Cry, ‘Havoc’!

There are some people who are patriots. And then there are some who love drumming up hate in the name of patriotism. Confusing the concept of patriotism with chest-thumping machismo is one of the reasons why my home state of Kashmir has the dubious distinction of being the most militarised zone in the world (in your face, Kim-Jong Un!). And people like ‘Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)’ – as he headlines his blog – are the ones dancing on the ashes.

A few days back, our soldier-with-a-voice-and-so-many-biceps-your-brain-will-spin wrote a piece on a recently released Pakistani Parliament (Senate) report about policy guidelines on Indo-Pak relations. In a style characteristic of his new-found (& hopefully short-lived) fame thanks to our other desi Schwarzenegger (Arn-old Goswami), he painted a picture of impending Armageddon fuelled by Indian political parties in cahoots with ISI, Pakistani funded Khalistan & rampaging Naxalites (again, cheered on by those devious devils across the border). He did this, one assumes, based on the assumption that the human brain is hard-wired to treat anything with the words ‘Committee’ & ‘Report in the title like snot-infested pond scum. However, a cursory comparison between the good ex-Majors “analysis” & the actual report itself immediately reveals the twisted logic, blatant lies & outright bias with which he has peppered his piece.

And when I happened to comment on this while quoting an article written by another concerned soul on Facebook, my “friend” (as he kept referring to me), replied first in Arabic (for reasons best known to him). And then, when I asked him for a translation, immediately took umbrage to some perceived slight on his linguistic skills and replied with (this is so good that I have to quote it in full): “I can reply in Sanskrit too. And 7 other languages. Take responsibility for what you say, my friend. To accuse people is easy.”

This is brilliant! He has, in 24 short characters, masterfully avoided any discussion of whether he was right or wrong in misstating the facts, turned the whole issue of being held accountable for what you say around on me and delivered a punchline about his linguistic prowess in a style that screams The only person capable of playing me in the movie version of my life is Salman!”

Dear “friend”, I agree with one thing you’ve said. To accuse people is easy. Especially in today’s social-media-fuelled world. But it shouldn’t be. Everybody should be held accountable for any so-called “fact” that they state. Especially if they’re in any way influencing the opinions of many.

And so, for the sake of a saner world and the hope that someday peace will prevail inspite of people like you, rd like to hold you accountable for your claims & statements. I’d like you to pay heed to your own suggestion & take responsibility for what you say. And since you seem to have a thing for languages, here’s something in what I hope is one of the 7 languages you’re so wildly proficient in: “J’accuse!”

PS: Since saying anything about the “neighbouring country” in today’s climate is automatically taken as an invitation for a lynching, I’d like to clarify that I do not support what Pakistan has been doing in Kashmir for many, many years now. And anybody who claims otherwise is a colossal idiot. I’ve experienced first-hand the appalling results of their meddling, I’ve seen people I know die in a war that has systematically torn the most beautiful part of this country apart and I would not wish that on my worst enemy. However, unlike some “friends”, I still passionately hope & believe that a solution will emerge from peace and not hatred.



Ab Ki Baar, U-Turn Sarkar

Mr. Modi’s government is our government. For better or for worse, we elected him. Not all of us, but an overwhelming majority of us. More than has ever been seen in the recent past. And if I was a BJP supporter, I’d be delighted right now because Mr. Modi has probably got the best optics of any world leader currently in power. He’s been on 9 international trips in 7 months (with 2 more announced for the next 2 months), he has a social media campaign to rival any Khan in the industry, he has galas in venues normally associated with movie stars (with receptions to match). There’s no questioning the fact that it’s a good time to be a BJP “bhakt”. And I use the term deliberately, because in order to buy into the beautifully constructed facade, a believer is what you need to be. A person of faith. Not of reason or logic – just blind, unquestioning faith. Much like an ageing movie star with pancaked layers covering the face that is shown to the public. Because the moment you scratch beneath the surface, you begin to see the gnarly skin beneath. And it’s not pretty.

The Modi Sarkaar has been in power for 191 days. Not the much-derided 49, not the much-vaulted 100 (although that’s taking cricket metaphors a step too far, according to me), but approaching a double century now (fuck it, cricket metaphors are awesome). And in that time period, they have achieved a fair amount. But that’s not what worries me. What nobody seems to care about is the ease with which this government has quietly & systematically done a complete U-turn on so many of the campaign promises on the basis of which it swept into power. And either nobody knows or nobody cares.

There’s no point in preaching, because the ones who agree already know this and the ones who don’t have either been deactivated till the next election (that was a BJP-bot joke, for those who didn’t get it) or are too busy getting their ‘I Heart NaMo’ tattoos coloured in. So I’m just going to make a list of facts. Make of it what you will. 

1. This is what BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javadekar had to say on July 4, 2011 after the Supreme Court appointed an SIT to look into the black money issue:”…the government is merely engaged in cover-up…the government is trying to justify this by saying it has signed double taxation avoidance agreements…. ” Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 2.32.32 pm

The U-Turn: This is what our current Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs & Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Arun Jaitley said on his Facebook page on October 18, 2013 while defending the government’s decision to not release all the names: “It will also violate Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) with other countries….” Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 2.51.41 pm

2. On March 12, 2014, BJP spokesperson Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi described the Aadhar scheme as a “dangerous programme” & “….the biggest fraud in our country”

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On October 22, 2013, the Minister of Human Resource Development, Ms. Smriti Irani said that the Aadhar scheme violated “….the constitutional right to privacy” because it was based on the collection of biometric data

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The U-Turn: On October 26, 2014, the Ministry Of Home Affairs under Mr. Rajnath Singh, issued a statement in full support of the Aadhar scheme, which included the line: “Since Aadhaar is based on the demographic and biometric information of an individual, it eliminates the threat of any fraud and bogus activity.”

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3. The BJP election manifesto, released in 2014, contains the following statement: “BJP reiterates it’s stand on the (sic) Article 370….and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”

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The U-Turn: On December 2, 2014, Mr. Narendra Modi has now shifted his stance to this: “there should be debate whether Article 370 has benefitted Jammu and Kashmir or not”

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4. The BJP website has an article penned by the then Leader Of Opposition, Mr. Arun Jaitley. The title of the article? ‘Why AFSPA Should Continue’.

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The U-Turn: On December 1, 2014, the BJP state party-in-charge for J&K, Mr. Ramesh Arora made the following statement: “Our understanding is that if BJP comes to power in the state, there would not been any need of such a law (AFSPA).”

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The list is longer & includes many more topics like the deregulation of diesel prices, the Saradha scam, the files about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death, the Ganga cleanup, taking NCP support in Maharashtra, etc. But I think I’ve made my point.

The airy rhetoric of election campaigns is an easy path to take. The solid deliverance of actual progress – not quite the same. I don’t necessarily want a BJP government or a Congress government or an AAP government. I just want a different government. One that knows the difference between promises made and promises kept.

Ulti-Seedhi Cheezein

These ( are the viewpoints of the BJP MLA from Karnal, now also known as the brand spanking new CM of the great state of Haryana.

On the one hand, you feel like saying, “It’s Haryana. Over there, he’s probably a moderate.”

On the other hand, this man is the Chief Minister of a state. From a party that rules the country with an overwhelming majority right now. That is, as John Oliver would say, something even Kafka wouldn’t want his name attached to.IMG_0460-0.JPG

Modi ji, ab paper kitna white hai?

This video ( is a compilation of all the BJP leaders who got their knickers in a twist when the UPA govt refused, in 2011, to reveal the names on the white paper about black money. Mr Swamy waves his hands about like a marionette while Mr. Modi cracks witty one-liners about how the paper was “itna white….ki jis main koi akshar dikhayi nahin de raha hai.”

The almost farcical irony here is this: the statement issued by Mr. Pranab Mukherjee in 2011 was that “the government was bound by legal obligations and could not share information received under international tax treaties, but added that names would become public when the income-tax department decides to prosecute the offenders.” (

On Friday, the Centre issued a statement saying that “it could not disclose the names of those who have deposited money in banks abroad as it this would jeopardise tax agreements with nations providing those names to India.” (

The statement issued by Mr. Arun Jaitley yesterday says “the names will be revealed after following the due process of completing investigations and reaching conclusions about quantum of unaccounted money….We are not going to be pushed into an act of adventurism where we violate the treaties and then plead that we are no longer able to get the cooperation of reciprocating states.” (

It’s like Alice went through the looking glass and found the Red Queen & the White Queen sipping tea & sharing a laugh about the vagaries of politics.

And the extremely easy target here, of course, is Mr. Rajnath Singh, who made the brave claim of bringing back black money stashed in foreign accounts “in 100 days” ( Perhaps he got a little carried away with the whole “we can say what we want when we’re campaigning” bug that seems to afflict every Indian politician. But Mr. Singh, it’s been a 130 days now. Either you’re really bad at simple mathematics or you’re just another politician in love with empty rhetoric with no fear of any real accountability.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

BJP Bhakton Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Normally, you’d pull out the Network reference when talking about a group of people who’ve been suffering a grave injustice for an extended period of time and, like the man says, can’t take it anymore. Ironically, this was the first line that sprung to my mind when I read this article ( and saw the chanting mobs descending on Rajdeep with “great vengeance and furious anger”. Did you guys not get the memo? You won! So why the hell are you guys so pissed off?

This anger, righteous or not, is definitely one thing: baffling. I can understand (not condone, but understand) your irritation with the “libtard” media for criticising the Most Honourable Prime Minister during the election campaign every time they brought up things that you’d be most happy not discussing. I can even understand calling anyone who even thought a not-entirely-flattering thought about the BJP a “Congressi”, an “AAPtard” or various less flattering and more gynaecological descriptions. But why now? What the hell are you so angry about now? Again, you won!

Sadly, the only explanation that I can think of is that the victory here is not of the democratic process. Because one of the cornerstones of that is having a strong and coherent opposition. We are all happy that we finally have a PM who doesn’t look like he’s going to need emergency medical resuscitation every 5 minutes. We’re happy that the optics of this trip have probably been the best since the last Shahrukh world-tour. And that we’ve reached Mars (irrespective of who started that program). But that does not, and it should never, preclude the asking of questions. And statements like “You’re either with Modi or against Modi” are symptomatic of either absolute autarchy or great insecurity. Neither of which are qualities that should go unquestioned.

Sure, Rajdeep was asking provocative questions, but that’s his job. He’s a journalist. Asking questions is a good thing, as opposed to the self-proclaimed bastions of journalistic ethics – Zee News (yes, I laughed too) – headlining stories with lines like “Videshi zameen par reporting karne gaye patrakaaron ko kya desh ki izzat ka khayal nahin rakhna chahiye?” followed by some of the most one-sided reportage I’ve ever seen. What about the man who shouted out “Motherfucker, you’re not an Indian!” from the crowd? Was he representative of Indian pride as well?

But this incident is, like I said, symptomatic of a larger anger. It’s not just the mob in New York that’s afflicted by this anger. Social media is full of quasi-thought-police who seem to be waiting to pounce down the throat of anyone who so much as thinks about cracking a joke about the literary quality of @PMOIndia tweets. Try saying “PM’s speech has concluded” or “PM conveys Navratri greetings to everyone” in your best Terminator voice to know what I mean.

So stop with the pique, people. The only person who’s actually handled his victory with dignity is the man himself: Mr. Prime Minister. He looks happy. Why can’t you?

Whose Body Is It Anyway?

For the last couple of hours, I’ve been trying to share someone’s comments on Facebook about the reportage on Shweta Basu but unfortunately only the article gets shared, which is not what I intend. So, with due respect to everybody who’s commented on this, I’m going to paraphrase some people who’ve already said what I’m going to & probably a lot more eloquently.

What a woman does with her own body is strictly her business. What the media does to sensationalise that is strictly disgusting. And if the person happens to be even remotely well-known (read as: we’re going to get hits on the website tomorrow! Glory be, pop the champagne!), we plumb the depths of journalism, also known as, mostly, the Times Of India.

What’s especially reprehensible about this incident is that I haven’t read a single news report commenting on the character of the “client”, leave along naming this person. And I have the feeling that none of the people putting these headlines together care. That’s just another statistic, one more person paying for a prostitute, one more “small incident of rape”. What does get them all hot & bothered is being able to put the name of the movie she was a child actress in, in the headline. And throw in ‘National Award Winner’ & we….have….liftoff.

The person who’s the subject of this article has admitted to what she did and has also explained that she needed to do it because of financial reasons. But that’s not good enough for such esteemed members of the press like someone named Vineeta Kumar from my favourite source of comic relief: India TV (TOI, you’re off the hook!). In this extremely articulate article (–16797.html), Vineeta waxes eloquent about how “both ideally and logically, her reasons of hopping into the slushy world of prostitution don’t seem justifying anything.” She raises burning questions like, “Providing ‘support to the family,’ or ‘running out of money,’ can these be termed as the signaled reasons to sacrifice upon your dignity?” Firstly, dear Vineeta, what is a “signaled reason”? And secondly, your “dignity” is nobody’s business but your own. Least of all the business of two-bit hacks who believe that “giving out her body” is a perfectly acceptable turn of phrase.

I’m not condoning prostitution and, for the inevitable wiseass who’s going to ask me how I’d feel if it was my daughter, I wouldn’t exactly be doing somersaults in joy. But there are two things I do believe in: you can never accurately judge the sequence of events that lead up to a person making a particular decision in their lives. But, once that decision is made and as long as it doesn’t in any way harm another human being, it belongs to that person alone. Which brings me to my second point: I believe in a woman’s right to choose. As opposed to the “small incidents” of rape where she does not even have that option. That is a crime. This? This is gossip. And unfortunately, most news today doesn’t seem to know the difference.

A Letter To Ms. Doniger

Back in the wintry mists of time, this February, I had another of many delightful & frank exchange of ideas with individuals on the medium that was built for precisely such honest & enlightening debate: Twitter. The topic was something that most of us, thanks to the wonderfully transient nature of the scandal-of-the-day 24-hour news cycle, might have forgotten all about by now – Penguin India’s recall of Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. At the time, I compiled the “conversation” into one final reply which I posted on Twitter & sent in an email to Ms. Doniger. If nothing else, I assumed she could find some humour in it, a positive thing in any circumstance. 

Yesterday, I got a reply from her, belatedly thanking me for my support. Which is why I happened to revisit the original post & chuckle at the absurdity of trying to have a sane conversation with….well, most people on Twitter.

Dear Ms. Doniger

I haven’t read your book. I would like to, sadly not because I’ve heard about it from someone who read it but rather because of the controversy surrounding it. Such are the ironies of life!

But the reason I mail you today is because I fully defend your right to write anything that you want. I may not agree with it eventually, but I shall, in the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “…defend to the death your right to say it”.

The second reason is that I indulged in what’s referred to as a Twitter flame-war today with a couple of fairly narrow-minded individuals about the subject of my protesting Penguin India’s decision to remove the book from circulation. Eventually, 140 characters not being enough to express my opinion (or frustration at the seeming lack of logic from the other side), I compiled both the so-called argument and my stance on the matter into one piece, which I’ve now posted on Twitter. I send it you now, hoping you may, if nothing else, enjoy the absurdity involved in trying to have a logical argument with a fanatic. The argument in it’s whole is a matter of public record on my Twitter account.

Danish Aslam

@TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 @chainacoffeemug
So this has been an entertaining evening. I’d like to think of it as a social experiment. One that digressed from books about to Hinduism to, somehow, Salman Khan’s box office performance. I’m not entirely sure how it got there…but we’ll let it slide and attribute it to the already surreal nature of this conversation.

But, since 140 letters can never be enough to sustain any sort of dialogue, I’d like to argue this out using logic and reason. And much as I’m tempted to crack a joke about the lack thereof in most of tonight’s haranguing, I shall refrain & merely ask you to respond (if you like, your choice entirely) to the following points in a calm, sensible fashion.

I know that it seems like I have a lot of free time on my hands & I’m sure you’re itching to retaliate with some wisecrack about my previous movie not being a hit and you not even knowing about it’s existence, etc etc. I’m sure you’re entitled to your opinion about my cinematic prowess, but that’s not really the point being discussed here tonight, is it? I mean I’m not attacking your skill-sets, personal or professional. In fact, some of you don’t even want to reveal who you really are because I’m assuming it’s just so much easier to hide behind a veil of anonymity. Ah well, so be it.

So, here we go. The players are the man/woman we shall only know as @TheHinduNation, Maria from Kabul (@chainacoffeemug) & someone called @fakejoker2 along with yours truly:

1. Let’s start from the beginning. This was the first tweet I got from @TheHinduNation:

“@dan1shaslam Abe BC….pehle innocence of islam ko india me release karao….uske baad karo apni hypocritical bakchodi…”

Which was rapidly followed by:

“@dan1shaslam a god damn jihadi talking about freedom of speech is d biggest joke since the fucking big bang….”

Now what I can gather, apart from the colourful (& completely unwarranted) language was that Mr. Mafia (over-compensating much?) didn’t like my opinion on the case filed against Penguin India for the book ‘The Hindus’. Which is absolutely fine and he’s entitled to his opinion. But that doesn’t mean that you can abuse me. If nothing else, it implies a degree of familiarity that I’m entirely confident should not exist.
Inspite of that, let’s address the facts. Your 1st assumption was that I was only reacting to this situation because I’m a Muslim and the book is about Hinduism. Your 2nd assumption was that I wouldn’t react the same way if the issue involved Muslims suppressing freedom of speech. This was also expressed in another tweet you sent later:

“@dan1shaslam put that standard to every bit of speech n id stand by u…go defend danish cartoonist…first…then v shall talk…”

Now my response to this was very simple. Firstly, I’m an atheist. So the question of me singling out any particular religion is absurd. And secondly, I have reacted in the past with equal outrage at a Muslim country suppressing someone’s freedom of speech. And as proof, I offered the link to the relevant tweet:

“@TheHinduNation I refer you to my tweet from last year: …”

Your collective responses to this was: silence. In fact, your response was to suddenly realise that I’d made a movie & quite inexplicably change the topic to that:

“@dan1shaslam aah ur the guy who made brk k baad? No wonder…personal motivations eh? Next cud b u on chopping block…for makin such crap”

2. At some point, you started attacking me personally. Although I think that point was pretty much reached with your very first tweet and the masterful use of the abbreviated “BC”. But then, when I asked you if you were brave enough to reveal your real name instead of hiding behind a convenient and ANONYMOUS twitter ID. To which your brilliant response was:

“@dan1shaslam bravery is sumthing to be shown in real life…social media me to har koi sher hota hai…jaisa tum try kar rahe ho abhi haha”

I use the word “brilliant” here because the irony in this statement is delicious. I’m not sure you realise it, despite my efforts at pointing it out later, but you just accused me (a person who’s using their real name on Twitter) of something that you (a person refusing or too scared to show the world their real name) are so blatantly guilty of! It’s amazing….and depressing at the same time.

This lovely thread ended with you issuing a challenge:

“@dan1shaslam chalo its a challenge…find out what my name is…my address…and post it here…”

To which my response was, again, something that you yourself provided me with:

“way more imp ppl in the world still left…”

3. A little while later, perhaps tired of having to actually type out so many responses or perhaps just tired of trying to keep track of the many different directions your statements were going, you decided to adopt a new track:

“Chalo chhodo @dan1shaslam miyan Shruti Seth Ji ke husband ho…jaane diya tumhe…Bye Bye @chainacoffeemug @fakejoker2”

Which was followed by:
“@chainacoffeemug @dan1shaslam Miyan hum vo log hain jinhone aapke Bhaijaan ki baja di…Unse aur unki PR team se poochna ja kar @fakejoker2”

I have 2 questions: what does being my wife’s husband have anything to do with whether or not I’m right or wrong? I, unfortunately, don’t have the pleasure of knowing who your parents are yet. But if I did, I wouldn’t say, ‘Chalo yaar, app Mafia Sr. ke bete ho. Jaane diya”. That makes no sense.

And secondly, what does Salman Khan and his box office prowess have anything at all to do with whether I can speak my mind about any topic in the world? That’s like me saying, “I can do a cartwheel while drinking a Pepsi. So you shut up!” It baffles the mind.

4. Maria now joins the picture. You don’t seem to like me too much either, but at one point you did raise a valid point:
@TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Unless he spoke as strongly for freedom of speech- when it came to Rushdie etc. also @dan1shaslam

I then sent you the same link as above (the Hamza Kashgari incident). But the overflowing show of support for my right to express my opinion & freedom of speech being sacred didn’t seem to be forthcoming. Sad, but there it is. And when I responded to your obviously sarcastic tweet:

“@dan1shaslam @TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Nahin sunna hee nahin nah. See I live in Kabul,kindly enlighten us as now,I hide in my bunker. :-)”

…with a little sarcasm of my own:

“@chainacoffeemug @TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Tch, tch. Come now, I have a much higher opinion of Afghanistan. Don’t let them down :)”

I was immediately accused of being a bully! Again, can you see the irony here? Please tell me you do.

5. At some point, @fakejoker2 also chimed in with his two cents:

@dan1shaslam @chainacoffeemug @thehindunation hey danish do ya thingy mate, jelous asses n losers will alwayz seek ya attention.

Thanks for that, by the way. Don’t know if it helped really. But still.

6. The final bit from Maria then went back to my career – convenient and completely off-topic, but we’ll just chalk that up to that being everybody on Twitter’s favourite form of offense.

Me: “I don’t agree with what you say”
You: “You shut up! You made a bad movie!”

Wow, navigating that morass of genius took me a while. And now I feel like I don’t have the energy to actually make the point that I was trying to. But here goes anyway:

I believe in free speech. I believe in every person’s right to hold an opinion and to express that opinion freely. Going by your Twitter pages, I’d say you guys have exercised that right on more than one occasion. So what I can’t understand is how my doing the same results in you abusing me?

I do not believe in religion. I think it causes more harm than good. And then of course, there’s the inevitable question: who’s right and who’s wrong? There are, at last count, 2870 deities recorded in known history ranging from Ra to Zeus to Krishna to Ram to Allah to Buddha, etc etc. When you say you believe in God, my response to you is: which one? And if you name one, then my answer is simple: You are as big an atheist as I am. I don’t believe in 2870 gods and you don’t believe in 2869!

So I stand by my statement. People should be allowed to express their opinion. If it harms you in any way, shut your ears. If you don’t like what you see, close your eyes! It’s simple really. If you have a problem with ‘The Hindus’, don’t buy the book! How does it affect your life, unless you let it? There are still copies of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ being sold. I don’t see gas chambers being erected to wipe out entire populations of Jews anywhere in the world. Do you?

I sincerely hope that this entire exercise has not been in vain and some rational discussion can still be had after all this. If not, I shall carry on with my life and you with yours. In the words of Maria:

@dan1shaslam @TheHinduNation My friend, u are misreading a lot of things here.🙂 Cool down for a bit; theres too much reaction in u now

I hope that there will ALWAYS be too much reaction in me, dear Maria. Otherwise, what’s the point in living?