The Habitual Indecisiveness of Nitish Kumar

By Sankarshan Thakur | 9 February 2015
The brewing power struggle between Nitish Kumar and his former protégé, Jitan Ram Manjhi—the current chief minister of Bihar—has resulted in Manjhi’s expulsion from Janata Dal (United) for “anti-party activities.” The expulsion was followed by Kumar’s meeting with Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in which he led around 130 legislators from the JD(U) and its allies to Raj Bhavan in Patna to stake his claim to form the Bihar government. While Kumar’s return to the chief minister’s post—which he had resigned from in May last year—now appears inevitable, his oscillating stance regarding this decision may have contributed to the political crisis that Bihar is now facing. In this excerpt from Sankarshan Thakur’s Single Man: The Life & Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar, Thakur draws on instances from Kumar’s career to establish why this indecision is not an exception; it is a character trait that has been on frequent display throughout the former chief minister’s political journey.

The Congress May Eschew Democratic Ideals in its Functioning, but It Isn’t the Only Party to Do So

By Monobina Gupta | 7 February 2015
In a rare display of defiance, one-time Congress loyalist and former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan walked out of the party she had been closely associated with for three decades. While rumbles within the Congress had been growing louder since the party’s smashing defeat in the 2014 general elections, none of the complaints found the kind of public expression that Natarajan’s did. Before announcing her decision to leave the party, Natarajan wrote a trenchant letter to the Congress president, which was published in The Hindu on 30 January 2015. The letter, which pointedly blames Rahul Gandhi for some of the decisions Natarajan was forced to take as the environment minister, has set off yet another round of debate around the Gandhi family and its failed leadership. The crux of the debate appears to be the high-handed functioning of the top echelons of the Congress.

Pre-Poll Communal Violence in Delhi, Part III: No Matter Who Wins in Bawana, the Victory Shall be the BJP’s

By KRISHN KAUSHIK | 6 February 2015
The first thing to catch your attention when you approach Bawana village to the northwest of Delhi is a newly-erected Indian flag that is hoisted on a 105-foot-long pole, swaying cinematically in the light breeze. The flag—made of “parachute material” for durability, as I was told by the residents—was hoisted on 26 January this year by the village youth who collected donations from the locals amounting to Rs 3 lakhs. Not too far from the flag is a chaupaal—an assembly room—which is used to conduct community functions and gatherings in Bawana. On 2 November 2014, the yellow walls of this chaupaal were host to a mahapanchayat consisting of Hindus from Bawana and its neighbouring villages. This wasn’t a routine event. It was a meeting that could have potentially led to katl-e-aam—bloodshed—three days later.

Pre-Poll Communal Violence in Delhi, Part II: Why the Multiple Attacks on Delhi Churches are a Cause for Concern

By KRISHN KAUSHIK | 5 February 2015
St Alphonsa, a large church nestled among opulent farmhouses near the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in south Delhi, was the latest casualty in the recent attacks on Christian institutions in the city. In the fifth such attack to have taken place in the nine weeks leading up to the assembly elections, the secluded church was vandalised just before dawn on Monday, 2 February 2015, by unidentified attackers. The miscreants stole some items and desecrated religious equipment, including the monstrance and the ciborium—sacred vessels that are crucial to the act of prayer. This incident follows alleged arson attacks on churches in Rohini and Dilshad Garden along with acts of vandalism in Jasola and Vikaspuri. When I reached the church at around 11 am on Monday morning, Kerala’s home minister—Ramesh Chennithala from the Congress party—was talking to a group of about ten journalists just outside the church compound. Chennithala promised to write to the lieutenant governor of Delhi about the increasing incidents.

The Rs 6,500-crore mystery at Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited

Some financial transactions attract attention because of the scale and nature of the irregularities being brought to light. Others may warrant scrutiny because of the profile of the people involved. The case in this article deserves close examination on both counts. The protagonist of this tale is India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), India’s biggest private corporate conglomerate. The supporting character is a former Indian National Congress member of parliament associated with the Reliance Group, Annu Tandon.

The role that made people notice Pakistani actor Fawad Khan

By KARANJEET KAUR | 3 February 2015
This past Sunday, at the 60th Filmfare Awards, Pakistani leading man Fawad Khan won the award for the best male debut in Bollywood for his role in Khoobsurat. In our November 2014 issue, Karanjeet Kaur explored the crossover appeal of dramas from Pakistan with the advent of Zee Zindagi. In this excerpt from that story, she reviews Zindagi Gulzar Hai, the television series that first brought Fawad Khan to the attention of his Indian fan following.

Pre-Poll Communal Violence in Delhi, Part I—How Trilokpuri was set back by three decades

By KRISHN KAUSHIK | 2 February 2015
A striking feature of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ascent to power in various states and at the centre over the past year has been the regularity with which communal disturbances have occurred in areas going to the polls. In some cases, such as in Western Uttar Pradesh, this has led to widespread sectarian violence. Delhi, too, saw sporadic instances of violence in the past few months. Three months later, in Trilokpuri, the echoes of the violence seem to be heard primarily among those who are combating the BJP.

How the NDA’s Previous Attempts at Justice for the 1984 Riots Failed

By HARTOSH SINGH BAL | 2 February 2015
According to what appear to be carefully timed news leaks, the Narendra Modi government is likely to set up a Special Investigative Team to probe a number of cases from the 1984 massacre of the Sikhs. A committee headed by Justice GP Mathur convened by the government last December submitted a report stating that 225 cases are still to be examined. This is not the first time a BJP government has intervened to speed up the delayed quest for justice for the victims of the massacres. But back in 2000, when the BJP-led NDA government had appointed the GT Nanavati Commission to investigate the massacre, the ninth such commission, the result was disappointing. This excerpt from Hartosh Singh Bal's 'Sins of Commission', from our October 2014 issue, details how the Nanavati Commission was destined to be a failure from its very inception.

The Former Heroes of Jatra

By Soumya Sankar Bose | 1 February 2015
Jatra, the folk theatre form once popular in eastern India, dates back to the sixteenth century. It combined a melodramatic style of acting with popular music that was played before the play commenced to attract a crowd, and then interspersed liberally within the play along with dance numbers. Performances in this form tended to run for nearly four hours, and took place on makeshift wooden platforms without barriers between the audience and the performers. Like film actors of today, Jatra performers had large fan bases too.