Category Archives: Society

Sentinelese Can Teach Us A Lot

The Sentinelese, who rarely make news owing to their ultra-primitive and fiercely reclusive nature, made headlines after they killed a missionary. The missionary, as per the reports, was planning to establish contact with the tribe and learn their language with an intention to proselytize them.

After reading the news, many of us might have felt, “how insane… by refusing to mingle with the outside world they lost an opportunity to work in plush offices, enjoy pizzas and burgers, wear branded garments, live in bungalows, drive around in cars and indulge in selfies and social media clicks”. True, they missed out on all these things. But to this primitive tribe, these things have barely any value. In fact, some expeditions were even made to establish contact with them by luring them with material things, but they did not accept any of them.

For them a life lived in harmony with nature is paramount. The aerial view of their island, which looks pristine with lush greenery, is a testimony to the fact that they are the true children of mother nature. They are at least able to breath fresh air, eat natural food and lead a stress-free life that spares them from frequenting hospitals they don’t have. The way they are confronting the outsiders makes it abundantly clear that they are healthy and agile.

And the missionary who lost his life was trying to take religion to a place, where there is absolutely no need of it. The entire episode makes me recollect the book I read “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”, written by Daniel Everette, a missionary linguist who undertook an expedition to the Amazonian rainforest to convert a primitive tribe called, Piraha. He went there to learn their language and translate scriptural literature into it to convert the tribe. One day, Daniel, to persuade the tribesmen to convert, shared an emotion-laden personal story with them. He told them that his step mother’s suicide made him move towards God. Then, the tribesmen, instead of expressing sympathy with him, said, “She killed herself?  Ha ha ha. How stupid. Pirahas don’t kill themselves.” That made Daniel realize the futility of his mission and slowly turn into an atheist.

These tribes, who are primitive, don’t worry about death and afterlife. As they don’t even worry about their souls, they don’t seek them to be saved. Normally primitive tribes are more rational than the so-called civilized people. They usually believe in those things which they can perceive with their sense organs and don’t waste their time in speculative theology. As the tribal societies are mostly egalitarian, they neither produce powerful ruling classes nor do they follow organized religions with powerful clergy, who aspire to control the society through deception to serve their narrow self-interests.

We, the so-called civilized people, until some decades ago, identified each other as belonging to a certain religion, caste, race or nationality. Now, in this 21st century, with the advent of disruptive technologies and globalization, our identities have been further reduced to that of a consumer, a laborer, a devotee, a patient or a voter. As a consumer, you need to go on a spending spree on various occasions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Big Billion Days sale etc. to keep the consumer demand up to promote growth even at the expense of getting trapped in debt. As laborers, we need to labor under the constant and continuous threat of cost-cutting, automation and offshoring. As devotees, we are supposed to stay pious and remain loyal followers of religions selling our souls to the clergy. As patients, we need to wait outside a physician’s chamber to find an elusive cure for the lifestyle diseases we get after using gadgets that promote sedentary life and consuming gourmet junk food that makes us obese. And, as voters, we need to stand in serpentine queues with an infinite patience and unceasing optimism that one day our politicos will dissociate themselves from their ultra-rich cronies and think about the poor and the ordinary.

The primitive tribal people need not worry about all these things as their identity always stays constant and they always remain humans. They don’t need to enter into a class struggle to oppose exploiters, they need not endure consumerism-induced relative deprivation, they don’t have to torment themselves with the feeling that their religion is in danger, and they need not have to live under the shadow of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Their lives, though under constant threat from various natural forces, are mostly blissful.

Therefore, the rest of humanity must let them live the way they are living. As they continue to exist, they will keep reminding us of the things we lost by enslaving ourselves to the very things we created such as money, religion and technology.

This does not mean the humanity should set aside all its achievements and get back to its primitiveness. Things, however, can’t continue moving at the same hectic pace as they are now, due to its non-sustainability. No amount of denial can conceal the truth that the threat of climate change is looming large and the prevalence of lifestyle diseases has reached epidemic proportions. So, humanity, one day, must give up its greed and adapt itself to sustainable living practices. These reclusive tribal people, with their frugal and eco-friendly lives, will keep inspiring us to realize these hard truths.

This article first appeared in the author’s personal blog: www.ramachandrareddy.in

democide in tuticorin

The Democide in Tuticorin

The brutal killing of thirteen unarmed civilians in Tuticorin, who were protesting against the toxic Sterlite Copper plant, is extremely serious in nature. It is a clear instance of state’s reckless and depraved disregard for the lives of its own people and thus qualifies to be termed as state terrorism. It appears that the government is fighting on behalf of their plutocrat cronies to safeguard their ‘ease of doing business’, and the people are fighting for their ‘ease of living’.

Here is a tribute to the victims of police firing in Tuticorin.

What happened in Tuticorin is no less than a democide,
the state snuffing out lives whom it is supposed to protect.
The reckless and depraved disregard for the lives,
brought out the ugly and monstrous side of the state.

The state is taking the lives of its own people,
to give ‘ease of doing business’ to its tycoon cronies.
To enable them to grab lands, flout environmental norms,
violate labour laws and to usurp the natural resources.

People gave up their lives and achieved martyrdom,
to protect the ‘ease of living’ of their fellow humans.
To let them have a breath of fresh air and a gulp of pure water,
and to enable them save their natural resources and environment.

Democracy is no longer ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’,
it got hijacked to become ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’.
The neo-liberal spaces ever expand and public spaces ever shrink,
till the society is transformed into an oligarchy, into a tycoon fiefdom.

Tycoons campaign finance the politicos to get ease of doing business,
people queue up and exercise their franchise to get bullets in return.
This is the time to reclaim our democracy and regain our lost power,
the only way out is democratic deliberation and political confrontation.

Let’s set aside, cricket, soaps, celeb gossip, reality TV and selfies for a while,
and spare a thought for those who breathed their last fighting for our rights.
Let’s make sure that the lives of those who fought for clean air won’t go in vain,
by showing that we are the masters and oligarchy is only their pipe dream.

ease of living

My thoughts on the democide in Tuticorin in the form of a cartoon.

Vedas and Cronyism

Our ‘Parivar’ friends often say that ‘everything is there in our Vedas’. Some months ago, our ‘neta’, himself part of the ‘Parivar’, while inaugurating a hospital, stated that our ancients performed even head transplantations. The other day I got curious to know what is there in the Vedas and started exploring some literature on the scriptures. In their propensity to selectively quote only certain things from Hindu scriptural literature that seem to be beneficial to them, the members of Parivar often ignore to mention many other important things in our Vedas, and one of them is rampant cronyism.

In this twenty-first century if you want to grow, you need a patron. But it is not very easy to find a patron. For that you need to perform a ritual called ‘sacrifice’ to please your patron, which in turn sows the seeds of cronyism. In most of the cases the cronyism is a two-way thing, a quid pro quo. ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ style. If you feel that cronyism is only a twenty-first century phenomenon, you are thoroughly mistaken. It was there even in our revered Vedas.

There are countless hymns in the Rig Veda referring to the institution of sacrifice as a means of material exchange between the ruling Aryans and their gods. For instance, a hymn to a Vedic God Indra clearly refers to the system of exchange:

‘O Indra, drink this sacred Soma. Let the intoxicating soma juice give you ecstasy. Let it satisfy you by filling your belly. O Indra, we are intelligent…We are performing this sacrifice in the hope of getting rewards from you for our act. We are showering praises on you in order to be favored by you, and to be treated as fit objects for receiving wealth from you…O Indra, give us houses. Give us friends. Give us power like that of the wind gods. Do not bestow wealth on anyone before us. We, our sons and grandsons will continue to offer praises and prayers to you.’ (RV, 2/11/11-15)

It is very clear from the above hymn that Indra, one of Vedic Gods, was habituated to hedonistic life style. He relished the luscious horse and ox meet and Soma Rasa, and cherished the company of Apsaras. So the 3Ms – Madya, Mamsa and Maithuna were close to Indra’s heart. The Aryans, being aware of their God’s weaknesses, would supply an abundance of the 3Ms to Indra, and in return they would get him to bestow wealth on them and also destroy Asuras, their sworn enemies. After reading these hymns it struck me that the current day society is no different from the Vedic period except that the things that are offered as part of the sacrifices changed.

Assume that our modern day rulers are the very embodiment of ‘Indra’, the lords of the big capital are the ‘Aryans’ and all the underprivileged and voiceless working class are all the ‘Asuras’. Then what do our modern day Aryans and their Indras want? Indras no longer want the 3Ms as they are abundantly available and therefore lost their appeal as sacrificial offerings. Now they only want Singhasans and once they attain them they want to be glued to them for a long time. Now, it is a well-known fact that though the Aryans and Asuras co-exist in every country they always suspect each other. Ironically, in this sinful Kaliyuga the godly Aryans, instead of going down, have reached the commanding heights and marginalized the Asuras with the patronage of Indras.

Our own Aryans no longer want cattle and grains from our Indra, and they no longer want him to kill the Asuras with his thunderbolt. They want ‘ease of doing business’ in the form of bailouts, deregulation and tax cuts, and also want the social sector spending to be salami-sliced in the name of fiscal rectitude a.k.a austerity so that their sworn enemies don’t derive any benefit. To achieve their dream they carry out a sacrificial ritual, where they offer an unlimited amount of donations that too anonymously to help Indra run his political campaigns to hoodwink the Asuras through his rousing speeches and cleverly coined slogans. Because the Asuras, who assiduously queue up in front of polling booths for every five years have the capacity to upset Indra’s applecart. And Indra, pleased with the offering, grants them the ‘ease of doing business’. And when Indra does all these things, the trinity WB (World Bank), IMF (International Monetary Fund) and CRAs (Credit Rating Agencies), who are the custodians of the godly Aryans, grant boons to Indra in the form of rank increases and rating upgrades. And Indra basks in the glory of increased acceptance and starts aspiring for a ‘gold standard rating’, which will further undermine the status of Asuras. Meanwhile, the Asuras… I mean the working class, after toiling in factories, farms and offices, which is akin to the ‘Ksheera Sagara Madhanam’, feel fully tired and stay in the expectation that they would get their just share. However, they remain oblivious to the fact that the Supreme Personality of Godhead had distributed all the elixir only to the Aryans, thoroughly deceiving them.

Our astute Indra, sensing how the world runs, is busy trying hard to be in the good books of the Supreme Personality of Godhead of the capitalist world, who is none other than Uncle Sam. Because Uncle Sam is omnipresent and omniscient. He makes his presence felt through his numerous offspring – WB, IMF, MNCs, CRAs and many more. And he, along with his Zionist disciples, produces and disseminates the ‘Gyan’ through the Aryan-backed experts, media and universities. And the sages allegiant to the Godhead in the Silicon Valley are working hard to produce Internet of Things (IoT) enabled and Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered humanoids as part of their efforts to help the Aryans do ‘Pratisrushti’ so that they can permanently get rid of the menace of the Asuras and replace them with humanoid robots. Because the Aryans expect that once they get rid of the emotion-afflicted and union-infested Asuras, they can save further on their labour cost, which will enable them to indulge in shareholder wealth maximization. Thereafter, they can sell infinite quantities of sheaths, baby food packets and nappies to the humanoids, the only ‘people’ who will have purchasing power, from whose proceeds they can procure the things that are closest to their hearts – private jets, yachts and mansions… I mean ‘Antilias’.

In a way our own Indra got enlightened long ago and as a result he knows that his salvation lies in the holy precincts of the neo-liberal temple, where laissez faire-shaped Uncle Sam is the presiding deity. And all the Asuras, I mean the working class commoners, who are left patronless and voiceless, are doomed and appear to be destined to an eternal damnation.

But being an Asura myself, I somehow am optimistic that there will be a day when Indras won’t be able to hide behind their neoliberal peacock feathers and the Aryan ‘lords of big capital’, as a great philosopher had predicted, will end up digging their own grave.

References:

Jayantanuja, B. (2012). Class and Religion in Ancient India. 1st ed. Delhi: Anthem Press, pp.23-24.

Kancha Ilaiah has the right to freedom of expression.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd has emerged as the most prominent antagonist of the Hindutva forces in the country. Ilaiah, a political science professor, came into the limelight with his book “Why I Am Not a Hindu” and he has relentlessly been attacking anything and everything related to Hindu ever since. His latest book titled ‘Samajika Smuglarlu Komatollu’ has stirred the ‘Arya Vaishya’ community in the Telugu speaking states.

Though I haven’t read the book, I came to know that it critically scrutinizes the role played by “Arya Vaishyas” in the society. Vaishyas, a dominant caste and the third in the hierarchy of Hindu caste system, are a predominantly trading community and control a large part of the wholesale and retail trade, especially the essential commodities. Ilaiah alleges that the Vaishyas, who rarely produce anything, don’t make any positive contribution to society, and therefore the society can survive even without their presence. So Ilaiah, through his writings, wants to highlight the lack of positive contribution to society from certain castes.

It is a fact that in the Hindu society there are some castes which led a kind of parasitic lives for generations. Take the example of Brahmins. They were hardly involved in any productive activity and in fact, the role played by them is to a great extent negative. They, for generations, misled the society in the name of religion, introduced meaningless rituals, promoted superstitious beliefs and played a lead role in perpetuating caste discrimination. In an essence, they exploited the inherent sense of insecurity among the people to run their God business, which is a classic example of non-economic activity. Many Brahmins say that they were involved in spreading knowledge. But the question arises whether they have spread that knowledge among all the sections of society? They taught only Brahmins and Kshatriyas and made sure that they don’t impart any knowledge to Sudras and Dalits.

Being a community of shopkeepers, Vaishyas ran most of the wholesale and retail outlets in both urban and rural areas and their activities can’t be labeled as non-economic activities. However, even now people associate Vaishyas with excessive profiteering, usury and stashing of wealth. Therefore, they also played a largely negative role in the impoverished Indian society.

Even the other dominant castes such as Kamma and Reddy, who own disproportionately large tracts or land, have the history of perpetrating atrocities against Dalits. The massacres against Dalits in villages such as Neerukonda, Padirikuppam, Kanchikacharla, Karamchedu and Tsunduru are the testimony to the upper caster cruelty and arrogance.

The main intention of Ilaiah appears to be to attack the dominant castes in Hindu society and expose the negative role played by them. There is nothing wrong in questioning the discriminatory, exploitative and hegemonistic practices prevalent in the Hindu society. The Vaishyas, however, appear to have taken offense to Ilaiah’s writings and started a concerted campaign against him. They even accuse him of trying to promote Christianity.

If there is anybody who is promoting Christianity in a big way in India, it is the Hindu clergy and the caste Hindus. The clergy hardly mingles with Dalits and don’t hide their Brahmin bias. The caste Hindus are known for their discrimination and mistreatment of Dalits. It is a fact that Dalits are not in a position to lead a life of self-esteem as long as they are in Hindu fold. The caste system is so rigid that even after a Dalit converts to Christianity he is not treated on par with other Christians. A Brahmin Christian or a Reddy Christian looks down upon his Dalit Christian counterpart.

The Hindu caste system is such that it does not even allow the Dalits to stay united. For example, in the Telugu speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there is a feud between Mala and Madiga communities on the issue of sharing the fruits of reservation.

In spite of all these anomalies why caste system is still strong? As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had rightly observed, the characteristic of graded inequality prevalent in Hinduism keeps caste system ticking in Hindu society. Except Dalits, all Hindu castes have someone or the other under them, whom they consider inferior to them, and therefore worthy of exploitation.

The fact of the matter is the caste system in Hinduism is a sinister arrangement, which is bent on dehumanizing Sudras and Dalits. The Swamijis and Hindutva organizations are only interests in perpetuating the evil system. Therefore, it becomes inevitable for the intellectuals to criticize the caste system and along with it the upper caste people, who perpetrated untold atrocities against Dalits.

The thing all the caste Hindus must understand is tribals, Dalits, and other backward caste people have a right to question the inherently inequitable and exploitative caste system and raise some pertinent issues with regard to the current status of the suppressed classes. Therefore, it is wrong on the part of the caste Hindus to issue death threats against the writers with an intention to suppress their freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has rightly refused to impose a ban on the book, and therefore upheld the freedom of expression.

The need of the hour, if Hinduism has to survive, is to introduce sweeping reforms in the Hindu way of life, especially destroying the caste system entirely to bring about equality and unity among all Hindus. Nothing less than a complete annihilation of caste and unequivocal condemnation of Brahminism will save Hinduism from complete extinction. Many people opine that Hinduism survived for millenniums and it will definitely survive for eternity. But that is not true. In this 21st century, equality is non-negotiable. If they have any doubts they can visit a Dalit hamlet and count the number of Hindus who haven’t yet converted to Christianity.

corruption

Now the Government Officials can Indulge in Corruption with Impunity.

If someone asks you, who are the blood sucking parasites that thrive on the poor people in the country, what would be your answer? Well, if you are well educated and has been closely observing the socio-economic and political affairs in the country, your answer could very well be – politicians, bureaucrats and big business tycoons. They are uncharged criminals, who are roaming freely leading luxurious lives and enjoying all the privileges at the expense of the ordinary people. Since the deadly trio have common interests and inextricably intertwined with each other, they always go hand in hand.

It is their constant and continuous endeavor to ceaselessly strengthen their position and power to safeguard their illegitimate interests. One of the classic examples of this behavior is the recent Rajasthan government’s ordinance to gag the press from reporting anything about the evil deeds of the bureaucrats until unless the government allows the case to be investigated. This is simply outrageous. The government officials in our country are notorious for their venality and close scrutiny of their activities by the press and the civil society is the only countervailing force to keep a tab on their corrupt activities. And now the Rajasthan government wants to scuttle this process to empower the government officials to go on a looting spree. This move is truly ominous and will give an added impetus to the already rampant corruption.

People dislodged the previous UPA government mainly because of its gargantuan corruption and misdeeds. The Modi-led BJP government, which appears to have not learnt any lessons from the UPA’s downfall, is quietly taking the crony capitalism to new heights by diverting the attention of the people on to the useless issues. Now the Rajasthan government, which is also run by the BJP, is paving way for the institutionalization of corruption. The people, however, appear to be oblivious to these evil and insidious moves. May be they are under the influence of the so-called magic spell cast by Modi, and therefore preoccupied with cows, statues, Ram Rajya, patriotism, nationalism, and most importantly the empty promises.

A Paradigm Shift in Workplace.

Steam engines, electricity, and computer-mediated communications technologies drove the first, second and third industrial revolutions, which progressively transformed the workplaces and radically altered our lives. However, irrespective of the magnitude of the technological evolution, machines always stayed imbecile and therefore required humans to instruct them and run them. But for the first time in human history, we are staring at the prospect of the emergence of cognitive machines that have the potential to edge out the humans entirely from the workplace.

Workplaces all over the world, whether they are manufacturing facilities or offices, are undergoing a makeover. Gone are the days when people would go to their workplaces punctually, get glued to their chairs or workstations throughout the day, and deal with the tasks that come their way. Now, people work by using ultra-portable computing devices, which provide them with always-on connectivity and enable them to work not only from their offices but even remotely. In manufacturing facilities, the robotic hands are executing most of the work very efficiently with few defects. The workplace transformation, which has already started, is going to reach new heights in the future.
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Some emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and augmented and virtual reality, which herald what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, are going to trigger a paradigm shift in the way people live and work. The kind of automation that is on the anvil now is qualitatively different from what we hitherto witnessed. The technology and the resultant gadgets we had till now proved to be mere dumb machines that required human intervention to function. In sharp contrast, the emerging technologies have the ability to create machines that have cognitive capabilities and even personalities and therefore have the potential to make humans obsolete. Because these precision engineered cognitive machines, which have deep learning abilities, are capable of making data-driven decisions and are more efficient and less prone to mistakes than their human counterparts.

In any free market economy, investors aim at profit maximization. The globalization empowered the US and Europe based multinational companies to offshore their jobs to developing countries with an aim to cut their labor costs. Now, to cut their costs further, they are planning to do away with employing humans in the workplace and replace them with robots. A study conducted by Deloitte found that while offshoring manufacturing jobs to low-cost economies can save up to 65% on labor costs, replacing human workers with robots can save up to 90% of these costs. Many experts predict that in future humans will be deployed only in those places where their presence is absolutely necessary. They also predict that there will be very less full-time employment and ‘gig economy’ will flourish, in other words, a multitude of freelancers wait online to grab ‘piece work’ opportunities where they are paid per task. The reputation engines enable the clients to rate the quality of the freelancers, which in turn empower the freelancers to build trust with them.

The likelihood of technology-induced job losses becoming a reality is causing a lot of anxiety among the people. Dell Technologies, in its recent study titled “’The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships” observes that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t yet been invented and therefore the fear of job loss is unfounded. There are some others, especially some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who advocate the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a compensation for the impending job loss. The differing opinions make it obvious that people don’t have a clear idea about how the technology will affect the job prospects.

The advent of disruptive technologies is likely to bring about massive changes that too at a rapid pace. People, in order to keep themselves employable, have to learn new knowledge and acquire new skills ‘in the moment’ and technologies such as virtual and augmented reality may come in handy for them. Moreover, the current education system, which puts a lot of emphasis on filling children with knowledge rather than cultivating cognitive skills, requires immediate reform.

In near future, most of the repetitive tasks will be assigned to the machines and only those tasks that demand high level of creativity and cognitive capabilities will be assigned to humans. Since all the humans are not endowed with equally good creative capabilities, there may be many humans who will be left behind in this rat race and therefore may be deprived of a source to earn their livelihood. Since livelihood opportunities and social justice are paramount in any democratic society the very thought of people going jobless is difficult to digest.

History is replete with instances where more technology and more mechanization invariably strengthened the hands of the capitalist profit mongers and weakened the position of the workforce. As Karl Marx had rightly stated, “Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labor”. Irrespective of the way the technologies and workplaces evolve, the governments all over the world have to formulate suitable policies to protect ‘human’ interests, not the ‘machine’ interests for when they protect the machine interests the ultimate beneficiaries will be the big business corporations who will own those machines.

The impending paradigm shift in the workplace necessitates the introduction of a new economic model. Otherwise, the people who will be wronged may get attracted either towards ultra-left or ultra-right, which will invariably give rise to many societal problems. The world has already witnessed this phenomenon in the form of the emergence of Donald Trump. Therefore, the world needs to build a new economic model, which will not only maximize the well-being of all the humans but also attracts them towards sustainable living. However, that is not very easy to achieve though not impossible. Because the free market capitalists, who have been enjoying their heyday ever since the emergence of the neo-liberalism, will not give up their powers and privileges so easily.

Gauri Lankesh

Gauri Lankesh – Another Dissenting Voice Silenced.

The well-known philosopher, Voltaire, famously pronounced “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the kind of significance attached to the freedom of expression in any modern democratic society. Unfortunately, however, there is an increasing tendency in India to physically exterminate people who speak their minds. There is a series of killings that have been taking place in India, especially of rationalists and those who are opposed to the Hindu right wing ideology. The latest in the series is the killing of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist-cum-activist, who was a strong detractor of the Sangh Parivar organizations in the country. Rationalist scholars M M Kalbugi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, who denounced blind beliefs and regressive thoughts, were also killed in a similar fashion during the last four years.

Words are not enough to condemn the brutal elimination of Gauri Lankesh. She was known for her consistent pro-poor stand, rationalistic ideas, and her opposition to communal politics. Naturally, the finger of suspicion is pointed towards the Hindu right wing. Unfortunately, the killers of the three rationalists are still at large and even this case may meet the same fate.

The realization must dawn on the entire society that people have a right to dissent. There is only one way to contest others with whom we don’t agree and that is by putting forth an effective counter argument. Physical elimination is the most barbaric way to silence dissent and does not augur well for the society.

Currently, in India, an ideological war is going on. The Hindus who resented the minority appeasement politics played by the so-called secular parties are standing with the Hindu right-wing BJP. The people who believe in the pluralistic ethos of Indian society are siding with the left-leaning political parties. This divide is getting progressively intensified and people started hating each other for the ideas and ideologies they stand for. Even the rampant poverty, corruption, social injustice, and ever widening economic inequalities are making many people feel frustrated. The frustrated people are getting attracted towards extreme left-wing politics. This ideological struggle is here to stay and will continue for a long time. Therefore, people should cultivate the habit of using their vocal cords and pens to question the ideas they don’t like. The problem arises when they start using weapons to eliminate those whose ideas they abhor.

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Intolerance, irrespective of who is in power, has become a new normal in India. There are many who jump to certain conclusions and unjustly place the blame squarely on the Hindu right wing forces in India for all the ideology-related violence. In Kerala, scores of CPM workers, as well as RSS Swayamsevaks, lost their lives in their fight for one-upmanship. Many BJP workers were killed by their political opponents in many parts of India. The cow vigilantism unleashed by the Hindutva organizations has taken the lives of many Dalits and Muslims. Therefore, intolerance is not only manifested by the Hindu right wing but also many other organizations and outfits. Any concerted attempt to unjustly put all the blame on the right-wing will only prove to be counter productive. Such propaganda will provide ammunition to the Hindutva forces to hit back by saying that it is a campaign to malign India and Indian society, thereby giving the entire thing an ingenious nationalist twist. Therefore, we, as a society, must condemn each and every violent incident, in which people lose their lives for the ideas and ideologies they stand for.

Using repressive means against those who speak up their minds must be condemned by one and all in the strongest possible terms. Even the governments must expeditiously probe these incidents to bring the culprits to book. Otherwise, these incidents are bound to reoccur.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim - the rapist godman

The Rakti-filled Godmen and their Fake Bhakti Preachings.

It appears that human lives ceased to have any value in India. In Gorakhpur, more than 60 children got suffocated to death after they were deprived of Oxygen in a government hospital. Two back-to-back train derailments killed around 25 people. And now, in the aftermath of a court convicting a rapist godman, many of the cities in North India bore the brunt of the godman’s goons, who went on a rampage resulting in a trail of death and destruction.

There is no dearth of self-styled godman in India, and the people, by frequenting their so-called ashrams and prostrating before them, lend credence to their histrionics. Chandra Swamy, Sant Rampal, Asaram, Nityananda, Premananda, Swami Sadachari, Ichchadhari Maharaj, Gnyanachaitanya, Gurmeet Ram Rahim… the tradition continues. Most of them are involved in sex scandals. They all enjoyed strong political patronage and even the people who are in the high echelons visit them and prostrate before them. People, educated and illiterates alike, are becoming their blind followers. These godmen, though they teach ‘Bhakti’ to their followers, prefer to immerse themselves in soulful ‘Rakti’. They accumulate enormous wealth, have innumerable followers and wield a lot of political influence.

The Sirsa-based godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim is accused of sexually exploiting some minor Sadhvis in his Ashram in 2002. After 15 years, the court convicted him of rape and will be sentencing him on 28th of August. This Godman, though he is like any other godmen in India, has some unique characteristics. He appears in glittering costumes and even made a couple of movies.

The rapist godman, as per the latest news reports, has a harem in his so-called Ashram in Sirsa. Reports even state that he is actually a sexual predator in the garb of a spiritual guru preying on his female followers. He even got many of his male followers castrated to guard his harem. Two people, who tried to spill the beans about his atrocities, one of them a scribe, were murdered. What is being reported now about him might well be the tip of the iceberg. Now that he is arrested and put behind bars, many skeletons are likely to tumble out of his closet.
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The incumbent BJP government in Haryana came to power with the active support of this godman and it appears that the government has returned the favor by allowing his large number of followers to gather in some of the major cities in Haryana, in spite of the fact that Sec 144 was imposed in these cities. The Haryana high court repeatedly alerted the government of the impending violence and asked it to take effective measures to preempt the violence and destruction. But the Haryana government, led by M L Khattar once again proved its incompetence in maintaining law and order. It failed even during the Jat agitation, when large scale violence, vandalism, and rapes took place.

It has become a habit for the right wing political parties and organizations to blindly defend godmen even after they are convicted of various crimes. One of the BJP’s loud-mouthed MPs, Sakshi Maharaj, has certified Gurmeet Ram Rahim as a noble soul even while the large scale death and destruction was taking place in his name on the streets of Haryana and other parts of North India.

Now is the time for the people of India to shed their blind faith and cultivate a bit of rational outlook. They should even give up their bad habit of frequenting godmen regularly and prostrating before them, which will invariably lend credence to their evil deeds. Otherwise, many more godmen will emerge inflicting rapes, molestations, death, and destruction in the country.

Triple Talaq Muslim Women

Put an end to the scourge of Triple Talaq.

In the history of humankind, many things that were discriminatory were passed off as legal, such as apartheid, slavery, and colonialism until they were finally abolished. Because the people who made them legal were powerful and did so to serve their narrow self-interest. The oppressed classes, when they have an overwhelming desire to get emancipated, fight back to get the discriminatory laws overturned. That is what exactly happened in case of ‘triple talaq’ also.
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The Supreme Court, at last, provided succor to the countless Muslim women who are reeling under the scourge of ‘triple talaq’. The unfair practice emboldens a Muslim man to violate the sanctity of marriage by deserting his wife in a unilateral and patently unjust manner. The triple talaq dehumanizes women, enslaves them to their husbands and deprives them of their dignity. Though this is a welcome verdict, the very fact that it took 70 years for the independent India to reform an utterly discriminatory law is deeply saddening. It also shows how arduous and painstakingly slow it is to bring about any reformation in Indian society.

Indian women, irrespective of the religion they are born into, are the oppressed class. The oppression is the direct result of their disempowerment, which is a consequence of their subjugation and financial dependence. The conservative elements in every religious community target their women folk in the name of community honor and leave no stone unturned in their effort to exercise unwarranted control over them thereby restricting their freedom.

Many of us wonder as to what made the practice of triple talaq continue in India even after it was banned in more than 20 Muslim majority countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, and Bangladesh? The main reason behind the continued injustice meted out to the Muslim women appears to be political. In India, the Muslim clergy, to tighten their grip over their community, make unceasing efforts to drive it towards more conservatism and even try to unduly influence the Muslim community’s voting behavior. The fatwas issued by Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, to vote for certain political parties is too well-known. Therefore, in India, the political parties, which treat the Muslim community as a mere vote bank, compete to grab the vote bank by appeasing the conservative Muslim clergy.

The Shah Bano case stands as a testimony to the fact that the political parties in India stoop to any low in order to appease the Muslim orthodoxy with an eye on their vote bank. In a blatantly unjust move, the then Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi made a law in the parliament to deprive a divorced Muslim woman called Shah Bano of her right to maintenance, overturning a verdict given by the Supreme Court that granted her alimony. And, it is this unholy nexus between the political leaders and the clergymen, which made the lives of countless Muslim women miserable by creating hurdles on the path to reformation.

The Muslim women who were victimized by these discriminatory laws, have fought back and knocked at the doors of the highest judicial body. The male dominated and downright regressive All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) bitterly opposed any alteration in triple talaq on the pretext that it will amount to the intervention in the Muslim personal laws. In its feeble attempt to dissuade the Supreme Court from delivering its verdict, it even proposed that it would take some measures that include subjecting the errant Muslim men to social boycott. The board, however, appear to be ignorant of the fact that subjecting people to social boycott is also illegal and discriminatory. The victims of triple talaq fought a protracted legal battle and faced many odds in their effort to get justice. Now that the verdict has finally come, they are rightly celebrating it.

The Muslim clergy appears to have a very negative view of gender justice and many of them publicly expressed their aversion to it. Some time ago a prominent Muslim leader called Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobacker Musliyar stated, “Gender equality is something which is never going to be a reality. It is against Islam, humanity and was intellectually wrong,” and went on to say that “women are fit only to deliver children”. The AIMPLB, headed by the self-proclaimed leaders of Muslims, is no different. Therefore, these forces are not fit to represent the interests of Muslim women. It appears that the Muslim women have realized the futility of expecting others to speak for them, and have at last taken matters into their own hands. A progressive Muslim women’s organization called Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) was instrumental in bringing about awareness among Muslim women and is at the vanguard of the fight against discrimination.

The clergy and other orthodox elements in the Muslim society must realize the fact the gender justice is non-negotiable in this 21st-century society and they can no longer thwart the overwhelming urge among their women folk to lead a life of dignity in a just society. The self-proclaimed Muslim leaders, instead of opposing every move towards reformation and getting branded as patently regressive, can transform themselves into the instruments of change. They can try to bring about awareness among the Muslim community about various social evils and sensitize them about the need for reformation. But that appears to be too much to expect from them.

Children of the poor chock to death in a government hospital.

More than sixty children were suffocated to death in a matter of five days in Baba Raghavdas Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur due to the shortage of oxygen. Notwithstanding the efforts made by the power hungry BJP leaders to save their skins, the national conscience demands that the incident must be treated as a national calamity, and therefore heads must role, especially at the highest level. It is a well-known fact that government hospitals are frequented by only the poor people who can’t afford the expensive treatment in private hospitals. The manner in which the poor die in government hospitals makes it amply clear that their lives don’t matter much to the ruling class.

After the ghastly death of the children, the government of Uttar Pradesh, which is led by a Yogi-turned-Bhogi, is on a lying spree. He says the children did not die due to the shortage of oxygen. Then how did they die? It is apparent that the politicians, in their hurry to safeguard their positions of power and further their electoral prospects can stoop to any low. The ruling party politicians appear to have ganged up and scapegoated the principal of the medical college and suspended him. As per newspaper reports, the government failed to clear the accumulated dues to the oxygen supplier to the tune of 60 lakhs. The vendor, after sending numerous reminders and even a legal notice, finally stopped the supply. Now the ‘Bhogi’ wants a probe on the role of the oxygen supplier. Does he expect the supplier to supply oxygen free of cost to the hospital?

In the aftermath of the incident, Nobel laureate and child rights advocate, Kailash Satyarthi, took to twitter to express his anguish over the incident and aptly described it as a massacre of children.

Now the big question is who is responsible for this massacre, which is undoubtedly a heinous crime? It is obviously the politicians and bureaucrats who are responsible for the criminal negligence. Now the heads must roll. The Bhogi must step down from his post and go back to his ‘ashram’ to spend time in spiritual contemplation to purify himself and reclaim his ‘Yogi’ status. All the bureaucrats who are responsible for administering the hospital must be fired, not just suspended, from their positions and must be jailed for their criminal negligence. But unfortunately nothing of that sort will happen and the politicians have already succeeded in diverting the attention from the incident by announcing a farcical probe which will undoubtedly exonerate all the criminals, and therefore will not yield any result. A section of the sold out media appears to be reluctant to come down hard on the government and aiding it in obfuscating the situation.

After the incident has hit the headlines the prime minister’s office sent a tweet stating that the PM is ‘constantly monitoring’ the situation. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who is known for his penchant for delivering rousing speeches, appears to be busy preparing for another rousing speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Though he came to power with a promise to improve the lives of the poor, nothing changed on the ground.

Notwithstanding the tragedy, some of the top BJP leaders rubbed salt into the wounds of the victims by making extremely insensitive statements.  As per a news report published in The Hindu, Amit Shaw, who is considered to be the trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Modi, stated that incidents similar to the one at a hospital in Gorakhpur of Uttar Pradesh have happened before. Even the Bhogi, who is at the helm of affairs, ordered the grand celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami days after the calamity. When the saffron clad so-called yogis occupy the seats of power this kind of things invariably happen. They put cows and Krishnastami first and the human lives last.

India is one of those countries where public health gets sparse attention. As per the reliable sources of information, India spends a little over one percent of its GDP on health against the world average of 5.99 per cent. Even that one percent funds don’t reach the needy and the government officials, in close connivance with politicians and other criminals, pilfer a large chunk of it even before it reaches the poor and the needy. Modi, instead of changing this sorry state, is paying attention to some cosmetic measures such as renaming the erstwhile Congress government’s schemes and giving them wide publicity with an eye on securing a second term.

In the words of the legendary Telugu poet, Gurajada Appa Rao, “Desamante Mattikaadoi Desamante Manushuloi”, meaning a nation is not a piece of real estate it is a society of people. Therefore, for any welfare government, taking care of its human capital, in other words, spending on health and education should be at the top of the agenda. The priorities of the Indian ruling class, however, appear different. Whether it is Manmohan or Modi, their priority is always pushing ahead with their neoliberal policies, serving their ultra-rich cronies and paving way for big businesses. Poor people and their children hardly find a place in their priority list.