One of India's best known political commentators, Aakar Patel recently took over as Executive Director, Amnesty International India. The views expressed here are personal.
He has translated Saadat Hasan Manto's non-fiction into English in Why I Write. His forthcoming book is India, Low Trust Society.
November 14, 2016
Bullet train costs 3 times more than India's health budget
The vanity project, of absolutely no use to most Indians, will suck money that could be used for health and education, says Aakar Patel.
November 09, 2016
Welcome To A Terrifying World
'In a future where newspapers are gone, the public will have a severe lack of material to be properly informed.' 'We will be left in a world of journalism that is entirely populated by Arnab and anchors like him, competing on the basis of passion and anger, and by people who pull out their phone and tweet a comment without first hand information,' says Aakar Patel.
October 04, 2016
The problem with war
'Will this surgical strike of ours put an end to Pakistani terror? And if not, what will we do when the next terror strike happens? 'Will there be another surgical strike or will we have to do something bigger?' asks Aakar Patel.
September 27, 2016
The social media nationalists
Very few people will have access to the granular detail of what options are available to India and what their costs, consequences and benefits are. 'While Modi considers all of this, he would do well to do one thing. And that is to ignore the media.
September 20, 2016
Why Bollywood is not growing
Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan now act in only about one film each year, and made money through advertisements and television.
September 12, 2016
Why we don't read about dowry deaths any more
The media, particularly the national media and especially the English media, do not report these stories any longer. They have no interest in crime or human interest stories that do not concern the wealthy.
September 06, 2016
Should mother tongue replace English in our schools?
'It is a difficult question to answer. This problem will remain with us for a very long time because we are the only major nation whose elite speaks a language that is a foreign tongue.'
August 29, 2016
Mass unemployment and social unrest are looming ahead
The more one thinks about it, the more difficult it is to see how India will be able to reap the benefits of a demographic dividend.
August 17, 2016
Why India is doing badly at the Olympics
'It is not the external world that is stopping Indians from winning medals. It is our culture.'
August 08, 2016
Be warned! Bad times ahead for the Indian economy
'We have a very difficult period ahead of us. Fortunately we have a popular government and a popular leader who is ideally placed to take us into confidence.'
August 01, 2016
The English news anchor has become overly powerful
'This influence of anchors like Arnab Goswami is mostly negative because their focus is on issues that concern upper class anxieties.'
July 30, 2016
Lata and Sachin didn't deserve the Bharat Ratna
'They have earned their money and their fame. They could have earned our respect by behaving in more public spirited fashion, but they have chosen instead to be unconcerned on that count.'
July 19, 2016
We seem to be unable to treat Kashmiris as Indians
'The Indian middle class ignores the conflicts areas in Jammu and Kashmir, in Central India and in the North East.'
July 11, 2016
Modi is following the Gujarat model of governance
'He selects certain portfolios that he has personal interest in, and he does not give them to a senior leader. The responsibility is given to a junior minister who then directly reports to Modi or to the small team of bureaucrats working with Modi.'
July 07, 2016
Why buying a house is outrageously expensive
'For such prices you could get a place inside New York City and inside London. Rs 7 crore is a million dollars and will bring you a handsome place in any city in the world. The truly strange thing is that the conversion of the rupee's actual value makes India's real estate even more expensive.'
June 30, 2016
A united Europe is the world's oldest project
'The project of a united Europe has constantly been made and remade. The national borders have changed many, many times and so have the languages. Britain's exit is only the latest episode in this long history.'
June 22, 2016
How does Smriti Irani plan to fix this problem?
'Gujaratis, among all Indians, are supposed to be born businessmen, but if more than 80% of them do not have the ability to do basic arithmetic, the future is grim. The big issues are in society and they cannot be changed by an HRD minister no matter how brilliant she may be or think of herself as being.'
June 16, 2016
What will it take for India to be rich?
'China's development is on a different scale from India's. They are very far ahead. I don't think it will be possible in the next 30 years for us to catch them.'
June 06, 2016
Like Queen Elizabeth, Sonia Gandhi should continue
'It seems to me that bringing Rahul in now would be like throwing petrol on the flames consuming Congress.'
May 23, 2016
Focusing on Brahmins won't work for Congress in UP
Prashant Kishor wants the Congress to project either Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi as its chief ministerial candidate in UP. The Gandhis are far too arrogant to accept a provincial role, says Aakar Patel.
May 20, 2016
Why don't we want to pay taxes?
'The tax avoidance in India is done as much by the wealthy as the lower class. There is no difference in ethics and culture and morality, and no difference in tax-paying behaviour between various Indian classes, whether educated or not.'
May 09, 2016
Why Modi has been a success so far
'It doesn't really matter ultimately what individual commentators say or write about Modi. So long as he continues the BJP's march towards greater vote share, a bigger geographic spread and a crushing of the Congress, he is a success.'
May 02, 2016
Why our institutions are producing unemployable Indians
'I did not bother to collect my diploma certificate because the course was a waste of time and more or less useless. It would be instructive for me to describe it because manufacturing is seen as the way out for India's great unemployment problem. It is? I do not think so.'
April 26, 2016
Congress-mukht Bharat is a question of when, not if
It seems the Congress just does not have the energy and vitality to break through even in the states where it has a ground presence and the wind of anti-incumbency on its back.
April 21, 2016
Why this renaming fever continues to burn
'Our priority cannot be better cities. Since real change is not possible, we must satisfy ourselves with a change in name.'
April 04, 2016
Why Kulbhushan Jadhav couldn't be a R&AW spy
'He was carrying his Indian passport. This seems like a very different sort of spy than the ones we see in movies, who carry fake passports and are highly trained.'
March 30, 2016
Why sting operations have failed in India
'The idea of moral responsibility is not particularly strong in our parts. Showing that people are corrupt or immoral through stings doesn't have the required effect in such a culture.'
March 03, 2016
The fires have been lit, and the mobs are standing ready
'In Bastar, as in Delhi, being branded 'anti-national' in the eyes of the government now seems to have acquired new meaning.'
February 23, 2016
Our nationalism is only in sentiment, not in behaviour
'Our passionate love for our nation as seen in our anger at slogan shouters does not extend to caring for the nation in other ways. We are one of the dirtiest people on earth and even our holiest river the Ganga can only be cleaned if the Supreme Court orders it, and even then with difficulty.'
February 15, 2016
The JNU protest is linked to caste and prejudice
Why are Dalits protesting against hangings in Hyderabad? Why is the focus on Muslims in JNU? Why are the students insisting on representation from marginalised communities when they are being judged by a committee? The fact is that India reserves the death penalty mostly for Dalits and Muslims, says Aakar Patel.
February 08, 2016
How the government steals tribal land
'Which one of us would give up our flats for development? We insist that others, who are unwilling but weak, make all the sacrifices on our behalf and then we are puzzled when there is violence against the State.
February 02, 2016
2016 will be a good year for Amit Shah and the BJP
'In the medium term, the advantage is still with the BJP. One reason for this is Shah's talent. He is a terrific organiser and builds his strategies around the grassroots worker.
January 27, 2016
Why Dalits have no presence in white collar jobs
'The corporate world and the private sector economy take notice of the monstrous and apartheid like division that exists in our offices. The jobs we so casually take for granted in the upper class have come to us on the back of denial to others.'
January 19, 2016
Is India in for hard times this year?
'The most important issue for Indians, the only way in which to get them quickly out of poverty, is sustained high growth. If we are not doing that despite a strong government and a leader with clarity of vision and purpose, we are facing big trouble.'
January 12, 2016
Not talking to Pakistan will not stop terrorism
'In our media and general population the idea of 'strong posture' was successfully sold by Modi. This is now a liability for him, as he has discovered.'
January 9, 2016
Is it Modi's job to get Indians to be clean?
'This is social reform, which has to be conducted from within society and by its institutions, like religious bodies, not by public officials and ministers. That is why I think the big change Modi seeks is actually not in his power to bring about.'
December 29, 2015
From beef to James Bond's kiss, 2015 was the year of bans
'The desire to force others to act according to the way we want the world to be is strong in our parts. This is particularly so because we have not fully internalised the idea of individual liberties. The fact is that our moralism will get us into trouble.'
December 22, 2015
It's time to correct a depressing national failing
'There is no real doubt that the Congress government was incompetent in stopping the violence against the Sikhs and there are serious charges of mass murder that many in the party face. It would do Indians a great service if the government showed that it was firm and decisive in acting against these people now.'
December 15, 2015
Why the Congress is a private limited company
'It seems clear that what the Gandhis have done is, if not criminal, at least improper. The fact is that having never had to work for a living, having never had to look for a job like the rest of us, having always lived in government housing their entire lives, it is only natural that they should see no difference between personal property and everything else.'
December 09, 2015
Why terrorism can't be delinked from religion
'Afzal Guru was convicted of supporting the attack on India's Parliament. The Supreme Court said "the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded" to Guru. Till we can think up similar justifications for hanging non-Muslims, I do not think we can delink terrorism from religion in our minds,' argues Aakar Patel.
December 07, 2015
The Indian braveheart
The subcontinental man has a better record of fighting than Arabs, and what the Indian soldier has always needed is good leadership, says Aakar Patel.
November 24, 2015
What will it take for India to be a superpower
'There is an insistence that the government bring about reforms if India is to succeed. The fact is that many nations have done reforms, but are not Great Powers.'
November 18, 2015
Why do we honour Ashoka and not Tipu?
'Ashok the Great did not slaughter foreigners or Muslims when he conquered Kalinga. It was Oriya- speaking Hindus whom he butchered by the tens of thousands. But Ashok is called Great, and his lion emblem is the official symbol of the Republic of India. Why do we honour Ashoka and not Tipu, when both men are accused of the same crime?' asks Aakar Patel.
November 08, 2015
Something that all Indians can be proud of
'India's election process is smoother, more efficient, more credible, cheaper to conduct and quicker to deliver than any other large democracy, including the United States. It seems to me that the election process is getting better with each passing year and it is something all Indians can be very proud of.'
November 02, 2015
We are the Shahid Kapur of cricket though we think we are SRK
'One glance at the Indians on the field compared to these visiting South Africans, and you know something is very wrong or very different. One side (not our side) looks like athletes do.'
October 29, 2015
Myth of the tolerant, peaceful, Hindu
The idea that Hindus are peace-loving and reticent is modern, says Aakar Patel.
October 20, 2015
BJP playing with fire on cow slaughter law
'Sooner or later Modi will be forced to look at the broad cultural thrust of Hindutva and assess whether it is helping his development agenda and the image of India.'
October 14, 2015
The Corrupt Indian
It is the voter who has corrupted politics, not the politician, says Aakar Patel.
October 05, 2015
Modi and the videshi desis
'For all of the tamasha about these meetings of Modi and the videshi desis, the reality is that they are just entertainment. The question to ask is what does this energy result in? The answer is: not much.'
October 01, 2015
Why the idea of Hindu Rashtra has not caught on in India
'Till today, the RSS only speaks of Hindu Rashtra but never explains what it means. It cannot, because it would be unacceptable to even a majority of Hindus, forget the Indian Muslims and Christians.'
September 21, 2015
Time to grow up, Mr Minister
'I am only slightly puzzled by why the childishness has not left the minister. It is easy to be prejudiced and closed-minded when one is in one's teens. But adults should view the world as adults, not as squabbling and petty schoolchildren.'
September 14, 2015
Good politics is not necessarily good governance
'One is forced to wonder whether Modi is serious about all the bills people want him to pass. Because to me he has made no real honest effort at getting things moving legislatively.'
September 07, 2015
Why things have remained the same for the Patels in Gujarat
'The reason the protests are not happening in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Noida is that there are options available to the youth in those cities. And many people can access this sort of job because most of them are armed with English, integrating them into the global economy. This is something not available to most youth in Gujarat (the government schools do not teach English till Class 5).'
August 31, 2015
The problem I have with English news television
'I know and recognise that television needs interesting material. I don't even have a problem with them doing entertaining and irrelevant stories, even if they don't interest me personally. However, when something of grave importance is also breaking at the same time, then it becomes difficult for me to forgive such irresponsible behaviour.'
August 25, 2015
Nationalism in India is being anti-Pakistan and anti-China
'The assumption is that the lines have been drawn and the two sides (India and Pakistan) have gone to battle. All of us, whether analysts or politicians or citizens or cricketers or housewives, must see the other side as an enemy and must reject everything it says or does even if we gain nothing from it. I am no longer able to subscribe to this stupidity.'
August 12, 2015
No place in India for Muslims fleeing religious persecution?
'The government is going to introduce legislation that would make it easy for Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sikhs and Jains to migrate legally to India. But looking at that list, my entire well-meaning question, as may be obvious, is: What about Muslims? They seem to have been specifically left out of this formulation.'
August 03, 2015
The reality of being Muslim in India
'There are moments, and the hanging of Yakub Memon was one, where all of the gathered injustices are crystallised. Those gathered at the graveyard were not there to protest. They came to sympathise because they are also victims.'
July 27, 2015
Disruption in Parliament is India's version of tradition
'Blocking Parliament brings attention to a party that has poor speakers like Rahul Gandhi. It is unlikely to shine in debates, assuming we were a nation that enjoyed listening to sparkling intellectual exchange, which we are not.'
July 21, 2015
Why Yakub Memon is being hanged
'I got to know the men accused of the blasts regularly meeting them in court and jail. Some of them, like Dutt, are back in jail. Others, like Mohammed Jindran, a quiet and well spoken middle class man, were killed. And now of course Yakub is ready to be hanged. The first in the case to do so.'
July 13, 2015
Modi is brave in agreeing to go where even cricket teams have refused
'The BJP has bent. Pakistan has not changed a single thing. It is the BJP and its supporters who have changed. And this is a very good thing.'
July 06, 2015
Why Modi retains his personal support
'Modi is given a longer leash by his fans than any other leader of our time. Will he be able to continue putting himself above the fray if other scandals continue to emerge in his term? No, the erosion will inevitably come, given the awful state of this country. But for now, he has managed to shine through a period that would have tarnished any other leader but him.'
July 01, 2015
Are we a nation of thieves?
'The major reason is the reluctance of the Indian citizen, particularly in the middle class, to pay his dues. Only around three per cent of Indians pay any income tax and these are mostly those who are employed, and whose taxes are deducted. I often refer to us as a nation of thieves, who steal from our government.'
June 23, 2015
Will 'Na Khaane Doonga' PM allow corruption of high office?
A Union minister and a chief minister stand accused of corrupting their office. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi lets them continue, he will have broken his election promise substantively, says Aakar Patel.
June 19, 2015
Is Surya Namaskar religious? I don't think so
'Few practitioners of yoga doing the Surya Namaskar, including lakhs of Americans and Europeans, see it as a form of worshipping the sun. They do it because it is good exercise. In my view Muslim groups need to be more flexible on such things and not present their problem in terms that are confrontational. Having said that, are they over-reacting? The history and the background of the government and its ministers would lead us to believe otherwise.'
June 01, 2015
Manohar Parrikar and his big mouth
'The defence minister should concentrate on acquiring a bigger stick, rather than brag of using terrorists as State policy.'
May 26, 2015
Can Modi succeed where Gandhi failed?
'Will Modi succeed with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan? He will not, because cultural change does not come purely from legislation and never overnight. It comes internally and this is something Gandhi understood.'
May 18, 2015
Will the Supreme Court's 'Tridev' ruling reduce government ads?
'So in the tens of thousands of ads released in India from now on, we will get to see the photographs of only three people: The President, prime minister and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Political parties will not like the order. It cuts at the single most important messaging tool available to them, and it will be interesting to see how our leaders will work their way around this hurdle.'
May 11, 2015
Why Bollywood cannot be neutral about Salman
Three or four stars are disproportionately powerful in the industry. All the others in Bollywood, no matter how talented, must be aligned to one of these stars or be reconciled to doing small movies with the others, says Aakar Patel.
May 04, 2015
Why Shah Rukh, Aamir, Salman had no need for Hindu screen names
'Muslim actors like Dilip Kumar thought they had to give themselves Hindu names to be acceptable. Was their caution justified?' 'My view is that Indians, of all faiths, are tolerant. Secular is a complicated word and I do not know if I can use it in this instance. Tolerance is something that is inherently Subcontinental.'
April 27, 2015
Who politicised deaths of farmers if not Modi?
Having made farmer suicides a campaign issue, Modi and the BJP should have no complaints in now having to live with it, says Aakar Patel.
April 20, 2015
A fundamentalist sounds more reasonable than the mainstream
'Masarat Alam is today one of the the undisputed leaders of Kashmir's Islamists. And all he had to do was to get someone to hold up a flag. He has accurately placed us and we can look forward to many more years of this from him.'
April 13, 2015
Why cowardly encounters will never cease in India
'If 25 black men had been executed illegally in the US in one day, the government would have fallen and the population would have rallied to the victims. In India, those of us who did not applaud the police only yawned.'
April 06, 2015
Modi agreed with every word Giriraj said
'Modi deliberately chose such unhinged people because they said what he wanted to, but couldn't.'