Friday, February 26, 2010

The MF Husain tamasha

Just by act of sheer coincidence when I wrote about the government of India’s selective enforcement of laws when it came to MF Hussain, over the last 24 hrs. news of MF Husain’s acceptance of Qatari nationality is a big deal in India. Well the (pseudo) seculars are up in arms. “It is a great insult to our Nation, We should immediately end his Exile”, “Government should provide security to him” is the routine chant in all the newspapers. Everybody is showering praise on “Qatar on bestowing this honor on him…”, “Don’t we have erotic sculpures in our temples” is a common shout. Well, I would have been surprised (as a real secularist) only if the reactions had been otherwise -- amongst that lot that goes for intelligentsia in the media in India. Shall we pause, catch up our breath and take an honest look…

1. “It is a great insult to our Nation, We should end his Exile” – Nothing could be farther from the truth. India didn’t expel Hussain, nor a fundamentalist brigade exile him for matter. The simple fact is Mr. Husain ran away from the law and is a fugitive wanted by many Indian courts, evading several warrants of arrest. Now, pause let that sink into your head. Even for a pseudo secular, that shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp, isn’t it ? Mr. Husain has the utmost freedom to end his exile, he can catch the next immediate flight to India and end it – for himself. Unless of course the pseudo seculars are asking for the government to pony up the charges for a ticket, I for one fail to see what role the government has in this, or for that matter anybody else. End the Exile Mr. Husain…

2. “Government should provide security to him” – Why, as far as I know Mr. Husain hasn’t painted the prophet or any of his wives in the nude, so why he should need security in India is something that I fail to understand as well. If he ended his exile, obeyed all the warrants and judgments given so far, he will have full and total security -- in Jail.

3. “Qatar bestowing an honor” – He is being bestowed this “honor” for having sculpted something for the wife of the sheikh. Since, he has been honored I am sure that he didn’t paint her or the prophet with the same artistic freedom that he did to Godess Saraswati and Sita. Try that Mr. Husain I want to see for how many minutes you last in the Gulf… If you can escape alive, I for one will lead a movement to even commute all the sentences you will get in India.

4. “We have erotic sculptures in our temples” – Yes we do. Hinduism accepts sex as an essential element of life and existence, nothing more nothing less. You will even find sculptures, of European and chinese travellers, in temples recently built. If one were to say that hindus were followers of Confucius or Christianity based on that would that be correct ? Indra and Kama deva are the guardians of sex and sensuality in the religion and it is portrayed as such. You will never see a sita sitting on Hanuman’s Phallus or Nude saraswati in the temples. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

If it had been a non-indian who had done this without understanding of the people, culture and religions of India, it is somewhat forgivable. For someone, who has grown up in India fully aware of culture and reverence with which deities are held by Hindus, it is unconscionable to do this… It is a shame that (pseudo) seculars are either unwilling and unable to see the reason in all this. If only they had said the truth, "Since someone insulted Hinduism, it is OK, let him be free" at least for saying the truth I would have had a favorable opinion on them.

Parting, I have included the excerpt from Justice Kapoor’s judgment convicting MF Husain in 2004, I can’t imagine a more profound statement on this…

"If one has been granted unlimited freedom, one is required or expected to use it for good purpose and not with malicious intention, to defame or degrade religious deities may be mythological, as these immortals are held in highest esteem and over a period become part of one's day to day religious life to such an extent that anything adverse said or printed or painted hurts the religious feelings immensely. Any objectionable, demeaning caricature or painting of religious deities or gods or goddesses of any particular religion -- creates disharmony and ill will amongst different communities. Even if it is presumed that such a painting is a piece of art still one cannot be oblivious of the fact that depiction of these deities or goddesses in full nudity comes within the mischief of deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of concerned religion as these goddesses are worshiped by crores of people. .... Under the garb of freedom of expression no person can be allowed to hurt the religious feelings of any class of people. This should be known more to the petitioner who belongs to a different religion. If the petitioner wants to gauge the depth and the unflinching nature of religious feelings he may venture and try his hand at his own or any other religion and see how sensitive religious feelings and beliefs are. Such acts promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and arc prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. It is the effect that is guiding and determining criteria."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are you thinking what I am thinking ?

Picture this …

There is a report in the media. Recently a book had offensive pictures of an idol and it hurt religious sensibilities of believers of a particular faith. People complained, media got upset at this insulting of faith. Our secular government and police swung into action, within 24 hours the police got the arrest warrant. The state public prosecutor thundered that he will not let this crime go unpunished. “Freedom of expression doesn’t mean right to insult someone’s faith” intellectuals thundered. I saw that caption and had a faint hope that finally the government has come to senses…..

Are U thinking what I am thinking?

Sorry, to disappoint you. It was not the government going after MF Hussain for painting Goddess Saraswati without clothes or Sita’s defamatory portrayal that got the government up on its feet and itching for action. Wait your turn folks… The urgent issue was to do with a picture under the “Idol” category in primary text books for St. John’s school which depicted Jesus with a cigarette and beer bottle. So if you are waiting for MF Hussain’s prosecution, please wait some more the government has pleaded in the supreme court for his release from the warrants already issued and appealed for pardon !!!

If would be a shame, if some were to imagine this as a tit for tat episode and pleaded for pardon for the publisher of the offensive textbook in this case. Similarly pleading for tolerance with taslima nasreen for her offensive statements in her works. I have read excerpts from the book, if you are a follower of islam you have genuine reasons to be upset.

The issue is folks in politics and government unwilling or unable to comprehend what is secularism ? It is not favoring one religion over the other or discriminating against one for their beliefs. It is to treat believers of all faiths equally guaranteeing equal opportunity and not equal outcome. Because, outcome is dependent on the individual's drive and commitment.

Freedom of expression doesn’t mean the right to insult other’s faith and beliefs. Yes, it applies equally to all faiths and religions.

Remember, your freedom ends when somebody else’s begins….

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hypocrisy thy name is -- Is it SRK or NDTV ?

Just 10 days ago, we Indians achieved our independence – according to our media and of course, Mr. Shah Rukh Khan the self-proclaimed king of Hindi Cinema. Yes, in case you all missed it, I am talking about the greatest of all freedoms that the Indians achieved. That of watching “My Name is Khan” in theatres… The media was hailing the common man and the Aamchi Mumbaikar’s indomitable spirit in turning up in droves to watch the movie. How the Maharashtra police, provided full and total security to moviegoers in Mumbai. Thus fully risking a blast in German bakery in Pune is a different story altogether!!! How the future of India looked great at that time -- simply because SRK and the common public didn’t bow to pressure tactics.

The pressure groups simply asked SRK to apologize for his blatant act of hypocrisy -- in siding with the fellow IPL owners in not selecting a single Pakistani player for Kolkata Knight Riders team, but the very next day apologized to the Pakistani media professing ignorance about why Pakistani players were missed !!! Due to the tactics of the pressure groups the real issue was forgotten – MNIK became the issue and “secular” government, media and intellectuals swung into action. Thus “common man” got to watch the movie MNIK in Mumbai, without fear of persecution etc….

Now, SRK’s team the KKR and SRK himself backed out of a very lucrative commercial deal they had signed with Lux Cozy Company. Why -- due to protests by pressure groups which threatened boycott of IPL matches in Kolkata. What was the issue? Apparently the owner of the Lux Cozy company’s family is involved in the murder of one Mr. Rizwanur Rahman with whom their daughter had eloped and married. Now respecting the “sentiments” of these (pressure) groups Mr. SRK has apologized and has initiated measures to cancel the deal. Thereby ensuring that KKR matches happen without any hitch!!!

Is it just me, or does anyone else smell a rat in this whole recent episode. If SRK were such a principled man and didn’t bow to pressure groups, which were against signing deals with players from a terrorist nation that routinely kills thousands of Indians every year, what made him rethink that philosophy or conclude that a single Rizwanur Rahman’s life was worth more than the thousands of other Indians who died. He immediately cancelled the deal in the latter but refused to even apologize for the former!!!

It is another matter of shame that (pseudo) secular crowd (that goes for intelligentsia in India now a days) didn’t organize or galvanize the common man in Kolkata to come out or show solidarity with Mr. Khan in this deal as well. Similarly the media didn’t see anything wrong as well.

So, my nomination for the award for top hypocrisy --

Hmm… tough choice between NDTV and SRK.

Take your pick !!!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Athithi Devo Bhavaa ...

Dear Indians, Are we independent ?

Many of you are probably surprised as to why I am asking this Question ? Did we not achieve independence from the British ? That too in 1947 itself ? Well, yes to all three Qs.. but the question that “Are we independent ?” is one that begs serious answers from fellow Indians… Let us look at the below examples to understand why it is important for us realize the issue behind the question and solve it for longer term betterment of each and every individual in India.

Scene 1: I am heading a recruitment team on behalf of my company, there happens to be a white person in it, a junior interviewer, who works several levels below me. In the airport we are all in line airline staff just walk up to him and whisk him away to a counter and check him in, I am told to await my turn in the line. At the destination, when we check in to a hotel, the hotel clerk tells him – “Sir we have issued a complementary upgrade to you. Your room is on the executive floor with valet etc.”. The story continues with bills for our meals automatically presented to him. The Chefs and waiters dropping by to inquire how the food is etc. I checked the bills I paid as much as he did for all the room and board …

Scene 2: In a jungle lodge in Kabini, when a part of 30 of my group go we are all herded into 10-12 per jeep, but the white guests are just send as a couple in jeeps, with instructions on where last sighting has happened etc. We were herded into a lunch hall for a buffet. In an adjoining room, with fine china and silver tables are laid out and items kept. When we ask can we eat there we are told, it is buffet for everybody. When the group of whites follow us, the staff politely inform them that the finely laid out table is for them. I again ask the manager are we paying any less ? “No sir they are guests” – pat came the reply. I then asked “What am I ?” – a stunned silence is all the reply I get.

Scene 3: A top 5-star resort in Mahabalipuram, I book the most expensive bungalow there. When we reach there the staff take me to a desk. Process is completed and I am about to be given the key. Suddenly, a buss full of folks from Europe/similar nations, white -- come in. All in “wal-mart” attire. The entire staff run to them. Garland them with Sandalwood garlands, offer welcome drinks. Again, they get upgrades to beach view rooms. Those rooms still are costing about a quarter of my beach villa. After they left, I summoned the manager and asked him how come our welcome didn’t include welcome drink and sandalwood garland ? Reply was “They are our guests”. At this point I exploded in anger outlining how to a hotel “all are guests”… In this case, the manager had the decency to understand the nature of the treatment meted out to us and apologized.

Scene 4: You get the idea, you all have seen this. Even in an orthodox family, where they would never accept a groom/bride of even a sub-sect, willingly embrace a white skinned groom/bride and gloat how they patiently went through the “wedding ceremony”.

Now, let me ask you “Are we independent ?”

Hmm… Probably it is best left for you to introspect

Treat everyone equally… Even our dharma says “Athithi Devo Bhavaa”, it doesn’t say “Videshi Athithi Devo Bhava”. Let us all realize that and become truly independent. Else, we would be still mental slaves…. to foreign skin.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where is the Intellectual in Mr. Kapil Sibal ?

We all have seen extensive media reports on his “New agenda for first 100 days” or “How fresh air is blowing in the corridors of HRD ministry” etc. His five point agenda is actually a one point agenda that of furthering his image as an intellectual in the eyes of a willing media, that is desperately looking for one in present day politics. All of his five attempts if you look at things with detail, you will find them a very shallow rehashing attempt of things from our own past and tried and failed ideas from the west as well. Let us look at his agenda in detail.

1. Promoting Hindi: This is old wine in a new bottle, in a misguided attempt to force a national language the central government has been doing it all these years. Though we don’t have a national language, we all were being lied to in our civics lessons that somehow Hindi is this “national language”. Thankfully this has stopped with NCERT textbooks calling out that we don’t have one, recently. Obviously, Mr. Sibal is unaware of this. Mr. Sibal should focus on Hindi education in the Hindi belt and similarly in other relevant languages appropriate for the regions. E.g. telugu for AP etc.

2. Board exam optional & Grades for marks: This is where Mr. Sibal accomplished the biggest con job of his career so far. Grades are based on the fundamental premise that there is no need for microscopic distinction between students. This is often practical and implemented in societies where in there is significant capacity in the system for higher education. E.g. in developed societies the higher education capacity (i.e. available seats in college is in excess of 70%) so there pressure to be in a rat race is not there and people can take things easy in life. In India where the higher education capacity is a pathetic and abysmal 12%, that too with several social obligations etc. like reservation, which suck merit pool out of the system the real capacity for merit is only between 5-6%. Now what would be a logical solution to this ? Increasing this higher education capacity so that the pressure to do well is reduced, or a cosmetic measure like “No Exam for Xth – Only Grades for marks, which will reduce pressure ?”. You guessed it, our man went for the latter which will make him appear an intellectual.

3. Capacity for Quota: Sibal is somewhat sober on the issue of quotas, his articulated concern for dilution of higher education and research is worth mentioning and appreciating. His ministry has failed totally when it comes to a well thought out plan for increasing capacity. Due to several social and political obligations reservations are here to stay for some time. He should singularly focus on building more IITs and letting those who can afford to pay, to join foreign universities even if the campuses are established on Indian soil. Somehow, due to lack of political will this is not being done by him in earnest.

4. Raising the bar – also known as higher cut off for IITs: This was a very cheap gimmick and publicity stunt by Sibal. On the one hand he expresses concern that we are focusing too much on marks and proposes grades and dilution of emphasis on them. On the other hand, he advocates a much higher cut off for IITs !! Enough said on this hypocrisy.

5. Reworking the syllabus – common curriculum across boards… Again none of this is new. Most boards follow the syllabus prescribed by the NCERT by and large and we already have an All India entrance exam in Engineering and Medicine. Somehow, renaming these and a very sophisticated English accent with which Mr. Sibal communicates has made him a darling of the media and a willing media gives him credit for the intelligent proposal as well here ! Already the central exams are resented by the southern states as they are only in Hindi and English. Can anyone explain why entrance exams for IITs have to be conducted in Hindi ? Or for that matter any entrance exam. The higher education in India is largely in English and the near totality of that medium in Engineering, medicine etc. should have made this obvious to our intellectual minister. Somehow, we do not hear proposals on conducting these exams in Marathi, Odissi, Tamil, Telugu etc. so that all Indians have an equal shot at success. Now, how can we expect the state boards which have guarded the state students against central hegemony to accede to this. Already State board chiefs from Kerala and AP have expressed their concerns with AP declaring that they will not be part of this common evaluation system !!Yet our media gives him credit for having accomplished this, already !!! Though he is obsessed with browbeating the state boards, somehow I am not seeing any action on the part of the minister to stop the proliferation of schools in IB (international baccalaureate) or IGCSE (the colonial british system). They are mushrooming all over the nation and in addition to being divergent with Indian boards, even in calendar and timetable they are out of alignment.

Sincerely speaking, our education minister needs to educate himself first on the diverse nature of the knowledge systems that exist in India. His principle of diversity stops with just recognizing the “unique nature of madrasas” and stopping at that. There is an old axiom “Before you attempt to educate others, educate yourself well at first” I can’t think of a better example than Mr. Sibal for this….