Durga Puja makeshift temple, built with millions of dollars. In Calcutta, where the poor sleep on the street, and their children go hungry.
(Photo courtesy: Financial Express. For one-time, non-profit, educational use only.)
In the name of worshiping Goddess Durga the Demon Slayer, corporate business-sponsored grandiose, glitzy events are doing precisely what Hinduism teaches us not to do. The organizers of these community celebrations in the city of Calcutta — often political leaders and their henchmen — are spending millions for fun and festivity, fighting for competitive awards, getting more political mileage and media glare, coercing ordinary people to pay for it, and making lives miserable for countless people who do not want to be a part of it.
Goddess Durga is not happy with them. In fact, she is angry.
Let the supreme Goddess’ wrath befall on these demons.
I am aghast at this completely unethical, morally bankrupt, scandalous use of money — in millions (taxed or untaxed) — in a place where countless people do not have enough to eat. They sleep in the street, can’t afford to send their children to school, or buy them a nice shirt at this festive time of the year.
This is the same place where recent floods caused havoc, and made countless poor people homeless. This year in particular, with the scary climate change, the floods across India and Bengal destroyed many lives.
This is the same place where women are victims of sexual violence on a daily basis.
I have no political power, and I live in New York, USA. But I grew up in Calcutta, and I love the city and its sane, intelligent people. I have talked to many people in the past few days. They are all aghast too. But they have no political power, either, and therefore fear for their lives. The entire country of India — my motherland — has now fallen to the rules of religious fanaticism, hate, violence, corruption, misogyny, and mafia.
I do not know exactly how much money is spent on these extravagant, lavish festivities. I have heard that one deity of the goddess is entirely adorned with real gold ornaments costing Indian rupees 6.5 crores, which is one million U.S. dollars.
One millions U.S. dollars for a four or five-day festivity!
Only one of these grandiose events — the money used for it — could save thousands of children from hunger, diseases, or death. The money could educate school and college children against sexual violence, and institute special programs for saving women from rape and molestation.
Only one such festivity — the cost of it — could do so, so much more.
The makeshift temple I showed above is another example of this grotesque extravagance. This temple will come down in four or five days too!
There is no media outrage, no government outcry, no investigation, no meaningful audit, no income tax raids — things that a clean government (promised by both India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, and by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee) must do, or support. In fact, some of the biggest puja organizers are their party stalwarts.
Through this little blog of mine, I am drawing attention of people everywhere — people who feel such misuse of money and abuse of power are outrageous and criminal, and must be stopped at any cost.
This is no religion. This is not Hinduism. This is pure and simple, total moral degeneration. I invoke Goddess Durga to bring the perpetrators curse. May her wrath burn them.
Slay these morally depraved, dishonest, cruel demons, O Mother. Save our yearning for sanity and humanity from a total, irreversible destruction.
Brooklyn, New York
A real, religious, ordinary peoples’ Durga Puja in West Bengal. Priest invoking the Goddess.
Hindu supremacists destroyed religious harmony in India on December 6, 1992. On December 6, 2016, they are destroying the poor and rewarding the rich. _________________
Well, it’s now so easy to hoodwink all!
I never thought I would ever have to witness the sorry plight of educated Indians hovering in such an intellectual void, including the erudite Bengalis. The economics of the entire country has just been completely jeopardized and at least fifty crores (five hundred million) of its people and their families have been robbed of any kind of finance, apparently in a drive to eradicate the black (illegal) money of the country. And when the target is “untaxed money,” can sentiments of patriotism be left far behind? No, a big no, if any debate questioning the drive is to be nipped in the bud.
Can’t we expect anybody who understands economics to speak out? Or, anybody who knows the rampant vandalism unleashed by globalization of a 1%-controlled economy? Does nobody know the game plan of IMF, World Bank, American and Western powers in the guise of India’s prime minister Modi, and billionaire businessmen such as the Ambanis, Adanis, Bill Gates and all the corrupt politicians who used money and media to execute their game plan?
Even the powerful Gandhis (descendants of Indira Gandhi) couldn’t go this far in their dubious pursuit of dynastic wealth! India is being looted in broad daylight. But educated citizens are all dancing to the tunes of Modi, finance minister Jaitley, BJP, RSS and their fundamentalist/racist organisations, who had been open supporters of Hitler in not-so-distant past. The infamous Nathuram Godse who killed Mahatma Gandhi belonged to these organisations. Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s brother, had boastfully told this to New York Times only a few years ago.
Remember December 6, 1992. — RSS and armed Hindu fanatic mobs storm through a mosque called Babri Masjid in North India, and destroy it to dust. Immediately, massive, bloody riots start across the country, where poor Muslims including women and children were slaughtered and raped, in thousands. Modi himself witnessed such a riot in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the chief minister of that state. We forget so easily!
That was the time to come to power, through mob violence. Now, it’s time for them to stay in power, through money violence. Fascism comes in various shapes.
Gold price in India has dived to the benefit of black money stockists who are conveniently purchasing gold to convert their blacks into whites. Same with real estate values. On the other hand, interest rates of bank deposits are being slashed to deprive a huge mass that has nothing barring some bank balances as source of day to day finance. This group of suffering people includes retirees and the older generation in general.
Nobody has the intention to analyze or to study all these happenings in depth. Those who dare to do it are automatically branded as anti-India traitors, especially by the pro-USA, pro-Modi high-tech, corporate-house generation.
Lately an aura of patriotism was created utilizing the pretext of military surgical strike against Pakistan, the neighboring country which had already been proclaimed as an enemy – no questions asked. Today it is being called another surgical strike targeting undisclosed money. Political parties in opposition seem to be ineffective to such an extent that one can easily doubt their integrity. Only feisty leaders such as Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi are vociferous in their protests, but they are now being subject to a hate campaign. Left parties have proved to be the laughing stock owing to their stupefied inaction. Trade Unions are equally clueless and madly in search of a workable policy, which seems nowhere to be found.
The need of the hour is to come out in the street and organize protests involving people. It is not my idea or even possible for me to suggest what to do to intellectuals, as I am living far away, being one who has left his homeland and therefore easily to be branded “anti-national” as per the latest trend of the ongoing hate campaign. Nevertheless I am pretty stubborn and persistent in my efforts of communication via social media. I get tons of likes on wedding pictures and such beautiful stuff. Yet, very predictably, when I write about economics, politics, equality of humans, falsehood of media coverage, or the high-noon robbery of Modi and BJP, suddenly all those friends vanish into thin air!
The time is out of joint, the time we live in now! A wonderful country is being vandalized and we the Indians and Bengalis, who never fail to eulogize Ram Mohan Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and other sages and intellectual activists, are looking the other way.
P.S. – I have been writing and speaking about these issues for many years, particularly since I gave up my Ph.D. career in science, and switched to work in journalism, writing, and education in politics and economics. Earlier in 2016, I spoke at length about this catastrophic, global economic terror in various places during my India tour. One of my talks was audio-recorded, which you can hear at this link. I forewarned about an imminent economic disaster in India. The link is at https://soundcloud.com/…/my-talk-on-global-economy-with-spe…. I don’t belong to any political party. I only speak the truth. And try to inform and educate as much as I can, in my humble way.
NOTE: IT’S NOT THE INDIVIDUAL I’M TALKING ABOUT. IT’S THE POLICY HE AND HIS PARTY ARE FOLLOWING. TOGETHER, THEY HAVE BEEN DISASTROUS FOR TODAY’S INDIA.
You perhaps know that Manmohan Singh is the head of the country of India — its prime minister.
Do you know who Mir Jafar was? And why I called Mr. Singh Mir Jafar? Believe me, a lot of Indians — including some of my best friends — would be terribly upset when they see this article. The most common reaction would be: “Please, Manmohan Singh and Mir Jafar? We are familiar with your hyperbole, but this is a new low for you.” Another common response would be: “We all know Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi, and we also know he failed to lift India out of its horrific corruption, but he is a decent, honest man.”
But truly, I’m not the first person making such a comparison. Recently, when West Bengal’s firebrand chief minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the election of India’s longtime finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, an IMF-chosen leader, as the next president of the country, Singh and Mukherjee’s ruling Congress Party (especially its Bengal leader Adhir Chowdhury) called Mamata a Mir Jafar (reference: Ananda Bazar Patrika, Calcutta’s major daily, March 15, 2014) for her lone opposition from the ruling coalition’s side (she left the coalition since then). Mir Jafar, for historical reasons, has become synonymous with someone people consider a national traitor.
So, I’m only following the footsteps of those Congress Party leaders.
It’s a very sensitive subject: calling the prime minister of India a traitor is no trivial matter. I must come up with evidence to prove my point. Plus, like I said before, it’s more about the policy than the person. Let’s be clear on it.
I have decided to take on this subject after a lot of thinking. I have decided that someone must tell the true story of India — a country that I identify with very closely — that connects India’s dark, colonial past with the presently-unfolding new colonialism. This is a very scary neoliberal, economic takeover and occupation of modern India — neocolonization that would completely devastate and disintegrate the country and its one billion poor people, and that too, in a very short time. I have written about it before. If you’re interested to read about it, please click on this link.
But in order to understand the story, I seek your permission to give you a quick history lesson.
In 1757, East India Company — a British merchants’ group — came to then-prosperous, undivided India with a sole, sinister motive: to occupy and colonize the country. Over the previous few decades, they used India’s fractious sociopolitical system with no central rule and Hindu kings and Muslim nawabs fighting with each other, and by using various methods — bribes here and battles there, took over huge areas of land paying minimum taxes to the local rulers, and started shipping raw materials from India to Britain to run the engine of a new Industrial Revolution.
But then they decided that they would completely displace the Indian sociopolitical system with a colonial rule, and thus they created desperate situations where the otherwise lazy nawab of perhaps the most prosperous place of all — Bengal — decided to resist the British onslaught in a war now known as the Battle of Plassey. Muslim Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah had a big, formidable army with cannons and Hindu generals such as Mohan Lal known for their bravery, and it was apparent that the British army would be no match for the unified Hindu-Muslim regiment.
But the British had other plans.
The British commander in chief Lord Robert Clive had found a few senior, corrupt confidantes of the nawab and promised them tons of money and gold and also tax-free, fertile Bengal land. Jagat Seth, Umi Chand and such traitors with their leader Mir Jafar betrayed the nawab, divulged the top secret battle plans to Clive, moved their own regiments away from the battlefield at a very crucial moment, and the British army in the Battle of Plassey vanquished Nawab Siraj Daulah. The gallant generals under the nawab perished in the war, Clive beheaded the nawab, and after conquering Bengal, East India Company slowly declared the land of India to be a colony of the British monarchy.
Mir Jafar was made the ceremonial nawab of Bengal — only to be replaced by another puppet in a few years.
For the next two hundred years, British Raj plundered Bengal and India, brutalized and exploited their Indian subjects, forced them to plant indigo in fertile rice fields and manufacture other products used in Europe for their newly developing industries, looted coal, textile, and enormous amounts of gold and diamond. They created famines — unheard of in Bengal before they took over — and millions of farmers with their families and children died of starvation. All the rebellions across India against the British Raj were ruthlessly crushed for two centuries, and the rebels and revolutionaries were shot to death, hanged or imprisoned for life.
In 1947, the British finally gave up on the colonial rule of India, mainly because of critical economic and political turmoil in their own country in the aftermath of World War II, and left after partitioning the country in three pieces, creating incredible misery and bloodshed.
The British also left, putting their handpicked feudal Indian rulers — ruling class that would later continue the British colonial system in a so-called free country.
That is modern Indian history as we all know it — until the next episode.
In late December of 1984, two Sikh bodyguards of India’s mighty prime minister Indira Gandhi shot her to death, allegedly as a revenge for the leader’s desecration of a major Sikh temple in Punjab. Indira Gandhi, just like her father Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India, pampered and perpetuated a dynasty rule, and her elder son Rajiv Gandhi who had no experience or interest in politics suddenly became India’s “leader.”
He chose Dr. Manmohan Singh as his director for India’s Reserve Bank (RBI); later, Singh became the national finance minister. With help from IMF, World Bank and Western corporate world, Singh massively deregulated and privatized India’s erstwhile semi-socialistic market. Foreign corporations entered the newly-opened floodgate, and very soon, India saw a huge spike in prices of essential commodities that was always kept under control for the poor, drastic devaluation of its currency, and even more outrageous income inequality that the country had ever seen. At the same time, middle class Indians with this new economy saw prosperity that they hadn’t seen before, and however temporary the luxury was and however far their personal debts grew, were greatly reassured by this so-called prosperity. Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and corporate media showered praise on this new “reform.”
Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated a few years later by Tamil extremists, and after a couple of short stints of prime ministership by non-Gandhi-dynasty politicians, Manmohan Singh became the prime minister — this time, with the return and patronization of Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi whom the Indian and Western media soon made the de facto queen mother of India’s politics. Manmohan Singh has since been India’s prime minister for almost ten years, blessed by Sonia Gandhi and sponsored by India’s corporate media. In these ten years, India’s politics and economy has created the worst-possible corruption, largest rich-poor divide, steepest inflation with out-of-control price rise of oil and essential commodities, horrific human rights violations, and most drastic devaluation of the Indian Rupee.
I have emphasized a number of times how with help from India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the country’s official IMF director during his tenure, Manmohan Singh promulgated IMF-dictated Structural Adjustment Program, and privatization and corporatization of the Indian economy have risen up to a new level.
Now, just a few weeks ago, since Pranab Mukherjee the IMF-chosen finance minister became the president of India, Manmohan Singh with blessing from Sonia Gandhi has taken it to a new level. He announced that India’s economy is not growing at the rate IMF and World Bank would like to see, and therefore he said he would open up India’s economy to foreign markets even more widely. One of the primary policy changes Singh announced was in the area of FDI or Foreign Direct Investment: he invited retail chains such as Wal-Mart to open up their shops in India, and he also made sure global corporations such as the infamous oil companies, or Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Network, would get major access to the Indian market. To expedite these processes, Singh government began distributing enormous amounts of India’s land — much of it fertile, agricultural land that Indian farmers have depended for their living for centuries — so that the foreign corporations could start constructions there immediately.
Following a massive policy change proposal in the U.S., the Singh government also has proposed privatization and investment into the private equity market India’s vast life insurance sector — a public sector — putting in severe peril the only life’s savings ordinary people managed to have.
Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi call this process necessary for jump starting India’s economic growth; Indian and Western media have again showered high praise for Singh’s “bold and courageous” stand. Media compared Singh a “roaring lion.”
People and politicians who challenged this completely outrageous economic overhaul that in their opinion would destroy India’s national economy (of whatever was left after the first decade’s “reform”) were quickly blasted by the Congress Party, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and Indian and Western corporate media. Mamata Banerjee has become the whipping horse for the press: there is little discussion on WHY her quitting the privileged position in the national government is a principled, pro-people stand. On the other hand, the largest opposition party in India — BJP — has always been lamblasted by India’s media on the pretext that they are far right and always against anything liberal; BJP’s social and religious dogma mimicking the Republican Party here in the U.S. did not help them either to be at the forefront of any economic policy discussion. Further, Congress Party has characteristically bribed and bought off some other opposition parties to find support for this newest round of “reform.”
This new round of reform is IMF and World Bank dictated, and their neoliberal reform policies have devastated other countries in recent months. Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have been the latest victims. Argentina went through their horror a decade ago. Unemployment, inflation and massive layoff of public sector workers have gone out of control. Just like the Indian president, IMF has also chosen their men to be presidents of Italy and Spain, and Greece is going through a horrendous turmoil because they refused to let IMF select their own destiny.
Labor unions and teacher unions and student unions have took the hardest hit — because of their resistance and opposition to this new, horrendous, anti-people “reform.”
For India, this so-called reform at the behest of Manmohan Singh would be even more catastrophic and millions of poor people will starve and die. I have written about it before. I have also written about Malaysia’s former prime minister Mohathir Bin Mohamad who resisted the IMF onslaught a few years ago before he became a slaughter lamb himself for his outspoken criticism of this new global economic terror.
India is country where I still have a lot of belongingness. I feel very strongly for India even after being in the U.S. for twenty five years. I can see how Wal-Mart, GE, Monsanto (which in ten years has forced 200,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide), Fox, Coke, KFC, MTV and McDonald’s — along with their Indian corporate counterparts and cheerleading media — are going to change the face of the country, once and for all.
I can see how the farming lands and forests and villages and their people who have survived and prospered since the ages of Ramayana and Mahabharata will soon be destroyed, once and for all.
British aggressors forced Indian farmers to plant indigo in their fertile rice fields. Now, the new FDI and IMF aggressors will force Indian farmers to simply go extinct.
This is neocolonization happening right in front of our eyes. And it is going to enslave one billion poor Indians for many years to come, just the same way the British once colonized India with help from the country’s Mir Jafars. Mir Jafars sold India off to foreign traders.
It’s a very scary, bone-chilling deja vu unfolding right now.
Manmohan Singh once said after the horrific Union Carbide disaster: “Bhopals will happen, but India must move on.”
Are we okay with that kind of moving on?
MAMATA BANERJEE IS NO MIR JAFAR. I KNOW IT REGARDLESS OF MY SUPPORT OR OPPOSITION FOR HER.