Category Archives: Democracy

India should have a consistent procedure for constitutional posts

SasikalaThe way V. K. Sasikala is about to become the next CM of Tamil Nadu despite the fact that the state already has a CM, is quite alarming. I’m not saying whether she will be good or bad for Tamil Nadu, all I’m saying is, her sudden elevation to the post of CM in one of the major states of India shows that you don’t have to follow a political procedure in order to become CM. All you need is political influence. All you need is the political power that you wield. Any post is open to you. This is quite dangerous.

Initially this modus operandi began with the Congress, with Indira Gandhi becoming the PM after Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi becoming the PM after Indira Gandhi. Since technically Sonia Gandhi couldn’t become the PM the mantle would have been thrust upon Rahul or Priyanka had they not been kids. Even when she couldn’t become the PM, Sonia Gandhi ran the country through a puppet PM, and it was perfectly normal for everybody. Our intellectuals and liberals had no problem with a backdoor power center. No mainstream journalist ever asked why she was running the country via the NAC?

Tragically, our media is all riled up with existential questions only when it concerns the BJP – and mind you, I’m not writing this because politically I support the BJP – otherwise, they just become reporting agents. They are “being dispassionately objective” personified.
Sasikala is elected as a legislature party leader by MLAs and lo and behold! She is all set to become the CM. No journalist worth his or her salt has asked how is it even possible in a democracy? What has been her political experience? Why is she becoming the CM just because she is politically influential?

I’m not saying if this should happen or not. What I’m disturbed about is that no TV news channel is asking what the heck is happening? They’re simply reporting it as if it concerns nobody. Let it be the BJP, and suddenly, we would have had a constitutional crisis of global consequences.

Even Rajiv Gandhi became the PM like that. Before Indira Gandhi’s assassination, he was a nobody in terms of politics. Then suddenly, since nobody outside of the Nehru Gandhi family can be portrayed as the biggest leader, he was suddenly catapulted by a tragic vicissitude and political opportunism.

Look at Narendra Modi on the other hand. For every position he has had to fight a tooth and nail battle. During 2014 he made a world record by holding 1800 big and small rallies in the run up to the general elections. Even before that he had been Gujarat’s CM for 15 years. Before that he had worked for the BJP and the RSS for many years just like any other volunteer.

Whatever you say about the BJP, at a larger level, there is no family feudalism. Before Modi’s ascent there were many big leaders in the party including Advani, Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Still, due to sheer hard work and political acumen he was able to become the PM, and, the inner dynamics of the party allowed him to leave everybody behind. Can this happen in other parties? I don’t think so.

But this is not about the BJP. What I am talking about is, like American elections, there should be a standard procedure for people to be able to occupy constitutional positions. Unless they follow that procedure, they should not be able to hold constitutional positions. This may cause disparities, given India’s unequal society, but keeping this in mind, some measures must be taken so that individuals don’t just popup from somewhere and become CMs and PMs.

Image source

The big fuss about porn and its banning by the Indian government

One wonders whether all the fuss about 800+ odd porn websites being banned in India had something to do with the sort of government we have (BJP-led) at the centre or it actually had to do something with freedom of personal choice. After the so-called “furore” by the so-called “liberals” the government is known to have retracted and according to this BBC link, has instructed the Internet service providers to ban just those porn websites that have kids in them.

I find the entire brouhaha stupid at best. All these people chest beating about the porn ban are really worried about personal choice or they are simply ululating because it is the wrong sort of government that has taken the “draconian” step.

Porn is bad and very few people will disagree. It’s not about what is shown, it’s about how most of the porn content is made. This link explains, in all the gory details, how women are treated while making porn movies. They are dehumanised. Most of the male participants and porn filmmakers are women haters. Once these women agreed to act in a porn movie, it’s free game for the producers, directors and the male actors. The women can be raped, they can be beaten, they can be gagged, they can be burned and according to one female actor, one of the women was also disembowelled.

My initiation into porn was a gang rape by five men, arranged by Mr. Traynor. It was the turning point in my life. He threatened to shoot me with the pistol if I didn’t go through with it. I had never experienced anal sex before and it ripped me apart. They treated me like an inflatable plastic doll, picking me up and moving me here and there. They spread my legs this way and that, shoving their things at me and into me, they were playing musical chairs with parts of my body. I have never been so frightened and disgraced and humiliated in my life. I felt like garbage. I engaged in sex acts for pornography against my will to avoid being killed. The lives of my family were threatened.

Most supposedly educated people protested against the porn ban must surely be aware of how most of the porn content is created so it is a safe bet that it was mostly the political agenda that drove them to speak up against the ban. In the name of freedom of choice, it won’t surprise you that one day they will also support the freedom of choice of the ISIS members uploading videos of various beheadings they carry out on weekly basis.

In the wake of the ban, renowned journalist Pritish Nandy tweeted

Although I asked him if he had some data to back his claim but naturally he didn’t respond because these journalists have gotten used to saying anything that comes to their mind because until the arrival of the social media, nobody could question them. But that’s different issue. Recently a survey was carried out among the prostitutes and call girls and more than 99% claimed that their clients often demand weird and dangerous stuff because they had previously seen that stuff in the porn clips. Incidents of minors committing rapes have increased because they see porn videos online and then want to enact those scenes no matter what. So it is highly outrageous and moronic to claim that abundance of porn on the Internet has no significantly negative impact on the society.

Personal freedom, yes it matters and ideally, the government shouldn’t decide what we can watch and what we cannot watch. Even the thought of a dozen snooty babus deciding what we can see on the Internet is cringing. That’s another topic and it has got nothing to do with my aversion to porn websites.

Talking about morality puts people off these days because nobody likes to be lectured upon. But I like what Swapan Dasgupta writes here:

Pornography was always something that was surreptitiously circulated and sold and never for public flaunting. Maybe this was evidence of Victorian double standards or even hypocrisy, but it corresponded to existing cultural mores. The internet disturbed this equilibrium by making pornography available on demand. The sense of social awkwardness that accompanied the ‘consumption’ of pornography in an earlier age was removed by technology. The ban doesn’t put an end to pornography; it restores its deviant status.

Far more disturbing are the objections of those who have linked the ban to a supposed state-sponsored erosion of liberal values. Rather than examine the specific facets of pornography, the government directive has been juxtaposed against a libertarian ideal where the state leaves individual tastes outside any regulatory framework.

What is this so-called “idea of India”?

What is your idea of India? The author of this article has an idea of India as, if you take it as face value, a pluralistic society where everybody gets his or her rights and a fair share of opportunities. I use “face value” because sometimes people don’t actually mean what they are saying. You get the idea from this blog post that has been written in response to the above article.

The problem with India is, conceptually the ideas floated by those who gained power immediately after the British left, are pretty good. A secular, pluralistic society where there is no one single dominant religion and everybody gets to live in harmony and peace. The problem was in implementation and exploitation.

Ideal conditions need to exist for certain concepts. That’s why, in economics and other subjects, sometimes definitions include “keeping other factors constant”. Let those constants change, the definition begins to dismantle.

The same goes with the idea of secularism and pluralism. From the beginning, for the convenience sake, let me use a clichéd expression, “founding fathers”, thought that the dominant religion in India – Hinduism – may end up subjugating every other religion even to the extent of dividing the country further. In some cases the evidence had already begun to manifest. But these evidences are open to perception. Some say that it was nationalism, and some say it is fundamentalism. I need to read history – unbiased history – in order to have a clear picture.

This tendency to create a secular and pluralistic country triggered a new phase of divisive and communal politics. Minorities were constantly kept in the loop of suspicion and fear. The religious and political leaders among minority communities exploited this, and also, even political leaders outside of these communities started sowing seeds of communal hatred in the name of providing protection and keeping the “counter”-communal forces away.

The same template was used to divide even the majority among different castes and sub-castes. Not only this, a great divide between the North and the South was created by an effort to impose Hindi upon South Indian communities. In no way these exercises were carried out to create communal and regional harmony. These exercises were carried out to keep the big country perpetually simmering with discontent, disharmony and insecurity.

It was like, they first consolidated different kingdoms and riyasats under the aegis of a big, single nation, and then they divided its different parts and communities for exploitation and political power.

A big part of this conspiracy is keeping the minorities, especially the Muslim community, under a perpetual state of insecurity. This conspiracy is carried out at 3 fronts: political, religious and intellectual.

The 1st link in the top paragraph is the example of the intellectual conspiracy that has been going on for the past 5-6 decades. Muslims are targeted, Muslims don’t get enough opportunities, Muslims are legally persecuted, Muslims are discriminated against, Hindus never get punished for killing Muslims, etc.

I’m not saying that we live in a just society. Most of our problems originate from the fact that our justice system is all screwed up. Just a couple of days ago there was a judge in the news for killing his wife for not giving birth to a boy. Every school kid these days knows that father’s chromosomes are responsible for the girl child, and not mother’s. The culprits of the Bhanwari Devi case in Rajasthan were acquitted by the judge because he believed if you meddle with the affairs of the upper castes they are bound to react. Such are the judges we have. So you can very well understand the quality of our justice system.

But it is screwed up for everybody, not just for Muslims. So if you say a Muslim is discriminated against, with an effort, I can show you 20 Hindus who were discriminated against. The discrimination is all pervasive, it’s just that in the case of Muslims, because it suits particular political interests, it is blown out of proportion. This is certainly not my idea of India. Journalists like Shoma Chaudhary certainly don’t belong to my idea of India, because people like her don’t fight for justice, they simply pedal communal paranoia and phobias and act as an instrument in the hands of politicians who want to keep the country divided perpetually.

My idea of India is certainly pluralistic, and secular, of course. But it is for everybody. There is no majority and there is no minority. There is justice for everybody. Even if there is no justice, people don’t fight for Muslims and Christians and Hindus. People fight for Indians. So if a Muslim is discriminated against by a Hindu, instead of saying that it is a religious problem, I make it into a criminal problem. In my idea of India, human rights are not just for terrorists and extremists, they are also for their victims. For me, it will be like, one Indian is discriminated against by another. And the person who is discriminating must be punished not because he or she is discriminating against a Muslim, but a fellow Indian. This, is my idea of India.

In my India, these outdated ideas of Muslims versus Hindus don’t exist.

Social media in India and its political impact

Here is a nice list of essays, articles and other interesting thoughts on social media and its impact on political upheavals and outcomes.

Many commenters and mainstream media journalists often condescendingly quip, “Elections are not won on social media, they are won on the streets.”

I totally agree. Social media is definitely not for short-term political gains. Right now it is too disorganized to manage concerted political campaigns. But it is definitely a medium that people can use to disseminate disparate information, and it is already being done. This is the sort of purpose right now social media solves in India. For instance, if there is a piece of misinformation being spread by vested interests, it can be immediately countered by social media.

Take for instance the controversy involving Someone created this spoof website that was basically a pirated version of a similar website created to lampoon Mitt Romney who contested presidential elections against Barack Obama. There was nothing wrong until the person who had hosted the website started crying that he was being harassed by Modi supporters and hence he had to take down the website. First the link was promoted by Twitter celebrities such as Shashi Tharoor:

And then suddenly the news came that the website had to be taken down due to the harassment meted out to the owner, or the webmaster, or whoever he or she was.

Go through this Storify compilation titled “Unfolding the conspiracy []” about how within a few hours the Tweeple were able to find that the entire affair was hatched up Congress supporters – a motley mix of journalists, politicians and its political trolls on Twitter.

Now, initially, even a person like me, who is a supporter of the BJP and Modi, was slightly pissed off the way the site had to be taken down but then eventually I discovered that the story of harassment was concocted just to show what sort of goons Modi supporters are.

To that extent social media is useful. It is also definitely useful for scoring brownie points.

But does it change political opinion? Can it affect election results? As far as in India, there is no concrete data that can prove that interactions on Facebook and Twitter can impact election results too. Yes, the opinion on the Internet, especially on the social media websites, is heavily tilted towards the BJP in general (mostly because they are heavily anti-Congress like myself) and Modi in particular (because people are desperately looking for a decisive leader who doesn’t bullshit), but how much this tilt percolates at the ground level it is hard to tell. Primarily there are 3 reasons:

  1. The penetration of the Internet and of social media is not as dense and deep as it is in many other countries despite mobile phones and computers
  2. It is mostly in English that interactions happen on social media websites and the vote bank that actually makes an impact isn’t very well-versed with the language
  3. In the country where people vote for parties based on who can give them more bottles of liquor, blankets, free meals and color TVs, (for that matter even naked girl dance parties) they’re not going to vote based on ideology and opinion

The 3rd point is perhaps the undoing of India. No matter how much people try and succeed on social media, unless people on the ground level seek political change that can actually change the destiny of the country, nothing concrete is going to happen.

I will give you a small example. My permanent address belongs to Sarita Vihar and compared to many parts of New Delhi, in terms of education and money, it’s a pretty well-off locality. But immediately after 16 December when the entire capital was simmering with anger and there was a huge anti-Congress wave all over the city, a Congress candidate won in the municipal elections for this constituency. We were shocked, really. So if this is the condition in a constituency that has educated and the so-called aware people, what can you say about towns and localities where people are less educated and more prone to voting for immediate gains?

So how should social media be used? It can be used as an underpinning for a massive information dissemination campaign. Instead of trying to change political opinions (most of these opinions are any way motivated and hence, cannot be changed) social media should be used to raise awareness and to coordinate political activities. One can get lots of timely information from social media and then use that information to spread awareness in towns and villages, among people actually walking and working on the roads.

Why I have decided to keep away from Twitter for a while

I think it’s been a week since I checked my Twitter timeline. Okay, I’m forgetting, I did check it today when I needed to access one of my direct messages, but other than that, I have stayed away and I plan to do so for some more time.

It was becoming very toxic for me. All those political blame games, all those shameless posturings and all that Mercantile ideological underselling, they had started creating a black aura around the entire experience. I have strong political opinions and I still have them. I’m not going to change them at least in the near future. My leanings are towards the so-called “Right” but whether you are from Right, Left, or hanging in between, one or the other way you’re constantly trying to earn brownie points. Instead of debating, we are constantly trying to outsmart each other. It has become the battle of wits. The “us” is quickly being uprooted in the push and shove of pappu and feku.

Intellectual experience is the casualty. People, especially from the left-lib pro-Congress side start using abusive language and throwing around facts from Jupiter. What can you do if somebody brings up a buffalo in front of you and insist that it is a panda? Short of slapping some sense into that person you can do nothing. Unless you develop a thick skin, they bring you down to their own level and before you realize, you also become a part of counter-mud-slinging. Once or twice it is fun, some more times it becomes boring, but when it goes on and on, it becomes sickening.

I work from home, and most of the time I’m working alone. As much as I can manage, I try to remain in good spirits so that I can focus on my work. I cannot afford to breathe in the black energy constantly being generated on Twitter.

Does it mean I’m chucking it forever? No way. I just need some respite and maybe I also need to reorient my thinking. As the 2014 elections draw nearer it is going to be free for all, a total bacchanalia. This is a time when more and more people must get a voice and more and more people must be motivated.

I’m not a journalist and neither I am a public intellectual. I earn my living working for Steve Dasseos and writing on the Internet. Whatever political activism I can get involved in, I need to remember that unless my family is well taken care of financially and emotionally, there is no use doing anything else. We live in a highly volatile country so we always have to maintain a balance. Strong political opinions (I’m soon going to write a blog post on this) are a must and divisive forces like the Congress have been benefiting for decades due to our lack of strong, clearly-defined political opinions. So this must go on. Also, family is important.