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
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