Archive for January, 2013

When a palmist looked into an anynomous hand

31 January 2013

Political reporters in India can hope to be only slightly more scientific than punters peering into Original Vel‘s cards at the race course. Nothing—not access to the “corridors of power”, not those schmoozy lunches and dinners, not off-the-record briefs, not poll numbers, nothing—ever turns up anything more reliable than bazaar gossip, regardless of how artfully the “narrative” is spun using the same sources.

The problem is even more acute if the subject of investigation is the Congress party, whose secrecy and opacity rivals that of the Priory of Sion. So, given the scale of the problem and the delectability of the contest, The Economist “newspaper” did the next best thing recently to know how a two-trick pony might fare at the 2014 Derby:

Sitting cross-legged on a white plastic mat at the entrance to a Delhi metro station, rattling a tambourine to lure business, Radha Raman Tripathi boasts of nearly half a century reading palms. Given an enlarged photo of one 42-year-old man’s open hand, he peers at it through his magnifying glass.

He sees much to please the (anonymous) subject: a kind heart, appealing “brain line”, the promise of long life, children and wealth. A dot on the palm, he says reflects a tragedy in the man’s past. And, crucially, power beckons: “he will reach the topmost post”.

So, whose palm print did the Economist produce?

Read the full article: Show your hand

Now showing at a theatre of the absurd near you

30 January 2013

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So, young Indians cannot tell their friends what they ‘like’ on Facebook, without being “pre-screened” by Harvard types (or hauled into a police station by Shiv Sena goons). So, bloggers cannot publish their “online private diaries” without the sword of 66(A) hanging over their heads.

So, tweeters can be blocked and Savita bhabhi‘s enviable lifestyle can be subject to some faceless babu’s sense of humour (or voyeurism). So, the Mahatma‘s life is beyond scrutiny in the land of you-know-who. So (oh!), Aamir Khan‘s film will not be screened in the land of you-know-who.

Or his TV show.

So, TV stations cannot show protests without threatened by the information and broadcasting ministry (or corporate titans). So, newspapers cannot report what their reporters see without being told that the tap of government advertisements could be turned off.

So, M.F. Husain cannot die in his own country. So, A.K. Ramanujam‘s interpretation of the Ramayana hurts somebody.

So, Ashis Nandy cannot drop his pearls on corruption without offending Dalits, tribals and OBCs. So, Salman Rushdie cannot go to a lit-fest in Jaipur (or Calcutta) without offending Islamist fundoos. So, Shah Rukh Khan cannot write what’s in his heart without offending.

So, Kamal Hassan‘s new film can be banned by a government run by a former film actor.

Sometimes, you do have to remind yourself it is a free country, don’t you?

Image: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

If children play with note counting machines…

28 January 2013

The residence and offices of Karnataka BJP leader K.S. Eshwarappa were raided by the Lok Ayukta recently, acting on a complaint of “assets disproporation to the known sources of income”. Besides obnoxious amounts of gold and silver that is the new-normal, among the items seized was a currency note counting machine which he claimed was being used as a “toy” by children in the house.

Saritha Rai writes in the Indian Express:

A currency machine now appears to be a badge of honour amongst the corrupt across India.

Madhu Koda, the former chief minister from Jharkhand who became notorious for his money-laundering scam, was discovered to be a millionaire with business interests in far-flung countries like Liberia and Laos. In the stash discovered in Koda’s home were five currency counting machines.

Such machines were reportedly found in the home of Ashok Jadeja, Ahmedabad-based conman and fake guru who defrauded thousands in a money-multiplier scheme. A Madhya Pradesh doctor couple in government service was found with huge amounts of unaccounted cash and a currency counting machine a few months ago.

Possessing a currency counting machine is not illegal in India. But the recent discoveries suggest that illegal cash transactions are so massive that physical counting is impractical and machines are being brought in. These days corruption cases anyway involve tens of crores of rupees, if not hundreds.

It is becoming routine for corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to have a currency counting machine besides documents, cash and jewelry, said Justice Santosh Hegde, former Karnataka Lokayukta and an anti-corruption crusader.

“Bribes are mostly received in cash and this indicates the volume of unaccounted money sloshing about in the financial system,” said Justice Hegde.

Read the full column: Industry of ill-gotten gains

Yet another shameless plug for a true Indian great

23 January 2013

Photo Caption

Presumably after buying vegetables for the day, as he said he would following his retirement, former Indian cricket captain and India’s second-most prolific batsman Rahul Dravid (right) makes time to be present at the launch of an advanced trauma centre at a hospital in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Player No. 207 is the modern-day Vijay Hazare

India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

POLL: Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi in 2014?

21 January 2013

The contours of the next general election are becoming ever more clearer with the expected “elevation” of Rahul Gandhi as the vice-president of the Congress. Given the repeated rumours on the state of Sonia Gandhi‘s health and her reported desire to retire from politics at the age of 70, it is obvious the leadership of the 130-year-old Congress party has passed on to a fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

But Rahul Gandhi is no Rajiv Gandhi. His father was 40 when he became PM, Rahul is 42. His father was thrown into the deep end all of a sudden, Rahul has been around for several years. And more tellingly, despite his travels across the country and his exertions in several election campaigns, Rahul Gandhi has not quite been the vote-magnet that Congressmen suspected he would be, having lost Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

But all that is in the past tense now. As the new, official No.2, the silence that Rahul Gandhi adopted as part of his mystique (he has only barely attended Parliament and spoken even more rarely on the issues of the day)—and the reluctance that he conveyed through his swift disappearances after parachuting into the rough and tumble, allowing lesser mortals to face the flak for his failed experiments—is no longer a luxury he owns.

For politics is a game played with a scoreboard, and push has come to shove for the scam, scandal tainted party that is facing diminishing returns across the country despite a slew of well-meaning social welfare schemes designed to fetch votes by the bucket.

Although the BJP is in no better shape, the word on the street is that Rahul Gandhi’s elevation will serve as an impetus for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to assume a bigger, larger role in the BJP before the next general elections. With his hat-trick of wins in the State and with his advertised record as an administrator, Modi has a headstart over Rahul Gandhi, nearly 20 years his junior.

Indeed paradoxically, Modi, 62, is seen as more of a youth icon than Rahul Gandhi, who was missing in action when, say, the Delhi gangrape was scorching the party or when Google, Facebook and Twitter were being clogged up by the Oxford and Harvard educated geniuses in Manmohan Singh‘s government.

However, elections in India is not a zero-sum game.

So, given all the imponderables that swing into play—caste, allies, secularism, communalism, etc—who do you think will come up trumps if it is Modi vs Gandhi in 2014? Does Rahul, who has the Gandhi surname, have the pan-national appeal that goes beyond the urban middle-classes? Which of the two could garner more allies, so crucial in a coalition era? Which alliance will triumph—UPA or NDA?

Also read: What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul baba is a two-trick pony

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

Why Newtown & New Delhi are joined at the hip

21 January 2013

SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: Billy is usually a cheerful, jovial man who rarely sounds solemn. That day he wasn’t his normal self on the phone. He was trying to come to terms with the death of a six-year-old daughter of a dear friend.

The girl was a class one grader, killed in cold blood at the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown.

Barely 48 hours after the Newtown tragedy, another tragedy was unfolding more than ten thousand kilometers away in the heart of India’s capital. A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was gang raped in a moving bus, assaulted barbarically and thrown out along with her male friend.

The two tragedies hardly had anything in common except the despair and frustration which common people like me and Billy had at the healthy, wholesome breeding of violent cultures in respective countries.

If a poor and porous gun control was blamed for the Newtown tragedy, a violent patriarchal system with objectification of women was considered responsible for the brutal Delhi gang rape. But simplifying the two tragedies on basis of common explanations would be looking at half the pictures in both countries.

Newtown did not occur first on the US soil. The seeds for the tragedy were sown across the globe.

Newtown first happened in Vietnam. Newtown happened in Baghdad and Newtown happened in each every corner of the globe where American imperialism laid siege in name of promoting democracy and freedom. Newtown was the culmination of a culture of violence, which American imperialist ambitions have planted in the hearts and thoughts of common Americans, both in the garb of nationalism and freedom.

Unfortunately, both at home and elsewhere, the victims of this culture were little children and innocent citizens.

If corporate aspirations govern the national agenda, Newtown is surely the end result.

Delhi gang rape too was the denouement of a spectrum of violent abuse of the weak, the underprivileged and the deprived. Unfortunately the female gender in India qualifies well for being all three- weak, underprivileged and deprived.

We, Indians have bred a “culture of rape”.

Again it won’t be wrong to conclude that the Delhi gang rape first took place in the tribal hamlets of rural India, in the homes of middle-class Indians who abort female fetuses, in Indian towns and cities, which see cyclic communal frenzy and in the frightened Dalit ghettos of vast stretches of this land. Rape is not an act of sexual abuse in India.

It represents the conclusion of a culture of violent suppression of the female gender- the weakest and the most vulnerable element in an exclusive society of the strong. What more can we expect from a society which can have the audacity of killing its unborn daughters?

The objectification of female gender in Bollywood cannot be entirely blamed for the rape culture we have so laboriously bred in this country. It only supplements this culture. It provides a weedy “justification” to the rapist. In a consumerist demand-supply situation the Bollywood feeds the society what it wants.

The ghastly events of Newtown and Delhi cannot be seen in isolation. They have similarities of cultural past. They do not represent isolated events of the frenzied mind. They are products of social orders supplemented by disproportionate and inconsistent national agendas.

The hallmark of the two tragedies is the ease to unleash violence on the vulnerable sections of the society.

(Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all Indian institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

Also read: Does our sanskriti sanction regressive MCPs?

Ramayana, Upanishads and the Delhi gangrape

Why Delhi gangrape victim shouldn’t be named

Besides Pepper Spray, the Rape-Axe condom too

How TV ads turned us into a nation of voyeurs

Delhi gangrape, liberalisation and Godwin‘s Law

Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and now private TV

Where would Narendra Modi be without the UPA?

19 January 2013

The veteran editor Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph:

Narendra Modi is the UPA’s creation. Despite his vigorous self-projection and the propaganda, both strident and sophisticated, of acolytes, he would never have been considered prime ministerial material but for what Azim Premji called a “complete breakdown in public governance across the board” under the UPA….

“Just as a young woman slapped Mohan Bhagwat, Congress needs to slap down Modi’s pretensions, not to save Rahul Gandhi’s career but to save the secular democratic polity that alone can hold India together in a harmonious union worth living in.

“The only way it can do so is by attending to the “widespread governance deficit in almost every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions” that Premji, Deepak Parekh and others highlighted in their letter to the prime minister. Their assessment that “the biggest issue corroding the fabric of our nation is corruption” cannot have been news to Manmohan Singh.

“The decision by 83 senior retired bureaucrats to move the Supreme Court over the decline in administrative services was another warning of the “urgent need to depoliticize management of transfers, postings, inquiries, promotions, reward, punishment and disciplinary matters relating to civil servants”, to quote one of the petitioners, T.S.R. Subramanian, a former cabinet secretary.

“All this assumes crucial importance because the economic dynamo of Manmohan Singh’s dreams is running out of steam. There is already talk abroad that the “I” in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) should denote Indonesia. Prices, especially of food, are soaring. Despite a contrived market boom, India is plagued by high current account and fiscal deficits. The new one-rupee coin invites contempt….

“A nation with 200 million Muslims cannot be ruled by someone whose ascent recalls the Kampfzeit (time of struggle) that assailed Germany when military defeat, diplomatic humiliation and economic catastrophe (with a loaf of bread costing 80 billion marks) led to the death of public decency.”

Read the full column: Laughing up his sleeve

Also read: Narendra Modi cannot be the face of India’

‘Why Narendra Modi will never be India’s PM’

Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

The hubby on one TV channel, biwi on the other

18 January 2013

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It’s Friday, box-office day, and there’s not a dull moment on Kannada news TV channels at the 2.30 pm matinee show.

The marital life of the Kannada film actor DuniyaVijay, who has modelled himself on the lines of Salman Khan, six-pack abs and all, is playing out on the two major news channels, TV9 and Suvarna News 24×7.

The actor’s version on the latter, his wife’s on the former.

Live, simultaneous, exclusive.

Is news TV clamouring for a war with Pakistan?

15 January 2013

Twenty-four hours after the Pakistani cricket team had departed from Indian soil last week, after having soundly thrashed the hosts in the one-day series, news first leaked on television of the mutilated bodies of two Indian soldiers being found, and then breathless coverage of one of them being found “decapitated”.

From then on, it has been a relentless slide on television, with Indian anchors, army men, “analysts” and now even the leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj, locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistan army men, “analysts” and others willing to go through the ignominy each night.

The media (and resultant public) gaze on what is otherwise a fairly routine violation of the ceasefire has led to a less-than-balanced reaction. The Congress is vying with the Shiv Sena for brownie points on patriotism ( a la Pakistani hockey players); the chief of the Army staff Bikram Singh is vying with his Air chief counterpart N.A.K. Browne.

The competitive jingoism—“If Pakistan does not return the head of martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least ten heads from the other side”—is being placed all the door of the media, especially the television media.

***

Editorial in Business Standard:

“It should go without saying that the media has a role in informing and educating a citizenry about the issues of the day, providing background, context and holding the powerful to account. A case study in how not to go about this is currently being provided by the electronic media in its coverage of recent raids and counter-raids on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, in which two Indian soldiers have been killed, and one allegedly subjected to post-mortem mutilation.

“Instead of questioning the narrative, news television and some print outlets have instead blatantly beaten the drums of confrontation, hyping even relatively calm statements by the army chief into belligerent displays of national machismo. Coming at a time when the government is attempting to move forward on dialogue with Pakistan that is very much in the national interest, the question should be asked: are some of India’s news channels, and their pursuit of eyeballs, turning into a national security hazard?

“If the electronic media dragoons a weak Indian government into raising the ante with its Pakistani counterpart at a time when it needs instead to be an ally against the powerful Pakistan military’s ability to hijack the security agenda, then the national interest will suffer a serious blow. More, it will count as a signal ethical failure on the part of whichever media outlet is sacrificing context to sensationalism.

“A handful of bellicose television supremos cannot be allowed to dictate a foreign policy that hurts the interest of India’s citizens.”

***

Mani Shankar Aiyar in The Indian Express:

My friend, the cine artiste and poet, Farooque Sheikh, has summed it up better than I ever could. He describes the TRP war being whipped up by our hysterical TV anchors as “dangerously boring and boringly dangerous”.

It is precisely because one had anticipated outrages of the kind that occurred on Sunday, January 6 (and have a much longer ancestry than TV anchors and their guest cohorts are willing to acknowledge—such, for example, as revealed by Praveen Swami in The Hindu, that I have for so long been advocating “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue” as the only way for India and Pakistan to resolve their issues and normalise their relations.

***

Editorial in The Hindu:

“Few spectacles have been as unedifying as the contemptible baying of warmongers these past days—most of it, it bears mention, emanating from TV studios located at a safe distance from the nearest bullet.”

Read the full BS editorial: Crossing a red line

Read the Express column: The hostility industry

Read the full Hindu editorial: Stop baying for blood

External reading: Was an Indian soldier decapitated?

Does our ‘sanskriti’ sanction regressive MCPs?

11 January 2013

The journalist and author Sandipan Deb in Mint:

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that rape happens in India, not Bharat. Let us be charitable. Let us assume that by Bharat-India he was not referring to the rural-urban divide that is now the media’s fashionable metaphor. Let us assume that by Bharat, he meant our ancient sanskriti, and by India, he is talking about all of us corrupted by Western culture. But this is so naïve an interpretation that it beggars belief.

Our puranas and epics are chock-a-block with tales of lusty gods and wildly libidinous heroes. Consider Indra, king of the gods. Overcome with lust (not an uncommon occurrence for him), he made love to Ahalya, wife of Rishi Gautama, pretending to be the rishi, and was trying to sneak off when the irate husband caught up with him and cursed him with a thousand vaginas on his body—sahasrayoni.

Later, after much pleading, he turned the vaginas into eyes. Ahalya, though innocent, received no such pardon. Gautama turned her into stone, and thus she remained till she was touched by the foot of the great god Rama, whose treatment of his wife was certainly rather dubious.

Krishna actively encouraged his friend Arjuna to kidnap Krishna’s sister Subhadra; in fact, in the days of the Mahabharata, kidnapping a woman seems to have been the norm for Kshatriya wooing: think of Bhishma abducting Amba, Ambika and Ambalika for his two step-brothers. And, of course, we fondly tell our children about the teenage Krishna hiding the clothes of the gopinis while they bathed, and returning them only when they came out of the lake, helpless and naked. But then gods are allowed these acts of venal sexual harassment.

Let’s face it, our popular culture even to this day is deeply influenced by regressive and chauvinistic attitudes that our sanskriti glorified. The men in our mythologies were certainly as recklessly randy—if not randier—than anyone thought up by the West.

And let’s not talk about the deification of the mother.

Kunti does not know what her sons have brought home, and asks them to share the booty equally. The five dutiful men then happily sleep with Draupadi, who had given her heart to Arjuna. And such is our ethical system that Draupadi dies early on the long trek to Heaven: her sin being that though she had five husbands, she loved Arjuna more than the others.

(Former managing editor of Outlook* magazine and founder-editor of Open, Sandipan Deb is the author of The Last War, a retelling of the Mahabharata set in the Mumbai underworld)

Read the full column: Fruits of a regressive culture

Also read: Ramayana, Upanishads and the Delhi gangrape

Vacuous media sleazeballs moralizing on Mohan Bhagwat

Are South Indians less ‘giving’ than the others?

10 January 2013

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South Indians are the least likely to loosen their purse strings to donate but when they do, they are most likely to dig and deep and give lots, the quantum of individual donations being only slightly lower than their counterparts in the West.

That is the one-line summation of a nationwide study of philanthropic habits of urban Indians by an aid foundation last year (sample size: 9,000).

# 73% South Indians had made a donation in the previous year, unlike 100% in the North, 85% in the East and 77% in the West.

# 36% in the South Indians had donated to a recognised charity, as opposed to 30% in the West, 24% in the East and 15% in the North.

# The average value of each donor in the South was Rs 1,069, just shy of Rs 1,116 in the West, but well above Rs 623 in the North and Rs 302 in the East.

# Sikhs (99%), Buddhists (91%) and Christians (90%) were most likely to open their wallets; Christians (61%), Buddhists (45%) and Jains (37%) were likely to do so to charitable organisations.# Muslims (84%) and Hindus (83%) were neck and neck in general donations and in donating to recognised charities, 24% and 25% respectively.

# Missionairies of Charity (10%) was most likely to receive donations, followed by the PM’s relief fun (7%), Plan India and Rotary Club (4%); Helpage India, Red Cross, UNICEF, CRY (2%).

# Individuals are more likely (63%) to give to strangers than friends, neighbours and colleagues (24%) or maids or servants (11%) .

Infographic: courtesy Mint

Also read: Five reasons why South is better than North?

Another reason why South is ahead of the North*?

North or South. Rich or poor. Hindu or Muslim.

Why more South Indian firms are not on Sensex

Will TV news channels show Kejriwal ‘live’ again?

10 January 2013

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SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, are believed to have served a legal notice on several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.

However, it is not known if Kejriwal, a former IRS officer, and his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, have heard from RIL’s lawyers on the charges made by them at the  press conferences which were covered “live” by the TV channels with accompanying commentary.

It is also unclear if  newspapers which reported Kejriwal’s allegations of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL have attracted similar legal attention from the less-litigious of the two Ambani brothers.

In the seven-page legal notice shot off in the middle of December 2012, Mukesh Ambani and RIL have demanded “a retraction and an unconditional apology in the form approved and acceptable to our clients” within three days from the receipt of the notice.

The notices have been served by the Bombay legal firm, A.S. Dayal & Associates.

***

Besides accusing the channels of “deliberately and recklessly” airing “false and defamatory statements” with an intent to “defame our clients and bring them into disrepute”, the legal notice makes the following points:

# “Your TV Channel provided a platform and instrumentality for wide dissemination of the false and defamatory statements and allegations made at the said press conference.”

# “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you.”

# “Each of the two press conferences were telecast live without making any attempt to verify the truth or veracity of the statements and allegations being made during the press conference.”

# “Apart from having telecast the press conferences live, Your TV Channel  in the course of several television programmes and televised debates that followed after the said press conferences, continued to telecast, transmit and retransmit the defamatory footage of the press conferences.”

***

More ominously, the Ambani-RIL notice reminds the channels:

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that Your TV Channel is bound by the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking from India dated 5th December 2011, issued by the ministry of information & broadcasting, government of India.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that since Your TV Channel is a news and current affairs TV Channel, the provisions of the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines apply to Your TV Channel, which inter alia provide that a Company, like Your TV Channel, which runs a news and current affairs TV channel, is obliged to comply with the Programme Code as laid down in the Cable Television Network (Regulations) Act, 1995, and the Rules framed thereunder.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that in telecasting the aforesaid press conferences and repeating the false and defamatory material relating to our clients in the manner aforesaid Your TV Channel is in complete violation of the said Uplinking Guidelines, and the said Downlinking Guidelines as also in complete and material breach of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules.”

***

The RIL legal notice brings to question the wisdom of broadcasting “live” Kejriwal’s near-weekly press conferences towards the end of last year, sans any filters or fetters.

On the other hand, the authoritarian tone of the legal notice—reminding the recipients of uplinking and downlinking norms—throws light on the egg-shells on which private TV stations are walking in the “free” Republic.

The legal notice also swings the spotlight on big business ownership of and shadow over the media, especially when it is alleged to have both the main political parties, the Congress and BJP, in its pocket.

For the record, RIL is in the media business too. Both CNN-IBN and IBN7 are part of the Reliance stable following a controversial and circuitous takeover at the turn of 2012 that now has earned the OK of the competition commission of India (CCI).

***

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

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Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Everybody is a child to somebody or the other

9 January 2013

Photo Caption

At the inauguration of the 8th international children’’s film festival, the veteran actor, B. Saroja Devi, proceeds to give Puneet Rajkumar a nice little hug, in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: An old flame ignites the media’s insensitivity

Corruption OK. Massacres OK. Romance, not OK?

Should a University be named after Tipu Sultan?

8 January 2013

There are many ways to guess if an election is round the corner, but a sureshot signal is when our politicians gird up their loins, slap their thighs and fan the flames of communalism.

So, therefore, Andhra Pradesh is abuzz with the arrest of the hate speech delivered by Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MLA of the Majlis party which has a long track record of nuisance making in Hyderabad. So, people are dying in Maharashtra’s Dhule district because of an altercation that broke out on the streetside.

And so, the row over the proposed Tipu Sultan University in Srirangapatna.

In November last year, the Union minister for minority affairs, K. Rehman Khan, said the Moulana Azad education foundation, under his Ministry, was setting up five central universities across the country where 50% of the seats would be reserved for the minorities.

One of those five would come up in the temple-town and island-kingdom of Srirangpatnam, 18 km from Mysore, which was home to the 18th century ruler.

In December, Rehman Khan, who hails from Karnataka, reiterated his intentions, and said there was no question of changing the name of the University.

“There is no patriot like Tipu. There are instances where kings sacrificed kingdom for the sake of state but Tipu sacrificed his sons. He was the first person to coin the word Karnataka,” he said, according to an UNI report.

And, as naturally as night follows day, a right royal “literary” row has broken out—one that has been witnessed before—between the usual suspects. In one corner are the fundamentalists who have a pathological hatred for anything with a non-Hindu name, and in the other corner are the secular-fundamentalists who suspect a BJP-VHP-RSS-Bajrang Dal hand in all such opposition.

There’s even an online petition campaign that is going around, against the “mass murderer, Islamic extremist and traitor of India“.

Question: Should the central University be named after Tipu Sultan or not?

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

‘Most Hindus and most Muslims are communal’

Did the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ really tame a tiger?

Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins

Tipu Sultan left his last meal unfinished’

If only you could do this to the Vidhana Soudha…

8 January 2013

Photo Caption

Photographers at tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal prod visitors to pinch their fingers in such a way as to make it seem as if you are lifting the gigantic monument. The cranes of the metro rail project do the needful for the cameras opposite the intrigue-filled Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The Namma Metro photo portfolio

Why Delhi gangrape victim shouldn’t be named

7 January 2013

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The British newspaper Sunday People has outed the name of the Delhi gangrape victim, but the Indian media has not fallen for the bait—yet—although it has been trending on Twitter.

Here Rajeev Gowda, chairman of the centre for public policy at the Indian institute of management (IIM), Bangalore, argues why it is best not to name the girl.

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By RAJEEV GOWDA

Should the Delhi rape victim’s name be revealed? At least for the purpose of honouring her (with her parents’ consent) by naming revised anti-rape legislation after her, as Union Minister of State for HRD, Shashi Tharoor has suggested?

The issue is substantially more complicated.

The Indian media has been admirably restrained so far by not revealing the names of the victim or her companion. Instead, she has been given different monikers like Nirbhaya, Damini, Amanat and Jagruti to describe her fighting spirit.

But the media has also twisted Tharoor’s tweets as if he were interested in making public her name, thus causing needless controversy.

A more diligent media would have instead focused on what inspired Tharoor to make this suggestion. His inspiration comes from United States where names are often attached to laws, especially to add a poignant human angle to legislative changes.

But this little media episode demonstrates a key lesson on why it’s better for India to refrain from going down the path of honouring the victim by naming the bill after her.

Naming this victim potentially gives a license to name other rape victims and that can cause incalculable damage to victims and their families in an India where values are in flux and rape-related stigma is cruelly real.

Further, it is quite likely that we will get into political wars over the naming of future bills and parties that thrive on symbolic huffing and puffing rather than concrete content would just divert attention from the actual work that needs to be done and probably hold up parliament over such non-issues.

Various commentators refer to Megan‘s Law, named after a child killed by a released sex offender, as an example of how the USA names laws. In the USA, numerous other laws are named after the legislators who promote them. But in the American context, unlike in India, there is tremendous scope for individual Congresspersons and Senators to initiate and pass legislation.

Megan’s Law itself is part of a set of initiatives involving naming and shaming, which has also been raised in India as a policy option after the recent Delhi tragedy.

The recently deceased News of the World tried to launch a campaign for a Megan’s Law-type bill in the UK. This media campaign resulted in attacks on people who resembled the perpetrators of crimes and also triggered violent vigilante attacks. Such outcomes may satiate the anger and passions of mobs but certainly do not strengthen the rule of law.

In a decade-old book chapter, I had examined the political and media processes that led to the passage of Megan’s Law and similar laws across the USA using the Social Amplification of Risk framework. I emphasized the importance of politics and contrasted the American experience with how the British dealt with the News of the World campaign.

The British were suitably restrained, appropriately so.

Based on those experiences, I would assert that it’s better to retain the anonymity of victims (and possibly perpetrators too) and focus instead on the harder tasks of changing societal attitudes and improving governance to prevent such crimes from ever taking place.

Otherwise, the collateral damage from name-related moves can be substantial. The twisting of Tharoor’s well-intentioned tweets is just a hint of how counterproductive things can get.

Also read: Free, frank, fearless? No, greedy, grubby, gutless

Besides Pepper Spray, the Rape-Axe condom too

How TV ads turned us into a nation of voyeurs

Delhi gangrape, liberalisation and Godwin‘s Law

Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and now private TV

Ramayana, Upanishads, and the Delhi gangrape

Besides Pepper Spray, the Rape-Axe condom

5 January 2013

BRIJESH KALAPPA writes: Delhi with a population of 16.3 million in 2011 reported the highest number of ‘rape’ cases (414) followed by Mumbai (194) which has a population of 20.5 Million.

Predominantly high instances of rape maybe somewhat acceptable to the police if a neighbour were to have raped a lone woman, but if a woman cannot step out safely even while escorted by a male friend well before 9 pm on a public holiday, the state of women’s safety has clearly reached its nadir.

Since the police cannot be at all places at all times, if a rape occurs in a private location, it may not be preventable, but it is indeed a police failure if rapes occur in moving cars and in public places with unfailing regularity.

Under the circumstances, it is imperative for the Delhi police to set up decoy police women with extremely strong back-up at ill-lit points where rapists would generally pick up their victims.

The decoy police women must be previously trained in armed combat, she could even be accompanied by a female colleague.

The back-up team must be in high speed unnumbered and unmarked vehicles which are parked in pre-fixed areas. A trap must thus be laid out for potential rapists and they must be nabbed and vigorously prosecuted.

***

It was widely reported that at South Africa’s World Cup event Rape-Axe condoms which can be worn by women were handed out free to visitors.

If a woman feared being raped, she could insert the Rape-Axe condom inside herself like a diaphragm or tampon and, if a man attempted to rape her, the Rape-Axe’s inside hooks attach themselves to the penis and don’t come off and instead become even tighter thus stopping the man from even being able to urinate.

The only way to remove it is by seeing a doctor therefore helping the prosecution.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau while advocating chemical castration for repeat offenders had held recently that “The Indian legislatures are yet to address the issue (of rape) with all seriousness by exploring the possibility of permitting imposition of alternative sentences of surgical castration or chemical castration, particularly in cases involving rape of minors, serial offenders and child molesters or as a condition for probation, or as an alternative sentence in case of plea bargaining.”

Chemical castration entails the administration of anti-androgen drugs, such as cyproterone acetate or the birth-control drug Depo-Provera, which is injected to the offender every three months.

An antipsychotic agent Benperidol is also administered by way of injection.

Even in a Country like South Africa where instances of rape are incredibly high there is an event which stands out and shocks the conscience of persons hearing of the crime, just as the gang rape of Nirbhaya.

It was reported on 26 July 2012 that a gang of robbers gunned down a father, raped and murdered his wife and finally drowned the couple’s 12-year-old son in scalding bath water.

Amaro Viana was murdered to prevent him from identifying the three housebreakers who raided Viana’s suburban South Africa residence. The gang included the family’s gardener and the son of a domestic servant.

It was claimed they were seeking revenge for the ill-treatment meted out to them by the Viana family. In a Court appearance the gardener Patrick Radebe, 24, had confessed to being an integral part of the gang which broke into the Viana home in October last year.

The Vereeniging Regional Court heard with shocked horror that after gaining access to the house in Walkerville, a suburb of Johannesburg, the gang lay in wait for Amaro’s engineer father Tony, 53, to arrive.

As he walked through the front door, they attacked him with golf clubs and a machete-like knife known locally as a ‘panga’ before tying him up and ordering him to tell them how to open the family safe.

When Mr Viana’s wife Geraldine, 43, and her son returned to the home, they too fell victim to the criminals. Both the mother and son were tied up in separate rooms.

It was then that two of the three men raped Mrs Viana before both she and her husband were shot dead.

According to their court confession, Radebe and his co-accused Sipho Mbele, 21, did not want to leave an eye-witness- namely the boy alive.

“We went to the bathroom and turned on the tap,” the pair’s statement read, “We gagged him because he was crying. We forced him into the bath face down, knowing that he would drown.”

In a final act of brutality, the Viana’s family dog was also killed when its stomach was slit open with a knife.

Fortunately Mr Viana’s daughter from his first marriage, Gabriela, was not at home when the attackers struck. It is reported that despite a recent improvement in crime statistics, South Africa remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

***

In the Delhi case Ram Singh, 33, the prime accused is said to be a volatile man, known among friends as “Mental,” it was reported.

During investigation, the police is said to have learnt as to how he lost control and ended up brutalizing the woman and assaulting her friend.

“When she resisted and bit his hand, he says, he got very angry. Alcohol and the victims’ defiance, made him go berserk. He picked up a rod and hit the two everywhere. His accomplices followed suit,” a source is reported to have told a newspaper.

It was reported that Ram Singh picked up fights at the slightest pretext after the death of his wife a couple of years ago. Apparently, there’s an accident case registered against him and he has admitted to having been involved in several brawls.

It was reported that the investigating team led by Inspector Anil Sharma had found Ram Singh a cold and remorseless man.

“Initially, he denied everything. But when he began to open up, he chose to divulge each detail, with no repentance. Such brutality does not affect him. He tried to destroy evidence by washing the bus with confidence and told his accomplices to not worry, and lie low for some time. He stayed calm when he went and parked the bus in R.K. Puram, and then took it back to the owner in Noida. The confidence he shows is not of a novice definitely,” an officer is reported to have told journalists.

Apparently, even as the gang was brutalizing the woman by turns, Ram Singh had made a plan to cover their tracks. Ram Singh decided to physically strip the victims of their clothes completely before throwing them out of the bus to leave no trace of incriminating semen or blood.

He also reportedly retained their mobiles and switched them off. Three mobiles — one belonging to the woman and two to her friend — have now been recovered along with some of their clothes.

Even as her treatment was in progress, Nirbhaya was reported to have severe genital, abdominal and head injuries. Doctors treating her claimed the woman, who was on ventilator support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital, was “very critical”.

It was reported that a senior doctor had told the correspondent at the hospital that “We performed several life-saving procedures on her within an hour of her being brought to the hospital around 3am. Her injuries were severe and she has lost a lot of blood.”

The victim had reportedly lost as much as a litre of blood and bore severe internal injuries. “Her intestines are damaged; the blood supply to her intestines has been severed. It looks like she was assaulted by a blunt object as her face also bore injury marks,” said the doctor.

The life-saving surgery is said to have lasted for more than four hours in the morning. Doctors tried to repair her intestines and other damaged organs and tissues.

Signalling that the victims end was near, the doctor is reported to have said “Her injuries are fatal. Though we are pumping her with the strongest of antibiotics possible, sooner or later gangrene is bound to set in. She is in a very bad shape.” She finally died on on 29th December 2012.

***

It was reported on Dec 14, 2008 that three men were killed in a police encounter in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh.

They were the suspects in a case of acid attack on two local college girls.

The three were shot dead by police who claim that the suspects attacked them with acid and country made pistols when they were brought to reconstruct the crime.

Superintendent of Police, Warangal Sajjanar is reported to have said, “We asked them to surrender but they attacked us with acid, sickles and country made pistols. We had no choice but to fire.”

The network reported that “However, the police is unable to explain how the three got hold of the acid and the guns even while they were surrounded by officers.

The families of the suspects say the police killed the three without investigating the matter.

The father of one of the killed suspects said, “My son was not Srinivas’ friend. The police killed him without verification.”

Meanwhile, the families of the two girls who were attacked with acid and are now fighting to stay alive, say that what happened to the suspects is justified.

Devender, the father of one of the acid attack victims Swapnika said, “Hum bahut khush hai. Jab main usko (Swapnika) shaam main bataunga toh who bhi bahut khush hogi (I am very happy. When I tell this to my daughter, she will also be very happy).”

While the public has lauded this police action, the State home Minister has conveyed that if anything suspicious is found in the police report on the encounter, there could be an enquiry.

As for Swapnika, who’s still fighting for her life, this piece of news might heal some of her wounds.”

No more cases of acid attack were reported in Andhra Pradesh for the next four years.

When Fernandes tried to blow up Vidhana Soudha

4 January 2013

Like him or loathe him, there is no ignoring U.R. Anantha Murthy. As an academic, as a writer and as a public intellectual, URA has towered over the political, social and linguistic landscape for more than half a century.

In post-liberalised India and in post-IT Karnataka, Meshtru (as URA is known to friends, foes, friends turned foes and foes turned friends) has tilted bravely and unceasingly at the windmills, taking up unfashionable causes that Mammon had stubbed out.

Now, the indefatigable Anantha Murthy is penning his memoirs, throwing fresh light on a long and colourful life among letters. Excerpts:

***

By U.R. ANANTHA MURTHY

We accept many beliefs without questioning them, and start propagating them. It is possible here to be a revolutionary and a part of the establishment at the same time.

When the Congress declared an Emergency, the CPI helped them along. One could simultaneously be a communist and a supporter of the ruling Congress.

Most Indian intellectuals are like that.

In those days (the 1970s), if you asked those talking revolution whether they would like to visit the US or the USSR, they would choose the first. That’s because there was no warm water in the Soviet Union. No room heaters either.

India’s biggest problem is hypocrisy. It has taken root deeper than we imagine.

When the Janata Party came to power in Karnataka in 1983, many of us found it possible to balance out our lofty principles with our proximity to authority. It is difficult to proclaim that our actions were free of selfish motives.

A good number who came looking for me, in the knowledge that I was close to Ramakrishna Hegde and J.H. Patel, no longer remain my friends. Thanks to my obliging nature, I became a vehicle for their vested interests.

I didn’t touch any money, but I am troubled that I watched corrupt acts without saying a word. A mind that hesitates to say what must be said becomes corrupt. The Janata alliance that took on Indira Gandhi was the creation of an affluent class.

***

Meeting George Fernandes

Before the Emergency was imposed, I had written a review of the novel Gati Sthiti (Progress and Reality) by Giri.

I received a huge envelope by post some days after the publication of my review. It contained another review of the book, and criticised some of my observations. I couldn’t figure out who had written it. The letter was in Kannada and English.

“Come and meet me in Bangalore at once,” it said.

I guessed it was from George Fernandes.

He had tried to organise a massive railway strike before the Emergency, and failed. The police were looking for him, but he had slipped away. All the other big leaders of the time were already in jail.

Shivarama Karanth told me: “Only those who have participated in the 1942 movement might know what to do in these difficult times. George is a follower of Jayaprakash Narayan, isn’t he? He must be active in the underground movement.”

It occurred to me that I should contact my friend Pattabhirama Reddy and Snehalata in Bangalore. They were inspired by the socialist leader Rammanohar Lohia, and had turned my novel Samksara into a film.

When I met him, Pattabhi took the envelope from me, winked, and said, “I will take you to George secretly”.

The two of us got into a car one evening. “Good not to know where you are going. Blindfold yourself. Even if the police torture you, you shouldn’t be able to tell them where you met George,” he said.

We drove for 45 minutes, and reached a decrepit church.

We walked into a dark room.

George was sitting on a cot. He was unrecognisable. He had grown his hair and beard long. I went up to him and touched him. He embraced me. George’s younger brother Lawrence came in. He looked older than George. He had a lunch box in his hand.

As we sat talking about his family and mine, worms kept dropping on us from the roof of the church. George was pulling out the palmer worms and scratching himself all through our conversation. He gave me a mission with these points:

Snehalata had to go to a rarely used lavatory in Vidhana Soudha. Making sure no one was around, she had to explode a bomb at night. I had to provide some young men to help her. The explosion had to bring down a portion of the Vidhana Soudha, but not kill anyone.

Our objective was to hassle the government, and not to inflict violence on anyone. The government was convinced it could get away with anything, and people wouldn’t protest. If such subversive incidents took place every now and then, the frightened citizens would feel reassured something was afoot to dislodge the government. It was our duty to protect the people’s will to resist. We had to find a bridge there, and a government building here, and bring them down with dynamite.

If none of this was possible, my friends and I had to undermine the government in the manner of those who had resisted Nazism in Hitler’s Germany. We had to drop burning cigarette stubs into post boxes. That would force the government, as it had in Germany, to post a constable at every post box.

We returned after this conversation. I blindfolded myself even on the way back.

A constable always stood guard at the toilet, making it impossible to place a bomb at the Vidhana Soudha. I returned to Mysore, and with friends like Devanoor Mahadeva, tried to drop cigarette stubs into the post boxes. The stubs burnt themselves out without causing any damage.

George showed the same courage as Subhas Chandra Bose, and is a big hero of our times. We believed he was fit to become prime minister. But what happened to him later is unpalatable.

He never became corrupt for money, but he went to Gujarat after the violence, and came away as if nothing had happened. I could never understand this. Perhaps the desire to remain in power had corrupted his revolutionary mind.

The central minister who refused police escort has now lost his memory, and lies in bed.

***

Esther and home tuitions

My wife was a little girl with two plaits when I saw her as a student in Hassan. She came over to my house for tuitions. When she sang a film song at some event, it brought tears to my eyes. She sings well even today.

I had given her class an assignment: ‘Describe someone you like or dislike.’ She had written about me, and made fun of my style of teaching and gestures. The girl with plaits who could write this way about her lecturer had ignited my curiosity and interest.

The first door of my romantic world opened when I realised she could speak about me with such abandon. I didn’t want a girl who’d adore me; I wanted a companion. I fell in love with the girl who came to me on the pretext of taking tuitions. She was then just 16 or 17. I developed no physical intimacy with her. She was at an age when she didn’t know enough about the world’s ways, or about rights and wrongs. She interacted with me in all innocence. When she invited me over to her house, I felt I was entering another world.

Esther was one among many students who came for tuitions. While the others paid me a fee, Esther gave me her guileless love.

In those days, I liked keeping fish. A student had brought me some fish, which I had placed in a glass bowl. I was often lost in watching their movements. This would make Esther livid. “What are you doing there? Can’t you come here and do some lessons?” she would snap. She was outspoken even in those days.

My sister wasn’t married yet. I knew it would be difficult to find her a bride if I married out of caste. I had to wait a long time even after I had decided to marry Esther.

I went to Mysore after teaching for some years in Hassan. My mother was with me then. When she came to know about my relationship with Esther, she was disturbed. She would suddenly lose consciousness and slump to the ground. She would also complain about some pain.

When we took her to a doctor, he diagnosed it as a mental illness. She was tormented during this period. As a little boy, when she went to the hills for her ablutions in the morning, I would scream, “Amma, are you dead or what?” and keep crying till she called back.

Her agony on my account was something I could not take. I was distressed.

***

Death of my mother

My mother died in September 1995. A month before her death, I had taken a break from my work, and shifted to my brother’s house in Shimoga, where she was bed-ridden. Initially, she was conscious, but towards the end, she lay unconscious most of the time.

I used to sit by her side, talking, while she was still conscious. Anil was her favourite son. Being a doctor, he had fitted her with pipes and tubes, and struggled round the clock to keep her alive.

One day, I told him, “Let’s not keep her alive this way. Take away those things.”

I had gathered the courage to tell him that, and Anil needed the confidence. He did as suggested. I sat by my mother, held her hand, uttered a prayer, and said, “Everything is all right. You may go.”

Since she knew about Esther, I guessed she was apprehensive I wouldn’t conduct her last rites, and said, “I will take the initiative and perform all your rites.”

She left us a couple of days later. I couldn’t sit on the floor, so I broke convention and sat on a stool. I performed her rites with my brothers, trying all the while to understand the mantras.

My mother treated everyone with affection, but had never given up her ritual sense of purity. She was not a modern shy about her Brahmin caste, or rather, her sub-caste.

When she heard the Pejawar swamiji had visited a Dalit colony, she was bewildered. I congratulated him as I felt he was capable of influencing my mother.

Oblivious of the depth of such beliefs, my fellow-writers ridiculed me. Such intellectuals have no desire to change the thinking of people like my mother. My mother wouldn’t give up her caste, but believed taking vows and praying to Muslim holy men would cure children of certain ailments.

***

The house that started a row

I didn’t have a house of my own. I applied for one in Mysore. Poet Krishna Alanahalli took me to someone he knew and said, “Give our teacher a site.”

He did. The site was like a lane. “I don’t want it,” I said.

Krishna took me back to the official and said, “Not this one, give him another.” I got another site. Krishna liked me a lot, and said I should keep the first one, too. Afraid I would give in to temptation, I wrote a letter returning the earlier site. Krishna laughed at my foolishness.

By then, I had decided to move from Mysore to Bangalore. Award-winners are entitled to sites, and I got one during chief minister Veerappa Moily‘s time. It was a good plot, opposite a park.

Since we were about to come away from Mysore, I thought it would be better if we could get a house instead. When I mentioned this to my friend J.H. Patel, then chief minister, he said he would allot me a house in a colony originally meant for NRIs who could pay in dollars. I live in this house now.

Once the house was sanctioned, I returned my site.

Several people, under P. Lankesh‘s leadership, pounced on me, ignoring the fact that I had returned the site. A story first appeared in Lankesh Patrike. My utterly emotional and dear friend G.K. Govinda Rao demonstrated against me.

I wrote to Patel, requesting him to take back the house and give me the site again.

He tore up my letter and said, “Everything is legal, whatever people might say. If you don’t want this house, there’s another in my name. Shall I get it registered in your name?” I declined. Many articles appeared in the papers.

After some time, my detractors began to see the truth. Lankesh called up my house one day and asked Esther, “May I visit you?” She said, “Ask him,” and handed me the phone. I called him over. He arrived with a friend.

Esther went out of the house the moment he stepped in. I got some tea made for him. “Saw the new house?” I said. He replied, without any embarrassment, “Never mind, Ananthamurthy. All that’s over now.” He didn’t say another word about it.

We try to show our integrity through our prejudices. I don’t like this practice, among Kannada writers, of flaunting their integrity. We must hide our integrity, like we hide our love.

My friend B.S. Achar was struck by cancer. Lankesh wrote about it in his paper and announced he was giving him some money. Achar was disgusted. He returned the money. It didn’t occur to Lankesh, whose aim was publicity, to reflect if it was all right to write in his paper about his own acts of charity.

***

The modernist debate

Our discussions at Coffee House with Gopalakrishna Adiga inspired many of my writings. We lived in a world of our own, amidst the shared coffee and cigarettes. We were busy ushering in modernism in literature when a juke box, which we thought of as a symbol of modernism, arrived at Coffee House.

Attracted by its loud music, young people thronged the cafe. Modernity had snatched away the comfortable cane chairs that encouraged discussions about modernism.

We went to the parks, looking for space under the trees. Without coffee, our discussions lost their charm. We didn’t have money for beer at the pubs. And in any case, Adiga wouldn’t drink even though he was a modernist!

Translated by S.R. Ramakrishna

Excerpted from Suragi, U.R. Ananthamurthy’s autobiography, due for release soon

***

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

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URA: A people’s manifesto for the 2008 elections

Is Anantha Murthy‘s Samskara a little too sexy?

URA: ‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

How TV ads turned us into a nation of voyeurs

3 January 2013

ROHIT BATNI writes from Bangalore: Lately, watching TV at home has become synonymous to watching ‘public undressing’ performances most of the time.

TV today is giving birth to more voyeurs in this society than anything else ever did. It is sad that creativity has lost all its colors and reserved itself to blue!

With advertisements restricted to 20% of the TV airtime per-hour, advertisers are pushed to the limit of retaining viewer attention, and resorting to ‘public undressing’ seems to be their way-out?

Watching these lewd visuals have gradually come to being an acceptable ritual in the living room. What used to be earlier a taboo to even talk about has suddenly become the tea-time pastime for a good portion of the TV market.

And this very society is now plagued by rapes and other heinous crimes. These behavior changes sponsored by the market forces are not doing any good to us at all.

Clearly, as a society, you cannot undress in public (on- or off-screen) and not be plagued by crime at the same time! We’ve got to choose between these two.

There’s absolutely no logic in daring the opposite sex by taking them to the limit of hormonal tests by means of these public undressing performances.

Likewise there’s no logic in questioning the integrity of people when there’s no way of separating the ones with integrity from the ones without it.

It is enough trouble if each city has one rapist at large.

But on similar lines demanding capital punishment to anyone that commits this crime, however heinous, doesn’t help alleviate the problem. A judicial precedent means nothing for a mind that is weak enough to become criminal.

Rapid, unplanned and unsustainable urbanization has triggered unforeseen migration at national levels, leading to unhealthy inter-personal relations in an otherwise well-connected society, also causing a perceivable plummet in average moral values among dwellers.

Viral consumerism, considered quintessential to running any urbanized settlement, has blinded the average citizen to the ill-effects of such sponsored behavior changes in a society.

The aberration between market and society faced by common man makes him miss the big picture – that he is being modified (from within) in the pretext of being captured better by market forces. Even to the extent of approving the inappropriate and making their societies breeding grounds for criminals.

Although a weird one, this is a comparison I find convincing always – crime is like a river, with not a single clear source of its birth, innumerable tributaries contributing to its growth, all headed towards one common destination: an out-pour of the darkness out of oneself.

This state-of-mind called crime cannot be culled by an act of law, instead it should be culled by an act of collective conscious minds.

In fact drawing from experiences of various people in the same society, it can even be deduced that penal laws constructed out of similar compelling situations (viz., Sec 498A IPC) have only jeopardized harmony in the society and paved new avenues for corruption of the human mind.

Like it is said, in the case of Sec 498A, it has heralded new ways of exposing the lowest levels of the executive & judiciary to corruption, who had been deprived of the benefits of erstwhile penal laws.

Hence, in the interest of public welfare, it would be prudent of the youth to not take up the cudgels for compelling the legislature to play a blind-game.

Instead the same youth had rather display their collective sense and strength in warding off spirits in the market that, in the name of consumerism, convince people to even approve vulgarity such as ‘public undressing’.

Being a better informed customer is as important today as being a better informed citizen. Let us not build unnecessary fortresses of legislation when we can prevent such a need by being a better informed customer.

Also view: The commodification of women

Delhi gangrape, liberalisation & Godwin’s Law

2 January 2013

Dozens of reasons have been ascribed to the gangrape of the Delhi paramedic: from the bestial nature of men in the nation’s lawless capital to the base instincts aroused by Bollywood item numbers, ads and songs, and everything else in between.

As if to prove Godwin’s Law, two commentators on the Al Jazeera website have invoked the ‘L’ word—liberalisation—blaming the economic reforms in the country and arguing that there could be a connection “between the growth of violent, undemocratically imposed, unjust and unfair economic policies and the growth of crimes against women”:

The activist and ecofeminist Vandana Shiva:

“The economic model focusing myopically on “growth” begins with violence against women by discounting their contribution to the economy….

“A model of capitalist patriarchy which excludes women’s work and wealth creation in the mind deepens the violence by displacing women from their livelihoods and alienating them from the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend….

“The economic model shaped by capitalist patriarchy is based on the commodification of everything, including women.”

The author Dinesh Sharma argues:

“The new paradigm says “profit is better than poverty”, “greed is good” and “chasing after material wealth” is not antithetical to the traditional Indian values, which preach that “one should do one’s duty, not worry about the fruits of one’s labour”.

“As a result, women have rightly acquired more power because they are working outside the home, earning more money and raising children in the modern nuclear families. The traditional family has broken down, to some degree, as “the couple” or “the jodi” in a marriage has assumed more importance over the joint family.

“Women feel empowered at home and may be at the workplace, but are they safe? Has the rapid pace of change in women’s lives left men bereft to idle mischief? Has the men’s inner world matured with the changing current of the times?”


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