Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Paresh Rawal Blunders

American President Donald Trump was in Saudi Arabia the other day.  The man who came to power riding the anti-Muslim wave, the man who told the world that Muslims were the enemies of civilisation, now praises the great contributions of Islam to the world.  He mentioned the “ancient wonders” as well as the Saudi Arabia’s modern “soaring achievements in architecture.” He listed such “wonders” as Giza, Luxor and Alexandria to applaud the Islamic achievements.  He sought the cooperation of Saudi Arabia to bring peace and harmony into the world.

Whether Trump underwent some spiritual transformation is yet to be seen.  We know that he is a devout Christian who attends prayer services regularly and religiously.  But prayer services and rituals really don’t make people any better.  If they did, the world would have been a paradise long ago. 

Whatever that is, Trump has apparently changed his approach from one based on hatred to one based on cooperation.  This new approach might work.  I hope it does.  At least it gives hope a chance while hatred can achieve no good.

Courtesy: clipartfest.com
This is one lesson that India’s Right wing is yet to learn.  The latest example is Paresh Rawal’s suggestion to the Indian Army to use Arundhati Roy as a human shield in Kashmir. Leaving aside the insult it implicitly sticks to the Army, the suggestion smacks of the pettiness that accompanies the entire outlook of India’s Right wing.  

Arundhati Roy stands far, far above petty nationalism.  She has described herself as a “global citizen.” That’s what we all should be: citizens of the world who respect every human being irrespective of race and religion.  Ms Roy’s views on Kashmir spring from that broad, global outlook.  Narrow-minded bigots like Rawal cannot be expected to understand such benignity. 

Donald Trump was lauded as a great hero by India’s Right wing because he spoke the same language of hatred which the latter has not only mastered but also is wielding effectively in most parts of the country.  But Trump seems to have learnt better lessons.  Are people like Rawal ready to learn?  If they are, India might still have a chance to stay united as one nation.

“It is a choice between two futures,” as Trump proclaimed in Saudi Arabia.  “If we really want to address that crisis (in Kashmir),” Ms Roy wrote a year ago in Outlook, “if we really want to stop the endless cycle of killing and dying, if we really want to stem the haemorrhaging, the first step has to be a small concession to honesty.  We have to have an honest conversation.”

Yes, it is basic honesty that the Right wing in India should acquire first.  And then the willingness to shed hatred – if they are incapable of learning love, at least that: shed the hatred.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Unemployable People

A lot of people are going to be unemployable within a decade or two.  Computers and other machines will do most work.  Even the oldest profession of prostitution will be mechanised thanks to sexbots.  Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens and other books) says in his recent article in The Guardian that it is not a question of being unemployed so much as about being unemployable. A lot of people won’t just possess the skills required to be employed anywhere. 

Harari said it!

 What will governments do with such “useless” people?  Well, if we go by the signs of the times ‘useless’ people will have to follow Darwin’s theory about survival of the fittest and become extinct.  Suicide is already a major cause of death today.  According to Suicide.org, over one million people commit suicide worldwide each year.  On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.  The number of failed suicide attempts is much higher.  The world isn’t going to be any better place for those not equipped to live in the emerging mechanised world most of which will be sort of virtual.

Many people are already living in the virtual world of social media and the internet.  Those who can afford that life even without any income can carry on with that existence.  Those who are not interested in that kind of virtual world can choose the classical virtual world of religion, says Harari. 

“What is religion if not a big virtual reality game played by millions of people together?” asks Harari in the article.  We can make Bahubali a kind of reality by playing with rituals and gods even in the traditional ways by involving ourselves more and more in prayers, pilgrimages and other exercises that suit our tastes.

The question is what we will eat and drink.  Most food and water, which are already becoming scarce, will be monopolised by those who can afford them.  Well, there will be a lot of vacancies for godmen and other such religious entities who can produce food and water miraculously.

India’s Right wing is already into a big game.  Various organisations have started eliminating a lot of people in the name of cows and other ‘holy’ totems.  Our ingenious politicians can work out some more advanced games along with the flourishing breed of godmen and their female counterparts many of whom are being given Z-category security these days. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Holy Men, Unholy Deeds

Saffron-clad ‘Rapist’ Gets Fitting Moksha is the major headline in the Kochi edition of today’s Times of India.  The report is about one Swami who calls himself Gangesananda Theerthapadar.  The Swami’s penis was cut off by a 23 year-old woman who claims that the ‘holy’ man had been raping her since she was fifteen years old.  At first the Swami told the doctors that he had cut off his penis since it was an “unwanted” organ (thus justifying the ‘moksha’ in TOI’s headline).  Eventually he had to admit the truth when questioned by the police.  The woman had already confessed to the police.

Gangesananda Theerthapadar with Kummanam Rajasekharan, President of Kerala BJP
Most people in Kerala seem to be happy with what the woman did if we go by the panel discussions that took place on Malayalam news channels yesterday.  A lawyer justified the deed saying that self-defence, defence of one’s honour, justifies certain violence.  Even the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr Pinaray Vijayan, approved of the woman’s valour.

I don’t know what the girl’s fate will be.  A case has already been registered against her.  Given the way the law works in India, anything can happen.  Even if she is acquitted the Right wing, which is gaining more and more power of all sorts after Mr Modi became the Prime Minister, may not make it easy for her to live.  Unlike the BJP leaders and people like Mata Amritanandamayi who have been given high category security in the last few months, the woman is not going to get any assistance from the government.

Today governments and criminals work in tandem especially if the criminals wear some religious habits.  Recently a Catholic priest was arrested in Kerala for “impregnating” (the word used in the English media consistently in those days) a minor girl.  Now the priest is in jail but there are many people (like the editor of Pravasishabdam, an online Malayalam journal) who argue that the Church will soon arrive at an out-of-court settlement and the priest will be free.

The political atmosphere in the country is so vitiated that anyone can go scot-free after committing any crime provided he has the backing of some powerful religious sect.  I remember how the school where I worked until two years ago in Delhi was closed down by a godman who too enjoys high category security.  Some of us staff members approached a minister belonging to AAP, the political party that came to power claiming to provide corruption-free governance.  We were told that though what the godman did was totally wrong (not only closing down a school but also encroaching on acres and acres of reserved forest lands) the government couldn’t do anything because he had five lakh devotees in Delhi alone.  This godman’s thugs beat up some staff members on the roads, got one arrested by fabricating a case of assaulting women, and perpetrated many other heinous crimes with total impunity.  Even the policemen who knew the truth would not dare to do what was right. 

Such is the politico-legal system in the country.  Look at what is happening in the many North Indian states where innocent people are being tortured and even killed by religious vigilantes who are in fact stark criminals.  Criminals have put on religious robes in order to escape the legal clutches. 

People know the situation.  That’s why they commend the girl who chopped off the organ which the Swami described as “unwanted” or “useless.”  There are many ‘unwanted’ attachments that the criminal religious people of India carry nowadays.  I hope more and more people gather the courage to chop off those ‘unwanted’ attachments so that religion will become what it really should be: holy, without unholy attachments.