free speech curbs are used for petty political ends, banning books, movies, paintings, college gatherings and even Facebook status updates.

 

Even the last bastion of happiness has not been left alone in India. Comedy has always been an art that is liberal-minded. Almost all comedians will fight against censorship and have a way of interspersing comedy with public messages on freedom which has for several decades been a medium to reflect the mood of the public to changing jurisprudence. Ofcourse, this is something which is pure evil and shouldn’t be allowed.

Hence, in India, we’ve seen crackdown on a comedy roast hosted by All India Bakchod which poked fun at actors, directors and producers with their consent. We’ve further seen crackdown on poetry or music which capture the mood of the nation or take jibes at the ruling party; and now we’re witnessing the ruthless onslaught of an entertainer who ridiculed, on a lighter note, two famous Indian people on his personal snapchat account. This has been blown out of proportion and now the incumbent government and many political parties are urging the police to arrest the comedian and put him behind bars.

 

I personally don’t find All India Bakchod or Tanmay Bhatt too funny. In fact, a lot of their humour borders on being obnoxious and heavy handed, however, this remains their fundamental right and their freedom of speech. Tanmay Bhatt has not incited violence, nor has he indulged in hate speech. Neither the roast, nor his snapchat tirade been an attack on the democracy or freedom of the people of India. It might have been idiotic, sure, but it’s definitely not a crime. If anything, instead of putting restrictions on freedom of speech, the government could make idiocy a crime. Then again, if that is done, most of our Parliament would be behind bars.

 

Freedom of speech needs to be appreciated and put on the pedestal it deserves. Even if absolute freedom is not given in India, the reasonable restriction should genuinely be reasonable and the archaic sedition and hate speech laws should be vanquished in place of genuine laws to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India.

 

‘The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny’ – Hugo Black

Will Stalin’s Response Spur a Change in Tamil Nadu Politics?

J Jayalalithaa's swearing-in ceremony

The Opposition Leader MK Stalin is seated with the general public at the CM Swearing in Ceremony

The move by MK Stalin to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Hon’ble Chief Minister Jayalalitha a few days earlier is not really a political move; atleast not in any sense understood by traditional Tamil Nadu politics. That’s not to say it isn’t political at all. It strikes one as a move that is scathingly political but it’s disruptive, different and ruthlessly transparent. It’s a spit in the face of the modern politician, the culture of the soulless ghouls who inhabit that world, and the vacuous public multitude that seeks to worship and emulate them.

 

The State of Madras (as Tamil Nadu used to be called) was dominated by Congress till the DMK ousted the grand old party from its comfortable seat. Led by the charismatic Anna and assisted by his trusted Lieutenant, the fiery and dynamic, MK Karunanidhi and the razzle-dazzle of the party mascot, MG Ramachandran. After Anna’s passing, Karunanidhi ascended to the throne of Chief Minister, still with the help of his good friend MG Ramachandran.

 

Things soon turned sour as both the film-star and the Kalaignar looked to eclipse each other on the stage, vying for the love of the general public. The Film-Star won the battle and went to become the Chief Minister of the State and continued to be the Chief Minister till his death, a feat never repeated till Jayalalitha won the Legislative Assembly this month. However, the politicians continued to remain friends despite their differences and allegiances to their parties.

“Both MGR and I attacked each other in debates. But I can never forget my 40 year friendship with MGR. When I came to know of MGR’s death I rushed back from the railway station to pay my last respects. Rationalist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy had serious differences with Rajaji, but when the latter passed away, Periyar cried inconsolably”, Karunanidhi recalled. ”These great leaders had set examples of the great political culture in the state. Now, we have the responsibility of preserving it”, he added.

Well, that’s rather touching from Kalaignar, but neither him or nor the current ruling Supremo, Hon’ble CM Jayalalitha took efforts to mend their fences, instead focussed on undoing what the previous leader had done. This has been the legacy of Tamil Nadu politics, the state is littered with examples of discontinued work of the previous government, as if it was a haunted relic stayed fearing completion will unleash an unspeakable torment on the people, yet dominant enough to not be destroyed.

 

However, there now appears to be a new leaf in the primordial book of Tamil Nadu politics from left field. The source is none other than the 63 year old MK Stalin, son of the former Chief Minister MK Karunanidhi. Though, the ‘Thalapathi’ was not projected as the CM candidate of the DMK, he has led the party from the front and despite defeat has said all the right things (or the things the public want to hear but have never heard in the past).

 

On defeat, Stalin tweeted “We respect the people’s verdict & will work as a responsible opposition party. I take this opportunity to congratulate Selvi J Jayalalithaa”. He also stated that he would attend the swearing in ceremony of the AIADMK Supremo. While this could all be done by his Public Relations team, one may be allowed to dream that positive thoughts have been communicated, even if it’s sham. To the credit of the DMK leader, he went on to attend the swearing in ceremony and despite being seated in the 16th row(considered by his father as an insult), went on to wish the Chief Minister, the best for her term.

 

The move from Stalin is simple but unprecedented, atleast in recent times, and has evoked many a positive sentiment from the general public and his political competition. Infact, the Hon’ble CM later went on to apologise for his seating debacle and said “I convey my good wishes to him and look forward to working with his party for the betterment of the state”.

 

While one could call these leaders charlatans and their actions simply those where they pull wool over our eyes, we must have faith in our democratic system and trust that change will happen and I’d like to think that the change is happening right now. Sometimes, a little change is a good thing.

 

Idi Amin – The Last King of Scotland

In a new featurette of the blog, we look at the worst dictators in history of the world and their lasting impacts.

 

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‘The Last King of Scotland’ Idi Amin is among the worst tyrants of all time

 

The Homogeneity of India and Africa is sometimes striking. Like two peas in a pod, both the Sub-Continent and the Continent of sweeping savannahs have been rapaciously plundered by various European powers, but while India was able to consolidate and integrate itself into one collective democratic unit, numerous countries in Africa fell into the hands of power-hungry, barbaric and greedy tyrants – effects of which still prevail several decades later. Perhaps the most infamous of the barbaric Tyrants to torment the continent in recent decades was Idi Amin, the former pawn of Imperial Britain who rose through the ranks to become military dictator of Uganda. Amin, who was initially paraded as a charming and witty man, later was noticed for what he really was. He became the killer clown of Africa, butchering hundreds of thousands of his people while proclaiming himself the “Conqueror of the British Empire” and sending notes to Queen Elizabeth II, inviting her to come to Uganda to experience “a real man”.

 

Idi Amin first rose to prominence in the ranks of the King’s African Rifles, a regiment of the British Empire’s Colonial Army, derived from various native African tribes. Back in the waning days of the British Empire – when the British nobility could still just about get away with the rape and plunder of the tropics while pretending to bring civilisation to the “savages” – there was plenty of opportunity for an ambitious black man, so long as he was sufficiently subservient and willing to do the Empire’s dirty work when told to.

 

In 1962, the Brits handed Amin the job of suppressing a cattle rustling operation, being carried out in northern Uganda by the neighbouring Turkana tribe of Kenya. Amin had succeeded in doing the same however it later came to knowledge that Amin had been waging a campaign of sustained terror against the Turkanan tribesmen. His men carried out gruesome torture, cut off the testicles of their victims, bludgeoned some of them to death with clubs and buried others alive. Well, they did say that they wanted the Turkanans to stop stealing cattle. By this time, the British Empire was rapidly fading and since they weren’t used to the swamps and mosquitoes of Uganda, they decided to get the hell out of there. While any soldier would have been court martialed for his actions, Amin got away because the British didn’t want a prolonged legal battle at a country that was no longer their colony.

The Rise To Power

Uganda was officially granted independence on 9 October, 1962. Sir Edward Mutesa, King of the Baganda tribe, became the nation’s new President. Milton Obote, a good buddy of Amin, became the Prime Minister. Obote liked Amin even better than his previous British bosses had, and awarded him with rapid promotion. Amin became the deputy commander of Uganda’s armed forces. Obote had rapidly begun smuggling operations where he had made a lot money at the cost of Ugandan economy. When King Mutesa objected to the same, Obote suspended the constitution and made himself the overall leader of Uganda. King Mutesa was deported out of the country and Obote ruled with his trusted side-kick Amin.

However, as it turned out Amin wasn’t really a trust worthy side-kick. Amin waited until Obote went on holiday to Singapore, and then ordered the army to take over the country. Israel sent their General Chief of Staff, Colonel Bar-Lev, to Uganda to assist Amin with his coup. Amin declared himself the new President of Uganda. But Amin assured the people that he was only the temporary President, and that elections would take place very soon. However, Amin was forgetful and the elections never came. Probably because Amin was busy killing off anyone who he didn’t like.

Consolidation of Power

Amin went on to execute two thirds of the Ugandan army (6,000 out of about 9,000 troops) and replaced them with his own loyalists. Then Amin decided that Uganda would be a country for black people only, and set about expelling the 80,000 odd Indians and Pakistanis who were living there at the time, claiming that they were sabotaging the economy. He stole all of their property and gave it to the most loyal officers in his army and ofcourse, took some for himself – thank you very much. But, the only problem was, the Indians and Pakistanis constituted the majority of the professional and business class in Uganda, and without them, the economy collapsed.

Members of rival tribes, diplomats, businessmen, academics, members of the clergy, journalists, bothersome foreigners and plain old ordinary Ugandan citizens all got the chop. Anywhere between 100,000 and 500,000 people (depending on who you ask) were murdered. Entire villages were wiped out, and the Nile became so clogged with dead bodies that they began blocking up the dam intake pipes.

Amin goes Bat-Shit Crazy

By 1975, Amin had consolidated his grip on impoverished Uganda by ruthlessly eliminating anybody who was in his way. Most of the nation’s scarce resources were diverted into the ever expanding military. Not much was spared for civilian development. The military chiefs loyal to Amin became Uganda’s new elite. In a demonstration of his authority, Amin decided to stage a publicity stunt for the benefit of the world media. In an elaborate ceremony, he forced a group of Kampala’s white residents to carry him around on a throne, then kneel before him and pledge loyalty.

 

In 1976, Amin caused an international outrage by allowing a hijacked Air France passenger aircraft, carrying 105 Israeli hostages, to land in Uganda. Amin tried to put up the pretence of “assisting” with the hostage negotiations, while in fact he was collaborating with the Palestinian hijackers all along. Israel had no patience with the charade and promptly dispatched a unit of commandoes to Entebbe to take care of business. During the 58 minute operation, two of the hostages were killed and one left behind. The remaining 102 hostages were rescued, while the 8 hijackers were liquidated, along with 45 Ugandan soldiers who happened to get in the way.

 

The whole affair was considered a major embarrassment for Amin, and he reacted with insane fury. He ordered a fresh purge to be carried out, involving the murder of anybody suspected of “opposing” him, on whatever pretext. He pretty much just got totally pissed off and wanted to see some heads roll for it. Amin also expelled all remaining foreigners from the country.

 

The Beginning of the End

 

Post the Air France event, global ties with Uganda began to weaken. The UK and US decided that they didn’t want to be associated with terrorism (genocide is perfectly okay. But terrorism, oh no that awful). All economic and diplomatic ties were severed. Amin’s grip on the country was beginning to weaken. He could no longer count on much in the way of international support, and Uganda’s already battered economy suffered. Civil unrest became a constant threat. Amin attempted to distract the public’s attention from internal strife by acting on long standing plans to invade neighbouring Tanzania.

 

However, during the invasion, the Tanzanian forces showed they were no pushovers and decimated the Ugandan army. They went on to stage a counter-invasion and took the Ugandan capital of Kampala, forcing Amin to flee to safety. His reign of terror was finally over. Idi Amin left a legacy of chronic national debt, an annual inflation rate of over 200%, crime rate through the roof, catastrophic divide between the rich and the poor, and hundreds of thousands of its citizens left dead.

 

In 1989, Amin attempted to return to Uganda in order to stage a coup, but he was intercepted by authorities in Zaire and sent back to Saudi Arabia. There he remained until 2003, when he died from massive internal organ failure. In an interview that Amin gave, shortly before his death, he stated that he had no regrets about his actions in Uganda and claimed he was happier at Saudi Arabia than he had ever been in Uganda.

 

My Experience of Uganda

‘Everything you read and heard about Idi Amin, in papers and movies regarding how bad it was when he was in power. Well, how it really was, was much much worse’ – Abdullah – a Ugandan rebel at the time of Idi Amin – now a driver for my client.

 

As much as I’d like to make it seem that I travelled to Uganda to write up this blog post, its completely not the case. I had gone to Uganda with very limited knowledge about Idi Amin but during my 3 week stay there, learnt a lot about him and his impact on Uganda. His legacy and reign of terror is still very strongly felt in Kampala. There exists an almost tangible feeling in the air that signifies the divide between Foreigners and the Locals. The way they treat each other and how conversations happen. There still exists a fear that whoever is in power can at any time just assume charge over the entire country (and seemingly the current President is trying to do the same).

 

I only felt glad that despite all the similarities between India and Uganda (and many other African countries), we were lucky enough not to have a dictator at the helm of affairs, and a constitution that is strong enough to protect our people and the country.

Is Good Really Not Good Enough?

“Good isn’t simply good enough. When I stand atop my great wall, I would think, ‘The view is rather good… But is it great?”

The above quote is from a popular advertisement starring Naseerudin Shah. While the quote relates to product being advertised it is also a reflection of society today.

Society loves to discern and deliver a dissertation about a particular person. The media loves to build a person up and then bring them crashing down to planet at the first opportunity they get. And there has been a worrying growth of this from the general public these days. Bosses love to benchmark employees and tell them they’re not good enough because the other person is better; the same goes with siblings at home, classmates at class and people at work(celebrities or otherwise).

The media dictates every step of your life. Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabanna, Lacoste, Louis Philippe tells you how many abs you should have. The TV tells you whether you should be size zero or how many curves you should have. Starbucks tells you what coffee you need to drink to be successful, what suits you need to wear to impress the girls, what alcohol changes your life, an Omega watch will transport you to a different stratosphere. Everything has to be crisp, clean and perfect. That’s what the society expects out of you because that’s what society sees.

If it isn’t worrying enough that this happens at a large for adults, this worrying trend can be seen with children as well. Airtel Little Super-Singer, Teen Indian idol, Junior Singing Champion, India has got talent. The list of shows where kids are put into the spotlight goes on and on. It’s endless.

I’m not advocating complacency and being average. Competition is a good thing but competition shouldn’t be expected to be the start and end of it all. There is a place for everyone in the world and everybody happens to be pretty good at something someone else isn’t. Due to certain circumstances they haven’t had the opportunities to experiment with these and take it up as a full time job. Good is good enough unless someone sees the potential to cultivate it and amplify it to the next level.

People need to learn to accept the level of performance and focus on skill development and personality development of the other person rather than focussing on career development and brain-washing them into believing certain products or things change their lives. Believe in a person and root for them rather than rooting for how you want them to be. Genuinely want a change and work towards it rather than having a picture in your mind and expecting others to reach that benchmark. Good can be good enough.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Obliterating the Walls of Perception

 

In a cruel and evil world, being cynical can allow you to get some entertainment out of it. But no matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.

 

Qualifications are prerequisites to introductions. Prepossession is a precondition to an establishment. A baptism of fire and travails is an exordium for a tenderfooted graduate who is seeking his/her first job. Wiping the grease off your elbows for what you get compensated for is not good enough and you need to go ‘beyond your call of duty’ to keep place at your office. Top lines and bottom lines are lauded and cash flow statements are neglected. Women who strive to make a name at a work-place are chastised at home by relatives. It seems the world has forgotten substance over form and these nuances appear to be the desiderata to get by.

 

I think it’s time to take off my cynical cap and put on a more rational one.
“It’s not what you are inside, but what you do that determines you”. Humans by nature tend to judge and classify. When you meet a person, you instinctively size them up irrespective of the purpose of the meeting. You don’t necessarily get what you see but ironically, we almost always tend to stick to the polar opposite of the wise old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. It’s not merely lack of time that drives such decisions, it’s a change in the importance handed to such perceptions. A lot of people have realised the world is rapidly changing and there is a necessity for people to change and adapt to such changes. A large no.of people have put down perception issues are precipitated from the respective cultures.

 

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

 

A common assessment of cities like Dubai and Singapore is that once the initial shine wears off, there is a lot left to be desired. It’s normally put down to the nomadic and floating populous and the two cities not having an identifiable culture.

 

Culture is a word bandied about a lot these days. It’s important to preserve heritage as it saddles an identity and a story to the civilization. However, there seems to be a genuine misunderstanding between culture and principles. Cultural requirements are not principles. You cannot expect to ‘stand like a rock’ with regards to culture. If we did, more widows would be throwing themselves into fire (Sathi), more children would be getting married at the age of 6 and Kings and Queens would still be the dominant decision makers as opposed to parties elected through democratic processes. It’s strange how selective people can be with regards to culture. The culture issue is incriminating in India due to the vast heritage and melting pot of different traditions prevelant in the country. While a small part of the country is adopting a more contemporary thought process, a large part of the country neglects it in fear of losing control.

 

It’s important to afford freedom to people to make decisions that relate to them; only then will they have confidence to take decisions that relate to a larger group of stake holders. Forget forsaken culture in favour of forward thinking. Judge but don’t be judgemental. No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.