As I watch the Gorakhpur tragedy unfold, "Nero's Guests", a documentary by P Sainath, comes to my mind. It concludes with Sainath's speech where he shares a piece of ancient history involving Nero, the infamous emperor of Rome.
When Rome burnt and Nero could not control the fire, he decided to throw a party and invite "everybody who was anybody" to deflect attention from the fire. But there was no provision to illuminate the huge garden that was supposed to accommodate the laundry list of invitees. Which is when Nero had an idea.
He summoned the convicts in the Roman jail, particularly the ones about to be hanged or imprisoned for life, and burnt them alive in the periphery of the garden. The fire ensured there was no absence of light, and the party went on without any difficulties.
As horrific as it sounds, Sainath makes an important point. "The problem for me is not Nero," he says in the speech. "What did Nero's guests do? Did they speak out against it?"
The reactions to the Gorakhpur massacre and I use the word massacre with all responsibility, indicate we, as a society, particularly the urban middle class, have become Nero's guests. The government hospital does not pay 60 lakh rupees for kids' oxygen but spends 40 crores on cow ambulances. In the aftermath of what happened, the doctor who spent from his own pocket to save kids is sacked. One or two other people have been suspended, but the babus, and more importantly, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have shrugged responsibility when the buck directly stops with him.
Yet, social media is flooding with comments normalizing the incident. We are being told how people have died at the hospital in the past, and how Gorakhpur is an ideal town. The doctor who saved kids is sacked and we are told how he is actually an immoral man being accused of crimes in 2009. So when Times Now anchor Navika Kumar asks her guest to not "rake up kids' deaths and divert from real issues" while debating Vande Mataram, she seems to be a mere reflection of Nero's guests who watch her show.
When a man is killed in Dadri, we discuss whether the meat in his fridge was beef. When a man is lynched in Rajasthan, we wonder whether he indeed had a legitimate permit, as if it justifies the lynching if he did not. The way we, in the media, report rural India, and the indifference with which the urban middle class treats the plight of those who are not "one of them", are all examples of normalisation that establish ourselves as Nero's guests. However, If 60 infants dying due to criminal negligence does not disturb us, then nothing will.
The normalization has severely and successfully diluted the value of human life. As George Orwell famously said, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others."
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely.
George Orwell, 1984, p. 127
Newspeak, for those unfamiliar with Orwell, is the name of an artificial official language in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Much of the vocabulary of Newspeak is based on Doublethink. Doublethink is the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them. The language in Orwell’s 1984 transforms societal values and the lives of the people completely.
From 2009, when Aadhaar was officially born, the governments in India too have invented an artificial official language. Let’s call it Aadhaarspeak for want of an official name. Although Newspeak is much more than WYSIWYDG, my tech friends call it WYSIWYDG. That’s the opposite of WYSIWYG.
Aadhaarspeak is considered the language of progress. The language of a youthful India. A language of technology and the future. A language that will transform India into a super power, whatever that is. It’s the language where the government is paperless, cashless, and presence-less.
As even existence in India becomes impossible without Aadhaar, many say that the purpose of Aadhaarspeak is to digitally colonise India. Some deny that Aadhaarspeak will cause the country to rid its people of their sovereignty, to become democracy-less, bank-less and defence-less.
There is no official dictionary of Aadhaarspeak. That’s why very few know of its existence. That’s also one of the reasons why very few understand what it means. I mean what it really translates to. If you don’t know a whole vocabulary, you don’t understand its world. You can’t make sense of the debate. You miss the point. Before you know it the language changes yourworld, your life with it. It alters your ability to survive or even exist.
So I decided to attempt a glossary for the benefit of those who like to know about it, understand their world and describe it accurately. Its purpose is simply to provide the beginner a first introduction to Aadhaarspeak. It can also be considered as merely a documentation of the voluntary words of 2017.
This modest effort is work-in-progress. Slow, with no sponsorship or even official recognition. This compilation is the result of contributions from hundreds of officials from various governments, thousands of people from all walks of life and over seven years of research. Hundreds of public documents, news reports contributed to this compilation. Painful, as the official references keep playing hide and seek. And sometimes even disappearing altogether. It is, therefore, neither complete nor the official version. Any official denials are, therefore most welcome, especially to set the record absolutely straight for posterity.
If it sounds like technology jargon, some of it is just that. In its fullness Aadhaarspeak is the work of genius. I leave it for you to attribute the quality of goodness or evil to the genius. For that is your right to choice, I would not rob from you. Especially as it will tell me more about you, than of the genius designing Aadhaarspeak.
I recognise that many users of Aadhaarspeak face many limitations in using it to communicate the past with those in the future. That, in the spirit of Newspeak, must be merely accepted as the shortcoming of those who cannot accept the universality of Aadhaarspeak.
Like any glossary is not meant to be read from A to Z, this too should not be read from A to Z. It is meant as a reference, not as a novel. Some early readers have commented that each word could become a Kafka plot, a Galsworthy tragedy or a Solzhenitsyn description of life in the now extinct USSR. That, is merely their imagination running wild.
Those seeking to end Aadhaarspeak seek right to choice, right to self-rule, freedom from coercion, and call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar
Just so you know, any resemblance to doublethink is, then, purely your imagination. As many geniuses have highlighted, after all, how can doublethink, the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them, be progress?
The intense debate in the highest courts of the land on just one word from Aadhaarspeak, privacy, after almost 5 years of whispered conversations in corridors on some of Aadhaarspeak, speaks volumes for the power of each word. It may take a lifetime to settle them all. Unless of course they start with the one word they started with in 2013 that is not in Aadhaarspeak.
The word that may not be spoken formed the directions of the highest court of the land in its orders of September 23, 2013. It’s a word we dare not utter anymore as no one, say the official statistics, suffers anymore as we are now voluntarily in Aadhaar land.
They say we-the-people have not spoken. We uttered no words when we spent long hours in queues to deposit our hard earned money back in the bank. So the official version must be true.
But then, I am told there are still overwhelmingly large number of individuals who are resisting and even rewriting the Aadhaarspeak. They hope this edition of Aadhaarspeak will be discarded. They look with hope to the Supreme Court to declare this list as corrupt and illegal. They pray that the Supreme Court will restore our right to choice, right to self-rule, freedom from coercion, and a call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar. They will ensure that these will not become thought-crimes.
Many would want the world to believe we are not the Mahatma’s India anymore. There is little meditation, satyagraha or civil disobedience left in us anymore. That, said the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, is what character is all about. It is what shapes us and makes a nation great.
Perhaps those amongst you who are wiser and more equipped to create liberationspeak, for those of us who cannot understand or have little use of Aadhaarspeak, I wish you success. I wish you well. Godspeed.
"Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases." began George Orwell in his landmark essay "Reflections on Gandhi". It is a good principle, to go by news reports.
One such controversy raging these days is the violent stand off between the supporters of "Sant" Rampal and the police, who were trying to arrest him to execute the non-bailable warrant against him. Rampal is wanted in several cases of murders and attempted murders against him, which appear to be originated in clashes between his supporters and those of the Arya Samaj.
Why did these clashes happen? There are several reports that could point to reasons. The first and biggest being "Sant" Rampal's criticism of the Satyartha Prakash, written by "Swami" Dayanand Saraswati the founder of the Arya Samaj.
In a country where anything religious is respected, both Arya Samaj and the bhakti traditions and Kabir (whom Rampal supposedly follows) are respected for social reform and one would imagine that if masses must go for opium, they at least went for one that desired better things on some social evils at the very least. This ongoing controversy however discloses a dark side.
One where godmen and religious traditions associated with social reform have enough informal "troops" to fight riots.
The criticism of Dayanand Saraswati's Satyartha Prakash by Rampal seems to have been the trigger for ongoing bad blood between the rival religious gangs (for want of a better word) and Rampal has alleged on several occasions that he is being persecuted because of his criticism of the book.
That his views are not popular among locals appears to be apparent, but then if we're speaking of Haryana, jeans and phones with women aren't popular either, so that doesn't really say anything one way or the other. People who criticize religious figures or books generally get rabid responses from unthinking masses that the state is not interested in suppressing since sooner or later they are useful for political goals.
After spending 18 months in jail, he seems to be evading courts (42 times so far, it seems), which has led to this non-bailable warrant that got resisted by his followers on mini-war footing. This definitely seems to be a question mark on his credibility. While it may be understandable for an innocent person with no hope of getting justice from the law to avoid it altogether, this seems to be more of a situation of show of strength against the state and will probably not help his case either.
On the other side, what seems suspicious is that those attacking him seem to have got away with very little scrutiny - if any. While Rampal makes news, there are no questions raised about the Arya Samaj - which seems a little surprising. Media is again in one of their rare unanimous modes on his guilt - which is always suspect in a country as diverse as ours. This alone is worth wondering whether he is being framed.
Casualties in the clashes seem to all be from among his followers with women in the lead. Which does not seem to speak of dangerous assaults made on police, though the reports sound like pitched battles. The original case where clashes led to one death also seem to have had cases only against Rampal and not Arya Samaj.
Rampal also has other issues with Arya Samaj who do not want his influence to increase in areas they control. They have tried to show his ownership of the land with Satlok Ashram as a result of forgery - this would not raise skepticism, except the forgery case was filed on the day after the two followers clashed in 2006. It is a little unrealistic to imagine that a forgery done in 1999 was brought to light and objected in 2006 and one day after clashes with rival religious group. A later case of assault was filed by a person claiming to have been beaten to get a fake confession of being a spy for Arya Samaj. A murder charge was added to it when a woman out of four protesters to die (and hundreds injured) to police bullets was alleged to have been killed by Rampal or on his orders when police opened fire on Arya Samaj protesters opposing the turning over of possession of ashram to Rampal.
Rampal insists Arya Samaj is behind all the cases on him, and this is entirely possible given the timeline of cases unfolding and inevitable connections with Arya Samaj since then. On the other hand, it is equally possible that he is guilty. His views are no less abhorrent. For example those on eating meat.
In other words, the freedom of views that he claims for himself in critiquing Satyartha Prakash is not something he is willing to allow others who are not even criticizing him.
No one appears to shine in this sordid saga.
However, one point remains to be made. Free Speech must include the right to challenge views in particular if social thinking is to refine. Even if it is religious leaders doing the criticizing. Every religion has a concept of what it will not accept. Whether it is the godless heathens or the shudras or women or whatever is deemed not good enouh to coexist with. When masses are in the grip of religious zealotry it becomes all the more important that an unpopular views survive or we end up waking up too late like in the case of Narendra Dabholkar.
Therefore, ugly as it all is, I want to say this:
I endorse Rampal's right to have an opinion on Satyartha Prakash and other religious entities and to state it without fear of repercussions. It is my hope that the court can get to the bottom of this matter and judge the case with due punishment to crimes. It is also my hope that if there appears to be sufficient merit in Rampal's allegation of being targeted by Arya Samaj in retaliation for his views, the court takes appropriate action to punish Arya Samaj as well, in the interest of safeguarding the increasingly narrowing social space in which religious entities may be criticized on merit (or otherwise). It would be the final nail in the coffin of this sordid saga if persecuting rivals for religious criticism succeeded.
An argument with a friend had be angrily declaring that schools are intellectual lobotomies and are turning a country with a rich heritage into the world's backend, and then into nothing. My views on our education system are no secret, but I am no enemy of knowledge.
I see the school system as a process of creating templatized people. "Masses" of literate people who can be put to work. Schools don't create geniuses. Geniuses found in schools are not the product of that school's education. They are the product of their own innovation that they managed to do in spite of spending time and energy on school.
Some examples off the top of my head.
Expelled/rejected from school/institution:
Mobashshir Sarwar - India's youngest RTI activist
Alan Moore - talented artist, famous for illustrating comics.
Vybz Kartel - Jamaican dancehall artist, songwriter and businessman.
Peter D. Ouspensky - Russian esotericist
Karl Marx - German philosopher
Albert Einstein - inventor, physicist
Charles Darwin - theory of evolution and other scientific studies
Steven Spielberg - need he be introduced? Perhaps to the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television - they refused him admission three times.
Michael Jordon - rejected from his high school basketball team
Dhondo Keshav Karve - 19th Century Indian reformer for women's welfare
Did badly in School/hated school:
Isaac Newton - mathematician and physicist
Thomas Edison - inventor, remember the light bulb?
Winston Churchill - Nobel Prize winner, twice elected Prime Minister of UK
Dick Cheney - became vice president of US
Robert Sternberg - psychologist, President of the American Psychological Association.
Charles Schultz - Peanuts comic strip [couldn't get any of his comic strips published in school yearbook]
Ludwig van Beethoven - violinist, composer [including 5 symphonies after becoming deaf]
Elvis Presley - singer, musician [also failed to impress music teacher]
Rudyard Kipling - Nobel Prize winner, poet, novelist of Jungle Book fame.
George Orwell - English novelist and journalist of "Animal Farm" fame
Dropped out or otherwise rejected formal education:
Anand Bakshi - Bollywood lyricist
Helen - dancer, actress
Bill Gates - Microsoft founder
Walt Disney - cartoonist
Abraham Lincoln - 16th President of US [attended school in brief spurts on and off.]
Lata Mangeshkar - singer
Sir Jamshetji Jejeebhoy - Parsi philanthropist, merchant, Sir J J Institute of Applied Art, Sir J J College of Architecture, Sir J J School of Art are named after him.
Charlie Chaplin - actor [he went to a workhouse at age 7 - school of hardships 🙁 ]
Rabindranath Tagore - Bengali polymath, transformed regional literature and music, author of Geetanjali, founder of Shantiniketan
Swami Dayanand Saraswati - Founder of DAV public schools
In other words, it is okay for your child to have more purposeful interests than school 😉