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4

Many people have been asking about my stand on @Swamy39 or Subramanian Swamy. Thought it more useful to share my thoughts publicly than explain all to everyone who asked.

I had been hearing some vague noises about Sonia FIR - mostly among the Hindutva crowd, and ignored them till curiosity got the better of me. I was shocked. Delighted.

@Swamy39 had gone and filed a complaint against Sonia Gandhi for discrimination against Hindus over the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011. I had read it in brief, but hesitated to comment since I don't have a law background and lack the patience to study them for understanding a document (unless I have motivation - like all my learning). But I disagreed in principle, for the same reasons I disagree with reservations - I think it is a bad idea. You can't remove something by making it a premise for your logic. That's like Sheikh Chilli cutting the branch he is  sitting on. That way lies futility and illogic.

So far, Subramaniyan Swamy had struck me as something of  a Hindutva crazy - I'll be blunt here. I know he is president of Janata Party, but that doesn't hold much currency in terms of making him immune to my assessment.  I have nothing against Hinduism, but I think religious nationalism is ugly. It doesn't help that the vast numbers of supporters I have met have followed religion or specific leaders more than making a statement of own ethics. They have voiced no disagreement of any magnitude with the publicized stands and proceeded to argue anything not falling in line. I don't respect that. Though I had not had any interactions with Swamy himself.

But anyway, his article in DNA rubbed me plain wrong. Stuff like:

“Declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus”

This doesn't work for me. I short out here. I don't know what happens in the article past this line, because I have dismissed the speaker, closed the tab and gone elsewhere. Educating is one thing and insisting on a thought is another.

I am also a strong proponent about getting rid of religion from public life completely, including such demands or their opposite assurances. Or whatever. Any religion is discriminatory against me in public, seeing as how I am atheist :p . And what do you "teach" in Hinduism anyway? The epics are as good as literature, and the thoughts and even scriptures are so  varied, what do you teach and standardize? Is that even fair to Hinduism itself? And why at all must a state get into all this. There are better ways of creating a unifying factor. Try media. It is totally messed up. Tidied, it can lead to excellent social messages in a far more palatable way. Anyway, that is a different situation totally from now.

He has a reputation for being outrageous, which is totally fine. Just yesterday, I was praising Raj Thackeray - even while criticizing the methods he uses. Outrageous, I can live with. Heck, I identify better with it.

However, there are a few things I appreciate about Subramanian Swamy or @swamy39 as he is on Twitter. For one, in a crowd that seems to thrive on calling the Congress and Sonia names (abuse included) he put his money where his mouth is - with the 2g Scam, other ways too and now this. In my eyes, it isn't a matter of whether he is wrong or right. We have courts precisely for that reason. My adding my judgment to the mess - particularly without studying and independently verifying them (for which I lack resources) would - as any reader here knows - go against my style of operating. Read my support page for my ideas on forming opinions based on another's thoughts. Read that page anyway for a better thinking life.

However, it is not required for me to call his claims real or fake. The good I see happening with this complaint is multi-pronged:

  1. It follows a legal way of addressing a perceived wrong rather than media lynchings and hate mongering.
  2. It will lead to an understanding and conclusion of the subject rather than festering polarization and ugliness.
  3. It is an action of "speaking up and acting to best ability when harm to the country is spotted" something I and this blog advocate unhesitatingly and hold in the highest regard in terms of service to the country.
  4. It is a far more efficient action of fixing problems, because it intervenes at a sensitive point in our system, where least change will bring most results.

Also, the complaint deconstructs the bill and meticulously challenges careless mistakes with research, logic and references. All good qualities in my eyes. A must read to understand the practical dynamics of religion and diagnosing problems. Regardless of whether the FIR happens - and I hope it does, read this to learn to see communal dynamics.

So, curiosity led me to find out more about the man. I saw the website of his party - the janata party. I like that focus (notice the name of the blog :p ), but the best thing about that website? This page. It is the party profile, and it is specific and speaks of goals very clearly. More importantly, while acknowledging the past, there is little attempt to hide any warts - another thing I respect highly - I hold this as a symptom of a scientific mind - where process trumps person. There is no attempt to look good by criticizing another. All this is always good where it happens and it is agonizingly rare in India. So, plus marks.

The final thing I liked about the page is that it talks of purpose and goals rather than dwelling on projecting interpretations and justifications of things happened. This makes it easy to read and understand if this is worth aligning with, without making any paralyzing guarantees.

I also read his interview in rediff where he says "See, there is a general impression amongst all crooks that if you offer Swamy money, he will take the money and still continue, so no use giving him money!" Hahaha.... this I identify with. Reminds me of when I said if I got paid to be a mouthpiece, my first article would be an apology, second would be a declaration of intent and third would be a clear cut, well thought out stand that I am willing to use my authority to defend. I would publish them all together and get fired 😀

I saw numerous videos where he makes a lot of sense and speaks verifiable and specific things. This works for me. The clearer the ideas shared, the more systematic, with visible logic, the more I trust. Frankly, with his attitudes toward religion and governance sounding fairly sensitive to the dynamics rather than being bogged by any single religion, it is still unfathomable where that DNA article came from. I must read it again with the new context.

Here, watch this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taxDSPBNprU

Maybe I need to read the article and understand again. No, I won't be posting a link unless I change my mind and happen to agree with it.

However, the cincher for me happened with one quote. Added a quote to my collection

Democracy runs on public debate ~ @Swamy39

This is it - the golden thought. This one will probably do time as the tagline of the blog when I get in the mood for change.

So here I stand. His complaint has my support, though the jury is still out on if he as a person has my support. I don't support people that easily and my support anyway means no "loyalty", since unlike most Indians, I am still free to criticize anyone, including those I support.

Coming to the end of the story, the complaint Subramanian Swamy has filed against Sonia has still to be registered as an FIR, but it is up on rediff and most certainly worth a look because it offers a nuanced insight into communal dynamics.

16

Recently, I got into a verbal spat with a friend who thinks Modi is the reincarnation of the devil himself. Another friend thinks Narendra Modi is India's only hope as the Prime Minister. There is a whole range of people between these two extremes. Every time there is a flare up of NaMo related subjects, there are strident voices on both sides trying to teach me what to think.

I follow Narendra Modi's account on Twitter. To some, it is enough to brand me as a "supporter of genocide". To others, it is some kind of proof of my support for the man. It is neither. I follow the account because it tweets very upbeat information about Gujarat. I have no intentions of marrying the man, I don't think I'd feel tempted to vote for him.

I think it might be useful to state where I stand on that big subject.

Let me begin with saying that I don't know if NaMo is guilty or not of ordering massacres or inaction on them. Frankly, it sounds like an outrageous thing to do and I would be surprised if a direct order by a politician in power of this nature would happen to a group of people. That is not to say it didn't happen either. Many outrageous things happen. I don't know. That is my truth, and no matter how much one tries to convince me to either side, I am unlikely to change it without convincing proof. The ground theory is that a man is innocent till proved guilty, thus, until proof, I do not consider him a mass murderer.

This is not about supporting him, but about refusing to lynch him. I think India has a very bad tradition of mob pressures for their version of justice, and it has only harmed the country's interest by making problems fester and hobbling justice with concerns of unrest. I will not play this game. I will trust our court's judgment in the absence of very clear proof of his complicity. It is a choice I am making to remain disinvolved with both brands of mob justice. This doesn't make me a supporter of genocide, rather makes me someone trying to prevent further genocide through emotional claims based on loyalty or contempt rather than proof. Failing my own capacity to assess available information ably, I am putting my trust in our justice system. This is not a crime.

However, in my eyes, he is responsible for the riots anyway, and the BJP line that Congress is also responsible for a lot of riots doesn't excuse him in my opinion. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots happened, he is responsible for the breakdown of law and order on his watch. It may not be a crime, but it definitely is dangerous incompetence. I may not lynch him, but I would be wary of putting him in charge of the well being of people of the entire country.

I do appreciate that he has done a lot for Gujarat, and he has. I also think, if there was any callousness intended toward minorities during the riots, he certainly got a shock and he has worked hard to turn the state around. I know Muslims from Gujarat who voted for him. So somewhere, he is convincing in his commitment to the state.  Whether this is what the country needs, by making him a PM or by learning state level lessons and replicating processes is another matter. I think the kind of work he did happens best at a state level, so creating it all over India will require different states to learn from Gujarat and adapting useful ideas to fit their realities. That doesn't take Modi being PM, but I do think there needs to be more acknowledgment of his work where due and openness to sharing useful processes between states regardless of political affiliations.

There is another reason I don't want Modi to be PM, which has nothing to do with him as a leader and everything to do with his hot headed supporters. Whether Modi supported the Gujarat riots or not, the fact remains that the perpetrators felt that they could get away with it under his rule. A lot of the extremist, angry and aggressive Hindutva crowd believes that he is their leader because of his views. I would be very uncomfortable with such elements in society thinking that the leader of their country thinks like them - whether true or not. Modi doesn't have to be like that. It is enough that people think he is, for them to feel validated in their punitive perspectives. That, I think would be very dangerous to society.

Along with his reinvention of his own image, perhaps Modi could have disowned those perspectives enough for the visible support to drop, but that hasn't happened. Whether it is because he is in agreement, because he doesn't want to alienate those supporting him, or because he actually believes in them is unknown, but the fact remains that Hindutva guys believe that their golden era to challenge all wrongs on Hinduism will come under him - and THAT is something I see as dangerous for society. So yeah, I'd be happy to see him throw his considerable expertise to education, law or such ministries - heck, he could probably deliver a much needed miracle for agriculture, but not as the Prime Minister or Home Minister or any other place where he is in charge of the physical or emotional safety of people.

On the other hand, he has a lot of capacity to initiate and sustain action and change. He is able to motivate people and get results. He usually engages in straight talk, even if it is not liked. This kind of directness would be a big addition to the political landscape of today. Much needed, where garbage rhetoric obfuscates everything and tangles up even simple things that seem evident. He would most certainly be a refreshing influence on a political climate of pretending results and ignoring realities.

About the Gujarat riots, I think the activists have done the people a disservice by trying to trap Modi in the case. Please note that when I use the word trap, I am not using it to deny that Modi is guilty, but to deny that individual cases were influenced by him. He may have well done what he is accused of. I don't know, but it is unlikely he had a hand in individual killings. The cases for individual riots should have proceeded fast and culprits punished and the case against Modi, or anyone else they thought was complicit behind the scenes without a physical presence should have been done separately. By including them all together, the cases have dragged on and justice denied to immediate victims. If Modi was complicit, his wrong wasn't just against those killed or injured but the entire state or the entire population of Muslims for putting them in danger, regardless of whether they were hurt or not. It is a different scale.

But it is familiar. This also happens in Kashmir, where the rape of a woman becomes about Azadi and credibility of forces, and justice gets delayed because even openly accepting and freely investigating becomes the equivalent of crediting a secessionist movement. The soldiers may even be innocent, but the political climate becomes one where the reluctance becomes a part of the case. A paralyzing conflict of interests develops. So, politics pretending to be protector ends up denying justice to the victim because of the political goal rather than the focus on the culprit. The same happens for a lot of festering problems in India. The Babari Masjid thing - straightforward destruction of property and vandalism became eclipsed with religious politics and minority issues and what not, and the whole thing is on hold. Why? I'll be blunt here - because the mobs wanted to become larger mobs by banding under the largest identity religion in the country. The collective threat forced an accommodation of perspective at the loss of the country's integrity. It seems we are not able to see shades of gray and we are not able to see beyond politics to people. We end up with the same battle everytime - the battle for the halo - no matter what the issue.

No person is wholly evil, no person is wholly good. If Arundhati Roy undermines the well being of the country with her strident rhetoric, she also has a very nuanced insight into grassroots democracy. If Anna Hazare woke up the country and gave them his integrity to come together under, he is also challenging a pillar of the democracy itself. If Narendra Modi used to be a Hindutva hot head and led the state when Muslims got butchered far more than Hindus, he has also served with enduring commitment to change the face of the state and create more security. If Sonia Gandhi leads a party of the corrupt and may be misusing her power, she also powered the RTI through when politicians would have stalled it - a direct fight against corruption. Mahatma Gandhi himself may have mobilized our freedom struggle, but he was also a hideous misogynist whose views of women have consolidated moral judgments and suppression. No one is wholly good or evil, and only criticizing someone or praising them should be seen as an intellectual warning of inability or refusal to see the larger picture beyond what they have already decided.

Such thinking is small minded and diminishes national interest rather than strengthening it. We do not need a person to be totally good to support them, and we don't need a person to be totally evil to not like them. These decisions are individual opinions rooted in what we think is more important, but it is important that we see our decision as our own choice rather than a complete picture of the person.

As for me, I will continue to praise what I like, and criticize what I like, and remain free to think as well as change my mind if new information requires it. That is my freedom.

Not really a post,  some thoughts. Beginning with saying that this was a gruesome mass murder and act of terrorism. I applaud the response of democracy from Norway. That said, this incident brings into stark relief some of the worst prejudices as the world and country.

  1. Many assumed that it was an Islamic attack.
  2. Few were interested in him not being Muslim
  3. People substituted details of incidents in their templates and returned to canned rhetoric, inlcuding drawing similarities with "Hindutva terror"

I think this kind of thinking is not useful to the world or any country in it. The danger with being slave to stereotypes is that we lose touch with the reality and our responses to situations are to our imagination, rather than what is actually happening.

Like I spoke in Intellectual deficit in Indian society, the dangers are that in being slave to decisions rather than data, we miss out on a lot of points where functional change can be introduced.

This kind of thinking is not only alienating, but rather deficient in logic. How does Hindutva terror fit in? If it does, is the same assumption applied to other entities and people mentioned similarly? Why is there such resistance in us to acknowledge acts of terror from non-Islamic religious orientations? How does this help?

I think it is high time people learned to see terrorism as a sum of actions rather than a singular melodramatic monolithic entity. Anyone can act. Stereotyping the actors blunts our ability to analyze and address incisively. I say, even if the terrorist was Muslim, it is important to see specifics rather than hooking to pet donkeys and flogging them along well worn and ineffective paths.

Definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If our response to any happening anywhere in the world is through a narrow minded Indian version complete with pet accusations... doesn't help.

32

I am rather troubled in this moment. All around, I see tremendous rigidity and an inability to learn. Be it something like the slutwalk, or a political problem in Kashmir... we have lost the ability to discuss. Television discussions take the form of a patchwork of individual interviews conducted simultaneously. And there is still little agreement or conclusion. Is it a debate or discussion if participants are answering specific questions by the anchor?

Today, any debate in the public space is so polarized as to be totally dysfunctional. We hear Ministers unable to agree at all on channels like the Loksabha. We see joint committees come up with two drafts of the bill they were working on. We see media and people with specific stands defining issues indefinitely. Different publications have their pet guilty parties. No matter what the story, it will toe that line. Like a soap opera. Doesn't matter if you skip a few episodes, the story is pretty much the same.

On this blog, I have criticized many things. Yet, each new story makes me a "mouthpiece" for some power or the other. Never mind the utter illogic of both BJP and Congress paying the same small obscure blog to promote them. I wrote about the dangers of Hindutva extremism, I was a UPA "paid mouthpiece". I wrote in support of Ramdev, I was a RSS mouthpiece. I wrote angry words about the Congress, I was a BJP mouthpiece. Apparently, these are the only people capable of paying anyone to write for them, and it is impossible for a person to have an opinion without being paid for it.

But these things have nothing to do with logic. I have no clue why political parties have recruitment drives. They should have mass wedding ceremonies. Everyone who attends their rally is married to them. No matter how many scams happen, if you are married to the UPA, you bow your head down like a good wife, shed private tears of shame and stoically endure through that period of shame where you can't criticize your husband, and you can't defend his actions. The same with the BJP. If you are married to them, you somehow endure through tricky questions on happenings in Gujarat a decade ago (they will be asked for another decade at least as an opening question). You will apply your considerable skills to defending that castle of Modi and desperately try and shift conversation to progress in Gujarat. This will be unacceptable to those who want Modi nailed then and there and they will say any progress in Gujarat is built on the graves of innocent Muslims and so on and on and on. It is endless. Wives of sworn enemies fighting in the market.

This is crazy and it is dysfunctional.Having an opinion has become the same as having defense ready for all associated with your opinion. And that too in extremely ugly ways of invalidating or ridiculing questions raised rather than accommodating or answering. It is a method. Another ugly method is mud slinging. If you don't agree with someone and there is no legitimate spanner to throw in the works, investigate tax returns, land records, criminal records, telephone records, maybe even traffic police records or pissed off ex-girlfriends. Something or the other will turn up, and when it does, this person cannot be followed, because he is less than perfect or wrong somehow. If the demand is legitimate, even a prisoner on death row has rights. So I don't see how this is a legitimate countering of anything.

It is dysfunctional, because it takes the competition between parties for the elections and turns it into a permanent obsession. The country is forever fractured and conflicted and combative. And to what end? Why is it that all the youth of a village can't join the awareness campaign of BJP for something and the environment something with the Congress? All of them for both, because their village benefits from both? That is currently impossible. So, if the congress is running an environment campaign, BJP supporters will talk about how it is fake, what Rahul Gandhi wore, etc and vice versa. No one is ever going to win these wars of words, but they will be fought nonetheless, like a stupid donkey put on a circular path (sorry, donkey). Who loses? The village.

This is outright dangerous for the country, because people are told what to think. You think once - and that fixes your loyalty. Post that, you discover every new thing through that lens. And it isn't only in political parties.The slutwalk sees another polarization of thought. Always either/or. I don't remember the last time someone did something as simple as changing their mind. There is no listening.

When it comes to discussion, the objective is to challenge the "opposite view". I don't remember the last time someone really listened and said something like, "Interesting. Tell me more" or "these are your concerns, these are mine, how do we make this thing work?" The goal is always to "defeat" the other side. It is such a stupid, short term thought, because you defeat someone, and that person is planning revenge before the back hits the ground.

It is a narrow minded, exclusivist way of thought riddled with stressful potholes. Then, to deal with its fallout, you need more power. More laws to force inclusion, more laws to fix each problem as a separate issue. In the end we have laws telling us about when to drink alcohol. We have laws getting kids to school that backfired. Laws banning sex-determination that backfired. Laws about many, many unnecessary things. Our important choices are laid out before us as allowed. No matter what the debate is, that is is the bottom line.

Regimentation has replaced wisdom and learning. And there is no logic to it. Suicide is bad. Ban it. WTF? Are you seriously saying that a person unhappy enough to want to die will be prosecuted? Alcohol and cigarettes are bad. Keep increasing prices, raise the legal drinking age. So, if you marry before you are 25, forget drinking at your bachelor's/spinsters party. Sex discrimination is bad, make it illegal. and it goes on and on and on. We now have the government wanting access to unencrypted internet traffic! Yep, you heard right. Yep, your online banking account uses encryption. Forget privacy, but this is a government that got famous for stealing what wasn't rightfully theirs and misusing power. Do you trust it to not steal money from your account? But no one is bothered about thinking through these things. We have been conditioned about what is "right" being told by someone else.

We are becoming an increasingly stupider society. Incapable of evaluating, having agile responses to different circumstances. The only person to gain is the one exploiting these systems.

I would like to suggest the following.

  • SUPPORT INITIATIVES, not parties. The minute you do that, you force parties to deliver. Feel free to support the BJP in one thing, the Congress in another and some obscure new party in a third. At the same time. It is your country. Support whatever is a good idea for it. Watch parties race to create good initiatives to develop a voter base.
  • THINK. This can't be stressed enough. Think toward your goal, not your ego. In a disagreement, find ways around rather than force someone to accept you as superior. Keep asking "why isn't this working" and "how can I make this work" rather than "who is at fault" and "how they are wrong". Keep your eyes on the goal.
  • MOVE. If you are making the same statements all the time, move, damnit. Move to more evolved thinking, change your mind, invite other views, move to other subjects. Don't pickle your opinions. Your brain stops working, though you may sound very smart repeating them.
  • ADDRESS THE ACTION, not the person. A person is far more than the one thing you are looking at. It is a lie to label the person based on any one, two or infinite number of actions. Persons should be inviolate. Even political persons. Feel free to disagree with opinions or actions. The nice side of it is that you are respecting the person rather than belittling them. The practical side is that an action can be changed, but a person is who they are. If you really want solutions to happen, this is a must. It comes with the added bonus of much decreased resistance. People can easily accept that something they did impacted another in an unintended negative way. They can't accept themselves as evil. You will end up debating that person's character and your objective will suffer.
  • ENHANCE VOICES that work. If there is someone doing something good, be sure to support. You can decrease the influence of bad in the world by making what is good more visible.
  • OR to AND. Change looking at situations where only finite choices are possible. The minute you change your thinking from "or" to "and" it becomes inclusive. It also becomes more about the diverse needs of the goal rather than pissing contests to gain sole control of direction. How can most interests be accommodated? In a democracy, this is vital learning.
  • Allocate one time everyday when you will not criticize anything. Absolutely any
So yes, these are my thoughts on the matter. I think we are in a very concerning intellectual state of being with a deep and dysfunctional distrust of differences. Issues are quickly polarized (or begin like that) and reach a stalemate. This is creating fractures in the society with very real and serious problems dragging on infinitely. We need to change this. We need to be different with all our hearts, so that we are engaging in and inspiring.
It is time to move from regimentation and resistance to nurture and honesty. To discuss with a genuine objective of creating change. To accept that we are all entitled to hold mutual respect as a value vital for our nation.

Read lots of columns and watched so many debates on TV set but none of them addresses my one question, on recent attack by congress’s government in New Delhi at midnight, happens to be on chaotic Indian democracy that what provoked government to attack Indian democracy?. Some are saying government felt Baba will attract more and more people that could lead to law and order problem in Delhi. Some says government want to send a signal that if it can reach out, it can reign in also. Further some said Baba was misusing the Ram Leela Maidan as he does not have permission for fasting. None of above arguments convinces me.

In my view it was the minority politics in the shadow of secularism. See the events how they unfolded. In the first place, government sends four ministers to appease Baba Ramdev, it seems a clear attempt to divide the Anna and Ramdev. Suddenly, government and Congress realized that they have gone very far and that annoyed the minority constituency. As usual, congress’s minority vote bank manger comes in action and given the statement that “Sonia Gandhi was not in loop”. Objective was very clear that first family has no intentions to appease Hindu Baba.

Further, government feared that Baba’s fast may lead to revival of BJP’s hindutva agenda and they tried to stop Baba’s fast. But Baba remains adamant, and gone ahead with fast. On the top of this RSS and BJP has render their open support to Baba and Sadhvi Rithambra had shared the stage with Baba Ramdev. Further talks with Baba Ramdev may have shown congress a party which is appeasing Hindu Baba and controversially he is someone who have support of RSS. And it led to congress to take strong action against Baba Ramdev and attempts to send a clear message to minority community do not go anywhere that we will continue to appease you.

It was a clear political action and I suspect it would have happened even if RSS had not been supported Baba Ramdev or Sadhvi-Ritambara had not share the stage with Baba. Because it seems to me that, in the eyes of congress, anyone who wears the saffron colour cloths is communal and supporting such a person, may lead to threat to minority vote bank of congress. Unfortunately, media too have created this perception.

Is this secularism or communalism in the shadow of secularism? If it would have been any Muslim religious leader, not Baba Ramdev, then real question is, would congress have taken same action? Recently, secular government has taken a week to arrest Abdul Naseer Madni accused of terrorism, leader of PDP in Kerla. Why are these double standards of so-called secular forces?

I am not here to paint anybody secular or non-secular, but congress’s secular agenda is simply not adding up and seems to me communal and divisive agenda, while congress accused opposition for same.

Even media has not raised these questions. While some section of media seems to be in the line of congress. I fear as long as this game of appeasing minority goes on for vote bank, it keep provoking the opposition to be communal or divisive, it does not mean I am justifying opposition. But my question remains that are media asking real question? Or is onus upon reader or viewer to read in between lines whatever media reports?