Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Mr. Kejriwal, Can a Chief Minister Call the Prime Minister a Coward, a Psychopath or Both?

It is a sorry sight – a chief minister calling the country’s prime minister “a coward”, and “a psychopath”.  Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal uttered those words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the CBI, investigating corruption charges against the chief minister’s principal secretary in some of his earlier assignments, raided that suspect’s work place and residence. These raids angered Kejriwal and hence his comment. If you didn’t read or hear the names correctly in the news, you might think Gabbar Singh in Sholay was being quoted as saying, “You don’t know what I am made of”.  That was also Kejriwal directing himself at Modi.

“Kejriwal has spoken out his mind, firmly suspecting Modi behind the CBI action and asserting himself. What’s wrong with that?” would be the defence of AAP supporters. But there is more to it, beyond Modi and Kejriwal.

The words coward and psychopath are not bad words by themselves.  They could be titles of novels or movies, one of them a thriller.  But when we use them to criticize those in public life, they make a different impact.  If they come out in private conversations, that is perfectly all right.  If readers of online news portals use them to comment on Modi, in the aftermath of the CBI raids, that would be excusable – though they may not be accepted as a decent expression. If a political opponent of any minister publicly employs those terms against the minister that would not be excusable. If the media were to put out those words, as their views, against any minister, that would be even more inexcusable. And a chief minister or a prime minister employing those words against the other is horrendous.  Why is it so?

Standards of decency and decorum differ between person to person, depending on their status and on the set-up in which they function, though some basic standards apply to everyone everywhere.  A defence minister of India warning a belligerent neighbour will use a language of dignity, maybe combined with firmness, while in any hand-to-hand combat an Indian soldier facing an enemy soldier may, if he has time to say anything, speak the language of the ground. Stricter rules govern holders of public offices when they write or speak – here too their position makes a difference. Judges, especially Supreme Court and High Court judges, have to employ the language of studied moderation and be highly restrained even when they have to criticize proven offenders. The President of India and the Governor of a State must also be well restrained – they rarely have to come down on individuals.  A chief election commissioner or other election commissioners, when they speak on poll malpractices by any political party, should also use sober language.  Compared to them, political functionaries like a prime minister or chief minister have more liberties with their words while taking on opponents, and yet they too have a limit.  But Kejriwal may ask: does restrained language click on the political turf?      

We know Mahatma Gandhi was pitted against a harsher and mightier opponent – the British Empire – than the one Kejriwal faces now.  The foreign rulers tormented the Mahatma directly too by imprisoning him.  By Kejriwal’s thinking, the Indian leader could have called the monarch or prime minister of Britain a psychopath or worse.  The Mahatma had reason to sharply criticise a foreign ruler subjugating Indians, which was more demeaning to crores of his countrymen than what a CBI raid on a Delhi secretariat officer may do to its chief minister.  But Gandhiji did not do it, was dignified in his speeches and writings, made the opponent respect him and finally won.

Agreed, everyone is not a Mahatma.  But being dignified in language is not something a Mahatma alone can do.  Scores of others who are not a Mahatma, especially the ones who held high public offices, have done that in India.  Or take Narendra Modi who could have spoken the same words referring to Kejriwal and said, “You are a coward and a psychopath, not me”.  If India had heard that, Kejriwal cannot complain since he gets what he gives, but that would be an equally bad thing to say.  Not just equally. A prime minister using those words on a chief minister, even in retaliation, would be more unpardonable and would horribly sore public discourse – here Kejriwal may surely agree.

Kejriwal will also know this. Some world leaders have spoken in praise of Modi. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said, in reference to Modi, “There is so much to learn from him”. British Premier David Cameroon described him as “a man with a clear vision.” A White House Press Secretary said at a news conference that “President Obama has found Prime Minister Modi to be somebody who is honest and direct ….”  So, even those who have not heard about Modi will not take Kejriwal seriously.

A chief minister of Delhi calling the prime minister names, that too at the capital city, is quite a sad spectacle.  It is like a family member chiding another when guests are watching – as foreign envoys stationed in Delhi get to know Kejriwal’s latest attack on Modi.  Sitting in Delhi, they would feel like hearing it next door.  Have we made a mistake in not keeping Delhi as a full Union Territory – like Chandigarh – to be calmly administered by whichever party runs the Central government?  If a party or coalition which governs at the Centre administers Delhi too as a full Union Territory, instead of Delhi having an elected assembly and a chief minister of its own with reduced powers, the city would be free of petty political tussles and battles which are galore in our land.  That alone would give rulers more energy and higher concentration levels, which is good for the whole of India.  Like Delhi, Puducherry has also an elected assembly with a chief minister with reduced powers, but since it is located away from Delhi a different party ruling Puducherry cannot kick up petty rows and be constantly disturbing a central government’s functioning mood and draining its energy.  

If Delhi is governed fully as a Union Territory, Kejriwal would himself find it a blessing if he becomes the prime minister of the country.  Now BJP could welcome the idea of full Union Territory administration for Delhi, but if Kejriwal thinks otherwise it means he rates his chances of becoming the prime minister very low. And he would not also want to give up his present vantage position of chief minister – like any other chief minister from any other party.  It is easy to create new positions of power for politicians, but impossible to wind them up – even if experience shows reversal is a better choice.

A day before attacking Narendra Modi over the CBI raids, Kejriwal commented on Rahul Gandhi who, Kejriwal felt, was talking out of ignorance on some issue.  Kejriwal did not use harsh words against Rahul, similar to coward or psychopath. He said Rahul was “just a kid”.  That is a decent phrase, has a good punch and is evocative too.  If he had deep animosity against Rahul, like against Modi, he might have called Rahul “an ignoramus and an idiot”, but those words would not jell well like “just a kid”.

Leaders opposing Kejriwal and his ways could be looking for words that decently describe him and still have some bite.  They may say, for example, that Kejriwal is “just an adolescent”.  

Kid or adolescent, both should grow up.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Friday, 11 December 2015

அம்புஜம் பாட்டி அலசுகிறாள் : யாருக்கு மருமகள் யாரோ - எந்த நாட்டினில் பிறந்திருப்பாரோ!

”என்னை யாருன்னு நினைச்சேள்? நான் இந்திரா காந்தியோட மாட்டுப் பொண்ணாக்கும். யார் கிட்டயும் எனக்கு பயம் கிடையாது”ன்னு பேசிருக்கையேம்மா சோனியா.  எந்த சந்தர்ப்பத்துல இப்படிப் பேசிருக்க, இது என்னென்ன அர்தங்களை உண்டாக்கறதுன்னு நினைச்சுப் பார்த்தையா? நானே விளக்கமா சொல்லிடறேன்.

கஷ்டத்துலயும் மனசுல பயமில்லாத நிலைக்கு தைரியம்னு பேர்.  இந்திரா காந்தி மாதிரி நீயும் தைரியசாலின்னு சொல்ல வந்திருக்க. சரி, தைரியம்னா என்னன்னு விலாவாரியா பாக்கலாம்.

’ஒரு காரியத்தை மத்தவா யாருக்கும் பயப்படாம, எதிர்ப்புகளையும் பொருட்படுத்தாம துணிஞ்சு செய்யறதுதான் தைரியம்’னு பொதுப்படையா பல பேர் சொல்லுவா.  அப்படின்னா காட்டுல ராஜாங்கம் பண்ணிண்டு 2000 யானைகளை வைகுண்டத்துக்கு அனுப்பிட்டு  போலிசுக்கும் சிம்ம சொப்பனமா இருந்தானே சந்தன வீரப்பன், அவன் தைரியசாலி. மும்பை வி.டி ரயில்வே ஸ்டேஷன்லயும் தெருக்கள்ளயும் டப்பு டப்புனு அப்பாவி ஜனங்களை சுட்டுக் கொன்னானே பயங்கரவாதி கசாப், அவனும் தைரியசாலிதான். இவா ரண்டு பேர் செஞ்ச காரியங்கள் பயமின்மைலயோ தைரியத்துலயோ சேர்த்தி இல்லை.  அதெல்லாம் அடாவடி, அக்கிரமம்.  அதாவது தப்புக் காரியத்தோட சேர்ந்த பயமின்மை, துணிவு.  அதுக்கு மரியாதை கிடையாது.  ரைட்டுக் காரியாத்தோட சேர்ந்த துணிவுக்குத்தான் தைரியம்கற கௌரதையான பேர் உண்டு.  அகிம்சைய ஆயுதமாப் பண்ணி வெள்ளக்காரனோட அதர்ம அரசாங்கத்தை எதிர்த்தாரே காந்தி, அவருக்கு இருந்தது தைரியம்.

ரண்டாவது, நீ எந்த சமயத்துல பேசிருக்க?  உன்னோட, உன் பையனோட நிர்வாக ஒழுக்கம் சம்பத்தப்பட்ட ஒரு கேஸ் கோர்டுல நடக்கறதே அநியாயம்கறா மாதிரி உங்க கட்சி அமளி பண்றபோது நீ பேசின பேச்சு அது.  நிர்வாக ஒழுக்கத்துல நேரு பெரிய குணவான்.  அவர் பொண்ணு இந்திரா காந்தி அந்த விஷயத்துல பெரிசா பேர் வாங்கினது இல்லை.  உங்க கேஸ் சூழ்நிலைல ”நான் நேரு குடும்பம். கட்சிப் பணத்தையோ மத்தவா பணத்தையோ ஏப்பம் விட மாட்டேன். கேஸை கோர்ட்டுல சந்திச்சு தூள் பண்ணிடறேன். அந்த தைரியம் எனக்கு இருக்கு" அப்படிங்கற ரீதில நீ சொல்லிருந்தா பொருத்தமா இருக்கும். இல்லை, ஒரு வகைல பொருத்தமா இருக்காதுன்னு நினைச்சு நீ இந்திரா காந்தி உறவை மட்டும் பிரதானமா பேசிட்டையோன்னும் தெரியலை.

எனக்குப் படற இன்னொரு விஷயத்தையும் சொல்றேன். நீங்க எப்படிப் பட்டவா, எதை சிலாகிப்பேள், எதைத் தள்ளுவேள்னு நீங்க குடுக்கற சிக்னல்படிதான் உங்களுக்கு ஆலோசகர்களும் வந்து சேருவா.  நீயோ உன் பிள்ளையோ உங்க ஆலோசகர்களைக் கூப்பிட்டு “ஆட்டைத் தூக்கி மாட்டுல போட்டு மாட்டைத் தூக்கி ஆட்டுல போட்டு கொழிக்கற லாபம் வர்ர மாதிரி ஒரு சூப்பர் பிளான் போடுங்கோ”ன்னு சொல்லிருக்க மாட்டேள்.  ஆனா, நீங்க எதை பேஷ் பேஷ்னு பாராட்டி ஏத்துப்பேள்னு உங்க ஆலோசகர்கள் கணிச்சு அதுக்கேத்தா மாதிரி ஏதோ பிளான் போட்டுக் குடுத்து உங்ககிட்ட பாராட்டையும் ஆதாயத்தையும் வாங்கிண்டு உங்களுக்கு சிக்கலைக் குடுத்துட்டா. இல்லாட்டி, கடனைக் கைமாத்தி விடறதையும், கம்பெனி ஆரம்பிக்கறதையும் ஷேர் வாங்கிண்டு கடனைக் கழிக்கறதைப் பத்தியும் உங்களுக்கா எப்படித் தெரியும்?  ’யதா ராஜா, ததா மந்திரி’ன்னு ஒரு இந்திய அரசியல் சூத்திரம் எழுதலாம்னு தோண்றது.

பயமின்மைக்கு உதாரணமாச் சொன்னயே உன் மாமியார் இந்திரா காந்தி – அவா கூட இந்த மாதிரி கன்னா பின்னா காரியங்கள்ளாம் பண்ண மாட்டாளேம்மா?
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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

மழை, வெள்ளம், மனிதர்கள்

சென்னை வெள்ளம் என்ன செய்தது?

அனைவரையும் உடல்ரீதியாகவோ மனரீதியாகவோ புரட்டிவிட்டது பேய் மழையும் பெரு வெள்ளமும்.  மனிதர்களின் நிஜமான அவதியும் பரிதவிப்பும் சமூகத்தில் மற்ற மனிதர்களுக்கு நேரடியாகவோ பத்திரிகை டிவி மூலமாகவோ தெரியும்போது அந்த மற்றவர்கள் எப்படி சங்கடப்படுவார்கள் என்பதை சென்னை சொல்லி விட்டது. கடலூரும் காட்டிவிட்டது.

ஒன்று கவனித்தீர்களா? அருகில் நடந்ததாலும் தெரிந்தவர்களுக்கு நேர்ந்ததாலும் வெள்ள பாதிப்பு இல்லாதவர்கள் பலரும் – நகருக்கு வெளியில் வசிப்பவர்களும் – தாங்கள் குற்றம் செய்த மாதிரி மன வருத்தம் அடைகிறார்கள்.  அதற்கு நிவாரணமாக இன்னல் பட்டவர்களை நினைத்து இரங்குகிறார்கள், மற்றும் தங்களால் முடிந்த உதவிகள் செய்கிறார்கள்.

   பணம் கொடுக்க முடிந்தவர்கள் கொடுக்கிறார்கள். நல்லது. நேரத்தையும் உடல் உழைப்பையும் தந்து உதவ பலர் வருகிறார்கள். இன்னும் நல்லது.  நிவாரணப் பணிகள் நடக்கும் போது தடுக்கவும் தட்டிச் செல்லவும் வில்லன்கள் பல வழிகளில் செயல்படுவது பெரும் வியப்பல்ல. தமிழகத்தில் அவர்கள் எங்கும் வியாபித்திருப்பது அனைவருக்கும் தெரிந்ததுதான்.  ஆனால் உதவி செய்ய எத்தனிக்கும் மனங்களும் கரங்களும் நம்மைச் சுற்றி இந்த அளவுக்கு இருக்கின்றன என்பது பலருக்கும் ஆச்சரியமான விஷயம்.

தமிழ் நாட்டின் பெரும் துயர் துடைக்க இவ்வளவு பெரிய சேனை மனதளவிலும் செயல் வடிவிலும் இருக்கிறது என்றால் நம் பொது வாழ்வில் மட்டும் ஏன் இப்படி ஒரு சீரழிவு? இதற்கு ஒரு முக்கியமான காரணம் தோன்றுகிறது. அதாவது, ஊரில் வெள்ளம் எற்படுத்திய சேதமும் சாவும் நம் அனைவருக்கும் தெரிகிறது, புரிகிறது. இவற்றை யாரும் மக்களிடமிருந்து மறைக்க முடியாது. கொஞ்சத்தை மறைத்தாலும் தானாகத் தெரிவது ஏராளம். நம்மைச் சுற்றிய அவலம் சுரீர் என்று நமக்கு உறைக்கும் போது நம்மில் நல்ல மனம் உள்ளவர்கள் அதைத் தாங்க முடியாமல் அதைக் களைய நினைக்கிறார்கள், வருகிறார்கள். இவர்கள் தமிழகத்தின் சொத்து. ஆனால் பொது வாழ்வில் நடக்கும் தில்லு முல்லுகளும் கொள்ளைகளும் இவர்களை நசுக்கினாலும் – அவற்றால் இவர்களே நேரடியாக பாதிக்கப் பட்டாலும் – அந்த ஊழல் வெள்ளத்தையும், அதன் வேகத்தையும் அதை எற்படுத்தியவர்களையும் இவர்களால் சரியாக அடையாளம் காண முடிவதில்லை.   அதனால்தான் அவற்றுக்கு நிவாரணம் தேவை என்று கூடத் தோன்றாமல் இந்த விஷயத்தில் சொத்தையாக இருக்கிறார்கள். பேச்சுக்கு மயங்கி இலவசங்களுக்கு இளகி புரட்டி எடுக்கப் படுகிறார்கள். இவர்களுக்கு – அதாவது இவர்களின் சந்ததிகளுக்கு – நல்ல கல்வி கிடைத்து அது அவர்களுக்கு சேனையாக இருந்து அவர்களை பொது வாழ்வுப் பிசாசுகளிடமிருந்து காப்பாற்ற வேண்டும்.

தமிழக அரசுக்கு தற்போது மிகப் பெரிய சவாலான நாட்கள். கவலையான காலமும் கூட.  சென்ற தேர்தலில் ஆட்சியைப் பிடிக்கவில்லையே என்று ஆதங்கப்பட்ட எதிர்க் கட்சிகள் எல்லாம் “நல்ல வேளை. நாம் இப்போது ஆட்சியில் இல்லை” என்று மகிழ்வார்கள். ’தற்காப்பு முன்னெச்சரிக்கை நடவடிக்கைகளை பத்து நாட்களுக்கு முன்னதாக இந்த அரசு ஆரம்பித்து மழை-வெள்ளச் சேதத்தைப் பெருமளவு குறைத்திருக்கலாம்’ என்கிற விமரிசனமும் வருகிறது. வேண்டியதைச் செய்யாமல் முன்பு ஒரு அரசாங்கம் மாநிலத்தை இருட்டில் தள்ளியது என்றால் மற்றொரு அரசாங்கம் தலைநகரை வெள்ளத்தில் முக்கியதோ?

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

What is Intolerance?

If I disagree with you on some issues, whether in private life or public sphere, can you call me ‘intolerant’ just on that score? If you do, you would be calling yourself intolerant too because you also disagree with me. 

We hear hundreds of voices now erupting in India, in varying shrillness, from the literary world, scientists and scholars, the media, Congress and other Opposition parties, and even show business, protesting against ‘intolerance’ by the present central government.  We are a politically sensitive nation – though not always sensible in that domain – and all segments of people have strong and divergent opinions about politicians and anything political.  So, if several persons in many fields are not quite pleased with the BJP coming to power at the Centre, that too with an absolute majority, especially with Narendra Modi as prime minister, their resentment will come on display.  If a charge of ‘intolerance’ is the maximum criticism they could make, they are patting the government indirectly.  But, without being aware, they are really raising some other concerns about the direction and maturity of our democracy.

If two political parties have conflicting views on a few key issues, that is not intolerance of one by the other.  They let themselves be judged by the people and get elected to govern or sit in the opposition.  That is how politics in a democracy goes.  If they do not respect their differences – i.e., submit their differences to the people and accept people’s verdict at the polls gracefully – they could be immaturely hating each other, and that is intolerance.  But then, that by itself is not worrisome.  What spells danger, and indefensibly torments others, are a ruler or ruling party committing serious ‘acts of intolerance’.  Three examples here illustrate the point. 

Mahabharata tells us that between two groups of Hindu princes who were cousins, the 100-strong Kauravas could not tolerate the rightful stake of their five Pandava cousins in the Hastinapur kingdom and they cunningly maneuvered to banish Pandavas from the country for long years and further forced a battle on Pandavas on their return before perishing in the end. Mohammedan invaders of India could not tolerate the subjects of their conquered land being Hindus and razed Hindu temples in thousands and forcibly converted multitudes of Hindus as Mohammedans.  Christian Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, hated Jews for their faith and put them to deprivation, inhuman torture and death.  So we see that actual ‘acts’ of intolerance, i.e., giving no room to differing persons and opponents and unjustly trampling them by deceit or brute force are the acts to be condemned and checked – not vague notions of intolerance perceived as an attitude in others.

What then are the actual ‘acts’ of the new central government which the Opposition parties, led by the Congress, have openly or slyly criticized?  One, Prime Minister Modi is “spending more time visiting foreign countries than tackling domestic issues”.  Assuming this has substance, obviously this is not what they mean by intolerance.  Second, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist of Maharashtra, and Dr. M. M. Kalburgi, a rationalist of Karnataka, were murdered – probably for their beliefs or for spreading their ideas – and Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim of Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, was beaten to death by a mob which suspected him of killing a cow and consuming its meat.  These are the acts which seem, at least to those who complain, to be intolerance, but let us enquire. 

Suppose pirates have a free run along India’s coast attacking our merchant shipping vessels and fishermen, who should be blamed? It is the central government and the party which rules at the Centre, and not any state government.  Why?  That is because dealing with ‘pirates and crimes committed on the high seas’ is in the charge of the central government, as per our Constitution, and a state government has no role there.  Likewise, when the Constitution prescribes that ‘public order’ – which includes solving the crimes that occurred in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh – is the sole responsibility of states, what follows is this. The central government is not answerable for those events, and the governments in those three states and their ruling parties at the time when those incidents occurred have to explain and take steps to bring the real culprits to justice swiftly.  This is plain and simple and requires no debate – surely not a hollow debate the Congress Party and a few intellectuals have opened now.

There are no other allegations against the present central government that amount to acts of intolerance.  The ruling party at the Centre may feel glad and relieved at this. But the spectacle before us has its tinge of sadness. 

As a political party, the BJP may pride itself for having won an absolute majority in Parliament after a hard fight at the polls in 2014, trouncing the Congress and many other parties.  But we cannot do away with the Opposition in a democracy. Presently the Congress Party is the strongest contender to be a good Opposition party in many states, and at the Centre too, in India.  Now is the time for it to conduct itself responsibly and with dignity, while re-connecting with the people in various ways – for example by being at the forefront actively in relief work where needed.  Going physically close to the people and talking to them with genuine concern will also shore up support for political parties among the vast numbers of simple-minded Indians.

What happens if the Congress Party harps on the issue of intolerance as it does now?  It will click only with those who support the Congress in their hearts.  It will serve as a hot topic for people who savour controversies for their daily diet of news but are going to vote as per their set preferences.  Print and electronic media will also have a good time.  But it does not really help the Congress to enhance its current circle of supporters.

Like it needs the BJP, the country needs the Congress too.  The Congress Party has a glorious past, which had leaders who made enormous personal sacrifices for India’s freedom. It should always have a widespread vibrant presence in India, including New Delhi.  The Congress owes it to itself, and to the nation, to grow back and do its bit to make democracy work and shine in India.  So the Congress should not lose its way over meaningless and temporary attractions in politics.  That could give way to narrow-minded regional leaders rising and capturing power in a coalition at the Centre as an alternative to the BJP in future – and who knows, delighted to keep each other at bay, they could again install a puppet prime minister like Deve Gowda who merrily ill-fitted that post earlier. That should be a concern of many whose hearts beat for India.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Friday, 27 November 2015

Aamir Khan and the India that Loves Him

        Did you notice – more Indians are now talking about the value of secularism or raising concerns about the dangers it faces in India.  Actor Aamir Khan said recently that his wife, anxious about the safety of her child in India, had even asked him if they should think of moving out of India.  In a way he seemed to echo concerns voiced earlier by a few literary award winners and scientists in the country about what they termed ‘intolerance’ in India – including intolerance to secularism. 

Hindus form about 80% of India’s population, the rest made up of Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians or Parsis. If anyone in the country says he values secularism, what does it mean?  It means that person appreciates that India, with a vast Hindu majority, freely allows others practising their religion in India, even more than it does for Hindus.  Those who like Indian brand of secularism are mostly not Hindus or not serious believers. That is understandable since they directly benefit from India being secular that way, or it accords with their belief or unbelief.  Indian secularism is also unique.  Nowhere in the world can you find a country like India where law and government grants citizens of minority religions – when the majority is as high as 80% - special status and privileges, i.e., more than equal importance.  A Muslim in India, for example, should feel more privileged and protected than if he were living in a neighbouring Muslim majority nation. Full credit to India and its people.   

Non-Hindus in India would be satisfied, and happy too, over how the Hindu majority country treats them socially and politically – leave alone any aberrations that have to be addressed.  It is fair that they should wish that a Hindu living in every other country enjoys similar religious and social freedom, equality and protection, if not the privileges, that they have in India.  What does anyone convey when he argues that India is a secular country and hence all non-Hindus should feel equal with Hindus?  He means that secularism is a great virtue for a country to follow.  Then, at the same time, if he fails to come down on other countries which do not practise the Indian brand of secularism and which make Hindus, a minority in those countries, live a subdued second-class life, he would be plainly dishonest.  If he is also a non-Hindu living in India and basking in its secularism, he would be ungrateful too.  Anyone can see this is not a criticism or an abuse, but is natural human feeling with most Hindus in India who wish non-Hindus well.

Now back to Aamir Khan.  Aamir talking about going out of India along with his family should evoke no concerned reaction from those staying back.  First, I am not sure if those thoughts are serious at all, and it is good if they are not.  Then there are lakhs of Indians who have done it in their lives over decades because, thanks to inept governments, they see no way of making a living or prospering or getting the best out of themselves in the land of their birth, while Aamir has been lucky he could do it to the brim in India. As a nation, we suffer a deep loss year after year by driving out talented Indians to other countries. This should be more worrying for Indians than Aamir Khan’s statement which had doubtful intent, which he has also later clarified for a happy filmy ending. 

India’s concern for its citizens should travel beyond western nations attracting educated Indians.  Unemployment and low wages within India have taken out lakhs of other Indians, skilled and unskilled, to Gulf countries to work hard in difficult conditions to secure a better future for their families back home.  We do not seem to feel for them who are forced out of their country to keep body and soul together. 

Last month a 55-year old lady from Tamil Nadu who was working as a housemaid in a Saudi home returned to India sobbing.  Shortly before she came back her right arm had to be amputated in a Saudi hospital, seemingly as a result of a fall when she was fleeing from her oppressive workplace.  That passed off as a news item in India without stirring the conscience of our rulers, or even of fellow-Indians here, over the widespread poverty in our land which sends Indians out of their homeland to sweat out and suffer.

A few months ago when strife was brewing in Yemen with rebel forces taking control, Indians who had been there on work were hurriedly rescued by air and sea by an alert Indian government.  Not many pitied them for having to go to Yemen to earn a living and risk their lives.  Aamir is lucky he had some sympathizers, for a mere statement that his wife asked him if they should move out of India.

Wherever Indians live abroad in huge numbers, affluent in the West or average-earners in the Gulf – with no one ruing they had to move out of India – Aamir Khan and many like him in Indian film world may visit them, appearing on ticketed stage shows. They may also screen their Indian language movies in those countries and push up revenues. Full thanks to India and its people - who live in India or have moved out of India.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Bihar Elections 2015 – A View beyond Politics

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have shared success in the recent Bihar assembly elections.  Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have tagged along.  Narendra Modi has lost.  But a worrying signal comes from India’s voters in Bihar, and that has nothing to do with the political merits of these players.

You know the figures in the results. Out of 243 seats in the state legislature, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party RJD topped with 80.  Among the remaining ones, 71 went to Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), 53 to Narendra Modi’s BJP and 27 to the Congress while others took 12. 

          Lalu Prasad was not a candidate in the elections.  In Sept. 2013 he was convicted by a special CBI court in Ranchi for offences including one under the Prevention of Corruption Act, in a fodder scam case, and later sentenced to prison for five years. With that punishment, he stood barred by law from contesting elections to a state assembly or to Parliament for that term plus six years – for eleven years in all.  But even during the barred period he is free to canvass for anyone in an election.  So he led his party and campaigned for the coalition of RJD, JD(U) and Congress.

          Look at the law, Lalu Prasad and democracy.  He won.  Those who voted for and elected his party candidates did so thanks to his word and presence, aided by Nitish Kumar.  Aligning with Lalu, Nitish also has won.  Staying with them, the Congress too benefited.  What does the picture reveal if you look closely?

          Lalu Prasad had appealed to the High Court against the lower court’s judgement convicting him.  His appeal was yet to be heard when the Bihar polls were announced.  But he had come out on bail, campaigned in the elections and has bagged the largest number of seats for any party in the new state assembly.  This shows one thing.  People who would have voted Lalu Prasad in 2015 if there were no corruption case against him have stood by his party even after a court found him guilty of corruption, and on his prodding have voted for his ally Nitish Kumar and his party too.  Other voters who essentially support Nitish Kumar, a leader perceived clean, have now voted for his new ally Lalu Prasad’s party too.

          I am not commenting on the change of heart among political leaders at election time when they strike alliances – like the convicted Lalu Prasad and a cleaner Nitish Kumar coming together in Bihar this year, though Lalu had called Nitish earlier in a court proceeding as the former’s ‘greatest enemy’.  Many political leaders make similar strange alliances between their parties during elections, having described each other in choice phrases earlier.  I wish to say a little about another thing happening amidst all this.
Getting an accused convicted in an Indian criminal court is quite a hard thing to do, since the law has strict norms for proving an offence beyond reasonable doubt.  It is doubly difficult when we have puppeteer politicians and a de-professionalised servient police force.  Since any chief minister has inherent pulls and pressures of all sorts, a corruption case against him or her has even more hurdles to cross.  Still Lalu Prasad was convicted in such a case in 2013 and now his party has won more than any other in Bihar elections.

Indians, whether educated or not, know that a politician gets things done or undone.  They generally have a good respect for courts, more than they have for other official agencies or functionaries.  So what do you make out if the same people, just two years after a court convicts a chief minister in a corruption case, hugely vote for his party in the state polls?  Bihar voters would not, by a deliberate choice, have suspended their personal opinions of Lalu Prasad’s guilt or innocence till the High Court decides his appeal and also till the Supreme Court has the final say.  None of us know how the two superior courts will decide this case.  That question was probably never also in the minds of the people who voted in Bihar as Lalu wanted them to.

Forget Lalu Prasad Yadav and his party.  What happened in Bihar could be the scene in a few other states with X or Y as its former or serving chief minster convicted for corruption.  If people ignore a court verdict on corruption against a chief minister and elect candidates of his party in largest number so soon after his conviction, that too on his campaigning, it means a feeble democracy is at work. Probably, people in that territory feel safer to remain restrained and bound than to feel free and go by a valued court verdict.

Any convicted minister or chief minister has his or her rights of appeal, and that is to be respected.  But so long as a court’s positive finding on corruption against a politician stands then, unless it evokes informed widespread suspicion, he or she should fear steep erosion in people’s support as a direct result of such a verdict if – but only if - the public have real awareness.   

So in Bihar the real sad spectacle is the people failing themselves against corruption – i.e., by not letting their votes speak against that malady which a court trial earlier highlighted.  I am sure Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi will agree with this view on principle and also say it aloud if, instead of Bihar, Gujarat has now a former chief minister convicted for corruption by a district-level criminal court and two years later that person goes on to win elections in that state.

But the people of Bihar are our people, and democracy in that region cannot succeed without them.  So let us wish – which is the best we can do right now - that they will in quicker time become more aware and wield  the weapon in their hands, the ballot, so politicians fear to take voters for granted and would mostly check themselves when governing.

Now, we may also answer a possible pretentious moral question.  A chief minister convicted on a corruption charge could well ask: “Isn’t it unfair if my political rival in another party, who is equally corrupt, escapes by luck a prosecution or court’s finding of corruption, but I get caught by bad luck and suffer a judicial verdict?  Why should I come to pay for a mischance and my opponent enjoy good fortune and go scot-free?”   A conscious people should respond: “We can’t let off the second thief in our homes because the first one escaped with his booty”.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

அம்புஜம் பாட்டி அலசுகிறாள் : முஸ்லிம் மாமாக்கு வந்தனம்

     நீங்கதான மௌலானா கலீத் ரஷீத் ஃபரங்கிமஹ்லி? நீங்க லக்னோல ஒரு நல்ல காரியம் பண்ணினேள்னு பேப்பர்ல படிச்சேன். அதாவது முஸ்லிம்கள்ள பசு மாட்டு மாமிசப் பழக்கம் இருக்கறவா அதை விட்டுடலாமேன்னு ஒரு கூட்டத்துல மேடை ஏறி வேண்டுகோள் வச்சு சுத்தி இருந்தவாளோட பசும்பால் சாப்பிட்டேளாம். நீங்க பண்ணினது ரைட்டா தப்பான்னு உங்க மனுஷா நிறைய பேர் அபிப்ராயம் சொல்லி இருப்பா.  இந்தப் பக்கத்துலேர்ந்து சில பேர் ”இந்தியாவுல இருந்தா இப்படிச் செய்யறதுதான் சரி”ன்னு இதைப் பத்தி சாதாரணமாவும் பேசி இருக்கலாம்.  ஆனா நான் உங்களப் பத்தி பெரிசாத்தான் நினைக்கறேன்.  இந்து முஸ்லிம் இணக்கத்துக்கு நீங்க பெரிய தொண்டு பண்ணிருக்கேள்னு சொல்லணும். ஏதோ ’இந்துக்களுக்கு ஆதரவா பேசறதுக்கு ஒரு முஸ்லிம் கிடைச்சா அடிச்சது லக்கி பிரைஸ்’ங்கறா மாதிரி நான் பேச வரலை.

   எல்லாத்துக்கும் ”இது ரைட்டு அது ராங்கு – நான் சரி நீ தப்பு”ன்னே பேசிண்டிருந்தா பேச்சுதான் மிஞ்சும், பேதம்தான் வளரும். ஆயுசு வரைக்கும் நிம்மதியப் பாக்கமுடியாது, வாழ்க்கைய ரசிக்க முடியாது. எங்க விட்டுக் குடுக்கணும், எதுக்கு தாராள சிந்தனை வேணுங்கற உள்ளுணர்வு கணவன் மனைவியா குடும்பம் நடத்தறதுக்கே வேண்டிருக்கு. அண்ணன் தம்பி, அக்கா தங்கை ஒத்துமைக்கும் வேணும். அது இல்லன்னா ஃபிரண்டாக்கூட இருக்க முடில. ஏன், இந்திய அம்மா அப்பாக்கள் இன்னும் அதிகமாவே அவா குழந்தைகளுக்கு விட்டுக் குடுத்திண்டிருக்கா – அவாள்ள பல பேர் ஆறு ஆறு மாசம் அமெரிக்காவுக்குப் போயும் கடமையா அல்லல் படறா.  இதான நிதர்சனம்? அப்ப இந்துக்களும் முஸ்லிம்களும் ஒவ்வொரு விஷயத்துக்கும் தப்பு ரைட்டு பாக்காம, சில இடங்கள்ள ஒருத்தருக்கு ஒருத்தர் வழி விடறதும் விட்டுக் கொடுக்கறதும் எவ்வளவு விவேகம், புத்திசாலித்தனம்?

     எந்த நாடோ என்ன மதமோ, அதிகமான மனுஷா மனசுக்குள்ள பாதுகாப்பா, த்ருப்தியா நினைச்சுக்கற உறவு அவா அவா அம்மா அப்பாவாத்தான் இருப்பா. அதுக்குக் காரணம், அம்மா அப்பா குழந்தைகள்ட்ட குத்தம் பாக்காம விட்டுக் குடுக்கறா. அதுனால அம்மா அப்பா மேல நமக்கெல்லாம் ஒரு நன்றி கலந்த பிடிப்பு இருக்கு. ஒருத்தர் இன்னொருத்தருக்கு பொறுப்பா விட்டுக் குடுத்தா அது மத்தவாள்ட்ட எப்பிடி நல்ல எண்ணத்தை விதைக்கும்னு வீட்டுக்குள்ளயே தெரிஞ்சுக்கலாம், பாத்தேளா?

     ”இந்துக்களும் முஸ்லிம்களும் ஒற்றுமையா இருக்கணும்”னு மந்திரிமார்கள் விடற அறிக்கைகள்ள சம்பிரதாயம்தான் இருக்கும், ஜீவன் இருக்காது. அரசாங்கத்துல இருக்கறவா அப்பிடித்தான் பொம்மையாப் பேசணும், அவாளால வேற மாதிரி வார்த்தைகள் பொதுவுல சொல்ல முடியாது.  உங்க செயல் அப்பிடி இல்லை. உங்ககிட்டேர்ந்து இப்பிடி ஒரு பேச்சை யாரும் எதிர் பார்த்திருக்க முடியாது.  நீங்க மந்திரியா இல்லாததுனால உங்க நல்ல பேச்சுக்கும் செயலுக்கும் பத்திரிகைல முதல் பக்கத்துல இடம் கிடைக்கல – உள் பக்கத்துல ஓரமா சின்னதாத்தான் நீங்க கிடந்தேள்.  ஆனா நினைச்சுப் பாக்கறேன் – உங்க கூட்டத்தை அமைச்சவா பசு மாட்டு மாமிசம் தவிருங்கோன்னு கேட்டுண்டது மட்டுமில்லாம அதுக்கு எப்பிடிப் பொருத்தமா பசும் பாலயும் கூட்டத்துல வினியோகம் பண்ணிருக்கா! ஜோர்!.
   பசு மாட்டு மாமிசம் சாப்பிடறதுக்கு உங்க மதத்துல தடை இல்லை.  இந்துக்கள்ள நிறையப் பேர் அதை சாப்பிடறது பாவம்னு நினைக்கற அளவுக்குத் தள்ளி வச்சுருக்கா. அதே நேரத்துல இந்துக்கள்ள சில பேர் அதை சாப்பிடறதும் உண்டுன்னு நீங்களே கேள்விப் பட்டிருப்பேள் – இதைச் சொல்லியே பசு மாமிசம் எல்லாருக்கும் கிடைக்கட்டும்னு நீங்க வாதம் பண்ணிருந்தா அதுக்கு யாரும் பதில் சொல்லிருக்க முடியாது.  உங்க பெரிய மனசுக்கு இதான் ப்ரூஃப். வந்தனம்.

   ”நம்ம நாடு உணவுக்காக இழக்கற பசு மாடுகள்ள முஸ்லிம்கள் வீட்டு சாப்பாட்டு இலைக்குப் போறது சின்ன எண்ணிக்கைதான் - இந்துக்கள்ள சில வகுப்பைச் சேர்ந்தவா, மலை வாழ் மக்கள், கிறிஸ்தவா, புத்த மதத்துக்காரா, பார்சிக்கள், கூர்க்கா, நேபாளிகள்னு இருக்கறவாள்ள பல பேர் சாப்பிடறதுக்கும் வெளிநாட்டுக்கு ஏற்றுமதியாற மாமிசத்துக்கும் உயிரைக் குடுக்கற பசுக்கள்தான் ரொம்ப அதிகம் - பாகிஸ்தான் பங்களா தேஷ் நாடுகளுக்கு கடத்தல்ல போற பசுக்களும் ஏராளம்” - இப்பிடில்லாம் விலாவாரியா வந்ததைப் படிக்கறேன். ஆனா இதைப் பத்தி பேசி தர்க்கத்தை வளர்க்காம, முஸ்லிம்கள் பேர் சந்தேகத்துல விழ வேண்டாம், கெடவும் வேண்டாம்னு நீங்க அமெரிக்கையா பெருந்தன்மையா பேசிருக்கேள்.  வந்தனம்.

 பசுவைத் துதிக்கற  இந்துக்கள்  உங்களைப்  பாராட்டாம இருக்க முடியாது. அதே ரீதில நீங்கள்ளாம் நன்றியோட பாக்கறா மாதிரி, பரஸ்பரமா விட்டுக்குடுக்கற ஒரு அறிவிப்பு மத்த மதக்காராள்டேருந்து வரட்டுமேன்னு நினைச்சுப் பாத்தாலே நன்னா இருக்கு. மத்தவாளோட அந்தச் செய்கை – அந்தத் தவிர்த்தல் – உங்க சமூகத்துக்கு அவ்வளவு பெரிய அவசியமா இல்லாட்டாலும், உங்களுக்குன்னே காட்டப் படற பதில் மரியாதையா வரும்போது அதுக்கு உங்க சமூகத்துல மதிப்பு நிச்சயமாக் கூடும். பரஸ்பர அவநம்பிக்கையை விலக்கி சினேகத்தை வளர்த்து தேசத்தை உயர்த்தரதை எண்ணிப் பாக்கறது தப்பில்லையே!

     பசு மாமிசம் வேண்டாம்னு சொன்னதால நீங்க பணிஞ்சு போனதா வெளிப் பார்வைக்குத் தெரியலாம். ஆனா நீங்க நிமிர்ந்துதான் நிக்கறேள்.  ரொம்ப தேங்க்ஸ்! 

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Hindus and their Bond with the Cow

      “Don’t kill a cow or eat its meat. This is India” say many Hindu Indians to all around.  A group of persons reply: “Dietry habits are a part of our freedom.  Have tolerance, don’t impose your religious beliefs and let not government ban slaughtering of cows”.  Newspapers and television channels continue the debate and views on this issue chiefly reflect one’s religious beliefs.  What then are other key factors here?

     First, some statistics from India’s 2011 census.  Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, Muslims 14.2% and Christians 2.3%.  Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are each in lesser numbers than Christians.

      You know that among Indians, Hindus consider the cow sacred and worship it in some way. They abhor killing of that animal or eating its meat, whoever does it.  Non-vegetarians among Hindus would also feel that way, as vegetarians do.  Muslims and Christians have no taboo with cow’s meat, and a tiny minority of Hindus also consume it by deliberate choice. Jains believe in not harming any living being or eating flesh of any variety.  As for Sikhs and Buddhists, a very large part of them would stay away from consuming cow’s meat, by their own preference and to respect dominant Hindu sentiments.

      Take a glimpse of a foreign scenario, with regard to dogs.  Americans love pets, as the world knows.  Reports say that all 50 states in the US have banned the sale of dog meat to the general public and its use in public restaurants.  According to the Humane Society, six of them – Virginia, California, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, and Michigan –  go further, specifically  prohibiting the consumption of dogs and cats, i.e., even by cooking their meat for use within the home (see  Wikipedia reveals that dog meat is considered taboo in Britain and France, has been prohibited in Germany and that it is not a feature of modern Japanese culture “because Japanese people believe that certain dogs have special powers in their religion of Shintoism and Buddhism” and that “in Japanese shrines certain animals are worshipped, such as dogs as it is believed they will give people a good luck charm”. 

      So you find a country not eating dog’s meat for religious reasons and some other countries abstaining from it for the love of the dog, one or two backing up with strict legal measures too.  Even in the hugely freedom-loving United States, disallowing the killing of dogs for their meat is not considered as violating individual freedom.

      If US dogs can win protection against destruction for meat, weathering arguments of “my freedom lost” or “religious intolerance”, Indian cows may surely butt aside similar arguments and have longer lives.

        It looks a good majority of Muslims and Christians in India, who know that butchering a cow or eating its meat offends the sensibilities of vast numbers of Hindus, would be inclined not to do such acts – to give comfort to the Hindu majority who have been inhabiting India since centuries before other religions sprouted here – and so they peacefully accept legal bans on slaughter of cows that are in place in 21 out of 28 states and in a few union territories.  In earlier periods, Mughal emperors Babur, Akbar, Jahangir, Ahmad Shah and the last of them Bahadur Shah Zafar are known to have banned slaughter of cows in their regimes in India.  So did kings Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan who ruled from Mysore.  Maharaja Ranjt Singh, the founder of the Sikh empire in Punjab, had also prohibited cow slaughter which remained a capital offence during the Sikh reign.

       In the present day, persons of non-American origin living in the US, who could be used to dog meat, respect the American ban on that food rather than protest the law on grounds of individual freedom.

        In India, it is mainly some groups of Hindu intellectuals who claim that killing a cow or eating its meat is a matter of one’s freedom and that it should be freely allowed or that banning such acts is religious intolerance – giving a false impression to many lay persons that most Indian Muslims and Christians may have a stubborn clash of ideas with Hindus on this issue.  

      Some of those Hindu intellectuals also argue that cow’s meat was consumed by all in India during Vedic period and till Buddhism began spreading in India, to stress that Hindus need not specially protect the cow’s life today.  But I think their views are insensitive and against ground realities. 

       Even assuming cow’s meat was in the diet of Hindus of ancient India – about 2,000 to 4000 years ago - for several centuries past till now Hindus have been saying no to that food for religious reasons, which is enough to settle our issues.  And surely, history cannot be rolled back for 2000 years – not even for 200 years, as we know, for most things in life – to urge today’s Hindus to follow the diet habits of their forefathers of such hoary past.  Likewise, Indian history cannot also be unwound for a shorter length of around 1000 years for another object – that is, though Hindus of that period were converted to another religion, for that reason all their living descendants of today cannot be expected to return to the Hindu fold.  

        To Indians who still ask for cow’s meat to be allowed freely in this country, here is a question. If they were living as a religious minority of around 15% in a huge Muslim majority nation, would they reject the religious beliefs of that land and ask for liberty to eat pork which is taboo for Muslims, arguing that local Muslims could abstain from pork but others should be free to consume that meat? They would be wrong if they answer yes.

      But the issue has another dimension, and India has more sad stories about its cows. Some humans, some animals and some natural resources are to be worshiped or treated sacrosanct by Hindus – such as one’s mother (“matru devo bhava”, means “revere your mother as God”), the cow and the river Ganges.  But today they are frequently or grossly disrespected, neglected or ill-treated and defiled on our land.  Among them the cow, in most cases, is not properly fed by its owner, has no shelter, and is let loose on the streets to eat rubbish along with plastic bags containing scraps of food which damage its stomach and shorten its life.  It is also given harmful injections to induce an abnormal high yield of milk. Keeping in place a ban on cow slaughter is right.  But saying that the animal is sacred to us and yet doing all those things to the poor cow would be a a paap or sin, isn’t it?

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Sahitya Akademi, its Awards and Awardees

The Sahitya Akademi has never been in the news like now, not even during its awards ceremony. That is because, as you know, scores of authors who won literary awards from the Akademi have ‘returned’ the awards, citing some reasons. Are they doing the right thing?

Let me say it upfront.  No crime is to be condoned, especially by the police or the State.  If a law defining an act as crime is itself abominable or seriously unfair, you may criticise the law and demand its revocation– and that is a different issue.

More than twenty Indian writers have announced one after another they are ‘returning’ awards Sahitya Akademi conferred on them for their works in the past. They explain it is their way of denouncing recent criminal assaults on dalits, minorities and rationalists or of faulting the Akademi for not itself protesting against such incidents. Some have said they are doing it to oppose religious intolerance and to stand by freedom of expression.  Reports say seven of the returned awards were earned at least 15 years back, one of them 40 (yes, FORTY) years ago. 

What does a literary award mean? It marks the merit of an author’s work. It helps the author, and the reading public. If the award-giving body commands respect, the honour benefits the writer and the reader even more.  The publisher too gets a push. All the beneficiaries of a good award should get their due within a few years, and something more automatically flows later too.  If an author accepts an award and returns it later – 5 or 40 years later- for reasons cited now, surely the writer does not mean it was wrongly given earlier. Nor would the later act strengthen his or her condemnation of any crime occurring in society at any time.

Is returning a literary award for such reasons any sacrifice?  Certainly not, as anyone would feel. The returning, if at all, brings new media spotlight on the writer, reminding more of the public about the distinction he or she earned before. Also, an award-giving body cannot take back its award for the reasons now being stated for surrendering them.  So, the awards returned have come to stay more prominently.  For some, it is the award that returns

Keeping law and order, or even road traffic, in good shape is not something for which India is well known. Crimes are common, even notorious, in some states.  If you have not been a victim of minor or major crimes, thank your stars and not the State. This is not said flimsily.  Just look at the number and frequency of rapes of women and girl children being committed across the country, terrorist offences still taking place in some parts of India and the general nation-wide fear and distrust of the police forces by law-abiding citizens and a resultant insecure feeling in everyone - with India’s abundant poor persons trembling more in their hearts when they see a policeman near them. These scenes are enough to remind us that our freedom belongs more to the legal world than real life.  If people affected or likely to be affected in these situations cannot talk about it openly, that is the actual lack of freedom of expression in India. But the returning authors have not pointed to these long-time grave issues as the cause of their acts – not that I feel that would justify giving back their prizes.

We know that the Sahitya Akademi is not a part of the government.  It is a separate body formed and functioning under a law which regulates societies, and many apartment owners’ associations work in a similar way. If the Akademi does an act contradicting its chief functions, or if it selects some absolutely meritless book for an award, even then all writers may fault the institution, and no prior awardee need return an award.  When it is not even the job of the Akademi to prevent criminal assaults on any persons – including those committed out of religious or caste hatred - why should Akademi awards be returned, faulting the Akademi?  If such crimes are not prevented, when preventable, or if they are not swiftly and impartially investigated to bring the offenders to justice should the Akademi take the blame or should the failing police officers and the concerned state home minister or chief minister face the music?  The protesting award winners are barking up the wrong tree.

Look at this scenario.  We know all sorts of crimes are rife in some African countries, and terror freely stalks those lands.  There could be a literary society in a country over there, announcing an award for a local author.  If the writer accepts it, should he or she return the award the next week to protest some atrocity occurring nearby?  And should that literary society be busy condemning those crimes?  If it routinely denounces all criminal acts happening around, does it not expose its governing body to risk of attacks by mad men– possibly with guns and bombs?  The sense of insecurity among Indians may not be as high, but anyone serving a literary society in India would wish to be sensibly cautious.

The action of the Akademi awardees looks presumptuous and somewhat hollow, from another point of view. They have not come out with clarity on their concerns about ‘religious intolerance’ and ‘freedom of expression’ – especially about who is not tolerating, what is not being tolerated and who is curbing whose freedom.  Even if those concerns are valid and well grounded, they should be shared by other groups too who are interested in the democratic way of life, like judges, lawyers, opposition parties including their lawmakers and academicians.  Should these people also be protesting as the returning awardees do, and return all they could in like manner? Performing artistes, businessmen, doctors, chartered accountants and women and children are also vitally benefited by public order, freedom and democracy.  Should they protest too?

Come to the global situation. Without doubt, every day more injustice, suppression and horrendous criminal acts take place around the world than in India. What should the institutions awarding Nobel prizes, and the Nobel awardees, be doing amidst all this?  I hope the returning awardees of India would agree that those august bodies and the Nobel laureates should just get on with their work and leave the ills of the world to be tackled by agencies charged with fighting those maladies. If those agencies fail in their jobs the action needed is just revamping them with right officers. That is what we need to do in India, but don’t do most of the time.

        Finally, if it makes sense for Indian writers to return previously conferred literary awards, and for the reasons we learn, it should also make sense for yet-to-be-awarded writers here with similar views to declare they would not, for like reasons that always abound in our country, accept any award in future until they are firmly and permanently remedied.  But then, it does not make sense this way or that way.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Mr. Rajinikanth, Well Said About the Judiciary – But There is More to Say

     Speaking in public recently about the Indian judiciary, actor Rajinikanth said, “The nation has its faith in courts.  It’ll be ruined if courts go the wrong way”.  Well said.  What he meant is also clear. But there is something more to say.

     Just look at what the judiciary does for you in India, and in what ambience it functions. Also consider what the other two wings of the state - the executive and the legislature - are expected to do for the judiciary in a democracy and how far they go.

      To begin with, imagine situations like these:

·      you buy an article, it malfunctions and the manufacturer or servicing agent doesn’t honour the product warranty;

·     your co-owner of some property claims for himself your rightful share in a house, and squats on it;

·         your rival in trade, politics or show business defames you;

·        you report to the police a crime committed on you, but they don’t register and investigate it;

·       a property registering officer or a taxman demands from you excessive stamp duty or tax;

·   the legislature passes an unauthorized law affecting you – like taking away some fundamental right 
     How do you resolve these problems? You know the answer: you have to go to court if the other person or the government insists on being unreasonable with you.  By choice or by practical compulsions you may not approach the court, but the best you can hope for anywhere in a persisting dispute is a chance to plead your case before a dedicated third-party agency like a court which has authority to direct parties to a binding solution.  And you have it in India.

      The executive – or ‘the government’ – rubs shoulders with citizens every day and every hour, and so you could get affected constantly that way.  The legislature may cross your path only when it enacts wrong laws, but lawmaking itself happens rarely by comparison.  Your confrontation with Indian legislatures, whenever it happens, is also theoretical, and you would then really be battling the government that wears the mask of the legislature.  This is why it is so.  Every statute law is mostly initiated by the government in the legislature, by introducing a bill.  The bill is passed automatically with the government-supporting majority voting for it, thanks to the anti-defection provisions in our Constitution.  Those provisions say that if a legislator votes inside the legislature against the directive of his political party, or remains absent at voting time, he vacates his seat in the legislature unless his political party condones his defiance within 15 days why would anyone wish to be ejected from a legislature in that fashion when it is a hard battle to get nominated and a harder one to win an election – when that battle is quite expensive too?  So any bad or oppressive law passed by a legislature and affecting people is virtually an act of the government.

      Governments, you know, are run by politicians at the helm, and so it is really them you have to fight the most to keep your rights as a free citizen if they are denied.  Most governments in India, meaning most of the ruling political class in India, respect your key rights and interests against them because they reckon that the judiciary will keep them in check if challenged.  The saddest part of that fact is, only judges and politicians know that fact well – not the multitudes of people who are so protected by the judiciary.  Our democracy is yet to evolve to the level where a government, on its own by a trait, will respect rights of people who would also be informed and aware.  As of now our democracy is just God-blessed, not citizen-powered.

     And then the judiciary assists the government too if a private person – an individual or a corporation – does a wrong to the government or to the public which the government cannot or does not set right.  Like in collecting huge tax arrears, evicting squatters on public property and even recovering colossal amounts of public revenues lost through government’s misallocation of natural resources such as spectrum or coal mines.

      Did you notice this?  The judiciary is not placed to receive help from individuals, corporations or the government.  The judiciary is only a giver, and scarcely a receiver.  It does a sort of a parenting role in our democracy.

    The Indian judiciary’s performance has been one of the very best among all democratic countries – especially if you note the counterweights put against its independence and dignity from outside, some open and audacious and some subtle but serious.  Judicial institutions in mature democracies would not be facing such grave onslaughts from their executive branches.  Worse still, they do not suffer brazen disrespect and indignities at the hands of lawyers themselves at many levels and in many places.  And still the Indian judiciary carries on doing its job admirably well.

      You might have a question, “Politicians are despised and ridiculed even more, but carry on with their functions – so how are judges different or superior?”  The answer is: Our politicians are faulted for straying from the straight path, and they could have secret rewards.  Judges in India mostly face opposition for boldly coming down on law-breakers, deriving no special benefits for themselves.  That is the difference.

      True, there are also some among the vast numbers of our judges who misbehave and the judiciary needs some cleansing here and there.  But there is no doubt that, more than others, judges have preserved freedom and democracy in free India till now.

       There is nothing wrong in saying publicly that judges should be independent and credible.   At the same time we must also say out that we salute them for their work and, more than that, ask all in public life, and lawyers, to give judges the respect and dignity they deserve – like we do for army men.  Probably, many feel reticent about telling that openly so all politicians and others could hear, and yet could appeal to judges to be on the right path and serve the nation.  Our democracy needs to grow to make us feel really free.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015