Kerala Chronicles

I usually am very proud of my home state. About how, despite the desperate attempts of some pro-Sanghi north Indian media, we are faring well, and on top, on all major social indices and how the international media says that we cannot be compared to any other Indian state but to the developed nations.

And today was one of those moments when every Malayalee should be proud of as the news of Kerala being at the top of the health index by NITI Ayog came out. But for once, I am not very proud right now. There is something wrong with our society’s mental health. I’m ashamed, because this news comes a day after a mob beaten up a migrant worker, accusing him of child trafficking. In between all the beating, he was trying to eat what he had and the mob thrashed his food to the ground and asked him to eat from there. The man seem to have told the mob that he has a child back home and none in Kerala, but the mob inferred that he had kidnapped one child in his home state and none yet in Kerala. Yes, the Malayalee mob who would otherwise point to the mobs in Bihar and U.P.

The incident happened shortly after the chief minister himself had said that out of the 199 people who were arrested in charge of the child missing cases, 188 were Malayalees. And the state police chief had warned that those who spread false news through social media would be charged.

All this happening in a state from where people have migrated to all parts of the country and world for a living. And when they became rich enough, they had to resort on the domestic help from outside the state to do the job that they refuse to do.

Of course there is a spike in the child missing cases each year, and as a parent am worried. As Muralee Thummarukudy mentioned, as the state develops compared to the other states, it is likely to attract all sort of things from within and outside – businesses, development and, criminals. But to outrightly point to the migrant workers, most of them who are here to make a living, just like how Malayalees are in Gulf or elsewhere in the world, is utterly wrong.

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.

To DMCA and the music industry biggies

More than two years back, I received an email notification from 4shared customer support that one of the songs I posted there (a cover version of the Malayalam sing “Anthiveyil Ponnuthirum”) violated the original copyright and had been taken down. Then just about six months back another one on a Hindi cover version of the song “Main Agar Kahoon” was reported and taken down with a warning that a third instance would end up with my account being banned. Then I learn from Rahul Soman that the website Muziboo has been shutdown permanently due to such copyright infringement claims. All these removals and warnings involved DMCA (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which is a US copyright law that is supposed to protect the intellectual property.

I had sent an email to 4shared contesting the copyright infringement claim but I did not receive any reply but further warnings without addressing the real issue here. Make no mistake, I respect intellectual property rights. But here I was, or many people like me who makes the majority of users at Muziboo, posting the karaoke/cover versions of the original songs with leaving original credits with their owners. Obviously, we do not make any money out of it. And these cover versions help audience remember the originals and appreciate it once again. At times, we also get applauded for our own efforts too, sometimes people commenting that our amateur, home-recorded versions were better than the originals.

If DMCA continues to make such claims of copyright over these harmless cover versions, how is it going to end? Is this restricted to the karaoke/cover songs uploaded over internet? Or does this extend to the music troupes who make a living out of singing the cover versions? Or the large number of celebrities and YouTube stars who made big with their versions? Can we not even sing at home, tuned to the karaoke tracks? Why are these big shots afraid of the music lovers like us, who aren’t in this for money but just the love of music?

I was thinking that if this was going on earlier, I would never have met M G Radhakrishnan and sang for him. I know many people in the industry who has made it big or is starting to make it big have started with singing the cover versions. I hope they will do something about it. To bring it to the attention of the biggies in the industry and get them to do something about it. On a large scale in the future, this move will put a cap on many amateur talents.

Death call again

One more gruesome case of rape has been reported from Delhi. One more round of protests by citizens, and another round of promises from the administrative officials. The circle goes round and soon all these will be forgotten until this happens again.

This time, there is one change though. I looked at the photographs of the protests against rape and I saw many placards which had ‘death for rapists’ written on them. Even those who were silent when it was about terrorists like Kasab or Afsal Guru, have now come out in open to advocate the death row, regardless of the gender, religion, and locale. That somehow made me uneasy. Yes, the same me who thought that death row for Kasab was justified (but the discussions that followed after the Kasab hanging incident made me think about the issue of capital punishment again). So basically there are three things to discuss here. One is about rape and other such sexual crimes, the second is about social/gender inequality and the third is about capital punishment.

Rape and other such sexual crimes are committed against the ‘weaker’ section of the society (‘weak’ as in not physically or in a derogatory tone but how the society and the world order has made it). When we talk about rape, we usually refer to women alone but this category would involve women of all ages, boys, financially under-privileged (and thus less influential in the social strata) and dalits.  All of them are easy preys for the culprits and a combination of any among these could make it even more dangerous than the individual parameters. For example, a lower-caste young girl stands a bigger chance to be sexually assaulted than a higher-caste urban woman. Or a financially under-privileged boy would make an easy prey compared to a boy from an affluent family. The culprits are looking for the weakest, and the weakest of them all are, generally saying, women and children.

When we dig deep into the roots of this issue, keeping the above points in mind, we would find that the problem lies in the social order of equality. A part of this social inequality is complimented by caste-ism which is why it doesn’t take to many candle-light vigils or death row calls and N number of public protests when we hear the news of a dalit girl from a rural area was gang-raped by a group of men. And among that social inequality lies an even bigger issue – of gender inequality. This is everywhere (though the world has moved forward a lot compared to the older times); right from the family, culture, community, religion, anything.

So to fight this problem, of not just rape but all such sexual or other crimes against the weakest is to standby and support the weakest and give them an equal space and rights. And one major thing to start doing in that direction is to change our attitude towards the powerless and that has to start from the family and the responsibility is on men as they are the major culprits in these cases.

When it comes to capital punishment, we can see that it hasn’t curbed crimes. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have to order capital punishment again and again. Hanging is more like a federal state taking revenge on behalf of the individuals. A lawful and civilized state doesn’t have to take care of personal revenge. It’s duty should be to curb crimes, ensure a civilized justice is offered to the victims and the criminals are punished. So the best way to punish a criminal would be to give him a life-sentence and ensuring that he serves his time in full. While in jail, his labor could be made use of for the betterment of the society. I understand that many people wouldn’t be supportive of this because we believe that the criminals would use the loopholes in law and would skip the full term and get back to society. But that is why we have to demand a stricter law and order that ensures a convicted serves his full punishment period. Instead of calling for blood and death and still call ourselves civilized.

‘Ferrari Ki Sawari’

That’s the name of a Hindi sports comedy film released this year but what Team Ferrari will be doing in India on Delhi Grand Prix is nothing sort of comedy, or is it?

Team Ferrari has announced that they would be racing in Indian Grand Prix with the Italian Navy flag on their cars. Not the country flag but the navy flag. Something that seems they have never done before. And for what? To support the two naval officers who are undergoing trial in India under the charges of murdering two fishermen in India.

If the team wanted to show solidarity(!) to the two accused and wanted to take a political stand, they should have withdrawn their team from the Indian Grand Prix altogether. But to race in India with their navy flag and a clear statement that it is in support of the two murder-accused is a clear challenge to India and the legal system here. And the government and the organizers don’t seem to be bothered (Update: India seems to have officially responded against this by noon today). Ferrari’s decision to fly the navy flag in support of the two accused is also an insult to it’s foreign drivers – Spanish driver Fernando Alonso and Brazilian Felipe Massa. The two drivers now have to carry the political burden imposed on them by their team owners.

The team doesn’t have a moral right to take such a stand in the first place. This is a clear case of murder and a fair trial is being offered to the accused under the Indian law. The way the two accused are being treated in India under trial is the way the VIPs are treated. So what moral right does the Ferrari have to take such a stand? It is not the Italians who are killed but two poor fishermen.

Interestingly, I don’t see many voices (or rather text) rising against Ferrari on this issue in the social media. The urban anti-corruption babies don’t seem to be bothered now about the killing of two fisherman at the southern coasts of India. They were before, because the issue involved an Italian connection (Sonia-Italy-Catholic-Christianity link) but not anymore in their fanfare for Ferrari. The politicians, the Catholic church, all seem to be untouched by this. Compare this to how the Italians are treating their own people, even the murder-accused, and we have some lessons to learn.

If at all any integrity is left in Indians, other than rallying behind demi-gods like Anna Hazare, those of us who can afford or plan to go to watch Delhi Grand Prix should go there and boo the Team Ferrari in the loudest voice possible when they race through the track. It will not be an insult to the drivers. In fact it will be in support of Ferrari’s non-Italian drivers because they have been dragged into this political drama. And it will tell Italy that we not just a bunch of blind fans of a sports brand. The question is, will anyone among us dare do this? It doesn’t take much courage but a little bit of integrity.

Salary for wives?

There is one thing that I am happy about the proposal being considered by Women and Child Development ministry in India that the husbands should pay salary to their wives. The for and against (mostly against) discussions have made men in India see something that they have ignored for long – that their wives do work and this work in the name of family system, culture and blah blah blah is actually WORK. That is the best outcome of the whole proposal and the debates followed.

I thought it was a weird and impossible proposal (I still think it is, but) mostly because I was looking at it from my own situation and perspective. Most of you men who are reading this may also be looking at it in the same direction. I do help my wife with the house chores. I never let my wife wash or iron my clothes even if I was on a hurry. I do all the house chores when my wife isn’t at home, that includes cooking and cleaning. I help with looking after our child. Apart from this, we have a maid who comes twice a week to do the larger washing and cleaning tasks which I pay for. So why should I pay my wife and who will pay me for my job in the house?

The answer to that question cannot be generally applied. In many families the husbands often do not pay attention to their wives except when they need them for physical needs. The wives have to take care of the family expenses AND the savings from the meager budget set by the husbands themselves. Wives have to do all the house chores and looking after the children but their hard work is ignored by mostly everyone in the family – including the husbands and children. So the proposed law might work in this section of the society (considered that the husbands would still continue to pay for family expenses and this salary is just another part of it).

But again, the law cannot be applied in general and scrutinizing it to ensure a fair use of it would be a difficult task. I think strengthening the existing laws for the crimes against women and raising social awareness about the equal responsibility and gender equality alone can make a difference to women in this country. But still, I think it is good that this proposal has made news. Like I said in the beginning, this has made men realize that the whole house chores is something that you get for free at your lady’s kindness.

More reading:

Maid of honour
Global Voices online


The following video of Indian Border Security Force soldiers treating a Bangladeshi cattle smuggler is now going viral in the Internet and making news. What was shot as some sort of ‘souvenir’ has brought out the ugly face of the force. But has the Abu Ghraib style torture shaken the Congress government? No. Instead, Pranab Mukherjee says that the incident must not be ‘hyped’. But is that response surprising?

For a moment, let us put aside the matter of how we treat the neighbors and look into our own yard. We have implemented an inhumane law called AFSPA in our own states. This special privilege has allegedly let our men in uniform to rape women and kill those who oppose and orchestrate encounter killings. And how have we reacted to it? Even with the mothers from Manipur going naked in protest with holding the banner “Indian Army, rape us“, we still keep that law intact. There is Irom Sharmila who has been fasting for over a decade, but nobody cares. Some people justifies what goes on in Manipur or in other parts of North East India as we must not let our soldiers’ spirits down. That it must not be ‘hyped’.

Imagine – if the following is what our forces are doing to our neighbors, where there is no special privilege act, what would be happening to the people of North East India with a special act like AFSPA to back the army? Any why is our social conscience not outraged by this?

Think about it on this Republic Day.

The Sharma Psyche

I’m appalled by the parole conditions of Manu Sharma, the killer of Jessica Lal. The parole conditions say that Sharma is not allowed to go to any night clubs or discotheques. Why only night clubs and discotheques? Is it because the murder of Jessica Lal had happened in a night club and going to a similar place would make him repeat the crime (earlier he had been to a night club during the parole)? Or in other words, is it to be understood that it is the place – not the man, his criminal mindset and his influential family – that lead to commit the murder? Suppose there is a serial killer whose first killing takes place in an abandoned building, so if we stop him from entering such a building afterwards, would he never commit a murder again?

Somebody please tell me how the killer psyche works. There must be a reason why Manu Sharma is granted parole with the condition of being not allowed to go to a night club or a discotheque. Or is there one?

The Malayali Mob

When they hear about a group of people beating someone to death for petty crimes, Malayalees would take pride that it did not happen in their home state. ‘Must be Bihar‘, they would say. ‘Or some other illiterate state in India‘, they would comment. But when they got a chance, they proved themselves to be the most hypocritical society in India. And note that the victim here was not a thief, but a complete innocent.

Raghu, a native of Palakkad, was traveling to Perumbavoor in a bus with some money that he borrowed from gold loan. That is when two people got into a fight with him and started beating him. When people had noticed, they accused Raghu of pick-pocketing. It is only when Raghu got sick of the beating and fell down on the ground that the KSRTC employees kept the two culprits in their custody and informed the police. But Raghu had died before the police could reach the taluk hospital with him.

One one hand there is Raghu, a father of two, who took a gold loan of Rs. 19,000 from the local co-operative bank to help his wife’s grandmother’s family in Tamil Nadu. On the other, there are two people – one of them a gunman, a cop, to a Member of Parliament (K Sudhakaran) which gives him ‘special privileges’. Then there is police, who refused to give details of the questioning of the culprits and prevented the media from taking photos of them. They said it was an ‘order from the top’.

Then there is me and you – the Malayali common men who seems to believe that beating someone to death is justified if the victim is a pick-pocket. That is probably why nobody stopped the two culprits – the gunman and his friend – when they said the money that Raghu carrying was pick-pocketed. It is the same Malayali mindset that would justify the men who slapped a woman for traveling with a friend at night with a comment that ‘she deserved it‘, because she was traveling with her friend to drop her at her place after a night shift job. The same Malayali men who would justify the flesh trade pimping minor girls with a comment ‘why did that girl go with that man in the first place?‘, ‘she must have been craving for sex‘.

I think more than these people who abuse their power and positions, it is on us to take the blame. For being the silent spectators that we have turned out to be.

Dear Law Makers

I don’t know if it is because you guys are past your age of “getting jiggy with it” or worried about the rising number of young people in India and taking your old-vs-young revenge on them, but what the local news papers have been reporting about the thing you have done with the IT amendment act is quite horrible. I mean, how fair is it to arrest somebody even without a warrant for browsing porn online? Considering that Internet is the best possible medium available for youth to please themselves, this new rule is mostly going to affect the youngsters. If you curb the youth’s virtual sexual adventures like that, wouldn’t they get even more curious to sneak into the lives of the real people and seek real sex out of them? Or is it your way of telling the youth to “go out, have some real sex, time to stop the single tennis game“? But even then, you guys haven’t yet legalized prostitution here and the sexual abuse/crime rates are increasing in the country! I mean, the law enforcement is most of the times silent about those old politicians, top officials who are accused of raping minors using their flesh trade connections but you can arrest an ordinary person for just browsing porn online without causing anyone any harm?! WTF is that?