While the Prime Minister was making the earth move under the SAP Centre in San Diego and Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke of India’s influence on his company (“It was what [Steve Jobs] saw in India that inspired him to start Apple.”), the hacktivist group AnonOpsIndia appears to have been watching a downloaded movie. It was Pirates of Silicon Valley, the 1999 TV feature about the rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
They posted a clip on YouTube (a neutral Google property), in which an actor speaks of Jobs during his wanderings as a young man: “He definitely must have been to some weird places!” The accompanying footage shows a Hare Krishna temple, with devotees dancing in lamplit ecstasy. Not very likely to foster warmth between a digital nation and another trying to go digital. Anyway, apart from Qualcomm’s commitment to extend quantified venture capital to India, how much of the goodwill generated will survive the jamboree? And while the Prime Minister brought a tear to every Indian’s eye by promoting ahimsa on Facebook’s brick and mortar wall, it would be wonderful if some of it rubbed off on his colleagues at home, who have brought disrepute to his government with the aggressive posturing which has served as a sort of Track II signalling system since before the 2014 general election.
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In Kolkata, a municipal election is on today, and yesterday’s news in the city was dominated by images of sweat, blood and tears as the police administered some serious stick to the Left, which had taken out a procession to show their commitment to fight rigging. It is always so reassuring for natives like me to return to Kolkata, to be reminded that the eternal verities are indeed immutable. Until the change of guard in the state, everyone who was not left complained of rigging and was beaten up by the police. Now that Mamata Banerjee, who famously complained of “scientific rigging”, has taken over, the left complain of rigging, and the police beat them up. The pieces on the board have moved, but the game remains the same.
Setting aside the black humour, this is actually serious. Political agitators in Delhi, whom geography blesses with disproportionate media coverage, are hero-worshipped for facing water cannon. And there was the infamous midnight “Ravanlila” attack on Baba Ramdev’s followers. But the lathi-charge victims of Kolkata this week look like roadkill, except that they move weakly. The leading Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika had just their story above the fold on the front page, and two-thirds of that space was taken up by blood-boltered images. But turning to page two restored faith in the eternal verities and the rule of black humour in this city. Always the paper’s raciest page, on Friday it featured the usual three panels each of Mandrake and Phantom, and above them rose the images of a multitude of tantriks, the most picturesque being a babaji raising a skull (someone else’s) over his head (his own) and promising to combat all attacks from black magicians and djinns for Rs 301 only.
Using footage of more protests sourced by Manoj Gupta, CNN-IBN has opened a Track III front and brought new meaning to azadi in the disputed area that Pakistan claims as Azad Kashmir. The footage, showing what are reportedly massive pro-India protests led by the youth of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who want the Pakistan army out, also seems to have given the government fresh enthusiasm for the peace process. In which, apart from parroting the bit about Kashmir being “an integral part of India” from Mrs Gandhi’s time to the present (which the protesters confirm), the Indian government have been fairly baffled.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden opened a Twitter account this week and for a bit, was racking up followers in six figures per hour. Perhaps, yet again, it is time for many governments to feel baffled.