Monthly Archives: January 2009

Rights and the Constitution.

The latest victim of the very misunderstood system of rights in India is the Freedom of free speech. It is not surprising that the transgressor happens to be NDTV and Barkha Dutt, which is appalling and at the same time completely expected. I mean the media with their very twisted and very liberal interpretations of the laws and constitutions of the Republic of India have almost overtaken the Supreme court in explaining what each right means and how our freedom of rights should be put into use. For all their criticism of the self policing by the Ram sena and other extreme religious groups, they have fallen for their own grandiose verbiage and have managed to create their own morality. As generalized a statement as this might be, my irritation and displeasure is targeted primarily at those few channels which have built an empire and have become these huge corporations that have managed to hold some kind of soft power in the governmental institutions, the very same they are supposed to report on objectively and have crossed the line to the point where their reporting no longer educates the public, but infuriates a majority and no longer is unbiased and non prejudiced. This is actually a bigger problem that it might seem. For bloggers whose rights are being violated, a system exists which makes their voice heard and through which they and the rest of the blog reading world come to understand the action and the consequence and the blatant violations and plagiarism that takes place. it is, however essential to understand that the bloggers who seriously blog about the government, the media and the various ills and goodness of the society are but a small drop in the electorate ocean. More than 60 -70% of the voting population in India are the poor and the illiterate and the rural population who thanks to the prodigious spread of television and multi lingual news channels, rely solely on channels like NDTV and IBN for their daily news. Their news comes either from these channels or from a local paper read aloud in a corner ‘chaya shop” The suffer doubly. Very rarely are they educated about what their rights are, what they are entitled to under the Indian constitution, the fact the 113 of the members they elected to the Lok Sabha are criminals or the fact that they can actually question their local representative and understand the civics of the Indian government. I am sure half the urban population have little idea of this either. The Indian constitution is one of the strongest and most liberal constitution ever written and the fact that it is open to amendments and also gives various faiths a ground to stand on and express their faith without the fear of being arrested makes it one of the most unique constitutions in the democratic world. The pitiable part is people rarely take time to understand it, listen to proper interpretations of it or put it into action. Rights are always violated, the election is always derailed and every law and by law bent and stepped upon. Due recognition, however has to be given to the Supreme court which has managed to bring perpetrators to task when given a chance, but chance is what remains elusive.

There is however, one thing that has to be kept in mind. A lot of bloggers have compared the Obama election to a golden age and have bemoaned the lack of such a leader in India. The truth is democracy and the American constitution is no perfect either. I have been a student of Politics and a teacher of Racism and Sexism in the US. I know for a fact that minority rights – the rights of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and Native Indians have been violated time and time again. This is also the country where in two consecutive elections, the votes of whole states where not counted properly and where minorities are repeatedly barred because of some technicality or other from voting. This is the country where Native Indians are absolutely at the bottom of the barrel, where infant morality rate is the highest in the developed world and where education is extremely class oriented often leaving a huge chunk of the population behind. There are also criminal elements within this system…case in point Blagojevich, who is the fourth of the Illinois governor to be found guilty of corruption. The previous governor is in Jail right now. Bush was not the only president who interpreted the constitution to suit his purposes, every government has done it. Corruption here is rampant too. Corruption here just means lobbying agencies give trips to Bahamas and Maldives as opposed to grass for cows or fodder for goats. One Black man does not automatically erase the eons of violations against the black people or his election immediately does not usher in a golden age. For all their talk about separating religion from politics, the government – even now sponsors a faith based initiative to aid some people and the president’s faith and his belief in God plays a very intrinsic role. Explains why so far only one roman catholic has ever been elected and why for every inauguration, a pastor publicly prays. India is better that way, the faith of the prime minister or president rarely matters. The democratic system in India does have room for improvement, but comparing it to a system which has so far not elected one woman and took 400 years to elect a minority, where there has consistently been less that 50% voting as compared to more than 75 in India and still follows some archaic election methods does not do us justice. Elections held with very little hitches for a billion people is surely much more complicated as is ruling a billion people with more languages than states and more religious beliefs, all of which can be publicly displayed.

Yes there needs to be changes. No system can survive be it governmental or religious without adapting to the beat of a nation and without altering itself to accommodate newer ideas and ideals. All this was identified by Kings like Ashoka, Akbar, Philosophers like Vivekananda, Al-biruni and by leaders like Ambedkar and Abdul Kalam. Change has been part of the fabric of India long before. We just need to make it a much more active part of politics and that can only be stated by people taking politics seriously and educating themselves about Indian civics and Indian constitution. Change is what we bring in, not something we can expect to be showered from above.


I am Elizabeth Bennet!!

I am Elizabeth Bennet, well atleast according to this quiz.  My Darcy is in his shorts and scratching his head,  quite unaware that I have just seen the Colin Firth in him.

“You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgment that serves you very ill indeed.”

I did realize who was who by just looking at the quiz, so for all you know I tailored it to fit a favourite heroine, or atleast one of my favourite heroes ūüėÄ Ah well! Atleast the darcy upstairs shares the quality of being reserved, no interest in dancing and often mumbles in the presence of strangers.


Of Criminals and Crimes against Democracy

Sanjay Dutt has been roped in by the Samajwadi party, Azharrudin is busy being wooed by the Congress. I guess these days you need only a jail term and/or a corruption charge against you to contest in elections in India. Sanjay Dutt and Manyata Dutt have suddenly become the moral compass by which all “Bharatiya Nari and Naran” have to live by. They claim to be the true Dutt’s….tut…tut!! The election commission in India has been trying unsuccessfully for the past many years to pass laws that demand people who wish to contest in elections not be found guiltyof any criminal conspiracy and not be involved in a crime, a crime here defined according to the supreme court laws which covers marital assault, corruption, rape, bribery and such. The election commission under T.N Seshan also wanted to pass a law that required all ministers and government officials obtain a minimum pass in basic history and civics in India. That didn’t go very far. It was overwhelmingly voted down in the Parliament. The last known public polling statistics from 1996 shows the majority of the people who vote are poor, illiterate and are primarily from the rural regions of the country. They do not receive any of the promised goods or lands, but they vote with the hope that they can in some way influence the system using caste, religion, money, whatever it takes for their candidate to win. The middle class and the elites of society barely step outside or don’t care in most cases to vote. The unfortunate part of this equation is that the middle class and the elites are the ones who have knowledge, who are acutely aware of what is required and what is not, of where they are being fleeced and where they are not, of what they are getting and what they are not and yet the apathy with which they treat the system is appalling. Yes, they have a reason to, yes the politics in India has not given anyone any reason to hope and look for change and yet we keep forgetting that by caring even a little bit we can change the system, if not now at least we can leave a promising system for our kids.

I realized when I kept hearing more and more of President Obama’s speech how cynical a society we have become and how individualistic a nation we have become. The picture of our society when painted shows individuals who would rather turn away because what worries them lies within their threshold or point back at how other countries have their faults too. There are however, large glimmers of hope. The amount of people involved in public service is evident in the number of blogs and bloggers who highlight such issues, the number of people who question the system and who vow to do something about it is an indication that there is an “argumentative Indian ” who cares about the secular democracy that he/she is a representative of. our first step has to stop people like Dutt and Azharuddin from winning, our second has to be to change the system which elects such people or even thinks of electing people whose knowledge of Gandhi and Nehru are from movies like Munnabhai or whose knowledge of Civics and Constitution are from misguided elements like Amar Singh. Our cynicism should not be towards words like hope, change, society, volunteers or such. Our cynicism needs to be directed towards people who promise free rice and electricity to every village and elect an illiterate woman who is subservient to her husband because of some misguided concept of an Indian woman. Let’s change our way of thinking, our way of voting and most of all the way we choose to live in a democratic India.

Yey! 100

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Ulysses-Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Gaza Burning!

It is difficult to be an impassioned observer, a person unwilling to take sides and being totally neutral in seeing both sides of the conflict. The opinion outside the US seems firmly on the side of Gaza, at least firmly in condemning the actions of the Israeli forces. After all a 1000 odd civilian causalities among which more than 400 are children, more than 4500 injured of which more than 1500 are children. The west other than America have always been critical of Israeli bull headedness in the region and have also been critical of Israel’s handling of the Gaza situation and its relationship with the Hamas. Israel’s action’s according to Israel itself and the current US government is justified. A shower of rockets day in and day out and a philosophy that calls at the the most eliminating the land of Israel. Israel’s war is justifiedas an action that is necessary for its survival and for eliminating what it considers an immoral Islamist ideology. Hamas is being blamed for using civilians as human shields, for using houses and mosques and civilians as a cover behind which they can do their work. There is probably some element of truth to that, but that also doesn’t justify civilians being killed while fleeing, bombing schools and now UN buildings. It doesn’t justify denying food, water and basic aid and medical needs. There is a difference between giving aid and dangling aid saying “We have them here, they are not coming and getting it” The economic blockade, food blockade, essential supplies blockade and denying permission for citizens to go abroad for studying or work is inhuman. Hamas is a terrorist organization, but it has also been democratically elected, just as the West wanted.¬†It is important to realize that in spite of the power of Israel as a state and as one of the¬†countries with the strongest military power in the Middle East and as a state which has the unconditional support of the US until now sits right next to the biggest and most powerful of Arab lands. It is not a reason for¬†it to cower and put up with the terrorist activities of its neighbours, but it is a reason for it to not to keep pushing the line. By UN¬†Geneva accords Israel is an occupying¬†territory. It still has its citizens living and moving into what was officially demarcated as Palestinian territory. It needs to be aware¬†of the responsibility that it carries and¬†needs to move towards¬†a more just resolution of the crisis and here Just represents not what Israel thinks is just, but what the world as a whole thinks is just.¬†

America’s silence on the whole matter has been appaling¬†too. The Bush administrations unequivocal support of the invasion is¬†disgusting. If India had invaded Pakistan, would there have been the same kind of support. I¬†don’t think so. Yes, the situations are¬†different¬†and requires¬†a different type¬†of handling, but let’s look at the similarities here. India and Israel and both “Secular” countries in what is primarily a Muslim¬†majority region. I put secular in quotes because in spite of its verbal¬†secularism, Both¬†India and Israel have a single Majority religion. They are both nuclear powers, both are being targeted by terrorist activities since their conception. Both have fought intense wars with neighbours, gained territory, lost territory¬†and fought for its land.¬†¬†The recent bomb blasts across India can be pointed to one single factor and the culprits have been pointed at time and again. And yet we don’t have enough to warrant an attack while Israel does. I am not calling for an attack or an incursion, all I am doing is pointing out how the balance is extremely skewed towards the worlds that America likes and supports and the ones that it gets along with and yet remains suspicious. All said and done, this invasion does need to end, otherwise we risk an acceleration of violence and even more bloodshed.

Bushisms and Bushilms!

Ok the second part of the title was totally made up, but this being my blog, I am sure I can invent new word too. Bushilms here meaning films made on Bush. Can be anything satirical, Drama, War or Political. Anyway getting back to the point. Given that Bush will be walking the plank in a week or so, the focus on his legacy and on his work from the White house is at at an all time high. These were the two I found interesting. Bushisms and this one on Bushilms. Enjoy till I figure out how best to make a come back ūüôā