India’s not so dismal Justice Shah!

Justice A.P. Shah shares his initials with the first two letters of the adjective “apocalyptic” which aptly describes his M.N.Roy Memorial Lecture.

His prophesies of doom notwithstanding, India is not in so grim a condition as he suggests.

Yes there is a tumultuous clamour within the political landscape today. But is that not the norm of a free society? As long as a polity retains the legal capacity to control the consequences of social encounters between competing ideologies – which India undoubtedly possesses – dislike for a contrary point of view should provide no cause for apprehension or alarm.

Preference to one of a competing set of opinions and condemning the contrary as dangerous has little to do with the content of the opinion and is based exclusively upon the values the self appointed arbiter subscribes to. Justice Shah may be attaching little value to the legally enjoined political integrity of India giving preference to freedom to divide the country over its being kept intact as is constitutionally prescribed and hence worry about “attacks” on “institutions of learning” but how does he conclude therefrom that a view contrary to what he holds is dangerous or wrong and harmful for the country? What is misdescribed as an “attack” is actually the repulsing of an assault on a perception of India as envisaged by its constitution. A tolerant society without self-defence is doomed to destruction.

Reference to “online hate, abuse and threats” to a “21 year old university student” is clearly a case of cherry picking suggesting, wrongly, that one point of view alone is made subject of online harassment. Similar abuses and ad-hominem attacks apply to almost every point of view which is expressed. The partisan approach of Justice Shah sows a predisposition towards a particular point of view which robs his view both of balance and perspective.

UP finds a mention with a pointed reference to “harassment of Muslims” but are Muslims alone harassed in the country? What about the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir or the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda on Janmashtmi by Christians in Orissa? Similar examples can be multiplied. India did not yet break into tumult nor into an uncontrollable frenzy or disorder! Is ignoring a large number of related cases which contradict one’s stated position not unprincipled and unfair ?

Yes, as Justice Shah said, we must be “wary of enforcing a single ideology on a country as diverse as India”. The comment was made in the context of Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a national law against cow slaughter. Notwithstanding Bhagwat, under the Indian constitution the state legislatures alone have exclusive powers to legislate on the subject which is the reason why many of the states have enacted no legislation on the slaughter of cows. Bhagwat is, however, entitled to his views. Committed as he is to freedom of speech, can Justice Shah deny Bhagwat the right to hold views which Justice Shah may not like? Or is he intending, through negative verbal remarks, to create an antipathy towards a contrary point of view not shared by him and imposing a “single ideology” on a country as diverse as India. In any event there is no prescription in India about what one may or may not eat and laws in place to deal with any form of intimidation or coercion.

Justice Shah referred to the Censor Board rendering Hanuman Chalisa silent because prayer was not answered but chose to ignore referring to the movie PK which dealt with fraudulent godmen (all of whom were incidentally Hindus) nor even to 3 Idiots where students were shown to be worshipping several Hindu Gods and even feeding a cow in a desperate attempt to pass the examination. I doubt if as liberal or expansive satirizing or mocking of religious habits of any religion other than Hinduism could have been dared by any director or producer of any movie in India. This is a tribute to its maturity, sense and large-heartedness.

There is nothing wrong with the retention of the offence of sedition, to which Justice Shah objects, as law must reconcile the right of private criticism with the necessity of securing safety and stability of state. Prosecution for sedition is in the interest of public order which is included in clause 2 of Article 19 of the Constitution. And his regret that defamation was not decriminalised does not detract from the fact the judgment the Supreme Court rendered was indeed a well reasoned one.

A prejudiced mind can easily stigmatise. And cherry picking facts to resonate with your belief system can only bring about a doctored reality. While becoming a Cassandra of doom Justice Shah forgot that what he felt was reality was actually one feigned, invented and imagined by him only. India needs no moralising discourses from Justice Shah or others.

Raas Leela comment & Bhushan Buffoonery!

A fool’s brain, said George Bernard Shaw, digests philosophy into folly! Prashant Bhushan’s buffoonery in calling Lord Krishna an “eve teaser” proves Bernard Shaw right. Forget knowledge of religion or philosophy (which he demonstrably lacks) this man seems to be unfamiliar with elementary English and the utter shamelessness with which he yet comments (on topics he does not know and in a language whose nuances he is yet to grasp) makes him the perfect illustration of the idiom – Fools rush where angels fear to tread! The “clarification” of his original tweet proves this point too. It is a different matter that the clarifications make things worse!

But it is not mere foolishness of Bhushan which troubles me. I feel he is suffering from a psychiatric disorder. He used the words “legendary eve teaser” for Lord Krishna. God is no fable or fiction to be described as “legendary”. Besides eve teasing is defined as the act of annoying a woman in a public place for example by making sexual comments. but Raas leela takes place in a metaphysical plane. Thus anyone who suggests that Lord Krishna “annoyed women through sexual comments” suffers from cognitive distortion – an irrational thought pattern which makes one perceive reality inaccurately. This is generally the result of depression and anxiety and the fact that Kashmir is still part of India may be the reason for the same for him.

I am sure Prashant Bhushan is not mad. However in the spectrum of human behaviour he does lean towards the abnormal. And while Bhushan must surely be having a brain, it is health of the mind which is the issue. I have been informed a criminal complaint has been filed against him. Criminal charges, however, may never stick – not because there was no crime but for want of intent, it being easy to show Bhushan is non compos mentis – without a sound mind!

Raas Leela is transcendental that is in the spiritual plane. It has no carnal aspect. It symbolises union of jeev (male AND female) in God. God in Hinduism is not a man but energy. And the physical reality (including gender) a mere illusion. Gender thus is irrelevant  to Raas Leela (Gopis are but ALL devotees) and it signifies nothing except immersing of the soul – Atma- into the metaphysical reality – Brahman! Lord Krishna was not male lover like Romeo nor Gopis female like Juliet! No one can emulate the Raas, just imbibe the idea.

But Bhushan wants “Anti Krishna squads.” This means he wants to reinforce gender, emphasise physical attachments, accentuate carnal desires and move AWAY from the spiritual plane into the physical plane and indulge in orgies of free love (which I presume he understands only as sex.) This aspect of his depravity I was completely ignorant of! This is re-enforced by the lament expressed in a later tweet where he frets anti romeo squads “would criminalise teasing gopis!”- He, thus, WANTS to tease gopis!! And then see his desperation – so frantic is he that teasing should be allowed he invokes GOD to justify it and protests the organising of Romeo Brigades because he feels that this would make Lord Krishna look like an eve teaser!!!

Indulge in your fantasies Mr Bhushan. Dont take to Twitter next time to make them public.

Cow Slaughter & the REAL Gaurakshak!

The insensitivity with which we treat our bovines shows a callousness which makes the brouhaha against cow-slaughter sound hollow. We need to care for the living before we can justifiably grieve about their death.

Actions, after all, are the real icons of sanctity and mere lip-service as veneration is nothing but an insult of the revered. Even symbolism should never be empty nor faith just a formal iteration.

I cannot convince another about the truth of my position without first being true to my own beliefs and I cannot condemn an agnostic without being a true adherent myself.

The ordeal faced by our cows has often caused me immense distress. Whether precariously roaming in heavy traffic or rummaging through filth to find food often swallowing plastic which causes slow painful death, these meek and gentle creatures are denied respect and veneration due to what is held sacred.

Condemned to live in unnatural environment and denied water, feed and veterinary attention their life is indeed brutal and, as Maneka Gandhi pointed out, they are kept in dark, dingy rooms with no ventilation. The harrowing tale of their existence can be described best in her words: “The flooring material of these dairies is concrete, often cracked and uneven. The edges of the broken concrete are sharp. They are covered with dung and urine on which these permanently tethered animals are forced to sit and stand. Imagine yourself sitting on a sharp edged uneven floor covered with your own faeces. When given an option, milch cattle sit and lie on soft floors. Consequently, their joints are bruised and tender and most of them become painfully lame.”

The licences under which dairy owners work impose obligations which are observed only in breach. Law requires adequate space for the animals, enough food, cleanliness, ventilation and care. This is not undertaken, endemic violations being continued with impunity. I have seen no political party take up this issue with any seriousness. Cows and calves are dying in hostile conditions they are being made to live in; they are not dying only when they are being butchered in slaughter-houses. How they are made to live, if that life is nasty and brutish for them, is as important a concern as being concerned about their being killed.

Yes the cow HAS religious significance. But will a higher spiritual truth steeped in virtues of compassion and reverence be debased into an empty ritual of mere war cry with complete disconnect between exhortations and actions? Let us stop playing with words and evolve a consciousness. We must change ourselves before we start reforming others. Faith, it cannot be forgotten, can never be passive if one’s belief is true. It is thus time we act to redeem our cows’ lives before working ourselves into frenzy over their death. If we feel they must not be killed are we not obliged guarantee them a life?

Elections are due in Delhi to the Municipal Corporation. This is one of the issues the Corporation can be seized with. Any commitment to a blueprint for the same? It is time the REAL Gaurakshaks step forward!

Ramjas, Umar Khalid & “Free Speech”

Ramjas College proposed a seminar “Culture of Protest.”

It invited Umar Khalid who had, in 2016, intended to hold a programme on Afzal Guru in JNU. Guru was Kashmiri separatist who was convicted for the 2001 attack on the Parliament of India. Umar Khalid later the same year praised Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian security forces saying, “Burhan wasn’t scared of death, he was scared of a life lived in subjugation. He detested it. He lived a free man, died a free man …..”.

Khalid was to speak on the people of Chattisgarh whom he described as “the most oppressed people in the country”.

Chattisgarh, part of the Red Corridor, is affected by Naxalite-Maoist insurgency and has been described as the epicentre of the conflict. Khalid’s interest in it is therefore not surprising. In April 2010 the Maoists killed 76 CRPF policemen in one of the most vicious attacks on Indian security forces in Dantewada district of the state. In May 2013 they attacked a convoy of the leaders of the Congress in the Sukma district of Chattisgarh killing 27 people including a former central minister, a state minister and the Chattisgarh Congress chief. The problem festers it being said that the long term goal is to establish a Marxist state in India. And Pakistan’s ISI is allying with the Maoists to destabilise India from within.

Notice the convergence of the Khalid’s comments on Burhan with his empathy for the “oppressed people” of Chattisgarh.

One Debraj Mookerjee writing in the Indian Express admitted that Khalid may not have talked about Bastar alone though that was the subject of his Phd work. Mookerjee said there was a possibility of Khalid making “politically contentious” points while speaking of Bastar but Khalid has the right to his views. And “protest” being nothing but the expression of disapproval or dissent is sanctified by the right to free speech.

The unstated major text of this view, however, is that terrorists can be rhapsodised, insurgents  can be glorified, and carnage in and subversion of the country can be celebrated under the honorific title “Culture of Protest” with the aid of “free speech”. In other words the protagonists of this view, like the teachers of Ramjas, believe that it is indeed a laudable exercise for students to “think critically” whether India should remain undivided or should there be a secession at the bidding of separatists or division at the instance of guerrilla armies because the integrity of India is not an incontestable fact and such differences of opinions need to be protected.

If this is the real agenda why then hide insidiously behind seemingly innocent topics of discussion like “Culture of Protest”? Is honesty in discourse less important a value than freedom? Or is speech to be seen only in its contest with violence? The motivation behind claims to free speech must be transparent if the contest of ideas has to be real.

Protest is first induced surreptitiously and then a direct attack is launched at the protest itself on the ground that the protest is unjustified! The chaos which was actually intended is then presented as a misbegotten reaction to something which could not reasonably be anticipated. And with guileful disingenuity the provocateur is eventually presented as the victim.

Let us not fetishise free speech. The unquestioned reverence to speech can only be conceded when it is justified in the context of its critique. Truth may not be fixed but the integrity of India is. And that will not be subject to inquest, review or scrutiny.

The Padma Awards Controversy

Where cronyism becomes the creed only the craven can be celebrated. The annual brouhaha over the Padma awards therefore never ceases to startle me. Such honours are always conferred even where they are not actually deserved. The truly deserving seldom seek awards and, in the distorted scheme of things in which we live, thus become disentitled to receive them. After all it is not honour which is being bestowed but patronage!

Acharya Kriplani had, in 1970, moved a non-official Bill for the abolition of these awards. According to the Bill the decorations were not always according to merit with the Government of the day not the best judge of the merit or eminence of the recipients and what was intended to be for a few exceptionally talented individuals was transformed into a torrent of conferrals.

Quite predictably the Kriplani’s Bill was defeated. The Padmas had to be conferred by politicians on themselves (Indira Gandhi), their teachers (Rajiv Gandhi), their doctors (Vajpayee & Manmohan Singh) or on prospective political allies (MGR and now Sharad Pawar) or those who shout the loudest (Saina Nehwal). Bharat Ratna Tendulkar is busy endorsing products and teams on television while Dhyan Chand (a national icon but of a less favoured sport) lies obscure and anonymous in his grave. Dubious antecedents are no bar to the grant or holding of these awards – being shady or above-board has nothing to do with qualities intrinsic to the individual in question and is only a question of perception. And a favourable perception of those who have to confer awards is all that is required for entitlement!

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of India while rejecting a petition against conferring of awards nevertheless observed that it is necessary to ensure that the “recipient are subjected to feelings of respect rather than suspicion” and that “the number of awards should not be so large as to dilute their value.” The Court “did not say more” because it had entrusted the job to a Committee of “high level functionaries” which was to keep in view the “anxieties” expressed by the Court.

Judgments are not meant to be homilies which is the reason the Court’s exhortation has been treated with utter disdain and contempt.

As the RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal said “when the Awards Committee choose about 100 names from thousands of nominations in just a few hours over two to three meetings, it seems likely that a pre-decided list is put before the committee for endorsement.” No ennobling exercise this, just a kick in the teeth of the deserving while giving short shrift to the “anxieties” which led the Court to constitute the Committee itself.

It is apparent from the manner in which the Padma awards have been granted that what was meant to be an honour has been reduced to a mere title which is specifically barred by Article 18 of the Constitution of India and the breach of the condition precedent for their retention as declared by the Supreme Court renders the very process of granting these honours void in law.

Considering its process and its selectees I feel the Padma Awards should be re-named Padma’s Wards!

J&K Assembly Ruckus – A DISGRACE!

Asked about the disrespect shown to the anthem by National Conference, Congress and Communist party of India-Marxist,  the NC MLA and Provincial President Devender Singh Rana said, “Please ask BJP people who became champions of nationalism. They created an environment of anarchy in the state. Ask PDP who created such an environment. They created such a situation”.

Disrespect of the National Anthem is a wrong in itself and condemnation of that wrong cannot be met by attacking a perceived disreputability of others, an approach which replaces logic with invective and eliminates any possibility of argument with sheer abuse. The disgrace with which Rana and the others covered themselves will not be any less merely because BJP and PDP “created the environment”. There was no compulsion to be part of that environment created by BJP & PDP!

But there is something far more sinister in this comment. The suggestion is “if you are nationalistic there will be anarchy”! I am not dealing in this blog with the informal fallacy of False Dilemma which ignores not only that there can be position between two extremes  (nationalism and anarchy) or even that the alternatives themselves (that is nationalism and anarchy) can be completely different. I am more horrified by the fact that in linking nationalism with anarchy the comment mischievously attacks the very existence of a shared identity and proceeds to assail the very continuation of national identity by suggesting that it will only lead to confusion, chaos and disorder!

This utterly disreputable comment is made worse because it was made to defend sloganeering when the National Anthem was being played and the Governor’s address to the legislature had to be cut short. The National Anthem is symbolic of the values of a pluralistic constitutional polity and provides self-identification of citizenry with norms having nothing to do with ethnicity or culture creating a civic bond, building civic empowerment and creating what Muller said was “a plausible and appealing style of political allegiance.” And the anthem was being rendered in the legislature which is a legal construct implicit in whose establishment is limitation of authority which is but an instance of the norm of checking abuse of power the disruption of which negates the very concept lawfulness which pits an organised orderly polity against anarchy. Nationalism did not cause anarchy. The anti-nations caused it.

The comment in fact goes beyond Kashmir and attempts to hollow India out. There is a pattern in the behaviour. First ethnic basis of nationalism is denied. Then cultural unity is made an outcaste. Liberal values are next assaulted. Multicultural tendencies are thereafter derided. And now nationalism is reduced to an epithet and made to share space with anarchy.

The utterly appalling nature of the comment is made worse by the complete shamelessness with which it is expressed. Nationalism does not lead to anarchy. Shamelessness does!

Saif, Taimur & Name-Calling!

In an Indian Defence Review Blog it was mentioned that Pakistan is working on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) named Taimur. India however has an Intercontinental Celebrity Baby Made (ICBM) in India with that name thanks to Saif! It is a sheer coincidence that Pakistani’s and Saif share the liking for that name. Pakistan chose it because of its visceral hostility towards India celebrating the Taimur’s invasion of Delhi and the brutal massacre which followed it. Saif however is the ultimate patriot – he has shown some Indians can do in India what Pakistan cannot from Pakistan!!

Then perhaps Saif chose the name because he is actually a Mongol. He wants to celebrate the Taimurian passion to restore and then expand the Mongolian Empire. It is a different matter that Ghengis Khan is credited with the largest contiguous Mongol Empire. The point Saif very intelligently notes is that Ghenghis’ military campaigns in India were not of the same ferocity for Saif’s son to proudly carry that name. Taimur is better! There is another reason; Ghengis was called “Great Khan” and Bollywood has too many great Khans to bother about that old chap!!

Or perhaps its got nothing to do with Mongols. In fact nothing at all to do with anyone. You see Saif, the eminent historian that he is, knows that in Taimur’s time everyone was fighting everyone else. Muslims fought Muslims too! Saif only likes the razing of cities and torturing and massacring of captives – the more cruel a person the better. And does Taimur not fit the bill. Come on the answer is an obvious YES!!

And are we not living in INTOLERANT times? The name should suit the times. Enough of secularism and tolerance – God its suffocating! The Sword of Islam is the answer. With whom is the Sword of Islam associated? Hehhehheh – Taimur!

Saif is just a loving parent choosing the best name for his son! No one from the Islamic Golden Age could be the right choice for him. Do you think we need to be bothered about Philosophy, Science, Mathematics or Art and Culture with whom have been associated very eminent Muslims? Not at all!

And now that Taimur is taken, Ghaznavi, Ghauri and Abdali remain as future choices. These are the names of the existing Pakistani missiles.

The supremely cultivated Rishi Kapur told everyone disapproving the choice to “shut the fuck up”! How will he respond to people like me who provide the justification for Saif’s choice?? 🙂