Friday, May 30, 2014

Mr. Kejriwal and his so called dramas...

AAP leader Mr. Aravind Kejriwals' arrest for refusing to pay bail money was in news for last few days. Among all news related with Mr. Modi's swearing in ceremony this was the only news which managed to get attention in electronic media, they even ignored killing of couple of soldiers or some rail accident but only focused on these things, but that is media, after all it is a business and they show what people want to read. Kejriwal's arrest because of his refusal to pay bail bond money was called as another drama from his side to attract media attention and cheap publicity. This was not the first time his actions were termed as drama, his decision to reject big bungalow which normally chief ministers occupy was called a drama, so was his dharna on the road to demand suspension of few police officers. Even driving his own vehicle to office or his simple dress (normally politicians in India go for all white or some traditional attire) was considered as a drama or an attempt to attract media attention. Most of his actions which defied so called normal behavior pattern of conventional politician in India were called drama not only by his detractors but also by media. Why Mr. Kejriwal's actions are labeled as drama? Why anything which deviates from conventional norm is labeled as drama by people who like to follow conventional line of thinking? These are very interesting questions and as usual Mr. Kejriwal have given us another opportunity to discuss another interesting issue here.

Actually I have some personal connection with this issue that is the main reason I decided to write this post. There was a time in my life when I absolutely hated to wear suite or any fancy dress (no matter what was the occasion). I still don't like much to wear them but back then I was totally against some of these things (like going on Honeymoon after marriage, celebrating birthdays, etc.). Any time I opposed any of these ideas, it was called a drama. That too when I was opposed to dressing up or celebrating the occasion, etc. People who were dressed up like movie stars or TV serial actors were called normal and a person who refused to do that because he really didn't like to dress like that was accused of doing a drama. The real problem is that many people can't believe that some individuals don't like to follow the conventional norms or stereotypes just for the sake of being accepted by society. Many find it difficult to believe that some people can break the conventional norm and can behave differently. It is also ironical that when everyone is wearing flashy, expensive, designer and fancy stuff, a person with simple clothes is called a dramebaaz.

This mainly happens because people think that if this person (for example me) can afford to buy these things but still refuses to do so, then he/she is must be a dramebaaz. Poor people who don't have capacity to follow some of these conventional protocols are not accused in this way but if you can afford and still don't follow the norm then you are dramebaaz. If you can afford then buy a fancy, expensive, branded car; if you don't do it and are still drive your old, used or rusted car then you are a dramebaaz. If you can afford designer suites, expensive jewellery, etc. then you should buy them and wear them but if you go to party or function with very simple or regular clothes then you are a dramebaaz, this list can go on but I think readers must have got the point which I want to stress here. And this doesn't at all mean that people who wear expensive clothes, like designed stuff or fancy cars are doing something wrong or should feel bad about it. They have total right to buy and use things which they like. It is their right to choose what they want to wear or what they want to do with their money and their life. I really appreciate their sense of fashion and their ability to manage all these things but some people like me just don't have any interest in these things or one can also say that we believe in some different lifestyle.

Our society needs to accept that some of us believe in totally different set of rules and want to live our life by those rules. If those rules are not illegal or harmful to anyone then how can this be a problem for anyone? How can it be a called a drama? If Mr. Kejriwal wants to live his life by his own beliefs, he wants to stand up for what he believes is right and is willing to face consequences for his actions, why is it called a drama? He is willing to face consequences of his actions is very important, he should not expect any special treatment. As he is a public figure one can surely debate if his actions are right or wrong but to call it a drama is trivializing his beliefs and values out of sheer ignorance. This also shows a mindset where people expect everyone to fit in same mold and behave as per society's norms.We just need to learn that there are certain people who travel totally different path and we must learn to respect their choice.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gender biased etiquettes..

Open and hold your car door for ladies, during lunch or dinner pull out the chair for them before you sit, offer your seat to them in crowded city bus or train, these are few tips offered to men who wish to behave like a true gentlemen (?). It is also said that true gentlemen treat women as a woman, I guess this means give them very special treatment for sure but definitely doesn't mean treat them as equal. While these etiquettes might make women feel special, privileged or even happy on these occasions, but according to me these etiquettes are gender biased. They are examples of positive gender discrimination (where women are getting special or preferred treatment just because of their gender). Superficially there doesn't seem anything wrong in it, they all look so well mannered, good intentioned and very respectful also but such minor incidents slowly sow the seed of discrimination in people's mind.  Because of some of these things some men get impression that women are different (or special or weak who always need help) and they should be treated somewhat differently (that is like woman). But then these people also expect that women should behave like woman, because they are special and different than men (inferior, weaker, less capable, etc.). These are the men who get surprised or even feel shocked when women demand equality.

Gender discrimination like any other discrimination can be either positive (where some person is offered special treatment just because of their gender) or negative (where person is discriminated just because of their gender). Men and women both are victims of this type of discrimination. But whenever men or women face positive discrimination, that is when they get any special treatment just because of their gender normally they don't complain. I see most men and women enjoy this type of special treatment offered to them but when it becomes negative discrimination they start complaining. Any type of discrimination (positive or negative) should be questioned, because if you tolerate one type (positive) then people expect you to tolerate other type of discrimination (negative) also. Some families treat boys differently than girls, boys are allowed to go out more frequently, they can stay out late, drink or even smoke after certain age but similar things are not allowed for girls. Boys often don't see anything wrong in this preferred treatment, they don't complain for this special treatment but then same families expect boys to outperform girls in every competition, he is expected to work and earn living for his entire family (bread earner), he needs to be strong under all circumstances, after all he is the man of family...the savior, the protector, bread earner, etc. All these expectations put tremendous pressure on them, they are expected to perform and succeed not to fail or show any weakness. In any sexual crime men are considered as obvious offenders (statistically they are in most of cases, but the problem is it is assumed even before any investigation), and without realizing some men suffer because of their gender. Some males who don't fit in this mold struggle, feel guilty or even get ridiculed by society (for not being real man). I have written about discrimination and bias against women in some posts before so I won't go into details about that. The truth is both genders get special treatment and then also get discriminated just because of their gender. I think both these things are wrong, once we accept one thing (special treatment or positive discrimination) then the other thing (negative discrimination) comes along with it.

Why women need to be treated any differently than men under any normal circumstances? What couple does during their date is their personal matter but to make these gender biased etiquettes a general thing is wrong. Women can open car doors themselves, pull their own chair and they can also stand like any other normal passenger in train or bus. I have seen many ladies politely rejecting seat offered to them just because they are women (by saying that they are fine and don't mind standing). There are reserved seats for ladies in trains and buses in India but there is altogether different reason for that, I think everyone who has traveled in crowded buses and trains in India know why ladies are offered reserved seats or reserved compartments. But I think we don't need any reserved seats just for ladies anywhere, in special cases like pregnant women people (both men and women) should be courteous enough to offer them their seats. Women are capable of taking care of themselves they don't need others (men) support specially in a way that makes them feel that they are weaker sex. I hope that more and more women reject this type of special treatment offered to them just because of their gender. Equality comes with some price, it's not a free thing. Equality also comes with some responsibility and struggle, if women want to claim that they are equal to men they need to behave like one. They need to reject all special treatment offered to them just because of their gender. They need to say that they don't need special treatment but need equality. They need to fight for their rights, it might com with loss of all this special treatment but I am sure equality is far better than any special treatment which comes at the cost of equality.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mr. Modi your time starts now...

BJP under leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi has registered very impressive performance in general elections of 2014. They not only emerged as a single largest party by outperforming their arch rival Congress in almost every state but also they secured a majority on their own which never happened in last so many elections in India. No doubt this is a stunning performance and incredible victory by any standards. There was a huge vacuum created by a very weak performance by the Congress-led UPA-2 government, BJP projected itself as a very viable alternative to solve all the problems India is facing in every sector today and the results show that people believed in them. By % vote share BJP got ~30% votes all across India, that means there are still ~70% voters (who bothered to cast their vote) chose some other party than BJP, so there are vast majority of voters (~50%) which didn't accept either BJP or Congress (second largest single party in this parliament with ~ 19% vote share) as their choice but the truth is that BJP has won majority in parliament on their own and they have a mandate in their hands to implement their manifesto.  Numbers are in totally BJP's favor so it will be interesting to see how they perform, after long time (since Rajiv Gandhi won majority for Congress in 1984) a single party secured majority on its own in Indian parliament. This is unique opportunity for them, let's see how they make use of this.

During the election campaign, BJP and its leaders made many tall promises along with equally tall claims (so-called Gujarat model of development). They were promising uniform civil code, squashing of article 370, construction of Temple in Ayodhya for last so many years and in their every election manifesto (including this one) these things were mentioned. It will be interesting to see what they do with these promises. They also promised to bring back black money from foreign banks to India and use it for people's welfare. The numbers floating in media about amount of black money stashed in offshore accounts are ridiculously high, the range is enormous, now it will be a responsibility of newly elected government to keep their promise and bring back that money or at least they should clarify how much truth is there in all these news articles about black money. Issues like price hike (in every sector), struggling economy, sluggish job market, rampant corruption in all sectors of public life, opaque and non accountable governance, etc. are there from so many years, they made so many promises to tackle these issues and I think people now expect them to deliver positive results. One famous line of prime minister-elect Mr. Narendra Modi during the election campaign was, "you gave Congress 60 years, give BJP just 60 months". People liked his idea of seeing their fortunes changed dramatically in 60 months, they gladly gave him and his party next 60 months to govern India, Mr. Modi promised to change India's future (hopefully in a good way) and bring development (hopefully for everyone not only for certain section of society). Now all these people who gave them chance with a lot of hope will expect results from day one his government assumes their office. People should be patient and wait at least for few years before forming any positive or negative opinion about this new government. There are many things which they can do immediately in many sectors which can boost people's confidence, it will be interesting to see if they are willing to take those steps. People are expecting a change in the governance not just change in the government's face and I hope that happens.

There is one more thing which I noticed after this election, some people or group of people is acting this if something catastrophic political disaster happened in India and its democracy is in acute danger. They think that BJP's victory is like dooms day for Indian parliamentary system. May be they have a very good rationale behind their all these fears but honestly I am little surprised by their extreme pessimism and negative attitude towards this democratically elected government, after all, they won this election by a huge majority. One can differ with their ideology, raise questions about the way they fought the election, amount of money they spent during elections and various other related issues but to question the legitimacy of their victory on every front is a bit too much. They are trying to paint very negative picture of India under BJP (or NDA) rule, rather than doing all this if they are really worried about something really bad happening to our country and its people they should go back to work, they should work hard to strengthen their respective organizations and spread public awareness so that even if the current government or ruling party and its members want to do anything wrong they should not be able to dare to do it. Crying foul and offering lame excuses for their own bad performance is not going to help them in any way. There is no doubt that India needs major electoral reforms, political parties, and their funding should come under RTI but these things are not going to happen overnight, we need to put on a long and persistent fight to make it happen. Let's see how this government performs to tackle these problems, let's see what steps they take and how they execute. People should judge the performance of this government based on results, not based on perceptions or some hypothetical scenarios. We should continue asking questions, raising important issues, let it be about 2002 (or any other) riots or fake encounters, inflation, pollution, corruption or anything else. No one is entitled to acquire any immunity just because they occupy any particular office or chair, these issues are important and should be raised. But please don't raise some hypothetical questions and project totally imaginary scenarios. I agree that many BJP supporters have become extremely aggressive about their attack on people criticizing their leader or party (this was very visible these during the election campaign). All such hyperactive supporters from all parties first need to learn how to control their emotions, if not, then at least learn how to talk in civilized language. Mr. Modi and his team don't have much time before people start asking them about the results which they promised and start evaluating their performance. Their time starts now and it is better for our country if they utilize this unique opportunity very wisely.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

We have now new set of employees in office now to work for us....

Results of 2014 general elections in India are out, people have given clear cut mandate in favor of BJP, in many years first time any single party has got clear cut majority in parliament. This is a very good sign, one can agree or disagree with BJP's core policies or can question their communal history, those things are open for debate and should be debated but now they have clear mandate to fulfill whatever they promised in their manifesto. People of India have decided to give them a chance to implement their manifesto. Recently AAP has shown in Delhi that if there is political will and strong desire to implement the manifesto it can be done, even though it was for really short time but they displayed a proof of concept. Now this government have no excuse to offer for lack of performance. If they even try to blame previous government it will be considered as an attempt to offer lame excuse to cover their inability to perform. We all have seen how people reacted even to smallest possible mistake which happened from minority AAP government in Delhi, it was not the only government which came into power during that time. There were at least 3 more state governments which were elected during same time, but they were not subjected to same scrutiny and acid test. AAP created lot of hope and promised clean and transparent government, they promised that they won't stick to to power just for the sake of having power if they can't deliver their promises. People can have different opinions about their really short tenure at office in Delhi but they showed that any government who has will can perform that too without majority in house. 

Now we have new set of employees in office, let's see how they perform for us. These all elected members of any public house or public service are employees of all legal citizens of India. Their salaries, perks and all benefits are paid from all the tax money we pay to government. So in every election we select (elect) them to work for us for some specified period of time, they are supposed to fulfill all the promises which they made to us during their selection process (elections). For many decades these employees behaved as if they are owners of this enterprise (our country) and we all citizens are their workers, and we voters (who are real owners of this enterprise) allowed them to live them with this belief, we allowed them to get away with this arrogance. These people cheated us again and again, misused our trust and made false promises on many occasions, offered lame excuses whenever we asked for any explanations, this whole drama was going on for many decades. Most of political parties (including current one which is coming back in power after 10 years of gap) are guilty of this crime. But I think now hopefully people are tired of this game, people showed some of that attitude in asking questions to AAP's government in Delhi, I hope not they will show similar attitude towards each and every state and national government in India. We had enough of blame game, BJP blaming Congress and Congress blaming BLP and in reality none of them doing anything to fulfill their promises. This needs to stop, we need accountable and transparent government in every state and at center. BJP with its clear mandate and majority of its own now have that chance, they also claim to have leader with proven track record and ability to take tough decisions, so they should not have any difficulty in doing all the good work for all sections of society. These all claims and promises which they made will be now put on real test. It is easy to talk, easy to make tall claims and populist promises, but it's not easy to fulfill them all, their time and real test starts from the day their party assumes power.

They promised to bring back black money in specified time (like AAP promised Lokpal), they promised to punish criminal politicians, they promised to bring uniform civil code, squash article 370, etc. one can read BJP's manifesto or hear speeches of BJP's prominent leaders to know what all they promised. Some promises (like article 370 and uniform civil code) they are making for decades and offered excuse of lack of clear majority for not fulfilling them, now they don;t have that excuse. They now have to deliver these things, they can not hide behind shield of coalition politics or coalition dharma, because now they have absolute majority. AAP delivered in Delhi so much without having any majority and with very hostile opposition in assembly. This government doesn't even have any strong opposition in parliament, actually this can be very dangerous situation for any democracy, very strong opposition in very important part of any democracy but this can be big plus for this government if they really want to do something good for this country. That is why I said in one way this is good that they have absolute majority, there will be no place to hide for them even if they fail on any single major promise.

I am looking forward towards their work, I will evaluate their performance after some suitable time. One should give them some time and then ask our questions, hopefully their CV was genuine and their answers to our questions were honest, many of us have selected them based on those answers. So don't stop questioning them, don't forget any past issues, debate and discuss them as strongly as we did in past. All parties who did not perform well in this elections, their supporters should not lose all hope, don't get disheartened just because your party has lost the election or didn't win any seat, it is not the end of the road, don't lose any hope, don't get frustrated, win or loss is part of any election or game, get back to the basics, work hard to strengthen your organization and keep your eyes and ears open to listen to people's problem and issues. Building better and stronger India for everyone is important who is doing it is not that important, so let's work to build a strong, free, liberal and vibrant society and country for everyone. Let's built India which we all dream for, a country which is not only great in slogans but in reality also. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Women need to get involved more in politics...

For last month or so general elections were going on in India (poling ended on 12th may 2014). These elections were to elect representatives (MP or member of parliament) for Loksabha (lower house of Indian parliament), strength in this house decides which party (or coalition) will come in power to form next government. Obviously during any social gathering of friends and family (consisting of mainly Indian community) topic of politics always used to come for discussion and there used to be very passionate and heated discussion about politics. One thing which I clearly noticed during these discussions that rarely women participated in these discussions, rather they were really against discussing political issues or political personalities during these gatherings. There used to be lot of argument from their side whether we should at all discuss politics or not during these gatherings. There is no doubt that politics and religion both topics result in very passionate and intense discussions or debates, some people don't like to participate in such discussions just because they are not comfortable with the way people behave (or attack each other) during these discussions, I can understand this but I fail to understand why some people feel so antagonized about these topics that they don't want to touch them. After all both (politics and religion) are part of our society from ages and they both affect out life in one way or other. Politics specially affects everyone as government and its policies do affect our day to day lives and we needs to be aware of these things if we intend to bring any change.

I wrote many posts about issues related with gender discrimination, women suppression and sexual harassment, these all are socially and politically very relevant and sensitive issues. If women want to bring change in society's attitude towards them, if they want to eliminate gender discrimination and highlight some problems which are faced by them even in today's world then they need to become politically aware and active, they need to participate more in political process to highlight their own problems and issues. If political field remains dominated by males then even if politicians discuss these women related issues we will always get male perspective about these problems. We will always hear what some men think about these issues (even if they are feminist, it is a male perspective), it will be always better to hear what females think about their own problems. To make their voices heard women need to take active interest in politics and become proactive. Depending on current establishment to solve their problems is not a very reliable solution. Reservation is also not a ultimate solution for this problem, we just don't want women faces out there, we want actual independent women participating in these forums and expressing their concerns.

Actually I always try to invite everyone to discuss these topics, I always do this in my own home where we all discuss various topics related with these issues openly, everyone is free to express their views or challenge anyone's opinion. This is how we learn about various issues (discussions and debates), we come to know how different people (even in same family) think very differently about certain issues. These type of discussions and debates are very helpful and necessary according to me. I always engage in such discussions with many of my friends but female representation is always missing (or very limited) specially during Indian gatherings. This situation is not only limited to social gatherings or functions, if you look some amazing reports created by Ravish Kumar (a journalist with NDTV) which were telecasted during this election season wherever he goes he only gets male opinions about political issues, he had to take really special efforts even to make women speak to express their political views. I think this should change in near future, blaming society and patriarchal culture for all their problems and issues is not going to help all the time, women need to step up and take responsibility to solve their own problems. Currently politics is heavily male dominated area, if women don't show any interest in it then it will remain male dominated area for years to come, they need to take efforts to change this. First step in this direction will be to understand the political process and political issues by getting involved in political discussions which will help them to form informed (and independent) opinion about various issues. Depending on others (specially on male members of their family or society) is not going to help them to solve these issues.

I have also noticed that it's not that women don't have their own opinion about these politics and related issues, but many times they hesitate to share it or they think this is not the area where they belong or their opinion is needed or valued. Women constitute almost half of the world population, their active participation in every field is necessary for progress of our civilization. They need to voice their opinion, they need to make informed choices on their own, it's not always good to make suggested or recommended choices by someone else.Unless they take conscious efforts to change this situation male dominance will not diminish from society. Politics and religion are tow major areas which are heavily dominated by males and by controlling these tow fields they control entire society. If females want equality in society, they want equal rights and fair treatment then they need to make their presence felt in both these areas. They need to break barriers set by society on them and enter in these fields and show that they can also be politically active and successful. It's not that we didn't have any female leaders, there are many examples of female leaders around the world but we definitely need more of them and unless women start actively taking interest in these areas (which is the first step in this direction) we are not going to see this change. I hope this change comes very soon

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kashmiri Pandits..banished from their own homes in their own country.

Kashmiri Pandits are Brahmin community from the Kashmir valley, but I am not using this term for that particular caste but for all Hindu community which once used to reside in this valley. This part is one of the most beautiful regions of India, with lot of beautiful mountains, valleys and lakes, stable and peaceful till partition happened in 1947 After that also largely it was very peaceful and tourism was one of the major business in this area. Every year lot of tourists used to visit this region, many Hindi movies were shot here, many songs of famous Hindi movie star Shammi Kapoor are filmed in Kashmir. Those days shooting abroad was not so easy and common, Kashmir valley provided much needed scenic locations for romantic movies and specially for songs. Kashmiri Pandits constituted approximately 14-15% of the population (during Dogra rule from 1846-1947). Valley population was dominated by Muslims during this time but there was peaceful co-existence of different faiths during all these years.

The major problem started sometime after 1985 or so, many separatist groups emerged and Kashmiri Pandit's became easy targets as largest minority in that region. Many of these militant groups with their demand of independence from India or demand of merger with Pakistan started terrorizing people by spreading violence. Kashmiri Pandits (in general non-Muslims) were specifically targeted because they were in minority. Targeted killing of many people from their community naturally spread fear among them, government's failure to control these killings and provide required protection to these people resulted in fleeing of these people from valley. These people were victims of lot of cruelty and brutality which happens during any communal riot. These families left their ancestral home, land, culture, identity all behind and moved to different parts of India, after all they have to save their lives. They mainly migrated to parts of Jammu and Delhi, even though it was in same state of country they were uprooted from their home and culture. I am sure many of them hoped that this was some temporary madness which will go away and they will be able to return to their homes and live their original life again peacefully. But, sadly it never happened. According to different different estimates around 100 to 200 thousand people migrated away from valley because of this insurgency. This brutal and targeted killing and displacement of Kashmiri Hindus is not less that any other communal riot in India, perpetrators of this crime should be punished. Respective governments (state and national) should apologize to all affected people for their failure to protect them and every effort should be made to reestablish these victims in their own homeland.

This is as serious issue like any other riot or massacre in India or in world, but unfortunately it hardly gets any mention in main stream media. Everyone agrees that there is a problem but no one is willing to discuss or to show any willingness to solve it. No one is held accountable for this, like any other communal riot we are expected to forget this incident and move on with our lives. But how these people who got uprooted from their culture and land will move on? How can they forget all the trauma and pain which they endured all these years waiting for justice? Can we just tell them that we tried our best but nothing can be done now? Is it enough to heal their wounds? Their exodus from Kashmir valley is very sad and hear wrenching story. You can understand the seriousness of this problem only when you talk with those people listen to their stories. Mere words are not enough to explain that pain and anguish of these people. These people were banished from their own homes, uprooted from their own culture, were murdered and victimized for no fault of theirs but their own government couldn't do anything to protect them. Unfortunately this issue (along with many other similar issues) is heavily politicized because of so many political angles involved in this. Some parties (like BJP or Congress) raise this issue but they never pursue it enough to take it to any logical conclusion. But they all are only interested in taking political benefits which come by exploiting these type of issues. Sometimes it's really sickening to see how these political parties play dirty political game using some of these unfortunate incidents where thousands of people suffered for no fault of theirs.

As I wrote in one of my previous post that recalling memories of any tragedy, communal riot or massacre is not a pleasant experience, but when we see so many people still suffering and waiting for justice to be delivered to them how can we remain silent as if nothing happened? How can we tell them to forged everything and move on? Is our system has become so weak and impotent that we can not punish the real culprits? Or we don't want to punish them because of some political equations involved in these type of so called issues? Does our society believes that minority need to always surrender before demands of majority and if they don't then they need to leave or die? Are we going to react to massacres or communal riots based on people from which religion die in these incidents? For me any communal violence is a disgusting and shameful act, I don't check how many Hindus or Muslims died and base my reaction on that. This issue of Kashmiri Pandits is equally important as 1984 riots or 2002 riots or any other riot in history. Every riot victim deserves total justice and at least an apology from the administration which failed to protect them. There cannot be any exception to this and as a society as long as we don't achieve this our struggle continues.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Politics and religion...a lethal combination

Politics an religion both look so similar in many aspects that some times it is very difficult to distinguish them from each other. In many countries both help each other in many ways, both these disciplines work very closely and assist each other to keep their hold on people's minds and in turn their votes. Specially in country like India religion is used extensively in politics, there are many ways by which politicians use religion to achieve their political goals. Sometimes politicians get so high in their heads that they start thinking that they are some sort of gods or demigods and they even start behaving that way. Instead of interacting with people, understanding their problems, serve them, answer their questions, they live totally comfortable and disconnected life. They only occasionally come to visit them (that too with lot of security and in helicopters or planes), give their speech and disappear, just like giving some sort of 'darshan' to people. They also think that people should be happy just to see them and listen to them as if they are some super humans whose mere presence or words will solve all problems of these poor people who are suffering because of misgovenrance of these same politicians. When these politicians start behaving like demigods they totally loose touch with reality, for them their image becomes everything, they start thinking that their speeches are like sermons, which people are supposed to just listen. They don't like any difficult questions, they don't like to mingle with all common people but only with their supporters (or fans or bhakts). So one can clearly see that there is lot common between the way politics and religion works (at least in India). Religion also works on very similar lines, just listen, don't ask any difficult questions, if you don't believe in powers of our God then please leave but don't challenge or question.

There are some parties like BJP who owe their existence to some cultural/religious organizations (like RSS), they even became major national party with the help of religious movement started by them (Ram Mandir movement). Why some political parties or politicians make use of religion to gain power? Can we keep politics and religion separate from each other? How and why politics and religion help each other so much? These are very complex questions and there are equally complex answers to them. One blog post is not enough to answer them all. Depending on culture and nature of society interdependence of politics and religion varies from region to region. But no doubt that it is a lethal combination, because only one is enough to bring fanatic side of people and when people mix both of them together their logical thinking is completely shut and then all it remains is just blind faith and fanaticism where there is no scope for discussion, debate or opposition. Politics is all about debates, discussions, questions, answers, policy brainstorming, participation of people (because after all its for people). It is very interactive and dynamic process, nothing is untouchable or taboo subject in politics, whatever is there in society can be discussed in political forum, but similar things are not true in case of religion. In religion certain things are not allowed, questioning is allowed only to certain extend, after that either one is branded as atheist (non believer) or thrown out of that organization. When people try to implement similar rules in political forum then it creates a problem, it just kills the spirit of political process.

One thing is for sure that both politicians and religious institutes want to control people's minds. They also want their money (for campaign or many religious functions, charitable work, etc.). To achieve these goals both these institutions want people to believe whatever they say without any questioning (or with minimum questions). They try their best to create situation where people are not encouraged to ask question (or are afraid to ask any questions), having such grand rallies or super human like image of their leaders is one way to intimidating people so that they hesitate to ask questions. This intellectual intimidation works many times, people just get memorized by presence of these magnetic personalities and surrender before them thinking that this great leader (religious or political doesn't matter) is going to solve all their problems. But it never happens, actually we don't need super heroes we need good leaders who are willing to listen to people, interact with them. We need leaders who are interested in designing system which can work efficiently, a system which doesn't depend on a star performer but is a star itself.

Use of religion or religious symbols is prohibited by law in India during political campaign, but many political parties do this any way. There are laws but there are also ways to bypass them. I think there is nothing wrong in discussing social issues which are related with some religious beliefs like same sex marriage, abortion, etc. but there should be free and fair discussion about these topics not some emotional speeches intended to polarize or divide the society. If people are not interested in healthy debate then better not to raise these issues during election time as nothing comes out of them except social chaos. These issues can be discussed on proper forum where there is no political interference. For many people both politics and religion are very sensitive issues, many have very passionate and strong views about their political and religious beliefs. Normally only one of these subjects is enough to create some heated discussion or debate then imagine combining both of them. I personally believe these two areas should be kept separate as much as possible for welfare of society. We have seen some disastrous effects of organized religion on our society we should not make the situation worse by mixing politics with it. I hope political parties, religious institutes and mainly 'the people' realize this and act accordingly.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hinduism and today's Hindutwa are totally different.

Some self proclaimed Hindutwa forces are in full swing now a days in India, they are smelling fresh ray of hope because of emergence of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi in political arena. Mr. Modi is leading the race for the job of next prime minister of India, his RSS background and image of Hindu nationalist leader makes these people very optimistic about their future. There are many religious or cultural organizations all over the world, they all try to propagate agenda of their own religion or cult using various ways. There are many organizations like RSS, VHP, Bajarang Dal, etc. in India, they all claim to be flag bearers of Hindu ideology. There are many others who focus on propagating ideas of other faiths also but in this post I want to focus on some organizations which claim to propagate message of Hinduism. They all claim that their ideology is synonymous with Hinduism, which is considered as one of the oldest practicing religions of the world. All these organizations have very sizable number of followers in India. Religion plays very important role in day to day life on many Indians and because of this it is also widely used in politics also (in various forms like caste, communalism, etc.).

Organized and aggressive campaigning by all these organizations, their strong cadre base and supply of sufficient amount of funding from various sources help these organizations to spread their message. All these resources also helped them to create the perception that Hinduism and the Hindutwa ideology which they propagate are one and the same thing. They claim to be protector of Hinduism (as if it needs one), they create a perception that Hinduism is under threat by some invaders and other religions (like Islam or Christianity) are trying to destroy it. Similar line of thought (threat from other religions) is used by almost all religions all over the world, it helps them to polarize the society in favor of their own religion (if they are in majority), or if they are in minority, it helps them to instill feeling of insecurity among their followers which in turn increase their dependence on such organizations, these people look towards them as protector of their identity. This type of propaganda is specially dangerous in plural society like India as it creates communal tension and religious animosity. This divide and rule policy can take many ugly turns which results in incidents like communal riots, forceful religious conversions, casteism, discrimination based of religion, etc. There are many example of such incidents from history to support this hypothesis.

The perception created by these organizations has worked very well for them, we can see that at least to some extend they were successful in propagating some of their hard line Hindutwa ideology among people and create division between them based on their religious beliefs. Coexistence of many religions (or faiths) at the same time (pluralism) is central feature of India. Pluralism was key feature of all civilizations which existed in that region, Hinduism itself is a very good example of a religion where variety of traditions and beliefs coexist without having any single book or saint dictating the terms. Some countries from south east Asia after their gaining their independence chose to follow religious path (for example Pakistan) and we all can see what is their situation today. India fortunately chose to follow a secular path which keeps religion and state separate, there is freedom to choose and practice any religion, state laws are not based on any single religion or particular philosophy. But it is also true that even in today's modern world no one can ignore the need and role of religion in any society or country. Many people still need support of religion and religious beliefs play very important role in their lives, many associate their identity with their religion. Because of such a strong influence of religion on society many politicians and political parties cannot avoid temptation to use it as a tool to attain their political goals. For this purpose, many of these organizations twist and turn the facts as per their convenience, they try to propagate very conservative or sectarian views to oppose certain culture (for example so called western culture). They try to create as much animosity among people as possible as it helps them to polarize people's opinion. This game is going on for very long everywhere in world, India is one of major victims of this type of politics, British rulers started it and now Indian political parties are continue to play the same game. India has suffered at the hands of various political outfits which either play politics of appeasement or division. These type of policies have created huge problems, some gruesome and inhuman communal riots also happened but still neither political parties nor people are willing to desert this approach.

This hard line Hindutwa philosophy which these organizations are preaching is totally different than Hinduism. Many people don't consider Hinduism as religion but consider it as a way of life or call by some other name like Sanatan Dharma. Like all other religions Hinduism has its own pros and cons. But in general it is one of the peaceful religions of the world, with very tolerant views and inclusive nature. But over the years lot of bad traditions creeped in (like casteism, discrimination of women, superstitions, etc.) and like any other religion hardliners emerged to claim the ownership of it and its welfare. These hardliners are the people who create problem in every religion, they are the ones who are always interested in conflicts. They are the one who think that some conflict is always necessary to keep their religious movement alive and active. And to keep their so called religious movement alive they can go to any extend (even to the extend of creating a communal riot which results in loss of many innocent lives). There are many rules and laws in place to keep check on these type of activities (where some social elements and organizations try to disturb social harmony), but at the same time there are many loopholes in these laws which allows these people to bypass them or get away without any punishment. There is no strong deterrent which can stop these people from using such politics of hatred and divisiveness. It's entirely up to people to understand this dirty trick and oppose these efforts to divide the society on religious or political grounds. In any civilized or progressive society their should be complete freedom of expression, so all these people have right to express their ideas and views but at the same time more liberal people from each religion should come forward to oppose such sectarian views.

Hinduism and this so called Hindutwa are totally different things. Their Hindutwa is totally political which is designed to suit some particular organizations and their aim is to target minorities. Any religion which targets minorities can not be considered as tolerant or inclusive. Let's oppose this fake ideology which is trying to camouflage its divisive agenda under the name of Hindutwa. Hinduism and this Hindutwa are totally different things, sooner we understand this better it is for our country and society, otherwise we don't know how long this game will continue and how many lives it will claim.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]