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India This Week

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Too Good to be True?; Chidamarubbish?; Hazare Pulls a Fast One

Too Good to be True?

One person who has little reason to be happy with The Temple-Goers [for review, turn to page 54], a book written by Aatish Taseer, son of journalist Tavleen Singh, is former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Taseer’s thinly veiled portrait is hardly flattering, even allowing for the liberties of fiction. The character in question, named Chamunda no less, makes her appearance as his mother’s best friend, a Cartier watch on her wrist. She is ‘married into a small princely family’, is deserted by her husband months after marriage, becomes an MLA in the 1980s, an MP in 1990s and is the BJP CM of Jhaatkebaal (a sophomoric conceit for those who know Hindi)! Chamunda tells Taseer, ‘“I like to take advantage of the very things that make it difficult to be a woman in politics… I always wear beautiful saris, never any ethnic crap. I always wear make-up and jewellery… And if I’m talking to some bureaucrats or opposition leaders, or even treacherous elements in my own party, and my pallu accidently falls…” She pushed the green chiffon end of her sari off her shoulder to demonstrate what she meant.’ As she gets up to leave she says, ‘“Baba, I can’t stay long. You might have heard, I’m having a small rebellion in my state. Bloody Jats. I have to go back and deal with it.”’ Fact or fiction? Judge for yourself. 



On 12 March, the day Azad, spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist) went missing, he issued a statement on the Government’s response to the Maoist offer of talks. Terming as ‘absolute rubbish’ the Home Minister P Chidambaram’s claim that Maoists had attacked a CRPF patrol party three hours after their ceasefire offer, Azad directly addressed Chidambaram and wrote: ‘So much trash is produced by you on a daily basis that it would be more appropriate to give it a new name: Chidamarubbish.’ Azad warned that the Government is ‘riding a tiger’ and alleged that Operation Green Hunt is sponsored by ‘corporate vultures’. Incidentally, Azad went missing that very day and was feared arrested or killed by the police. But two days later, Maoists said that he was safe and had resumed contact with the party. 


Hazare Pulls a Fast One

Last weekend, social activist Anna Hazare pulled yet another fast one on his fast-unto-death, which his critics say are becoming a ritual now.  This time he was garlanded, fed sweets and coconut water by a group of Maharashtra ministers who are cashing in on his short missions. Like always, as has been in recent times, the government merely assured him—without any concrete measures. Everyone already believes that it is unlikely there will be any follow-up on his demands.

Hazare, who is recognised for his efforts towards the Right to Information (RTI) Act, is becoming a laughing stock for his fasting rituals now, which last only till television cameras are around. Hazare’s fasting no longer lasts more than four days, which, his critics say, is enough to gain political mileage. These attempts have become so predictable that people have begun to call them a tamasha.

Hazare’s fasting follows a familiar pattern: once he announces it, his managers swing into action. This group, comprising mainly reporters from Marathi dailies, stringers of local channels and political touts, immediately inform the media. On such days, Ralegan Siddhi, the place where Hazare lives, turns into a ‘special operations zone.’ The number of visitors at his place is grossly exaggerated to boost Hazare’s equity. Then some politicians turn up in their SUVs and hold closed-door meetings with Hazare. At designated times, Hazare walks around his area followed by zealous camerapersons. And then, as suddenly as he had announced it, Hazare breaks his fast. Whispers that he has turned into a political pawn are almost turning into hollers. People are coming round to believing that—and Hazare’s actions only strengthen this belief further—he has become a tool for any politician who has an axe to grind with another of his ilk. Hazare may have chosen the Gandhian way of protest, but with his actions, he is fast distancing himself from Gandhi.