Kalyan Chakrabarti
Of Causation and Voodoo’s claim to be Fundamental Science
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

Confront these painful truths about communalism” ; thus roared the piece written by Rajdeep Sardesai on 1st November 2013, to our collective conscience from the pages (or URLs as the case may be) of Hindustan Times.

The apostle for “truth“, as we all know through the article, urged us to “confront” an esoteric and a much maligned subject as “communalism”. This also came with an upfront statutory warning to gullible readers of certain “pain“… the article thus aptly titled “confront these painful truths about communalism“.

As I read the article, I found it to be a wonderful piece of statistical jigry pokry. In my engineering and business school days, statistics as a subject for the mango men, never really stood out for its glamour quotient. It was a dreary subject which promised to deliver “predictability”, “certainty”, “verifiability” etc all of which collectively spoil any element of fun in a subject.

I also wished how Rajdeep should have come up with this piece of statistical sophistry when I was sleeping through my statistics classes all those years ago. This could have made a marvellous class room case to understand the great statistical concept of “causation”.

As I write further let me also be a smart alec and point out how I have managed to drag you through 200+ words already without saying anything meaningful. This is what the article by Rajdeep does too. After making a grand claim of introducing us to the world of “painful truths” about “communalism” in a rather sadistic way of inducing “pain”, he leaves us primarily with 2 constructs. One of victim hood from Hindutva army as he calls it and an explanation of the principles of causation through examples of 1984, 1992 and 2002.

Let’s try to look at his article closely.

  1. Rajdeep craftily uses Dilip Vengsarkar to introduce us to this game of “confrontation with the truth”. Vengsarkar, for some reason successfully competes with Rip Van Winkle and woke up after 26 good years to say some sensational things about the Big D baddy.

  2. Rajdeep then continues to take us on his guided tour down the truth lane or pain lane (take your pick) and says that he has been victimised, rather unfairly as he claims. Rajdeep says that Balasaheb’s definition of waving tricolor led him to say that Bid D baddy was a patriot too. Well, in statistics I was taught an example to understand sets and subsets, “gold is a metal but all metal is not gold”. Essentially, a “representative action” to demonstrate patriotism is not the equivalent of “only action“.

    For a channel which pioneered “citizen journalism” in India, I am surprised that Rajdeep missed this point. An occasional representative action by a citizen journalist, who is crusading for a cause and in the process helps CNN-IBN and Ms Anubha Bhosle, in driving home a good message, does not turn into a full time journalist with unfettered right to sit in Rajdeep’s 9 PM panel to discuss apple pie and sun dried tomatoes.

    No sir, citizen journalist is an outlier to the journalistic profession. May be an interesting and possibly important outlier to indulge in but an outlier neverthless. You can’t plan your business around them.

  3. Moving on, Rajdeep calls Balasaheb’s definition of patriotism as “spurious“. I have no PhD on Balasaheb’s philosophy of patriotism or politics, but, I do suspect that over a 50yrs political life, he must have had the opportunity to look at patriotism from different perspectives. The true scholar in Rajdeep should have dug out the common denominator before concluding on what Balasaheb’s real definition of patriotism was. He should have then gone ahead and tried his great superimposition act of bestowing the tag of patriot on the Big D baddy instead of rushing to do so with semi baked informtation.

  4. When you selectively comment on people or on comments made by people, unfortunately the by product of your half-hearted lazy act is, it makes people say or do things which are unpleasant. I don’t support the acts which needed Rajdeep to be provided with police protection, but the blame partly lay at the doors of Rajdeep. Afterall, he like all of us knows that he lives in a hotheaded nation prone to reacting emotionally, add to that the fact that he is 25yrs old in the profession, not a neo novice to the fourth estate.

  5. The Hindutva army that Rajdeep goes on to refer next, is something I have not managed to track down, after a long day’s hard work and pressing all help lines I had at my disposal including phoning some friends.

    This made me come to the conclusion that this so called “army” lives in the fertile imagination of Rajdeep’s lala land. I do hope Rajdeep does not take it otherwise, if I suggest to him that instead of spending 60% of his article couching his victimhood, it would have been cooler for him to say “hey guys, I was trying to highlight the inadequacy of Babasaheb’s definition of Patriotism
    and here is my definition of patriotism“. Did it really need such a convoluted analytics, which runs the risk of missing the dense grey matter that ordinary mortals like me are blessed with?

  6. Rajdeep then moves on to teach the readers a lesson or two on “causation“. Causation as the students of statistics who kept awake in their class, would remember, is a concept which is considered to exist if an event or act causes another event or act to happen. So, if A causes B or B is caused by A, A and B have a relation of causation. Let me leave the concept there and move on to juicier stuff which Rajdeep leaves for grabs.

  7. Rajdeep says the dramatic transformation of Big D baddy from a “nationalist” to what he is today is due to events of 1992-93. Oh, really? How do you know Rajdeep? Did he give you an interview and tell you so? Did you read his mind by telepathy? Oh, possibly you ran some control tests and “design of experiments” to figure this all out.

    Whatever it may be, I am tempted to pick that fascinating example from Chaos Theory propounded by Edward Lorenz, “if a butterfly flaps its tiny wings in Mexico, a hurricane develops in Bay of Bengal several weeks later” (Mexico and Bay of Bengal are my attributions and not of Lorentz, added for good measure) that’s equally applicable to explain causation too.

  8. Rajdeep decides to push Lorenz’s case a little further and says that IM came into being after 2002. Well again I am no expert, but pardon me for asking, how do you know? How can you be so sure? Is this how you drive causation each night at 9pm. Please, you come across as the most reasonable of all our 9pm anchors, this kind of causation makes me feel voodoo’s claim to being a scientific discipline is stronger than this silly attempt at causation.

  9. Rajdeep’s attempt at journalistic fairness comes into action with the standard “equivalence” theory. While he preaches others not to mix 2002 and 1984 on TV, he goes onto say that 1984 sikh pogrom led to militancy in Punjab.

    Really, what was Operation Blue Star? What was Operation Wood rose? Never mind, I hope you got the drift. Operation Blue Star was not a walk down the park in a spring evening by a Gazal singer. It was because there was an “effect” which made Indira Gandhi decide to remove the “cause”. I am not claiming here to know if she got her cause and effect right? That is for Rajdeep and his band of friends to decide.

  10. However, unless it missed your ocular capacity, Rajdeep refers to 2002 as “riots” and 1984 to “pogrom”. Sir, would you like to correct you error of inadvertence or is it 2014 beginning to chirp in your years.

The rest of article to me is a serious attempt to preach to all parties of different hues and do as best a job as possible in some serious tight rope walking.

To give the credit where it is due Rajdeep does come across as neutral by preaching to all. Akhilesh, Abdullah, Modi, Rahul, each one gets his share of preaching from Baba Sardesai. Only guys who miss out are Mr Gogoi, Mr Gehlot, Mr Nitish Kumar and some girls, particularly from the eastern metropolis too.

But hey that’s fine. I am not a professional nitpicker and don’t intend to be one. I do acknowledge with a large heart that Rajdeep’s is a well written case study meant to teach.elementary statistics, it teaches “what is not statistics and how to no misuse it

(Views are personal and with the intent to further the debate and no other motive).