Thursday, July 28, 2011

Old wine in a new bottle

That's what Pakistan's new Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, is. Hailed as the new face of Pakistani democracy, she is, well, a new face, but a new face that's reciting the same lines of her predecessors. In no way is there any shift, visible or otherwise, in their stance over any of the contentious issues that dog our countries.

Image source: Wikipedia

Her first interview with one of the news channels brought out the old tirade. Calling our media reports on terrorist strikes and Pakistan's inability to reign in the terror groups as 'dated', she displayed a classic Pakistani tactic, an age old one, one that folks like I have grown up hearing countless times, of dismissing them as fairy tales. And as is with the current crop of Pakistani ministers, she stated that they (Pakistanis) are the ones who have to deal with the scourge of terrorism "every single day, every single hour". Well, ma'am, our sympathies, but wasn't it your country's policy to breed these maggots in the rotting core of your country, to use against our country? Now when the maggots decide to feast on the meat close by, you may be justified in crying, but all we can say is "we told you so." And please forgive us for not showing too much of sympathy - perhaps the tit for tat response isn't the best, but it certainly can be viewed as apt.

She chided the media for focusing only on the ISI's links with terror groups and not the problem Pakistan faces from these terror groups. Well hello, excuse us for not wanting to stick our fingers into your dirty little pot, but isn't it obvious that the only issues we would raise with you are issues that arise due to your direct actions? The terrorism that affects us as as a direct result of your patronage is what concerns us, because it's something you've done to us. If you have a dog and it's let lose on my children, I would take the matter up with you; however, if your dog bites you or your kids, why would I 'take the matter' up with you? Sure, I'd offer condolences and offer help, but I won't make it a point to question you about it.

Dear lady, it was your country's design of bringing India to its knees by 'making it bleed by a 1000 cuts' - the ISI's strategy of using small scale conflicts by using 'non-state actors' (the rest of the civilised world called them terrorists), to cause trouble in India. Now these very terrorists, who may hate India, have also envisaged grandiose plans of taking control of power in Pakistan and so have started to target your your government - the establishment. So you see, it really isn't our fault if the chickens have come home to roost, because when you had the opportunity to cook their goose, you didn't, hoping they'd lay golden eggs, but all they did was shit around the courtyard.

You and your countrymen still haven't been able to come to terms with the fact that although we were both created at about the same time, we have moved ahead leaps and bounds and you've been left behind. You've been fed stories about the two-nation theory ad nauseum, and yet India happens to have the second largest Muslim population in the world (behind Indonesia).

Your little minds aren't able to get around to the fact that the King of Kashmir (granted, a Hindu) decided to side with India and not Pakistan even though the majority of the people were Muslim. That, however, didn't mean they wanted to join Pakistan, you assumed they would, but they wanted to be independent. As part of your foreign policy, you aimed at 'freeing' Kashmir, but in reality, you wanted it to merge and become a part of Pakistan. By talking to only the Hurriyat and not the elected Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, you showed that you don't really care about democratic institutions and processes, much like leaders from your country have done in the past.

Dear lady, the media may have loved commenting on your handbag and your sense of fashion, not to mention your beauty, but when it comes down to business, I'm sorry, you can chant in front of the cameras that you'd like to have a new beginning, but by not doing or saying anything new, who are you trying to fool?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pride Parade 2010

"Let's get one fact straight. We're not" proclaimed a banner. The message was loud and clear - LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders) are here to stay, and the rest of the folk had better accept them soon. It was quite a sight (as it should have been) with folks from various walks of life, and even different nationalities getting together to raise awareness, and just have a fun day out in the city. A lot of curious onlookers gathered around the final destination of the march at Banappa Park, next to Hudson Circle (usually most marches for social issues culminate here). The park (actually a ground) is located just at the start of KG Road at the Hudson Circle signal (road that goes to Majestic bus stand).(Click here for more snaps taken by a friend of mine who was able to make it for the march)

For most of the 'curious' onlookers that I spoke about, this seemed to be the first time they'd encountered people of a different sexual orientation (apart from eunuchs, I'm guessing). So for some of the older folk, whose lives usually involve getting up, going to work, coming back and asking their kids how their day was, have dinner with the family and going to bed, this must've been quite a sight.

As usual, the politicos couldn't be left out, and there was someone from the JD(S) 'extending' support by saying the since Article 377 of the Constitution had been scrapped by the Delhi High Court, this should apply to all of India, etc etc, but it was quite clearly a scripted speech, and though he made the right noises, it was just that: noise. I don't think he meant it whole-heartedly; at least his demeanour didn't portray his willingness to embrace this as a reality. I'm not saying he should broken into song and dance, but the vibes weren't right here. It's just a gut feeling, I could be wrong.

Another aspect that I must comment about was the security. Normally, whenever there's a parade or a march, police permission is required to be sought, and this was no different. However, whatever marches I've seen in the past (for social causes) didn't have a police contingent as strong as the one present outside Banappa Park. Perhaps the strength of the police is determined by the strength of the crowd, so I can't be too critical of them, and what's more, they were doing their jobs. A large number of Police women were also deployed (for obvious reasons), and the way many of them were looking on, it was quite clearly their first 'encounter' of this kind :)

Colourful head gears

Bonjour from Morocco :)

First prize...unanimously

Reminded me of the WWE pimp wrestler The Godfather :D

The sign on her back was the 'emblem' of sorts for the parade

A JD(S) member, trying to gain some mileage

Fancy hair dos

What's a gay event without a little song and dance, eh? :)

Next time, hopefully I'll be able to witness the march as well.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Trip to Lucknow-Agra-Delhi

Since I didn't have to time to update this blog, a temporary blog with the snaps and musings during my visit to Lucknow, Agra and Delhi is here.

Chronicling the north

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An educated Archbishop

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Cantebury visited Bangalore and took par tin an inter-religious convention meant to spread harmony among the various religious groups in Bangalore (and India). After the meet, a reporter asked him what was his position on gay rights (remember, the Archbishop was a strong supporters of gay Bishops), and pat came the reply "I support gay rights in the civil domain". Now there's an educated clergyman, I thought to myself. And educated indeed he his. Dr. Rowan Williams, aka the Archbishop of Cantebury, is a professor of Theology, but unlike most theologians, isn't someone whose nose is lost between the pages of the books he reads and he seems to have his finger on the pulse of society, and on general science. Most importantly (in my view), he is AGAINST creationism. Wow! This is one cool Christian clergyman. I'm sure it would be a pleasure talking to such people. I only wish there are more of his kind to come.

True, there have been some shocking statements as well (he said England should embrace Sharia law, but since I'm not aware of the facts fully on that issue, I'll refrain from passing comment). However, the position of the top clergyman from the Church of England seems to put him in a direct confrontation with the former Nazi in the Vatican.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The verdict a nation waited for

For more than 60 years now, a quiet (but of late, very vocal) court battle was being waged between, essentially, Muslims and the Sunni Waqf board on one side, the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu denomination of devotees of Hanuman, and various Hindu groups under the umbrella of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). This tripartite battle for a few acres of land in the quiet town of Ayodhya began in 1949, but could very well trace its origins to well before the 16th century.

The issue before the court: who owns the land on which the Babri Masjid stands (in spite of an attempt to demolish it by Hindu fanatics in a wanton act of terrorism). The 3 judge panel of the Allahabad high court gave the verdict, which when viewed through the lenses of religiosity, can be said 'favours' the Hindu position. Over the past few days, we've seen and heard a plethora of opinions (that's one thing we'll never be short of in India), some pouring scorn over it, while some hailing it as statesmanly. So here's my take on the judgement, and being a non-believer, I guess I'm in a (slightly) better position to make an objective assessment on such a matter.

Demolishing arguments of the Hindu groups

Just because there existed a temple on the spot where the Babri Masjid stands, irrespective of whether or not the temple was demolished to construct a mosque, is no grounds to have a temple today. The temple, if it existed, did so in an era when the land it was in was not the India as we know it as today. It was not the republic it is today - it was a Mughal (Muslim) empire that was ruling back then and hence the discriminations against the Hindus. The India we live in today is different, and so trying to have a oneupmanship in terms of religion doesn't serve any useful purpose.

Demolishing arguments made by critics of this judgement, one by one

The first and foremost argument any rational person would make in a dispute like this is: is the court a suitable authority to pass judgement on religion and matters of pure faith? And the rational answer has to be an emphatic no. It's quite obvious that religious beliefs fall outside the purview of a court because if a court has to decide, it would need to do so based on evidence, irrefutable evidence, and so any such claim about an almighty would not stand legal scrutiny. So to begin with, both (all) parties should have appreciated that taking religious matters to a court could open a Pandora's box, and seems like that's precisely what seems to have happened.

Critics of the judgement (notably Muslims, and those trying to gain political mileage) argue that the judgement was based on faith and not evidence. Well, on the face of it, no one can find fault with that statement. However, think about it, if the court hadn't considered faith and based it's judgement on grounds of faith and practice and tradition, then what's to stop anyone from filing suits in courts across the country, basically dismissing all religious practices by people of any religion because there isn't any proof of existence of such an ALmighty? What's to stop someone from filing a suit saying tax payers money shouldn't be used to subsidise the Haj for Indian Muslims, because their faith and practices based on their religion has no proof that a God called Allah, their God, actually exists. In fact Mohammad himself never saw Allah, so what proof can be submitted to stand legal scrutiny? Non-believers like me and other civil citizens have for far too long cried ourselves hoarse that public money shouldn't be used for religious purposes in a secular democracy, so by questioning this judgement, aren't Muslims (or other religious groups) endangering the practice of Islam (or their respective religions) itself in India?

So now that I've quite easily dismissed the arguments against the 'faith-based' judgement, let's focus on the other issue most Muslims and pseudo-secularists have raised, namely, what's to stop Hindus from petitioning courts for other sites that they may claim to be disputed and having more mosques razed because "according to our beliefs, there used to be a temple here". Well, it's very easy to dismiss that argument and allay their fears. In 1991, an Act of Parliament called the Places of Worship Act was passed to specifically prevent any such thing from happening. Since the Babri Mosque land dispute was already in court, it was excluded. The act (which became law) states that "It is hereby declared that the character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it on that day.". So if a place was a Mosque (or any place of worship) at the time of independence, it will continue to do so and no one can change that today, or any day in the future. So hopefully this will allay the fears of all Muslims and those finding fault with the judgement.

The last of the more vociferous arguments made by the clerics is that the Islamic law doesn't allow them 'donate' or 'gift' the land or property (includes Mosques) that is under the control of the Waqf board. Well, if that be the case, and if the character of Islam is universal, can someone from the Muslim side explain the fact that the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, which was once a Church, and then later a Mosque, was finally converted into a museum by the Turkish ruler Mustafa Kemal Ataturk? The use of the premises for prayer (by any religion) is strictly prohibited (although a small portion inside the museum is now used by museum staff to pray, but both Christians and Muslims pray here). Since there are no remonstrations by Muslims anywhere, we can safely assume that in special circumstances, special measures can be taken. So the argument that Muslim Waqf board cannot enter into discussions for a settlement or compromise is also scuttled.

It seemed as though most eminent Muslims from civil society who chose to brand the judgement as 'one-sided' seem have done so in haste and not based on the evidence placed before the court. Farah Naqvi, one of the more vocal critics of the judgement, came across as someone who seemed to want the 'minority' tag to be worn proudly by Muslims and other religious minorities, much like how a large section of Hindu society seem to revel in being called 'backward' and belonging to a 'lower caste', so that they can reap benefits of social programmes of the government and other such benefits. Vitriolic barbs by such personalities conveys the wrong impression to regular folk who watch TV, who'd naturally think that since personalities as Ms. Naqvi have slammed the verdict, it couldn't be for any other reason other than the fact that the courts have been partial.

Some people have criticised the judgement for being "one that should have been taken by the politicians". I was aghast when I heard that this was being used as an argument against the verdict. Since the political class did not exhibit the required testicular fortitude to chalk out a solution, the court, given the fact that the sentiments of a large religious section (largest in India) were to be considered as it was part of the case, and that neither side could conclusively prove ownership (some claims were dismissed as being time barred), delivered a verdict that was rightly called 'statesmanly' by former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, one would have expected a more hearty acceptance. I see no reason for Muslims to feel aggrieved as being truly secular would have enabled anyone to see the enormity of the issue before the courts. If Muslims (or any religion) want their religious beliefs taken seriously and be given the freedom to practice them without any objection, then how can they oppose the beliefs of a different community?

To me, the entire feeling of betrayal and subsequently blaming the court for passing a verdict based on faith and not evidence arose because it was taken to court in the first place. Matters of religion and faith need to be discussed in a domain where hard, empirical evidence isn't needed, but compassion and understanding and a mutual feeling of brotherhood and magnanimity is exhibited and reciprocated. That is the India Gandhi and Nehru dreamt of, that is the India the great book, our Constitution, envisions for India, that is what we as Indians need to work towards.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jumbo feline problems

Since enough has been mentioned all over about the sorry state of affairs about the CWG, I just didn't think I was up to it, but a report in today's paper actually made me feel happy. Amidst all the muck and crap (literal here, not metaphorical), one story actually made me happy. Maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction, but nonetheless. The British ambassador drove towards the games village to see how things were going, and meet up with M/S Kalmadi & Co. to get a first hand report on the progress. However, since his driver didn't have the adequate clearances to go beyond the gate, the ambassador's spanking new Porsche was stopped and the ambassador was made to walk all the way in, while his driver had to wait out.

Now see, the lesson to be learnt here is that no matter who you are and what position you hold, if you don't have what is needed to go past a security check, then you can't go on with the "Tuh nahin jaanta mein kown hoon?" (don't you know who I am?). I"m just glad the security guys seem to be getting their act right (high time they do). But the other bigger concern is do I want the games to go off well, or do I hope that the games (organisation, infrastructure, etc.) fail? Actually, I think this is a far more difficult one to answer than what cam first, the chicken or the egg. I know that if the games go off well, all the corruption and all the fraud and all the dereliction that took place will be swept under the carpet and probably a few small fish may fry, but the sharks would escape the net. So given that, I hope that things don't go off smoothly. But then, there's a problem with this school of thought. What if during the course of the games, something terrible happens, like something collapses and hurts, or worse, kills an athelete of a foreign country and it's proven that the reason was poor construction or something along those lines? What if those countries sue us and the government as it's the government's responsobility to ensure the smooth functioning of the games? What then? Wouldn't that be a worse scenario?

Moving on, the rail accident that killed 7 jumbos in Bengal is a true reflection of how Mamta Bannerjee's attitude towards one of the most important modes of transport is, where she doesn't even bother to reprimand the officials involved in and responsible for this tragedy.

And lastly, the tigers that are dropping like flies in the Bannerghatta Biological Park due to an outbreak of Salmonella and E. Coli. Supposedly, the reason why the tigers ended up this weak is because they are being fed chicken meat. But beat this, the chicken meat, since it's a lot more tender and prone to disease, are injected with antibiotics. These antibiotics, while keeping the meat intact, have reduced the immune system of the tigers, which in turn has led to this situation. Now here's my beef with the clowns from the animal groups who've joined hands with the BJP right wing asking for a ban on beef in Karnataka. They very happily joined hands with right wing scumbags on the issue of banning beef, and even though animal experts have said that without beef, getting sufficient proteins would be a source of concern, the diet of our national animals were of no concern to the so-called animal lovers. If these hypocrites have even an iota of shame, they'll do a rethink, and the sooner they do it, the better for the tiger.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jawohl, mein Pope!

Oh sorry, the original line goes "Jawohl, mein Fuhrer", which, of course was a salutation given to the one and only Adolf Hitler, during the heights of Nazism. I just learnt that Prof. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are consulting lawyers in England whether the Pope can be arrested during his visit to the country later this year. The charge? Crimes against humanity, of course. To be more specific, the Catholic Church's covering up of the sex scandals involving priests and the rampant sexual abuses of young children that has scarred their lives forever, so in essence, allowing sex offenders to be guarded against the course of law.

So can the Pope be arrested? For one, the Vatican put out a lousy and feeble defense by saying that he's (Pope) a head of state (The Vatican) and so cannot be arrested during a state visit. Well, Prof. Dawkins and Mr. Hitchens are contesting that claim as well, and don't believe that he is an actual head of state, and given a chance, would have him branded as a tin-pot dictator of a fiefdom filled with men dressed in fancy costumes.

So what's Papa Ratzi's fault in the whole sex scandal and the raping of the young children you may ask, especially since he certainly didn't commit any of those crimes (at least, none that we know of). True, but then, as the boss, you're responsible for your subordinates, the buck stops with him, so there's the question of moral responsibility involved here. But hang, trash moral responsibility, there's direct complicity in the cover-up of these sordid affairs, and in helping with the cover up (specific letters bearing his signature and seal asking for the priests to be let off), the old man is guilty of helping criminals who raped children to go scot free. Now that, dear reader, is a crime. Old man Adolf (yes, Hitler) never really pushed into a gas chamber or shot any Jew himself (again, none that we know of), although I'm sure he'd have loved to, but he gave the orders and was the boss and didn't prosecute any of the foot soldiers who committed the crimes, ergo, guilty as hell. I know the analogy isn't 100% accurate because in the Pope's case, he didn't order the priest to rape children, or have sex with women and father their children (in some cases, the foetuses were aborted - something the Church is actually vehemently opposed to - or the women were payed hush money to keep quiet in case they had the child). But since he was directly involved in the cover-up and in helping the accused get away without any punishment, he can be charged with aiding and abetting a criminal in avoiding criminal prosecution.

So for all the fans of the Pope reading this as well as those of you who may not be a fan but don't mind if the Pope continues in his merry ways, here's some food for thought: do we send out a signal to the world that if you have a title like priest or cardinal or Pope (in this case, I've mentioned only titles associated with the Church, but you get the point), then you can get away with raping children? I wonder if, as a species, we can show some collective testicular fortitude and say 'No' to the question asked above and go ahead and prosecute the man. I guess that's what happens when you have a former Nazi running your affairs! And on a side note, I wonder if the Pope or any of those priests who are guilty would like taking it up their ass when in prison. If the answer is 'no', they should have thought about it before sticking their penises into the rectums of young children.

Another post detailing the 'crimes' of the Vatican and the former Nazi Ratzinger can be read here, from the CBC News Network.. It's got a nice title: Sex, Crimes, and the Vatican. ROTFLMAO!!!

Below is a YouTube video of Hitchens explaining the deal.
Provided by site.