Saturday, March 13, 2010


I'm verging on melodramatic fag here. Best be getting back to 'serious' journalism soon. Thing is, I am not proud of the work I have been doing the past few months (at the college where I am currently studying.) I thought it would be a step forward and in many ways it has. But in terms of 'inspiring' me to write it's kind of killed my imagination. You don't get inspired sitting in a white washed classroom. Inspiration comes from speaking, seeing, feeling, tasting (and yes, smoking) new things. Discovery doesn't happen on demand, in college and just for the sake of an assignment. Anything less than that doesn't get me on my toes and ,sorry, I can't being myself to do third rate work for the sake of doing it.

So till I feel like I have something to show off I'm going to use this space for what most blogs are for. Self-fulfilling ranting. Buh-bye.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ramchandra Guha, The Economist, Humphrey Hawksley and V.S Naipaul. What do any of these literary bombs have in common. Nothing except they are all sharing a shelf on my 6-foot-dismantable-pastel colored Damro. Its not so much about what they have written about but more their style - narrative non-fiction. The term first cropped up at the release of a magazine called 'The Caravan'. Apparently there is a big market for this kind of stuff. Maybe. Maybe not. By cropped up means that its the first time it occurred to any of my egos that such a thing existed. Apparently that dude who wrote 'The old man and the sea' used it too. A quick google tells me that its Ernest Hemingway. Sorry, I am currently practicing a writing style that involves a stream of concious thought. Unfortunatly that means that anyone reading this must deal with endless wandering off to different tangents while the returning to the original plot only to get distracted again. I am telling myself this isnt absolutly ridiculous because a famous ( I only heard of him when his estate {he is long deceased} came about some controversy thanks to relatives {or maybe just decendants of a wicked ex-wife} ) His name is Jack Kerouc or some such crock. I did manage to pick up his bestselling (highest earning to the ex-wife) book called on the road which supposedly inploys this form of streaming conciousness. It's rather tricky because I'm not quite sure whether I am to stop and correct the increasing number of red lines I am leaving strooled (is that a word? I;m not sure. There is a red line) across my page. I'm not even sure I'm supposed to stop to breathe let along light my next ciggarrte. Oh this is truly embrassing. What if one of my posh university educatedfriends were to stumble across this and see their slightly retarded friend can't even spell ciggatrrete. I wonder at what point will I consider this article done? If i began with no end in mind will I never end? I confess I just committed my first 'backspace' crime. Well five to be exact. And I just took my second break. Finger aches. But by never allowing my story to end have I just found immortality. Highly unlikely but still its an interesting point to reflect on. If an author trying to stream his thoughts on to paper (laptops are adequate too) is distracted from a primary objective or, as in this case, has none then he creates mindless dribble. Well, I dont know yet because I havent really had the chance to read it back to myself. I turst it is fairly all-over-the-place considering I can barely remember what I started writing this about. Maybe all the objective I had (sub-conciously ofcourse) was to start writing again. I'm getting the inkling that when I read this back to myself I shall find many interesting points upon which to further illaborate. Till then ta ta!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sri Lanka’s Second Chance

Sri Lanka’s Second Chance

The end of the civil and a successful general election mark the first steps in restoring democracy and the rule of law to the island nation, writes Siddharth Kotian

In the immediate aftermath of the recent general election in Sri Lanka, amidst charges of attempts to murder, threats to life and even the possibility of exile for the loser, Sri Lanka began to resemble some of its less savoury neighbours in South Asia. Elections in Pakistan and Bangladesh are often zero sum games, where the winner takes all, including the loser’s life.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wasted no time in beginning his purge of his vanquished opponent General Sarath Fonseca’s sympathizers in the Armed Forces. As soon as the results were announced the ten man security detail attached to Gen. Fonseka was withdrawn. Days later the entire top leadership of the army was subjected to scrutiny with at least three Major-Generals are being retired. The Ministry of Defence issued a statement saying simply that they had become a “threat to national security,” words reminiscent of the 25 year civil war when anyone advocating peace or negotiation with the Tamil Tiger insurgents was branded a traitor.

Gen. Fonseka has been stubborn in refusing to accept the results of the election despite having lost by over one and a half million votes or 17% of the total cast. Even if the entire voting Tamil population had braved intimidation and bombings to come out and vote for Gen. Fonseka it would still have left a sizable, albeit smaller, gap between the candidates. The minorities, inclusing the major Tamil parties like the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Western Peoples Front (WPF) as well as the single largest Muslim party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), all backed Gen. Fonseka. Says WPF parliamentarian Mano Ganeshan, “We have no other options.”

The only party in Gen. Fonseka’s coalition that failed to deliver was the radical Sinhala Janata Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP) that failed to mobilise its voter base among the rural youth. Indeed most rural Sinhalese voted Mr. Rajapaksa possibly fearing that a close contest between the two Sinhalese strongmen would allow the Tamils to cast the deciding vote. Giving the Tamils that sort of leverage was unacceptable to the Sinhalese, who are still celebrating their victory in the civil war. The Sinhalese may have appeared fractured in pre-poll counts but these proved inaccurate in predicting the larger picture. In fact, the rural vote was so strongly in favour of Mr. Rajapaksa that even in the largely fishing district of Gen. Fonseka’s hometown in Ambalangoda, 63% of the vote went to Mr. Rajapaksa.

The challenges Mr. Rajapaksa now faces in his first year of a six year term in office include massive repayments taken on war time loans, a loss of duty free status for exports of Sri Lankan garments in European markets and, of course, the ethnic integration of the two communities after a devastating civil war.

While they have applauded Mr. Rajapakse’s iron will in resisting Western pressure while allowing his army to finish off the top LTTE leadership in cold blood, the Sinhalese have begun to question his competence in managing the peace. The population is worried about spiralling inflation, the conversion of the government into a family business (50% of the country’s budget is controlled by the three Rajapaksa brothers in the cabinet), his inability to control rogue elements in government and “selling out” to China -- whose arms and cash proved essential to winning the war.

Gen. Foneseka, while relentlessly pursuing the LTTE even after he was nearly killed in a suicide bomb attack, has made strange bedfellows with the TNA, whose sympathies with the LTTE during the war was well known. The subcontinent’s experience with generals in politics has never been an unmixed disaster. His call for doubling the army’s strength to half a million in a country of twenty million raised fears of Sri Lanka heading turning into a military state. One rumour persists that the general had planned a coup just days after the election which prompted Mr. Rajapaksa’s purge of the Army.

Job security has become a major concern for large numbers of people ever since the European Union withdrew the “preferred country” status for imports from Sri Lanka over its human rights record. Export earnings, particularly from finished garments, have been a vital component of the Sri Lankan economy and have provided jobs for a large segment of the population. To assure the Sinhalese majority that jobs will not be lost, both candidates had been promising that the preferred country status would be restored. They promised full cooperation with investigations into war crimes, a big step down from their earlier position of not allowing “outside interference” in Sri Lankan affairs.

Once hopeful of being the deciding vote in the elections, Sri Lanka’s Tamils have now been marginalised. In the eyes of the Tamils, both contestants have just a veneer of humanity that masks their ruthlessness. They had been dealing with a ruthless Prabhakaran and the LTTE for the longest time and have yet to overcome that mindset. Prabhakaran had given the Tamils a voice but now it seems their saviours have to come from the ultra-nationalistic Sinhalese politicians.

On his maiden visit to Jaffna, considered the centre of Tamil culture on January 10, 2010, Mr. Rajapaksa gave assurances to resettle displaced Tamils in the area but stopped short of announcing the dismantling of the high security zones (HSZs) in the region. Gen. Fonseka had promised that he would dismantle the HSZ if brought to power. Jaffna, though it has been under government control since 1995, is divided into HSZ’s because of heightened security concerns. It means a heavy military presence in the region and severe restrictions on the freedom of movement for the citizens. Till the end of 2009, it also meant night curfew in most parts; the army has since announced lifting of night curfew in Jaffna.

According to a report in the Sunday Times on 10th January, the dismantling of HSZs would mark the beginning of a massive resettlement of displaced Tamils to their places of origin. “The withdrawal of the security zones will enable 80,000 displaced civilians to return to their homes. The HSZs extend to an area of 42 square kilometres in the Jaffna peninsula. Bulldozers and heavy equipment have been kept ready to be used to remove bunds and bunkers in the HSZs,” the report said.

The government is also facing new calls for a war crimes investigation after video footage surfaced which appears to show troops shooting blindfolded, naked Tamils in the final months of the war. Philip Alston, the UN expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said last week that the footage appeared to be authentic following examination by US-based independent experts.

The media within Sri Lanka has been very partisan and have made it difficult for ordinary people to form an informed opinion. The government controlled papers and TV news channels take a blatantly pro-president stand which provokes the private media into taking a thinly disguised pro-Fonseca stand. Hence, a majority of the common people are swayed by peer pressure and by word of mouth. Sri Lanka boasts of a 99% literacy rate but that doesn’t mean they believe what they read. The rapid swings in poll ratings from the president to the general showed that democracy thrives even if a “free press” doesn’t aid the process.

Both parties have been short on common sense when dealing with the ethnic issue. Gen. Fonseca appeared openly sympathetic to the minorities and scared away the majority vote. This leaves Mr. Rajapaksa with six more years to address an issue which he sought to crush by military force. But Sri Lanka’s Tamil “problem” can’t be wished away. Reconciliation may be too much to hope for a generation scarred by discrimination and war. But the people of Sri Lanka have to come to terms with the horror of the past three decades and put it behind them if they are to recreate the plural, liberal democracy that their country once was.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Animal Farm Can Teach US( read U.S)

Animal Farm was written during the Second World War and published in 1945. To review a book which has so firmly established itself amongst the greatest literary works of all time would be redundant. What would be far more interesting is to see the relevance of Animal Farm today. The books main ideas about greed, freedom and power are timeless. Reflecting on a book that was set during the most gruesome war of the 20th century may help us understand what we are still doing wrong in the 21st.

Animal Farm is a satire on revolution and its outcomes told through the events that unfold in a fictional farm. The book starts with the telling of a dream. An old respected pig called ‘Old Major’ relates to the animals what he has distilled through his lifetime. He tells them of the in-equality between men and animals. He tells them that man only gives them enough to survive on. Instead if animals were free of man there would be “enough food to eat for all the animals of England.” This promise is filled in the first few weeks after the rebellions success but soon begins falling apart as the pigs begin distinguishing themselves from the rest of the animals. The ideology of ‘Animalism’ is constantly tweaked and twisted to suit the rulers(pigs) who eventually begin practicing all the vices of humans like drinking and walking on two legs. The commandments of Animalism are simplified to the few words like ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ for the benefit of the largely illiterate class of animals on the farm. This is similar to the constitution of India who’s Preamble is simple as it is superficial. The depth that the constitution reaches is far beyond the masses of this country. The minority educated are left to amend and tweak the laws that govern a majority. This divide between the upper and lower class is exactly what breeds further acts of revolution which keep the cycle moving. Ultimately the pigs who led the revolution grew greedy with power. And if left unchecked the same fate befalls every civilization, present or future.

In the initial stages the author, George Orwell, couldn’t even `find a publisher for his book due to its heavily anti-communist tone. Ironically the book attempts to show that neither communism nor capitalism is much better than the other. An idea that today’s capitalists would vehemently try to refute. The crux of the book attempts to display the corruption that can consume a ‘peoples movement’ if an elected government does not take shape after revolt. The resemblances to past events draw the reader into the book by constantly evoking visions of Hitler’s Nazism and Stalin’s communism. Similarly, the relatively recent overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s Bath party in Iraq by American forces has left both countries struggling for stable Governments. Hamid Karzai runs a heavily western backed government in Afghanistan, but, is facing strong charges of corruption over the recently held elections. The U.S.A is trying hard to spin both Iraq and Afghanistan as ‘victories for democracy’. If these are victories it shows what a state democracy, as a whole, is in. At least in Afghanistan the Northern Alliance was on hand to lend some ‘local touch’ to the demise of the Taliban. But in Iraq there was no such group. Instead the Americans walked in, replacing dictator for dictator. The Iraqi people had very little say in the invasion. Their current leaders sit walled in a city within a city termed the ‘Green Zone’ otherwise known as the only ‘safe’ place in Baghdad. This is why sympathy has developed for Islamic organizations who say the west is attacking Islam and the only form of response is violence. Ironically the revolutionaries in Animal Farm fashion a flag with a hoof and horn set against a green backdrop. Similar to the hammer and sickle representing communism but more relevantly it is similar to the crescent and star of Pakistan (the book was released well before the birth of the Islamic state).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lou lou lou

The last valentines day saw a load of right wing extremists in India attacking women for frequenting pubs. I just noticed a chunk of the article is missing at the bottom. Will try and fix that ASAP!

My very first article :)


One heck of a journalist.