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.

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 Weekend Tamasha

Two news editors. One from the television medium and the other from print. One takes a chance at roasting the other, probably because he is from a different medium and is hosting a show on the rival television channel. The other gets defensive. He goes emotional about the ‘great’ thing he is doing, called journalism, and takes the chance to go overboard with his past stories of his adherence to the ‘truth’. One gets frustrated that the other is being given a chance in his channel to do a bit of marketing for himself and his paper. So the one also goes overboard and gives a few lines of marketing about his and his channel’s commitment in presenting the two views.

This is more fun to watch if you couldn’t yet figure out what exactly is going on between our government and army, both of which has a leadership of saints of our times. My dear fellow Indians, eat this crap. You need it. For sheer entertainment or for your tea-time (or bar-time) intellectual vomit.

PS: If the video above doesn’t give you enough entertainment for the weekend, checkout how Hindutvavaadis are wasting their bandwidth to vote Modi to be in TIME’s 100 list and how liberals are trying to vote him out. If you don’t have any better thing to do on the weekend, you can join them in the game.

Live to fight, please!

I couldn’t watch the photos of a 27 year old Tibetan, Jampa Yeshi, burning himself to death without horror. But even though Yeshi’s intent by setting himself ablaze was to bring attention to the Tibetan protest against China, my first reaction was, why? The reports say that over 30 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in the last year, and what good did it bring?

The international community has so much ‘sympathy’ towards the Tibetan cause, and occassionally blames China but they wouldn’t move a finger against the Chinese. India, being the ‘kind’ hosts that we are, also wouldn’t do a thing against the neighbor because despite being the projected ‘super-power-in-20XX’ we don’t want to get into trouble with the powerful Chinese. Plus we have Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh to look after. So nobody, except the Tibetans themselves, are interested in the cause. Perhaps except some individuals and some human rights organizations. If Tibet had oil, perhaps ‘some’ would have shown interest but that is not the case.

So what good does the ‘attention bringing suicide’ do to help the Tibetan cause? Why let the youth of a country kill themselves when it is clear that it is not helping the cause? If you want to fight for a cause, you should live to fight for it. Not die to protest, because your voice would fade away in a few days. I can’t believe that the protestors had prevented police from taking young Yeshi to the hospital. And the Tibetan leader saying that the boy ‘took an appreciative step’! If this so called Tibetan leader Dorjee really thinks it is helping the cause, he should set himself on fire to set an example. Or ask his family members to do so. Would he dare do that? Is this the message that people like him and Dalai Lama are sending to the world? Do they think they can change the Chinese oppression in Tibet by letting or encouraging their youth to burn to death themselves? is this what the Buddhist preaching is all about? Please, let them young people live. And fight.

(Photo courtesy: MSN India)

Cardinal, Catholicism and Caste

When Mar George Alancherry was ordained a Cardinal, the newspapers wrote about how humble he is and how much he respects the Indian tradition with wearing a Syrian cross, that upholds the eastern tradition of Christianity, on a rudraksha chain around his neck. He is also said to be against the ‘Latinisation’ of the native Syro-Malar Church. But Mar Alancherry has ruined that reputation (of a native church trying to retain its identity while being part of a global Latinized Catholic church) by making an unwarranted intervention in a legal row between two countries, just a couple of days after his ordination in Rome.

When asked about the murder of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines, he said that he “immediately contacted the Catholic Ministers of Kerala urging the government not to act precipitately”. This has raised questions about his stand on justice and his allegiance to his country.

First of all, the Cardinal did not have to intervene in the legal dispute between the two countries because he was not asked for help by the Indian government to mediate. But he did, and it sets a wrong practice of religious leaders trying to influence an elected democratic government through it’s community members in the ministry. Suppose that he was asked for help to mediate and even then his priority should have been to ensure justice to the poor fishermen who were shot in cold blood by the Italian marines – as a fellow human being and a Christian. If he had to ‘urge’ the government about anything, it should have been to bring justice to the family members of the dead victims. But he failed to do that.

The Cardinal also said, “But the point is another: it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of ‘Western powers’ or the ‘will of American dominance’“. Here also he is setting the wrong priorities. Political parties always look at the options to make political gains out of socio-political issues, especially during the elections. This is nothing new. And every single political party has done this. Congress party would do the same if they were on the opposition. So why is the Cardinal worried only about the Communists?

There is another side to the story which is about caste in Kerala Christianity. Though the Latin Catholic Church is part of the global catholic church, the Syrian Christians (Syro-Malabar Church) consider them as converted lower caste fishermen (and Syrian Christians consider themselves as Namboothiri descendants). The murdered fishermen are both Latin Christians. So you can assume why the Cardinal did not have any qualms to take sides. The Latin Catholic Church has reacted sharply to the comments of Cardinal Alancherry.

“They called it unfortunate and said it was against the interests and sentiments of the fisherfolk. The families of the victims also vehemently slammed the alleged statement. The Latin Catholics, mostly on the coastal belt of Kerala, are not likely to be happy with the reported statement from Alencherry, who is from the substantially more socio-politically influential Syro Malabar Church. This controversy is likely to amplify the socio-political divide between the two communities, although both are Catholics.” [via]

The story is reflecting badly on the Syrian Christian community. Sangh Parivar has begun to sharpen their weapons claiming that the Catholics have their allegiance to Rome than India. And we will have to wait and see how this dangerous precedence set by Mar Alencherry would help the soft terror strategies of Sangh Parivar and how it will affect the Christian community in the long run. And as long as we have such people in the clergy, who had declared Communism a greater threat than Hindutva while Christians were being persecuted in Mangalore and North Kerala by Sangh Parivar, it does not need much imagination.

Photo courtesy: Reuters/


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.

Responsible journalism – New Indian Express style

500 TN women workers rescued from Kerala border, said the news headlines of The New Indian Express daily on December 7th, 2011. Then it went on to say,

In one of the worst incidents of mob frenzy over the ongoing Mullaiperiyar dam safety row, nearly 500 women estate workers from Tamil Nadu were held hostage and some of them allegedly sexually harassed in Idukki district in Kerala on Monday. [link]

This is from the Tamil Nadu edition of the newspaper and reported by someone named Gokul Vannan. As expected, several attacks were followed and directed towards Malayalees in Chennai and Coimbatore. Many Malayalee shops were targeted including Joy Alukkas and K R Bakers in Chennai. Malayalee shop owners in Chennai and Coimbatore are feared for their lives. All because of the news that churned out from a rumor.

The ‘reporter’ obviously must be aware of the tension that exists between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the name of Mullaperiyar dam. Water is a big issue for the neighbor and compared to an average Malayalee, an average Thamizhan has fairly good respect to women (this of course is valid as long as the women stick to the traditional norms – remember how actress Khushboo had a temple built in her name and then it was brought down to earth when she commented on pre-marital sex?). So any common man can assume the gravity of the issue when the news of Thamizh women being assaulted by Malayalees in the name of Mullaperiyar dam comes to the front. Then why can’t a ‘news reporter’ consider that aspect and treat the news right?

The funny bloody thing is that there was no such incident. There was no such report in the Thamizh and Malayalam regional TV channels. An activist online friend checked with several Malayalam and Thamizh news papers – including The Times of India, The Hindu, Dinamani, Dinakaran, Dinathanthi, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhoomi – but couldn’t find any source that said so.

From his Google Plus page:

When I contacted Idukki Collector on this issue through a reliable source, I came to know that it was a full-length fabricated story. (Idukki Collector: E Devadasan, ph: 09447032252).

Later, I contacted a friend of mine who is the welfare officer of a tea plantation in Idukki. From his words, I could understand that about 95 percent of the people working in the plantations there were from Tamil Nadu who are still continuing their work.

When I asked about the report to my counterparts in Kerala, I understood that even the Kerala editions of The New Indian Express have not carried the mentioned report.

This is one person who took the effort to confirm the news using his contacts. But our national media houses, CNN-IBN and NDTV, did not take the pain to do a fact check and republished the story with crediting the source to Express News Service.

This is the sad state of affairs with our media. And not an apology, not a word, yet, from either The New Indian Express or from IBN Live and NDTV.

Jan Lok Pal – the interim FAQ

There has been some heated discussions in the social media about Anna Hazare and Jan Lok Pal bill. Even though I have written a couple of posts about why I do not join hands with Anna Hazare and the knee jerk activism of middle-class, I think a summary post will be good so that I can save sometime typing the same thing again and again, rather direct people with questions here. So here are my views.

Why are you anti-Anna?

Because the man has a dubious character. He had praised Narendra Modi for his ‘development’ work in Gujarat which is refuted by other Gandhians like Himanshu Kumar. In Anna’s words, the only thing that Modi has to do to become a 100% perfect chief minister is to accept the Lokpal system. Later he white-washed his own words though; by saying “I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony“. Remember, Hazare was talking about a chief minister who still refuses to take the blame for his alleged support to a massacre.

Anna Hazare has also openly supported the MNS chief Raj Thackeray. And you know who Mr. Thackeray is and what his politics are. Cunning old man did not forget to add his Gandhian thought that ‘but damaging public and national property was not right‘. Everything else in the MNS regionalist game seems to be good for Hazare.

Hazare’s ways are autocratic than being democratic. It is evident from the way he has modeled the fight against corruption. He pushed his own bill without coming to a consensus between the civil society members themselves. This kind of attitude that ‘only-my-draft-is-right‘ is fascist. I cannot trust a man like him to take up the leadership or to represent the civil society. Supporting a man like him can only invite grave dangers to democracy.

But Anna Hazare is a widely trusted man who has built a model village called Ralegan Siddhi.

You should first read about how this so-called model village was built. I don’t see anything to model after a village where their moral was built on flogging and fear. I mean, even Adolf Hitler wanted to create a ‘puritan’ society based on fear and physical punishment and he had his ways to do it. Or even Narendra Modi had a lesson to teach people and now he is talking about development (no wonder why Anna supports Modi). Indira Gandhi had her ways to make citizens ‘responsible’ through Emergency. Ralegan Siddhi is a village where Anna ‘had the practical experience of need of force while implementing family planning measures’ and where there has been no grama panchayat elections in the last 24 years and no election to co-operative societies. That is not a model village, in my opinion.

Whatever his persona is, it was because of him that the government was forced to consider Jan Lokpal Bill. And you have to give him credits for that.

I will not. Because if he deserve any credit, it is for driving the movement in the wrong direction. Anna is an icon that was purposefully created by his team and the media. How many of us even knew about his existence in the last year? But then the media came and created a saint out of Anna. He seems to enjoy such publicity too. Then his own team started the beatification process. It grew up to a level where his own team members have said “ultimately, the power is with Anna, so whatever Anna says has to be accepted“. From then on it became a fascist, autocratic movement that can threaten the very basis of democracy.

But he had massive support of the people!

Have you ever thought about this sudden outrage of people, after all these years? Is it because the thought that ‘enough-is-enough‘ was sprouted one fine day? I don’t think so. Every generation is looking for some kind of revolution to take part. They want to witness something incredible in their life time and there could not be a better time than this season of revolutions world wide, especially in the middle-eastern countries. The youth, the middle-class and the national media were all missing this sort of fun and that is how Hazare, the mass icon, was born. You say ‘Anna is India, India is Anna‘. Anna alone is not India or India is not just Anna. India is you. And me. Us. Not Anna’s sole property.

By the way, a journalist friend from Delhi told me that Ramlila Maidan might have had just about 20,000 people at maximum and different media houses have added the numbers they liked, even to lakhs. And this 20,000 out of 1.21 billion people is called ‘massive support’?

But don’t you agree that the movement has made a change in the attitude of government towards the bill?

Yes, but it had the wrong nature and direction. And remember that it is only a small hurdle that is just passed and the time to rejoice is far away. I think this movement could have been driven in the right direction and still could make the change but the aggression of Hazare, his team, media, and the middle-class crusaders made it impossible.

You call it knee-jerk activism of the middle-class.

Yes, because I haven’t seen such enthusiasm of this so-called urban, semi-urban middle-class ‘activists’ changing their profile pic to Gandhi caps, defending Anna Hazare, or asking for their rights on any other issues of greater importance. They kept a criminal silence on several national and local issues and now they speak up.

People would speak up only about issues that they are directly affected by. Isn’t it justified?

No, it is not. Selective response is not a justifiable response at all. That is called hypocrisy. And the silence on the issues that people in your own or other parts of the country are facing, is criminal. To me, corruption doesn’t have a greater importance than north-eastern crisis or dalit/tribal issues or people being displaced in the name of development. The fact that Binayak Sen or Irom Sharmila doesn’t inspire you alone is proof of how you choose your icons or rather how you play into the hands of media and a group of people.

Are you pro-Government?

Yes, I am pro-Government but not pro-current-Government. I am also pro-Democracy. But I am not pro-Congress if your question was in that direction. You can do a search in my blog to see how much I have talked about the regional and national politics of Congress. You can start with searching the tag “congress party” in this blog.

Okay. So do you support the government draft of the bill?

No. Everybody knows that the government draft is crass. At the same time, I think there should not be a bad practice in place as a model for future agitations and protests. And in a democracy, consensus should be worked on first. Now there are four drafts in place (Jan Lok Pal, NCPRI’s draft, Loksatta’s draft and Bahujan Lok Pal) and the parliament should consider all four and act accordingly.

Well, that’s all I have to say about Jan Lok Pal for now.

Aftermath of the Baba-giri

Back to square one. That’s what happened at the end of the fasting drama of Baba Ramdev. Everything remains the same except that we got to see Ramdev in a churidhar, Ramdev’s alleged ties with communal elements, a high-profile fasting stage and finally Ramdev quitting the biggest political entertainment show on mere promises. The man who claimed that yoga could cure the incurable diseases have finally given up to the doctors who have advised him “to abstain from yoga for two-three days and take rest“. Hmm..

Sonia Gandhi and Congress party must be laughing at all this. Had someone more credible and popular were on the forefront of these fights, they would have been in trouble handling the situation. But for their luck, the mass movements in the new India are always led by wrong people like Hazare or Ramdev who have questionable personality and stand on various issues. So the UPA government, the most corrupt government that we have seen in the recent history of India, could thrash the movement and go on to justify it. And the folks like Ramdev passed the ball to the UPA court that even the police mishandling of the Ramlila ground situation has been pushed down the memory lane.

But Ramdev did not say “at times like this, you do pranayam” as he did once. Instead, the yoga guru said he would form up an army of 11000 soldiers who would be trained in arms. Something that we can now call ‘the Baba-giri’. With the Congress on the revenge and has ordered many inquiries into the Yadav-turned-Dev Ramkrishna’s empire, we might see more entertaining news in the coming days about the yoga guru.

On another news, a Sadhu who also was on a fast-unto-death finally died in the same hospital as Baba Ramdev was admitted. There were no cabinet ministers to see him and discuss his demands and no long lines of sadhus or common man who were in support. His cause, a genuine one, was against the illegal mining to save Ganga river. On other such news, Irom Sharmila is still fasting, even after 10 years and is still being force-fed. Not many, including much of the middle-class crusaders, are bothered about it. And the middle-class arm-chair activists have now begun justifying their silence on these issues over several forums in the Internet. They say that middle-class cannot relate with the issues of Binayak Sen or Irom Sharmila, hence the silence. Reminds me of the poem/quote by the anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Ramdev Lila

The sad state of India is that even the agitations in the name of common-man are hijacked by people with vested interests. So the right movements are lead by the wrong people. Wrong people who support other wrong people and the wrong causes. People who are more interested in fame and publicity. People who have an eye on being in the line of power. That is what happened with Jan Lokpal Bill and now the fight against black money.

I have written earlier about Anna Hazare and his show. Now it’s the turn of Baba Ramdev, the yoga master. Like Jan Lok Pal Bill, I so very badly want to see some action done on the black money put in the foreign countries but like the JLP bill, this movement is also lead by the wrong man, or a man who has authoritative, suspicious and intolerant views on core issues. Ramdev asked for death penalty to the corrupt people and that’s going over the top. He wants sex education in schools need to be replaced by yoga education. He wants 100% swadeshi movement. He says homosexuals are sick people and English education should be replaced by Hindi.

I see utter non-sense, intolerance and ignorance in his views. This fellow clearly doesn’t understand how economy or global trade or free-market works (I don’t believe in a full-fledged free-market but a government controlled free-market). He is also pushing us to the back of the time and is being insensitive to the non-Hindi speaking regions when he pushes Hindi instead of English. The contribution of English to the youth and marginalized in this country is more than what this guy knows.

And who chose him to represent the 121 crore Indians as he claims himself? As far as I know he represents only his followers from across different parts of India and nobody else. He doesn’t have the right to speak authoritatively for the common man without the consent of the common man through a democratic process. The same so-called torch bearers of democracy need to learn a thing or two when they or their followers makes demi-gods out of them. Shanthi Bhushan said, “Ultimately the power is with Anna, so whatever Anna says has to be accepted” and as an NYT article claims, Baba Ramdev seems to have said, “I am very powerful“. Seems that the motto now is not power to “the” people but power to “some” people. The yoga guru seems to have said, “what the people need is honest, brave and responsible leadership” and what better example than himself to show the bravery of trying to escape the police in a churidhar!

Those who are clearly benefiting from all this is still the Congress party. Fortunately for them, the leaders of the movements against corruption and black money are such hypocrites so it is easy for the Congress party and the UPA to drive things their way, though I am sure they must be regretting the way they handled Ramdev issue with the midnight eviction episode.

And the churidhar-clad Baba, who has full support from the Sangh Parivar elements, has now warned the government that “next time in Ramlila, it will be Ravanlila“. We can only wait and see the turn of events.