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Brace up for higher taxes

Written by Friday, 05 July 2013 08:15




NEW PRIORITIES The success of Siddaramaiah’s ‘socialist’ policies will require some deft balancing of the state budget

Your vehicle and household purchases, not to speak of your partying, are all set to become more expensive as an otherwise benevolent government tries to balance its books for its first budget on July 12


BLACK PIMPERNEL’ Photographer Eli Weinberg’s

famous picture of Mandela in traditional garb,

hiding from the police

The 94-year-old South African antiapartheid hero, now ailing, is a source of hope and inspiration for poets and activists fighting injustice in our midst


Nelson Mandela is perhaps the most powerful rallying point for the exploited around the world. In critical health now, he has the entire world praying for his recovery. Talk spoke to well-known writers UR Ananthamurthy and Siddalingaiah on what they thought people here should take from Mandela’s life. Ananthamurthy, the Kannada novelist and short story writer shortlisted for a Booker earlier this year, was quick to say, “Who says he will die? Mandela’s spirit is immortal. Mandela is immortal.” “In our times,” says Ananthamurthy, “the greatest people are not Lenin, Mao or Stalin. They are cruel people.


The great ones are Gandhi and Mandela.” His view: “People know Lenin, Mao and Stalin were cruel. Gandhi was not only a man who brought us freedom, but he also showed us a way to live life. Sometimes I think there would have been no Mandela without Gandhi, though each fights his own battle. Mandela took a lot from Gandhi, but that doesn’t take away anything from Mandela himself.” What telling facet of Mandela’s life should people emulate? In Ananthamurthy’s words: “Mandela’s spirit of forgiveness. It is the ultimate grace a man can have.


He fought the whites, defeated them, and forgave them. Is it possible to forgive in a life that has been bitter and exploited? But he made it possible. Indians had picked up something of Mandela’s qualities, but I regret to say we are turning away from the land of Mandela to the land of Modi.” The Dalit movement in India and Karnataka, says Ananthamurthy, draws inspiration from Mandela. “Dalits see their life, social experience and struggle similar to Mandela’s. They see race and caste as similar. They invoke Mandela as their own. Karnataka’s Dalit poets have written on Mandela and his struggle, and the references are natural.


When Talk reminded Ananthamurthy he had referred to Lincoln also as a great man along with Gandhi and Mandela, he clarified: “Lincoln was a good politician. He did a few things people everywhere in the world can emulate— one among which was the abolition of slavery. Even if it was politically beneficial to him, he did what was right—end slavery. I honour him along with Gandhi and Mandela for that act. I had in an Indira Gandhi memorial lecture several years ago seen similarities—all three had overthrown orders of exploitation—although the lives of Gandhi and Mandela are parallels apart. Dalits find resonance in Lincoln’s act.


They seek an overthrow of the caste order. The caste question, however, is immensely complex in relation to race though there are similarities at an experiential level. Which is worse is not easy to say.” Mandela’s act of forgiveness was so great that it produced guilt in the oppressor, says Ananthamurthy. “Mandela was able to make the whites see his point. He fought his battle within the moral frame.


To be able to convert a whole race that looked down upon another race into looking into themselves is not easy to achieve. The West felt guilt that it had never allowed a non-white life to be a legitimate life with legitimate desires. The British deeply honoured him. What we can take from his life is how to pitch inequality on the moral plane— how to make it a moral question that will evoke reflection among the powerful. It is not easy but in our lifetime, the moral compass has shown results.”


He invited his jailor when he took oath as president



Poet and Dalit ideologue Siddalingaiah told Talk Mandela had always been an inspiration to the Dalit movement in India and Karnataka. He explained: “We should learn from him his spirit of forgiveness. There is no sense of revenge in him after a life of humiliation by the whites. Anyone after 27 years of incarceration would have felt revenge, but he has not felt that way. It was astounding to hear Mandela invite his jailor when he took oath as President of South Africa. In power, he could have gone any length, but he only forgave and embraced.


This is the biggest lesson and inspiration for the Dalit movement. It may take a longer time for the Dalit movement to forgive, but that is the path ahead. Mandela, his life, struggle and reconciliation should be the model for the Dalit movement.” Dalits, says Siddalingaiah, should imbibe the liberal humanist approach of Mandela and shun all notions of revenge and retribution. “But when Dalits dig into their history, anger and retribution are the first feelings they experience. I understand that.


When Mandela has overcome it. That’s what we should learn.” Siddalingaiah, whose autobiography Ooru Keri is studied in universities across India and abroad, says: “Dalits should embrace the exploited from all classes and castes as one. The weak among the powerful castes are also Dalits. When Dalits take this generous view, the movement becomes morally persuasive. When you embrace all people, you raise the moral pitch. We need to turn the Dalit movement into a moral movement like Mandela did with race.” Siddalingaiah feels globalisation has created more poor people in the urban areas, while the villages are already full of the socially and economically weak. The Dalit movement has to bring both the urban and rural weak together in articulating exploitation in this era. Siddalingaiah, who served as a member of the legislative council for two terms, has read Mandela’s autobiography, Walk to Freedom, and seen films on him.


He has also seen him dance with his near and dear ones on TV. “Mandela loves life. That’s why he can dance even after a life of burden. Anybody else would have cracked, broken down and given up. Not Mandela. I want my friends to do the same. A man with zest for life after an experience of subjugation is not easy to come by.” Mandela loved Gandhi, took a lot from him, but was perhaps more Leftleaning than Gandhi, feels Siddalingaiah. He explains: “He respected Gandhi and was influenced by him, but he seemed more open to the question of class struggle, which brings him closer to the Left. Dalits have respected Gandhi and understood the importance of Gandhian means, but the younger Dalits seem closer to Mandela—they see the need for struggle and agitation like Mandela did.


But Mandela was truly gracious in that he could sense insecurities, dilemmas and anxieties among the powerful and he understood the context from which the powerful did what they did. This is what the younger Dalit movement has to take from Mandela—look at the context from within which the powerful are coming, their structure and concerns and where the power and exploitation is coming from. That makes the movement powerfully moral.” Between race and caste, Siddalingaiah feels caste is more cruel and oppressive. “Caste and untouchability are worse than colour discrimination. A white may employ a black only as a cook, but he still lets him work within his precincts, but an upper caste man will never allow a Dalit into the house, let alone cook, and never to the sanctum sanctorum.


Vivekananda has said India’s dharma lies in its kitchen vessels. That does not happen with race. If you are black, you become a servant all right, but you at least work in the close vicinity of the supervisor. Blacks have managed to become great musicians, sportspeople, poets and even educationists. Dalits, and many sections of Indians for that matter, have never been able to match the blacks. Within the oppressive structure, there seems some space for the blacks to rise, but none for the Dalits, and the oppressed among the dominant sections.” Why is this so? “The answer lies in caste. Caste has subjugated the mind and personality in subtle and direct ways.


Caste operates through the conscious, sub-conscious and the unconscious. Caste consciousness traps. Caste has trapped the mind and consciousness the way race hasn’t.” A telling example of this trap, Siddalingaiah, explains lies in the way Dalits handle themselves in urban India. “Many Dalits are forced to lie about their caste to get houses on rent. They lie they are upper caste and give themselves a different name to get a house. Once, when I went to a friend’s house, he told me not to speak words like Dalit and oppression loudly as the owner would overhear us and ask him to vacate.


An entire class of Dalits has lied its way to the formation of a middle class to survive in urban India. You can imagine the anxiety and distress they suffer about their identity. With race, you cannot lie about your colour. The colour is there to be seen. Caste therefore is immensely more complex than race, though many experiences are similar. Our liberation can take many lessons from the way blacks liberated themselves to become great musicians and writers while remaining black.” Caste, in Siddalingaiah’s view, has stunted the Dalit mind in urban India. “The way race stunted the blacks, caste has stunted the Dalits. But the way blacks raised their consciousness, Dalits should, too.”

dileep    milan   vikram+


They know how to blank cameras, use gas cutters, prise out cash machines, and cart the booty away without leaving a clue. In surveillance and logistics, they are out-thinking the police and the banks


The heists are quick and meticulously planned. In just 18 days, between June 8 and 26, six ATM heist attempts have been reported in Bangalore. Police have cracked three of them, but the other three heists have left them stumped. Banks have lost Rs 70-90 lakh in these incidents. No one has been hurt or killed in these heists. It could be a single gang of about 10 at work. Their technical finesse has taken the police by surprise. A key investigator told Talk the methods point to a gang “that works with precision.” “They know what tools to bring to cut ATM machines, what cameras to disable, how to remove the ATMs physically, and how to cart them away. They plan the techniques, the timing, the number of men to be deployed… everything in great detail,” a senior police officer said. The gang comprises welders who know how and where to cut, and technicians who know how to unbolt heavy equipment.


An insider job


On June 8, three men used a gas cutter to open a Canara Bank ATM in Sanjayanagar. Police cracked the case when they zeroed in on an employee of the company entrusted with the job of loading cash into the ATMs. Banks outsource this part of the operation to private companies with highsecurity vehicles. “He knew the exact location of the cash. He had told them where the cutting should begin and end,” the investigator said. Ten days later, on June 18, masked men walked into an SBI kiosk at Dwarakanagar near Bagalur, on the outskirts of the city. They disabled the camera and carried away the machine. The ATM had just been plonked on the floor, and not fastened with cement and concrete. “Look at three aspects: they wore masks, they disabled the cameras, and they took away the machine, and not just the cash.


This means they had planned the operation carefully,” the investigator said. On June 20, a three-member gang walked into a Union Bank of India ATM kiosk near the Jnanabharati campus and tried to pull out the ATM, but could not do so. In this case, the machine was fixed to the ground. The same day, four masked men went to an ATM on Ramachandrapura Main Road near Vidyaranyapura. The guard raised an alarm and the men fled. He could not identify them because of their masks. Masks have become integral to these heists. On June 24, a man was spotted in a Corporation Bank ATM near Goraguntepalya, Tumkur Road, trying to stick chewing gum on CCTV cameras in the kiosk. Two beat constables who saw him barged in and nabbed him. The man later confessed he had attempted looting the ATM at Jnanabharati on June 20.


Four crowbars at a time


On June 26, four masked men entered an ATM kiosk at Iblur, off Hosur Road, yanked the machine off the floor and carted it away. This incident is similar to the one on June 18. “They carry four crowbars and use them simultaneously. They know exactly how to remove the ATM from the floor. They are aware how much time it takes to yank out a machine,” the investigator said. Experienced in digging the cement flooring, the gang in both cases used an SUV which could easily hold the machine.


Police suspect four men worked to get the machine off the ground, lift it, and load it into the SUV. The gang comprises members familiar with construction and welding. Police now plan a meeting with bank officials to prepare guidelines to prevent ATM thefts.They are suggesting two armed security guards at each ATM kiosk. But one loophole in such a strategy is that the guards know everything about the procedure of loading huge amounts of cash, and their firearms could in fact enable them to pull off crimes easily. The gang is still on the prowl, so the police and the banks will have to get their act together quickly if they are serious about putting an end to the smart looting spree.


The radio jockey who reportedly caused the death of a nurse in London has just won an award, triggering more outrage. Bangalore’s prank show hosts talk about their fears, and reveal how far they would go


Most news and wildlife photographers have no clue about animal behaviour. They slip and die because they refuse to understand the beasts, say experts


Most news and wildlife photographers have no clue about animal behaviour. They slip and die because they refuse to understand the beasts, say experts


Shooting pictures of wildlife from close quarters can prove fatal. On June 23, M Manjunath, photojournalist working for the Kannada daily Vijayavani, was killed by an elephant when he tried to get close to a herd to get a picture.


The herd had come into Kolar district on Saturday and was headed towards Hoskote in Bangalore Rural. By the time they came here, they had trampled and killed three others. The herd of 22 made its way to Harohalli tank near Hoskote on Sunday, when hundreds of people gathered to watch.


The fatal conflict took place when residents tried to “chase” the herd on foot and on bikes, and take pictures on mobile phones. Close to 4,000 people had gathered, and were shouting and screaming. The encounter lasted three to four hours. Manjunath reportedly went close to the herd to take pictures. That was when some of the elephants chased him. Desperate, he climbed a tree, thinking the elephants would go away. A tusker just wouldn’t let go. It pulled down the tree, and Manjunath fell to the ground. The tusker trampled him.


The IBM techie story


In January 2012, in a similar incident, a 35-year-old IBM techie, Jamburu Surappa Ramesh, tried to take photographs of wild elephants that had strayed from the Bannerghatta forest to a eucalyptus plantation nearby. He was trampled to death. A herd of 14 elephants had camped at Mantapa village. Soon, 1,500 villagers gathered at the plantation. There was commotion.


Ramesh, an amateur wildlife photographer, rushed to the plantation and started photographing the herd. He slipped through the bushes to take a closer look. One elephant, agitated by the repeated flashlight pops, went berserk and started chasing him. Ramesh took to his heels, but fell after a few yards. His camera slipped out of his hands and fell to the ground. Instead of escaping, he turned back to pick up his camera. Suddenly, the elephant picked him up by the trunk and threw him towards a tree. Another trampled him.


So whose fault was it?


The death of the lensmen raises several questions. Who was at fault—the lensmen, people or the elephants? Talk spoke to experts to get an informed perspective.


Renowned wildlife photographer and film-maker Shekar Dattatri says: “Wildlife photography is perfectly legal as long as one is not wandering around in a protected area without a valid permit. It is ethical as long as it does not involve chasing, harassing or causing distress to the animals being photographed.”


Responsible photography involves learning about animal behaviour. “It is not advisable for photo journalists to venture into conflict situations to get photographs, particularly of potentially dangerous animals such as elephants and big cats. Even an animal feeding or moving about calmly in its own environment can be unpredictable,” says Dattatri.


He offers some tips: “Learn about wildlife by watching animals quietly. Never provoke, harass or taunt animals. Never approach potentially dangerous wild animals on foot.”


How the pros do it


How do the experts shoot for channels like Discovery and National Geographic? What precautions do they take? The photographers seem so close to their subjects, and yet manage to be safe.


Dattatri, who has worked for such channels, says: “Professional wildlife filmmakers even know individual animals or groups and are aware of their personalities, tendencies and temperament. They know how close they can get without danger to themselves. Amateurs attempting this are liable to get hurt or even killed.”


Sanctuaries like Nagarahole and Bandipur are safe for photo-shoots as long as the photographer is in a vehicle and behaves sensibly. “Photographing elephants on foot anywhere is risky and even more so in conflictprone areas such as Bannerghatta in Bangalore.”


Get a 400 mm lens


Wildlife conservationist Praveen Bhargav of Wildlife First suggests many precautions. “Maintain a distance so that the wild animal is not aware of your presence and is not likely to get agitated. Second, have a long lens, something more than 400 mm, so you can shoot from a distance. A telephoto lens is preferable.


Most professionals are equipped with high technology photo gear, so they don’t need to go up too close. As Bhargav explains: “In a context like Bangalore, it is advisable never to get near the elephants because they are out of their natural habitat and are enraged. Absolutely no chasing, throwing stones or bursting crackers. Leave them alone.”


This did not happen. A mob was chasing and harassing the lost elephants. Some even threw stones and burst crackers. A thousand people chasing elephants, says Bhargav, is an invitation to conflict: elephants will protect themselves, and if that means getting people out of the way, they will.


“The IBM techie shouldn’t have gone near the herd. Anyone that close in a stressful context faces the risk of being trampled,” he says.


Humans not their prey


The first instinct of a wild animal, even the leopard, is flight, not fight. But when it is cornered, the instinct to fight takes over. According to Bhargav, carnivores don’t see humans as prey. “There is never a case of indiscriminate attack. But in a situation of total surprise, an attack may occur. This aspect of animal behavior is complex.”


Professional photographers are patient, and sometimes wait for years to get a shot. “They spend hours and weeks with animals to photograph just one twitch,” he explains.


Bhargav suggests photojournalists associations convene a meeting with wildlife experts to work out shooting strategies: “A professional wildlife photographer will tell them about animal behaviour. Workshops would be useful. Also, the association has to answer the editorial question: what news angle about the wild animal does the photographer want to depict?”


Duty of the newsroom


Newsrooms, he suspects, have never convened a meeting of photojournalists and discussed how they should go about their work. “They should spend time on this. It will save lives,” he says.


Raman Sukumar, expert on elephant ecology and chairman of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, told the media the wild animals should be allowed their space: “There is a good chance they will retreat into the forest. If the herd gets scattered, there is going to be mayhem.”


Bhargav has the last word. “The digital camera revolution, the rise of wildlife and news channels, and the intense desire to flaunt one’s skills on social media is spawning a new class of amateur photographers. They don’t know animals. Illinformed adventures are the result. And the mobs only heighten the false excitement.”


He believes the animals will leave us alone if we leave them alone.


Written by Thursday, 27 June 2013 08:12


Photojournalist M Manjunath (23) was trampled to death by a herd of elephants this week. Satish Basavaraju recalls his own narrow escape a decade ago


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