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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Defending Free speech
And Defying Fundamentalists in a sensitive nation.....
By Chris Emmanuel Dsouza
The Legendary French philosopher Voltaire demonstrating his solidarity with right of Free Speech wrote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” He didn’t stop there, he proceeded to write “Men who believed in absurdities committed atrocities” and apparently on both these occasions, Voltaire was referring to amazingly uncultured men affiliated to bullying gangs, who hauled with ire, every time their feelings were hurt.
Temperament is an unusual frame of mind; it can boil upto a certain limit, and at breakeven, when the very reason it purges seems skirmish even to the point of a debate, it deviates its direction and cools down , abnormally low, where it takes a humorous position. That’s precisely what happened with some of the literary masters over the years. During the dark ages of Europe, when societal stigmas, taboos, beliefs, practices, rites, customs and its effects transcended into a firestorm, leading to complete debacle of the European society, the only rescue mission emanated from the fraternity of artistic brilliance. The dogmas were too bitter to consume, as they went over the heads of literary world, tempting them to use provocative satires against it. The fanatics, unlearned and hardliners who couldn’t wait to handle any criticisms against their cults, turned themselves as self-styled crusaders and sought the heads of the literary world terming them as ‘Blasphemers’.
And thus arose a disturbing phenomenon of Sacrilege and Blasphemy, raging out from the veins of despicable extremists, who made it habitual to cry foul every time they felt like feeling offended. The weirdness attached to the term offensive is so great, that it erupts each time, it feels pinched. This occurred as early as 500 years before Christ, when an admirable Athenian philosopher was sentenced and poisoned, for his thoughts. The thoughts that went against the common beliefs of his period, and thus Socrates came to be regarded by modern writers as the ‘first prisoner of conscience’. In the 17th century, an Italian physicist and astronomer devised an innovative theory, which suggested that earth revolved around sun and rotated around its axis, contrary to the traditional belief. The fundamentalists didn’t spare him too; he was charged of hurting religious sentiments, and sentenced to prison. A few decades later, his theory was adopted in the mainstream and to this day Galileo has been hailed as the “father of Scientific Revolution”. Dating back to the mid-19th century, an English Biologist released a book by the name “Origin of Species” which explained a remarkable and an awe-inspiring theory of “Natural Selection”. The Biologist had penned down a theory on “Evolution of Mankind”, which didn’t go well with western conservatives of his era. Thus, he had to seek state protection and forced to move into hideout, due to fear from faith based hardliners and protestant fundamentalists. A Few decades later, his theory was seriously narrated in all schools around the world, and today Darwin’s theory and his other findings have been widely acclaimed in Academic circles, earning him the title of most important biologist on Evolution of Mankind.
In the recent times, when the world has taken progressive steps in protecting Freedom of speech and Expression, and most importantly the lives of artists, Scientists and literary icons; India has sarcastically remained primitive. This has been portrayed in recent times by the treatment presented to two iconic Artistic genius of this era Maqbool Fida Hussain and Salman Rushdie. The Indian government, greedy of power, spineless in heart, Timid in decision, fantastically coward and inexplicably corrupt has successfully created a vacuum for the rise of intolerance in the country. It is the Indian government’s capitulation to the fundamentalist nut-bags wandering with destructive weapons in the streets, which eventually resulted in blocking Salman Rushdie’s much awaited presence at the Jaipur literary festival, for a talk on the topic “chutnification of English Language”. The fundamentalists do not make an in-depth analysis on anything they do, and this proves on two hilarious cases. The first is that Salman Rushdie has made atleast five visits to India, after the “Satanic Verses” episode in 1989. The second instance makes their case excessively pitiable, widely exposing their ignorance on world affairs. Anyone in this planet, who has access to You tube, Facebook and English Dailies would have easily recognized the brutally fierce critique on faith and religion, The Patriarch of Non- Belief, the world renowned Biologists and author of ‘God Delusion’ Dr. Richard Dawkins. Some of us were shockingly astonished, watching Professor Dawkins making vehement statements against religion to a literary crowd, flanked by media at the same venue where Rushdie was supposed to have lectured! Now, for heaven sake, we shall not discuss about Dawkins’s ‘God Delusion’, its nature and content, because the book is available at every book store in the country. Neverthless, the man who bashes organized faith and rubbishes its claims, on a routine basis, is allowed to carry out his business as usual at the cost of a spectacularly creative novelist, and the street demonstrators are hardly aware of Dr. Richard Dawkins works, which would not only offend , but also intensify them.
Well, How to go about this part- pathetic and part- sinister case? It is the vindication that Radicals and hardliners stretching their necks out from the safe nest of Political Parties or Religious parties (Politics likes to blend with religion) are appallingly retarded. They have absolutely no right of any say on anything in a Secular democracy. Because, a secular democracy by definition, lays down the red carpet for Sane and civilized people, and rejects those who fail to qualify to its definition. The same mobs that burned down and decimated MF Husain’s paintings and museums were involved carrying out angry demonstrations against Salman Rushdie’s visit. These hooligans and lynch mobs shouldn’t be isolated nor should they be patronized, instead they must be ridiculed, for their common sense and stupidity. They have not attempted in least to understand Husain’s art or Rushdie’s novel, and perhaps they could never have understood Rushdie’s Novels, because they couldn’t read out a word from them. The leaders of these bullying gangs are the only role models these impatient followers have. The leaders are enraged by the passages in the book, but their followers are frustrated because they are unable to read.
Why don’t the most important community on this planet, those of who believe in the powers of reason and science, or in other words the enlightened ones, organize a lynch mob, burn streets, vandalize public property and riot in fury? Why don’t these individuals retaliate with force, threatening people of serious consequences for offending their sensitivities? Why don’t such sadistic thoughts creep into their minds? It should be noted that being a humanist in everyday life is not a cake walk, our sensitivities are hurt from the time we read through the front page of morning newspaper to the time we return home and find undeserving candidates seated on the debating panel on prime time newsshows. The slangs they use, the ignorance they expose and the obscurantism they vomit deserves attention only from chimps wandering in African bushes.
The fanatics and retarded extremists, who claim that they have the veto power to dictate terms to government and to national events, (which they would find hard to pronounce), should be conveyed that they are not the only people to feel offended. Sometimes, we too are offended with absurd practices, undue hero-worship, irrational beliefs, and glorification of myths. The secularists and liberals in India are offended to the extreme, when women are beaten by drunken mobs for the crime of passing by a pub, or going out to a restaurant with male friends. In some places of India’s Coastal belt, the fundamentalists decide what attire a woman should wear, the way she should behave in a society and interfere in their Personal relationships. But, it’s interesting, that we don’t see artists, musicians, novelists, journalists and other faculty of arts parading to the streets with outrage and creating atmosphere of chaos. We have to put up with this madness and cruelty, and claim that our sensitivities are not hurt.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".
It is high time, some of our politicians; begin to understand the sanctity of Free Speech. Our government must lead the way for righteousness and not fall prey to the vices of the society. The sensitivities of masses are too high and too far, to be tranquillized, it certainly won’t by banning visits of eminent artists and writers. If this abnormal excitement and lunatic outrage for hurting sensitivities of foolish crackpots, proceeds with thrust, well then, chances of encounter between the secularists and fundamentalists is high. The best thing our political leaders could do to calm down the hurt sentiments of intensified mobs is to play the world’s smallest violin. If that can’t easily soothe their hurt feelings, then they are in the verge of intimidating secular patience. The swords may not be out at once, while the pen is still mightier than the sword. This reminds me of the Great French Revolution of 1789, the ever-inspiring principles are still alive. The call for future sacraments of Secular fundamentalism and Muscular Liberalism must be inscribed with utmost brutality to avoid further catastrophe.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
As the world of fraudulence and excessive might, takes center-stage, penetrating through the souls of ordinary middle class; on few occasions the fuel of patience ascribed to young blood runs scarce and the thrust of resistance crops in. The resistance moment has begun (via Anna Hazare movement), while the revolution is awaiting. Stuck at a sense of lump in the throat and de-energized with intense anguish, I managed to narrate events displaying horrifying brutality and acrimony of power, exercised in some lawless belts of the independent India. It’s a traditional discourse to expect roses on your birthday, but somewhere in the dense ‘Jungle Raj’ of Northern India exists a sadistic political chief who demands ‘blood’ as a token. This incident occurred last year in the state of Uttar Pradesh, when a accomplished civil service officer was murdered for the crime of refusal to donate ‘funds’ for the Grand celebration of the State chiefs Birthday Bash. My oxford dictionary search found ‘Vampire’s’ having close resemblance with such conduct. You don’t have to break your head to dig into the search engine inorder to guess this sinister figure; yes it is the BSP supremo the Great ‘lady’ politician, Mayawathi. An icon and an inspiration for millions of India's Dalits, who were oppressed by the upper castes for centuries, she is adorably referred by her supporters and fellow-allies as Behen-ji, which means sister.
Lady Mayawati by all accounts transcended as a ‘defacto’ idol to millions of downtrodden and oppressed class spread across the India's most populous state, which is also one of the poorest in the country. Critics pan her as an obsessive self-glorifying political feudal, but the gritty lady sneers them of conspiring against her. Our Behnji is by far, as most sources estimate the wealthiest chief minister of the country. Well then, my doubts get remotely cleared ‘Vampires’ do exists, atleast in human form. Dating back to the early eighties, Mayawati was employed as a teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi, and preparing for the Indian Administrative Services exams, when abruptly the ode of luck spiraled across flying into her doorsteps. This is when the legendary Dalit Activist Kanshi Ram approached her quite willingly to anoint her with the leadership. Kanshi Ram said, that he could nurture her political career to an extent that in the future, the entire fraternity of IAS officers would line up for her orders. And to this, gratifying promise of prospect and power, our lady decided to cease all other options. Set out with a firm determination to serve the Indian Civil Service, Mayawati turned the table upside down venturing to ‘Buy’ the Civil Service institutes instead. Kanshi Ram handed over the keys of the Magic door to the young ‘revolutionary’, with an audacity of hope to rally the wheels of Dalit struggle. As a result, Mayawati ventured into the world of politics, becoming the part of Kanshi Ram's team with the formation of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984.
1. The early British traders had witnessed the fragile systems of the Indian provinces, as early as in the seventeenth century. The nasty treatment of civilians, their low social-status and their miserable standard of living, alarmed the British, for they had not experienced anything closer to such exploitation at their own turf. The witty British mocked India as a funny country consisting funny people, grabbed total advantage of all the existing loopholes and set the chase for power. They managed to stamp the authority by colonizing the sub-continent over three centuries, with minor resistance from the handful of brave kingdoms. The Englishmen have left for over seven decades now, yet Indian systems remain flawed as ever. The dates have changed but the policies of ‘Master-Slave’ relationship, Labor-exploitation and culture of divide & rule make vibrant proceedings. Mayawati's past birthdays have been major media events, where she appeared laden with diamonds that were gifted by her fellow partymen as a token of admiration (some reports say, she actually threatens them to offer). For the poor peasants of her constituency, Mayawati represents a ‘Goddess’ in human, a fantastic mis-representation that forms a perfect bread & butter sandwich. Every year, on the 15th of January, she appears on platform, standing over and above, thousands of hysterical fans, teaming in to praise and worship their ‘goddess’, who is just about to be crowned with a ‘Garland’ strung with Indian Currency notes ! The economic Times estimated its worth to 5000 crores, interestingly it also reported that United States Deficit had skyrocketed and the once financial powerhouse of the world had slumped to its worst economic crisis. While, Wall Street tycoons hopped and cried for bailouts; the US state department initiated the ‘free meals’ program. Ironically, the nation of billion empty hands attempts to facilitate lavishly for abnormal glorification of ‘Narcissistic’ Political Zealots, at the same hour sacrificing their daily bread. Our Lady icon soaked herself in the bathtub bubbled with currency notes, leaving the generous donors and their children starving. This is precisely justified in the phrase ‘Celebration of Poverty’, underlined by the widely hailed socialist thinker Fedrich Engels.
As the electronic media, geared up its attention on Mayawati’s Satanical manifestation this year; cannily, on a sudden somersault, the Uttar Pradesh Chief ‘Monster’ decided to alter the motto behind her birthday from “Fund raising” to “People’s Welfare”. Not surprisingly, her ardent supporters declared her extraordinary-expensive birthday as Jan Kalyankari Diwas (People's Welfare Day) and the day was marked by the announcement of welfare schemes targeted towards poor and downtrodden people of the state (it was only a marked announcement). Her 2011 birthday, with the status of a ‘regional festival’, celebrated with pomp, was estimated over Rs 7,312 crores! It was heard that Sunil Mittal and Mukesh Ambani had to quaff a glass of water, following this haunting report. Mayawati's assets surge into millions of dollars, with several properties to her name. In the 2007–08 assessment year, Mayawati paid an income tax of Rupees 26 crores, ranking among the top twenty taxpayers in the country. But the CBI cried foul, claiming the capstone figure to be the manipulated one, as her financial wealth grossed over several thousand cores. In her tenures as a Chief Minister, Mayawati erected number of statues of Buddhist and Dalit icons like Gautam Buddha, Ravidas,Narayana Guru, Jyotirao Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Periyar Ramasami, Bhimrao Ambedkar, BSP founder Kanshi Ram, and finally herself. You need not have to feel antagonized hereafter, reading through the reports on Arab dictators like ‘Saddam Hussain’, Muamar Gaddaffi or Hosni Mubaraq about the obsession on self—proclamation and self-glorification, while your own can afford to have a ‘ Gaddafi Plus’ untouched, uninterrupted and unquestioned (In the worlds largest democracy). She has spent over Rs 2,500 crore on projects of five parks with concrete images representing herself.
The Diplomatic cables published on august this year through Wikileaks, the global whistleblower site revealed, that whenever she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand. The cables also add that the chief minister is paranoid about her security and "fears assassination" and employs "food tasters" to guard against poisoning. The releases scorn her as an ‘Autocratic’ supreme, stating that she maintains a "vice-like grip on all levels of power" and all decisions run through her or a small group of advisors. Mayawati, as always like every other wretched Indian Netha, hit hard on Julian Assange, the Co-founder and chief of the WikiLeaks org, condemning Assange and his organization of having an ‘Anti-Dalit mindset’. Not a bad remark by the way, given the creditability of her government, it is a uncontested conclusion that anyone anywhere in the world finds fault with Mayawati’s behavior and her elusive regime is by definition an ‘Anti-Dalit’. Later, Mr Assange responded to Mayawati, saying she had "betrayed rational thought" and asking her to withdraw her statement and apologize. Apology is something, which our Lady has only so far demanded, and is yet to offer. She never seemed like changing her mind this time, as her demand for an apology was blown off into ashes, notwithstanding the insult, she screamed ‘Mad Man’ referring Jullian Assange. To this Assange made a typical rather stylish, slap-stick British humor (he’s a Swedish-Australian by nationality), adding that he had been held under house arrest in the UK for 272 days but "would be happy to accept political asylum, in India -- a nation he loved, at the same time promising that he would bring Mayawati a range of the finest British footwear.
Just then as I was laying some finishing touches to this fuming marathon essay, another Lady Vampire storm hit the chord. The inauguration of the extravagant 33 acre sprawl Bhim Rao Ambedkar park at Noida, built at a cost of 685 crore. Our lady landed her feet on the park, easing out from a high-security fighter copter. The frivolous park turned into a fortress with her arrival, encircled with a cluster of whooping 14000 security personnel, Cogent Crowds assembled as usual to catch a glimpse of the self-proclaimed ‘pharaoh’. The entire scene depicted the dramatization of a typical bollywood flick, on the platform there was only a royal VIP chair, meant for the only person, symbolizing Lady Mayawati’s coveted throne on stage.
The mighty complex also has fifteen statutes of legendary Dalit Icons like such as Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule and Kansh Ram, including the gigantic one of our Lady Mayawati, flanked with ten stone elephants of 18 foot high. The political analysts and the observing media commentators do not seem to find any pejorative terms to describe Mayawatis reckless adventure using power and poverty. Last week alone, nearly four hundred children had died of deadly Japanese encephalitis, in the Gorrakhpur village of Mayawati's constituency. In response the venomous leach has sanctioned rupees 18 crore to combat the menace. The shameful culture of pleasing, very well imbibed in the power-politics, splits wide open in the contrasting sums of 685 crore spent on a catastrophic nonsense called as the memorial park at Noida and the 'peanuts' of 18 crore spilled for the epidemic relief program. Any reasonable human conscience can drag itself to question the requisite for these kinds of boisterous expenditures, in the midst of misery and human agony. where on earth could anyone transpire a better exhibition of power?
There would be no greater Social reformer of the downtrodden and the oppressed class for decades to come, than our own Dr. BR Ambedkar, the man behind historic Indian constitution. A man of reason like Bhimji, with cash-in-hand surmounting over six hundred crores, would straight away set to finance schools, hospitals, medical facilities, electricity, water etc and mobilize on basic amenities, contrary to what some of his successors have done in these days. It’s a sign of mockery to the nation and Dalit movement, that Dr. Ambedkar’s personality is reduced to a mere statue. Concrete images of Bhimji, would in no way better the position of the downtrodden in the society, rather his moral principles should draw the attention. The state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest rate of school drop outs in the country about 71% of the children, child-labour is second highest in the country, over 35% of the children are victims of malnutrition and hence have a stunted growth, and over 60% of the masses live below poverty line. Mayawati, as a woman chief minister, has grossly neglected the empowerment of women, there are cases of rampant sexual abuses, domestic harassments, forced marriages and denial of every given right, the woman of India should possess. When Mayawati first sprang into power, Narasima Rao the then Indian prime minister attributed it as the ‘Miracle of democracy’, highlighting the humble beginnings of the lady. It may be true to a large extent; democracy does create a ‘level playing field’ and a vacuum for ‘merit’. In the same context the ill-tempered, semi-conscious German dictator Adolf Hitler and Indira Gandhi, the former congress supreme commander, the great nanny of state corruption were the outcomes of democratic electoral-ballot, resultant of charisma and mass-delusion.
Democracy can breed the destiny of a layman, but it doesn’t mean that it expects that gratitude in return. Democracy as the ancient Greek philosophical genius ‘Plato’ on one occasion asks himself which is better? A bad democracy or a country reigned by a tyrant. He argues that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant, than be a bad democracy (since here all the people are now responsible for such actions, rather than one individual committing many bad deeds). As narrated centuries ago, democracy is a blend of sweat deception and bitter justice. Democracy with all its debts possesses the strength to augment the defects of theocracy, monarchy and dictatorship, and therefore it is the ideal state philosophy cherry-pick from the rest. Mayawati is a product of this carefully chosen system and hence it does not prevent citizens from voicing their opinion against her regime, unlike our friends in Libya and Syria. The same ‘Miracle of democracy’ that brought her into power can also dethrone her from the hot seat and indict her for all the criminal cases, corruption and fraud. Let’s hope the whispers transform into howls and the outcry of the virtue prevails over the vindictive vice.
‘Society of Free Thinkers’