Politics in the name of faith

So the RSS at the centre supports the women entry at Sabarimala, but many footsoldiers of RSS (including the online ones) do not. BJP at the centre supports the cause but BJP in the state opposes it (the BJP state chief has openly said that this is a political shift in favour of BJP). Hindutva’s long time poster boy Rahul Eswar fights for the cause but Hindutva and RSS ideologue T G Mohandas fights against it. The ex-VHP and now IHP head Pravin Togadiya who has a rift from the parivar (but not from its core ideology) is against it and challenges the BJP government at the center to issue an ordinance against the verdict. SNDP general secretary was against the protests one day (a stand that he shifted twice since then in a matter of a couple of days) but BDJS, the political wing of SNDP and led by the secretary’s son, is protesting.

And then there are some Christian and Muslim organizations, parties and people against the verdict, not because the secular values have hit them all of a sudden, but a strategy well in advance so as to protect their own patriarchal practices if a similar verdict is issued against practices of their respective religions.

All these drama happens in Keralam, however. It is obvious what their common goal is with this theatrics, right after we as a state and community have shown the world some great examples of humanity, survival and co-existence at the time of the floods, and now that the upcoming elections are a priority. Yet many are left confused about which side they should pick and fight. One must be a total idiot not to see these political games in the name of faith but unfortunately that is what happening.

The case for Uniform Civil Code

I think the case for a uniform civil code is valid. The only thing that worries me about it is that it is now put forth by BJP, whose leaders and their parent organizations have majoritarian and sectarian agenda to their politics. However, that is no reason to oppose it vehemently.

USC with regards to core practices of societal life like marriage and inheritance etc would be beneficial to people, especially to women and those who want less interference of clergy and community leaders in their lives. But it cannot happen overnight because it involves questioning so many religious, tribal and community practices across different religions.

Many of the sanghis and minorities seem to think that it affects certain practices of minority religions alone. But these practices are prevalent among many tribes, sects and communities among the majority religion as well. Which could be why the RSS’s Golwalker was one of the early opponents of USC. Which leads to the question why BJP, the Golwalkerish political offshoot, is proposing it now and that is the question concerning a large section of the minority as well.

But that is also the reason why minorities should actively engage in discussions about USC and take it forward to ensure that it doesn’t tread on the BJP/Sangh politics. This should be seen as an opportunity, if the minority concern is not to protect their dogmatic religious interests but the Sanghi agenda.

I support the uniform civil code unless convinced otherwise. And I think the process of implementing it should involve taking cues from similar laws in other, progressive countries and also gain the faith of community/political leadership and alleviate the doubts of common man before passing it as law. But it shouldn’t take forever to do that.

Blood on our dance floor

Remember how Rajiv Goswami, the student who lit himself in protest of Mandal report, had moved India across the nation? There was no social media. We weren’t living in an informed age like this. But still it moved the country. A young man burning himself was more than enough to move our senses back then even if some people didn’t know what Mandal meant.

Rohit Vemula was a passionate young man too. He didn’t kill himself on the road, but silently in a hostel room. His last words were that of a man who has seen it through, that he went about writing ‘do not trouble my friends or enemies on this’.

It is unlikely that Vemula will move India like Goswami did. Because beyond the protests and our keyboard activism, many of us who stand at the top of the caste ladder, still are not sure of the larger topic – caste and the reservation – though Vemulas of our time validates it.

We are all Dathathreyas. We are all manu vaadis in that regard. And no Facebook/blog posts can take that guilt back, including this one.

A dog here, a dog there

No, I don’t think that the weight of caste is on BJP alone. It is on every one of us here in India – regardless of parties, religions, gender or region. It is on us who secretly take pride when we have to mention our caste, while we try our best to make it sound like it doesn’t matter to us. It is on us, when we laugh at those ‘harmless caste jokes’ when we have our fellow upper-caste friends around, yet so proud how modern and caste-less we are. So, no, the news of those two little ones being burnt in a casteist attack doesn’t surprise me. That is everyday India for you. Though it breaks my heart to see those two small bundles of white cloth; ironically, we call children the bundle of joy, don’t we?

But what makes me so helplessly angry is the faux pas (that’s how Firstpost calls it so casually) made by V K Singh, country’s minister of state, about the killing that compares the incident to stoning a dog. To think that this man was once the army chief of the country makes me shudder. And as usual, the prime minister who used to accuse his predecessor for being silent on issues is still busy shuttling between international terminals without a word.

Hindutva and Jains

No, it’s not going to stop with beef or meat in general. Eggs are next. Madhya Pradesh has already begun the silent ‘revolution’ when it’s chief minister turned down the proposal to include eggs in the midday meals at the anganwadis for malnourished children in the tribal areas.

Another thing that makes the news interesting is the mention of Jain community in this news. The NPR article states that the community is powerful in the state and has ‘previously thwarted efforts to introduce eggs in daycare centres and schools’.

That is even more interesting when you read with it the four-day meat ban (not to confuse with the ‘beef’ ban) in Mumbai for a Jain festival.

So why is it that we do not have much observations about the Jain community’s influence in sustaining and contributing to the Hindutva ideology?

Read: Egg War: Why India’s Vegetarian Elite Are Accused Of Keeping Kids Hungry

The Grand Christmas Circus – 2014

Santa can’t distribute chocolates to kids to ‘convert them to Christianity’ this Christmas season. At least not in Chattisgarh. Saraswati gets to visit, and stay in the schools instead.

The ‘good’ Christian folks who have been silent and treaded on the islamophobia and voted for ‘good governance’ gets their prize this season too. A school competition on good governance and other in-school activities for their children right on the day of Christmas (which seems to have been revoked after the issue had public attention).

But that’s not all for this season (what’s the Xmas season without a grand sale, right?). Parivar shop has five lakhs for Muslims and three lakhs for Christians to convert to Hinduism on the Christmas day. But I think the people should wait a bit and see what counter offer the Christian and Muslim camps can come up with.

Christmas has come of age in India. And ‘good governance’ too.

Love Jihad – the aftermath

The truth is officially out now. There was no Love Jihad and if there ever was one, it was a hate campaign organized by one Hindutva website called Hindujagurti.org. The cyber cell of Kerala Police has filed a case against the website owners for spreading religious hatred and false propaganda.

But the propaganda campaign had already made the damage. Young Muslim men were looked at with suspicion. Those of them boys who were in love or flirting with girls of other religion were tagged as terrorists and jehadists. Islamophobia rose to the core in the so-called educated society of Kerala. And they easily chose to forget the fact that in a male dominated society like ours, women are always converted to their husband’s religion, even in love marriages. Not just religion, say if a Roman Catholic girl is married to a Chaldean Syrian Christian boy, she would be converted to that denomination with marriage. And when a bunch of Hindutvavaadis called it jehad, just because it was Muslims at the other end, everybody bought the crap.

The curious case of Catholic church must be taken to notice in this case. The Syro Malabar Church had warned it’s community members of Love Jihad, without even checking the facts. A notice was posted in the website of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council. And they worked with VHP to tackle the issue. “We will work together to whatever extent possible“, K S Samson, an office-bearer of Kochi-based Christian Association for Social Action (CASA), a voluntary Christian association, told the Times of India. But is it surprising to hear it from the Church that was busy framing Communism as a greater threat to Christianity than Hindutva, while ordinary Christians were being slayed in Mangalore by Hindutva organizations? Now during a news hour at Reporter TV, the Church has admitted that it was wrong. Oh yes, our Church does that all the time. We commit/support crimes during one time and would apologize for it years later after it has made a larger damage.

But the Hindutvavaadis and their supporters would still not give up. You can see Rahul Eashwar, the bragging Hindutva poster boy of Kerala, trying to muscle through the debate in Reporter TV. Oh, and he very cleverly plays the ‘middle-man’ by blaming extremists of both sides (and his insistence on highlighting the extremism of ‘both sides’ happens only when ‘his side’ is attacked) and he is still saying that there must have been some substance to the idea of Love Jihad.

The interesting thing is that through out all these debates – all the for and against talks about the branding of Love Jihad – nobody has touched the greater issue that involves gender. No individual or TV channel has sought out why it is women who have to convert to their husband’s religion/denomination. Or why the husbands agree to their wives’ right to stay in her religion/denomination until the marriage ceremony is over and then convert them to their faith, forcefully or not.

Earlier on the topic: Love Jihad?

I don’t bleed blue; I never will

I spent the evening of ICC World Cup Cricket finals at a friend’s place with his other friends and a common friend. Even though I have no idea about Cricket as a sport and have never watched a full game, I thought at least I would spend some time with friends and take some time off baby-sitting. To add more jazz to the evening was vodka that my friend had bought, so we had a joyful time.

By the time the game reached at it’s peak, I was becoming curious to see if India would win and my friends would explain what each run or the remaining balls meant to decide the climax of the game. At that point, the game had become all the more interesting to me with the booze, cheering friends and a desire to see the country winning the world cup. And when that sixer came out from Dhoni we all cheered aloud for team India. When we went out after the game by nearly midnight, there were crowds of men celebrating the win with burning crackers and playing drums. Everybody was in full spirits that their country won a world cup in the last 28 years and were so happy about it, but no single word of abuse against Sri Lankans in all of those celebrations.

But when we won a semi-final against Pakistan, the response was different.

Just winning one match against the neighboring country had fueled our patriotism so much so that we dragged the women who were going home after work out of their vehicles and asked to them to dance with the mob. When refused, they were beaten up leaving one of them women with a bleeding nose. The news come from the same place where women were attacked for going to pubs and dancing, except that this time the women were asked to dance. (People from Bangalore also said that their vehicles were stopped and they were asked to sing “Vande Mataram“).

Just imagine if we were on a war with Pakistan and won and mobs like these knocking on our doors, forcing us to sing Vande Mataram, dragging our womenfolk to the road to dance with them, or beating them up for refusing to do so. Patriotism, fueled by a sport – and some sportsmen.

The blame is not to be put solely on those men of mobs, but also on some of the so-called “Men in Blue”. The same folks who are supposed to keep the ‘sportsman spirit’ of the sport. A young chap called Gautam Gambhir said ‘a win against Pakistan and a win in the final and that too in Mumbai should be dedicated to’ 26/11 victims. He says a win against Pakistan would soothe the pain of 26/11 victims. Either he is a stupid young man or he is very cautiously building up an image by banking upon a mix of patriotism and sports.

What does the Pakistani cricket team has to do with 26/11 anyway? And how is a win against Pakistan in a sport event going to “soothe the pain” of the 26/11 victims? And how does that win justify the violence against our own countrymen and it’s womenfolk in particular? Up to his standards, should Gautam Gambhir have rejoiced at defeating Lankans too? Because Rajiv Gandhi, a former Indian prime minister, was killed by a Sri Lankan group. Would he think that it would “soothe the pain” of those who were killed at Perumputhur? While boasting up on the media, Gautam Gambhir should have given it a serious thought.

And if it is this sport of hatred that is running in Gautam Gambhir’s, and the Team India’s, blood, I don’t bleed blue. I never will.

Also read: Soothing the pain

Lessons from the questions

The news of a Malayalam professor whose hands have been cut off by a group of Muslim extremists is the talk of Kerala these days. Professor Joseph’s right palm was cut off by a gang of six people while he was returning home from Church on a Sunday. Two Popular Front activists have been arrested in connection with this incident. Popular Front, of which the accused are members of,  is alleged to have links to Islamic terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) as is read from their Wiki page.

The incident has to be condemned and the culprits should be brought to justice, as we cannot excuse any form of terrorism or extremism, regardless of which community it comes from – the majority or minority. But there are a couple of issues attached to this incident.

The problem arose when Mr. Joseph, a professor of Malayalam in Newman College Thodupuzha, included a narrative in a question paper that he prepared for the students of the college. The narrative was from an article written by film maker/politician P T Kunjumuhammed. Kunjumuhammed had written about the script that he wrote for his award winning movie “Garshom”. He wrote that the scene in which the protagonist of his film talks to God was inspired by a lunatic in his hometown. So the lunatic would call God and God would respond “what is it, you son of a dog“? (I am unsure that “Son of a dog” interprets it’s Malayalam usage “Naayinte mone” well though). The question that came with the narrative was to supply the punctuation.

P T Kunjumuhammed’s article:

Kunjumuhammed's article

The controversial part of the question paper:

Courtesy: Mathrubhumi.com

Prof. Joseph took the passage and instead of leaving the lunatic nameless (as in the original passage) he added a name (which he did not have to do) and the name he chose was Muhammed (which also he did not have to do as there are many other common Muslim names if he had to give one). This was really unnecessary for Prof Joseph to include such a twisted version in the question paper. When this became a controversy, the college management and Church apologized for having to hurt the Muslim sentiments and they suspended Joseph when the question paper became a controversy which was a rightful thing to do.

But this gruesome act of extremists leads us to another thing – how a group of radical Islamists have begun to unleash their terror openly in the Kerala society. They are in large numbers and comes in different names. They have infiltrated into the liberal, democratic and political spheres in disguise. And if they are not stopped now, Kerala will soon become an Islamist playground. The under current is already on.

Open letter to M F Husain

Dear Mr. Husain

I have great respect to artists. Especially to those like you who have set your own mark in the field of art, though I don’t understand (and can’t appreciate) certain forms of art due to the lack of my knowledge in the field of art. But as far as the freedom of expression goes, I am fully with you Sir. That nobody holds the right to tell an artist how he/she should express through their art. And an artist need not consider what his/her audience asks what to do with their artistic medium because that will kill the sole purpose of his/her work. Art is born when an artiste feels that he/she cannot live without doing it.

But you should also consider, Mr. Husain, that people are free to protest. Peacefully, yes. They can file complaints in the court and as long as the laws of the country see it fit, the court can ask you to be present and give an explanation by the law. No sir, I am not supporting the Sangh Family here. Those goons will have this or any other reason just to flare up the communal sentiments and get people into the street to get them killed. On one hand they proclaim they are a civilized society unlike the Fatwa issuing communities and on the other they issue their own Fatwas – like offering Rs. 51 crores to behead you, 1 KG of Gold to gouge your eyes and 20000 Euros to chop off your hands. But except for their blind and foolish supporters, nobody has thought a bit highly of them, so let us leave it at that.

Now coming to the matter at hand, shouldn’t you accept the end results of your work with the same courage that you took to do your creative work? Shouldn’t you face the court, like many brave souls did, to stand tall and firm for the artistic cause you had? Have you ever thought of what kind of an impression it leaves upon the supporters of freedom of expression when you go hiding in another country and fly around in your Ferrarri while you put all the blame on your old homeland? I do understand, that any man can get afraid of getting caged at this age, after having been revered as one of the great artists of our time. So if you just simply said that you don’t prefer to live in India fearing the court case, that would make more sense. But by putting blame on India, that it did not protect you or there were not enough sane and supportive voices, you are insulting the sensitivity of the majority of the people here in India, who have always supported the freedom of expression, unlike a few goons from the saffron brigade.

Were you running away fearing for your life? But even then, what makes you think you are more secure in Qatar? Fundamentalists are everywhere and if you are running away from them, you will have to run away from the whole world. So what is the kind of example that you are setting here?

You say a painter is a world citizen. But why just the painter, Sir? We are all citizens of this world, not just you. We all know that countries, states and borders are all illusions drawn by some people to stay firm to powerful places, but it is our convenience and sentiments that makes us stay where we are. Why don’t you just accept and admit that simple fact?

PS: I am also curious as to why you mentioned you had a friend, who was a “Brahmin”. What and how does that matter in proving your tolerance to religions?

Related post: I am an Indian