Ramar Sethu and the Lessons for the Narmada Bachao Andolan

Now we all know why the Narmada Bachao Andolan failed. Despite numerous marches, despite the indefatigable Medha Patkar’s serial hunger strikes, despite the efforts of many grass- roots workers and despite Arundhati Roy’s eloquence.They all failed to find a connection between the site of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and Lord Rama.

They could not even find an association with Shabari, the Bhil woman who offered the gods ‘bers’ and that apparently were left half- eaten. It was left to the RSS parivar to discover the exact spot where the encounter took place, and it started the Shabari Kumbh Mela to commemorate the event. Too bad the spot did not lie exactly where the Sardar Sarovar dam stands.

But the NBA has itself to blame for not having done a one up and discovered the place sooner, since the RSS discovered the site only in October 2004. Had the NBA done its due diligence it certainly would have located that place to be exactly where the Sardar Sarovar Dam stands today. And the RSS brigade would have stepped in to lend the NBA a helping hand.

The NBA could then have outsourced the entire opposition to dam to the Hindutva brigade that certainly needs no further inspiration to get going for a cause than its association with Lord Rama. It would have deepened fissures within the Hindutva family and even have dislodged the pride of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, wrecking the family from within.

The NBA’s fault lay in that it tried to oppose the dam in the name of the poor, in the name of the adivasis who would be displaced. Worse, it tried to base its case on data and “scientific evidence”, which was easily countered by equally authentic statistics and real scientific evidence from the state governments led by both the BJP and the Congress.

Contrast this with the case for the Ramar Sethu also called the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. All it needed to build opposition to the project was not the question of its ecological and environmental impact, not speeches in the name of the poor or its RoI but to invoke an association with Lord Rama. So much so that it woke up the sleeping Dravidian in M. Karunanidhi, who went asking for Lord Rama’s engineering qualifications.

On Saturday, addressing a public meeting at Erode in Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi, while opposing the stalling of Ram Sethu project, had said “who is this Ram? From which engineering college he graduated?” (link)

This would be amusing were it not just so silly. Not so much the question of Lord Rama’s engineering degree but that of Karunanidhi remembering that there was once upon a time a movement called the self respect movement that he belonged to and that had posed questions like these in circa 1967. The era of Rip Van Winkles is not yet over! Soon he may also remember that Periyar garlanded Lord Rama’s statues with slippers.

From the point of view of those who oppose the project from environment and displacement concerns and who seem to be getting only the space in the “Letters to the Editor” page, like this one, the good news is that everyone from Lal Krishan Advani to Ram Vilas Vedanti is now on the job.

Free of cost.

Having been out of work (and media attention) since Advani’s Jinnah fiasco and Vedanti’s appearance in a TV ‘sting operation’ few months back, they now have a serious task at hand. Advaniji is already planning yet another Rath Yatra.

Those with a Marxist inclination need not feel out of place either- Karunanidhi thanking the VHP for issuing the call for his beheading illustrates one of the central dictum of Marxist dialectics- the unity and struggle of opposites.

DMK chief M Karunanidhi reacted curtly to the threat, saying “the head is not just something that is on your shoulder, but it’s also an address.” Talking to CNN-IBN, he said: “Even if someone takes off my head my address will remain in TN.”

With that much needed reassurance for the inhabitants of Tamil Nadu, the stage is now set for a win- win deal for everyone. Environmentalism in India is now in safe hands. The fishermen whose livelihood is directly impacted by the project and who have had no one to listen to them now have hordes of Ram Bhaktas battling for them. Amen!

(For anyone interested in a non- Hindutva opposition perspective to the project, based on outmoded ‘scientific’ studies, see this paper in that quaint journal called the Economic and Political Weekly. Link via Pankaj’s blog. Also check out the Wikipedia entry)

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Karl Marx on Socialist Magic

Ian Saville and Sally O’Reilly indulge in some socialist humour… at the old man’s expense.

IAN: Hello, Karl Marx.
MARX: Hello.
IAN: How are you?
MARX: Not too bad.
IAN: Are you enjoying the show?
MARX: I’m enjoying it immensely.
IAN: Actually, Karl, I was just wondering …
MARX: Yes?
IAN: If in your day …
MARX: In my day, yes?
IAN: . ..whether you ever had anything like this.
MARX: In what way?
IAN: Well, I wondered if you ever had this sort of socialist culture—socialist songs, music, humor, or even socialist conjuring tricks?
MARX: We had socialist culture, of course.
IAN: You did?
MARX: Oh yes. We had socialist songs, music, humor. All that sort of thing. But we didn’t have socialist conjuring tricks.
IAN: You didn’t?
MARX: No, although it’s a little-known fact that originally I wanted my theories done as conjuring tricks.
IAN: Did you really?
MARX: Oh, yes.
IAN: What was it that stopped you from doing your theories as conjuring tricks, then?
MARX: Engels

read on…

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Here is the latest Woody Allen quip, when asked about his debut as the director of an opera in LA.

“I have no idea what I am doing,” Allen said in a statement Thursday.
“But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with

Allen is scheduled to direct “Gianni Schicchi,” part of Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” a trio of one-act operas.


New Twist to Dera Controversy

In a dramatic twist to the controversy surrounding the Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh dressing up like Guru Gobind Singh, a Dera spokesman, Mr Makhaul Kumar Hansmukh has clarified that the Dera head was merely participating in a fancy dress competition organized by the Dera as part of celebrations.

“This trivial issue is being seen out of context and has been blown up out of proportions”, the giggling Mr. Hansmukh explained to the press outside the Dera headquarters. “We have not violated any religion since no religion is explicitly against fancy dress competitions. We respect every religion equally, the theme of this competition was ‘Sikhism’ and hence the dressing up like Guru Gobind Singh”, he explained.

When asked how the other participants were dressed, Mr Hansmukh seemed to stutter even as those near him heard him say something to the effect that of course, there was no one else- who would compete with the head of the Dera, especially when suitable action is known to be taken against dissenters? Experts infer this to be a barely couched reference to the alleged killing of the journalist Ram Chander Chhaterpati by the Dera chief.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, Mr Ashok Doubble, however, fumed. “Does the Baba think that that the defender of the Hindu faith who fought against Aurangzeb is to be ridiculed in a fancy dress competition? Why not as the Pope or the Prophet Mohammad?”, and after a pregnant pause, he observed, “This clearly shows the pseudo- secularism of the Dera and the Italian Congress Party that it supports.”

Our Patiala correspondent spoke to the well- known Sikh ideologue, Dr. Phalsafa Singh ‘Phalsafa’ who observed that “whatever be the immediate teleological import, the hermeneutical aspect of the Guru Granth Sahib clearly stands against a fancy dress competitions. There is no justification at all”, he remarked pensively while taking off his spectacles in his left hand, and running the fingers of his right hand through his long gray beard.

Asked to explain in simpler terms for the lay reader, he happily translated, “My reference is to the semiotics, of course.” The beneficent smile following the explanation, our correspondent states, discouraged him from any further probing questions.

The Akal Takht chief could not be reached for comments. However, sources close to the SGPC leadership said that it has taken the explanation in the right spirit. “We could have been asked to participate in the fancy dress competition, though”, one of them is said to have rued, “anyone of us could have given the Baba a run for his money without involving the Guru.”

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