Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reduced public tolerance level in India..where are we heading?

During last few months there is alarming increase in physical and verbal attacks on people expressing disagreement with certain political ideology specially against BJP (in real as well as cyber world). Any difference of opinion or alternate view is not welcomed, any negative comment is not taken in right spirit, even constructive criticism is ridiculed, attacked for no reason. There are organized efforts not to allow discussion on any topic which raises some uncomfortable questions rather every attempt is made to shoot the messenger. Recent physical and verbal assault of some people opposing BJP's policies are example of such extreme intolerant behavior. There are many people who even justify these actions, they try to justify these violent physical and verbal assaults by using whatever reasoning they can. This attitude is not only dangerous but also harmful for any developing or civilized society, it is specially bad for a country like India which is aiming to become super power or a developed nation in near future. Without free and fearless society it will be impossible to achieve real development and progress. Without open and fair exchange of thoughts, debates on every issue or subject it is impossible to become a really developed nation.

These type of incidents have become very common during this election season, specially supporters of BJP are very aggressive in attacking people who oppose their ideology or question their leader (Mr. Modi). But surprisingly there is no strong action taken from them to curb these type of incidents, they do condemn such incidents if issue gets too much media attention but no apology is offered or warning is issued to perpetrators not to repeat such mistakes. May be they think this is the real USP of their campaign as this is not the first time such things are happening from their side and lack of proper response raises serious doubts about their intentions to curb these incidents. This time I myself experienced such verbal attacks on few occasions on social networking forums like Facebook, some of my comments questioning BJP's agenda or Mr. Modi's performance as CM in Gujarat received some very hateful comments from some BJP supporters, they used derogatory language, called me with various names (sickular, pseudo intellectual, communist, AAPtard, etc.), their tone was threatening and insulting. I deleted many of these comments from my wall after warning them not to use such language. I deleted these things because I don't want such filth to stay on my Facebook wall, but their tone was alarming and threatening. I stopped engaging in such type of discussions as I realized futility of engaging in such useless conversations but this phenomena was quite evident this time. Then I read many reports in media about many such attacks in cyber world and even many physical attacks on people. Fortunately no one was seriously injured in those attacks but occurrence of such incidents is very alarming. Normally such extreme emotions are observed during discussion about religion or some sensitive issue, but  there also people don't abuse each other so easily. In past none of political discussions I was involved reached to threatening or derogatory level, except for few instances during last month or so. This is very organized effort to silence opponents of particular ideology.

Tolerance and patience are very necessary attributes of any developed civilized society. Without free and fair discussion about various topics and issues we can not find proper solutions to all our problems. Difference of opinion should not only be tolerated but also be encouraged, it's always good to see both sides of any issue before making any conclusions. Role of opposition is very crucial and important in any functioning democracy. Violence in any form except for self defense should not be encouraged in any civil society, everyone should have right to express their opinion, share their ideas. People involved in such acts of violence should be booked and punished for violating right of freedom of expression of other people. True democratic society debates over issues, chooses path of discussion and peace over violence to solve political problems or to settle difference of opinion. When such people don't get punished by law, don't get reprimanded by their party top leaders they get encouraged to repeat such acts. Top leaders don't engage in any such acts, they are not affected by these things but their silence and intentional ignorance of such acts is considered as mute approval. If such incidents are so rampant before the elections then people have every reason to be concerned about what will happen if such parties (BJP in this case) win the elections. Such attacks are especially dangerous for minorities and people who chose to voice disagreement against majority. Bullying in any shape or form is wrong, every one in society should be treated with equal dignity and respect. I hope that better sense prevails among people and they show more mature behavior, I hope that political leadership in respective parties take all necessary steps so that their party workers and followers don't engage in any such acts in future. There is serious concern and worry that such attacks may increase if BJP and its allies come in power in center, I hope these concerns and worried don't become reality. I want them to prove me wrong and demonstrate that no matter which party forms government difference of opinion, alternate view is always welcomed and freedom of expression won't be curbed for anyone.

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

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Communal politics and hate speech...

During past month or so countless speeches are being delivered in India by various leaders from various political parties. 2014 general elections for Lok Sabha are still going on, many political parties are engaged in fierce political battle to win seats in lower house of Indian parliament. Mostly these political speeches are full of emotional calls, crude jokes, personal remarks, rarely they contain anything substantial or useful. Main aim of these speeches is to highlight their party's agenda, engage the audience and challenge them emotionally to vote for their party. Even though these speeches don't contain much authentic data and are normally full of impossible promises they have huge capacity to influence voters. Many people get inspired after listening to them, it can also mobilize masses if required, there are many examples in history which show that. That is why any hate speech or inflammatory speech is very dangerous, because like other inspirational speeches which can have positive influence these speeches can have huge negative impact on people. It doesn't matter who is delivering that speech and where it is delivered, such speeches can instigate feeling of hatred among people against certain caste, religion, gender, community or group. This feeling of hatred then can manifest in some ugly forms like communal tension, social boycott or even communal riot which can kill many innocent people.

I wrote a blog post somewhat related topic after that infamous hate speech by MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi. BJP leader Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan are already warned for their hateful remarks they made during election campaign speech, these are one of the top leaders from those parties. Recently few more similar instances happened, surprisingly most people involved in these incidents were related with BJP or its allies. In one recent incident Mr. Praveen Togadia from VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) talked with some group about how to get rid of Muslim neighbors, the content of his speech is really disgusting and full of hatred towards Muslims. This was not the first time he delivered such hateful speech, he is serial offender in this area and so far no action has been taken against him in any case. Another instance was when Giriraj Singh BJP's candidate from Bihar told to all Modi opponents to leave India and go to Pakistan. In another instance Saharanpur Congress candidate Imran Masood threatened to kill Bharatiya Janata Party's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The most recent one which I saw was the more serious incident where in presence of Mr. Narendra Modi Shiv Sena leader Mr. Ramdas Kadam threatened a revenge against Muslims and also said that Modi would destroy Pakistan in six months of assuming power. All these speeches have something in common, feeling of tremendous hatred towards some community or person, such a deep hatred that people are willing to go any extend to attack each that person or group. This is not a democracy but fascism, in democracy people criticize each other, argue, debate but don't threaten to kill each other just because of difference of opinion. Another common thing among all these incidents is that none of these people faced any serious action from their own party for making such statements. Rather many of them became more popular and prominent faces in their respective parties. There is no strong deterrent which can stop them from making such statements or using such tactics. Expression of freedom should not be curbed under any situation, all these people have full right to express their opinion, it's up to people or voters to respond to such statements. Obnoxious statements like these should be opposed on every level shutting these people up is not a option, freedom of expression comes at a cost but violence should not be encouraged in any civil society. People need to decide if they want such people to represent them in assembly or parliament or any other place, as long as people vote for such people even after delivering such speeches they will use such dirty tactics to achieve their goals.

Words like 'secular' and 'communal' are used very frequently and casually in Indian politics. Every party claims to be secular and accuse their opponent for being communal. BJP, Congress or any other regional party (like BSP, SP, etc.) all play this game with each other, they all try to fool voters by playing this game. AAP is very new entrant in this field and it will be too soon to say anything about them in this area, so I will wait and watch before making any conclusions about them. According to me there is no real secular political party in India, some are less communal than others but thats the only difference, they all use equations of caste or religion as per their own convenience. Some even don't hesitate to use means of communal violence to achieve their political goals which is more dangerous according to me. In fact I don't even expect any party to be completely secular, a society like India where religion plays such important role in people's lives it is practically impossible to keep religion and politics completely separate. But to spread feelings of hate and animosity between different groups purposely, create division among people for political benefit is completely wrong and dangerous exercise. Communal tension, frequent riots, rampant gender discrimination, casteism, regionalism, etc. are results of these type of actions by political and religious leaders. These dirty tactics work because not all people are mature enough to understand real intentions behind these type of statements, they don't understand that these political parties make use of religious sentiments of people to create polarization. Because of lack of awareness about these things political parties make very good us of these ugly tricks to fool people. There can be several other reasons for this lack of awareness about this divide and rule policy (British used similar policy to rule India for many years); some people just don't have capacity to  understand this trick because of years of brainwashing and some don't have time to look into all these things as they are so busy in their day to day lives, some just don't care or rather support these type of divisive politics, etc. Because of proven track record of divide and rule policy it is very difficult for all these political parties to avoid the temptation of using it for their own political gains. It is for people to recognize this trap and make sure that it won't work, if this happens then only these political parties will be forced to abandon these methods, as long as this method works some party will make use of it so we need to make it ineffective, they are not going to stop on their own.

Hate speeches are as dangerous as racism, casteism or any other type of discriminatory or hateful act, they deserve strong condemnation and people should demand answers from respective political parties for such statements. We cannot ignore these things anymore, these things have already done enough damage to our society, now time has come to put an end to such divisive politics. This type of politics already resulted in division of our country in past, if we can't stop it now then we don't know what problems it might create in future. Politics should be based on issues and topics related with development and social problems it should not be based on hate and revenge. Religion should not be mixed with politics as much as possible, hate speeches should not be encouraged at any cost. Communal politics and hate speeches are different sides of the same coin and they should not have any place in any civilized and tolerant society. I hope all political parties and voters understand the danger which lied behind use of such tactics and behave accordingly. Time has come to change the direction of political discourse in India and only we the people of this country can play very important role in this. Let's hope we recognize this and act responsibly before it's too late.

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

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

Links: 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Power of symbolic acts.

Champaran or Kheda satyagraha were not very big events of history when they happened in 1920s. Dandi march or salt march was also not that big deal when it actually happened in 1930, after all how important was the salt law for British raj? Their empire didn't depend on that tax money for survival that's why they didn't bother to stop a political leader from breaking it. With all the power and force into their hands why the administration chose to be a mute spectator even after knowing what Gandhi was capable of doing? When Mahatma Gandhi marched for around 240 miles to break that law what did he achieve by breaking such trivial law? But today this event is considered as an important event of the Indian independence movement. Actually this salt march in one way was responsible for initiating civil disobedience movement on national level. By this long and unusual salt march and by breaking simple law like salt law actually Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi showed to common people of India that British empire can be challenged by using nonviolent protest. He proved them with example that such a mighty empire with all power in their hands can be challenged by non violent, unarmed common people, such was the power of this symbolic act. Symbolism plays very important role in every society. It inspires people, it gives them hope, encourages them to dream the impossible. But why I am suddenly talking about this subject today? This is because of some incidents happened in India and around the world during last few months which reminded my few of these incidents from Indian history which had huge impact on thinking and behavior of common people. People may or may not agree with my views but I see many parallels between some incidents happened recently with few pivotal incidents from Indian freedom movement.

When people from all over India and across the party line stood behind group of people who started India against corruption (IAC) movement, it resulted in unique movement. It was one of the scenario which India never witnessed in long time. There was no caste, no religion, no hatred for any single person or party which united all these people, it was their anger against rampant corruption and failure of system to deliver which united them. This movement resulted in formation of new and very non orthodox political party called Aaam Aadmi Party (AAP). It won 28 seats in Delhi assembly elections and even formed a government in presence of two big and powerful national parties. Then we witnessed some never seen before incidents like, ministers of AAP government traveling by public transport for swearing ceremony, Delhi's chief minister (CM) sleeping on road side to protest against central government, people doing their own sting operations against corrupt officials, etc. These scenes were never witnessed by people before, CM even resigned after he realized that he can not fulfill main promise made by their party in their manifesto. Many people were shocked to these things, many were angry because they thought CM should never do this (protesting on road or resigning from post just for some manifesto promise), many were amazed, many were angry, confused, and what not. There is no doubt that these incidents created varied responses and lot of controversy.

Many of these acts were very symbolic, this was the first time a CM was protesting against non accountability of police force in his own state. This was the first time in many years any political leader visited his attacker to know the reasons why that person attacked him. But these actions can be considered as political stunts or drama by some people, and may be they are right only time will give answers to these doubts and concerns. Mahatma Gandhi himself was criticized and ridiculed not only by Britishers but people from his own country for many of his actions, even his appearance (specially his dress). Some called him some naive politician who didn't know ground reality in India, a dreamer who was trying to fool people by showing some impossible dream of achieving independence by nonviolent movement. They called his dressing like poor of India a political stunt. He also failed in many of his initial endeavors, many times movement took totally unexpected turns and he had to retreat (like Chauri Chaura incident in 1922) but finally his struggle helped to achieve India's independence. On similar lines this movement against rampant corruption in India may take many twists and turns, there may be some failures and setbacks but I hope that finally it achieves its goal.

Symbolism is of great significance in every society, symbolic acts have power to inspire millions. These acts can mobilize masses, inspire many to participate in struggle. One simple step like wearing khadi inspired millions to spin charkha during independence struggle. But the truth is it's relatively easy to start a movement but very difficult to sustain the intensity of movement, very difficult to maintain the same level of commitment and transparency. It will be interesting to see in which direction this anti-corruption movement goes, whether it will progress slowly and steadily towards its goal or these big and powerful parties successfully crush it before it becomes too big and create problems for them. After all they also studied history and know the power of such symbolic acts and these type of movements. They will try their best to portray each of these act in negative way. They all will try their best to ridicule any movement which raises any uncomfortable questions for them. When you don't have money and muscle power to support your cause these small but effective symbolic acts can help you to deliver your message. Power of symbolic acts is amazing and currently we are seeing its effect in India.

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

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Criminalization of politics...do we care?

Criminalization of politics in India is very serious issue and is debated very often in India, but very little has been done in this direction. Candidates with serious criminal charges contest elections and even win it and become law makers. For some people it might sound impossible scenario or something happening in some third world or totally undeveloped country with very unstable political environment, no...you are completely wrong if you are thinking this. I am talking about worlds largest democracy India, you don't believe me? Please check the published data yourself then. Please check candidates with serious criminal charges contesting on tickets from major national parties. If anyone argues that sometimes numbers don't tell the real story, I totally agree with them. We should not just go only by numbers sometimes data can be deceptive, that's why we need to carefully analyze it, study it and then come to conclusion, form our opinion. Fortunately election commission (EC) of India comes to our rescue in this case. Most of candidates need to submit an affidavit while filing their nomination which contains details about their financial assets and criminal cases. This is the data we need to carefully look into and decide who is facing what type of criminal charges. This is the real piece of document which can help voters to decide whether criminal cases pending or filed against candidate contesting in their constituency are serious or not. I also agree that after being in Indian politics or in any agitation movement it's not easy to get slapped with some type of criminal case but the nature of criminal case is what it matters not just the case itself. As a voter it is our duty to study background of candidate after all they are applying for a job to represent us and we need to analyze their application carefully.

Most parties talk about decriminalization of politics, they all say that they are not the one who started it. They all say that they are not the one who are making political environment dirty, it's always other parties who are doing the wrong stuff and because of others they are forced to give tickets to such people as they also have to win the seats to get that numbers. I wonder who are these "others" who are doing these things and our poor national parties are forced to follow? They all shamelessly give tickets to tainted people. People with serious criminal charges against their name are openly welcomed in these parties. By serious charges I mean charges like rape, murder, corruption, forgery, kidnapping, etc. Some candidates have multiple charges of these crimes and their affidavit looks like CV of some seasoned criminal. After giving tickets to such people these parties even try to justify their action by using whatever excuse they can find. They offer some lame excuses like those are only allegations which are not yet proven, these people are not convicted by any court, they are out on bail so should not be considered guilty, lower court or some committee acquitted them, etc. etc.

Why these political parties do such things that too so openly and shamelessly? Why they are not scared that voters can punish them for such actions? If every party is interested in cleaning the system then why these people with serious criminal background keep on getting tickets from these parties? There are many questions like these, mainly this is happening because people (voters) still vote for these candidates. Even after knowing criminal history of these candidates people vote for them, they fall for false propaganda of these parties. These parties make use of casteism, religion, money, muscle power or whatever other way they can to win votes of people. As long as people fall prey to these tricks, as long they keep on voting for such candidates these parties no matter what they say they will keep on offering tickets to such objectionable candidates. It is very clear that they are not going to stop on their own.

As a voter we need to educate ourselves about the candidate who is contesting from our constituency. We need to know his/her background, qualifications and other related things. We need to ask them questions from whatever forum we get chance to interact with them. We should treat them like we treat any candidate who is asking for a job in our company to work for us. Based on all this information we should take our decision. Democracy is not useful without informed consent of people involved in it. We need to bring culture of open debates and discussion in our election process. Information brings knowledge, and knowledge brings power, voters need to empower themselves using all the information which is available to them. Once voters become empowered and realize value and importance of their vote I don't think they would like to waste their vote on some criminal or non qualified person who is not going to do any good for their region. We all need to be concerned about criminalization of politics, we cannot ignore it any more, rather we cannot afford to ignore it. Based on data available around 1/3rd MPs in current parliament have criminal record, if this is not alarming then I wonder what else is? These traditional political parties are not going to clean up the system on their own, we citizens of India have to do this. It is our responsibility to give our vote to right candidate who respect and follow law. I request all the voters to use all the information available to make informed choice. If we don't act now then these political parties will continue with their belief that these people don't care about criminalization of politics so what should they change. They will continue with their current strategy. If we want to act we need to act now before its too late. After all vote is ours and choice is also ours.

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

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

Links:
1. Candidates facing criminal cases in these elections
2. http://loksabha.adrindia.org/lok-sabha/reports
3. Lok Sabha 2014 Consolidated Analysis (Phase 1 to 5) of Criminal and Financial background details of contesting candidates 
4. Nearly 1/3 Lok Sabha MPs from 2009 have criminal records

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Mr. Modi is going to stop rise of another Modi?

General elections of 2014 are going on in full swing, their results will be declared very soon (May 2014). Based on several opinion polls BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is expected to emerge as single largest party in this election. All credit for this performance is supposed to be given to spectacular leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi who also happens to be its prime ministerial candidate. Mr. Modi's name came in national news  for the first time because of infamous 2002 Godhra riots. These riots happened in Gujarat during his first year as chief minister and he faced lot of criticism for the way he and his administration handled that incident which resulted in killing of some 1000 people in his state. He won three consecutive assembly elections in Gujarat since then, but his role in those riots is still debated and some survivors are still pursuing cases against him. These riots gave him certain image which he hardly tried to change, he never even apologized to riot victims. He emerged as conservative, right-wing politician, a self proclaimed Hindu nationalist leader. Very aggressive and well planned media campaign, support of organizational network of BJP and lots and lots of money (donations, party money, etc.) helped him to build this image. Now please don't ask the source of all this money which this big national and regional parties use in India as it's not mandatory for political parties to declare source of all their donations. These organized efforts and extensive propaganda has created certain image of him in people's mind. This campaign tried to maintain his image of conservative Hindu leader but added another dimension of developmental messiah based on some recent economical development in Gujarat. Based on very much debated Gujarat model he is projected as a leader who can solve all problems which India is currently facing. Dismal performance of UPA-2 government headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, anti-incumbency factor along with number of scams and corruption charges on some ministers helped Mr. Modi to become front runner for next PM's post. 

No one can deny the role 2002 Godhra riots played in helping Mr. Modi to emerge on national scene of Indian politics, at least I heard about him first time after those riots. I also heard lot of praise for him from many people for the way he handled those riots, most of the praise was from so called Hindu conservatives. They were happy that he gave time to Hindus to vent their anger about killing of Godhra train burning incident victims before taking any strict action against rioters. We all know that this cannot be proven in any court, but this was my personal experience and I am writing it based on that, not based on some news article, blog post, book or anything else. These riots helped him a lot to win 2002 Gujarat assembly elections. Now the question which comes to my mind is how Mr. Modi is going to stop emergence of another Modi, who might want to use similar strategy to achieve his/her ambitions? And I am not talking here about something which never happened in Indian politics, there are some examples from recent past where people from same party (or same family) tried to use a similar formula used by their seniors to achieve their own political goals. May be these people thought that why to design any new strategy when they have something which has already been tested and proven to work? This happened with firebrand leader of Maharashtra late Mr. Bal Thackeray, he couldn't stop his nephew from becoming another firebrand leader and launching his own political party using similar strategy which Balasaheb used to launch his own political career in past. Mr. Modi also used tactics similar which his political guru and mentor Mr. L.K. Advani used in past. Mr. Advani was leading political figure in Ram Mandir movement. That movement polarized India that time and created lot of disturbance and violence but it also helped BJP to gain power in center for the first time in 1996. Ram Mandir movement polarized the country and so did the Godhra riots, both incidents either by plan or by accident helped a political leader to become a national figure. Recently even a young leader like Mr. Akhilesh Yadav (CM of UP) is also using similar political tricks which his father used to stay in power.

When aspiring leaders see that particular formula worked very well for someone to achieve his/her aims in very short time then at least some of them cannot avoid temptation to reuse that same formula for their own political benefit and I think here lies the biggest danger. This creates a real possibility of emergence of many such leaders who are ready to travel same path to reach same goals. May be Mr. Modi is a good administrator, may be leaders like him or Mr. Thackeray are really good in decision making, may be they are powerful and know how to control their cadre but the question we need to ask is, do we want to encourage others to use similar methods to become another Thackeray or Modi? If not then how are we going to stop this from happening? Just by hoping that nothing like this will not happen in future, I am sure this is not going to help. Why don't we question these leaders and make them come clean before they occupy any public office? Why don't we challenge the system which results in situation which then encouraged creation of such leaders. Minority or majority appeasement both are wrong, there should not be any appeasement politics at all. We need to object it whenever it happens no matter which party is playing such politics.

No one likes to remember these unfortunate incidents and argue about them again and again. This is not very pleasant experience at least for me and memories of these incidents are also very painful for victim's relatives and survivors of these incidents. But if perpetrators of these type of crimes are not punished and worst if there is no hope that they will get ever get punished then how come someone can forget these incidents? Because of this passive attitude of many people these type of crimes repeatedly happen and every time people who complain or protest are targeted. They are advised to forget and move on or they are reminded that this is not the first time it happened so it's not a big deal that it happened again. Have we become so insensitive? Have we totally lost faith in humanity? Do we value human life only based on religion, race, caste and nationality? Has politics become more important than human life to us? What is the reason that these type of incidents keep on happening and no big politician accused in these riots get ever convicted? Do all these victims lie or there is serious flaw in our investigating agencies and law system which allows these people to escape easily?

No one can deny the need of economic prosperity for any nation, it is required for any country to remain competitive in this world but it should not come at the cost of injustice to riot victims. This post is not about Mr. Modi or Mr. Thackeray or Mr Yadav, I am using them just as a examples because they are from recent past one can take any examples which they want. This is about our passive mindset which makes us keep quiet and ignore such crimes. We behave as if death of 100s pf people is not a big deal at all, it's politics and development that only matters. May be it is not a big deal for some people but for me it's a big deal and some one need to fight until justice is done to Kashmiri Pandits, 1984 victims, 2002 victims or any other riot victims. This is not about some individual or party or some election but about people who suffer in these incidents, if we can't protect them then the at least we can do is to try to fight for their justice and apologize to them so that their pain becomes bearable. No one can understand their pain but at least we can try to reduce it to some extent. Let the best candidate or party win this election but lets not try to trivialize serious incidents like riots which affect lives of many people. Please remember what George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

This is blatant and shameless display of male chauvinism...

It seems there is some sort of competition among some Indian political leaders about who makes more derogatory comments about sexual violence against women. This blatant display of male chauvinism is sickening and disgusting but this is not a new or recent phenomena. Apart from Samajwadi Party leaders like Mr. Mulayam Singh, who said that young boys do these type of mistakes (rapes) in youth rage and should not be punished very harshly for this or Mr. Abu Azmi, who said that women who have sex outside marriage should be punished. There are some who are suggesting that Mr. Modi's wife must be happy that finally he accepted her publicly. These are not some isolated incidents, there are many people across the party lines who share similar views. And please remember that these leaders are not some new entrants in politics they are experienced and seasoned politicians who very well know meaning of these statements and also know political benefits associated with them. Such statements not only reflect male chauvinist nature of society but also show pathetic attempt to trivialize of such incidents.  

Rape is a heinous crime, it brutally hurts the victim not only physically but also emotionally, it leaves permanent scar on their mind, there cannot be any doubt about seriousness of this crime. Only insane or insensitive people can trivialize it. Offenders who commit this crime must be given harsh punishment by law, at the same time awareness should be spread among youths which can help to minimize these incidents. Strong and effective law along with aggressive awareness campaign is the only way to tackle these type of problems. These politicians are not helping the cause at all by making these type of statements. Actually they all can go to any extent to gain political benefit, they can justify riots, rapes or any other heinous crimes, there are examples of these from very recent past. 

What prompts these people to make these type of statements? Why people allow such politicians to win the elections even after making such ridiculous statements? The reason is believe or not there is large section of society which still believes in these type for things, they still believe in male superiority and support male chauvinism. These people don't come from some backward areas or belong to uneducated class but there are highly educated folks also who believe in all this. These are people who cite examples from mythology or from history to justify Mr. Modi's action of leaving his home which resulted in abandoning his wife. No matter for what purpose Mr. Modi left his house and what he achieved I wonder how people can justify his action of abandoning his wife and not bothering about her for so many years. I also feel dismay over these people now telling that woman that she should feel honored and lucky that person of Modi's stature finally accepted officially her as his wife. No doubt whatever happens between husband and wife is their personal matter but when anyone is running for public office then their all past and present actions can be scrutinized by media and public, it's very common practice all over the world. Any such act by prominent public figure can send a wrong signal to people. Same people who get influenced by such actions then try to justify rape as some trivial mistake committed in youth rage. These people might even expect victim to pardon the offender if for whatever reason he offers to marry the victim after brutal rape and might even expect her to feel lucky that the guy is doing this huge favor to her. 

This type of mindset is not only disgusting but also very dangerous, it not only tries to trivialize the crime but also encourages it. If people cannot stop these incidents at least they can try it not to encourage them directly or indirectly. There is no doubt that sometimes some of these laws are misused to settle some personal scores or for some selfish gains, this should not be encouraged and all such cases should be dealt with equal seriousness and sincerity. Sometimes people misuse certain laws but that does not diminish the need to have strict laws, we just need a more efficient, sensitive and transparent system to deal with such cases so that these laws are effectively implemented. Women's issues are important in any society but they are more important in societies where male chauvinism is so predominant. If people like us don't oppose such actions then these people won't stop from making such statements, supporting such actions and demeaning women. Women need all the support and help to deal with these problems. No doubt that women  need to empower themselves to fight this battle on their own but the support from all sections of society is equally important and crucial. We all can help to deal with these type of problems at least by strongly raising our objection to such statements and questioning such actions. These politicians also should not get away easily after making such mistakes or statements, at least people won't get a wrong message and get misguided. Display of male chauvinism is always shameless but now it's becoming so blatant and widespread that we cannot ignore it, rather we cannot afford to ignore it.

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Silence is a powerful enemy of social justice..

We all see something wrong happening around us in some form or another sometime in our life, either directly or indirectly we all witness such things. Sometimes we choose to protest, object to these things and many times we decide to ignore and move on because of various reasons. Many times we are scared to protest or think that it's none of our business to interfere in these matters as they are not directly related with us. We all might have our own valid reasons for opposing or not opposing these things. But it is true that some of us we ignore social evils like bullying, discrimination, harassment etc. happening around us. Some reasons which people often give are, one person can not bring the change, so what's use of protesting? They think if these incidents don't directly affect us then why should we interfere? Many people also think that keeping quite and not interfering in others business is a good habit (definitely it is a good habit but not when some injustice is being done right in front of your eyes) or some of them even hope that if they ignore these instances few times somehow they won't happen again in future. I totally agree that losing patience is not a useful way of addressing any problem but that doesn't mean keeping quiet or ignoring them are any good options, rather I think they are worst. We need to register our protest in some form within the framework of law, we need to voice our opposition to such practices in very strong and clear voice. Many times silence is considered as an indirect approval for such acts, it encourages perpetrator to commit these crimes again and again and I hope most of us don't want this to happen. 

Actually ignoring such incidents purposely or choosing to keep silent should be considered as equally bad as committing those crimes. This bystander approach is very dangerous. When we chose to remain silent we give message to perpetrators of these crimes that people are OK with it. We tell them that they can do such nasty things and get away with it. They get an impression that they can bully others, harass others or trouble them and no one will dare to protest or confront them. This type of behaviour provides encouragement to them. In private many people express their displeasure and concern about such things but this doesn't really matter if they ignore these things when they personally witness the real incident. As I said different people have different reasons behind not reacting or ignoring these things, but I believe there is very strong reason and requirement not to ignore them. Many times perpetrators of such crime try to physically intimidate the victims and because of this other people also get scared of, they do this to spread fear with hope that no one will protest and many times they succeed. But if even some of us show little courage to tackle them head on they might not get away so easily and will think twice in future before committing the same crime. No one likes confrontation or enjoys any unpleasant scenario but many times that's the only option we have to stop social evils like bullying or discrimination or harassment. If particular person or group chose to remain silent even after facing some unjust they offer themselves as easy targets for similar incidents in future. Such silence is a very powerful enemy of social justice and we need to eliminate it. 

We should raise voice against any injustice or harassment without worrying if it's directly related with us or not. Nationality, race, religion, caste, political affiliation, gender or anything should not be the criteria behind supporting or criticizing any such crime. Mahatma Gandhi said once, "Hate the sin not the sinner", we need to oppose social injustice, social evils, not individuals as some people might think, that individual is just a representative of that mindset we need to fight that mindset. So let's fight social injustice and evils together, silence is not an option in this case.  

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

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

Democracy depends on informed consent...

Now a days it is election time in India, very charged atmosphere with political emotions flying very high. All political parties (and there are so many of them in India) are trying their best to woo (or trap or fool choose whatever term you like) voters so that they vote for them. India is considered as largest democracy in the world with population of around 1.2 billion people. Politics and democracy are two different things according to me. Politics is played in almost every country, but there are very few places where true, healthy and well functioning democracy exists, the question here is, is India one of them?

True democracy doesn't only mean right to vote, this is just one part of it (no doubt very important part). True, healthy and really functioning democracy depends on informed consent of people involved in entire democratic process. The process includes candidate selection by political parties, policy development, voting, governing, etc. All eligible citizens should be able to participate in every step directly or indirectly. There are very few countries in this world which have such a robust and transparent democratic process in place. India is democratic country for sure, citizens have right to vote but most voters have very limited information or knowledge about policies of political parties or even about candidates contesting from their constituencies. This information is deliberately not provided to them. Until recently there was no right to information act (RTI), even now political parties and their funding sources are not completely revealed under this act, they don't even come under this act. Most political leaders prefer to deliver emotionally charged speeches rather than talking about their actual road map which will allow them to achieve promises they are making. There is no culture of debate or discussion between major political parties or their candidates which can allow voters to understand what they really stand for. People with serious criminal charges (like murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) are given ticket by almost all political parties. All these political parties unite whenever there is an attempt to bring any reform or act which can minimize criminalization of politics or dilute their power in any way. These things normally happen in background, most voters/citizens are not even aware about these things and most political parties (including manor national ones) don't want voters to know about this political nexus between them. On political stage they appear as fierce rivals to fool people but there is lot going on backstage than one can see. More ignorant and ill informed voters are, more better for these political parties.

Because of tremendous development in information and technology in recent years and presence of active media, now a days people are receiving lot of information from various sources. There is so much information out there that now a days it's really difficult to grasp all of it. Along with very useful information there is lot of junk also, people need to filter it and educate themselves about real issues and problems. Once voters get informed they realize real power of their vote, they get empowered. Without information and awareness votes of voters can be purchased or voters can be fooled by creating some wrong picture, making false promises which no party even bothers to fulfill once they come into power. All these things are happening in India for last so many decades. People are really frustrated and disillusioned with this system. This is the major reason for all the support which inexperienced party like AAP (AAm Aadami Party) is getting. These things are happening during this general election also, but slowly things are changing. The change is slow, it will take time but I think it's coming. I hope it doesn't lose its momentum because many political parties are not happy with this change. They all want the same old system in place, same old style opaque politics as it is very beneficial to them. People who are trying to bring these changes are targeted, actually these people are not at all that important but the message or reforms which they want to deliver is most important. Some people are trying to shoot the messenger in hope that message doesn't get delivered. I hope voters of India look beyond personalities and try to understand the message. Who is delivering the message is not at all important, the message is important. If major national parties like Congress and BJP are willing to decentralize power, bring strong legislation against corruption, bring total transparency and accountability in governance, encourage job growth then there won't be any need for any anti-corruption movement or any new party. Whenever establishment neglects certain section of society, corruption and crime becomes rampant in society, some new movement starts, some new political party is formed to fight against this injustice.

Informed voters are more powerful, they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Informed voters are equipped to make informed choices, political parties and leaders can not fool them all the time by giving false promises. Democracy is not very useful for its citizens without well informed voters. I hope this scenario changes in near future. I hope candidates and their supporters learn how to conduct and participate in civilized debate, these type of debates are very necessary and are essential part of any democratic process. India never had them so far as a part of electoral process I hope in future they learn to conduct them. After all democracy depends on informed consent and without that it's just a democracy for the namesake. I think most of us want true and functioning democracy not something which just looks like it but doesn't feel like it. 

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

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

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mr. Modi I wish it was only one party's fault..

I heard slogan of "Congress mukta Bharat" (Congress free India) during this year's (2014) general election campaign by BJP leader Mr. Narendra Modi. Many BJP supporters liked the idea, after all who doesn't like to wipe out their political rival from picture? Somehow every other problem which India is facing today is blamed upon Congress party and its ideologies. Actually there is a very nice sounding reason for this as this party ruled the country for most of the time since independence (1947). Superficially this claim looks very robust and logical but if we analyze it closely it doesn't look only one party's fault. BJP itself is in national politics in some form or another since last 40 years or so. They also got chance to run central government for ~ 9 years in between (six years on their own and three years as a part of Janta Party govt.). They are major opposition party from last few years and also have their government in some states of India. So part of the blame also goes to them, but they may not accept this as they want to put all blame on Congress. No doubt Congress cannot escape the blame, they have to accept responsibilities for their mistakes but there are more than one culprits here who are responsible for all this mess.

Over the years India has developed very corrupt, unaccountable political and bureaucratic system (if we want we can blame it on legacy of British rule). Our politicians hardly tried to modify the structure of police or bureaucratic setup which British designed to suit them (the rulers). India got the new constitution which promises so many great things but they didn't support it with system reforms which was required to deliver those promises to every citizen. This system is still running some how but it failed to deliver expected results, and people are upset because it missed the mark not by a whisker but by a distance. Lack of transparency and accountability are major salient features of this system. This system also heavily depends on the people who are running it, if the they are really honest and sincere system might produce desired results but if not then there is ample scope for corruption and if they are caught there are many loopholes in existing laws which allows them to get away with it. So the failure of Congress or even BJP to deliver great results is in part because of nature of this system. But this system is very beneficial for rulers, it allows them to have complete control over judiciary, investigating agencies and police (after all British designed it to control India), so these parties are very reluctant to change it. Whenever they gou opportunity Congress or BJP both never showed any intent to introduce desired reforms to make this system more transparent and accountable. They both made many promises which were not fulfilled mostly because of widespread corruption in entire system. 

This so called Congress free India promised by BJP is not going to be any different with this same system (if at all it happens). I wish solution was so simple to all problems which India is facing today. Actually no matter which party comes in power, with same system in place, with same loopholes not many things are going to change for common people of India. They need more strong laws along with independent agencies which can implement them impartially and effectively to protect people's interests. There are many laws and rules which protect interests of political parties and their leaders, they all fight for it and these rules are effectively implemented but similar treatment is not offered to common people. They are at mercy of these leaders or parties to get anything from the government. Technically in true democracy it's government of the people, by the people, for the people but we don't see that picture in our country and that's why people are feeling delusioned with current system. This is the main reason why new and inexperienced party like AAP is getting so much support and attention. It's easy to blame one single party and it's easy to put all blame on them, but actually it's the fault of the whole system which involves all political parties and voters (who vote and also who don't vote). We need some reforms in every sector, it doesn't matter who brings them but we need them for sure. I think all political parties are aware of this demand but somehow they are not willing to accept this yet. They still want to play old style politics, after all who wants to dilute their share in power, who wants to loose total control over government and money. Congress free India is not appealing idea for me Mr. Modi, I don't even want it because I know it is not going to change anything for me, but yes, corruption free India is, transparent and accountable system is very appealing and if you want to talk about that then I am listening. Another request to you and all leaders from other parties is it will be great if you all can support your promises with some concrete actions because for last many decades we are only listening to false promises specially in with respect to dealing with corruption. So far it is just talk but no walk from all political parties and I expect to s some change this time.

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

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is Dr. Swamy really want to disenfranchise Indian Muslims?

I watched some of these interviews of Dr. Subramanian Swamy sometime back, when I watched them I didn't think that they were worthy of any serious attention. These interviews were largely ignored by mainstream media also and even all major political parties gave it a pass, no one really made any big deal out of it. But on second thought I think these type of views should be questioned, specially when they come from some political figure who might play key role in major national party (BJP in this case). I think Dr. Swamy gave these interviews as a part of promotional campaign for some book he wrote recently. I can understand his desire to popularize his book to boost its sale, but any sane person with rational mind would have thought twice before making any statements like the one he made during these interviews. Dr. Swamy is well known politician and educated person, now a days he is also a prominent member of major national party BJP. There is very high probability that if BJP comes into power he might hold some crucial ministerial position in future government. It is really unfortunate to see that such a person is saying that all Indian Muslims (or all non-Hindus including Sikhs, Christians, etc.) should first acknowledge their Hindu ancestry to get their voting rights.

Only Dr. Swamy knows why he said these things and what he really meant, but his statements clearly display his intolerant attitude towards other religions and faiths. I wonder on what basis he links Hinduism with being Indian, I don't think there is any relation between these two things. Why anyone has to accept or even acknowledge their ancestors if they don't want to? I personally don't care who were my ancestors, what religion they followed. I am very happy with my present and willing to work hard for my better future, does that make me any lesser Indian than others who prefer to acknowledge their ancestors? If I am a law abiding citizen who respects law of land and if I have any disagreement I either discuss, debate or register my protest using ways allowed by law; is all this not enough to get a voting right? Why my ancestry is so important? Why government is interested to know which religion I follow or my ancestors followed? Why government is even bothered about my or my ancestors religion? Can Dr. Swamy give any satisfactory answers to all these questions? Many people think that Hinduism is not a religion but it is a way of life, the word Hindu was coined very recently. This civilization of Indian subcontinent (which they call Hindus) existed long before this word was coined. Dr. Swamy's aim behind insistence of this ancestry acknowledgement is clearly to create some unnecessary controversy. Imagine what will happen if person with so much bias against particular community or religion gets some cabinet portfolio which designs policies for citizens of India? Will he be fair to all communities? I hope people who are going to vote in this election ask these questions to concerned people.

I believe this is an intentional move by Dr. Swamy to create polarization of votes during this election. He is very clever and shrewd politician. I think he is playing this card to please gallery, to make traditional BJP supporter happy, to make them feel assured that their pro Hindu ideology is not all lost in this development saga. I think Dr. Swamy himself knows that this policy is impossible to implement in India, but this is a political move to reap some short term political benefit and some money by boosting his book sale by creating some controversy. But according to me he created really pathetic image of himself by doing this. Government has no business to interfere in private matters of law abiding citizens. Citizens should be free to choose whatever religion they want to follow, they should be free to change it any time and any religious affiliation or acknowledgement of ancestry should not be a criteria for citizenship or voting rights or any other thing. I hope Dr. Swamy understand this and will correct his mistake soon.

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

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

Links:
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVm-BhvKZw0#t=271
2. Swamy to head BJP’s action panel