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Friday, January 31, 2020

India Vs New Zealand T20 Cricket: The Tying Spree & The Indian Glee!

Two days back I wrote ‘You hardly come across tied T20I matches…!’ now; circumstances force me to cancel that kind of condescending writing style and write ‘the tying spree…’! Because, after the Hamilton tie you get on your platter another Wellington tie—the second successive tie with, as usual, New Zealand snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and India winning again in the super over. Thus, winning the Wellington 4th T20I match today Team India makes it 4-0 in the five-match Series. Hamilton: the Kiwis win toss, elect to field first, India set a target of 179, New Zealand lose two wickets in the 20th over, fail to score 2 runs off 4 balls and ties the match at 179; in the super over New Zealand set a target of 18 runs, India overhaul it winning the match and the Series. Wellington: the Kiwis win toss, elect to field first, India set a target of 166 runs, New Zealand lose four wickets in the 20th over, fail to make 20 runs off 21 balls with seven wickets standing at one stage; in the super over New Zealand set a target of 14 runs, India overhaul easily winning the match and taking the lead to 4-0. In both cases the graph is similar with equally inexplicable batting rigmarole of the Kiwis. Anyway, Indian fans rejoice again, not as much for making it 4-0 as getting the excitement of an unexpected tie for the second time in succession.

India looked to be suffering from a ‘defeat wish’ from the very beginning today: as expected after winning the Series they experimented with abandon—dropping a batsman in the most explosive form (Rohit) or rather ‘resting him’ as they say and more set players being rested  making way for the IPL talents (as for your innocent query as to why Indian cricket superstars need so much rest the Indian team management would not be able to give a suitable reply); then they suffer a batting collapse with only Manish Pandey (50 not out) giving some semblance of respect in setting the final target of 165/8. With two of the Indian top-form bowlers including the gamechanger Shami in Hamilton being rested too, it was New Zealand’s game, overwhelmingly. And, cruising at 159 for just 3 the Kiwis looked to have the first winning taste in this series. However, it was not to be: both of the set batsmen—Munro (64) and Seifert (57)—got run-out at important junctures. And then, the 20th over: what Shami did in Hamilton, player-of-the-match Shardul Thakur did in Wellington; as in Hamilton Taylor paved the way for defeat by getting out—this time to Thakur, then the crucial run-out of Seifert, next Thakur gets Mitchell out caught and the last ball saw the run-out of Santner. So, in the 20th over the Kiwis lost 4 wickets including 2 run-outs instead of simply getting the 7 runs required. There were 3 run-outs in the NZ innings speaking volumes for the spirited Indian fielders.

Apart from the bounty of 2 successive ties, Team India, it needs to be mentioned, shows a new kind of resolve to get back into a match from any situation and finally winning it—be it in the super over or otherwise. This new-found spirit augurs well for the team in the coming T20 World Cup in Australia. However, this result does not justify the mindless experimentation, and blindly trying out the so-called IPL talents. Such experimentation didn’t help the team in winning the one-day World Cup-2019 and many of the then-experimented players now languish in the dumps, several veterans being ignored continuously. It is also interesting to note that now; India is winning more with only a make-shift wicket-keeper in the team than 4 wicket-keepers in a playing eleven in many of the earlier short-format matches!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

T20 Cricket: Rohit Again as India Win A Super-Over Thriller, Seal T20I Series Against New Zealand!

You hardly come across tied T20I matches any part in the cricketing world; but today the third Twenty20 International match between India and New Zealand in Hamilton became one, and incredibly so. Indian opener Rohit Sharma starred in the Indian innings after being put into bat with 65 off 40 balls in a team total of 179/5, and yet again in the super over overhauling the New Zealand challenge of 18 runs with two sixes in the final two balls. A terrific 95 off just 48 balls by Kiwi captain Kane Williamson was in vain as he fell to Shami with just 2 runs needed off 4 balls of the final over. New Zealand needing 9 runs to win, Shami started the 20th over conceding a six to Taylor, then 1 run to Taylor that brings Williamson into strike, third ball gets him out caught in the gully, next ball dot to Seifert, fifth ball yields a bye, and the sixth ball bowls Taylor ending the match in a tie allowing a super-over finish. Mohammed Shami was justifiably the Game-changer of the match while Rohit bagged the Player of the Match honor.

On a somewhat slow pitch India began with an explosive partnership of 89 runs with Rohit racing to his half century in just 23 balls—the second fastest in T20 cricket. However, the Kiwi bowlers adjusted to the pitch superbly by bowling slower ones with spinner Sodhi doing extremely well giving away only 23 runs in 4 overs. India seemed to lose the plot of a 200+ target, and the changes in batting order didn’t help at all: when the stage was set perfectly for Virat Kohli after the fall of Rahul and with Rohit going great guns, in came not Kohli nor Shreyas nor even Pandey, but Shivam Dubey! Well, experiment and the IPL youngsters, no doubt! But for Jadeja and Pandey hitting some lusty blows in the final couple of overs the target could have been much easier than 179. Even then, the target of 180 was not a tall order and the Kiwis almost proved it. The pace bowlers of both teams toiled hard on the field—Southee for NZ and Jasprit Bumrah for India proving very expensive and wicketless.   

The match reminds one of the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final when New Zealand failed to win in similar situations against England, and even a super-over could not yield a winner, leading to a result that still disturbs many. For India too, the name ‘New Zealand’ rankles thanks to the semi-final of the World Cup when India failed to cope with the Kiwi pacers the run-out of Dhoni being the turning point. That India have sealed the five-match T20I Series in New Zealand against New Zealand at 3-0 winning the first two matches in Auckland with relative ease would make a lot of Indian fans happy, not to mention the ecstasy of today’s incredibly exciting thriller going the Indian way at the very end.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cricket: Rohit Ton As India Win ODI Series Against Australia!

It's always a great feeling beating Australia anywhere; greater if winning a series against them. India have achieved a series win beating the visitors in the third and final one-day international match by 7 wickets in Bangalore today. The match was India's the moment opener Rohit Sharma took full charge chasing 287 and blasted his way to a century (119, 8 fours, 6 sixes). Captain Virat Kohli gave him exciting company quickly getting to his half century and better. The versatile KL Rahul had to open again in place of injured Dhawan, and this time failed to make a defining contribution.

Earlier Australian captain Aaron Finch gave an indecipherable googly at the toss: he won it for the third time, and decided to have the first strike this time, to Kohli's surprise and glee. Maybe thanks to India's dominant batting in Rajkot after being put into bat Finch must have planned for a huge total to put pressure on India in the final encounter. But it was not to be as the Indian bowlers showed far greater discipline and control: Shami got Warner out early and the run-out of Finch set the visitors back; Shami went on to capture four wickets. Steven Smith took control hitting a brilliant ton and built a partnership with Labuschagne who made a half century. But after that Australia suffered a collapse and couldn't cross the 300 mark, managing 286 for the loss of 9 wickets in 50 overs. Jadeja bowled good again today capturing 2 scalps while Saini and Kuldeep got one each. It's a bit surprising that India's main strike pacer Bumrah failed to take a wicket; he was wicket less too in the Mumbai match and just managed to take one in Rajkot.

India's famed batting prowess was in a delightful display tonight with Rohit, Virat and Shreyas Iyer making mincemeat of Australia's famed bowling prowess. Virat made 89 in 91 balls and Iyer remained unbeaten on 44 off 35 balls. It was all over in 47.3 overs, India bagged one more ODI Series win.

India's home season ends here; they go to New Zealand next, and then quite a few T20I matches building up the momentum for the ICC T20 World Cup-2020 in October in Australia.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cricket: India Beat Australia By 36 Runs, Level ODI Series! Shikhar, Virat, Rahul, Kuldeep Shine!

Shikhar Dhawan

Outplayed in the first ODI match in Mumbai, India started the second must-win match in Rajkot with two psychologically adverse factors: first, Kohli lost the toss again and obviously put into bat for the second time; second, India was yet to win an ODI in Rajkot, losing to England and South Africa earlier—batting first on both occasions. However, three of the Indian top four had played well, Rohit, looking great for a blast, could not complete his half century getting out for 42 off 44 ballas while Dhawan went on nicely, but missing a century—getting out for 96 in 90 balls, and captain Kohli was in full flow playing a useful knock of 78 for the team. This, at least, has ensured India putting up a big score—a 300+ target, however, Australia looked good to assail even a 400+ total in Mumbai. Today India came with two changes in the final eleven: Manish Pandey replacing Rishabh Pant who had a concussion injury, and Saini coming in for dropped Thakur. While Virat Kohli got back to this usual No.3 position India again inexplicably promoted Shreyas Iyer to No.4 in place of Rahul, and this ‘oddity’ misfired; Iyer getting out for only 7 in 17 balls. So, at a time when India looked to race to 200 runs in 30 overs, the hosts decided to lose a wicket making it 3 down.

Man-of-the-match KL Rahul
And they did achieve it, indeed, that is to say India did post 340/6 thanks largely to an explosive knock of 80 in 52 balls by ‘demoted’ Rahul. No doubt, it was a challenging total even for the might of Australia assuming Indian bowlers defended well in the field this time. When Virat and Rahul were going great guns a total in excess of 360 seemed possible, but Zampa’s three-wicket haul and Richardson’s 2 neutralized this. Manish Pandey, who was given precedence over veteran Kedar Jadhav, perished easily. The fact that pacers Cummins and Starc went wicket-less and spinners did better held some good hope for the Indian spinner duo Jadeja-Kuldeep in the Aussie reply.

Steven Smith
What followed was non-linear and uneven: the dreaded openers—Warner and Finch—got out relatively cheaply, but most able successor Steven Smith steadied the boat and set up a rollicking partnership with Labuschagne--an all-rounder who debuted in the Mumbai ODI, and brought Australia into strong contention. Jadeja for India struck at the right juncture breaking the partnership as Labuschagne got out caught. India sensed that the required run-rate for Australia was nearing 9, and so it was a matter of 1 or 2 more wickets to bring the game under their control, but except for Jadeja no bowler seemed to do the job for the team. Bumrah bowled tightly, but failed to strike. Again, the match was slowly slipping out of India’s hand.  
And then, the turning point in favor of India. Kuldeep Yadav gets Carey out caught by Kohli and in the 5th ball of the same over hits the jackpot—bowls Smith for 98! With 5 wickets done at the score of 221 in the 38th over the required run-rate now becomes dangerous, and ever climbing then onwards, sealing India’s case for winning this must-win game level the Series 1-1. The Indian bowlers find new spirit and make it increasingly difficult for the Aussies. Shami clean bowls Turner at 6 down for 259 in the 44th over. And lo! Shami gets on a hat-trick track bowling Pat Cummins in the second ball of his over. At the end of 45 overs, Australia reach 268 for 6 wickets needing 73 runs in 30 balls. India now in clear sight of a much-needed victory. Then Navdeep Saini captured two scalps in the 47th over, making it 9 down for the visitors. 

In the 49th over Richardson had a few lusty hits off Shami allowing Australia cross the 300 mark. The end: Jasprit Bumrah finally takes the final wicket in the final over.  

And, India beat Australia by 36 runs leveling the ODI Series 1-1, ending the brief jinx at Rajkot. The last and the final cracker of a match between the two will be played in Bangalore on 19th January, 2020.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thou Shalt Not…Your Neighbour!

It is extremely important to maintain cordial relations with your neighbour, because they are the nearest ones in times of emergency or on any need. However, the actual conduct of such relationships belies common wisdom and expectations: fundamentals of the working of a human mind normally determining this conduct—if we concentrate on the modern age in particular. It’s a more or less confirmed fact of the human mind that one starts disliking a thing once s/he has it or owns it, and so always looks out for things of others. If one is living with the neighbour in flats of exact architectural details one may like the furniture arranged in the neighbour’s flat much more; if one’s spouse dare not speak out how more handsome or beautiful the neighbour’s spouse is s/he may expertly deviate to the apparels used, and how more attractive those are than theirs; those wafts of fragrance of cooked food from the neighbour’s kitchen would obviously make one’s mouth water in open detriment to the food cooked in one’s own kitchen; and so on.

That it is very wrong to either envy or to covet your neighbour has been proved if we take it in a historical perspective. At least one of the Ten Commandments tells you:
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
--Exodus 20:17”
Therefore, ‘don’t envy thy neighbour’ is fully justified, because any of the impulses of the human mind vis-a-vis a neighbour can lead to petty quarrels on a daily basis or even a long-term enmity resulting in a polluted environment that is bound to impact your life adversely.

However, in the modern context, and with diplomatic ramifications, things can be different and tricky. At the macro level we can think of many nations having neighbourly disputes and tension ranging over decades or even centuries. For this writer’s convenience the eternally fighting neighbours—India and Pakistan—can be adhered to here.

For some stakeholders in India there has been a substantial amount of historical evidence that seems to suggest that Pakistan does envy India—be it India’s development or India’s technological progress & innovations or its vibrant democracy or its diverse yet peaceful atmosphere. Since the Partition and the Independence in 1947 Pakistan has been seen as a chronic victim of its ‘envy’ factor: the wars and skirmishes, the border disputes and violations do justify this. This is most unfortunate that Pakistan refuses to learn from the lessons imparted through the decades, and just to carry out enmity, calling a day a night if India prefers calling a day a day, the country has done more harm to itself than its neighbour. The scenario is, of course, getting more and more complex in regard to international alignments and interests. Now, what about India, how is it executing its neighbourly duties?

India has been trying to be a perfect and tolerant neighbour, often putting the emphasis on peace and on the dialogue process, and at other times meting out ‘punishment’ which is sought to be justified as inevitable in view of the neighbour’s excesses. Therefore, it can never be proved that India envies Pakistan; but there are some other ‘issues’ that go beyond our neighbourly behavioural pattern. In recent years India is seen to demonstrate a keener interest on the ‘punishment’ part rather than on maintaining the peace dialogue: some voices argue that this is because of the growth of nationalism taking place in India over the last few years. As it were, Pakistan is becoming sort of an external factor for India to thrive on in its bid to promote nationalism, jingoism and the like. For many other Indian stakeholders, prominently the pro-establishment print media & television news channels, the like-minded political parties and an intricately complicated matrix of other interests the word ‘Pakistan’ has become an existential slogan—they fear extinction without that. In this particular case we, in the spirit of history, can still vouch for ‘thou shalt not propagandize’ or ‘thou shalt  not make use of’ kind of neighbourly behaviour commandments.

At the micro level too, the modern sophistication has brought in its wake heavy roadblocks to our analysis. Let’s take an example of two neighbours living in identical flats, having all modern amenities and not suffering from any of the ‘envy-covet’ factors. The digital outlook notwithstanding, one of the neighbour families cannot help but fall prey to age-old traditions. They believe in offerings to the souls of ancestors, and loving all the animals as integral part of God too. So they keep on offering food scraps and feeding the crows, the dogs, the cats and the like round the clock on their balconies, inside their rooms and in the common passage outside. Obviously, this causes extreme disadvantage and irritation to the other family: the birds sailing into their balconies too in search of more; the animals lounging in the passage and down the staircase impairing thoroughfare; and whenever the neighbour is away from home those animals ambushing their front door—threatening to come in anytime the door has to be opened. Leaving out the ‘envy-covet’ factors as secondary, we cannot avoid but confront here a new factor ‘curse’. Yes, the hapless family can only indulge in angry curses, thrown silently at the other due to diplomatic reasons lest the relations get out of control. Therefore, armed as we are in the historical perspective, we can safely add one more commandment ‘thou shalt not curse’ here.

So we have seen, despite having the support of history, that the neighbourly behaviour syndrome is still fraught with many other dangers—lurking, secret and the unknown.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cricket: Team India Still Brittle Against Tougher Opposition, Australia Thrash India by Ten Wickets!

Player-of-the-match David Warner

Recently Team India played ‘kings’ beating Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka in the shorter formats at home, and several conclusions had been drawn about a ‘young’ team. However, those were relatively weaker teams with only West Indies offering some resistance, and the conclusions made on team performances cannot hold good against tougher rivals. Of course, the basic fact still prevailed, then and now: at least two of the Indian top-four 
batsmen must have long innings for any chance of winning a match, and after today’s match against Australia in Mumbai and in light of the ICC World Cup-2019 experience it seems certain that apart from the top 2 either Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli must score high—preferably a century. In the first of the 3-match one-day international (ODI) series against Australia the hosts did poorly in the field and the visitors thrashed the former by 10 wickets with more than 12 overs to spare.

Except for staunch Australia fans the match was insufferably one-sided, taking nothing away from the rollicking unbeaten opening wicket partnership between skipper Finch and Warner—both picking up their centuries. The real pain was to watch the Indian bowlers meandering listlessly without being able to make a strike despite the presence of Bumrah and the much-hyped Shardul Thakur. While the Aussie spinners Agar and Zampa bowled commendably well capturing prize Indian wickets the Indian famed spinners could not even make the opposition batsmen take them seriously. Captain Viral Kohli looking helplessly around having no clue how to go ahead and his failure to score must also have played a part in his mind. This was one of the biggest wins for Australia and India not able to take a single wicket is set to rankle both players and cricket lovers for a long time.

Aussie Skipper Finch
Put into bat India started badly with Rohit getting out early. Then again, the blues of the batting-order came afore. For any team it is only good that the No. 4 batsman performs well promoted to the opening slot due to injuries; KL Rahul did exactly that in the absence of the injured Dhawan. Unfortunately, this ‘good’ thing affected India adversely: as Dhawan came back Rahul was promoted to No. 3—a position always occupied by Kohli with justifiable results; this change was totally unnecessary, and such changes keep on happening in the team, often damaging the morale of the team. Of course, today Rahul played a useful role in the 100+ partnership with opener Sikhar Dhawan which was the only silver lining in the Indian total of 255 all out in 49.1 overs. It must also be stressed again that the so-called ‘IPL talents’ could do some justice in the T20I format, but it’s a folly to select some of them for the one-day format too on the basis of their IPL performances.

The Aussie bowlers, both pacers and spinners, maintained a tight line and length throughout adjusting masterfully to the pitch and its lack of swing, and never allowed the Indian batsmen settle down. Aaron Finch and David Warner achieved a record opening wicket partnership of 258 runs against India in the ODI format. Warner was the man-of-the-match for his 128 runs not out.

Australia leads the series 1-0 at the moment. With the next match coming up in Rajkot on 17th January, 2020 it is to be seen how India try bouncing back into the three-match series—hopefully not with more unnecessary ‘experiments’.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Waylaying Common Sense!

Assuming that our kind readers have understood the ‘sense of it’ from the headline we start straightaway, at the macro level first.

Let’s consider a democratic country where, supposing a scenario, the masses are up in vehement but peaceful protests against a certain state policy; the masses here comprise of farmers, students, teachers, professors, intellectuals, advocates, artistes and all of the kind. Problem is, the state refuses to believe in this mass movement or that they could be wrong; they steadfastly allege that the masses are being misled by certain political and other forces who want to destabilize the country. Common sense tells them that all the people, by the people and for the people of a democracy cannot be misled or misguided continually, and that the movement requires them take a relook. But no, they continue to defy common sense, and thus put their stakes in absolute peril in the next elections. Some of them, who must be totally rid of any sense, threaten to shoot all the protesters down. Books of disasters are mostly written in this manner. Hundreds of other examples could be rampant here; but we ought to appreciate the time constraints most of our sensible readers have at their disposal.

So, we had better embark on the next level—that is the meso level. A rampaging lack of common sense highlights numerous happenings in the public places. From a crowded bus or a local train, commuters, packed inside, display the keenest natural desire to get down peacefully; however, the equally keen commuters, poised to get in first for the limited seats inside, try to board immediately disregarding the alighting passengers, leading to commotion, shouts and even fisticuffs. Commons sense tells them to wait patiently for just a few seconds more so that the proceedings go on democratically. Common sense also tells them that a loss of a few seconds cannot, in all probability, derail their schedule. Then, the drivers of all types of vehicles in action: they transparently display their insane desire to get past the others by hook or by crook leading to loud cursing and scolding; they keep on honking even after seeing clearly that the road is clogged, cars are jammed bumper-to-bumper ahead of them leading to pedestrian ire—some of them, possibly impaired with vestibular dysfunction or hearing issues, scowling blackly at them. Common sense tells them to wait patiently a few minutes more at their wheels so that they don’t get what they deserve. Again, we stop here to respect our readers; although, thousands of other examples can be equally rampant.

In between meso and micro levels, we can just make a passing mention about the goings-on in large organizations or offices. Just one example here: you are in the good books of your supreme boss; you are entrusted with key and creative responsibilities or assignments, and then, one day, the boss gives you his manuscript of a novel, written by him in a foreign language, for your kind review. Common sense would tell you to apply the best of your common sense so that your good phase continues. But no! You are very honest, frank and a non-believer in sycophancy: that day you enter his chamber after going through his proposed book, and utter blasphemously, “Sir, the story is very nice, it has all the elements of fiction, and you’ve captured all the characters brilliantly. But Sir, pardon me saying that if it is written in your very own mother tongue, this story would really blossom and become a classic. But if you are firm on writing in this foreign language only, I suggest, Sir, that the manuscript be re-written.” The boss smiles back brightly at you and you leave the room in very good spirits. Next morning: you discover that you are taken out of the most important creative assignments; a few days later you discover that the boss gives the book for publication after getting a ‘good’ review from one of your colleagues. Millions of other examples abound here; but we respect you, kind readers.

Now, the micro level where billions of examples could throng in; but obviously again, we decide to mention only a very basic case. You are a very ‘equal-minded male’ and want to help your wife at every step in the business of living together: so you enter the kitchen, make the preparations for breakfast and even cook the preliminary items; job accomplished you repair to the living room, switch on the television, and enjoy, blissfully ignorant of any wrong, so to say. And then, the blast that takes you totally unawares! The wife starts scolding you in a high-pitched voice about how you dirtied her domain, so absolutely. Common sense tells you to keep mum and as deadpan as possible so that the nagging, that threatens to go on indefinitely, stops, and maybe she comes in later with a steaming cup of tea for you. But no! The ‘male’ pride or rather your ego eggs you on to justify your ‘work’ insistently leading to a loudly-orchestrated vocal outbreak that reverberates around the full housing society. This is a professional hazard every spouse faces, if we consider the institution of marriage as a profession, and this commands the maximum common sense from you for minimum prevention.

The beauty of the common sense is in the applying.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Hurdles Of Inconvenience!

You are walking leisurely or in a hurry, whatever be the situation, along a small lane which is empty most of the time, and you’re enjoying your walk. You see a big car parked ahead blocking nearly half of the lane. The moment you reach it things start happening as if it were pre-planned. You get surrounded by sudden traffic in both directions—cars, bikes, cycle rickshaws and what not, rushing and honking endlessly.  You’re forced to stop behind the car, not able to walk on, as if trapped, and you start cursing if the sudden traffic movements continue for more than a minute. You’ll get angrier after you finally overcome the hurdle; because the moment you cross it the lane is again empty and quiet. You’re now convinced that it was a conspiracy of sorts, and that such conspiracies keep on happening.

Because then again, you see a street light post almost in the middle of the lane making the road narrower, and you’d wonder why the municipal authority was in such a frame of mind. The moment you approach it it’s all over again—cars, bikes, cycle rickshaws rushing honking in both directions, and even cyclists coming behind you trying to slip through the wrong side of the light post, stopping your progress altogether. You curse again if the commotion continues for more than minute, and normally it does last more than your tolerance time limit, always, invariably. And then, everything’s back to normal after you cross this hurdle.

On another instance, you see a puddle of murky rain-water or a blackish pit caused by seepage on your side of the lane that forces you stray into the middle portion in order to avoid it; but before you’re able to do that, the traffic movements would suddenly happen again from both directions, paralyzing you by the side of the puddle, making you swear in anger, frustration and absolute helplessness.

Your conspiracy theory gets confirmed, because you see such inexplicable inconveniences happen regularly, on most your walks or errands. Then, one day you decide to write about it, and want a suitable photograph to convey your conviction. So, you stand at those ‘hurdle’ points with your smartphone camera ready for action. Alas! Nothing of that sort happens this time! Now, you curse because it’s not happening—the road obstinately continues to remain quiet and desolate.

Anyway, these are not serious matters; these are normal—in the sense of ‘wrongs things happening at the wrong time’ or ‘timing doesn’t ever suit me’ or ‘that I’m always unlucky’ or like that. These things happen not only on the roads, but also at homes regularly, always, and invariably. The doorbell rings when you are about to apply the shaving razor to your face covered with lather, and your anger all the worse when you peep through finding the newspaper agent with the bill; doorbells ringing invariably when you’re in the bath, often couriers coming with important parcels, and if you’re alone in the house it’s all the more annoying; you sit by your mobile expecting an urgent call, and the moment you go away for a glass of water or to take a leak, the mobile would definitely ring making you curse as you discover the ‘missed’ call; your spouse would always ring your mobile the moment you switch on the movie channel for a favorite you waited for or as you go into the kitchen to make advance preparations for dinner; no end to such ‘inconveniences’.  

It’s perfectly alright to keep on wondering over such coincidental hurdles on your way; but not at all alright if you start taking these too seriously and start cursing all the more bitterly. You surely wouldn’t want yourself stranded behind cars or puddles or dead-ends, but, in the same way, you’d not want many other situations in life too. This hurdle-race of life is not that boring either, if you anticipate it cleverly and overcome it diligently. Right?  

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Assam Movement 2.0!

Assam, a state of the North Eastern India, is up again with a mass movement against the provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) which implies granting citizenship on religious grounds. Numerous petitions from students, advocates, intellectuals and others against CAA are pending the Supreme Court, and so, although the matter is sub judice the various issues involved are in the public domain and are being continually debated and discussed. Therefore, I intend to bring up here certain aspects of the issues involved in relation to the realities in Assam and in other states of the North East.

The crux of the CAA as far as Assam is concerned is again in relation to the ‘foreigners’ issue for which the state had to undertake a mass movement during 1979 to 1985 when the All Assam Students Union (AASU) provided the leadership that culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord with the Congress government led by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The newly-formed Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), consisting mostly of AASU leaders, came to power in Assam in 1985. However, precious little was done by the so-called peoples’ government in its first term and also in the second term later in terms of detection & deportation of foreigners and to effectively prevent continuous influx from neighboring Bangladesh.

Influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to Assam and other parts of the North East and India is not a new problem. It was there in the British period when Bengal consisted of both East and West Bengal; it was there during the Partition; it continued in the post-independence period with a new thrust on ‘vote-bank’ politics of successive governments in Assam; it escalated during the Pakistani invasion of East Pakistan in 1971 and after the formation of Bangladesh the same year. Since then, Bangladesh has been a friendly neighbor for India, and despite numerous rounds of bilateral talks on various issues including the influx hardly anything solid was done to prevent further migration or to deport the existing ‘foreigners’; acts on detection of foreigners were brought in or amended or repealed without tangible results and the work of ‘effective fencing’ in the border never really took off amid allegations of a ‘traditional’ corruption racket in letting in illegal migrants for a few bucks, not to speak about the largely ‘unmanaged’ riverine routes to Assam.

Now, let us turn to a few salient features of the Assam Movement. The hard facts first: the ‘foreigners’ from Bangladesh belonged to two Indian religions—Hindu and Muslim; the ‘foreigners’ spoke a prominent Indian language—Bangla or Bengali; the Indian Bengalis emotionally believe that all of them were part of the same community before the Partition and most of them, so, cannot help but feel a lot of affinity for the ‘foreigners’. Thanks to these ‘historical facts’ vested political and other interests always created a ‘conscious confusion’ over ‘minorities—religious or linguistic’ and ‘foreigners’, and this, as intended, always led other Indians to believe that the Movement was communal and was directed against ‘outsiders’ and not ‘foreigners’ apart from the inner conflict between the local people of Assam and the Indian Bengalis living there. During the time of the first Assam Movement some of us were studying in Delhi while all the students of Assam lost a full academic year. We carried out a sort of ‘Delhi chapter’ of the movement organizing protests and meeting various political leaders; our focus was on pointing out the non-communal nature of the movement which was being directed against ‘foreigners’ irrespective of religion or language and not against ‘outsiders’ or ‘minorities’. At least during my lifetime, there has hardly been anything that distinguishes an Assamese Hindu from an Assamese Muslim; such was the peaceful co-existence in the state incorporating numerous other tribes living there over centuries having their distinct culture and languages. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts over the last few decades, we still have to convince other Indians about our non-communal movement and that our only concerns are about deportation of foreigners and prevention of further influx from Bangladesh. However, vested interests and politics of vote-bank and polarization never listen to real arguments.

The CAA has brought in its wake an existential threat to the Assamese-speaking community in Assam, because the proposed grant of citizenship to all Hindu foreigners who speak Bangla and who have come before 31st December, 2014, while the cut-off date for illegal immigrants agreed upon in the Assam Accord was 24th March, 1971, is set to make the local people a linguistic minority in their own state. This is also true for some tribes of the North East states like the Khasis in Meghalaya. People of the region also see in this an absolute betrayal of their elected representatives of the ruling parties as while the act was passed by both the houses of Parliament not a single vote from the North East ruling MPs went against it. And how the governments of Assam and other NE states are looking at the mass movement? Before going to that we must bring in a political perspective. The BJP government installed overwhelmingly in 2016 in Assam talked that time about deporting every single Bangladeshi foreigner from the state, and when the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was started in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court it was seen by people as a genuine effort to detect and deport foreigners. However, after exclusion of several millions of suspected foreigners in the NRC, most of them Hindus, even state BJP leaders expressed their displeasure and later on started saying that this NRC was just a beginning and that a more comprehensive campaign would be taken up later, the thousands of crores of rupees spent notwithstanding. In this light, the introduction of ‘Citizenship Amendment Bill’ (CAB) was significant, because it was apparent that CAB aimed at achieving what NRC couldn’t. And that paved the way for the protests to include NRC, CAA and even the National Population Register (NPR) in the movement against as suspicious moves in the alleged overall agenda of divisive and polarization politics of the Hindutva parties. This complete picture made the movement pan-Indian.

However, one basic reason for the pan-India protests is the alleged constitutional violation by the act in that it went against the secular ideals while trying to grant citizenship in terms of religious affiliation. The Indian Muslims, a minority community in Hindu-majority India, began to feel insecure and considered themselves as targets of the act or the proposed moves. All other political parties, irrespective of ideologies, also started protesting vehemently due to the constitutional violation and communal politics. From the beginning the Union Government and the state governments of the North Eastern states looked at the movement as unwarranted, because they consistently affirmed that all of CAA, NRC, NPR are for the ultimate good of the Indian citizens, and they immediately focused on the initial violence committed by some miscreants during the movement to castigate the vested elements and the opposition political parties for misdirecting or misguiding the people sitting on protest for blatant political capital. They refused to accept that people consisting of students, artistes, intellectuals, advocates, farmers, women, parties/activists irrespective of ideologies and common folks cannot possibly be continually ‘misguided’ by any vested interest. Besides, the opposition political parties of Assam and the North East are not much loved by the people and they were rejected by the people in the earlier decades for their misdeeds.

Now about ‘religious persecution’, the newly coined term introduced in the act; this actually is limited to a few religions including Hinduism prominently. Why the government is suddenly bothered about ‘persecuted minorities’ in a few carefully selected countries? Apparently, this is being seen as vote-bank electoral politics to polarize the population along religious lines; the main stakes being the assembly election in 2021 in West Bengal where a prominent section of Hindu immigrants are set to be benefited by CAA and then in Assam and other NE states where the party has effectively established their rule. Besides, while the concern about the ‘persecuted minorities’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be justified to some extent the same in Bangladesh is wrought with dubiousness. During the Pakistani invasion in the then East Pakistan in 1971 persecution of Hindus there could have been an issue, but over the decades there has been no proof of similar repression of minorities. The Bangladeshi influx since the pre-independence days has always been irrespective of religions as both Muslim and Hindu immigrants kept on coming to India, possibly due to economic reasons.

The government has been saying all the while about the people being misguided, but on their part they have miserably failed to give specific clarifications regarding why the minorities in India, the threatened communities in Indian states, the secular-spirited people of the country should not at all worry. Why, can they afford to keep Bangladesh out of the ambit of the CAA, because there is no proof of religious persecution of minorities there and Bangladesh continues to be a friendly neighbor? Hardly, thanks to the momentous ‘electoral’ repercussions for the Hindutva elements that would possibly emanate from such an omission. This also puts the selection of only a few particular countries and a few particular religions under the ambit of the act under scrutiny.

Assam cannot turn back now, till the worries about their threatened existence are amiably meted. The Supreme Court hearing on CAA petitions is set for 22nd January, 2020, and people are putting their hope solely on that top authority of justice. People know as their leaders are saying the Assam Movement 2.0 is set to be a long-term long-drawn one with no specific results expected.  They have forsaken the winter festivals, the picnics, other forms of celebrations and even their harvest festival the Maghor Bhogali Bihu coming in a few days is in great uncertainty. Leaders are emphasizing though: students must pursue their studies on; employees/professionals must carry on their livelihood activities; development work must not be interrupted, and after ensuring all these they must sit dedicated and committed to the movement—on almost a daily basis. The Government must cast their arrogance away and concentrate on doing good to the very people who had elected them on high hopes, and must find a long-term solution instead of going for short-term measures like grant of Inner Line Permits or executing certain provisions of the sixth schedule of the constitution in relation to welfare of certain tribes of the region. Assam, again, find herself at the crossroads, and what possibly could be a turning point in the history of the state, and we fervently hope they achieve their democratic victory as soon as possible.

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