Friday, December 11, 2009

Quiz On The Beach

I believe this would enthuse many of you. I got this email from the TAPMI org. comm. about this quiz, so feel free to participate.

Is the possibility of a recession giving you sleepless nights? Do you feel like taking some time off and chilling out? How does a visit to a beach sound? Or would you like to involve yourself in some serious quizzing? What if you were offered the chance of doing both at the same time? Sounds interesting???
T. A. Pai Management Institute’s annual B-School fest, Atharva invites you to participate in the Quiz on the Beach (QOTB) to be held at Kaup Beach, Udupi, Karnataka. QOTB is held on the shores of the magical Arabian Sea with an old British built lighthouse serving as a backdrop. So pack your bags and come down to Kaup Beach for some serious fun!!!

Quiz Flavour: Business Quiz
Host: T. A. Pai Management Institute, Manipal
Quiz Master: Mr. Avinash Mudaliar
Date: Saturday, 9th January 2010
Prize Money: Rs 40,000-First Prize
Rs 20,000-Second Prize
Registration charges: Rs 1500/- per team
2 Members make a team
Open to Corporates (Team members can also belong to different companies).

Please check out the links below for further details:

For further Clarifications contact:
S. Gopinath : 09742353966
Nikitha Shetty : 09686007000
E- Mail:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Three to tango - 4

Actually there were 4 things, and I had forgotten about the fourth things that irked me. Ram Jethmalani (RJ), one of the most eminent lawyers in the country, made a statement that led to the Saudi envoy walking out of a conference. RJ said that an 18th century Saudi national (back then there wasn't a country called Saudi Arabia) called Mohammad Al Wahabi, went on to create the Wahabi brand of Islam followed in Saudi today, was one of the main reasons for Islamic terrorism today, as all Islamic terrorists follow the same brand of Islam. Factually, this statement was correct. Al-Wahabi didn't like the direction Islam was going in the 18th century, and so decided it was time to tighten the screws, and so decided on going tough when it came to following the religion. The result - the archaic way the religion is practiced in modern day Suadi Arabia, where women have to walk around in 'bee-keeper suits' (quoting Bill Maher), and punishments are straight out of the Sharia - so thieves have their hands chopped off, rapists have their penis chopped off, murderers can be stoned to death, women suspected of cheating on their spouses can be stoned, or publicly lashed, etc.

Now RJ's statement was a factual one, and for the Saudi envoy to walk away in a huff seemed a little childish (for lack of a better expression), since RJ didn't go on to say "there fore all Saudi nationals are terrorists", and neither did he say anything bad about Islam. Sadly, this irked the Saudi envoy, but what's worse (in my opinion) was that our law minister had to get up and go and say that this isn't the government's view. Wait a minute. Our government is pro-Wahabi Islam? We're pro all the medieval punishments and medieval mindset espoused by the late Al-Wahabi? I'm sorry, I must have missed the part where we had a change in foreign policy, but who made this change exactly?

I wonder why the media doesn't pick up issues like these and grill the so-called secular Congress party that is leading the government. Somehow, our country's media seems to have gotten into the mindset that beating the BJP and siding with the Congress is secular. They ago all out at any given opportunity against right wing Hindu extremism (which I too am against), but go soft on other issues that could showcase the Congress in poor light. Wake up people, do a little more research into the stories, and what's more, put a little more thought into what stories you want to run with. They don't always have to be about how bad the religious extremists from the majority party are (a phenomenon that started after religious extremism from a minority community) - we already know that, and hate it (their extremism), so could you show something new now? Please?

Three to tango - 3

Part three - Was the Liberhan commission's report a load of crap?

Without even batting an eyelid - yes! And if you think even slightly otherwise, I feel sorry that a perfectly good brain seems to have been wasted. Before getting into details, let me clarify that I'm not against him having found someone guilty or not guilty. The fact that the structure was razed with kar sevaks having come to the site with primitive hand-held instruments suggests that there was indeed a plan to bring the structure down. Of this there can be no doubt. My issue with Justice Liberhan are the following:

1. 17 is the number of years it took (actually 12 - the report was ready in 2004, but the Congress chose to come out with it now)! 8 is the number in crores, which is the amount of the tax payers money spent to come out with a report that's supposed to give us a clear picture (but doesn't in any way). And finally, there's no action-to-be-taken suggested! Are you freaking kidding me? And then the polity wonder why today's youth are disinterested in politics.

Now let's analyse this a little more closely. The fact that Justice Liberhan (who from now on shall be called 'the old man' in this post, and I shall not dignify him with his title of Justice because by this one act, he's brought disgrace upon his fraternity) has said that the 'razing of the structure' was preplanned is probably the only thing that can be called a face saver in the entire report, although most smart people would go "Duh!!! You thought otherwise?". It was obvious that a section the workers came there with this very intention. But then starts the drama. Maybe the old man wanted to be a playwright, and when he was given the chance to pen down something, boy, he went overboard. The old man goes on the say that the senior leaders present there could have stopped the workers once they started breaking the structure. If the matter under consideration weren't so serious, this would actually sound funny. Maybe the old man doesn't know what a 'mob' means, and hasn't heard of the phrase 'mob mentality'.

Next, he goes on to indict people who he's never even called and spoken to during the course of his extended second innings. Former PM Vajpayee and the late Pramod Mahajan weren't even called to dispose before the commission, and yet the old man has gone on the say that these gentlemen were culpable in the crime. Hey you know what, I want to charge the old man with wasting my tax money, and I don't want him to get a chance to defend and give his version about why he spent so much money. How'd he like that?

And lastly, no mention of PVNR... that's P V Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister at the time. The argument in his favour by the Congress workers is that in a federal structure, the PM can only act on the report sent by the governor of the state, and if a state willfully passes on wrong info to the central government, then there's nothing the PM can do. Point taken, but what they fail to mention is that the central government can always be proactive, and take preemptive measures in matters where they feel the state government is allowing law and order to deteriorate. The Congress government when Nehru was PM dismissed the first democratically elected Communist government of Kerala in 1956 because they claimed "it had allowed law and order to deteriorate". Having set the precedence already, they were in the clear to do it again. Yet, the old man doesn't think they deserve even a rap on the knuckles.

I rest my case.

Three to tango - 2

Part deux - Should Thiery Henry have admitted to the referee that he had indeed handled the ball during their match against the Irish?

This is a tricky one. If one goes purely by the spirit of sportsmanship, then he most certainly should have. But then there are those who have the attitude the Aussies have on the cricket field (and possibly all other sports as well), namely "I'm playing my game, and that's my job. It's the job of the ref to spot the mistakes and call them out". A far cry from the days of Bradman when it was the British, under Douglas Jardine, who went all out with the now infamous 'bodyline' tactics. Jardine was quite ruthless, yet did everything in accordance to the laws of the game. But is implementing or following only in letter good enough, or should it be followed in spirit as well? If this can be conclusively answered, I think we'd have also answered another timeless question, which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Three to tango - 1

There have been three things in the last 10 days or so that have made me more cynical than I already am (if that's possible), but it's also got me worked up (unnecessarily too, I might add). The three topics in question are:

1. Should women be allowed in combat roles in the armed forces?
2. Should Thiery Henry have admitted to 'handling' the ball?
3. Is the Lieberhan commission's report on the Babri Masjid demolition a load of crap?

No. I don't know. Yes. In that order. And yes, I'm still the liberal, food loving creature I've always been.

Let's take them one at a time, and this post will deal with question 1.

1. Should women be allowed in combat roles in the armed forces?

The short answer: No. Now by combat roles if you mean hand-to-hand combat roles, then no. If you include roles like missile/artillery officers, radar officers, signals officers, etc, then yes, they not only can, but should. The next logical part of my argument should detail the 'why', and that's precisely what it'll do. Our country (as with most other countries) has over eons been shaped to respect women and almost treat them with kid gloves at certain times when it comes to certain issues. So the obvious question when it comes to war is "What will happen to a woman soldier if captured by the enemy?". Without going into graphic details, one can imagine that a captured woman would any day be preferred by soldiers of the opposite side than a captured male soldier. With a male, the only possibilities are torture, and eventually death (or jailing them for eternity). With a female soldier, the sexual factor is almost a given - almost like a breath of fresh air to soldiers who've captured her. She wouldn't just be used, but abused to the point where a third party observer would want to kill her just to put her out of her misery.

Our lady newscasters on CNN-IBN and NDTV who've been championing the cause for inducting women into these close quarter combat roles fail to see the obvious that the public would most certainly be outraged to a far greater extent if a woman soldier is abused and tortured than if the same treatment is meted out to a male. It's in our psyche. Isn't that why we have harsher punishments in our criminal laws to people who abuse women, whereas those who do the same to men aren't meted out the same treatment? Isn't it why, the world over, the directive on a ship when it is sinking is "Women and children first" while boarding the rescue boats? Isn't it why, the world over, when a terrorist strikes, we say "why did they kill innocent women and children" and we fail to mention, and almost intentionally leave out the 'innocent men'? I'm pretty sure a lot of innocents killed in mindless acts of terror are men, and yet they don't find mention in the sympathies thrown forward. Most of the abuses that people use are aimed towards a person's mother or sister because this is far more likely to insult them the most, whereas insults to the male relatives isn't taken that personally (almost 99% of the times). So women like Sagarika Ghosh, Barkha Dutt, and Nidhi Razdan (who I thought, until now, is one of the more objective journalists amongst the lot), when having their talk shows on this topic, would do well to think through all the details before giving their opinions on the matter and deciding before what their stand is on the matter.

When it comes to the Indian Air Force, I'm not quite sure which former Air Chief it was (Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy I think) who said it, but the reasons he gave were quite compelling. He said that the fleet of fighters the IAF has primarily consist of the Russian MiGs, with French Mirages and British Jaguars making the rest. Flying the MiGs requires constant practice as it's not as easy as flying one of the American fighter jets, and if a woman goes off on a maternity break, when she comes back she won't be 'in touch' with the flying - this isn't like driving or swimming where once you learn it, it's with you life long. The MiGs our air force operate are very unforgiving and even small mistakes due to concentration lapses or because of being out of touch can cause a fatal crash.

Recently, Air Marshall Barbora, the new Vice Chief of Staff commented that it wasn't prudent to have women fly fighter jets, and his remarks set off a chain reaction with people calling his remarks as sexist. I so wish people who said such things about the vice chief would go learn some English first. The language used by the vice chief was absolutely professional, and he was only stating facts and operational issues, nothing else. I don't see how one could question the validity of his statements. He said "...after investing 'x' crores on a pilot, the IAF would recover the cost if the pilot serves for 12 to 14 years. But with women, they'll have to go off for family responsibilities, and so it's not prudent to have them as fighter pilots." I don't see anything wrong with this. Also, more importantly, isn't he right? If a woman goes off for maternity leave, that would leave the squadron short of a pilot, compromising it's effectiveness. What if the country faces a situation that requires the IAF to take action, and they are missing a few pilots because of 'labour' issues? Who'll fly their planes then? Sagarika? Nidhi? Who?

I'm not going to get into discussing the red herrings that are usually thrown around - namely, women can handle pressure situations better than men (I haven't come across any study that conclusively says that), and that women are physically as strong as men (again, pure bullshit), etc. because even IF these were true (big if), the arguments I've given above would quite easily take precedence over these.

Given all of the above, any logical person can come to only one conclusion: at present, women can't be allowed into close quarter combat roles in the Indian army, and can't be allowed to fly fighter jets in the Indian air force. I'm not being sexist, I'm just being rational, and coming to my conclusion based on hard facts and ground realities. As always. I'm always been a liberal, and have advocated equal rights for women (as is quite visible in some of my previous posts), but when faced with facts, the only right thing to be done is to doff your hat, sit back, and relax.

Reactions are welcome (I know it's been a while since I last posted...apologies for the same), but please keep the comments sane.

Monday, November 09, 2009

School reunion

Reunions are always fun. You get to meet people you haven't met in a long time, you get to see your teachers again, and surprisingly, they remember the names of most of the students. That one aspect of teachers has always amazed me. They'd have taught for years together, and would have had hundreds of students, and yet they seem to remember most of the names, or at least are able to recollect the names once you tell them your names.

This time the reunion was a slightly damp affair (literally). The north-east monsoon and the depression over Madras (Chennai) meant that the turnout was a lot lower than last year's reunion, but this time around, there were a few faces that were missing from last year.

(L-R): Padmini, Prashanth (behind the board), Varun & his wife Poonam

Monkeying around (L-R): Me, Vinay, Prashanth, Padmini, Varun (behind), Poonam, Anjana


Blue between the greens? (L-R): Vinay, Roy, Dhanya, me
Dhanya - Blue house, the rest of us - Green house

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flaws with the 3 language formula

Mr Sibal, looks like this isn't your cuppa. First the faux pas with the 3 language formula, and now the problems with the 80% cut off for the IIT-JEE. Let me very categorically state that I don't mind the cut-off formula since it's a sure shot way of getting students to study for their boards, and then concentrate for the IIT entrance exams, which would automatically help in limiting the IIT tuition cartels, which seem to be running riots, especially in parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, and UP. The cut-off could be lowered a little for starters, and then maybe it can be moved up. In any case, my grouse at the moment isn't with that, but with your 3 language formula.

Mr Sibal recently proposed a 3-language formula to bridge the language divide in India. So according to this plan, a child growing up will have to learn English, Hindi, and one south Indian language. When I heard that the first time I couldn't stop laughing through my backside. I mean, come on! English, Hindi, and one south Indian language of my choice! "What's the logic?" you may ask, as did I. Well, according to the minister, they seem to be doing this so that all Indians can have a 'link' language - meaning some language that all of us can understand, which can 'link' the divide that presently exists between north and south when it comes to language. OK, good, but why three? Fine, I understand that making everyone learn only one language will kill off all other languages, and as a firm believer that the variety of languages in our country is one of the most endearing aspects of our culture, speaking volumes about the culture and heritage of this land, we need to preserve the languages. But why the hell three?

It's quite obvious that English + the language of the state you're residing in should suffice. English can serve as the 'link' language, while the knowledge of the state language (usually, in most cases, this would be the mother tongue of the person as well) would help in preserving the language. So why does Hindi need to be fitted into this when everything seems to be fine? Throwing Hindi into this perfect formula is only a ploy to get everyone to learn Hindi for some unknown reason, and according to Mr Sibal, "... should be done in Hindi which is the national language thus Hindi can be also be used to achieve national integrity". Well, firstly, Hindi is not the national language, it's a national language, and don't we have national integrity today irrespective of whether or not all of us know Hindi? Also, this stupid thing about "and one South Indian language"...what's that for? Because we'll (south Indians) feel bad that we are being made to learn Hindi, but they don't know our language? Utter stupidity! If a north Indian learns Malayalam, and comes to Karnataka, AP, or TN, what good is Malayalam going to do? It's a waste of his time having learnt that language. Instead, if he/she knows English and Hindi, and a south Indian knows English and whichever state language he/she is from, English could bridge the language divide, and the additional language they know can be used wherever applicable.

I personally believe that pushing in Hindi is to deal with a fragile sense of nationalism that many Indians have. It's the old bogey of 'foreign versus indigenous' - learning English, which is a foreign language, over Hindi, is seen by many not-too-bright Hindi speakers as 'anti-Indian' (actually it's unfair to call out only the Hindi speakers because the same logic is used by countless others as well to suit their needs). Sadly, a lot of people from the Hindi belt seem to equate learning and being able to speak and understand Hindi to being Indian, and so by default, a lot of South Indians aren't 'Indians' according to Hindi speakers. This fragile sense of patriotism and nationalism is to me the sole reason why people fail to see the elephant in the room - English is the link language, damn it! Why does everyone need Hindi???

Also consider the fact that if the 3 language formula is implemented, that would mean extra teachers - one for English, one for Hindi, one for third language. As it is, there are lakhs of govt. teachers who haven't been paid their salaries for months if not years, and yet these poor souls continue to toil and try to impart a decent education to children in rural areas. The govt. would be better off paying them their salaries first, rather than allocate money from an already stretched economy due to drought and the recent floods to create new positions and hunt for teachers who can teach the new languages. The 2 language formula is a far more economical option and can bear fruition faster, and also has a much higher % of success.

I'm still pretty sure that there would be a lot of people who still wouldn't have seen the logic in the above analysis, so let me give a few facts, picked straight from the great book itself (The Constitution), but before that, let's also get a couple of definitions clear:

Official language: Language used for official communications and directives given by the government to its various arms and agencies. Also, an official language needs to be approved by law in order to become a national language (by the way, the Supreme Court works only in English).

National language: A language that defines a people in a territory and is indicative of the culture and history of the region. A national language can become an official language by default. This, however, doesn't mean that an official language can automatically become the ek matr rashtra bhasha. Also, the 8th schedule of the great book (Constitution) also declares that there are 22 national languages - not 1, not 2, but 22, in the country. Source.

According to the great book, in article 343:

343. Official language of the Union.

  1. The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
  2. Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement: Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.
  3. Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of-
  4. 1. the English language, or 2. the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law.
Please note, after 15 years from 1950, Lal Bahadur Shastri tried to impose Hindi on all Indians - there were protests all over south India, especially the Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu). Finally, Shastri saw logic in keeping the country united rather than divide it on the issue of language and went ahead and allowed English to be used in other areas - courts, and more importantly, the civil services (especially the exams).

Note the highlighted portion - no where does it say Hindi is the ek matr rashtra bhasha, only official, and going by the definition above, you'd be wise to think that that would settle the issue. But no, the Hindi premis will have nothing of it. According to them, since most Indians speak and understand Hindi, it should be made the rashtra bhasha. Here's my reply to that: Using the same logic, most Indians are Hindus, let's make everyone a Hindu, that way we won't have communal clashes. And also, again, going by the same 'numbers' logic, the crow should be the national bird, and the street dog our national animal.

I'm not going to go into the benefits of knowing English over Hindi in today's competitive, globalised world, where international business is almost always carried out in English. So there, I hope that settles the issue. I know this is wishful thinking, but hey, at least I did my part to try to explain the foolishness of trying to make everyone learn Hindi instead of English. I just hope someone who's very stubborn sees the logic in this argument, goes ahead and implements the change (if need be) as a 2 language formula, and settles the issue once and for all.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Much ado about Hafeez Saeed

After the fiasco at Sharm-al-shaik (or however you spell that place in Egypt), our government continues to make blunder after blunder, embarrassing not just itself, but also the people who voted them in. The Sardar in charge firstly agreed to sign a joint statement with the Pakis in which although the Kashmir word was for the first time omitted from an Indo-Pak statement, it had a mind-boggling sentence stating that the dialogue process would not be stalled even if Pakistan doesn't act on the terrorists who are 'bred' there. To this, the govt put forward a hasty explanation saying that "what it actually meant it is that the dialogue process will not go forward unless the Pakis act on terror first". Simple question: then why not frame the statement that way in the first place?

So leaving that bureaucratic-governmental bullshit aside, we had the Gujarat govt again send their new anti-terror bill to the central govt, and then to the 'lady-who-speaks-to-the-dead' President. Again, the bill was returned saying that some of the provisions in it were Draconian (this guy Draco wasn't very popular in his time where he lived, but is real popular in India, I must say!). One of the main objections is that the confessions made by a suspect to a senior officer is not admissible in court. Fair enough, but why do they seem to forget about that when it comes to Hafeez Saeed. So far whatever evidence that we have is what Kasab has said, and apart from that, there doesn't seem to be much else (if there is, then it isn't being made public for 'security reasons'). So if the govt doesn't want the clause of admission before an officer admissible in court, on what grounds are they asking the Pakis to prosecute Saeed? Like I said, if there are radio intercepts, or indisputable human evidence of some form which hasn't been made public because the security agencies feel it may compromise the source of the info, then won't it be compromised by letting the Pakis know about it? So if the Pakis can be shown the evidence, why not the public of India?

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that if Hafeez Saeed's role came out of the confessions of Kasab, how can Mr Chidambaram rattle out his usual lines that "...there is enough evidence in the dossier we have given to prosecute Hafeez Saeed."? I don't know about you, but I'm confused. This govt can't seem to talk straight, can't act straight, and yet they seem to be the ones in cahoots with the religious loonies who oppose people who aren't straight! Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, the UPA part deux.

Monday, July 27, 2009

From hell, with love

Vijay Divas, or victory day was celebrated yesterday, the 26th of July, and it was also the tenth anniversary of our victory in the Kargil war. Sadly, the party ruling the roost at the moment, the Congress, wasn't the party in power during the war, and so, just for that one measly fact, the Prime Minister, the President, the defense minister, and most surprisingly (and shockingly) the army chief, were missing from the celebrations held at the very peaks that were recaptured from Pakistani intruders. Now, unless there was a security threat (there always is, but I'm talking specifics here), unless there were real inputs of targetting the fuction because big wigs would be present, I don't see why the top brass in the government weren't present.

The counter from the lame ducks would be that the PM went to India Gate and paid homeage there, and the protocol doesn't dictate that the PM be there at the function, and that his turban wasn't on, and he had a stomach upset, and the President was busy talking to dead people, etc etc etc. Protocol? Isn't honouring the men who laid down their lives the duty of the man who gives the go ahead to the army to launch attacks? How can 'protocol' dictate the PM's agenda so completely that he can skip a function as important as this? Another feather in his 'blunder'ful cap (or turban). George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld made secret trips to Iraq, a battlezone, during the war several times. The visit was kept secret and was announced only after the President reached Iraq. Couldn't the same or similar procedures be followed here?

In the west, we have American Presidents going all the way to Normandy, France on the 6th of June to celebrate the D-Day landing of world war 2. Now remember, world war 2 wasn't just the Americans war, and the Americans were trying the liberate Europe (not even their land), and yet, because their troops were involved in the act, they pay tribute to those who lost their lives. It's been 65 years and counting, and still, even if they don't make it to France, they pay homeage in a grand and gala function. In our case, even paying tribute to the families who lost near and dear ones defending our land isn't enough to get the commander-in-chief out of her voodoo den, or our PM from behind his Roman dominatrix.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Activists - get a job please!

I just heard recently that the NHRC, the human rights watchdog in the country absolved the Delhi police of any violations and wrong doings in the Batla house terrorist encounter on September 19, 2008. I was happy, because all along, right from the start, it was obvious that there was nothing fishy in the whole episode, which sadly resulted in the death of Inspector M C Sharma, who was awarded the gallantry medal posthumously on Republic Day.

However, human rights activists, who are always up in arms whenever the cops' guns go off (and strangely silent when the cops get gunned down) haven't accepted the verdict and are continuing their nonsensical charade for attention, because there seems to be no better reason for them to parade out in front of the cameras than to cause further grief to the family of the slain police officer. That, or they all collectively suffer from attention deficit disorder and I urgently request the government to get them treated at psychiatric facilities at the tax payers cost. Yes, I'm willing to pay more tax if the money will be used to treat people who can't use common sense and are forever willing to come up with conspiracy theories where the country's security forces are concerned.

Now I'm not the first person to say that we shouldn't look into every act of 'self-defense' where force has been used. But it's quite evident that there's nothing suspicious in this incident. The fact that these 'activists' are even disregarding the NHRC's report goes to show that they will accept only one version of the event (or any event), and that is their version.

Several months ago, when young girls were attacked in Mangalore in the infamous Mangalore Pub incident, a lot of people made a good observation that apart from the fact that some people are fanatics, if the henchmen of the fanatics - the foot soldiers who actually carried out the attacks - had proper jobs, then the number of such incidents will automatically drop. On the flip side, I know of some people, who again, choose to ignore common sense, will say that such a statement is made only to tacitly justify the attack. But think about it - who are the people who carry out the attacks? Poor, uneducated or those who've dropped out, those doing petty jobs, unskilled labourers, etc. It's a classic case of haves versus have nots. They see young people indulging in activities they would want to indulge in, but can't for want of money. They feel bad, then angry, and the first chance they get to vent out their anger, tehy do, so groups like the VHP, Shri Ram Sene, Jamaat-e-Islami, and all other ultra-religious groups will forever have cannon fodder for their perverse causes.

The reason why I gave the above example is to draw an analogy. If the activists who still want to see conspiracy theories where there are none are given proper jobs, where they can earn a decent living and go to the cinemas and eat at good restaurants and buy a nice couch for their living room and have their kids educated in good schools, then the acts of stupidity that we see emanating from them will cease.

I don't want to even get into what the so called Muslim 'intellectuals' have to say about the encounter. You can read some of the gems here, and then roll on the floor laughing, or slam the browser shut (age of the internet, people so rarely read books!) in utter disgust - your wish.

There's a great analysis of the encounter done by Praveen Swami, a fantastic journalist, in the Hindu. You can read it here. Hats off to you Mr Swami, we need more like you in the media fraternity.

Monday, July 06, 2009

A riposte to Barkha Dutt: Why Sarkozy is right

When Sarko came out with his statement that burqas are not allowed in France, there was a lot of hue and cry from Muslims all over the world, and not to be left behind, Muslims in India as well went riling against his comments. Now, let's take a closer look and analyse what he said and why there was nothing wrong with it.

In his speech at the Palace of Versailles, Sarkozy said "The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience," and continued to say "it will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic." Now let's take the statement apart, and consider the first part "The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience". Can any self-respecting woman, irrespective of religion and putting aside religious considerations, tell me that the burqa is a 'good' thing? Or that the burqa isn't descrimatory? Remember, forget what religion says, I'm saying purely on common sense and from the principle of equality, isn't the burqa a sign of subservience?

So now that we've got that out of the way, let's take the second part of his statement, "it will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic". Last I checked, he was the President of France, and going by that title and the job description, he's the chap who gets to make the rules (ok, let's not get technical here, he signs the bill, etc etc etc), and since France is a sovereign country, it gets to make it's own rules, without the inputs from Muslims or anyone else from anywhere.

Now let's look at why Muslims and a lot of 'sympathysers' were up in arms. Their main bone of contention was that this was not curtailing religious freedom, and that Sarkozy had not right to comment about Islam. On both counts, they're partially right. Partially. How so would be the natural next question. For starters, wearing a burqa is not 'mandatory' for a Muslim woman to be wearing (it's never mentioned in the Quran, so please don't tell me that it is), it's an article of choice. If it were mandatory, then we'd be seeing all Muslim women all over the world donning one, and we don't, ergo, it's not mandatory. Since it isn't mandatory, making sure that no one wears one because of the country's stance (France is secular - dictionary secular, not the corrupted, contorted, distorted secular we have in India) is perfectly OK. Please note the words carefully - I said because of the country's stance, secular in this case, . I don't see how can people from one country ask another country to change their laws because these people don't want it. Even the top Muslim cleric at the biggest mosque in Paris himself has said that the burqa isn't mandatory for women, so I don't see why Muslims and mullahs elsewhere have to get so worked up.

Next, on whether Sarkozy had the right to make a comment about what is Islam and what isn't, those opposing his statement were right. He has no business telling Muslims what is Islamic and what isn't. All he needed to do was modify his statement to "the burqa is a sign of subservience" and leave out the part where he commented that it isn't a sign of religion.

Now why have I titled the post as A riposte to Barkha Dutt? It's because of an article I came across in the Hindu dated June 28th 2009 by Barkha. The first thing that shocked was her comment that she found the statement "the burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience" of Sarkozy, 'offensive', especially since she had prefixed that statement claiming to be a liberal. She said the debate on the veil is too complex to be reduced to sweeping generalisations. I agree generalisations are always bad, but how is this a generalisation? Saying something is bad, because of having an opposing stance (treating men and women equally with dignity) is not a generalisation. What Barkha refuses to admit (in her write ups and on her show) is that in India, we have got the idea of secularism wrong. It's because of a slightly twisted definition we follow here (the Indian version of secularism seems more romantic) that . Knowing the correct definition of the word secular would automatically make for a change in stance.

Where the hypocrisy of many Muslims shines through is when they cry foul over what Sarko says, but stay mum on issues like the treatment of minorities in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world. For instance, religious minorities aren't allowed to worship their deities in these countries publicly, they can't have places of worship here, during the month of Ramazan, they can't be seen eating in public to name a few examples. Why don't Muslims leaders and clerics in India raise their voices against these issues? India sends a large work force to the Gulf countries, shouldn't their rights be protected as well? Here, the Muslims will tell you that "oh, but it's their country... their laws apply there... we shouldn't interfere". Need I say more about the hypocrisy?

One very important point to take note of is that a lot of Islamic countries enforce non-Muslim women to cover their heads while in public. Isn't this tantamount to interfering with a person's personal beliefs and choice? Au contrare, I'll let you know that it's more of a cultural phenomenon, something endemic to that particular land, and so if the law of the land demands that, then so be it. I can understand if the demands made are unreasonable, but certainly this isn't unreasonable. Some time ago, In the UK, Muslim women refused to have their photos taken for licenses without the burqa - if this isn't shocking to anyone then something's wrong with them. How can we, in this day and age of terrorism, accept it if people want to hide their faces for photographs?

By getting rid of the veil isn't homogenising society - Muslim women can still go to a Mosque and pray (or wherever they pray, since they pray separately from men), they can still fast during the month of Ramazan, and still continue to be dominated by men of their religion - none of that will change. It's about time someone in our country has the balls to, if not ask for an outright ban, at least get a debate started over whether this is required or not. Like they say, "it would be a cold day in hell when that happens".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Carla, you beauty

Isn't she a peach? No wonder that guy Sarkozy (yes, the same, the French President) went out of his way to get rid of his first wife and married her. Now I'm sure while there are other steamy pictures of Carla Bruni (which won't be making their way into this blog - at least for this post), I just became a big fan of the lady for her recent comments about a certain Joseph Ratzinger aka the Pope.

While it's well known that almost every person who's donned the (funny) hat of the Pope has been against the use of contraception (condoms) because it's against the Christian religion, some of them have gone out of their way with certain comments like saying that condoms ARE the cause of AIDS in Africa, and that "condoms don't work", and such tripe. Secularists and health officials have forever lamented at the Church's position on contraception, and it certainly comes as a breath of fresh air that the first lady of a western nuclear power has come out in the open and said that although she's a Catholic, she still thinks of herself as secular (the actual meaning of secular and not the twisted meaning that is taught here in India). Bless you babe, I mean, ma'am, show that ex-Nazi that we won't take everything he throws this way lying down. And don't worry Sarko, she hasn't caused anger among your conservative vote base, and if they actually did get angry at her comments, it's now for you to decide if you're going to back your wife who said the right thing, or play to the base.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I can remain an Indian for 5 more years

Yippee!!! My citizenship is intact for another 5 years. I don't have to give it up yet! Phew. That comes as a big relief to me coz at the moment I'm in the middle of a really important deal to buy a house, and trust me, with a change in nationality - nay, loss of my nationality, things would have become tricky to say the least. "What the hell is this guy yaking about?" is probably what's going through your mind. Well, a while back, I had put up a post about the most dangerous forces in the country, and I had mentioned that if Mayawati became the PM, I would give up my citizenship. Not because she's a lady, or because she's a dalit, but because she represents everything that is wrong with India and her rule is a classic example of a Stalinist regime.

A lot has been said during the run up to the elections about how she could make history and about how teaming up with the third front would actually benefit her and the communists. And I had mentioned a lot about why that combo would lead to a disaster, and not necessarily only politically.

A lot was said (and still continues to be said) about how the middle class dreads Mayawathi because she's a dalit. First off, let's get one thing clear: no one in the 'middle class' is against her being the PM because she's a dalit. That's inconsequential (her being a dalit). I have a theory that I'm going to put forward, and let's see how it stands. I think the upper class owners of major news conglomerates, are probably the ones who despise her because of her caste, and they conveniently pass the buck onto this entity called the 'middle class', thereby getting it off their chest and getting the message out that 'someone' doesn't like a dalit running the country.

Again, let me say, I (representing the middle class here) don't want Mayawathi as PM, not because she's a dalit, but because of the way she runs the show. Dictatorial in nature, she runs her party like it were the mob and everyone is answerable only to the mob boss. There's no inner party democracy, and to slightly modify what Chris Tucker says in Rush Hour, "(s)he's (Mayawathi) the king, (s)he's the President, (s)he's Michael Jackson", meaning the buck stops with her. So what, you may say, that's how it is with the Congress as well, with Sonia running the show behind poor old Manmohan. Yes, but at least things aren't done in a high handed manner, the party top shots aren't openly corrupt, don't openly waste public money for building parks in their names, don't have statues built of them, don't spend millions on birthday parties (especially when you claim to represent some of the poorest in India) - need I say more? I think it's the very Stalinist approach that Mayawathi employs is what puts off all Indians, i.e. Indians who actually cherish democratic rights and values (as a people, we've taken to democracy like a duck takes to water, so it's hard to find a section who would want something else). For me, personally, apart from the brazen corruption, it's the statues of herself that she goes around erecting all over the state that makes my blood boil. I mean, statues of the living! And of her! What has she done for the public, for the poorest of the poor whom she represents, that would put her up on a pedestal?

Another aspect that is so loathed about that female Stalin is that she tries to use the backward caste tag and runs amock with it. Not a single issue that she tackles would be devoid from caste. But one thing is for sure, she's got guts to be so brazenly corrupt, but then again, maybe it's just that she's smart enough to have realised that our justice system is so rotten that she can actually get away with it. Whatever, I have another 5 years, and I'm going to make the most of them. Hopefully, at around this time in 2014, I won't be desperately trying to leave and seek asylum in Sweden or some safe place. Coward, did I hear you say? Nah, it's just hopelessness.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't our cricketers have to vote?

The IPL and BCCI bosses may have made a big deal about accusing the government for moving the IPL out of the country, and denying the fans a chance to watch their 'heroes' live and cheer them at the stadium, but the question that doesn't seem to be asked is "don't the cricketers, being citizens of the country, have to vote?". Although voting is a fundamental right, I don't think there is a fundamental duty attached to this. However, that still doesn't excuse the BCCI from denying the cricketers their right to vote.

As cricketers, the players are role models to a lot of youngsters, and they need to set the right example by exercising their vote and egging the youth to do the same. By sending the cricketers on a tour (on national duty) or to play for their clubs, the BCCI is sending out very wrong signals to the youth. First off, the audacity to be steadfast in their initial itenary to hold the IPL in April-May when everyone knew right from 2004 that is the govt was going to go the distance, the next elections would be in the summer of 2009. And secondly, since IPL 1 was such a success, why couldn't plans be drawn soon after the conclusion for IPl 2 and make the tour in March, thus giving the other cricket boards enough time(well ok, may not be enough, but certainly better than the current scenario) to tweak the schedules and tours of their respective teams.

Mr Pawar, you can't have everything your way, be it in cricket or in politics. As agriculture minister, you went ahead to import the largest quantity of wheat, for a country that ushered in the green revolution, at astronomical rates to further burden the exchequer. And now you want to be the prime minister, without realising that running the country isn't as easy as running a cricket board. The ICC may bow to your demands because our board generates the maximum revenue for the game, but all the people won't dance to your tunes all the time because you can exhibit your money power in front of them.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Vote for change - Really?

And so the great Indian elections are upon us once again (thankfully after the complete 5 year period), and once again it's time for the universal traits of politicians to shine through the despair and hopelessness, and once again I am reminded of Ogden Nash's lines,
Man is a victim of dope,
In the incurable form of hope.
We hope that things will get better with the passage of time, and every election, the youth make the right noises during the run up to the grand finale, only to have their hopes shattered by the motley, rag-tag crew that eventually end up getting elected to Parliament.

But this time, the run up itself seems a lot more inclusive and different from the previous elections. The youth, buoyed by the victory of Barack Obama, seem to have incorporated his slogan of 'change' into their stride, which is interesting because the current UPA govt and the previous NDA govt have a pretty similar track record when it comes to all major issues. Now if we are hoping for a change from a fairly stable and decent governance provided to us in the last 10 years, what are we hoping for? The smorgasboard of gutless politicos who've come up with a coalition called the 'third front', or the dalit dominatrix called Mayawati? Both these options will take the country back to the stone age, you can be assured of that. So the question still stands: change what?

Let me make my thoughts a bit clearer. I understand the intended usage of the word change. It's an indication that the people are fed up with the current crop who've parked their backsides comfortably in Delhi and in Parliament and enjoy privileges paid for with the tax payers money. But the problem is no matter what the youth (and by youth I mean all those below 30) want to see changed, they still don't have the numbers to effect this change. Now one other thing needs to be made clear: when I said youth, I was referring to the youth educated and living in the urban areas of our countries. And as I said before, they just don't have the numbers to effect the changes they want to see. Rural India outnumbers urban India almost 4 to 1 (some say almost 5 to 1 and more if you don't consider towns as urban and bracket them with the rural areas). Although we the middle class are seemingly connected with the rest of middle class India via the media, print and electronic, the disconnect with the rural areas (and for that matter the slums in our big cities) is evident - we simply don't have the numbers at present even though we see people across the cities unequivocally stating that they want change.

Which brings me to my main grouse against a Parliamentary form of democracy. The idea here is to elect a representative from your constituency based on the party he or she belongs to and whether you like what the party stands for. But there in lies the problem. What's to guarantee that the representative from my area is actually going to work for the development of my constituency? Take an example of some well known politicians irrespective of the constituencies they actually represent. Let's compare Arun Jaitley of the BJP and Jagdish Tytler of the Congress from constituency A and Varun Gandhi (BJP) and Rahul Gandhi (Congress) from constituency B. Take const. 'A' first - for the section that believes the BJP's only agenda is to divide India along communal lines, voting the BJP to power would be unthinkable, but when a decent person like Mr Jaitley is contesting against a Jagdish Tytler (accused of leading mobs to massacre Sikhs in '84), it would be a no brainer in favour of Mr Jaitley. Now the Congress may have a 'cleaner' image, but the BJP candidate is the one who gets voted in. So it's the individual and not the party that's taken precedence. Similarly, in the Varun Gandhi vs Rahul Gandhi case, sane and rational people know that if Rahul gets voted in, there's a section of the Congress that thinks he's already fit to be the PM, so people may be a little averse towards electing him, but when propped up against his cousin, Rahul is way ahead when it comes to working at the 'grass root levels', and is seemingly more calm than his cousin with his alleged new found 'fire'. So even if the people are impressed by the BJP's manifesto with all their tax breaks (failing to mention where the deficit will come from), voting for their (BJP) candidate would be a strict no-no when it comes to Varun, and Rahul would get voted in. Again, the individual triumphs over the party. Which is why in the last 15 years or so we've seen quite a few hung parliaments, and coalition politics has become the name of the game, with smaller parties with hardly 3-4% of the vote becoming king makers resulting in horse-trading and a host of ugly deals.

So does that mean the Presidential system is better? On the face of it, yes, it is better as it doesn't face the problems posed by the Parliamentary system. A chief executive is chosen by the people, an individual who is put forward as their (party) choice for the people, and he or she then selects his/her team and appoints individuals in charge of specific departments. These ministers/secretaries then go about doing their jobs only in that area, and don't have to distract themselves with the concerns of their constituents, for whom separate members are voted into the lower houses of the assembly/parliament. Take the case of the USA. Congressmen and Congresswomen are the people's representatives from their constituencies, and they work towards improving their constituency, without having to worry about foreign policy or any such thing, unlike a politician from a Parliamentary system, where not only must the MP manage his/her ministry (if they are ministers), but they also need to address the needs and grievances of their constituents.

For the voters this would mean more number of elections, but at least the system is in place to ensure that they get the best out of their representatives. I am obviously making the sweeping assumption here that the representatives want to work for the welfare of society, and aren't the power hungry wolves we usually find. It's obvious that those who are inefficient will fail to deliver in whichever form of democracy there is for there is no way an inefficient person can become efficient without an effort from within.

So at the end of the day, what change can we really expect when we are expected by our system to vote a person just because he or she may belong to a party that believes in a set of principles, and not because of the credentials of the candidate in question. Is it time to question whether we need to change our current system, or is it sufficient to just get the parties to change their mindset and put up candidates not based on their muscle and winnability, but because of their clean image, commitment and dedication to work for civil society.

Monday, March 23, 2009

IPL, hate speeches, slumdog credits, and what not

So it's official now - no IPL in India this year. After dilly-dallying for two weeks, the governments hypocrisy/defensive stance has meant that the IPL, a domestic 20-20 tournament of India, will be heading out of India. Paradox? Yes, but then this is India, the land of paradoxes, the land of the Mahatma and the brahmastra (nuclear bomb), the land of the Buddha and the buddhu, the land of capitalism and socialism. Today's Times of India had an apt title - NRIPL. Opinions are following into various categories, with some angry, some resigned to this kind of a thing, while still others are glad it's not on during elections.

Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to have the IPL on during the election season for the simple reason that you cannot take the security men and women for granted. They are human beings too who are liable to commit mistakes when overworked, and mistakes made while providing protection during an election or a cricket match can be catastrophic. What saddened me was the fact that the Congress ruled states decided to play politics with Lalit Modi. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh first granted permission, and then at the last minute pulled the rug from under the organisers feet. And then the opposition couldn't be far behind, asking what signals will this send out to the rest of the world about the security situation in our country. There was a point to be noted, although it wasn't echoed loudly enough. The IPL is a domestic tournament, so shifting it out to another country is a serious issue, irrespective of what the circumstances. On the other hand, the issue of whether the country's image takes a beating or not is completely different. The first issue, why shifting a domestic touney outside is an issue is quite clear - it's a domestic tournament, damnit, domestic. But moving onto the second issue, does the country's image take a beating, personally, I don't think so, and the reasons are pretty simple.

If there are people who equated the security scenario in India with that of Pakistan, then such people can be conveniently ignored. I don't mean any disrespect, for the fear for their lives must be respected, but the fact that they chose to disregard certain poignant facts means that there possibly would be no chance to reason it out with them. Elections in India are a massive task given the geographical diversity of our country, and for 62 years the Election Commision of India has been doing a fantastic job. Just the sheer magnitude of the excercise is enough to make this a logistical nightmare for even the best of event managers.

Now the security forces do a great job, but don't forget that they are human too, and if you overwork them, they're liable to commit mistakes due to fatigue, and a mistake during an election or a cricket match can be catastrophic to say the least. So why didn't the government make it clear from the very beginning that holding the IPL during election time is a near impossiblity, rather than dangle a carrot in front of the organisers and fans and then finally pull it back? The less said about this the better. But let me say this with full conviction - we may not have lost face by stating that elections are the foremost priority over cricket, but had we managed to pull both events of smoothly, we certainly could have enhanced our image in the eyes of the world, and that certainly is undeniable that we let a chance slip through.

Varun Gandhi: Varun Gandhi, like his late father Sanjay Gandhi, is turning out to be a maverick (at least, he's trying to). Since I strongly believe that the onus is always on the accuser to prove that the accused is guilty, I will give Varun the benefit of the doubt for the time being that the CD was doctored, because in all fairness to him, even when the video was played out, there is a word beeped out, and it's presumptious to say that the beeped out word was 'Muslim'. Why the mainstream media chose to ignore this baffles me even now. Are they in possession of the actual video where there is no beep? If so, what prevents them from playing that to the public? How can someone automatically assume that he was saying what he said against Muslims, and not against terrorists? If terrorist replaced Muslim in that speech, it would still make sense. Having said that, the remainder of Varun's speech was disgusting to say the least, for I'm sure I can pull out a hundred Hindu names that sound pretty funny and can be mocked. And I for certain wouldn't go about cutting people's arms off because they're anti social or whatever grouse Varun has against them.

Slumdog credits: How the Congress party chose to make a statement attributing the success of the movie Slumdog Millionaire to their rule at the center stills mystifies me. If a Hollywood movie, directed by a Brit, written by Brits, based on a novel written by an Indian who had nothing to do with the government (some might argue he wrote it in spite of the government!) can be said to have reaped the benfits of a 'prosperous' and successful 5 year tenure of the UPA (which hasn't the foggiest idea about movies and stories), then as the American's say, "I'm a monkey's uncle!". Even Dr Abhishek Singhvi's (Cong spokesperson) expression while making this statement showed he was embarassed, but was doing it purely for love of his party. I'm now pissed that the government didn't claim credit for Abhinav Bindra winning the gold in the Olympics, especially since they did not provide him with any practice facilities (he practices in his private practice facility created in his backyard). At least then we could give the government the benefit of the doubt and say that they were at least being consistent in trying to claim credit for something thet absolutely do not deserve.
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