Sunday, 27 December 2015

Confirmation bias: The ultimate deception

If you log into Facebook, you'd inevitably come across a piece of news or some article, which would be mentioning some development in regards to a political party, or a Bollywood superstar. Now while the article was intended to provide you with pure information, it might end up with a deliberate attempt to stimulate your sense to express. So, "share your views on this" may actually end up becoming a heated debate between BJP and AAP supporters, or Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani partisans. But what's really worth pondering upon here, is that it was not even an ideal platform for debate. However, there was something inside the participants, some kind of pruritis, which forced them to let their inner beliefs or opinions come out and find their way in the form of a comment, or a comment on a comment. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the magical prowess of confirmation bias. 



We human beings have some values and beliefs, and over time they become consolidated. And once they are, every other piece of information, is evaluated with this belief as a frame of reference. So say, you maybe an AAP or a BJP supporter, and suddenly news surfaces of alleged corruption from a BJP leader. Irrespective of how accurate and credible the evidence buttressing the news maybe, a BJP supporter will always view the evidence as being false and deceptive, and an AAP supporter will consider it sacrosanct. So while in reality, the evidence may not even have held any relevance if a neutral mind investigated, the BJP supporters wouldn't care about finding any refuting evidence, and AAP supporters wouldn't care about finding any alternate evidence. So all in all, some real evidence present out there maybe conveniently ignored. 



Confirmation bias works at three levels - Information bias, interpretation bias, and memory bias. Information bias dictates that we only accept and process information that is consistent with our beliefs. So if a piece of news suggests that Dilwale is diabolically bereft of logic and is absolutely nonsensical, an SRK fan would simply shun out such information, and would still hold that Dilwale is a masterpiece even if he may not have watched it yet. Interpretation bias suggests that even with the same information, different people would act differently. So the headline "Dilwale grosses 100Cr, Bajirao Mastani only 70" would be heralded as Dilwale's massive achievement, while a Bajirao Mastani fan would simply deride Dilwale stating that it should've grossed 200Cr with the glam and glitter it had. Finally, memory bias seals the nail in the coffin by making us recollect only certain instances from the past, while ignoring other facts and truths that may already have been established. So a Dilwale fan would cherish the fact that the SRK Kajol chemistry always sizzled, but would ignore the fact that it's not a Yashraj movie this time around. 

Confirmation bias could be a tremendous weapon of gambit and confusion if used correctly. Political parties shrew on propaganda just to polarize opinions of their supporters, and if it goes their favor, their support base grows stronger. So say AAP was to malign BJP's image just before an election in a state where AAP is new and they may simply allege that some ruling member of BJP is corrupt. Now while in the longer run, AAP may note they'd fail to prove the allegation, some of their supporters who just began supporting AAP, would use their confirmation bias to fully support AAP afterwards, as they simply affirm their beliefs of AAP being a corruption crusader, even though whole of the agenda might be a fugazi. So with the belief of its fledgling supporters strengthened, AAP can now leverage on the word of mouth conversion of these supporters, and using selective dis-information and more such propaganda, root out BJP from a state they held suzerainty very long over.  



The ruling gentry of a country like North Korea has to simply thrive on confirmation bias. While the whole world outside notes the tribulation of the people, many people would still be motivated to serve the emperor because one, only selective information is made available to people, and two people have always believed this is the only way of life. So people deliberately choose to reject ideals of external world, and choose to live within the closed system they believe to be the only solution. 

Confirmation bias is the both, a harbinger of hope and the biggest deterrent to change. For example, all religions enshrine hope in the most supreme power and tell you it'll take care of you. When people go sick or struggle, their confirmation bias forces them to not let go of their hope in their almighty, and this hope may do wonders at the end. On the other hand, confirmation bias maybe extremely regressive. A new scientific idea that completely negates an outdated idea, maybe outright rejected and not be allowed to bloom because we so strongly believe in the existing ideas so as to not give the new idea as much as a thought. But irrespective of what results come out of confirmation bias, it's an inveterate human trait, and maybe a flaw our evolution was supposed to extirpate. But instead of making it become vestigial, we're furthering it's cause every time we investigate selectively and lurch on an argument with predetermined outcomes. The day we get rid of it, is the day when we'd truly feel enlightened!

Monday, 21 December 2015

More communication or the death of it?

If you take a moment to get out of Bollywood melodrama where a girl meets a boy on a train ride and 3 hours later the boy has already conquered half of the girl's dad's rogue army to win her, you'd see that direct human interaction initiation is dying a slow death. Our direct interactions now either include a professional pretext so we have to introduce, or include an electronic medium facilitating the interaction or involves a subject which confines the interaction to it. But what I'm essentially trying to say is that pure random human interaction, that has remained the fulcrum of many of our friendships and conversations, is now being replaced by the might of technology. 

Mankind's initial days necessitated the need for communication. Everyone had limited resources and a barter required a negotiation and many discussions. As we progressed and became more civilized, concepts of friendship, relationship and courtship emerged. We realized that our interactions shall soon surpass the modicum of words we had at our disposal. Hence languages kept getting built, and our prowess to communicate accentuated. And before we could notice, communication went on to become a pivotal part of our existence. Civilizations emerged, demagogues ruined them, communication sprang revolutions, civilizations collapsed, and paved way for better ones! And we were a step up on progress, all courtesy of communication. People started interacting and communities started getting built. And we, the mammals who were the most advance prototype till date, the most solemn and the most supreme creation of the god, chose to forget we were just another breed, albeit a superior one. We were racing the planet into the future. 

It's been about 10000 plus years since languages started gaining their prime and we for the first time realized how valuable our ways of communication are. Word transformed from spoken, to written, written to typed, typed to transmitted, and finally to electronic. All throughout our progress, we never left behind the realization that it is communication that lies at both the zenith and the root of everything. And if you look at how far we have come, we have to say we've done a pretty impressive job. But if we really fast forward ourselves from when we realized the value of communication, to where we are today, there is something that has actually taken a hit in this regard. 

We have structured communication to beyond the point of no return. Telephony etiquette mandates we start a conversation with "Hello", start off by passing a compulsory greeting depending on the time of the day, and end by saying "take care". And our way of initiating text conversations were so set in stone that the application that now dictates terms is itself called "WhatsApp" deriving from the quintessential "What's Up?", which we use more times than we really want to ask that. Not only electronic communication but even one we start off with a random stranger has become pretty much well defined and established. We either use the subject of weather, or we ask about the book the other person is reading, or ask about that person's origin. And in a girl meets boy scenario, there are the usual cheesy pickup lines. But whatever it is, our communication seems to be well dictated. 

In reality, we have set boundaries around how we have to communicate. The other person never demanded that we start talking about weather. Text messaging software won't refuse to send a text if we didn't start off by asking What's Up. And it's not that our telephones won't transmit our voice if we didn't say "Hello". It's all ingrained, it's all etched in our minds, it's all just a set of caveats we have to follow. In fact, one aspect on which mankind's imagination ensued in many marvels of literature - the proclamation of love; That also is dictated by rules. People ask the question when should I tell her "I love you" when in reality it may really be a very parsimonious and cliched way of expatiating how you genuinely feel. That emotion, that feeling is ineffable, and "I love you" is still the best you could do? 

In all our progress, in all the sophistication, and in our pursuit of setting a code of conduct for acceptable communication, we've forgotten one really important element - randomness. Some of the best possible moments out of our gatherings come out of a random joke someone cracked by serendipity. Some of the biggest moments of history came out when one great man suggested an idea to another one. Some of the biggest revolutions transpired out of one enslaved myrmidon, telling others from his bereft clan that they should all rise. And yet we believe that communication should be structured.

From where we are moving towards, words are losing their relevance fast. More people like posting photos and suddenly "pictures speak louder than words" even in an age where pictures have filters and photoshop masters can jettison a prick with a starlet. People resort to 'K' and think it's cool and time saving. Old testaments are seldom read anymore, because modern manifestations of religion prevaricate any deep questions even otherwise. And your reports are written in plain, simple language when the creationist in you is desperate to speak out. 

Look deeper and you see we're refraining from communicating in totality. By restricting to our small friends circles, by adhering to the unspoken tacit tenets of etiquette, and by shortening our messages to a bare minimum length. Everything is simply curtailing communication and making us communicate in compliance to some set principles. We are no longer communicating at the behest of the voice inside us. We are instead choosing words that the person right in front of us wants to hear, within boundaries defined by social trends, and maybe using a medium made by someone else. More and more words are moving out of vogue and summary words are taking place. "Narcissism, opulence, self-aggrandizement" can all be conveniently summed up as 'swag'. "Nihilism, audacity, sagacity, prosperity" can all be summed up as "Thug Life". Yes, we chose our ways collectively, but while we've always been proven right with the course we've taken our communication to, maybe it'll be a good idea to once again walk out, visit a random place, and to start a random conversation with a completely random stranger. 


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Arvind Kejriwal: The murderer of a revolution we badly needed!

It was in the year 2011. Exposes on corruption and malady within governance were at their peak and news channels were riding on a tide of their lifetimes. Suddenly, the nation was rapt with an unprecedented enthusiasm to usurp all evil. A new movement called India Against Corruption(IAC) was beckoning hope for the billion plus people who were now sick of watching more and more scams unearth by the day. The UPA 2 which was brought into power by a resoundingly clear mandate, had turned eyesore and a bunch of bandicoots bleeding the exchequer. The next elections were still far away and in that scenario, IAC and its baton holders provided some much needed succor. Change was everywhere to be seen and felt.

Right from protests staged at various places, to hunger strikes organized by Anna Hazare, to sentiment fomenting speeches by his chieftains like Arvind Kejriwal. My parents had told me how rampant things went during the imposition of the emergency in 1975, and they also told me that the nation is heading towards another revolution. It was never a revolution we sought. We were too lumpen, too knackered and too apathetic. We were powerless and we never really believed in the concept of a revolution that could expropriate those who wielded power. But this movement and this series of events enshrined hope and a very eerie belief that something new was about to surface. A change of government when the last one had proven to be a disaster is obvious. But here we sensed as if the outcome was going to be more emphatic and much more everlasting. 

People joined the protests and the strikes, people bore the brunt of water cannons riddling them with acrid cold water, people took the war to social networks, and for the first time, people seemed to be taking a genuine interest in events that could change the course of a billion plus lives. It was such a radical contrast from the yesteryear when we elected a government and then spent the next 5 years lampooning and maundering about its ill will and incapability. This time, we all thought we should join because we saw a solution that was going to be different. This tribune in the form of Anna Hazare, whose fasts unto death heralded a promise we never felt the veracity of before, was the reason. It seemed as if through public might and the staggering force of non-violence were going to make the government grovel and accede to the demands of our sentries. The battle lines were drawn and now the house was finally listening! Boy, did I get agglutinated to the TV screen when the house finally called an emergency session to pacify Hazare. It felt as if all that sustained momentum was finally bearing fruit. Yes, the government came out with a bungled version of the Lokpal draft but we were calling the shots for the first time since 1979. It was all on track util this self proclaimed harbinger of transformation - Arvind Kejriwal took over. And the revolution which had sprouted after years of hegemony and forced oblivion, was annihilated!
 
 
At that juncture, Kejriwal was just another one from those noble men - with huge accomplishments and credentials to his name, and who was playing his part in cleaning up the mess. Hence his meteoric rise within the ranks of IAC was no surprise. He suddenly lurched to the pulpit and became Hazare's henchman. Things in fact looked promising as a capricious Hazare's resolve was now complemented with Kejriwal's knack of things. And then on one fine day, Hazare's ongoing fast was called off on the pretext of Hazare's denigrating health, and a political solution was proposed. The crowds, with no idea what to expect, simply welcomed the move. It seemed as if the non political solutions had now given way to a political alternative and we all were led to believe that the revolution was still alive. That the only thing that was changed was the modus operandi. But in reality, the revolution had been killed; brutally murdered in broad daylight and in front of a billion spectators.
 
Kejriwal managed to come to power firs,t with his former and now bereaved bete noire Congress, who supported him on the pretext of allowing a non-BJP solution to rule the roost. And later on, Kejriwal managed to sneak into power in the Delhi cabinet with a drubbing both BJP and Congress never imagined shall be inflicted upon them. He has been in power and has done a few good things as well. The odd-even vehicular restriction might actually be a boon given that the proletariat of Delhi has to breathe air which in one day produces the same damage to the innards as smoking two cigarettes. He has brought his own version of the Lokpal as well, which was at the center of all action during the days of this revolution's glory. But while it's yet to be completely ratified, it's a seriously redacted version of the Lokpal people were told was going to emancipate them from the vice of corruption. And last but not the least, Kejriwal has turned into a master of political gimmicks, hypocrisy and media manipulation. In short, at the pretext of ridding the nation of a metastasizing malady of corruption through a political solution, he gave them just another archetypal political outfit which is not very different!

While AK's rise is termed by his hirelings as victory of the common man, no one empathizes with that revolution Kejriwal's maundering killed. The IAC under the leadership of Hazare and Kejriwal and others alike, couldn't force the government to capitulate and drivel to their full blown version of the Lokpal bill. But that didn't mean they had to put up a fight on the political arena. While full credit to them for handing a  mordacious defeat to parties that were pretty carping on AAP; AAP and its own leaders had to stoop down to the levels that are truly representative of the troughs which a lot of politicians have taken the venerable occupation to. And as AAP bequeathed upon itself the legacy of IAC and its maxims of rooting out corruption, the movement itself kept dying a slow death.

A political solution couldn't do more than bringing AAP into power, backed by a genuine cohort of supporters who now had a new choice. But what the revolution  - in case it went on would have done, is simply unmatched. For the first time in 3 decades, an indifferent youth got a reason to get along and fight for the biggest cause - the betterment of the nation. We Indians had such a trademark response to any discussions on nation's problems that we almost always dismissed the agenda blaming the ogres of politics. But the revolution had already brought us out of our convenient cahoots. We were in action, we felt for the nation, and we saw how much power we really had to make things happen. Now, with our power having resulted in no more than just another political outfit, I guess we'd never be bothered about rising again.

That revolution Shri Arvind Kejriwal killed on that day in 2012 when he spoke of forming a party. It was not one we deserved, but one we were just an arm's distance from getting. Incredible things had happened in the course of that year. So many people came out of their safe zones. So many people were enchanting verses of patriotism, and so many people genuinely believed we can bring the government to its feet. Just a little more momentum and just a little more force, and we could have seen Gandhi's principles weaving their magic again. We could have seen the government finally taking a note that its apathy had aroused a ferocious inferno in us and would have acted to do some damage control. But just before we were about to embroil the government and the polity in that phase, our fire fizzled and our wings clipped, and we couldn't even note when. All those Indians who cherished their provenance, and this time not on 26th of January or on Indian winning a world cup, but on seeing that the nation still belongs to them; they were all mandated to go back, wait, and then vote for a particular political party in the next election. Mr Kejriwal, while it's commendable how you've made the behemoths of Indian polity shrivel to your wits, you are, and forever will, be remembered as the killer of that revolution which could have produced magnificent things! Yes sir, you are a murderer indeed!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Destruction and its place in natural order.

What role does destruction have to play in shaping our lives, and shaping our civilizations? The first civilization that crumbled miserably was that of the Mayans. They were progressing until one day, in a rather surreal way, everything ground to a halt and the civilization was extirpated in a rather mysterious way. Ever since that, many other civilizations had to bear the brunt of destruction of the highest order. Natural calamities like earthquakes and floods, to epidemics that swiped off all life, to  internal mutinies, to destruction inflicted by the enemies. While most of the civilizations succumbed, some thrived, only to be challenged again, and only to come out victorious and even stronger. And that there lies the place of destruction in natural order. 


The most ardent athletes and the most exuberant performers, have all waned and whimpered under immense personal tragedies. They all succumb to the poignancy - the destruction of all peace and happiness, and are able to remold their very conscience. Hence they deliberately not give into the enormous weight of their ordeal. Those who do would crack and either remain paltry niggards their whole lives or end up broke in an asylum. But these handful of champions would go on and take that destruction of almost all that their life stood for, with ferocious panache and intent. What's in play here - survival of the fittest!

It seems like the nature has multiple agents through which it tries dodging its beings. Natural selection is vested not only in how physically strong someone is, it's also about how sturdy and non amenable one's integrity and psyche are. Every personal loss and separation acts to destroy the balustrade of our happy pristine lives, and literally rocks the foundation of our personality. Those who are inherently strong, would wade through. Those who are malleable, would vanish to the abyss of their own despondency. Not only this. In fact just like physical traits, even psychological traits can be passed on. A soldier has to make humongous sacrifices, and yet knowingly, he'd still want his son to become another one. That built of the psyche in their lineage is their biggest asset, and nature accordingly supports their existence and their decisions. 

Now drawing parallel to societies and civilizations as a whole. Not every empire and now not every country or every state has a right to exist. Several civilizations were built on the bedrock of naturally acclaimed assets. The Indus valley civilization and Egyptian civilization for example were built on river banks and had an obvious reason to thrive. But both of them eventually vanquished. Why? Because just like individuals, empires, societies, states and countries all have a psychological character to them! 

Consider a few examples. India remained the pivot of global economy for so long and yet after some time in middle of the 16th century, the dynamics changed and we started receding into a ever deepening trough on a global scale. We still had the usual advantages, We had formidable river systems, fertile lands, natural resources and what not. But we deliberately chose to become oblivious to the fact that one's opponents can't be tamed for very long. Progressive European civilizations were marred with many wars and had humongous natural constraints they faced on their way. But while their psyche was built around dominance and progress, ours was built around conservatism. And alas, our choice proved wrong. We became the individual who negated all his physical advantages because he felt morally very superior and was complacent of his position. We were wound back 200 years on the clock because of that. And yes, once we were penetrated, we couldn't really prove strong and resilient enough to ward off any attacks from thereon. We were taken aback. Destruction had a place in our order. It was to tell us how wrong we'd been and how many vices we hid from ourselves. Caste systems, dowry, conservatism etc. all plague us even today as they did back then. Hence maybe more destruction is on its way to test us and get us rectified, or to let us know of our actual position.

Japan was attacked many times and it always barely managed to survive. Then sometime around the middle of the 18th century, Japan shut itself to the world and opened again sometime in the middle of the 20th century. It went rogue and faced the most devastating attacks that vaporized a colossal portion of its population. Hiroshima and Nagasaki till date remain the most repugnant displays of human induced destruction. A weak and a fragile nation would have secluded itself to the alcove of despair and drudgery. But Japan rebuilt itself. It was not about the government or a few companies in particular. It was about the nation as a whole. It was their psyche. Destruction had a place in Japan's history. It was to knock them out and get them to the brink of extinction. Because only when they were challenged, did they leave being a sake manufacturing country and turned themselves into the hub of electronics and automotive denizens. 

Israel is another example. The country is challenged every day, with its might always questioned and its very existence being put to a litmus test. But it fights, because the day it stops fighting, it'll cease to exist. Destruction had a place in Israel's history. It was to tell them they're small and that they would perish if they didn't use their size to their advantage. The United states not only had to bear the brunt of the civil wars, Pearl Harbor and some hideous acts of terrorism. It also had to parry off massive moves by the financial bayonet during the great depression and then the global meltdown of 2008. So while the Imperialist Britain succeeded with its psyche of narcissism and nihilist supremacy, the United states is taking down one country at a time using its expansive network of intelligence agencies, supposedly egalitarian global financial assistance bodies, and its behemoth banks. They're running on the profound psyche of extreme self-interest. Destruction had a place USA's order. It was to tell them they had to take over the world but in a more tacit way.

Destruction has a very big role to play in shaping a country's character, just as much as in carving a man's countenance. Destruction rids us of all unwanted elements and brings the puritan out of us. Destruction makes sure we are not parochial again. And while destruction does cause damage, it does more good by purging all proclivities that were bound to prove harmful. Destruction is tantamount to a clear pathway for evolution. Sooner than later, we all grow too big. We either destroy what we don't need, or we get drubbed by our own size. So while progress remains the fulcrum of how the world moves ahead, destruction acts as a silent guardian on the gateway to make sure the worthy ones never have to traipse back into the past.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Exonerated!

I would've been a mere 10 years old when I watched the movie Gandhi the first time. Knowing that it'll be tough to wade through the intensity alone, my family watched it with me. There was a scene when an anxious man, played by Om puri, straggles towards Gandhi in one of his meetings. The man warbles "I've killed a small Muslim boy in the ongoing Hindu-Muslim riots". Gandhi feels the repugnance of the action and then issues out his verdict. He says "Go and adopt a Muslim boy who's been bereaved of his guardians". The man, still confused if he can ever be exculpated, feels extenuated nonetheless. After all, Gandhi had stamped the decision. 

Baffled, I asked my parents what kind of justice was that. They said the country was in absolute tatters, and the only justice Gandhi could have provided was to make things somewhat better. That was pretty heavy but still pretty simple. If someone goes on and commits something egregious, the law should simply work out a way to set things right. Hence if the situation in the recently partitioned India was to be pretty much in control, this man had to be hanged. But just because the ruckus all over the place was too titanic for one murderer to be convicted, the right sentence was for this man, this otherwise heinous convict, to be asked to make amends for the sins collectively committed. That explanation became the bedrock of my understanding of law and rectitude. 

Fast forward to today. It's been 13 years - more than half of the duration of my existence; for which I've seen proceedings on Salman Khan's hit and run case traipsing through the otherwise sanctimonious judiciary. I'd seen a lot of movies to see how criminal proceedings can go on for ages. But law was always eulogized for it bringing ultimate justice to all parties. I had utmost faith in the most sound and the most intransigent pillar of democracy. I knew justice can be delayed but not denied, notwithstanding the otherwise worthy adage of "justice delayed is justice denied". Meanwhile, I also saw Salman Khan flourish, grow by leaps and bounds, and become a heartthrob of millions. And as Salman's stardom grew by leaps and bounds, the once critical and questioning proletariat dismissed the case as mere bunkum. But I still waited with bated breath to see how the case went. After all, the judiciary had to set things right. Every one and everything had pointed towards that. So we just had to wait to see how Salman was to atone for his crime once the wheels of justice began turning again. 

So certain factions of the society started coming up with a weird agenda. It was said that Salman had turned egalitarian and was now an expurgated man. He was running charities, was exhibiting behavior of an ideal citizen, and was cooperating with the law. This faction believed that all of Salman's resuscitated conscience was good enough to compensate for a hideous crime he was convicted for. While it was too churlish to be even considered, I did think about why would someone say that. People propounded that Salman is a big star, and sending him to jail wont do any good to anyone; And that he should actually be allowed to act as the soigne Samaritan he now was all of a sudden. The image of the ribald contumacious law breaker, who killed an endangered black buck, had worked in a movie financed by the underworld, and had allegedly effaced a few men - all vanquished in this renaissance of a man's character. And I did hear the debates and all to form an opinion. I just was too confident the judiciary would provide a picture perfect verdict at the end. So I just wanted to grasp everything. 

The more I thought about the above argument, the more rubbish it came across as. India was racing towards development and was now embellished with slowly but steadily progressive pockets of civilization. We were now way past the days when rogue elements could condescendingly usurp anyone. Any crimes were now seen as been usurious. Certain high profile cases were in court and some really astonishing verdicts had already been announced. The Ansal brothers had been convicted for the Uphaar mishap, punishment was accorded to culprits in the Katara murder case, and the judiciary always made it clear that no matter how big you are, the law will make you blanch. So it was clear. Salman Khan was just another mere mortal for tenets of the law to be bent for his case. In fact rather than to let him get away and serve people, putting him behind bars was going to be much more correct. Not only was it going to set an incisive precedent on what to expect if you kill people in India, but was also going to finally restore the faith of the population of minions that there is a house where your pleas could be heard. So, for the first time, with utmost certainty, I knew what to expect in Salman's case. Yes a prime witness was dead, others budged, police cried lack of evidence, but something told me law will prove more powerful at the end. And as always, I still waited. 

Around 6 months ago, when I was sitting inside an examination hall in a college just a few meters away from the Bombay high court, the entire area seemed abuzz. The court was to announce the final verdict. Salman's fans believed the circumstances would be extenuating, believers of law hoped law will strike back in a bodacious way. And then, the law set celebrations rolling among jubilant Salman fans and despair and vile melancholy among those who waited so long to see law in action. Salman was free!

Yesterday, once again in a part of stultifying proceedings, the courts reaffirmed that Salman is acquitted. Many people are elated, and many see this as an elegy to a gargantuan body that has become too bulky to as much as move. 14 years, a plethora of hearings, an ocean of patience, and our country's judiciary gives us this - Salman's exoneration. A sibylline Salman would now visit all shrines of all major religions to pledge his allegiance to his remarkable fecundity of a good man. His fans would now eagerly await his next movie to make it the biggest blockbuster, and a lot many would now expect him to get settled. Those who watch Big Boss would now carouse on the prospect of not having to miss out on the superstar's quotidian appearance. And while a small section of people would bewail, sooner than latter, all memories, all instances, all occurrences related to this case would recede to the asylum of our collective secondary memory! 

But for me, this serves as a testimony to the fact that the duty of law is to not set things right, as my parents told me it is. The duty of law is to summon authorities, which summon other authorities and which cascade instructions down to the lower rung, which finally gets some facts and evidence to a court of law. In reality, our judiciary is a mammoth, rid of its massive wings, long before we could know that. Indira Gandhi commenced this with her usual panache by literally setting a tirade to law by imposing the emergency. And then there were umpteen number of cases where law was mocked. The icing on the cake being that of Ajmal Qasab who lived the life of a connoisseur in a jail for committing a crime whose only punishment was certain death, and whose evidence lay in the memories of a billion plus people. But law still did its job even in some big cases, right? Well, I had to look carefully. 

The Ansal brothers were convicted only for 2 years while 63 people died in their theater. And they served only a modicum of it before they were released on bail. Even in the Katara case, the plea of Neelam Katara to enhance the sentence of the prime convict to a death penalty was rejected. Law did manage to do its job, but never really provided the kind of succor that the adversaries expected. The law did manage to show it was there, but the law never buttressed the feeling that there should be some fear in the minds of those who have odious intentions. The law is not acting as the silent stick that would beat when someone was about to do something big. In fact law has done everything to promote the feeling that if you could connive with the enforcement authorities, you could even bend the law in your favor and get away on the pretext of lack of evidence. And finally it boils down to our all encompassing laws, which no doubt are a behemoth body of caveats, but are rendered rather scraggy in the face of changing crime and the changing dynamics of law enforcement. To sum it up, even a good 68 years since Gandhi pronounced that utterly whimsical but still sensible sentence, nothing much has changed. Nothing much ever will be. I'd never view law as I always did. Yesterday, a hero was released, and a much more eternal, much more ubiquitous, much more sturdy hero - our law, perished, and left us forever!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

How Mumbai police manufactured the world's most wanted mafia.


I'm starting off the post with the picture of the man the post centers around. He features at #3 on the world's most wanted list released in 2011, and has also made a mark on Forbes lists of world's most powerful persons. In fact if his hirelings and their accounts are to be believed, he considers himself to be just about as powerful, if not more powerful than, the president of USA. His egomania is so tremendous that his large manor in Karachi bears the name "The White House". So ladies and gentlemen, here's the story of a boy who was born in the family of one of Mumbai's most dreaded and fearsome constables, and one who went on to become the country's biggest bete noire. This is the story of how Mumbai police made an unflinching and cunning don out of an underworld charlatan. This is the story of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar's meteoric rise. 

Dawood Ibrahim was not the first, neither the second, nor the thrid, but perhaps the fourth in line in a succession of underworld dons who held hegemony over the Bombay province and then the Mumbai metropolis. Right from the Allahbadi, Rampuri and Jaunpuri gangs that ruled roost in areas like Byculla in the pre Independence Bombay province, to the veritable and media's blue eyed mafia Haji Mastan. Many had savored the taste of what it feels like to be at the apex of organized crime syndicate in Mumbai. But while all of them largely confined their contraventions to smuggling and hawala, Dawood had the erudition of expanding the horizon of the shady underworld, and to turn it into a global corporation, which many believe has a turnover in excess of USD 25 Billion today. No surprise he considers himself as wielding surreal power. 

During the 80's and 90's, Mumbai police, which had always held the tag of being the country's most rancorous force to reckon with, was carrying out a purging operation of the Mumbai underworld. One of the most odious and unbridled of all mafias - Manya Surve, was brought down and riddled with bullets in the Shotout at Wadala, and likewise the newspapers were always marked with sporadic encounters and shootings which showed how the police slewed the Mumbai underworld, one obstreperous gangster at a time. But pretty much at the same time, some gangs were making a substantial rise. The one that was at the helm of it was the D-company or the Dawood gang. 

As the Mumbai mafiosi was raging with internecine battles between the pathans and the D-company, and later between the D-company and Arun Gawli gang, the D-company simply kept growing, unfettered and unaffected by all the inferno that was consuming the rest of Mumbai mafia. To the bare eye, this might seem to be Dawood's maneuvering and his sublime sagacity, but one look at Dawood's provenance tells you the real link enshrouding this mysterious don to his unwavering success. It was the Mumbai police itself. 

Back in 1977, when Dawood had already turned out to be a recusant outlaw, much to the shame and embarrassment of his father Ibrahim Kaskar, who was considered to be just about as revered and respected as the police commissioner because of his rapport and contacts with the biggies of the underworld, the Mumbai police decided to turn to him for help. Dawood Ibrahim and his brother Sabir Ibrahim were running a small smuggling operation and had established their reins in Dongri and surrounding areas. The were often at loggerheads with the Pathan gang and the Pathan gang, ostensibly having much more firepower, were considered somewhat unassailable. However Dawood feared no devil, for he was the biggest devil himself. He took the mighty and brawny Pathans hands on, and someone was paying attention all the while. 

In the late 1970's, the Pathan gang had turned pretty rogue and their debauchery with law breaking had left the then Bombay police baffled and rummaging for a way to decimate them into bits and pieces. Dawood, being the son of a constable, was known to a few police officers. One of them, was an additional commissioner of police who was pretty much on the verge of being transferred for not being able to handle the obnoxious Pathan menace. This officer, on a suggestion from a renowned crime reporter who was also a friend of Dawood, approached Dawood and offered to rope him in to help the Bombay police in getting rid of the Pathan menace. Essentially, the offer to Dawood was that the police would turn a blind eye to any crime committed against the Pathan syndicate, as long as it was beneficial to the Mumbai police. Hence on the Pathan's, Dawood and Mumbai police formed a partnership that changed the face of the underworld forever. Dawood became a police snitch and henchman, and the police his consigliere. 

The relationship worked well and the Pathan power was tamed to some extent. However, in 1981, something inconceivable happened. The Pathans were infuriated with the rise of Dawood's empire and they struck at his brother Sabir Ibrahim while he was returning from a visit to his paramour in Mumbai's red light district. Sabir was clobbered with multiple bullets and was dead in no time. A fumigated Dawood was beyond any pacification and swore the blood of the Pathans. Dawood was now steaming and seething under the revelry of revenge, and his pact with the Mumbai police was now forgotten. With 4 years of working with the Mumbai police, Dawood had enough tabs on their spy network and their contacts and setup. Now Dawood was not a ruffian anymore. He wanted to become "Bambai ka Badshah" which a Fakir had predicted he'd become when his father went to a shrine seeking another son, which Dawood turned out to be! Hence as Mumbai police sighed in relief as the Pathan suzerainty dropped, the assassination of Sabir mutilated their arrangement, and all of Mumbai police's hidden secrets were now at Dawood's avail to exploit and further his cause.  

What happened over the next 4 years is a tale worth telling again. All gangs blanched in front of the D-company, and what was formed as a result was a profound organized crime syndicate which boomed and flourished by the day. Dawood Ibrahim now had the services of other notorious gang members like Chotta Rajan and Chotta Shakeel taking care of the chores, while Dawood forged trading relationships with the emirates. Dawood had a business acumen beyond any match and his lower level chieftains took care of the daily aspects of business. Suddenly, the D-company became larger than the Bombay police - the very force responsible for its creation! 

Where Bombay police really faltered was when they thought they'd create a David(Dawood in Quran is tantamount to David in Bible) to take on Goliath, and then they'd keep the David's surging prowess in check. But the Bombay police never realized that Dawood was far more deft than they thought. As he grew under their nose, he also kept paving a path for further growth, because he was now acquainted with all the nuances of the Bombay police, its operations, its bureaucratic setup and its tarnished coordination with the Mantralaya. Dawood's strings ran so deep in Mumbai police that finally in 1986, when the Bombay police acquired a warrant to raid Dawood's office in Musafirkhana, and to arrest him and his stooges, all they found was a half burnt cigarette and smells and reminiscent of people who had just fled. As a befuddled Bombay police tried to seek Dawood and contemplate on where the leak of information took place, an anxious Dawood boarded a flight to Dubai. Later on, it was revealed that Dawood had developed such gargantuan assets that the call which provided him with the last minute tip off to escape, actually came from the Mantralaya itself. And as Dawood Ibrahim left the precincts of Mumbai, the city that made him everything, he surely would've held a smirk on his face as the Bombay police, his progenitor, began a lifelong tryst with tailing him. As they tail him even today!