Still living in the old times

I have high regard to Perumbadavam Sreedharan, a writer of Malayalam literature who is now donning the role of Kerala Sahitya Academy President. His celebrated novel, Oru Sankeerthanam Pole, is one of my all time favorites in Malayalam literature and I have read it many times. And that is why I was so saddened to see him acting like an old royal court member trying to appease the king for a reward.

“Even though there is no royal ruling now, I am still a praja of the royal family”, the man declared his loyalty to the royalty while publishing a book written by Marthanda Varma of Travancore royal family. He added that he takes pride in saying that he is a praja of Travancore royalty. Mr. Sreedharan seems to have forgotten that he is living in the modern era where the dynasty ruling is a thing of past. His post as the president of academy was not a royal gift to him either. So when he declares that he is a praja of the dynasty, while living in and enjoying the fruits of democracy, he should at least stick to his word and step down from his position in the academy which is a cultural institution in this democratic country. But not a single word against him from the whole literary community! Not one, even from the so called Leftist writers.

So that leave me wondering, reading along the debates surfaced about the Padmanabha Swamy temple wealth, are we, by any chance, living in under the Trvancore dynasty rule?

(photo courtesy: Mathrubhumi online)

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 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?

Story of barefoot knowledge

Just as Harini mentioned in her blog post, I too am wondering why Sanjit “Bunker” Roy isn’t a household name in this country. Why does it take a foreigner to tell us about the innovators and social entrepreneurs like Bunker Roy? Why is it that only someone like Steve Jobs with his hi-tech gadgets can inspire Indians? Why does it take a Time 100 list or a TED Talk to tell us the story that could change the whole of rural India or the lives of the poor in the whole world?

I haven’t seen such a path-breaking, innovative and unconventional approach that has the potential of changing the lives of a large chunk of world’s population. More power to Bunker Roy!

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.

Da Vincing Code

The socio-political spectrum of Kerala always has something to entertain the average Malayalee. Be it V S Achuthanandan on one hand or P C George on the other. But who wouldn’t get bored of the same circus you see everyday? So now it is the turn of V R Krishna Iyer and his committee of people who have drafted the Women’s Code Bill 2011 which is pending approval of the state government.

The proposed bill suggests provisions to imprison those who fathers more than two children. So if this bill is passed, you will be slapped with a Rs. 10,000 fine or three months of imprisonment when you expect a third child in the family. Not only that, those who have three children would be considered as legally disqualified and they cannot enjoy the state benefits.

Needless to say that these suggestions are draconian. To have two or more children should be left to the parents and to intervene in those basic human rights and to add penalty to it is fascist. We are not living in China, after all. What the government should do instead of passing this bill to raise awareness of the advantages of population control. Kerala anyway has the lowest rate of population growth in India.

The protests have begun and as expected from the minority communities. The Christian and Muslim communities entertain having more children among their flock. The Church had announced ‘benefits’ for it’s community members who have more than four children. What these religious communities are aiming with this is an increased community power and thus the socio-political bargaining power in the future. But the proposed bill puts a stop to this as one of the recommendations of the bill is that religious and political outfits cannot discourage family planning and I think that is a welcome suggestion.

Population control is a need of the hour for a dense country like India though the decision of having more or less children should rest with the parents. To discourage it in the name of religion or community is going against the country’s well being and future. And to offer benefits only to those who have four or more children is as draconian as lifting the benefits off people who have more than two children. So it doesn’t really make sense to see the opposition from the Church and Muslim community heads.

Another sensible proposition in the bill is to offer free and healthy abortions in government hospitals. Abortion is another area that the religious organizations, who usually cite moral reasons to oppose it, should back off. Legalizing and providing expert help for abortions would help save some lives that usually gets lost by consulting with illegal clinics and doctors. Those who want to do abortions would go ahead and do it regardless of the law or their religion allows them to do it, so why not let them have it safely with expert help?

So there are some pros and cons in this bill and I wish the pro points stayed and cons removed. But with the protest from religious/community heads it is likely that the Chandy government would scrap it altogether.


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.

‘My Fellow American’

Here is “My Fellow American“, an online film and social media project, that is trying to do something about Islamophobia with sharing stories of people and trying to raise awareness. Checkout their website My Fellow American and also watch the teaser video below.

In all the material I have seen and read about Islam and the common perceptions about it, I have never seen or read a convincing speech like the TED talk given by Mustafa Akyol which makes a lot of sense. A must watch.

Mess in the name of Thrissur Pooram

A panthal built in the center of the Swaraj Round road (image courtesy:

I had written earlier about how festivals make life of the ordinary citizens living in the place a mess. There is something similar, or perhaps even more disturbing thing going on in Thrissur for years now. A part of the festival celebrations make the lives of Thrissurians a mess for almost 3 weeks an year.

Swaraj Round in Thrissur is a circular road in the center of the city and it is the busiest road in Thrissur. During Thrissur Pooram, the two participating temples would erect three huge, multi-storied panthals in this road. All three panthals are built at the center of the road, thus making the traffic blocks as long as 3-4 kilometers. It would take so much time and fuel to get you where you want to be inside the city. Not only that, even though the Thrissur corporation had left pre-defined holes for panthals in the refurbished Swaraj Round road, the panthal makers dug the road to create new holes on their own this year.

The panthal work would begin almost 2 weeks before the Pooram day and it would take 3-4 days after Thrissur pooram to remove it. This means that those who go to the city for these three weeks are really screwed. Not to mention about the plight of those who live inside the city limits. Many suggestions had been made earlier to move panthals in the large space that the Thekkinkaadu ground has or at the least to move it a little to the road side. But nothing has been done about it since this is something that involves religion and it’s customs.

This panthal mess has been going on in several parts of Kerala when there is a church or temple festival. In my parish, we used to have panthals in the road for the annual festival and there had been two accidents. Once, the panthal slanted in the heavy rains and in another year, a truck hit one side of the panthal. Since then, the panthal was moved to a corner of the church ground.

I hadn’t really bothered about this traffic until I learned driving and last week I faced the music twice when I had to pass through the city to go some place. It is high time the authorities do something about this and the public let them do it (though the authorities and police have many suggestions, they hesitate to implement it because there is much religious and community sentiments).

Photos from the last year’s Thrissur Pooram

Hazare, the Hero

Anna Hazare

When I made the blog post about “The Anna Hazare Show” (courtesy: Open Magazine) yesterday, my focus was on the hypocrisy of the Indian middle-class for being selective in their so called activism and it is being celebrated as the rightful political activism. As the day passed, more stories kept popping up, some of them from the yester years, and they point fingers at the man himself – Anna Hazare.

What irked me from the beginning itself was the photo shown above from Anna Hazare’s fasting stage (courtesy: another blog). When I saw this photo, I felt that the so called Gandhian is reinstating the pseudo-nationalist concept of the nation as a religious symbol. The goddess with the India flag. The so called Bharath Matha that all the hardcore and softcore Hindutvavaadis have perpetuated right from the old days. The same symbol that sent M F Hussain in exile. But I didn’t write about it because his cause seemed more important at that moment. But then comes the following.

At first Anna Hazare was in praise for Narendra Modi. He said the Gujarat model “[…]should be emulated by all other chief ministers. I am saying this on the basis of the kind of works Bihar and Gujarat CMs have done in the field of rural development“. We have heard Modi being praised for “development” a lot but hear what another Gandhian, who is less famous than Anna Hazare and has spent 18 years working with tribes in the troubled Dandewara region of Chattisgarh, has to say. If Anna Hazare was garlanded by the media and several VIPs came out to support him, Himanshu Kumar was treated a bit differently for his work. When he took up the human rights cases against the police and the notorious Salwa Judum, his ashram was simply wiped away.

He spoke about how ‘Golden Gujarat’ is not so in tribal areas and in the villages of the state. He said that it is the Gujarat govt. that is now engaged in building dams in a river downstream and diverting the water to Narmada and industries around Miyagam Karjan and Ankleshwar. The fact that this will displace over 150 villages, does not bother the government.

Well, Hazare did not stop there. He went on to say this – “I have described these chief ministers as good only partially. I will call them 100 per cent good only when they also accept the Lokpal kind of system.” So the only thing that Narendra Modi is lacking to achieve the 100% good ranking by Anna Hazare is the acceptance of Lokpal system and nothing else? Later when his statement became controversy, the good Gandhian added what his non-Hindutva fans needed – “I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony“. What a good soul!

Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine that published the infamous Nira Radia tapes, wrote something that the media bandwagon wouldn’t dare say. In his article aptly titled “The Anna Hazare Show“, Manu wrote this –

But what kind of man is he, really? Haima Deshpande, a senior political writer with Open, has met him several times. About 10 years ago, when he went on a fast to protest against corruption in the Maharashtra government, Deshpande covered the event. She was a bit surprised when he said that he wanted to end his fast because journalists from the English media were finding it hard to reach his village. He wanted to end it on a Sunday.

“Two reporters told him that since the Pune Cantonment elections were to be held on that Sunday there would be no space in the newspapers. So it was mutually agreed between the journalists and Anna that he would give up his fast on Monday at 1 pm.”

And that was what he did. Now, the media wants a revolution and there is a good chance that Hazare will not disappoint.

But that is not all. Hazare had sympathy for the MNS chief Raj Thackeray during his campaign against non-Marathis. But as usual, the media icon Hazare did not forget to mention that he did not support “everything that Raj Thackeray does”. But still not a straight forward “I-condemn-the-MNS-violence“, but merely that “If violent means are adopted by MNS, it will not be in interest of a united India.” If violent means are adopted – as if that is something he never heard of them doing.

That is Anna Hazare for you. The new Gandhi of the Indian middle-class. Well, you get what you ask for.