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?

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

The Headpriest Speaks

And now comes another blow at the Sangh Parivar and BJP. Straight from the head priest of Ram Janmabhoomi, Satyendra Das.

But Babri Masjid was demolished so that Ram Mandir could be built.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid was an unfortunate incident. It was like a mandir only [sic]. It protected Ram Lalla and pujas were regularly organised there. Thousands of devotees thronged the place. After they destroyed the masjid, Ram Lalla stands unprotected in storm and rain. There’s only a makeshift structure. They said they would build a mandir; their intention was to grab power. Earlier, nobody had a problem with the fact that pujas were held inside the masjid, nobody protested. But all problems started after the Babri Masjid was demolished.

Local Muslims never had a problem with pujas being held inside the Babri Masjid?

Nobody had any problem. They even used to say that let us all sit together and find a solution to the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid issue. It was only when the BJP and the Bajrang Dal came and started the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that relations soured between the two communities. There was bloodshed, mandirs were destroyed. Now everything is normal again. It is not an issue in Ayodhya, never was. Hindus and Muslims have always lived in peace in Ayodhya. The BJP’s lust for power created all the problems.

Read more at Mid-Day.

(Image courtesy: Mid-Day)

The times of Times of India

I admit that when I read a news report titled “NGOs, Teesta spiced up Gujarat riot incidents: SIT” in Times of India, I almost bought it. I know it is stupid to blindly believe everything that the media churns out, but the story was published in TOI and they quoted the SIT  in their news report which added to some primary credibility. Then there were immediate responses from Sangh Parivar sympathizers. They said that the “pseudo-secular media” conveniently withheld the story from publishing since it is election time. They attacked their enemies, those who stand for the secular ethos of the country. They also wanted the Supreme Court to initiate action on the “pseudo secular media” because of their silence on the issue.

I was shocked to read the whole thing. I got confused too, as whom to believe and whom not to believe on such sensitive issues. I thought that the very same secular values that many people in this great country stood for have just got dirty because of people like Teesta. Like I said before, I almost bought it.

Yet, the main charges/claims of the Times of India reporter had no substance and it did not come from the SIT. The major claims in the Times of India report mentioned the following:

  • The riot witnesses were tutored by Teesta Setalvad before submitting the affidavits
  • The celebrated rights activist [referring to Teesta] cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings
  • The gangrape on Kausar Banu, and the gouging out of her foetus by the mob was found with “no truth”
  • Dumping of dead bodies into a well by rioters at Naroda Patiya was also found with “no truth”

The TOI report said that all of these were told by SIT chief R K Raghavan in the Supreme Court on April 13th, Monday. But hold your horses, because none from the SIT or Mr. Raghavan himself were present in the apex court on April 13 to tell anything.

Even though the TOI article was referring to the SIT report, the person whom they quoted was Gujarat government’s counsel, Mukul Rohtagi. And the SIT chief Mr. Raghavan told Hindutan Times that the alleged leaks appear to have been based on statements of state police officials and “cannot be termed as findings of the report.[via]

Then came the second article in Times of India, by the same reporter and this time the reporter said nothing about the above claims and rather held on to “discrepancies” and “contradictions“. No word about Kausar Banu, Wanton Killing or the Tutoring of Teesta. He chose to be silent on those allegations which he had earlier stated as the “SIT found untrue“.

So yes, if this is the kind of journalism we are fed with, there needs to have legal action against “such” media houses. Unfortunately, these are the times of India.

PS: It doesn’t take a genius to guess why the Gujarat counsel’s claims made news just 3 days before the 1st phase of general elections. I am not for or against Teesta’s case. We have a process of law in place and our Supreme Court to judge the case. So let the law take it’s due course.

Related reading:

About warped minds – Dilip D’Souza
‘Cooking Up Macabre Tales’: FAQ – Outlook