Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The other Narendra

Narendra Dabholkar, Maharashtra's most prolific anti-corruption crusader, was shot down today. We don't know who did it yet.

I remember watching Dabholkar a few years ago on some news channel, battling alone with about a dozen TV astrologers. It was the most frustrating thing I've ever watched, and for Dabholkar to keep refuting senseless "arguments" over and over again must have been soul-crushing.

It is saddening that a man of his caliber had to deal with demonstrating how babas and tantriks' tricks were tricks for a great chunk of his life. It is saddening that this had to happen in Pune, Maharashtra's cultural capital. Even more saddening is that pictures attempting to understand the "real story" behind Nathuram Godse have been doing the rounds on the internet for the longest time and that everyone bought into it, never questioning its implications on the acceptance of violence and religious chauvinism.

So far the BJP's and Shiv Sena's statements have been to the tune of, "We disagreed with his views, but they shouldn't have killed him." This is no less than these parties openly stating they disagree with the removal of superstition.

There are plenty of people on TV emphatically stating that Dabholkar, although an atheist, never campaigned against religion, only superstition - but what if he had campaigned against religion? Does India allow its people to kill dissenters of religion, or even those working to peacefully limit the influence of religion on public life?

But the overarching feeling is that of powerlessness - I cannot register my disgust at what has happened, except perhaps through my vote. A few days ago I was beginning to wonder if I'd like to give the BJP a chance, maybe see if economic reforms could actually happen. But now I'd just like to emphasize that although it would be really nice if we were led by someone with supposedly amazing economic and administrative policies, there are things that are more important than growth and wealth - a rich, Talibanised India is not worth it. Stop calling politicians who support minorities "pseudo-secular"; I'd rather take pseudo-secular than those who openly challenge the idea of India.

Image credit: www.antisuperstition.org

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Bloodthirst


It is somewhat terrifying that an entire country rises up to demand the killing of a man. No matter how unworthy of life that man may be, no matter how diabolical his deeds, no matter how much better the world might be without him, I find it hard to believe that Gandhi's India wants a hanging so badly. What happened to our ideals? What happened to thinking and taking decisions independent of emotions like anger? Revenge is so acceptable it's scary. I know he's killed many people but that's not how the world should work. That's not how this country should work.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, doesn't it? And even if there are no immediate problems our world is going to face if we hang Kasab, wanting a death so badly is far from a good sign. It is not what we should be doing as humans, but perhaps these are what our failings are: doing absolutely stupid things, hating, acting out of hatred.

Gah. I feel like a moralizing, insufferable person.

P.S. Please don't tell me I don't understand the grief of the families who lost loved ones. It was my city he attacked.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To everyone who does not like History

Maybe I am some sort of mutant, but whenever someone says
Why study History?
History is useless;
One more year and I'll be rid of History;

or even

Social studies sucks;
Civics is so boring;
Economics boggles the mind;

I am very tempted to commit the dual offences of assault and battery, with a superior expression on my face.


I must admit that until two years ago I didn't have a definite answer to "Why study History?" except "Because you should." Now I do.

1.) Wouldn't you have a feeling of being lost if you didn't know what all happened in the world before you graced it with your presence? Picture this: you arrive at a party and everyone's deep in conversation about something that happened five minutes ago. Wouldn't you ask what happened? Or would you be content standing in the corner and observing the proceedings?


2.) History answers all your questions about why people behave the way they do and why the world is like it is. If you studied the History of the caste system and all uprisings against untouchability, you would understand one of the gravest and potentially divisive problems India faces today, one that affects you.


3.) History helps you make sense of the news. A combination of History and all those other boring sucking mind-boggling subjects would make your newspaper look more like a sensible document than a cipher. If you think you're getting along quite well without History, you're wrong. You're probably not getting half the context.


Also History isn't all about dates. With syllabi changing across the country, it is now almost nothing about dates.

I haven't added an image because I'm not sure about the copyright, but I'm sure I can add a link:
http://www.phanitetali.com/blog/?p=1101

Other image sources: vizconsult.wordpress.com , visualphotos.com , sandrabailey.com, newscircle.co.uk



Friday, September 23, 2011

So you thought I had writer's block?


I didn't. While all of you have been languishing for want of a blog post from me, and wondering if I was alive, I have been secretly writing for The NRI. And I got published! Click on the underlined text for the post: Coaching class mania

And yes, I do have delusions of grandeur.

For all of you who don't click on random underlined links without sufficient reason, here's the teaser: As education in schools deteriorates, a silent new player is taking over the industry sans regulation.

Exciting, eh? No? It doesn't matter, no one's yet put a cap on the number of links you can click in a day. So, go ahead and click. (And also read and comment if you feel like it.)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Sonia Gandhi should say about the Lokpal - by Shakespeare

Poor Sonia Gandhi. She's barely recovering and people, including politicians of every hue, can't wait to hear what she has to say about the Lokpal. Now to ensure that her speech doesn't end up being a dud like Rahul Gandhi's, she needs help from no less a man than Shakespeare.



Facebookers, protestors, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury the Congress, not praise it.
The noble Anna
Hath told you the Congress was corrupt:
And grievously hath the Congress answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Anna and the rest--
For Anna is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men (and woman)--
Come I to speak in the Congress's funeral.
Manmohan Singh hath brought liberalisation home to India
Whose benefits did the national coffers fill:
Did this in Manmohan seem cowardly?
But Anna says he was a coward;
And Anna is an honourable man.
But yesterday the word of the Congress might
Have stood against the world; now lies it there
With none so poor to do it reverence.


I didn't write anymore because it started sounding like Congress propaganda. I was going to substitute NREGA for Caesar's will.

Image source: www.thecandideye.wordpress.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lokpal: A superflous and dangerous institution


What the Lokpal is:
More bureaucracy. It isn't as if there are no constitutional provisions against corruption. You can always lodge a complaint with the police. To those cynical people who believe the police have no power whatsoever, there's the CBI. For those anarchists who don't trust the CBI either, I don't see why you would be ready to put all your trust in the Lokpal. 


Either you have a democracy, or you have a system that recognises merit and nothing else. The problem with the latter is that everybody's definition of "merit" is not the same. Who would you want to head the Lokpal? Anna Hazare?


If not him, how is it to be decided who forms the Lokpal? Elections? Why, then, do we not trust our Parliament which is, after all, popularly elected?


The proposed Lokpal bill states: 

  1. Members will be appointed by judges, Indian Administrative Service officers with a clean record, private citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.
  2. A selection committee will invite shortlisted candidates for interviews, videorecordings of which will thereafter be made public.

Who decides what a clean record is? Which private citizens are allowed to apply? Which process is more transparent and participatory than elections on the basis of UAF? Who decides which people comprise of the selection committee?



The point is, let's not get out on the streets for an institution that will have the powers to lord over everyone in the nation, including our judiciary. How difficult do you think it is going to be to stall the process of speedy justice by simply wailing at the Lokpal's door? That is precisely why the Constitution provides so many safeguards for the judiciary.


Image source: http://www.news4u.co.in/

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